Posts Tagged ‘elecraft kx3’

Where is that blasted noise coming from?

Evil RF noise in Ethernet over power adapters

My internet comes in at a corner of the house.  In that room I have my cable modem and a WIFI router.  Unfortunately the WIFI is seemingly non-existent at the other end of my house and especially in the upper floor opposite the WIFI router.  I tried re-orienting it and different antennas to no avail.

As a solution, I purchased an Ethernet over powerline adapter.  This routed the Ethernet through the house wiring to receivers plugged into outlets at points where the WIFI was weak, thus providing Internet access to those rooms.  The model I purchased also had ethernet ports which I needed for some of my older devices.

Ethernet over powerline seemed like an ideal solution.

Typical Ethernet over powerline adapter
All was well until a few months ago... I noticed a broadband noise on 40m and 80m in my shack.  I turned off the power to the house and switched to battery on my KX3 and the noise was gone.  So the interference was coming from my house.


The Search

I restored the power and fired up my Yaesu HT which has general coverage receive and tuned it to 7030kHz.  I walked around the house and conducted a bit of a fox-hunt for the offending noise.  The noise occurred at every outlet in the house !!!

I tracked it down to one of the Ethernet powerline receivers.  I unplugged it from the wall and discovered blissful silence.  I figured it had just gone bad.  It was out of warranty so back to the store I went and purchased another set.  This time it was a different brand, as the first one was no longer carried.

I installed the new adapters and everything was fine... for a time.


Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me

This week the noise returned with a vengeance.  Being wiser I went straight to the new adapter and unplugged it.  Yep it had gone bad again.  It was in warranty but I'd learned my lesson.  Whatever sort of RF filtering these devices have doesn't last.  Something zaps them.  I can't plug the receiver into a AC line filter because it stops it from receiving the Ethernet over powerline.

So out they came and back to the electronics store I went.  This time I purchased a WIFI extender with Ethernet ports built-in.  I'm back to blissful RF quiet (to a degree) at my QTH.

The moral of the story

If you have RF noise at your shack and you use these devices, check them out.  They could be the S9 noise culprit.  If you haven't bought them, take my advice and don't chance it.

I didn't think a WIFI extender would work for me because my laptop can't even detect the WIFI in some of my rooms but the WIFI extender (at least the Netgear model) seems to work well.  I now have blessed Internet in every room and no more broadband RF noise.

That's all for now

So lower you power and raise your expectations (and rid yourself of pesky RF noise)

72/73
Richard, AA4OO
http://hamradioqrp.com

Portable Ops 11 & 12: Two New States and 2 x QRP!

This post is a two-fer, I didn’t get a chance to write up #11 portable operations, so I just decided to combine them.

Do you ever have one of those QSO’s where everything seems to go wrong??  I did when I worked WB3GCK.  Right now I don’t have a true straight key, so I use one lever of the paddles on my KX3 set to HAND mode.  Sometimes the contacts don’t make great connection and they dits and dahs sound funny.  Well during this QSO this was happening a bunch!  On top of that my KX3 started complaining about the voltage level of the battery.  So mid QSO I had to attached my external battery which required me to change where the KX was sitting – it was just a mess!

But Craig WB3GCK seemed very gracious and we just carried on.

So who did I work??

3/29/13 – I just had about 30 minutes to play between meetings….so just two contacts…

KG7VTO (14714) – Bob had a great signal from Oregon on 20 meters, plus a great sounding fist.

KK6GLP – I have worked Mike before and his signal sounded great as usual from California.

3/30/13 – Had a ton of fun this day!  These were all from me calling CQ on 18.080…

N1WPU (1312) – Ted answered my CQ from Maine!  He was running 75 watts into a G5RV and had a really nice signal and fist.

WB3GCK (15052T) – Craig came back to my CQ and he was also QRP at 5 watts.  Craig is also a fellow blogger, and a blog I frequent!  He has just recently obtained Tribune status in the SKCC.  From reading his blog it looks like he was bitten by the same SKCC bug I have been bitten by!  You can read his blog here http://wb3gck.craiglabarge.com/.  This is actually the second time I have worked Craig.  The last time was back in 2013 when he was vacationing in North Carolina!

WB1AJX (12872T) – The last contact for the day was with Howard running his KX3 at 5 watts.  We had a nice exchange from Rhode Island to Kansas for another nice 2xQRP contact.

So for this day it looks like there was a pipeline from Kansas to the far Northeast of the USA.  I had never worked Maine or Rhode Island before – so that is awesome.  Plus to have two 2xQRP contacts was a real kick as well!

The main reason I moved to 17 meters was because there was at least one VERY LARGE pileup going on 20 meters – it ran from about 14.035 to 14.057 – completely spread out!  I never did figure out the DX everyone was trying to work – but the pileup was destroying the band.

Portable Ops 11 & 12: Two New States and 2 x QRP!

This post is a two-fer, I didn’t get a chance to write up #11 portable operations, so I just decided to combine them.

Do you ever have one of those QSO’s where everything seems to go wrong??  I did when I worked WB3GCK.  Right now I don’t have a true straight key, so I use one lever of the paddles on my KX3 set to HAND mode.  Sometimes the contacts don’t make great connection and they dits and dahs sound funny.  Well during this QSO this was happening a bunch!  On top of that my KX3 started complaining about the voltage level of the battery.  So mid QSO I had to attached my external battery which required me to change where the KX3 was sitting – it was just a mess!

But Craig WB3GCK seemed very gracious and we just carried on.

So who did I work??

3/29/13 – I just had about 30 minutes to play between meetings….so just two contacts…

KG7VTO (14714) – Bob had a great signal from Oregon on 20 meters, plus a great sounding fist.

KK6GLP – I have worked Mike before and his signal sounded great as usual from California.

3/30/13 – Had a ton of fun this day!  These were all from me calling CQ on 18.080…

N1WPU (1312) – Ted answered my CQ from Maine!  He was running 75 watts into a G5RV and had a really nice signal and fist.

WB3GCK (15052T) – Craig came back to my CQ and he was also QRP at 5 watts.  Craig is also a fellow blogger, and a blog I frequent!  He has just recently obtained Tribune status in the SKCC.  From reading his blog it looks like he was bitten by the same SKCC bug I have been bitten by!  You can read his blog here http://wb3gck.craiglabarge.com/.  This is actually the second time I have worked Craig.  The last time was back in 2013 when he was vacationing in North Carolina!

WB1AJX (12872T) – The last contact for the day was with Howard running his KX3 at 5 watts.  We had a nice exchange from Rhode Island to Kansas for another nice 2xQRP contact.

So for this day it looks like there was a pipeline from Kansas to the far Northeast of the USA.  I had never worked Maine or Rhode Island before – so that is awesome.  Plus to have two 2xQRP contacts was a real kick as well!

The main reason I moved to 17 meters was because there was at least one VERY LARGE pileup going on 20 meters – it ran from about 14.035 to 14.057 – completely spread out!  I never did figure out the DX everyone was trying to work – but the pileup was destroying the band.

BLT+ Balanced line tuner at Excalibur

Another portable test of the BLT+ tuner

KX3 operating on internal battery.  What a fantastic portable rig.

I took the BLT+ balanced line tuner out to the Excalibur antenna site to try it out on the doublet antenna that we put up last Saturday.  This was the first test of that antenna (40m and 80m using a common feedpoint).

I didn't have much time today and after the first QSO it started to rain so I packed up and left before getting as much documented as I would have liked.  I apologize for not recording the actual tuning process and the subsequent QSO.

BLT+ connected to open wire line (under the gloves) going to ta 40m Doublet at 65ft
I had the KX3 operating using its internal batteries and outputting 2w. I was running 2 watts because that is the most efficient PA mode for the KX3.

I used the BLT+ to tune the 40m/80m doublet.  Balanced line antennas perform better with a tuner designed for balanced line and this was a good test for both the tuner and the new antenna. 

Portable shack, courtesy of three plastic chairs

I quickly matched the doublet using the BLT+ using the lowest impedance setting which is also the most efficient.  I was glad to see that the BLT SWR LED indicator is bright enough to be seen in direct sunlight.  I was wondering about that but you can definitely tell when it dims even in direct sunlight.

Performance

After quickly tuning up I sent my call two times and was promptly answered.  The other station was running a Flex 6500 into a KPA500 and a OCF Windom at 50 feet. 

He reported me as 559, while he was a 599.  He was running a new KPA500 amp at 500w so we were a bit mismatched on power.  

Interestingly the difference in 2w and 500w exactly matches the 4 S-Unit difference in our reports if you do the math (each increase in an S-unit requires quadruple the power). 

AA4OO sitting back and listening to the QSO

Paul AA4XX kindly snapped some pictures while I was listening to the other operator.  This is the Excalibur antenna site but the shack is outside the photo. 

The Doublet's feed line has not been brought to the shack yet so I was just sitting under the antenna.  The open feed line is running along the ground for a bit which certainly didn't help the signal but we haven't installed the posts to carry the feed line over to the shack and I was too lazy to move the chairs far enough away to keep the feed line in the air.

In the foreground is some saw-grass common on the NC coast.  I'm not sure why it's growing this far inland.

Portable shack at the Excalibur antenna site... The Doublet is 65 feet above my head
Waiting my turn in the QSO... holding the Palm Single Paddle.  BLT+ tuner in the chair to the right

Video

Here is a brief video showing how the BLT+ is connected to the Doublet...


Summary

The little BLT+ performed great with both balanced line antennas I've tried.  It is easy to use and allows me to use my KX3 with balanced feed line antennas now.  I encourage you to build the kit from Pacific Antenna / QRPKits.com .

That's all for now

So lower your power and raise your expectations

72/73
Richard, AA4OO

1 Watt and a Wire… in the Attic

You can't always get what you want, but you try sometimes...

Recently I've dialed my normal 5 watts down to 1watt (one watt, singular) for all my contacts.  To throw some water on the fire I've decided to use my attic antenna which weaves all around my metal ductwork and electrical wiring.   Mostly this was to prove a point to myself but it may be enlightening to deed restricted hams that they can use a qrp radio and an attic antenna successfully.

Key lineup... Palm Single (paddle), Vibroplex Bug (circa 1970s), Kent Hand key

It only seems pointless until you try

Calling CQ with 1w QRPp into a poor attic antenna isn't as pointless as it would seem.  I didn't have to wait long when calling CQ before I got an answer most of the time.  

Now am I going to bust a pileup with 1 watt ?  Possibly not but I think that my assumptions about both how much power I need and how big an antenna I need are usually out of proportion with reality.

1 mighty watt

My assumptions are often incorrect

I made QSOs on 30m, 20m, 17m and 10m this morning all at 1 watt.  The solar conditions report was not really fantastic, especially for 10m.  Yet 1 watt through the attic antenna bagged the only DX I heard on 10m.  I had a couple of other multiple exchange contacts on 20m, 17m and one good old fashioned 25 minute long ragchew on 30m where I received a 599 report for my one watt from Bob (NR8M) in Ohio.  Admittedly, Bob was booming in and we had good propagation to each other.

http://www.hamqsl.com/solar.html

Video

The recording below was number 4 or 5 this morning.  I wanted to post this one because I was working another QRP station in Arkansas (K5EDM) and we did NOT have great propagation to each other.  He was running 5w while I was running 1w so it was QRP to QRPp.  In the video you can see that I'm using some of the KX3's tricks to pull the signal up because there was a lot of QSB and noise (note the GEOMAGNETIC FIELD UNSETTLED in the solar report).  

I had the volume maxed and was using the RF gain control mostly.  I eventually had to turn on the preamp which really washed me in noise but I dropped the RF gain more and eventually switched in the APF (audio peaking filter) which performed magic on this contact.  Often I find that APF doesn't help but this time it made a big difference.


That's all for now

So lower your power and raise your expectations

72/73
Richard N4PBQ

Just stand up

The "Nifty Accessories" KX3 stand

Nifty Accessories KX3 stand

The Elecraft KX3 is naturally at home in the wild

My Elecraft KX3 is an incredible radio in many ways.  It's small size makes it a marvel for portable operations.
The upward facing display of the KX3's short legs is ideal for remote, portable operations

But on the desktop it's short stuff

But for desktop operation the short rear legs make for a laid back angle that makes the display difficult to see and the buttons awkward to operate.  I home brewed a stand that I've used for the past few months.  It angled the radio more vertically but it was still low to the desk. 

The KX3 on my homebrew stand

The KX3 "Iron Throne"

I finally felt it was time to give the KX3 some love and give it a proper throne chair for its little princely demeanor.  The KX3 now has some height and sits more vertically.  Access to the face of the radio is much improved.


Here's a closer view...

If you have a KX3 and use it on a desk in the shack the Nifty Accessories stand is a solid addition to improve the ergonomics of your little jewel.  It can be ordered with enough space to clear an attached paddle or lower to the desk if you prefer but I wanted the additional height to get it above some of my taller keys.


One Suggestion... replace the paper clips

The stand comes with big paper clips to hold the KX3 to the stand.  They are a a bit difficult to properly attach with all the cables exiting the KX3 on the left hand side and they look ugly.


I replaced the two paper clips with a small bungee cord which I attach as a loop across the top of the stand.  The bungee cord connects to itself underneath the stand...



The feet of the KX3 then slip under the bungee cord.  It seems to hold it sufficiently and is easier to attach and remove the radio.  It looks nicer as well...




That's all for now

So lower your power and raise your expectations

72/73
Richard, N4PBQ

Rock ‘N Radio — QRP Style

Operating QRP
Can mean operating from a "Quiet Restful Place"

I had the day off today and it was a beautiful morning.  I decided to spend part of it at Lake Wheeler Park in Raleigh, NC operating QRP from a stone bench under a tall oak tree.
rock 'n radio
I was operating the Elecraft KX3 from its internal AA batteries for the two hours I was there running 5 watts and it worked well.  I had brought an external battery but didn't need to connect it.

I threw a line over a tree using a throwing weight.  I hit my mark the first time, untied the weight, tied on the end of the antenna, and hoisted the 31 foot end-fed up exactly where I wanted it with the feed point a couple of feet off the ground.
31 feet of wire end-fed by a 9:1 balun.
A kite string winder holds the throwing line
A metal stake with a bit of rope anchors the balun and the other end of the rope

Another view of the end-fed with 9:1 balun, stake and coax
The 20 feet of coax serves as the counterpoise so hookups couldn't be simpler.  The KX3 simply has the coax attached to one side and the morse key and headphones in the other.
QRP operating position
The morning was very pleasant, if a bit windy, clear with a temperature of 55 F.

The KX3 will match the end-fed wire on about any band other than 160m but on 80m you could likely throw the radio farther than the signal travels.  The KX3 auto tuner is pretty amazing and I believe it could tune a piano if you hooked it up correctly.

I worked stations on 20m, 40m and 30m.

I called CQ on the 20m QRP calling frequency (14.060) and had a brief QSO with a lot of QSB (fading).  I didn't hear much activity that early in the morning on 20m so I dropped down to 40m and worked the QRP calling frequency (7.030) and had my call answered right away.  After that QSO another station jumped in there calling for a specific station so I moved on.  40m was busy.  Every time I thought I'd found an open frequency someone would jump back in or if I called QRL? I'd get an R R.

So I went up to 30m, and had a very nice long ragchew that lasted nearly an hour.  The internal AA batteries on the KX3 were getting a workout operating at 5w for that entire time but I never saw the transmit wattage drop below 5w and when I finished up the internal batteries still showed 9.8 V  The cutoff is 8.5 V so there was plenty of juice left.  I may just stop carrying the external battery on these brief jaunts.

My long ragchew was with a station in GA about 400 miles away and he gave me a report of 599 so I was thrilled with 30m this morning. Coincidentally, this end-fed antenna, balun, coax-counterpoise combo is nearly resonant on 30m and I've had some of my best reports when operating this portable antenna on 30m. 

Key wise, I was using the Palm Single Paddle.  It is a great little key when you don't have a table to operate from and you don't want to strap something to your leg.  I get strange enough looks from passer-by's without them wondering why I have some mechanism strapped to my thigh and the Palm Single is very inconspicuous.

The Palm key has a clip-on, magnetic base which I use to temporarily attach it to my clipboard when I'm not sending.  When I'm ready to send I simply pull it off the clipboard and hold it in my left hand. As I noted in an earlier review of the Palm Single Paddle it can be used as a straight key if you turn it on its side.  The long ragchew I had on 30m was with a gentlemen who sent me his SKCC number in the first exchange so I quickly turned off the electronic keyer in the KX3's and turned the Palm Single on its side.  That station sent me a nice compliment on my straight key FIST; so the little Palm Single key can serve duty as a paddle into a keyer or (in a pinch) as a straight key.  I far prefer to use my Kent Hand Key if I'm operating manual key but it's too big to bring along for portable operations and I can't quite picture myself trying to hold onto the giant Kent Hand Key with one hand whilst operating it with the other like I can the Palm Single.

The Palm Single Paddle works great in portable operating positions
I made a silly little video of my trip to the park...


So enjoy some nice fall weather if you still have it and have a Rock 'N Radio adventure.
What could be finer than to be in Carolina in the Mooo-oor-ning

Enjoying the last nice days of our Fall... birds singing and morse code beeping
That's all for now...

So Lower your power and raise your expectations

73/72
Richard N4PBQ

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