Monday, September 30, 2019

#CQWW DX RTTY contest experiment

Event: CQWW DX RTTY 2019
Section:  Single Operator Low Power  All Band 
Logger: N1MM+ newest version
RTTY engine: MMTTY & 2Tone
Station: Icom IC-7300 70W
Antenna: Multiband Inverted-V 2x20m ladderline fed, apex @12m agl

Yet again I have to write I don't like RTTY contests. However, after the experiments done last weekend it is a huge difference operating with a IC-7300 instead of my old IC-706.

After a small discussion about the contest PA4O Peter recommended I should try 2 receivers for RTTY. The standard MMTTY and 2Tone. His experience was that 2Tone sometimes decodes better as MMTTY. This was my first real contest with the IC-7300 and I saw it as a technical challenge to make everything work like it should for a proper RTTY contest station.

First of all the IC-7300 needs to communicate with N1MM+ at a higher speed level as the CAT
control I use with HRD. The higher speed setting is mainly to be shure the spectrum display in N1MM+ is working. So I had to make a different setting profiles with the help of WT2P Cedrick's description on his website. It also describes the RTTY FSK setup with the help of EXTFSK in MMTTY. I was smart enough to do this already on the 7th of this month.

Remembering all the setup challenges I had with the IC-706 over the past years I didn't expect it to work immidiatly, but it did! That was quite a relief! I made some QSOs and after a while I concluded everything worked rock stable. Time to do the second experiment, the setup of 2Tone. I found a good tutorial on I got it working instantly. I have to say, the Icom IC-7300 makes live of a hamradio operator a lot easier....

But what are my experiences with this setup?
Well, first of all my transmit signal was better (read clean) since I use FSK RTTY now, but I don't think it gave me extra QSOs?

Screenshot from the internal decoder
The Icom IC-7300 has a special RTTY Tone Pass Filter (TPF) that is really good, I used it all the time and I'm shure I could receive signals that I would not be able to receive with the IC-706.

I used 3 RTTY decoders: MMTTY, 2Tone and the IC-7300 internal encoder. Personal experience...well sometimes 2Tone was better, sometimes MMTTY and sometimes the internal RTTY decoder. Overall MMTTY was best in my opinion.

The N1MM+ spectrum display experience. Unfortunately almost useless. The only thing you can see is if a station that has been spotted can be heard at your receiver. But on a contest busy band there are so many spots and signals you can't see much actually....

Screenshot from my computer. A bit messy....that's called experimenting. Click to see the big picture.
I only participated a few hours on Sunday. Started on 20m and 15m. Searching for interesting DX. And found some. Only S&P style. I did some running on 40m and 80m in the evening. 40m didn't work out. 80m always does. The last 15 minutes of my effort I decided to do some S&P on 80m. I worked remote from the living room and only controlled with the up/down arrows. I have to say that I found a station every 6-10 clicks on the button, that's 1 station every 600-1000Hz.

Well, I consider this experiment as successful. I tried everything I wanted to experiment with and it all works. I will never get a good score in a RTTY contest just because I don't like it. Besides that I don't think you will get a good score with S&P. You need a good antenna, good propagation and....well I hate to write it but I think you need a bit of power at least for running. And then you need to get spotted and have a pile-up that does not end within a few minutes. And you need time, a lot of time. PA4O did participate for over 32 hours and ended up with 1220 QSO, that's a lot more as me (and probabely many others).

Above a map from most of the contacts. I operated just over 5 hours. ODX was YB1ELP (Indonesia, 11223km).

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Latest 60m DX - 7X5FG

It's incredible that in times of low or even no sunspots and at the depth of the solarcycle the 60m band is full of DX. Not only in wintertime but even in summer. For instance PG0DX spots ZL2CC almost every morning, ZL from PA is max. DX and it is no doubt always longpath propagation. When I started operating on 60m in 2015 I had never thought this would be my DX band for the next years. Especially the activity and DX is booming now 4 years later. I've not yet counted the total DXCC I have worked on 60m. But this year only I was able to work 40 new 60m band DXCC, see the huge list on the right side of my blog site. Most of the DX is worked in FT8, however 7X5FG from Algeria is a exception. I saw his call spotted over the last week but till yesterday evening I was not able to catch his signal. I checked out his almost steady 5.352 CW signal every evening and now suddenly I hear/saw him making contacts without being spotted on the cluster. So, I took my chance and was able to get into the log. I hear/see some more CW on 60m the FT8 hype over? It might be time I continue my struggle to learn CW again...

It is well worth to look at 7X5FG's QRZ page by the way. He has made a very nice 6-band 2 element delta loop antenna from which he made some detailed photos.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

VERON HF day - DP1POL/DP0GVN presentation

Trophy giving: left to right: PE4BAS Bas 2nd place,
PA0AGF Remy 3rd place. PA0Q Hans, PA9M Marcel organisation
I've been attending the VERON HF day in Apeldoorn last weekend. Not only I got my 2nd place trophy in the LOW PWR SSB section of the PACC 2019 prize, there was also a presentation from Felix DL5XL who has been operating from the German antarctica research base Neumayer II and III. I did not stay the whole day as for me personally the presentation was the main reason I got there after all. It was a 2 hour drive to and 2 hours from to get home again but it was well worth it.

Last year I met Bert PA1B, this year I met PF5T Frank unexpectedly. It's always fun to meet an enthousiastic HAM. Frank was there together with PD2PC Patrick to collect his trophy as well.  Frank is most times QRP and portable in contests with his own call. So it's always fun to talk to him. I certainly have respect for his contest working style as it takes something from the operator.

Well, back to the antarctica presentation. It was one of  the most interesting presentations I've seen till now. First part was about the history of the German research station.
Very interesting to see the development they made from a underground tube base to a building on hydraulic columns. The station is built on a ice platform of 200m thick and not on solid rock like other stations. Supplies and travels are all going from Novolazarevskaya station which is Russian.

Information website:

The second part was the most interesting. Going through the history of German amateurradio operators active from Neumayer and from the east-German (DDR) antarctic research station Georg Forster. After some years without any activity Felix was assigned to a radio operator job. First with his personal callsign DP1POL and later also with the callsign DP0GVN. Felix told he was trying to use the stations radio R&S equipment first with not much success. Later he brought decent amateurradio gear. The main antenna is a broadband dipole which is not efficient at all but works on all bands. They had a beam up for one year but it couldn't stand the extreme elements on the south pole. Some interesting facts I noticed; that it is difficult to operate from the south pole. Often there are no conditions at all. Best band is most times 30m (CW). A few weeks a year, or actually a few days, 160m operation is possible. Felix uses a dipole directly on the snow. Snow seems to be a isolator, so his dipole is about 200m above sea level. Seems to be working fine. We suggested forming a directional antenna that way, in theory that is possible. But don't forget you need a huge area to make such a thing and imagine there are more people and transport around the station that are not radio minded at all. Felix is not the only one operating from Neumayer station, there are some other operators using DP0GVN and even DP0GVN/P !

However, I worked Felix with his callsign DP1POL in 2014. I remember it well as it was during the PACC 2014 contest. I doubt Felix was aware of the contest? But I remember he was calling above 14.300MHz USB and had a big signal of at least S9. Most unusual...although propagation was a lot better as it is this year of course. This QSO made this all very special in the end...

Felix also showed something I was not aware of. It's a propagation research tool that is also connected to the Neumayer WSPR station DP0GVN.


This site is not dependable from the unreliable database but does use a own number of stations contributing to this site. Felix showed us a nice example how to see best times to work DP0GVN from the Netherlands.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Using IC-7300 voicekeyer in N1MM+

I've not seen this described before but found a video on it. And it works well.
You can probabely also use the RTTY and CW keyer like this but if that is useful?

Thanks to PE1RWL.

Basically: to put the CAT command  {CAT1HEX FEFE94E0280001FD} in N1MM, you can play the TX voices in the ICOM IC-7300.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


I was on 20m WSPR for about 24h at 17-Sept. Just to check and see how propagation is these days. I'm really surprised actually to see so many spots in this low sunspot period.

There are a number of sites you can check afterwards. Personally I like the VK7JJ wspr site and the PE1ITR WSPR rx challenge site. See my results compared to others here. 189 unique decodes giving me rank 17. And total distance 386241km giving me rank 38. It is incredible what others receive, like OE9HLH receiving 275 uniques.  From his qrz page I can't see any really special equipment or antennas. He has to be at a high (top of a mountain?) and qrm free location.

RX map:

ODX was LU9XT. I made some error decodes as well.

TX map:

Most special station: I was received at the icebreaker Oden. Callsign 8S8ODEN. Lars seems to be active as well at times.

I was not spotted by any station from Australasia or Africa. It might be a noise or QRM thing on their side. I can't imagine no one listening. Of course it could be a propagation thing as well. Although I received stations from Africa at the same time.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Learning the IC-7300

Sorry I didn't write much in my blog over the last few weeks. I didn't have much time and all the time I had for radio has gone into learning about my IC-7300 setup. A disadvantage of this radio is that there are too many options. And to use the radio to the max you need to have it all right. One of the first things I wanted to do is the setup for SSB. I also bought a new headset, a Heil Proset Elite IC. Completely different from my previous cheap chinese headset I used for over 10 years on my IC-706 (actually it features already in a video from 2007!). I'm not shure if it is a little overkill, but the quality seems to be good. However, you need to have the settings on the IC-7300 right to have it sound really good. Since the IC-7300 has a WIDE, MID and NAR setting you should be able to hear a difference especially in a noisy environment and with a weak signal. But actually.....I don't hear much difference, that could be due to the 2,4KHz filter from the webSDR but I think most operators listen 2,4KHz or smaller. The only difference that amazed me was between the original mike and the heil headset when working QRP 5W recorded at a webSDR online.

Setup on receiver side: WebSDR TU Twente (Enschede JO32kf), 80m, filter 2,4Khz, notchfilter on.

Some audio files from my test:

Wide, Mid, Narrow audio bandwidth transmission comparisation.

Heil headset compared to IC-7300 handmike.

QRP 5W Heil headset compared to IC-7300 handmike.

The old (left) chinese made SOFTE headset and PTT footswitch. And at the right the new Heil ProSet Elite IC with Heil PTT footswitch.

I've been listening these recordings several times and come to the conclusion that unless you want to use your IC-7300 for the so called eSSB, there is no use for the bandwidth settings. However if you think I'm wrong I hope to read that in the comments...

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Am I lazy?

I have been thinking about the title of this post. Couldn't find this was the thought I finally had after finishing this very small project.

The challenge: A few times a year you need to disconnect you antennas due to arriving thunderstorms. I don't want fried equipment. Luckely thunderstorms are not so very common here. Disconnecting the coax and rotor cable is easy. But removing the 2 wires from the ladderline behind my antennatuner is a pain. There is not much room and it takes time to remove them by turning the butterfly nuts completely off. Then after the danger had gone it takes time to connect everything I was thinking.

The solution: This is what I came up with first. 2 pieces of Alu corner profile isolated with heat shrink and a piece of plastic. All measured to fit. Took me a while to make it. But looks nice...

Then I connected everything. The only problem is that the ladderline wires are very rigid. There is some tension on it as I have to turn it around in a corner, remember there is not much room...
And that make the plugs moving out too easy....
Since I had no good feeling about that I decided to remove everything and develop something else.

And came up with this simple thing. 2 pieces of rigid 6mm wire. What I use for connecting the wires are WAGO 221 isolated compact connectors for electrical wiring of your home installation. The nice thing is that you can snap a cable in and it is easy to remove again. So far it looks like this works.

Still I don't have a really good feeling about it. I like to tighten things, like the coax PL connectors. Am I lazy now? May be I will remove it again and just tighten the wires on the terminals with the butterfly nuts like I always did. Well....sometimes simple things can be so hard.