Some paths improved while others appeared to deteriorate in a session that ultimately balanced out to be just an average night. Noise was generally low here and comparable to previous sessions although a few lightning-bearing storms were observed in the Midwest as well as northern California. High winds continue to impact a number of areas and a few cautious (and smart!) operators made the decision to not transmit overnight which may have contributed to the impression that the band was less robust.
Geomagnetic conditions continue at quiet to elevated-quiet levels. The Bz has pushed persistently to the North and solar wind velocities continue to subside, currently averaging 460 km/s. DST values look very similar to yesterday, showing some variability but remaining very near unity.
Paul, W0RW / WA2XRM, submitted a late announcement that he would be QRV on 480.480 kHz with his CW beacon during the evening. He posted the following reception reports on the 600-meter research group email reflector:
“WA2XRM Reception Reports for 11 Jan. 2017 Zulu. Operating 0030z until 0702z so the guys in HI and AK can have a chance to copy. More really big winds, Lost another big roof 1 mile east of XRM. The wind finally ceased at 0200z. Antenna stopped jumping around with low SWR.
Reports received so far:
1. AA7U, Steve, in the Desert of AZ (590 miles), coping my CW by ear. He copied all night , Some QSB.
2. VE7BDQ got a few grabs on Argo but only at 0700z.
3. Nothing heard in Hawaii by Mike Tuggle.
4. Once again KU4XR, Andy TN, (1161 miles), was the only one in TN to copy.
5. K9QU, Dave, IL (801 miles), had no copy.”
WSPR activity was high through the session although I did not take a formal census. 101 MF WSPR stations were observed at one point early in the evening on the WSPRnet activity page.
Alain, TR8CA, was active during this session and listening from Gabon. I believe he has listened in previous seasons but this is his first time in the 2016/2017 season. No trans-African reports were registered during this session but I have to believe that the relatively short hop between EA5DOM and TR8CA would have been possible on a good night. No reports were registered at FR5ZX, which is a departure from the previous few sessions. Stay turned and for European stations, please keep the power flowing on 472 so this connection to continental Africa can be realized!
Trans-Atlantic report details were down a bit from previous sessions although several stations, including WG2XKA, were off-air overnight due to high winds. Paul, N1BUG, reported that he decoded G8HUH but added “Total RX antenna system failure at 1140z – possibly broken main feed line.” WD2XSH/17 was reported by F1AFJ/1, G0LUJ, G3XKR, G8HUH, and PA0RDT. Report details for these stations can be viewed here.
Ernie, KC4SIT (pending WI2XQU), submitted this very comprehensive report for this session:
“I mentioned yesterday John about the testing David N1DAY and I had been doing on the 2 inverted L antennas at this QTH. To remind everyone, these Ls are cut for 160 meters with one having traps for 40 and 80 meters. I never receive the number of spots on the trap L as I do on the non-trap L. Nor do I get the distance in receptions or the signal strength with the trap L than the non-trap L. In particular WH2XGP disappears from the waterfall when we are on the trap L. David N1DAY has the same setup at his QTH which is about 7 miles west of me and we both decode using Icom 7200s and WSJT-X software. I live on the Continental Divide and David has the advantage of having a mountain behind him which, by our studies so far, acts as a big reflector for his QTH.
This time yesterday there was still 4 inches of snow on the ground and temperatures were in the 20s with a clear sky. Last night warmer temperatures started melting most of the snow aided by a rain that moved in and continues this morning.
As reported yesterday, the 630 meter session that just completed here (24 hours in length, early morning to early morning) was going to see us return to the trapped inverted L so that we would have numbers to compare with the non-trap L. Turns out that this session was one of the poorest we have experienced since starting to monitor the 630 meter band in late November. We achieved 6 unique spots; I think our lowest number, since staring our experiments. And WH2XGP was not to be found in the waterfall. It was also mentioned yesterday about the strength of the harmonic of KMOX AM out of St Louis yesterday on 480 AM; they were not heard on the band last night.
By 11:00 UTC WG2XXM, WH2XZO, WG2XIQ and WI2XBV were all that remained in m waterfall, WH2XNG and WD2XSH-17 gone. Comparing this session’s use of the trapped L vs last session’s use of the non-trap L this is what I found.
The 11:00z Crowd
WG2XXM: Between 11:04-11:28 UTC (non-trap L Jan 10) WG2XXM had a SNR of +2, +9, +9, -2. During the 11:00-11:28 UTC (trap L Jan 11) WG2XXM had a SNR of -22, -24, -15, -19, -23, -19, -18, -26; a most notable difference.
End of session Wednesday morning
Spot map this session
Spots this session (unique)
While the antenna used by Ernie is neither matched nor resonated for 630-meters, he has obviously experienced good results, which should be provide some hope for operators seeking to “get their feet wet” and evaluate their receive capabilities with existing infrastructure. David, N1DAY, who is also working with Ernie and using the same antenna configuration, submitted the following supplemental details for this antenna system, which is designed for use on 40, 80, and 160-meters but evidently hears pretty well on 630-meters under these conditions:
“…some readers may be interested in the antenna system that Ernie has been talking about. It began as an idea to put a 40M and 80M trap into a 160M inverted L so that we could get a good impedance match with our radios on all three bands with one antenna. Using 4NEC2, that goal was achieved. However, when I went to deploy the antenna, I realized that there was no room for another radial field. So what I did was use the radial field from my existing non-trapped inverted L and inserted a switch to allow selection of either antenna both of which had their horizontal elements 180 degrees apart.When I did That, all of the sudden my spots on 80m and 40M went way up with many more European contacts than experienced previously on my 80M and 40M vertical delta loops that were optimized for the digital portions of each band. I went back to 4 NEC2 and discovered that in this arrangement, the non-trapped L was parasitically boosting the gain of both the 40m and 80m portions of the trapped antenna with no significant interaction on 160m. The gain on the 40M element went from 1 dBi to 6dbi, and the gain on the 80m element went from -2dbi to +3dbi. At this time, I think this positive parasitic interaction has improved my performance on 40 and 80m.During the deployment at Ernie’s (KC4SIT) qth, we also discovered that the impedance on both the 40M and 80M bands approximately doubled in the two antenna deployment, and this was also confirmed in 4NEC2. So we modified the antenna switching box to allow antenna selection as well as selection of either a 1:1 or 2:1 current balun. With this arrangement, we have achieved very good matching of the trapped L on all three bands (160, 80 and 40m) as well as maintaining 160m perfromance in the non-trapped inverted L antenna.At present, we are in process of assessing and comparing wspr transmit and receive performance on all possible configurations of this new antenna system.N1DAYDavid Day”
Neil, W0YSE/7 / WG2XSV, experienced winter weather during the evening that impacted his operating a bit. Neil explains and provided the following statistics for the session:
“Big wet snow flakes coated my antenna and guy ropes last night and made for unstable tuning on my TX vertical, so I decided to stop TXing before heading to bed. I did have two new stations receiving me this session: KC5LT (my “dx” to the east this session), and K6TU in CA.”
Rick, W7RNB / WI2XJQ, received reports from 32 unique stations and reported six WSPR stations. Rick’s unique report details can be viewed here.
John, VE7BDQ, acknowledged recent transcontinental openings on LOWFER:
“Doug, thanks for pointing out this DX for my station at 3563km. I don’t often get into your area with just a low inverted “L” antenna
and a random ground system. Lately the propagation seems poor to the east from here.”
Ken, SWL/K9 (SWL/EN61), located in Indiana reported that a PC crash occurred overnight resulting in no reports after 1044z from his station.
Trans-Pacific report details for this session, excluding KL7 and KH6, are aggregated here.
Roger, VK4YB, reported that storm activity in Australia was more prominent than anywhere else in the world combined during this session. By 1400z, Roger indicated that he was “Not surprising heard only 4, but heard by 25”. He received reports from CF7MM, JA1NQI, JA1PKG, JA1PKG/R, JA8SCD, JE1JDL, JH3XCU, JR1IZM, N6RY, N6SKM, and W7IUV. Roger reported WG2XXM.
Phil, VK3ELV, received reports from JA1NQI and JH3XCU.
Ken, K5DNL / WG2XXM, reports that he was decoded by 66 unique stations including VK4YB and WE2XPQ.
I started WSPR at 2200z. Early results were mixed and generally unimpressive but the band picked up a bit as the night progressed. Receiving was down in spite of generally low noise here. I did not operate CW or JT9 during this session but I am hopeful that I will have the opportunity tonight as the coming days may be stormy here, preventing me from any on air activities. My WSPR transmission report details can be viewed here and my WSPR reception report details can be viewed here.
John, W1TAG / WE2XGR, reported yesterday on the 600-meter research group email reflector that ET 15-99 has become an “item of circulation” at the FCC which has historically meant that internal discussions are in process. Neil, W0YSE/7 / WG2XSV, posted this link to the item of circulation page where ET 15-99 has received top billing in the list for what that is worth.
Al, K2BLA / WI2XBV, reports that he will have to find a new place to store his beer as his cooler has become his ATU cabinet for his antenna system. He provided the following comments and photos:
“The coil is wound with #12 Litz wire. Try to find that at your local Home Depot. There is 70 feet of wire in the box. The variometer is the blue taped coil that swings in and out of the main coil. There is a transformer on the bottom wound on a stack of ferrite cores…The tower base insulators are 3/4″ solid fiberglass rods.
The tower is aluminum and barely weighs 100 pounds. The rods lie on 3/8 inch bolts and the PVC fittings are only to keep them from slipping out of the steel base. All the downforce is between the 3/4 inch rod and a 3/8 inch bolt. Although the tower weighs less than 100 pounds when you include all the downforce of 6 guys and 6 top hat radials each leg supports about 75 pounds each.”
Regional and continental WSPR breakdowns follow:
Eden, ZF1EJ, provided reports for VE3EFF, VE7BDQ, WD2XSH/15, WD2XSH/17, WG2XIQ, WG2XXM, WH2XCR, WH2XNG, WH2XZO, and WI2XBV. Report details for these stations can be viewed here.
Laurence, KL7L / WE2XPQ, experienced a session very similar to the previous with reports from JA1NQI, many of which were on the approach to sunrise in KL7. He decoded VK4YB as well as WG2XXM and shared two-way reports with WH2XCR. Report details for these stations can be viewed here.
Merv, K9FD/KH6 / WH2XCR, was reported to be transmitting in the region of the WSPR passband where a noise floor anomaly exists as reported by WA3TTS. Merv indicates that he will be relocating his signal to a more clear center frequency in the coming session. He received reports from JA1NQI, JE1JDL, JH3XCU, VK2XGJ and two-way reports with VK4YB. Merv’s DX report details can be viewed here.
Jim, W5EST, presents, “SUB-AUDIBLE CW RECEPTION FOR 630/2200M”:
“How can you do MF/LF CW if you can’t hear it? After all, due to low radiated power, we can expect MF/LF ham/experimental stations to have CW SNRs way below SNRs on HF ham bands. Answer: Maybe you have noticed already some CW receiving and display equipment can actually let you see CW that you cannot hear!
See if you have a receiver / display that is advanced enough that you can see it show the transitions and lines in WSPR or JT9 spread out over at least 15 seconds on a waterfall when the decoder for it reports -18 dB or fainter SNR. If you do, then you can most likely copy slow-speed sub-audible CW directly off the screen. Just make sure the display system itself isn’t adding a lot of local RFI QRN of its own to the band noise!
Regular speed CW audibility threshold is -10 dB to -13dB WSPR SNR. QRSS3 can be imaged down into the weak mid -20s dB WSPR SNR. That suggests there exists an intermediate range we can call “QRS ½” to “QRS 1” from 2 WPM down to 1 WPM—a range with fast enough information rate for QSO and still imageable in the midst of MF/LF band noise. That’s about 5-15 Morse characters a minute.
This QRS intermediate range 1-2 WPM is far faster than QRSS3 and can support 630m manually operated and copied CW QSOs. Such QRS 630m CW can be sub-audible CW that offers favorable dB headroom beyond audible CW on MF/LF.
A keyer or software feature to optionally transmit 1-2 WPM (words per minute) is preferably employed on transmit to support such QRS CW operating. If a commercially available keyer doesn’t go that slow, one could readily homebrew, say, a 1-15 WPM keyer with Arduino or Raspberry Pi and key that. That way, uniform lengths of dahs, dits, and spaces are generated under operator control and make eyeball visual reception easier.
On receive, the MF/LF operator copies the 630m QRS CW by eyeballing a waterfall running at a rate visualizing the 1-2 WPM QRS 630m CW. The human eye/mind is the best pattern recognizer there is. I repeat: the human eye/mind is the best pattern recognizer there is. Eyeball copy of CW at these speeds is probably less tedious and more pattern-accurate by eye than by a CW regenerator* you might try use to make the QRS CW audible.
On Jan. 10, I copied WG2XIQ’s software-generated CW CQ’s at 1 WPM using a Winradio G33DDC SDR. In my test setup the XIQ CW was sub-audible for about 15 minutes (even though some other stations received audible CW from XIQ). Here the SDR waterfall display imaged the sub-audible QRS CW down to -22 dB.
In my opinion, -25dB SNR is visible on the G33DDC but not copyable at 1wpm CW, and -27 dB JT9 was simply not visible in the feathery wisps of its image noise. (The dB SNR estimates are from comparisons with same SDR display of WG2XIQ JT9 earlier that evening. The 630m frequency spread the SDR displayed spread every 20 Hz about ½ inch or 12 mm. )
Results will vary depending on your own receiving equipment. Here at W5EST I have high noise and an attic antenna. Actually, that’s a testing advantage because the test worked at sub-audible CW SNRs down to -22 dB, meaning S/N dB instead of signal strength alone. XIQ QRS CW, even when sub-audible, copied ok here in Arkansas at 485 km distance. That means QRS CW will work at much longer distances for better equipped stations where -22 dB corresponds to far lower received RF signal strengths. At well-equipped stations, the same deep CW SNRs I tested correspond to much lower receivable signal strengths and much higher performance receptions–which point to future sub-audible CW successes on far longer paths.
Concurrently in the test I set up the SDR with a tight CW filter, 50-100Hz, so that when QSB fade-up eventually took the WG2XIQ signal up into audibility range, then I could copy by ear as well. If a station at other end reports they can audibly hear the sending op, then sending op can send faster at regular CW speeds, as John XIQ himself did before long.
The G33DDC waterfall’s CW signal visibility outperformed the spectrum display’s confusing peaks at low SNR. I was unable to get visually copyable sub-audible CW results from ARGO and Spectran on either their CW (NDB) mode or QRSS3 mode. If you know how to use either of these two popular software modules for sub-audible CW, tell us so we can blog your techniques.
Between 1 WPM and 2 WPM, sub-audible CW would be roughly comparable to JT9 in info throughput. So why not just use JT9? I think sub-audible MF/LF CW has a certain cachet about it. Any CW has a more traditional hands-on, human-in-the-loop operating experience that no digital mode can match! Tell us your viewpoint! TU & GL!
*ENDNOTE: CW regenerator cleans up audible CW: https://qrqcw.wordpress.com/an-icw-interface-with-cw-regeneration-designed-by-joe-loposzko-kf7cx/ Presumably some well designed software could run an audio oscillator to render sub-audible CW for the ear, but noise-induced errors would still be a challenge. Way 1: FFT drives threshold detector and pulse noise suppressor to control an audio oscillator. Way 2: FFT to ARGO-like optical display and s/w to read the display at user-specified frequency and generate and process audio to go with it. For further discussion of CW regenerators, see: https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/pure-cw-its-all-about-that-tone-bout-that-tone-no-noise“
Additions, corrections, clarifications, etc? Send me a message on the Contact page or directly to KB5NJD gmail dot (com).