A trip to Yeovil & IC-9700

After much consternation about the state of my shack and the amount of equipment in it I took the plunge and decide to sell all my duplicate equipment. That meant my first HF rig, the TS690S, and the DSP Unit, along with the 10M Yaseu would go. I asked at my local club first, people was kind of interested in individual things, but I didn’t want to split the Kenwood equipment. I then contacted the establishment I had bought it from, Lindars in Yeovil, and Justin got back in touch – we got a ‘bundle’ price agreed and I was off to Yeovil !

I had a pleasant drive from the QTH in Bournemouth, taking just over an hour. Some road works meant a minor diversion, but was quickly able to navigate the back roads to my destination!

Once there I met Justin, who was attentively helping another customer – he really is passionate about radio and helping, it was good to see – i knew my equipment would go into good hands and make other enthusiasts happy with their purchase from Lindars.

This was my first visit to a radio shop in person since the 1980’s – Hastings used to have 3 radio shops at the peak of the “C.B.” years – my favourite one being in the marina where we could get sweaters with our ‘handles’ on (yes, “shambles” was my handle..) and next to a shop which had a G Scale model train in the window ! Great times.

The shop was stocked with the most amazing equipment, it was fantastic to see such a great variety – from valves to modern receivers, it was all there in one shop. The temptation to the Icom receiver was great – but had already set my mind on the IC-9700.

I bought some books on QRP and then headed back home, not before stopping off in a great farm shop to get some Somerset cider and local made scones.

Fast forward a few days later and my new IC-9700 had arrived ! The 9700 is some what heavier than the 7300 for sure – for the first time I made an un-boxing video and connection. As I’m using a single feed line, I’m using a multiplexer to split the signal.

IC-9700 unboxing

I’ve had the 9700 for just over a week now and going back to the G4PRS net on Monday evenings I was able to pull in more signals and get great signal reports back. I’ve made telephony QSO’s on 2M as far away as Hastings in East Sussex ! So the extra ‘whiskys’ are really helping.

I’ve got far more to learn about the 9700 and it will take time but I’m sure I’ve got a fantastic shack setup that is now easier to work and slightly more tidy 🙂

G4PRS 2M Net 15/11/21

Having got my Diamond X50 up and got the IC-705 out its bag it was time to get on the G4PRS 2M Net which happens weekly on Mondays from 20:00 on 145.450 (usually).

Putting the X50 and 40ft mast up

Due to C19 and risk of infection, I’ve not been to the club lately, so it was great to hear familiar voices again, albeit I do miss those who are not on the net.

The net control done an excellent job on starting on time and looking for contacts, of which there where plenty ! I managed to get in and enjoyed going around. I started taking signal reports and noting down others we progressed,

I am operating using 10W of power and default settings on the IC-705. My QTH / Maidenhead location is IO90BS.

callsignreceivedsent
G4PRS5/85/2
G1TEX5/8
M7PBT5/9+3
M7BAQ5/9+25/9+1
2E0EQD5/9+3
/P5/84/9
2E0JPD5/9
2E0DJW5/9
signal reports from 2M net 15-11-21

I was glad to ‘pull’ G1TEX out the ether and also G4PRS who is based near Hamworthy, there is a considerable hill between us. G4PRS was running 40 watts I believe, so maybe that helped ?

It will be interesting with my upcoming upgrade to the shack VHF/UHF to see if additional power helps, with 2M mostly being line of sight, how much of a performance increase can be had.

Apologies again for not getting all the call signs on last nights net and also the portable station, as whilst a good signal as I couldn’t quite write it down quick enough.

Looking forward to next weeks net to see if my ‘upgrade’ will help.

QRP from the QTH

So today is memorable for two things, one is my 28th Wedding Anniversary to XYL Monica. We are so blessed to have each other and I’m so thankful to have an amazing missus who I love so dearly.

Also today I made my first ever QRP contact from my QTH with 10W of power. I’ve had the ‘setup’ for a few weeks, and its been sat under my table (sadly) waiting for a time to go out. Today the weather has been fantastic in IO90, so I seized the opputnity to get out with the 705 in my front garden.

For those who are inclined, here is the setup I used today.

  • Transceiver :- Icom IC705
  • Antenna :- HFJ-350M & CGW-560 Counterpoise
  • Antenna Analyzer :- Rig Expert Zoom AA-55
  • Additionally :- M12 Copper Washer & BD7-Maple Antenna Bracket

I made myself comfortable with a long-used and reliable camping table and as being at home, a soft cushioned chair, which was invaluable for the tuning and waits for the QRP sessions.

I started off tuning the HFJ-350M (350M) for 40M. With the Rig Expert and instructions provided, this was suprisngly easy to get the antenna tuned for the SSB Telephony section of 40m. I started with the measurements from the instructions, and then adjusted the antenna until the SWR was at a good reading.

Tuned into 40m

However with the contest on this weekend 40m was simply full of contesters. I don’t mind on my usual home-rig to take part in contesters and give the 001 serial to give a signal report, but being QRP and for 5-10 with an Italian call sign who was very clear to me, I was unable to complete the contact with my QRP setup.

For interest, I then went onto 20m (14mHz) and found tuning the antenna was straight forward. To start with it was quite close to having a SWR reading of 5-to-6, whilst not good enough, it was better than the ‘infinite’ value, so some fettling with the antenna in slowly sliding and taking a measurement soon produced the whole of the 20m band with good SWR reading for transmission

Again, 20M was full of contesters and I was unable to break the pile ups with my 5W of power. At this time I headed into the ‘shack’ and grabbed my LiFO battery, allow the full 10W of power to be used. I also research non-contest bands and QRP frequency. I found that 17M (18Mhz) was a non-contest band. I was able to use the same method to get a good SWR reading across the 17m band – the antenna was at least matching very well and using a repeatable process I could use in the field.

With some time and patient listening, I heard a call on the QRP frequency on 17M of 18.130, and with of effort with both myself and the operator from Finland listening was able to make my first QRP contact. It was incredibly satisfying with such a low power and compromise setup to make a contact on HF – my report was 5/3 with a very weak signal, understably with 10W and in an urban environment – needless today I was ecstatic to make a contact.

QRP contact video

Whilst I was unable to capture the video (the run time would of been over an hour !) I do capture the unbridled joy of a QRP contact on a portable setup. Hopefully I will be able to make more trips to less RF noisy environments as I thoroughly enjoy QRP operation as it gives a fantastic sense of satisfaction in making contacts with such small amounts of power.

Enjoying 80 meters

With a busy work and study schedule as well as being slightly under the weather due to a rather nasty cold, which thankfully seems to be in remission, I’ve not had a whole lot of time for doing anything external to the shack.

In the shack I’ve been working on improving the antenna switching and coax routing. I’ve come up with this novel switching mechanism to go between the 6btv and UK Antenna 80M multiband end fed.

early days – but this will switch between 6btv / end fed and the TS690S and IC-7300

The IC7300 has a pretty decent internal ATU and the TS690 will be routed via the MFJ-993B intellituner. This will allow me to switch easily between antennas and see the difference in operation between them. I’ve not been able to resume my work on the 6BTV lately due to other commitments, but I am aiming to resume my work on increasing the performance of it. It will be good to do direct comparisons between the end-fed and 6btv on two very interesting radios (Superhet Vs SDR).

Operation on 80m has been fantastic lately. I do admit to enjoying listening to the QSOs on 80m as they tend to be very good length exchanges, sometimes comical, but mostly interesting and relevant to the hobby. With 80m being quite ‘local’ I can clearly hear both ends of the QSO across operators in the UK, Ireland, Netherlands and Germany (but my Dutch and German fails me in being able to listen for any more than 5 minutes !)

80m is proving to be an excellent listed and operation in the evening

I will continue to tidy the shack and hoping to stay in good health for more external work over the weekend. I am looking forward to contrasting the 6btv with the Endfed.

Hope you are all keeping well – take care and stay safe !

Alan / 2E0FWE

A little bit here, a little bit there

I have had a fantastic weekend, that is that its been busy but fun. enjoying the best of the Autumn weather with XYL out and about in the Dorset and Hampshire countryside.

Enjoying a day out with XYL following the steps of Jack Hargreaves

I even finally made it back to Hengistbury Head, sans radio, but thoroughly enjoyed the walk and exercise, as did Sweety.

Hengistbury Head mid October is still lovely

Later on that same day, we headed off around the New Forest, ending up in the beautiful Milford on Sea.

Milford on Sea looking over to the Needles at the IoW

Today I really wasn’t in the mood to be vocal on VHF/UHF, but another day I can see myself bringing one of my handhelds and operating GB3IW from here. Its a gorgeous location and would be great to have a QSO. I dare say that /M with the 705 so near the sea would also have benefits, so if anything I have found an exciting new location to potentially operate from. Parking was ample and with plenty of distance, plus a fantastic drive thu great scenery.

Back at the QTH all my antennas have been down for a few weeks, having been away celebrating and the pace of my day job plus getting back to speed with studying, I’ve not had the necessary time to really enjoy with radio, thankfully today I did get the 6BTV back up and the IC7300 back online. There is still quite a bit of work to do, but wanted to get back ‘on the air’, the most important thing is that i have managed to ‘lift’ the shelves on my operating desk to allow the boxes to go under. It may still look a mess, but its getting there, and trust me these things take time !

shelf moved, boxes can now be stored underneath !

I still have a fair bit to do as you can see, but am glad to make small amounts of progress. I’m hoping I will have things I really want them to by next week and then continue to tune and tweak the 6btv some more.

I’m glad to at least be producing WSPR data once more for the web technologies site and am getting some interesting reports in the DX10 reports. The SNR on 40m is looking particularly good post 6btv adjustments.

SMR Report with interesting results

Whilst I have strong SNRs in the list, the SNR of 1 to HE9FER over 853 miles away is particularly impressive on 1w of power.

Hoping for good signal reports in the coming week, will try to be active on SSTV early in the morning, hopefully the 20m band wont be quite so crazy full of contesters bleeding in the SSTV frequency !

Until then, take care and stay safe.

Alan / 2E0FWE

A summary mini-update

Hello there ! Well its been a while since i sat at the desk to do a blog-posting rather than a video and of antenna related results, so this evening I thought I would return to the blog and give a summary mini-update of what I have been upton !

How do I approach this.. hmm, well, lets go for by bands of operation and then methods as a subtext !

HF Operations (80m to 10m)

Well I have mostly been busy on improving the performance of my main 6BTV antenna, this is following a fantastic field trip with G4PRS (Poole Radio Society) to have a great day out and with so much learning about antennas.

As an outcome of that, I decided to improve my 6BTV and understand more about the tools that I have. I’ve made several fundamental changes to my 6BTV and initial results, well, are seeming promising. I have yet to take the X&Y measurements I wanted to take due to the inclement weather, but I think that will be this week.

I have been doing more and more telephony work on 40 and 80m. 40m via the IC-7300 and 80m via the Kenwood TS-690 into the excellent UK Antenna 80m multi band end-fed. Although its below its optimal height, it is functioning brilliantly.

Specific Modes – FT8

You would of seen from my QRZ page I used to spend allot of time on FT8. It is an interesting and exciting mode to start making contacts with. I found myself wanting more thou, so I found another digital mode to move onto. I am still doing occasional FT8, but really for what it was designed for in my opinion, getting signal reports and checking propergation/antennas, rather than solid FT8 only.

Specific Modes – SSTV (HF to start with)

I have been enjoying SSTV massively on 20m (14.230USB) – you will see on this site my most recent received images uploaded to the SSTV section. I use SSTV early and the early evening (grey line times) during mon-fri and where i can during the weekends. I have had some fantastic contacts and enjoying the pictures / QSOs massively. It is very rewarding to get a good 595 / P5 report from another operator well into DX terrority.

I continue to enjoy SSTV in making great contacts, I hope you could be my next one !

Specific Modes – Telephony on HF(voice)

Whilst on UHF/VHF I tend to be more comfortable with the longer QSOs via repeaters and even simplex on 2M, I still find HF QSO’s challenging, but very rewarding. At home I’m limited to 50 Watts, and when up against even legal full licence holders who can typically run 100W+ making a QSO and getting a good report, is really rewarding – lets not start about the Italians who are doing a great job of warming the atmosphere in what seems like an almost unlimited use of power of the HF airwaves.

I am doing more telephony on 40m and 80m recently (Sep/Oct 21) and really enjoying it. I’m using N1MM as a logging tool, which really helps me get the call sign down – i still don’t mind asking multiple times for a call sign until i get it right thou ! I have had great contacts with the ‘secret nuclear bunker’ and also Germany – I’m hoping the solar cycle continues to improve propagation on 40m

Specific Modes – Telephony on VHF & UHF

I use my IC705 on occasion from home on 2m and 70cm. I am very lucky to get into Southampton and the Isle of White very easily from my QTH in IO90BS. This gives me the opportunity to what must be one of the best repeaters on the south coast, namely, GB3IW. This repeater has excellent coverage with people connecting to as far west as Somerset and as far east as Brighton, inland I have heard people from Uckfield, Haywards Heath and also closer to my QTH in Bournemouth. I can take one of my handhelds out with 5W of power and get into it, with varying signal reports. From home with the X50 and 10W I am always 5/9+10 without problem.

I am working on a packet radio project for 2M based on the excellent Kenwood TH-D7 and the raspberry Pis I have. I am also into setting up a local ‘SSTV’ night,so if you in/around IO90BS and hear SSTV on 2m, it can well be me !

QRP / M / P

I continue to use my IC-705 both at home and mobile as a QRP transceiver. I have no interest in adding an amplifier to this fantastic and amazing transevier. For me QRP is almost becoming a sub-hobby in its own right. I have several very exciting antennas to use /M and /P and (/PP)

I’m hoping in the autumn and winter months to get out more with the IC-705 and my other UHF/VHF handhelds for some exciting and interesting field experiments.

Conclusion

Well I am keeping incredibly busy, its my final year of my MSc and am enjoying a new contract with a fantastic team who keep me wholly engaged thruout the day. I do hope to return to my local club when i can safely, until then i am keeping in touch with several of the members via email and hopefully when the weather gets better, back on the 2M net !

I have probably gone on for too long due to absence of recent postings, but thanks for reading and staying with me. I am hoping to do more frequent updates, no matter how busy i get, even if its just a short write up with some theory and application.

Until then take care, stay safe, and enjoy your radio.

Alan / 2E0FWE

6BTV – Increasing Performance

Increasing performance –

Prep with tools and connectors
Initial Readings – more details below

Pre

MULTI SWR RESULTS (measures at the median of the band)

20m : 1.34

80m : 1.5

15m: 1.10

40m: 1.42

Blurb about radials

more blurb

MULTI SWR Results post radial

20M: 1.35

80M: 1.48

15M: 1.14

40M: 1.48

Conclusion

MULTISWR Deltas

SWR Increase/Decrease

20M : +0.01

80M: -0.02

15M: +0.04

40M: +0.06

2E0FWE /M Day

So after a rather nice lay-in I headed off to hengistbury head with Sweety, Kenwood TH-D7 & VC-1, Baofeng UV-5R and with the IC-705 setup to receive and upload photos at the QTH.

It was a lovely start to the day with great weather. Coming later in the day sure does get busy down there, but it was nice to see so many people out and about.

It was great that everything fitted nicely into a compact box, which I carried on a backpack with some water. I think i will bring a small box/bowl for sweaty next time as well as some ‘treats’.

Here is setup video, apologies for the windy noise, goes with the area and using a phone. My bag tried to make an escape as well, but i caught it ok 🙂

The other reason i come to HH is that it has enough hills and a decent length walk to give me some decent exercise, i don’t mind saying my knees and legs really feel it, but I’m glad to push myself that little bit and am rewarded with some great views and operating conditions.

We reached the far-end of HH (from the car park perspective) and I set about checking the results of the SSTV` broadcasts I had made, unusually I couldn’t see any at all ! Not even static.

no sstv, but contacts on GB3IW

I packed the Kenwood equipment away and kept the UV5R in my pocket for any simplex contacts. I called CQ on 2m (145.500) and had a great QSO with G3TOI who was working thu his great 2M VHF home-brew antenna. We had made contact before but when i was at home on the IC-705 and Diamond X-30, it was great to make a simplex contact on 5W /P.

What had happened ?

Coming home it was clear what had occurred ! I must of knocked the transceiver when leaving and it was set to 144.375 for receive – doh ! Anyhow, glad it was a simple issue rather than anything untoward.

2nd set of field tests – West Howe

I headed back out in the afternoon as XYL was at a training course, which gave me 2 hours to do some local tests. I headed out to West Howe and made a good contact back to the QTH

Whilst not P5 quality, i can at least see the picture and where I am, so I’d say that was pretty good on 5W and about 2-3 miles from the QTH.

I then headed off to Poole Harbour, sadly (and predictably) no SSTV contacts, i think 5W and the dip is asking a bit too much, however i did have a great QSO via the GB3IW repeater on the UV-5R

Improved results from Poole Harbour on the GB3IW repeater

Having driven around west of Poole to higher ground, i could still not make contacts, it was interesting trying tho. In some locations i could still make out the GB3IW repeater as well, and this well in-land. My first good retest was at the Kwik-Fit at Bear Cross.

Bear Cross

The image came out pretty well from about 2.2 miles away.

quick fit at bear cross

I then continued driving towards Hurn and the final test location of Ringwood.

The results from Hurn are very good, a P5 image quality from about 2-3 miles away. Heading to Ringwood did get a receive, but only static in terms of the picture. As I know where it was taken I can make out features, but with no call sign and clear image, its not useful as a radio amateur.

results 2nd time out

Results 2nd time out with the TH-07 and UV-5R was much better than in the morning now that the IC-705 was in tune to the /P transmit frequency. Optimal results seem to be around 2-3 miles currently based on the reception of images.

I think the best/quickest upgrade will be swapping out the TH-07 stock rubber duck antenna and returning to the locations where I had static to see if there is any improvement in reception from the QTH.

Thanks again and 73 ! 2E0FWE

All steam ahead!

So aside amateur radio, my other ‘interests’ is model railways. My fellow rail enthusiast are building this small layout.

Shillingstone prototype

Whilst that hasn’t been taking all of my time, it has taken a fair chunk in trying to find all my N-Gauge track and equipment. I have how ever been very busy in and around the shack !

SSTV

I have got the VC-H1 working. Getting all the cables from around the world (Korea, Portugal, USA) was quite an adventure and took a fair amount of ‘google-fu’ to source. I have a number of videos, but this one is probably of the most interest where I done a field test and the results.

VC-H1 Field Test

The broadcasts from the park resulted in complete susses of received images from my QTH about 1 mile away.

VC-H1 field test results (approx 1 mile max)

I was using a Baofeng with 5W and other tests around IO90BS really showed how the height/hills in the town effected the reception. I think my best chances for long-distance are away from the SE direction where I am behind a steep hill. I will spend some time and do some VHF reception modelling in the coming weeks.

Shack Tidy

So with the 2nd year of my Part-Time MSc coming up time was limited to get the ‘shack’ (aka Home office) into some semblance of tidy. Getting a Radio Shack tidy isn’t just making it ‘look’ tidy, its about getting RF right, every thing that requires ferrietes to have them and good cable management, all whilst be useable, manageable and allowing for further development of other projects.

I started outside and installed good coax, as well as a general tidy up around the antennas. I then installed a thru-window panel, allowing the feed lines to be tidy into the shack. From there I took out all the transceivers, receivers and other radio devices. The bulk of the work was done over the weekend as it took a fair amount of time.

Shack Tidy Day 1

As you can see from ‘Day 1’ there was allot to do just to things in place.

I’m now have installed the transceivers onto the bonding and am looking forward to test out the bonding/grounding results.

Bonding

My next step will be to get my Windows computer re-installed with the necessary chokes and filters to operate well with the computer with no effects from RFI. When that is installed I should have a good idea of how to tidy the cables best as described in the Grounding and Bonding book.

Events

With re-opening of the Poole Amateur Radio Society and enjoying regular on Thursday evenings, I’m getting more out of my radio and understand them than ever. Its great to have good and productive conversations with fellow hams, although the conversation sometimes does drift to non-radio activities, I have been grateful to receive several courgettes which XYL Monica made into a lovely meal for me !

The club is having a field day event away from the QRM of the urban environment. I’ve very excited to be going with my IC-705 and Alexloop ham-pack. I got a new ‘mast’ for the antenna, as you can see here.

Bike Repair Stand as Antenna Mast

Results are really encouraging !

With all the equipment that will be required for the field day I got a hand cart. Sweetly and I had a great time testing it out.

Testing the trolley cart with Sweety.

So I’ve been super busy, but very happy with all with all the amateur radio activities. It will be harder after September to spend weekends like this as I start my MSc Computing Research year in earnest, but undoubtedly the model trains and amateur radio will make a welcome break when time allows me to do so.