Category Archives: QRP

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Four NPOTA activations planned today

npota-tr10-pk01-qrp-elecraft-kx2-clipboard

Around noon (EDT) today, I’ll start my short journey to the W4DXCC conference in Sevierville, TN.

En route, I’ll pass through three National Parks: the Blue Ridge Parkway, The Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a beautiful drive and the weather appears to be near-ideal–clear skies.

ARRL-NPOTAThis also affords me the opportunity to activate two “two-fers” for the National Parks On The Air  (NPOTA):

  • Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains Park (PK01 & NP26)
  • Appalachian Trail and Great Smoky Mountains Park (NP26 & TR01)

I’ll only get credit for three activations, but chasers will have a better opportunity to snag two park entities in one QSO.

I plan to activate the PK01 & NP26 two-fer starting around 17:00 UTC, then the NP26 & TR01 two-fer starting around 19:15 UTC. Look for me on 14,286 and 7,286 +/- 6 kHz.

SWLs: please comment if you happen to hear me at your location!

On the way back from the conference, Sunday morning, I plan to activate the same sites once again (weather permitting).

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National Parks On The Air: Activating two sites simultaneously today

I'll hike to the point where the Overmountain Victory Trail meets the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I’ll hike to the point where the Overmountain Victory Trail meets the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Today, I plan to activate both the Blue Ridge Parkway (PK01) and Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (TR10) two-fer for the National Parks on the Air (NPOTA).

I should go on the air sometime between 16:00-17:00 UTC (12:00-13:00 EDT), weather permitting.

I’ll plan to start on the 20 meter band (14286 kHz) then move to the 40 meter band (7286 kHz). If I can’t operate on those frequencies, I’ll move to something clear +/- 6 kHz or so.

elecraft-kx2-in-field-npota-ns07

I’ll be operating SSB, using the Elecraft KX2 transceiver and EFT Trail friendly antenna combo once again. Since I’m hiking to my operating site, this pair will offer the lightest multi-band option.

The REI Trail Stool

The REI Trail Stool

Side note: yesterday, I picked up an REI Trail Stool to replace my foldable camping chair.

The camping chair is fantastic if you don’t have to lug it very far, but on long hikes it becomes heavy and cumbersome. This stool will get me off the ground and hopefully allow me to operate with the clipboard and transceiver on my lap. The REI Trail Stool weighs next to nothing.

If you’re an SWL and hear me (K4SWL) on the air, please comment! Note that I’ll be transmitting a max of 10 watts–so pretty much “flea power.” Still, in the past, I’ve worked all corners of North America and into Europe with this same transceiver/antenna combo.

Propagation conditions are pretty favorable today as well. I just hope we have no pop-up thunderstorms–I’ll most likely be near a ridge line and can’t take any chances.

If you’re a ham radio operator, I hope to log you for this activation!

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AM Mode: Comparing the Elecraft KX2 with the LNR Precision LD-11

My new Elecraft KX2 tuned to Radio Australia this morning.

My new Elecraft KX2 tuned to Radio Australia this morning.

I’ve only had my Elecraft KX2 since Monday evening and have been so busy, I’ve only had an hour or so to tinker with this pocket transceiver. Monday evening, before putting it on the air, I updated the KX2 firmware to the latest Beta release which includes the new AM mode.

I’ve had so many questions from readers about the KX2’s AM audio already, I thought I’d do a quick comparison with the LNR Precision LD-11.

I set the LD-11 to a bandwidth of 9.6 kHz, and the KX2 to 5 kHz: their widest AM filter settings. Keep in mind, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison, but it does showcase each radio’s potential AM audio fidelity.

I tuned both rigs to the Voice of Greece last night on 9420 kHz around 00:30 UTC. VOG’s signal was strong into North America.

I made the following recordings with my Zoom H2N digital recorder, by feeding in-line audio patched from each radio’s headphone jack. I tried to balance the audio levels between the two rigs.

Here are the results:

The LNR Precision LD-11

LNR-Precision-LD-11-AM-Mode-Voice-Of-Greece

Click here to download the audio.

The Elecraft KX2

Elecraft-KX2-Voice-Of-Greece-AM-Mode

Click here to download the audio.

The Elecraft KX2 in “Delay” audio mode

Note: Some Elecraft radios have an audio effects mode which includes a “delay” function. Elecraft describes it as “a quasi-stereo effect intended to provide depth and space to the received audio.” On an AM broadcast signal, it makes it sound wider and gives it almost a stereo depth.

Elecraft-KX2-Delay-Audio-AM-Mode

Click here to download the audio.

I think the results from both radios are impressive. Since the LD-11’s bandwidth can be widened to 9.6 kHz, strong signals like this one sound pretty amazing. In truth, I actually prefer a filter width of about 8.2 kHz on strong signals, but VOG was wide enough to justify 9.6 kHz.  I believe the LD-11 would rival many dedicated tabletop receivers.

The Elecraft KX2, in normal audio mode, sounds flatter and narrower than the LD-11 of course, but still very pleasant!  In the KX2’s “delay” audio mode, the signal sounds much wider than 5 kHz, though the effect adds a little graininess to the audio. That’s okay, though–I love having the “delay” audio option in my tool bag.

Here’s what amazes me as an SWL and ham radio operator: both of these QRP transceivers offer excellent HF broadcast listening opportunities.

Please comment! Which audio sample do you prefer? Do you like the “delay” audio effect on the KX2? Keep in mind this is only one comparison and doesn’t address sensitivity or selectivity.

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eBay find: LNR Precision LD-11 transceiver

LD-11 eBay

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario, who notes this first appearance of the LNR Precision LD-11 transceiver on eBay.

I must say, I’ve been using the LD-11 for the past couple of months and have been pleased–it’s a fun little radio with the added bonus of broadcast band reception (see my previous post). I’ve used it in no less than four NPOTA activations.

Mario and I do not know this eBay seller, but it appears the seller is in decent standing with eBay.  In the past 12 months, the seller has had one negative review that appears to have been in error (the comment in questions was very positive, but marked as negative by a new eBay user).  Do your research if you consider bidding.

Click here to view this LD-11 on eBay.

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One week of Hamvention, Air Force Museum, Wright Brothers and National Parks On The Air

DSC_4449I returned home last night from my week-log Dayton Hamvention trip around 8:30 PM.

The Hamvention actually ended at 1:00 PM on Sunday, May 22, but my buddy Eric McFadden (WD8RIF), his son Miles (KD8KNC) and I stayed Sunday night in Dayton, and Monday night at Eric’s home in Athens, Ohio.

After packing up our Hamvention booth (for Ears To Our World) on Sunday, we made our way to the nearby National Museum of the USAF–the largest aviation museum in the world. We visit the museum every year–and every year I discover something new.

BC-348-B29

This BC-348 can be found in one of the museum’s B-29 displays.

DSC_4443 DSC_4455

In June, the Air Force museum is actually opening a fourth building which will house an additional 70 aircraft in four new galleries.

If you’re an aviation buff–trust me–the  National Museum of the USAF is worth a pilgrimage to Dayton, Ohio.

NPOTA activations

Monday morning, Eric, Miles and I packed up, ran a few errands on Wright Patterson Air Force Base, then made our way to our first National Parks On The Air activation: the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park (HP11) and North Country National Scenic Trail (TR04) “two-fer” at Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center in Dayton, Ohio.

Eric worked CW on 20 meters and I worked SSB on 40 meters using the LNR Precision LD-11 transceiver (which I’m currently reviewing) and my recently-purchased Hardened Power Systems QRP Ranger.

For all of my Monday NPOTA activations, I used the EFT Trail Friendly antenna I purchased at the Hamvention:

EFT-Trail-Friendly-Antenna-QRP

The EFT Trail Friendly Antenna made set-up a breeze: simply throw a line into a tree, hang the end of the antenna, then hook up the other end to the feedline/transceiver. No antenna tuner is needed for 40, 20 or 10 meters once the antenna is tuned for resonance. It packs up into a small bundle that easily fits in my radio go-kit (see photo above).

The LD-11/QRP Ranger/EFT antenna combo worked amazingly well and made for very quick deployment.

LNR-LD-11 and QRP Ranger NPOTA

I can easily fit the LD-11 transceiver and QRP Ranger on a foldable metal chair (my make-shift field table!).

My buddy Eric, I should mention, is typically on the leaderboard for NPOTA as he’s an avid QRP field operator.

WD8RIF-20M-Vertical-NPOTA

Eric (WD8RIF) operating NPOTA with his field-portable vertical HF antenna.

You can follow Eric’s activations on QRZ.com or his website.

Eric's field-portable HF vertical packs up into this small canvas bag.

Eric’s field-portable HF vertical packs up into this small canvas bag.

We had a tight NPOTA activation schedule to meet Monday, but after packing up from our first sites, we took 30 minutes to stop by the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and The Wright Cycle Co. museum in downtown Dayton.

IMG_20160523_135344026

Well worth the short visit! Next year, I’ll plan to revisit both museums when I have more time.

Next, we made our way to the second scheduled NPOTA activation site: the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument (MN18).

NPOTA-QRP-LD-11-QRP-Ranger

Despite not having my antenna very far off the ground (my antenna line fell down one branch in the process of hanging) I still managed to work a pile-up of stations from Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, Connecticut, Michigan and Indiana. After Eric and I racked up a number of QSOs, we packed up our site in haste and made our way to the final activation of the day: the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park (HP15). We arrived as the Park Ranger was getting in his car to leave for the day!

At Hopewell, I managed to deploy the EFT antenna much higher off the ground. I worked a small pile up of stations from all over the region which, to my surprise, included two radio friends (Ed and Eileen) in Franklin, NC. Eric also worked blogging buddy John Harper, AE5X on 20 meters CW (got your message, John!).

NPOTA-QRP-LD-11-QRP-Ranger-Hopewell

All in all, it was a fantastic day to be outdoors and on the air.

Of course, a side benefit of doing National Parks On The Air activations is that you get to check out all of these amazing park sites.

Without a doubt, this was one fun-filled and radio-centric Hamvention week! It couldn’t have been better.

NPOTA Log

Part of my log sheet for NPOTA HP11 and TRO4 “Two-Fer” activations. Not bad for such a tight schedule!

Thank you

Many thanks to my friends Eric (WD8RIF), Miles (KD8KNC), Mike (K8RAT) and Christine (KM4PDS) for volunteering to manage our Hamvention booth for Ears To Our World. It was a record year for collecting donations. Many thanks to all of you for the support!

I’d also like to thank the SWLing Post readers who stopped by to visit our new location in the Silver Arena–it was great seeing everyone!

Now that I’m back home, I essentially have one week of emails and comments in my backlog to sort before hitting the road again rather soon. I appreciate your patience as I catch up. If you don’t hear back from me soon, it’s okay to give me a nudge! 🙂

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