Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Living in the past - Dave Benson's SW+ radios reincarnated!

Back in my early days of QRP -- mid 90s to be approximate -- I fell in love with building kits as a byproduct of this black art. My first was the marvelous OHR-100 One which convinced me that low-power contacts to Northern California (I live in SoCal) were do-able on five watts.

This was followed by one of Dave Benson's SW+ series -- an SW-30+ for 30 meters -- that was started on a Friday evening and concluded with an alignment session on a rainy Sunday evening. After strapping it to an old 4BTV vertical leaning against my patio wall (the only option available), I pumped 1.5 watts out to the ionosphere and landed WB0CFF in Minnesota. The memory of that QSO still makes my hair stand on end even though I have worked considerable DX since then.

That said and in a possible effort to re-live past triumphs, I ordered a Midway Electronics ME-30+ kit -- the "board only" option -- as a means to "fill in the gap" between my old SW-40+ and SW-20+ builds that grace the shelves. For the curious, I thought I'd pass along a few comments and impressions.

It seems that Dave Benson granted the proprietor license to exactly reproduce and distribute his popular SW+ 2-watt kits, arguably part of QRP's heritage and as significant as the NorCal 40A and similar.

The kit was received in short order but, sadly, it was the 80m kit. (80 meters is dogmeat in Southern California and in my neighborhood specifically.) However, email conversations with the owner resulted in him sending along the 30m components with an advisory to keep the 80m components. I was flummoxed with the initial speed of delivery, the follow-up correction, and the overall friendliness and attitude of Midway with respect to customer service. (To be sure, I planned to return the 80m part but read on.)

The kit(s) -- boards, parts, manuals -- are, as stated, an exact replica of Dave's original product. Moreover, the prices are very similar to the very reasonable prices that Dave used to charge: $60 (versus $55) for the board kit, $92.50 for the board kit and controls and project box (versus $95). Given that the Toko coils and 8-pin DIP NE602s are rare, I find this astounding. The quality of the PCB is extremely good and it is identical to Dave's. The manual comes spiral bound and as easily understandable as Dave's was.

I was so wrought with guilt over being told to keep the 80m parts that I requested he send me the makings for both radios to be "full" kits. That's an additional board, front and back panel components and knobs, and two cases; a very reasonable price was quoted and they are on their way. The subsequent order was delivered and the quality of the cases are quite good. The only niggling downside is they fit the board and controls and connectors exactly leaving little room to stuff additional items like a keyer chip board and frequency enunciator. But that's not Midway's problem, that's my problem.

The kits, components, cases, etc. are available in 80m, 40m, 30m, and 20m editions on Midway's website:


They are also available on eBay. Search for ME40+, ME30+, or ME20+ -- and presumably the ME80+ will be available there soon.

In summary, I am very happy this gentleman has chosen to bring back this kit. It provides us old codgers a chance to relive our past. For those "new" to QRP an opportunity, it's a opportunity to develop their understanding of radio and electronics as "Elmer 101" courses and in depth discussions abound for this radio.

When I get this kit built, I will post pictures and notes for those interested.

Usual disclaimer: no pecuniary interest, etc.