Category Archives: Ham Radio

New Icom IC-7300 and IC-9700 firmware updates add features/enhancements

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ray Novak, who notes that Icom has issued the following firmware updates for the IC-7300 and IC-9700:

Icom IC-7300 Update

Changes from Version 1.30

[Spectrum scope is improved]
– A Scroll mode that can seamlessly change the displaying scope range, depending on the operating frequency, is added.
– A popup screen that displays when SPAN or EDGE change is added.
– The number of FIX EDGE memories is expanded to 4.
– Each band independently memorizes the Reference level.
– Improved the Scope function of the RS-BA1.

[Preset function is added for FT8 operation]
– A Preset function that can set each operation is added.

[Multi-function dial is enhanced]
– A Multi-function dial now works as a memory channel selector in the Memory mode.
– A Multi-function Menus Customization function is added.
– A function indicator for the Multi-function dial is added.

[Other changes]
– A Front Key Customization function that can change the function of [VOX/BK-IN], [AUTOTUNE], [?], and [?] is added.
– A MIC Key Customization function that can change the function of [UP] and [DOWN] is added.
– The Band Stacking Register window is added.
– While operating in the Data mode, the receive tone control is deactivated.
– The default setting of the CI-V USB Port is changed to “Unlink from [REMOTE].”

Refer to INFORMATION IC-7300 Version 1.40 for details.

The Scroll mode for the RS-BA1 Version 2 software will be added to Version 2.30.

Click here for full details and IC-7300 firmware update.

Icom IC-9700 Update

Changes from Version 1.24

[Spectrum scope is improved]
– A Scroll mode that can seamlessly change the displaying scope range, depending on the operating frequency, is added.
– A popup screen that displays when SPAN or EDGE change is added.
– The number of FIX EDGE memories is expanded to 4.
– Each band independently memorizes the Reference level.
– Improved the Scope function of the RS-BA1.

[Preset function is added for FT8 operation]
-A Preset function that can set each operation is added.

[Other changes]
– A Front Key Customization function that can change the function of [VOX/BK-IN], [AUTOTUNE/AFC], and [TONE/RX>CS] is added.
– A MIC Key Customization function that can change the function of [UP] and [DOWN] is added.
– A Touch function is added to the GPS icon.
– The “ddd.dddd°” format is added for the Latitude/Longitude display.
– While operating in the Data mode, the receive tone control is deactivated.
– A menu item that can return to the normal mode is added to the QUICK MENU of Terminal Mode and Access Point Mode.
– Fixed an issue where the time may not be displayed in the GPS POSITION screen.

Refer to INFORMATION IC-9700 Version 1.30 for details.

The compatible programming software for firmware update Version 1.30 can be downloaded here.

The Scroll mode for the RS-BA1 Version 2 software will be added to Version 2.30.

Click here for full details and IC-9700 firmware update. 

Spread the radio love

VisAir HF DDC/DUC Transceiver: Randy purchased one exclusively for shortwave radio listening

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who recently shared a message he received from his friend Randy regarding the VisAir HF DDC/DUC Transceiver:

I recently acquired a VisAir transceiver from Russia. It is an amazing SDR unit developed by two amateur radio operators. It is about the same size as the RDR55, but at about 1/3 the cost. While it does not have FM or amateur 2/6 meter, GPS, and a couple of features, this VisAir has other features not found on the RDR55 such as dual receivers, waterfall, receiving audio equalizer, CW decoder, etc. It is a true SDR receiver. The user manual was in Russian and I had to break it into thirds so that I could get it translated into English. Interestingly, the user interface is completely in English despite its Russian origins. While designed primarily for amateur radio operators, it works especially well on the shortwave bands.

[…]I have really been enjoying this “transceiver” and as you imagine, I use only the receiver portion of the unit. It has two antenna connectors and you can configure these however you prefer. I set one as a receive antenna and the other as a transmit antenna to avoid accidentally hitting the antenna match or some function and sending power into my equipment. I also disabled the transmitter portion to further protect against any accidental transmissions.

Unfortunately, virtually all the YouTube videos and information are in Russian and also its use is shown only on the amateur radio bands, but I can tell you that this is a very nice SW DX receiver with lots of interesting user defined menus whereby the unit can be modified to match the user’s preferences. Here is a website with some information on the unit.

As you know, I have enjoyed using a wide variety of communications receivers from simple beginner’s units to the more complex and highly esteemed units built to exacting standards for government use. This VisAir is built by two guys in Russia and amazingly it was designed by them in 2017 and not a whole team of design engineers such as found at Yaesu, Kenwood, and Icom. From what I understand, the unit sells in Russia in rubles for the equivalent of about $1800 USD. Unfortunately it is not exported to the USA and it only comes with a 220 VAC power supply and so I operate it exclusively off of DC current without any issue. It is my understanding that this low production transceiver has sold between about 200 – 300 units and virtually all of these were in Russia. To my knowledge, I am the only person in the USA with this unit. Further, it is my understanding is that there is a wait list of about 2 years to obtain the unit. The VisAir is upgraded via firmware and my unit has the latest firmware installed.

When I got information about the transceiver to consider for purchase, there was only a Russian user manual available. I have access to an online PDF translator, but it can only accept up to 10 MB files and so I had to break the Russian manual into 3 sections, translate each section into English, and then stitch the 3 sections back together to make a complete English manual (which is too large to email as a whole). Attached are sections 2 and 3 of this English user manual for the VisAir:

You can look at the manual and see what features are available with this transceiver. While the translator worked nicely overall in getting the manual from Russian into English, there are issues whereby the illustrations have Russian language information and these did not translate, but this did not thwart me from understanding and using the VisAir as most of the Russian information relates to connecting the transmitter to microphone and other devices.

As with most all low production units from small producers, the user manual is good at pointing out controls, but lacks in explaining what is the purpose of settings or offering suggestions on the settings other than telling you what is a “default” setting from the factory. I found this same dilemma with the manuals for the Fairhaven RD500, the Reuter RDR55, the Kneisner & Doering KWZ30, etc. But an experienced DXer can generally figure out operations and establish the appropriate settings with a little time. For the first 3 days of operation, it was a discovery for me as I kept learning about new features that I didn’t know about previously and weren’t highlighted in the user manual. It was like reading the user manual for my Toyota Highlander in that there are options and controls that are found in menus and not particularly obvious at first glance or with casual use.

Randy

Thank you, Randy, for sharing your comments about the VisAir transceiver here on the SWLing Post. Looks like a fascinating tabletop SDR.

Click here to check out VisAir’s website.

Spread the radio love

Radio Waves: Australian Radio Stations Blocked on FB, Boomer Radio, Friedrichshafen 2021 Maybe a Go, and Ultra-Low Radio Frequencies Reveal Universe of Black Holes

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors William Lee, Sheldon Harvey, and Paul Webster for the following tips:


[Australian] Radio stations blocked from Facebook (RadioInfo)

Facebook has carried out its threat to remove news posts from its platform in response to the Australian Government’s mandatory bargaining code for digital media giants.

In a Faceboook post William Easton, Managing Director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand said:

In response to Australia’s proposed new Media Bargaining law, Facebook will restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.

The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content. It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.

Facebook has deemed radio stations as news publishers, along with newspapers and tv stations.

A check of radio facebook sites this morning shows most no longer contain any new content, with a message saying “no posts yet” on each page. All previous content also seems to have also disappeared.

When we checked shared posts to radio websites, the links were broken.

Read more at: https://radioinfo.com.au/news/radio-stations-blocked-facebook © Radioinfo.com.au

Meet the boomers taking on the BBC and launching a radio station for their generation (The Telegraph)

Baby boomers have found themselves increasingly dismayed when tuning into BBC Radio 2, the station that used to be theirs of choice. Time was when Terry Wogan would greet them in the morning with music from the likes of the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Queen. But Wogan gave way to Chris Evans, who in turn has passed the mic to Zoe Ball. And with each generation, there has been a change in sensibility. This month, the logic behind the move emerged: Radio 2 is trying to target ‘Mood Mums’, lower-income women in their 30s.

“Their playlist is full of Dua Lipa and Ariana Grande,” says David Symonds, 77, who is, incidentally, my grandfather. “I don’t want to listen to Justin Bieber, thank you very much. There’s a gap in the market left by Radio 2 in its continuous pursuit of youth.”

He has never been one to hold his tongue and his criticisms of Radio 2 are biting. “It is now full of D-list TV celebs who know nothing about music at all,” he continues. “Rylan Clark-Neal, for f**** sake, was a contestant on The X Factor singing badly, and now he’s everywhere.”

Grandad has been out of the radio establishment for decades – he was one of the original Radio 1 DJs and helped launch Capital Radio, but left the UK in 1995 to set up his own stations in Cyprus (Limassol FM) and then France (The Roolz). Then he received a call from fellow radio veteran David Lloyd asking if he wanted to be one of the first presenters on a new British station: Boom Radio.[]

Ham Radio in Friedrichshafen, Germany, Tentatively on for 2021 (ARRL News)

Ham Radio in Friedrichshafen, Germany, was canceled last year because of the pandemic. Organizers for Europe’s International Amateur Radio Exhibition this week expressed optimism that the 45th Ham Radio, sponsored by the Deutscher Amateur Radio Club (DARC), will be able to take place June 25 – 27.

“We are watching the situation closely, of course,” a message from Friedrichshafen Fairgrounds CEO Klaus Wellmann said. “At the moment, we are assuming that we will be able to hold Ham Radio in accordance with an extensive, tried-and-proven safety and hygiene concept and are looking forward to seeing everyone again at Europe’s most important trade fair for amateur radio.” []

A starry sky made of more than 25,000 supermassive black holes (Astron)

An international team of astronomers has produced the largest and sharpest map of the sky at ultra-low radio frequencies, using the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) radio telescope. The map published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics reveals more than 25,000 active supermassive black holes in distant galaxies.

At a first glance, the map looks like an image of a starry night sky. However, the map is based on data taken by LOFAR and shows the sky in the radio band. Stars are almost invisible in the radio band, but instead black holes dominate the picture. With this map, astronomers seek to discover celestial objects that only emit waves at ultra-low radio frequencies. Such objects include diffuse matter in the large scale structure of the Universe, fading jets of plasma ejected by supermassive black holes, and exoplanets whose magnetic fields are interacting with their host stars. Albeit among the largest of its kind, the published map only shows two percent of the sky. The search for these exotic phenomena will continue for several years until a map of the entire northern sky will be completed.

The radio waves received by LOFAR and used for this work are up to six meters long which corresponds to a frequency of around 50 MHz. They are the longest radio waves ever used to observe such a wide area of the sky at this depth. “The map is the result of many years of work on incredibly difficult data. We had to invent new strategies to convert the radio signals into images of the sky, but we are proud to have opened this new window on our Universe.”, says Francesco de Gasperin, scientist at the Hamburg Observatory and leading author of the publication.

There is a reason why the Universe at these long radio wavelengths is almost uncharted: such observations are very challenging. The ionosphere, a layer of free electrons that surrounds the Earth, acts as a lens continuously moving over the radio telescope. The effect of the ionosphere can be compared to trying to see the world while being submerged in a swimming pool. Looking upwards, the waves on the water bend the light rays and distort the view. To account for ionospheric disturbances, the scientists used supercomputers and new algorithms to reconstruct its effect every four seconds over the course of 256 hours of observation.[]


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

We may be looking at severe shortages of some new ham radio gear due to AKM factory fire

AKM Factory Fire (Image (Strata-Gee.com)

Recently, I’ve received a number of emails from readers who are frustrated because new ham radio transceivers are out of stock and used prices have increased.

At first, I thought this might be due to supply chain and logistics issues due to the continuing Covid-19 pandemic. If it is, it’s only a partial explanation.

As of this morning, I’ve heard from three trusted sources in the radio industry (from retailing and manufacturing) who tell me that the lack of inventory is a supply chain issue, but directly linked to the October 21, 2020 fire at Asahi Kasei Microsystems (AKM) Nobuoka semiconductor Plant “Fab2”.

According to Converge:

“This factory mainly produces large-scale integrated circuits (LSI) used in audio equipment, home appliances, TCXO oscillator, and other products. Due to the recent fire, AKM has been forced to stop production and delays are to be expected.”

Fortunately, according to the article, AKM has been moving some IC production to external companies, but it could take some time to re-tool. A number of markets have been affected by this disruption including the pro audio industry.

There’s no need to panic

If you’ve been looking for a specific radio model, you may find that retailers have been back-ordered and can only offer a vague shipping timeline; 2-6 weeks out, for example.

Some models (including the popular IC-7300, IC-705, Yaesu FT-DX10, and Yaesu FT-991A) are still in-stock at some retailers.

Several readers have been trying to purchase the popular Yaesu FT-891 and found that no one has inventory at present.  We may be looking at extended delays for this model and others once inventory is depleted.

But again, I don’t think this is a panic situation. This supply chain disruption has been in play for a number of months already and you can bet the industry is already working on solutions.

My advice would be that if you’re getting close to pulling the trigger on a new transceiver, if it’s in stock, I’d jump on it now. Otherwise, you’ll simply need to be patient as new inventory eventually makes its way back to retailer shelves. Used prices on some of these models may be inflated until new inventory returns.

Spread the radio love

Lemons into Lemonade: Nick is taking advantage of Texas power outage to play radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Nick Booras, who writes:

I am stuck in the house in Texas, bored and with no power. So I decided to make a couple videos with my phone. One nice thing about a power outage… no RFI [Radio Frequency Interference].

This Icom 705 is an awesome radio! Perhaps your viewers might like these.

Thank you for sharing these, Nick! Yes, as we’ve noted before, power outages are an ideal time to play radio and indulge in a low-noise environment! And I agree with you: the IC-705 is a superb shortwave broadcast receiver.

I hope our readers in Texas will have power restored soon–this has been a rough week for many.

Spread the radio love

Mark finds an affordable IP67 rated protective case for the Yaesu FT-891

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Hirst, who writes:

Thomas,

I got a new FT-891 recently and wanted a protective case for taking it out into the field.

A mixture of internet searches and Amazon algorithms turned up this very affordable case which closely matches the size of the radio, as the enclosed photograph shows.

It uses the familiar pick and pluck foam, although in two layers.

The base layer is a bit thin, so I might put a layer of rigid plastic over it to stop the feet of the radio pushing down to the outer case.

I prioritised the side wall thickness opposite from the carry handle, as the case is designed to sit on its side like a briefcase.

Via Amazon USA ($29.31)

Via Amazon UK (£20.99)

Mark

Wow, Mark! I do love the size of this case and the fact that it fits the FT-891 so perfectly.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about building out a case to hold one of my smaller QRP transceivers (the KX1, KX2, or MTR3B) in the field to be used when it’s raining. Perhaps this has been on my mind because I’ve been enjoying nearly 5 straight days of rain and fog! A case like this would be an affordable solution and I wouldn’t feel terribly bad about drilling through the case to mount antenna, key, mic, and headphone ports.

I, for one, would love your thoughts about the Yaesu FT-891 as well. I’ve contemplated reviewing it this year mainly because so many field operators rave about it. I’d be curious what you think about it in terms of shortwave radio listening.

Thank you again for the tip!

Note that the Amazon affiliate links above support the SWLing Post at no cost to you. If you’d rather not use these links, simply search Amazon for “Max MAX004S.” Thank you!

Spread the radio love

Radio Waves: A Perfect CME, FCC Construction Permit Auction, More Music On AM, and Virtual SWL Fest Reminder

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Eric McFadden, Mike Terry, for the following tips:


A “Perfect Coronal Mass Ejection” Could Be a Nightmare (ARRL News)

A new study in the research journal Space Weather considers what might happen if a worst-case coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth — a “perfect solar storm,” if you will.

In 2014, Bruce Tsurutani of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Gurbax Lakhina of the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism introduced the “perfect CME.” It could create a magnetic storm with intensity up to the saturation limit, a value greater than the Carrington Event of 1859, the researchers said. Many other spaceweather effects would not be limited by saturation effects, however. The interplanetary shock would arrive at Earth within about 12 hours, the shock impingement onto the magnetosphere would create a sudden impulse of around 234 nanoteslas (nT), and the magnetic pulse duration in the magnetosphere would be about 22 seconds. Orbiting satellites would be exposed to “extreme levels of flare and interplanetary CME (ICME) shock-accelerated particle radiation,” they said. The event would follow an initial CME that would “clear the path in front of it, allowing the storm cloud to hit Earth with maximum force.”

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has observed CMEs leaving the sun at speeds of up to 3,000 kilometers per second, and many instances of one CME clearing the way for another have been recorded.

The CME’s 12-hour travel time would allow little margin for preparation. The CME would hit Earth’s magnetosphere at 45 times the local speed of sound, and the resulting geomagnetic storm could be as much as twice as strong as the Carrington Event. Power grids, GPS, and other services could experience significant outages.

More recent research led by physicist Dan Welling of the University of Texas at Arlington took a fresh look at Tsurutani and Lakhina’s “perfect CME,” and given improvements in spaceweather modeling, he was able to reach new conclusions.

Welling’s team found that geomagnetic disturbances in response to a perfect CME could be 10 times stronger than Tsurutani and Lakhina had calculated, especially at latitudes above 45 to 50 °. “[Our results] exceed values observed during many past extreme events, including the March 1989 storm that brought down the Hydro-Québec power grid in eastern Canada, the May 1921 railroad storm, and the Carrington Event itself,” Welling summarized.

A key result of the new study is how the CME would distort and compress Earth’s magnetosphere. The strike would push the magnetopause down until it’s only 2 Earth-radii above Earth’s surface. Satellites in Earth orbit would suddenly find themselves exposed to a hail of energetic, and potentially damaging, charged particles.

Other research has indicated that phenomena such as the Carrington Event may not be as rare as once thought. A much weaker magnetic storm brought down the Canadian Hydro?Québec system in 1989.

Scientists believe a perfect CME will happen someday. As Welling et al conclude, “Further exploring and preparing for such extreme activity is important to mitigate spaceweather-related catastrophes.”

In July 2012, NASA and European spacecraft watched an extreme solar storm erupt from the sun and narrowly miss Earth. “If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” said Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado at a NOAA Space Weather Workshop 2 years later. “It might have been stronger than the Carrington Event itself.”

Click here to read at the ARRL News.

FCC To Auction Off 140 Radio Stations (Radio Ink)

The FCC has announced that on July 27th an auction will be held for 136 FM construction permits and 4 AM’s. In this auction, the 130 FM permits that were previously included in the March 2020 auction, that had to be canceled due to COVID, will be included plus an additional 6 permits. Anyone who applied for stations in the planned 2020 auction must reapply. All applications for the previous auction have been dismissed.

[…]You can see the FM stations to be auctioned off HERE.

The Commission is proposing a simultaneous multiple-round auction format. This type of auction offers every construction permit for bid at the same time and consists of successive bidding rounds in which qualified bidders may place bids on individual construction permits. Typically, bidding remains open on all construction permits until bidding stops on every construction permit.

Get more details from the FCC website HERE.[]

Why There’s More Music on AM Now (Radio Survivor)

by Paul Riismandel

A number of months ago I was scanning around the AM dial late in the evening from my Portland, Oregon abode. I stumbled upon a station playing hard rock, which I thought to be an unusual find. As the AM dial has become mostly the domain of conservative and sports talk, I rarely encounter music that isn’t a bumper or part of some leased-time foreign-language programming.

In fact, at first I thought perhaps the music was a lead-in to just another talk show, but eventually I heard a full set of three songs. The station identified itself as “The Bear,” but curiously gave an FM frequency, not one on the AM dial.

An internet search the next day confirmed that “the Bear” is indeed an active rock formatted station located in Merced, California. Its logo features 105.7 FM prominently, with the 1660 AM frequency tucked in the corner. Yet, the AM signal is actually the primary one – the FM is a 250 watt repeater (translator) station.

Here’s a quick aircheck of the Bear’s station ID, during a break in the syndicated hard rock “Loudwire” program.

Now, AM stations have been permitted to get FM translators for a few years now as part of the FCC’s so-called “AM revitalization” initiative. But mostly I’ve heard sports and news/talk stations get repeated on FM.

I filed away this experience in memory, but kind of considered it a one-off. That was until my recent vacation in the Wallowa Mountains of Northeastern Oregon. Stowed away and social distancing in a mountainside cabin with limited internet and no cable, I spent quite a bit of time scanning the AM and shortwave bands in search of interesting sounds. Continue reading at Radio Survivor…

Register for the 2021 34th “Virtual” Winter SWL Fest!

If you’ve thought about attending the annual Winter SWL Fest, but found it difficult to make the travel arrangements, this year you can get a taste of the Fest by attending virtually.

You’ll find the program below, but click here to view it at the Winter SWL Fest site, and click here to register (only $5 for both days including all presentations and the hospitality room).

The event takes place February 27-28, 2021.


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love