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Author Topic: apartment life - low power low profile  (Read 11168 times)
N1KCG
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Posts: 51




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« on: February 02, 2013, 03:08:32 AM »

on the way to doing PSK and other low power digital modes inside my apartment. no external antenna allowed, so experimenting with beam antenna systems.

just monitoring and can hear CW on typical open bands, during typical times of the day.  using inexpensive general coverage transceiver.

any suggestions for a PSK minimal transciever, that will be completely functional and useful on typical bands?   also wish to experiment with whisper modes, and other low low power digital modes. all in an apartment with lots of RF interference. 

so maybe need something with better rejection capabilities too. maybe not a minimal transceiver.
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K5TED
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« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2013, 05:08:02 PM »

Flex 1500
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N0YXB
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« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2013, 07:57:20 PM »

You could also consider running an FT-450D with a SignaLink USB interface. 
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Vince
VA7CPC
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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2013, 10:42:51 PM »

First question to answer:

. . . What's your budget?

Second question:

. . . Do you want to try 100 watts and risk problems with neighbors , or are you content with 5-10 watts ?

Any "entry-level" rig will be a good start -- Icom IC-718, IC-7000 (not cheap, new), IC-706 (used), IC-703 (10 watts), Yaesu FT-450/FT-450D or FT-857 or FT-897 or FT-817 (5 watts).  [I don't know the Kenwood line.]

The Flex 1500 is one of the better choices for a very noisy environment -- 5 watt power output, but good receive filtering.

Don't forget -- you can always turn down the power of a 100-watt rig, but you can't dial-up the power on a 5-watt radio.  5 watts and an indoor antenna can be very frustrating.
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N1KCG
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« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2013, 03:08:13 AM »

well kind of find it strange when 5w is suggested. inside an apartment with an antenna?  will that still be functional?  

was reading another thread where someone with jt65 was getting contacts no problem. inside apartment and using miricle whip antenna.
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N1KCG
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« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2013, 05:02:01 AM »

flex 1500 and ft-450 looks like break out another thousand time?  $1000 with all the extras. well i expected this,  but am being financially careful about where i go with the technology.

what is the difference between these rigs and a $600 general coverage portable radio?  is selectivity and sensitivity that signifucantly greater in a $1000 radio?
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VE3FMC
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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2013, 06:39:59 AM »

An Icom 718 is a good low budget radio. I owned one for a few years and made lots of contacts on phone and digital modes with it. No built in tuner so you will need one of those especially if you are running indoor antennas. Unless you can put multiple antennas in your apartment!

You can make 100's of contacts using JT65, Olivia, PSK 31 with low power.
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N1KCG
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« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2013, 09:17:28 AM »

yes i had planned on getting an antenna tuner of some sort. on top of the expense for antenna and power supply and feed line. all the typical parts needed for a $1000 investment in the hobby. but all hobbies are like this $1000 entry cost.
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K5TED
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« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2013, 10:15:27 AM »

You can pick up a good used Flex 1500 for around $450. You won't find a better QRP 160-6m rig for the money. I've run one side by side with a FT-817ND and there's simply no comparison. The Flex will run at rated output on digi modes and barely get warm, while the FT-817ND will be hot enough to cook on. The FT-817ND is great for an all around field pack for casual HF use, but I've never found it particularly good as a HF QRP rig.

For inside the apartment, consider using a magnetic loop or tuned loop of some sort. Many different options there. Miracle Whip "works" but is a seriously compromised antenna. I've packed one on road trips for years, and it is relegated mainly to receive use only.

IMO, an ideal apartment setup for QRP digi modes would be the Flex 1500 and a SG-237 or similar auto-coupler feeding a 6' diameter, 5 turn loop. You get the advantage of the loop noise rejection, auto-tuning, and the excellent performance of the Flex radio. On the other hand, if you want a conventional radio, there are tons of IC-718's, IC-706, FT-857, or look around at the local swap meets. One of the local guys recently picked up a cherry TS-690 for $300.
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N1KCG
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« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2013, 01:47:43 PM »

K5TED - I have a TACTENNA 40 I picked up and mounted on a tripod.  It actually seems like it could work out well.  Please look up the review of this antenna and tell me if I am likely to experience difficulties, as I am very new to all this HF craft.

Will need to seriously consider the FLEX 1500 in a used purchase from somewhere.  The price you mentioned seems much more reasonable.  Maybe that is the direction I should go.

The FT-XXX and IC-XXX radios are always a consideration for mobile, and flexible other work.  Bought an SDR radio recently, but could not get the functionality out of it, or was too steep a learning curve and I got frustrated, so sent it back.

Maybe just needed better software, and a better system.  Please feel free to suggest more software solutions, and what is being used with the FLEX-1500.

Kevin
N1KCG
 


 
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VA7CPC
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« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2013, 03:01:53 PM »

flex 1500 and ft-450 looks like break out another thousand time?  $1000 with all the extras. well i expected this,  but am being financially careful about where i go with the technology.

what is the difference between these rigs and a $600 general coverage portable radio?  is selectivity and sensitivity that signifucantly greater in a $1000 radio?

Yes !  The sensitivity may be equal.   But the expensive rig (especially something like a Flex 1500, or other rigs with IF DSP and configurable filters) will be able to use very narrow-band filters, and be more resistant to strong signals just outside the passband. 

That will really help in an apartment situation.

I think that -- with QRP power -- using something like a Miracle Whip or TacTenna _inside_ is a recipe for frustration.  The previous suggestion of a multi-turn loop, is a better bet.

One other question:

. . . What is your building made of?

. . . What kind of siding is on it?

. . . Are the studs metal or wood?

If you can decode PSK31 signals with a shortwave radio, you might be OK . . .

.         Charles

PS -- I haven't used a Flex 1500, so I'm working from specs and other people's opinions.  I have owned and used an IC-706, FT-817, and FT-450.  Of those three, I'm happiest with the FT-450.   I live in a townhouse with attic-mounted dipole antenna -- not quite as bad as an apartment.   

PPS -- a club member who _is_ inside an apartment has been having good luck with JT65-HF.  But that's the _only_ mode that's been really successful for her.
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K6AQ
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« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2013, 09:01:41 PM »

I bashed my head against the wall with my attic dipole setup for a while. Recently I purchased a Buddipole and got a long enough mast to put the center of the antenna at the roof level (I live on the 2nd floor of a two story building). As a vertical dipole/L shaped antenna it does far better than the attic antennas I've tried. Then again, anything outside will do far better than any indoor antenna.

Is it possible to temporarily put something outside while operating and disassemble it when done? That's currently what I'm doing and I haven't received any nastygrams from my condo association yet (YMMV though).

(Oh, I also pretty much only operate digital <= 30W, which helps avoid complaints.)
« Last Edit: February 03, 2013, 09:04:28 PM by KG6AOV » Logged
N1KCG
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Posts: 51




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« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2013, 02:23:42 AM »

KG6AOV - no can not put anything outside. the area is high traffic neighbors in and out. but am on a second floor in a flat island area. so good clearance 360.  some say i should throw a dipole line into the trees, then retrieve it later.  that will not happen for me, as neighbors are walking by constantly, and first time that wire gers caught up in trees will be the last time.  stealth means 100% inside

VA7CPC- wood studs, wood siding. so hopefully more invisable to RF than most. did not think about that and glad you asked. have a balcony porch all screened in.  screens seem to be plastic, not metal. 
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VA7CPC
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« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2013, 10:08:05 AM »

Good news on the wood studs and siding.

For a year, I operated from the open balcony of a 4th-floor apartment.  The landlord was kind enough to let me hang a "flagpole" (1/4-wave 20m vertical) from the balcony railing.  Using the railing as a counterpoise, I got good results from Vancouver BC across the SW U.S. and into Japan.  Mostly PSK31, some CW.  SSB was very frustrating.

I also operated from city parks, with the FT-817 and a little home-alarm battery.  Use a JacKite windsock pole (31') to hold up a 20m vertical dipole, tied to a picnic table.  That was a very effective setup, and lots of fun.

If your balcony is enclosed with metal framework, it may not be usable.  If it's got wooden framework with plastic screening, it would be worth trying a magnetic loop.  5-watt mag loops are easily home-brewed.  100-watt mag loops are harder; MFJ has one or two, with reasonable reviews.

You'll only know how well things work after you try them.   And worst case, you'll put the rig in your car, and operate mobile.

.          Charles
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K5TED
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« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2013, 08:11:49 PM »


Kevin -

If you have a wood framed balcony with wood rails, you are golden. Use the shape of the corner posts, eave and rail to form your vertical multi-turn loop. Feed it with a SGC or Icom auto-coupler (note, your rig will need at least 5 watts out to make them tune properly, which takes the FT-817ND out of the picture). I was always able to get the SG-230 to tune with the Flex 1500. It is advantageous to have a remote tuner/coupler, of course, but not absolutely necessary.  Even if you have metal rails, you can make a wire loop work. Just keep it about 6" off the rail. Been there, done that.

I can tell you that the Flex works flawlessly with the Ham Radio Deluxe suite. It will all run comfortably on a Core2 Duo laptop or desktop.

You shouldn't have any problems putting together a good full power HF digi station for around $600 - $700 bucks, maybe less depending on your shopping skills.







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