Tag Archives: DX

FT-8 vs JT-65

FT-8 has taken digital operating by storm since it’s release this summer. I had been running JT-65 early mornings to Asia on 40m but lately I am seeing the number of spots on pskreporter drop considerably in favor of FT-8. I have been using FT-8 with increasing frequency the last few days. This morning conditions on 40m were good with eight QSO’s to Asia in 40 minutes. Most were with Japan but had one each in South Korea and Indonesia.

I am finding that I have better results on FT-8 when calling CQ than answering CQ. WSJT-X takes over by responding to the first call that answers the CQ. Some monitoring is needed as there are times the responding station goes out of sequence in the response. In FT-8, the computer does most of the work when calling CQ as the sequences are so quick. I am finding that with FT-8 I have to repeat a sequence as the other station seems to have trouble decoding my signal (probably due to fading). As a result, I may have to add four or five extra calls to complete a QSO. In some cases the other station never responds again. This happens far less on JT-65. I suspect this is due to the longer receive cycle that helps balance fading as well as the greater sensitivity overall.

The bottom line is that I will likely be operating more on FT-8 only because there are fewer and fewer stations using JT-65.

 

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DX100 Award!!!

I achieved the QRZ.com DX100 award today thanks to an early morning JT-65 contact with DV1FZE in the Philippines. As of today I have logged a total of 2878 QSO’s and confirmed 100 countries using QRZ electronic logging only. I am now working to close the ARRL DXCC award and need only 5 more entities via LoTW contacts.

Working the CQ WW SSB Contest on the ICOM 7300

I was on a short business trip to China last week and arrived back home late Friday night after the CQ WW SSB contest had already begun. I started working the contest after lunch on Saturday using the Icom 7300 on 100W and with the N1MM logging program. I took a little time before starting to enable the spectrum display feature on the logging software as well as the spotting capability. This was fairly straightforward and only required that I change the baud rate on the rig. How did this all work? Well all I can say is I wished I had this in earlier contests! Here is a view of my contest screen:

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Spots match up with the spectrum display and a simple click on the signal of interest adjusts the rig. There are screens that display the spots that will maximize my score which is really handy. I operated search and pounce on 10m, 15m, 20m and 40m bands. Here is a summary of my score:

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Action on the daytime bands was centered on 15m. There was some intermittent activity on 10m during daytime hours. 20m was very active but also seemed difficult for me to make contacts. Not sure if this was related to the antenna or propagation conditions. 40m at night was also quite active with very decent DX. Overall a good cross section of DX with 63 DX entities contacted over 35 CQ zones.

Lots of fun with this and a good test of the vertical antenna system.

 

Bad Behavior on HF Pileup

It’s been awhile since I have seen real big DX pileup. That was the case yesterday afternoon with Annobon Island on 20m SSB. I was not able to make a QSO. The operator was working split and listening up 5 to 20. Most of the stations responding were stateside and while many were well behaved the number of lids and cops on the frequency made it extremely difficult for all operators. I am a strong believer in the DX code of conduct.

The IC-7300 waterfall makes it fairly easy to see where the DX station is listening. When he calls QRZ the waterfall becomes almost solid in a band between 5 to 20 kHz. It dies out when he answers and then the answering station comes out in the spot he was listening. Some monitoring of this will tell you where he is listening to maximize your chances of him hearing the call I hope to see this op again this afternoon as he is only QRV for a few more days.

Changing Band Conditions

For the past three or four months I was having great success early in the morning with 40m JT-65 contacts to Asia on the 1/4 wave vertical antenna. The band would be great at around 6:45 am and be open till around 8:30 am. Japan especially would be easy to make contacts with on JT-65.

I have been noticing a definite shift in early morning 40m to Asia. First, I should note that JT-65 activity has dropped off quite a bit now that FT-8 is getting so rapidly popular. Just in the last few weeks I have noticed a drastic reduction in the number of JT-65 spots showing on pskreporter. The second observation is that the band seems to open to Asia a bit later now from about  7:30 am to about 8:30 am.

So this morning I started out trying JT-65 and made two contacts to Japan but there were very few signals on the waterfall. FT-8 had much more activity overall. I switched to FT-8 and started calling CQ DX and the first response was from Indonesia. The next 8 QSO’s were from Japan.

Overall, I have mixed felling about this. I enjoy the early morning pace of JT-65. I can check my emails while checking the bands. FT-8 takes quite a bit more work and attention. One other effect is that FT-8 is a bit more difficult to close a weak signal QSO. It is easy for the signals to drop below the noise floor and disappear between transmissions.

More on the 20m Vertical Beam

The vertical beam is definitely directional. Unfortunately, I have no way to measure the gain. What I have noticed is that when I run this antenna on JT-65 I see much stronger reports from the direction the beam is pointed to versus the backside. Same goes with WSPR results. The antenna is also receiving well based on yesterdays WSPR challenge results as well.

I did some A/B switching between the beam and the 20m vertical while running JT-65. The beam sees signals coming in from Europe (very weak just above the noise floor). These disappear entirely when switching in the vertical. This could make a very nice antenna for next field day as it is easy to setup and from my QTH would cover much of the US my pointing due north.

Here is a picture of the antenna deployed in my backyard:

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These pictures show how everything is connected:

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At the feedpoint I have the homebrew 1:1 current balun. Each vertical element has two 18 foot radials laying on the ground. The two radial sets are connected by an 18.7″ ft wire. Pretty simple really.

First DX Using FT8

Made my first two DX contacts to Australia today on 40m FT8. I need to get used to the faster pace but otherwise looks like it works pretty well. I added the FT8 mode to HRD logging software and am uploading the contacts as “DATA” to LoTW.

Working 40m and 17m this Weekend

I reconfigured what has become my main antenna, the 40m 1/4 wave vertical. This is still a temporary installation but I am growing increasingly happy with the results I am getting. I frankly can’t remember the last time I used the horizontal end fed. I have had to roll up the radials on occasion to mow the yard and have not yet deployed my permanent radials. Currently I am using the 30 foot travel mast from SOTAbeams to support the vertical wire and have four 27 foot radials deployed. I am using my homebrew 1:1 current balun at the feedpoint and running to the shack with 50 ft of RG-8X.

If I get the chance I’ll start operating around 6:30 am local time on 40m JT-65. I can usually snag several contacts in Japan with the occasional contact into Australia, Indonesia or the Philippines. The action is over by about 7:30am local time as the band closes quickly after sunrise.

Saturday afternoon, I was checking the bands and came across a strong VK station on 17m SSB. We exchanged signals reports in the 54 to 55 range. I moved over to JT-65 and found that there was DX activity including another VK contact. Today Sunday I am finding about the same conditions, great 40m propagation to the far east in the early morning and some light DX into Europe & South America on 17m in the late afternoon.

 

Reached 100 DX entities – unofficially

I made a 20m SSB contact to Guadalupe in the Caribbean yesterday which got my unofficial DX count to 100. It is unofficial because I don’t have the electronic confirmation either though QRZ or LoTW. My official tally is 85 for DXCC and 88 for QRZ DX World. It has taken awhile to get here and the new antennas I have been testing help quite a bit. Wish more folks could confirm either through QRZ or LoTW!

Transmit Power Using JT-65

I came a cross a very helpful web page in determining the amount of power needed for JT-65. It is called dbCalc and allows you to enter your transmit power and signal report and then calculates what your report would have been with other transmit power levels. I tried this out today on 40m JT-65, lowered my power in half and still made several DX contacts to Japan and Argentina.  You can easily measure how your signal is doing at a given power by sending a CQ and then checking the Pskreporter reports. Feed these into dbCalc and you can optimize your power settings for given band conditions. I suspect that in most cases operators are using a lot more power than necessary to make JT-65 contacts which makes it harder for weaker signals to get through.