Friday, 16 June 2017

The PL259 myth

You often read or hear that every PL259 connector on your coax adds 0,5dB loss. This might be the truth on UHF and higher. But on HF/VHF that's not the case.

Recently I was thinking about the 50m Aircell7 coax I run to my antenna now through a homemade disconnect/patch panel. So, this coaxcable to my HF antenna contains 4 PL259 connectors and a female/female barrel to connect the 2 pieces. 50m Aircell7 has a loss of about 1,8dB on 28MHz and 2,4dB on 50MHz. I've no interest in VHF/UHF so leave that out.

At the new antennamast I want to have another patchpanel at the bottom of the mast like I had before in my previous QTH. I want to add some lightning protectors and a galvanic isolation transformer for the highest (HF) antenna in my mast. Now I was afraid all the PL259 connectors would add a significant loss to my transmission line. But after all I think it is not that much.

Steve Katz, WB2WIK/6 demonstrated at the Dayton Hamvention in 1985 that the loss in an 83-1SP PL-259 connector averages .0435 dB per connector at 28 MHz.
The primary difference between a "zero loss" PL-259 installation and a lossy one is how the connector is installed

PE4BAS experimental test site
However, I'm not a believer. I like to test this out. Although I haven't any high sensitive equipment, only my trusty MFJ-259B. Is the PL259 loss a myth or can I bust this? I did some test this evening and made some interesting discoveries.

My not-so-scientific test setup: MFJ-259B, 2 pieces of 10m long Aircell7 coax laid down in the too long grass with PL259 connectors both sides. Only soldered at the center. Braid is screwed into the connector when I assembled it in 2005.

10m Aircell7 has a calculated loss of 0,36dB. 2 PL connectors have a calculated loss of 0,087dB = 0,3687dB (0,37dB including the female/female barrel connector). Total loss of the 2 pieces calculated 0,74dB. Lets see:

Left: 1 Piece of coax - Right 2 Pieces connected
Of course the MFJ-259 is not very accurate and has losses itself. However, this is not a bad result.
Ready to do a practical real life connector test...

13 connectors in total
I connected the 2 pieces of coax with as much connectors and connecting barrels as I had. Besides 2 times PL259 I added 11 connectors. This should add a calculated loss of about 0,4785 dB (0,48dB). But in real life it only add 0,1dB.

Another test....add 4 times a 90 degree connector. Now this is going to be serious!!! There could be a faulty connector. So test just one of them:

Still higher loss. 1 90 degree connector 0,7dB loss,  The 90 degree corner does probabely affect the impedance of 50 Ohm?

PE1BVQ Hans is always searching for silverplated old PL (and other) connectors at radio rallies. Preferable the original amphenol ones. I asked him why, he says they are the best, others can add a lot of loss in your system. Could that be true? Or is this another myth that's going to be busted?

Let's see:

I changed the 90 degree connector for a silverplated original Amphenol one. Gone is the loss! How strange is that?

Well, of course I don't use any superduper sensitive low loss equipment but it shows that there can be a difference in connectors. As long as the connectors are mounted in a straight line it hardly gives any loss. Very important of course is a good soldering connection between the coax and the PL connector.

A few tips:

* Solder both core and braid. Best way in my opinion is how it is done by K3LR.
* Keep connectors clean so they can make a good lossless connection
* Tighten them well. I checked that as well this evening, a loose connector gives about 1dB or more loss and propabely a lot of unwanted RF around the loose connection!
* Prefer silverplated (Amphenol) connectors, they probabely are the best you can get.
* Amphenol too expensive? Look for them on radio rallies. I payed about 50 cents for the 90 degree connector.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The 6m band holy grail

For us here in Europe the holy grail of the 6m band would be working Japan on 50MHz. There are several thoughts about how a distance like this can happen. But at least you need ES propagation or Sporadic E just what you like to call it. This happens only a few times a year and only at a small timeslot around 9 UTC it is possible to hear and transmit your signal to Japan. There are years that this doesn't even happen at all. With JT65/JT9 mode it is a lot easier to spot Japan, but a QSO is still difficult as the JT modes are just too slow. However I managed to spot a few Japanese, best distance was 9125km spotted JR2WYD. My neighbour PA0O even worked Korea on 6m for the first time in his 30 years DXing on the 6m band!  I was surprised I spotted DS4EOI from Korea today at -16dB myself, that's a great signal on JT65! Think of my antenna system which consists of my Watson W2000 triband at only 6m height and 3 pieces on Aircell7 coax all connected through PL connectors. Crappy 6m setup you would say. Imagine what could happen if I had my mast and 5 element 6m yagi up!

Another spot intrigues me. N6ML at that time of the day. Strange propagation....

Some 6m experiments

Did some experiments last evening. On 6m that was, a band that is only really open during the so called ES season. And wow, it is open for shure. Last couple of years it was not that good I remember, but this year it is very good.

First experiment was some CQ calling on CW and view if it was received. Wow, it was received. Did not expect that. A easy view if propagation is good and in what direction.

Second was to call CQ on USB, see if someone would come back to my tiny signal. Using about 50W this time on my 6m heigh W2000 triband antenna. And yes, they came back....a complete pile-up. Everyone wants to talk to me....feel like a important DXCC ;-)

Last experiment was to work DX on JT65, but although Brazil was received (-10dB!) it is not a easy task to work DX with my setup. However I know it is possible and just a matter of perseverance...

No real DX QSO, but I was spotted in the USA by WD8JJA with -18dB. Theoretically a QSO would have been possible... I used about 30W.