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Author Topic: Hearing Almost Nothing,  (Read 1779 times)
W2DI
Member

Posts: 196




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« on: December 16, 2018, 10:56:25 PM »

I’ve been away from HF for about 3 years. Some activity on 2M and 70 cm.

Lately I decided to do some HF again. All I have left is a TT Argosy. So I set it up next to my favorite chair, and hooked it up through an MFJ tuner directly to a random wire, about 35 ft long, just to do some listening until I string out a better antenna.

But in over two weeks, I haven’t heard much of anything.

I get plenty of noise on 75, 40 and 20, but few signals. During the daylight hours I hear nothing on 20. In the afternoon and early I might hear a couple signals on 40, such as ECARS, and maybe a station below 7.2. In the early evening, I may hear 1 or 2 signals on 75.

I can usually hear WWV, Ft. Collins on 10 MHz, but not real strong.

Another ham I know told me, via an email, that HF is and has been really lousy.

So I’m wondering if band conditions are that bad, or if the wire antenna is just not good enough, or if the rig is not up to snuff. It may need an alignment. Someone ‘aligned’ it before it was loaned to me and may have fouled it up. I don’t have any test equipment save for a DVM and an SWR analyzer.

Eventually I’d like to get a modest rig, 100W, like an SR-8, or a 718. But funds are very tight and I’d hate to invest money and time if the conditions are the cause.

I’m perplexed. Any opinions are welcomed as to what may be the issue.

And, I do have a 9:1 matching unit I could use for an end fed wire, using the ‘best length’ chart for end fed wires.

Thanks and Happy Holidays to all !

joe
w2di

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W2UIS
Member

Posts: 130




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« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2018, 04:12:18 AM »

Sorry to say there is little activity on all the HF bands.
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KE6EE
Member

Posts: 2657




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« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2018, 05:38:09 AM »

Propagation has been down and this, I think, has reduced activity.

Sort of a double whammy.

I moved recently and the first antenna I put up, for simplicity, was an end-fed
wire. 72 ft. wire at 30 ft.; 9:1 transformer; common mode choke. It worked
to a certain degree.

When I replaced the wire with my usual ladder-line-fed 100 ft. doublet at 30 ft., I once again could contact just about anyone I could hear and my noise level was reduced.

In these days of reduced activity and relatively poor propagation, you will benefit from the best antenna you can install.
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KS2G
Member

Posts: 1025




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« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2018, 05:42:10 AM »

So I ... hooked it up through an MFJ tuner directly to a random wire, about 35 ft long, just to do some listening ... Another ham I know told me, via an email, that HF is and has been really lousy... So I’m wondering if band conditions are that bad, or if the wire antenna is just not good enough...

We are near the end of Cycle 24 - -expected to "bottom out" late next year,  -- which was significantly "weaker" that Cycle 23.

So, YES overall HF band conditions currently are the WORST in probably 20 years.

You don't say where or how high you've strung your random wire, but whatever the case -- YES your antenna isn't good enough to pull in the weak signals that ARE out there.

And, YES overall "casual" operating on HF has declined significantly from years past, but contest activity is bigger than ever. Try listening during a major contest weekend, you'll hear PLENTY of signals. (See: https://www.contestcalendar.com)

And new digital modes attuned to weak signals --particularly FT8-- have generated considerable activity because of their ability to make contacts on bands that appear "dead".

All that said, IMHO there IS enough activity to make having an HF station worthwhile.  But put up the best antenna system you can manage.  Wink

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W2DI
Member

Posts: 196




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« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2018, 06:51:21 AM »

I thank you all for the excellent information!

I think I’ll skip the end fed for now and go to a ladder line doublet. The wire I have now is only at 15’ max, so it can’t be helping things. But I expected to hear more.

Listening on a contest weekend is a great idea. They come out of the woodwork.

Thanks again. I’ll go ahead with the doublet and go from there!
joe
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W1VT
Member

Posts: 3203




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« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2018, 07:33:23 AM »

A simple wire that worked 40 years ago may be too noisy in a modern house filled with noise generating lights, appliances, and electronic devices.  
It isn't that they are all, or even most of them are bad.  Rather, it is the fact that it only takes one device to wipe out your reception.  Shocked

That said, I spend most of my time on the low bands.  I worked half a dozen Europeans on 160M FT8 this morning on my 36' high Inverted L.
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WA2ONH
Member

Posts: 507




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« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2018, 08:39:59 AM »

KS2G "We are near the end of Cycle 24 - -expected to "bottom out" late next year,  -- which was significantly "weaker" that Cycle 23."

YES, The number of Sunspots has been going down but has NOT yet hit bottom.
From K9LA's Propagation Website http://k9la.us/ here's a recent chart for previous 6-solar MIN periods
at http://k9la.us/previous_six_solar_min_periods.png



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73 de WA2ONH  <dit dit> ... Charlie
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Never be satisfied with what you know, only with what more you can find out"
Dr David Fairchild 1869-1954 US Scientist
N9AOP
Member

Posts: 1123




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« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2018, 08:55:43 AM »

Last night I was on the Illinois ARES net (3.905) at 4:30 CST.  The whole band was wall to wall signals as is the case most evenings.
Art
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W2DI
Member

Posts: 196




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« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2018, 10:11:14 AM »

Things change rather quickly anymore. There is a lot of noise compared to years ago and it is hard to get away from it. Good DSP helps.

The bottom of the cycles is when everyone went down to the lower bands. And I remember 75 being so crowded there was no place to park. I'll try to listen earlier when I get the antenna up.

Thank you, gents. Seems like it isn't easy to have fun anymore.
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AE5GT
Member

Posts: 386




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« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2018, 12:42:27 PM »

what is your noise floor ?
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KL7CW
Member

Posts: 540




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« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2018, 12:54:29 PM »

I will stick my neck out and venture a guess that most or all of your RFI is from your house or very close by.  Read the RFI posts, good info on eliminating or reducing radiation from wall warts, appliances, etc.  After you have addressed the above, I would consider your antenna type and location.  Often a balanced antenna fed with coax and appropriate choke(s) or open wire line to a proper tuner will greatly improve your situation.  Most antennas will receive enough signal on 20 through 160 meters to work OK, however they receive too much noise.  End fed antennas, OCF dipoles, etc. may be OK but often are not and attention must be paid to properly choke off RF from the feedline.  The inverse square law is your friend as far as noise reception.  About a decade ago I helped a friend in Seattle erect a loop around his house for 80 through 15 meters.  Originally it was mostly under the eves and very stealth.  Fair on tx, but nearly useless on RX very noisy.  A few years later I visited him in Seattle and moved parts of the loop away from his house.  Better, but still noisy.  A few years later I rebuilt the several hundred foot loop and it was well clear of his and other houses, probably at least an average of 20 feet away from structures.  It was much quieter (not perfect) and seemed to tx much better (not a scientific test).  About a decade ago I operated from my daughters house in urban California.  Too much noise with ant near house.  I put a dipole on the wooden fence at the back of her property line, average height about 5 feet.  Actually made some QRP QSO's and rx was quite respectable.  If I lived there I would consider putting up a good TX antenna on the house, but use the fence dipole for RX if necessary.  These are just some things to think about.  Very possibly something like a wall wart or computer power supply in the next room is a major source of RFI.            Rick  KL7CW   Palmer, Alaska
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W2DI
Member

Posts: 196




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« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2018, 04:04:44 PM »

Noise floor, right now on 40M with the wire is 6-7. That's the lowest it gets and often is higher at different spots on the band and on other bands.

Good information, Rick. There are plenty of gadgets around and I'd be surprised if there wasn't a lot of noise with this set up.

I'll check the RFI section and think about getting an antenna with some space from the house. I do recall a coax fed fan dipole out in the backyard worked very well some years back and was not as noisy as some others I've used.

Thanks much. If I'm going to get back on, it would pay to do it right the first time; getting the antenna right is probably the most important challenge. Who knows, this old Argosy might do a decent job with the right antenna set-up. Then later I can look into a 100W, all HF band model!

joe
w2di
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KD3WB
Member

Posts: 144




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« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2018, 05:41:14 PM »

I sometimes use WEBSDR when I can't find anyone.

http://www.websdr.org/

This allows you to see the entire band at a glance.

If you want a New Jersey station, try http://108.50.200.200:8902/

The forty meter band is at the extreme right of the waterfall.  If you want more detail, drag the waterfall to the left and zoom in.  If you are wondering what is going on at 7075 kHz, it's FT8.

https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx.html

Ben
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W2DI
Member

Posts: 196




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« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2018, 05:42:57 PM »

I'll try that right now, Ben. Sounds fascinating! Thank you!
joe
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W4KVW
Member

Posts: 283




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« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2018, 09:12:38 PM »

75/80/40 meters busy every day/evening with lots of signals in the daytime hours on 40 but most of the 40 meter activity is Useless Nets so it would be off being Dead.Quiet a bit of activity of 20 meters in the late afternoon & most days a few DX Stations.17 meters which is usually a great DX band has been pretty quiet other than a few days here & there during the week but it's hit & miss.I have antennas for all of the HF Bands & a beam for 10-20 meters.10 meter opens most every day to South America or the Caribbean Islands from here in Northeast Florida so I guess like the old saying goes,Location, Location,Location!  Grin

Clayton
W4KVW
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