QRP v QRO – Blood on the Floor?

The mighty, omnipotent sun that our precious emerald and sapphire orb circulates is nearing the crescendo of its eleven year repeat-performance.

For the first time since 2003, I have revisited the high frequencies: the short waves of equal delight and frustration that ebb and flow with the days, seasons and years. Back then, I worked the world with 10 Watts and a rather long wire antenna. I stayed up all night sometimes to listen to the magical waxing and waning of distant continents on 80m. It was like listening to a sublime symphony. Having moved to a new house with more limited prospects for creating a good HF antenna system, I turned my back on these noble frequencies to chase the excitement of VHF and UHF.
Ironically, the drive for portable operation at V/UHF has led me to flirt with HF again. It’s the inevitable purchase of arguably one of the best amateur radios ever manufactured, the Yaesu FT-817. Five delightful Watts from top band, all the way to 70cm. MF to UHF. Sea level to mountain top. CW to FM, with all modes in between. What a gem of beautifully packaged, miniaturised happiness.

FT-817 tuned to 10m

With 5W of HF readily to hand, I’ve hastily run 10m of vertical wire in the back garden to listen to a more contemporary performance of a classic favourite. Happily, 10m has truly sprung into life. This morning I’ve just completed a QSO from home (Wales) to Greece with 5W at both ends. Deep joy. A quick bargain has even brought a Miracle Whip into the ensemble – just experimenting for fun.
But scanning through the bands in general I’m noticing a tendency to transmit at powers of 1kW and above, whatever the band, whatever the conditions. Abrupt reports of 5/9+ are exchanged with a seemingly insatiable appetite to amass as many transient contacts as possible. Then there are the pile-ups. Those ungentlemanly bun-fights where the loudest (or largest bank account and electricity bill) wins. I’m sure that there are whole streets in Palermo where the lights actually dim when DX from Pago Pago is heard on 20m.
We’ll never know if was possible to work Pago Pago with QRP because we were never given the chance. This is on SSB at least. CW operators have a greater appreciation of low power. This is an old argument that will attract equal venom and praise from our electromagnetic community. But I do believe that as technology advances, there is a global drive for efficiency. Low power is in fashion and with solar conditions as they are, we should all be ‘turning the wick down’ a little bit, shouldn’t we?
I do believe that when the sun takes its rest, there is a place for high power, particularly on the more difficult bands. There – you see? I’m not anti-QRO at all. I’m just advocating using (as your exam tells you) the minimum amount of power necessary to maintain a comfortable QSO.
Rob Law, MW0DNK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Anglesey, Wales. Contact him at [email protected].

7 Responses to “QRP v QRO – Blood on the Floor?”

  • Rich f8wbd:

    When electric bills skyrocket (even for the wealthy), you may see amplifiers go out of fashion.

  • Ken Akin AC0HO:

    Not as many operators, but digital (Olivia and PSK31 are my choices) are almost always lower power and work quite well. Just a thought.

  • Rich – you’re right. I wonder how efficient they are and what the prime power requirements for a 1kW amplifier may be?

    Ken – my work is in satcomms and we’ve seen some huge advances in advanced modulation techniques and digital compression over the last few years. I really need to try digi modes on HF sometime – sounds like great fun!

    Thanks both for your comments and 73, Rob.

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good evening Rob, QRP is great and it’s very surprising how far just a little bit of power can go. This weekend I bounced around 10m with as little as 100mW’s. I was able to get into Spain with that power. As antennas go I had the Miracle whip and was very happy with it, I sold it along with my Elecraft KX1 as a package deal. At this point I am using an Alpha Delta DX-EE and it’s up in my attic.

  • Hi Mike – 100mW into Spain is excellent!

    I’m looking forward to trying the Miracle Whip over the next few days. Even if the ERP with 5W isn’t fantastic, it will at least get me on the air, or just listening when I otherwise wouldn’t be. I can throw all the gear into my rucksack when I go out to work and set up quickly. I suspect I’ll need to get my CW skills up to speed to get the real benefits, though! 73, Rob.

  • AI4HO Mark:

    Rob, thanks for a great article, I enjoy both QRP and QRO..although my QRO is about 600 watts with the ALS-600 from Ameritron. I too have the Yaesu FT-817ND, what a great little rig..I could go on for hours about what a neat little rig and a very useful tool as well. I would like to be able to get my CW skills up, but as I am very extremely tone deaf, I figure CW is the mode that will not be high on my list of modes to use. I’m still contemplating trying the digital modes..again, and the Miracle whip is a rather unique antenna..who would have thought that such a little guy would yield the giant within. I could go on and on, about all of this and more, but suffice it to say, that we hams are very resourceful group..if electricity rates go up, then by golly we can find another meand to power those kilowatt, 2 kilowatt amps, or..those that has them will just have ta pay the higher rates. TNX again.

    73 de Mark

  • Thanks for the comment Mark, well written! If you don’t already blog, perhaps you should? All these comments are very encouraging and there is a real passion for radio out there. 73, Rob.

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