The KY6R Curtain Array(?)

A Shortwave  Broadcast Station Curtain Array

I need to start paying attention to VP8PJ. Why? Because of 3Y0I.

I agree with Mike, KJ4Z, that here in the Bay Area we do get a decent daily opening to the Southern Atlantic, after all, a fellow named Bob – a VP8 from the Falklands used to pound into the Bay Area daily.

While my favorite band is 40M, lately 20M has been much better, so I need to pay close attention to propagation with VP8PJ – recording band, time of day, and best openings. I expect conditions for 3Y0I will be a lot better for 3Y0I than they are now for VP8PJ.

I’ll probably go with a multi-element Bruce Array, which requires no ground system. I have two tall trees plus my AB577 tower for the center. The direction I can go is perfect for Bouvet.

I’ll do A-B tests against the UrbanBeam. If I build it for 40M I’ll compare it and see if it offers the gain the various articles say it gives over my UrbanBeam. I can get a 3 element up. If I go with 20M I could get a 6 element up and would have a potential monster signal.

I learned with the Big Mag Loop that EZNec isn’t always correct as far as one antenna compared to another. I’ve found that EZNec isn’t great with vertical ground systems and also magnetic loops.

I’ll get the tower up to 65′ as part of this “Summer Project” and hang the top of the array 5 or 10 feet below the UrbanBeam.

I’ll need to get a new antenna analyzer and will no doubt try a VNA this time.

It will most likely be fed off one end or the center, and while it doesn’t require ground radials, I will need elevated counterpoise wires – maybe 2 or 4.

Next post will be EZNec models with the height up 55 or 60′. Right now I’m leaning toward 5 elements on 20M.

Oh yeah, 30M might be an even better choice?

The Ionospheric Twilight Zone Mystery Christmas Music

Early Koss Headphone Beta Tester at Work

Why not? Christmas Music in “almost” March. Its no stranger than the state of our nation and politics – Creepy Music for Creepy Times.

The Roseville station has the ionosphere all to itself – the local station is gone, and so it gets its “15 minutes of fame”:

But then, at 4:20 – very fittingly – some new sounds come in:

It almost sounds like there is a “battle of the ionospheric soup” at this time – and minutes later:

That was 4:25, and at 4:30 – KBND is heard at first – then its back to Roseville:

By 4:55, KBND in Bend is the dominant station – with Roseville and the blasted XMAS music loop still in there – way in the back:

West Mountain Radio CLRdsp vs. Elecraft K3 DSP Noise Reduction

The West Mountain Radio CLRdsp audio filter

I was a bit worried that I had purchased the West Mountain Radio CLRdsp before really testing the K3 DSP “NR” or Noise Reduction circuit. I have played around a bit more and have found the CLRdsp to have an edge over the K3’s DSP. I think the difference is where in the circuit the DSP is located and then the algorithms used.

The CLRdsp is a welcome addition to the shack – it is a bit “brighter” than the K3’s DSP and also seems to get rid of the noise floor and then even weak signals do pop up out of the noise. In fact, the KY6R Big Mag Loops when combined with the CLRdsp and the K3 functions offer several ays to combat noise to the point where I feel its quite a big improvement over just having the UrbanBeam and the K3 internal functions.

The headphones also make a difference – sometimes you want to get rid of the noise – but you don’t want the sound to get too “muddy” or even too “underwater” in the process.

Every noise source by time of day, type of noise, band you are on, etc can be different – so sometimes one “tool” in the noise fighting arsenal is better than the other – there doesn’t seem to be just one silver bullet that liberates from all noise. But the combo I have now is just the right level – not too much or too little in the way of choices, and each approach makes sense and is repeatable in its use.

Best Inexpensive Headphones for Ham Radio

The Koss UR-40 are tied with the . . . 

the Koss KTXPro

I would recommend both of these over the much more expensive . . .

Yaesu YH-77 headphones

The sound of all three of these is so close it doesn’t matter. Of course, all of our hearing is different and my 60 year old ears aren’t what they were when I was younger.

My ultimate test is CW, and in noisy conditions and also with the West Mountain Radio CLRdsp.

Speaking of this device – I also have done a test between it and the built in DSP Noise Reduction circuit in the K3. That will be my next post.

VK0EK Four Year Anniversary

The 2016 VK0EK Heard Island DXpedition

Wow – its been 4 years since the VK0EK Team were on their way to Cape Town to get the gear and ship fumigated and ready to make the long 11 day voyage to “almost” the South Pole – and way out there in the south of the Indian Ocean.

I spent 3 years working with Bob, KK6EK planning and strategizing, assembling the team and raising money – and it started after TX5K came back from Clipperton, which I also worked on. VK0EK won DXpedition of the Year – and that is the last time (actually the only time) I went to Dayton Hamvention – in 2017 – the first year in Xenia.

I wish the VP8PJ Team all the best – on their way to South Orkney Islands (Signy) – several are from the VK0EK Team. If the team gets bored and starts begging for callers – I might try them on 40 or 20M CW QRP – but I have totally lost interest in DXCC and its funny that VK0EK and all that intense work now seems like another lifetime from my past.


Headphone and Sound Roundup

The Very Surprising Koss UR-40 Headphones

I’ve had many different headphones, but oddly enough, for clarity on SSB and CW and comfort, these cheapie headphones work great. I had the higher end Koss headphones – Pro 4S – but after using them for years, the headband basically snapped and was not repairable. I ordered a replacement, but Koss did something – and they don’t sound as good as their older version, and they don’t sound as good as these UR-40’s.

The UR-40’s sound great with the West Mountain Radio CLRdsp unit as well as direct into the K3

The Philips X2HR – superb for only $100

For music, the Philips X2HR are the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever had, and they sound great – as long as I plug them into the Xonar U7 MK III Asus external soundcard (which I use to also feed Win4K3Suites audio scope features). Luckily, I can use the Xonar’s mic in as the input – with the K3 output going into it, and also have the Philips headphones plugged into the Xonar so I can listen to music from my laptop.

Here are some things that don’t work:

  1. The ASUSPro laptop has pretty wimpy on board sound – even with an updated driver. The Xonar offers near audiophile quality and so I don’t plug any headphone into my laptop any more – when I want high fidelity sound. For Youtube stuff an news and non music applications – the built in sound is just fine
  2. The Philips headphones sound pretty darn good with strong local SSB stations, but they really aren’t made for noisy signals and CW – they are too high fidelity – too full sounding
  3. The Koss UR-40 sound great with a portable device – and are also quite good with the Xonar for music, but they aren’t as good as the Philips for music – but they are actually better than you’d expect for $26 headphones
  4. I also have a set of Yaesu headphones – which sound great with the K3 and CLRdsp – but they are not very sturdy and so I will keep them in my go case that has my KX-3 – they will be great for that situation – but not for everyday use

Yaesu YH-77 headphones – sound great – but wimpy build quality – and 3 times as much as the Koss UR-40

I’m still surprised at the Koss Pro 4s. No wonder they dropped the price from $150 to $99 – they went skimpy it seems. Anyway, now my station is all set (for a while – heh heh).



DX Engineering NCC-1 Redux

The first in the DX Engineering Receive Antenna Phasing Unit Line- the NCC-1

I’m not sure – but I think W8JI designed the MFJ-1026 phasing unit, and then bettered it with the DXE NCC-1 and finally the NCC-2. I had an NCC-1 and NCC-2, even though they were always on the expensive side. After making 9BDXCC – especially DXCC on 160M, I sold them.

Just after I re-purchased an NCC-2, a DXer friend offered his fully loaded NCC-1 for only $100, so of course I jumped on that deal. In fact, it made up for what I lost when I sold the first two units, so there is that – but more importantly, the NCC-1 and NCC-2 are quite different inside.

The NCC-1 has 40 and 20M filters, so it should be interesting to see how it works on the higher bands. The NCC-1 does not have the RTR TR switch built in, but for me, that has never mattered since I have always used two RX antennas as input and the RX out to the RX IN into the K3. I only used the RTR-2 in the NCC-2 for a short while with my KX-3, but then realized I needed a second receiver and RX IN port – that the KX-3 doesn’t have, and so one thing led to another, and a used Elecraft K3 ended up back in the shack.

Phew – what a long strange trip its been. If I didn’t want to play with RX antennas again – I’d have the KX-3 as my only rig – for the FREQ 300 that’s all I need. But besides trying to eliminate noise, I got another bug in my ear to try a better pair of phased RX antennas, and hence the KY6R Big Mag Loops – and yowza! my “2020 Big Project”. I have a big ham radio project once a year – and last year I had two – the Collins Gold Dust Twins and getting another AB-577 tower.

I’ve never been a pack rat – never have needed a storage locker or anything like that. Because technology changes so often, I use something until it just sits on a shelf – then sell it when I haven’t used something for a year or more. This is the first time I have gone backwards so to speak – but its a testament to how much I enjoyed something I did in the past – so much so that I re-created (actually improved on) greatly.

I’m not in a hurry to try and test the NCC-1 against the NCC-2 – but maybe I will later this year. For now – the NCC-1 is just a back up to the NCC-2 – since the NCC-2 has all of the features that I need for what I want to do now. Also – because the MUF hasn’t been much above 2 or 3 mhz when I am not likely to be in the shack (during the “dark hours”), having filters in the NCC-1 for 40 and 20M would be more useful and interesting once we start getting at least some sunspots. I know that will happen toward the end of this year, so its nice to know that I have something to play with and experiment later this year.

Until then – I will continue to explore the bands and take advantage of this very deep last gasp of Cycle 24.