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Author Topic: FT8 - What am I perhaps doing wrong?  (Read 1208 times)
N2QLT
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Posts: 43




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« on: April 22, 2019, 07:01:58 AM »

Hello all. I have never before used a digital mode. This weekend, I finally set my station up for FT8. It looks like lots of fun. The trouble is, I am seeing many many stations calling. Their signals range from around +10 to -24. I am able to make contacts, but only with the very strongest stations. The signal reports I am receiving are very low (like -12 to -17). I feel that I must be missing something here. I am using WSJT-X with a Signalink. I am also using an Icom IC-751a and a log periodic antenna. My computer time is accurate, I am using Meinberg. The Signalink connects to the 751a through a cable plugged into the mic connector. I use the mic gain on the rig and the transmit adjustment on the Signalink to get AGC down to 0. I'm getting out about 40-50 watts USB. I'm just puzzled because on SSB and CW I can generally work anything I can hear. And with similar signal reports when working stations running close to the same power. So I figure I must be doing something wrong. Any ideas out there? Thanks!

Scott
N2QLT
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K0UA
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Posts: 4810




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« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2019, 07:33:20 AM »

There are two more pieces to the puzzle you have not considered.  You may have a very low noise location, and the majority of hams nowadays have very high noise levels.  You are running 40 to 50 watts, and many may be running a kilowatt or more.  I would love to work you and compare reports. I have a fairly low noise level most of the time, and cannot possibly run more than 100 watts as that is all I have. Smiley  73  James K0UA
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73  James K0UA
ARRL Missouri Technical Specialist
VA3VF
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Posts: 3002




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« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2019, 10:40:29 AM »

Everything looks good. I don't see any problems with your setup. Propagation has not been the best for many months now.

As for working all you hear on SSB/CW, well, you are not hearing everything. FT8 is a weak signal mode, you are bound to hear a lot more. That does not mean all stations will be workable. Propagation again, and noisy operating conditions, play a role.
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AA4PB
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Posts: 15066




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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2019, 12:41:26 PM »

I've been running FT8 on 6M and generally have a very low noise level (often no reading on the S meter). I very consistently gave out reports that were 6dB higher than what I was given. I soon learned that if I was receiving a station below -17 dB then there was no point in me calling him. So, I raised my output power by 6dB and now I generally get reports equal to or above what I give out.
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Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA
W5DXP
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2019, 02:01:49 PM »

I use the mic gain on the rig and the transmit adjustment on the Signalink to get AGC down to zero.

I hope you mean ALC there.
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My antenna says, "What makes me happy is when the tuner is adjusted for maximum available current through my radiation resistance!" 73, Cecil, w5dxp.com
N2QLT
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Posts: 43




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« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2019, 07:13:44 AM »

Yes, ALC hi hi. Thanks for the ideas. I'm now feeling that it must have to do with the low noise level at my location. I don't think I want to go over 50 watts. Even that is causing the fan to start up on the rig. And I don't think that my AL-811H would enjoy this mode very much.

73,
Scott
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N3DT
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Posts: 1792




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« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2019, 06:34:10 PM »

I use my 80B a fair amount on 40 and 80. At about 20W in and 250-350 out. Sure improves my signal.
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K0UA
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Posts: 4810




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« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2019, 06:46:54 PM »

Yes, ALC hi hi. Thanks for the ideas. I'm now feeling that it must have to do with the low noise level at my location. I don't think I want to go over 50 watts. Even that is causing the fan to start up on the rig. And I don't think that my AL-811H would enjoy this mode very much.

73,
Scott

You could probably safely run 300 or 400 watts from your amp.  That would give you more of an symmetrical report.
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73  James K0UA
ARRL Missouri Technical Specialist
G4AON
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Posts: 1426




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« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2019, 08:04:13 AM »

Have you got speech processing, compression, equalisation all turned off to minimise distortion?

Many stations run a lot of power on FT8, on the “turn the knobs to the right” approach to elbow their way to a QSO. I wouldn’t worry too much, pick the optimum time/band to suit where you want to work and see if propagation helps you.

Having a low noise QTH is great, my noise level has risen steadily over the years.

73 Dave
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N2QLT
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Posts: 43




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« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2019, 06:33:33 AM »

Yes, I've never used compression in my life. I did realize that I need to raise the audio level to the point that the ALC meter just jiggles a bit. I also just found out about hamspots.net and I see that I am indeed getting a signal out there.

73,
Scott
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WB8VLC
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Posts: 667




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« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2019, 01:56:00 PM »

Scott,

If you haven't used PSK reporter then check it out.

https://pskreporter.info/pskmap.html

You can also look at your geographical hit areas in real time maps on psk reporter but you need to have enabled PSK reporter in the WSJT-X menu under SETTINGS/ REPORTING/ NETWORK SERVICES/ check the box that indicates > 'enable PSK reporter spotting'.



If you haven't used PSK reporter just open it up and along the Top of the screen you have the menu of what you want it to display as follows.

For ALL BANDs click the ham band you are on,

next to SHOW, select SIGNALS

SENT/RCVD by.  I just leave it at 'sent/rcvd' by both to see who you hear and who hears you.

for THE CALLSIGN selection I leave this at 'THE CALLSIGN' and in the next field to the right enter your callsign  N2QLT

next to the pull down for USING  ALL MODES, click and select the submode you are using, FT8, FT4 etc

Then for OVER THE LAST, select the time period you are interested in looking back to. For instance '1 hour'

next you will see the indicators light up with stations you hear or those that are hearing you.
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WW7KE
Member

Posts: 949




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« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2019, 10:04:33 PM »

Hello all. I have never before used a digital mode. This weekend, I finally set my station up for FT8. It looks like lots of fun. The trouble is, I am seeing many many stations calling. Their signals range from around +10 to -24. I am able to make contacts, but only with the very strongest stations. The signal reports I am receiving are very low (like -12 to -17). I feel that I must be missing something here. I am using WSJT-X with a Signalink. I am also using an Icom IC-751a and a log periodic antenna. My computer time is accurate, I am using Meinberg. The Signalink connects to the 751a through a cable plugged into the mic connector. I use the mic gain on the rig and the transmit adjustment on the Signalink to get AGC down to 0. I'm getting out about 40-50 watts USB. I'm just puzzled because on SSB and CW I can generally work anything I can hear. And with similar signal reports when working stations running close to the same power. So I figure I must be doing something wrong. Any ideas out there? Thanks!

Scott
N2QLT

Propagation is not always your friend, but it can be. Wink Cheesy

A bit ago, I called a station in grid square CN84 (I'm in DM43).  His signal ranged from -8 to -12.  No response.  I called him 3 times.  He came back to a Japanese station and gave him a good report.

A couple minutes later, I answered a CQ from a station in New Zealand, with a report of -1.  He came back to me immediately with a report of -16.  QSO completed with no issues.

Both were on 30 meters at around 0430Z on FT8.  My noise level is in the S1-S2 range on this band.

There are so many factors in making contact, or not, that it's just about impossible to make an intelligent guess whether or not you'll make a contact.  With my 50 watts and 10V+30H foot inverted-L + unun antenna, my reports are at least 10 dB below most of the folks on FT8 today.  I only answer those stations that are shown to have a -15 dB or higher S/N report.  Anything lower than that is usually an exercise in frustration.  But there are no guarantees.

Not only do band conditions matter, but so do local noise level, transmitter power, and antenna gain (or loss) at the other end.  As do any DX stations that are heard, who will more than likely be given priority.  But I have no idea if he ever heard me or not.  There's no way of knowing.

In other words, FT8 is no different than any other mode.  You gets on the air and you takes your chances.
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He speaks fluent PSK31, in FT8...  One QSO with him earns you 5BDXCC...  His Wouff Hong has two Wouffs... Hiram Percy Maxim called HIM "The Old Man..."  He is... The Most Interesting Ham In The World!
W9IQ
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Posts: 3541




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« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2019, 03:06:27 AM »

Not only do band conditions matter, but so do local noise level, transmitter power, and antenna gain (or loss) at the other end.  As do any DX stations that are heard, who will more than likely be given priority.  But I have no idea if he ever heard me or not.  There's no way of knowing.

Local noise conditions are a significant contributor to this condition.

Add to that list receiver performance factors such as selectivity, blocking, AGC, gain settings, etc.

But antenna gain isn't typically a factor due to reciprocity - an antenna has the same gain on transmit and receive. This means that the net antenna gain between two stations is typically the same on transmit and receive.

- Glenn W9IQ
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- Glenn W9IQ

I never make a mistake. I thought I did once but I was wrong.
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