The splendid sunny day of yesterday could of been a whole season away – the weather today (26/11/23), bleak. Drizzle, a slight bit of wind so any gaps in clothing easily penetrated, it was not a good day to be outside, but I wanted to progress the mast head amplifier !
First step was to get the mast down, thankfully the barinco tilt base makes this really easy – having help to raise it first time was ace as getting it into the tilt base is great, but once in its easy enough to do on my own, although my aged bones do struggle with bending over and taking the nuts off. This time out I made note of the different spanner sizes required for each bolt which will be useful in the future.
Having got the antennas down, it was time for some ‘fettling’ on the egg beaters – they was slightly off perfect vertical with the mast, so first thing was to straight them up with the rest of the mast. I also moved the 2m antenna further away from the mast so the radials didnt come into contact with the mast.
With the pre-amplifier installation work completed, I then set about attaching the amplifer to the mast head. I let gravity help here and attached the amp in a way i wasnt fighting it trying to drop off all the time – this worked pretty well. I had some issues with routing the cables internally, but otherwise got the feedline in nicely.
The Ultraflex 10 coax from M&P really looked the business, but it took some ‘convincing’ to go thru the egg beater base. Nothing too aggresive, just a firm push into the radial support, but it did go thru thankfully ! I then had to connect all the relevant ends up, I had pre-ordered some of the connectors I know I would needed but also had plenty to choose from in the shack.
After putting everything together and getting the egg beaters vertical it was time to beat a hasty retreat to the warth and a cup of tea in the shack. The rain wasn’t helping me today !
Once back in the shack I tested the SWR on the Rigexpert sitck, which does the majority of bands, alas today wasn’t to be my day as the SWR reports were not looking good.
With the WX not improving any time soon and a plethora of other things to do (XYL computer upgrades being one of them) I satisifed myself with at least getting the amp on the mast, I willl have to spend some time in investigating and correcting the connectors to find where the issue is !
Still, I’m exicted to be able to start using the egg beaters with an amp, the work will no doubt be worth the effort to pull out those weak signals.
It has been a splendid sunny day down here in Bournemouth, whilst the tempretures have been dropping, it was nethertheless a fine day. My original plan was to get essential bits-and-bobs done and out the way, so i could spend the afternoon working on the antennas outside, however the week had caught up with me and a much needed afternoon rest resulted in 2-3 hours lost, but at least I felt better 😀
Having had a rest I started work on the mast head amplifier, collecting all the parts I had stored away and the dremel, ready for making some holes. I had left my 9700 on 145.500 and was very surprised to hear a call out for a radio check ! Funnily this would be my first ‘ground’ QSO via the egg beater antennas and a good way to check that everything was working as expected. I had a great QSO with M0ABI who was portable in Barton on Sea, given I was using an eggbeater antenna for satellitle comms I was very happy to make this contact, and Mike had alot of history/knowledge of Satellites as well, it was a great QSO and I got back to work on my mast head amp.
Having place the mast-head amp in the ellectrial box housing and marking out where the bolts to attach it to the beam/scaffold would go, i then drilled two small holes with a dremel do it would line up nicely once in the box. I attached velcro supplied with the box to the back of the masthead amp. Its incredbly strong stuff and affixed the amp to the box nicely. I then screwed on the triplexer via a N-Type barrel connector.
With the triplexer and amp connected, i dremelled out the side-holes for where the feed line from the radio will come and the outputs of the triplexer, I stowed the 23cm output and kept a N-Type barellel connector on the 70cm output of the triplexer, as these are all PL259, hopefully this will make attaching the correct antenna to the triplexer easier once outside.
I checked out the feedline holes and am quitely confident the LMR coax I have will fit in there quite nicely. I have M&P Ultraflex10 for the feedlines to the eggbeaters between the multiplexer, to minimize the loss as mch as possible. I’m hopng tomorrows weather is at least dry so I can get outside and get the amp on the mast, then see if I can hear those birds just a little bit better….
Having got the ‘shack’ into somewhat more operational functionality I pondered adding back in the MFJ Auto Tuner – I originally purchased this when I was using home-built vertical antenna and in that it could seemingly tune anything to matching the impedence of the antenna to the transceiver. With the 80m end fed, which does a excellent job across all its designed bands, it became a little redundant and sat in the ‘spares pile’.
With the recent ‘ham shack’ rejig and spotting the tuner, I’d thought Id give it another try, as digital modes on top band can experience some interesting propergation and having recently got the weather station back on line ready to start re-building the webtechnologies for WSPR data, seemed a good reason to at least put it back in place.
Fitting in the ATU wasnt as straight forward as planned – the additonal ‘gaps’ in the bookshelf paying off to allow the ‘sturdy’ coax of the ATU to the 7300 to be in place. I did attempt mounting directly underneath, but it was becoming more of a mess than it already is. With a rejig and some persusasion, the ATU was in place and functioning correctly.
I started out on FT8 – there was plenty of traffic on top-band and managed several QSO’s as well as seeing how well the antenna was doing being matched to 160M with 50W of power.
Having enjoyed a pleasent evening out and the fresh air of Poole Harbour, I resumed my work in the shack and started WSPR transmissions on 160M with 1W of power. I’ve been doing 10M during the day, and its been geat to see the data of how the propergation really varies and almost to immediate effect when the sun goes down, so it would be good to see the inverse of that. I was not to be dissapointed !
Suffice to say, the ATU was doing a great job in matching the antenna and still with a decent amount of power being transmitted on WSPR, the MFJ reported between .5 and .7W
Needless to say, as someone who enjoys digital modes and analysis of the data produced, its great to have this added functionality back. With the steady stream of WSPR data becoming available I’m looking forward to updating the webtechnologies site ready for early next year, so the MFJ will be staying for the foreseeable future ! Yes it is worth it !
With the 9700 setup on the egg-beater antennas, it was time to test out the TM-V71 on 2M for some Telephony QSO’s using the Diamond X9000. The G4PRS net on Monday nights is on 2M, 145.375, and pulls in a good many callers from around the region, as my QTH is on the aft side of the ‘hump’ between Bournemouth and Poole hearing folk over Swanage and Weymouth way is very rare, but most contacts are very good to at least readable, with only a few which I couldnt make out.
I got in early on the list of callers, (3rd in line I think) and net control (Peter) as G4PRS done an excellent job in getting everyone in. As seen from my ‘scribblings’ there was alot of callers ! I was greatful for the constructive input on my audio and strength, 1st time out was to quote ‘blasting the doors off’ so I got a bit further back from the microphone a second time around, which seemed to help. I will check the manual if there is a in-built setting for microphone amplification to see if thats set, mostly I’ve been using this radio for APRS previously.
It was nice that folk on the net remembered me being in POTA, which sadly I’ve not had much time for this year, but am hopeful in the new year I will be back out again, maybe even December, will see how things go. I’ve packed the 705 in its case for now, so it is a nice ‘go bag’ setup and I do enjoy radio/POTA. Also good feedback on the blog (thanks G6AKJ) and bookcase – its nice to hear that i get at least one reader of the blog ! 😀
I have HRD running on the micropc you can see just under the monitor, the larger PC is a linux box, which I might use for the 7300 to keep the 9700 and 7300 seperate as to avoid any mistaken PTTs,etc.
All in all, the effort to get the radios set back up in the book-shelf-shack has been really worth it, with HRD driving the 9700 and the egg beater setup, as well a nice 2M/70cm radio, I’m looking forward to having more QSO’s on UHF/VHF, as well as digital modes with the 7300, although 80m is very lively of late !
73’s for now and thanks for reading if you got this far 🙂 Hope to catch you on air !
With my shack getting some actual usage of late, as well as the G4PRS 2M call on Monday nights, it felt like a good time to tidy things up. I’d not been particualy happy with the layout of the radios in the window, in particular it was susceptiable to any rain/water ingress. With that I orderd a budget 3 tier book shelf, having measured the dimensions, it was a nice foot print and my radios should all fit…
Having move the radios from the shelving, I then set about putting them in-situ to see how it worked out – i wasnt 100% sure where I was going to put the book-case radio shack, but the corner seemed a good idea, and put the Apple iPad that was there back into the Alex Loop pack ready for my next /P or /M use. The position worked well, but there was a clear issue of routing power and coax to the radios, so Ihad to do some ‘DIY’ on the shelves. Here goes my warranty…
The cheapness of the bookcase meant the back-walls of the compatments didnt present much work for the dremel, if it was earlier in the day, I would of done this outside tho, it generate a fair amount of dust and smoke, but I kept the windows wide open and also took my time with each section. I didnt need ‘perfectly square’ holes, just enough so that I can route the coax and other cables thru, and as can be seen in the last photo, this worked out pretty well !
The main transformer now had a nice clearance for its rather noisey fan (my only complain of this transformer, its otherwise done an excellent job) then can start placing the radios in place. I started with my 11m CB+manual antenna matcher, this went in easily enough, and then I placed the Kenwood TH-V71E on top of that. I put all the necessary data/audio cables in place in case I choose to use them, but I’m going to be using this as my main 2m/70cms rig. At the moment its using the Diamond X-9000 which has excellent gain on the 2m and 70cm bands. I am looking forward to trying it out on the G4PRS net on Monday night.
I fed in the very chunky cables for the IC9700. Currently I am running a very simple setup, with no mast head amplifier and direct to the satellite egg-beater antennas. This should become a single feed with a splitter both ends once I put the mast-head amp in place.
With the radios all connected and the basic setup up and running, I then set about using the IC9700 for what it was really designed, operating satellites. Luck would have it that the ISS would be passing over, not a particularly high elevantion at 22 degrees, but worth a try. I waited for an hour and was pleased to hear QSO’s from all over europe going into and out of the ISS repeater. I manually controlled the doppler, but there was no need to rotate the yagis liked what I used to have to do. First impressions of the non-amplified eggbeaters is very encouraging and I look forward to continue to setup the annteas and systems in the coming weeks.
Sundays weather took a turn for a worse, the best part of the day was used to enjoy some time out the shack and with my XYL. We headed off to the New Forest then to Milford on Sea. In the Bongo I have the Kenwood TM-D710GE which I use for APRS on 2M and scan the other bands, GB3IW used to be on 2M, with amazing coverage, being able to reach as far east as Shoreham/Worthing, it was a good way to make /M and /P contacts (as you’ll see in other posts on the blog). I tried out to reach IW from Milford-on-Sea, but no luck, where ever the repeater is now, its a former shadow of its once great coverage, which probably led to its demise thanks to abuse.
We headed back home and whilst there was spatters of rain, there was a time to get out before the sun went down to make some small progress on the satellite antennas.
I removed the previous horizontal beam and replaced it with the one supplied in the kit. I was careful enough, as the vertical holders are only fibreglass, and it would be unwise to knock them and suffer any undue damage! As I had already had a full day, and the next step would be to start erecting the antenna and horizontal fetelling, decided to call it a day, happy at least that the anteannas are in there temmporary mount.
I’m hoping for some good weather today to at least make sure I can locate the coax and get things in place. My son is due to visit this week, so I will put the antenna vertical with him the first time at least, then I will have a better idea of the effort and how easy it is to get up.
I finished the day with a nice meal of roast lamb, which on a cold, wet and rather miserable evening, was a welcome break.
GB3SU + M0DQO 70cm contact
Further to my lack of 70cm contacts via GB3IW, I had a scan thru the bands at the QTH on the IC9700 today (Monday 13/11/23), I was glad to find GB3SU in Southampton. I monitored for a while and was pleased to hear a call out from M0DQO, who was operating portable on his way to work. It was a good QSO and learned about Chris’s setup, which worked really well being /M via Bluetooth controlled PTT Headset. It was a good start to the day and will put the repeater in the D710 to listen to when I’m out and about in the New Forest or en-route to Guildford.
Having an IC-9700 offers the benefits of full fuplex communication on the 2m/70cm bands used by satellites. I previously used two yagis and a rotator with some sucsses in contacting satelltites. The IC9700 with HRD performs excellently in doing the ‘doppler’ tracking, but still found that manually rotating the antennas a distraction when attempting to have QSO’s as the ‘birds’ flew over.
With that early this year I ordered the M2 Satellite Package but due to work and study commitments its been sat in my hallway for several months, waiting to be setup. Well today was that day, with fine weather forecast in the shortening winter months, it was now time to take this on, taking a nice break from my academic and technological pursits also got me outside, albeit just to the front garden !
My first tasks was to remove the Yagis from the existing beam (I was later to learn this wasnt strictly necessary), so I took the 70cm and 2m yagis and put them in them in storage. They can probably be well used on the bike stand for /P operation in the future, although I do have the handheld arrrow antenna for that as well.
I unpacked the antennas, which had been done very well by M2 in the US, you’ll see more of that on the video once I edit it all together ! I started on the 70cm antenna as it was smaller and easier to handle, and would give me some experience ready for the larger 2m antenna.
I found that getting the copper into the loop configurations was easy enough, by feeding thru gently into the eyelets and placing into the holders at the base, the small screws were manageable even with my large fingers. I had tightened and then finished with the allen key.
I then started on the base of the radial holder, whilst the antennas can be used without these, for satellitle communicaton they proivde a reflective plan providing gain at the horizon and a null directly overhead, this is exactly what is needed as the time a ‘bird’ is spent overhead is very short, with the tracking previously done via the TV rotator taking the time to get across the sky.
For the 70cm radials one hand holding the radial and another screwing in the bolt was not an issue due to the size of/lightness of the radials. These went in really well thanks to the precision engineering.
Having completed the main 70cm antenna, it was time to attach it to the supplied beam. I always seem to struggle with getting these U-Clamps on, and it was still no exception in this case, still after a bit of fettling, I had the 70cm nicely installed on the beam, ready for the 2M antenna to go on next. I had a break and a nice cup of tea first tho.
Having had a nice cup of tea and a bit of a break, i then went on to the 2m antenna. This is much larger in size than the 70cm antenna and features a extender bolt. All of the components looked good quality and should provide years of good serivce. I had no problem with the copper wire to form the egg beater. Having taken my knowledge from the 70cm construction, i put the small radial trap-bolts in 90% of the way, then locked in the radials one a time, this really made sure that I wouldnt lose the bolts and the radials had a good girp.
After tidying up, I moved the antenna to where I will try it out first and know I have enough feed line to reach it, it should just about get the roof line of the bunglow in this part of the garden.
Forecast for weather tomorrow is not looking to bad, but not quite as nice as today, hopefully there is a few hours to at least get the feed line and the antenna up. I do have a mast head amplifier as well, but I’m taking it one stage at a time !
Not much happening on the amateur radio front I’m afraid. I did have some very good SSTV QSO’s the other day 80M – quite a few in fact ! With that I have been quite poorly with a cough and a cold, hence the COVONIA which has come to the rescue !
I’ve had a large amount of medicine and allot of sleep which seems to have restored me to at least being able to type up my blog. I was determined to get the BONGO going as well, as the fuel filter had arrived. It took a bit of labouring to get the fuel-filter to fit back on the chassis, but sure enough the bongo is now back in action !
Webtechnologies site updates
Other than doing hands-on radio I made some updates the webtechnologies website which captures all the WSPR transmission reception reports. Basically I’ve made it much simpler and requiring allot less maintenance, with better integration into Git with a fully functional CI/CD pipeline. I had this in place already, but it wasn’t quite perfect, so with a chance to sort it out, I’ve reduced the features (FAX pics and KIWI SDR) and kept it to just WSPR reports and Weather from the the local weather station here at the QTH. This will allow me to develop new features for the site as time allows..
With the Bongo back in operation, i’m hoping to get back out and do another POTA activation soon. I still have a pretty full February now but am determined to get out and on the air, hopefully this time with a UK Antennas 40m multiband end fed. I’m not sure I can squeeze POTA in this month due to commitments, but will see how things work out, rest assured, I will be looking to get back out and on the air thou !
Thats all for this week, please keep well and thanks for reading the blog.
Its been quite some time since I’ve had the Alexloop Hampack, and with my QRP, /M and /P work becoming more ‘regular’ (at least one per month) – thought it time to share my views of this antenna system.
Its hard to imaging, but its been just shy (April 2021) that I have had this antenna in my collection. This has given me plenty of opportunity to use it out in the field and for experimentation at home.
I bought this antenna to pair with the Icom IC705, which is undoubtedly an excellent transceiver in its own right – with excellent selectivity and filtering, its a question of putting the right antenna onto it.
The Alexloop Hampack – the good
Lets start what is good about the Alexloop Hampack. All these observations are based on my own usage, so whilst not scientific, they are at least practical and proven.
Its easy to setup
The Alexloop HamPack is very easy to setup. I can arrive at my operating destination and be on the air in minutes. There is no setting up a mast and throwing a wire, there is no tuning a vertical and getting the SWR 1:1 – i can get this antenna out the bag, onto a stand and tuned into the frequency I want to use very quickly. The LED showing the output might look a gimmick, but I can assure you I use this as a visual reference and then checking the radio’s SWR every time I setup or need to retune the antenna.
Its very selective
Now for some this might be a negative, but so far for me its been a positive. When I’m working /M or /P, I am limited to 10W. What I don’t want is to pick up every other station just slightlyoff frequency, and for sure, the AlexLoop gives me that. I can match my IC705 filters to the AlexLoop and get excellent input.
Its designed for and good at portable use
The AlexLoop Hampack bag is very well thought out. It comes with a excellent way of storing the main loop and then the tuner and other parts of the transceiver. I also own ICOM’s LC-192, which is an exemplary piece of portable radio design, however, even thou when I operate /M, I want to reduce the amount of baggage that I take, therefore I stick to using the Alexloop Hampack bag on its own, and regretfully the LC-192 is left at home ! With that, you can be sure if you *dont* have an LC-192 and are considering getting the Alexloop Hampack, the bag will suffice. It is not as good as the LC-192, in terms of access ports, padding and having a full functional HF/VHF/UHF transceiver system on your back, but for HF bands, the Alexloop Hampack bag *will get you on the air*
The price tag
It almost goes without saying, the biggest ‘bad’ of the Alexloop Hampack is the price tag. When I bought mine in April of 2021 it was £505, now an Alexloop Hampack will cost you up of £600. That is allot of money for an antenna and it really needs to justify its cost.
Using in the field
As I’ve said above, I found using the antenna in the field for QRP /P and /M incredibly good. However, not everyone is running an IC705, there are many /P or /M operators that have good transceivers that can push out 100W. The Alexloop is not designed for, and should never be used for values above 20W on SSB and 10W on Digital modes. If you have perfectly good transceiver already capable of powers above these, then is the AlexLoop Hampack the right antenna for you – I would say probably not, especially if you already own the transceiver, however, if you are designing a /P or /M solution from scratch, my answer would differ…
So is there anything ugly about a so well designed antenna. Well, I for one can say there is. When I received this antenna I found assembling it ‘awkward’ – that is getting the loop over the centre pole. This resulted in a nasty ‘nic’ getting into the loop coax.
I could easily accept this on a ‘cheap’ antenna with no instruction, but of an antenna, that at the time cost me £500+, I really was perturbed why a decent instructional video or document was available on how to set this antenna up. Furthermore, show how the selectivity worked would of been a benefit to a first time ‘loop’ user. Hindsite is 20/20, but when you pay allot you should really get that level of service included, not as an add-on.
Being an IC705 user, I found the Transceiver bag in the Alexoop Hampack to be oversized, compared to the afore mentioned LC-192, its padding/packaging for carrying a transceiver was really not as good as Icom’s own product. To me, this was scrimping on cost, rather than any other reason (i.e. a transceiver would fit in the bag) – and at the price-tag, was a little disappointing.
Summary / Recommendations
So its been nearly 2 years since I’ve had this antenna, I have at least 2 other antennas I can use with the IC-705 when working portable or mobile, and have the actual ICOM bag for the IC705, so what are my personal oonionsf the Alex Loop Ham Pack.
I am person that is time-poor, that is for me to go /P or /M requires planning and organisation, its not like I can just grab my radio and go out when I like, I’m busy. With that the Alex Loop Ham Pack always ensures that when I go out, I will get on the air – its easy to setup and I can make contacts as soon as the antenna and transceiver are matched. I don’t need to setup a mast, wire and ATU for an antenna, the Alex Loop Ham Pack does that for me with its simple and effective compact solution.
The biggest issue to me is the price, today (Jan 2023) it would cost me £600+ to get this antenna. That is a serious amount of money and given it is only capable of 20W maximum, is it the best antenna for the price ? I would say not, that a good dipole, end fed or vertical will outperform this antenna, but would it be as compact, easy and portable ? Probably not.
If you today you don’t have a QRP solution, you really cant go wrong with an IC705 and the Alexloop Hampack antenna, but then you are looking at a solution that is going to cost upward of £2000, to which you can get on the air with a QRP rig and antenna for £100-150 using a ubitx and simple dipole/end fed solution.
There is going to be a big difference in performance of the radios and antennas, and cost might be your personal motivation, where as quality/time maybe the secondary consideration.
Eitherway, the most important thing is to find the best solution you can afford, starting with the antennas as part of the solution, not the secondary, and getting outdoors and on the air.
So my biggest constraint of amateur radio activities is, yep, time. Mostly I run WSPR and monitor via the webtechnologies site for how well the IC705 and 6BTV are doing, as well as pull in the automated SSTV broadcasts from 20m available here.
So why the sudden ‘burst’ of telephony QSO’s – mostly thanks to scheduled (scheds) transmissions, firstly the most excellent 145 alive event organised by G5TM and then the regional contacts that setup out in the field.
I was lucky enough to contact G5STU who setup nearby – very line of sight, but was great to hear all the other people in. I did manage to make one other contact on the ‘net’ but left it to those with better setups to enjoy the QSO’s, it was great to listen in !
Not one to rest, G5STU then setup a live stream of his activity on 40M – based in Poole ! I thought I had to give it a try, to me on 2M Poole harbour is complete black spot due to the hills between the east side of Bournemouth and the low side of Poole, so thought it worth a try to have a QSO with G5STU, sure enough, was my first HF contact so near, was great to get in the log book.
So whilst I’ve been manicly busy, its been great to take time out for those that organise live events that are fun to join in with – I’ve scheduled my next PoTA – which will be at night during the week ! So am looking forward to that, I have no idea how I will do, but the main thing is to get out and enjoy radio.
In the mean time, I’ve setup the MFJ993B to get on top-band at home, and am able to hear the various ‘nets’ that occur, as well as get out nicely on FT8 mode, having made several QSO’s on top-band on a non-resonant 80m end-fed antenna, i was very happy that the MFJ993B got some action !
So, hoping the end of January and start of Feburary will allow more time for radio, more project parts are arriving, allow things to progress on the VHF/UHF and Microwave bands, so excited to tell and show more about that 🙂