I first became intrigued with Crystal Radio DXing several years ago when I happened across the above image showing the Crystal Radio DX Contest setup of Al Klase, N3FRQ. I was immediately surprised to learn that 'DX' could actually be heard on a crystal radio ... I could never hear anything but two strong locals on my own crystal set as a kid. I also knew immediately that I wanted to learn more and hopefully get into the next Crystal Radio DX Contest!
Back then, the contest was organized by the Yahoo Crystal Radio Group and then later, by the Alabama Crystal Radio Group. These contests were exceptionally popular and always sparked a huge amount of discussion, spurred new construction and seemed to create a lot of ‘crystal radio’ excitement in the months leading up to the contest.
Crystal radios can be as simple as a 'single-tuned' set like this, built by Mike Simpson from plans shown in Alfred P. Morgan's "The Boys' Third Book of Radio and Electronics". Read the nice back-story from Mike about this project! In the right location and with a good antenna, even simple sets like this are capable of hearing skywave signals.
|(courtesy Mike Simpson http://www.analogdial.com)|
At the other end of the spectrum are elaborate DX sets like this one, built by Mike Tuggle in Hawaii.
|Mike Tuggle's 'Lyonodyne' DX set|| |
Mike regularly hears AM broadcast band stations in Canada and the USA on his crystal radio from his location in Hawaii ... he explains the details here.
Recently, along with Doug (K4LY) and Dave (N1DAY), I discussed how we might be able to again resurrect this popular contest activity and after countless e-mail exchanges, we’ve now put together just such an event!
Accordingly, we invite any and all crystal radio builders and users to participate in the upcoming Crystal Radio DX Contest to be held from January 1 through January 8th, 2022!
This date period should provide ample time for new construction to take place or to make improvements to present radios, while hopefully finding some nice mid-winter propagation on the broadcast band … half the battle when it comes to DXing with crystal radios.
Some ideas have been gleaned from previous contests to provide a minimum set of simple rules that will hopefully accommodate crystal radios of all types.
There are two entry classes, ‘OPEN’ and ‘HOBBY’ with guidelines for each. You will only be competing against others in the same category or maybe only against yourself if trying to reach a set goal.
In the true spirit of previous contests, it’s more about having fun, optimizing your passive receiving system and creating some great discussions, both before and after the contest … this really makes every participant a winner in the end.
As an anchor point for discussions regarding this and future such events, the Facebook ‘Crystal Radio DX Contest Group’ has been created and anyone that might be curious or interested in possible contest participation is encouraged to join.
In no way is this group intended to usurp activity from any present groups and it should not. It will be a focal point where members can find and discuss activities generated by the upcoming event. What are you building or improving for the contest? What are your plans? Share your crystal radio DXing strategies. Any thoughts or comments related to the upcoming event are fair game!
The Crystal Radio DX Contest Group can be found here where you can find discussion as well as the rules.
As well, the rules in pdf form, may be found here if you are not on Facebook.
Hopefully you will consider entering the contest ... it was always an enjoyable event.
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].
In this episode, Martin Butler (M1MRB) is joined by Chris Howard (M0TCH), Martin Rothwell (M0SGL), Frank Howell (K4FMH) and Bill Barnes (WC3B) to discuss the latest Amateur / Ham Radio news. Colin (M6BOY) rounds up the news in brief and in the episode we feature is ARDC supporting Amateur Radio.
We would like to thank our monthly and annual subscription donors for keeping the podcast advert free. To donate, please visit - http://www.icqpodcast.com/donate
- Technician License Training Course Added to ARRL’s YouTube Channel -WSJT-X version 2.5.1 released - Licence Fees for 412 MHz Spectrum - BBC TV Archive Clip of 1949 Ham Radio Contact - What's a Long Length of LAN cable? A transmitter, of Course - No Ham Radio for Golden Globe Race 2022 - Oregon Student Satellite Expected to Launch Early Next Year
Colin Butler, M6BOY, is the host of the ICQ Podcast, a weekly radio show about Amateur Radio. Contact him at [email protected].
Adam/K6ARK recently posted this video of his 2m SOTA activation in California. Adam does a really nice job with his videos and this one is no exception. During this activation, he worked KE9AJ in Arizona at 256 miles. This was an FM QSO, with KE9AJ running 6 watts and K6ARK running over 120 watts.
In the video, he shows the 8-element 2m Yagi antenna, which has a clever folding boom design (homebrew, I assume). You’ll notice that he is carrying quite a bit of gear in his pack, including a 160w amplifier, a Yaesu FT-857, several batteries, the Yagi antenna, and antenna masts. Adam has posted other videos of VHF SOTA activity, so check out his YouTube channel for them.
Note that at 256 miles, this is definitely propagation beyond line of sight. We’ve talked about this before: The Myth of VHF Line-Of-Sight.
This has me thinking about some of my best VHF SOTA activations, which I will list here.
Sneffels to Pikes
In 2012, for the Colorado 14er Event, Joyce/K0JJW and I climbed Mt Sneffels (W0C/UR-001) at 14,150 feet in elevation. I worked Stu/W0STU on Pikes Peak (W0C/FR-004). We both were running 5 watts on 2m FM, with 3-element Arrow II antennas. I had an FT-817, while Stu used an HT. We made the QSO without too much difficulty, at a distance of 160 miles. Stu put together this video that shows the action on both summits.
Capulin Mountain (W5N/SG-009) is out in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, a long distance from populated areas. My goal was to activate it (and get the points) on VHF, but I knew it would be a challenge. I put the word out to the weak-signal VHF community and used my FT-817 (5 watts) and 3-element Yagi to make contacts. My best DX was with Arne/N7KA at 184 miles. I could hear him fine on SSB but he could not copy me, so we switched to CW to complete the QSO. Arne used a 2M12 Yagi antenna with 700 watts of power vs my 5 watts.
This turned out to be a good lesson in what happens when the two stations are imbalanced with respect to RF power. My 5 watts vs his 700 watts is a difference of 21 dB. No wonder I could hear him just fine but he was struggling to copy me. Flipping over to CW narrows the receiver bandwidth, improving the signal-to-noise ratio, and was enough improvement to make the QSO.
Mount Scott (W5O/WI-002) is a drive-up summit (elevation 2464 feet) in the Witchita Mountains of Oklahoma. It sticks up high enough to have a good radio horizon in all directions. We stopped there to do an activation in March 2018, using the Yaesu FT-90 (set for 30 to 50 watts) and the 3-element Yagi antenna.
We easily worked a bunch of stations on 146.52 MHz FM, including K5RTN in Brownfield, TX. Later, I checked the distance to Brownfield and found that it was 245 miles, which is still my best SOTA DX on 2m FM. There was probably some favorable propagation that morning, perhaps some ducting, for this to occur. K5RTN was operating from home and I am not sure about his power and antenna.
During the 2021 January VHF Contest, we decided to activate Threemile Mountain (W0C/SP-107), which is usually accessible, even in the winter months. Because it is in the Pike National Forest (K-4404), I did a combo operation of SOTA, POTA, and VHF contest. At 10,020 feet in elevation, it is not the highest summit in the region but it has a good radio horizon in all directions.
Also, the hike is relatively short, so I packed the Yaesu FT-991 and a 20 Ah battery, which gave me more power (50 watts) on 2m and 70 cm. Not only that, I actually fired it up below 50 MHz and made some HF contacts, using single-band end-fed halfwave antennas.
I was working a few stations in Denver on 2m SSB when I heard Larry/N0LL calling me from Smith Center, KS. Larry is a well-known Big Gun on VHF with excellent antennas. I’ve worked him in past contests on various bands and modes but I was surprised how strong he was coming in at Threemile Mountain. We probably had favorable conditions on 2 meters that day but nothing exotic, to make a 372 mile QSO. I’ve worked longer distances on 2 meters but this is my best DX for SOTA.
Power and Antenna
Most ham transceivers have decent receivers, so the choice of radio on the receive side is not that critical. (OK, you can add a preamp in front of the receiver to improve it.) The big difference for making QSOs (or not) on 2 meters is antenna and power level.
Improving your antenna is normally the first step in improving your VHF SOTA station, because it helps on both transmit and receive. Joyce/K0JJW and I almost always use the 3-element handheld Yagi from Arrow Antenna. Arrow does not specify the gain, but various sources have measured it at 6 dBd. We have made many QSOs over the years where the extra 6 dB made the difference. An omnidirectional antenna would have come up short. I’ve been looking for a higher gain antenna to use for SOTA but have not found one that I like. Adam’s 8-element antenna is tempting but longer antennas pretty much require a mast, which adds weight to the pack. One of the benefits of the 3-element Arrow is that it is handheld, so we don’t carry a mast. Of course, having two of us activating together really helps…one person can hold the antenna while the other operates and logs. A handheld antenna with a single operator can be a challenge.
Concerning power level, the Capulin QSO with N7KA illustrates what happens when two stations are imbalanced with respect to RF power. After this experience, I did purchase a small 2m amplifier that boosts the 5 watts from the FT-817 to 35 watts. It is compact and not too much of a DC power hog. I think we also heard an imbalance with the QSO between K6ARK and KE9AJ. KE9AJ’s signal was a bit noisy at K6ARK while K6ARK’s signal was full quieting 59 at the other end. This is not a surprise with K6ARK at around 120 watts and K6ARK at 6 watts (13 dB difference).
For higher power on 2 meters, you generally need to bring a bigger radio or an amplifier. The popular HT is generally limited to about 5 watts. For 2m FM, we’ve been carrying the Yaesu FT-90, which is a pretty compact radio and can put out 50 watts of RF power (FM only). On the Threemile Mountain activation mentioned above, we took the FT-991, which is not very SOTA friendly, but it also does 50 watts on 2 meters…and all modes.
Battery capacity also comes into play as higher power requires more DC current. The FT-90 manual says it draws 9.5 amps at full 50 watts of power on 2 meters. (We usually run it at lower power but will punch it up to 50 watts when required.) The FT-991 manual says it draws 15 amps when transmitting at full power on 2m or 70cm. My 160 watt 2m (Mirage) amplifier can draw up to 30 amps on transmit. Wowzy, that’s some real current! The point is that as you increase power, you need to look at your battery situation more carefully.
It might sound like I am suggesting that we should maintain a power balance between the two stations. That’s not the case and is often not even practical. When one station is much stronger than the other, it can be used to advantage. The stronger station is easily heard and the weaker station can point the antenna in the right direction to peak up the signal. The weaker station consistently hears the stronger station, so now the challenge becomes to just get a few seconds of successful transmission in the opposite direction. You keep trying until the weaker station manages to get through. Compare this to having two lower power stations trying to make a contact. They may not even hear each other at all because the antennas are not pointed optimally. When they do hear each other, they are both struggling to hear the other station and complete the QSO. This lowers the probability of completing the contact.
So how much power should you run on 2 meters for SOTA? Of course, More Is Better, except for the extra weight in your backpack. The difficulty of the hike comes into play…on shorter hikes, weight does not matter so much. I am finding that 5 watts is on the skimpy side. On the other hand, going much above 50 watts requires larger batteries, so I am thinking the sweet spot is around 30 to 50 watts. If I do happen to work a base station running 1kW, my signal will be 13 dB lower with 50 watts (worst-case scenario). This is just my opinion, your mileage may vary.
So can we all agree then that VHF signals can go beyond line-of-sight? These examples are basic tropospheric paths and do not include the exotic propagation modes such as meteor scatter, sporadic-e, aurora, EME, etc. I’ve used most of those modes to work longer distances but not during a SOTA activation. Most hams know that SSB and CW are more effective than FM when signals are weak. In fact, FM weak-signal performance is lousy. Still, we see multiple examples of making some long-distance contacts with FM.
73 Bob K0NR
Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].
|BK-224 Baker Lake, NU ( http://www.ve3gop.com)|
BK has gobs of power and a big antenna ... see if you hear it!
When tuning for NDBs, put your receiver in the CW mode and listen for the NDB's CW identifier, repeated every few seconds. Listen for U.S. NDB identifiers approximately 1 kHz higher or lower than the published transmitted frequency since these beacons are modulated with a 1020 Hz tone approximately.
For example, 'AA' near Fargo, ND, transmitted on 365 kHz and its upper sideband CW identifier was tuned at 366.025 kHz while its lower sideband CW ident could be tuned at 363.946 kHz. Its USB tone was actually 1025 Hz while its LSB tone was 1054 Hz.
Often, one sideband will be much stronger than the other so if you don't hear the first one, try listening on the other sideband.
Canadian NDBs normally have an USB tone only, usually very close to 400 Hz. They also have a long dash (keydown) following the CW identifier.
All NDBs heard in North America will be listed in the RNA database (updated daily) while those heard in Europe may be found in the REU database. Beacons heard outside of these regions will be found in the RWW database. These databases have recently been re-vamped and are slicker than ever before!
From CLE organizers comes the following CLE info:
Please log all the NDBs (within the frequency ranges specified) that you can identify plus any UNIDs that you come across there.
Send your final log to the List (not in an attachment, please) with 'CLE273’ and ‘FINAL' in its title (important).
Show on each line:
# The Date (e.g. '2021-10-23', etc., or just '24' )
# The Time in UTC (the day changes at 00:00 UTC).
# kHz - the nominal published frequency, if known.
# The Call Ident.
Please show those main items FIRST. Other optional details such as Location and Distance go LATER in the same line.
As always, of course, tell us your own location and give brief details of the equipment that you were using during the Event.
We will send the usual 'Any More Logs?' email at about 19:00 UTC on Tuesday so you can check that your log has been found OK.
Do make sure that your log has arrived on the List by 08:00 UTC on Wednesday 27 October at the very latest.
We hope to complete making the combined results within a day or two.
You can soon find full details about current and past CLEs from the CLE page http://www.ndblist.info/cle.htm It includes access to the CLE273 seeklists for your part of the World, prepared from all the previous loggings in Rxx.
- enjoy the CLE.
Brian and Joachim
From: Brian Keyte G3SIA ndbcle'at'gmail.com
Location: Surrey, SE England (CLE coordinator)
(If you would like to listen remotely you could use any one remote
receiver for your loggings, stating its location and owner and with
their permission if required. A remote listener may NOT also use
another receiver, local or remote, to make further loggings for the
These listening events serve several purposes. They
• determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range
• will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations
• will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working
• give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed
Final details can be found at the NDB List website, and worldwide results, for every participant, will be posted there a few days after the event.
The NDB List Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other DXers in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome. As well, you can follow the results of other CLE participants from night to night as propagation is always an active topic of discussion.
You need not be an NDB List member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers.
Remember - 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!
Reports may be sent to the NDB List Group or e-mailed to CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. If you are a member of the group, all final results will also be e-mailed and posted there.
Please ... give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.
Have fun and good hunting!
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].
Hello and welcome to Episode 436 of Linux in the Ham Shack. In this short-topics episode, the hosts discuss an ARDC grant for high school STEM students, a pair of intrepid amateur radio hobbyists, state-sponsored ARCs in Africa, Ubuntu 21.10, Sysmon for Linux and much more. Thank you for listening and have a great week.
73 de The LHS Crew
Russ Woodman, K5TUX, co-hosts the Linux in the Ham Shack podcast which is available for download in both MP3 and OGG audio format. Contact him at [email protected].
The Worked all Germany (WAG) contest was this weekend. It's an event in which you can operate both CW and SSB. I chose the CW only option for the contest. I entered low power (100 watts and under), single op and assisted (using spotting new works) It was very well attended and during the contest I received a station from Israel calling German stations. It was a shame I could not call him, as with this contest DX can only contact German stations. Oh well, it was nice hearing them anyway.
The contest is 24 hours long, which is nice as it does not occupy all of your weekend. Conditions were good for me on 15m, 20m and 40m. I did try 80m on Saturday evening, but it provided no contacts for me. On Sunday I stayed on 15m as I was up early and the band was open. I wanted to stay away from 20m for as long as I could, as this was the band I mainly stayed on during Saturday. This way I would not run into Dupes on 20m. The contest software I used was N1MM+.
I was using my Icom 7610 radio which for contesting is a great radio, the antenna was my Ultimax DXtreme it's 52 feet long and about 30 feet off the ground and about 6 feet at the feed end. I used my solid state CW paddle by 9A5N. The key worked very smoothly and worked without issue.
Speaking of issues, it would not be a contest if there were not some hiccups. First off I thought (for some reason) the contest started at 1600 UTC. I sat at the radio 10 minutes (1550 UTC) before the contest started. I was shocked to see the band's full when I turned on the radio. A quick investigation on my part had me realize the contest started at 1500 and not 1600 UTC, so I was an hour down before I even started.
At times, I found myself calling a station, and I was not being heard, don't get me wrong this does happen but not with stations that are booming in. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed N1MM+ software was showing me that my transmit XIT (transmit increment tuning) was on! The reason the station was not hearing me was because I was transmitting way off-frequency. This for some reason happened a few times.
The last comedy of errors was at one point on Sunday when I was on 15m the band just went dead! Hmm, maybe propagation on 15m just dropped off. I went to 20m, and it was the same, so I checked the solar conditions, maybe I missed a huge storm forecast. Nope solar conditions were fair.....oh wait a minute it's 1500 UTC and the contest is over!!
40m 34 contacts with 18 multipliers
20m 51 contacts with 21 multipliers
15m 30 contacts with 17 multipliers
Total contacts 115
Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].
Celebrating 16 years of AmateurLogic.TV.
Peter, VK3PB drops in for and update from downunder. George shows some of his favorite tips and projects from the last few years. Tommy demonstrates a neat battery capacity tester. Emile discovers new Cheap Tricks with Echolink.
Announcing the winner of our 16th Anniversary contest!
Cliff Boand, WA0JTW will receive an Icom IC-705 Transceiver, AH-705 Auto Tuner, LC-192 Backpack, MFJ-4230MV Power Supply, MFJ-2012 OCF Antenna, and RG-8X coax.
George Thomas, W5JDX, is co-host of AmateurLogic.TV, an original amateur radio video program hosted by George Thomas (W5JDX), Tommy Martin (N5ZNO), Peter Berrett (VK3PB), and Emile Diodene (KE5QKR). Contact him at [email protected].