Maybe life ISN’T too short for QRP

I was tun­ing around my dilap­i­dated and totally neglected sta­tion (more on that later) and came across a bunch of slow­ish, hand-​sent, con­tin­u­ous wave sig­nals on 20M send­ing “CQ NA”. What?

A quick look over at the WA7BNM’s web­site (THE author­ity on con­tests hap­pen­ing regard­less of coun­try of ori­gin or spon­sor­ing entity) con­firmed I was hear­ing the monthly sprint of the North Amer­i­can QRP CW Club.

I did remem­ber that I was a mem­ber but I didn’t remem­ber my mem­ber num­ber (I looked on the site, I am #3333). Spe­cial points for mechan­i­cal morse (J-​38 hand key here), and even more spe­cial points for run­ning under a watt.

I don’t really have a lot of antenna choices since a) Ants were in my WX0B Six­pak and thus still sit­ting on my desk, refur­bished but SITTING ON MY DESK instead of out by my antenna tree. And wow, my sta­tion went from a nicely func­tion­ing SO2R setup per­form­ing very well last Sweep­stakes so a sin­gle G5RV, sin­gle radio, dilap­i­dated sys­tems. More about that later.

My IC-​7600 (won at Day­ton Con­test Din­ner 2010)IS run­ning very well (still) so I loaded up the antenna with the inter­nal tuner on 20M. The power shown on my LP-​100A wattmeter (won at Day­ton Con­test Din­ner 2013) was 840mW. IMG_0739[1]SWR shown is the actual that of the antenna on 20M since the wattmeter probe sits after the tuner. Not the most effi­cient load, and there is a cal­cu­la­tion to deter­mine how many mil­li­watts are actu­ally pre­sented to the antenna, but lets just agree it was well under 840mW.

I actu­ally made some con­tacts! 20M was loud too!

Shoot, why not try 40M as well. It was at sun­set and this time is usu­ally 40M is good for QRP om 40M. It was, but the noise level was bad due to local thun­der­storms. I made a few con­tacts and went back to 20M.

All I can say: When the bands are open QRP sig­nals can be loud as hell.

40M I was putting out about 900mW to a very poorly matched load. Although my tuner fixed it as far as the trans­mit­ter con­cerned, I am sure effi­ciency sucked at the antenna. (flash: An online SWR cal­cu­la­tor puts the loss at 54%, so power squirt­ing out the antenna

IMG_0738[1]

was around 600mW. On 20M, the loss was 30% giv­ing me a whop­ping 650mW into the ether.)

So, my point: QRP works just fine. Did I men­tion how I did really well in the Novem­ber Sweep­stakes run­ning 5W? Well enough to try it again.

That is, if I get my sta­tion put back together!

North American QSO Party, RTTY — Feb. 2011

North American QSO Party, RTTY - February

Call: WF7T
Operator(s): WF7T
Station: WF7T

Class: Single Op LP
QTH: TN
Operating Time (hrs): 10
Radios: SO2R

Summary:
 Band  QSOs  Mults
-------------------
 80:  186    44
 40:  185    46
 20:  104    28
 15:   47    12
 10:    3     2
-------------------
Total:  525   132  Total Score = 69,300

Club: Tennessee Contest Group

Team: TCG #1

Comments:

Had a great time.  Thanks to NCJ for putting on a fun RTTY contest, and thanks
to all for the Qs.  Only my second contest using SO2R so please forgive my
errors and delays. Lots of new calls and nice to hear the old ones too! I
believe this raw score is a  personal best.

Wished I had better antennas for the high bands.  Pretty much worked everything
that I could hear.  Did not have the ability to switch antennas between rigs so
I am sure I missed out especially on 15/10. Need also to continue improvements
in filtering and automation.

73 Brad WF7T
Nashville, TN

---

IC-7600/FT-857D, 100W
G5RV@37', 40x50' Inv. L
N1MM v11.2.6, YCCC SO2R+

Some addi­tional sta­tion notes:

  1. Need to imple­ment more flex­i­ble switch­ing of anten­nas. Had the inverted L on the FT-​857D but wished I had access to it on the IC-​7600
  2. Need to setup FSK on the IC-​7600. Played with the twin-​peaking fil­ter in RTTY mode the other day but it is not avail­able in AFSK mode: the TPF is awesome!
  3. Need to spend time doc­u­ment­ing the dual radio inter­fer­ence. The I.C.E. fil­ters are work­ing well, but need extra umph that some coax­ial res­onators will provide
  4. Need to do some­thing for sta­tion automa­tion for fil­ter switch­ing. I have the parts, just need to do it!
  5. I neglected to make Push/​Pop macros for N1MM…could have used them on 40/​80M
  6. I expe­ri­enced occa­sional issues with click­ing and hav­ing info in wrong boxes: Espe­cially dif­fi­cult for call signs. Also, I seemed to some­times get Radio A call sign in Radio B entry box…hated that when I logged the wrong one. Had to go back and cor­rect a cou­ple (one of which was just a hazy memory)
  7. Wished for gain on 10/​15/​20M pointed W (and dur­ing the next DX con­test will wish for 0/​15/​20M pointed EU)

Single Operator Two Radio

SO2R…all the con­testers are doing it.

I have wanted to try it for a num­ber of years now. Finally, after sev­eral tri­als around the sta­tion engi­neer­ing I used it to great suc­cess in the 2011 Wpx RTTY contest.

My setup: Icom IC-​7600 as pri­mary rig, Yaesu FT-​857D as sec­ondary. I.C.E 419B band­pass fil­ters con­nected to each. All my anten­nas con­nected to the IC-​7600, a 90-​foot Inverted L con­nected to the 857D. Yan­kee Clip­per Con­test Club SO2R+ con­troller box between them, con­nected to my main sta­tion com­puter run­ning N1MM and MMTTY for RTTY.

Aside from some slight har­monic QRM from each radio the setup worked beyond expec­ta­tion. I esti­mate that I added bet­ter than 150 Qs on the sec­ond radio. I found it very con­ve­nient for using searching/​pouncing using both radios. I am a lit­tle sta­tion and not likely to hold a fre­quency except on 40/​80M evenings when I am strong state­side. Being able to scan two bands was very use­ful. There were times when I was run­ning on 40M and was able to use the sec­ond radio look­ing for addi­tional sta­tions on another band.

RTTY oper­a­tion was a great first intro­duc­tion to SO2R. I have tried it sub­se­quently with CW and found it to be very con­fus­ing. More prac­tice is needed there (and likely try­ing dif­fer­ent modes of head­phone mix­ing). I played a lit­tle in the ARRL DX CW con­test and found NO head­phone mix­ing was OK. This is prob­a­bly not optimum.

Things needed from this point forward:

  • Coax­ial stubs to pass/​reject pri­mary and har­monic fre­quen­cies. I could hear myself on my har­mon­ics, some­time loudly and with block­ing of the RX rig. Noth­ing dam­ag­ing of the radio but annoy­ing to say the least. I think I should be able to get another 40dB of rejec­tion with coax­ial stubs for var­i­ous bands (and a way to switch them)
  • Bet­ter antenna switch­ing. I have a 6×2 switch but cur­rently using just 1 sec­tion. Need to fix that! I want to use any antenna on any radio…
  • Band choice automa­tion. I need to be able to have my fil­ter­ing track my band-​choice. I don’t have ded­i­cated anten­nas for each band so no track­ing needed there. I picked up a KK1L dual-​radio board for this very pur­pose. He has an Icom band-​voltage mod­ule com­ing soon!
  • Common-​mode fil­ter­ing. The more I read about common-​mode inter­fer­ence rejec­tion tech­niques (check the YCCC web­site) the more I am hear­ing hash/​trash that is common-​mode related. Need to start whit­tling away at this.

RTTY WPX WF7T SOAB LP, Feb. 2011

Addi­tional notes after the summary…

                 CQ WW RTTY WPX Contest

Call: WF7T
Operator(s): WF7T
Station: WF7T

Class: SOAB LP
QTH: TN
Operating Time (hrs): 30
Radios: SO2R

Summary:
 Band  QSOs
------------
  80:  222
  40:  288
  20:  172
  15:   93
  10:    0
------------
Total:  775  Prefixes = 332  Total Score = 637,440

Club: Tennessee Contest Group

Comments:

First off, thanks to all for the QSOs. While I am sure I tested the patience of
some ops (my first foray into SO2R) I am generally happy with my performance,
gaps and lapses aside. My goal was 700 Qs and 350 Pfx. Missed much of DX mults
and points as I do not play well on 20/15M (and marginally on other bands as well!)
but then again I will take any Q I can get.

Wow 15M was loud on Saturday morning! I got there too late to matter but dang!
40/80 were very strong from here to EU as well. Even heard JA on 40M which is a
rare treat on my wires.

Nice to work so many familiar calls and so many new ones.

73 Brad WF7T
Nashville, TN

----

IC-7600 & FT-857D, 100W
G5RV@40', Inv L 40'x50', 40M bi-square
N1MM 11.2.3/MMTTY (AFSK), YCCC SO2R+ controller

Posted using 3830 Score Submittal Forms at: http://www.hornucopia.com/3830score/

I am quite pleased with this out­ing. I usu­ally do quite well in the WPX, and this year two changes really made a big dif­fer­ence: Bi-​square for 40M pointed toward EU and SO2R oper­a­tion. The EU-​facing 4oM bi-​square helped me get more 6 point QSOs. SO2R helped keep a sig­nal a band all the time.