CommRadio CTX-10 Update

CTX-10.jpgIf you’ve been reading a while you’ll know that over a year ago when CommRadio out of Colorado announced the CTX-10 I got very excited. Although a long time coming, it looks to be ready for prime time.

They’ve been building what looks to be the best QRP Field Radio possibly ever offered to the Amateur Radio Community. Most attractive is the fact that with its small size, internal tuner and three internal batteries, one could operate for a long period of time carrying little ancillary equipment other than feedline and your antenna. But not only that, with its machined housing and knobs, ruggedness is at a premium.

At $1000 shipped, this rig may not be cheap new but definitely looks worth the cost, especially when compared to some of its competitors. This is a rugged American-made rig. With any luck I’ll have one for review once they’re out.

28 thoughts on “CommRadio CTX-10 Update

  1. I will be looking forward to your review NCScout!

    At first glance the radio only covers 10-80 meters so it will not be on my current “to-buy” list until people I trust, like you, review it. If it ends up to be better than my current QRP radio, a Yaesu 817nd, I will defiantly consider selling my Yaesu and picking one up. I really liked the front of the radio vs. the Yaesu.

    The CTX-10 does look a bit less cluttered than the 817 and it does have 10 watt and internal tuner capabilities which is a plus. This means less need to carry additional batteries and a manual or automatic tuner. The weight and space you save may be used for a 5 watt VHF radio to keep in the radio “bug out box”.

    Wishing you and your family a happy Christmas and a healthy & profitable 2018!
    God Bless

    1. JM, it really depends on what you’re looking for when saying ‘better’. The 817 does several things that no other QRP rig can, namely 6/2/70cm SSB. That’s a pretty attractive set of features for certain uses.

      But when it comes to HF, there’s a few drawbacks. Having everything (tuner, soundcard & batteries) in one small package means reduced points of failure. One of the things I really like about my old Icom 703 is the on-board tuner, even if it’s twice the size of the 817. The biggest thing is the rugged package. This looks to be a far more durable package than anything else on the market currently.

      Of course we won’t know until I have some hands-on time, so we’ll see.

  2. Keypounder

    One of the reasons I really like both the Elecraft KX3 and the 817 is that both have 160 meters. These days, even 80 meters is not 24/7 NVIS capable, and in my mind that is one of the most important reasons to have portable HF capability. The 817 is more rugged than the Elecraft, and has vhf/uhf to boot, but neither is tough enough for extended field operations.

    I hope this new radio has 160 as well as 80 meter capability; if it does, and if it has a good general coverage receiver with performance equal to the KX2 or better, I will be very interested.

    What I have long wanted to see would be an updated weatherproof 817 with better receive performance and an internal sound card. Having a really good receiver allows you to “snuggle up” to loud interference, like the fish buoys on 1821, and still hear stations you want to work, while making it harder for you to be DFed. Having the internal sound card allows digital with several less bits of equipment and cables. Still better would be onboard digital modes a’ la Elecraft.

    Anyway, I will eagerly await the rollout!

    Regards, Keypounder.

    1. Unfortunately the CTX-10 is 80-10m, according to CommRadio. That’s a bit of a hit against it, because I’ll echo your statements from local NVIS QSOs around here that even 80 is running longer than necessary. Its the fact that its winter and the solar cycle being what it is. My 703+ outperforms the 817 on 160 in receive performance though, so there’s that. But above all I think they analyzed the market and saw little activity among SOTA and NPOTA on 160 and just made the judgement call. However I’d be willing to bet that through a firmware upgrade 160 could be opened on the CTX. We’ll see.

      As for Yaesu…since Vertex is owned by Motorola, anything new or cool for the ham market is coming from other places. None of the new stuff they’ve put out does much in my book, and aside from C4FM their older gear is far superior. It looks as though the big three have abandoned field radio altogether, leaving the innovation to Elecraft, CommRadio and Xiegu.

      We’ll see in time. 😉

      1. I’m not impressed with what I see from Xiegu 108G, NC Scout. Thoughtful reviews on Eham and other places leave me with the impression that the radio isn’t built like the 817, let along the Elecraft gear. I’ll wait and buy another used 817 before I buy a 108, and I am not going to buy more radios this year or next. What I really need to spend my time and money on is more antennas…….

        And on that note, I will get back to the shop, where I am working on expanding my listening antenna farm.

      2. On the Eham reviews, note that there’s two versions of the 108- the “indoor” and the “outdoor”, with the “outdoor” being the most up to date version with some hardware modifications. The original model was thoroughly panned (as it should be) but the second version not quite as much.

        That said, at what they cost, I’m not willing to be a beta-tester with no service support. Xiegu has no American presence. So while I find the features nice and feel that’s what Yaesu or Icom *should* have built as a successor to their QRP rigs, the reasoning you mention is the very reason I don’t own one. I’m saving my pennies for an American made rig with a company’s reputation behind it versus gambling on a 50% solution for 50% of the cost.

    1. Yeah, that would be nice. But at the same time I can add them easily enough, and I actually prefer them to not be housed within the radio casing as I can rig them far more ruggedly than most plug-ins are constructed. Externally it’s less stress on the physical connection.

      But we shall see.

  3. Deplorable B Woodman

    With so few front panel buttons, I have to wonder how menu-heavy driven this is.
    Will be awaiting your review.
    (Even at that, I might have to wait until one comes up on the used market from someone who isn’t.quite.satisfied with a perfectly good radio)

    For those on an even tighter budget, I recently saw this, the next generation of the BIT-X20 or BIT-X40 single band SSB/CW xceivers.
    Here is a small review of the uBIT-X, an all-band SSB/CW HF single board pre-built xceiver. Low cost, just need to add some external stuff to finish it.

    1. It’s likely to share a lot of the GUI with the CR-1A. Which is not terrible, but for people menu-averse, it might be a turnoff. I’m one of those who actually prefers fewer buttons as they’re fewer points of intrusion or failure.

      On the uBIT-X, that was actually my next post. Been duck hunting since just before dawn and you beat me to mentioning it. I have a friend who has one on order and will be piecing it together (that I’ll be somewhat witness to) so I’ll have some hands on with it as well.

      1. Deplorable B Woodman

        I pre- ordered one, “only” $109, opted for the slower, free India delivery, should be here in a month (mid-late January?)
        Other shipping option is two week $10 DHL.


      The BitX breaks easily, assuming it doesn’t show up broken.
      On the bright side you get to learn how to fix radios, and the most expensive part is only like $5.

      1. Deplorable B Woodman

        That’s all I need, another electronic thing to repair. That’s what I do for a career, and I like it, but sometimes I get tired of it.
        But we shall see…………..

      2. I would definitely like to know a bit more. Maybe Hut got a lemon. But the neatness of this project really appeals to me. A one-stop homebrew digi-capable HF rig with the addition of a Raspberry Pi, T1 autotuner, and a little know-how packed away in a cedar cigar box.


    I have no idea at this point.
    Been hoping to find a bad part…because that would simplify things.
    Worked when I got it. Tried a different power supply, only received worked after that.

    They have a user’s group and schematics and all sorts of info so one can learn how to test these things (and presumably other electronics when you get the hang of it).
    A Bitx has a high chance of turning the owner into something more than just an appliance user.
    Plus there’s a bunch of mods out there for it.

    Stuffed mine into a gutted CB case (be careful the heat syncs are not at ground, so an insulator kit easily obtained from an old PC PSU is in order).

  5. I’ve been very happy with the Xiegu X108G so far. I’m fairly rough on it but it has held up very well. Sometimes 20w makes all the difference in making the contact. Yes, you do have to lug a battery, but if you do your homework and practice field deployments, you can verify whether a tuner is needed for your radio or not on the band’s selected. I made an OCF dipole that needs no tuner for 40m, 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m and 10m and also for the 3.8-3.9mHz range of 80m. As with all things, getting out and practicing is key. The above RIG definitely fills a niche for “shack in a pack” ops tho. I’m very excited to see your review. After all, one is none and two is one!

    1. That’s a cool little rig that I’ve thought about picking up for some time. It looks like the radio Yaesu SHOULD BUILD to replace the 817. But that’s another story. The 20w capability is really attractive. Paired with a Elecraft T1 (which is tiny), I think it would make a good enough EMCOMM rig. The form factor is definitely right.

      Does yours have the antenna analyzer?

  6. S6cnrdude

    I as well will be looking forward to your review. In my mind, the big thing is current draw. A radio that sips and not drinks current is a huge advantage (even though the output may be lower). This radio looks great! Merry Christmas everyone!

    1. That appears to be one gripe with the X108G. The big color screen, while nice, sucks the juice. 750mA on RX. But for the capability it offers that might be something you just deal with. While I don’t plan on buying one at the present, if I come across one I would definitely post my experience due to almost no posted first hand information anywhere other than “it works ok”.

  7. Just finished deploying my 160m, 3/8 wave, inverted ‘L’ antenna (Article to follow on my site) and made immediate contacts using my 817.

    One of the contacts was amazed at how clear and strong my signal was from the QRP radio. He was about 400 miles NE of me in Watertown, NY.

    The second contact was about 600 miles NEE of me in Portsmouth, NH. Although he gave me a 5-8 report he preceded to lecture me using a QRP rig on 160m. LOL, I let him ramble on but I didn’t care as I had a contact which was coming in full quite-ing and he was receiving me with no issues.

    Match that 817 with a good antenna, be it a home brew or not, you can do some amazing things with it.

    Merry Christmas to all!

  8. dangero

    An FT-857D with battery, antenna tuner, and sound card doesn’t weigh much or take up much room so I haven’t found much interest in QRP rigs that don’t cover as many bands let alone put out as much power. Most people that don’t want to carry the extra 3 lbs of equipment are at least 25 lbs overweight.

    1. For extended operating out of a pack the current draw on that 857 becomes a big problem. I’ve done the same with the 857- if used with LDG’s Z-817 tuner (and limited to 20w out, the tuner’s rated max) or the tiny Elecraft T1, it has a small footprint. The issue lay with the draw on both RX (1.2A) and TX ( 4A @ 5w, 5A@ 10w, 8A @ 25w, 21A @ 100w) for the 857 or 897. Compared to a dedicated QRP rig’s low draw in both RX and TX (817: 300-450mA/ 2A @ 5w, 703+: 300mA / 3A @ 10w), a group can operate much longer both monitoring or communicating with a dedicated rig.

      1. dangero

        Very good point, the 857 is a power hog. I use two 14 watt (realistically only putting out about 18 watts in the sun according to my meter) rollable solar arrays to help charge it when in the field for long periods of time, it can actually completely run the rig and send extra power to charge the battery when only receiving.

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