Saturday, March 6, 2021

ARRL DX SSB DAY ONE

Took a couple of hours last night and tuned 40 and 80 meters during the contest. Both bands were in very good shape for me (from EM55, Memphis, TN area) for Europe, the Caribbean, and South America.  I also heard a lot of strong 6 and 7 stations working the same stations I was working, so the band was long and solid.   I could work almost anything I could hear.

Hoping to work some higher bands this afternoon and return to 40 and 80 last night.

I'll report in more detail on specific contacts a few days after the contest ends.



My working conditions are IC-7700 (150-200w) into an S943V.  Using N1MM+ logger, and Heil Pro-7 with a foot switch.  This is my first serious contest effort with the 7700, having recently had both a TS-590 and an IC-746.  The filtering and noise reduction are amazing . . . I never had any trouble weeding out the signal I wanted.

I hope you'll get on the air - even if you aren't competing, and work some stations - maybe get a new one or two.  My main goal is to finish DXCC on 40m (only three to go) and maybe add a few on 80!  Let me know your working conditions and how you did!

73 and good DX!,

Trent

N4DTF

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

 Pleased to announce that I'll be taking on the role of VHF+ Editor for CQ Magazine - excited to have the opportunity to further our hobby by writing a regular column.  I'll use this space as "overflow" when new material or reports of on-air activity exceed the monthly space allotted!  


https://cqnewsroom.blogspot.com



Thursday, April 18, 2019

After a long pause, I am working to make my ham radio blog active again.  I'm going to start with a post from the SWOT (Sidewinders on Two, a 2 meter sideband group) pages, authored by Don Ross, AC5D.  Don writes about the new Icom, which many weak signal operators are rightfully excited about.  But his take is more about ensuring that we leverage the equipment we already have, rather than just buying a lot of specialized gear.  The operator looking to move into weak signal work and having no VHF/UHF equipment would certainly see the 9700 as a viable option . . . but someone who has equipment that can be repurposed might go in a different direction.  Here are Don's thoughts - and again I offer my thanks for his allowing me to share this.

"Why I decided Against the 9700"

Like many, I have been eagerly awaiting the release and arrival of the new Icom IC-9700 multimode VHF/UHF/SHF radio with a look of using it mostly on 2m with an occasional foray onto other bands during contests, etc.  I subscribed to all of the reflectors, listened to every rumor, and had one on order from DX Engineering.  I’ve even downloaded the manuals and figured out how I was going to configure it within my station to include abstract wiring diagrams and looking at the physical positioning within what was rapidly becoming my IC-9700 shrine.
 
It was while doing this that I realized that I was buying the most expensive new gadget just because it was new.
 
The wiring diagram showed me putting dummy loads on the 23cm and 70cm antennas and my plan to use it only as a 2m rig – a $2100 2m rig that only differed from my other 2m all-modes by having a band scope and a built in sound card interface.  Yes, I know that is has an SDR architecture, but the first two reasons were the most important.  Remembering that I had a 28Mhz-to-144MHz transverter lying around from an earlier project, I started comparing the IC-9700 to the IC-7610 with a good DEMI transverter built by Q5 Signals (q5signal.com).
 
As a 2m rig, the IC-9700 can monitor only one frequency at a time whereas the IC-7610, using its dual watch capability can not only watch two frequencies simultaneously but each frequency has its own band scope.  With this setup, I can run on FT-8 or MS while listening for a band opening on 144.200.  Supposedly, you can monitor a third frequency on your computer by running the HDSDR software but I have not tried it yet.  Imagine running a digital mode while listening to both 144.200 and 146.52 during one of the contests.
 
There is also the issue of drift with the 10MHz input on the IC-9700 being for reference only verses the lock on the IC-7610.  With 212 confirmed grids, the digital modes (MS, FT-8, and EME) have become much more important to me and the amount of drift is an issue of concern.
 
Not all is sweetness and light though since both radios have only one PTT line for keying an amplifier but the DEMI transverter does have a built in sequencer so I can key the transverter and have it key the amp.  The built in sequencer may have me getting a second transverter with split output lines so that I can experiment with other ways to protect those rather expensive preamplifiers.
 
The second area of concern is cost with an almost $1500 cost difference if buying a new IC-7610 and transverter (about $3600) verses a brand new IC-9700 (at the current $2100 which will undoubtedly go lower within a year).  But since I already own the radio and the transverter there is only the cost of sending the transverter back to Q-5 to have the input power level changed.  Even including shipping both ways along with the work, I’m only going to have about $100 “new” involved in this project.
 
So for me, the IC-9700 does not make a whole lot of sense – right now.  But it sure is good looking!
 
Don Ross, AC5D
SWOT # 2873

Monday, February 1, 2016

February 1 Update on DX and Lowband Activity

DX
January was interesting - the Palmyra and VP8 dxpeditions generated a lot of interest and a lot of contacts.  the VP8 crew were certainly braving the elements to keep the island on the air.  I was not able to work either group, but now that VP8 is on Thule as VP8 I’ve been able to hear them faintly on 40m so I’m confident I will get them in the log this week.  Another VP8 will be up and running later this month, so lots of activity from the Southern Ocean.  Speaking of that, got my card from St. Helena for 12m and 15m, ATNO for me. 

Please keep the DX Code of Conduct in mind as you work the DX  www.dx-code.org

Low Bands
My vertical continues to work well with the loading coil on 80m.  This weekend, I built a similar coil for 160m, and it tunes up well, I hope to put it on the air this week.  I bought some weather proof DC connectors to use in swapping the coils out.  Basically, I have a plug on each coil, plus a plug on the open ends of the feed wire to the antenna, so that I can easily change them out.  I made a stub connector with another plug, basically just soldered the ends together, that allows me to use the antenna without the coils on 40-6 meters.  The LDG autotuner at the base of the antenna continues to work well.  Pictures of the coils and the connectors are below.  






This weekend I spent some time on 40m, and I found it to be in great shape around 0300z on the 31st.  I worked Ukraine, Kuwait, Slovenia, and Bulgaria with great signal reports.  I’m only running 100w from the Kenwood TS-590s.

6 Meters

 I noticed several good openings on 6 meters during January - none during the ARRL VHF contest, however.  As I’ve said before, I remain convinced there is more opportunity than we know on 6 meters, we just aren’t on there enough.  Listen and call and see what happens, and watch the DXMaps site for openings.

Finally, remember the meteor scatter crowd most mornings on 50.145 around 0700z 

Please send along any reports you have and I will include them here as they come in.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Volume Two Number One - More Low Band Activities

DX
I had been watching two Dxpeditions carefully, the Willis Is, and Seychelles.  No luck hearing the Willis Is team, but  better luck with Seychelles, after 20 minutes of calling I managed to get through on 20 meters about 2030z on November 19th. They had a steady signal, and the op, whom I believe to be EI9FBB was handling a huge pileup well.   Of note was a group of US hams who thought it would be fun, I suppose to set up on 14.261 (the dx was on 14.262) and run high power and speech processors.  I was pleased that the DSP on my Kenwood TS-590s allowed me to notch them out and still hear the DX.  I will never understand the mindset of interfering with other transmissions.  Shall we all review the DX Code of Conduct again? www.dx-code.org

Looking ahead, January will present a number of rare and semi-rare entities for DX.  Make sure that your equipment is ready, perhaps by spending some time listening at times and frequencies that you expect the DX to be active and workable in your area.  Dxsummit.fi and dxwatch are both good sites to use.  Review the DX web site for more specific guidelines on times and frequencies and modes.  Please remember: the good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth.  That’s a great ratio for success in DXing.

Low Bands
As you know, I’ve been working to optimize my 43’ vertical (an S943v) for 80m.  I built a loading coil for the base, and added two more 65’ radials.  I’m pleased to report a 1:1.2 SWR focused on the 3.790 - 3.800 DX Window.  Even better, I’ve made good contacts both stateside (the Arkansas RazorBack Phone net is very reliable at 1230z and 1830z on 3.987.50) and across the pond . . . just in the last week Wales, England, Belgium, and Spain for example.  Around midnight my local time 0600z there is usually a group of hams on 3.799.9 in Europe, and they will all want to work you if you make contact with any of them.  A really good group of folks.

Not much time on 40 or 160 so far.  Hearing good things about 30m from 0200z to 0400z, especially into Asia from the central US.

My next project is a 160 coil for the vertical, to provide better SWR and performance on that band.

6 Meters
On two days the week of November 16th, there have been fairly large openings in the middle of the country on 6, but on both occasions the cloud seemed to be right over me in EM55 and I only heard snatches of conversation, never  clear call to respond to.  Business and family travel kept me off the air before Christmas, but the week after Christmas I spent quite a lot of time with the radio on, periodically scanning the band.  Doing so has helped me to add 3 new grids and one new state on 6m since Christmas Day.  Pretty good for a winter opening.  The band continues to be active, with some west coast openings to VK and ZL.
 
I remain convinced there is more opportunity than we know on 6 meters, we just aren’t on there enough.  Listen and call and see what happens, and watch the DXMaps site for openings.

Finally, remember the meteor scatter crowd most mornings on 50.145 around 0700z 

Please send along any reports you have and I will include them here as they come in.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Volume One Number Four

Emergency Preparedness - EMP Events
We recently saw the anniversary of the legendary Carrington Event, whereby massive solar activity wreaked havoc in many areas, destroying telegraph lines and other basic infrastructure.  Today, of course, the impact of such an event would be much greater, rendering much of our electronics useless.  Unlike in the movies, and EMP event (natural or man made) permanently damages this equipment - it won’t start working again later.  As a part of your emergency preparedness, do you have electronics stored safely against the impact of an EMP, so that it could be used later?

6 Meters and VHF in General
I did not have a chance to work the September VHF contest, so I have no report.  I’ve seen very few openings on 6 meters in the last two weeks, which is to be expected.  Nonetheless, I watch for the random opening when I’m close to the radio, because you never know.  I’ll remind you that there is a dedicated group on 50.145 working meteors around 7 am local many days.

Low Band Dxing
In general, all low band DXing has been poor in recent weeks, due to a lot of solar activity, and ongoing summertime thunderstorms.  We are moving quickly into a season where the atmosphere should be quieter and conditions better.  I’m hopeful to spend some time at night in the coming days to seek how 80 meters is doing.  Please drop me a note about your own low band activities.

In the last couple of weeks, I show the following QSLs received - 
6 meters FN02
Caymans (ZF) 80,40, and 20
Moldova (ER) 40 and 20
Northern Ireland (GI) on 80m


Galapagos (HC8) on 80, 15, and 10

73 and Good DX,

Trent

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Volume One Number Three

Here's an update on my (fairly brief) ham radio efforts this week:

QSL - No new QSLs this week, no paper, no LOTW.

6 Meters -Spent no time on the radio during the day, I have no 6 meter activity to report.

Low Band - Finally, on Friday, I got the loading coil installed on the base of my 43' vertical.  I'm pleased to report that I'm now tuning close to 1:1 SWR in the DX window on 80m.  I plan to add a few longer radials to the 25+ or so I already have down, and I think that will improve the radiating efficiency.  Too much noise this evening (0200z 8/30/15) to hear any DX but I did work a few US stations, including the K5H Katrina Special Event Station.  The DX season is starting. As soon as the thunderstorm activity calms down, sunrise and sunset will be great times, as will local midnight if you can stay awake!

Contest - I tuned around for the NAQP SSB this evening, but heard very few calling.  I think the high A Index certainly impacted propagation and participation.

Equipment - Back in April I purchased the new Heil Pro-7 headset from Richard at MTC.  I resisted the bright colors and went with standard black.  These are great headphones.  They offer noise canceling, have a phasing switch, and a balance control.  I took some time last week and integrated them with my TS-590s Kenwood, to get VOX operational.  Combined with the DSP on the rig, the headphones really help to bring signals out of the noise.  They are large and heavy duty, with an adjustable boom mic and wind screen.  Very reminiscent of headphones worn by private pilots.  The audio quality is comparable to my BOSE noise canceling travel companions.   If you are looking at a new headset, you definitely want to consider the Heil Pro 7.
Please send along your operating reports, and let me know what you are working on!

73 for now,

Trent
N4DTF