CQ TEST CQWW DX CW

This past weekend the CQWW DX CW contest was touted to be the biggest contest of its type. CW operators from all over the world participate mainly on the non-WARC bands of 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters. In the mid 90’s, when I was first licensed, I enjoyed CW. It was required. Tech + and novice required 5 words per minute (wpm), general and advanced required 13 wpm, and Extra required 20 wpm. When I upgraded from advanced to extra the code requirement was still 5 wpm. Back in the day before life took over I was pretty comfortable at about 18 wpm.

In my early years, I was drawn to contesting and DX’ing. Back then as it is today, these pursuits are the home of the serious CW ops. Code speeds are often in the 30-35 wpm range. Far above my meager 18 wpm. I did some contesting using SSB and was moderately successful. Here is an award from the CQWW DX SSB contest.

KM5AV was my Advanced License call sign. By the turn of the century, I had grown weary of the rude and impolite behavior of some of the operators on SSB. For many years, I turned my interests to EmComm and local ragchewing occasionally chasing a little DX. In 2003 I upgraded to extra and changed my call to KK4Z.

In 2021, I decided to get back into CW. The kids were grown, education is complete, and I am in a semi-retired state. I started practicing CW and got myself back up to 16 wpm. I was now looking for a venue to increase my skills. I discovered Parks on the Air (POTA). After a bout with paddle fright, I made my first CW contact in over 20 years with Steve K5SJC. Steve was and is very friendly and helpful. Since that time I have made almost 1,800 CW contacts.

After hovering in the 16-20 wpm range, I decided it was time to increase my speed. CW or Morse Code has some mental hurdles for some. Typically, they are at 10 wpm and 20 wpm. I am at the latter, with my goal being 25 wpm. I am using a combination of CWops (cwops.org) and Learn CW Online (lcwo.net) to help me increase my speed. POTA is on Facebook and one of their pages is POTA CW for new Ops https://www.facebook.com/groups/potacw. The admin for the page Jess W6LEN, recommended that we take advantage of the CQWW DX CW contest to help improve our skills. At least listen. What a brilliant idea! The contest is a challenge for us slow pokes. They run at about 30-35 wpm and do not QRS (slow down). I started listening, first for the format. The opening salvo was CQ TEST <Call Sign>. The response is your call sign and they reply with 5NN <CQ zone>, followed by you with 5NN <CQ zone. That’s it. The word test at speed is very melodic dah-dit-dididit-dah.

The hard part is picking out the call sign. I normally run at 16-20 wpm. First I tune around to find one of the slower guys (30 wpm). I then decode his call sign, one figure at a time until I get the whole thing. My decoder is between my ears. This can take time but it helps to acclimate to the new speed. I like to say that I dabble or putter about and try to make a few contacts. I’m not going to win any awards for most Q’s, but I am going to get better at receiving code. I started my sending at 20 wpm, but that sounded like I was standing still. So I upped it to 22 and then again to 25 wpm. My first goal was to work one station on each band. I then changed it to making 1,000 points. I made over 20 contacts in the course of several hours. It was slow and it was difficult. It showed me that I can copy code at 30+ wpm, not well, but well enough. Here is a map.

I was running 100 watts into a 270′ OCF dipole. Hawaii was on 10 meters.

Did I have fun? You bet I did. Just being able to pick out the call signs at that speed was a thrill. Going into the contest to dabble takes the expectation of having to do well and allows you to focus on improving your CW skills. will I do it again? You betcha!

Hints and Kinks for the New Camper

The Radio Flyer is an excellent camper for me. I love the compactness as well as the space utilization. One of my jobs in the U.S. Army was as a crew chief on a Blackhawk Helicopter. It has a similar vibe. the other thing I like about it, is I only lose 0.5 to 1.5 miles per gallon when I tow it.

The first weekend in it was great. I learned a lot about the camper and worked on how best to use the space. Winter is upon us so operating the radios outside may not always be doable. Years of abuse working in the trades have left me with arthritis in my hands, making CW difficult when it is cold. In my last post, I tried a couple of different ways to operate inside the camper. while none were perfect, I got a couple of good ideas. This is what I ended up with.

I can sit comfortably in that chair for hours and there is enough room for my legs. The table is 16″ wide and 3′ long. It can easily hold my laptop, CW key, and full-sized radio. Not shown, but on the right, just behind the chair are 2-120v outlets. If I need to get up, I slide the table over to the wall on the left. I believe I can also sleep with it there.

Construction was simple. I have about $50 invested, $30 was for the legs. The table-top was a project panel from Lowes that cost less than $11. Everything else I had on hand. I cut a radius on the corners and routed the edges for comfort. To secure the legs to the table I used some Tee-nuts left over from a prior project.

The panel is only 5/8″ thick. The tees are about 1/2″ tall so the recess was rather shallow. After I put them in, I secured them with JB Weld. Not pretty, but adequate for the job and good enough for proof of concept. If I decide to redo this, I would use a thicker board and a Forstner Bit for the recess. That would have upped the cost, more than I thought appropriate for a first go.

I did both ends as I have two legs. that way I can also set it up as a table proper. I sanded it a little, put on a coat of stain, and a spray-on polyurethane clear coat. Nothing fancy. To store the table when I am not using it I put it between the bed and the camper wall.

The other kink has to do with my microwave. It sits nicely on the shelf; however, during the first tow, I went over some fair-sized bumps, which launched the microwave onto the floor. The netting that came with the camper did not hold it well enough. My cure was simple, I did two things. First I turned the hook that holds the net around to where the hook faces the microwave. This should increase the holding power. The second thing I did was I bought some metal bookends and slipped them under the microwave and behind the hooks. The height of the bookends and the weight of the microwave should keep it on the shelf.

The next flight of the Radio Flyer will be in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, everything will work as advertised. 73 — Scott

The Maiden Voyage of the Radio Flyer

Radio Flyer Logo (PRNewsFoto/Radio Flyer, Inc.)

When I was young, it was a simpler time. All you needed was a pen knife, cap gun, your dog, and a Radio Flyer red wagon to put your stuff in. The world was your oyster and adventure was right around the corner. Even though I am much older now, and my horizons have expanded; adventure is still right around the corner. It was fitting that my new camper is also a Flyer. I thought it fitting to name my camper the Radio Flyer, big boy’s red wagon.

For my first adventure, I chose to go to the Stephen C. Foster State Park located within the Okefenokee Swamp. It’s about a 6-hour drive from my home QTH. Getting off of the interstate at Valdosta; it’s about a 45-mile drive down a highway that is largely uninhabited. For a man who likes his solitude, I felt alone. I pulled into Fargo, GA for gas, and then it was another 18 miles of desolation to the park. The first gate was entering the refuge. Then another lonely stretch to the park entrance.

The park was quiet with several different species of Owl providing commentary. The park never got noisy while I was there. I liked it. The campsite was rustic and nice. In short order I was set up and ready to go.

One of the things I like about the camper is its simplicity. The interior is open and spacious. there is enough room for me and my gear plus I can sit comfortably. The AC and heater work well. The galley is all I need. I added a microwave that fits on the storage shelf.

My intentions were to operate CW and FT8 while out. However, the propagation gods were not with me and band conditions were rather poor. Often only one or two of the bands were open and even then they suffered from heavy QSB or fading. You could see it on the WSJT waterfall. Now you see it, now you don’t. I tried CW a couple of times but to no avail, so FT8 it was. Here is a shot of my screen at 40 meters. Normally, it would be wall-to-wall signals at the time the image was taken.

I tried a couple of different radio configurations inside the camper and the one that had the most promise was this:

I set up at the rear of the camper facing sideways. I was using a lap desk, leftover from my last camper. I was sitting in a canoe chair and balancing the desk on my legs. Not the best setup, but it gave me some ideas for next time. I was much more comfortable in this camper operating.

Station Setup. The antenna was my 29′ random wire antenna and 17′ counterpoise. It is fed with a homemade 9:1 UnUn and a 1:1 current balun. Here’s what the outside looked like.

Coax is RG-316. The radio was my Yaesu FTDX10 with a Mat-30 antenna tuner. I will comment more about the radio in a separate paragraph.

How did I do? I was on the radio pretty steady from 1800 hrs lcl Friday night, unitl about 2200 hrs lcl Saturday night. I would have worked a little later on Saturday, but the bands made it a struggle. I came out okay. I made 353 contacts from 45 states and 11 countries. Band break down as follows: 10m – 5, 12m – 2, 15m – 4, 20m – 130, 30m – 48, 40m – 151, 80m -13, and 160m – 6. I should have had more contacts on all of the bands, but conditions were not that good. I think the only reason I got the 6 on 160m, is people were trying to find propagation — any propagation.

FTDX Woes. I continue to find things I do not like about this radio. I plan on keeping this radio for a while to really give it a shakedown. You really can’t give a radio a good review if you only use it for a short while. I am keeping my IC-7300. On this trip, the biggest niggle I had was the main dial lock. It also locks the MPVD (outer ring) dial. Why is this bad? To use the clarifier, you have to use the MPVD. I recently wrote about split operation and some of you asked why not use the clarifier. The answer is you can but. The Yaesu main dial is large, too large in my opinion, and it is easy to bump it off frequency. This is important if the other station is running split. if you bump the main dial, you no longer hear the other station. You may not notice right away if something is wrong and you can miss your opportunity. If you are the station being worked and you bump your transmit frequency, no one can hear you. With the IC-7300, you can lock the main dial and still operate the RIT/DeltaTX (clarifier) with the multi-function knob.
Woe #2. You cannot easily operate FT8 on 60 meters. Yaesu programmed the 10 channels into memory and to get it to operate on 60 meters, you have to jump through some hoops, more than you should for a modern radio. The Icom will run 60 meters right from the WSJT app.
Woe #3. Using the Mat-30 tuner, the FTDX10 refuses to tune my antenna on 17 meters. I have 3 other portable tuners that work just fine on 17 meters including my 15-year-old LDG Z-11 Pro.
I don’t know, Yaesu, just misses the mark. I still kind of like the Yaesu, there seems to be a lot of almost, but not quite there. The reality is, whatever I can work on the Yaesu, I can work on the Icom. The Yaesu has a more refined receiver, but the Icom has a lower noise floor. For now, I am keeping the Yaesu, and I will continue to take it to the field and use it. I want to have a good feel for it before I decide which one to keep. Like I said, you really can’t do a good review over a short period of time. I really want to give the radio a good workout on CW, which I think will be its niche, if only the propagation gods will favor me. If one of you has an in with Yaesu, send them the link to my blog.

Below is a link to the accompanying YouTube video.

The Times They are a-changing

This week I decided to trade in my new camper for a newer camper. I consider the now old camper as my training wheels camper. I used it for 8 months and it gave me the opportunity to really see what I liked and didn’t like about this camper and campers in general. Here is a list of things I didn’t like about this camper.
1) The AC drained into a tub. The AC unit was basically a window unit and the condensation water instead of draining to the ground, drained into a tub. You had to turn on another fan to help evaporate the water. If you go over a good-sized bump, the water would spill out onto the beds below. This was their Boondock model (off-roadish) so bumps were to be expected. My new camper has a Dometic RV AC unit mounted to the roof and no water issues.
2) The heater did not work. The old camper had a separate heater unit which never worked. I didn’t use it until this fall because it was too warm by the first time I took the camper out. I took it for a service and they had to order new circuit boards. The parts are on back order with no delivery date. The new camper has a heater strip in the AC unit and works fine. Note: Even though I felt the old camper was a quality build, the AC and heater units, were rather cheap and their installation was not well thought out.
3) The old camper was not comfortable when operating my radios inside. When it gets dark out, cold, or rainy, I like to bring the radios inside. There was no way to sit comfortably inside the camper. It was designed for laying down. I tried several different methods and none worked well. I had to live with a good bit of discomfort and pain. Sleeping in the camper was fine though. The new camper should allow me to put a small folding chair inside. I have used this chair before and can sit in it for hours.
4) I mainly used the radios outside under the awning because, well it was outdoors and it was more comfortable. I do a lot of camping by myself so the issue came up with what to do with my radios when I had to go to the comfort station. Leaving them out was not an option. I have seen cars driving through the campsites making the loop two or three times in a short period. You could tell they were not campers. So, when I had to go, I had to put up my radios and computer/iPad and then set them back up when I got back.
5) The cabinets in the bed area were useless. They were too shallow and too far away from the doors. I never used them.
6) The water system. I used it maybe three times. I felt it was not worth the effort and just something else to break. I usually brought a jug of water with me.
7) The Cooler/Fridge was hard to get to. It resided in a cubby hole which meant every time you wanted something from inside, you had to pull it out and balance it on the edge of the trailer. Just a hassle.
8) The spare tire was mounted underneath the camper. This reduced the ground clearance which was not good for a Boondock camper.

It was the sum of the issues including the lack of comfort and security that edged me toward looking elsewhere. So when I was down at the dealer’s checking on the parts for my heater, I decided to trade it in for a new camper, which I believe will alleviate some of the issues I had with the old one. Here is a glimpse of the new sheriff in town. I’m taking her out this weekend for a shakedown cruise. I will give a detailed review in the next post. I wanted to separate the bad from the good so to speak.

Split Operation Up 2, Up 2

On HF radios operating split means you are transmitting on one frequency and receiving on another. This is beneficial when pileups become large and unruly. Often, hunters or people wanting to work a station (activator or DX) will step over themselves so much that the activator can no longer pick out call signs and the hunters are transmitting so much that no one can hear the activator. Running split keeps the activator’s transmit frequency clear and the activator can vary their receive frequency up and down a little to pick out individual calls.

When an activator decides to operate split they add something like “up 2” to their CQ or QRZ. What that means is they are transmitting on one frequency and receiving on another. Typically CW split is 2 kHz and SSB is 5 kHz. For example, if an activator is transmitting on 14.064 mHz and calls “up 2”, they are receiving on14.066 mHz. The activator can now vary his receive frequency a little to pick out call signs while all the hunters can listen to the one frequency the activator is transmitting on. The hunt is finding the frequency the activator is listening on. Smart activators will move up and down a little to reduce the pileup.

For activators, the split setup is a little different than for hunters. Activators may start out on simplex and then decide the pileup is more chaotic than they can handle. When an activator decides to split he is starting out with the transmit frequency. Hunters on the other hand start with the receive frequency which will be discussed later. For activators, I suggest the following for the FTDX10. Push the A/B button until VFO B is the same as VFO A. Press the split button and then use the Main tuning dial to set the receive frequency.

This will give you the “up 2”. The radio sets VFO B as the transmit frequency and VFO A as the receive frequency. This allows the main tuning dial to change the frequency of VFO A.

For hunters, it’s a little different. Hunters start out on the receive frequency. A hunter hears an activator on 14.064 calling for “2 up”. The easiest way is to dial in the receive frequency, touch the A/B button to equalize the VFOs, and then briefly press the Split button. Use the MPVD (outer) tuning ring to adjust the transmit frequency. Be careful not to hit or bump the main tuning dial. You can also use the Quick Split Option. To use it, set the receive frequency in VFO A and press and hold the Split Button. This will add (or subtract) the offset programmed in the radio. To change the offset, press the function button and go to the Operation Setting menu and then to the General Tab. Scroll down to the Quick Split Freq. Typical offsets are 2 kHz for CW and 5kHz for SSB. The offset can still be adjusted by the MPVD.

Now let’s talk about Icom and in this case the IC-7300. The Icom does not offer a built-in split offset like the Yaesu. As an activator, you start your activation on one frequency 14.064. When it is time to go to split operation.

Press and hold the Split button until VFO B equalizes with VFO A.

This sets up VFO B as the transmitting frequency. Turning the main tuning dial will change the frequency for VFO A, the receive frequency.

For hunters. Set the receive frequency 14.064 and then Push and hold the Split button until the VFO’s equalize. To set the transmit frequency (up 2) push and hold the XFC button under the Multi-Function Knob and using the main tuning dial, set the transmit Frequency. Every time you wish to alter the transmit frequency you have to push the XFC button.

Icom does have a Split Lock function which locks the receive frequency. To enable it, go to menu > Funtion > Split > Split Lock and turn it on.

While in Split Mode if you push and hold the Speech/Lock for one second, you will lock the main tuning dial so you cannot change the receive frequency. You can still alter the transmit frequency by pushing the XFC button and turning the main tuning dial. You will see a little key by the hertz numbers

That’s the basic how-to for split operation. It can be a little confusing. Shown here are the FTDX10 and the Icom IC-7300. Different models from each manufacturer should be similar. Which one is better, that depends. I think in general, when it comes to split operation, it’s a toss-up. I like things from both manufacturers. In general, I find the ergonomics of the IC-7300 better than the FTDX10 however, for split operation, the FTDX10 may be a little easier.

Quibbles and Bits

I was hoping to get the FTDX10 out in the wild this weekend; however, that did not happen. I thought I was going to get an Echolink Conference Room going but that didn’t work out either. The software they use to create the room is archaic with little or no knowledge base on how to start it up. I guess this sacred knowledge is handed down from father to son. I spent a good part of the weekend trying to figure it out. It’s probably a simple setting or something right in front of my nose. I was frustrated enough to start reaching for the Holy Hand Granade of Antioch.

Today I thought I would get the FTDX10 going on WinLink and FLDIGI. This was a little easier. I already used the FTDX10 with FT8 using the instruction found in the manual. To get things going on the radio, I did the following:
Go to RADIO SETTINGS and then MODE PSK/DATA
Set DATA MOD SOURCE to REAR
Set REAR SELECT to USB
Set RPTT to RTS
Go to OPERATION SETTING and then to GENERAL
Set CAT RATE to 38400
Set CAT RTS to ON
In Winlink
Select FT-991/A for the radio
Select USB DIGITAL
Select the proper COM PORT
RTS is CHECKED
BAUD is 38400
PTT PORT (OPTIONAL) SET TO FT-991/A
For FLDIGI
Use FTDX10 for the radio in FLRIG
Use DATA-U in FLDIGI
BAUD is 38400

Today’s FTDX10 quibble is the QMB or Quick Memory Bank. It’s clunky to use. Here Icom is clearly the winner. With my Icom’s which includes the 705, 7300, 7610, and 9700, the QMB, or as Icom calls it Memory Pad is one push to add a frequency to the memory. In addition, the Memory Pad is viewable and can be edited. Neither of these is available for the Yaesu. I use the Memory Pad on the Icoms a lot. Here is an image of the Memory Pad on my 7610.

I use this feature a lot. Yaesu, if you are listening…

Another quibble I have is the main tuning dial sticks out too far from the radio. The extra length turns it into a bump magnet. I think they could lob a 1/4 inch or so off of the dial, and it would still be very usable. I have had my Yaesu on my hobby workbench to set it up the way I like it. It puts the radio to my left side which means I use my left hand to work the controls. I am ambidextrous, with the radio on my left side it is a little easier to use. YMMV. When I take it out to the field, I am going to try it on my left side to see how it works. Generally, I have been enjoying the Yaesu. The crystal roofing filters really make the radio a delight.

Should you be selling your other radios to buy this one? Maybe, maybe not. I am keeping my IC-7300. I think it is a better EmComm radio than the FTDX10. Like others have said, the bells and whistles of the FTDX10 really benefit the CW crowd and really, only those ops who DX/Contest where there is a high density of signals. The Yaesu may also benefit POTA activators who put out enough signal to create large pile-ups or hunters trying to work the weak ones.

Upgrades/Update FTDX10

I am continuing to spend time with the FTDX10. Like many things, it is a process. The ergonomics are not like my Icom’s and frankly, not as good. The touch screen can be sluggish at times when making changes. None of this is insurmountable and like the U.S. Marines, I can adapt, improvise and overcome. Some of the controls are a little tight for my size large hands and yes, it can be pretty easy to knock the frequency off while trying to manipulate a control by the main tuning knob. Here are a few things I do to help mitigate the ergonomics of the radio.

Usually, once I get the radio setup for a band or mode I do not make very many other changes. In the field, I change the power setting and CW speed the most. Before I start operating I set the Function knob to RF Power. Now changing the power is but a knob twist away. I set the MPVD to CW Speed. To reduce errors I turn the ring from the bottom where it is clear of any other buttons.

I also use the Main Dial Lock Button to prevent inadvertently changing the frequency. One thing Yaesu did well was put a big warning on the screen when the dial is locked. When you turn the dial, you see this.

I have made some upgrades to the radio in preparation for getting it ready for the field. One of the first things I did, ordered the CW 300 Hz Filter.

One of the reasons I purchased the FTDX10 was its crystal filters. They do make a difference and may be the reason why the 2kHz dynamic range is so good. Installation was simple, remove 9 screws and then insert the filter.

Just make sure the pins on the radio match the holes on the filter. Yaesu provides a good set of instructions on page 112 of the manual.

The next addition was a set of side rails from portable zero. The rails protect the knobs on the front of the radio and the connections on the rear. I don’t use a special padded case. My radio goes in with all the other radio gear in a Dewalt toolbox. I often find myself setting the radio on end during setup and teardown. It just makes things easier. In addition, the rails protect the knobs and buttons while being transported in the toolbox.

The last addition today was a Mat-30 tuner. Yaesu is more fiddly than the Icoms, when it comes to tuners. With this tuner, it is pretty much plug-and-play. Even the tune button works like it is supposed to. The big rubber band is a Grafitti Band Joe silicone band found on Amazon.

Wrapping up, the radio is pretty much ready for its first outing. I have been making contacts from the home shack and I am pleased with its performance. The crystal filters are a godsend. I worked a couple of CW stations that were mired by QRM and fairly easily got a clean signal. My final thoughts for today are I wish the ergonomics were better. They are a little clunky and awkward, but not so much that the radio becomes unusable. I think Icom has the correct balance and layout of buttons, knobs, and screen interface. One thing I do like better about the Yaesu’s is the separate shift and width filter knobs and having the programmable MPVD ring. Setting the MPVD ring to CW speed and the Function Knob to RF power saves me a few steps over the Icom which both are buried one layer down the menu system.

The receiver in the Yaesu has better filtering and the roofing filters do make a difference. However, looking at Sherwood’s specs, the Icom has a lower noise floor which means it hears better by a factor of 4 over the Yaesu. Initial thoughts are that the FTDX10 has a better receiver than the IC-7300 and is on par with the IC-7610. One thing I can do on my 7610 is tune both receivers to the same signal and then set up different filtering on each. I have it set up where each receiver goes to a different channel giving me a unique stereo view in my headsets.

Are the IC-7300’s days numbered? I don’t think so. There are things I like about both radios. Each will get their time in the field. After a good amount of time, I will see which one gets more. Over the past year, the IC-7300 has seen a lot of use. I am sure I will be wearing the new off of the FTDX10 for the next couple of months. de Scott

FTDX10 Setup for the field

The majority of my activations are successful. In fact so far (knock on wood), I have had only one failed attempt and that was because I started too late and didn’t get my 10 contacts before the new UTC day. The time I spent in the Army was mostly with ready reaction forces or rapid reaction forces. This often entailed us getting up at 0300 hrs loading up all our gear and heading for the hills. I was in aviation and that meant a lot of gear that had to be loaded quickly. While the helicopter crews hopped in their aircraft and took off, there were still trucks and semis that had to be ready to go. This same equipment was also used in day-to-day operations so it wasn’t just sitting there waiting for something to happen. It took organization. “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

I keep my field gear packed but accessible. My big radios go in this box.

Permanent residents of the box are loosely stored with the caveat that if I take something out, I put it back when I’m done. You will notice in the bottom picture there is a bag marked IC-7300. That is all of the peripheral stuff that goes with the IC-7300/LDG Z-11 Pro to the left. When I get the FTDX10 ready, it will have its own clearly marked bag. Whichever radio I take, I can quickly see if I have the proper bag to go with it. The radio that is not in use will go in a smaller storage box to help keep things together. The antennas I use stay with my truck, always ready.

One of my first projects for the FTDX10 is the power cord.

It’s not zip cord like the Icoms, so it can get jumbled up pretty quick. Also, when operating in the field my battery or power supply is close to the radio so I do not need a long run.

The first thing I did was add heat shrink tubing to keep the wires together. Loose, they seem to tangle no matter how hard you try to keep them straight. Make sure you put the heat shrink on before you make any connections.

The butt splices are covered with heat shrink tubing so that after they are mechanically crimped, they are sealed to the wire insulation.

The finished cable is about 18″-24″ long. I guesstimated. I use Anderson Powerpole on all of my radio gear. I have been using them since the mid-2,000s. My power supply and batteries all have Powerpole connections. It’s a very safe way to keep the electrons flowing in the right direction.

With the leftover cable, I applied heat shrink tubing and Powerpoles to both ends. This gives me an extension should I ever need one.

There’s the completed project. Ready to rock.

In a couple of days, my side rails will be here and then I will see how the radio fits in the box. The FTDX10 is a little wider than the IC-7300 so it may be a tight fit. If it’s too tight, I will have to figure something else out.

So far, I am enjoying the radio and I am looking forward to getting it out in the wild. 73’s de Scott

Look What Followed Me Home

Yesterday, I drove to HRO in Atlanta and picked up a Yaesu FTDX10. No, this does not replace my Icom IC-7300 which I still consider to be the best all around HF field radio out there. I bought the FTDX10 for a couple of reasons. It has been a while since I owned a Yaesu radio and I thought I would try this one out. I do tend to gravitate towards Icoms and will probably get to a couple of those reasons in this post.

Its purpose as a part of my stable of radios is going to be a field radio. Just like I have 2 QRP field radios, I now have 2 QRO field radios. This radio brings a few things to the table that the IC-7300 doesn’t and also has a few niggles absent in the Icom. In the field, I primarily operate CW and FT8. This radio has several features that enhance CW operation over the IC-7300 that are found on the IC-7610. I feel that I have an IC-7610 radio in an IC-7300 size (not totally true, but you get the idea).

Size wise, the FTDX10 and the IC-7300 are fairly close in size with the FTDX10 being about an inch wider.

The FTDX10 also weighs about 4 pounds more. Weight and size differences this small are insignificant when considering how I plan to use the radios. Mostly, it will be portable operations either operating out of my truck or my camper. I might have to lug the radios maybe 15 feet. I carry the IC-7300 in a Dewalt Tough System 2.0 medium box and plan to do the same with the Yaesu.

Setup – Display/Power. There are lots of options on the Yaesu. I would say that this is not a beginners radio. While the manual is pretty good, you still have to have some idea of what you are doing. One of the niggles I have is receive current. When I first turned on the radio, it was drawing over 2 amps in receive. The Icom only draws a little over 0.8 amps, less that half of the Yaesu. I changed the following settings to bring it down to 1.78 amps:
LED Dimmer 7
Dimmer 10
Color 5
Max HF RF Power 50 watts.
The last 2 didin’t help with the amp draw but they were set at the same time as the others. I normally don’t operate past 50 watts in the field.

Setup – SSB. I don’t plan on operating SSB in the field, but then again, you never know. I tried to setup SSB according to the manual and found I didn’t get the expected results. I had to fiddle with the settings in order to stay within the prescribed parameters. Here are the setting I used:
Mic Gain – 65
Processor Level – 71
AMC – 41
Of course MMMV. This was using the hand mic. I really like the hand mic with its controls. It has a mute button to mute the receiver as well as up/down buttons and 4 “P” buttons which perform the following:
P1 – Main Dial Lock
P2 – QMB Quick Memory Bnak
P3 – VFO A/VFO B
P4 – VFO/Memory
I may keep the microphone connected just for the convenience of the buttons. I did not set all of the parametric settings. That will be another endeavour.

Setup – CW. This is where the FTDX10 really shines. It has APF, Audio Peak Filter Zin/Spot (same as the 7610). A really nice feature is the high cut and low cut filters, which help to isolate the incoming desired signal. My initial CW settings are based upon 700 Hz sidetone:
Low Cut – 600
High Cut – 800
CW Out – 50
CW BK-IN – Full
Keyer Type – B
Ratio – 3.3
Like the Icoms, you can set the the keyer BK-IN to off, you can use the radio as a practice oscillator. One thing the FTDX10 has over the IC-7300 is it can decode CW. Often your ears are better filters, but I can see the decoder maybe helping with difficult callsigns or your brain is not firing on all cylinders that day.

Setup – FT8. Here I was surprised. My last Yaesu radio was a FTDX3000 and the computer interface was tedious at best. You had to make the radio use digital modes. It was one of the reasons I shied away from Yaesu. Icom has been doing this better since the IC-7100. However, Yaesu has learned. Now setting up for digital modes and computer logging is a breeze. Once you setup the software for FT8, on the radio you do the following:
Set Mode to USB and PRESET (both must be on or blue color)
Set Roofing Filter to 3K
That’s it. I made about 5 quick contacts on FT8 to include europe. I also set up ACLog to work with the Yaesu. Easy Peezy.

External Antenna Tuner. This has been another sore spot with me. Using an LDG tuner with an Icom is plug and play. One cable and I can tune using the radios tune button and the tuner is powered by the radio. The Yaesu on the other hand, has never been an easy fix. It seems that to use an external tuner, you had to do something extra or something different. When I bought the FTDX10, I bought an adapter cable for my LDG Z-11 Pro. It was still more fiddly than I liked.

What’s next? I am seting this up for field work. I ordered a Mat-30 antenna tuner for the radio which is supposed to work like the LDG tuner does for the Icom. Push the tuner button on the radio and it matches the antenna. I also ordred the 300 Hz filter and a pair of Portable Zero side rails. I don’t put my radios in Pelican type cases. Those cases take up too much space and in reality, the radios do not need that much protection. The side rails prevent the knobs and buttons from hitting the wall of Dewalt box while in transit and allow me to set the radio up on end which I seem to do alot while setting up and breaking down.

Where does the FTDX10 fit? I think this radio will get its most use when I am either camping with shore power or in a cabin. In general I try to go camping at least once a month where there is power available. The IC-7300 will get used in areas where I am operating under battery power. I have been an Emergency Communications Specialist for my church for 25 years and if I were to deploy to a disaster again, I would take the IC-7300. The FTDX10 is not a radio you can learn about over an hour or two. I will take a while to learn all the goodness it contains. On my POTA activations, you will still see both radios along with my QRP radios. Tnx for stopping by de Scott

My Field Radios

Taking a little break from activations and hunting, I thought I would showcase my field radios as it stands today. I recently culled the herd and this is what I ended up with. The power draw was measured using a Watts Up inline meter, something like this: https://tinyurl.com/yc6yfvsd. Not lab quality, but certainly enough for this article.

Most of my recent activations have either been camping with my little teardrop camper or in my truck for a day trip. The desire to trek to a destination is not as romantic as it used to be. Often my radio time is fitted in with my other responsibilities.

Before I go down my list of radios, I want mention that my modes of choice are CW and Digital with CW generally being my preferred mode. When band conditions are poor as they have been these past few months I use FT8. Some might say that FT8 is easy or point and click, but to be a successful FT8 operator does take some skill.

My first radio is my IC-7300. Because of band conditions these past few months, it was my radio of choice because it is a 100 watt radio. In the field, I normally operate in the 5-10 watt range, but when the bands are bad I am in the 25-35 watt (and sometimes more) range. I also want to note that over the past few months I was working on my N1CC award which is working 10 bands at 10 different parks. Most parks are a couple of hours drive away from me so I try to get my 10 bands over the course of a weekend. Because gas prices are elevated, returning to some parks may not be an option.

I’ve had this IC-7300 since 2017. It’s a great radio and a great field radio. I have 4 radios that share much of the same menu system so I do not have to relearn the radio everytime I take it out. The filtering is excellent. The noise floor is lower than many other radios by a factor of 4. I have worked stations were the meter is not moving indicating a less than S1 reading.

With Icoms, antenna tuner integration is a simple cable connection and will also power the tuner. The only mod to the radio is I added a set of Portable Zero 7300 Escort guards https://portablezero.com/icom706.html. The radio rides in a Dewalt Tough Sytem medium case with no additional padding https://tinyurl.com/2sw8u9ub. The guards protect the knobs from bumping into the sides of the case. They also make great handles. Power consumption for this radio at idle with nothing connected to it is 0.81 amps or 810 mAh. For a 100 watt radio, that’s pretty darn good. The paddle I use with this radio is a Begali Traveler Lite. I am a fan of Begali paddles.

The next radio is my current favorite QRP radio, the IC-705. This radio is brillant. Icom packed a bunch of goodness into a samll package with an idle amp draw of 220 mAh with the charger off and 360 mAh with the charger on. That’s right down there with many other QRP rigs.

My 705 travels with a 3D printed cover for the face inside a MTM Ammo Crate https://tinyurl.com/y4j6t4nu. These are great cases for small radios and their accessories. A nice feature for this radio is it and be linked/controlled via Bluetooth. I have run FT8 and logged on my iPad using an app called SDR Control https://roskosch.de/sdr-control/. Another brillant feature of the IC-705 is it can be recharged via USB. That means both my iPad and the IC-705 can use the same charger. Some complain that the IC-705 is too heavy. When you realize that you do not need an HT for VHF/UHF (plus you get 10 watts of power), no cabling needed to hook the radio up to a laptop and as a bonus can use an iPad, and, can be charged via USB, you may have an actual savings of weight. No, it doesn’t have a built-in tuner and that has never bothered me. I have the AH-705 tuner and it is amazing. I use it to tune random wire antennas and can tune them without a UnUn or Balun. I would say the AH-705 tuner is on par with an AH-4 or even an SG-237 albeit at lower power.

The paddles for the 705 are Begali Adventure Dual. Big performance in a small package. Like all Begali products, they must be tried to be appreciated. I also use the Begali stand for the 705, it does a good job preventing the paddle from moving without adding a lot of weight. The screwdriver is a Nite-ize KMT-11-R3 that I modified by narrowing the screwdriver blade. I also have the begali base so I can use the paddle with other radios.

The paddles are stored in a little 3D printed box which holds the paddles, the base and the screwdriver. To the left of the box is another steel base from American Morse Equipment. The Begali base is a little light but has magnets on the bottom to attach to the AME base. Together, they work perfectly.

Last but not least is my Lab599 TX-500. This is a great rig for many reasons. Lightweight, simple to use, weather resistant and draws less than 100 mAh idle. It includes a waterfall on the easy to read LCD display. The receiver specs are pretty decent and I have not had any issues using it. I normally pair it with Elecraft T-1 tuner and Bioenno 3Ah battery. For travel I use 3D printed covers.

The paddles I use for this radio are Larry’s N0SA SOTA paddles. These are great paddles but last I heard he is no longer making them.

What is nice about these paddles is they are easy to hold in the hand and can be mounted to a flight deck.

These are my current radios and the paddles I use with them. Is this list set in stone? Of course not, you never know what you might find just around the corner. However, I could be quite happy with these. They are all good perfromers that give me a lot of latitude when operating in the field. Now that my N1CC is complete, I can worry a little less about quantity and a little more about quality. Hope to hear you out there — 73 Scott.