Icom 7300 Contest Keyer

SOTABeams ContestConsole

SOTABeams ContestConsole

I’ve recently been building out my contesting capabilities at home and I’ve just added the SOTABEAMS ContestConsole to my shack. I’m also going to receive the K1EL K44 CW Keyer & Reader, for use in CW contests. But here I will focus on the ContestConsole. 

SOTABEAMS have continued to impress me with their innovations. I’ve been a customer since first getting licensed in 2013, primarily purchasing equipment for SOTA/portable use, they have pretty much everything you need to get started after all. Recently the company has started successful forays into more advanced innovations like the WSPRLite Antenna Tester and this newly released SOTABEAMS ContestConsole.

The ContestConsole has been designed specifically with the ubiquitous ICOM 7300 in mind, but it can also be used with other ICOM radios. Here are the high level features:

  • Instant access to voice, CW and PSK memories (no need to have them displayed on the radio screen)
  • TX PTT button
  • TX low power tune function – sends 10 Watt carrier (optional lead required)
  • Pushbutton frequency control (up and down)
  • External PTT socket for footswitch
  • Auxiliary microphone socket (3.5mm)

I purchased the ContestConsole primarily to give me an easy and quick way of voice keying during contests. It’s a darn sight easier to use than the on screen buttons. With the tactile feel I can key easily between logging, try doing that on a touchscreen.

The four keying buttons on the ContestConsole map to the first 4 memories on the Icom 7300. If you’re in SSB mode, then pressing one will transmit one of your voice recordings, if you’re in CW mode then Morse will be sent instead. I have the following four stored for SSB; T1 is a short contest CQ, T2 is a longer contest CQ, T3 is simply my callsign (used for replying to DX in a pileup) and T4 is a general CQ call for use outside of contests.

Voice recordings mapped to memories 1-4

Voice recordings mapped to memories 1-4

Setup took all of 10 minutes and I had my Heil headset and footswitch integrated and the 7300 configured to accept the ‘external keyboard’.

Back panel of ContestConsole

Back panel of ContestConsole

Conclusion

I’ve used the ContestConsole in several SSB contests now and it works very well. It’s a worthwhile addition to the shack and anything that saves me shouting in the shack is a wise investment!

The only downside is it’s limited to only 4 memory keys? The Icom 7300 has 8 memories and it would be good to be able to key all of these. I’m sure there’s a design reason for this..

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