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Author Topic: CW Features on a Rig  (Read 746 times)
KC0SOG
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Posts: 68




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« on: June 27, 2005, 07:26:27 AM »

This is a question on what features I might find useful for a little CW DXing and casual CW contesting.  

My rig (Yaesu FT-840) has a 500hz filter, IF shift, and a clarifier(RIT?). Thats it!  

What features are useful other than what I have?  What features can I do without?  Also, is QSK used for CW contesting?

I'm shopping around, but need a check-off list of features to consider.  

Thanks for the help,
Doug.
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HA5RXZ
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Posts: 380




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« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2005, 11:28:56 AM »

Top of my feature list is a speed control controlled by a real knob. If during a QSO I find myself all thumbs (this happens to all of us - admit it) then I don't want to be accessing a menu and adjusting the speed using the key, a simple adjustment of the control should suffice.

Adjustable sidetone frequency and volume would be nice but these could be presets inside the box.

HA5RXZ
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WA9FZB
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Posts: 171




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« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2005, 12:25:34 PM »

If I remember correctly (I only had my 840 for about 4 months), the sidetone pitch can be adjusted, but I don't remember how. . .

I used the 840 almost exclusively for CW, and the one outboard accessory I used most was a homebrew audio filter that was even sharper than the 500 Hz filter installed in the radio.  I built the filter from an article in QST back in the late 1970's, but there are others out there that do the same thing -- just plug into the phone jack and plug your phones into the filter.

I also used an external keyer -- an old MFJ that is my old faithful.  As you know by now, the 840 has no built-in keyer.  It does have a sidetone generator, so that's covered.

Depending upon your antenna installation, an external antenna matching device (tuner) may be required.  I used an old MFJ Versa-Tuner, worked fine.

If you're getting the idea that the FT-840 doesn't need much help to be great for all but the most crowded contests, you're right.  Good little rig.  Enjoy!

73

Steve  WA9FZB
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KC0SOG
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Posts: 68




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« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2005, 01:01:43 PM »

Thanks for the help so far.   I want to clarify my question.  I'm wondering about features on the rig like PBT, Notch, DSP as they apply to CW.  I already have a the keyer, ATU, and.   I'll be assembling a new Logikey CMOS keyer soon.  

Thanks,
Doug
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K7UNZ
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Posts: 691




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« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2005, 10:46:23 AM »

Well, if you're in the market for a new rig and work CW, here's a couple of things to look for.  

An RF gain control, defeatable agc (able to turn it off).  If you want to work weak stations, you need to be able to turn off the agc, and control the signal/noise level with the RF gain control.

Most of the other features you would find usefull will be on most new radios....XIT/RIT, IF shift, etc.

DSP filtering is a matter of individual taste.  I much prefer mechanical filters, if they're available on the model you want.  DSP is nice to supplement a good mechanical filter.

Actually, I have a FT-840 as a back-up to my FT-990.  As a cw op, the 990 has been a great radio for me for almost 15 years now.  The 840 is a nice simple rig, but suffers from the lack of a rf gain control, and defeatable agc.  Squelch?  I don't know why they put that in the radio without the FM mode included.  An rf gain would have been much more useful.  On the 840, the CW filter is a MUST have, and it would have been even nicer if you could also add a 250 Hz as well.  Lack of XIT is another mind-boggler, 'cos if you wanna work those pile-ups, XIT is the thing to have.  You can get the flexability you need by putting one vfo on tx, and the other as RX, but XIT would have been much easier (hi).

Could go on and on, but I think I've already talked too much....

Jim/k7unz
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2005, 01:49:41 PM »

QSK is something that some like and others don't, and contests are won all the time without it.  "Semi-QSK," which is nothing more than transmit control via keying with an adjustable dropout delay, just like VOX on SSB, is used by the majority, including successful big-gun contesters.  You can set the delay to be appropriate for the speed you're operating, and you won't miss a thing.

One reason "full" QSK isn't all that popular for contesting is that most contesters run amplifiers, and most amplifiers cannot operate full QSK.  There are a few that can, but probably 80%-90% cannot.  Limited usefulness in contesting.  Full break-in (full QSK) is more useful for high speed ragchewing and traffic handling.

Before investing in an outboard keyer, you might consider what rig upgrade you will choose, since almost all "high end" HF transceivers, the ones used by contesters, already have a built-in electronic keyer, and most of those include memories.  Also, it's almost impossible to contest without using contest software (to log and "dupe," at the very minimum), and if you're using software, you might as well use a soundcard interface/controller with that software and your rig -- that will provide not only electronic memory keyer functionality, but will actually send your contest exchange for every single contact you make, so most CW contesters don't even have a paddle anywhere nearby.  You can use the keyboard for everything.  (You still need your ears to "copy" the other station's exchange, however!)

A good midstream CW contest rig with enough features to be truly useful might be an FT1000MP-MKV or "Field" version, or an IC-756PROII (now recently replaced by the more expensive PROIII).  The older FT1000D was a great rig for this.  My older Kenwood TS-850SAT/DSP100 combination is also a very good CW contest rig and keeps up with most of the new stuff pretty well.  The Ten Tec ORION is evidently superb for CW contesting, although I've never used one in a contest environment, so I'm going by trusted reports.  

With my TS-850SAT, I have dual 250 Hz CW filters (2nd and 3rd IFs) as well as its standard high-shift/low-shift slope (passband) tuning, and manual notch filter.  A DSP automatic notch filter is nicer, but with narrow filters you hardly ever need one.  Remember the typical contest CW contact takes ten seconds to complete, and reports are usually not resent.  So, most of the success comes with operator skill and big antenna systems!

Good software and a bug-free computer (soundcard to rig) interface is very important.  I use WriteLog for Windows and RigBlaster, and they're solid and bug-free.  I'm so used to the keyboard for contesting that I disconnect my paddle during contests, not wanting to waste the little bit of bench space it occupies.  More room for coffee cups that way!

WB2WIK/6




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N7DM
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Posts: 671




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« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2005, 04:29:12 PM »

QSK...QSK... FULL QSK ALL THE TIME....Q S K ...  All else is 'nice'.  Yes, there are some amps that wont QSK [who would own one?].. Frankly, if one is in the Contest Game, the price of a QSK amp is trivial.  "Essential" to know what the heck is going on..ON YOUR FREQUENCY!  I just finished this year's Field Day...  Dead..without full, fast QSK.  By the way, OM... I didn't log 'WIK'.. were you on?

73

Delta Mike [Yup I did work some SSB Sunday morning, batting 'clean-up' ]
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2005, 01:16:07 PM »

>RE: CW Features on a Rig  Reply  
by N7DM on June 29, 2005  Mail this to a friend!  
QSK...QSK... FULL QSK ALL THE TIME....Q S K ... All else is 'nice'. Yes, there are some amps that wont QSK [who would own one?].. Frankly, if one is in the Contest Game, the price of a QSK amp is trivial. "Essential" to know what the heck is going on..ON YOUR FREQUENCY! I just finished this year's Field Day... Dead..without full, fast QSK. By the way, OM... I didn't log 'WIK'.. were you on?<

::Nope.  Well, I got on six meters and made about 50 contacts via E-skip in very little time on Sunday morning while we were packing for a trip.  Never went "out," just operated 1E for those.  During FD, I never use my callsign, anyway, if I'm with a group -- always use a club call or something.

::I don't really agree about QSK for contesting, but that's why they make chocolate and vanilla.  I do have full QSK capability with both rig and amp and find QSK disturbing -- always have.  It's fun for rapid-fire chit-chatting, but for contesting I always know what's going on on my frequency, even without full QSK, since I'm never transmitting for more than five seconds at a time, and I set my drop-out delay to drop between words (not characters) at about 35 wpm.  If somebody wants to double with me during those five seconds, more power to them.

::But I think everybody should try full QSK at least a few times to see if they like it or not.  I never did.

WB2WIK/6
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N6PEH
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Posts: 104




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« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2005, 05:20:19 PM »

CW by its nature is a very penetrating signal, so filtering is extremely important on the CW rig.  The DSP filtering on the Icom 756 and 746 PRO series is really nice.  The TPBT and filter shaping from mild to sharp can't be beat.  It is not as good as mechanical filtering, but it is a $1000 cheaper, and infinitly more versatile.

A quiet QSK is also prefered over the relay clapping types found on most rigs.  But some find the QSK to be a little too busy for enjoyable CW operation.

A good set of headphones is also an important part of the CW set.  Full ear cups and self-adjusting, are best.  The Heil or AKG are both very nice.  Make sure that whatever you select doesn't squeeze your head or make your ear sore after a short period of use.  I like the full ear cups best because they keep the ambient noise out.  The type that just lay flat against the ear are okay but, don't keep the noise out very well.

Almost every rig out there comes with an RF gain adjustment.  It's usually an axial control around the AF gain knob.  This is an excellent control if used properly.  You can eliminate a lot of noise by adjusting this properly.  The penetrating CW signal can get through very little RF gain, while the noise drops off.
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N7DM
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Posts: 671




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« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2005, 06:30:40 AM »

WIK..... 'Roger all that'... Interesting. Maybe one day you'll be an 'at home' 1E...  better than a jab in the eye with a sharp stick!

I distantly remember the early SSB XCVR days... KWM-2, SB-102, etc.  I would always drag out my Viking, HRO and T/R switch for 'contesting'... COULD NOT tolerate the 'blind' feeling I perceived !

God Bless Sevierville Tennessee !

VY 73
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KC0SOG
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Posts: 68




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« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2005, 06:52:28 AM »

Thanks for the tips!  It sounds like one could approach this in a number of ways depending on how casual or serious I want to get and how much money I want to spend.

Additionally, this past week, I passed element 4 and upgraded to Amateur Extra, so I can work those DX windows!

73, Doug  kc0sog
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N7DM
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Posts: 671




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« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2005, 07:04:24 AM »

Good show, Doug... Will look forward to seeing you in my log... [yes (sigh) *I* still keep one].   As for rig(s), I suspect you will join the rest of us that collect a few, as time, desires and money allows! Funny thing about this hobby, you either Experiment, Hone some operating skill.... or... you are quite likely to 'dry up' and fall away. The only ones *I* know that just 'go along' ...day in day out with no changes, are my few acquaintances who are 75 meter Round Table Net folks.. who sort of create a whole social experience around that... and 'Bless 'em for it. *I* prefer to mess with the gear, antennas and matching systems... and the seven contests I fool with.

Hope you find your niche and enjoy it..

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K3ESE
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« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2005, 08:56:49 AM »

  Steve,

  so...how many coffee cups do you have going at one time...??

   LL
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2005, 09:55:19 AM »

>RE: CW Features on a Rig  Reply  
by K3ESE on July 5, 2005  Mail this to a friend!  
Steve,
so...how many coffee cups do you have going at one time...??<

::One coffee mug, one coke can, one water bottle, one beer can, one jar of some kind of snack, one hen, two ducks, three squawking geese, four limerick oysters, five corpulent porpoises...




 
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N5XM
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Posts: 242




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« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2005, 11:57:36 PM »

One of the most helpful accessories I use is the Autek QF-1A audio filter.  I have it hooked up so I can use it with all my radios, and it allows me to peak the signal I'm copying, and two extra notch filters help a lot with selectivity.  I even use it with my Orion.  It also allows me to tailor the audio so that it sounds more pleasing to my ear.  I also have a Timewave DSP-9 piggybacked into the QF-1A, giving me further adjustment potential, and two noise reduction functions that sometimes help with weak signals.  

I would suggest maybe trying a little ragchewing to help build your CW vocabulary.  I would be happy to get on with you any time, and if you want, my e-mail addy is good here and on QRZ.  Keep up the good work my friend!  n5xm, Rick
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