eHam Forums => Contesting => Topic started by: W6UV on March 15, 2013, 09:50:57 PM

Title: Hardcore RTTY Contesting
Post by: W6UV on March 15, 2013, 09:50:57 PM
What kind of equipment do hardcore RTTY contesters (the ones who win the big RTTY contests) use? A sound card app such as DM780, Fldigi, or a dedicated hardware terminal unit, such as a HAL ST-8000?

Title: RE: Hardcore RTTY Contesting
Post by: N3QE on March 17, 2013, 06:35:51 AM
I am not "hardcore" but I enjoy many of the RTTY tests. I had done some RTTY way back in the 1980's, then I leapfrogged to 2012 where I started again in the contests.

Check out AA5AU's page for some good advice. I think there was a south african guy who had at least one article in NCJ in past year too. It looks to me that it is not magic hardware - that there is a lot of in-brain processing and experience that helps the best ops pick the calls and exchanges out from the noise given less than perfect copy. And it's more than just checking both shift and unshift.

It also seems that timing is hugely important. Blindly sending your call zero-beat with everyone else does not get you picked out in a pile-up. Sending your call when nobody else is sending and the DX is listening, is the trick! Knowing exactly that everyone has stomped each other, then dropping your call in for a clear print, is a huge success point.

I have some major philosophical disagreements with the Macros that many EU's use in contests, but if you're going to be working EU, you have to work to copy their dumb-ass macros. Geeze louise, don't these guys know that all punctuation requires a shift? Of course these same kind of guys send their CQ's in PSK31 in all upper case.

Many folks use sound cards and use multiple decoders (e.g. MMTTY settings, 2Tone) in parallel. At least some contests allow multi-channel decoders; FLDigi has this feature but it has never done me any good.

If entering assisted, there are RTTY Skimmers out on the spotting networks. I think for at least some RTTY contests, there no longer is a distinction between assisted and unassisted.

Me, I don't see much purpose to a hardware TU in this day and age. I know very little about DM780 and I rarely see it mentioned in contesting. FLDigi is also pretty slick for PSK and all the other modes it handles but I have not been impressed with it in contest situations either. In contests, MMTTY and TuTone seem to be very common. They both integrate exquisitely well with N1MM and I'm guessing other contest loggers.

I myself mostly stick to MMTTY single-channel decoding. I'd like to experiment with the multi-channel decoders more.

Title: RE: Hardcore RTTY Contesting
Post by: G8UBJ on March 18, 2013, 08:35:07 AM
If I had the room a real antenna farm, but I get by with what I can fit in my yard.

Contest equipment -

MicroHam MicroKEYER II (The sound card works great and RTTY keying is clean - The PC isn't so important these days as they are all powerful enough but make sure it doesn't kick out a load of hash or freeze up with a sniff of RFI! I use an old Fujitsu in a screened case)
N1MM Software running MMTTY engine (great for RTTY contests and free!)
FTdx-5000 with 300Hz roofing filter and set the AGC to fast as possible (doesn't come apart on crowded bands)
Tokyo Hy-Power amp (so I can run full legal 100% duty cycle)
Palstar auto-tuner (auto tunes on band/frequency change and can get away tuning on QRO)
As much automation as possible (It takes me two button pushes for band changes but could cut this down if I spent more on the linear amp)
A comfy reclining office chair (You have to sit in it a long time).
The ability to micro-nap during CQ calls.
Very strong fresh coffee (Lots and keep it coming!)
A very understanding XYL - or be a bachelor!


Title: RE: Hardcore RTTY Contesting
Post by: W1VT on March 18, 2013, 10:02:27 AM

Can't get much more hardcore than K1TTT--all those antennas--close to plenty of highly skilled operators.

Zack W1VT

Title: RE: Hardcore RTTY Contesting
Post by: N0IU on March 24, 2013, 05:07:43 AM
I don't think you'll find too many "hard core" RTTY ops using outboard multi-mode controllers any more. Without a doubt, the most popular RTTY sound card program is MMTTY. While the RTTY part of DM780 is actually pretty good for everyday rag chewing, its major weakness is that it will only do RTTY in AFSK (Audio Frequency Shift Keying) mode. (I think HRD v6 will do FSK RTTY however). That is probably the biggest advantage of MMTTY is that it will do FSK which is what most serious RTTY ops prefer.

And while the whole HRD suite is excellent (I use it!), a contester will use a dedicated contest logging program. One of the most popular is N1MM. Not only is it very robust, but it also happens to be free. Why use a dedicated contest logger? Contests run for a limited amount of time and high scoring contesters need to make the best use of that time and one way of doing that is by not wasting time contacting a station he has already contacted and the program will display the callsign of a station you have worked and stations you have not worked in different colors so you can instantly tell whether or not you should try and contact that station.

Also, a good contest logging program will have a template for each contest so that you are only logging the information necessary for that contest. For contests such as the RTTY Roundup, all you need is a signal report (which will ALWAYS be 599 in a contest!) and the other station's state and that is it.

And this may seem like a, "Well duh!" comment, at the end of the day, the radio itself is what is going to do the "heavy lifting". While any radio can do AFSK RTTY, not every radio can do FSK, especially entry-level radios. Radios that run FSK will generally have a separate set of RTTY filters specifically for RTTY that can make a world of difference. Icom, for one, does a great job of including features for RTTY on some of their rigs. I am sure other brands do quite well, but I happen to own an IC-7410!

If terms like AFSK and FSK confuse you, as others have suggested, you should check out AA5AU's website. He is without a doubt one of the most knowledgeable RTTY contesters in the world so you can take his word that he knows what he is talking about.

See you in the next contest!

Title: RE: Hardcore RTTY Contesting
Post by: N3AWS on May 18, 2013, 09:26:20 AM
Most run more than one decoder in different windows.  What works well in certain conditons is trumped by different settings in different conditions.  Don AA5AU has written a lot about this in the National Contest Journal RTTY column.