I first learned of the new Vibroplex iambic paddle from several ham radio blogs I read. A couple attributes of the new key got my attention and it didn't take me long to decide to add this instrument to the lineup at amateur radio station W8MDE.
If this is the first time you have seen this key please take a moment to go to the Vibroplex website and see the Vibrocube in it's stock configuration for yourself. Red knobs and finger pieces have been a stock color on certain keys for probably longer than I've been around. While not a fan of the red finger pieces it's not the color of the new Vibrocube paddles that triggered the double take but the gigantic size. I tried the red finger pieces and they actuate the levers fine but I just couldn't get over the big red clown shoe feeling.
As Scott Robbins, W4PA explains on his website the Vibrocube's design clearly addresses the requirements of the large handed radio telegraphy operator. The big finger pieces accommodate a wide range of hand positions and the heavy base provides a rock solid foundation ready for the roughest fist.
What caught my attention was the height of the levers. In my short three years as a cw ham I've noticed a common shortcoming on all of my Morse Code paddles. They all seem too short to me. (Pun!) When I received my package from the mailman Saturday morning I pulled the finger pieces from my Vibroplex Iambic Standard and installed them on the new key. To demonstrate my hand position while using the Vibrocube place your fist down on the desk as if you were firing a pistol. I use my thumb and index finger to operate the dual levers of the key but leave my hand in the shooting bench stance. This just seems more natural and comfortable to me compared to my wrist down flat on the table which must be a more common practice based on the short stature of today's CW paddles.
With the black oval finger pieces from my Iambic Standard I think the Vibrocube looks great and sends code just as well. I tend to like a key whose levers have more mass and greater contact spacing to provide some tactile response to my inputs. I attribute this to many hours spent slapping the lever of my bug key while mastering that amazing contraption. The contact spacing is set using a qsl card to set the gap. I can feel the movement and hear a distinct clink as the switch closes.
I do tend to occasionally get excited and push a little too hard on the lever causing my key to skid one way or the other during a live contact on the air. It doesn't happen often or affect my sending but it is annoying. The weight of the Vibrocube definitely solves that problem.
Though not a true cube the perimeter of the Vibrocube base is a square 3-1/2 inches on a side and 1-1/2 inches deep. This chunk of solid steel provides nearly 6 pounds of mass. Needless to say the key stays put.
Another startling feature of the Vibrocube is the black wrinkle powder coating on the yoke and levers. I like this departure from the usual flashy chrome pieces. The wrinkle coat photographs like glossy wet paint due to the bright studio lights but to the eye it appears matte black and looks great on the desk.
For the final bit of customization I swapped out the standard black feet for soft white rubber bumpers that I think add a touch of class. Like white patent leather shoes with a black tuxedo or white wall tires on an old classic car.
The Vibrocube nameplate is smaller than the standard Knoxville, TN nameplate and this latest revision sports a bold red outline stripe that greatly improves the look of the current screen printed plate.
Of course the best thing about a new key is putting it on the air. I've really enjoyed the Vibrocube and logged some nice contacts with it over the holiday weekend:
12/24/11 14.061 MHz (25 watts) AA1TH/qrp Boston, MA
12/24/11 14.048 MHz (100 watts) W0WM Sisseton, SD
12/24/11 14.055 MHz (100 watts) KJ6POQ San Lorenzo, CA
12/25/11 14.040 MHz (50 watts) KX5P Plano, TX
12/26/11 14.041 MHz (50 watts) N4ZMP Pensacola, FL
Power shown is my transmit power out. Rig is an Icom 718 HF transceiver. Antenna is an End Fed Half Wave wire (34 feet long) up 38 feet above ground. The Vibrocube is connected to a Logikey K5 electronic keyer which forms perfect dots and dashes. My putting them together in perfect order is another story entirely.