Tuesday, May 7, 2019

WQ6X Wangles & Wrangles Stereo-Cw for yet another Cinco-de-Contest Weekend

L o o K  M a, no  w i r e s - Oh, the JoY of wireless headphones
While I have run nearly a dozen Cinco-de-Contest weekends over the years, looking back,
this is the first time to ever make use of an Elecraft K3/0 for remoting in.

When the operating schedule was initially drawn up, Dennis (N6KI) had me slated to run most of Saturday.  What ACTUALLY happened was more operators signed on the last minute requiring my "expertise" to run the cinco-GiGs only in the beginning (6 to 9 am, PDT time) and then to frantically finish the search for New England stations on Sunday and that "other" station in Delaware, altho
none were actually heard.

In summary, preparations were made for the following radiosport GiGs:
  1. 12:00z - ARI Dx Contest
  2. 13:00z - 7QP QSO Party
  3. 15:00z - INQP QSO Party
  4. 17:00z - DEQP QSO Party
  5. 20:00z - NEQP QSO Party
I arrived Friday to first spend some time re-cabling both installations @W7AYT; the 10-meter yagi now has a switch position, waiting patiently for the solar-flux (SFI) to bring the high-bands back to
real life.

In recent visits to W7AYT the WQ6X Lazy 8JK Sloper was an in-shack RFI producer on 40 meters; allegedly the band it was tune-focused for. 

Of course the main recipient of that RF
was the RIGEXPERT PLUS that interfaces the computer to the radio - 2 of the 3 COM ports just disappear - "dematerialize". 

Restarting N1MM+ reactivates the com-port "Sniff" routine, resurrecting them once again (appropriate for the just-passed Easter weekend).

Connecting a piece of leftover yellow Butternut radial wire between the grounding wing-nuts of the FT-1000mp and the MFJ-949E tuner resolved the RFI problem on 40 - Nicely.  Unfortunately, it only succeeded in shifting the RFI problem to the next harmonic - 20 meters. 

Now, instead of bombing the computer interface, the errant rf corrupts the N1MM+ address space, resulting in a "software crash" message.  Restarting N1MM+, the remaining 20-meter time was spent using the CH-250 vertical and the Cobra sloper wire to finish the NEQP contest on Sunday.

This contest weekend space-WX condx. switched from a miserable SFI of 66 and a K-Index of 3 to an all-of-a-sudden SFI rise to 74.  While the K-Index dropped numerically, operationally the atmospheric noise was enough to distort communication in the SF bay area, while internet burbling put holes in Cw signals requiring additional repeats during access to NX6T.

When not hassling rf & noise problems in the shack, my attention was freed up to spend more
time learning to leverage the "Art" of stereo-Cw in a multi-contest environment.
You may recall that I have written about Stereo Cw before:
  1. [x] Stereo-CW - it's EASIER than You Think
  2. [x] Some Further Thoughts regarding Stereo CW
Clever audio cabling allowed switching the outboard audio filters to between the FT-1000mp and
the NX6T internet access.  For handling noise, the FT-1000mp's NB circuits were all but worthless, altho the MP's audio DSP helped considerably (for the Main-RX).  For the Sub-RX, the JPS NIR-12 and Autek QF-1A accomplished essentially the same thing.

With the noise more-or-less under control, my attention turned to reducing adjacent audio-QRM by way of proper balance (at that moment) between the two QF-1A's/my ears.  In the above pic, notice that the left channel utilizes the high-Q Peak filter, while the right channel utilizes the more vague lower-Q HP (High Pass) filter setting.

Adjusting the Frequency knobs of both units, signals can be "moved around" inside my listening experience, to a better "position" where the signal is more readily copyable.   Making this work is
an "Art", requiring LoTs of patient practice.

Stereo Cw makes frequency running more effective.  I can either peak a desired signal by using
the radio's CLAR control, tuning it to maximum peak in the audio filters and/or adjust one of the
audio frequency knobs to effectively do the same thing.  When Searching & Pouncing (S&P'ing),
with the two QF-1A's, properly set, when I tune "through" a signal it shifts from one ear to the other, depending on whether I am tuning up or down in frequency.

With all this as a foundation, I attempted to make all the QSO parties happen, one way or another; with a variety of (but not unexpected) results.  Being on the West Coast, it's not surprising that 7QP was WQ6X's best performing event; then again at NX6T, NEQP was the main focus.

Other than 7QP the station turnout for NEQP, DEQP & INQP was quite a disappointment.  INQP produced only 1 QSO and DEQP produced two QSOs on different band, but with the same station.  While propagation conditions were far from ideal, this is EVEN MORE reason for stations to participate in their own QSO party; last weekend, Florida stations were out en-masse'; especially the rover stations.

Ending the QSO Party action at 03:00z (as with INQP) hardly gives us an opportunity for West Coast stations to experience QSO opportunities.  NEQP wasn't much better, ending at 05:00z, but at LEAST we get a 2nd run from 13:00z to 24:00z on Sunday.  While I would prefer a 7QP continuation on Sunday, at least running until 07:00z gives us QSO opportunities on40, 80 & 160.

While WQ6X did not take a 1st place in this year's 7QP QSO party,
all indications are that a 3rd-place was achieved.

A major disappointment was a lack of 7QP 160 meter activity.  Conditions on 160 were actually ideal.  Both the CH-250 vertical and the Lazy 8JK Sloper tuned 160 nicely.

Also lacking in activity was 10 meters; not because the band wasn't open, but
because everyone was listening for CQ's and no one (except WQ6X) was actually transmitting.

You may remember last June I wrote a series of BLOG entries detailing my beefs with various kinds of contest activities.  ([CLICK HERE] to read that series.)
A major BEEF this weekend were the DOZENS of stations hearing my "CQ 7QP" or "CQ NEQP" blindly calling me from outside of those areas?  Question: do you know who I am looking for when I call for 7QP/NEQP stations?  If you DON'T know, then FIND OUT BEFORE CALLING.  If you DO know that I am looking ONLY for 7th-area and 1st-area stations then why are you (W0,  KB5, or K4 stations) calling me.  Remember: Listen BE-4 you transmit.  If you don't know what I am doing then DON'T call me.

Like wise, if you are a station operating from the seventh call area and don't have a "7" in your callsign, either sign with a /7 (ex: WQ6X/7) or sign your call with the appropriate county designator
(ex: WQ6X/ORDES or WQ6X/WAKNG, etc.)

As for the ARI contest, too many things conspired against that happening for WQ6X - next year.

Did YOU operate in the Cinco-de-Contests?
Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR LoG?

NEWSFLASH - 4-23-2020
Just received this week was a plaque for our 1ST PLACE finish in the NEQP.

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