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Author Topic: Lousy Ear Ham needs Ultra Clear HF Transceiver  (Read 2972 times)
N8FVJ
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Posts: 378




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« on: November 30, 2017, 05:47:52 PM »

My ears are shot & makes SSB hard to hear & especially so with all the background static. I use minimal RF gain and use noise reduction. It is interesting strong AM stations are easier to copy for me on an old tube receiver.

My ears do hear well at lower volumes, just certain frequencies are not likely there.

What is the most clear audio to be found on a certain model HF transceiver?
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KL7CW
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Posts: 264




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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2017, 10:08:58 PM »

I will give you a few ideas to consider.  Several years ago, I think < 5 years ago, there was an article in QST about a device (I think it was relatively simple) which enabled the author to emphasize certain audio frequencies where his hearing needed extra help.  I do not remember how many equalizer bands were available.  He said it really helped and I think it was dual channel so he could customize the audio for each ear individually.  Another idea some folks have used is to just get an audio equalizer (not too expensive, and sometimes they are available for almost nothing at thrift stores or garage sales).  Sometimes they have only a few frequency bands, but others may have at least 8 bands.  Even an ordinary home stereo may have several equalizer frequency bands.
   Possibly the old radios had wider frequency response and either the low or high frequencies help you.  Most modern SSB transceivers have rather narrow filters.....something like 300Hz to something like 2 or 2.5 kHz.  You might do better with a wider filter, perhaps something like they use for ESSB or even an am filter...possibly you can listen to a friends who has a wider filter....it might help.  Another idea...adjust the PBT a bit to emphasize more low or high frequencies...it might just help.  Many of the higher priced receivers have built in equalizers where you can tailor your TX and RX audio for your particular need. 
   One other possibility...if you are relatively new to SSB.  It is very common for new hams who do not yet have dozens or hundreds of hours tuning in SSB signals is to not tune them in correctly....it does not come naturally, but it is an acquired skill for most of us. 
    I have friends with hearing problems, and some of them successfully operate CW comfortably where they can choose a tone frequency comfortable for their situation.
    Use headphones, or at least use a good external speaker....nearly all internal speakers on modern transceivers are VERY poor. I have bought thrift store speakers for less than $1 I think, and some of them are quite satisfactory !!!
   One more idea...if you have an audio plot from your audiologist it may show which frequency bands need more boost and you can start by boosting these frequencies, but final adjustment will probably be by trial and error.  Usually frequencies below about 200 Hz or above about 3 kHz will not help improve anything for communications purposes, but do what works for you.
   One final idea...usually most folks operate with the AGC on and use max RF gain and control the volume with the audio pot.  If you operate this way experiment with different AGC settings....slow, fast, or whatever...not the same for AM, SSB,  CW.  Some folks turn the AGC off and set the volume to a high setting, and control the audio with the RF gain control.  Try both methods.  Only use the noise blanker when necessary, often they introduce additional distortion. 
   I still have good hearing and operate 99% CW so I do not claim to be an expert on SSB, or hearing issues.  Perhaps others can give you some more info.  If the BFO is not placed at the proper position in the IF filter passband that can for sure make the SSB sound strange. 
                  Rick  KL7CW     
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N8FVJ
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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2017, 03:23:09 AM »

I have TS-590SG that has variable pass band. 100Hz & 3000Hz works best. Below 3000Hz I lose info and above 3000Hz the noise level starts to overtake the audio signal. The audio from this radio just is a little undefined, sounds like a cheap transistor radio. I use a Yaesu SP-102 external speaker that is far superior to the radio internal speaker. It has great ratings in the eham reviews ratings. Noise reduction is ok, but the watery sound ruins the reception. I heard ICOMs NR and it is better in this regard. So, I think an ICOM radio is a better bet. The IC-7300 is so noisy it did not work well for me, but had a great NR system. Other ICOM radio may be better. I do not know if the Yaesu NR is clear like the ICOM radios.
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SWMAN
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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2017, 04:17:03 AM »

MFJ makes a nice little audio equalizer called the 616. It is placed between the radio and the speaker and works very well for me. You can boost the freqs that you want and cut the ones that you don't want. It has 4 bands of freqs that you can adjust and a built in audio amp. HRO has them for around 189 dollars. Try one, I bet it will help, it did for me. 73. Jim  W5JJG
« Last Edit: December 01, 2017, 04:22:05 AM by SWMAN » Logged
N8FVJ
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« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2017, 06:38:10 AM »

Better Explanation. My ears hear well from 20hz to 10khz. But are not selective now. In a large group of people such as a busy restaurant or party, I have trouble hearing persons close to me when the background is loud. Remove the background noise and persons close to me can whisper and I hear it clearly.

Good ears do filter out background noise, mine do not.
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KL7CW
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« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2017, 12:06:05 PM »

One more idea to try.  Go on youtube and do a search on practically any transceiver and usually there are many videos demonstrating a transceiver.  You might be able to get an idea of what sounds best for your situation.  But be careful since some videos are poorly done and may not accurately represent the real transceiver.  Some earlier (and possibly present day) attempts to use DSP to improve reception (noise and BW control) were poorly implemented.  They may have slightly improved the ability of an operator to pull out a weak signal from adjacent signals and high noise levels, but often resulted in a very unpleasant sounding signal, which may have actually decreased intelligibility for some folks.  You might describe the result as a muddy sounding signal...sorry I do not have a good word for this.
    I waited until last year to finally upgrade to a modern transceiver with lots of the fancy DSP features.  I personally chose the Elecraft K3S. In my case I wanted good CW (QSK and QRQ), a sub receiver, and good CW IF filters since I operate in CW contests.  These features come at a considerable cost which may not be worth it for a casual SSB operator.  The sound of a transceiver is very much an individual choice, and some folks prefer the "sound" of other brands of radios.  For most operating I prefer to set the bandwidth with an appropriate IF filter and use few or none of the other features.  To my ears that sounds "cleaner".  Occasionally I do use all of these features to dig a signal deep out of the noise on 160 meters.  I believe you can find many clean sounding SSB transceivers from various companies, some at very reasonable prices....possibly less than $1000.  Perhaps you can go to a radio store such as HRO, which I think has demo transceivers all set up....years ago I did this, or see if you can go to a local ham and listen to his transceiver. 
    For sure...use a good external speaker or preferably headphones....built in speakers usually "suck".  I was neither recommending nor discouraging the K3S for SSB operation.  I am a CW op.  To my "CW" ears it sounds great on SSB, but I would check other options. For sure the 3 Japanese companies make some interesting radios which are at least worth investigating. 
                 Rick   KL7CW
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KL7CW
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« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2017, 12:42:36 PM »

I agree with he N8FVJ analysis.  I worked in the telephone industry for many years and typically telephone (landline) circuits rolled off the frequency response slightly below 3000 Hz.  Bell telephone engineers around 100 years ago determined that frequencies above about 3000 Hz did little or nothing to improve voice intelligence.  So if you can hear on the telephone OK, a starting point might be to roll off the RX response around 3 kHz.  Typically rolling off the high frequency response results in a lower noise level also.  Some of our circuits used notches and control tones.  Notches in the response at say 2800, 3000, or 3200 caused little or no noticeable difference in the quality of the received signal to most of us.  However notches at 2400 Hz and sometimes 2600 Hz resulted in decreased ability to understand some speakers. 
   I am not sure how much good (or harm) low frequency response improves intelligence.  I doubt that low frequencies of say 100 or 150 Hz improve your ability to understand a conversation, however the mellow, booming, broadcast quality audio may be fine when you listen to talk radio or music.
          Rick  KL7CW
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AA4PB
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« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2017, 01:58:15 PM »

I don't think you'll find a major difference in any of the modern HF transceiver make/models. However, adding an adjustable EQ and a good set of headphones can likely provide what you need to hear from any make/model transceiver.

The Noise Reduction feature on many of the new DSP based radios can reduce the background hiss (white noise) but they don't normally do much about the interferrence from other nearby stations.

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Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA
WB8VLC
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Posts: 427




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« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2017, 08:55:46 PM »

I have the same problem caused by 27 plus years on and off working/flying in helicopters but I was fortunate enough to borrow several newer model radios from co-workers to test their receivers.

In the end I finally settled on an elecraft k3s mainly because of its ability to eliminate my high neighborhood static issues and tailor the receive fidelity to my liking.

Additionally; with its excellent noise reduction capability, its excellent receive audio equalizer, its 3 D audio, and especially by using the AM synchronous detector to demodulate either lsb or usb signals at a moderately wide 3.3 KHz IF Bandwidth setting, my receive capability with the k3s now meets my needs.

Albeit my decision on the k3s was considerably higher priced over the next runner up, an ic7300 which is a  very good radio but lacked in fidelity and in noise reduction for my hearing issues compared to the k3s.

But what the heck, you can't take it with you and I buy new radios every 25 years so I went for it.

With the k3s receive audio equalizer, 3D audio, dual receivers and the ability to listening to lsb or usb in  AM SYNCHRONOUS mode with the IF bandwidth set around 3.3KHz  my result is very good receive audio even with weak SSB stations.

My recommendation is to find local hams who have various newer model rigs and see if they will let you test their receiver capabilities out in your environment.

In my case pizza and drinks couldn't be passed up and I was able to test out the radios that I was interested in.
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NEVBEN
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« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2017, 10:03:21 PM »

I don't use kilobuck receivers, but here is what I would consider:

Use an appropriate filter which sometimes may be no filter.  If there are adjacent signals causing interference, you'll want to filter them, but otherwise a narrow filter can interfere with the full audio of the signal.

Use a high-quality audio amplifier.  The poor quality amps that come in every mobile unit start to clip and distort at a quarter-turn.  Again, I haven't tried to drive speakers with a K3S, but you'll want a good amp whether it comes with the receiver or not.  A good audio amp to drive a speaker is worth at least a couple hundred dollars and I don't expect a transceiver manufacturer to include it with a budget box.  The preamp is something that would be harder to substitute unless you're building it yourself.  The audio preamp is definitely going to distinguish the audio of some transceivers above that of others.

Use high-quality headphones or speaker.  It's easier to get quality audio with headphones, much easier.  To drive a speaker you need more power and a larger transducer.  A quality coaxial or full range driver in a sealed enclosure is probably going to work best.  Again, this is easily worth a few hundred dollars.  I don't know anything about the speakers that transceiver manufacturers sell in matching enclosures, but audio is audio.  Get a good speaker.

I don't think signal processing on the output is that important provided the speaker is engineered well to begin with.  You shouldn't need filtering, EQ, or compression.  But do also pay attention to your shack/room acoustics if you're using a speaker.  For SSB, compression on the input after the mic preamp could be meaningful.  And that brings up the last point which is that if the sender is using a junk microphone and overdriving their mic's preamp so it's clipping and then mangling the signal before they transmit it, you're not going to resurrect that with a hi-fi system on your end.
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N8FVJ
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Posts: 378




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« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2017, 05:39:59 AM »

Elecraft K3 or perhaps Yaesu FTDX-3000D also has very low noise & clean audio per my research. A new Yaesu FTDX-3000 is on sale right now for $1499 after $300 mail in rebate. What do you think?
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W1VT
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« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2017, 06:48:31 AM »

I think weak SSB is hard for most hams to understand.  Maybe there is something you can do reduce the noise picked up by your antenna. Some hams have enough room to locate the antenna away from the house. The MFJ 1025 noise canceller can also be used to connect a separate receive antenna to your rig.  Just turn the Main antenna gain all the way down and turn the Auxilliary antenna gain all the way up.  A beam and tower really make a difference on the higher HF bands.

Zack W1VT

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AC7CW
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« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2017, 09:44:55 AM »

You could start by finding out about your hearing at various frequencies: https://hearingtest.online/

At one point I had my laptop's sound all adjusted to compensate for the ripple in the passband of my ears/headphones, can't recall if it made much difference or not... Different radios will make a difference for sure. The background hiss noise fatigues me very muchly, I listened to too much of it trying to dig out signals on 40 Meters back in the day. I listened to an A/B test of two radios from the same manufacturer recently and one that had no bass spectrum gave me a nearly instant headache!
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Novice 1958, 20WPM Extra now... (and get off my lawn)
KL7CW
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« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2017, 11:07:53 AM »

I agree that "good" headphones may really help.  However, personally, I doubt that you gain much with any of the higher cost options.  About 20 years ago I got a new transceiver.  When I first turned it on I detected distortion and was crushed.  I hauled it to the lab at work and thoroughly tested it out and distortion was not an issue.  I then began buying a series of better and better headphones....still no joy.  I then rigged up some audio oscillators and determined the distortion was in my hearing.  It was very minor...never a problem operating a mixer board for music and vocal groups, or as a musician.  I gave away most of my collection of earphones to my happy grandchildren.  Any but the most inexpensive headphones sounded as good as professional broadcast phones (>$500) and communications headphones (> $150 I think) which slightly shape the frequency response for ham radio CW and occasional SSB.  I usually just grab a lightweight set of headphones for SSB or CW and to my ears any but the very cheapest sound just fine to my ears.   Some of these OK phones cost <$50 and probably <25 dollars.  This is just my experience, and I am aware that some folks think that their expensive phones are well worth the price.  When I operate portable outside, I do sometimes use my noise cancelling phones, which really help in some situations, but at home I never bother getting them out.  If you have fan or other noise in the shack, cancelling phones may be a big help.  Personally I have never had RFI issues with the noise cancelling phones, but I use low power, and/or my antennas are far removed from the shack. 
               Rick  KL7CW    mostly CW.....   SSB folks please give us your headphone ideas.
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N8FVJ
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« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2017, 05:54:32 PM »

Hearing test show mostly mild hearing loss, but 250Hz shows moderate hearing loss.
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