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Author Topic: Which band would be ideal?  (Read 2346 times)
AF7EC
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« on: July 30, 2013, 07:21:34 PM »

First off, I didn't see a 'Kit Building' forum, so hopefully this forum is okay  Huh

I am considering purchasing and building one of these Ramsey receivers, but I'm not sure which band (20, 30 or 40 meters) I should choose?

I've only had 2-meter/70 cm rigs since 1994 -- I don't know the first thing about HF, so I have little knowledge of which bands have the most CW activity.  My desire is to get my code speed up and then upgrade to General.  I would like one of these so I can copy CW for a while to train my ear.

Ramsey HR-series

What say you all? Smiley

Thanks in advance.
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WB6BYU
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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2013, 09:13:16 PM »

What time of day will you be doing most of your listening?

What do you plan to use for an antenna?

During the day you may have good signal strengths on 20m, but it gets more difficult to
pull in weak signals at night.  80m is often good in the evening and at night, but I don't
know how much CW activity there still is there.  40m is a popular band because it is open
to somewhere much of the time, though it still may be pretty quiet in the middle of the
night.


Potential problems:  the tuning range is pretty fast for trying to tune in an SSB signal.   
The manual explains how you can reduce the tuning rate by adding a resistor in series
with the tuning pot and other methods.  A large knob will also help.

Signals may be difficult to copy in a crowded band due to virtually no selectivity.
(You'll encounter this during contests, for example.)

I'm intrigued by the claim that this is a "super-het direct conversion" set.  It's actually
pretty simplistic, and, like many Ramsey kits, can be improved with some additional
circuitry.  Don't forget to price the knobs and case (though they aren't difficult to find
otherwise.)

Overall it might be adequate for your purpose if you don't have high expectations.


On the other hand, the SW40+ was around $50 for a complete transceiver, and something
like that might be worth considering even if you built it initially just for the receiver.  True,
it has more parts than the Ramsey kits, but I think the receiver will be easier to use, and
once you upgrade you can get on the air with it.

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K8AXW
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« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2013, 09:22:37 PM »

GBU:  Check out this link:  http://www.dxmaps.com/spots/map.php?Lan=E&Frec=7&ML=M&Map=W2L&DXC=N&HF=S&GL=N

This is a propagation chart for the world.  You can choose the band you want to view and you can readily see what kind of activity is going on during any part of the day.  Just pick the band.

BYU has covered the most important points very well.  I agree too about choosing a QRP transceiver over a Ramsey Kit.  They are better engineered and after you upgrade you can use the transmitter part.  Normally, these QRP transceivers have very nice receivers, especially for CW.

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AF7EC
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« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2013, 09:56:36 PM »

Thank you both for your replies.

Quote from: K8AXW
Thank you very much for that, that really does help with my decision-making.

What time of day will you be doing most of your listening?
I would probably be listening mostly at night, though I'd probably sneak a listen here and there throughout the day.  I work from home, so I'd have that flexibility.

What do you plan to use for an antenna?
We will be moving soon to a house with a medium-sized lot, and probably no antenna restrictions, but I don't have the budget for these massive towers and such.  I would probably do a long-wire for receive, then with the General ticket would move on to something more elaborate.

On the other hand, the SW40+ was around $50 for a complete transceiver, and something
like that might be worth considering even if you built it initially just for the receiver.  True,
it has more parts than the Ramsey kits, but I think the receiver will be easier to use, and
once you upgrade you can get on the air with it.
Thanks for the advice.  I'm not bound to the Ramsey kit, so I'm completely open to QRP rig suggestions.  I really do not mind building the kit, and part count doesn't phase me.  I've had a soldering iron in my hand since I was 5 or 6 years old. Smiley

The SW40+ isn't being sold anymore, and while there is the RockMite, I think I'd like the ability to tune around a little.  What do you all think of the Cyclone 40?


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W1JKA
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« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2013, 02:27:31 AM »

An very good band for entry level QRP/CW is 30 meters (all cw). Since you seem to be into kits a good  relatively inexpensive kit is the MFJ Cub (+- 2w), later if QRP is to your liking you can add a cheap Hipermite filter kit and a QRPME Texas Topper amp kit (5-7 watts). Devote most your effort into the antenna and learning your area day/night/seasonal propagation.  
« Last Edit: July 31, 2013, 02:35:54 AM by W1JKA » Logged
KB1WSY
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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2013, 05:45:51 AM »

I bought and built the Ramsey 20m receiver a year ago and found it a great way to monitor CW. (Recently I built a completely homebrew, multiband regenerative set which has replaced it.) I would recommend the Ramsey 20m, or the 40m version. As far as CW goes, the bands have different personalities. There's a lot of CW on 40m and a wide range of CW skill. On 20m there's also plenty of code but the mix is probably a bit more toward "fast and experienced" compared to 40m, plus, there is more DX. As for 80m, so far in my monitoring I have heard rather less CW than on the other two bands.

There is one caveat. Even after changing the component values (described in the manual) to give the Ramsey a slower tuning rate, I still found that the tuning control and its small knob was too fast. The first thing I did was replace the small knob with a larger one but it was still hard to tune. So I added a 10-to-1 geared potentiometer. This was quite an expensive improvement: about $15 for the pot and a few dollars for a larger plastic cabinet: the pot was too large to fit in the existing space on the PCB board so I mounted it outside the board, on the right hand side of the new front panel. The result was a much more usable set: a better tuning rate, plus, the knob is lifted a bit higher above the table and the larger cabinet is more stable.

You can see a photo of the "old" cabinet next to my "new, improved" larger set here: http://tinyurl.com/k9gduoo.

To make this modification, you'll need: the aforementioned 10-1 pot, the new cabinet, some plastic standoffs for the PCB, and some mounting hardware (screws of various sizes) to mount the PCB and to screw the old, labeled front panel onto the new one.

Have fun!

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: July 31, 2013, 05:51:58 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
AF7EC
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« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2013, 08:48:22 AM »

JKA and WSY, thank you so much for your feedback!  Smiley
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KB1WSY
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« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2013, 10:08:54 AM »

JKA and WSY, thank you so much for your feedback!  Smiley

BTW the advice given by AXW and BYU seems good to me. I have never built or operated a transceiver (QRP or otherwise) but it does seem likely that for just a little bit more money, you could get a better-performing receiver as part of a transceiver. (I see that you have a Technician license so if you build a 20m kit you won't be able to use the transmit feature until you upgrade your license.)

The Ramsey receiver is a simple direct-conversion set. It works well within the constraints of that design, although in my case I ended up spending quite a lot of extra money to get the tuning capability that I wanted....

Looking back on the modification that I did, it involved various things. Firstly, getting more bandspread by changing the values of one of the ceramic capacitors, as indicated in the manual. I found the right value by trial and error. But even then, I found the main tuning control awkward to use. So I replaced the main tuning pot with a 10-to-1, but I still found tuning SSB signals a bit tricky, so I added a second "outboard" 10-to-1 pot in series, which I only use for "fine tuning" of SSB. At this point I had probably spent as much extra money as the kit cost in the first place!!! (OTOH I learned quite a lot about radio.)

If you are only interested in CW then my "double pot" system is excessive and it should be possible to change only the main pot. Cheaper and less bother to do.

Here's a picture of my modifications, "under the hood":

http://tinyurl.com/n49xbaf

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: July 31, 2013, 10:15:23 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
N3QE
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« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2013, 07:47:10 AM »

40M is the most active year round CW band and there is lots of learning-CW-type operations there. Activity on 40M is most common in local evening, but there's always something going on. In the local evening you will have no problem hearing 40M CW from all over north america with just a wire strung out the window.

30M and 20M are fine bands too, but 30M doesn't see nearly as much activity as 40 or 20, and 20M has a lot of DX-chasers and less ragchewing/learning-CW type stuff.

There are also many homebrew direct conversion NE602/SA602-type receivers and QRP transceivers, both as kit and as homebrew designs you can find in QST or on web sites. Surprisingly effective and simple rigs. I think every ham should build one. The Ramsey is one of many examples out there.
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WA2ONH
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« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2013, 08:17:42 AM »

I'm not bound to the Ramsey kit, so I'm completely open to QRP rig suggestions.

Here's a compiled listing "RADIO KIT GUIDE" to research.
LINK: http://fofio.blogspot.com/2013/02/radio-kit-guide.html

QRP SSB/CW Transceiver/QRP Radio Kits
LINK: http://www.qrptransceiver.com/

Hendricks QRP Kits in particular are very nice to build / operate portable.
LINK: http://qrpkits.com/index.html

Good Luck!
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73 de WA2ONH dit dit    ...Charlie
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"No time is ever wasted that is spent LEARNING something!"
K8GU
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« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2013, 05:53:29 AM »

All three of those bands have good characteristics for QRP and I think you've received good advice.  I had the Ramsey HR-20 many years ago and I built the Small Wonder SW-40 a couple of years after the QST article.  The SW-40 is a considerably better radio (not to mention a transceiver) for not much more money, as someone mentioned.  I still use it occasionally today, some 15 years later.  As far as pure fun in ham radio, it's been one of the best investments I ever made.  Unfortunately, it was recently discontinued.  I'm not up on the latest QRP kits, but I encourage you to get something mid-priced, no more than $150 or so.  But, get something better than the Ramsey unless you want to do a lot of hardware hacking right away.
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