Thoughts on the past few years...
I've been making DX tools for fellow DXers for about the past 20 years and, while there have always been bumps in the road, the past couple of years have been particularly trying.
Hurricanes---Being located in NW Florida, hurricanes are always a potential problem. However, the past few years have been devastating. First, in 2004, we were directly hit by Hurricane Ivan and sustained over $10,000 in damages to Radio Plus+. This literally put us out of business for three months. Even worse, it put two of our reliable suppliers for Plexiglas loophead cabinets and silk screening completely out of business. This resulted in extreme hustling to find new local suppliers. The closest Plexiglas fabricator was 40 miles away and a local silk screener agreed to attempt to print the difficult sloping front faces of the metal cabinets. Unfortunately, the Plexiglas fabricator was wiped out the next year by Hurricane Katrina and the silk screener threw his hands up in surrender and admitted that it he wasn't able to do it. Hurricane Dennis hit here in 2005 and, again, resulted in damage to Radio Plus+ and forced closing for several weeks. So far this year, we haven't been directly affected by storms. In addition, a new plastics fabricator has started business and I've gone to computer labeling of the cabinets, so things are finally rolling along again (for the time being).
I have to admit that I came very close to throwing in the towel during the past two years...
Suppliers and supplies---It seems that the components used in Radio Plus+ products are getting increasingly difficult to find. For years and years, I used a readily available 2-ganged variable capacitor for tuning the loops. These suddenly began disappearing from the market and I was able to hoard only about 200 of them before they disappeared completely. When this stock was depleted, I had to completely redesign the tuning section of the loops to accommodate the only variable capacitors I could find. (Thus, the v2.0 with its 3-position range switch was born to cover the tuning range of the smaller variable capacitor.)
For years, all Quantum Loops used a JFET first stage of amplification, followed by a second-stage MOSFET amp. Originally, many years ago, these MOSFETs were available from Motorola, were excellent, consistent and cost less than $3.00 each. When Motorola quit making them, I was forced to use "equivalents" or (supposedly) "new old stock." By a couple of years ago, these MOSFETs had increased to about $13.00 each and were highly variable in quality. In fact, I had to discard between two and three out of every four I tested. At $13.00 a pop, this was getting prohibitively expensive and would have required my significantly raising prices to compensate. To make matters even more hair-pulling, I was forced to mount a trimmer on the bottom (middle) of the circuit board so that the gate control voltage could be adjusted for best signal-to-noise balance for each individual MOSFET that passed muster. (NOTE: If you have a QX Loop or QX Pro manufactured in the past five years, you might check to see if the trimmer is still optimally adjusted; a rise in noise floor indicates that it needs adjustment.) Instead, I designed a new amp using a JFET/JFET design. While the overall gain was reduced, the noise floor was significantly improved so that there was equivalent performance between the two amps, especially since the reduction in gain of the JFET/JFET amp could easily be offset by adjusting the Q-multiplication control. Luckily, I recently was fortunate to acquire a few prime MOSFETs by Motorola and they are being used in the new v2.0 Plus+ model. While not quite as quiet as the JFET/JFET design, S-meter readings are greater (if you happen to judge the "worth" of an antenna by its S-meter reading).
So, here we are now. It feels as though I've been stumbling, trying to keep my balance the past few years and now I'm upright and feeling somewhat back to normal re: Radio Plus+. New products that have been on the drawing board for the past several years are now gaining my attention and, hopefully, will see the light of day in the not too distant future.
Through these unusual times, I've continued to appreciate the support Radio Plus+ has received from my fellow DXers and radio hobbyists...I can't thank you folks enough.