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Share you CQWW SSB Experience (2021)

Mike-VA3MW
Mike-VA3MW Administrator, FlexRadio Employee, Community Manager, Super Elmer, Moderator admin
edited November 2021 in Contesting

Hi All

I would love to hear about your weekend experiences during CQWW. As I worked a bunch of you I thought I would share how it went for me. Regardless if you are a big gun or a little pistol, I want to hear your story.

Part of this story is one I shared with my contest club.



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Score


My station is operated as a remote station even when local to the property thanks to the architecture of the FlexRadio LAN based design.  As part of that design, a Window 10 PC is co-located with the radio equipment. Contest operation is handled by connecting to the PC via a Remote Desktop Connection.  This allows the station to be used not only while on the property but anywhere in the world. Audio and PTT is handled the FlexRadio SmartSDR software. VFO control is via a hardware VFO knob again, interfaced to SmartSDR. RadioSport headset is was connected to the MAC running SmartSDR for MAC.

I had decided early to give this contest a serious effort but not hard enough to be sleep-deprived. I rested when I was tired and when I thought I would not keep up any reasonable QSO rate.  

I also operated from a Desk that I could sit and stand at and quickly move up and down as required. This really made a difference and I highly recommend it for long-running contests. 

Friday morning I quickly figured out that my DX Engineering Active antenna was not working. Inspection of the RG6 feedline showed that someone in mother nature had chewed into it in 3 places. An hour trip to Home Depot for a new role of RG6 quickly fixed that issue.

Friday afternoon, I spent some time confirming how my contest audio sounded by first using Full Duplex and then checking on the air. My Low Cut (high pass filter) was set to 250Hz and the High Cut (lower pass filter) was set to 2700hz.

Next, I made sure the Audio was bright (very few lows) in order to allow my voice to cut through noise and pileups.



I also made sure that my voice peaks on the level metering did not exceed about -5 to -10db. I actually saw a video stream of my signal and it was a really nice column with no splatter. This was my goal.

Highlights

The station ran as designed other than I had an audio path issue with the N1MM Voice Keyer and its connection to SmartSDR DAX. Fortunately, the band conditions were amazing and there was no need for the voice keyer. I ultimately got it resolved on Sunday morning. This was my only snag. 

I had amazing run rates on 80M, 40,M and 20M.  

The 80M run focused on US contestors but it was also interjected by many EU callers.  The band was noisy, but using Diversity reception (80M V and DX Engineering Active antenna) really helped.  In this case, Diversity is used for signal enhancement (not noise subtraction).

2021-10-30 0201 - 0315Z,  3770 kHz, 185 Qs, 151.6/hr VA3MW 2021-10-30 0316 - 0321Z,  3770 kHz, 18 Qs, 232.3/hr VA3MW 

I had a great run into the EU on 20M by being below 14.150Mhz and not having to compete with US callers and congestion. However, I am surprised by how many US contestors called me below 14.150Mhz.  The advantage of being below 14.150 was that I was able to copy a lot of very weak EU signals.  

2021-10-30 2013 - 2128Z,  14132 kHz, 178 Qs, 142.5/hr VA3MW 

I missed a good 10M run as I was taking a break. I was glad to see others were able to do so.

2021-10-31 1735 - 1751Z,  28427 kHz, 23 Qs, 86.6/hr VA3MW 

My 15M run wasn’t bad (by my standards) but everyone was about S5 or less on a quiet-sounding band. Still, pretty good numbers. Then out of nowhere, 2 VK’s and 1 ZL boom in, calling me, and then the Pacific was gone again.  

2021-10-31 1846 - 1938Z,  21365 kHz, 102 Qs, 118.1/hr VA3MW 

On Sunday about 4 hours before the end of the contest, I tried 20M again to get a run going below 14.150Mhz. This time, I was beaming about 315 degrees (between Australia and Japan) hoping to get a JA run going. I never got the run going as I only worked about 10 weak JA’s. In the middle of that, B1Z (China) called me. I had to confirm his call twice to be sure.  

With 2 hours to go, I need to figure out if I was going to Run or hunt down Multipliers. 40M was hopping and the band was packed all the way to 7.200Mhz. I thought I would spend 10M on 7.215Mhz and see if I could run U.S. Contestors. That worked out very well and really bumped up the score. 

2021-10-31 2200 - 2327Z,  7215 kHz, 300 Qs, 206.6/hr VA3MW 

It was great to see the bands coming around again and they certainly make for a fun time. I am sure we are going to see some amazing scores.  I have not had repeated run rates like this for some time.

I never heard much from the CME. I heard 1 station with some flutter (Zone 3), but only 1. Considering the solar flux, I thought the bands delivered as expected. 

73, Mike va3mw

CQ WorldWide SSB - 2021-10-30 0000Z to 2021-11-01 0000z

2021-10-30 0201 - 0315Z,  3770 kHz, 185 Qs, 151.6/hr VA3MW

2021-10-30 0316 - 0321Z,  3770 kHz, 18 Qs, 232.3/hr VA3MW

2021-10-30 1255 - 1326Z,  14143 kHz, 53 Qs, 103.1/hr VA3MW

2021-10-30 1725 - 1740Z,  21321 kHz, 21 Qs, 84.3/hr VA3MW

2021-10-30 1842 - 1905Z,  21242 kHz, 53 Qs, 133.7/hr VA3MW

2021-10-30 2013 - 2128Z,  14132 kHz, 178 Qs, 142.5/hr VA3MW

2021-10-31 0220 - 0232Z,  3697 kHz, 38 Qs, 185.6/hr VA3MW

2021-10-31 0237 - 0329Z,  3697 kHz, 130 Qs, 151.2/hr VA3MW

2021-10-31 1048 - 1112Z,  3770 kHz, 61 Qs, 150.6/hr VA3MW

2021-10-31 1735 - 1751Z,  28427 kHz, 23 Qs, 86.6/hr VA3MW

2021-10-31 1846 - 1938Z,  21365 kHz, 102 Qs, 118.1/hr VA3MW

2021-10-31 2200 - 2327Z,  7215 kHz, 300 Qs, 206.6/hr VA3MW 

Station

Flex 6600 with SmartSDR for MAC Client/GUI

Power Genius Amplifier

160M, 80M CW wire vertical with elevated radials

80M V at 70ft apex

40M V and 40M 2 element array

3 Element Steppir Antenna GeniusRotator Genius  

RadioSport headset


This is what it sounded like:


Comments

  • KD0RC
    KD0RC Broomfield, COMember, Super Elmer Moderator

    Great summary of your operation Mike. As one of the people who worked you a couple of times, I can confirm that you ran a really clean signal. On 80 M, you were over S9 into Colorado and with very punchy (bright) audio. I think you really nailed it in terms of your TX parameters.

    I took a much more casual approach and just worked a few stations here and there looking for new countries.

    One observation: I noticed that most of the contesters had very clean signals. Often on non-contest weekends, I see really wide splattery signals up and down the band. While I did see some of that, it was significantly less than what would be seen on a "normal" weekend.

  • Wayne VK4ACN
    Wayne VK4ACN Member ✭✭
    edited November 2021

    Im only a very little pistol, but in previous contests at some stage during the contest the flex would crash or give a few problems. This time it didnt miss a beat and worked flawlessly. I used the Maestro this time for the whole time, not SmartSdr as in previous contests.

  • W2JV_
    W2JV_ Member ✭✭

    Mike,

    You must be telepathic! I was running an abbreviated schedule in the contest with my 6400 M and with band conditions doing so well it became a challenge to set the panadapter and filters to separate and hear the stations. Mike, would you consider doing a video of how to get the most of the FLEX software to maximize results in a contest setting, thank you.

    73, Peter, W2JV

  • Mike-VA3MW
    Mike-VA3MW Administrator, FlexRadio Employee, Community Manager, Super Elmer, Moderator admin

    @W2JV_

    Certainly. I would be happy to share what works for me. :)

  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭

    Since you asked... :(

    I think over last 3 years with Flex I had 1 contest that I remember without any interrupts, lockups, and crashes.

    Here is a new one - I opened ticket yesterday but did not get response yet.

    "I received my radio from Flex about 2 weeks ago from repair.

    Radio operated flawlessly in FT8 and some CW. Never tested SSB. During CQ WW DX contest my SSB signal intermittently got "NO PTT IN" error and interrupted TX. I had to release the foot switch and start over my transmit. I lost several contacts as DX stations cannot wait for me to reactivate my TX, besides it is very annoying and making not efficient operation during contest.

    Frequency of these errors, somewhere 15-40min between them. The error shown up on TGXL and no output at this time. I did power cycle TGXL and reseated LAN cable without any improvement. On Sunday, I tried to isolate the issue by shutting off TGXL. No errors on PGXL but several times I saw no output on PGXL as well and had to reactivate the foot switch.

    It seems like the issue triggering by radio. Nothing changed in my station while radio was at Flex for repair".

    No issues noted in other modes so far. All my connection done by LAN cables - 6600-PGXL-TGXL-AG2x8.

    One more thing, for the last 3 years everyone told me that I have 2 many things running on my PC. This summer I purchased another 2 computers and loaded only SSDR and logs, still the same issues.

    I replaced my router, network switch and cables.

    No RFI here as my crashes are random even during idle time.

    Anyway, above issue with "NO PTT IN" is a new one.

    This is another contest where I gave up after few hundreds QSO!

    Sergey

  • I actually took a pause in the contest to temporarily put my previous radio to the 6400M back in line to see if I had suddenly morphed into a better contester or the 6400M, bought in July, was really that much superior. That previous radio I won't name since I'm not here to denigrate any brand but just to say it is another SDR with knobs and a computer within.

    With the 6400M I had very easily, or moderately easily, broken all but two pile-ups including even very fierce ones. This led me to believe by the second day that my audio was very clear and punchy. In running stations, especially distant ones like NA (I am in EU) on 160m, I was not only hearing clearly but not suffering fatigue. This had plagued me over the WW SSB contests of the past 5 years with the other radio. I had initially put that down to advancing decrepitude but had started to think that a major factor was the higher receiver noise that the other radio suffered from.

    Having swapped back to the other radio and started calling pile-ups and running stations on 80m, it did become a sure thing that the 6400M was indeed superior. The other radio was noisier and the extra difficulty in quickly picking out one of many callers in a crowded band was patently obvious. After 2 hours of purgatory I stopped again to get the 6400M back on the operating desk.

    Posting numbers is not for me and, in any case, I rarely send an entry but all-in-all it was a very pleasant and fruitful experience with the Flex.

    I used N1MM and had set it up, with the DVK, per an excellent video tutorial by Mike VA3MW. Everything worked very smoothly. I used the same microphone with both radios - an electret AntLion modmic which I have always loved and which seems to suit the Flex perfectly.


    Erik EI4KF.

  • Ignacy
    Ignacy Member ✭✭

    Definitely the propagation was best in years. 10m fully opened up. The participation was better than in a long time. Usually by Sunday evening one can work any station with ease but this time there were still pileups. I did OK but less than expected given the new ham-only QTH:

    Flex 6600 + Expert 1.3k-fa amp.

    JK Mid Tri at 30m and JK Mid Tri at 18m: 2 el 40m, 2 x 3 el 20, 2 x 4 el 15m, 2 x 5 el 10m.

    10-20m Spiderbeam @ 12m. 4 sq on 80m. 30m tower loaded on 160m. Beverages 150-300m in 7 directions.

    Regarding this group, 2 QSOs with VA3MW and a 160m QSO with EI4KF. Altogether 1540 QSOs and 2.4 M points.

    The receive was excellent. Very clear signals even for stations in the mud. But I could not maintain a run frequency on 20m and 15m. I had a good run on 10m but had to change frequencies a few times as my signal was noncompetitive. Partly due to GA being in the south and having to beat all the northerly signals to EU. What was disturbing that in pileups sometimes local stations with tribanders were stronger. I noticed that my amplifier was running colder (40C instead of 50C) than when driven by K3. This suggests low mean power and less efficient speech processor than K3 despite the DX+ setting. With good RF speech processors, increasing the AF gain boosts the signals and increases the ambient noise gradually, without special distortions. In Flex, like in radios with AF processors, increasing the AF gain past a certain point introduces bad distortions.

    The Flex never crashed as opposed to many crashes last year. But N1MM voice memories stopped working every 20-30 min and restarting N1MM was needed. N1MM Voice messages required special editing as the signals recorded by N1MM had about 1 second empty spots in front and in the end, and Flex was clipping 0.3 from both ends.

    By the end of Sunday there was S4 powerline noise in 10 and 15m towards JA. The Flex cancels it completely on an empty band but introduces distortions with signal present to a point that NB does not help. Need to hunt that noise that is coming via power lines probably from a km away. Last time a similar noise was coming from a pole 1.5km away located on a private road in area popular with hunters.

    So 3 wishes for SmartSDR: better speech processor, native voice memories and working noise blanker.

    Ignacy, NO9E

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