N6QW introduces the Sudden QRP SSB Transceiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Pete Eaton (WB9FLW), who writes:

From the fertile mind of QRP Hall Of Fame Pete N6QW comes a new Radio Project, the Sudden QRP SSB Transceiver. If you have never Scratch Built such a Rig and would like to N6QW’s latest offering deserves close inspection.

Using only readily available (and cheap) components (and few of them) one can build a Full Blown SSB Transceiver for either 40 or 20 meters. The Radio’s Design will be featured in 2 installments of GQRP’s Sprat Magazine. The 1st being in the Fall issue (Receiver/LO) and the second part with come in the Spring 2019 issue (Transmitter).

http://n6qw.blogspot.com/2018/09/2018-year-of-ssb-transceivers_14.html

Pete is also providing extensive documentation on his Website:

http://www.n6qw.com/Sudden.html

One use for the Rig is on the Digital Modes, to that end he has design a simple Digital Adapter (which is also described on n6qw.com). One possibility is for a dedicated FT8 Transceiver!

Even if you do not intend to build the Rig take a moment to check out his Web Page. There you will find a wealth of information on designing and building such Transceivers.

Pete WB9FLW

(not to be confused with Pete N6QW 🙂

Thanks for the tip, Pete! How exciting! This looks like an innovative little rig and I love the concept of only using accessible components–in the end, that will give this little rig some longevity.

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The Elecraft KX3 continues to impress

I’ve owned my Elecraft KX3 for five years, and this little rig continues to amaze me.

In 2013, I gave the KX3 one of the most favorable reviews I’ve ever published–and it continues to hold its own. That’s why last year I recommended the KX3 to my buddy and newly minted ham radio operator, SĂ©bastien (VA2SLW), who had already been eyeing the KX3 as his first HF transceiver.

A few weeks ago, SĂ©bastien bit the bullet and is now the proud owner of a KX3 with built-in ATU. He purchased the KX3 with plans to do a lot of field operations including SOTA (Summits On The Air) and also use the KX3 at home.

Wednesday, I popped by SĂ©bastien’s flat to help sort through some low-profile antenna options. I had suggested that he not invest in a factory made antenna just yet, but instead explore what he’s able to do with a simple wire antenna directly connected to the KX3 with a BNC Male to Stackable Binding Posts adapter. I’ve had excellent luck using this simple arrangement this in the past with the KX3, KX2 and even the KX1.

I did a quick QRM/RFI survey of his flat and balcony with my CC Skywave SSB. While there were the typical radio noises indoors, his balcony was pleasantly RFI quiet. At 14:00 local, I was able to receive the Voice of Greece (9,420 kHz), Radio GuinĂ©e (9,650 kHz) and WWV (both 10,000 and 15,000 kHz) with little difficulty. His building has incredibly thick concrete walls–I assume this does a fine job of keeping the RFI indoors. Lucky guy!

We popped by a wonderfully-stocked electronics shop in QuĂ©bec City (Électromike–which I highly recommend) picked up some banana plugs and about 100′ of jacketed wire. We took these items back to the flat and cut a 35′ length of wire for the radiator and about 28′ for the ground. We added the banana plugs to the ends of each wire.

SĂ©bastien temporarily attached one end of the antenna wire to the top of the fire escape and we simply deployed the ground wire off the side of the balcony. Neither of these wires interfere with his neighbors and neither are close to electric lines.

I had planned to cut both the radiator and ground until we found the “sweet spot”: where the ATU could find matches on 40, 30, 20 and 17 meters (at least).

Much to my amazement, the KX3 ATU got 1:1 matches on all of those bands save 80M where it still could achieve a 2.8:1 ratio.  I couldn’t believe it!

Frankly, Elecraft ATUs are nothing short of amazing.

Even the ATU in my little KX2 once tuned a 20 meter hex beam to 40 meters and found a 1:1 match to boot. In contrast, the Icom IC-7300 sitting next to the KX2 wasn’t able to match that hex beam even though we performed a persistent ATU search. Not surprising as I wouldn’t expect a 40 meter match on a 20 meter antenna, but the Elecraft ATU did it with relative ease.

SĂ©bastian did a quick scan of the ham radio bands where we heard a number of EU stations. I also took the opportunity to point out how well the KX3 operates as a broadcast receiver with the AM filter wide open and using headphones in the “delay” audio effects mode. The Voice of Greece sounded like a local station–absolutely gorgeous signal.

It was getting late in the day, so I couldn’t hang around to call CQ with SĂ©b, but I left knowing that he is going to have a blast playing radio at home and, especially, in the field. Next, he plans to build a simple mag loop antenna, get a BioEnno LiFePo battery and eventually add other Elecraft accessories to his station. I’d say he’s off to a great start!

Want more info? Click here to read my review of the Elecraft KX3 and here to read my review of the Elecraft KX2.

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Are we entering the age of atomic radio?

(Source: arstechnica via Scott Schad)

A new antenna using single atoms could usher in the age of atomic radio

The team tested their device by recording themselves singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb”

JENNIFER OUELLETTE

In the 1950s, atomic clocks revolutionized precision time-keeping. Now we may be on the verge of so-called “atomic radio,” thanks to the development of a new type of antenna capable of receiving signals across a much wider range of frequencies (more than four octaves) that is highly resistant to electromagnetic interference.

An antenna is typically a collection of metal rods that pick up passing radio waves and convert their energy into an electrical current, which is then amplified. One might argue that the good old-fashioned radio antenna has served us well since the dawn of the 20th century, so why do we need anything to replace it?

According to David Anderson of Rydberg Technologies, those antennae are wavelength-dependent, so their size depends on whatever wavelength of signal they are trying to measure (they need to be about half the size of whatever wavelength they are designed to receive). That means you need antennae of several different sizes to measure different radio frequencies.

Anderson is a co-author of a new paper posted to the arXiv describing a novel alternative to conventional antennae, based on vapor cells filled with a gas of so-called “Rydberg atoms.” That just means the atoms are in an especially excited state, well above their ground (lowest-energy) state. This makes them especially sensitive to passing electric fields, like the alternating fields of radio waves. All you need is a means of detecting those interactions to turn them into quantum sensors.[…]

Read the full article at arstechnica.

Click here to download the research paper: An atomic receiver for AM and FM radio communication (PDF).

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IEEE Spectrum: “Long-Running U.S. Federal Radio Stations, Beloved by Hams, in Danger of Shutdown”

A WWV Time Code Generator

(Source: IEEE Spectrum Magazine)

Several public radio stations that have broadcast the time of day continuously for nearly 100 years are on the chopping block

By Julianne Pepitone

Starting in May 1920, the U.S. federal WWV radio stations have broadcast the official time without fail. For ham radio fans, hearing the friendly “National Institute of Standards and Technology Time!” announcement is a comforting old refrain. For others, it’s a service they’ve never heard of—yet in the background, it’s what keeps the clocks and appliances in their daily lives automatically ticking along on time.

But after 98 years, this constant companion could soon go off the air. The proposed 2019 U.S. presidential budget calls for a 34 percent cut in NIST funding; in response, the Institute compiled a budget-use plan that would eliminate the WWV stations.

At first blush it might sound like the natural end to a quaint public service from a bygone era. Do we really need radio-broadcast time signals in an era of Internet-connected devices and GPS?

Many would argue: Yes, we really do. More than 50 million devices in the United States—including wall clocks, wristwatches, and industrial appliances—keep time through the signal from NIST’s WWVB station, operating from a site near Fort Collins, Colo., where it reads the time directly from an atomic clock. These radio-equipped clocks are permanently tuned to WWVB’s low-frequency 60 kHz signal.

“WWVB is the pacemaker for the world around us, even if we don’t realize it,” says Thomas Witherspoon, editor of shortwave radio news site The SWLing Post. “It’s why factory workers and schools don’t need to drag out the stepladder every time we switch between Daylight and Standard Time. Without WWVB, these devices won’t magically update themselves.”[…]

Click here to read the full article including comments from WWVB’s Station Manager.

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Arcing can produce nasty broadband radio interference

On this trip to Québec, indoor listening has been more productive than listening from our balcony.

I mentioned in a previous post that, this year, QRM levels here at the condo in Québec are higher on our balcony than they are inside the building.

I think I found the source.

A couple weeks ago, on my morning walk, I passed underneath some high voltage power lines about 1 km from the condo. I noticed the sound of arcing coming from a pole nearby. No doubt, something metal–a staple, a cable, a pin, etc.–is the culprit.

I pulled out my smart phone and made this short video. If you turn up the volume, you might hear the noise especially at the end of the clip.:

I took a portable radio back to the site later and heard the same broadband noise I heard from the condo.

Although we only rent this condo a couple months a year, I’ll try to report the noise to the Hydro QuĂ©bec. I know that our utility company in the States must follow up with requests like this and do their best to eliminate unintentional sources of RFI. These issues can also be an indication of something in the system failing, so power companies can actually be quite grateful for the feedback.

If you have persistent broadband noise at home, check out some of the trouble shooting tutorials at K3RFI’s website for a little guidance.

Despite all of this noise, I’m pleased I can still receive a few of my favorite shortwave stations. And, of course, escape to the KiwiSDR network and hit the field from time to time!

No worries, though, I’ll be back at my home station soon and can once again enjoy a relatively RFI-free radio space!

Post readers: Have you ever been plagued with power line noise? What did you do about it? Any tips? Please comment!

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