Tag Archives: Ham Radio

It’s Field Day weekend 2017: find a local event, have fun!

If you live in North America and have an interest in becoming a ham radio operator, this is the weekend to check out what amateur radio is all about, and meet local radio enthusiasts.  

It’s Field Day!

What is Field Day?  I’ll quote from the ARRL, who sponsors the event:

“ARRL Field Day is the single most popular on-the-air event held annually in the US and Canada. On the fourth weekend of June of each year, more than 35,000 radio amateurs gather with their clubs, groups or simply with friends to operate from remote locations.

Field Day is a picnic, a camp out, practice for emergencies, an informal contest and, most of all, FUN!

It is a time where many aspects of Amateur Radio come together to highlight our many roles. While some will treat it as a contest, other groups use the opportunity to practice their emergency response capabilities. It is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate Amateur Radio to the organizations that Amateur Radio might serve in an emergency, as well as the general public. For many clubs, ARRL Field Day is one of the highlights of their annual calendar.

The contest part is simply to contact as many other stations as possible and to learn to operate our radio gear in abnormal situations and less than optimal conditions.”

GOTAMany Field Day sites have a GOTA (Get On The Air) station where non-licensed individuals are welcome to play radio. It’s a fantastic way to try your hand at transmitting with a little guidance and encouragement from the more experienced. Indeed, even if there is no GOTA station, you will often be invited to try out the mic.

You’ll find that ham radio operators are very welcoming on Field Day–after all, spreading the word about the fun of amateur radio is what it’s all about. Indeed, I’ve shown up unannounced to a number of Field Days over the years; once I even got some serious radio time with the Charlotteville Amateur Radio Club while on vacation in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

This year, I’m joining the Québec Amateur Radio Club (Club Radio Amateur de Québec), for the second year in a row, and I’m looking forward to it very much!

Keep in mind that there are many shortwave listeners among the amateur radio community; indeed, many hams became interested in the hobby through SWLing.

The ARRL has made it quite easy to find registered Field Day locations in your region. Click here to find a local Field Day event near you–and have a great Field Day!

Video: Lightbulb vs Radio Beacon by Thomas Cholakov (N1SPY)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ivan Cholakov (NO2CW), who writes:

My 11 year old son Tommy (N1SPY) completed a project where he compared a 1W lightbulb to a .25 W radio beacon that he put together and bet that the radio beacon can be heard around the world. I asked him to document his activities as he went along. The project took a couple of months but is now complete and we stitched together a video of his activities.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Wow–Tommy, you’ve done an amazing job here!

I especially like how you’ve taken time to explain the principles behind the various steps of the process. Brilliant job!

Tommy, your future videos are always welcome here. Keep up the good work and we’d love to hear how many new countries you’ve racked up on your WSPR system!

The best transceiver for a new ham and seasoned SWL?

The Yaesu FT-890: One of many general coverage HF transceivers spotted in the 2017 Hamvention flea market.

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Joe, who writes:

I’ve been practicing for my Technician ham radio license here in the US and am ready for the test. I’m already looking at HF transceivers even though I don’t have my General license yet.

Here’s what’s important to me:

  • I will still do a lot of SW DX
  • Something that has at least decent audio
  • Something that isn’t too too huge; though I’m a little flexible on size
  • I need something that has a receiver that handles weak DX well

I’d be comfortable spending $500 any day all day no problem. Anything higher than that and I’d really have to think it’s an investment in my radio future.

Thanks for your question, Joe, and allowing me to post it here for comment as this is one I’m frequently asked.

First of all, congratulations on studying for and taking your ham radio license exam! I’m a ham and absolutely love the radio privileges my license provides.

At the same time, I’m still more of an SWL than a ham–meaning, I spend way more time chasing SWL DX than doing on-air ham operations.

With that said, I always seek radios that will serve me well as both a ham and SWL, if possible.

My humble advice

If we stick with your $500 budget strictly, then we’re certainly looking at used transceivers. That’s okay–there are many good ones on the market!

I posted the following review of general coverage transceivers a few years ago. The info in it is still very much accurate in the used market. I would suggest you give it a good review as it goes into more detail about the ins and outs of your first transceiver and the importance of leaving budget to purchase a good power supply:

The best general coverage transceivers for shortwave listening

Click here to read the full review.

 If you’re willing to spend a bit more than $500…

I’m a big fan of the Elecraft KX3 and Elecraft KX2. I have both and use them frequently.

Comparing the size of the Elecraft KX3 (top) and KX2 (bottom) at Elecraft’s Dayton Hamvention booth.

You can find the KX3 used for $700-900 (depending on options). The bare-bones model of the KX2 can be purchased new from Elecraft for $749.

Of course, something to keep in mind about the Elecraft KX series transceiver is that output power is limited to 12-15 watts. Some of the general coverage transceivers mentioned in our review have a much higher 100 watt output power.

Additionally, the audio fidelity (via the internal speaker) is not as good as many other general coverage transceivers. Audio amplification is not as powerful, because both transceivers are designed to operate on a small battery pack (a major plus in my world because I love field-portable rigs).

Since I do 90% of my radio work with headphones, audio amplification is not a problem for me and I’m quite please with both KX line transceivers. Many KX series owners purchase external amplified speakers to improve audio.

The LnR LD-11 tuned to the Voice of Greece.

While we’re looking at QRP transceivers, I would also recommend the LnR Precision LD-11. Its broadcast afidelity is even better (via headphones) than the KX2/KX3 since the AM filter can be widened to an impressive 9.6 kHz. It’s a top-notch transceiver and can be purchased new for $780 US. Click here to check out my full review of the LD-11.

The Icom IC-7200

Of course, as I mention in the general coverage transceiver review, the Icom IC-7200 is also a gem of a transceiver.

Keep in mind, the ‘7200 was such a popular radio that after Icom discontinued the model in January of 2016–due to overwhelming customer demand–they re-introduced it earlier this year. No kidding.

New, the IC-7200 is about $879 US, but they can be found used closer to the $650 – 750 mark. A very good value in my book. In fact, I’m very tempted to buy one as my 100 watt “shack and field” rig. It’s way more user-friendly on Field Day than my Elecraft K2/100 and, in many ways,  a better option than purchasing an Elecraft amp for my KX3/KX2.

Any other good suggestions?

The Kenwood TS-480SAT is full-featured, small, and has a detachable face plate. A very good general coverage transceiver.

There are hundreds of HF transceivers on the new/used market. I’m sure I’ve missed some excellent options in this post and my general coverage transceiver review.

Please comment with your favorite dual-purpose Ham Radio/SWLing rig. Tell us why you love it!

Updated Frequency Bands Chart from the ARRL

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steve, who notes that the ARRL has updated their downloadable Frequency Band Charts.

I find it interesting that the ARRL also noted the following on their download page:

NOTE: The new 630-meter and 2200-meter bands are not yet available for Amateur Radio use. The effective date of the recent FCC Report & Order granting these allocations has not yet been determined, and until the start date has been set, it is not legal under an Amateur Radio license to transmit on either band. The FCC will publish a notice in The Federal Register “announcing such approval and the relevant effective date.” ARRL will announce the UTC notification procedures and the effective date to use these new bands as soon as these are known.

I’ve received feedback from SWLing Post readers noting a licensed amateur radio operator in Tennessee who had already set up an active beacon on the 630 meter band. He eventually pulled the plug. No doubt, this was why the ARRL posted a special note.

Downloading and printing the charts

Download and print PDF documents using Adobe Reader.

ABC Amendment Billl Submissions & State Emergency Service

Front gate of the Shepparton Transmission site.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Nigel Holmes, for sharing a link to the public submissions for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Restoring Shortwave Radio) Bill 2017.

Click here to read submissions.


On a separate note, Nigel also sent info about the SES (State Emergency Service) in Australia. I didn’t know about this service. Nigel notes:

SES is State Emergency Service, we provide volunteer responses to storm, flood, land search, vehicle accident response (in rural areas).

All AUS emergency response services use HF–ditto sailors, private pilots, bushwalkers (hikers).

Individuals can get an Outpost license (400 W PEP) or Land/Marine Mobile license (125 W PEP) for $20 a year to use HF across the country for private or commercial communications. Cheaper than an amateur license ($60 /yr)!

Click here for more info about the SES.