The Ten-Tec 507 Patriot – 40m/20m QRP Open Source Transciever

IMG_20150807_205149This past May during a trip to the Mecca of Amateur Radio in Dayton Ohio, I ordered a Ten-Tec 507 Patriot QRP rig at the 2015 Dayton Hamvention.  I have been having a blast playing about with this small yet robust little rig!

I have always heard about the joys of QRP operation and I do love to operate portable.  It’s always a lot of fun to take a small bit of HF kit, a dipole that I can throw up into a tree or something, and a battery to power everything.

I have decided to make a quick post to share my operations with the Ten-Tec 507.


Open Source meets Amateur Radio:

This particular rig is one of two now “open source” transceivers made by Ten-Tec.  The first reiteration was the Ten-Tec 506 Rebel, a small 40m/20m CW transceiver.  The Patriot continues from the heritage of the Rebel but this time gives you SSB phone as well as CW capabilities.

The thing about the Rebel and Patriot that makes them “open source” is really the fact that they both use a ChipKit 32 Uno microprocessor for DDS (direct digital synthesis) and is the overall “brains” of this radio.  The ChipKit 32 Uno is a Ardunio compatible micro controller.  The microprocessor code is easily changed to add/change features and capabilities.  With all that being said, there is still much that you cannot change about the Rebel or Patriot.  They are both locked into the bands that they have been designed to work on.  This is because of the filters and other parts of the radio that are specifically designed to operate in those frequency areas.  The Rebel is also always going to be a CW only rig because of a lack of other circuitry that would enable phone modes, however there are ways around that doing digital voice modes for example with a connected PC.

The main source for alternate forms of firmware worked on by the community is the Patriot Yahoo! group at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/TenTec507Patriot/info.  This is a closed community group and you must register to join.  I generally do not care for Yahoo groups, however the people on this group seem cooperative and always ready to help.  A few months after I joined I decided to start my own group on Reddit.  This way nobody had to register or sign in to gain access to the information and files created.  My Reddit site is more of a brain dump style site so that anyone with information can post there.  My Reddit site for the Patriot is at http://www.reddit.com/r/TenTecPatriots/.

A plain wrapper with lots of potential!

When you first purchase your Ten-Tec Patriot it is a seemingly basic radio with few options, but the potential for it to be much more is brewing from beneath it’s black aluminium chassis.  The stock version has no display, which is a bit of a pain in the rear since the only way to know what frequency you are on is to press and hold the SELECT button to “announce” the frequency in CW using a tone over a connected headset or speaker.  Additionally the TT logo has a LED that also flashes the CW announcement.  SSB phone operation is automatic when the microphone is connected and is automatically set to LSB for 40m and USB for 20m.  If you connect a key to the rear jack then CW can be uses on those bands as well.  There are 3 select-able tuning steps for the patriot 100 kHz, 1 kHz and 10 kHz (for fast tuning) by default with the factory firmware.  Additionally there are 3 bandwidth filters: W (wide ~2.5 kHz), M (medium ~1.5 kHz), N (narrow ~800 Hz) and a RIT control.  There is code to support an optional 20×4 LCD display with the factory code.

Stock507    Stock507-rear
A stock Ten-Tec 507 Patriot.

Patriot Alliance Modification (PAM) ver 1.2:

The latest code to be floating about the Internet for the Patriot is the Patriot Alliance Modification ver 1.2 written by PA3ANG and modified by various other hams, or PAM 1.2 for short.  PAM 1.2 introduces a great deal of features that were not available with the Ten-Tec stock firmware.  The code is based on the original Ten-Tec factory code but also ads the following features:

IAMBIC (type A or B) keyer with keyer speed on front panel ‘CW SPD’ (A7).
Detection of Straight Keyer (middle ring 3.5mm stereo plug to ground).
Automatic mode change to CW (Key) or SSB (Ptt).
CW offset (parameter) during CW reception.
Frequency announce in CW when > .5 seconds SELECT.
Tune Carrier when > .5 FUNCTION.
CAT based on K3 protocol (tested with HRD).
Added support for OLED 128 x 32 pixel displays.

Furthermore they introduced a number of improvements:

DDS offset compensation (parameter).
Faster display routines (no updates when no changes).
Improved display layout and added S-meter and CW speed.
Easy selection of starting band and default frequencies.

After I loaded this code, I absolutely loved the features that were added.  I ordered a 128×32 pix OLED display from Adafruit to use as the display on this rig.  After a bit of tinkering about and picking the brain of fellow ham and good friend Mike, AC9ID we together got the display working, and it looks great!  It can be seen well even in bright sunlight without being washed out and has quite a bit of information on the display.

Patriot-OLED-close up
The display has the frequency shown at top.  Then on the next line starting at the bottom right is the bandwidth selection (W/M/N), the tuning step indicator (10 Hz/100 Hz/1 kHz), the mode (USB/LSB/CW), the keyer speed for CW (mine is set at 14 wpm), and finally an S-meter.

I loved the feature of holding in the FUNCTION key to transmit a tone carrier for tuning.  The Iambic keyer setting is nice so that you can use a paddle for CW or a straight key.  It will detect the type based on the how many conductors the 3.5mm plug has that is inserted into the keyer jack.

CAT rig control can be used by connecting the ChipKit 32 UNO’s mini USB cable to your PC and using HRD or other software.  Using the K3 rig control options, this seems to work very well, however there is no means of keying the transceiver that I know of using CAT control.  This would be immensely helpful for running data modes.

Users of the Patriot can easily change firmware parameters to customize the radio in several ways:

  • Change the starting band and frequency once the transceiver is powered on.
  • Change the frequency limits (for US 40m change 40m band limit to 7.000 to 7.300 MHz).
  • Change the display layout.

My experiences with the Ten-Tec 507 Patriot:

The receiver:  I have found this small radio to be actually quite a good performer as far as QRP rigs go.  The receiver performance seems to be fairly sensitive however there is a potential for overload of strong signals.  I would suspect changes to the AGC circuit would help with the strong signal overloading.  I found the bandwidth filters sufficient to reject adjacent channel interference to some degree, however they are fairly basic DSP filters and cannot perform miracles.  The RIT control is very nice to tweak stations that are slightly off frequency and is intuitive to use.  Although it is NOT the receiver in a KX3, it does perform surprisingly well overall with only the strong signal overload to be of minor issue.

The Transmitter:  Feeding this rig with 13.8 V with a power supply able to provide at least 5 Amps I have found that I can get just over 5 watts out of the transmitter into a dummy load on both 40m and 20m.  The mic gain control was really pretty weak set from the factory, so I had to turn up the mic gain (MIC LEVEL IN) pot a bit in order to get adequate modulation to drive the transmitter.  I am running the mic gain almost fully open, but I had a friend listen to me on another radio and the audio sounded good, not distorted using a Yaesu style 8-pin hand microphone.  I may need to turn this down when using a headset such as my Heil Pro7 or other microphone or headset.

My Setup for QRP portable ops using the TT-507 Patriot:

My setup for portable operations consists of the following equipment squeezed into 2 small go boxes:

  • A 12 VDC 2 Amp AC adapter for running the QRP rig from 120 VAC mains.
  • A 12 Volt 5 Ah AGM battery for running the rig off battery power.  This should give me several hours of operation with minimal weight, however I am looking into a LiPO sytle battery for increase operation time and decreased weight.
  • A small PowerWerx DC voltage/power meter to monitor battery condition
  • Various power connectors using Anderson power poles for easy connection to other power sources.
  • A small tackle box containing a USB to mini USB cable for connecting the rig to a PC, BNC to SO-239 RF adapter, and other various RF adapters such as a SO-239 female-female barrel adapter.
  • 50 ft of 550 paracord to hang antennas
  • A WindCamp multiband dipole antenna with 4:1 balun
  • 50 ft of RG-8x coax cable

The verdict:

At $299.00 US, the Ten-Tec 507 Patriot is a bit expensive for a two band QRP rig.  I think a better price point would be $199 for it.  The unit comes with the stock firmware, and paper manual and that’s it.  No cables, no microphone, no key or paddle.  Everything else is up to the operator to supply.  However it is a solid little performer and is not a kit.  You CAN operate this radio right out of the box if you supply the microphone and power, and antenna for it.

I have made several CW and SSB contacts using this little radio and have been absolutely ecstatic each time I do so.  I guess there is a thrill of operating on 20m and chatting to a ham that is several states away with only 5 watts.  I haven’t had this much fun with amateur radio since I first got my general license and was able to get on the HF bands!  Going to a local park and setting up on a hill with a dipole in some trees is a lot of fun and it’s always good to be outdoors.

I did use my Patriot on field day and had an absolute blast, although it was a challenge to get through with QRP power.

Overall I would recommend this radio.  QRP operation requires a great deal of patience, and so does tinkering and modifying the Patriot.  The patriot isn’t something for the instant gratification crowd, so by that virtue it isn’t for everyone.  There are other radios out there, but this one is a lot of fun if you like to tinker about with your radios and antennas.

You can find more information about the Ten-Tec 507 Patriot at Ten-Tec’s web site:  http://www.rkrdesignsllc.com/products/transceivers-receivers/507-patriot-open-source-arduino-based-ssbcw-qrp-transceiver/

Do you own a Patriot, Rebel or other QRP rig?  Let me know about your setup in the comments below!  Also if you are a Rebel or Patriot owner or want to chat with others that have these rigs, please visit the Ten-Tec 506/507 Reddit subreddit at http://www.reddit.com/r/TenTecPatriots/

 

73! de Nick N9SJA

3 thoughts on “The Ten-Tec 507 Patriot – 40m/20m QRP Open Source Transciever

  1. My wife has a Patriot and is just getting started. She has extensive programming experience (programmed much of the electronic power steering in automobiles) but relatively no hardware experience. The Patriot was purchased as an experimental platform. I think once she gets going, she can provide lots of different features. I know at this point, she wants to use a Fourier series filter. Thanks for your site. It has been helpful already!

    • Pat,

      Great to hear that your wife is interested in the Patriot! It has been fun for me to use as a small QRP radio. We could always use more development and tinkering in the group. For resources on the Patriot, check out the Yahoo! group for the Patriot, and also my Reddit group at https://www.reddit.com/r/tentecpatriots. With RKR selling Ten-Tec to Dishtronix, they are in a bit of trouble. It will be interesting to see what Dishtronix does with the TT kits, and the open source rigs (the Rebel and the Patriot). Hopefully they will continue making them, they are pricey but a nice little rig none the less, and the hack-able aspect keeps tinkers like myself coming back for more.

      73!

      de Nick N9SJA

  2. Thanks for the write-up and pics. I’ve been looking for a QRP rig and at least the Patriot gives you 2 bands. Other rigs I’ve looked at are the KD1JV Survivor ($165+ and you have to build it) and the MFJ 9475 ($259 built). I wish there was a Patriot 75/40 model instead of 40/20. But, for bang for the buck, the Patriot looks like good value. I really wish it was priced at sub $250 as I agree the price seems kinda high… especially since it uses such a cheap Uno board.

    In my opinion, working QRP is so much more exciting that rigs that blast with big lanterns… My first contact ever was QRP on 1Watt from a Flex 1000 from Maine to Indiana… that was a trilling moment! Blessings and keep writing, this is good stuff.

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