Tuesday, May 22, 2018

WQ6X hosts a solo antenna party during King of Spain CW Contest

Current audio filter configuration
This weekend showed a dearth of contest activity as most of the BiG GuN OPs were hanging out at the HamVention in Dayton.  

E-mail notification of the 2018 King of Spain CW contest gave me another reason to run NX6T remotely as well as an excuse to experiment
with various feedline configurations for the WQ6X Lazy 8JK Sloper antenna I have been
using @ W7AYT's QTH.

The King of Spain contest actually began at 12:00z (5am) on Saturday altho SWL'ing with the FT-1000mp until 09:30z argued against a timely K-o-S contest start. As a compromise, the 1st QSO didn't make it into the NX6T log until 18:11z - 11am Pdt.

Running NX6T remotely at dusk
A goal for this operation was to check out the new and improved UHF Wi-Fi router connection.

While the router was indeed faster, online video games played on the other end of the router caused "blip" interruptions to the connection nearly every
5 seconds, chopping Cw Dits/Dahs.

Current antennas @W7AYT

As it turns out, the K-o-S contest (run remotely as NX6T) and the 8JK antenna evaluations were separate (yet related) events. 

I ran remote as NX6T leaving open the possibility of making K-o-S contacts as
WQ6X from the Concord QTH; which in
the end never happened.

Instead, the Saturday evening 8JK configuration (I made a final change Sunday morning) was used as a receiving antenna for monitoring NX6T's signals from Fallbrook

(some 400 miles away).

It's a weird experience to press a function key on the laptop in Concord which initiates an internet data transfer causing station #1 to send a 1300 watt signal
into the 2-element yagi, which is immediately received on the FT-1000mp sitting next to the laptop.  The K3's sidetone (received via the internet) actually took longer to reach Concord than the actual transmitted signal itself (travelling at nearly 186,000 mph) - GO Figure.

Thanks to the MFJ-259b antenna analyzer
I discovered the resonance and (false-resonance) points of each 8JK feedline configuration under evaluation. 

The MFJ-259 allows me to perform a quick survey of the 1.8 to 30 mhz spectrum noting all the resonance points.  As it turns out the Cobra dipoles are also resonant at 5.7mhz (49-M) and 15.5 mhz (19-M), offering GREAT shortwave broadcast reception.

The WQ6X sloper came about by phasing a pair of sloped Cobra dipoles together using a 4:1 balun, converting the 450 ohm ladder line into a coax feed. It's actually easier to feed coax thru the window than ladder line.

During this contest weekend, because of the 12:00z to 12:00z operation time frame the usual 40-meter intentional QRM was not a problem. 
By 09:00z on Sunday, the K-o-S was largely over, and again, no QRM. 

During this time I usually hear the Russian military beacons on/around 7.039.  From the SF bay area
I heard the "T" beacon quite loud and the "M" beacon about S-6.  Because it's not on the list I thought I was mis-copying the "T" beacon it until I realized a "DaH" is JUST THAT.

As Saturday evening droned on, K-o-S QSO candidates diminished into silence. At 09:00z out of desperation I turned the antenna towards JA calling CQ for 5+ minutes with no reply. In retrospect, I should have kept turning the yagi CCW looking for VK/ZL K-o-S players; maybe next year.

Did YOU play in the King of Spain Contest?

Is NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Monday, May 21, 2018

WQ6X runs another Cinco DE Contest as WQ6X & NX6T

The begining of MaY opens with two important things: Cinco de Mayo and Cinceo DE Contest.

For 2018, we had the RARE occurance of BOTH events happening on the SAME Day.

How cool is THAT? As with years past, this weekend brought us: 7QP, NEQP, INQP, DEQP & the ARI Dx contest.

Similar to 2016-2017, the principle QSO parties for the Cinco de weekend are the 7QP and NEQP, altho last year, WQ6X squeaked in a 1st-place for CA in the INQP GiG - Go Figure.

In years past I have joined up with the NX6T gang onsite.
In 2016 WQ6X won the 7QP 1st-place plaque from W7AYT's
QTH, followed by a 3rd-place finish in 2017. For 2018 I did something completely different: WQ6X remoted in to NX6T for several operating sessions at station #1, interspersed with running WQ6X/6 at W7AYT's QTH in Concord, Ca.

Prior to the May 5th contest weekend I spent time with the FT-1000mp tuning the bands and noting signal conditions.

 Unfortunately, while the
A & K Indices were low,
so was the solar flux
(SFI) - Bummer Dewd.

Amazingly, Friday evening using the onsite CH-250 vertical, it was possible to copy WWV signals on ALL of their frequencies: 2.5, 5,
10, 15, 20 & 25 mhz - not BaD considering we are at the bottom
of the sunspot cycle.

Antennas @ W7AYT's QTH
Running either the Comet CH-250 vertical or the WQ6X Lazy 8JK Sloper allowed for Horiz/Vertical propagation comparisons.

Amazingly, sometimes
the vertical was quieter than the sloper. 
In some cases, the sloper produced stronger signals, some w/increased noise.

To resolve this seeming conflict, on my next trip to W7AYT the MFJ-1026 noise canceller (languishing on the closet shelf) will be placed inline as I re-learn the art of antenna noise reduction.

Due to a lack of operators, the morning QSO Party shifts were
poorly manned. WQ6X fired up STN#1 @10 am, working mostly 20 with a brief stint on 15. 10 meters produced no openings, up on the hill, or in Concord, altho KK6NON alerted me to a 10-meter opening
in Oceanside (approx. 6 miles away). That opening never made it inland and never materialized in the SF bay area.

Eventually live operators trickled into the shack @NX6T,
allowing me to run as WQ6X via the FT-1000mp in Concord.

The afternoon / evening shifts brought in a handful of operators,
some new to the NX6T operation: AI60 and W6ZAR. They helped expand the 20-m stats and put some SSB QSOs in the log as well,
I was temped to patch in the Electro Voice 664 into the laptop's mic jack for running some SSB remotely from NX6T, but eventually decided against it; too many variables to deal with I did NoT need.

Had I not been so Lazy, it could have been tested the 664 on Friday evening and be all ready to go. OH Well - one thing at a time.

7QP Ending Stats

ARI contest participation was never heard @ NX6T OR W7AYT. 

While I saw an occasional "9" spot, no INQP QSOs ended up in the WQ6X log either; likewise for DEQP.

From the Concord location, oddly enough, no SSB stations were heard in the State QSO Parties, only Cw. 

All complexities aside, 7QP and NEQP were the only contest events out of Cinco DE Contest that were actually worth spending any real time pursuing.

Because 7QP ended at midnight and NEQP was (per the rules) on hold until Sunday morning, neither of the operations (NX6T or WQ6X) had to contend with the obligatory intentional 40-meter QRM usually experienced after 07:30z - I guess, a blessing in disguise.

Filing a 3830Score for WQ6X AFTER N6KI submitted the NX6T
score exposed a design flaw in the WA7BNM contest calendar.

Shortly after I reported it to Bruce Horn the problem was resolved.

Now in the WQ6X 3830 Statistics BOTH score submissions appear
on the list; at this rate, WQ6X might even surpass last years contest submissions.

Did YOU participate in 7QP or NEQP?

Is WQ6X or NX6T (or Both) in YOUR Log?


Friday, May 18, 2018

WQ6X survives contest weekend with Filtered-Frustration

FT-1000mp + QF-1A (x2) + MFJ-752B
During the April 21st contest weekend, the goal was to run the CQ-MM contest as NX6T but
remotely from W7AYT's QTH in Concord, Ca. along with the MIQP and NEQP QSO parties,
running my FT-1000mp into the WQ6X Lazy 8JK Sloper I have set up @ W7AYT. 

For this multi-contest BLOG entry I want to pay a special tribute to ALL the intentional QRM'ers out there who manage to find me during nearly EVERY 40 meter CW or RTTY contest and attempt to make my life MISERABLE.

As mentioned in previous BLOG entries, I am cobbling together a number of QRM/QRN reduction units to eliminate these pencil-necked geeks in the audio passband and eventually the I-F line as well.

WQ6X/6 @W7AYT's QTH in Concord, Ca.
Case in point? For the CQ-MM contest, I no sooner put out a CQ call on 40-meter cw, when a buzzing sound flooded the headphones. Neither the K3's NB or NR helped resolve it. I quickly took refuge on 80-meters only to encounter the same buzzing there, except that NoW the NB circuits knocked
most of it out - worthless on 40 and very workable on 80; what's THAT all about?
Running the NX6T laptop audio through the onsite Autek QF-1A filters @W7AYT
managed to "erase" some of the buzz as well.

A clever cabling arrangement also routed the laptop audio for NX6T's signal into the Autek QF-1a audio filter line, taking advantage of the PEAK filtering of the QF-1a to "PoP" signals above the noise and into being copyable. At the same time, the filters can process the FT-1000mp receive audio.
Of ALL the Q-multiplier style of audio filters I have tried, the analog QF-1a boxes are by far top of
the line; even 40 years later.

Antennas @W7AYT

Altho the MIQP and NEQP QSO parties were also on for the weekend, signals were weak from Michigan and even weaker from Nebraska; suggesting that the 8JK sloper
at W7AYT favors the N-E more than it favors due-East.

For 80-meters the antenna seems to be more of a "cloud warmer", but on 40 and 20 the radiation-angle drops noticeably for domestic contests and some DX.

I also used the contest weekend as an opportunity to monitor NX6T's signals (originating in Fallbrook) at the W7AYT QTH. It's feels a bit WEIRD to hear a transmitter
I am controlling from Concord but running in Fallbrook make its way into the headphones in Concord.

NX6T's 1300+ watt signals were heard on 160, 80
and 40 meters; sometimes quite loud.

NX6T Tower 2 - Stepp-IR + 2-el on 40
Saturday evening when running the ACOM 2000a during Q-MM, on
40 meters I noticed an interesting anomaly: pointing the 2-el Shorty-40
to 30-degrees resulted in 1400 watts
at the antenna.

Turning the antenna to 90-degrees reduced the power out by 15% - down to 1200 watts.

Hmmmmm - I wonder what THAT
is/was all about.  Should I be concerned?  Is this a sign of
bigger problems ahead?

CQ-MM Summary Statistics
When it was all over, I submitted the score to the 3830Scores website.

It would seem that WQ6X took 19th place (worldwide), 12th place (North America),
11th place (USA) and 1st Place (CA) - not bad for just screwing around.
3 & 2 QSO logs for MIQP & NEQP were also submitted.

Did YOU work the CQ-MM contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?


Saturday, May 12, 2018

NX6T takes another 1st place for NA in the JIDX Cw Contest

In years past, NX6T has either taken 1st place worldwide (as we did for 2017), or at least 1st place for North America in the Japanese JIDX Cw contest, held every April.

This year due to poor space WX conditions we knew it would not be an easy contest run from NX6T in "Nash-Ville" (Fallbrook, Ca. - north of San Diego).

Looking through our past log entries, it would seem that JIDX Cw 2018 was the worst JIDX
event we've ever participated in.

In previous JIDX contests HG7T (from Hungary) has been our main rival. For 2018, while HG7T was nowhere to be found, they were replaced by a NEW entry in the form of KH6RX who took 1st place worldwide, giving us another 1st place for North America.
NX6T after Dark

In previous JIDX contests (when I was operating from NX6T on-site)

I often found a couple of hours to engage in the NM/ND/GA QSO parties, as well as the OK/OM SSWB contest. For 2018, running remotely made it tricky to do anything but run the JIDX GiG; the
other events will have to wait until 2019.
Waiting for 80 to open to JA
Due to daylight savings time, the CW JIDX contest opens at 07:00z - midnight (PDT) - the JIDX SSB GiG in November begins at 07:00z - (11pm PDT).

Because we run as a multiple-single operation, as always, Dennis N6KI puts the first QSOs in the log, then rousts me from sleep around 09:00z.

This allows me to take over on 40 meters and eventually work down
to 80. On Sunday morning I even managed to work a SUPER-Weak JA station on 160.

By 13:00z the JA openings are usually over, allowing me to go back to bed. Other ops give a listen on 20-meters in the late morning to work stations as the MUF increases for a 15 meter opening in the mid afternoon.  Unfortunately, for the 2nd year in a row no 15-meter opening materialized.

Waiting for the "day shift" to come on, I began "sweeping" the yagi's from left-to-right and-back, looking for those illusive 10-w stations.  Using the QF-1a audio filter on the receive audio made weak
stations "pop" into audibility.

5pm - 8pm (local) usually manifests what is known as B-I-C (as you can see above).  Then around 03:00z the gang heads off to dinner
and I take over for a couple of hours until around 05:30z.

This year, during the dinner hour 20 meters produced very few JA QSOs, leaving me bored and frustrated. For the first time ever,  I couldn't wait to be relieved so I could go back to bed to be ready
for my final 09:00z stint.

Taking over at 09:00z I was disappointed in the lack of JA activity.
The Russian military beacons had decent signal levels so I was expecting a plethora of JA signals - WRONG!

Stat comparison 2017 - 2018
Unfortunately, for 2018 it would seem that not enough JA's played in their own contest. There should be 5x more stations playing in their own DX contest. What good is a JA DX contest if JA stations don't participate?  JA stations should be calling CQ, not the stateside stations.

As you can see from this year's stats, our score was 48% of that turned in for 2017. While the SFI and solar indices were not great this year, for 2017 we endured a K-Index of 4 most of the weekend and
yet we made over 700 QSOs. It shows to goya' that sometimes the geomagnetosphere does not perform the way we expect it to.

Did you play in this years JIDX contest?

How many JA prefectures made it to YOUR Log?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

WQ6X Plays ShowME, RTTY & Sprint

In radiosport, sometimes it seems like I am ALWAYS contesting and never writing, while at other times I am cranking out reams of BLOG material and pictures. For April, somehow BLOG publishing took a back seat to a number of on the air events; some from W7AYT,
some remote from NX6T and sometimes both together,

In relation to Radiosport, the 1st weekend of April was one of those ODD weekends. For openers, MO & MS QSO Parties put interesting counties on the air. New this year are the State Parks on-the-air events; this weekend from Florida and Texas, altho I only heard
ONE TXSPOA station. These GiGs were accompanied by the
Polish SP Dx Contest and the Spanish EA RTTY Contest.

WQ6X test-driving STEREO QF-1A filters
After receiving double certificates from the 2017 MOQP, I decided
to take things to the next level by running MOQP remotely as NX6T followed by WQ6X portably from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.
Not many OPs have the opportunity to accomplish a Dual-Run.

Running from W7AYT gave me the opportunity to test the dual QF-1a filters - one each for the MAIN-Rx and the SUB-Rx - using the audio-balance feature of the Yaesu FT-1000mp transceiver.

Too make things even MORE interesting, I took the opportunity to listen for NX6T's contest CQ's from Fallbrook on the FT-1000mp at W7AYT's QTH. While I could hear NX6T on 160 80 & 40, the reverse was true ONLY on 40 meters. The Lazy 8JK Sloper at W7AYT is broadside NorthEast; whereas Fallbrook is SouthEast (around
KK6NON after a fulfilling NA SPRINT
In the middle of this complex weekend was the 4 hour SSB Sprint GiG, which I ran from W7AYT's QTH. While 49 QSOs is nothing to get excited about, considering the limited antenna setup it is amazing I surpassed 40 QSOs. Running Sprint GiGs is loaded with its own unique challenges. KK6NON made a strong run, live from NX6T, taking I believe 2nd place.

After the Sprint GiG faded into the static and STN#1 went dark, I remoted in and configured the station to run RTTY @ about 750 watts to make a presence in the EA RTTY contest; just in time for 40 meters
to go "Long". 

When I ran out of S&P stations, calling CQ brought a bunch of new stations, including several Spanish stations. If they had been calling CQ in their own contest, I would have had less of a need to call CQ and run a frequency. EA stations are worth 3 points as well as many new multipliers. They should realize, if they run a frequency, we will come.

The Lazy 8JK Sloper @ W7AYT is still not yet performing up to standards. The phasing cable was originally cut for 20 meters. Because of the low sunspot cycle SFI I recently trimmed it for 40 meters. Maybe one day WQ6X will be heard in Europe from the W7AYT QTH.

Because of poor timing, I could never find time to put even a handful of SPDX QSOs in the N1MM+ SPDX log; from WQ6X OR NX6T. Look for NX6T/WQ6X next year. Sometimes you JUST can't make it a GO for every contest.

To put a wrap on April's 1st contest weekend, for Sunday I hunted MOQP stations remotely via NX6T while simultaneously looking for MO stations as WQ6X from Concord. The difference in signal levels
at each location was DRAMATIC. Both Concord/Fallbrook could hear stations the other location couldn't.

At least there was MO activity.  MSQP stations never made it to my headphones or into the N1MM+ MSQP log.

Did YOU work the QSO parties, SP-DX or EA RTTY?

Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR log?


Saturday, March 31, 2018

The DR. Validates Cascading Filters

IC-7000 + TS-450 + 752-C + NIR-12 + R.S. Equalizer
This blog entry is unique in that I am writing it "around" an excerpt from the Sept. 2014 QST Magazine's "The Dr. is in" column wherein Joel Hallas answered a long-standing question for me.

As I have shared in many Contest BLOG entries, the Autek QF-1a has become my favorite external audio filter. I liked it SO much that I bought a 2nd unit.

Because the FT-1000mp is a dual-receive unit, both receivers now have a QF-1a on the output; and of course the main receiver has its built-in eDSP.

Unfortunately, the Sub-RX has no built-in DSP.   I am strongly considering putting the JPS-NIR 12 in the Sub-RX audio line, giving a DSP-equivalent to the right ear as well.

With the NIR-12 in place, both RX's will have shapeable bandwidth and an auto notch, to vanquish broadcast carriers
and unwanted RTTY QRM that often
shows up in the phone bands.

Now, there is an old saying that if one
is good, two will be better. Then, if done carefully, THREE may provide the best combination; although not necessarily. 
Over the years, I have brought various audio filters and DSP devices into my operating environments. 

Of course, radios w/built-in DSP (like
my previous FT-920 and the current FT-1000mp), even if only audio-based can transform a frustrating contest weekend
into one that is largely under control.

After writing the QST-Dr, I spent a weekend running a portable contest operation from N6GEO's cabin QTH in Twain Harte. 
 During this operation I experimented with switching the cascade order of an MFJ 752-C, a JPS NIR-12 and a Radio Shaft Stereo Equalizer (15 settings per channel).
When I settled on the above order as the most effective approach, I was not surprised that Dr. Joel's detailed analysis confirmed my discovery; or did my discovery confirm his analysis?
Either way, that combination of audio devices gave me a DSP notch filter (in the NIR-12) along with the ability to shift/narrow the audio bandpass; all before being finally processed by the amplified equalizer.

While there might be an advantage to equalizing certain narrow frequency bands BEFORE the 752-C and the NIR-12, the active audio-amplification of the equalizer seems to work BEST at the end of the audio chain; not in the middle of it.

Taking things one step further, my biggest 
disappointment with the MFJ 752 is that the so-called NL (Noise Limiter) circuits are all but worthless. (The difference between the B, C & D models is cosmetic - the circuits are all the same,)

W6A in 2012 A-A Contest

The NL switch positions could be better used for other things. In place of the NL diodes, I wired in the circuit board from an old MFJ CWF-2 audio filter. The "SSB" switch position now invokes the 180hz Cw filter setting, while the "CW" position invokes the 80hz filter setting.  Doing this allows yet another form of cascading filter elements, with the amplifying stage at the END of that audio line.

Adding filters inside of filters also furthers one of my design goals, which is to repurpose old electronics rather than sending it to the trash heap.

 What all of this has also taught me is that the newest technology is not always the BEST technology for eliminating certain combinations of QRM and QRN. 

For me, having many knobs to twiddle
in a variety of combinations, gives me
a greater likelihood of copying that marginally weak signal.  In radiosport, every point or 10-points can eventually add up to a winning score.

Do YOU make use of external audio filters?

What discoveries have YOU made?


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

WQ6X Dual-OPs another SSB WPX with N6KI

N6KI switching STN-1 to a remote WQ6X

Over the years, I have somehow made the trek from the SF bay
area to Fallbrook for another event in the continuing saga of the
WQ6X callsign making it to the WPX SSB contest.

For 2016, we had 14 operators, all overlapping shifts giving us
nearly 48 hours of OP time.  Last year, the operator response
was so poor that WQ6X ran a remote single-OP (all band) entry.
([CLICK HERE] to read about that.)

For 2018, our usual SSB OPs ("the usual gang of idiots") were either down for the count (i.e. sick - or so they said) or off basking in sunnier climes (e.g.. South America or the Caribbean) running one of those weird prefix contest regular stations (like PJ2T or VP5P). That left it
to Dennis (N6KI) and myself (WQ6X) to put in a WPX SSB showing. Dennis ram live onsite and I remoted in from the SF bay area.

Dennis warned me that he had been lacking energy for several days and would probably have to cut operating shifts short, leaving it to me to keep things going. While it is true that his dinner breaks were longer than normal, N6KI ended up making 2/3's of the QSOs in this year's WQ6X WPX SSB log - GO Figure!

"M", "F" & "K" military beacons

Next to 20 meters, 40 meters was our busiest band. Because I run the dinner and 2AM shifts,
I am always spending
LoTs of time on 40.

While I detest the invasion of our amateur bands by non-amateur entities, the Russian military beacons ARE useful for determining propagation paths into East and Northern Asia.
 At 11:23z I was able  to copy the "M", "K" & "F" beacons.

Unfortunately, the goeswith to 40 meter contesting is always some
sort of intentional QRM. While this weekend was not as bad as that contest with the IDIOT playing the "F-U" recording over and over again, the BiG pain in the ass Saturday evening was intentional RTTY QRM on my 7134.34 run frequency. While the K3's auto-notch facility notched out the RTTY tones, it left the audio with a low-left "clicking" sound. A move to 7136.36 immediately presented me with the infamous "data cranker".  Then, after moving to 7135.35, the
RTTY QRM'ers evidently got bored and finally gave it up.

Tower #2 @ NX6T

As usual, I ran remote from the bay area. SSB contests run remotely are at best very tricky and at worst a total disaster.

This last weekend was somewhere in the middle. Setting the VOX thresh-old and delay taking into account internet latency
is very challenging indeed. Somehow I got the message through.

While my frequency runs were not as long and as impressive as N6KI's, nevertheless, I/WE attracted a LoT of takers to our run frequencies.

Whiteboard "compass"

During the weekend,
for high-band operation WQ6X often ran the 3-element Stepp-IR yagi, offering the opportunity
to run BI-directional
(for working AS & SA simultaneously or KH6 and NE simultaneously).
The Stepp-IR antenna
is physically pointed
90-degrees "ahead"
of wherever the rotor indicator says the 40-meter yagi is pointed.

Scribbling a pseudo-compass on the whiteboard helped me to figure out which compass direction to point the antenna.

MFJ 752-B (Top) & MFJ 752-C (Bottom)
This weekend was all about testing new equipment.
At the NX6T Fallbrook station, Dennis recently installed a newly acquired Elecraft KPA-1500 amplifier, while WQ6X ran station

#1 into the tried-and-true ACOM 2000a amplifier.

On the WQ6X receiving end, the laptop IP-Sound audio was routed through an ever-evolving pair of MFJ 752 Signal Enhancers (a 752-B and a 752-C). Having recently installed an internal MFJ CW-2 board inside the 752-B unit, this weekend allowed me to determine whether the MFJ units can enhance SSB signals w/o the CWF-2 unit compromising the SSB copy.

Also this weekend, I spent time playing around with 2 variations on an outboard Gating Noise Limiter circuit.

Gating limiters are ess-entially a cross between
a squelch circuit and

a noise limiting circuit.

Despite all the cool features in the FT-1000mp, because I run a LoT
of contest events remotely, having superior methods available for deciphering laptop audio will make the difference between "arm
chair" copy and S-0 readability.

While our OP time this weekend was lacking (38.5 out of the allowed 48 hours) we did amazingly well. Based on examining the Multi-Single submissions to the 3830 Scores website, the following seems to be evident - WQ6X took:

16th place Worldwide
5th place for North America
4th place for USA
1st place for W6 (California)

Did YOU play around in the 2018 WPX SSB contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR log?