Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Analog or Digital Audio - Which should we choose?

Ever since I got access to a 1939 Hammarlund Super-PRO (SP-210 LX) receiver when I was 13,
I always loved bigger radios and add-on units w/all kinds of knobs to twiddle.  A few years back
I jumped at the chance to buy one of N6VR's filter-laden FT-1000mp's.  He was retiring the Yaesu radios from SO2-R operation and switching to a pair of (much smaller) Elecraft K3's.  Ergonomically,
I way-prefer the FT-1000mp over the K3.  I really appreciate the BiG main tuning knob w/shuttle jog.  Having access to dual-receive in the FT-1000mp makes knob-twiddling infinitely more fun.

In addition to a series of reasonably sharp I-F filters, the Main RX sports a reasonably effective
e-DSP-facility.  Even tho the e-DSP is not I-F based (like its successor - the FT-1000mp MK-V),
minus agc-pumping, the 1000mp's eDSP allows shaping the audio in a number of different ways
to peak the audio passband in such a way that muddied-signals often "PoP" a few db ABOVE the
ramble-mud; and, of course the auto-notch facility is, shall we say, "top notch".

While I LoVe the FT-1000mp design overall, what is often overlooked is the fact that the e-DSP
facility works ONLY with the Main-RX (VFO-A).  The Sub-RX is in reality, relatively wide-open. 
Prior to bringing the MP into my WQ6X operation, the JPS NIR-12 DSP and the MFJ-752c analog filters had been shelved in the storeroom.

During the 5-contest weekend in May 2017 (where I took 3rd place for 7QP QSO party and 1st-place for the INQP GiG), amongst other experiments, I devised a cabling-trick allowing the NIR-12 and 752c to be cascaded in the Sub-RX audio line.  Right after that weekend 2 BLOGs were posted describing what was done and how it turned out.  [CLICK HERE] to read that picture-laden description.

In time for 2017's Cw All Asia contest, I brought a languishing Autek Research QF-1A off the dusty storeroom shelf, inserting it in the laptop audio line for running NX6T remotely.  After I got the right-feel for the different filter configurations and settings w/the QF-1A, I was amazed at the peaking effects of the Peak & High-Pass filter settings of that vintage analog filter.  [CLICK HERE] to read about that.

Because the All Asia GiG was a Cw contest, I got a "quick-learn" about all the things 25+ year-old analog technology can still bring us, in an overly-DSP'd society.  As you can see, the QF-1A is equipped with Low-pass/High-pass filters, a pair of audio-notch controls and most important, an
audio peak filter (APF) that is as good as the inboard APF controls that came with the high-end transceivers released during the time-period the QF-1A was on the market.

The Autek filter design is of course an audio emulation of the classic I-F based Q-Multiplier circuitry; without the caveat of having to TAP the I-F signal line.  Except during moments of extreme agc-keying (when a strong station is near the RX passband) the Autek QF-1A is as good as ANY Q-Multiplier.
Because the audio passband is processing is analog, the operator can "fine tune" the passband shape characteristics more precisely than most DSP methods allow us to do.

A filter you may not be aware of is the WW-II Navy "BEAM" filter (or FL-8), initially intended for on board aircraft receivers.  Think of the "RANGE" switch position as a CW filter and the "PHONE" position as a medium-skirted SSB filter.  As I recall, the "BOTH" position effectively bypasses the filter.

Technically, there is enough room
inside the box to mount a small IC-based filter/amplifier.  I have seen a modified Beam filter with the one of headphone jacks removed and replaced with a filter adjustment pot.

A major advantage of external filters is their plug-in and play operation; no circuit modifications to the receiving equipment are necessary.  The major disadvantage is that most external filters are usually relatively worthless in the presence of adjacent signals down-pumping the receiver's AGC.  Nevertheless, while most analog audio-processing is vintage "old school", your ears don't
care about that.

While Digital Signal Processing is for the most part here to stay, you pay a premium price to purchase a DSP-laden radio.  In most cases, external analog and digital external filters do a near-equivalent filtering job, and quite frequently for well under $100.  Another advantage of external filters is that
with an audio cable switch box, they can be used with a multitude of transceiver and receiver units.

What approach do YOU take?

ANALOG?  DSP?  BOTH?  OR?.....

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

WQ6X Works another Wiley Wonderful World-wide Contest

In recent years due to CQ W.W. running AFTER the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, NX6T has been "officially dark" for Multi-2 operation; instead, WQ6X has run these weekends as SOAB(A) during those events.  LooKing back chronologically, in this WQ6X contest blog I have reported on the following CQ W.W. Cw radiosport events:
  • [x] 2018 CQ WW Cw Contest - Only 81 QSOs remotely, but at least a presence.
  • [x] 2017 CQ WW Cw Contest - 727 QSOs & 260 multipliers - for winging it remotely.
  • [x] 2016 CQ WW Cw Contest - 194-Q's/143-Mults remotely from the SF East Bay area.
  • [x] 2015 CQ WW Cw Contest - 225-Q's/211-Mults run remotely from 2 hotels.
  • [x] 2014 CQ WW Cw Contest - Multi-OP w/N6GEO (FLEX-3000 & KPA-500).
  • [x] 2013 CQ WW Cw Contest - Joined-up w/NX6T crew for 3016-Q's & 651-Mults.

W M 6 Y  &  N 7 D A
This year, with CQ W.W. preceding the holiday period, N6KI rounded up a few long-time regulars (K4RB, N6NC, NN6X, WM6Y & WQ6X) and gave up-and-coming contester N7DA (Drew) his first exposure to Cw radiosport NX6T-style.

For WQ6X operations I chose to run another dual-OP operation from W7AYT's QTH enabling
opportunity to test-run various audio cable configurations between the Elecraft K3/0 (for NX6T
remote access), my FT-1000mp (in Concord) and laptop audio, used this weekend for streaming electronic music in the background (via Pandora) while running the radio contest. 

Eventually, the messy junction-cabling will be replaced with a custom-configured switch box. 
An advantage of combined audio is the ability to call CQ from NX6T in Fallbrook (using the K3/0) while monitoring that CQ call (on 80 & 40) using the FT-1000mp in the SF bay area.

For WQ6X CQ-WW operations the "antenna farm" @W7AYT was given a GooD workout. 
The current antenna setup includes:
  • The WQ6X Lazy 8JK Inverted Vee - recently converted from an 8JK Sloper.
  • The WQ6X JA Sloper - which seems to favor an SA (not JA) directional pipeline.
  • a Comet CHA-250 wide-band vertical - noisier but lower angle overall.
  • a Hy-Gain 3-element 10-meter "Long John" yagi - tunes FB on 15-M to work SA.
On my next visit to W7AYT I will reintroduce the WQ6X antenna phase switch box, allowing the
8JK Vee and JA Sloper to run in parallel, taking advantage of the advantages of each antenna.

At NX6T in Fallbrook (900' above sea level), tower #2 was raised to its full 72' height for maximum DX reach.

With Tower #1 a recent rotor malfunction was remedied, restoring the ability to "sweep" back and
forth while running a frequency.  Working Africa from NX6T is not an easy thing to do; however thanks to yagi-sweeping we were able to "Zoom-in" on individual countries and amazingly, break pileups on 1st/2nd call.

In Fallbrook, both afternoons presented us with propagation to JA & SA simultaneously.  When that happens I switch over to the 3-el Stepp-IR on tower 2, running it in BI-directional mode.  During those periods the log is interleaved with SA/JA & S-E (USA/Caribbean stations).  Eventually when SA stations had either faded or all been worked, the yagi was pointed 100% to JA.  Unlike years past, the JA presence near the end
of the 2019 GiG was noticeably substantial.

In years past, we've had all but a skeleton crew on Sunday afternoon in the CQ W.W. contests. 
This year we had 2 B-i-C OPs and N6KI running remotely, freeing me to work the bands as WQ6X from the bay area.  While my 52-QSO total was hardly worth mentioning, the opportunity to test various antenna configurations & combinations was what the 2019 event was all about anyway;
in that respect it was a resounding success.

When it was all over NX6T ended up taking 1st place for San Diego, Southwest
Division and possibly even Zone 3; for North America, we were way down the list.

Did YOU work the CQ WW Dx Cw contest?

Is NX6T and/or WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

SS-Ssb 2019: The Radiosport GiG that Faded into Obscurity

W Q 6 X  Pondering the FT-1000mp while recording Brainwaves
Every [November] Sweepstakes contest (and in particular Sweepstakes-phone) has some memorable aspect to it.  In the 1979 SS-Phone GiG (running as WA6LKB/8), from my Cincinnati Western Hills townhouse, I developed a minor hand infection which required me to QRT the contest and QSY to St. George's hospital for that Thanksgiving week.

Fast forward to 2019 and:
  • The WA6LKB callsign became KX6H (in 1983) and then WQ6X (in 2000).
  • The SX-101a / HT-37 became an ICOM 740 (in the mid-80's) with several interim Xcvr iterations leading to the current Yaesu FT-1000mp installation @W7AYT.
  • Hand-written LoG/DuP sheets became crudely automated by simple computer logging software.  Of course today, the software not only dupe-checks and logs, it completely runs the contest and controls the station; culminating in SO2V and even SO2R, SO3R & SO4R.
  • My simple sloped (down the hill) "toaster-wire" antenna in Cincinnati has evolved into over a dozen antenna designs @ NX6T, N6GEO & W7AYT.
  • The old war surplus audio filter (a "BEAM Filter") has been transformed into various forms
    of external filtering (Autek QF1-A, MFJ-752 & JPS NIR-12) and built-in DSP processing
    to "weed out" interfering QRN & QRM.
For this weekend a major goal was to test-drive the recently-updated audio cable configuration for my portable operations @W7AYT's QTH while running the Ssb contest largely by F-Keys and .Wav files.  Saturday morning, time was spent recording, and as needed, re-recording a set of .Wav files designed to largely run the contest.  Other than saying your callsign and my QSO#, everything
else comes from a .Wav file.

S & P  (Left)  ---  R U N  (Right)
As you can see, each of the 12 F-Keys had a purpose; depending on whether the RX or Sub-RX
was in RUN mode or S&P Mode.  Experimentation was done to determine whether RUN'ning a frequency should be done from Main-RX (with DSP, Shift and NB) or the more wide-open Sub-RX,
for which - it turns out - there is no R-I-T control - bummer dewd. 

If some Yo-Yo calls me significantly off frequency, I then have to note the OP frequency, tune him
in, make the QSO and return to the OP frequency w/o anyone "waiting in line" even noticing what just happened.  Wouldn't it be easier for the Yo-Yo to properly Zero-beat the operating frequency, saving us ALL LoTs of time?  Am I missing something?

While the WQ6X signal was hardly insignificant, running frequencies yielded callers ONLY on 75-meters late Saturday evening: 3764.64 @08:00z (3 callers) and 3792.92 @09:00z (3 callers).

From the frequency list at left you can see that WQ6X made a LoT of unanswered CQ calls.  On 10-meters, the Long John yagi was swept back and forth from 0-degrees to 180-degress and all points in-between; all for naught.

Overall, for better-or-worse, the 2019 November Sweepstakes was largely an S&P affair.  Unfortunately, there was a DEARTH of hearable/workable "CQ Sweepstakes" callers.  Wassup with THAT?

A number of after-contest reports from "BiG GuN" stations indicate that the volume of participants decreased noticeably from 2018.

At LEAST I had a full weekend opportunity to test-run the installation @W7AYT thoroughly from an Ssb standpoint.  Not wanting to be "wired in" I wore wireless headphones and "mounted" the Heil HC-4 headset atop the station's Electro Voice EV-664 mic.  The 664 is more of a ragchew microphone; for radiosport the HC-4 has more syllable "punch".

On the receive audio end of things, the pair of Autek QF-1's and the JPS NIR-12 were largely run
at the "other end" of the hearable audio spectrum.  The Main-RX DSP-Contour control sometimes peaked a voice into intelligibility; necessary as so many of the signals this weekend were so weak.

By 03:00z (7pm PST), it was all over.  10 and 15 meters never materialized.  20-meters "folded up" early both Saturday and Sunday, sending us down to 40-meters, which was not quite ready for some sustained action that early in the afternoon.  I guess it's a GooD thing that 30 meters does not allow contest activity.

A couple of annoying anomalies this weekend were the 100's of stations who said "PLEASE COPY..." before EVERY QSO.  Not only is it a waste of time, it becomes an annoying bunch of gibberish.  Make it short and succinct.  Because of the severe fading, saying "Please Copy" wasted enough
time that the signal would then fade right as the Check & Section were spoken, requiring one-or-more repeats.  Remember: every repeat DOUBLES the Qso-time.

Despite all of my bitching, I enjoyed the 2019 SS-Ssb GiG as I've enjoyed ALL the Sweepstakes events over the years.  According to the 3830 Scores website, it would seem that WQ6X took a
1st-place for East Bay (EB) section, 2nd-place for the Pacific Division and 37th-place overall.

Where were YOU during the 2019 November Sweepstakes Phone contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

WQ6X Wrangles a Weird WAE RTTY Contest

As I sit here pondering the log, 3830 Scores entry and dozen screenshots taken during the 2019 WAE RTTY contest, I discovered I was [initially] at a loss for words.  It's rare that I am at a loss for words.  When that happens, the only thing to do is scribble bullet-items down on blank paper and shuffle them together, making something comprehensible out of the myriad of disconnected items.  While this is a challenging event, reading the contest rules, demystifies virtually everything.

For starters, last week I wrote up a sort-of "Blast from the Past" BLOG entry regarding my participation in past WAE GiGs.  Rereading this reminded me of the challenges that running
WAE - Worked All Europe - contests (RTTY in particular) present.

Unlike the CW/Ssb WAE contests where non-EU stations make contact ONLY with European stations, in the WAE RTTY GiG, like most RTTY GiGs, everyone can work everyone.  Sending
QTC messages is not limited to JUST EU stations (in THIS event) but can occur with ANY station capable of receiving such messages, as long as they are located on a DIFFERENT continent than
our own.

For the WQ6X RTTY operation, I didn't have remote contest access to NX6T's Stn-1 until 04:30z when preparations were completed for the JIDX Ssb contest which began @07:00z
(11pm PST).  My goal was to work the WAE GiG, turning the station over to N6KI at ~06:30z
to get some sleep while he runs JA's on 40-meters.  In reviewing the WAE LoG, I divided the
operating periods in to 5 groups: A ==> E, with JIDX in between.

After a solid report from CM8NMN, I decided to be lazy and run frequencies, with stations call me.  Occasionally, I would pick up
a couple of S&P QSOs in between lull-points.  You may have worked me on: 7052.52, 7056.56, 3585.85 or 7058.58 before
my official QRT @06:35z.

Around 10:00z I took over station #1 to S&P the CQ'ing JA stations that could not be worked earlier by running a static frequency. 
The SHOCKER is that VERY FEW Japanese stations call CQ in their own JIDX contest - HuH?  We W6 stations should not be calling CQ JA, we should be lining up to work the 50+ JA stations calling CQ JIDX.  After 3 hours of operation, only ONE S&P JA QSO made it to the NX6T LoG, so I went back into sleep mode
until 17:00 when it was time to return to WAE on 20 meters.

Around 17:30z 20-meters was found to be quite BUSY - YaaY!
After 15 minutes of S&P WQ6X settled in on 14097.47 @ 17:37z, shifting to 14094.94 @18:09z
and then to 14085.85 @18:29z.  Eventually there were no more stations lined-up to work WQ6X, necessitating a 19:10z move to 15 meters (21093.93) after an unsuccessful CQ call on 10-meters (28088.88).  At 19:59 the QRM levels "encouraged" a switch to 21089.89.  After draining 15 meters
of all hearable QSOs it was time (20:39z) to make one last run on 14097.97 after another fruitless CQ call on 28088.88.  Client commitments necessitated I QRT for the afternoon at 21:00z, making way for K6JO to get set up for a B-I-C (Butt-in-Chair) SO2R run of the NA Sprint Ssb contest @00:00z.

By 05:00z WQ6X was back at it running frequencies (with an occasional S&P in between):
7067.67, 3583.83, 7067.67, 7068.68, 7065.65 & 7063.63 before shutting things down at 09:35z.  Russian beacon-wise, only the "M" beacon (Magadan - north of JA) could be heard; which might
explain the dearth of JA stations in the JIDX GiG.

By 17:00z, WQ6X was B-I-R-C (back in the remote chair) S&P'ing until running 14104.04 @ 17:28z and 14105.05 @ 17:46.  At 18:45z running out of stations to work, it was S&P time for any 20-meter "leftovers", followed by another fruitless call on 28088.88.

At 19:20z realizing that I had made ~300 QSOs but sent no QTC messages yet I began looking for non-NA stations to receive my traffic; this came in the form of KH6ZM (in Oceania).  After thorough S&P on 15 meters, ZX2V (in SA) was the next QTC recipient.

With a brief lunch break behind me it was back to 14114.14, all but begging stations to take my
QTC traffic; YV5AX and PY2NY to the rescue.  Then it occurred to me, that switching antennas to
the Stepp-IR in Bidirectional mode, I can work JA & SA simultaneously offering more opportunities
for QTC traffic passing.  The next QTC opportunities came from LU1KCQ & PY4XX in between working JA stations.

At 22:37z a move was made to 14116.16 and finally to 14095.95 @23:15z.  While running JA,
S-E USA and SA, JH4UYB & CE7VPQ relieved WQ6X of more QTC traffic, leaving over 300+
QTC messages unsent - Bummer Dewd.  At 23:47, QRM forced a frequency change to 14093.93,
using the last 13 minutes to make QSOs while pleading (with no response) to send more QTC traffic.

In hindsight, it is clear that QTC message passing should have been solicited as early as Friday evening.  The further along the contest gets, fewer QTC opportunities are available, putting stations into what I call "frantic mode".  Oh well, as I always say "maybe next year". 

Nevertheless the 2019 135k score is the largest WAE RTTY accomplishment ever for WQ6X. 
Based on scores reported to the 3830 Scores website, it would seem that WQ6X took an HP
1st-place for W6, Southwestern ARRL Division and Zone 3 overall - GO Figure.

SO, while this weekend's weird WAE RTTY contest wandered all over the place, a lot was learned about how to maximize a set of resources, in the most effective way possible, at any given moment.

Did YOU play in the 2019 WAE RTTY contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

P.S.  BTW, for you N1MM+ users in confusion on how to make QTC messages work in
         the WAE RTTY contest, [CLICK Here] to read an excellent write up on the subject.

Friday, November 8, 2019

WQ6X Wanders & Wonders about WAE

(a Composite Photo + Screen shot)
In the overall scheme of my radiosport activities, the Worked All Europe (WAE) contest is relatively new to me.  As of 2019, WAE has moved onto my Top-10 list of my favorite radiosport events.

I have often said that next to the lengthy November Sweepstakes (SS) exchange, sending QTC packets in WAE is one of the trickiest exchanges in radiosport.  Then again, some radiosport operators (mostly European) would argue that compared to successfully sending a "book" of
10 QTC messages, sending an SS exchange is a no-brainer.

As it turns out, every WAE contest operation I've ever run was documented here in the WQ6X
contest Blog:
  • [x] August 2016 WAE Cw contest
  • [x] August 2017 WAE Cw contest
  • [x] November 2017 WAE RTTY contest
  • [x] August 2018 WAE Cw contest
  • [x] November 2018 WAE RTTY contest
  • [x] August 2019 WAE Cw contest
With a look at the above contest BLOG Entries, I guess this makes it another
"Blast from the Past" BLOG entry.

C - 3 1 (Left) and S T E P - I R + SHORTY-40 (Right)
The difficulty I've experienced w/WAE is NoT the contest itself, but the weak signal-levels to Europe from my portable setup in the SF East Bay section.  Running WAE from NX6T's so-Cal location actually hears 10x MORE European stations thanks to C-31 & Stepp-IR yagi's and a Shorty-40
all 40' above ground on a hill 900' above sea level.

Now, it doesn't hurt that for WAE I run 880 watts full-duty RTTY (as opposed to running the Elecraft K3 barefoot @50-watts).  Hearing a bunch of European stations does absolutely no good if they can't hear me back.  QTC messages are sent ONLY to stations outside of one's continent, so my signal better be HEARABLE.

I operate from a core philosophy that says: "If what you're doing is working, then KEEP doing it. 
If what you're doing stops working, then STOP doing it - pull back, revaluate and then move forward again".  From what I can determine, running this year's WAE RTTY GiG should run rather smoothly, including the ability to send QTC packets.

Are YOU going to play in this weekend's WAE RTTY contest?

LooK for WQ6X on 80 - 15 meters (and 10, if the band actually opens).

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

WQ6X Wings another Cw Sweepstakes GiG

It's no secret that the November Sweepstakes is my favorite domestic contest GiG; the Cw variation in particular.  2019 marks my 17th consecutive SS operation; the 5th straight year from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.

In the pre-contest BLOG entry, I overviewed the fact that the former WQ6X Lazy 8JK was partially modified to become the WQ6X Lazy 8JK Inverted Vee.  Throughout the contest weekend the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) stats were consulted, comparing monitored signal levels between the Lazy-V and the CHA-250 vertical. 
Thus far, no reliable conclusions have
been concluded.

Originally I was scheduled as a b/u operator for NX6T's high power multi-OP event.  Being a backup operator in radiosport is not unlike having the role of relief pitcher in baseball - if you're not needed, then the time can be utilized for other endeavors. 
In Fallbrook they needed more B-I-C (butt in chair) time, not remote operators, leaving WQ6X to
work the contest any hours that was needed/wanted.

Space WX was relatively quiet the entire contest weekend; unfortunately, so were the signal levels.  Signal-fading is problem enough; coupling that with weak signal levels made this SS Cw weekend quite a challenge.

I have often complained about poor turnout in most state QSO parties (CQP excepted). 
This weekend felt very much like that.  I was disappointed by the lack of obvious multipliers
making it to the East Bay QTH.

Not sure what to make of this situation, I turned to the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) stats to figure out what the REAL problem is.  Scrolling backwards through the SNR (Signal-to-Noise) data, all of a sudden the realization came to me:
"A MAJOR reason we make fewer QSOs than we would like is NoT because our signals are NoT hearable, but because there is no one on "the other end" actually hearing those signals."
No amount of power increases or antenna changes can encourage operators to get out of bed,
fire up the coffee, turn on the radio and go tuning for my signal.  This brings us full-circle back to
the problem of lack-of-participation. 

There is an old saying "you can't work'em if you can't hear'em".  What is ALSO true is:
"you can't hear'em if they ain't transmitting".  Therefore, we should stop blaming ourselves
for things we can't control. 

It is actually at times like this when we SHOULD be calling CQ, if for no other reason than to let the rest of the contest whirrrrl'd know that the band(s) are indeed open.  Even if stations have already worked you, hearing your CQ call may encourage them to do the same. 

With a non-insignificant number of CQ Contest calls on the band, don't be surprised to discover
that many stations show up; either by happenstance or from seeing a population increase in the bandmap.  Either way, a "dead band" can become very active, simply by calling CQ. 

A few months ago, I wrote a BLOG entry about this very phenomenon.
I also wrote a BLOG entry explaining why we should call CQ.
For this last weekend, hoping to force a 10 meter opening I called CQ while rotating the yagi
to various directions around North America.  Often when I do this, out of nowhere a station or
two hears me and calls in.  Unfortunately, for this contest, that didn't happen.

When it was all over there was a whopping 188 QSOs and 59 sections in the WQ6X Cw Sweepstakes LoG.  Looking up the reported scores on the 3830 Scores website, it would seem that WQ6X has taken 1st-place for the East Bay section; as for the Pacific Division, that remains to be seen.

DiD YOU work the 2019 November Sweepstakes?

Is WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Monday, November 4, 2019

For CW Sweepstakes WQ6X LooKs back to Move Forward

As I've said before, of all radiosport contests, the November Sweepstakes is my FAVorite GiG;
the Cw event being the most fun.  One of the first Blast from the Past BLOGs written was about the Cw Sweepstakes in November 2017 ([CLICK Here]).  As demonstrated in that BLOG, WQ6X has operated many different "flavors" of Sweepstakes, using a variety of different callsigns, adding uniqueness to each operation; alleviating the boredom potential of repeating event locations.

For 2018, I ran a dual-OP operation as WQ6X from EB (East Bay) section and remoted-in to
NX6T to help the team take a 1st-place for San Diego and 2nd-place for the Southwest division.  We even accomplished a section sweep; not easy these days as many sections are poorly represented.

Remember, Sweepstakes is essentially a traffic-handling exercise.  We don't give signal reports and the operator's name is irrelevant.  What IS relevant is sending the correct information, in the correct order, at the correct time.  Unlike most contest events, during Sweepstakes each station is contacted only once, period; not once per-band.  It is important to get the information correct, as there is no repeat.  A mistake in copying the exchange can cost you a multiplier as well as the QSO points.

There are three main strategies for working stations in Sweepstakes.  Some operators prefer to search & pounce (S&P) for multipliers only; others S&P for any new station they can find, while
others prefer to run a frequency, hoping the mult-stations will find them. 

A fourth strategy is to either S&P or run a frequency until that approach runs out of stations to work; then, switch to the opposite method when the QSO-rate slows down considerably.  My preference
is the 4th method.  Should the QSO-rate drop considerably, it may be time for a 1/2 hour break. 
Break times must be a minimum of 30 minutes, so choose the break-time carefully.

Last weekend, I joined NX6T in the CQ WW Ssb contest, partly to give the equipment a thorough checkout for this weekend's Sweepstakes GiG.  After the contest was over, the MFJ-259 antenna analyzer indicated the JA sloper to be non-resonant  on all amateur bands - Ooops.  Although the MFJ 949-E antenna tuner was able to create a nearly 1.2:1 swr to make the radio happy, non-resonance is still non-resonance.  Most Saturday mornings before each Sweepstakes GiG finds
me making last-minute antenna changes.  Does it make a difference?  I'm not so sure, however
I doit anyway.

Having settled on a workable combination of external audio filters for the FT-1000mp,
this weekend I look forward to making it all work better than the confusing 2018 GiG.
On Saturday morning, I surveyed the wire placement of the WQ6X Lazy 8JK Sloper and
concluded that it would work better if I turned it (at least on the Left side) into a Lazy 8JK Inverted Vee; unfortunately w/o the termination resistors for that end (that comes during my next visit).
While the antenna tuned nicely on all bands, the 40-meter RFI problem has yet to disappear;
leaving the CHA-250 Vertical to work most of the 40-meter QSOs.

Every Sweepstakes has its high-points and not-so high-points.
How did WQ6X Do?  Stay-tuned for the next BLOG to find out.

DiD YOU work the 2019 November Sweepstakes Cw contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Thursday, October 31, 2019

WQ6X Teams Up w/NX6T for Triple Team Training

N N 6 X --- N 6 K I --- K N 6 D L G
From a "serious" competition standpoint, while the operators @ NX6T are GooD, in the CQ WW
Ssb contest we don't stand a chance of a 1st-place (worldwide) finish.  Instead, while we give it our
best shot, more important is to use this event as an opportunity to Elmer up-and-coming radiosport operators and give me "time in the chair" with the recently perfected Elecraft K3/0 installation @W7AYT.

This was another start-in-Alameda and end-in-Concord remote operating weekend. 
Although everything was well in place to operate WQ6X from W7AYT, Space WX conditions were
not in our favor.  Propagation was so poor that in the end only KL7RA made it to the WQ6X Log.

While we were plagued by solar storms all weekend, @ NX6T a surprising number of DX openings occurred; especially to Central/South America.  On Sunday 10-meters put two dozen QSOs in the NX6T Log.  Switching to the Stepp-IR antenna allowed me to simultaneously run South America and Asia, with a plethora of 0-Point QSOs from stations who happened to be in the signal path to SA.

W Q 6 X (Stn-1) & N 6 K I (Stn-2)
I began the remote operation from Alameda using VNC Viewer & RCForb.  N6KI loaded up Station #1's Voice Keyer memories allowing me to Search & Pounce (S&P) throughout the evening while watching the Houston Astros finally win a World Series game.  After midnight when 40 meters went long, I put a few QSOs into the log and turned it over to N6KI; usually I do the 2am shift but was so exhausted from a long week that sleep took priority.

Late Saturday morning when I fired-up on 15-meters I was surprised to find signals all over the place.  As it turns out, we made more QSOs on 15 meters than we did on 20 - HuH?  That NEVER happens.

Typically it is the CQ WPX contest that provides exotic prefixes/countries.  This year, the W.W. Dx contest brought us a bunch of juicy prefixes.  For this contest, some of my favorites include: 5K0, VP6, 8P5, V47, ZF9, ZP6, FS4, 7A2, 3G1, TG9, CB8, HR9, PY0, BW2, E2, 6W1, V3, V26, ZS6,
CD2, EF8, FY5, VP2, CS5, 5J5, TI7, JR6 & J69.

I often bitch about 0-Point QSOs.  The one thing they are GooD for is propagation determination.  While using the Stepp-IR purposely allows running BI-Directional, on 40-meters in the morning when the Shorty-40 is pointed to Asia, the 20-db F/B-ratio is hardly enough to much attenuate the Kw signal to the Southeast, all but encouraging 0-pointers interspersed with the 3-point Asian QSOs.

Typical for most operations from W7AYT, cobbling divergent technologies is what makes it all work.  For example, while I normally use the Electro Voice 664 microphone, the excellent frequency response while desirable for ragchewing is actually a detriment to contest work.  Instead, I used the 664 as a support stand for turning the Heil PRO-set into a contest mic, allowing me to wear wireless headphones for receiving.

Despite not making  many QSOs as WQ6X, at least there was an opportunity to create updated WQ6X contest .Wav files; many also usable for the upcoming Sweepstakes contest in November. 

Altho the user-level documentation for the RigExpert PLUS is seriously lacking, thru trial-and-error
it was discovered that the output audio control (in proper balance with the FT-1000mp's mic gain/compression settings) can produce distortion-free, yet "punchy" contest audio.

While this year's CQ W.W. Ssb contest was hardly a spectacular affair, it DiD provide a training ground for new operators, new equipment configurations and new operating techniques to be examined and explored.

What about YOU? 

Did YOU work the CQ Worldwide Dx contest?

Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Monday, October 21, 2019

WQ6X runs Another 4-out-of-5 October contest GiGs

Similar to the 2nd October weekend, making this last weekend work radiosport-wise took some careful orchestration, interspersing what turned out to be
4 contest activities throughout the weekend.

In furtherance of my 2019 journey to participate in 100+ Contest GiGs, I have been running a bunch
of dual-OP operations from W7AYT and my Alameda location remote into the San Diego Contest Club's NX6T station in Fallbrook (North of San Diego). 

This weekend found me in Alameda the entire time.  While the K3/0 is "parked" @W7AYT, for RTTY contests I have found running RCForb + VNC
Viewer to be more than adequate.  Unlike running
Cw remotely, with RTTY, if there is a brief internet outage, when I get things reestablished, the demodulated RTTY is usually still waiting on the
screen for me when the connection is resolved.

On the "lets'givit-a-shot" list for this weekend were the following 5 radiosport events.
  • [x] - JARTS RTTY Contest
  • [x] - New York QSO Party
  • [x] - Illinois QSO Party
  • [x] - Worked All Germany Contest
  • [x] - Stew Perry 160-meter Contest
The JARTS (Japanese Amateur Radio Teleprinter Society) GiG is similar to the Japanese-sponsored All Asia contest in that operator AGE is the main exchange parameter to be exchanged.  (How about an All Asia RTTY contest?).  While I am used to 75% of the ages reported in the All Asia GiGs to be 62 - 85, in the JARTS GiG it seemed that easily  90% of the participants were 62 to 89 years old. 

Altho not my exact age, I sent "55" in order to stand out from the rest of the field.  When numbers are sent with a (useless) signal report in a RTTY exchange, this weekend I sent it as "5NN 55".  The most confusing exchanges I received were "599 59".  With poor RTTY demodulation the "59" could be seen as a chopped "599", yet it occurred to no one to send it as "5NN 59" - HuH.

N X 6 T  after  Dark
The goal for this weekend was to run the JARTS RTTY GiG for the 1st 12 hours, with some nap time during the slow periods.  Then, @ 14:00z (for NYQP) and 17:00z (for ILQP) I could go county hunting, switching back to RTTY when I can no longer find W2 or W9 stations. 

While the Stew Perry Gig began @15:00z, at 8am (Pdt), the LUF including 160 meters has moved up to 5-mhz and beyond.  The Worked All Germany (WAG) contest also started @15:00z but EU didn't make it to the headphones until much later in the day.  My first 160-meter QSO didn't happen until 03:03z, with the band already in full-swing.

The NYQP and ILQP QSO parties were a COMPLETE BUST, from the Fallbrook perspective.  ILQP was a complete no show, even tho there were NUMEROUS IL stations working the JARTS GiG. 
In the 3830 Score report for the NYQP contest, I made the following comment:
Because this is only a 12 hour contest, the GiG was over before 160 & 80 open in W6-Land here to NY; with pretty much the same problem on 40 meters. Either lengthen the contest or start it at 16:00z or 18:00z, like most other QSO parties.
Nearly every month of every year I complain that - California excepted - most states don't play in their own QSO parties.  It doesn't stop me from looking for counties, however it IS frustrating when the bands are dead because most amateurs in a given state don't even know what a QSO party is.

To check worldwide propagation we have the
NCDXF beacons on 14.100, 21.150 & 28.200. 
I have previously written about these beacons ([CLICK HERE] to read that).  Unlike the CQ W.W. RTTY contest, during the JARTS event there were
no contest stations (who should know better) calling CQ atop the NCDXF beacon on 14.100.

Additionally, for those who know where to look, we have the Russian military beacons on  ~7.039.39. 
I have also written about these beacons.  ([CLICK HERE] to about read that.)  This weekend only the
"F" beacon was heard.

Last weekend, horrible Space-WX condx. plagued the contest activities.  Altho the A & K indexes were low this weekend, because the SFI is a lowly 65, signals were often weak; altho, thanks to the low SFI, 160 - 80 - 40 meters produced some surprising DX runs. 

Running  160 using  R C F o r b
During my initial run on 1831.31 in the Stew Perry contest, out of nowhere came a call from CX6VM @03:30z; rather early for SA to the West Coast.  A surprise call from RT0F @06:55z added a nice sweet multiplier to the log.  Overall, out of laziness, most of my time on 160 time was spent Calling CQ SP and letting stations come to me. 

While there were a lot of "juicy" spots in the 160 bandmap, most of the DX stations could not be heard @ the NX6T location.  This is a continuing problem for us atop the hill in Fallbrook; DX stations often hear us and give a call only to be disappointed that we can't always "hear back".  We are heard, thanks to running high power.  No, we are not ignoring you, the Coaxial-Bazooka being at only 40' doesn't hear as good as it transmits.

Eventually, I ran out of new 160-stations to work, relegating one more stint in the JARTS GiG before taking a several hour nap.  At 12:23z I was back at it on 40 meters hoping for another JA run.  Unfortunately, there were virtually no new AS/OC stations. 

Because 2-point QSOs are better than 0-point QSOs, the Shorty-40 was turned back to N-E working Midwest stations before the band faded in that direction.  One last look at 160 meters produced 3 more QSOs with N5ULS closing out the Stew Perry 160 LoG.

After a few hours sleep, at 17:36 15 meters was given another chance.  Unfortunately, it was not the same as Saturday encouraging me back to 20-meters to run 14091.91 until non-listening stations took over my busy frequency @18:12z.  Moving to 14105.55 gave some "breathing room" until I ran out of new stations to work.  A trip to 21089.89 put 3 more QSOs in the log, including a surprise call from TI2OY - and then, NOTHING.

A last trip back to 20 meters found WQ6X calling CQ on 14088.88, 14091.91 & lastly 14113.13 where I enjoyed a pileup of JA stations.  Running out of non-dup 20-meter stations, at 23:00z I spent the last hour on 40 meters finding that E-Coast and Midwest stations were already working there way to the west coast.  The final JARTS QSO was from YV4ABR; a surprise considering that @23:49z we are lucky to work Texas, let alone Venezuela.

When it was all over, the final task was to produce the Cabrillo files, post the 3830 Scores and piece together the ending stats in preparation for this BLOG.  N1MM+ does a reasonable job of producing colorful stat screens.  With a little cut & paste by way of the old PC Paintbrush program, the stats can be put together in one view.

How did Your weekend Go?

Did You work the JARTS RTTY or Stew Perry 160 contest GiGs?

Is WQ6X in YOUR LoG?