Posts Tagged ‘Receivers’

Hamcation 2013 and QRP

One of my favorite events is the Orlando Hamcation. This year I didn’t really have a “get list” so could enjoy more time with fellow QRP ops. Our Central FL QRP Group regular Jim Diggs K4AHO helped us get a QRP Forum and Jim Stafford W4QO came in from Georgia to help bring a good session about working DXCC with QRP. Wow! Jim also did a lot of recruiting of QRP ops as he manned the QRP ARCI booth and allowed us to hang out and assist. We had quite a good turnout of QRP Ops from FL and all over the US and a few overseas members too!

 

W4QOatHamcation2013QRPForum CFLQRPHamcation2013 Crowd at Hamcation 2013 QRPARCI booth Hamcation2013demoN4KGL  Carl AA2JZ brought some of his homebrew masterpieces and along with some QRP rigs W4QO displayed we got a lot if interests and questions on what was in the Altoids tins.

After the QRP Forum, Greg N4KGL gave us a demo of his Alex Loop and KX-3 at a nearby picnic table. The weather and bands were both cooperative and we were all impressed with the way the antenna and rig set up and operated!

Thanks to all who joined in the fun. Check out our Central FL QRP Group blog for details on our outings.

Tecsun PL-360

Tecsun PL-360

The only item of radio equipment in my Christmas stocking this year was a Tecsun PL-360 FM/MW/SW DSP receiver. These smartly-styled radios in black or silver are widely available on eBay for less than £30 including postage from China. The radio looks and feels a much better quality item than you might expect at that price.

The PL-360 covers medium wave, Band 2 FM (with stereo decoder) and 13 short wave bands from 2300 to 21950 kHz. Unlike most cheap short wave radios that have a frequency counter displaying the frequency of an analogue VFO, the Tecsun PL-360 is a true digital radio having a fully synthesized PLL VFO.

The Tecsun is also a digital radio in that it is DSP based not the usual superhet. The benefits are immediately apparent when you listen to the radio – it has that clear, open sound characteristic of DSP receivers. The internal speaker does not deliver much bass but you really hear the difference, especially listening to FM stereo, when using earphones, of which a Walkman-style pair are included.

For AM use Tecsun supplies a rotatable ferrite rod antenna that plugs in to the top of the radio. This can be used over a frequency range of 150 to 1710 kHZ, though note well that this radio does not have a long wave band. The 7-section telescopic whip antenna is 38cm (15in) long and is used on the short wave and FM bands.

Showing the rotatable MW antenna

The tuning control is a click-stopped rotary encoder which tunes the radio in 1 kHz steps on short wave and 9 or 10 kHz steps on medium wave. The radio can be tuned outside the broadcast bands but this is rather a tedious exercise due to the 1 kHz steps – there is no provision for direct frequency entry using a keypad. The  Tecsun PL-360 does not demodulate CW or SSB so there is not much point in tuning into the amateur HF bands – a pity, though that is not unexpected at this price level.

For tuning the Tecsun has a neat trick inherited from TV receivers. Called Easy Tuning Mode (ETM) the radio first tunes the entire MW, SW or FM frequency range and stores all the frequencies on which a signal was heard in memory. You can then tune from one signal to the next using the click-stopped tuning control. This makes short wave listening really easy and pleasurable. Doing an ETM scan of the short wave bands takes a few minutes. The feature is a useful tool for checking out HF propagation, though it’s a pity the tuning range stops at 22 MHz.

Power is provided by 3 x AA cells which may be standard alkaline or NiMH rechargeable (not supplied.). A charging circuit is built-in and power may be applied using a mini-USB socket on the side, so you can charge the batteries from a PC (using an appropriate USB cable) or a mobile phone charger. A charger is not included, but you do get a long wire antenna that clips on to the top of the telescopic whip for improved short wave reception, and a nice faux-leather case.

As an alternative to the Easy Tuning Mode the receiver may be tuned manually and frequencies entered into memories, but as mentioned earlier this is quite tedious. There is no programming software that would enable memories to be set up using a computer. There is a built-in clock which is quite accurate and includes an alarm function. The radio also has a temperature sensor and displays both temperature and time even when switched off.

To sum up, the Tecsun PL-360 is a portable radio of surprisingly good quality and performance for the money. Its Easy Tuning Mode makes casual listening a pleasure, the audio quality is excellent and the provision for rechargeable batteries is welcome. At less than £30 it is a real bargain.

Breaking News…Grinches ALMOST Stole My Favorite SDR Site

BREAKING NEWS!  Mack has rebooted and W4AX.com is back online. It is a huge blessing  and thanks again to Mack and the host of others who serve all of us! YAHOOO>>> Grinches lose! W4AX.COM is online again! Belay my last!

A few years ago, we did not know the term, Software Defined Radio but now it has become one of many new technologies that we hams are learning to adapt to our needs. As an antenna restricted condo dweller, I’ve found it most helpful for being able to listen to the bands at various times through the day.

W4AX.com Screenshot

W4AX.com during IARU CW contest

Yesterday I learned my favorite site, W4AX.com is shut down due to abuse by non-hams and other constraints. A big thanks to Mack, W4AX and others who are the unsung heros that provide services like these and have allowed access to others over the years. The Reverse Beacon Network is another great service and we often forget the time and expense that our fellow hams have put into keeping them going.  As a blogger with multiple sites, I understand the challenges and resources it takes all too well.

I’ll miss being able to check the bands 24 x 7 on my favorite site, but perhaps it will prompt me and others to set up our own SDR site and share it with others. I salute those who like Mack paved the way for new technology to provide access to so many hams. Sorry that the burden got too heavy to keep it going, but know your work was appreciated by many. I’ll be sure to let others who are working behind the scenes know that they are appreciated too.

Blessings gang of pioneers and Happy Holidays to you all!

72,

Kelly K4UPG


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