I was already an owner of the CE-19 interface (https://www.radioddity.com/products/xiegu-ce-19) , having ordered it about the same time I ordered the Xiegu G90.
At the same time, a fellow ham VK1TSK, ordered a XGGComms Digimode-4 ( http://xggcomms.com/Xiegu–Wouxon-Shop(2066631).html) and was singing its praises.
Well fast forward almost a year, and I finally had the opportunity to borrow it from him whilst he was working on other projects.
This article is what came from tests that were run. It should be noted, that these tests are not overly scientific (if at all), but based on testing in real life like many of your would.
- Both the CE-19 and the Xggcomms Digimode-4 were tested on the same bench
- Uilising the same Xiegu G90 which is using firmware 1.78b1.
- Both CE-19 and Xggcomms Digimode-4 are connected to the same computer (at separate times)
- Antenna’s used were a 15 Resonant but compromised Dipole and a 40m Tuned Vertical with loaded Coil.
- As mentioned, whilst not a scientific test, we tried as much as possible, to perform a like for like test.
- FLRig 188.8.131.52 Alpha is being used, mainly for ATU CAT control improvements for the G90
- WSJT-X 2.5.0 is being utilised for FT8
- FT8 is being used as the digital mode for testing of these units.
- It should be noted that while switching between the two units was straight forward, there was the necessity to tweak the Speaker and Microphone levels ( I avoided changing the Xiegu G90 Levels to remove a variable).
- On reception, the microphone setting was set to achieve about 70% avg. on the WXJT-X bar, and this had to be adjusted slightly depending on the interface unit being used
- Similarly, on transmission, the speaker volume was set to achieve 10W with an ALC avg. of 84 (which appears to produce the best results)
- And whilst it should not have any bearing, COM4 was CE-19 and COM5 was the XGGComms device.
* * It should be noted that whilst G90 Firmware 1.78b1 and FLRrig 184.108.40.206 Alpha are not production release, several weeks of use have produced no issues at all before this testing was done.
At this point you were expecting a side by side comparison of the two devices, and so was I.
In terms of actual communications results between the two devices, I would say that the difference was minimal. Both devices allowed :
- Reception of FT8 (both devices received close to the same rate of F8 CQ calls over 30 mins – 230 CQ Calls
- Transmission of FT8 (successful contacts were made and logged)
Now to be fair, in effect they perform the same task, with basically the same building blocks, just assembled in a different way and that is probably the main contributing factor to which unit comes out in front.
Aesthetics / Design
I think the following pictures will show the difference
|Cables required – CE19||Cables Required – Digimode-4|
The above pictures show the required cables needed for Digital modes excluding the G90 and the Computer
The main difference is that the Digimode-4 removes the need for a separate USB Sound Card, and a separate CAT Cable, as these are built in.
I tried to make the CE-19 look good for the pictures, but I was fair and allowed 60 seconds to prepare each cable for the picture and it was the best I could achieve.
As you can imagine, if you were doing portable or SOTA operations, carrying the CE19 ensemble of cables is likely to damage (or lose) something.
The CE19 has, from what I can tell, only isolation on the PTT circuit, thanks for an OptoCoupler. From what I can tell there is no other isolation.
I have never been an isolation zealot, but since getting back into ham radio, particularly with Lightning Collectors (Antennas) connecting the outside to inside and this RF thing running around the shack, where I can, I remove all extraneous wires or cords that are not needed. So the XGGComms unit with its vastly reduced cabling footprint, makes a lot of sense, as stray RF is an issue with these devices (both). It is recommended that Clamp on Ferrites be used on the cables of both devices to reduce the RF being induced into the cables.
So the Xggcomm unit with its similar PTT isolation, but the addition of audio isolation with 600:600 ohm transformers provides that additonal protection, and reduced risk of ground-loops which could impact your Digital Experience.
Finally one difference I did note during setup and operation
I wanted to spend some more time with this one, but time has gotten away. However I wanted to mention it in case you come across it.
I have, over the many months using the CE-19 found that the serial interface has worked best on 1 Stop bit. If this was ever changed to 2 stop bits, or added the use of RTS and CTS, reliability issues with ensue. Typically this would occur during or after the transmit phase. Using 1 Stop bit, Ferrite clamps, this did not occur since
Whilst using the XGGComms unit, the odd little issues occurred again (using the ferrites on that device as well as recommended by XGGComms), however reliable operation was achieved with setting 2 stop bits. It was clear cut, this setting made a difference.
I would like to delve deeper, as from what I can tell, the XGGComms unit is using the same hardware for the serial interface as my standalone cable.
As at 1st Feb 2022
$US34.99 – Radioddity ( CE-19)
$US10.00 – Avg Price of decent USB Sound devce (Amazon)
$US100.00 – Xggcomms.com (Digimode-4)
Main thing to take into consideration here is ideally you need the sound device with the CE19, so it ends up the Xggcomms device is twice the price.
However you need to consider how much your time is worth. I know I spent half a day, soldering up the connections (as the CE19 audio wires come unterminated) , checking my connections, checking them again, getting confused due to the number of wires (as I did not want to blow my new rig). Trying a few USB sound devices etc etc….Where as the XGGComms unit was literally plug and play and it fits neatly down the side of my G90, and with only 1 wire (USB) needing to connect to the computer.
I do know that if the Digimode-4 was going to be that simple, I would have sprung for the extra, as I have no interest using much else of the CE-19 interface functions.
Generally both devices will clearly get you involved of the world of Digital Communications with discernable difference in ability, These are the main pros and cons
- Xiegu’s own interface unit
- Low cost
- Has additional interfaces (PA)
- Needs sound interface
- Large amount of loose and long wires
- Has built in sound card (No need for separate sound card)
- Has Built in Serial interface (no need for Xiegu CAT cable)
- Vastly reduced wiring footprint
- Built in the UK (as far as we can tell)
- Audio isolation as well as PTT Isolation
- High costs (but less labour required
- Large amount of loose and long wires
Finally, I am looking to get a Digimode-4 shortly, as I continue on my quest to reduce the number of cables in my shack. I also want to start doing some SOTA this year and that includes some portable HF operations and I cannot do FT8 with the current cabling of the CE19 (its just asking for trouble).
Should it be known, if I was aware of the differences a year ago, I would have bought the Digimode-4 instead of the CE-19, but that’s what this hobby is all about….learning, continually learning.
Again, thanks to VK1TSK for the loan of the Xggcomms Digimode-4 so I could complete this article and satisfy my curiousity.