Earlier this year I wrote about a modification/hack to the the QRP Labs QCX called uSDX that turns a normal CW only QCX into a SSB capable radio. It uses the Atmega 328p chip as an SDR, and uses a high end technology call EER to modulate SSB out of an amplifier made for CW. I was quite excited by this, and purchase a QCX just for the purpose.
After much hackery, it worked!
And then it didn’t.
Not Success 🙁
I came into my shack one morning and found that there was no transmit or receive. I tried some basic troubleshooting, but… nothing. I shelved it for another time and hooked up my trusty TS-140 just to stay on the air.
I recently unshelved it and started doing some more involved troubleshooting. I found a bad front panel switch, and replaced that. From there, the radio receives, but does not transmit. I replaced the power amplifier mosfets (BS170’s) and there was no success.
For reasons mentioned below, I have decided to relegate the radio to “HF receiver” and stop working on it further. It’s not like me to give up on a project, so I’ll explain why I’ve made that decision.
Exiting the uSDX world
The uSDX is a neat experiment, and I really like how it takes a kit made for CW and beautifully hacks it into something new. The hack has limitations, of course. SSB audio quality is questionable, and the receiver performance is only sufficient- not necessarily good. Compared to my BITX40, I found it a bit deaf. The firmware as I used it was not very mature, and I had a lot of issues getting a full 4-5w output.
The uSDX community moved on to making custom PCB’s that are dedicated to making what’s essentially a new radio. It’s not a beautiful hack anymore, but rather a low end SDR transceiver that’s optimized for low current draw and small size for portable use. That’s great, but that’s not what I’m interested in. If that sounds interesting to you, then go check it out! If that sounds interesting to you, then go check it out! https://groups.io/g/ucx/topics
Since the community has moved on from the hack, I have decided to move on too. My next task will be to box up the receiver for casual use and leave it alone.
Why even write about it?
I want to make it clear that this post isn’t intended to bash the uSDX hack, product, or community- far from it! I wish them the best of luck. Instead, I think it’s important to recognize failures and shed light on how some of these communities and projects work. I went into this knowing it was experimental, and for me, the experiment ran its course. I learned a lot in the process and would do it again to gain the same.
All the same, knowing when to stop is just as important as anything else. For me, that time came and went. On to the next project. 73!