KX3 Beefed Up!   January 14th, 2015

KX3 Beefed uo
I recently took the opportunity of grabbing some samples that had come into the office. They looked interesting, particularly as they were for the Elcraft KX3 and I own one!

The first item you will see is a replacement heat sink that makes the transceiver run cooler. I personally have never noticed it getting that warm, but I guess if I was operating data, AM or FM, then I might appreciate it more. But it looks great.

The second item was a pair of side cheeks that include “handles’ whose primary function must be to protect the tuning controls and other knobs. Again it looks great.

From the photo you can see what a difference in appearance these items make. We will be selling them shortly I am sure. Peter G3OJV

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Compact CW Paddle Key   January 2nd, 2015

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The market is pretty crowded when it comes to CW paddle keys and the price range is equally extensive. For most, the requirement is for a key that is mechanically sound, works and feels good, and does not cost the “earth.’

So with this in mind we have been looking to bring to market, something that comes as close as possible to this requirement. Our newly developed key is pictured above and is quite compact but quite heavy, with a rubberised base that seems to grip the desk surface very well indeed. One interesting feature is the cable connection. This is a achieved by means of a 3.5mm stereo socket on the key itself. As most radios use this connection, a simple 3.5mm to 3.5mm lead is all that is required to connect the key to the radio.

Preliminary tests look promising and subject to further testing, this key should be available in a few weeks. Peter G3OJV.

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2015 Arrives!   January 1st, 2015

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Well, 2015 has arrived and a very Happy New Year to all those who are reading this blog. We all made it to the year 2015! I guess that there are thousands of greetings going back and forth ver the air waves today, and for the next few days. So as we head into a new year,, from the ham radio perspective, I am sure there will be some new exciting developments, new products and new ideas. All this is very good news for us hobbyists.

One of the comments i receive regularly, both in the shop and on the telephone, is problems with lack of space for antennas and problems in making contacts compared with the achievements of other stations. And I always try and first of all to find out if there is indeed a technical problem. Usually there is no technical problem, but simply the owner of the station just cannot compete with the “big guns” who have high powered amplifiers and big antenna systems. I am sure we have all felt disadvantaged at times. For some it is lack of space, for others it is a lack of cash, and for many it is both! Buth there is an answer.

Those who can identify with this problem and feel disappointed need to sit down and think over their situation and perhaps their attitude to the problem, or indeed the hobby.

Ham radio was originally an experimental hobby, and still is to many. Experimenting means a challenge and it is here that those who feel depressed with their results, need to change their attitude to the rut that they may feel they are in. A small garden and low power can work, but not as well as a 1KW station with a tower and beams. So stop comparing yourself with these stations. Instead, focus on what you have and treat what you regard as a disadvantage into a positive challenge. Let me give you an example of something I read about recently.

Michael J Rainey, AA1TJ, is a USA ham operator who is a great experimenter and had been working on a heterodyne single device VFO in order to produce a simple circuit that would generate a 14MHz signal. That in itself was a challenge. He didn’t need to use just a few components. He could have achieved the same with more components which would have made his task easier. But he didn’t!

He achieved his goal and then added an amplifier. I should add that although this took place in 2013, he was using very early solid state devices dating back to the 1960s. The result was a CW transmitter that produced 2mW. That’s right 2mW! His curiosity carried on and he decided to see if he could make a contact. He eventually got a response from a station over 900 miles away. That station was running 5W to an Elecraft K2 and coming in to Michael’s 2-stage regenerative receiver at S8. He got a report of 439 running just 2mW and the QSO lasted for 7 minutes.

So here is a simple question for you to ponder over on New Year’s Day. How does that achievement compare with a station runnung 1kW on 20m and working 12,000 miles into VK/ZL? Think about it! Peter G3OJV.

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Antenna Matters   December 29th, 2014

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I recently nad a need to bring an HF antenna lead in through a window opening. Not the most popular thing to do in the winter months! Even RG58 did not allow the window to fully close and resulted in a considerable draft.

One of the items we stock is a mobile coax lead designed to feed through the hatch back edge closing point and this involves the use of a very thin mini cable that is quite robust. On one end is a plug and the other end a socket. This makes an effective way of bringing in a coax feed whilst allowing the window to be fully closed.

Buddipole Buddistick for Mobile.

The buddipole range of products is well know around the world and I have used them for a number of years. My favourite is the Buddistick as it is so versatile. And it always struck me that it could be used for mobile operation. It is one of the more efficient antennas because of its large coil and lengthy resonator whip which is very easy to adjust.

Most mobile installations use an SO239 socket mount on hatch or boot mounts. The buddipole system uses a 3/8″ stud mount. This can be resolved by the use of one of our 3/8″ to PL259 adaptors. This makes a very simple and effective HF mobile installation. Peter G3OJV

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Diamond Compact HF Antennas   December 25th, 2014

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I have always favoured single band mobile antennas over multi band types because of the lower losses and the fact that they tend to be easier to tune. Multiband mobile whips can give rise to spurious resonances because of additional self resonances over and above those that are intended.

Diamond of Japan are perhaps better known for their VHF and UHF range, but the compact HF single handers carrying the suffix “FX” such as HF20FX for 20m, are worth a serious look. I am using these myself at the moment.

The first advantage is that they are fitted with a PL259 connection, so they easily plug into the popular hatch and boot mount connectors. Secondly, they have an easily adjustable resonator whip that does not require the use of any special Allen key.

These are base loaded designs on a small former which gives them a slightly wider VSWR bandwidth than would otherwise be obtainable. They also easily unscrew into two sections making them easy to stow away. And finally the Japanese engineering shows through.

If you are thinking of going mobile, look them up on our web site. Peter G3OJV

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It’s Not All Ham Radio   December 25th, 2014

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I spend most of my working days talking about, writing and selling ham radio. I also spend some time operating. But sometimes you need a break and need to switch off.

Sitting in front of a TV has never been my idea of relaxation. However, I do very much enjoy music and this has always been an important part of my “other” life.

The picture above shows part of my music studio where I compose and mix. This involves writing some backing tracks for local singers. My great love is jazz and I do about one live recording a month for a local group of professionals. From these tracks we extract the best and then I spend several evenings editing and mixing.

It’s miles away from the ham radio hobby, but it keeps me busy and stops me dropping off in front of the TV!

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RSGB Christmas Contest   December 24th, 2014

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Christmas Eve is upon us and another year is drawing to an end. Boxing Day heralds the beginning of the RSGB Christmas holiday contest covering 6m 4m 2m and 70cms. This is run from 1400 – 1600 on the four days from 26th December to 29th December.

I did participate in the contest last year in order to test out my 2m LFA Yagi and found it quite a pleasant way of fitting in some ham radio operation without interfering too much with the family Christmas. In fact that two hour daily period is often the time when everybody is recovering from their midday meal!

Having just returned from a Christmas Eve carol service, and settled down with a glass of wine, it really seems like Christmas. This year I may try some fixed operation from my mobile setup, to see how far I can get. As with my participation last year, I will not have a competitive station – far from it! But it is a chance to quickly test the station’s ability on the VHF/UHF bands and at the same time, avoid falling asleep after a meal at Christmas.

A Happy Christmas to you all. Peter G3OJV.

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Yaesu DR-1XE Repeaters for Scotland   December 23rd, 2014

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The new Yaesu DR-1XE digital repeater has been attracting a lot of attention, and no more so than in Scotland. In fact we have delivered six units to Scotland so far.

One may think that Yaesu have been disadvantage by the fact that D-Star has become so well established around the world. Certainly Yaesu were very late in coming into the market. But the YAesu repeater has one strength that makes it ideal for both new digital repeater installations and as a possible replacement for existing analogue repeaters. This is because it can handle both types of transmission and even work cross modes. That is a really big plus point.

I have no experience of operating Yaesu digital mode, but one of the big developments is that the new FT-991 base station will be compatible, as are a number other new radios from Yaesu. Is Scotland showing the way ahead, or will both modes continue to developed and leave the ham operator with having to make the difficult choice! Peter G3OJV

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Sinking The Elecraft KX3   December 23rd, 2014

KX31

Any successful product attracts manufacturers that are anxious to provide accessories they think will sell. Apple Corporation is a great example of this. And Elecraft, with their top selling KX3, have their fair share of manufacturing followers.

An item that recently came to our attention was a replacement heat sink for the KX3. The standard heat sink is a thick plate that attaches to the top side of the transceiver. The difference is that this replacement plate is thicker and has fins. Of course it adds weight and mass to the transceiver, but that is the nature of a heat sink.

The installation is simple and it uses the existing screws that are part of the original heat sink assembly. The only slightly fiddly part is reinstalling the two bolts and captive nuts that clamp the PA to the heat sunk. So does it work?

I suppose the question should also be is it necessary? The answer really is dependent upon your method of operation. If you operate the radio at its maximum power from an external 13.8v supply (12W output), then the heat sink will be of benefit as the temperature rise will be less and so aid stability. But the KX3 does have an in-built temperature compensation feature that generally takes care of this. If you operate data modes, AM or FM, then temperature rise is more of an issue.

I think that this accessory probably helps to keep the temperature excursion down for full power operation, particularyl in hotter climates or even in the summer UK sunshine. It also happens to look good. Subject to further testing we hope to be able to offer this as an option within the next few weeks. Peter G3OJV

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Camping with Ham Radio in Winter   December 20th, 2014

Camper

One of my loves in ham radio is portable operation. I don’t do as much as I would like, but my KX3 and rucksack are regular travel companions. Most of this operation takes place in the warmer weather when it is easier and more comfortable to do this kind of outdoor operation.

A few weeks ago I purchased a camper van. Not something I had considered before. The main purpose was as a day van with occasional overnight stays. It was not until I got the vehicle that I realised this could extend my portable activities into the winter months and when it was raining. The leisure battery offers independent 12v DC and is rated at 135Ah. This is more than enough for my KX3 and gives me 10W output for long periods.

A camper van is significantly smaller than a motorhome, but has the big advantage that it is largely metal rather than fibre glass. This offers a great earth mass. I was unsure how this would work out with HF operation, but a simple hatch mount on the rear door and a base loaded 40m whip gave me 1.2:1 at resonance. You don’t get much better than this. The bandwidth at the 2:1 VSWR points was around 80kHz which is fine for CW.

My intention is not to operate on the move, but rather to be able to park up somewhere and operated whilst having a coffee or a light lunch. My van has a side kitchen which gives me plenty of worktop space for the radio. I also have a diesel heater and a fridge, so extended all weather operation is possible. My first trip will be to the West Coast of Scotland in February. It will be interesting to see how this works out. Peter G3OJV

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