Thursday, February 23, 2017

LU1ZI South Shetland

Just off the Antarctic coast is South Shetland and I worked LU1ZI tonight at BASE ANTARTICA CARLINI.  Good signal.  

The band noise was -118 dBm and LU8ZI was -106 dBm making him easy pickings.  Fortunately he could also hear me.  My due south trans-equatorial luck is not always great from my QTH but I usually do OK into Antartica.

Here is a shot of the base

Beautiful in its stark isolation.  Were I in a place like that I would thank God for a ham radio station.  

73  W9OY

Sunday, February 19, 2017


I ran the ARRL DX CW contest for a few hours this weekend and had a great time.  I recently installed a W6LVP RX loop antenna and wanted to see how it would work for the low bands., 160, 80, 40.  My set up is as above.  I feed the signals copied by the radio into CW skimmer via DAX where they are decoded. 

Then via telnet to N1MM+ and DXLab Spot Collector.  I turn off all internet spotting, so what I see on the N1MM+ band map and in Spot Collector are strictly signals received on MY antennas.

The countries/multipliers I need are listed in RED and I can click the station and the radio moves there, loads the callsign in a staging area (note the YR8D above the entry window)  If the station is present and workable, I click the staged call and it is loaded into the entry window and I proceed to make the contact.  I then move on to the next RED station in the list.  I can also use skimmer as a VFO of sorts.  Since Skimmer generates the raw callsign data I can use the skimmer VFO controls to quickly click up and down the band 10 khz at a time, and work any RED in a given 10 khz segment.  Once all the RED is turned light BLUE it means there are no more new ones to work and I move up or down another 10 khz.  This allows me to work virtually all the hear-able DX in a 60 khz band segment really quickly.  It's kind of like combing your hair.  With each stroke more and more DX is accumulated.  I keep an eye on the DXLab Spot collector as well.  This database is screened by my wants/need list from my logbook.  If a ATNO comes up it blazes in RED as well.  If a band fill comes up it is in MAROON.  This allows me to increase my DXCC score as well.  I simply click on the needed station in Spot Collector and N1MM+, Skimmer, SSDR and the radio all head to the right freq.  I tune in the station precisely and make the contact.  The data from Spot collector is automatically entered into my logbook.  

Once I finish off all the new DX on one band I start in on another band.  Soon enough that band has been combed out and all the RED has been worked and logged, and on to another band.  I have found this to be a VERY fun and useful way to run a contest and it puts the Flex system to full advantage.  The wide band DAX feed analyzes in my case sends 48 khz of I/Q data into skimmer so my skimmer feed is always updating and as I move up and down that 48 khz window moves up and down with me refreshing skimmer.  

Another way to "tune the system is by the DXView map 

As the radio hears signals the DX stations are populated on a grayline map.   Each dot provides tooltip data to the underlying stations callsign, freq and time heard, so I can click particular stations of interest.  For example the Island stations out in the Pacific.  As the grayline progresses these stations often build until they become workable.  It's a VERY valuable way to fill out what otherwise might be fringe contacts and not miss anything.  Last night I got Asiatic Russia using the map technique.  I hit him just as they grayline flew over his head but before the pileup ensued.  

I added this W6LVP loop to my station last weekend, and decided to wring it out in this contest.  It made a HUGE difference in what I could hear on 160 and 80 and to a lessor extent on 40.  I ran the antenna exclusively on RX.  The DX contest is a good test of any system and there was no overload or distortion products.  My system is set up with a Flex control (aka a knob) which allows fine tuning of the radio and I run generally 70hz bandwidth on my RX so fine tuning is often necessary.  There is virtually no interference.  If you look at the above SSDR picture closely, even though I'm surrounded by many STRONG stations if I'm not on their freq I don't hear them.  My noise level is the same as the band noise in a quiet part of the band, and that is very quiet on the loop.  My band noise was running typically -113 dBm (S2 range) on 160M and -118 dBm (S1 range) on 80M.  Without the loop band noise was up around -95 dBm  or S5.

My results?  I ran for a total of 412 minutes (6:52) over the 48 hour 2 day contest.

In that time I managed to work 141 countries and a total of 162 contacts.  I was not trying to amass the biggest score, but I wanted to see how well the antenna worked.  It was fabulous!  I could hear everything!  I worked out EU until I was so far into their daylight (like at noon in DL on 40M I could still copy stations and at 2PM EST I was already able to work EU this afternoon.  As EU faded JA and UA0 came into focus along with VK ZL KH2 Guam and half a dozen others on both 80 and 40, so condtions here were good.  I have an inv-L on 160M, a vertical wire hanging out of a pine on 80M as well as a 40M 1/4 wave al over the same ground screen, about 4k feet of #14.  My amp is automatically band switched by the 6700 and I have a antenna switch which switches in each bands vertical automatically so it makes contesting very easy.

I managed to increase my DXCC total by 5 countries and several band fills on each band.  Operating the station was so addictive I was up till 4:30 am and eventually had to force myself to put it down. so mu butt is dragging right now.  Without the loop I'm sure the noise would have worn me down hours earlier.  Total score was 67,257 and I worked 24 zones not bad for 412 minutes of operating time and a couple wires hanging out from a tree!

73  W9OY

Saturday, February 18, 2017

loops W6LVP antenna

I was using a Wellbrook ALA 100M loop antenna and it worked well.  The connected loop was a 30ft quad on the above frame, and is about 24ft to the tip.  All at once the loop/preamp stopped working, I presume due to a close lightning strike.  I live in central FL a well known lightning corridor and every so often God plants one somewhere close by.  I puzzled what to do.  Wellbrook is in England and I didn't want to get into the international shipping and taxes and bla bla.  I ran across the W6LVP loop  and decided to give it a whirl.

Larry W6LVP makes a loop as shown above.  He makes a couple models.  One has relay switching built in which allows rigs like the IC-7300 which have no separate RX antenna input to switch back and forth between TX and RX, and he makes another without the extra switching.  Both models are available on ebay.  He also has a solution for BCB interference if you live next to KDKA.

The loop is made out of 10' of LMR-400 cable with a couple BNC's on either end which makes the loop completely portable.  If you buy a Wellbrook rigid or a Pixel the shipping on those is ridiculous!  This loop came in a USPS standard box.  I took down the Wellbrook and put up the W6LVP in its place, using a few cable ties.  I used my cross frame since it didn't require any modificaion.  Took about 15 minutes, THANK GOD as the noseeems were out in force.  Even so I got bit to heck.  

I made a couple of videos, one on 80M and one on 10M demonstrating the loop.  The loop is interesting in that if you want to accent lower bands in lieu of higher you can make the loop bigger simply by increasing the length of the LMR-400 and adding a couple BNC's.  So if your interested in 630M or 2200M this would be a useful antenna.


You can see the antenna works quite well especially when coupled with the Flex radio's noise abatement and preamps/attenuator.   I likes mine!  I might consider a pair at some point for 2 loop diversity on the 6700, I have another post about 300ft away out in the front! "FB OM rx antenna here is a pair of lolipops!"   My wife will kill me

73  W9OY 

Friday, February 17, 2017

A31MM Tonga

Just before I worked VP6EU, I worked A31MM on Tonga.  VP6EU was on 10.115130 and A31MM was 130hz lower on 10.115000.  

The Flex performed beautifully in this weird pileup with A31MM's pileup at +1 and VP6EU's pileup at +4.  A31MM was much weaker barely out of the noise but we managed a QSO anyway 

73  W9OY

Pitcarin Island VP6EU

Was fooling around early this morning and heard VP6EU.  He had quite a good signal peaking S-6 and worked him in just a few calls.  

73  W9OY

Friday, February 10, 2017

Power Genius at Orlando

I went to Orlando Hamcation today to see my Flex Radio buds, especially hoping to get a preview of the new Power Genius XL amp.  It was there, connected to a 6700 in all of its glory heating up a huge bird dummy load.  The price will be essentially $7K.  It is a fully functional, full 1500W QSK SO2R powerhouse.  

The amp has 2 1.5 KW LDMOS power transistors and is easily capable of 1500W 100% duty cycle operation in ICAS service.  What that means is you can run the amp at full output.  If any parameter faults (like temp) the amp will shut itself down until the parameters come back in line.  So you can use the amp to run a RTTY contest and as long as you come up for air once in a while no problemo.  The amp has an excellent cooling system which is very quiet and advances its aggression as the transistors require.  The fan advances in a relatively linear step-wise fashion, in other words it isn't quiet and full blast but gently advances and recedes as junction temp dictates.  I made a quick cell video at the bottom to demonstrate.  The amp has a very cool feature (pun intended) in that it automatically adjusts its class according to mode, so CW is running in class C and SSB is class AB.  I totally love this idea.

This is a shot of the 6700 and the amp.  Note width and length the amp and the radio are virtually identical but the amp is about twice as tall as the radio

Here is a shot of the three brainiacs involved and friends of mine.   L to R Steve Hicks N5AC VP of engineering at Flex, Renko Boca 4O3A Power Genius designer and proprietor of,   and Gerald Youngblood K5SDR who cooked up the Flex SDR revolution.  I started with Flex in the early 3 board stack days and never looked back.  As the Grateful Dead say what a long strange trip its been.  The amp is fully integrated with the Flex line of radios using Ethernet server client connectivity, but also provides access for other brands of radio transceivers allowing for automatic functionality.

The Power Genius brings full SO2R functionality to a single amp, and with a 6700 only 2 components namely the 6700 and the Genius, a computer and contest software like N1MM+ or WriteLog and incidentals like a Mic, paddle or digi software and maybe a Flex Control you are SO2R on the air

Here are the guys and the equipment mugging for my blog shots

The amp is self contained with a big honkin server power supply yet weighs in at only 33lbs.  The power supply has a wide ranging input voltage capability  so this might be an ideal amp to lug on down to the Islands for things like CQWW or various DXpeditions.  More can be learned at the Flex site   The QSK is butter smooth.  Color me impressed.  Impressed enough to become $7K poorer.  

Notice how the green light turns red when transmiting.  It turns purple when doing an update like the 6700.  It is now FCC type accepted

73  W9OY

Thursday, February 9, 2017

TL8TT Central African Republic

Finally got them tonight on 40M.  They are about 3 dB out of the noise but perfectly copy-able when the tuners and callers are not on he DX freq  

They are running a near instant logbook and using it as a means to finance the DX-pedition

Amazing technology  Tomorrow ORLANDO

73  W9OY