Phasing Two Active Loops for 160M RX

One active magnetic loop has an RDF of about 4 dB, which is not that great. On the air however, I find that my Wellbrook ALA1530LNP loop works well when used in the K3’s diversity reception mode. It is a bi directional antenna:

The side nulls are actually quite useful. So, how can we greatly improve on this simple and easy to install antenna?

Phase Two of them with a DX Engineering NCC-2!

The RDF jumps to 8.88 dB RDF, whih is better than a K9AY Loop. You also get a K9AY like pattern, but unlike the K9AY – you can electrically phase the two antennas and electrically “steer” them, and on top of that, you can mechanically steer them using the two rotators that these loops are on.

Think about it. If you live in the suburbs with neighbors that have noisy gear – or you have noisy gear in your house, you want to try to notch the noise out by steering the nulls toward the noise source. This phased active loop arrangement should work really well, and later today I will know for sure.

KY6R Upgraded RX Antennas

Tomorrow at this time I will be listening to two phased active loops – one the superb Wellbrook ALA1530LNP, the the second, something I just have to try – the MFJ-1886. The MFJ just happens to be an open box special at HRO Oakland. Because its $50 off and has a full warranty, and because I won’t have to pay the additional drop shipping charge from MFJ, this was too good an offer to pass up.

I will report back on how the MFJ compares with the Wellbrook. If it is even “close” it will be a big success and worth the low risk and low cost gamble.

Right now I use the Wellbrook and the Inverted L in the Elecraft K3’s “dual diversity” mode. I expect that phased two loops on top of that will be even better, and the fact that each loop has a preamp at the antenna and that each has a rotator, there are many ways to eliminate noise and enhance signal.

I’ve done testing in the past with passive loops and also a passive “double K6SE Loop” and they worked well through the NCC-2 – but this should be quite a bit better based on my Wellbrook experience. The Wellbrook is heads and shoulders above a passive home brewed RX loop.

3G9A: Propagation Checks

I’ve done enough testing for 3Y0Z, and realize that the best test will be to track them as they travel and when they are /MM

This will be fun and exciting as we wait for this epic DXpedition.

Ham Radio Propagation Studies

I’ve been waiting two years to work an ATNO, so it should be no surprise about how excited I am to work 3Y0Z. Rather than just “anxiously await”, I decided to collect some data and see if I can identify any interesting propagation behavior(s). The 20M openings at the West Coast sunset vs. sunrise and during “Cross Quarter Days” is something I have never looked at carefully. This now has me realizing what ham radio operators can do to advance the science of propagation.

While on vacation in Montana this past September, I read a fantastic book about Richard Carrington and the birth of modern day solar and propagation studies. The biggest take away is that while we know a lot about the solar cycle, there is probably a lot more that we don’t know. Reading the Sun Kings, I realized how important data is, and how some insights can be overlooked for years, such as what was going on during the Carrington Event. I also know that we know very little about 160M propagation, and so ham radio operators collecting data can actually do some great work in this area.

Another orthogonal connection that I made is reading the Samuel FB Morse biography reminded me that the Carrington Event happened in the early days of commercial telegraphy, and that it affected the telegraph lines and stations and even operators. What was interesting is what the solar astronomers knew and when. There was a big delay between when the Carrington Event happened, what solar astronomers saw and knew, and then later how several “mysteries” were solved. What was also interesting was how several astronomers quietly working away in their own world later shared their data which then validated their theories.

I think this is just one of many ways ham radio is a wonderful hobby and so much more. Even today with all of the technology and data available, we still have big opportunities for new discoveries.

How many hobbies can offer this?

Ham Goodies on the Way

Right after 3Y0Z I will turn the phased 40M array into a dedicated RX antenna – especially for 160M.

After 3Y0Z I will replace the 2 element 20M yagi with this antenna. I will do a few mods – one is to build a couple “air coils” with old HF2V coil stock that I have, and also add 30M. I looked at the Optibeam 30/40M rotatable dipole, but found I could do this same thing for 1/2 the price.

The good news is that while I will have to wait a month before I can make these station changes, I can spend the weekends leading up to 3Y0Z preparing for the post 3Y0Z work. I will literally do the swap the weekend after 3Y0Z shuts down.

I have a 3 day weekend this coming weekend, and the weather looks great – in the 60s and sunny.

I’m so glad I spent the holiday week I had off working on 3Y0Z antennas and cleaning up the work shop and kayak / bike shack. I also sold two kayaks and a bike and several pieces of ham gear that was unused and in a closet. A VERY productive week. I kept thinking “better do this now – you never know – it could start raining (we have been tending towards drought lately again), and I also thought “what if youget sick”.

Literally as soon as that work was done – it started raining like crazy and I got a bad chest cold / flu.

I feel like, really smart!

DXCC Honor Roll is a Really Big Deal

Recently I’ve read a few blogs and a few QRZ pages where they opine one way or another about DXing “awards”, which I really believe are personal “operating activities”. Some care for them, some don’t.

There are five activities / awards that I am most proud of, and it helps that years have passed now and so that I have an “evolving” perspective. I think its human nature to always be most focused and put highest priority on what we are striving for and that sometimes past accomplishments are relegated to history and maybe even taken for granted. Maslow’s Hierarchy I would guess . . .

Its been 2 years since VK0EK and everything associated with that big multiyear effort. I am starting to relegate that to ancient history. I know I will work 9BDXCC and DXCC on 160M, and while its the latest and hottest iron in the fire, I’m just trying to get it over with.

The ONE accomplishment that I still can feel really proud of is the DXCC Honor Roll. There is something so unique and special about it – its just the way the program evolved and the history behind it that has that “certain something”. Its like the best Baseball Card Collection.

This list has waffled around a bit, and I need to update my QRZ page to tweak it a bit, but here are the accomplishments that I think deserve some bragging rights:

  1. DXCC Honor Roll – this really is THE epitome of DX-ing for me. Oddly enough, Top of Honor Roll feels like a second place in comparison. It was just getting to the top that still means something to me. Top of Honor Roll is like looking around at the top of that hill – just a little bit more of the same. To add meaning, I was going through a divorce with children, and the “OCD” aspect helped me get through that ordeal – it was like the best therapy I could get
  2. 160M DXCC – this one is pretty amazingly close to Honor Roll – from the West Coast and because my QTH means its a miracle I can make this
  3. 9BDXCC – this one is in lock step with 160M DXCC and tests your antenna, propgation and operating knowledge
  4. DX Coffee Best Communication Award – they designed the award around my TX5K efforts and which I then went on to perfect during VK0EK. Sadly, most DXpeditions still think there is some valor in keeping a lot of hat goes on in a DXpedition hush hush – like they are some CIA or FBI covert operation. Some DXpeditions are lousy at communicating and thus have issues fund raising. Good communication is the BEST way to fund raise – whenever I see a DXpedition whine about not raising enough money I roll my eyes because the fastest way to lose is to try to “guilt” people into donating. Communication = “Buzz”.
  5. DXpedition of the Year Award – at one point I felt this was my biggie. Its not because I was a co-organizer and I did not go on the trip. I am sure the DXpedition happened the way it did in large part to my efforts, and I know that after TX5K I had to do a lot of very hard work to get past some issues that arose in TX5K that could have tanked VK0EK. But with 2 years behind me – I look at the plaque and realize that it was really for the team members who went to Heard, Honor Roll was 100% me

These are the things I do not have to get apologetic about – the things I know deep down were serious accomplishments. I also am coming up on 59 years old, and have been saddened by recent events where one famous DXpeditioner or another DXer passed away at this age or near it. Several contester and DX publication legends have also just passed. It makes me double down and appreciate what I have done and that I did it later in life. DXCC is an anachronism, and while I have some feeling that its will get a lot harder to do starting in about 10 years, there is something so lasting and powerful about it – that it might survive all of the challenges in money and access that threaten it.


Radio 2018

Rich O’Rielly, 2018

A very good friend and artist in Santa Cruz, California has designed perhaps my favorite radio poster of all times.

Rich O’Rielly and I have known each other virtually for many years. Rich and I met through a friend whom I’ve been inspired by in my art, Jack Howe, also of Santa Cruz.

My childhood friend and artist Mark Grey, who at one time was the San Jose Sharks team artist, lives in nearby Los Gatos. Mark and I started “The Monster Club” back in NJ when we were kids, and we Drew pictures of Monsters.

My son Trevor is a student at UC Santa Cruz, and my other son Graham and his girlfriend Megan both graduated from art school at CCA in Oakland a few years back.

I’m trying to arrange for a fun artists dinner at Posto in Santa Cruz in late February, after 3Y0Z.

Wow, 2018 is already marching on!