ALINCO DX-10 & SIRIO GAIN-MASTER HW
I've been aware of this radio for quite a long time and weirdly enough, it's always been the appearance of it that has caught my eye, first and foremost. I guess it reminds me of the old CB's that were around back in the 80's like the President Lincoln, etc. Not that I was a massive fan of CB - to be perfectly honest, I grew tired of it pretty quickly because I was only using FM and there were a lot of plonkers around (including me probably). I hung around for a couple of years and then got more interested in Ham Radio and general ShortWave listening. Anyway, 30-odd years later, I'm a licensed ham with radios to cover HF, VHF and UHF, with interest in DATA, SSB, CW, DSTAR, DMR and FUSION.
So where does the DX-10 come in? Well I quite like the idea of exploring radio outside the norms of Ham Radio. A friend from the local Radio Club has spoken often about the fun he's had on 10 and 11M. I'm not talking about all the local belchers and barkers on UK-40, but more DX in nature.
Not wishing to modify any of my existing radios, I looked at the Alinco DX-10 (also known as the DX-135). Many people don't know what the difference is between the DX-10 and the DX135 : well the answer is nothing! It's just a model number change for different markets, just as Honda call the UK 'VFR800' the 'Interceptor" in the USA. It's a radio which covers 28 to 29.7MHz in standard form, but with some programming software it can be opened up to include 11M. It is not Type-Approved for 11M in the UK, so I'll only be using that band to listen, not transmit, wink wink.
|Alinco DX-10 / DX-135|
The DX-10/135 has a typical mobile form-factor (it should actually fit inside most car-radio apertures) and provides easy access to all the frequently used controls with straightforward and clearly labelled buttons and rotaries (some of them concentric). The display is simple and clear and there's a secondary tuning display to the right, which can also be used to step through 'channels'.
The overall construction of the radio seems quite good and it has that "Japanese Quality" about it, which I like. I have owned a few Alinco radios and have always been more than happy with them. Let's not forget though, that this is a cheap radio, so don't expect Elecraft performance.
In use, the radio works well once you’ve got used to the tuning arrangements and pretty soon I got my first 10M SSB contact - IU3OXX in Venice
Later, I bagged an American station W2YP, a Swiss operator, HB9DSP and a German DO1KRT. The band was very poor on the first day of testing, with LOTS of QSB, so I did struggle a bit. Plus, the antenna was in a VERY compromised location.
To get the radio working on 11M just requires you to hold down the "FUNC" and "LED OFF" button while powering up. You can then move between 10M and 11M using the Channel Selector.
The audio from the internal speaker is certainly good enough for general use, but if you were to operate the radio in a noisy environment such as a vehicle, you might want to fit an external speaker instead.
The illuminated readout can be adjusted in terms of colour - seven in all - including a rainbow effect (something which Alinco seem to like, LOL). You can't however, adjust the brightness which is a shame, because it's not that readable in bright daylight.
Power output of the DX-10 is 1-12W on AM/FM and up to 0-25W on CW/SSB. Power is nicely variable throughout each range. Thankfully, the radio will shut down the PA if your SWR is too high, offering a comforting level of protection from those ham-fisted moments when you forget to switch antennas (or even connect one) 😂. There's also over-voltage protection too.
So do I like this radio? Yes! It's one of those simple, old-fashioned, "just get on with it", type of rigs that does exactly what it's supposed to do. There's no frills with it and in addition to being quite sensitive on 10M, it also does a great job on 11M. I much prefer using something like this than having one of my expensive Ham Radios widebanded and potentially devaluing it.
If you find a second-hand DX-10, you'll have a bargain on your hands and will get a lot of fun from it. I throw mine into a plastic storage box in the back of the truck when not being used and I don't worry about it getting scratched or marked. It's tough and won't come to any harm - other than cosmetic. I'm not looking to keep it pristine to sell it later for a lot of money - it never cost a lot of money in the first place!
So what's the down side? Well I guess the only negative is that I don't use 10/11M too often. The band has been in a terrible state for a long time and has only just started to really open up. BUT, when it is open, it's an absolute hoot!!
SIRIO GAIN-MASTER HW
The antenna I chose for using with the Alinco DX-10 DX-135 is the Sirio Gain-Master Half Wave. I'll be perfectly honest and admit that I was fooled by the marketing images of the antenna, which make it look incredibly small! Even the technical spec showed it as being just 11ft long, but the truth is, it's over 18ft long! 😡😡😡
That's a bit naughty as far as I'm concerned. I've written to them to point out the misinformation, but you have to wonder if it's a "convenient" mistake to bolster sales (I'm such a skeptic, lol). Each of the 3 supplied sections measures 6ft 6" which is nothing like what I expected - I thought I'd be sticking 4ft sections into the boot of my car for portable work, but there's no way on God's earth these will fit in there 😣
Anyway, let's not dwell on that rather 'large' negative start too much - if the antenna works well, then it'll go some way to putting things right. I tested it initially while on holiday at our static caravan on the edge of the Forest Of Bowland. Because of restrictions, I had to mount it ridiculously low to the ground, but it still worked surprisingly well.
The noise-floor around here is very low, but occasionally, someone in a nearby caravan will switch something on which introduces unwanted noise, but thankfully, they're not up here as often as I am.
With a short length of coax to the caravan decking, I can be up and running very quickly with no fuss at all and with no trip-hazards (if I erect a dipole, I end up with all sorts of potential hazards and untidiness).
I didn't use any counterpoises or radials and to be honest, I didn't need any - it worked fine without them. The SWR hovered around 1.7 but moved a little higher at the extremities of the 10 band. 11M needed a tuner. Bear in mind though, that most people would have this antenna mounted high up above the roofline of their homes where it will no doubt perform much better.
Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, getting contacts was not a problem and I managed to get as far as America and Eastern Russia from the UK, so there's no cause to complain. Unfortunately, the rain clouds started to drift over and spoiled play - it started to BOUNCE DOWN so I decided to call it a day.
I'm quite happy with this little setup and I'm especially pleased that the antenna worked so well at floor level. It's easy to slide it under the caravan when not it use, where it will stay nice and dry, ready for the next playtime.
If you fancy trying a bit of DX on 11M, you will need to get yourself a Call. Being in the UK, I got mine from CHARLIE TANGO DX.