Review of Front Panel Designer

Overview:

I decided to redo my operating position with the inclusion of a patch panel.  I am always moving antenna between my K3, and my SDRs.  Also, I wanted to have the IF from the radio available without tearing the operating position apart every time.

A patch panel would help in all of these needs.  I looked at making one by hand, using a drill press, or by building it in a home workshop, and decided I was not skilled enough to do this and still have all my digits intact when finished.  After reviewing all the options, I decided to use a company that builds panels via an easy to use software interface. Read more »

Categories: Construction, Info, Reviews, Software reviews | Leave a comment

Review of DX Engineering’s 6BTV 17 Meter add on kit

Add on kit Instruction cover sheet

Overview:

Over the past few years I have been using a Hustler 6BTV vertical antenna as my primary antenna for 80, 40, 30, 20, 15, and 10 Meters.  The antenna has worked very well for me, and I have worked much DX with it.  Over the years I have spent a great deal of time getting things tuned as I want them, putting a large, (40 radials), radial field in place, and getting the antenna exactly the way I want it.

I have been using a BWD-90 for 60, 17, and 12 meters.  The BWD-90 is basically a Dummy Load you suspend in the air, then feed it power.  Some of that power leaks out and is radiated, the rest goes up as heat.  The BWD-90 is about 6 db down from a dipole performance wise.  You might ask yourself why in the world would anyone use a BWD-90?  The answer is it is flat across the 3-30 MHz., spectrum at under 2:1 SWR.

As you can guess, the BWD-90 is not a  stellar performer, but it will load on almost any frequency.  I have been on a station simplification quest now for a few years, removing equipment where I can, and in general reducing the complexity of my station.

Part of that quest was to try DX Engineering’s DXE-A0KB-17M-INS 0c, 17 meter add on kit for the Hustler 6BTV.  I have had a lot of trepidation with regards to making any change to the 6BTV, as it is working very well, and I want it to continue that way.  I have literally spent years, tuning and setting this antenna and its associated radial field up.  As a result of all that work, and time spent, I don’t want anything to mess with the performance of the 6BTV.  I was quite worried about what would happen to the antennas performance if I added the kit. Read more »

Categories: 6BTV, Antenna Reviews, Construction, DX, Info, Reviews | 1 Comment

KPA500 Input vs. Output Power

Elecraft KPA500 AmplifierHaving just purchased a KPA500 amplifier by Elecraft, I thought it might be a good idea to characterize a few important things about the amp.  One being the input vs. output power levels.  I had occasion to send the amp to Elecraft for testing, and updating.  The amp has been recently returned, as up to specs by Elecraft.

The amp was fed into a KAT500 tuner, and an actual antenna was tuned and used for all tests, save 30 Meters.  A dummy load was used for all 30 Meter testing.

The power on each band was increased in small steps while the output power was entered into a spreadsheet.  I used the spreadsheet to graph the amp in/out ratios.  Below you will find the input vs. output graphs for my KPA500.  This dataset is not designed to show the 1 db compression points, just a general feel for how the amp should behave.

Raw spreadsheet here… Read more »

Categories: Elecraft K3, Info, Reviews | Leave a comment

Elecraft K3: KSYN3A synthesizer installation notes

Elecraft K3

Elecraft K3

Overview:

At one point, myself and K7OLN were living about 700 feet apart.  Both of us were very active, and as a result could not operate on the same band at the same time.  I purchased an Elecraft K3, and that helped, K7OLN then purchased a K3 and that helped more.  Then Elecraft came out with a low phase noise synthesizer, the KSYN3A.  This helped a lot.  As it turns out I was able to document the changes as we each added the new sensitizer boards to our radios.  This set of notes contains a set of images that were taken shortly after Elecraft made the new synthesizer available, and as we made the changes to each K3.

Setup:

Two K3s were used in this test and the old synthesizers were replaced in stages.  The K3s were separated by approximately seven hundred feet, both feeding resonant antenna, and both running approximately 50 watts each when tested.  K3 A, was owned by NK7Z, and K3 B, was owned by K7OLN.  Both started with the old synthesizer in place.

Results: Read more »

Categories: Cleanup, Elecraft K3, Info, Setups | Leave a comment

RFI Site survey – Part II, interpretation

Overview:

Annotated 40 meters showing various RFI events

Annotated 40 meters showing various RFI events

This is part II in a series of articles which will cover how I interpret and use SDR captured spectrograms as they relate to my RFI mitigation efforts.  See Part I, Using a SDR as a Site Survey Tool for how I setup and use the SDRPlay RSP1 as my SDR of choice, while using HDSDR as the radio control program.  The concept was to view my RFI environment as a whole, not in real time, but across long periods of time, and very wide frequency spans.  Once you have looked over part I, and part II, take a look at the RFI Samples page.  This page presents various forms of RFI so you might be able to tell what is causing your RFI issues.

Real world examples of RFI will be used here showing how I can infer what appear to be disparate RFI sources, as related sources.  Part I covered my choice, installation and setup of HDSDR, and an SDRPlay RSP1 SDR for use as a site survey tool. Read more »

Categories: I have RFI: Series, Info, RFI Mitigation, SDR as Site Survey tool | 1 Comment

RFI Snapshots

Grow lights on 80

Grow lights on 80

If you click the image at the left, or here, you get to a set of pages containing snapshots of the various categories of RFI generating devices.  Once you arrive at the category page, you will find another set of images, each representing some form of RFI.  Clicking on any of the images on the RFI category page will take you to yet another page, which contains any number of RFI signatures.  This may be helpful in identifying a source of RFI.  While it is not a a RFI fingerprint, it is an indication of what may be causing your RFI.  These indications can help in the location of RFI.  For instance, if you see something here like a street light, and it matches what you see at home, then you can reasonably suspect streetlights in your area, and watch them.  There are many types of RFI, not all of them will match, so do not expect to find an exact match…  For more information on locating RFI see the “I have RFI” three part article located here.

 

Important:

If you have any sort of KNOWN RFI signatures, please send them to me, with a note as to what they are.  If you have an audio sample please include it.  My email is good on QRZ.COM.  Clicking the QRZ link will open a tab, you can get my email there…

Categories: I have RFI: Series, Info, RFI Mitigation, RFI Signatures | Leave a comment

Notes on tuning a Hustler 6BTV

80 Meters, no choke, 8 radials.

80 Meters, no choke, 8 radials.

Overview:

I thought I would share a few of my notes on tuning up a 6BTV, (review of the DX Engineering 17 meter add on kit here), antenna, and constructing a radial field.  I have been using a GAP Challenger DX, (review here), for the past fifteen years, unbeknownst to me, and over that time, water had been slowly seeping into the tuning harness of the antenna.

The harness finally gave up the ghost one day, presenting a dead short to my Solid State ALS-1306 amp, (review here), as I increased power.  At about 800 watts CW, the harness shorted out, killing the ALS-1306, and necessitating the amp make a trip back to ALS-1306 heaven, (Ameritron), to have a replacement RF output device installed.

Replacing the Challenger was one of the options on the table, but I did not want to do a new install of a Challenger– I remember the last install.  The entire phasing harness installation process is not fun, nor is it easy, so– given there were a few things about the Challenger I was not happy with anyway, I began looking for a different antenna.

Read more »

Categories: 6BTV, Antenna Reviews, Construction, Info | 20 Comments

Using a SDR as a RFI site survey tool

Overview

Twenty Four hours of RFI on 80 Meters

Twenty Four hours of RFI on 80 Meters

This is Part One of a multi part article dealing with setting up a SDR as a RFI site survey tool to assist in RFI detection, location, and mitigation.  Further, part one will set the stage for how captures of the RFI were accomplished, and visualized.  Part one will also  touch upon some of what can be seen and learned from this data.  Methods I used to locate RFI can be found here.  Also some RFI sources signatures have been captured here.

Part two will deal with interpretation of the SDR spectrogram.  Part two can be found here.  Part three will deal with actual location methods, using that portable SDR tool.

Read more »

Categories: Cleanup, I have RFI: Series, Info, RFI Mitigation, SDR as Site Survey tool | Leave a comment

Review of the Palstar AT2KD Tuner

AT2KD Tuner, front view

Palstar AT2KD Tuner

This review of the Palstar AT2KD tuner will start off with a few comments about tuners in general, and will not get too technical.  There are many other places to find technical reviews of this device…  eHam ratings indicate that it is a 4.8 out of 5, which is a pretty darn good rating, and some pretty good technical reviews there as well.

Over time I have had both auto tuners, and manual tuners.  I have used differential tuners, and standard tuners…  I always return to manual tuners, using roller inductors, and large caps every time…  An auto tuner is simpler to operate, but the power levels just are not there yet for me on anything I can afford, nor have I been able to get an autotuner, (of the ones I have used), to tune to an exact 1:1, every time, on every band.  It is always something like 1.x:1, I have seen as high as 1.7:1, which can cause issues with the new solid state amps, such as the ALS-1306, which I own.  See the section under “Conclusions”, for more on that subject. Read more »

Categories: Accessories reviews, Info, Palstar AT2KD, Reviews | 3 Comments

Adding an external keypad to the K3

Genovation KeypadThis article on adding an external keypad to the K3 was created to make it simpler for the next poor sod down the road to add a Genovation CP48USBHID, 48 key keypad, or the Genovation CP24USBHID, 24 key device to their K3/P3 devices.  I initially learned about the Genovation keypads on the Elecraft mail list.  It sounded to me like several people were talking as if they had them working, so I asked how to set one up, and got nothing back…  I asked again a few weeks later, only this time on both the Elecraft, and the Yahoo mail lists.  I received several replies, all saying they would like to have one of these working as well.  I did get one lone reply from a person who said, “yes, but I did it a year ago, and have now forgotten how”.  From that I concluded I was on my own in getting these two devices connected.  Given I agreed with the general premise that having a keypad available to send macros to the radio would be good, I decided to move forward with this project and see how far I might get.  I contacted the Elecraft support team first, and got, “only the listed keyboards will work”, response.  However, in the discussion, I got what would later turn out to be a vital piece of information in making the connection between these two devices work. Read more »

Categories: Elecraft K3, Info, K3: External Keypad, Reviews, Setups, Software information, Station | 1 Comment