Ranger Communications RCI-2970DX 10/12-Meter Transceiver
Reviewed by Wayne Irwin, W1KI Assistant to the ARRL VEC Manager
With a higher level of RF output power and real all-mode capabilities on both 10 and 12 meters, the RCI-2970DX packs in lots more fun than the typical 10-meter mobile.
Ranger, RadioShack, and a small number of other manufactures have recognized this market segment and have recently turned out some new products. Ranger—with the RCI-2970DX—has decided to entice these customers further by offering a rig that provides a little "room to grow"—capabilities on the popular 12-meter band as well.
Beyond its appeal to relative newcomers, the RCI-2970DX's 10- and 12-meter frequency coverage makes it an attractive choice for mobile installations or for those with limited space for setting up antennas at home. Efficient mobile antennas for these bands don't need to be particularly large, and the dimensions of simple fixed-station antennas for 10 and 12 lend themselves well to home construction techniques.
In addition to the extra band, the '2970DX entices prospective buyers with a few other features that you won't find in some of the competing transceivers. These include high RF output power: an advertised 150 W on SSB; all-mode operation: AM, FM, USB, LSB and CW; memory and VFO scan capabilities; and built-in SWR metering.
The General Configuration
The RCI-2970DX's front panel is dominated by a large LCD display. Frequency digits, a vertical bargraph S/RF/SWR meter and over a dozen small feature icons appear as black segments on a light green field. Background illumination can be set to one of three different levels or shut off completely. The small main tuning knob is located on the left edge of faceplate, and has a detented tuning action. Just below this knob is a six-pin microphone connector. A hand mike is provided.
Four more knobs are located on the far right of the front panel. Three of these are concentric pairs that handle the volume and squelch; RF power and mike gain; and RIT (labeled CLR) and RF gain. The fourth is the mode switch, which includes positions for AM, USB, LSB, CW and PA (public address). These four controls are grouped close together. It can be difficult to change the settings of their outer rings without inadvertently disturbing the settings of their immediate neighbors.
Two rows of seven backlit translucent buttons are located just below the display window. Their assignments are printed directly on the surface of each key. Nearly all of these keys perform just one particular task. This makes operating the transceiver fairly easy and intuitive. No "function key" combinations are required to access secondary key operations, so you won't find yourself straining to read unlit secondary assignment labels (which are typically printed directly on the faceplate of most other transceivers).
The rear panel is the epitome of simplicity. There are three Vs-inch phone jacks—for a CW key, external speaker and public address speaker—a chassis mounted SO-239 antenna jack and a six-pin rectangular dc power jack. A headphone jack is not provided. The dc power connector is physically the same as the one found on the vast majority of modern HF transceivers, but beware: the wiring configuration is different. The included dc power cable is about 10 feet long and is fused in both leads.
A massive heat sink is fastened to the underside of the enclosure. The radio does not employ a cooling fan. My operating experiences indicate that the cooling system is sufficient; I didn't encounter any instances where the heat sink became particularly hot.
The U-shaped mobile mounting bracket that's packed with the rig can only be attached toward the upper side of the enclosure. This allows you to mount the radio under a dashboard or shelf—not above. An extended bracket that fits below the radio is available as an optional accessory. Four thumbscrews are provided for securing the mobile mounting bracket to the chassis. Some additional mounting hardware and a microphone hanger are also included.
The small 18-page Owner's Manual is adequate, though not overflowing with information. A brief description of each of the controls and jacks is provided. Most operators should have little, if any, difficulty with installation and proper operation using the information provided, however. The majority of the control functions are apparent from the labels on or near the controls. After I negotiated the short learning curve, I found the radio to be relatively user friendly. Stern warnings about the consequences of unlicensed operation on the Amateur Bands are included on the carton, in the manual and on a label affixed to the top cover of the radio.
No schematic or other service information is included in the manual, but a diagram of the mike connector pin out is presented for those that want to use a microphone other than the supplied hand mike or to wire the rig up for digital mode operation. Factory service manuals are available.
There are several different ways to set the operating frequency. The main tuning knob is perhaps the most obvious method, but you can also employ a pair of CHANNEL buttons located on the top of the microphone or ▲ and ▼ buttons on the front panel. The smallest tuning step is 10 Hz. Finer receive tuning is accomplished by use of the receive incremental tuning knob—labeled CLR (for "clarifier")—on the front panel.
The main tuning knob or buttons can be used to change the frequencies in 10 Hz; 1, 10 or 100 kHz; or 1 MHz steps. This feat is accomplished by using the radio's SHF button to move the position a small arrow icon under the digit that you wish to change. The tuning knob or keys are then employed to tune by the selected digit.
Band changing is a bit unusual. While you can move from 12 meters to 10 meters by placing the arrow under the 1 MHz digit and tuning, in order to move from 10 to 12, you've got to place the arrow under the 100 kHz digit and tune above or below the 10-meter band limits.
When the radio is in the memory mode, a MEMORY icon and the channel number appear in the display just to the left of the operating frequency. Ten memories are available and are selected using any of the same three controls that are used for VFO tuning. The memories are not "tuneable."
The majority of operators will probably use this radio for single sideband operation. Let's take a look at this type of operation first.
The '2970DX supports both upper and lower sideband (lower sideband is handy for those who might want to operate RTTY). There are separate controls for the microphone gain and RF power output. VOX operation is not supported.
When I initially got on the air in this mode, I received a report from an operator in the Midwest that my transmit audio sounded distorted. After a minute or so of head scratching, I discovered that I had the microphone gain control set too high. There's no ALC level indicator on the radio, so it takes some experimentation to find the setting that works best for your particular voice characteristics. I set the knob at about mid rotation, and subsequent reports verified that the audio sounded fine.
Information on split frequency operation in the SSB mode is not included in the manual, but the radio does have this capability. Rare DX and DXpeditions........
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Copyright © 2001 by the American Radio Relay League Inc.