Wednesday, September 5, 2018

All Asian SSB - not All it was cracked up to be

In recent years the All Asian SSB contest has increasingly been a disappointment, largely due
to the declining sunspot cycle in the last few years.. In fact, there are more Chinese, Philippine
and West Malaysian stations than in years past, except that due to the current low SFI, "nobody"
(at least not in N. America) can hear most of them.

The operating experience @ NX6T was frustrating because while we had plenty of available operators this time around, frequently there was nothing left to do but listen, listen, and listen
some more.

Running portable from W7AYT's QTH (in Concord, Ca.) offered up the opportunity to tweak the WQ6X Lazy 8JK sloper antenna I have been experimenting with during
the summer.

Unfortunately, while the new terminator resistors seem to have lowered the radiation angle somewhat and improved propagation to Indonesia (YB, YC, YD & YG), Oceania stations don't count when running All Asian from W6-Land.

Using the CH-250 vertical onsite @ W7AYT made most signals louder but along with an increase in atmospheric noise; i.e. the S/N ratio did NoT improve.

Using the WQ6X antenna switch to parallel the CHA-250 and 8Jk Sloper did not seem to produce the same results
as 2 weeks ago during the NAQP SSB contest - Go Figure.

As it turns out, the only successful non-Asian activity was the 5 QSOs put in the AQP (Alabama QSO Party) log and the dozen QSOs made as NX6T during Sunday's TNQP (Tennessee QSO Party) GiG. In the AOP event, unfortunately, all Alabama stations worked were in Madison county, except one station in Walker county. The propagation from the SF bay area to Alabama was so poor (how
poor was it?) I could've WALKED to Walker county faster.

Luckily, southeast propagation picked up late Sunday afternoon allowing me to work the TNQP
as NX6T after the All Asian GiG was over with (5pm local time). Because 20 meters had already opened to the Pacific (West) and no longer W4-land (the East), I began TNQP action on 40 meters.

In the last hour, there was an explosion of W4 signals on 80 meters giving me a shot at a top score
(I believe running as NX6T took a TNQP 2nd-place for W6-land).

N 6 K I  +  N N 6 X  +  N 6 E E G

For this contest weekend, 10 & 15 meters never materialized at either NX6T -OR- W7AYT, except
for JE1CKA on 15 meters (with an S-2 signal) during the All Asian contest. 20 meters gave us weak hope, while 40 meters carried the bulk of our operation. At 12:00z WQ6X put the QF-1 & QF-1A
filters in-line and, using a magnifying glass managed to put a handful of UA0 & JA stations in the
log; the one JA I "missed" was not a mult so I was not allowed to work him unless I invested 10 minutes and became a "run" station.

One of the more fun QSOs was with a UA0 station calling CQ wanting to ragchew.  Altho his English was considerably broken, we managed a 2 minute QSO out of which I received a 5-7 report from Magadan (where the "M" beacon is located) and his age of 33.  With that information I could legitimately enter him in the NX6T log.

QF-1 (top) & QF-1A

The Autek filters made an incredible difference during this contest weekend.

The Yaesu FT-1000mp's split audio feature runs into an Autek QF-1 & QF-1A filter cascade for the left ear and a JPS
NIR-12 + MFJ 752-C for the right ear.

Being able to switch between the
CHA-250 vertical and the 8JK sloper
also helped pull signals through.

For several weeks, it seemed that the "intentional QRM" (at least on 40 meters) had largely subsided.
Then comes THIS All Asian weekend.  When I came on shift at 11:00z (4am) the Woodpecker Radar (on 6.995) was furiously tormenting 40-meter communications; even at 7.220 it was an annoyance. 

Once I figured out how to filter most
of that out and call "CQ All Asia" on 7170.70 I was met with our friendly neighborhood "Data Cranker".

An hour later while calling "CQ All Asia" on 3729.29, the cranker was back.
Now I KNOW this was no accident.

I was ALSO plagued by the National Tuneup Frequency (NTF) throughout
the weekend. 

Luckily, the K3's auto-notch is rather effective at notching MOST of carriers out of the passband.
The remaining 20db of carrier audio was then auto-notched by the NIR-12 DSP unit processing audio for the right ear.  Auto-notch filters are one of God's top-10 most AWEsome inventions, but ONLY for SSB; on CW and RTTY auto-notch is relatively worthless.

I am so USED to experiencing intentional QRM on 40 meters that I feel blessed if I am left alone all weekend.

If I am going to have to put up with "intruders" in the Amateur bands then they better give us something in return.

With the Russian military beacons on 7.039, what they give back with their presence is a "free" propagation report between California and various locations in Eastern Russia.  On Saturday
morning (10:18z) the only beacons heard were the SLOW sending "M" beacon and the FASTER sending "K" beacon (with a longer pause between repeats).

The Indonesian SSB stations who love to ragchew below 7.020 give us nothing back in exchange
for all their noise and cacophony.  One morning I even heard several Buddhists chanting on 7.018; whether it was multiple stations or one station with 6 monks behind the microphone, I could not ascertain.

What about YOU?  Did YOU work the All Asian contest?
How many Asian prefixes and countries made it to YOUR Log?

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