Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A new receiver

I have owned the Cross Country Wireless SDR 4+  SDR receiver for a couple of years now. I wasn't sure how I would get on with an SDR, as it turned out I have really taken to it. I am probably more active as an SWL than I am as a transmitting radio amateur but since having the SDR in the shack my Kenwood R1000 and R5000 traditional analogue receivers have been hardly used. there is a link on this blog to a short review of the SDR4+and I will soon be updating it with my views of the receiver two years on, but basically I have been really pleased with it. It is still in almost daily use and coupled with my elderly Windows XP laptop acting as a server works well remotely.
One of the big plus points of the SDR is than I can control it remotely over the internet using my compact Acer Netbook computer and I have had a lot of fun doing this. I suppose the next step would normally be an SDR transceiver like the flex radio but for my ham radio activities I still prefer the traditional "knobs and buttons" approach of my rigs.

However on the receiver side, early in December I ordered  a Elad FDM S2 direct sampling SDR.
This receiver covers from 9khz up to 160mhz and comes with its own bespoke software. Due to a stock shortage the receiver was not delivered until 24th December, this meant that with the Christmas festivities and visiting family  I have not had much time to use the receiver until the last week or so.




Here it is sitting on top of the SDR4+. Although  almost the same width the Elad is only half the depth. Its facilities are more complex than the SDR4+ and the software takes some getting used to although I can also use third party software such as the "SDR Radio"  package which I am more familiar with. First impressions of this receiver are excellent, although it is more demanding of the PC hardware. My main machine here in the shack is a dual core processor with 4Mb of Ram but struggles with the receiver on some of the wider bandwidth settings-possible an upgrade of the shack PC will be required.
I have no doubt I will be posting more about the Elad as I get to know it better.

Just prior to the Christmas break a fault developed with my main station antenna the Western HF10 doublet. I checked all the obvious things, the coax cable was OK, no breaks in the Ribbon cable feeder (which seems to be the antennas only weak point-it is otherwise extremely well made), The antenna element itself was checked for continuity as were the loading coils. All seemed ok but the antenna would not tune on 80 metres. As I was short of time I have taken the antenna down and replaced it with a half size G5RV for now. I will give the balun connections on the HF 10 a good clean up and replace the ribbon feeder and hope that will cure the problem. I am keen to get it back up in the air as I have found it to be an excellent antenna.


Sunday, 23 November 2014

Noise!!

I have thought since I moved to this QTH how lucky I was to have a fairly low noise environment for radio. Considering I am in an area close to shops and other houses RF noise levels are pretty low. That is until the last week or so when I noticed some very strong interference on the top end of the Medium Wave band
.

and the CW end of the 80 metre band.



Here is a quick recording of the 80 metre noise on the FT1000MP and doublet antenna.

video

The problem is the same whether using my doublet or the Wellbrook loop receive antenna. Its not coming from this QTH as I have turned off the mains supply to the house and the noise is just as bad using my FT857 on a 12 volt battery supply. I really need to try and find the source of this interference!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

First QSO on 80 metres!

Well not actually my first QSO on 80 of course but the first 80 metre contact on the Pro-whip vertical at the YL's home. The Pro-Whip works reasonably well on 20 metres and above for what it is- 6 metres of wire with an unun at the bottom and a single radial wire. On 40 metres it is less effective and of course I have to battle the high noise level here. 80 metres is less noisy but the whip is very inefficient on such a low frequency. I was surprised then to get a reply from special event station ON1418HRT on psk 31.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Just an update

During the summer months my radio activity has been less than usual with so many other things to be done! As winter approaches I hope to be a little more active on the bands. I have however been having some fun on 10 metres. Over the past week or so my 25 Watts of PSK31 has resulted in contacts with the U.S, Canada, Chile, Argentina and today, South Africa. On ten I have been using the Antron 99 vertical which generally appears to be (slightly) superior to my horizontal doublet on 28 Mhz.

Today's contact with ZS4GB, Gert, resulted in me receiving this QSL card by Email moments later!


Sunday, 20 July 2014

10 metre conditions

There was an opening  on 10 metres FM this evening. Here in South Wales I could here a number of stations in the North of Scotland with good signals
I worked GM0EKL located north of Aberdeen. Switching between my vertical and my doublet I found very little difference on received signal strength which often seems to be the case on this band. TX signal did however seem stronger on the doublet.

I only became aware of the opening as I have a new piece of equipment in the shack that was scanning, pictured below.



This rig is in fact a multimode CB rig an Albrecht AE5890EU. It is still in its original configuration in which it covers 80 CB channels with multimode facilities on the lower 40 channels (legal in the UK since 27th June) and FM only on the higher "UK" channels. Changing an internal jumper converts the rig to higher powered 10 metre coverage  with repeater shift facilities. The rig can also be configured to cover the 12 metre band.

First impressions of this rig are pretty good. The CB bands in this area are pretty quiet but there has been a little activity on SSB since its legalisation. I operated CB for a short while in the 1980s as a youngster, but was a shortwave listener before that. In those days the band was crowded. Even though my parents lived in a poor radio location at the bottom of a valley it was difficult sometimes to find a clear channel. It is a very different story today. Unless band conditions are good the entire 80 channels are usually quiet!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Weatherproof

I did a little research before weatherproofing the Pro-Whip Balun. To be honest I had nothing to lose. I have a spare 9:1 balun and if the original balun failed I would replace it. I looked into purchasing the purpose made compounds for "potting" electronic components but they were expensive and sold in larger quantities than I needed. In the end I settled on "neutral" silicon sealant, the type used to seal around external window frames. Since this contains no Acetic acid (which is corrosive and is found in the many of the bathroom type sealants) it should not attack the solder joints. The balun is now waterproof as  the box is filled with sealant, it doesn't look pretty (although the picture is of course with the cover off) but it should do the job.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Water

Taking down the pro whip antenna after it had been up for a couple of days in the rain I noticed that the balun  appeared to be full of water! After undoing the screws on the casing  and prising off the "superglued" lid,sure enough it was wet inside. To be fair the maker does not claim the antenna is waterproof and it certainly isn't! I need to find a way of sealing it up. I think the only solution is to fill the casing with something waterproof. Maybe silicon sealant. For now I have emptied out the water and used the YL's hairdryer to dry it out!