Monday, 2 March 2015

CQWW 160m SSB contest last weekend

It has been 2007 when I last participate in this contest. I then was the only participant on SSB from the Netherlands and of course got first place! Actually the time this contest is on (best at night) is a good thing when you haven't got much radio time at daylight. I mainly participate this time to work HV0A from the Vatican as a new band one. I managed to work HV0A after a hour or so. I stopped at 100 QSOs sunday evening. Now I read the rules afterwards (stupid me!) and it is not allowed for single operator low power to use any assistance. And of course I did, and so did many others according to the "logs received" page of the CQ 160 contest .

So that leaves me with a choice of high power assisted only. That is probabely why they put me in multi-op section in 2007. Another handicap at least for dutch operators was occurring as well to me, we are not allowed to transmit above 1880 KHz though other countries can operate till 2000KHz. So dutch operators can never seriously take part in the 160m SSB contest as they just miss too many multipliers and QSOs. I heard HK1T (Colombia) with S9 sunday night but it was above 1880 KHz so it was not possible to try and make a QSO. Anyway it suprised me that I managed to create a small pile-up and even got spotted on a DX cluster. I switched between the loop fed as endfed and the vertical, although I had the idea both antennas produced a identical signal. In the end I worked 30 different DXCC. It has been a long time I made so many QSOs on 160m in one weekend and it was certainly fun!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Interesting loop tests with 1:1 baluns on 160m

After reading some advice on a radioamateur forum regarding the use of a "short" loop like I have on 160m I tried a 1:1 balun between the ladderline and tuner instead of the built in 1:4 balun. I can't tune my loop on 160m unfortenately, it could be the Palstar AT1KM differential T-tuner has not enough capacity. The story goes that the R of the loop is lower as 50 Ohm and if you use a 1:4 balun R would be even 4 times less which is the cause of difficult to no tune. Another story goes that a 1:1 balun between the transceiver and the loop should supress interference, noise or whatever. Time to test the truth!

The Palstar is able to act as a endfed tuner by removing a bridge to the 1:4 balun inside. I tested it with only one end of the loop connected it didn't make much difference against my short vertical fed by coax and a autotuner at the feedpoint although the noise was 1 S-unit stronger. I use the vertical as reference for the tests I made.

I first connected a Diamond BU-50 1:1 balun to the ladderline and tuner. It immidiatly occured to me that tuning on 160m and 80m was easy but 40-10 got difficult. I then made a transmission on JT65 on 160m and was received but not with that good signals. I tuned in on some SSB stations from Italy and switched over to my vertical. The difference was astonishing, the vertical receive was at least 4 S-units better. And I was able to hear other stations that could not be heard on the loop. The balun is ok, nothing wrong with it. So this was not a great succes, the only advantage was that I could tune the loop!

Now, I don't have a lot of noise on 160m. But with the pre-amp of the Icom-706 on I can produce a S6 noise signal. Time to test the noise reducing story. This time I used a homemade balun with 50 Ohm semi rigid coax cable on a 4C65 ferrit core. You can see it on the picture. I connected it between the tuner and the radio. To keep a long story short, I cannot hear or see any difference! The noise was S6 with or without the balun. I then switched to the loop acting as a endfed and have S7 noise, again tested it with and without the balun and it did not make any difference.

What is my conclusion? Or what did I learn? Well, I can get the loop working on 160m with the tuner and a 1:1 balun but not with a 1:4 balun. Strange as others with similair loops can, though I doubt the effectivity of those antennas. My too short vertical is defenitely doing a lot better. Besides that, standard antenna theory never works here, for some reason it is always different from what others experience. I learned that when building a endfed and several other antennas. What I learned is that the advice given by others is not always working, actually I knew that already.

I have a great time in the CQ 160m SSB right now. Just worked HV0A from the Vatican with.....the loop fed as a endfed.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Hobby expenses? Experiment and experience!

How much do you spend in the radiohobby? This hobby could be a cause of endless expenses and it seems when you're hit by the radiohobby fever there is always a need to get better equipment. There just is too much for sale to expand this hobby, especially in this internet age you can get everything with some mouse clicks. But to enjoy the hobby spending money is not always necessary. If you're gifted with some technical skills you can build things yourself. If not (in this hobby almost impossible) you can find other ways to enjoy the radiohobby. If you get bored and after years want to expand your hobby it could be wise to see what you (still) have. You probabely discover things you never thought you had, or you can imagine other things you can do with old radio gear. A great example is the recently built hacksaw morsekey from EI2KC. It could be a challenge to play minimalistic radio, just a radio, a antenna and you. Sometimes I wish computers were never invented. These days it is the most important part of our hobby for most people. Experimenting with all kind of digimodes is fun and don't forget the computer logbooks and all kind of other gadgets related to the hobby. But really, it could also be a lot of fun when you just tune your radio and leave the computer switched off. You can do that at home but playing radio outside in the "wilderness" is even more fun. Our radio hobby doesn't need much money investment. What it needs is your effort to experience and experiment.

Now you think, Bas, nice wise words.....but there is always something I like to have. And yes, I have to admit that there is always something I wish for as well. This occured to me when calling to BG6CCP from China last ARRL 10m contest. I was calling him but he didn't understand my call for some reason (modulation not clear enough?). Then I heard neighbourstation PD2TW calling just one time and he was in the log. Now I found Tjip's modulation very narrow, punchy and good to understand. I asked him later on and he was working with a Heil headset with HC4 element. Wow, I thought this is what I need and I have to admit I was envious. But then I discovered the price of a Heil headset. I don't have a budget for that so I leave it, but it is something I wish for in the future. I have a number of other things as well on the list: a computer CW keyer, voicekeyer/compressor mike for the FT-817, mounted versatower antennamast with directional antennas, a smartphone and a HDMI-VGA adapter to connect the second monitor again. Well you see, I have a lot to wish for. But it doesn't mean I don't like the hobby anymore when I do not have it. I think I would have less joy in the hobby when I had the money and time to get it all with some mouse clicks just tomorrow.

Well, I hope this post did help someone who has less money and time to spend in the hobby like me. I know there are a lot of people that look at others and what they have. They are envious at the equipment and antenna's and all the gear what they see. When you just start your radiohobby I can imagine when looking at some QRZ pages photos especially from big contest stations you get very envious. But hey, don't look to much. Do your own thing and experiment. Look what possebilities you have and make the best of it, the experience is very important. If you make a DX contact using a superstation, expensive equipment and gear it is easy. Try it with a home made transceiver and a piece of wire, that's a total different story! But superstation or homebrew minimalistic station you both have fun with the hobby and that's most important.

Experience and experiment! Have fun with the radiohobby!