Ranger Communications RCI-5054DX 6-Meter Transceiver
Reviewed by Joe Bottiglieri, AA1GW Assistant Technical Editor
The Ranger RCI-5054DX all-mode transceiver has made gearing up for 6 meters considerably more affordable.
It's already clear that Cycle 23 will be going down in ham history as the best yet for 50-MHz fans. For years, we younger folks could only stand by and listen quietly as Old Timers reminisced about the incredible worldwide 6-meter openings they witnessed during the peaks of the legendary cycles of the hollow-state age. Now, however, a few of us—bona fide members of "generation solid-state"— have impressive 6-meter cycle-peak DX tales of our own to tell.
Ranger Communications recently added several new transceivers to its Amateur Radio lineup. These include three tabletop/rack-mount transceivers— two for 10 and 12 meters and a single-bander for 10—and a mobile rig for the 6-meter band. The RCI-5054DX 6-meter all-mode, the focus of this review, first hit dealers' shelves last July. Considering the tremendous 6-meter propagation that we've been experiencing over the last several months, it's hard to imagine Ranger's release of this radio could have been timed any better.
The Big Picture
The RCI-5054DX covers 50 to 54 MHz in the SSB, CW, FM and AM modes. Maximum power output is 25 W for SSB, and 10 W for the other modes. Features include 10 memory channels, a relative SWR indicator, an all-mode squelch, a noise blanker/antenna noise limiter, memory and VFO scanning, programmable scan and band limits and transmit/receive frequency offset capabilities (for repeater and split operation).
The '5054 shares faceplate, enclosure and chassis components with Ranger's classic—and somewhat hefty—'2900-series mobile transceivers. A peek under the covers of this new rig, however, reveals a big double-sided glass/epoxy printed circuit board that's rather sparsely populated with surface mount components.
Frankly, there's an awful lot of underutilized space inside this cabinet. It's likely that the conversion to surface mount technology in its most recent products (the changeover occurred within the last couple of years) provided Ranger with a tempting opportunity to decrease overall radio dimensions—and this should certainly be a consideration for companies marketing contemporary mobile equipment. By retaining all of the existing—albeit oversized—exterior components used in the manufacture of some of its earlier radios, though, the company could avoid considerable reengineering and retooling costs. While most of the other ham radio manufacturers are focusing on ever smaller and sexier packaging, Ranger chose an alternative route. They evidently believe they can lure traditionally frugal ham customers with functional styling, but attractive pricing. Hmmm.. .maybe bigger is better?
The transceiver's large LCD display is easy to read from most angles. The exception: viewing angles below perpendicular to the screen. From these vantage points the segments essentially vanish. A mounting location on a high shelf or in an overhead console probably won't cut it. Glare and washout can also be a prob-lem—especially in a mobile installation. Keep these factors in mind when choosing a permanent mounting position.
Big frequency digits, a signal strength/ RF power/SWR bargraph-style meter and an extensive collection of feature icons appear as black segments on a teal background. The display and key illumination can be set to one of three different levels or shut off entirely.
Front panel controls include the main tuning knob, a small army of pushbuttons and seven rotary controls. The tuning knob—located in the upper left-hand corner—has a detented action (40 clicks per revolution—4 kHz per revolution at the 100 Hz tuning step size). There are also CHANNEL up and down buttons on the top of the included hand mike, and A and V buttons on the front panel. Any of these can be used to tune around in the VFO mode.
The available tuning step sizes are 1 MHz; 100, 10 and 1 kHz; and 100 Hz. The step increment is selected via a "shift" key. Each press of the SHF button repositions an arrow cursor under one of the digits in the display. The mike buttons, the tuning knob or the A/V buttons are then used to increase or decrease the selected digit's value. This arrangement works very well for rapidly hopping around on the band.
The minimum step size for transmit tuning is 100 Hz. A CLR (clarifier) control knob...all right, RIT for you purists... allows the receive frequency to be varied anywhere within ±2.5 kHz of the transmit frequency. For the receive and transmit frequencies to match, the indicator on the knob must be set to the 12 o'clock position. It would be handy if the control had a detent at this "zero-offset" setting.
I found the main tuning knob a bit too.......
Copyright © 2002 by the American Radio Relay League Inc.