Archive for the ‘Antennas’ Category

New Rig Workout

So having received my gracious gift from St. Nick it was now time to set it all up.

I have also purchased an Icom AH-4 tuner and this will become the focal point for future antennas.

Setup of the tuner and radio was pretty straight forward. Power is supplied to the tuner over a control cable that plugs directly into the IC-7000 and all tuning functions are accessed from the front panel “Tune” button. I set up a simple 16m wire loop on the balcony and the AH-4 had no problem tuning it to 1:1.5 SWR from 40m to 6m. 40m prodced some RFI which tripped a GFCI in the apartment but other than that no other issues or complications arose.

The loop is bascially just folded around the balcony. Right now I don’t have the supports to fold it in the manner that I would like but that is something I will rectify after Christmas.I based the design on WX7G, Dave’s, 3d folded loop antenna for 10m, I’m hoping to perfect the concept for HF operations. Remember my balcony is only about 40sq ft or about 8ft by 5ft (2.4m x 1.5m), in a highrise apartment surrounded by concrete and steel in a downtown setting at 140ft up.

I patiently waited for the 20m band to open one Sunday morning and eventually worked a couple of stations in PSK31 up and down the west coast all easily on 25watts. If this was all I could do then I would still be a happy ham. Just being to get on the air in the apartment is a great for me, anything after that is a bonus.

It took a while before I got used to the macros in DigiPan and it has a couple of quirks that you need to be aware of, especially the RX and RXANDCLEAR functions. If you don’t use the RXANDCLEAR function you risk sending your last macro again as I found out a couple of times while transmitting. Other stations were still happy to work me as I fumbled with the mode. And this is the thing with PSK, as a relatively new mode, everyday I go on the PSK bands I always come across other ‘first time’ QSOs, everyday. I also love PSK63, I love the speed, I love the QRM busting nature of it. Sometimes PSK31 can a bit finickity if soundcards are not calibrated spot on, PSK63 being wider blows that problem away while still being a relatively narrow bandwidth mode. I may try other programs aswell but Digipan works well on my lightweight netbook and I think DM780 might be a bit OTT for this machine, might try FLdigi or PSK31.

I have exclusively used the IC-7000 on HF and have not done any TX on V/UHF at all. But I didn’t get the radio for the extra bands, I got it for the IF DSP which I feel is comparable to that in the Pro III. The IC7200 has the same DSP but doesn’t have the graphical interface that the clearly better IC7000 has. I love the interface, being an Icom man it took no more than an hour to find my around the rig, the screen is awesome, just awesome. I have it in the white screen mode as I find it more legible in variable light conditions and from odd angles.

So it was another Saturday afternoon I found myself on the PSK bands. It was the weekend of the PSK Deathmatch and I was working stations on the east coast US even though my balcony faces NW. At about 3.40pm a weak signal appeared in the waterfall, a JA station calling CQ, and nobody was coming back to him. I pumped up my RF out to about 35watts and gave it a go. He came back to me with a 529, weak but readable, he copied me better than I could read him, a product of all the crappy urban noise I must put up with, but the QSO was made none the less. The JA station was soon followed in the log by a UA Asiatic Russian station whose eQSL I already have in my Inbox.

In less than a week I have gone from no station or rig to intercontinental DXing with a compromise, temporarily installed antenna and 35w or less. HF dead, don’t think so.


I had always wanted to put a bit of time into this one. In the end I worked a bit of the Friday evening, most of Saturday daytime from VE7NSR, along with VA7JMO as a Multi-Single.

Ran for a time on 40m and 80m on the Friday evening and Saturday though mostly S&P. Was the first time doing any significant running on sideband. It was lots of fun and not as scary as I thought it would be. I’m always worried about screwing up callsigns but it never became an issue.

I used the the ProIII’s built in DVK, as setting up the DVK from N1MM would be painful. Getting the audio levels right out of a sound-card can be difficult. The ProIII DVK delivers audio indistinguishable from that of live on-air audio, plus it’s really easy to setup. It is a pity that there is no way you can key the ProIII DVK directly over CI-V from N1MM like you can with the Yaesu FT2000. I think I might buy the Better RF ‘I-Mate’ which allows you to key the DVK memories externally.

There were lots of highlights for me. I enjoyed running but I think it is better suited to a lower noise environment. There were so many stations I just could not pull out of the mud, especially on 40m. DX wise the highlights were working ZL and VK stations with low power on 40m and 15m for the first time. In fact the first contact was on 40m, with a wire dipole at 100W, not bad for a solar minimum.

VE7NSR SteppIR 3ele: This is our workhorse antenna.

VE7NSR SteppIR 3ele: This is our workhorse antenna.

15m was a blast on the Saturday. It was like a DX expressway. I don’t know was it the case that 20m was so busy that many stations moved up or were conditions that bit better? I think it was more a case of the former to be honest. Bands will sound dead if nobody is operating on them.

20m was tough. Europe was tough even after the wall of east coast stations dissipated, so much splatter. Picking off the JAs in the late afternoon is fun though, turns the tables on our east coast cousins who can pick off the Europeans at ease. It’s nice to be able to pull up into a minor pile-up on a JA station and work him first time round as stations further east struggle. Such was the case on 15m for the VK and ZL stations I worked along with FK8GM in New Caledonia and E51JD in the Cook Islands, it’s all ocean between here and there.

I tried working 9M8Z but to no avail on 15m or 20m. After the contest was over I wondered why. I loaded up Google Earth and pinpointed my station and his. 9M is on roughly the same 300 degree path from VE7NSR as the JA stations are. However the take off angle is a lot lower and Cypress Mountain looms high on that horizon, oh well!

Total contacts were 238 for 54,366 pts. Usually good enough for a cert. in the M/S category in BC but looking at the 3830 list it seems VE7SV are entering as a M/S this year as opposed to their regular M/2 or M/M. I don’t think we could catch their 2700 contacts!

Phasing Stuns

The world’s first Sony AN-1 Phased Active Antenna Array?………..

So I purchased a second Sony AN-1 unit from Ebay last week. It had been in storage for over 13 years and had a lovely set of 1997 expired batteries inside! After a bit of a cleanup of the battery compartment it was ready to go. Funnily enough even though there were batteries in the pre-amp unit the actual antenna it seems had never been mounted outside at all. All of the mounting hardware was still in its plastic?

My original plan was to use the second antenna as the aux/noise antenna in a two element phased array using the MFJ 1025. Having the second antenna also allowed me to do some A/B tests in terms of antenna position on the balcony. The results of these tests were surprising but welcome.

I had placed my first AN-1 in what I thought was the best possible position, as high up and as far away from the building as possible. I usually tilted it out at an angle of about 10-12 degrees to get away from the building.

The building opposite blocks not only a good portion of sky but is also a metal clad structure, in effect a huge RF blocker. However I was aware of these issues already but felt getting the antenna up and away from my building was more important.

The second antenna position is right up against my building and underneath a concrete balcony. This should mean poor reception beneath all that concrete and steel. But here’s the catch. This second antenna position has a slightly clearer view of the horizon, just a sliver.

Hooking up the two antennas to the MFJ-1025 I found that Asian signals were booming in on the second antenna in what I thought was the more compromised location. Most were 2 to 3 and sometimes 4 s-units over the first antenna! Its seems having even a 10 to 15 degree better view of the horizon can trump the attenuation that the steel and concrete provides.

I will continue testing and hopefully find optimum combinations for European and S. American signals. But right now I looking forward to the fun that phasing these verticals will provide.

Next up on the list is whether or not to mod the MFJ-1025 for LF & MF work. The unit is heavily attenuated below 1.8 MHz to block strong BCB overload. I do love digging around in the lower reaches of the spectrum and NDB hunting in the winter months can be quite an interesting challenge. If I modded it I’d probably have to buy a bandpass filter for HF if I wanted to continue using the unit on those bands as well. The other option is to buy a second MFJ specifically for LF work.

The PL Blues

In my time I have left a collection of poorly soldered, loose, burnt, shorted and downright disgusting PL-259 connections in my wake.

Let this video from the guys at Ten-Tec banish those PL blues……..




A new toy in the shack via the Ontario Swapshop.

The MFJ 1025 is a two antenna phasing unit that works by phasing the inputs of two antennas to either peak or null a signal. The directional characreristcs of phasing the antennas is solely based upon the charecteristics of each antenna i.e. gain, polarity and radiation pattern. Tight spacing of the two antennas allows peaking or nulling of local siganls or noises, further spacing allows peaking/nulling of more distant sources.

I have had great success nulling local powerline and trolleybus noise with the unit, making some of the shortwave broadcast bands listenable once again. Vancouver electric buses run on a 600v system which creates considerable RFI but particularly in the downtown core where numerous lines crisscross. The noise itself is only heard as buses travel nearby and is more than likely generated by the buses own motor. Frequencies in the 40m to 60m bands are most susceptible to this noise, though the noise can be heard on most bands. Rain or heavey moisture in the air can increase the gain of this type of noise considerably.

The 1025 has also allowed me to reduce a new noise source which has only recently popped up on the dial. Spread out between 1.5 mhz and 18 mhz, this odd warbling noise popped up exactly every 67 khz. Some research has shown it to possibly be a touch lamp of some kind. It seems that this is a much more distant noise source as the point of nulling is very narrow and takes a little fiddling on the MFJ. The successfulness of noise reduction on the 1025 is based upon matching the antennas. Antennas with similar polarity and gain will have the most success. A small loop can be handy to use as the second auxillary ‘noise’ antenna as its polarity can be easily changed to match that of the main antenna.

Right now I have had great success phasing my Sony AN-1 vertical with the AN LP-1 loop, though I have also phased my longwire with the loop also. I’d love to get my hands on another outdoor active vertical antenna like the AN-1 and phase them together. So if you know anybody with a similar active antenna unit for sale drop us a line here at va7dxc hq. The overall goal is to create a cheap and cheerful version the DX Engineering dual vertical phased rx array which retails for about $1000! I’m going to try and do it for about $200.

The 1025 also accepts a tx antenna antenna as the main antenna and includes and rf sense and/or switch which disengages and grounds the second rx antenna during transmit. If and when I do get around to getting on the hf bands here the MFJ 1025 will go a long way towards at least helping me hear the stations that I would like to work.