Archive for the ‘Kenwood TS-440 SAT’ Category

JPS (Now Timewave) ANC-4 Antenna Noise Canceller …

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

IMG_2553I don’t live in a city but that doesn’t mean I don’t experience radio interference from the neighbors or from other sources such as power lines or from shoddy wall-warts inside my house. The problem I’ve had at my current QTH is that I’ve generally always been heard, yet receiving a solid copy from the distant station was quite a challenge. The S-Meter routinely read between S3-S5 during the day and at night all bets were off. on 80 meters the S-Meter usually stayed steady at S7, and right around S5 on 40.

A malfunctioning street lamp was a problem a year ago but that problem was resolved. I suspect another street lamp is burned out around my neighborhood but I really don’t want to take the time to hunt it down. I’ve heard of artificial ground boxes that you can buy and I thought that might do the trick. I’m not sure, however, since I’ve never purchased one.

A quick search on ham radio noise cancellation generated some interesting results. I read about the antenna noise cancellation device that MFJ makes but opted not to explore that any further since it received mixed reviews … mostly revolving around the quality of construction. The other issue I had with the MFJ model is that it was my understanding that I couldn’t use it with an automatic antenna tuner. Bummer.

I somehow stumbled across the Timewave ANC-4 Antenna Noise Canceller. It was a little more than the MFJ model (within about $30 or so) but could be used with an automatic antenna tuner. Awesome! I decided to search out reviews for this product including Youtube videos, which allowed me to see the device in action. The videos (more than one) looked very promising, but my major hangup was that I wasn’t quite ready to commit to spending over $200 on a device that may or may not solve my problems.

I decided to go on eBay and do a search for the ANC-4. I figured there had to be several of these things used that someone was willing to part with. I didn’t find any Timewave devices, but I DID find the JPS device. As near as I can tell, they are the exact same design … just a different name on the front of the case. So, I decided to bid on one to see if I could get it for what I thought was a reasonable price. No, I didn’t win the first, second, or even the third auction! But I finally did win one and paid what I thought was a more than fair price for it. I figured if it didn’t work, I wasn’t out much and I could probably sell it for what I paid for it.

A few days later the unit arrived. I installed it later in the week and decided to play around with the device. How did it stack up? Well, after learning how to use it (not at all difficult but it does take some practice) I was pleasantly surprised! Now, some might say that I’m easy to please, but the JPS ANC-4 really did live up to my expectations. Is it a miracle worker? No. Will it drop your noise floor virtually disappear? Probably not. Will your S-Meter hover around S-1 or less? MAYBE. It really all depends. Don’t expect it to get rid of jammers, natural noise such as static crashes or an increase in atmospheric noise due to an unsettled geomagnetic field, but it WILL help with some manmade noise. Notice I said SOME and not ALL.

Here are my results:
On 80 meters (the most problematic for me) my S-Meter usually hovers around S5-S7 without the device. I can hear the stronger stations in my area but forget about pulling in the weak ones. When I use the device, the noise drops considerably. The S-Meter usually hovers between S1-S3. I can hear more of the weaker stations but not everyone. And yes, generally speaking I’m USUALLY heard. Again, if propagation is an issue, this device isn’t going to solve the problem.

On 40 meters, my S-Meter usually hovers around S3-S5 without the device. I can usually work this band without much of an issue, but I definitely can’t pull in the weak stations. With the device active, the S-Meter is right around S1-S3. Much improved! Again, this won’t solve propagation issues or intentional interference. I might also note that your results may vary from day to day depending on band conditions.

The ANC-4 does help on 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, and 10 meters but those bands aren’t nearly as problematic for me. Shortwave reception is also improved as well as the “broadcast band.” Now, reception for broadcast AM stations isn’t stellar on the ANC-4’s default settings, but there are some ways you can improve noise cancellation on this band by following the instructions that came with the unit. The instructions are also available online.

I’m pleased with the overall performance of the unit. It definitely is a nice accessory for my shack. I won’t go into the specifics of how this device works but If you’d like more information about the antenna noise canceller, you can visit Timewave or MFJ.

73 de Andre
KC0MMY

PSK31 …

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Please see the follow-up post on this topic.

I’ve had a rough battle with my lungs and throat over the past few months, which makes it quite difficult, and sometimes painful to talk.  Such is the case this week.  I haven’t been on the radio much because my favorite mode is phone.  It’s nice to be able to talk to someone in another part of the country.  You get to hear their perspective on things, what’s happening in their part of the country, and sometimes that person inspires you to try something new!  This does not mean, however, that I’m opposed to, or wouldn’t use other modes.

I’ve been meaning to try PSK31 for some time.  I even downloaded the software on my Mac awhile back.  I decided this week that I would give it a try, simply because I couldn’t talk with ease.  But, I had to do a few more things before playing radio without my voice.

A few weeks ago, I purchased a RigBlaster Nomic to interface the computer with the radio.  At the time of this post, it’s the least expensive of the RigBlaster models, and it’s quite compact, both of which were huge selling points for me.  Like a lot of hams, having enough space in my shack is an issue.  A few days after it arrived on my doorstep, I proceeded to assemble the RigBlaster.  Yes, some assembly is required, but it’s very simple.  the directions provided by RigBlaster are very easy to follow.  You shouldn’t have any problems.  If you’re like me and have a hard time seeing the fine — or small — print on a lot of things, a magnifying glass will come in handy.  You won’t need the magnifying glass for the instructions, but you may need it for assembling the controller.  The RigBlaster Nomic comes with a RS-232 male to USB cable, two audio cables with 1/8-inch stereo male plugs at both ends, jumpers that you’ll need to set to interface the brand of your rig (Kenwood, Yaesu, ICOM), to your computer, the instruction manual, an 8-pin round female mic adapter, an 8-pin RJ-45 mic adapter, some double-sided tape, and four adhesive feet so that you can either mount or set the control box down on a hard surface.  It also comes with a CD-ROM with several programs for the various digital modes that you can use.  The CD-ROM also contains drivers for the RS-232 to USB cable.  Yes, there are drivers for Mac OS X, but you’ll have to browse the CD-ROM to find them.  Once you do find them, the drivers are very easy to install. No command-line or terminal needed!  You’ll want to install the drivers BEFORE connecting the RS-232 to USB cable to your Mac.  For you Windows users, step-by-step instructions are in the manual.  Follow them to the letter. 

The controller is nothing more than a small metal box containing a printed circuit board with a variable resistor, audio in/out jacks, the female RS-232 port, and the female RJ-45 port.  Inside are a number of jumper pins, which you will use to set the controller to operate your rig.  The jumper settings for the most common manufacturers are towards the back of the supplied instruction manual.  If you have an “oddball” rig, check out their website.  You may find the jumper settings there.

Within ten minutes, I had the controller assembled.  That was the easy part.  The not-so-easy part was calibrating the rig and the the sound output from the computer.  This is not RigBlaster’s fault, by any stretch of the imagination.  I just ran into a few snares.  I’ll explain.

I successfully installed the RS-232 to USB adapter onto my Mac without any hangups.  The drivers are contained in a .dmg file, so it’s just a matter of opening the file, and clicking on the package to install the drivers.  You’ll be prompted to restart your computer.  Once you log into your computer, you can go ahead and plug the cable into any available USB port.

The next step was fairly easy as well:  calibrate the rig with the signal being generated by the computer.  I use a program called FLDigi.  It’s very easy to use and can be installed on Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems.   You can download FLDigi here.  It’s free.  I also suggest you read the Beginners Guide to FLDigi.  Within a half an hour, you should be up and running.

FLDigi has a nifty “tune” button.  This generates a tone so that you can properly calibrate the output of your transmitter.  It’s also conveniently located AWAY from any other buttons that you’ll use while on the air so that you don’t accidentally press it. 

The Kenwood TS-440 allows you to manually activate the transmitter for an unspecified amount of time with the push of a button.  You then have both of your hands free to make any adjustments necessary.  I calibrated the rig so that no more than 30 watts of power was used when transmitting the signal.  The next step is where the complications began.

I needed to find a way to key and unkey my transmitter at a specified time.  As mentioned in a previous post, I tried to write a script that would do this on my Mac automatically when I told the computer to do so.  Writing code to key the transmitter was a breeze!  The difficulty came when I tried to write code to unkey the transmitter.  That was much more difficult.  I never did get that figured out.

With the help of a local ham, I was informed that I could use the VOX circuit in my radio to automatically key and unkey the transmitter.  Brilliant!  So, I tried to calibrate my rig with the signal generated by the computer.  There was a bit of a problem.  The variable resistor on the RigBlaster control box was way too sensitive.  I was either putting out 70 watts, or nothing.  I thought that maybe I could adjust the sensitivity of the VOX circuit.  That didn’t work.  I tried adjusting the Anti-VOX portion of the circuit.  No luck.  I also tried to adjust the output volume in the control panel.  That didn’t work very well, either.  It generated some results, but again, the variable resister in the RigBlaster was far too sensitive.  I was stumped.  Then, it dawned on me.  What if I purchased a simple, low-budget audio mixer to manually adjust the audio output?  I found exactly what I was looking for on Amazon.com:  The Pyle Pro PDMX4L four-channel audio mixer.  I really didn’t need this many inputs, but it was the least expensive one out of the bunch, and it operated on a 9-volt battery, or the optional 9-volt AC adapter. 

I put the mixer in-line between the Mac’s sound card output jack, and the RigBlaster Nomic’s input jack.  I opened the variable resistor all the way on the controller to allow the signal to pass through.  I again tried calibrating my Kenwood using the signal that was generated by the computer.  It worked!  I’m using just under 30 watts of power, and the VOX circuit was able to detect the signal without any problems!

If you choose to use the VOX circuit in your rig like I did, you should be aware of a few things:

1).  You won’t need the RS-232 to USB adapter cable.  One less cable is always good.  I plan on keeping it connected to my computer, though, because I can use it for my 2-meter/70 cm transceiver for Packet or APRS.  Did I mention that I love purchasing things that serve more than one purpose?!

2).  This is probably the most important point:  MAKE SURE you DISABLE the system sounds on your Mac, Windows or Linux computer.  You don’t want these sounds going over the air when you transmit.  For one, it would cause harmful interference on the band, and since most of the sounds that come out of our computer sound like “music,” they shouldn’t be transmitted on any of the amateur bands. This is simple to disable on the Mac.  Go to System Preferences>Sound>.  Make sure the check mark is removed from the boxes next to “Play user interface sound effects,” “Play feedback when volume is changed,” and “Play Front Row sound effects.”  You’re all set.  

3).  DON’T listen to music, or any other audio file on your computer while operating PSK31.  Remember, you’re using the VOX circuit on your rig, and any sound generated by the computer will automatically go over the air. 

Last night, I really had an itch to get on the radio.  I thought I’d try PSK31 and see how well things would work.  I tried to answer a CQ, but didn’t get anywhere, so I thought I’d throw out a couple of CQs on my own.  WB4MOR answered my call!  Copy was perfect on both ends!  I was ecstatic!  I wanted to keep playing, but it was getting rather late, and figured I should probably continue to rest and go to bed.

PSK31 is definitely my mode of choice right now … at least until I can talk comfortably again.  You can get in on the fun, too!  If you have an HF rig that operates in SSB mode, and a computer, you have to two biggest components of PSK31.  Tune up, get on, and have fun on this very efficient mode!

My First (sort of) QSO …

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

It’s been awhile since I’ve been on HF … nearly five years to be exact.  There are two reasons behind that:

1).  When living in Western South Dakota, I lived in apartment in the heart of the city.  Let’s just say that the noise floor on all of the HF bands was horrendous!  Of course, it’s no wonder:  power transformers, street lights, traffic lights, traffic, neon signs, alarm systems, and the list goes on and on.

2).  When I moved into my current QTH, I really haven’t been able to devote a lot of time to getting my shack up and running again … until the past year!

It was about a month ago that my “new” Kenwood TS-440 SAT arrived on my door step.  The antenna came in a few days later.  That weekend, the weather was perfect for at least putting an antenna up that would do a marginal job.  This spring as soon as the ground thaws, I’ll put up some better supports and get the antenna up even higher!

I spent the better part of a week reacquainting myself with the rig again (a buddy of mine had the rig when he lived out in Western SD, so I used his rig).  I adjusted the settings, spun the dial on the various bands just to see how well I could hear, and even listened to a few nets and QSOs.

About two weeks ago, I had my first (well, sort of) QSO on 40 meters since I’ve been off of HF.  It was with Scott, WX0V near the Twin Cities in Minnesota.  It was a short conversation as the band conditions weren’t very favorable.  They were just enough for a quick QSO.  My enthusiasm for radio was reignited again that night!

As the week went on, I was able to make a few more contacts via HF, one on 40 meters again, and another on 20 meters in California!  I even checked into a few nets just to see where I could be heard and how my “crude” antenna, in my opinion, was performing.  Overall, I’m pleased with the results!

Even though I’ve been a licensed amateur for nearly eight years, every time I fire up the HF rig and make a contact, I get that sense of excitement and amazement!  There’s nothing quite like the magic of radio!