Amateur Radio

PreciseRF HG-1 “WR” MLA Review

While I’m fairly happy with the performance that I get from my first HF antenna, an MFJ-2299 telescoping rotatable dipole, which consists of an MFJ-347 mount with a pair of 16.9′ telescoping stainless steel whips which will cover from 6m-20m, mounted on an MFJ-1921 tripod, with a DXE 25′ telescoping fiberglass mast, I wanted to have an antenna that covered the lower bands, especially 40m, as well as 80m and 30m, which the MFJ-2299 does not cover. I live in a small neighborhood in a suburb of Denver, Colorado, and have a very small lot, so stringing up 120′ of wire isn’t really an option. It’s also a new neighborhood, so the trees are all quite small, so I don’t have anything to use to get a wire antenna up in the air, nor to camouflage a stealth antenna. After doing quite a bit of research, including reading the ARRL book on “Small Antennas for Small Spaces” it seemed that the “unsung hero” of limited space may be the Magnetic Loop Antenna (MLA), or Small Transmitting Loop. A magnetic loop antenna for amateur radio is typically made of about 10′ of large diameter coaxial cable (utilizing the braided shield rather than the center conductor) which makes about a 1m diameter loop, connected to a tuning capacitor at the bottom. A smaller inductively-coupled loop is connected to the transceiver. The capacitor can be adjusted to change the resonant frequency of the loop. An MLA doesn’t need to be mounted very high, only 1-2m, …

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Amateur Radio: One Year In…

I took my Technician and General tests together, last July (2019). I had started with a Yaesu FT-60R handheld, but really started to learn things last October (2019) when I bought a Yaesu FT-991A and started working on HF. Looking back over my first year+ in amateur radio, here are some things that I have learned: It’s all about the Antenna — It’s easy to focus on the radio, with knobs, buttons, and flashing lights. Probably the biggest factor to one’s overall success/performance is not the radio, but the antenna! The “best” antenna is the one that you can put up (given any location, size, HOA restrictions), but an antenna that is resonant in the frequency band you are using is going to be the most effective. Higher off of the ground is generally better if possible. Antenna tuners, loading coils, traps, etc. are compromises in performance for size, and flexibility. A compromise antenna can work for you, but may not be ideal. You can find lots of information and ideas in the ARRL book on “Small Antennas for Small Spaces.” Antenna performance is important with handhelds as well. The typical “rubber ducky” antenna is optimized for size/cost, not for performance. An aftermarket 1/4 wave antenna that is 14-16” will generally perform much better than the stock antenna. With the original antenna on my handheld, I could barely hit the repeaters from outside — with the aftermarket antenna I can reach them from my basement! You can also use a …

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Adding an Epic PWRGate to the Powerwerx MEGAbox

When I was looking for a portable 12v DC power solution, I started with a West Mountain Radio Epic PWRGate as a controller/charger for the 12v Deep Cycle/Marine/RV battery from my travel trailer. Since I bring the battery from the trailer inside during the winter, I figured that I might as well make use of it with the radio, and keep it charged. The West Mountain Radio Epic PWRGate is a slick device. It has inputs for power supply and solar panels, connection to/from the battery, and the output or load. It will act as a battery charge controller, and can be set for the battery chemistry — sealed lead acid/gel, AGM, or LiFePO4. It will also act as an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) that will automatically switch from the input power to running the load from the battery. I used the RV battery for Winter Field Day in January 2020, and it worked well to power the radio, but it is HEAVY! The RV battery weighs about 53 lbs. I had decided that for ARRL Field Day in June 2020 I wanted to have a LiFePO4 battery, which are much smaller and lighter, but can offer similar or better capacity/run-time. By comparison, the 30Ah LiFePO4 battery that I selected only weighs 7.6 lbs. Researching some of the run-time calculators showed that a 30A/hr LiFePO4 should power my Yaesu FT-991A for an estimated six hours, which I think is a reasonable compromise between run-time and cost. This is actually double …

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Amateur Radio

I remember, as a kid, assembling a crystal radio kit like the one below from Radio Shack, probably in the early 1970’s. I don’t recall if it was for a school project or an activity in Cub Scouts. I was fascinated by being able to listen to AM radio stations, like WLS in Chicago, Illinois, which was 125 miles away, without any power. My older brother and I had a set of “Lake Transceiver” walkie-talkies that we used around the neighborhood when we were kids. They would have operated on CB channel 14 in the 27MHz band at probably 500mw. Ours were blue. I got interested in “Citizen’s Band” (CB) and amateur radio as a kid in the 1970’s, and had started to study the ARRL Novice license manual as well as some other books and magazines. My mother had a friend whose husband was a ham, Steve Belter (N9IP), at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. We arranged to go over on Saturday mornings to study, but got distracted with the microcomputers that he was working with instead. I used to have an old Hallicrafter’s shortwave receiver that probably came from him. In the mid-70’s we moved away from West Lafayette, and my interest in radio waned, as I got involved in computers and programming, which developed into an IT career. Through the years, I have had CB radios in my pickup trucks, and picked up a couple of sets of FRS radios for camping with the kids. We also …

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