Its 40M Antenna Test Time!

With the cancellation of 3Y0Z, I went out back and took down my two temporary antennas that I had up for Bouvet – the 2 element 20M yagi and the 40M doublet – which is a 17M EDZ. This morning I swapped the MFJ-1886 with the NEW Wellbrook ALA1530LNP.

Tomorrow I will also re-arrange my station a bit. I will be using the Elecraft KPA-500 and KAT-500 and take the Palstar AT2K out of line. The antennas that will be up by EOD tomorrow:

  1. Inverted L for 160, 80, 30 and 20M
  2. DX Engineering DV-40-P 40M phased array
  3. Cushcraft D40 – up 60′
  4. Phased Wellbrook ALA1530LNP loops phased with the DX Engineering NCC-2

Besides bagging the last 3 on Top Band for DXCC and 9BDXCC, I want to do more comparisons between the phased vertical array and the Cushcraft D40 up 60′

Looking forward to big ham fun tomorrow.


The NEW Wellbrook ALA1530LNP

I have the old Wellbrook ALA1530LNP magnetic loop receiving antenna in a position 3′ above the ground and next to a little creek.

I now have a second ALA1530LNP up 13′ or so – above the roof and away from any metal or other obstructions.

I absolutely see the difference – it is 9 dB more gain and lower noise than my first one. With two of these phased and 50′ apart, its truly amazing how well they play when phased through the DX Engineering NCC-2.

If you do not have a lot of space – this is my favorite low band RX system. I’m a huge Wellbrook fan, and if you were thinking about other loops – compare the specs. I can tell you from experience, the Wellbrrok leaves the MFJ-1886 in the dust.

Advancing the Radio Art . . .

I am a low bander, a CW enthusiast and a home brewer. I got my license when I was 13 in 1973. I went to school and earned a Computer Science degree after my fathers friend plopped an IMSAI computer on our kitchen table in (I think 1976) in Newton, NJ – when I was WA2QHN. I was told to get into software and I did – and man has it been a wonderful 37 year career!

During VK0EK we did several things that rankled some DXers cockles. We had instant gratification that you were in the log with DXA, thanks to Pete, W6OP and Bob, KK6EK, we had auto-upload to Clublog and LOTW and also ran a remote demonstration station – VK0LD, thanks to Mike, KJ4Z. That’s when Mike and I knew you could do some kind of auto-remote station, which Mike calls a “DXpodition”. We had a rolling blog where you could get up to the minute news and we had Freshdesk as a support ticketing system with 10 Diablo DXers providing near real time support. Those were my contributions besides vetting the back office team, the radio team with Dave, K3EL and doing some fund raising.

I was the project manager, and the team was truly amazing.

Now, FT8, with its DXpedition mode seals the deal:

WHen I watch whats going on with 3Y0Z – the difficulty and the cost, I instantly think “This is it the last one”. But – the latest advances in technology are changing things forever as we speak. The horse is out of the barn and ain’t going back.

I welcome this because I can still play CW as the world races to FT8. The ham side of me says CW, but the career side of me says FT8, Remotes, and whatever else is new and “Advances The Radio Art” . . . .

Wellbrook ALA1530LNP and Cushcraft D40: This Weekend

I’m replacing the MFJ-1886 Loop with a second Wellbrook ALA1530LNP because the Wellbrook is very noticeably better than the MFJ. I was able to do weeks worth of daily night and early morning A B comparisons using a DX Engineering NCC-2, and there simply is no comparison – the higher gain and lower noise is very evident.

I’ve now worked 3 new one’s on 160M – EA8, JT5 and T88, and the loops through the NCC-2 were very much the key. Since the MFJ-1886 was weaker and noisier than the Wellbrook, I used a Palstar MW550P that I had to bring the MFJ level up to the Welbrook (gain wise but it was still nisier) – but I just sold it.

I am really excited about swapping the MFJ for the Wellbrook because the first Wellbrook loop that I have was doing all the work – so adding the second should make what is my best all time RX antenna situation even better.

I will be chasing 3Y0Z because I fully expect that they will at least have a couple stations on – they have a weather window right now that is as good as I think its going to get – and when I can’t hear them during mid day – I expect that’s when I will be out working on the antennas. I also will finish putting together the Cushcraft D40, and will swap the 20M yagi out for the D40 as soon as I work 3Y0Z on 20M. I do expect that 20M could be the first band I work them on – but maybe 40M – it will be very cool to see how this plays.

I expect this weekend to be absolutely insane, but this team is great and I expect propagation to be much better than Z60A – which has been very weak on the West Coast. I am guessing that I will need to “work from home” a couple days this coming week.


DXing Changes Since 2001

Like the seasons changing, so has the ham radio sub genre of DXing. I started DXing in 2001 and saw quite a few innovations since then:

  1. Great improvements in radio design. The Ten Tec Orion, Elecraft and Flex gear all stand out in my mind
  2. Great improvements in antenna design. SteppIR and aluminum designs, plus low noise receiving antenna solutions
  3. Great improvements in Amplifier design, especially Solid State amplifiers. Elecraft, Ameritron and SPE stand out in my mind
  4. Different modes. FT8 by far stands out in my mind
  5. Different ways to DX. Remotes, while controversial are here to stay. I’ve made exactly ONE QSO using a remote so I could experience it and write an upcoming blog about. I’ll leave it up to other ham radio bloggers to discuss what they think is “ethical”. Since it’s just a hobby, I don’t care. But people in the ON4KST chat sure care
  6. Instant log uploads using sat phones. DXA and other basic uploading software is common today
  7. LOTW and Clublog – applying for DX awards and QSLing has never been easier, and even less expensive. The actual QSL Card is not quite as high profile as it used to be
  8. Home brewing has changed. There are fewer discreet component kits but more kits based on modular and even maker like designs
  9. The DXCC List and DXCC rules that govern the list have changed, but gladly, it has been a stable period. I’m more than happy that the days prior to 2001 are gone. It’s much harder to use your DX clout and lobby the ARRL to change the rules
  10. My attitude. The end of the era of me chasing DXCC is still months away, but I will continue to DX and do what I have always done – listen as an SWL 98% of the time and TX seldom. Do you know I only have 5000 QSOs in my log since 1973? My log includes 9BDXCC and Honor Roll and 2 away from #1 Honor Roll. Does this mean I’m really an SWLer?

Ok, that’s all I can think of while riding on BART to work today.

Solar Cycle 24 Bottom 1.5 years Earlier Than Predicted?

I’ve believed for some time that the bottom of Cycle 24 would start in 2018 – probably not long after 3Y0Z, and that they would get the “last gasp” of propagation before we get back into the days where even 20M doesn’t open much. This article also says something similar:

I have noticed that the lower bands have been even better than just past Autumn – now that the solar disruptions have all but gone quiet – especially 160M. And 40M has done exactly what it did during the bottom of the last cycle – and offer great rare and far off DX like no other band. You need 2 elements on 40M – and I just happen to have an extra DX Engineering DV-40-P phased array system – new in the Box for sale at a great price!

I have read in a few places that the bottom of Cycle 24 will be prolonged, but the predictions for Cycle 24 were so far off – they ended up being a joke. I have made my plans just around that trend-line that you see above, and knowing that we are about were we were in 2008. It is very clear that the north – south paths were better than the east west paths and that the polar paths – like with Z60A now was not good.

The number of days straight with no sunspots this year is supposed to be double what it was last year, so its really starting to remind me of what is to come. The best thing this time around? I’m addicted to 160M, and that EA8 the other day plus the JT5DX were like being on 40M – or even 20M actually. It will be interesting how FT8 makes up some of the propagational difference – that is something to watch.

Viva Le Low Bands!

160M DXCC #97: T88PB – Palau

It was rough, but its #97 and in the log. Three more Top Band QSO’s and Two more for Honor Roll #1. These are fun times in DXing for me – especially 160M all of a sudden waking up so nicely. This past Fall was really disappointing, I thought I’d have to wait all year to get to 100, but (fingers crossed), I very well could make it by my birthday in March.

Its a “two-fer” – a 9BDXCC plate for my 5BDXCC plaque.