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Author Topic: Do I need to upgrade?  (Read 9572 times)

Posts: 1266

« on: July 04, 2012, 10:16:28 PM »

Have just got back on the air after a few years, 15 actually of QRT.  I still have my beloved Drake Twins both the B & C line, my even more loved 75A4.  I have also inherited a TS530S which I am using at the moment and a TS440 which I am not sure if it works or not.

Linear's I have 2 of them both running a pair of 4-400 in GG.

Antenna's will be a semi rhombic (80m per leg) pointing NE from here so SP to USA, a 80 1/4 vert, and when I get round to it a Telrex 3 ele monobander for 20.

My contesting is not overly serious, always single band single op and 90% CW

An old friend has pointed out that the gear is getting a bit old, (so am I) and it might be time to consider an upgrade of HF rig.  Would it be worth it, what do I look at getting, rather fancy a 756 proIII, but is it going to be worth it? or do I just get the Sherwood mods on the R4C.

If not the Icom then what rig is it worth getting?  and what logging program, and the moment using WIN_EQF.

Over to you _._

ex MN Radio Officer, Portishead Radio GKA, BT Radio Amateur Morse Tester.  Licensed as G3YCP ZL1DAB, now taken over my father (sk) call as ZL1BBW.

Posts: 14491

« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2012, 05:36:11 AM »

The only thing that the newer rigs give you that you really *need* is frequency stability if you run the newer digital modes such as PSK31. For *normal daily operating* what you get falls into the "bells and whistles" or convience category.

1) It's nice to be able to jump from band to band without retuning.
2) It's nice to have a variety of IF DSP filters that you can select from - especially on the newer digital modes.
3) It's nice to have an auto notch filter that will take out a hetrodyne from someone tuning up on frequency.
4) It's nice to have a DSP transmit equalizer so you can tailor the frequency response to your voice.
5) It's nice (especially on 10M or 6M) to have a band scope so you can see the other activity around you.
6) It's nice to have rig control so your logging software or digital mode software can automatically read the mode and frequency from the transceiver.

Now a really serious DXer or contester would probably consider at least some of these a necessity so you have to decide how much they are worth to *you*. Remember, a lot of hams had a lot of fun and worked a lot of DX for a lot of years with rigs like the Drake Twins. A lot of us even wished we could affort such "top of the line" rigs  Grin


Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA

Posts: 1266

« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2012, 01:42:03 AM »

Thanks for the thoughts.

1) have got 3 complete rigs and 2 linears so can leave one on 20M full time and use the other to hop around with.
2) Digital modes huh, dont think I will ever get to them.
3) have 2 Datong auto notch filters so will put them into the outputs.
4) The voice has been cultured (cough) over years of HF operating to have a nasty edge that will overdrive anything :-)
5) Never used 10M and 6M is just a step toooo far.
6) This is the thing that I would like tobe able to do, but might just have to learn to live without it.

Will probably spend the 2 or 3K $ on a better antenna tower, and might even get down to building the a decent class C amplifier for CW.  I have a good few 4-400 valves  in stock and a nice transformer that weighs around 70 or 80 pounds.

Thanks for the input.

Gavin ZL1BBW  used to be ZL1DAB but took over my dads call when he went ..._ ._

ex MN Radio Officer, Portishead Radio GKA, BT Radio Amateur Morse Tester.  Licensed as G3YCP ZL1DAB, now taken over my father (sk) call as ZL1BBW.

Posts: 5214

« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2012, 07:54:09 AM »

OK, this is the "contesting" group, and you mention CW, so I'm going to say it:

The one big change in contesting in the past 15 years, is that today almost everyone is going to be using computer based logging and mostly computer-driven CW keying. I know that it was popular 15 years ago too. But today almost everyone is doing it.

And a modern rig will let you interface the radio (or radios, as the case may be) to the computer to log band changes etc. precisely. Band changes are hugely (especially timestamp) log-checked for the multi-op categories in most contests today.

You mention multiple radios at one time: having computer connected rigs is HUGE for SO2R.

Even without going to SO2R, there's a huge advantage to computer-connected rigs for keying and logging in terms of efficiency and logging accuracy. And with it you'll be able to up your rate from say 100 per hour to 120 per hour. In between fewer busted QSO's, and more QSO's and mults, it's a decisive edge.

Not having even a token effort on 10M will hurt you mult wise in many contests. I don't know what a DX contest from ZL is like exactly, but even in WPX with poor solar activity it will help you to pick up some local mults, and even though 10M might seem dead outside a contest, you'd be surprised how it lights up during a contest even with poor solar activity!

Posts: 813

« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2012, 08:16:55 PM »

The one big change in contesting in the past 15 years, is that today almost everyone is going to be using computer based logging and mostly computer-driven CW keying. I know that it was popular 15 years ago too. But today almost everyone is doing it.

As far as CW contesting is concerned, I use the K1EL WKUSB keyer with my C-Line for computer-driven CW keying. This keyer will key old grid block rigs and interfaces to most contest loggers (I use Writelog). This brings an old rig into the 21st century.

The C-Line is also good for RTTY contesting, also with Writelog.

My DXCC count is over 200, all since late 2008 and a C-Line.

Posts: 38

« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2012, 12:53:04 PM »

Most HF rigs will do more than a decent job for casual contesting, and antenna upgrades will often help more than rig upgrades.

That said, there are useful features for contesting in modern radios.  While I recognize many of the radios you mention as good solid radios, I am not aware of any that support QSK, which is quite helpful in cw contesting by letting you know when the station you are calling is responding to someone else.  In addition, having multiple CW filters is useful in many situations and usually IF filters are better than your admittedly quite good AF filter.

For better or worse, just about all code is generated by computer logging programs.  Modern radios will tie in with these programs, so that when you change between 40 and 80 in the middle of the night, you don't have to think about keeping the logging program and the radio on the same band.

In addition, if you want to try SO2R or Packet Assisted contesting, you will want a more modern radio.

Only you can say what your goals are.

Posts: 82

« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2012, 01:29:12 PM »

If you want to spend money spend it on your antenna system. Sounds like your radio/amp set up will work fine. Good Luck.

Joe Patrick DE K4XZ 73

Posts: 170


« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2012, 11:22:15 PM »

It depends on how serious you get into contesting. As a previous poster noted, if you want to run SO2R, you will need somewhat newer rigs. The rigs you have a good rigs, their biggest downfall for contesting is the inability to connect the rigs to the PC. To be competitive you will need a good contest logger and radios interfaced to the PC. Of course you can do it the old fashioned way, but your competition will be way ahead of you. Even if you don't care about the competition, the PC will do most of the work and make the experience much LESS like work, and much more like FUN ;-)

I did not care much for contesting. But I was a PC enthusiast. I had connected my rigs to the PC long before for day to day logging. Then one day I downloaded N1MM's logger for kicks and was amazed at the things the software did to make contesting more efficient. So by way of my interest in the N1MM software, I got into contesting and have been ever since. Every weekend I am off work, contesting is where you will find me :-) I especially enjoy RTTY contests. Look forward to seeing some of you in the Russian RTTY contesting this weekend!

Bill K4FX

Posts: 621


« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2012, 03:43:35 AM »

Gavin - if the choice is spend $3K on a better radio, or $3K on a better antenna system, spend first on the antenna. If you are doing single band contesting or casual contesting (not Single Op 2 Radio) you don't really need a computer controlled radio.

Now, this is "do as I say, not as I do." When I got back on the air in 2009, I strung up some wires, fired my 1991 TS-850 up and had every intention of following my own advice above - until I tried an Elecraft K3...

My contest scores would be much higher if I had gotten that tower and beam up and was still using the 850. However, I do a lot of operating between contests and the K3 receiver and features are just a lot of fun to use - not a lot of dB in signal enhancement, though. But the improvements in receivers and filters does make contesting a lot more fun, too.

On the logging software side, when I came back I tried them all. You can't go wrong with any of them but N1MM is where I ended up. Once you get past thinking it looks like the control panel of a 747 jetliner, it all falls into place. N4ZR's Quick Start guide will have you going in a jiffy.

73 John K3TN

John K3TN

Posts: 144


« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2012, 11:25:21 AM »

I have to agree with John, K3TN.  I too upgraded to the K3 and it simply enhanced my operating pleasure all the way around.  If I could upgrade antennas, I would, but that's not just possible at the moment so now I have a great rig I use with poor antennas, and later when I get the chance to move and have an antenna farm, the rig part is ready to go.

73, de Nate
Bremen, KS

SKCC 6225

Posts: 1266

« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2012, 05:41:36 PM »

Hi Guys, Thanks to all for the postings.

Having caught up a bit more with things now, yes I would need 2 new radios to go SO2R.

So a couple of new rigs at 2k each NZ plus the inevitable upgrades so I can see spending 6k on a couple of rigs TS590 or similar.

That is off the table at the moment.

So am going ahead with the antenna farm, and will run single band. 

Am putting up 3 v beams for 40, legs either 3 or 4 wavelengths long.   

A 80 M vertical, that will be loadable hopefully on 160.

 Luckily a few years ago I acquired a 50foot tilt over tower for a few dollars, so a 3ele widespaced 20M beam is going on top of that.

Once I get going on all those, will see how the Drake's perform, and probably do the Sherwood mods on the R4C.

Have never had any interest in 15 or 10 so they are easy bands :-)

So looking at just doing single band contests, probably 40 and maybe 80.


ex MN Radio Officer, Portishead Radio GKA, BT Radio Amateur Morse Tester.  Licensed as G3YCP ZL1DAB, now taken over my father (sk) call as ZL1BBW.
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