Thursday, October 8, 2009

Spend twice as much on the antenna as the radio

This nugget is some advice from many old-timers with a lot of DX experience, and I think it is very valid. As you can see from my previous posts, I am certainly putting in a lot of time into the antenna design at my new QTH.

Well, I am obsessed like a labrador retriever and his tennis ball; even though we are moving in just over two weeks, I am still improving on my current antenna situation. The chase for DX never ends.

I put my off-center-fed Buckmaster dipole BACK UP in at 32 feet, with the ends in vertical fashion to provide some gain and directivity on 40 (yes, even at 1/4 wavelength in height, this thing DOES work DX because the ends act like two quarter-wave radiators separated by a half wavelength, giving some broadside directivity).

So I have my 43 foot vertical and the Buckmaster (NOT Buxcomm) OCF dipole. This gives me options on all bands.

With challenging conditions, I'm still getting through with 100 watts. Oh, it takes longer and I have to listen a LOT more. I never did hear FT5GA or 3D20CR (FT5GA would have been an all-time new one). But yesterday I worked E51NOU on 17 meters CW on the OCF, and the evening before (my time) I worked E51NOU on 40 CW on the vertical.

Today I finally heard TX5SPA and was able to work him on the vertical after repeating my call several times, on 20 CW. (Oh how I miss my 2 element Hex yagi, never knew how much until I took it down to prepare for the move!)

Now let's take a look at how marginal the signals are with my setup now. Here's a shot of the TX5SPA signal on my Flex 3000 panadapter.

The blue window is the CW filter in very narrow mode. Notice the signal that is stronger just to the left, and the background noise that, although quiet, is not much below TX5SPA. (With the Flex 3000, I cannot even tell that the other signal is nearby, and the audio processing lets the signal "pop out" into my headphones.

Let's conclude two things: (1) TX5SPA is an excellent CW operator to hear me, and (2) my Flex 3000 technology gives me a great advantage to hear HIM in very marginal conditions. I will say the same for Bill, N7OU. From both ZL7/N7OU and E51NOU the conditions were not all that great. It sure helps when the DXer is an FB operator.

On my end, I have been DXing on CW for 32 years. But the technology does help me to hear the signal above the noise.

73 and good DX

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