04 December 2011

The Future of QRP Homebrew Kits and the SOLF

Some days ago I reposted the announcement of W2LJ's blog that "Hendricks QRP Kits has purchased Red Hot Radio Company, owned by David Fifield, AD6A.".

I found that interesting for it was a simple transceiver without bells an whistles, but a nice project for the OM who likes homebrew and QRP. But later another Amateur Radio Operator AA7EE commented, that this kit was to expensive.

That reminded me on my comments about the SOLF: To SOLF or not to SOLF, that is the Question. Fact is: The prices for QRP homebrew kits have risen to heights were the relation cost / value are questionable.

But what is the source for this increase? 

It is easy: The availability of standard solid state electronic parts like diodes, transistors, conductors, insulators has been diminished. The "new" development of highly integrated circuits made them dispensable. And we are living in a material world, so the market played casino and increased the prices for these parts. When 10-15 years ago a diode costed about 4-6 cents you will run into trouble finding the same part or an equivalent and you have to pay 60 cents. And this is one of the reasons why the price for the SOLF is so high compared to commercial transceivers on the market.

Just imagine: You can buy from Chinese companies 2m/70cm handheld transceiver for 60 Euro inclusive bells and whistles. Some years ago you had to pay 600 Euros or more. You can buy a chip with a complete shortwave transceiver for some Euros or a kit for 20 Euro.

Or think about the new Elecraft KX3 a SDR transceiver with an analog interface for a price that is unbelievable.


His Majesty - The Creative SOLF

 So what does that mean for the future of QRP-Kits?

We are a group too small to influence the market. We can only buy what has been offered to us. The highly integrated circuits are the future and will be the standard to come. Of course there are a lot of hams out there who know how to deal with SMT, chips and processors. But most of the other hams have problems with this technology. So I fear the times for traditional QRP-Homebrewer are coming slowly but surely to an end.   Every OM can spend his Euro only once and he has to think twice before he buys a new kit.

So Hams out there: Take now the chance to build your own transceiver by yourself  for a price which is still affordable. You will get the building experience which is invaluable. And for the rest: There will be for some time small kits which cover all these little gadgets like filters, tuners, ... which  make the life of a solid-state Amateur Radio Enthusiast worth living.

AND: I am happy that I ordered the SOLF kit - a reasonable price/value relation ;-)