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The RS-HFIQ is a high performance Software Defined Radio (SDR) 5W Transceiver for CW, SSB, AM, FM and digital modes.
The RS-HFIQ is a high performance Software Defined Radio (SDR) 5W Transceiver for CW, SSB, AM, FM and digital modes.
The RS-HFIQ is a high performance Software Defined Radio (SDR) 5W Transceiver for CW, SSB, AM, FM and digital modes.
273 backers pledged $58,298 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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RS-HFIQ 5W Software Defined Radio (SDR) Tranceiver

$58,298

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What is a prototype?

A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:

Proof of Concept

Explorations that test ideas and functionality.

Functional Prototype

Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.

Appearance Prototype

Looks like the final product, but is not functional.

Design Prototype

Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.

Production Prototype

Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.

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Prototype Gallery

These photos and videos provide a detailed look at this project’s development.

Product Summary

Not just another SDR - The RS-HFIQ offers real RF performance for serious communications. Covering the 80-10M Amatuer Radio bands with excellent RX performance and 5 watts of TX power, using open-source SDR software for CW, SSB, AM, FM and digital modes, the RS-HFIQ sets a new standard for shortwave SDR communications.

Specifications

  • Frequency Range – 3-30 MHz (performance guaranteed on 80/60/40/30/20/17/15/12/10M ham bands)
  • Sensitivity – MDS <-128 dBm on 80M dropping to <-135 on 10M (depending on processing bandwidth and sound card performance)
  • Noise Figure - <15 dB on 80M decreasing to <10 dB on 10M
  • TX Power 5W typical, 4W minimum
  • LO Feed-thru < -50 dBc @ 5W output
  • Spurious and Harmonics <-50 dBc typical <43 guaranteed
  • DC Power 13.8VDC, 2A max, plus USB power for the Arduino Nano

Who should buy one?

  • Amateur Radio Operators – Both newly licensed Hams looking for their first shortwave radio and experienced operators looking to explore the world of software defined radios
  • Experimenters – Hams and non-Hams who like to work with hardware and software will find the open-source aspects of the RS-HFIQ invite innovative shortwave experimentation
  • Radio Clubs – what better way to insure that newly licensed hams become active than including a transceiver with a licensing class? 
  • Shortwave Listeners – From BBC to Radio Tanzania to oceanic air traffic control, there’s plenty to hear on shortwave. The RS-HFIQ is a great place to start and ready to TX if you decide to get an amateur radio license.

Shortwave Communications

The RS-HFIQ radio board turns your PC and sound card in to a high performance shortwave transceiver for operation on Ham Radio and MARS frequencies. Unlike most radio channels in use today that are limited to line-of-sight ranges, shortwave signals have the unique ability to reflect from the ionosphere high above the earth and be heard thousands of kilometers away. With some perseverance and operating skill it is possible to work all 50 states and more the 300 different countries with the RS-HFIQ radio.

High Performance RF Design

As you might imagine, operating requirements for a radio that send signals nearly to space and back are more stringent than requirements for radios that only have to communicate with the nearest cell tower. The technology and techniques are not new; on December 12, 1901, Guglielmo Marconi succeeded in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean. During the intervening 115 years, many innovators have left their mark on the shortwave communications art. Today, with properly designed equipment, like the RS-HFIQ, it is possible to achieve long range communications as a matter of routine.

Marconi - 1901
Marconi - 1901

As with every technology today, the incredible computing power that is available at minuscule cost has completely changed the way signals are processed. Software is available that processes shortwave signals in a way that Sr. Marconi could not even have imagined. Filters that would be impossible to construct using analog techniques and decoders for everything from Morse code to weather data are implemented in programs running on a computer. 

But as powerful as computers are at processing signal data, they rely on high performance circuitry, as found in the RS-HFIQ, to convert the signals coming from the antenna system to a clean baseband signal ready for digitizing. Techniques developed by Marconi, Armstrong, Rhode, Tayloe and other radio pioneers to maximize RF performance and minimize interference and distortion are as applicable today as when they were first developed. A combination of solid RF design and state-of-the-art processing software creates a world-class shortwave operating experience. 

Keep Your Software where it Belongs: In The Computer 

Computers were made to run software. A desktop computer can store many different programs, provides massive amounts of data storage, allows connectivity to the internet and provides brilliant displays. Many software defined radios use embedded computers which have limited storage, can be difficult to upgrade and rely on desktop computers for user interface and display. 

The RS-HFIQ is a radio that acts as a high-performance analog front-end for an external processing asset; either a desktop/laptop/tablet computer or an application specific platform. All internal functions are controlled via USB or TTL serial communication using open-source software running on the ubiquitous Arduino Nano that is provided with the RS-HFIQ. 

There are many different SDR software packages that can be used with the RS-HFIQ here is an example of HDSDR running under Windows 10 displaying all of the signals in 96 kHz of the 80M Ham band:

SDR software is not limited to Windows PCs; LINRAD, QUISK and GNU Radio run under Linux and DSP Radio runs on the Mac OSX. The RS-HFIQ converts the radio frequency signals to the I and Q signals that all of the software packages read via a high-performance sound card to display, record, decode and generate shortwave radio signals.

Filters, Filters, Filters

One of the key aspects of any radio communications system is eliminating signals and noise that you don’t want to hear while enhancing the signals that you do; the closer to the antenna the better. If we rely solely on the software to reject unwanted signals then our digitizer must be capable of digitizing all of the signals captured by the antenna; quite a feat when the static crash from a lightning strike 50 miles away can be 10,000,000,000 times louder than the station we are trying to hear coming from half-way round the world.

The RS-HFIQ uses a bank of carefully designed bandpass filters which divide the shortwave spectrum in to narrower bands prior to the active circuitry. The down-converter and baseband provide additional filtering so the signals passed to the digitizer contain only the information needed for processing.

 

RS-HFIQ Filter Bank
RS-HFIQ Filter Bank

On the transmit side, the same bank of bandpass filters is used to sanitize the digital signal from the up-converter and an additional bank of lowpass filters is used after the power amplifier to insure that the transmitted signal exceeds all applicable regulatory requirements.

A high linearity low-noise amplifier improves the RS-HFIQ’s sensitivity. A frequency dependent attenuator insures lower gain on the lower bands where signals are strong and higher gain on the upper bands where man-made and atmospheric noise is lower and weaker signals can be processed.

Transmit Power, Please

Many similar SDR hardware projects omit the transmit path entirely, providing only receive capability while others provide outputs in the 10 mW to 1W range. Even under the best conditions, communication at these lower power levels can be challenging and when conditions are poor 1W of TX power is frustrating. Even driving an external power amplifier generally requires more than 1W to achieve full output power. The RS-HFIQ includes the QRP standard, 5W output, MOSFET power amplifier running Class A to keep distortion to a minimum and the MOSFET is rated for 16 watts so there is plenty of margin for tolerance to SWR and high duty-cycle communications modes. Best of all, 5W is plenty of power to drive an external amplifier to the 50 or 100 watt power level; even to the legal limit of 1,500 watts for some serious communication power.

Shortwave Radios and Computers Don’t Mix

Computers have a tendency to create noise in the shortwave bands. From switching power supplies and Ethernet/USB signals to processor clocks and timing loops, there is plenty of potential for unwanted signals from the computer to make their way in to the shortwave signal path. Digital, analog and RF grounding can cause ground loops that plague many SDR hardware solutions with constant noise. The RS-HFIQ mitigates computer noise and ground loops by isolating the various sections of the radio. The RF, baseband and digital section have separate and isolated grounds so common grounds in the computing hardware do not create loops. Digital signals are passed to the RF and baseband section using opto-couplers eliminating any electrical connection between the stages. RF signals between the stages are magnetically coupled using signal transformers.

High Quality RF Design Doesn’t Need to be Expensive

With today’s inexpensive surface mount components and assembly techniques, top-notch RF engineering does not equate to expensive hardware. In truth, the RS-HFIQ is a fraction of the cost of similar performing transceivers and slightly more than lower power transceivers that cover only 1 or 2 bands. Not only is the RS-HFIQ the only 5W all-band shortwave transceiver commercially available for under $250, it offers the RF performance of transceivers costing many times more.

Where are we?

The RS-HFIQ is a mature product.  We have been through three hardware revisions and have fine tuned the design.  We have delivered working hardware to 50 users to help flush out the bugs. We have a standard software configuration designed to get customers up and running in minutes. We have full customer support in place to handle questions, repairs and user community support. This campaign is to help us with a sizable production run which will allow us to meet the anticipated demand for an established product.

Stretch Goals

Since we have met our original minimum goal, we put our heads together and came up with a couple of exciting stretch goals!

Rewards

 Who are we?

Curtis Pope - Business and Logistics
Curtis Pope - Business and Logistics

ARRL Member and Technician class licensee Curtis Pope, KI4SXB is relatively new to the amateur radio hobby.  Curtis got his first call sign in 2007 in order to pursue APRS work on 2M.  Curtis is a self taught electronics designer that enjoys tackling challenging design obstacles.  Curtis as designed and built many different projects including a motorcross racing system using active/passive RFID, LED Signs, Motion detection system for hunting, home automation gadgets and Amateur Radio projects.  Curtis holds a Bachelor's of Science in Aviation Computer Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona.  When not working on HobbyPCB or at his "day job", Curtis loves fishing, flying, playing ice hockey and spending time with his young children.  At HobbyPCB, Curtis is responsible for enclosure/packaging/mechanical design, circuit layout and prep for manufacturing, ordering and logistics, sales, packaging and shipping and all other business related items.  Curtis lives with his family in the Clearwater, Florida area.    

Jim Veatch - RF Engineering
Jim Veatch - RF Engineering

ARRL member and Extra class licensee Jim Veatch, WA2EUJ received his first call sign in 1976. He is an avid kit builder and homebrewer and enjoys experimenting with and applying new technology to Amateur Radio projects. Jim holds an Associates Degree an Electronic Technology as well as a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering. Jim's ham radio projects have won awards in all three ARRL Homebrew Challenges. At HobbyPCB, Jim is responsible for RF design, new product development, kit buildability, amplifier whispering and wrestling the smaller alligators.  Jim lives with his family in the Baltimore, Maryland area.   

Mike Loebl - Inventory Management
Mike Loebl - Inventory Management

 ARRL member and Extra class licensee Mike Loebl, N1MJL received his first call sign in 2005.  Mike has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Masters in Business Administration. He is often found tinkering with cutting-edge technologies and projects like 3D printers, homemade UAVs, and APRS interfaces.  At HobbyPCB, Mike is responsible for all inventory management, kit preparation, spare parts shipping, linux programming and website design and maintenance.  Every piece of every kit flows through Mike's capable hands before it makes it to our customers.  Mike lives with his family in the Boston, Massachusetts area. 

Fulfillment Process

As we come down to the final days of our campaign, we are starting to wrap up some loose ends.  We have done a lot of research on the survey, tracking, and fulfillment process and have decided to use Backerkit to make the process more efficient. Backerkit will allow us to send you a survey to "check out".  At that time you will be able to add any add-ons (example: enclosure for those that didn't one in their reward package), order additional items and verify your shipping information. 

 

Risks and challenges

As a company whose founders have collectively backed numerous Kickstarter projects, we understand the importance of meeting delivery deadlines without compromising the quality of the product. We've waited until now to introduce the RS-HFIQ to the world because we wanted to reduce the number of risks and challenges faced during development. We are now in the late stages of the project and ready to move forward with finalizing the product and get to mass production. We have multiple contract manufacturers lined up that we have used for years and are actively developing advanced testing processes.

The following unforeseen challenges could jeopardize delivery timelines but would not affect the viability of final delivery:

- Worldwide component shortages
- Problems with first articles off the production line
- Shipping/Customs delays
- Illness of key team member

That being said, we will put plans in place and "stay ahead of the curve" to insure a timely delivery.

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    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    RS-HFIQ PROMOTER

    A big thank you for supporting our project and a listing on the HobbyPCB website as a project backer

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    ADVENTUROUS BUILDER

    Get a bare RS-HFIQ Circuit board to build your own radio. We provide the PCB, schematic and BOM and you do the rest.

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    EARLY BIRD RS-HFIQ

    RS-HFIQ 5W SDR Transceiver board Assembled and Tested

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    EARLY BIRD RS-HFIQ HOUSED

    RS-HFIQ 5W SDR Transceiver board Assembled and Tested with Black Extruded Aluminum Case and end panels (assembly required)

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    RS-HFIQ HOUSED

    RS-HFIQ 5W SDR Transceiver board Assembled and Tested with Black Extruded Aluminum Case and end panels (assembly required)

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    Pledge $519 or more About $519

    50W BOOSTER

    RS-HFIQ 5W SDR Transceiver board Assembled and Tested with Black Extruded Aluminum Case and end panels and a HARDROCK-50 HF Amplifier Kit (assembly required). Band Data/PTT Cable included.

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    50W TUNED IN

    RS-HFIQ 5W SDR Transceiver board Assembled and Tested with Black Extruded Aluminum Case and end panels and a HARDROCK-50 HF Amplifier Kit with Automatic Antenna Tuner (assembly required). Band Data/PTT Cable included.

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    Pledge $999 or more About $999

    RS-HFIQ SUPER BACKER

    Everything in the 50W TUNED IN level plus have dinner with us at Dayton Hamvention in May 2017 (You provide your own travel and arrangements, limit 2 people)

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    RS-HFIQ Club Pack

    5 X RS-HFIQ Housed units for your HAM Radio Club and a 45 minute Presentation/Q&A with our designer (in person in the Baltimore/DC area or via Skype)

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Funding period

- (30 days)