Thursday, August 17, 2017

QSL: WEZS Laconia NH 1350

WEZS was heard in September last year just before they switched to night power. From a reminder yesterday came a long and friendly response from the General Manager.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Quick Look At The Elad FDM-S2

Seasoned FM DX-er Ole Forr lent me one of his FDM-S2s a few days ago, and I have shared some very brief impressions here. The short version: Good radio. Original software is not to my liking, but SDR Console V3 and HDSDR work well.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Revised ColibriNANO Review - Doesn't Team Up With Teamviewer

I had to add a paragraph to my ColibriNANO review. The case is that when the Nano loads, in ExpertSDR or in HDSDR, Teamviewer CPU load goes all the way up 60-70 %, from its normal 5-15 %. Add the SDR program CPU load, and the processor is banging its head against the roof.

This is an important consideration if you plan to run the ColibriNANO with Teamviewer.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The MS-S7-Web Remote Antenna Switch

You can either have one radio for each antenna, or use an antenna switch. Antenna switches are found in any HAM store, but if you run remote, you need to be able to switch antennas remote as well.

Enter the MS-S7-Web Remote Antenna Switch. I first heard about it when it was introduced as an extension to the KiwiSDR. I had no plans to use it with my KiwiSDR, but the KONG crew has plans of erecting another beverage antenna in Kongsfjord, and I didn't really want to add another SDR + PC to the shack.

I bought the MS-S7 from Bulgaria in the beginning of June, but haven't had the opportunity to test it until now. If memory serves me right, I paid around EUR 170.

The package consists of an in-house antenna selector, which can be controlled via web, or manually. It is connected to an outdoor (which can of course be used indoor) antenna switching box with seven antenna connector in additon to one connector for the receiver. The antenna selector connects to your router or switch (or PC I presume, not tested), and it needs 12 VDC.
From the eBay ad

The antenna selector has green LEDs for each antenna. Also there's a blue power indicator LED. The green LEDs are quite dim and easy on the eyes. The blue LED is anything but! I feel tempted to replace this one, if not I do need to cover it somehow.

The device works via an Internet browser (Firefox and Chrome are recommended). It can be set up with a static IP (which is better than DHCP in this case), and the Device Settings will look similar to that below.

There are two tabs in the user interface, and the other is the contol panel, on which you're supposed to click on the "ON" labels to change antenna. You will hear two clicks, one to disconnect from one antenna, and one to connect to the other. Or so it's supposed to work.
Web based control panel

Web based config panel


But I often need to click an extra time to get the second relay to connect. This may make problems if you are running a script-based automated antenna switching schedule. If you do, it may be wise to program double-click instead of single-click. I've always managed to change antenna when I double-click.

So what about signal leakage from one antenna connector to the other? The short answer is: There isn't any. I was rather taken aback by this. I connected a signal generator to one port, and a longwire antenna to the other. I set the signal generator up to maximum (99 dBu which equals -6 dBm), and there wasn't a trace of a carrier on the frequency I had chosen to monitor on the longwire antenna port. So was the case with the other connectors - although I admit I didn't put a 50 ohm load on them.

I also checked for insertion loss. It must be close to zero, because I wasn't able to detect any difference.

So, apart from the gruelling blue lazer-like LED and the somewhat unpredictable antenna selector procedure, this is indeed a good product. I was a bit surprised to see that as of mid-August, this particular combination is not available on eBay.  Maybe it will return.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Do You Want To DX In The Arctic?

You can! And you don't even need to pay an airline ticket!



Friday, July 28, 2017

Do You Want 10 MHz Spectrum Available?

Then, the ad says, "look no further". Pieter Ibelings at RFSpace connected his new Icom IC-R8600 receiver's IQ output to a PC, and fired up SpectraVue. Here's his tweet:



Now, with this presumably excellent new wideband receiver selling at USD 2600, you may have reason to look a bit further after all. You could for instance look for the Airspy R2 + Spyverter R2 which will offer you 9 MHz alias-free spectrum at less than 1/10 the cost. I'm not saying that the Airspy will do everything the Icom does just as well, but in normal situations my guess is that you won't notice much difference.

I do have to say though, as an Icom fan, it's a stunner.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

ColibriNANO SDR: Test of the RF Noise Blanker

Intermittent broadband noise, possibly from high voltage lines, periodically pests the MW band here. In fact it covers most part of the SW band up to 8 MHz as well. Unwelcome as the noise is, it still gave me the opportunity to test the noise blankers issued with ExpertSDR2. They are also available in the dll for HDSDR.

Short version: The RF noise blanker works, and works well! It is possible to adjust the effect of the noise blanker. Easily available in HDSDR, a bit convoluted in ExpertSDR2. This turned out to be quite important in order to find the best balance between noise level and audio quality.

The two jpgs below show the MW band with (above) and without the NB algorithm activated.
Admittedly there is a range of a 100 kHz or so with no noise, where the NB is not very efficient, but the overall impression is very good. An audio example from 999 kHz is quite convincing.


Sunday, July 09, 2017

Airspy R2/Spyconverter R2: After a Few Days of Testing

Interesting days with my second mini-sized SDR! I am preparing a comprehensive evaluation, from a MW DX-ers perspective, of the Airspy. Hard-core MW DX-ers have had a preference for Perseus and RFSpace SDRs (and also the Elad FDM-S2), so there are a couple of interesting questions here: We're unfamiliar with these kind of devices, and the manufacturers and prorammers may be a bit unfamiliar with how MW DX-ers use our radios.


Some observations:

  • Its 0.5 PPM TCXO gives excellent stability when using SDR#, but SDR Console V3 (preview version) and HDSDR have some strange intermittent offsets, up to 500 Hz. Simon Brown, the owner of SDR Console is aware of the problem and I'm sure it will be addressed.
  • SDR# has limited IQ recording functionality. I hope this can be resolved, by native software or by plugin. SDR Console V3 does this very well, except a bug which is being addressed.
  • For best gain vs. protection from overloading, it's necessary to pay attention to the gain controls. I remember this being an issue also with the 12-bit Afedri SDR-net.
  • Audio quality in SDR# is very good.
  • Sensitivity isn't measured, but compared to the KiwiSDR in an A-B test on threshold signal levels. The Airspy is apparently marginally less sensitive on a MW test I did. I couldn't hear any difference when I did the same test on SW. Mind you there are many factors that determine sensitivity, not least how the AGC is used and gain settings. True DX situations late summer/early autumn will give me more answers.
  • The Airspy has a fixed 10 MHz sampling rate. Smaller bandwidths are made by decimation of the sampling rate. The more decimation (smaller bandwidth), the better performance. I'm using 2500 kHz (of which 2000 or more kHz are alias-free) for my MW tests.
  • Apparently very good sensitivity on FM. Both SDR# and SDR Console V3 have RDS decoding.
I'm looking forward to doing more work with the R2 in the weeks to come, and I hope that I can make some contributions to software and plugin programmers. There's a bit of work to be done before I would recommend the R2 for hard-core MW DX-ers. The hardware part is good though.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

QSL: HLQH KBS-2 Daegu, 558

This KBS station is heard practically every day when conditions allow, but I hadn't sent a report until now. I received a KBS World QSL card, and a short note from the technical  department at KBS Pohang.

KBS-2 is the drama and entertainment channel of KBS.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Airspy R2 + Spyverter R2

This interesting wide-band SDR arrived with personal delivery from the USA yesterday. Actually a friend took it with him so I could save VAT.

Just had time to see it play with SDR# and SDR Console V3.
SDR Console V3

SDR# without Spyverter, FM & RDS

SDR#

Saturday, June 24, 2017

ColibriNANO Test Run - And Some Thoughts

Read my impressions here. Could it be a winner? It hangs by a thread!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Another Mini SDR Awaiting Arrival

It will be interesting to see what the Airspy R2/Spyverter R2 combo will show off when it arrives in Kongsfjord on June 30. The Airspy has received lots of praise, like this one from Nils Schiffhauer, but will it deliver on MW?

Photo: Airspy.us

Thursday, June 15, 2017

ColibriNANO - A Few More Impressions

"Premature" is indeed making up opinions about a radio without even having plugged an antenna into it.  But it will have to wait another week. I've had the opportunity to play with software though, and make some notes.

The installation problem seems to be resolved, and only affected the first or so batch of receivers with serial numbers not programmed into the receiver's EEPROM. I have since connected the Nano to other PCs with no problems at all. The fate of the early adaptor, I guess.

I haven't found info on power consumption, but it does run off a USB 2.0 port, so it must be lower than 450-500 mA. This makes it a good candidate for field or remote operation using battery power. A tested and working setup is Intel NUC + SDR + hard drive powered by a 12V battery.

I do have to commend on the apparent build quality of the Nano. It's aluminium, tight, feels heavy (as heavy as 43 grams can feel) and looks "expensive". Because of the weight, it might be an idea to use a short USB extension cable to reduce strain to the PC's USB port.

The ExpertSDR2 software does have its shortcomings, said to be addressed later this year. HDSDR is the best (and indeed a very good) alternative right now, except there is a 60 dB signal reading error. There is support for SDR# too, but only for version 1005 which is rather old.

So we'll see after I've had the chance to listen to real signals, and measure its sensitivity. I do like the concept though. Pocket receiver redefined.
Photo: Expert Electronics

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

QSL: JOTK NHK-1 Matsue, Goutsu/Muikaichi relay stations, 1323

Another 100 watt catch from Japan came last October when the Goutsu and Muikaichi relay stations were heard with quite a good signal. In comparison, their 1296 main station was local-like at the time.

I received a friendly letter from the Senior Engineer yesterday.


Monday, June 12, 2017

ColibriNANO - It's Here. Sort of.

Yes, it's here. Only very, very first impressions so far. I haven't even connected it to an antenna (because I don't have one at my apartment).

It's small. It's hot. And I mean literally hot! So hot it's actually a tad unpleasant. I don't know if it's a bad sign or not.

Despite many attempts on two different PCs with two different type USB ports, I never got ExpertSDR (their native software) to run. The Nano was always disconnected. Drivers manually installed, still no cigar. Some inconsistencies in the manual did not help. I'm not excluding user error, but come on - this should be plug and play!

No problems with HDSDR though. It plays, records and plays back well. So good work on the ExtIO dll - at least so far. One problem though is that the gain is set 60 or so dB too high (I'll measure later on with my signal generator), but that error is easy to calibrate thanks to HDSDR's versatility.

SDR# is a different story again. It does open, but the window is never visible, only the miniature window visible when you hover the mouse pointer on the task bar.

So what to say. Unfinished? Will it fry? Or is it a keeper? Time will tell.

Update: It turned out that on the early sets, the serial numbers weren't programmed into the device's EEPROM. With that sorted out, ExpertSDR began to talk to the Nano. Now, there are other issues.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Airspy HF+ (coming soon) - First Image

I checked into Airspy's site today, an noted that since last visit they've added an image. Probably not the real thing but an Autocad or similar image. The two screw-thread similar protrusions are likely the SMA connectors. If that is the case, we're talking s-m-a-l-l ...


QSL: V6AH Radio Pohnpei, Fed. State of Micronesia 1449

Weak, but with almost perfect readability and with no interference, the closing ceremony of V6AH was heard in November 2016. One of those really magic moments one can experience towards the Pacific from my old farm.

QSL is not always easy to obtain. OJ Sagdahl found an announcer on Facebook who did reply, and I was happy to get one too today.

My second Micronesia on MW, and it's about 10 years since the first!

Pacific islands stations are always exceptional. Even if some, like Tonga-1017 and Kiribati-1440 have become quite usual, their Polynesian languages and music style have no match anywhere else.


Thursday, June 08, 2017

QSL: JOJG NHK-1 Yamagata relay Tsuruoka 1368; JOJG NHK-1 Yamagata relays Oguni/Atsumi 1584

I heard  1-kW JOJG Tsuruoka in October with a good signal mixing with the Aomori-963 relay in Fukaura. In April I even caught a great signal from JOJG's 100-watt relay stations in Atsumi/Oguni.

QSL card and friendly letter arrived today.

Their main station in Yamagata is on 540, and still unheard here.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

QSL: JOHK NHK-1 Sendai, 891

JOHK had a good signal one October evening. QSL card received today.

Three Novel SDR Designs To Enter The Market This Summer

SDR development has been somewhat incremental the past decade. The Perseus (2007) is still the SDR of choice for many DX-ers. Size hasn't changed significantly in this period. Neither has large signal handling, but there has been some development on maximum sampling rates, with the Elad FDM-S2 leading the way with a 6 MHz maximum bandwidth.

Now, things are about to change. Here are three possible record breakers:

Size: The Expert Electronics ColibriNANO is the size of a simple 8-bit dongle, yet has a 14-bit ADC like the Perseus, and can sample up to 3 MHz. Its frequency range is 0-55 MHz, up to 500 MHz with undersampling. As per the end of May, some preorder units have been delivered to customers, others (me) are still waiting. EUR 299.

Performance: The Airspy HF+ claims to be a paradigm shift in high performance HF radio design with superb signal rejection and stunning sensitivity claims (MDS of -138 dBm!). Frequency coverage is 0-31 MHz and 60-260 MHz. The architechture only permits a sampling rate of 660 kHz though. As per the end of May, the HF+ is not announced for sale. so we do not really know if it will happen during the summer. Price? TBA. I've seen mentions of a "target price" of < USD 200, but not from Airspy. Their current top model, the Airspy R2 + Spyverter (needed for performance below 24 MHz), costs EUR 289. My unqualified guess is EUR 299.

Capacity: The Elad FDM-S3 (sorry, I have no links to the actual SDR but I found the photo below on the internet) takes RF recording for the hobby market to an entirely new level with the possibility to sample 24 MHz! This will make FM DX-ers happy. I've read that it will cover 0-54 MHz and 76-108 MHz. As per the end of May no announcement of availability. It was shown on the Dayton Hamvention. Price TBA. My unqualified guess is EUR 899. The S2 sells for EUR 525.


Friday, May 26, 2017

QSL: JOFO RKB Kitakyushu 1197

RKB's main station JOFR in Fukuoka is among the strongest Japanese stations here. JOFO is a 1-kW relay and was fighting with Kumamoto Hoso (RKK) at the time, but with a good signal.  QSL card, letter and schedules received today.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

QSL: Six stations from the Hokkaido Broacasting Company

JOHR Sapporo 1287 is among the most common Japanese stations here, and with the potential of absolutely "local" signal levels at times.

They do have a lot of relay stations though, and last autumn I did a more systematic hunt for them. Six stations were reported, and QSL cards and a letter was received today. The confirmed stations are:

JOHE Asahikawa 864, 3 kW (there's also a 1 kW station in Enbetsu on 864)
JOHW Obihiro 1269, 5 kW
JOTS Wakkanai 1368, 1 kW
JOQL Kushiro 1404, 5 kW
JOQM Abashiri 1449, 5 kW
JOHS Rumoi 1557, 100 W

There are still more stations in the HBC network to report, such as 801, 900, 1098 and 1494 kHz. We'll see what the coming season brings.




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

QSL: JOUR NBC Nagasaki, 1233

Not too often heard because of high-powered competition on the frequency. I caught a very good signal in February though, and received a response today with a form letter, QSL, pen and lots of other promotional material. Next season's targets will be NBC's lower-powered relays on 1098 and 1458.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

QSL: JOTG NHK-1 Aomori 963

An old reception which responded with a QSL card. There are several low-powered relay stations which are possible to hear, and a report has just been sent for two 100-watt relays on 1584.

Photo: Google

QSL: JOCE CRK Radio Kansai, Tajima 1395

1395 is a 1 kW relay of JOCR Kobe 558, and was heard on September 19. They sent their QSL card and time table (as most Japanese stations do). Many years ago I tried to confirm their main station JOCR, but with no luck. During last august I did hear JOCR several times, but a clear ID avoided me, and HLQH with their 250 kW was very dominant. Next time...!

QSL: JOIQ NHK-1 Muroran, 945

5 kW JOIQ is heard from time to time, and a good signal ID from October 2017 was confirmed with a letter from the Muroran, Hokkaido office.  Unlike many other NHK offices, they have no QSL card of their own.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

QSL: JOEF YBC Yamagata, 918

The engineers at Yamagata Hoso are quite surprised to have received "several reports from Norway in the past".  My reception was from late October 2016, but YBC has had a steady signal on 918 and might expect more reports.

Friday, May 19, 2017

QSL: JONF MRT Miyazaki, 936

JONF had a nice signal on October 11, and sent a friendly letter and QSL card in response for my report.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

JOBF RKK Radio, Kumamoto 1197

Heard last September with a fair signal, QSL received today.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

QSL: JOVK NHK-1 Hakodate, 675

Another one heard around autumn equinox last year with local identification.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

QSL: JODF Iwate Broadcasting, 684

Heard in September 2016, I received a QSL card and a friendly letter from one of the tech guys today.


QSL: JOTR ABS Akita, 936

A strong and clear "ABS Radio" on 936 kHz last October was sent to Akita a couple of weeks ago. QSL card including the standard Japanese "TNX FR UR RPT", just like their HAM QSLs, received today.


The KiwiSDR: 8 Months Later

Last year I wrote some initial impressions after a couple of weeks of using the KiwiSDR. 8 months later I thought it was time to reflect further about the hardware, the software and its potential. So, my Second Thoughts are available for those who are curious about this rather unusual SDR.

Did I have second thoughts?  Nooo... just a pun.


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

QSL: KQYX Galena KS 1450

"The Dove" was heard several times the last season. After a few tries I received a friendly email today. Attached were two of the liners they used (one of which was on the recording I sent to them). Thanks Bo Olofsson for v/s.

Friday, May 05, 2017

QSL: JOCF MBC Kagoshima, 1107

Minami Nihon Hoso, or MBC as they also ID, has 20 kW on 1107 so quite easy to hear. QSL and letter received yesterday.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

QSL: JOPF KRY Tokuyama, 765

A standard QSL card was in the mail today for a September, 2019 reception. Since I have 1485 from many years back, I only need 918 to have the Yamaguchi Hoso network confirmed. Japan #75 on MW.


QSL: JOAP NHK-1 Naha 549, and JO-- NHK-1 Gabu 531

Excellent conditions towards Okinawa brought these two NHK-1 Okinawa stations. The Gabu, 531 station is only 1 kW. Oddly enough, they gave their local ID at 16:01 UTC, and closed down, contrary to other NHK-1 stations. Thanks Ole Forr for spotting this. A friendly letter accompanied the QSL card. Their NHK-2 station on 1125 is already in my collection.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

QSL: JORK NHK-1 Kochi, 990

Some time ago I had a good ID on the otherwise cluttered frequency 990. Today I received a QSL card with a short but friendly letter including lots of photos from the station,  such as studios, the two 10 kW transmitters and the 90-meter tower. And a sushi dish! Ages ago I received a QSL for their NHK-2 station on 1152.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Revolution Starts On Friday!

Not my words, mind you!

But the words from Expert Electronics, a Russia-based company which previously has made SDR transceivers and receivers mainly with the radio amateur in mind. This one looks suspiciosly similar to the 8-bit dongles available on eBay, that are little more than toys. The ColibriNANO however will deliver up to 3 MHz of I/Q sampling, 14-bit ADC (similar to the Perseus), and a -130 dBm noise floor (presumed CW @500 Hz although not specified). It will handle a 74 mV (around -9 dBm) signal before going into saturation. It will be happy with a USB 2.0 port. It's EUR 299, one-third the price of a Perseus and half the price of a CloudIQ or FDM-S2. At 1/10 or maybe 1/20 of the size.

These figures are in fact very good, at least on paper.

So the big Q is: Can a dongle match a Perseus, a CloudIQ, an Elad FDM-S2, a Winradio G33DDC, a QS1R?

Perhaps we will know a couple of Fridays from now. Of course I've ordered one. I admit I'm predjudiced. It's "too small". You can't make an excellent SDR in the form of a USB dongle. Or can you? After all, miniaturization  is going on everywhere else, so why not in the SDR world?

We'll see!

Friday, April 28, 2017

QSL: WTAD Quincy IL, 930

Heard with a fair signal at the end of February, friendly response this evening from the PD who's answered quite a few DX-ers in his 27-year career at WTAD. Illinois #30.

QSL: JOKP NHK-1 Kitami 1188

Commonly heard especially at the 10:00 UTC local slot. Postcard with stamped verie text in Japanese received today.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

QSL: JOHP NHK-1 Takamatsu, 1368

Today's third letter from Japan was a confirmation of 5 kW JOHP, heard in November 2016. I didn't really find a good logo but here's the NHK HQ in Takamatsu.

QSL: JOBO KBS Kinki Hoso, Maisuru 1215

The main station JOBR in Kyoto has two low-powered relays on 1215, 1 kW Hirnoe, and 2 kW Maisuru. QSL card and letter received today.


QSL: STV Sapporo, Japan

JOWF Sapporo 1440 is the most common commercial Japanese station here, and was confirmed in 1975. But they have many lower-powered relay stations as well. Three of them were confirmed today:

JOWS Kushiro, 882 kHz, 3 kW
JOVX Abashiri 909 kHz, 5 kW
JOWL Asahikawa 1197 kHz, 3 kW


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

QSL: JONK NHK-1 Nagano, 819

Quite a common station once you get past the North Korean, but to get a QSL, you need to report... Letter in Japanese received today.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

QSL: 2RN Radio National, Wollongong NSW 1431

I was checking some recordings from the excellent autumn equinox conditions last year and mostly chasing Japanese stations, so I didn't expect this 2 kW station. Quite a bit of luck was involved as Wakayma Hoso was extremely strong at the time. But after the time pips they left a couple seconds of dead air. And there went the Majestic Fanfare!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

QSL: AFN Kunsan, KOR 1440

AFN can be heard from time to time under the strong JOWF STV Sapporo, but on February 28 the signal was exceptional a few minutes. There are two 1 kW stations, Kunsan and Pyeongtaek, and both were actually heard with an echo. Facebook response this evening. Good signals also on other not common Korea frequencies.


QSL: KAVP Colona CO 1450

KAVP was heard with a very good signal in March. A friendly and detailed email response was received yesterday.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

QSL: 5RN Radio National, Adelaide SA 729

And today's third Aussie arrived half an hour later. 5RN was first heard many, many years ago, but was left unconfirmed until now. A good opening towards South Australia on April 9 brought good signals. Thanks Graham for outstanding service to DX-ers!

QSL: 4QS ABC Southern Queensland, Toowoomba QLD, 747 and 2RN Radio National, Newcastle, NSW 1512

Both were heard during a good opening in the early evening hours of January 21.