The Spectrum Monitor — June, 2018

Stories you’ll find in our June, 2018 issue:

SDR Primer Part 1: Introduction to SDRs and SDR applications
By Thomas Witherspoon K4SWL

Whereas your grandpa’s radio was all hardware––in the form of filters, mixers, amplifiers, and the like––Software Defined Radios are a mix of hardware and software, which typically gives them a “black box” appearance. SDRs typically afford access to a dizzying array of customizable filters, gain controls, noise blankers, digital signal processing (DSP), audio controls, and more. Being able to customize the SDR’s performance and listening experience is simply unsurpassed. In the first part of this series, Thomas focuses on the basic components of an SDR system—multiple virtual receivers; recording tools and Web-based upgrades.

Radio Evolution: From Wooden Boxes to Plug-in Dongles
By Bob Grove W8JHD

In this companion piece to Thomas’ SDR Primer, Bob Grove traces the technological history of radio from tube-based wooden-box radios to solid-state radios employing Large-Scale Integration of components into compact packages. The Software Defined Radio concept was the natural next step in this evolution, affording not just economy of scale in production and superior reception parameters, but affording manufacturers the ability to change those parameters with a software upgrade. Specifically, Bob looks at the WR-DRD-171 digital decoder dongle for the high-end WiNRADiO WR-G39DDC receiver that could make it the ultimate all-band, all-mode receiver.

Uniden BCD436HP vs. Whistler TRX-1 – A TSM Side-by-Side Review
By Larry Van Horn N5FPW

We first reviewed the Uniden BCD536 in the April 2014 issue with an update six months later. As a point of reference, for all practical purposes the BCD536HP and BCD436HP are RF identical which makes the initial review worth reading. Larry’s initial review of the Whistler TRX-1 appeared in the January issue this year, in the same issue Bob Grove wrote the TRX-2 base/mobile review. RF-wise, these radios are very similar. So, after six months of intensive testing side by side and field usage, it is time to look at a comparison of the two companies top-end handhelds.

2018 Hamvention Report
By Cory GB Sickles WA3UVV

Hamvention 2018 has come and gone. It would be easy to sum it up in one word as “Wow!” But that would not do justice to an event that is built upon so much planning, volunteer effort, cooperation from state, county and local law enforcement as well as EMS personnel, Greene County (Ohio) Convention and Visitors Bureau, City of Xenia (Ohio) officials, and countless others. Cory takes us on a tour of this year’s Hamvention, with comments about those who were there and those who weren’t.

Echos of Today: A World of Shortwave and BCB listening from ‘Alexa’
By Richard Fisher KI6SN

Imagine listening to your favorite shortwave or AM-FM broadcast band station on a receiver about the size and shape of a hockey puck. It has no dials. You have an SWLing assistant whose name is “Alexa: and she is virtual. This is an example of advancing Internet-connected technology known as the “smart speaker,” with capability to please the shortwave and broadcast band listener. Richard gives Alexa his commands and enters a new no-knobs, no-dial world of global radio listening.

Scanning America
By Dan Veeneman
Scanning Miami-Dade County, Florida

Federal Wavelengths
By Chris Parris
Dallas Federal Monitoring

Milcom
By Larry Van Horn N5FPW
Monitor the 380-399.9 MHz Radio Spectrum

Utility Planet
By Hugh Stegman NV6H
It’s COTHEN Time Again!

Shortwave Utility Logs
Compiled by Hugh Stegman and Mike Chace-Ortiz

VHF and Above
By Joe Lynch N6CL
A Busy Month; DX Engineering TW Antenna Center Box Cover

Digitally Speaking
By Cory GB Sickles WA3UVV
A Midsummer’s Potpourri

Amateur Radio Insights
By Kirk Kleinschmidt NT0Z
The Siren Song of Small Antennas

Radio 101
By Ken Reitz KS4ZR
Korean Summit via FTA Satellite; The Future of C-Band; Armed Forces Day Crossband Test

Radio Propagation
By Tomas Hood NW7US
Field Day Fun, Again!

The World of Shortwave Listening
By Andrew Yoder
Remembering WWII-era Clandestine Shortwave Radio Stations

The Shortwave Listener
By Fred Waterer
Proms, DW and BBC Radio Highlights

Amateur Radio Satellites
By Keith Baker KB1SF/VA3KSF
Golf-TEE and Golf-1 Get Rides to Space

The Longwave Zone
By Kevin O’Hern Carey WB2QMY
Travelogue & Radio Ties

Adventures in Radio Restoration
By Rich Post KB8TAD
The Transition: a Tale of Two Philcos

The Spectrum Monitor is available in PDF format which can be read on any desktop, laptop, iPad®, Kindle® Fire, or other device capable of opening a PDF file. Annual subscription is $24. Individual monthly issues are available for $3 each.


Ken Reitz, KS4ZR, is publisher and managing editor of The Spectrum Monitor. Contact him at [email protected].

Selling Ham Radio Equipment

As an auctioneer based in Kansas City, David Schulman, WD0ERU knows a lot about selling things. But Schulman is a little different than most auctioneers: his specialty is selling ham radio equipment.

His business, Schulman Auction, offers an end-to-end solution for those families or hams who want to downsize their current estate, or completely liquidate their amateur radio or vintage electronics gear. They pick up estates from all over the country and take care of all the logistics of the selling process.

Although he’s been a licensed ham for four decades, he didn’t immediately appreciate the amateur radio community’s need for full auction services.

“I had a very large ham estate that I was selling at a weekly consignment auction,” Schulman says. “It did so well that I started thinking about taking ham gear online and see what happened.”

His auction business has grown substantially in just over a decade and he now has buyers from around the world and sellers from all over the United States.

While it can be easy to list gear on eBay or Craigslist, sometimes sellers don’t realize that they’re losing money when a buyer can’t verify that an item is actually “as described.” Schulman related one such case where he was working with a seller to auction a Hewlett-Packard signal generator.

“You could buy them for $300-$400 all day on eBay and other venues,” he says. “This one particular unit brought close to $1,000 dollars.”

Why did this particular one sell for almost three times the going rate? Schulman says for many buyers, getting the best price is about seller credibility. “When I asked what was so special about this unit, he said, ‘you tested it and provided all the data I needed, and I was willing to spend the money necessary to get it because I just never know what I’m getting on eBay.’”

What’s hot in the market right now? He says there are a few different things that seem to get the attention of serious buyers:

  • Collins gear, both S-Line and the black boxes, such as 75A-4’s, generate quite a bit of interest, as do the “newer” vintage gear from the 80s and 90s.
  • Anything Kenwood, Icom or Yaesu
  • Equipment that is difficult find such as a Hallicafters SR-2000 Hurricane Transceiver with matching PS-2000 power supply or a Hammarlund HC-10 SSB Converter
  • Military R-390’s and R-390A’s command decent prices and get a lot of attention
  • Hewlett Packard test equipment from the 80s-90s does extremely well. They were built tough, and are still extremely accurate if they were kept in decent shape

Schulman says that no matter how you sell your gear, you should watch out for some common shipping pitfalls.

“Always check with the shipper and get an estimate first. You don’t want any surprises,” he says. “In each lot listing we have in an auction, we include the dimensions and weight of an item. The shippers contact information is also included. Some folks are truly surprised when they only spend $10 on something, to find out that it will cost over $50 to ship.”

It’s important to remember that the value of an item doesn’t dictate the shipping cost. “All shippers — UPS, USPS, FedEx — charge based on dimensional weight of an item,” Schulman says. “If your 10 pound item that cost you $10 has to be packed in a box that is 20 inches on all sides, you’ll get charged at the 60-pound rate. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is in the industry now, and we have to keep that in mind when bidding on these items.”

Another piece of advice: don’t skimp on the packaging. Here are his tips:

  • Let the pros do it. Not just any UPS or FedEx location, but those that have the knowledge of packing and shipping this type of gear. Even though a vintage radio might have only cost the buyer $25, that radio might be one of a kind and irreplaceable.
  • Use double wall cardboard boxes and double box when necessary.
  • Wrap your radio in bubble wrap or plastic sheeting so that the packing materials don’t get lodged inside the chassis — but be careful because in some cases bubble wrap can chafe against the face of a radio and cause permanent cosmetic damage!
  • Styrofoam peanuts are difficult to remove from chassis due to static and breaking down and disintegrating — don’t use peanuts if at all possible on items that weigh over 30 pounds.
  • Use Styrofoam planking or foam inserts instead. It’s much more difficult for a heavy item to move around inside the box using these materials.

Buyers really like to know what they are getting as opposed to buying on self-service sites like eBay and Craigslist where they often see “I have no way to test this” or “powers up” — or worse. “I think this is one reason why our auctions have become so successful,” he says.

“I’ve talked to many families of SK’s who would have just scrapped their loved one’s ham gear if they didn’t find me,” Schulman says. “That is one of the things I love about doing what I do. I can’t save it all, but I know what I do sell will generally get into the hands of other hams who will use and enjoy the equipment.”


Matt Thomas, W1MST, is the managing editor of AmateurRadio.com. Contact him at [email protected].

Amateur Radio Weekly – Issue 205

Digital HF voice: FreeDV 700D released
Digital really does handle some nasty fading, and it really does work better than SSB in many cases.
Rowetel

Simple 1:1 Choke Balun
This is a very simple 1:1 Choke Balun for portable operation.
M0PZT

The spreading ‘eHam disease’
I’ve written before about the eHam policy of protecting the raving insane posts of a click of forum trolls.
K9ZW

D-Star QuadNet Array
You can Group Route to any Smart Group, whether you are operating from your home, or you are operating a mobile rig.
QuadNet

The Mission RGO ONE: A new 50 watt all mode HF transceiver
The idea of this project was inspired by old TEN-TEC radios with 9MHz IF – their perfect analogue design and crystal crisp audio both CW and sideband.
The SWLing Post

Radials mitigate feedline and mast currents, tests reveal
This suggests radials of 1/4 and 3/4 wavelength do a good job of immunizing the antenna from circumstances that might encourage RF currents down the mast or coax. Radials of 1/12 wavelength do nothing.
Ham Radio . Magnum Experimentum

Long delayed echo on 50Mhz 6m
Initially I didn’t know what it was, and I still don’t know why it was. If nothing else it was extremely interesting, so I’m sharing this short article about a Long Delay Echo (LDE).
OH8STN

HF Ham Radio on a budget
This should come in around $100-150USD. If you simply don’t want to do Morse code, there’s the option of the BITX40, a very inexpensive HF SSB rig that runs on 40 meters.
KE6MT

Video

N1SPY chases mini satellites on a budget
Using $25 worth of equipment to chase signals from cubesats which are the size of a coffee can.
N1SPY

VK2TPM on FreeDV 700D
We could barely hear each other in Single Side Band mode but FreeDV 700D is pretty good once your ear gets used to it.
YouTube

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Amateur Radio Weekly is curated by Cale Mooth K4HCK. Sign up free to receive ham radio's most relevant news, projects, technology and events by e-mail each week at http://www.hamweekly.com.

Evaluating Online SDRs For MW Capabilities

courtesy: https://sdr.hu/

In a previous blog I described the amazing KiwiSDR network of online receivers. A quick check of the network as I write today's blog shows that there are presently 207 active online receivers distributed throughout the world!

Over the past year, there has been a growing interest in using many of the online receivers during the monthly CLE NDB listening events, all focused on the medium frequency (MF) part off the spectrum just below the AM broadcast band. Some use the SDRs to search for unlogged beacons while others use them because their home locations have become too noisy to hear anything using their own radios, a growing problem for listeners everywhere.

One ardent NDB DXer, Dan Petersen, W7OIL, (located in Vancouver, WA) has become a regular Kiwi network user as well as a regular contributor to the very valuable RNA / REU / RWW list of worldwide beacon activity. Over the past year, Dan has been keeping careful notes on not only what he has been hearing but also on how well many of the online radios perform on the MF NDB band.

As it turns out, many receivers perform very well on the HF bands but are dreadfully inadequate when it comes to the medium wave frequencies. Many are plagued with high noise levels, switching power supply signals, intermod or inadequate antenna systems, making them unusable for weak signal DX work below the broadcast band.

Other receivers however, are superb performers, as evidenced by their quiet low noise locations and well engineered antennas, providing the ideal opportunity to conduct some serious medium wave weak signal detection.

Dan has now produced the start of an ongoing guide, mainly focusing on the various Kiwi Network receivers that he has tested, rating them with regard to sensitivity and local noise, when used in the 200 - 500 kHz range only.

His SDR EVALUATION LIST (in .pdf form) can be downloaded from here, and will be updated periodically, as other online receivers are evaluated.

If you are plagued with local noise on the MF band yet would like to do some weak signal DXing, especially during the monthly NDB CLE activities, the online SDRs may be of interest to you. With Dan's helpful groundwork already giving you a leg up, hopefully you can give them a try sometime soon!

                          *********************************

Speaking of monthly CLEs ... the recently completed weekend event (CLE232), was a rough one, with worldwide lightning noise as well as an active geomagnetic field hampering reception for all participants. In North America, all three nights were terribly noisy and propagation was poor.

As is so often the case, Friday night was the 'best' of the three nights but only 18 stations were heard here. My log is shown below.

It was nice to hear POA in Pahoa, Hawaii, still going strong as it is located close to the present volcanic eruptions.

All signals were heard on a Perseus SDR feeding an inverted-L antenna, resonated to 300kHz.

26 09:00 325.0 YJQ Bella Bella (Campbell Island), BC, CAN
26 09:00 326.0 YQK Kenora, ON, CAN
26 10:00 326.0 DC Princeton Municipal Apt, BC, CAN
26 06:00 328.0 YTL Big Trout Lake, ON, CAN
26 09:00 328.0 LAC 'Lacomas' Fort Lewis, WA, USA
26 09:00 328.0 5J Coronation, AB, CAN
26 06:00 329.0 YHN Hornepayne, ON, CAN
26 09:00 329.0 YEK Arviat, NU, CAN
26 09:00 329.0 X2 Athabasca, AB, CAN
26 10:00 329.0 PMV Plattsmouth, NE, USA
26 09:00 329.0 PJ Robinson (Whitehorse), YT, CAN
26 09:00 330.0 0O UNID, XUU
26 09:00 332.0 XT Terrace, BC, CAN
26 09:00 332.0 WC White Rock (Abbotsford), BC, CAN
26 10:00 332.0 VVV Ortonville Municipal Apt, MN, USA
27 09:00 332.0 VT Buffalo Narrows, SK, CAN
26 12:00 332.0 POA Pahoa - Hawaii Island, HWA
26 06:00 334.0 YER Fort Severn, ON, CAN

Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

D-STAR on Field Day: Check out the QuadNet Array

Since field day is just as much a public outreach as it is an emergency preparedness exercise, many clubs across the US and Canada also have additional stations set aside to demonstrate different aspects of amateur radio. Often this includes D-STAR.

I would like to extend an invitation to all clubs that are showing off D-STAR to the general public to join us on the Quadnet Array as the hub of activity for those participating in field day to be able to talk with one another using D-STAR. No, you won’t be able to count the contacts for points, but you can use the array to keep in touch, talk about how things were going in your area as well as show off D-STAR to the members of the general public that come by your field day site and express an interest in all of the radios, antennas and unusual sounds that are coming from the tents setup in the park.

The Quadnet Array is a group of persistently linked reflectors and smart groups spread out around the world. This allows users to be able to access the closest reflector or smart group to their physical location to keep the internet latency at a minimum. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, connecting to one will allow them to hear activity across the entire Array.

To connect to the Quadnet Array you will need to either login to one of the below Smart Groups or link to one of the below reflectors:

Quadnet Smart groups:

DSTAR1 in New York

DSTAR2 in San Francisco

DSTAR3 in Ohio.

Reflectors:

XRF757A in Atlanta

XLX049D in Northern Ireland

XLX307D in Wyoming

XLX626D in New Zealand

If anyone has any questions about how to connect to the Quadnet Array they are welcome to contact me directly or send an email to [email protected] and we will be happy to assist.

73 – Jeff VE6DV


Jeff Bishop, VE6DV, is a special contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Alberta, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

In The Loop! – First Impressions of the MFJ-1788

Was feeling pretty chuffed after repairing the MFJ-1788 'Super Loop' and couldn't wait to try it out! So for a couple of evenings of experimenting I put the loop in the garden on a 5ft pole held up by a heavy drive-on stand with 20m (65ft) of RG58 running into the shack.

Temporary test setup
I chose the easy option of using FT8 to do some testing, selecting the 30m FT8 frequency initially. I tuned the loop and was met with a cacophony of signals, far louder than my usual OCFD would receive. Working with around 30 Watts had a few contacts in a brief 30 minute session, including a nice one in Greece with SV1IW.

PSKReporter showing where I was spotted
What was striking was the lack of noise and just how tight the tuning was, indeed I had to tweak the tuning a couple of times during tests, a slight adjustment either way and the signals just disappeared. I checked out 40m and 20m as well with similar good results.

I had a few more sessions and a few days later I tried it out to receive the Shortwave Radiogram broadcast from Bulgaria on 9400kHz, this time as it was a broadcast band had to use my ear to do the tuning, adjusting till I heard a rise in 'noise' and signal.
I have now got the loop up on a rotator and mounted slightly higher up with a shorter length of RG213 (not on the video) it is still quite low and unfortunately is slightly shielded to the south by the neighbours metal roofed building,



I am very happy with the loop. Transmission wise it unsurprisingly doesn't seem a huge improvement over the OCFD on its resonant bands, it scores over the OCFD is on its 'non-resonant' bands such as 30m and 17m. But the massive improvement is in receiving, signals are stronger and noise is much lower, picking up some more distance signals even given the poor conditions.
The antenna cannot be said to be a pretty thing to have in the garden! The tuning is very particular, in the video I show the 'auto tuning' isn't ideal. It requires the radio to be putting out a signal into a mismatched load for what could be nearly a minute. Not good for the radio and is a source of QRM during this time, the usual technique of tuning slightly off a QSO frequency is more problematic due to the sharpness of the resonance. You can still tune off frequency and then tweak with the slow tune buttons to bring it in. I've noticed that on some of the higher bands it occasionally doesn't auto-tune because the 'dip' seems very short/sharp and the controller doesn't react in time and overshoots especially using low power settings.



I also have had issues trying to operate the radio remotely, I have tuned it up on an FT8 frequency in the morning and then later in the day logged in to try to make a few QSOs during a coffee-break to see the loop has drifted out of resonance. This can only be down to the loop getting warm in the summer sun.

I am still evaluating the antenna but am looking at making a better controller, over on AmateurRadio.com where this blog is syndicated, I have had a number of kind comments including one from Elwood Downey, WB0OEW who pointed me to his published design of a controller, using a similar method to what I was toying with. Thanks Elwood.

73 for now, more updates soon.

The antenna farm


Andrew Garratt, MØNRD, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from East Midlands, England. Contact him at [email protected].

TX Factor is Back On The Air

Yes, TX Factor episode 21 is finally available and features a review of the IC-7610 transceiver from Icom. Bob shows Mike a thing or two about operating thorough linear satellites. And, have you ever worried about programming your DMR handie to cope with code plugs, gateways and chatrooms? Again, Bob thinks he has the answer.

In our free-to-enter draw we have another two prize give-away: a Prism padded dust cover for your rig and a copy of Andrew Barron’s book Hamsats and Amsats.

It’s all at www.txfactor.co.uk

Happy viewing!


Nick Bennett 2EØFGQ co-hosts TX Factor with Bob McCreadie GØFGX and Mike Marsh G1IAR. Contact the team at [email protected]

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