Good day all ! Making this a quick one as its interspersed with Univserity Assignments and Tidying the shack !
So I have made good progress on building racking and getting things ‘generally in place’ around the shack, its still a right old mess i dont mind saying, but its getting there, and better than it ever was with the old tables.
I had some valuable input from a fellow HAM on my WebSDR that the VDSL interference was plain to see, so after a few years away from Virgin Media, I’m resuming my Internet access from Virgin, once that is in place and all my ‘essentials’ proven to work, I’ll discontinue my IP/VDSL link, hopefully that will reduce the QRM.
I did have a chance to play with the IC705 in the garden this weekend, but results on the portable antennas were slightly disappointing.
I did put on a measured radial for 40m but the nearest resonate frequence was a massive 3kHz away ! If the weather holds up, i’ll try out my buddipole, as for temporary use its worked pretty well, whats more i can configure it for VHF/UHF as well by constructing a JPole, so it might be the best antenna for the IC705 without an additonal outlay on more antennas.
I’m going to be quite busy with a couple more Univeristy Assignments and work-work, but will do my best to keep the blog going !
So for the first time in a VERY long time (aka YEARS) I’ve had the luxury of a week off work. During the week I found a USB extender was producing a horrific amount of QRM. The offending item has since been disconnected.
I went on to survey my ‘shack’ and that I had ‘allowed’ QRM to ‘sneak’ back in. I was a bit disappointed in myself to be honest as I had spent allot of time and money on virtually eliminating interference, both man-made and natural when I had my TS690S setup as my only station. I was just not paying attention to what I was putting in the shack.
So to make up for my lack of attention, I wanted to understand why this had come about. Mostly the biggest problem is the ease to just add things in and not test them, only to find out they are ruining a hobby I really love.
Looking around the shack I really noticed how even tho I had moved much of the music equipment out, it was still as not as organised as I would like it. Did I need all these computers ? Do I use them regularly, is my setup optimal in terms of service ? For many of the computers, especially my older mac, i really no longer needed it and many smaller projects have come and past.
I looked around our whole house and many things had changed since we moved here, so maybe it was just as good to take a holistic look and think ‘how can i solve this’. With that I rented some storage space nearby.
I was really able to take a big “bite” out of all the things around the house and no longer using. I wont share the pictures on here as its not strictly radio related, but fair to say I made good use of the space and freed up alot of space around the QTH.
This in turn allowed me to think about back in the shack. How can I get desks/working areas tidy and serviceable. I’ve been using computer tables mostly that dont really have the best storage on them, leading to problems of not putting RF chokes on them and ensuring the QRM was reduced. I put too much trust in the power strip RF filter to think it would fix all my QRM issues – obviously it would not.
First call – Ferrite, lots of it and the right sort. Whilst I have VHF/UHF transceivers, allot of my work is on HF. I researched the best ‘general’ ferrite for HF, and think that FT140-43 will reduce/eliminate the RF from getting in and out of the devices. With that I ordered 40 FT140-43 from Qubits. Now *everything* that is in my shack will at least have these ferrites on the power supply/leads, if not more.
I then looked at the desks. I need them to be serviceable. The power-tray racking helped, but I was still having cable management issues, and as us radio operators know, having loops of wire here and there is a great way to introduce unwanted QRM into the shack.
I ordered these Garage Shelving Unit from Amazon which can be split to make a nice height desk and storage space, reducing the amount of ‘wire tangle’ and allowing me to have small boxes to tidy things away.
I’ve also got Aluminium Foil Tape to cover the working surfaces with to ‘bond’ transceivers to desks. This had worked really well when i done it with my TS690S and having the cables from the transceiver neatly on the metal conductive surface the cables was reduced loops massively.
So I will have a very busy weekend coming up to finish up my ‘week off’ but hopefully a shack that is not only free from QRM, but is also tidy and serviceable. I promise to upload pics 🙂
So will make this a quick one. I follow Tim (G5TM) on Youtube and he published this video on coax.
Long and the short of it is basically is treat your antenna as a ‘unit’, i.e. the antenna itself (wire/beam/loop), the connectors and the coax, and in your budget the antenna system is as crucial as the transceiver.
I also asked my long-term mentor and friend PA2TG his advice – guess what the recommendations of both G5TM and PA2`TG recommending the same coax to me for my needs (HF)!
With that I have ordered and now received some UltraFlex 10 and connectors from W&S, plus the scissors to help me make a good job of it. There is this excellent video on how to put the connectors on the coax.
Having received an email from M0MCX that the “Nebula” will be here any time soon I am naturally very excited to see how it all operates !
Having seen the video on splitting the audio source from the main antenna and using a secondary ‘receive only’ antenna for the MFJ-1028 I thought this was an excelllent idea to deal with the QRM I have.
This video gives an excellent example of how to install the RX7300 and all the necessary connections. However, I use an MFJ-993B on 160m although my end-fed antenna is only designed to goto 80m. The internal ATU is good upto SWR of 3.0 approx, so an external ATU becomes essential.
My first ‘issue’ was getting the case off. I read comments that others had suffered this as well, beit from overight screws, or using the wrong screwdriver. I found a screwdriver that worked perfectly, but one screw (speaker screw, top left from the rfront) wouldn’t budge. In the end i relcutantly used a dremel and a small drill bit to remove the screw.
I do not understand why manufactures put screws in so tight. I wasnt happy about using a dremel on such a new piece of equipment.
I looked at the ATU cable and where it could fit. I wasn’t going to cut the case, thats for sure, and whilst i dont use the other sockets at the moment, i may do in the future. It felt like i was gaining one feature, i.e. to tap the RX circuit but had to lose another. The Instructions for the tap kit specify that the ATU cable be tucked away and kept away from the fan. However, this gave me an idea to look at could I route the cable around the fan enclouser and not-tighten the screws quite so much ?
I carefully fed the ATU wiring around the fan enclousre, not thru it, but between the fan case and the chasiss of the transceiver. I put on electrical tape onto the wire and the chassis to provide a degree of protection to the cable.
I was able to get te ATU cable and the RX Tap out of the casing nicely. The next step was to do some basic testing of the transcevier, firstly without the ATU to ensure receive was working correctly, then to test some low-wattage (WSPR) and then higher (FT8) transmissions.
I was able to receive WSPR no problem and also transmit and see my transmissions were being received via WSPR.net map. This was on 1W of power. I then proceeded to FT8 on 40m, as this is a popular frequency any time of day with generally good propergation. With 20W I was quickly able to make contacts and confirm my RX tap was working correctly and my TX was working correctly.
I attached the external ATU via the power and re-routed the antenna feeds to go via the ATU. I kept the RX tap still in a close loop to ensure my previous setup was working correctly.
I was pleased to see that I was reaching Europe on 80m and low SWR, so the transceiver was working well.
I will monitor the fan on the IC-7300 to ensure the the wire between the PCB and the ATU are not being ‘clipped’ or any other damage. Next step is to fit my receive only antenna and test the phasing/nulling of the MFJ-1026.
So apologies for the lack of posts – having passed my Intermediate, I then found myself with quite alot of work/other commitments, but heres a condensed update – i’ll do a lengthier one on each topic at a future date.
Up until recently I have been using a vertical di-pole, namely the DX Commander multibander. Whilst I’m happy with how good this antenna is, part of the hobby is learning and trying out new things ! After reading several very promising reports, I ordered the UK Antennas multiband end fed antenna. This product does deserve a write up of its own, which I will do in due course.
Needless to say, I am amazed at how well this antenna performs. It requires quite an extensive amount of space and I was able to re-use my DX-Commander masts as supports. I had ordered and tried to use Sotabeams, but for extended operation, they just didnt seem as stable and well built as the DX Commander. Good news is that I’ve ordered a DX Commander SOTA edition – looking forward to building and trying that out. The Sotabeams will probably stay in storage until i can go out /P /M and use them as ‘temporary’ mobile antennas.
Having built and used my own ‘V’ dipole for NOAA and METEOR and was really happy with the results, i went to the next level and ordered a helical antenna for improved reception.
This came from the US and I think is hand built to order by National Antenna Whilst I could build a DIY version, I’m averse to going to large shops unless its essential at the moment, the reviews of this antenna are fantastic.
I setup the antenna and started on my mac to start with, and was impressed with the results, as this is somewhat manual and labour intensive, i then setup a raspberry pi running raspberry-noaa Whilst I looked and tried other installations, this was by the far the simplests and easiest to setup. The combination of an amazing antenna and good programming produced frankly astounding results, including my first ever METEOR-M2 decode – all full automated !
First HF QSOs with 2E – new Digital and Telephony
I was very happy to make a QSO with G7VRD. Having metup via the reddit talkgroup and being ‘local’ in terms of radio, we had never been able to reach each other. With the new installation of the end-fed, I was able to make contact on 80m via firstly WSPR then we tried out a variety of different modes. G7VRD was really great in helping me thru and testing various types, having varying degrees of successes across them.
I was also able to make contacts for the first time via Telephony. I had a great QSO wtih G8MNY who gave me a very detailed signal report, including play back of how i sounded, which was really useful. The combination of end-fed and additonal power is really helping me more on HF.
Whats Next ?
So i have a couple of other immediate things I want to do and are in progress, probably the most important is getting a receive-only antenna setup to restore use of my MFJ-1026 which performed really well previously.
Here is the video from youtube which shows what I’m aiming for – with VDSL in the UK i’m hoping this will help eliminate the QRM in my urban setting.
Now i can also run a beacon, i want to get my PI-WSPR station going on 40m, so will see if i can get the 40m inverted v dipole up !
Until next time (which will be sooner !) take care, stay safe and 73 !
*** PLEASE NOTE PHIL’S OBSERVATION OF MY BUILD (FILTER ORIENTATION) BELOW ***
I was using the origninal picture and refrencing off the *EARTH* location post, and not looking at the label (LOAD/LINE) – I have since corrected – afaik no damage done, but good to get right first time if you are using the same filter (FN2030-16-06 FILTER) which has a different layout and orientation to the one used in the slides
*** PLEASE NOTE PHIL’S OBSERVATION OF MY BUILD (FILTER ORIENTATION) BELOW ***
Back in May I built this filter for my shack, which provided suitably good results for the time and effort employed. Further to that post G8KVM (Personal “Bern”) posted a follow up link to an updated filter here.
The main difference to this filter was it contained multiple and updated ferrite types as well as a mains-filter. I was immediatly drawn to the idea of further reducing the QRM into the shack as the first filter provided good results.
I would like to point out that when ordering the mains filter (2030-16-06) the picture on the site is an AC filter. The once I received had DC on it, although the product code was the same.
I was slightly worried about the filter saying DC on it, where this is receiving AC current from the mains supply. Whilst rated for 250V i was not going to take any risks, so setup a test-bed outside, where it was thankfully dry and sunny.
I set about by first running an unplugged in extenstion, plugging the filter into that, and setting up my voltmeter to read AC from the output terminals. There is only one earth on the casing.
I then went back in doors turned on the power and no popping/arcing/fusetripping was observed. I then checked the output on the voltmeter, and sure enough it was good 240V AC coming out the filter.
I then proceeded to complete the winding for the ferrites.
The cable i used was SEL 10 m 2.5 mm Twin and Earth Cable. This very good solid copper wire. I did have to put on some Electrical PVC Yellow/Green Earth Sleeving to the earth-copper as this is bare when it comes out the original sleeve. I didn’t want to use my electric drill for the twisting of the wire, so done this by hand. Whilst physically demanding, i felt it provided safer and better results.
I was then able to twist the cable thru the torids as per directions. I was rather happy with the results, as it was quite tough to get the cable thru the torid and space it nicely.
Having tested for electrical continuity via a voltmeter, i then proceeded to test with a simple electric lamp which worked perfectly well. There was no issue with the wiring on the toroids or the filter.
I then disconnected my old filter and connected the new filter.
I was immediately impressed that i was now picking out more receive signals on FT8 and Wefax images were incredibly sharp.
I had 4 consecutive QSO’s which had never happended to be before, so was my first time manging a ‘pile up’ of sorts !
In summary for the time and expense this is a fantastic additon to the shack and makes me confident that in terms of power-line RF and QRM I have done as much as I can in terms of mains-filtering.
Following Phil’s comments I powered down everythign and re-opened the filter as its been a little while since I closed it up.
In the picture below, the mains is the cable to the top of the page, this connects to the line filter, then in turn the ferrites connect to the output of the filter. I think I have got this correct based on the source picture !
Whilst mine isnt as tidy, i think it is correct. Appreciate if you can reply to comment Phil 🙂
bit of a longer post today so grab a cup of tea is recommend, else scroll through the page until you get to the bit you want to know about
Several weeks ago I was browsing the local 2nd hand radio shop where my TS690 came from, and amazingly they had the DSP-100.
The DSP-100 is one of the first ever Digital Signal Processors. Kenwood were pretty ahead of the game when they released it. You will see all the filters and features you see in this unit in most modern transceivers, but this is (I guess) about 20+ years old, and are hard to come by. I dont mind saying this unit, 2nd hand was £333 ,which is only £40 different of what I paid for the TS690S, but what it brings to the radio is RF filtered and processed. The promise of ‘hi-fi’ quality SSB, AM, CW and RTTY was too good to pass up. And it looks gorgeous too 🙂
When I first set it up with my TS-690s I connected in my xggcomms Kenwood interface I started running into issues. I honestly believe this is no fault of the xggcomms device, but moreso on how the RS232 signal from the DSP-100 unit is processed and fed into the transceiver. Its fair to say whilst I was overjoyed in having the DSP, alot of what i do requires a good CAT connection to constantly adjust the frequency (FT8 & WSPR), so I reverted back to the Xggcomms interface only and started investigating.
Upon searching, other people had experience similar, but not identical issues. The key to fix this was the IF-232C. This translates the serial input into signals at the correct levels for the DSP & the TS690s.
Up until now I have been using a laptop, which had become increasingly over burdened with USB dongles/hubs coming out of it, also getting the computer to be ‘RF Friendly’ and grounded proved a challenge. The only way i could see to easily and reliably RF was via the USB port, and this little lenovo laptop computer already had *alot* coming out of the USB ports.
With that I decided to get a dedicated full-size ham-radio PC. Nothing expensive or new, in fact I was looking for ‘older’ models with a native DB9 Serial interface so USB to Serial issues would no longer be a problem. This HP Elite 8200 met the specification needs for what I would be using the computer for and was a reasonable price/availablity. I could add all the audio inputs and outputs to the native connectors and also use the on-board serial (or so he thought…)
Having migrated PC i went about installing first the apps I know, namely Fl Digi and FL Rig. I have been using these for sometime for WeFax and love getting the images in. The good thing about reducing the QRM, i can visually see it has been reduced, as I will show later.
I did run into some issues with communicating with the PC, the Serial Port settings had to be changed on the PC also, by now I had also discovered i had ordered the wrong cable from RS Electronics, but have a replacement on the way. I went back to using a USB to RS232C interface for now, which after some tweaking worked. I’m sure I’m not the only person who would still setup a IF-232C, so here are the settings I used between my PC and the RS232C.
Incase its hard to read on the screen, heres the tabulated form
Bits Per Second
Leave FIFO Buffers at max and on
Table of Settings for the RS232 Port on Windows for Kenwood TS690S and IF232C
In the FL Rig for the Serial port the settings are as follows (Select TS450S as the transceiver) :-
PTT via CAT
Now I dont mind saying that I’m still learning, so understanding what filter to use when is very much a case of ‘try it and see’, but i will show a comparison between before I started all the QRM clean up and the acculmation of what I have done so far *plus* the use of the DSP-100.
As you can see in the above image, there is alot of QRM in the picture, the ‘banding’ consistant across the image, in this case probably caused by the Ethernet over Power adaptors, is very clear.
Here is a scan today, same antenna, but will all the additonal work to reduce QRM and the DSP in Receive mode filtering.
When less electical items in the house are running, namely fans, washing machines and the like here is an example image. Again, this is the same antenna, same external line filters/chokes and the DSP and recent QRM work outcome.
The ice-chart from Hamburg is the equivlant for me as the last row on the eye-test exam. The letters on it are incredbly small and the details/dots equally so. Whilst with a zoom there is some slight distortion (so more to be gained!) there is a total absence of the QRM which was so present in the first WeFax image shown.
I am adding a MFJ-1026 to the mix now (Thank you Nevada radios, you are doing a great job during the lockdown !) and I cannot thank Steve from Xggcomms enough for the assistance he has given me. I asked Steve for some help on how would I go about connecting both the xggcomms and mfj-1026 at the same time, as they need access to the T/R Control line present on the ACC-2 port. Sure enough Steve was good enough to reply on how to do this, by way of opening up the connector and adding a connection to pin 13 and ground (I used pin 12 for ground).
I had recently performed an inventory of all the wires/cables,etc I had, so it was easy to find the phono socket I required to connect the back of the MFJ-1026 phono socket to the ACC2 DIN plug.
I first tested the connectivity between socket and plug, to ensure it would work correcly before opening up the xggcomms. I am generally unhappy about opening working equipment in that I could break it and make it unoperational, but as Steve had already offered his support should anything go wrong, i bit the bullet and went for it. Needless to say, it wasnt an easy job for me who doesnt do this type of soldering reguarly.
I had already pre-tinned and checked the continuity between socket and wire on the phono socket, so was confident that as long as I was careful I would be able to add the necessary wires to the respective pins.
I dont mind saying that upon putting the shielding on and checking before plugging in that i found that the case (which should be grounded/seperate) ended up being ‘shorted’ and no resistance was shown on the voltmeter. Undeterred I undone the case and carefully applied a small piece of masking tape across the top pins ‘tucking’ between pins to give some isolation. I apologize i didnt take a picture of this. This had the required effect and that when the casing and flexible connector were restored, the isolation between pins had been restored.
Having completed the cable, the next step is to install an external auxiliary antenna for the MFJ-1028 to match against. I considered several ideas, as in just using a simple end-fed piece of wire, to a range of ‘small’ antennas from Russia that attracted QRM to be used in this way. In the end I decided to get another DX Commander. Whilst I wont totally multi-band this will all 6 elements (in particular 80m requires alot of space) I can setup the 2nd vertical ‘auxiliary’ about 2~3 meters from the ‘transmit’. With this I should be able to ‘phase out’ both any local QRM as well as distant QRM meaning I should not only be able to get out more cleanly, i should also be able to hear and filter those very feint remote signals that currently sit ‘below’ the noise table.
As ever, I will keep posting with my battle with QRM, which I think I am winning one week at a time.
So having got my webcam up and running with streaming, i had to migrate the streaming server to another PC (in this case a macbook) and relocate the USB cable going into it.
I resumed my daily antenna observations with the inclusion of checking over the camera and re-routing the cabling from the camera so it would be ‘free’ from the mast allowing more length into the ‘shack’
Come the afternoon I’m now perplexed why i can TX and seem to get out well, but RX is non-existant, apart from 18m, which seems odd. I walk the path backwards of changes, of which there have been a couple in the shack with the QRM bonding and all, to try and work out why my reception is so bad.
As i work thru the devices directly connected to the transceiver, no change in reception. I then go out and check the mast, no problems there. I unplug all the connections between mast and and tuner. No change ! What on earth can it be !
At my whits end I relocate the macbook and suddenly see the usb cable from the mac to the camera, albeit on the 2m/70cm mast, it now does have a different ‘vector’ from mast head into the shack.. could this be the source of my problems.
Low and behold, unplugging the mac and the webcam suddenly the channels come alive again. I had created a USB transmit antenna blocking pretty much everything.
I set about removing the camera and cable from the 2m/70cm mast and tidying the cables I had previously disconnected. Full filtered resumed, minus the webcam 🙁
After all this I remembered the advice from the ARRL and Youtube videos “EVERY THING IS AN ANTENNA, EVEN IF YOU CALL IT SOMETHING ELSE”. Hence why my issue had occured, i saw it as a USB cable, but it was an antenna, and blocking my HF.
I probably can fix this, but I’m already battling QRM and I want to reduce issues, not add new ones, so for now the camera stays off, but I was glad of the experience and I could fix and understand the issues.
The never ending quest to reduce QRM continued after following the ARRL Grounding and Bonding book and the excellent ‘clean up your shack video’ from RSGB i have been planning to try out what is discussed.
For my ‘shack’ i used the following components, other things like voltmeters and screwdrivers I already had.
The objective here is to ‘bond’ all the radio equipment together so it has a common earth, therefore not creating a ‘earth loop’ via the earth pin. Also it gave me the opputnity to fix things down and generally tidy the ‘shack’ radio desk up, as I would have to remove everything from the table.
The first step was to apply the duct tape. I check first that it did conduct before sticking it down ! I got the idea to try tape as I didnt want to spend on metal plates and the ARRL book some temp setups use tin-foil and baking trays – so thought this was a good compromise.
The next step was to attach the ‘earth’ bar. I put it at a ‘safe’ location to the back of the table away from where human contact should not be possible and also to give better accessability to the various earth taps on each component. I measured it up and pre-sunk the holes to screw into to make fixing a little easier
I then set about attaching all the earth, or in this case bonding, wires to the bar and positoning my KPO distribution to a place on the table. This had previously been loose and somewhat annoying and potentially dangerous. I measured up the location, pre-sunk some holes and set about attaching.
With the grounding bar connected to the distribution board I set about adding the devices. I checked for voltage first and kept the wires coiled nicely onto the now metal surface.
Comfortable that the right voltage was making it to the distribution board and the position of the feed & choke to the transceiver was good i set about adding the other components to be bonded together.
So i have completed ‘bonding’ all the HF equipment together. I will add more metal tape to the small shelf the laptop sits on and source a USB bond, which I think for the rig will complete the RF bonding of all the devices. I’ll continue to work around the ‘shack’ with more tape and bus-bars to further reduce the RF loops which go through the common ‘mains’ ground, but i’m satisfied with the measurements on the rig for now.
25/5/20 – additon
I’ve since connected the virtual earth directly to the transceiver. This is what the guidelines say to do, and I’m not about to analyse the deltas between the bus-bar and the virtual ground. When I have more experience of measuring and using the Virtual Ground I’ll see if this can be changed, for now i’m following the instructions so the wire from the ‘bus bar’ to the ‘virtual ground’ are directly connected between Tranceiver and Virtual Ground.