More on The KAT-500 Antenna Tuner   November 29th, 2013

We;; I have spoken about the KAT-500 and how it looks to be both a good physical and Elecrtical match for the ANAN-100E transceiver. I connected it all up and fed my balanced fed wire dipole, which has a total length of around 75ft, via the Elecraft KAT-500 and a 4:1 balun. This provided a very nice installation. My favourite band is 40m and the ATU tuned up perfectly on this band. The next band was 30m, which a manual ATU has struggled with. Again, a prefect match. I proceeded though all the bands right up to10m without a problem.

Mt next test was to switch from band to band to see how the memory system worked. It was spot on. I just need a sniff of RF to recall the settings that the KAT-500 had previously stored in its memory.. In effect, I was able to switch to any HF band from 40m upwards and get an instant match. The length of coax cable between the balun and ATU was around 60cms, so the loss is minimal and of of no consequence

I was very impressed with the results. The instant and positive memory recall of the KAT-500 is a major feature. With a manual ATU, band changing is never a fast procedure, and even if the settings for each band are written down, invariably a tweak is necessary before you are ready to transmit. Compare this with nothing more than switching bands on the transceiver and pressing the PTT..

As I mentioned before, the KAT-500 is not cheap. However, if you consider that you are getting a very wide range and capable auto ATU that can handle up to 1kW, then it rather puts it into perspective. Peter G3OJV

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Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 15.20.37]]It is always interesting to look at the various different options for building a station. The recent introduction and success of the new Apache-Labs SDR transceivers has resulted in a few questions about ATUs. The trend these days is to use an auto ATU and there are a number of choices. But often the need is for something that is as close a match as possible.

Apache-Labs, at present, do not make an auto ATU and so it was a case of trying to find one that was a good “match” in terms of operation and physical size. I think I have come up with the answer. As you can see from the photo above, it is the Elecraft KAT-500.

Now I am a great fan of the Elecraft Auto ATU design as it has the reputation for matching the widest possible range of antennas. Many of you who follow this blog will know that I am a great fan of open wire feeder, not the least of which is one’s ability to use it as a means of making a very simple “all band” dipole.

I have used this system in my modest station for a number of years now and it is certainly the most economical antenna system that I know of. The down side is that the feed point can present a very wide range of reactance and impedance values. These can be quite challenging for an ATU. And hence my choice of the Elecraft model. If anything can cope, this one will.

I know it is not the cheapest around, but then the best is never going to be the cheapest. And in terms of cost, it probably comes into perspective a bit more when you consider the cost of alternative all band antennas. And if that is not enough to persuade you, then do remember, that the KAT-500 can handle well above the UK legal limit. So in that respect it is also a good investment.

I will let you know in time how I get on with it. The photo shot is the easy bit! Peter G3OJV

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Apache-Labs ANAN-100E Transceiver   November 24th, 2013

Anybody that has tried the Apache-Labs transceivers can not fail to be impressed with the fabulous performance of the receiver section. They really are top class and with the excellent selectivity and the brilliant noise reduction, it is very easy to set the system up to operate just the way you want it to.

One of the impressive features of SDR is the panoramic display which can cover the complete spectrum of most ham bands. For the VHF and UHF operator the most used is often the waterfall display. It is ideal for spotting beacons and weak signals.

At present the Apache-Labs transceiver upper frequency limitation is 6m. However we have been pleased to learn that 2m and 70cm transverters are now in the planning stage. These will be a tremendously popular item and will probably be housed in similar enclosures to match the transceivers. But the additional good news is that these transverters will have dual receiver sections that will permit diversity reception. This is good news for EME operators who can make good use of such a feature. We have no delivery dates yet and our best guess will be next summer. I will keep you posted.

I spent part of the weekend operating in the CQ CW contest. This was a good test for the ANAN-100E. In fact it was made more interesting by virtue of the fact that I was using an Apple MacBook Pro using Fusion. I had already tried this some days ago with my iMac desktop that is a few years old now. The MacBook Pro is a current model and the improved performance showed in terms of lower latency. The superb receiver performance was a great asset during the contest as were the good band conditions.

Today (Sunday) I had less time to operate as I was playing drums at both morning ad evening church services. By contrast, tomorrow I am playing jazz in a local pub and on Tuesday am playing in a music support group at a church service conducted by our local bishop. Ah well, ham radio had to take a back seat sometimes! Peter G3OJV

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Another Mystery Solved   November 21st, 2013

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It is amazing how one sometimes is faced with a service problem that seems complex and unusual.

We recently had an Elecraft KX3 transceiver returned to us with a report of very low sensivity, but only on CW. This clearly was an unusual case and one that produced some head scratching. The most likely cause was a problem on the main control board and possibly a firmware problem. But this proved not to be the case. Substituting our test front panel did not cure the problem. So it was decided to replace the complete rear RF board. These type of tests are very easy for us as we carry a reference KX3 which enables us to quickly snap into place a new appropriate section. However, with the new RF board in place the problem still persisted.

There was only one item left, and that was the ribbon cable connecting the RF and control boards. So this was removed and examined. As the ribbon is transparent it is easy to see the individual wires and all the solder joints. It looked perfect. We had a spare used ribbon cable so we used this to replace the original one. Again the problem remained.

Well at this stage there was nothing else to replace! It is at times like this that you just sit and look at the radio that is defying all logic. Every bit had been replaced and the fault remained. As a last resort, I got out a brand new ribbon cable even though teh replacement one looked fine. To my surprise the problem was cured! Both ribbon cables had the same fault. On neither cable is the fault visible and the chances of both cable having the same fault seems pretty remote. However, that is exactly what happened.

So a happy customer is reunited with his KX3 radio. Peter, G3OJV.

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Force 12 Antennas   November 19th, 2013

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Here at Waters & Stanton, we are for every looking to bring to you the very latest in ham radio products. And our latest move has to become appointed as the exclusive UK reseller for the Force 12 antenna range from the USA.

We will be carrying the full range of these antennas and also be able to help our with spare parts. In due course they will be added to our web site but in the mean time, if would like to learn more about the Force 12 range of antennas and products, then please click HERE.

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Cheap Competition   November 19th, 2013

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Yaesu’s fight back with their new FT-252 handheld, against the Chinese influx of cheap handhelds is impressive. The market for low cost handheld radios has become very crowded indeed and it is staggering to contemplate how many are being produced and where they are all going. It is also a very complex manufacturing web in China, with hundreds off different assembly factories using common boards in their own personalised enclosures,although in some cases it is little more than a name badge!

The success of this sector of the market has been considerable and whilst the ham market for these radios may start to approach saturation point, there is no doubt that we are seeing the emergence of the disposable handheld. And that in itself will probably help to maintain production.

The low cost does not seem to have affected reliability but there are differences between the Japanese sourced products and those from China. The Japanese are better mechanically and often have features that are not present on the cheeper Chinese models. The models from Japan are also more logical to operate. But this is what you would expect where there is a big price differential. And for many that trade off, less features for a lower price, is very acceptable. The one issue which has to be taken into consideration is the service back up and long term availability of spares. The big Japanese names are very good at this.

In the end it is a case of you pay your money and take your choice. I guess that for many, there is a place for both. A Japanese handheld for home and portable operation and a cheap Chinese one in the glove box of the car just in case – – — – – one of them goes faulty! And a final thought: where exactly is the FT-252 made? Probably not in Japan! Peter G3OJV.

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Back to the Past   November 18th, 2013

There is an inescapable fact that fifty years ago those of us licensed then were enjoy some great DX with equipment that was much inferior to that which is available today. Valves drifting oscillators, the absence of decent IF filters and much more modest antenna systems were the norm. So how did we manage it?

Well we can make all kinds of hypothesis as to why, but here are a few ideas that I have come up with that may help to explain the reasons. Firstly there was far less man made noise and it could be of the order of 20dB or so less. Gardens were bigger, so we could erect larger antennas and taller masts. Band conditions were quite different and sunspot cycles had better peaks. There was less competition as there were fewer hams and fewer commercial transmissions.

I am sure that others can come up with additional suggestions, but if you consider just these few possible reasons, it is not difficult to see how us older hams enjoyed such good times with such basic gear.

Those days are gone, but perhaps modern technology and trends will keep the hobby lively and popular. Peter G3OJV.

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SDR on an Apple PC   November 18th, 2013

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I have for many years been a devotee of Apple products and used Apple PCs in all my work, whether it be at the office or for music. This works out well until it comes to radio where you start to come up against a few problems. Some you can work around, but recently we have been appointed as the European distributors for Apach-Labs, the Indian manufacturer of SDR transceivers for the amateur radio market, and I wanted to try it out at home.

There is software being written for the Apple PC so that Apache-Labs will run on this platform, but at the moment this is some way off. I have in the past used BootCamp, but this is certainly not up to the mark as far as SDR is concerned. Fusion seems on balance to be a better option, but I had no previous experience of it. The problem with BooCamp is that you have to reboot your Apple PC every time you want to change from OS x to Windows. With Fusion this is not necessary and you can run both platforms at the same time. You also don’t have to pre-allocate a set disk space.

My first plan was to run Fusion on my lap top because it is a current MacBook Pro and would seem to offer the best performance. Fusion installed fine, but then I suddenly realised that Apple no longer include an Ethernet socket on their laptops. I needed an adaptor that I did not have. So I decided to install Fusion on my iMac which is about 4 or 5 years old. Fusion installed fine and I then installed the SDR software. That was no problem either. So now it was time to connect up the Apache-Labs ANAN-100DE.

After a few setting changes in the SDR software, the ANAN-100DE was talking to the iMac with no problem. I initially set the software up so that I was receiving audio via the iMac. This worked OK as well, but there was some latency. I had a few SSB QSOs using the microphone directly into the ANAN-100D. The reports back were excellent. So SDR, or at least Apache-Labs SDR, can be operated via a Mac using Fusion.

Further tests showed that there was in fact more latency than I had first realised. It is not really a problem on SSB but for CW it was impossible because of the significant time lag between moving the paddle and hearing the tone. However, as soon as I connected headphones firectly to the ANAN-100D rather than to the PC, the latency issue disappeared and I was able to operate CW without any problem.

It’s early days yet, but I think that I have proved that the Apache-Labs ANAN series of transceivers can be operated with an Apple based system. My next task is to instal an Ethernet converter on my MacBook Pro and see how that operates. In theory, it should be better as it is much faster. we will see! Peter G3OJV.

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Down But Not Out   November 18th, 2013

Our blog connection has been down yet again. It has been frustrating to say the least. My area of expertise is certainly not the internet and software. However, it seems that our connection is back and new posts are again possible.

I am also glad to see Julian, G4ILO back with some blog entries. That QRX back in August was a long one, and many missed reading of Julian’s reporting on his latest activities.

For my part, I am now recovering from the eye surgery and reading is now possible without the aid of a magnifying glass. This was source of amusement in the office. Thee is still a way to go yet though, but being able to read is a good start.

It seems I have missed the excitement on 10m, but my time had been spent on work projects. I have also spent a few interesting hours in our Service Department, giving advice rather than doing hands on work, for pretty obvious reasons. Peter G3OJV.

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Black Friday   November 13th, 2013

There are occasions when equipment just seems to have a hidden tag that say it was made on a Friday afternoon. By that I mean that it is equipment that seems to have a fault ratio that is way above what you would expect. I have been involved in ham radio for more than forty years and I can tell you that the Friday radio can carry any manufacturer’s name tag. It transcends all the top brands. No matter what brand you choose, there will at some point be a Friday radio.

Now it would be reasonable to expect that such a radio suffers from faulty manufacturing, Something that went wrong on the production line. But in reality, it is a failure of a component, and this cannot normally be blamed on the maker of the radio, unless the component is not suitable. But in this case it would be a production problem. That is something that is quite different to what is being discussed here.

It is almost as if the radio has developed a character all of its own and is determined to be a trouble maker. Some may think that this is an exaggeration, but if you are the unlucky owner of one such item, then you may well understand this description. But fortunately these events are rare, but for all that, they do exist. Fundamentally there is no connection between a faulty PA, a crackling volume control, a voltage controller failure and a display with characters missing. Could this happen to one radio in a short period of time? Well ye it could and it has. And yet the radio in question comes from one of the big Japanese factories and is widely accepted as a popular and reliable model.

I guess there is the same odds against this happening as there is in wining the Lottery. Unfortunately the latter brings far more enjoyment than the former. Peter G3OJV.

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