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RIGblaster M8, Plus CQ review - West Mountain Radio

RIGblaster M8, Plus CQ review - West Mountain Radio

RIGblaster M8, Plus CQ review - West Mountain

Personal computers are quickly becoming as essential in ourham shacks as radios and antennas. But hooking up the computerto communicate with and control the radio has often been astumbling block. Not anymore…CQ Reviews:West Mountain Radio RIGblasterand RIGblaster PlusBY RICH MOSESON,* W2VUcool! It’s just like instant messaging!”exclaimed my daughter as she sat at the computerkeyboard, having a PSK31 QSO (mostly“Oh,about horses) with a ham in Florida and his granddaughter.One of the drawing points for getting more kids into ham radiotoday is HF digital communications—instant messaging, ifyou will—with people all over the world (and without tying upthe phone line for hours at a time). Computer sound cardshave put amateur digital communications within the range ofjust about any ham with a radio and a computer. But connectingthe radio to the computer can be a challenge, especiallyfor those hams whose skills lie more in the analog worldthan the digital. Well, the folks at West Mountain Radio heardyour cries of frustration and have solved the problem for you.West Mountain’s “RIGblaster” and now, “RIGblaster Plus,”have taken the world of amateur digital communications bystorm. It’s a rare station whose “brag list” of equipmentdoesn’t include one of these interface boxes. Why? Becausethe RIGblaster is reasonably priced, simple to install and use,and most importantly, it works. But what exactly does it do?The RIGblaster brings together in one small box all thecabling and switching that the average ham needs to switchback and forth between using a microphone and using a keyboardto communicate. It also provides routing for incomingaudio cables that need to feed both a speaker for voice contactsand the computer for digital QSOs. Better yet, it detectswhether you’re switching on the transmitter from your microphoneor your computer and automatically opens that channelfor communication with the radio. No switching is requiredin most cases.The “Plus” model, introduced at the 2001 DaytonHamvention®, adds a front panel headphone jack and aseparate PTT in/out jack on the back. This jack may beused in one of two ways. First, you may connect a footswitch to key your transmitter on and off. Second, you mayconnect a cable from this jack to an external device, suchas a linear amplifier or sequencer that needs to be keyedon whenever the transmitter is keyed on. The Plus modelalso has a “key out” jack on the rear panel. This is for softwarethat switches your transmitter on and off directly from*Editor, CQe-mail: The RIGblaster (bottom) and RIGblaster Plus (top)from West Mountain Radio. See text for differences infeatures between the two models.the computer’s serial jack via the key input or FSK port onyour radio (other programs using the mic input actually putout audio tones, giving you MCW, modulated CW, or AFSK,audio frequency shift keying).That new headphone jack on the front panel replaces a“left/right/both” switch on the original (now called Standard)model which let you send different audio tones to differentchannels for full duplex operation. Few hams do this, whichis why the switch was dropped.By the way, there are three variations on the Standardmodel. One comes with an RJ-style modular mic plug on bothinput and output, another comes with an 8-pin round connector,and another comes with a 4-pin round connector. Pickthe one that matches the mic jack on your rig. The RIGblasterPlus comes with the modular plug as standard output andyour choice of cables to match your rig’s mic connector. Theonly mic input jack on the Plus is an 8-pin, which is the mostcommon (if your mic has a different jack, you’ll need to gowith the Standard instead of the Plus).There’s also a “NoMic” version, without a mic connector,for people who plan to operate digital modes exclusively anddon’t need to connect a microphone.The Plus communicates with your computer via a DB-9 serialport rather than the DB-25 serial port found on the Standardmodel. This was changed in order to make room for the additionaljacks on the back panel. The correct cable comes witheach model, so there’s no problem. However, be careful that30 • CQ • January 2002 Visit Our Web Site

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