Archive for the ‘icom’ Category

How Did You Fare in CQ WW CW Contest Weekend?

Man, lots and lots of Morse code on the ham bands, this weekend. The CQ Worldwide CW Contest weekend was hopping with signals!

How did you do this weekend? How were conditions on the various contest bands?

Comment here and your report may make it into the propagation column in an upcoming edition of the Radio Propagation column in CQ Amateur Radio Magazine.

Here are a few moments as heard at the station of the CQ Amateur Radio Magazine propagation columnist, in Lincoln, Nebraska (yeah, that’s me, NW7US).

Here are the results of my dabbling with the Icom rig and this contest:

 NW7US's Contest Summary Report for CQ-WW
 Created by N3FJP's CQ WW DX Contest Log
 Version 5.7  www.n3fjp.com

 Total Contacts = 55
 Total Points = 8,979

 Operating Period: 2019/11/24 10:23 - 2019/11/24 22:51

 Total op time (breaks > 30 min deducted): 3:58:46
 Total op time (breaks > 60 min deducted): 4:45:17

 Avg Qs/Hr (breaks > 30 min deducted): 13.8


 Total Contacts by Band and Mode:

 Band       CW   Phone     Dig   Total       %
 ----       --   -----     ---   -----     ---
   80        8       0       0       8      15
   40        7       0       0       7      13
   20       25       0       0      25      45
   15       15       0       0      15      27
            --   -----     ---   -----     ---
 Total      55       0       0      55     100

 Total Contacts by State \ Prov:

 State       Total     %
 -----       -----   ---
                52    95
 HI              3     5

 Total = 1


 Total Contacts by Country:

 Country                      Total     %
 -------                      -----   ---
 Canada                           6    11
 Brazil                           5     9
 USA                              5     9
 Argentina                        3     5
 Costa Rica                       3     5
 Hawaii                           3     5
 Bonaire                          2     4
 Cayman Is.                       2     4
 Chile                            2     4
 Cuba                             2     4
 Japan                            2     4
 Mexico                           2     4
 Aruba                            1     2
 Bahamas                          1     2
 Barbados                         1     2
 Belize                           1     2
 Curacao                          1     2
 Dominican Republic               1     2
 French Guiana                    1     2
 Haiti                            1     2
 Honduras                         1     2
 Martinique                       1     2
 Montserrat                       1     2
 Nicaragua                        1     2
 Senegal                          1     2
 St. Kitts & Nevis                1     2
 St. Lucia                        1     2
 Suriname                         1     2
 US Virgin Is.                    1     2
 Venezuela                        1     2

 Total = 30


 Total DX Miles (QSOs in USA not counted) = 151,407
 Average miles per DX QSO = 3,028


 Average bearing to the entities worked in each continent.
 QSOs in USA not counted.

 AF =  83
 AS = 318
 NA = 124
 OC = 268
 SA = 137


 Total Contacts by Continent:

 Continent   Total     %
 ---------   -----   ---
 NA             32    58
 SA             17    31
 OC              3     5
 AS              2     4
 AF              1     2

 Total = 5


 Total Contacts by CQ Zone:

 CQ Zone   Total     %
 -------   -----   ---
 08           13    24
 03            7    13
 09            7    13
 07            6    11
 11            5     9
 13            3     5
 31            3     5
 04            2     4
 05            2     4
 06            2     4
 12            2     4
 25            2     4
 35            1     2

 Total = 13

From Lightning Comes a New Icom IC-7610 (First Transmission)

Wow. What a radio!

One of the most useful (and, to me, amazing) features of this Icom IC-7610, is the IP+ function, which, when turned on, improves the Intermodulation Distortion (IMD) quality by optimizing the direct sampling system performance. This function optimizes the Analog/Digital Converter(ADC) against distortion when you receive a strong input signal. It also improves the Third-order Intercept Point (IP3) while minimizing the reduction of the receiver sensitivity.

In short: I was listening to an s-0 (i.e., no strength-meter movement) weak signal of a DX station, when right adjacent to the frequency came an s-7 signal, wiping out my ability to copy that weak signal. I turned on the IP+ and the distortion of the adjacent signal disappeared, and once again, I heard the weak signal IN THE CLEAR! WOW!

This video is a quick capture of my running the Olivia Digital Mode on HF, on the 30-Meter band. The transmissions are of a two-way Olivia digital-mode radio conversation between station K8CJM and station NW7US on 12 November 2019 (UTC date). K8CJM is located in Dayton, Ohio, and I am located in Lincoln, Nebraska. I’m running the radio at full power. The radio is rated as being able to handle 100% duty cycle at full power. The radio ran cool, no significant heating.

A few months ago, a lightning strike took out my ham radio station. The antenna was NOT connected, but I did not unplug the power supply chain and my computer from the wall. The surge came in through the power mains, and fried my uninterruptable power supply, the interfaces between my PC and radio, and fried the radio. Thankfully, all of that was covered by my homeowner’s insurance policy, less the steep deductible. My insurance covered all of the blown items, and that provided me this chance to obtain a repack version of the Icom IC-7610. I bought an extended four-year warranty.

CAUTION: Check the documentation of your transceiver/transmitter. NEVER run your radio’s power out at a level that exceeds what it can handle in reference to the duty cycle of the mode you are using. Olivia, for instance, is a 100-percent duty cycle mode. Morse code is NOT quite 100% duty cycle. Nor is SSB, a mode that operates with a duty cycle much lower than 100%. Your radio’s manual should tell you the specifications regarding the duty cycle it can handle! If you run more power than your radio can handle with the given duty cycle of the mode in use, you will blow your radio’s finals or in some other way damage the radio! Beware! I’ve warned you!

Compression and ALC!?

Some have noted that it appears that I’ve left on the Compression of the transmitted audio. However, the truth is that compression was not being used (as is proof by carefully taking note of the zero meter movement of the Compression activity). I had the radio set for 20-Meter USB operation on the Sub VFO. Compression was set for standard USB operation. Note also that the radio was transmitting USB-D1, which means the first data/soundcard input to the radio.

Also, some people complain about my use of ALC, because, in their view, ALC (automatic level control) is a no-no for data modes.

The notion that one must NEVER use ALC when transmitting digital modes is not accurate.

Multi-frequency shift keyed (MFSK) modes with low symbol rate–such as the Olivia digital modes–use a single carrier of constant amplitude, which is stepped (between 4, 8, 16 or 32 tone frequencies respectively) in a constant phase manner. As a result, no unwanted sidebands are generated, and no special amplifier (including a transmitter’s final stage) linearity requirements are necessary.

Whether the use of ALC matters or not depends on the transmitted digital mode.

For example, FSK (Frequency-Shift Keying; i.e., RTTY) is a constant-amplitude mode (frequency shift only). In such a case, the use of ALC will NOT distort the signal waveform.

PSK31 does contain amplitude shifts, as an example, therefore you don’t want any ALC action that could result in distortion of the amplitude changes in the waveform.

On the other hand, the WSJT manual says that its output is a constant-amplitude signal, meaning that good linearity is not necessary. In that case, the use of ALC will NOT distort the transmitted signal-amplitude waveform. You can use ALC or not, as you choose when you run WSJT modes, or Olivia (MFSK).

Clarification

Nowhere in this am I advocating running your audio really high, thinking that the ALC will take care of it. I am not saying that. I am saying that some ALC is not going to be an issue. You MUST not overdrive any part of the audio chain going into the transmitter!

Transmit audio out of the sound card remains at a constant amplitude, so there will be no significant change in power output if you adjust your input into the radio so that the ALC just stops moving the meter, or, you can have some ALC meter movement. You can adjust your audio to the transmitter either way.

If the transmitter filters have a significant degree of ripple in the passband then you may find that RF power output changes with the selected frequency in the waterfall when there is no ALC action. Allowing some ALC action can permit the ALC to act as an automatic gain adjustment to keep the output power level as you change frequencies.

Linear and Non-Linear

Regarding linear and non-linear operation (amplifiers, final stages): While a Class-C amplifier circuit has far higher efficiency than a linear circuit, a Class-C amplifier is not linear and is only suitable for the amplification of constant-envelope signals. Such signals include FM, FSK, MFSK, and CW (Morse code).

If Joe Taylor’s various modes (in WSJT software) are constant-envelope signals, than class-C works, right? At least, in theory.

Some Additional Cool History

The digital mode, Thor, came out of DominoEX when FEC was added. Here is an interesting history of FSQ that seems to confirm that FSQ is like MFSK, so no problem with a bit of ALC.

The following is from https://www.qsl.net/zl1bpu/MFSK/FSQweb.htm

History – Let’s review the general history of Amateur MFSK modes. The first Amateur MFSK mode developed anywhere was MFSK16, specified by Murray Greenman ZL1BPU, then first developed and coded by Nino Porcino IZ8BLY in 1999. Before MFSK16 arrived, long-distance (DX) QSOs using digital modes were very unreliable: reliant, as they were, on RTTY and later PSK31. MFSK16 changed all that, using 16 tones and strong error correction. Great for long path DX, but nobody could ever say it was easy to use, never mind slick (quick and agile)!

Over the next few years, many MFSK modes appeared, in fact too many! Most of these were aimed at improving performance on bands with QRM. Most used very strong error correction, some types a poor match for MFSK, and these were very clumsy in QSO, because of long delays.

The next major development, aimed at easy QSOs with a slick turnaround, was DominoEX, designed by Murray Greenman ZL1BPU and coded by Con Wassilieff ZL2AFP, which was released in 2009. Rather than using error correction as a brute-force approach, DominoEX was based on sound research and achieved its performance through carefully crafted modulation techniques that required no error correction. The result was a simpler, easier to tune, easily identified mode with a fast turn-around.

DominoEX is widely used and available in many software packages. A later development by Patrick F6CTE and then Dave W1HKJ added FEC to this mode (THOR) but did not add greatly to performance, and at the same time eroded the fast turn-around. The final DominoEX- related development was EXChat, a version of DominoEX designed specifically for text-message style chatting. While completely compatible with DominoEx, it operates in ‘Sentence Mode’, sending each short over when the operator presses ENTER. EXChat was developed by Con ZL2AFP and released in 2014.

Back in 2013, Con ZL2AFP developed an MFSK mode for LF and MF which used an unusual decoding method pioneered by Alberto I2PHD: a ‘syncless’ decoder, which used a voting system to decide when one tone finished and another began. The first use of this idea was in JASON (2002), which proved to be very sensitive, but very slow, partly because it was based on the ASCII alphabet. The new mode, WSQ2 (Weak Signal QSO, 2 baud) combined the syncless decoder with more tones, 33 in total, and an alphabet specially developed by Murray ZL1BPU, which could send each lower case letter (and common punctuation) in just one symbol, resulting in a very sensitive (-30 dB SNR) mode with a 5 WPM typing speed.

In the subsequent discussion in late 2014, between the developers ZL2AFP and ZL1BPU, it was realized that if the computer had enough processing power to handle it, WSQ2 could be ‘sped up’ to become a useful HF chat mode. This required a large amount of development and retuning of the software to achieve adequate speed was involved, along with much ionospheric simulator and on-air testing used to select the most appropriate parameters.

Tests proved that the idea not only worked well, but it also had marked advantages over existing HF MFSK modes, even DominoEX. As expected, the new mode was found to have superior tolerance of signal timing variation, typically caused by multi-path reception, and would also receive with no change of settings over a wide range of signaling speeds.

So this is how FSQ came about. It uses the highly efficient WSQ character alphabet, IFK+ coding, the same number of tones as WSQ (33), but runs a whole lot faster, up to 60 WPM, and uses different tone spacing. The symbol rate (signaling speed) is modest (six tones per second or less), but each individual tone transmitted carries a surprising amount of information, resulting in a high text transmission speed. And it operates in ‘Chat’ (sentence) mode, which allows the user to type as fast as possible since they type only while receiving.

The ability to send messages and commands selectively has opened a huge array of communications possibilities.

What Makes FSQ Different

Incremental Keying – FSQ uses Offset Incremental Frequency Keying (IFK+), a type of differential Multi-Frequency Shift Keying (MFSK) with properties that make it moderately drift-proof and easy to tune. IFK+ also has excellent tolerance of multi-path reception.

IFK was developed by Steve Olney VK2XV. IFK+ (with code rotation) was proposed by Murray Greenman ZL1BPU and first used in DominoEX. IFK+ prevents repeated same tones without complex coding and provides improved rejection of propagation-related inter-symbol interference. In the context of sync-less decoding, the IFK+ code rotation also prevents repeated identical tones, which could not have been detected by this method.

Efficient Alphabet – In FSQ, a relatively high typing speed at a modest baud rate comes about because the alphabet coding is very efficient. All lower case letters and the most common punctuation can be sent in just one symbol and all other characters (the total alphabet contains 104 characters) in just two symbols. (The alphabet is listed below). This is a simple example of a Varicode, where it takes less time to send the more common characters. The character rate is close to six per second (60 WPM), the same as RTTY, but at only 1/8th of the baud rate. (RTTY has only one bit of information per symbol, 7.5 symbols per character, and wastes a third of its information on synchronization, and despite this, works poorly on HF).

No Sync – Another important factor in the design of FSQ is that no synchronizing process is required to locate and decode the received characters. Lack of sync means that reception is much less influenced by propagation timing changes that affect almost all other modes since timing is quite unimportant to FSQ; it almost completely eliminates impulse noise disruption, and it also contributes to very fast acquisition of the signal (decoding reliably within one symbol of the start of reception). Fast acquisition removes the need for the addition of extra idle characters at the start of transmission, and this leads to a very slick system. Add high resistance to QRM and QRN, thanks to the low baud rate, and you have a system so robust that it does not need error correction.

Cool.

See you on the bands!

ICOM IC7300

Probably the best commercial radio available to radio amateurs currently is the IC7300. However, its price is still set by market forces: it could still be profitable at a much lower selling price.

Whether prices drop depends on many factors, but there is no doubt that the price is what it is largely because people are still prepared to buy at this price. If the dealers can still make a killing why would they reduce prices? Also, currently there is no real competition.

See https://icomuk.co.uk/IC-7300/Amateur_Radio_Ham_Base_Stations

Short Demonstration of Using Ham Radio Deluxe with WSJT-X and FT8 Digital Mode

Ham Radio Deluxe can log your WSJT-X FT8, JT65A, and JT9 QSOs, via the JT-Alert software. This is a demonstration of my use of HRD and Logbook, during an FT8 QSO,today.

As some of you know, I have had some differences of opinion regarding the selection of frequencies chosen by the FT8 creators and advocates. Regardless, I do still use the mode. Here is proof:

Go ahead and share, if you would. And, please subscribe to my YouTube channel, as I will be creating many how-to videos in the near future.

Thanks and 73 … de NW7US

ICOM IC7300 – Time for a price drop?

Much to my surprise the price has still to fall, although there are “cracks”: some are now offering the rig with free gifts.

Personally, I can wait. It is a good rig, but to my mind, the dealers have had a very good time and very good profits.

Now is the time to drop the price. Sub £1000 (~$1,300) please – soon.

New ICOM and Yaesu products at Dayton?

Dayton is often the place where ICOM and Yaesu announce new products. I’d like to see a replacement to the FT817 from Yaesu, but have all but given up hope. Certainly a few years ago they would have released at a time of sunspot peak. As it is, we have years of falling conditions, so not the best “window of opportunity.”

The Baofeng Experience

Last week I cleared the dust out of my blog and podcast websites and briefly discussed ordering the Baofeng UV5RA HT from Amazon.  While this model was released several years ago, Amazon has them available brand new for $26.06.  This includes the HT, charging stand and hands-free kit.  Here’s the link to the Amazon product page for the Baofeng UV5RA HT.

I guess it’s been several years now since these cheaper (I guess less expensive might be the more PC way of describing these) Chinese made hand-held radios came onto the market here in the US.   Fellow hams began showing these off at local club meetings and I began reading reviews of these radios on various amateur radio blog sites from around the world. 

For the most part, the opinions expressed all seemed to have a common theme around pricing, ease of use and durability/reliability.  Many viewed the low cost of ownership to be favorable over any durability issues.  I guess the idea of use it, abuse it and toss it comes to mind.  I also seem to remember a strong sentiment of “steer clear” when discussing these units. 

I could see all sides of the argument.  But I also fully understand some folks just getting into the hobby may be on a limited budget and may not have the resources to afford the latest and greatest from ICOM, Kenwood or Yaesu.  As time went by, I really didn’t hear complaints regarding the durability/reliability of the radios.  But certainly most everyone I spoke to all said that the programming of the radio was often a challenge and the provided user manual was of little to no help.

As for me and my reasons for not entertaining the idea of these cheaper Chinese made radios all boiled down to the fact that I really didn’t need another HT.  I already own more HT’s than I have hands, so I just didn’t see the need.

So what changed?

Last week I was thinking about future topics to discuss on the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast and was researching just how many different HT models were available and the price range.  This research led me to all the usual amateur radio dealers as well as a quick check of Amazon.  I simply searched for Baofeng and that’s when the UV5RA popped up.   With my Amazon Prime membership and a $3.00 credit, I could actually get this HT home for less than $25.00.  Deal! 

I decided I would gain some first hand experience with at least one of these cheaper Chinese made HT’s and share my knowledge with all of you reading this blog and later on the podcast.

Reverse Bait and Switch???

So my package shipped from Amazon as expected and was delivered on Saturday.  I opened the package and inspected the contents.  Immediately I noticed something was different. 

If you look at the Amazon product page for the Baofeng UV5RA you’ll see the photo below.  This is the Baofeng UV5RA.  However, the HT shipped to me looked nothing like this.

image

Instead of receiving the UV5RA (as shown above), I received the UV-82 (shown below). 

image

Initially I was slightly upset.  We’ve ordered a lot of items from Amazon.  While this was my first amateur radio purchase, it was also the first time I didn’t receive exactly what I believed I ordered.  However, after doing a little more research I discovered the following:

First, while the Amazon store page for the Baofeng UV5RA doesn’t match what I actually received.  If you carefully read the product description, under the section “What’s in the Box?” you’ll see the Baofeng UV-82 listed.

Second, from what I understand…the UV-82 is an upgraded (newer) Baofeng hand-held.  If I read this Baofeng product comparison chart correctly, the UV-82 includes an updated PCB, commercial grade case and other enhancements as compared to the UV-5R models.

Third, the UV-5RA is a 4 watt model with the UV-82 offering 5 watts output.

Did I get what I paid for?  Well…not really….but advantage appears to be all mine.  I can’t guarantee what will happen if you order the same model I ordered…but from all appearances you’ll also receive the UV-82.  Just no guarantees.  Alternatively, you can purchase the UV-82 via Amazon (listed as UV-82) for $28.80.  It’s a few dollars more than what is listed on the UV5RA product page, but you’ll be guaranteed to receive the UV-82 if that is the model you desire.

How I plan to use the new radio

Before I go into my initial thoughts/review/feedback (what ever you want to call it), I think I should clarify exactly how I plan to use this new Baofeng UV-82 transceiver. 

This radio is not replacing anything I currently own.  My main go-to HT is the Yaesu VX-8 which I have the GPS module installed.  I also own an older Yaesu VX-6 (which I should probably sell) and also the ICOM IC-92 D-STAR HT which I also rarely use. 

I actually plan to program a few local repeaters, simplex and NOAA weather frequencies into the Baofeng and leave it at my office.  For less than $25.00 I am really just considering this a weather radio that will do a little bit more. 

Initial Thoughts

I’ve had the UV-82 now a few days and feel comfortable in sharing some of my initial thoughts on just what I think of this radio.   I’ll break my thoughts down under a few different categories.

Over all Design

The overall design of the radio (my opinion) is fine.  The radio fits nicely in my hand (not too small, not too big).  It sort of reminds me of an older Nokia cell phone from the time when cell phones weren’t smart.  

Channel Mode/Frequency Mode

If I’m honest, I really dislike having to power the radio off to switch from channel mode back to frequency mode.  While it’s simple enough, just hold down the Menu button while you switch on the radio.   All my other HT’s have a button which toggles between the two modes.  However, as previously stated…this radio will be programmed with a few local repeaters, simplex and NOAA weather frequencies.  For the most part, the radio will be used to listen to weather information from the national weather service. 

Case Quality

While I’ve not taken a hammer to the case (nor do I plan to) and I’ve not performed a drop comparison from the top of my building (I don’t plan to do that either).  The overall case quality appears to match that of my Yaesu rigs.  As I’ve previously stated, the radio fits nicely in my hand.  It’s easy to grip and the included belt clip has a nice firm spring.   While I don’t plan to use this HT as I use  my Yaesu, I also wouldn’t have an issue clipping this onto my belt or pack and heading down the trail. 

Stock Rubber Duck Antenna

What’s In Your Rubber Duck?  Well this was answered by Bob, KØNR and I would highly recommend reading his excellent review where he reveals the “inner workings” of several popular stock rubber duck antennas (including the Baofeng UV-5R). 

But what can really be said about ANY stock rubber duck antenna?  Regardless if the radio brand is Yaesu, ICOM or Baofeng, you will greatly improve the radio by installing an aftermarket antenna.  I use the Diamond SRH77CA on my Yaesu VX-8 and it works great.  But at the moment, I have no plans to replace or upgrade the Baofeng rubber duck. 

Screen

The LCD screen on the UV-82 is slightly smaller than what I’m used to on the Yaesu VX-8.  But to be honest, if I don’t have my reading glasses with me 24×7 these days…and the screen size doesn’t rival the Dallas Cowboys Jumbotron, I’m not able to see anything.  

Dual PTT functionality

The UV-82 features dual PTT switch functionality.  This is a bit odd (compared to my other HT’s).  I suppose in time I will get used to it. 

FM Broadcast Band

If this is something you care about, the UV-82 features a button on the side which switches the radio to the FM Broadcast band. 

Built in Flashlight

If you are in the need of a hand-held amateur radio transceiver WITH a built-in flashlight, then the UV-82 is the rig for you.  A conveniently placed button on the side will turn on/off the flashlight. 

User manual

This is the radios weakest link and is perhaps not worth the paper they used to print it.  It could be written in Chinese and even non-Chinese speakers would obtain as much knowledge by reading it. 

But seriously, the entire user manual is 29 pages long.  Not one page actually covers how to program the radio.  Thankfully YouTube exists and many others before me figured it all out and shared their knowledge.

Ease of Programming

The UV-82 offers 182 different channels which can be programmed (once you figure out how to program them).  Unfortunately, Baofeng (in their infinite wisdom) pre-programmed 20 channels (1-21).  As you can’t edit a pre-programmed channel, you’ll need to delete these which can be done one-by-one in the menu. 

While I believe it might be a daunting task for any brand new ham (or soon-to-be brand new ham) to sit down with an HT, User Manual and Repeater Directory and successfully program the radio.  The Baofeng (unfortunately) really makes it impossible.  This is part of what I was talking about during the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast (episode 70).  As I’ve always recommended the Nifty Ham Radio Guides for ALL radios, I think it is a must have for the Baofeng

Alternatively, if the UV-82 is going to be your primary hand-held and you’ll want/need to reprogram often.  I would highly recommend purchasing the programming software and cable from RT Systems.  While I don’t plan to purchase the the cable/software for the Baofeng, I do own the software and cables for all my other rigs. 

In Summary

While I’ve not discussed each and every feature/benefit of the Baofeng UV-82 in this blog article.  I’ve identified a few key areas which I’ve discovered and most importantly have feedback/opinions on regarding.  More importantly, as I’ve previously mentioned…I don’t plan to heavily use this radio.  But having said that, I also wouldn’t have an issue with clipping it to my belt and heading down the trail either. 

The opinions within our hobby of what makes a great first radio for a beginning ham are strong.  Some are pro the HT and some are against the HT.  If you are just starting out in our wonderful hobby, on a tight budget and looking to pickup a radio which won’t break the budget and allow you to enjoy the hobby…then I certainly recommend the Baofeng UV-82.  After all, the package contains everything (transceiver, antenna and power source) you’ll need to get on the air.  Get your ham radio license and join the fun of the worlds best hobby.

Until next time…

73 de KDØBIK (Jerry)


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