My CQ WW SSB experiences

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  • Praise
  • Updated 4 years ago
I ran 12 hours of the CQ WW SSB contest this past weekend with my 6500 and WOW! Here are some impressions and a couple of problems. I have known about most of these since I got the rig in late Summer.

The receiver is stunning.. filters are brick wall. I could just slide someone out of the bandwidth when QRM got bad. Best I have ever used.

Between the filters and the extremely quiet rig, the 6500 made the difference in hearing the weak ones. The RX EQ let me boost and cut the receive audio and helped make some of the poor audio / muffled stations readable.

I received many unsolicited comments on my audio.... I was usually running 230Hz - 2700Hz, sometimes down to 2500Hz when the band was really crowded.

The dual panadapter let me keep an eye on the propagation of some of the other bands while working my main band. I didn't use the second Slice receive, just the pan...

BTW, what a wonderful Saturday 10 Meter band! Signals on the pan from 28.300 - 29.250 Mhz. It looked like a New York traffic jam!

Gripes & problems....
(I know these will be fixed in later releases, but this was my experience.)

Noise Blanker: My local power line interference was back all weekend. The noise blanker helped a lot on weak signals covered by the impulse noise if I carefully adjusted the AGC-T and NB levels. But the display was often not very helpful on 10 Meters where it was worst. Tuning blind was not very fun after getting used to the panadapter.

I found that the noise blanker was not very friendly to strong signals over S9. After a strong signal, I often had to turn the NB off and on, sometimes several times, in order to get it to "take" and start working again. The same was true whenever I changed bands, or changed antennas. It seemed as if the NB would sometimes forget what it was doing, or get confused by signals on the band, and just stop working. Then I had to cycle it, again sometimes multiple times until it started to function. Then it would work well again, until something in the RF environment changed, then back to the NB switch I went....

Noise Reduction: Not very helpful for the most part. It seems to color the audio so much that I have to really boost the RX EQ in order to understand anyone. Then if I forgot and turned the NR off before I turned the RX EQ off, the my ears got a severe beating from the inrush of High Frequency from the EQ. This needs attention. I imagine that NR is currently much more effective in CW than it is on SSB due to the high frequency roll off.

I didn't need to try the ANF much, but my experience is that it also takes a lot of the low end out of the audio, making it a lot thinner. Not as badly as the NR does to the highs, but it is noticeable. When using it, I seldom need to turn it above about 5-10.

Ease of use:

I cannot imagine using this in a fast paced contest without the FlexControl Knob. (Thanks, Tim, for steering me this direction!) It will be really nice when full control functions are implemented, such as dual Slice control, RIT/XIT, etc.

I really miss the TX Profiles on my 1500! It took WAY too many keystrokes to adjust my audio bandwidth in the middle of a contest.

Persistance: Changing bands as often as I did during the contest really rubbed in the fact that I had to reset AGC-T, preamp, filter width & high/low frequencies, panadapter scale & baseline settings, DSP - NB/NR/ANF settings, and other settings EVERY time I changed bands. This was very annoying, and worse, wasted a lot of my time. Until I ran the contest I wasn't as patient with those who complained about this, because I didn't change bands that often in a typical session and it didn't seem to be that big of a deal. Now I am eagerly awaiting the release of v. 1.1. This will be a VERY appreciated upgrade! Hurry up January! I can't wait!

DAX will be really appreciated when it arrives, as will be the repair of the Virtual serial port PTT (and CW keying, I hope!) Then I can use the K9DUR voice keyer, or the voice keyer in my N3FJP logging programs.

Antenna tuner memory will be very much appreciated when it arrives. I used an OCF Dipole and a 31 ft. vertical. It would have been very handy to have one antenna on each antenna port and have the Antenna Tuner remember the settings for each antenna on each band so that I could switch instantly from antenna to antenna and band to band and not have to take several seconds tuning again. It would also keep QRM down, even though it only tunes with 10 watts.

I ran for 7 1/2 hours on Saturday evening and about 5 hours on Sunday afternoon and my fan never seemed to kick in to high speed. If it did, it was pretty quiet.

Operating from Indiana, starting at about 4 pm local time Saturday until 10:20 pm, and again from 1 pm to the end of the contest with a 2 hour break, I was able to put up the following numbers on 40-10 Meters:

178 contacts,
451 Total QSO points
168 Multipliers ,
Total score 75,768.

Not a big gun score, but not too shabby for modest antennas and only 100 watts.

In short, I loved running the contest with this rig. The receiver was far superior to my old, beloved TS-850SAT. It will be stellar once the DSP section is brought up to snuff and the various persistances are added.

Sorry this is so long, but this is the first chance to give a comprehensive performance review.
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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Posted 4 years ago

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Photo of Tim - W4TME

Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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Thanks for the nice review, Ken. All of your comments for improvements will be taken under consideration
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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Additional comments... Stuff I forgot:

I forgot to mention the wonderful pan display.
As a "search and pounce" operator, it was very nice to be able to tune around and see the signals on the band. I often had the whole phone band on 40 & 20 Meters, and about half of it on 15 & 10.
As I tuned from bottom to top of the band, many times I would go past an "empty" spot only to have a station start transmitting right after I went past. I could just back up and get him, then move on. The pan was especially handy on 10 & 15 as the bands began to fade. I could zoom the vertical scale and make the pips of even weak ones more visible. Very handy.

I kept the FPS at between 8-10 and the display settled down a bit.
But I am REALLY looking forward to display trace averaging and Panafall, both will make the display much more usable and less tiring.

The four main things the display needs to make this a first class contest rig:
(Not necessarily in order of priority, because they ALL need to be present)

1) Adjustable Display Trace Averaging
2) Panafall -- with adjustable speed & color, etc. would help graph the band use history and help track more signals, especially as the bands begin to fade.
3) Noise Blanker applied to the display pan.
4) auto adjusting baseline upon band changing or zooming. I would also suggest allowing a "right-click & drag" on the right hand scale to adjust the signal strength display zoom. This would speed things up a bit.

also handy would be:
5) adjustable "scroll points" so that the screen doesn't begin scrolling as quickly when I approach the left and right edges of the display when tuning with the FlexControl Knob.
6) adjustable transparent color backgrounds for band allocations, or at least band edge markers for phone/CW sub bands. My preference would be a selectable/adjustable color background indicating the CW & Phone sub bands with definable colors.
7) panadapter memory... i.e. when I change bands, the pan display edges return to the same place. perhaps even with band stacking memory -- different band edges for different modes.

Additional rig functions that would improve the contest performance...

8) "quick memories" like my TS-850 had... I can save 5 or 10 quick frequencies for stations of interest and step through them quickly to see if the path has cleared for a contact with them, then return to my original frequency.
9) Definable band-antenna default combinations: a default antenna is automatically selected for each band. I can change to a different antenna for a moment, but when I change bands and return, it still goes to the default antenna.
10) Definable keyboard shortcuts for certain functions, like Slice select, band changes, filter selection, etc. Perhaps even allow me to so a Left or RT and slide the filter bandpass one way or another with greater precision than the mouse lets me do, perhaps in 10 or 50 Khz steps?
11) Right-click on a filter select button in order to redefine it with width and cut-off frequencies, as in PowerSDR. Then have filter persistance for band changes.

Note: These are not really gripes, but are suggestions for improvement that will make this an even greater contesting rig.

I also note that many of these changes are already on the "roadmap" in one form or another. I look forward to their implementation, which will make a great rig a whole lot better!
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I had a similar setup Ken. I had two panadapters open with slice A in the top and slice B in the bottom. I kept slice A in the left headphone and B in the right. Using N1MM in SO2V mode I could easily bounce between two bands. I used spotting assistance this time and it was easy to click on the spot in the N1MM bandmap to tune to the station. One bandmap for each VFO (slice). So I was eventually just going through all the spots on the two bandmaps.....

Changing bands from N1MM was still problematic as the panadapters did not follow the band changes, only the slice did.

Contrast between a filled in signal and the rest of the panadapter would also be a huge help. With so many strong signals it became difficult to tell what was signal and what wasn't without the contrast.

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Ron - K1RE

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I'm a brand new user, with a 6700, Alpha 9500 and a log periodic. Grabbed a few hours here and there over the weekend and was "blown away" over the effectiveness of the system, particularly when coupled with the DXLabs suite.

In addition to what has been covered above, I noticed that, almost invariably, when I "pounced" on a spot, I needed to adjust the freq with the FlexControl knob - not much, perhaps <100hz. It was almost as if I had RIT turned on. Has anyone noticed anything similar?

Tks es 73,
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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I operated unassisted, so didn't use spotting. But in the past I have noticed that spots are often off frequency due to individual tuning preferences, especially when stations are using "contest audio" with all the low frequencies cut.
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Roger Rockwell/na4rr

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Reply to Ron, Yes I had the same thing. When I click on a spot I would have to adj freq or I was not on them. Spot would be say 28.460.000 I would need to go to 28.460.05 or even 28.460.100. If not they sounded like Donald Duck

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Ron - K1RE

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Roger, yes. That's about what I've noticed. I understand that spots will be entered quickly and without regard to specific, accurate tuning during a contest compared to rag-chewing. It just appeared to me to be so consistently off 50-100 hz.