Friday, 30 August 2019

MAINS FILTER

DIY FILTER FOR EMC & NOISE REDUCTION

M0NWK has a great blog and on there, he talks about making an effective EMC/NOISE REDUCTION MAINS FILTER. It consists of a bit of mains cable and a ferrite ring which is easily obtainable in the UK for around £15.

It takes just a few minutes to put it together and it is very effective. Inserting it into the mains feed of my shack has brought lower levels of noise. My FT-DX3000 has now become quieter still!!

All the details can be found on Adrian Leggett's blog.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

SHACK SORT-OUT #101

YAESU FT-DX3000 ARRIVES

When the DX3000 arrived, I was ill. Too lethargic to plug it in and try it even, so it was a few days on the desk before I could muster the strength to make a space for it. And because I knew that this was my "keeper" radio, I had to sort out the mess that had become my current shack.

For a start, I can only have one coax cable running across the front of my house to the shack, so I decided to install an antenna-switch to the back-side of the bungalow where the G5RV Ladder Line drops down. Why?? Because I quite often erect temporary Dipoles and End Fed Half Waves in the back garden and operate from there, but on rainy days it'd be nice to operate from the shack. 

Being able to plug a rear-garden antenna into the waterproof switch box would mean that I could experiment with antenna in the back garden and simply flick the switch to send the signal to the shack.Perfect! 




Once that job was out of the way, I started to rip out the shack cabling and moved all the bits of junk that inevitably builds up. I fitted a new 8-Socket extension and fitted it to the wall for ease of access and then started to tag every cable I could find with some very handy Cable-ID tags I got from Amazon.

Then I had to prep some new interconnects for the MFJ 993B including the (poorly constructed MFJ-5124Y interface). Once I'd got all the cables laid out (power, coax in/out, speaker, ATU interface, USB, CAT, Ground and an IF-OUT to the RSP1A, I could position the DX3000, connect everything up and power on for the first time. 

With the radio and ATU powered up, it took a while to figure out how to actually operate the the MFJ 993B, but eventually I figured it out and was achieving 1:1 matches along the range of the G5RV except 10M which was about 1:1.4 

The floor noise of the FT-DX3000 is exceptional! It really is pleasing to listen to compared to any other base radio I've had in the shack (only the Elecraft matched it). That alone makes me happy that I chose it over the IC-7300. Tuning around 20M I stumbled upon my mate G0UXF who was chatting to operators across the UK - another great Inter-G day! All signals were superb with good quieting. 

I then switched antennas to the EFHW that was on a 7metre pole in the back garden as a sloper. The signals were good and I managed a very clear QSO with a French operator before starting to feel poorly again. At least the job was done. New radio and a better shack layout :-).



BIWOTA-2019

British Inland Waterways On The Air 2019

When I heard about this event, I thought I'd participate from the White Bear Marina in Adlington (close to my home) but a subsequent call to them revealed that they were closed for the Bank Holiday weekend, so I opted to go to Glass Dock Marina instead. It's around 3.5miles South of Lancaster.

I'm very familiar with the area and have explored it many times on-foot and on motorbike. It's a favourite spot of mine and for the purposes of playing radio, it has the added convenience of public toilets, a shop, a chuck-wagon, a cafe and a pub - this really helps when you're trying to sell the idea to your Station Manager.

In the photo above, you can see the car-park on the right and this is where I reversed my truck up to the fence line next to the footpath. It meant that I could strap my mast to a fence post for easy erection and I could also attach a second mast to my towball for a 2M antenna.


Once I'd got the masts up, out came the picnic table and deck-chairs for a nice, comfortable day in the sun. And boy, was it sunny!!! In fact, it would have been unbearable had it not been for the day-long cool breeze coming in from the estuary.

Before starting, we had a bit of breakfast and a cup of tea and then the Station Manager got stuck into her book while I started calling CQ on 2. It was pretty quiet but then it was still early on a Sunday morning. Someone I know from home shouted me but he was mobile and lost me before we could could establish a QSO, so I switched over to 40M on the SotaBeams BandHopper II and put some calls out there.

My first contact was G1YPG in Stone, North Midlands. Steve gave me a 59 and he was the same to me. The band was really quiet and I'd started to think something was wrong with my station until Steve came along, so it was good to confirm everything was okay.

I briefly switched back to 2M to make sure that was working fine and had a good QSO with G7CDA (Douggie) in Morecambe and he very kindly posted a notice on the NW FUSION GROUP for me in the hope I might get more calls. He told me that many of the members liked to play 2mSSB so I said I'd put some calls out on 144.300 but I would be restricted by the fact that I was vertically polarised :-(


Anyway, despite lots of calling, I got few responses on 2M SSB so I focused on 40M again and pretty soon I was reaching people all across the UK from Ireland, to the Outer Hebrides, Wales, Devon, Kent, Norfolk and Skegness. The was an amazing amount of Inter-G on the band and the signals were just fantastic! Needless to say, many operators were using high power (300W in Ireland) and I was just running 5W on my FT-818ND.

Later on in the afternoon the Europeans started to swamp the band and some were acting rather bullishly, stomping all over well-established frequencies. I managed to make a couple of contacts in France and Germany but then decided to call it a day. Throughout the day I was surprised to make only one contact with a BIWOTA operator!

It was a great day out and was thoroughly enjoyed by both myself and the Station Manager. Glasson Dock is a beautiful area on a sunny day and there's plenty of short, rewarding walks from the car park. Highly recommended.





Wednesday, 21 August 2019

FROM WINTER HILL

POINT ME IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION?

I was up at a very popular HAM spot at the weekend called Matchmoor Lane adjacent to Winter Hill and many a time I've seen amateurs and SWLers with very directional antennas pointing "roughly south". So when I did something similar, I got to thinking about the local visible landmarks and wondered where I'd actually be pointing if I aimed for these landmarks with my beam.

This is all very rough I know, but I was just curious, so when I went home I looked it up on Google Maps. I do understand that just a few degrees one way or the other has a dramatic effect on the bearing but nonethless, you can get a very broad idea where to aim if you have some landmarks to work from.

This spot is where most HAMS park up....

From this spot, it is very easy to make out the HILTON HOTEL in Manchester. It stands out like a sore thumb even on miserable days, so lets use that landmark to begin with. Stretching a line from this point at WinterHill to the Hilton and beyond will eventually get you looking at the South East coast of England and around the border of Belgium and France.



Now turning to the right and focusing on JODRELL BANK which is another very visible landmark most days, will get you firing toward Southampton.


Now turn further to your right and you will very easily see Bolton Flounderers football ground. Pointing there will have you heading in the general direction of Mid Wales...


Is this information of any use? I don't know, lol. But unless you have a reliable compass and know which bearing to head for, I guess it's better than nothing 😃😃😃

MFJ-993B Auto ATU 1.8-30MHz 300W/150W

MATCH DAY SPECIAL

The Yaesu FT-DX3000 has a built-in ATU but it's only capable of matching something with an SWR of 3:1 or less. That is really only good for matching antennas that are virtually resonant but need a bit of tweaking at either end of the band they're designed for.

I use a half-size G5RV 90% of the time because of restrictions at my QTH which prevent me from using a multiband horizontal or vertical, so a tuner is essential!

My G5RV is in a shocking location but there is nothing  I can do about it. I live in a detached bungalow and one leg of the G5 runs just under the roof-gutter at the side of the house and is shielded by the fact that my neighbours house is just 12ft away in the same plane.

The other leg of the G5 is in open space but is no more than 15ft above ground. Pretty dire huh? Well that's how it is, so there's no point complaining about it.

Occasionally, I erect an inverted-vee dipole in the garden and operate outdoors if the weather permits. I may in time install a more permanent IV but for now, it's the good old G5RV.

Surprisingly. the G5 works pretty well on 80, 40, 20 and 12 so considering my main bands are 20 and 40, I'm quite happy. The trouble comes when I try to operate on 30, 17 and 10. No chance without a tuner!

So, that gets us to the point of this post - the MFJ 993B ATU. I was going to buy an LDG ATU which is specifically designed for the DX3000 but then I read a few grumpy reviews which is really quite unusual for their products - they're normally very well regarded - not least of all by myself who's had nothing but good experiences with them.

And then it dawned on me that I've had quite a few "dedicated" ATUs and always had to sell them whenever I change radio. Bit silly huh? So I looked around for an Auto ATU which would work with any radio and that's when I came across the MFJ 993B.
The beauty of this ATU is that it is fully automatic and capable of matching almost anything! It includes analogue and digital readouts of Forward & Reflected power. It can accommodate 2 antennas and even a balanced-line.


So this ATU can be used with any radio, but more than that, an interface cable can be purchased to link the ATU directly to a specific radio and make operation even simpler by permitting the operator to press the radio's TUNE button and letting the radio and ATU sort everything out including reducing the power, generating a tone, tuning the antenna and then returning the radio to its previous power setting.

The MFJ-993B also has a gazillion memories to store already-tuned settings to speed up the tuning procedure the next time you use that same frequency. And as you talk on different frequencies, the MFJ 993B is learning all the time. Pretty smart!

So what's the downside? Well as usual, it's cost! The 993 is not the cheapest ATU out there, but at least it's a keeper and can be connected up to any radio/antenna that comes into your shack over the next few years. And the other downside is the Interface Cable kit - that too is expensive!

But as usual, I setup a search and like a vulture, I keep an eye out for a bargain - usually on eBay. It never takes long for one to come along :-)

Sunday, 18 August 2019

YAESU FT-DX3000

NEW RADIO!

Ever since the Yaesu FT-1000MP left the shack, I've kinda missed having a big "traditional buttons, dials and knobs" radio to play with. Most of my radio time is spent outdoors running QRP but Winter is coming and I have decided that I want a full-size rig in the shack.


Looking around, there were lots of choices, not least of all the IC-7300 but one major consideration is the high Noise Floor at my QTH and according to my research, the Yaesu FT-DX3000 is better at quietening that noise down than the 7300.


The 7300 seems to be everyone's sweetheart right now and it was a very difficult radio to turn up my nose at, but ultimately, I needed that extra quieting and although the 7300 has a superb hi-res screen with panadapter and waterfall, I will be happy to use the DX3000's IF OUT to feed my RSP1A and have a BIG panadapter and waterfall on my PC screen.

I had originally considered the cheaper FT-DX1200 and found it very difficult to find a comparative list of features to help me make my mind up. Even some radio-stores didn't know all the differences, so as usual, it's down to the consumer to do the research. So here it is...

Over and above the DX1200, the FT-DX3000 has the following benefits/features...


  • Better receiver architecture closely linked to the FT-DX5000/9000. The DX1200 is closer related to the FT-450 and 991 architecture.
     
  • IF-OUT.  The 1200 has no IF-OUT socket. 
     
  • USB connectivity. This makes connection to a PC very straightforward!
     
  • SOUNDCARD built-in. Simplifies the digital modes of operation.
     
  • FFT1 CARD built-in. Allows encoding/decoding of RTTY/PSK1 on-screen. Also provides decoding of CW and Auto-Tunes the CQ signal.
     
  • REAL-TIME SCOPE. Shows real-time scope reading like the 9000.
     
  • THREE ANTENNA SOCKETS.
     
  • SEPARATE FREQUENCY DISPLAY.
     
  •  SEPARATE FH-2 KEYPAD
     
  • LINE IN/OUT
     
  • 13.8v OUT
     
  • EXTERNAL ALC OUT
     
  • RX OUT
     
Although it has a built-in ATU, it's pretty useless in that it will only work with a 3:1 SWR - anything worse than that and you can forget it! Well that's not gonna cut the mustard with my G5RV, so I'll have to invest in a good external ATU.

Oh and just look at Amazon's price (UK Aug 2019). I always considered Amazon to be pretty competitive but this proves otherwise.....




Just arrived..........


LOTA 2019

Shine Your Light On Me!

This weekend I setup my SotaBeams 20/40 dipole outside in the back garden and connected up my Yaesu FT-818ND with a 13.2V LifePO battery. It was Lighthouses On The Air weekend and I thought it might be interesting to see if I could make contact with any from my less than perfect QTH at the bottom of Winter Hill.

I oriented the dipole so that it was radiating WNW to ESE and it seemed to work okay but there was lots of QRM and QSB on the 40M band. In all fairness though, when it was up, it was up! 

I used just 5W throughout except for one station in Iceland where I (inadvertently) dropped to 2.5W. Most work was done on 40 Metres but I also tried 20.

I often found that I had to wait quite a while for a clear break to get in-between other stations who were clearly pumping out lots of power, but with perseverance I managed to make good contacts and received excellent audio reports in the main.


At one point I heard a local friend G0FRL calling GB1DLH (Dungeness in Kent) and they were really struggling to hear him so I thought I wouldn't stand a chance considering he has a HUGE hex-beam and I've got this little portable dipole. Much to my surprise, they heard my QRP call and asked other stations to clear for me. They were running 300W and showing S8 on my meter. The operator Marie-Claire was impressed with my 5W and gave me a 59 report.

I was particularly impressed that I reached TF1IRA in Iceland using just 2.5W with the reports back to me quoted as "genuine 59" according to the operator. 400 miles per Watt.  I was also happy to reach UA4S in Volzhsk, Russia (2000 miles) with 5W. Excellent!



 

 







Wednesday, 14 August 2019

INTERMEDIATE LICENCE

Building On The Foundation

I said previously that I'm happy with my 10W restriction as it forces you to pay more attention to getting your station in good fettle instead of just burning your way through with more power. That still stands, but Winter is coming (as they say in Winterfell) and it doesn't hurt to study something that will enhance your understanding of the hobby on those cold, dark nights.

I was going to buy the new updated (Revision 7) RSGB book but then I saw it on Amazon Kindle so I purchased that so it's available to me wherever I am. If I want to do a bit of study at work during my lunchbreak, it's easy to log onto my Kindle account using a PC or tablet.

Yaesu YF-122S Collins Filter

Filter Out The Mush!

The Yaesu FT-818ND isn't the best receiver - real world side-by-side comparisons with a KX3 tell you that - but there is something that you can do to improve your listening experience (apart from use the best possible antenna in the best location) and that is to install a mechanical filter.

The 818 only has a single filter-slot, so you'd need to choose between a filter for CW or one for SSB. Not being a CW capable operator, the decision was made simple, so I looked at SSB filters.

The Yaesu YF-122S Collins Mechanical Filter runs out at about £125, so quite expensive! Needless to say, I opted for a used one and found a bargain (eventually) on eBay.
The difference between the 818's internal filter and this Collins Mechanical filter (at 2.3kHz) is markedly noticeable and makes listening much more pleasurable, helping to cut off noise either side of the wanted signal.

Recommended? Not at full price, but certainly if you can find a cheap second-hand one.



Monday, 12 August 2019

ELECRAFT AX1 with YAESU FT-818ND

A Match Made In Heaven?

I was playing around with my Yaesu FT-818ND when it struck me that I should be able to use the ELECRAFT AX1 Telescopic Antenna on the 818. So I went and got it out from the homemade storage tube and attached it directly to the 818.

I was in the back garden, and switched to 20M. The AX1 is resonant on either 17 or 20 by the flick of a switch. Having tuned into OV1CDX on 14.226MHz, I was able to make contact and have a 5/9 QSO with Frank.


Now bear in mind that I was running the FT-818ND from the internal batteries which was outputting 2.5 Watts! That equates to approximately 400km per Watt which in itself isn't that special, but doing it from a less than ideal location and using a small telescopic antenna attached directly to the radio, is pretty impressive as far as I'm concerned.

So I say (again) well done Elecraft!






Thursday, 8 August 2019

2M HAWKINS VIPER VHF-78 Mk.II

2M Wire Antenna

When you consider taking out Yagi's and colinears up the hills, you gotta think about mounting solutions that are in addition to your HF requirements.

So when I saw the Hawkins Viper VHF78 Mk.II i thought it might offer me a simple solution by affording me the opportunity to run a vertical wire down the length of my Tactical 7000HDS mast which is holding up (normally) a HF Dipole in an inverted-V.

These antennas are "built to order" so it'll take a few days to arrive. When it does, I'll nip up to Winter Hill and run some quick tests.



Wednesday, 7 August 2019

BIWOTA 2019

British Inland Waterways On The Air 2019

Having a keen interest in inland waterways (canals in particular), this event caught my eye as soon as I saw it mentioned on the WMRC site. The event is being held on the late August Bank Holiday (24-26th August) and if you wish to participate you have to register in advance.


The event is open to all Amateurs who are boaters, cyclists, walkers and other users of the canals, rivers, towpaths, riverbanks for work or recreation. Even lakes and reservoirs that are used for recreation uses classify as an inland waterway, so there are many places for activating. 
Many clubs and individual Amateurs on or near the UK inland waterways obtain Special Event Station (SES) callsigns. Others operate mobile or portable using their own callsigns. Many more like to contact the BiWota stations. It is also a good chance for WAB enthusiasts to get some rare WAB squares.
The primary bands will be 40m (7MHz) and 2m (144MHz SSB and FM) but all bands will be acceptable.
The aim of the event is to bring together Radio Amateurs who regularly use the waterways to celebrate their hobby and raise awareness of the UK waterways. 
I am probably going to setup station somewhere on the Leeds-Liverpool canal around the White Bear Marina at Adlington which is not far from my QTH.
Coincidentally, I have got 7 nights on a canal boat the week after this event :-) 

LDG Z-817 AUTOTUNER

TUNING MADE EASY

I like AutoTuners. They're simple and reliable and fit in well with my modus operandi - KISS. Pressing a single button and achieving a 50ohm match within a few seconds, is right up my street! And if the autotuner is dedicated to your radio, great!


I've had these tuners before and feel good about them. I've actually got one connected to my Icom IC-7100 and I've never experienced any problems. I get the impression from their construction and materials that they are a good quality item. So as soon as I started to look for an ATU for my Yaesu FT-818ND, I had no hesitation looking for an LDG.

The Z-817 is specifically designed as a QRP tuner and it is referred to (by LDG) as Zero Power meaning that it consumes almost no power when in sleep mode. It basically doesn't have an on/off switch - it just goes into a deep sleep when not being used. Power (when needed) is supplied in the form of 4xAA internal batteries which last approximately one year.

The Z-817 interfaces with the Yaesu FT-817/818 via a CAT cable. This makes it an integrated tuner powered by the interface; no extra power cables are needed. Just press the tune button on the tuner and the mode is set to carrier, the RF power is reduced, a tune cycle runs and the radio is returned to the original settings. A CAT pass through port is provided for computer control, which is a great feature - one which Yaesu's own tuners always omit!

The Z-817's are around £129 new, which I think is a bit choppy, so I looked on eBay for a used one. Unfortunately, most sellers on there had the opinion that their used devices were worth almost as much as a new one, so I looked elsewhere and soon found one on a Facebook 818 Group.

The guy wanted just a fraction of the new price and his included a very nice waterproof carry-case, so the deal was done! I do like a bargain :-)





  • RF Power 0.1 to 20 watts SSB and CW, 5 watts for digital modes.
  • Latching relays for ultra low power consumption
  • Battery operated 4 x 1.5V Alkaline AA (not included).
  • Built-in CAT port interface. CAT thru port for computer connection. 38400 baud.
  • 2000 memories when used with FT-817/818 interface (200 memories for other radios)
  • 1.8 to 54 MHz coverage
  • Tunes 6 to 600 ohms (about 10:1 SWR range). 16 to 150 on 6M (about 3:1)
  • SO-239 in and out connections for dipoles, verticals, beams, G5RV, OCF, ect.
  • Dimensions: 5.1L, 4.7W, 1.7H.
  • Weight: 9.3 ounces (without batteries).
  • Includes 3 foot CAT cable.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

MINI SHACK IN A BOX

YAESU FT-818ND SHACK-IN-A-BOX

Today marked the arrival of a Yaesu FT-818ND All-Band, All-Mode Portable Transceiver. I've fancied an FT-817 for a long time, but somehow never got around to adding one to the shack. I've got its older sibling, the FT-290R but of course that only did 2M (multimode). The FT-817 has been made obsolete by the introduction of the new FT818ND and yet the truth be told, there's hardly any difference between the two!

The 818 has an extra 1W (which some 817 owners achieved by modding), a TCXO and 1900mAh battery. Other than that, they're pretty much the same rig.

Anyhow, buying an 817 is a precarious affair - I had one guy offering me a "great deal" and then at the last minute, I discovered that the radio was 16 years old!!! So for an extra £50 I got an 818 and that way you know it's only a few months old.

Although I have an Elecraft KX3 (with built-in ATU and 2M board) which I love and adore, I am always conscious of the fact that it's like taking a Rolls Royce to the top of a hill when you know damned well that you should have taken the Land Rover.

The FT-818ND is tough and robust. You can chuck it in a backpack with little thought about its well-being. If you keep the radio in the (superb) Yaesu Leather Case, you can virtually guarantee that it will remain in good condition even after years of SOTA work.

Taking the Elecraft on a hike is like taking a box of eggs! I'm not suggesting that the KX3 is fragile or poorly constructed - it's not!! It's a superb radio, but it just requires a lot more care when handling it outdoors. I should really buy some of the protection options available for it and stop worrying!

According to others, the reception on the FT-818ND cannot hold a candle to the KX3, but they say it's also not that bad! The sheer convenience and durability of the FT-818ND means that you will be much more willing to throw it over your shoulder when going out - and you will therefore be much more likely to make a contact. Taking the KX3 out on the other hand needs some care and so you might not be as eager to "throw it over your shoulder". The big advantage of the KX3 is that it's got 3 times the power of the 818.

Anyway, no matter what the reason for buying an 818 - I just did! And I absolutely LOVE IT!! I really do. I've had some amazing contacts with it, even reaching deep into Russia on 5W and Denmark and Iceland on 2.5W.


 


Weather permitting, I'll take it out this weekend and have a play. In addition to using the regular antennas that I use with my KX3, I'm also going to try the Elecraft AX1 Telescopic Vertical. Should be interesting.

Features of new 818 :
  •      Improved frequency stability ±0.5 ppm: Built-in TCXO-9
  •      Larger battery capacity: 9.6V/1900 mAh (SBR-32)
  •      5MHz band Operation available
  •      208 Memory Channels / 10 Memory Groups
  •      Operates on 160-10m, HF, 6m, 2m and 70 cm Bands
  •      Ultra-Compact and Portable
  •      Two Antenna Connectors
  •      IF Shift, IF Noise Blanker, IPO, ATT
  •      CW "Semi-Break-in", CW Reverse, CW Pitch Control
  •      Built-in Electronic Keyer
  •      Multi-Colour Easy to see LCD
  •      Internal Battery Operation Capability
  •      ARS Automatic Repeater Shift
  •      APO Automatic Power Off
  •      Front Panel Key Lock Mode

Specifications:

  • Frequency Ranges: RX 100 kHz - 30 MHz
  • (Amateur Bands only) 50 MHz - 54 MHz
  • 76 MHz - 108 MHz
  • 87.5 MHz - 108 MHz
  • 430 MHz - 440 MHz
  • TX 1.8 MHz - 54 MHz
  • C2 Version (5.2500 MHz - 5.4065 MHz) WRC-15 + UK
  • B2 Version (5.3515 MHz - 5.3665 MHz) WRC-15
  • 144 MHz - 146 MHz
  • 430 MHz - 440 MHz
  • Circuit Type: Double-Conversion Superheterodyne (SSB/CW/AM/FM)
  • Single-Conversion Superheterodyne (WFM)
  • Modulation Type: A1A(CW), A3E(AM), J3E(LSB, USB), F3E(FM), F1D(PACKET), F2D(PACKET)
  • RF Power Output: 6 W (SSB/CW/FM), 2 W (AM Carrier) @13.8 V
  • Memory Channels: 208
  • Case Size (W x H x D): 135 x 38 x 165 mm
  • w/o knob and connector
  • Weight: 900 g (w/o Battery, Antenna and Microphone)

Supplied Accessories:

  •     Hand Microphone(MH-31A8J)
  •     Battery (SBR-32 9.6V 1900mAh Ni-MH )
  •     Battery Case (FBA-28) (Requires 8 "AA: batteries)
  •     Whip Antenna for 50/144/430 MHz (YHA-63E
  •     DC Cable (E-DC-6)
  •     Shoulder Strap, Ferrite Core, Rubber Foot
  •     Operating Manual
  •      Battery Charger (PA-48U/C)


Read more: https://www.nevadaradio.co.uk/amateur-radio/transceivers/mobile-transceivers/yaesu-ft818---new---coming-soon#ixzz5w6nUoA1W