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!


Monday, 16 February 2015

PACC 2015 QRP

Event: PACC 2015
Logger: N1MM+ most updated version
Station: Icom IC-706MKIIG (power in L pos.4W)
Antenna: HB9CV at 6m AGL, 84m horizontal loop at 7m AGL, Vertical HF multiband antenna at 9m AGL.

Well, it was a difficult weekend radiowise. On the other hand it was a very pleasant family weekend with 2 birthdays. After all it left me less time as expected to participate in the PACC this year. Only a few hours at night and a few in the morning. I decided to do it QRP this year and considering the amount of time I had it just went fine. I did some CW with the computer but the majority of contacts were made in SSB. No special DX and not so many multipliers. I was unable to make more then 1 QSO (with PI4H) on 160m, the antenna is not efficient for QRP there. I used my IC-706 as it has better filtering for CW/SSB in a contest. Besides that I used a JPS NIR10 audiofilter to test (more about that later on this blog). Power was on L(ow) of course which is about 4W QRP. I did however made 3 QRO 100W QSO's at night with DX which I removed from the contestlog. JW9JKA from Bear Isl. on 40m & 80m and OX3KQ on 80m. I couldn't let them go, it was a easy chance to work some new band DX. I did hear K1N Sunday morning on 80m so I thought to have a chance to work them. Well, the pile up was 20 Khz full of 9+60dB signals here. Only a few europeans came through, no chance at all. I will work Navassa Isl. in about 20 years, hopefully have some better equipment then ;-).

QRP wise I didn't work any special DX this time. I did do some CQ running and it worked out first half hour when I was spotted at the DX cluster. I tried several times after, but running didn't work out at all. So, most QSOs were made S&P. As always I met some friends on the bands. There was Bernard PB7Z which I met on several bands/modes, SM6VXI Engelhart who did hear me calling, PE2KM Kees which I didn't work for a long time and fellow QRP contester PF5T Frank. I know Bernard did a good job and beat his score from last year. I hope the others did well too. It was a limited participation this year but it was a nice test with QRP. I can say/write I earned every single QSO with hard work, not the easy way. Working QRP with 5W or less is totally different from a 100W station. I wish to thank everyone that was able to hear my tiny signal, I know it was not easy sometimes, some did have the patience some did not. Most Dutch operators have very good ears. Outside the Netherlands it was a completely different story...I learned that CW is not really working well the way I set it up. Better take some advice from Bernard PB7Z who does a really good contesting job with CW on a computer. I don't know what will happen next year but I will participate for shure, after all the PACC is always a lot of fun.

PI4H krantenartikel (newspaper article)

Trots op mijn collega amateurs hier uit de buurt. Weer een leuk stukje in de krant zodat je niet alles weer uit hoeft te leggen als je het over de hobby hebt. PD2TW op de voorgrond en dan PA7NTH en PA4PS en PA3FXT rechts achter.

Proud on my neighbour fellow radioamateurs. A nice newspaper article so we don't have to explain what we do with the hobby next time.

Friday, 13 February 2015

More PACC preparations

Hoewel ik niet de hele contest mee ga doen zoals de laatste jaren zal ik wel proberen er hier en daar in te duiken voor een paar uurtjes is de verwachting. Mijn log programma is sinds jaren N1MM en dit jaar voor het eerst N1MM+. Natuurlijk moet je voor het contest het programma updaten en er zijn een aantal toevoegingen die je in het programma kan laden. Je kan ze hier vinden samen met een duidelijke Nederlandse uitleg: http://www.contestkalender.nl/pacc.php.

Uiteraard zijn er ook nog andere dingen belangrijk. Een goede nacht rust voor het contestweekend bijvoorbeeld en een goede maaltijd voor de start. Besteed niet teveel tijd aan eten en drinken tijdens de contest, je zal het echt wel overleven en buiten dat als je veel eet word je moe. Test van te voren je radio apparatuur en computer. Laad batterijen als je die ergens voor nodig hebt. Ga niet tijdens de contest updaten, ook geen windows updates.

Denk ook na over de sectie waar je in mee gaat doen. Het kan een strategische keuze zijn. Zelf denk ik er over om mee te gaan doen in de QRP 5W sectie. De QRP sectie is gemixt, je kan dus hetzelfde station CW/SSB werken op een band voor extra punten/multipliers. Maar QRP is wel een stuk moeilijker in een contest, CQ geven werkt niet altijd hetzelfde als met een 100W of QRO station. Het zou een uitdaging voor mij zijn om CW te gaan werken in de PACC contest en ook de eerste keer dat ik dat dan zou gaan doen.



Although I will not participate the entire contest like the last couple of years I will be diving into the contest for several hours I expect. My log program for years now is N1MM and this year for the first time N1MM+. Of course you need to update the software before the contest and there are some additions for the PACC contest you can use. They can be found here:http://www.contestkalender.nl/pacc.php together with a dutch description of the rules.

Of course there are some other things that are important. A good night sleep before the contest weekend. And a good meal before you start. Don't waste too much time on eating and drinking when the contest is going on, you will survive and besides that if eating too much you will get tired.
Be shure you got your radio equipment right, batteries if needed charged and run tests on all bands.
The same counts for the computer. Don't update when the contest is going on, that includes windows updates.

Finally think about the section you are going for. It could be a strategic choice. I'm still thinking of taking part in the QRP section myself. The QRP section is always mixed, so I can work a station SSB/CW on the same band for extra points. But QRP is most difficult in a contest as running will not always work like a 100W or QRO station. It would be a challenge to do CW in this contest and also the first time I do CW in the PACC.


Monday, 9 February 2015

Chasing DX

Today was the only day of the week I had time to work DX and especially chasing K1N from Navassa. It was also the  first time I could actually hear K1N. But unfortenately the propagation was not good enough for me in that direction. Their signal was only 5/5 at the peak and did fade away fast. The pile-up was at least 70 Khz full of S9+ signals and it was impossible to hear were the operator was listening. I've tried for over a hour but no luck. I know they are there for a few days more but some people have to work and I'm one of those. I have no time for radio the rest of the week. Luckely I didn't feel bad as I worked the first ATNO of 2015 in the afternoon on 12m. V47JA John from Saint Kitts & Nevis was 5/7 and a few calls later I was in the log.

I was active on 10m JT with QRP 5W in the morning. But although I was heard at a lot of stations I didn't make any QSO's.



Thursday, 5 February 2015

PACC tips

As this blogpost will be most interesting for Dutch people I publish the Dutch language first and the english writing second.

De PACC 2015 komt er alweer aan. Helaas ben ik dit keer niet in de gelegenheid op 24 uur mee te doen. Ik zal mijn best doen om hier en daar deel te nemen maar dat zal in hoofdzaak in de nacht zijn als bijna iedereen slaapt. Dit betekend dat ik niet ga proberen hoog te eindigen. Eigenlijk zit ik er al aan te denken om mee te doen in de QRP sectie dit jaar. Ik verwacht dat het aantal deelnemers dit jaar minder zal zijn dan voorgaande jaren en dat komt met name door het carnaval dat precies in het PACC weekend valt. Daarnaast is er natuurlijk elk jaar weer de CQWW RTTY contest waar de grote DX stations aan meedoen (en dus niet aan de PACC).

Nu denken jullie dat er een aantal mooie tips komen voor de PACC. Maar eigenlijk is het meeste al geschreven voor nationaal/internationaal gebruik door Thomas PA1M. Thomas schreef een paar hele goede tips, strategie, aanbevelingen en log analyses op zijn homepage.

PA1M site PACC contest

Uiteraard heb ik nog wat extra tips in petto. Althans voor de SSB contesters onder ons omdat ik nog nooit meegedaan heb in de CW sectie. Begin te werken op 10m en maak zoveel mogelijk QSO's. Maar blijf er niet te lang hangen want andere banden wachten en voor je het weet zijn de condities op de hoge banden weer over. Afgelopen jaar schakelde ik continu van 15m naar 10m en andersom. Dat werkte vrij goed. 80m is de band van keuze in de nacht. Speciaal na het journaal van 8 uur zijn er veel stations die even wat QSO's willen maken. Veel van deze stations zijn geen echte contesters en willen alleen even wat contacten maken voor het "vaantje". Uiteraard is voor de lage banden wel een NVIS antenne (lage dipool of horizontale loop) aan te bevelen om een beetje pile-up te maken. 's Nachts kan je het beste een beetje switchen tussen 160/80 en 40m. Als je echt 24  uur mee wil doen, veel succes, maar in het geval je toch wat wilt slapen is het beste om dat te doen tussen 3 en 4 UTC (2-3 lokale tijd) dan is het aanbod minimaal. Niet vergeten dat als je geluk hebt de 40m en 80m band open kan zijn naar het westen rond 5-7 UTC (USA, Canada en Caraibisch gebied). Als de zon opkomt is het best te blijven op 40m, nationale stations vooral de N-licentie houders tussen 7050-7100 KHz willen je graag werken. Vergeet niet dat de meeste deelnemers uit Nederland komen en dus ben je met een NVIS antenne voor 80/40 (160) in het voordeel. Natuurlijk moet je de DX in de gaten blijven houden (DX cluster) voor de nodige multipliers.

The PACC 2015 is already approaching. Unfortenately  I'm not able to participate the full 24 hours this time. I'll do my best to participate at night when all others are sleeping. This does mean I will not try to get a high place in the list. Actually I'm thinking of a QRP section participation this year just for the fun of it.

Now you're expecting some tips here for the PACC. But the fact is that they already have been written for both international/national participants by Thomas PA1M. Thomas shares some excellent tips, strategy, recommendations and (log)analysis on his website.

PA1M site PACC contest

The additional tips I can give for SSB participants is to start the contest at 10m and work as many as you can on that band. But don't stay there too long, other bands are waiting. Last year I switched between 10m and 15m at the start. 80m is the band of choice at night. Especially after the 8 O'Clock news 20:30 local time = 19:30 UTC. Some of the participants are not contesters at all and make some (national) contacts for fun just to obtain the "token of merit". Of course you need a NVIS antenna (low dipole or horizontal loop) to really make a pile-up run here. Through the night switch from 160/80/40. If you really plan to participate full 24 hours, good luck, but if you can't do without some sleep best is to take a nap between 3 and 4 UTC as rates are low at that time. Don't forget if you're lucky 40/80m are open to the west around 5-7 UTC (USA/Canada/West-Indies). When the sun is rising best is to stay on 40m, national contacts are waiting and especially the novice license holders allowed between 7050-7100 KHz will want to work you. Remember most participants are from the Netherlands and so a NVIS antenna for 80/40m is most important. DX however could be interesting for multipliers, that's why you need to keep an eye at the DX cluster(s)

Links:
http://www.dutchpacc.com/
PACC results 2014
https://www.facebook.com/Dutchpacc
PE4BAS PACC 2014 log



Monday, 2 February 2015

Friese 11steden contest certificaat


I received this very nice certificate last week. A second place at the Frysian 11 cities contest. Thanks to the contest organisation. I will not hang this on my shack wall as with all these certificates it would get very chaotic. So I decided to make a "wall of fame" here on this blog.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

DXCC nr.77 on 10m WSPR 1W

Roger G3XBM mentioned his 500mW 10m signal was heard at ET/G8DYK in Ethiopia earlier this week. So this weekend I had to give it a try for DXCC nr. 77 with 1W WSPR. And yes, he received my signal. I was unable to make a selection in the regular WSPR database. So this is a screenshot of the old database which is also still online.


I let WSPR run the whole day so this is actually the time span he heard my signal. Best was -4dB at 12:30 UTC. Very nice to see what the best time is to work that region. I was transmitting on the HB9CV pointed at Ethiopia.