Headset Shootout Commencing

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Headset reviews are about a dime a dozen on the internet. They’re all subjective too. Everyone’s hearing is different. Especially mine! About 50% of the hearing in my left ear is gone, not to mention a load of tinnitus. The right ear, about 20% gone, and a tad bit of tinnitus. Cause? An M2 .50 caliber machine gun, a story for another day ūüôā I’m sure I have long-term exposure damage as well, which is why it’s so important to take care of your hearing! So, my days of bumping in the trunk are (just about) done :P. So take headset reviews with a grain of salt! My main question, I wanted to solve here, was –¬†¬†Is it worth going from a $60 headset, to a $275 headset?

If your a new ham, your probably wondering why that shiny new transceiver you just bought sounds like doo doo. Don’t fret. I don’t think I’ve EVER heard a built in speaker sound good.¬†For general listening,¬†I’ll¬†use some powered JBL LSR 305’s in the shack. Though they seem to introduce a bit more hiss into the audio. They are powered by a switching power supply, but are very well shielded inside the speaker. Have a very flat response, which is why I like them. But if your planning on doing any kind of operating, I think a good headset is an absolute must. There’s a reason why you see professional radio operators all around the world using headsets, including sportscasters, dj’s, coaches, 911 call center operators, because when communication matters most – you need the audio right where it matters most – in your ears! And vice versa – you need the audio going directly into the mic – and with a headset you get just that!

I’m no expert in audio, but I do consider myself to be an ‘audiophile’ ūüôā I like audio that sounds good, and the nature of shortwave radio requires good headphones. It’s already a noisy enough environment out there. I’ve gone through a many sets of headphones, including the ones that required really expensive amps just to be run, it’s a hobby all in itself – and it can get expensive if you don’t watch it! Below are the headphones I settled on for¬†general music use or listening to podcasts. The Audio Technica ATH-M50’s and Vmoda Crossfade M100’s. Both excellent headphones for the price and for the audio they reproduce!

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You’ve probably no doubt heard about the cheap alternative the Yamaha CM500’s. An entry level headset sold for around $50-60 that has an electret mic & closed back headphones, but they have an¬†absolutely horrible seal around your ears, and allow lots of ambient noise to enter the ear cup. Now if you have stellar hearing, you operate in a shack that is extremely quiet, you may get away with a cheaper headset, if one things for certain, the CM500’s are plenty comfortable, well basically because they don’t seal around your head at all!¬† But they use an electret mic, which is a little hot and can make your voice sound a smidge higher than it is. They also require bias voltage on my 590SG, apparently the bias voltage supplied by the 590SG causes distortion?

The Heil Pro 7’s come with a dynamic mic cartridge already, but I did have to purchase additional adapters for both of my radios, which come in at about $25 a piece. A lot better than Radiosport headsets¬†@¬†$99 a cable! If you have multiple radios, keep that in mind!

So i’ll spend the next few weeks using both of these headsets and discovering their pros/cons. I think Winter Field Day would be a good way to ask folks what they think about each, i’ll have both headsets there for folks to use, we’ll see which one gets used more ūüôā

Stay tuned!

73

K5ACL

Kenwood TS-480SAT Panadapter Setup

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This SDR/Super-het combo was a bit more complex to setup than setting it up with the 590SG, because mainly you have to crack the case open & tap into the Kenwood TS-480’s First IF on jumper CN152. Kenwood makes this all too easy though, by providing prongs for you to attach your cables to already!

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I picked up a panadapter kit from KA9MOT on mypanadapter.com. The kit came with an RTL dongle, but for purposes of this setup, we’ll be using the SDRplay, the RTL has sort of a similar setup, you just need a different .dll file in the HDSDR directory and some different settings within HDSDR, and a different driver.

I suggest by stopping by the SDRplay website, and navigating to their “Downloads” section, and click on the HDSDR package. As of today’s writing, there’s a more recent version of HDSDR (stable 2.75 release), but you can download that after we run this .exe first. This package from SDRplay will ensure that the SDRplay .dll file gets placed into the HDSDR directory, it will install the driver & the software that you’ll be using.

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Note the SDRplay .dll file in the HDSDR directory

I would have used SDRConsole for this write up, but as of today’s writing, according to Simon’s website, the latest release has issues when using the external radio with IF out. So we’ll use HDSDR latest stable release 2.75. I already had Omni-rig downloaded & configured with my logging software, but you’ll need to download that as well & enter all the settings according to your radio, i’m using a TS-480SAT, so my settings are as follows:

Rig type: TS-480 / Port: Com 4 / Baud Rate: 57.6k / Data bits: 8 / Parity: None / Stop Bits: 1 / RTS: High / DTR: High / Poll int: 500 / Timeout: 4000

Now since this is an IF tap, and your not directly connecting to the antenna, you’ve essentially tapped into the radio’s signal chain so the signal your tapping into is @ the First IF frequency of the 480. Which means you’ll have to enter some numbers in HDSDR under “Options” & “RF Front End Calibration”, the thing is these numbers are all different for every computer, but if your using the same radio, & the same SDR, these numbers might get you close to calibration:

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To calibrate completely, you’ll need to navigate your radio to a WWV signal and make the image for the WWV signal match up with the frequency, i.e. 2.5/5/10/15/20 MHz. I basically just adjusted little by little until the images matched up perfectly on frequency, and mine resulted in the above numbers with the SDRplay.

The only thing i’ve noticed, is that with using an IF tap, there is a peak in the middle due to the IF filter bandwidth, but your still able to see signals in that section for the most part:

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It’s definitely not as slick as the 590SG panadapter setup, but it’ll work for field day ūüôā Which was my original intent. Now keep in mind while I was doing all of this, my Windows 10 laptop decided to stop allowing me to access the ‘start menu’, it required creating a new account, just be sure that when you installing everything on your machine, install it & open it as administrator, especially if your on Windows 10!

73

K5ACL

Using the WSPRlite to test the mobile antenna

For Winter Field Day, i’m going to run the WSPRlite (WSPR beacon) as N5OAK using my mobile HF antenna (Wolf River Coil & Stinger), so I thought i’d test it out today and try to find the sweet spot for the WSPR Frequencies.

When I’m parked on a frequency for awhile as with WSPR, I’ll use the AA-30 analyzer to adjust resonance which provides real time updates as I’m adjusting the antenna. I feel like I’m rusty everytime I go through this process, I see why hams eventually opt for a screwdriver antenna or similar.But with a composite bed on the Tacoma, I’m still back to the drawing board.

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The antenna does well on the higher bands, but forget the lower, I have some work to do there. Mobile HF has been tough since I completed the install, and with the solar cycle where its at, I need more efficiency on those bands.

 

73

K5ACL

Winter Field Day is getting closer!

Well, you certainly won’t feel it in Texas anyways… Winter that is. ūüėõ I was wearing shorts & sandals about a week ago, the weather here is so up and down, I do miss having seasons as I’ve experienced elsewhere! Winter Field Day is just around the corner, and our club, the N5OAK is hard at work preparing for a really exciting day of operating, if you or anyone you know might be interested in getting on the air and are in the Central Texas area (Luling to be exact), then let me know and i’ll be happy to provide details on the event. I think they’re even trying to setup a “GOTA” (Get on the Air station) for folks that are new to HF.

Here’s a rough draft of our layout for WFD (Courtesy Photo: K5URU):

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Yellow = Antennas

 

So far there’s at least 8 HF stations that I know of that will be there (some with VHF/UHF capability), there’s also a planned satellite station that I’m looking forward to learning how to operate (if we can get through to the bird on a contest day!).

There’s plenty of space to go around from the above aerial, so it will be fun to experiment! I may just end up taking my sleeping bag and crashing in the back of my pickup truck to get some shuteye on Saturday night (hardcore eh?). During the last ARRL field day, I attempted to stay up throughout the whole thing & operate, but I bet we’ll have a bit bigger crowd this time & I’ll be able to catch some Z’s while other folks operate! We will also take advantage of setting up the equipment prior to the contest starting @ 1900UTC on Saturday. We have everything from DMR simplex, Broadband Hamnet, Satellite Ops, SDR, and lots and lots of radios! It will be interesting to see the coordination between us operators @ the field site to ensure we all operate on different bands!

This will be my Kenwood TS-480SAT’s first real-world test in a contest environment, I’ve only ever used it for casual operating up until now. I’ve still yet to tap the IF out in it, I need to crack the case and plug in the coax wire I got from mypanadapter.com. This way i’ll be able to use my SDRplay as a panadapter. I think having a panadapter out @ Field Day will be a huge advantage. Stay tuned for a wicked cool setup, pics to follow!

Thanks to¬†N5OAK members¬†for making this event possible, if there’s one thing ham radio needs more of, it’s field days! We’re having a club meeting tomorrow to discuss everything (and breakfast!) Nothing like discussing ham radio ops over a nice warm cup of coffee & some breakfast tacos!

www.n5oak.org

www.winterfieldday.com

73

K5ACL

Comparing the TS-480SAT & TS-590SG on AM (Video)

I’ve got the TS-480SAT in the shack for awhile, actually it’s the first time i’ve ever hooked it up inside apart from being installed in my vehicle from the day I purchased it. I was anxious to hear how it sounded on the air with a ‘full-size’ antenna. The 480SAT is considered to be ‘long-in-the-tooth’, whereas the 590SG has been out only for a few years. The 480 has AF DSP, 590 has IF DSP. However, Kenwood has refined the AF DSP to such a point that this little guy is still a popular choice among hams, and for good reason. The controls are just about the same as the 590, and they are so easy & intuitive to use.

Band conditions have been really tough for me as of late, even digital modes have been tough. So I focused my efforts around AM broadcast signals for the comparison, as most of the SSB signals i’ve been hearing the past few days weren’t strong enough. Most of my operating time as of late has been late in the evenings, and my low, compromised antenna, isn’t the best on the lower bands. Come on solar cycle! Give us some relief!

I think both rigs sound great, the 590SG has the edge in clarity & noise reduction, but the 480SAT isn’t far behind. When conditions improve a bit, i’ll show the differences on SSB which I think are far more distinguishable between the two radios than they were here with AM.

The 480SAT is in the shack so I can also install the panadapter wiring kit, and configure the SDRplay with it for Winter Field Day. I also need to configure it to work with N3FJP software which we’ll be using with each other in a HSMM-MESH network configured by KG5LVT! I’m really excited to see his setup, I was briefly interested in the broadband hamnet niche, but was too far from any nodes to have any fun with it. Matt has some serious directional antennas for 2.4GHz though. This is what I love about ham radio, there’s probably hundreds of different areas you can get into & explore!

73

K5ACL

 

Winter Field Day (2017) Prep

Field day is probably one of my favorite events in ham radio. It’s the day when hams from all walks of life get together for a common goal – to contact as many stations as possible within a given time period! (that & have as much fun as possible doing it!). This particular event is my first¬†(Winter) Field Day, which isn’t run by the ARRL, but it is promoted by the ARRL ūüôā¬†There’s all sorts of planning that goes into such an event, i.e. location, gear, food, power requirements, etc, but I’m lucky to have some really capable & friendly¬†folks in the N5OAK who have been planning the event for quite some time! I think this will be the N5OAK’s first actual entrance into the contest.

We’ll be using a site out in Luling, TX with lots of space for antennas! I’ll be stringing up, tuning & trimming a new portable OCF that I can use whilst HF mobile. I originally had plans to put up a vertical of some sort, but verticals usually require a bit more deployment time, and as such, I wanted to keep my setup & break down time as quick as possible. (I learned that lesson from the last field day!). It’s no fun breaking down a station in the pouring rain with mud all underneath you & your gear!

We have 6 operating stations planned so far, some will include VHF/UHF capability, and you can bet that we’re going for that satellite QSO bonus! An extra 1,500 points! I think we’re also going to be using our own power generation equipment, so that’s another 1,500 points!

I’m most looking forward to this field day because it allows a lot of different modes to be worked, and I think events like that really bring¬†folks together, because lets face it, not everyone does voice… not everyone does cw… not everyone does digital.¬†An event like this can allow hams who are proficient in those areas to really show others, and give them an opportunity to try something that they might just be surprised they like! (I’m especially looking forward to the Satellite qso tutorial!)

My station will be designated the voice station, so I’m planning on using my Kenwood TS-480SAT, and an off-center fed dipole. I’ll also have a headset this go around, as well as panadapter capability. Might be a bit much for field day, but if we’re already going to have laptops for logging purposes, I’m going to take advantage and put a panadapter up! I have an HP S140U external portable monitor that runs on USB power only that will serve as the panadapter screen, while the logging software stays on the primary screen, cool huh? I’m planning on capturing the whole event on film/camera, so stay tuned! I hope to hear you on the air for WFD, look for us & work us¬†on the bands as N5OAK!

If you’re interested, check out WinterFieldDay.com¬†for all the official details & rules.

73

K5ACL

Making the difficult switch to a different logging program!

I swear… Logging will be the bane of my existence. I’ve bounced around trying programs here and there, including MacLoggerDX, N1MM, HRD, DXKeeper, and now my venture has led me to Log4OM. I’ve previously been using MacLoggerDX for all of my logging needs, but then I realized, that’s ALL I use my Mac computer for! What a waste. So I handed the slow & sometimes finicky iMac mini back to my wife for her exploration! I don’t use a fancy computer by any means, my primary PC is a 9 year old desktop that’s been upgraded (and repaired, lol) over the years. I also wanted to have the same logging program on my Windows laptop which I use for portable/mobile use. Well, that just wasn’t possible with MLDX. Who knows, I might bounce back to it one day. For now Log4OM has become my choice¬†except for¬†one tiny problem I’m still having with it (more later).

I love MacLoggerDX. I really do. It’s such a nice software, albeit the $99 pricetag. It’s worth it though. Comes with great support!¬†I’m having to make the switch because as much as I like having two separate computers at my operating position, I wanted to simplify things a bit. Windows dominates in the world of ham radio. Period. There’s no getting around that. Virtualization just isn’t good enough for me. Not with latency & lag issues already inherent in SDR applications and the like.¬† Not to mention, Virtualization IMHO just complicates things even further. I won’t get into the Windows/Mac fight here, but there’s no arguing that especially for SDR applications, I think a user would be much more satisfied with their options on a Windows machine¬†at this point. (I know you Mac users are cringing!) I’ve had the past year to experiment with both, and I must say I’ve gotten a lot more ROI (return on investment) from my Windows machine & having fun w/ ham radio!

To add to the mix, I also had to download the N3FJP Winter Field Day software (which is specifically for WFD), so now here I am learning two different software programs this month! I’ve only been using Log4OM for about a week now, but thus far I’m pretty impressed with the user interface. Simple, uncluttered, and looks great!

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Now I have one machine that does it all. Logging. Digital Modes. SDR Applications. Screen Casting. You name it. It was almost refreshing to declutter my workstation a bit, though now I’m having to reconfigure everything, almost complete, except I can’t get JTAlert to log my WSJT-X QSO’s into Log4OM. I keep getting a Port 8001 error. I’ve tried disabling antivirus/firewall and even tried running as administrator, still no dice. I’ve reached out to the Log4OM forum seeking assistance. Then again… it could just be operator error, :P.

In my opinion, a logging program should be so easy to use, you barely recognize it’s there. May sound a bit silly, but I don’t want anything getting between me & the contact I’m trying to make. Including fiddling constantly with software. I was able to import my .adif file easily enough into the program.¬†¬†A whopping 600 QSO’s! Hopefully 2017 will be a better year & i’ll have more operating time! A review will follow after I’ve sorted out the kinks and had a chance to use the software for a bit, so stay tuned!

73

K5ACL

First DMR QSO!

Accomplished my first DMR QSO today with K5IMO (thank you Larry!) on the TG3184 (TalkGroup for the State of Texas). Thanks to KE5ZW & his DMR repeater located in Cedar Park, TX – 25 miles away, I was able to access the machine with the Connect Systems CS580. The local amateur radio club here in Austin that i’m involved with, the N5OAK, has decided to go forward with a DMR Repeater after much anticipation! I’m glad the club finally decided to go forward with DMR, as popularity has been growing as of late. Open Source is the main reason i’m hearing from a lot of folks on the reason for picking DMR. Not necessarily because they support Motorola, but C4FM is proprietary, and as such DMR kills C4FM in the “expand & evolve” department. I’m not saying i’ll stop using C4FM, it will have it’s place as long as the FTM400DR keeps kicking! I just like to dabble in different digital modes!

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I don’t want to be quick to jump the gun on audio quality with DMR, but the clarity was amazing even just using this handheld DMR radio that I recently picked up from Grapevine Amateur Radio. The radio is absolutely solid, then again, this is probably the best HT that i’ve owned to date coming from Baofengs & WLN’s! I usually don’t like monoband radios, no matter if their HT’s or HF radios, but apparently most DMR activity is on UHF in the U.S., however there are VHF repeaters out there too.

More to come on the radio after i’ve had a bit to use/evaluate it. I was pleased to find out that it accepts my Nagoya NA 771 antenna that I had on my Baofeng HT. It has an advertised gain figure of 2.5dBi (take that with a grain of salt though). It’s just a really good antenna that’s worked well for me.

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A huge thank you to KV5TX for helping me out with the radio & getting it up and running quickly so I could be on the air while I learn more about creating my own ‘codeplug’. Which is just another fancy word for programming file! The programming software is simple enough to use, some of the options/features still don’t make sense to me though. The operating manual is a bit dry as well too. I think I learned more from watching YouTube videos and asking questions to current users! There are a few DMR ‘etiquette’ videos out there too on YouTube to help you get acquainted with using this powerful system, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t making a goof out of myself getting on for the first time!

Interested in the quick specs? Here’s a quick shot of the specs taken from the CS580 manual:

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Who knows… if DMR continues to become more popular, ¬†I may want to have a bit more ‘capable’ radio in terms of more power & more features. There are a few options out there currently, including the CS800 from Connect Systems. An HT is a nice compromise though, using the adapter, i’m able to connect to my base station antenna which is a Tram 1480 VHF/UHF collinear antenna. The Motorola options out there just seem too expensive especially after the cost of the programming software. Connect Systems seems to have met the sweet spot on price for folks interested in getting their feet wet in DMR.

As I understand it, the use of Talk Groups is similar to Yaesu WIRES ‘Rooms’, though a bit different, which I still have yet to explore fully. Hoping to gain a better understanding through a bit of practice! There’s so much information out there it can be a bit overwhelming though, that’s when your local DMR expert comes in handy! Hoping to participate in some upcoming nets as well to listen to the experts!

Looking forward to many more DMR contacts & the expansion of this cool technology!

73

K5ACL