Demystifying the UrbanBeam

The UrbanBeam at 56′ – with plots on 40, 30 an 20M

The UrbanBeam has a boom that is only 4′ – but at the end of its “wing”, it expands out to almost 6′ – so I modeled it at 5′ spacing – because the “trick” with the UrbanBeam is to emulate a longer boom – which you would need to get the 4 dB gain that a two element yagi normally offers. I think what you get is something more like 3 – 3.5 dB, which is really excellent given its small footprint, and especially because its a dipole on 40 and 30M. Above 20M I think it really looks like a traditional 2 element yagi.

Tony, K4QE reminds me where the gain specs are – I was so intent on seeing them in the specifications section I guess I had a “blind eye” to that performance tab. Tony writes:

…and click on “Performance” to find the gain and F/B figures.

UrbanBeam Performance
Band dBiGain F/R dB
40 m 1.6* 9.55(F/S)
30 m 1.77** 9.63(F/S)
20 m 6.5 12
17 m 6.6 12.6
15 m 6.6 14
12 m 6.7 15.7
10 m 6.65 14.8
6 m* 6.15 4
* A full size dipole is referenced at 2.1dBi
** Measured SWR is 2.3:1 for this model on 30m

73, Tony K4QE

Thanks Tony!

Dan, AC6LA has modeled the antenna and his plots show the best possible story:

Yes, it really is a 2 elemet yagi on 20 – 6M. Its got to be the most unique antenna in this small size – to many bands category. I think in many ways it could be the most “genius” antenna in the SteppIR line.

I wasn’t very excited about the moving parts – but then a while back I played with stepper motors and realized how reliable they are. Who knows – I might take SteppIR up on their offer to extend my warranty for another couple of years. I was very pleased to see the hardware was all good when I did my “preventative maintenance” this weekend.

On the other hand, if it ever crapped out – I would revisit the idea of a 2 element shorty 40 – I will cross that bridge when the time comes. Versatility or power on my favorite band – the band that works throughout a sunspot cycle – those are my two options. But I worked 3 new ones the other day on 20M in rapid fire succession, and 40M is not great for DX during the middle of the day, but 20M (and above) are good. So it does seem like the UrbanBeam is what will help me most get to the FREQ 300.

Geez – I guess if and when this does happen I will also be closer to retirement – so where I end up moving also will factor into this. I guess I kind of expect that the UrbanBeam will be what I have here in Orinda for my last years here.

Very Big Tower and Antenna Weekend

UrbanBeam up 56′ – Safety First !

Each AB-577 section is 5′ 3″, and I have 10 sections in – with two more that I can add. The double walled mast element that the antenna is bolted to is 3′ above the top AB-577 tube. There is no rotator. The UrbanBeam is 48 pounds, and only 30′ wide and 4 ‘ at its boom. Its about half the weight of the N6BT DXU-32 that I had up before:

The N6BT DXU-32 had a 28′ boom and the 40M elements were 47′ wide

The UrbanBeam is much safer on the AB-577, and I might still go the last two sections – but at 10 sections, that’s where I could just tell that there was some “lean” from the un-guyed mast. This is the point where guys start becoming most important. I am sure if I add two more sections that I would be OK – but my gut feeling says 10 sections is within the very safe zone – going higher will mean really watching the guy lines.

Speaking of guy rope – the Mastrant 4mm synthetic rope is the best. Its rigid with very little stretch – and way better than what I had up previous – the “usual” UV Dacron rope. This Mastrant rope is noticeably better – and I do feel a lot safer. I replaced all dacron rope with this, and it gives me peace of mind.

One of the other things I did that was critical was to get the mast 100% true – and “straight up”. It was 1/4 – 1/2″ off kilter before, and one thing I’ve developed over the years is an eye to know when a tower or an antenna is dead nuts vertical. Its pretty weird – but makes sense – my eye knows what the most accurate level knows.

Its still very worthwhile getting the antenna up another 10.5 feet up . . .

I’ll leave the antenna up at 56′ for a couple weeks and will monitor it – especially when we have the winds when the fog comes in and then burns off – there is always wind during those early morning and early evening times.

When I ran to the hardware store this morning, the trees at the Moraga Country Club Golf Course were already pumpkin orange. I thought “wow, summer has flown by”. I did expect this, but it still is a surprise. Good thing, I had no time for the “DX Doldrums” to set in.

Oh my – its that time of year!

Just like last year, my Data Dictionary / Data Catalog project just melted away the summer days

Two fabulous summers, and “It’s like deja vu all over again” at work. This Fall I won’t repeat last years experience – where a manager decided the Data Dictionary project – which was initially met with great fan fare was no longer important or appreciated. This year – we have CCPA and the Data Dictionary / Data Catalog is the KEY to complying – a must – like Gravity – its The Law. This year I am at a place where they have made it absolutely a company Priority One.

I expect a better Fall and Winter this year – much better than last year for sure.

NAQP: FREQ 300 QSO’s #4, 5 and 6

I jumped into the NAQP and worked AK, HI and VE7 – so 3 new ones for my “Free Range QRP DX Challenge”

I had no problem with any of these – I’m truly amazed at what can be done with only 5 watts. I did return that Contour Xpress that I mentioned in a previous post – it just didn’t work for my setup.

I did do summer maintenance on the UrbanBeam today and its in great shape. I also replaced all of the guy rope with Mastrant 4mm – its perfect for my application.

Tomorrow I add the last 4 sections and get the UrbanBeam up 65′

FREQ 300 Commemorative QSL Cards

Jeff, K1NSS and I worked up a new QSL card image – which attempts to channel old deco style posters like this:

The Italian reference is the Begali Key. I am more than convinced that Begali keys will become collectors items (if they aren’t already). I know that there are even more “rare” keys, and I almost purchased an Alberto Frattini Bug at one point – but by accident – I found that I hate sending with a bug, and love sending with a single lever key – and IMHO – Begali has the best.

Right now – at the place that I am in my Ham Radio Life – pairing a fine Begali Key with the wonderful Elecraft KX-3 is like wine and cheese or perhaps beer and pork rinds – just exquisite!

In fact, carrying my newfound “Free Range QRP DXer” schtick forward, it only makes it even more fun to chase DX in a way that I want – when I want, how I want, etc. Gone are the days of “musing” or fretting over what is going on with the DXCC List – or what the ARRL is doing about the DXCC program. I recently checked out the daily grumblings over at the eHam DX Forum – and found a thread about how the DXCC program is being “dumbed down”. I have thought for years that in some ways, the IOTA program makes more sense than DXCC . . . hence why my new pursuit allows for DX from both lists. I think its a “thing” that others should try. Add in the QRP power level – and I really do think its WAY more interesting than DXCC or IOTA on their own. I do think its a much better challenge than DXCC Honor Roll. I remember the old Rag Chewers Club – certificates that were signed by “The Old Sock” – I loved that sort of humor – and hope to convey it with this new “Award”.

Now its time for some serious DX business – Free Range QRP DXing!

Panadapter Data Visualization . . .

Win4k3Suite Panadapter with DX Spots on the Waterfall . . .

Just when you thought you have seen everything – then there is THIS. DX spots on the waterfall – WOW – finally, a ham radio software designer who isn’t using 1980’s Visual Basic neanderthal UX/UI design, but someone who might even know who has heard of Edward Tufte.

My hand at trying to do “data visualization” a la Edward Tufte. I did get a great response from this . . . 

I’ve had and used the P3, PX3 and HDSDR based panadapters. None of them wowed me like this one. Adding the station that is in the waterfall is just perfect. In this case, the hardware setup couldn’t be simpler- and this is because the KX-3 does all of the “heavy lifting” and offers data from its RF/IQ jack. I do think its just amazing what the KX-3 does in such a small box – the more I think of its architecture, the more I think its even better than the K3, and boy did I live my K3 – which I had for 10 years – the logest of any rig.

The Hardware Diagram for this setup [UPDATE: I found the Contour Shuttle Xpress to not be helpful – the knob on the KX-3 is better]

The KX-3 was fully loaded and I purchased from an op I know – who takes great care of his gear – it was truly like new and fully loaded – $1000. The Xonar was $89 and the Contour Shuttle Xpress was $58. The Shuttle Xpress is optional – the knob on the KX-3 is actually quite nice – but I saw another SDR blog where the fellow was crowing about how great the Shuttle Xpress is – and I hopefully will receive mine today. If you to be ultra portable, the KX-3, Xonar and Laptop are all you need. This would be an awesome setup for someone in a mobile home or camper. All can be charged using a portable solar charger . . . . if you want day hiker or back packer – go for the KX-2 – hi hi. This setup is “small-ish”. If you were doing SOTA work from State Parks in your car or van – this also would work very nicely.

Everytime I tried a panadapter before – after just a few hours I pretty much ignored it. You see, I learned how to DX using just my ears and being able to tune split and track the DX instinctively and wothout a second RX or dual watch or any other such nicety. HOWEVER – the dual watch on the KX-3 is AWESOME.

I really can’t say enough about this wonderful setup. Its crazy – but while I am drooling over the Elecraft K4, I am a lot more excited about this little setup. Here is a really funny thing – when I put the KX-3 next to my Collins Gold Dust Twins, and see what 1950’s top of the line was, and now what Elecraft is doing. WOW. Truly amazing – and truly fun.

Yeah – I think I still love this hobby. Look around – there is always something cool to spend your money on – hi hi


My third FREQ 300 QSO – JJ0USR – only 5100 miles or so, but great DX QRP

I can honestly say that I am having more fun DX-ing with 5 watts than with QRO, and even 100 watts (which I guess in some ways I used to think was QRP). However – I think I just had to get that first DXCC Honor Roll out of my system. Its a lot like always needing to turn it up to 11 when you are a young man – but as you get older (and hopefully wiser – hi hi), you start seeing and really enjoying the subtleties in life – things you missed when you were young and had more testosterone, adrenaline – and less patience.

Yes, Low and Slow wins the race!

It sure seems like every time I turn on my KX-3, and set to 5 watts, I work a new one towards the “Pinnacle of DX-ing” – The Free Range QRP DX-er 300 Challenge . . .

Anyway, Ken was a true 599, and he gave me a 529. This was quite good because my antenna is pointed 90 degrees away from his QTH – its pointed NW – SW. I’m sure had I gone out back and done the “Armstrong Turn” I would have earned a couple extra S Units. No problem – the QSO was easy and solid – and it reminds me how much I enjoy just a simple simplex DX QSO – while the rush of an ATNO using split n the pileups was exciting, I have to say – I have always hated (massive) pileups.

That raises the issue of “strategy” – and its very simple – work people using CW (SSB at 5 watts really seems ridiculous IMHO) – help preserve CW as long as we can – certainly be a part of keeping CW alive, and seek simplex CQ DX calls. The only good thing about everyone running off to FT8 is that CW ops are a little more desperate – and it seems that they will hear Peanut Whistles better now – because there will be less competition. SO yeah – my strategy is have as LITTLE competition as possible. During a contest or DX-pedition – I will have to wait until the stations start begging for QSO’s or counters.


Win4K3Suite and the ASUS Xonar U7 MKII

The ASUS Xonar U7 MKII turns my laptop into the best panadapter I have ever had . . . 

I stumbled on the Win4K3Suite online, and found that with an $80 dollar ASUS external soundcard, I could have the best panadapter possible with the KX-3. I happen to have an ASUSPro laptop – and its the best $500 I have ever spent on a computer – so I like ASUS products – very well made and very well priced. Here is the Xonar:

I showed the fancy product picture yesterday, and today its rockin’ on my desk

The Win4K3Suite is awesome – here are some screen snap shots:

It has one of the nicest panadpter displays I’ve ever seen – its perfect

Its rig control is awesome as well

It has a very cool audio Scope

And an Audio Spectrum display – that I don’t really know what it is useful for

I did also look at a Pignology KX-3 control program that I like a lot – the KX3UI, but the Win4K3 wins because of the panadapter feature.

Tomorrow I will receive this keystroke / mouse controller pod, and will test it as a tuning knob for the KX-3. If it works, it will make for nice ergonomic setup for my new QRP toy – the KX-3.

At this phase in my DX-ing, I am very pleased with the KX-3, and today – given my situation, I pretty much think the KX-3 is truly one of the best rigs made – I really do think it was “revolutionary”. I have noticed some Chinese entries that are just starting to look good – but I do think they have a ways to go to catch up with Elecraft.

I have to say – with the KX-3 and being QRP, I see no reason to even consider any other SDR rigs.

OK – which entity will be my 3rd? Onward!