QRP transmitters explored for WSPR

So now that i’m into WSPR right now, i’ve started to think about all the different possibilities and combinations I could try out with my gear to see what my receive/transmit reports would be like. Here are my results as of late, and each time I make an adjustment or tweak the system, I’m trying to gain better results. I’m pretty happy with the results given I’m using compromise antennas. So far, the furthest I have heard is 16,659 kilometers on 30 meters (Australia):

2016-01-27 14:16   VK6XT   10.140129   -24   0   OF86td   5   K5ACL   EM10bd   16659   87 
And the furthest I’ve been heard is also Australia (14,767km):

2016-01-27 14:04   K5ACL   10.140274   -24   0   EM10bd   5   VK5KJP   PF95gd   14767   249

When I started researching this mode more, I started thinking that maybe I don’t want to tie up my main HF rig, as I recently read somewhere online (can’t remember where) that I shouldn’t allow modes like WSPR on a HF rig like my Kenwood because the diodes can’t deal with the long and rapid heat up cycles. This would explain the reason for the drift reports that I receive/transmit when I first turn my rig on, I’m assuming this is happening because the rig is warming up. Even more reason for me to consider the higher quality crystal oscillator from Kenwood, I wonder if it would help.
 
Another radio operator pointed me to QRP labs. Said that this was a really cheap alternative to utilizing WSPR without needing a PC or your HF rig, problem is, it’s just a transmitter. 

 
I think they have a receiver too though if i’m not mistaken. I’ve also heard of the SoftRock TXRX Ensemble, but that setup is a bit pricier, you can get started with a single band with QRPlabs for just around $50 after you get the gps receiver and shipping. Pretty nifty for just fitting in the palm of your hand!
 
From what i’ve gathered, the kits aren’t too terrible to assemble, so I went ahead and snagged one, i’m sure it’ll be awhile before it gets shipped here from overseas. There are quite a few instructions and videos on how to build one, and hopefully i’ll learn something from it. The KX3 assembly was a little over my head, I was just following step by step not really knowing what in the heck I was putting together! 
 

Chameleon F Loop Plus Explored

Happy Tuesday in SWL land,


I thought I’d mess around with the magnetic loop (Chameleon F Loop) this past weekend, this thing is a snap to setup, I have yet to explore all the possibilities with it. It is by far the quietest antenna that I have.

Although I have yet to make many contacts on it because it’s too RF noisy inside the house, so this weekend, I thought I’d experiment by tuning the loop for the 30m WSPR band, and attaching it to the coax that is used for my vertical outside. I used a 3 meter piece of LMR400 to get the loop away from where the vertical was laying.

It was kind of a pain in the butt though because, when the loops position changed, the loop would need retuned, so I had to make fine adjustments on the loop antenna to get the swr right (can you picture me running in and out of the house many times?), but it was able to pull in signals on the 30m band that my other antennas weren’t, the weather wasn’t too cooperative this weekend, so I had to cut the experiment short. Hopefully I can let the program run all day to compare the results against the other antennas. I’m also happy about the new Elecraft KX3 firmware beta release that came out recently which allows a full 15 watts of power, which will suit this loop nicely.


Although the loop was 3 meters away from the vertical antenna, that may have still been affecting the loop, as could the ground radials, so I also raised the loop using the tripod. The antenna has a very convenient connection to a tripod, although quite top heavy, the tripod supports it, I wouldn’t trust it with any amount of wind though. This antenna would probably be more enjoyable if you were sitting very close to it, as it does require fine tuning, I just wanted to try this out!


I still want to take this thing to the top of a mountain somewhere and try out some SSB contacts on it. I keep hearing that antennas do amazing things when brought to great heights, guess that makes sense! There aren’t many high points in Central Texas, so I’m not sure if it would make a huge difference. Most places around Austin are 500 feet above sea level, some are just a bit higher.


I was busy on JT65 this weekend, snagged Canada, Venezuela & several stateside contacts in the end. I guess I need to get better about maintaining my log too, because when I logged in this morning, everyone had uploaded except me!

Edit: Loop is now for sale!

 


Keep it weird!


K5ACL

Addicted to WSPR

For such a simple software, WSPR has proven to be quite addicting over the past few days. Last night, I just decided to leave it in “listen” mode, and give my HF rig a break! Not that it needs one, but I’m allowed to baby my equipment aren’t I? 🙂


The results were quite impressive for just a simple piece of wire hanging in the air:

 

So I say to you hams who are living in apartments, or condos, or any other place it may be difficult to erect an antenna, it’s still possible to have fun on HF even with a piece of wire!


WSJT-X software allows you to automatically select different bands throughout the day/night, and even during grayline propagation. As of recent, I had a ham contact me and see if I could pickup his 630m signal in Oklahoma, sure enough, I could! I had no clue about the 630m & 2200m bands until he contacted me, then I looked into it a little further, and holy smokes! Have you seen the amount of wire required to erect an antenna for one of those bands? It was interesting to read about nonetheless. WSPR mode is great though, because it can be a set it and forget it mode. I let it run overnight, and check it in the morning on my way out. I’m thrilled when I see an international contact in there, Japan, Australia, U.K., Germany, and so many others!


I foresee myself using WSPR a lot more in the future, and have been considering using an arduino type project as a WSPR beacon. I’d rather save my HF rig for other uses if I can rig a cheap alternative to send out the 5w signal (or less).


One thing I am concerned of as of late is that the 590SG didn’t come with that SO-3 crystal oscillator thingymajigger that everyone recommends in the 590 Yahoo Group. Apparently it’s supposed to prevent your rig from drifting when using digital modes that transmit for long periods like the ones I use do. I’m not sure how to see if I’ve been drifting though, when I check my WSPR receive reports, I rarely see a drift in my stats. But, just as you guessed, there are folks who say that the SG has “none” to “very little if any at all” drift as a stock radio.


I hope those in the Northeast are bundled up for this upcoming blizzard. News reports say it’s going to be an “epic” blizzard. Please heed their warning!

Vertical vs. End Fed Antenna K5ACL Experiment

Greetings hams,

Its been a busy weekend, but luckily I had enough time to put up the Hustler 5BTV this weekend, and wanted to put up a quick comparison I made of my WSPR results between my end fed & this new vertical that was just put up. More pics and details to come on what I did to the 5BTV to get it up and running, I still want to lay another 20 or 30 radials down, right now i’ve only got 20, and i’m restricted to short confines, so getting long enough radial wires will prove difficult.

 

I’m happy so far with the results, and I haven’t even tuned it yet with an analyzer, just went off the recommendations from DX engineering, but check out the difference here:

I would imagine this is because my end fed is in more of a horizontal configuration, and thereby suited for more close range contacts, but even with my hustler, I was still able to pull in more close contacts than the end fed, again, this isn’t a scientific comparison by any means, who knows, maybe the conditions were just really favorable for the Hustler. Again, these are two completely different antennas that operate in different ways, this is just my results comparing the two, might be helpful for another ham who is trying to decide what antenna to put up in such a small amount of space. Now to find a way to calibrate the antenna without an analyzer or to find someone who has one 🙂
I am really enjoying this WSPR software though, I see it as a challenge to try and get your signal out there as far as possible, and to hear as many stations as possible. I’ve found that the website can be a bit spotty when you are trying to check your results on the map, but I can imagine that server is handling a fairly large amount of data when uploading users spot reports and then compiling all that information onto the web server. I encourage more hams to use the software, as the more users on the network, the more data hams have at their disposal.
Remembering MLK today.
73’s
K5ACL

JT65 is a success!

Finally! Some success with JT65, 20m proved rather useful today. WSPR was making contacts all over the country!

I’m finally up and running on the mac now, my windows pc crashed… AGAIN. Can you believe it? lol

That’s ok, because WSJT-X has a beautiful interface on the mac, as does MacLoggerDX. So i’m having to get used to these programs now until my I can figure out what’s up with this brick of a box.

Have I said how much I hate Windows?

After using the Windows WSJT-X this interface took some getting used to. Thanks to those hams that replied!

WSPR up and running!

Finally! I don’t know how I did it, but it appears as if i’m at least receiving stations in WSPR, now to figure out the CAT commands for this radio, as my radio does not appear in the WSPR software.

I would almost find this information more useful for propagation than those other websites that provide band conditions, if enough folks ran this software, it could provide some good real time data:

I had to play around with the USB audio settings on my radio to get the RX noise level to an acceptable level (closer to 0 dbm is best, has to be within 10 dbm of 0 though).

Now to fine tune it..

And figure out how to transmit…

73’s

Update (a few hours later): So I had a chance to let the station just sit and run for a bit while I mowed the lawn, to my surprise, I had a few stations picked up & a few stations could hear me. I tested out 40 & 20m today, here’s a real time map of WSPR stations that could hear me or be heard:

Puerto Rico is the furthest so far, but this test was all done during the day (10am-5pm), interested to see how propagation opens up once the sun goes down!

I was finally able to find the correct settings for the TS-590sg, I need to write them up so if anyone else wants to try this out they have the correct settings, more to come on this write up.

Here’s a quick shot of the settings in WSPR:

HyEndFed 4 Band HF Antenna

I’m really excited to get back on the air and try out this antenna I’ve been waiting a bit for from the Netherlands. Took a bit to get here, but that’s because it was caught up in customs, no fault of HyEndFed. This antenna will be permanently affixed (I hope), and i’ll just reel in the wire at night or drape up against the fence or something to put it back into “stealth mode.” I usually only operate at night, so works perfect.

I found this video over on YouTube about the HyEndFed antenna, and this application seemed exactly like the one I’m doing in my yard, because my yard slopes just like his and it’s almost the exact same size, and with trees in the rear! Check it out:

 

Thank you Ron, from HyEndFed. More to come when I’m able to test it out. I was just so excited to use it, I had to make a post about it! I’ve heard nothing but good things about his products, and I love supporting small business 🙂 (Thanks for the souvenir surprise in the box too!) & Thank you VE3TWM for a great video.

Check out his website if interested: HyEnd Company