Tag Archives: K4SWL

Updates: Return of the lab599 Discovery TX-500, QRPer.com, and YouTube

Last year, I was lucky enough to obtain a lab599 Discovery TX-500 QRP transceiver to review for The Spectrum Monitor and the SWLing Post.

I could only keep the TX-500 for a one week evaluation period because it was one of only two or three pre-production units in the US–one was being evaluated for FCC approval.

Often, when a reviewer is sent a loaner unit, if we really like it we can purchase it from the manufacturer for roughly market price. The TX-500 was so rare, though, this simply wasn’t an option. Had it been, I would have purchased it. I liked the radio that much.

 

This week, I took delivery of a new TX-500 sent directly to me by the manufacturer in Russia. (You’d better believe I’m not sending this one back! I’ve already given it a name!)

If you’re interested in why I like the TX-500, check out my in-depth review here on the Post.

I will say this: if you’re a ham radio operator that likes SWLing, the TX-500 is a very capable broadcast receiver. Since I took delivery, I’ve had some pretty long listening sessions with the TX-500 on mediumwave and shortwave. The AM filter width is adjustable and can be quite wide if you want full fidelity. You must use an external speaker or headphones with the TX-500: this portable transceiver is sealed so that it’s weatherproof. The supplied speaker/mic works in a pinch, but I much prefer headphones or one of my amplified speakers.

QRPer.com: the other blog

I realize that many readers here on the SWLing Post aren’t aware that I actually have another blog dedicated to ham radio in the field: QRPer.com.

QRPer and the SWLing Post were actually born around the same time in 2008, but over the years I put much more effort and energy in the SWLing Post as I felt there needed to be better resources, articles, and information out there about radio listening. The SWLing Post has grown to a community of 8,000-9,000 daily readers and I couldn’t be more proud. There are days it really feels like a big, international family of kindred spirits. I’ve learned so much from this community.

QRPer is devoted to low-power amateur radio operation in the field. It has a completely different feel than the SWLing Post as most articles are field reports from my Summits On The Air (SOTA) and Parks On The Air (POTA) activations. I post at least one field report each week and typically test a different pairing of a transceiver and antenna. Many of my activations these days are using CW (Morse Code). After completing my first CW activation last year, I truly fell in love with this earliest of radio modes.

Click here to read my latest SOTA/POTA field report on QRPer.com.

I get that there are many here at the Post that don’t really care for ham radio or QRP operation and that’s perfectly fine. I mention QRPer because I’ve been getting notes from readers who are just realizing that there’s a common connection between the SWLing Post and QRPer: me!

I’m horrible at cross-promoting my work, so there you go.

Not a YouTuber, but I have a YouTube channel

While I’m at it: last year, I also started making real-time, real-life, unedited YouTube videos of many of my QRP field activations.  I made some of the first ones at the request of readers who wanted to know what it was like to actually perform field activations.

I’m a fellow who has very little free time and the thought of editing videos, frankly, makes me break out in a cold sweat. I simply don’t have the time. Plus, I don’t really have the personality of a successful YouTuber. I am what I am.

I posted my first unedited videos expecting negative comments. The total opposite happened.

While I never expect my YouTube channel to appeal to anyone beyond a very niche audience, I have gotten some very encouraging comments from subscribers who appreciate (virtually) sitting with me on the park bench or on a 3,000 meter summit and copying the CW and SSB contacts that roll in. I see these videos as supplements to my field reports on QRPer.com. In fact, if you want to see the Discovery TX-500 (mentioned above) in action, you’ll want to read my field reports on QRPer.com and watch the activation videos.

If you’re looking for a proper cure for insomnia, here’s a link to my YouTube channel. Consider subscribing if I haven’t scared you away already. 🙂 Indeed, as I publish this post, I see that I’m almost at the 3,000 subscriber mark. What?

Oh, speaking of YouTube and the TX-500, I made a video shortly after receiving it via DHL. I call it an “unboxing” video but really it’s an excuse to talk about why I’ve missed the TX-500.

By the way: I don’t monetize my YouTube channel, so there are a total of ZERO ads. I’m able to support my radio and blogging life via the backing of my amazing readers and sponsors. Thank you so very much!

Click here to check out the YouTube channel.


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Interview on the ICQ Podcast

I’m honored to have been interviewed by Frank Howell (K4FMH) for the ICQ Amateur / Ham Radio Podcast. The interview was posted as a podcast this weekend.

If you’re not familiar, the ICQ podcast is posted every fortnight and runs about 1.5-2.5 hours or so depending on news items and features. Here’s the description of this episode (#322):

In this episode, Martin M1MRB is joined by Chris Howard M0TCH, Martin Rothwell M0SGL, Ed Durrant DD5LP, Frank Howell K4FMH and Bill Barns N3JIX to discuss the latest Amateur / Ham Radio news. Colin M6BOY rounds up the news in brief and this episode’s feature is – Passion of Shortwave Listening with Thomas Witherspoon K4SWL.

The show can be streamed via the ICQ podcast YouTube channel or on their website.

The ICQ Podcast website also links to the many ways you can subscribe and listen to their shows published every two weeks.

Many thanks to Frank for inviting me to be interviewed–I really enjoyed talking shortwave with a fellow shortwave radio enthusiast (and long-time SWLing Post reader!).

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QSO Today Podcast

dial_closeup_1

I’m honored to have been interviewed by Eric (4Z1UG) for his QSO Today podcast. The interview was posted as a podcast this week.

We recorded it a couple weeks ago via Skype. My home Internet service was so terrible that day, I actually drove into town, parked in a parking lot, and used Skype via my mobile hotspot.  I was pretty distracted during the interview, I’m sure, but Eric was a fantastic host.

Click here for the show notes and to listen to the podcast via QSO Today.

Thanks again, Eric, for including me in your excellent podcast.

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NPOTA activation on the Blue Ridge Parkway

A crowd gathers as Vlado (N3CZ) works station after station in CW!

A crowd gathers as Vlado (N3CZ) works station after station in CW!

I’m not sure what I’m going to do after the National Parks On The Air event is over at the end of this year. I hope the ARRL organizes something equally as fun for 2017.

Truth is, I love playing radio outdoors and I love National Parks. The two are a perfect combo.

Vlado (N3CZ) on left, and me (K4SWL) on right.

Vlado (N3CZ) on left, and me (K4SWL) on right.

My buddy, Vlado (N3CZ), and I decided to do an NPOTA activation on Sunday. The weather was fantastic–a little foggy with mild temperatures and the HF bands were open!

We arrived at our site–the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area (PK01)–at 14:30 UTC or so.

KX3-PK01-NPOTA

We brought the following antennas and supports:

  • a self-contained  20 meter band telescopic fiberglass vertical (I recently purchased at the WCARS Hamfest for $40–!) and
  • a 31 foot fiberglass Jackite pole (the fluorescent orange on in the photos) which we used to suspend a homemade 40 meter doublet Vlado built the day before.

Setup was quick. We were both especially pleased the 20 meter vertical. It was so easy to install, even considering it was the first time either of us had used it.

I powered the LD-11 and the KX3 with my QRP Ranger.

The 20 meter vertical antenna.

The 20 meter vertical antenna (in foreground).

I operated SSB from a picnic table using the LnR Precision LD-11 transceiver, connected to the doublet on 40 meters, and the mono-band vertical on 20 meters.

LD-11-QRP-Ranger-NPOTA-PK01

Vlado started by operating CW with his Icom IC-7000 which was installed in his car, but later moved to the picnic table and logged a number of contacts with the Elecraft KX3.

N3CZ--NPOTA-PK01

We easily logged the number of stations needed to activate the site.

The 40 meter band was hopping and a good path was open into Ohio, Virginia and other surrounding states. The 20 meter band was serving up some excellent QRP DX.

Vlado-KX3

Vlado operating CW on the 40 meter band.

When I moved to the 20 meter band, the noise floor was so low on the LD-11, I thought perhaps the band was dead.  Not so!

LD-11-NPOTA-PK01

It’s hard to believe that with a mere eight watts in SSB  I worked Rhode Island, Texas, Montana, Manitoba, Washington, California and Slovenia from a picnic table on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Reports on the LD-11 audio were all very positive. I’ve used the LD-11 for eight NPOTA activations this year and can say with confidence that it’s a brilliant & fun little field radio. (FYI: I’ll be publishing a full review of the LD-11 in the October 2016 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine.)

Vlado and I are planning on several more activations together this year. Our next one will most likely be at the Carl Sandburg Home-. I can’t wait!

Any other post readers participating as an activator or chaser in the National Parks on the Air event?

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National Parks On The Air: Activating PK01 this weekend (August 28)

The QRP Ranger (left) and LNR Precision LD-11 transceiver (right)

The QRP Ranger (left) and LNR Precision LD-11 transceiver (right)

After two months in Canada and one month spent catching up on work, I’m pleased to make some time this weekend to activate PK01 (the Blue Ridge Parkway) for the ARRL National Parks On The Air (NPOTA).

I’ll be joined by my good friend, Vlado (N3CZ) on August 28–we plan to set up at the Folk Art Center on the parkway around 11:00 EDT and be on the air by 11:30 EDT (15:30 UTC).

I plan to use the LNR Precision LD-11, QRP Ranger and EFT Trail Friendly Antenna combo. Vlado will either use his Icom IC-7000, Kenwood TS-480 or my Elecraft KX1.

Look for us on the following frequencies:

  • CW: +/- 7031, 14061 kHz
  • SSB: +/- 7286, 14286 kHz

Life has been so hectic after having been on the road for two months–I’m pleased to finally have a moment to play radio in the field again!

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October 10: Let’s talk shortwave…and astronomy

PARIdish

I’ve been invited to speak at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), a non-profit educational radio astronomy observatory (and former NASA tracking station as well as one-time NSA installation), in the mountains of western North Carolina.

I’ll be speaking about shortwave radio, of course–both its technical and cultural aspects–on October 10, 2014, at 7:00 pm EDT.  Afterwards, there will be a tour of the PARI campus, and an opportunity to stargaze with both amateur and professional astronomers.

Many thanks to my buddy, Ken Reitz, who shared this article about my presentation in the area’s local county newspaper; here’s my statement about the presentation:

“Shortwave radio is an international communications medium that has been in existence for nearly one hundred years,” said Witherspoon, “yet this vintage technology supports an ever-evolving multicultural landscape that, remarkably, remains relevant today. The Internet and mobile technologies have made the dissemination of information more readily accessible to many, yet shortwave radio remains viable and dynamic, and in many ways still outstrips the Internet.

“I plan to share some of shortwave radio’s diverse voices and investigate some of the technology used to receive them. So, if you are a shortwave enthusiast, or simply interested in learning more about shortwave, this program is for you and will be suitable for all ages.”

Read the full article here–and if you can make the journey, join us for shortwave and astronomical fun. There is a small charge for the evening; all proceeds go towards PARI’s mission of providing public education in astronomy.

PARI is a stunning radio astronomy campus which will no doubt be accentuated by the mountains’ fall leaf colors on October 10. For PARI’s location, click here.

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Dashtoons: Über cool radio art by Jeff K1NSS

Source: Dashtoons.com

Source: Dashtoons.com

Among the fascinating people I met at the Dayton Hamvention this year was Jeff Murray, K1NSS. Though Jeff and I have communicated online, our paths had not yet crossed in real life; I was very pleased to finally meet him in person.

SWLing Post readers will have seen Jeff’s name before: he’s a talented graphic artist (and ham, obviously) whose work focuses on the radio community and culture.

You may recall that Jeff created the art for the the Shortwaveology website, not to mention the cool retro graphic you’ll find on the Shortwave Shindig tee.

Jeff also creates custom QSL cards, comic books, clip art, and promotional material for companies like Alpha Amplifiers…all of it inspired.

s38-flatIf Jeff designed a spaceship based on the aesthetics of the Hallicrafters S-38, it would not surprise me in the least.

Do yourself a favor and check out Jeff’s website at Dashtoon.com. It is chock-full of radio wackiness and whimsy. You can lose yourself there and thoroughly enjoy the scenery.

Jeff Murray (K1NSS) on right, and me (K4SWL) on left among the Dayton Hamvention tail-gaters.

Jeff Murray (K1NSS), left, and me (K4SWL), right among the Dayton Hamvention tailgaters.

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