Saturday, June 7, 2014

The present iteration of W9OY

I recently had my ALS-1300 repaired back at the mothership.  People like to complain about Ameritron but I find their stuff a pretty amazing value.  It's not military grade and it's not bullet proof, but then I got out of the Navy 23 years ago.  I was in the Medical Corps and you would not believe what passed for "military grade" when I was in, so I'll take a well designed piece of consumer gear that actually works anytime.  My ALS-1300 bears the SN 000009 and I've had it for years and years.  The HV went out on amp module #2 and I could not find a complete schematic for the unit and there are a number of interlocks and interfaces in this amplifier so I called up Brad at Ameritron and sent it in.  

A note of caution:  I'm not a big shipper.  I receive a lot of shipments but send virtually nothing.  I had the factory boxes and packed up the amp and headed off to the UPS store.  It turns out unless the store is actually OWNED by UPS these jokers can charge whatever they want.  Of course naive me knew none of this.  $176 later my amp was headed for Starkville.  This is triple to what UPS charges for 2nd day service.  I called up UPS to find out why so much and found out the rip off scam these stores have going.  A word to the wise make sure your store is owned by UPS or schedule a pick-up.  My little fried who owns the Mail Center made an enemy.  Over the course of time I have treated easily 20% of the population in the cachement district of the the north end of my county and I belong to 2 of the largest churches in the adjoining towns.  You can bet I will make it my goal to run this joker out of town and all I will have to do is tell the truth.

Ameritron received my amp on June 3rd.  By June 6th it was on my doorstep running like a top.  So that's my Ameritron story.  All of my questions were answered with no hems or haws, the amp was upgraded to current production standards and the damn thing works great!  The factory charged $62 for 2nd day UPS service.  I am super pleased with the service Ameritron supplied.

I spent the evening reintegrating my amp back into the station.  I have 5 amps available ranging from 1000W to 4000w but I really only use one, the ALS-1300.  I love how this thing works!  In the Flex 5000 days I had the amp on the top shelf remote controlled.  It band followed the radio.  Eventually I will reintegrate so it band follows again but for now I will run manual mode.  Here is a shot of my present station:

The desk is made out of some counters I snatched when they demolished the recovery room at the hospital where I did my residency.  The correct depth for a ham radio counter is 40".  The correct depth of the shelves is 20".   The ALS-1300 is 17 inches deep and fits the shelf with room to spare.  I've had everything from Alphas to a Ameritron AL-1500 to a Acom 2000 on those shelves and they just gobble everything up with room to spare.  The desk part in front of where the rigs start is 19 inches deep.  My experience may be of some use to someone constructing a station.    

On the far right you can see my Flex 6300 standing vertical.  I have the radio set up on a couple 1" thick wire spools which gives it stability and unencumbered air access.  My 6300 takes up less than 3" of desk real estate.  Next to the rig is the 'puter.  I'm running a Shuttle DS81 bare bone chassis.  It has a LGA 1150 Haswell socket, 16gb od memory, a 259gb SSD drive, and WiFi.  My processor is a 65 watt  intel i5 lga 1150 Haswell.  It has 4600 internal graphics with 3 monitor capability including 1 HDMI and 2 display ports.  This computer runs fine for SSDR and all the peripheral programs.  I've resigned from all the hoopla about what you need to run SSDR.  My usage runs in the 30's even with everything open and screens running at 30fps.   I run 2 24" HD monitors, matching Acer  S241HLbmid.  The monitor speakers are crappy but the monitors are great.  These go on-sale quite often so I picked them up at a good discount.  I was a little bit limited in my choice since the vertical dimension of the space before the first shelf was exactly 16", not 16.25"  These fit perfectly in the space I have and I did not have to go down to 23".  (monitor height, another thing to consider when building a station table).  

You can see scattered across the desktop my various peripherals.  if you look below the right corner of the left monitor you see 2 pilot lights.  These are my power supplies.  I have a Samlex 1235 bolted directly to the 6300 and a Samlex 1223 hooked to a distribution box that provides power to the various peripherals in the shack.  Both are well protected with regards to current and voltage and are as best I can tell radio silent aka no hash.  I ran the rig off the 1223 for a while and as far as I could tell there is no advantage to the greater current of the 1235.  These pop up on the various trader sites from time to time often at half price and I think they are a great buy.  I have them strapped together with zip ties and they sit vertically as well on some furniture replacement feet from the ACE hardware so the air can flow.  Next to the PS's is my K1EL USB Winkeyer.  This has been well modified to suit my operating style.  It turns out the winkeyer has 6 available memories but only 4 buttons.   


Years ago I was all hot over Peiro Begali's keys.  I have bought several over the years.  Over time I moved from iambic to single lever and I didn't like Piero's solution to single lever.  But I did like the beauty of his product.  I had him make for me a switch block so I could have my memory buttons next to my paddle

I thought he might produce this but I guess it didn't interest him.  Mine is labeled #1.  I wired the WinKeyer to accept these switches and the switches on the keyer itself  in a way that allows access to all 6 memories.  When I CQ on 6M I just add FL and EL98 to the memory so people know where to point the beam.

The N3ZN ZN-SLR paddle is my present and probably permanent paddle of choice.  After I became disenchanted with all the single lever schemes so I approached Tony N3ZN  about building a SL paddle to my specifications.  He came up with this

ZN-SL1  SR#1 

The ergonomics were perfect but the base wasn't quite heavy enough so I bought the round version and now I am totally happy.  I highly recommend this paddle.

Both Piero and Tony were great to work with.  

My present SWR meter is the LDG DWM which is out of production.  I usually use the LP-100 but its back at N8LP's shop for a tune up.  You can also see my much modified RCS-4 antenna switch.  I modified this to work with BCD so it became the RCS-4 automatic antenna switch.  Finally on the desk is my latest addition

That big honkin Electro Voice RE320.  I checked into the Sunday afternoon Flex net on 14.329 a couple of weeks ago and the duty was being administered by Don N5DOA out of Harrison, AR.  He was running a Flex 3000.  His audio was stunning.  Later I shot him a email and asked him what he was running for a Mic and he said a RE320 with no other hardware.  I never owned pro-audio before but I saw a demo RE320 from a music store on ebay for $195 shipped.  I made a little PTT switch and taped it to my $8 base.  I tried all sorts of combinations of graphic EQ but my results were only so so.  I was talking to my buddy I've known for 40 years for a little guidance.  He runs a Flex 3K with a Hiel dual cartridge.  As a starting point I shut off the EQ and the processor and the DEXP and backed down the Mic gain a bit.  He said put a nail in it!!  I do run the new processor since it brings up the talk power with no essentially no discernible change in articulation and I run DEXP to improve the dynamic range but  leave the EQ off except I turn up the highs a bit for pileups.  The audio is fabulous.  

Finally on the shelf is a AL80B which I bought used 20 years ago.  It is paired with a QSK-5 pin diode switch for a cool KW silent QSK.  QSK has become less important to me.  I generally set the delay to hear between words and not characters.  I never send traffic anyway and between words is more than good enough for pileups and rag chews.  My ALS-1300 is next and a MFJ-998 autotuner.  The 998 isn't a bad tuner unless you're trying to load a wet noodle.  Mine hasn't given me a lick of problem.  I have resonant antennas on 80, 40 and 20, and I use the tuner to trim things up on 60, 30, 17, 15, 12, 10 and 6.  I can run near full power on 80, 40, 30 (200w), 20, 17, 15, 12, and 10 with this setup with no RFI or TVI so color me happy.  I want to upgrade my antennas to all resonant antennas and I want to figure out how to do auto-bandswitching  again.  I may go back to my old method in lieu of a better solution but I wasn't super happy with its design.  Since I am using the tuner band changing is a manual affair.

73  W9OY

Here is a small video of the 6300 in action on 15M.  I mostly wanted to see how video behaves on the blog