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ARRL 10m Contest - More Praise

Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭
edited June 2020 in SmartSDR for Windows
I simply cannot stop raving about how wonderful the Flex6500 was this weekend in the 10m contest.

I started Friday evening my time wondering if I had a problem because I saw nothing on 10.  Only a few stations.  I worked all I could and managed 5 contacts before going to bed.  I figured I had antenna problems or worse a problem with the 10m section in my 6500.

I got up Saturday and watched the pan display which is simply fascinating as it slowly went from flatline to lots of cool looking peaks.  I started to work stations and was simply amazed at how well the Flex worked. It was easy to find stations in S&P mode.

I ran at high power most of the weekend.  Sorry but my antenna is not the best and to compete even marginally with the KY6LA's of the world (grin at Howard)  I needed to pour some power in.  I ran my new Expert 1k FA at full power and the fans never even sped up.  Simply amazing.  This amp is quiet, cool and simply a dream to use.  

But the flex... wow.  I'm not a big contester and I'm certainly not that experienced.  Back in the 70's I did a few field days and some other contests but I never really had the station to compete.  For field day in 70's we'd perch a listener with a radio and nice antenna on a mountain peak about 10 miles away.  These guys were responsible for listening and finding new contacts.  They also kept our paper log.  They'd use 2m to call us and tell us to hop on frequency whatever for that new contact.  This was especially useful as the day wore on and contacts become harder to find.

Now days we do this with N1MM and computers and multiple receivers.

I had some glitches.  I used N1MM, CWSkimmer (OK in my category) and the flex and amp with really just one antenna.  Trust me.  CWSkimmer is great but it glitched a lot sending me off frequency to strange places searching for a particular call. 

There was a lot of work involved for a single operator to decode a call, key it in, see if it was a dupe and change to the frequency.  it was especially maddening when CWSkimmer would show that call at 28.xxxx and you'd click on it and end up on 28.yyy light years from the contact and CWSkimmer would update and you'd be lost.  Lots of time was spent scrolling to recover.

After this happened a few times I began to use the up/down band mode where I'd start at 28.000.1 and work my way up checking each and every graphical peak I could decode for a valid contact.  I'd cross check with CWSkimmer but didn't use it to drive things.  This worked very well.  Within a few seconds I'd pickup whether I'd worked that station or not and move on.

Using the ability to expand the graphical display in SmartSDR gave me the ability to examine weaker stations.  I worked a number I could barely hear that were surrounded by massive peaks.  I swear some of these stations must be running 10kw.   Anyway the filters and abilities of the Flex shined through even with a novice contester like myself.

I'd march up the band to about what seemed to be the end of the CW work around 28.150 however I did find a few hidden gems working up around 28.175 that I nailed, then I'd start back down.  Each time I thought I'd worked everyone I'd hear something new would popup.

This exercise certainly helped my CW copy skills.  I found myself easily copying calls at 38 wpm.  Sometimes I took a second pass but most of the time I had it first time.   The DX station numbers were a different matter.  I struggled with those and admit to getting my report and wondering what my number was and waiting to hear the next contact and subtracting 1.  I guess I need to work on my numbers a bit.

My station consisted of my computer running SmartSDR, N1MM logger, CW Skimmer and SDRBridge.  At times I used the CWX window of SmartSDR for those rare cases of needing to ask a question.  I worked a PT station and they asked me to QSY to SSB but didn't give a freq so I had to ask where they work.  I hopped up there and got the multiplier.

Now my score is nothing to boast about.  I had terrible conditions at the start.  Slept the night. Worked about 6 hours on Saturday.  Took a long break over night and about 4 hours on Sunday AM.  In that 10 hour period I managed only 200 contacts and only 54k points.  I know you experts are wondering what I was doing with all my time.  Well there is a lot of learning to be a good contester and I'm far from it.  I also had lots of interruptions from my shack cat who needed attention and various home duties.    Would I have done better with a dedicated 24 hour period.  Probably but I don't think much better as I'm just not that good yet.

What was cool for me is my station is humble compared to some of you.  I have the 6500, Expert 1K amp, and an EF wire antenna up about 30 feet.  The wire is 130 feet in length and it works fairly well on many bands.  It is oriented almost north to south so whatever the radiation pattern is I'm sure there were some nulls.

The 1 stations were booming and I worked all of them no problem.  Same with the 2's.  I could not work 0 station to save my life.  I think I got 4.  6's were ok but week.  8's were miserable. 9's about the same.  FL was amazing.  So many stations from Florida with all kinds of calls from W1 to K9.  

But what shocked me the most running about 900w was how often I got right in with various DX stations.  I nailed the PT, PY, CX, ZL and ZY and quite a few others.  As soon as I'd find them I'd wait things out when they took a break I'd make my call.  About 8 times out of 10 I was the call he sent back.  This was a good feeling.  It meant I was at least loud enough to complete with some of the big guys going after those DX stations.   

But trust me... I know my place.  In contests a Burt has let all of us know I received not one report less than a 59.  But I'm sure I was weak to many stations.  But I do remember a TG9 SSB contact that gave me a very nice 10 over.  I was feeling good until some K9 station blasted my poor 6500 across the room.  This guy was about 3000 over S9 and even the TG9 came back with a bravo... what a signal...  It was humbling... This guy simply took everyone on the band down about 5 notches.  He must have been at 2k with a 200 element beam pointed right at us and perched over a bead of salt water.  God knows.  I know know it was massive and I could hear him working up and down the band.  He'd literally blank my receiver some to the point where I needed to turn down my pre-amp.

He didn't op for long thank God but man what a station.  No it wasn't local.  I looked him up and he was somewhere up in the great lakes area.  Not sure exactly where.  But oh man.. I think he took the coating off my wire antenna with that signal.  I feel the cancer developing my body as I type  :-).

Anyway this thread is about my absolute joy of using the Flex to do this contest which was tough.  The flex is a dream to run and not a single problem during my run.  I did have issues with software, glitches with IQ data and also audio but the flex itself just ran and never once did it or my amp **** or complain.  

For all the issues computers and software can have this is an experience that has convinced me this is the way I want to do ham radio.

I have remote privileges at a few stations and I have an account with remotehamradio.com.  During the contest I logged in to a couple places and poked around.  I found myself really missing the pan adapter.  While the antennas at remotehamradio are amazing I found myself struggling to find stations using the non-pan, slightly more traditional interface.  Anyway I did not make or log any contacts via the remote interfaces.  I was just curious how it felt and how the signals were.  The signals into the remotehamradio stations were stunning.  I wish my station heard as well.  But without the pan I felt that wonderful antenna system was almost wasted, at leas on an op like me.

So I felt good about my effort.  I felt good about my little station, my amp, my wire.  I felt good about the flex most of all.  I cannot imagine a contest without it.

Way to go flex!!!

If there was one thing I would like is to integrate all of the software.  I found the connections between N1MM (which is great) and CW Skimmer, SDR Bridge etc, all a little fragile.  I want what Howard wants I think.  In a contest I'd like to have my pan adapter painted with calls that I've worked and have not worked.  To have all that in one place would be amazing.


  • KY6LA_Howard
    KY6LA_Howard Member ✭✭✭
    edited January 2017
    Great report Mark On the K3 there is a program called NaP3 which integrates the spots into the Panadapter display so everything is in the same place. I think you now understand how useful that would be if you could do it on your Flex. FYI Dogspark does it for. Flex on the Mac. Still waiting for someone to do it on a PC.
  • Ross - K9COX
    Ross - K9COX Member ✭✭
    edited June 2017
    Was it K9CT? Good read!
  • Mark_WS7M
    Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭
    edited December 2015
    It might have been.  I think I was shell shocked after that signal hit!  :-)
  • Ken - NM9P
    Ken - NM9P Member ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Thanks for your report.
    I was only able to work the test for a very few hours -- a little on Friday night, but the band died before I could make more than about 12 contacts.  I had about an hour or two on Saturday (the XYL had travel plans) and a couple of hours at the end of the contest on Sunday when the band was dying again.  I only got a total of 86 contacts, mixed mode, low power.  I missed most of the best prop times.   My main hope was to snag a few more states for 10 meter WAS.  I may have gotten only three of the 15  i have remaining.  I wish I had been able to put a serious effort into the contest, but had many more important things to do this weekend.  

    As usual, i am addicted to the visual display of the panafall.
    the CW filters are unsurpassed.
    With some judicious adjustment of RX EQ, APF, AGC-t and NR, it is a pleasure to operate on CW.  
    SSB TX audio can be customized to give great punch without being overly processed or distorted.
    SSB Receive can be enhanced by using the RX EQ and the filters are superb.  (I do wish I could right-click on the filter buttons and program custom Hi/Lo settings for each one, as in PSDR.  I really miss this very handy feature.) 

    I agree with the OP that adding a couple of additional programmed steps to the tuning speeds for mouse-wheel or FlexControl tuning would be handy.  I am particularly fond of the 250 Hz step when using mouse-wheel tuning.  A 25 Hz step might also be handy.

    Al NN4ZZ has requested what I call a "What was that?" button.  i.e. a "black box" type of recorder that could be replayed.  I had several instances where the DX operator was sending CW too fast for me to copy my serial in one cycle (or even a couple of them) and it would have been nice to hit a "go back" button and hear my report again without asking for a repeat.  It also would be handy when fatigue makes me forget the number somewhere between sending my reply and getting my fingers to the keyboard!  (Getting older is a pain in the neck!)

    It was, however, nice to run ten meters with the new LP at 38 ft.  which was a good height for 10 meters.  I was able to hear and work stations long after I usually would with my other antennas.

    I have completely stopped using the 160 Meter Offset Fed Dipole and homebrew vertical for anything above 30 meters.  I have not found any time where the beam wasn't better, so I have already taken the resonators off of the vertical and am planning to remake the dipole into a 3-band fan dipole (inverted 'V') for 80/40/30 and mount it on the tower, building a 160 Inverted 'L' at the tower and running the end to the tree that currently holds the dipole.  

  • Mark_WS7M
    Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭
    edited December 2015
    Ken, have you seen the fun movie Galaxy Quest with Tim Allen?

    The movie has the Omega device which turns out to set time back about 13 seconds.

    It would seem to me this would be a very cool feature in an SDR.  Perhaps a program or something in SSDR that recorded the last 10 seconds of RX audio from a slice and kept about 10 of these around so like a circular queue.

    You could very quickly select one and listen to it again.  I could see that as being very useful.

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