Tag Archives: Hustler 4BTV

Eclipse WSPRing

In the run-up to the eclipse there was plenty of information concerning the eclipse and its relation to propagation. Of particular interest to me was the Eclipse Experiment proposed by HamSCI and especially their use of data from WSPRNet and PSK Reporter as well as the Reverse Beacon Network. There is an amazing amount of data collected each day by these systems that has a practical use for checking propagation conditions and a scientific use for observing the affect of events like the eclipse. WSRPNet alone averages around 1 million spots per day. Yesterday was over 1.2 million. The spots per hour broke the chart:

WSPR Spots per Hour

About 1600 UTC of the morning of the eclipse I started my WSPRLite on 20m. Band conditions were as follows:

Band conditions @ 1631 UTC

I was using my 4BTV with the WSPRlite transmitter at 200mW. I let it run for a couple of transmit rounds as a test and obtained the following results:

WSPR @ 200mW (1637 UTC)

As you can see, all the spots are in North America. I then changed to my TS-590SG and WSJT-X with the 4BTV so that I could both transmit and receive. I set the TX power to 5 W and started to WSPR on 20m.

By 1709 UTC the map looked like this:

WSPR @ 5W  (1709 UTC)

As you can see a lot more North America stations and VY0ERC on Ellesmere Island in the Arctic Ocean. VY0ERC claims to quite possibly be the most northerly Amateur Radio club in the world. At 79 degrees 59 minutes N there really isn’t all that much latitude remaining for challengers.

By 1742 UTC I received my first spots in Central and South America as well as the first spot by a station in Europe, F4GUK in France.

WSPR @ 5W (1742 UTC)

According to this NASA map, in the US, the eclipse started at 9:06 AM PDT\16:06 UTC in Madras, OR and ended in the US at 4:06 PM EDT/2006 UTC in Columbia, SC, so the US time window for the eclipse was roughly 1600 to 2000 UTC.

WSPR @ 5W (2100 UTC)

WSPR @ 5W (2100 UTC)

By 2100 I received a spot in Australia, VK2CBD and Europe as well as South America had opened up to some degree and a spot by VE8GER, northwest of Inuvik, Northwest Territories. I had two odd ones, KG9BEP that appears to be in the middle of the Sea of Okhotsk and KC6EVC which was off the top of the map. Neither were legitimate callsigns.

US WSPR detail @ 2100 UTC

I forgot to capture band conditions at 2100, but at 2153 they were as follows:

Band conditions @ 2153 UTC

The most noticeable changes were that A dropped to 11 from 22, and K from 3 to 2 over the course of roughly 5 hours. I want to say that conditions improved over the course of the day and the data supports this to large extent, though what portion of this is attributable to the eclipse or just the fluctuating conditions that we find ourselves in is hard to say.

By the time that I pulled the hook at about 2200 UTC I had received 1868 spots. I placed all of my spots in Excel and made a simple chart of the number of spots per time period. I hesitate to put this up as there are about 34.785 variables at play so don’t take this too seriously:

Spots over time

The red lines are the time boundaries of the eclipse. The time runs from 1628 UTC to 21:58 UTC. The maximum number of spots was 99. The first two points were at 200mW and the rest were at 5W. That explains the jump to the third datapoint. As I said, 34,785 variables. My station was heard by 297 unique stations and I heard 179 unique stations. There were a lot of receive only spotters.

As for what all of this means, that I’ll leave to the actual scientists, based just upon WSPRnet they certainly obtained a pile of data. My conclusions are that WSPRing continues to be intriguing and as always, Amateur Radio is an interesting hobby.

 

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Antenna Update

We are rapidly approaching June and grass cutting season is in earnest here in Wisconsin. We are over 3 inches ahead on rainfall this year and while we’ve had below average temperatures for the most part the grass hasn’t noticed.

It’s only been 6 months since I completed laying the thirty 30 foot radials for my 4BTV and they have already largely disappeared into the grass.

Where are the radials?

November 2016

To be fair, we delayed cutting the grass in the area that contains the radials until yesterday in order to give the grass a nice growth run. My XYL cut the area without incident. No radials wrapped around the mower deck! To insure an event-free experience I used approximately 500 landscape staples. That’s about one staple every two feet for each of thirty radials. Maybe a wee bit of overkill but worth it in the face of pulling the mower deck to undo tightly wound radials.

The last thing that I added to the 4BTV late in the fall was DX Engineering’s reinforced lower tube. It was extraordinarily windy late last fall and I don’t have any guys on the 4BTV. Additionally, it is located in an area of the yard that directly faces the prevailing winds with a long unimpeded run across a large farm field so it takes the brunt of the wind. The base tube withstood a lot and in all likelihood would have been fine but I didn’t want to be out there changing a bent antenna tube in January so the reinforced lower tube was cheap insurance.

The K9AY worked very well this past winter and there were no issues with winter winds. It is now in the folded position for yard and garden season.

K9AY Folded

It neatly folds up into a space of maybe two square feet providing plenty of room for my lovely XYL and her antenna killing machines to drive about in pursuit of all manner of lawn and garden care.

XYL and new antenna mangler

The lawn tractor was enough of an antenna menace. Now she has a Honda Rancher with which to inflict damage to my ground mounted antennas! Tomorrow is our 29th Wedding Anniversary so she’s a keeper. We’ll see about the ATV. : )

 

 

RigExpert AA-55 Zoom

I’ve wanted a RigExpert analyzer for some time. I saw one in action at Field Day this past year and was very impressed. It was the AA-230 Zoom model. It scanned a 4BTV very quickly and having recently purchased a 4BTV I figured that I’d have to get one of these devices at some point. The problem is that they aren’t inexpensive and just how often will I really need to use all of its capabilities when I already have a 259B that works just fine. Yah, you already know where this is going.

After a long afternoon of tuning my 4BTV in its new location with 30 radials using my 259B the “need” for the RigExpert started to move up the priority list. The video of the AA-230 Zoom scanning the 4BTV in about 2 seconds was on continuous loop in my head as I turned the frequency selector switch on my 259B and rotated the 10 turn tune pot to and then through the interested range, changed the frequency band, rotated the ten turn tune pot, lather, rinse, repeat. All while recording measurements of key points to track my progress. Plus I added the DX Engineering 17m Add-On kit so I was attempting to tune five bands. A little voice in my head kept saying “Tim, there’s a better, faster way” and the video would start again.

I honestly ran out of daylight before I had the antenna where I wanted it. Plus I was out of time in terms of weather as that day turned out to be the last nice (40 deg F) day. Now that antenna season has officially started in Wisconsin (it’s 14 deg F as I write this and the forecast is calling for somewhere between 3-7 inches of snow over the next two days) if I wanted to tweak the 4BTV before spring I obviously would need to be able to work faster so as not to succumb to hypothermia right? At least that’s what I told my XYL. It’s for my health and well-being. I told her that she really didn’t want to chip me off the base of the base of the antenna with my fingers frozen midway through the seventh turn of a ten turn pot. No one would want to put their XYL through that would they?

So with Christmas drawing near and being in a general gift giving mood I thought I’d see if RigExpert had any stocking stuffer specials on offer. Little did I know that they had already set the trap. I popped up the RigExpert site and there it was, the AA–55 Zoom. What! A new model! Just released in November! If you’ve looked at their line of analyzers you will see that the RigExpert folks are masters at the technique of up-selling. They have a wide range of products nicely spaced in terms of features and price. You go in thinking I’ll just spend $200 but the next model up can measure magneto-reluctance and it’s only $75 more and the next one after that can calculate capacitive diractance to seven decimal points and goodness knows you need to be able to do that. The next thing you know you’ve talked yourself into the positive necessity of a $500 device in $75-$100 increments.

I can state that I barely succumb to such marketing tactics. Well that’s not completely true. I was going to be happy with the AA-54 but the AA-55 Zoom has a color display and it’s A\D converter is 12 bits instead of 10 bits and… you already know the rest of the story.

AA-55 Zoom in Pelican 1170

AA-55 Zoom in Pelican 1170

While the AA-55 Zoom comes with a half-decent soft case I wanted better protection so I have it in a Pelican 1170.

This thing is AMAZING!!! The combination of the device and its associated software can do so many things it will open a whole new chapter in my antenna experimenting. It’s a very nice device that is very intuitive to operate. I’m very happy with it. A quick scan of my 4BTV w\17m shows that I have a bit of work to do.

4BTV w\17m scan

4BTV w\17m scan

It’s completely usable where it is but now that I can quickly measure changes I can tweak it without suffering hypothermia. Let antenna season begin in earnest!!!

 

Ps- Alas, the AA-55 Zoom cannot measure magneto-reluctance or calculate capacitive diractance so I’ll not be able to use it with the Retro Encabulator:

 

 

4-BTV complete

It has been unseasonably warm here for November and it finally stopped raining so I’ve been able to make good progress on getting my antenna projects completed before winter sets in which may well be tomorrow. After a high of 64 today we’ll only make it to 34 tomorrow and stay in the mid-30’s to low 40’s for the coming week including a chance of snow tonight through tomorrow morning.

My Hustler 4-BTV is now complete. I used the DX Engineering radial plate and their Tilt Base mount as well.

4-BTV mount

4-BTV mount

The DX Engineering parts are very well made they definitely enhance the installation of the 4\5\6-BTV antennas from Hustler.

Common mode choke

Common mode choke

The antenna is fed with Belden 8267 and I formed a common mode choke at the base with a length of the feedline. This resolved the problem of some RF coming back into my shack as evidenced by the video of one of my monitors modulating with my transmission.

Even though the DX Engineering radial plate is drilled for 60 radials I went with thirty 30 foot radials for now. They all are stapled in for winter, ready to blend into the grass come spring.

Completed

Completed

I continue to be very pleased with this antenna. For my needs it provides very good results for the money.

UPDATE: Saturday morning (11/19/16):

The weatherman was correct:

First Snow

First Snow

Hustler 4-BTV – Initial measurements

Here are some initial measurements for the temporary installation of the 4-BTV. These measurements were made at my station (100 feet of RG-8X connected to the antenna which was connected to approximately 50 feet of RG-8U that leads in from a workshop to the station location.) The antenna was set at the starting dimensions stated in the assembly manual and is on a temporary vertical mount with sixteen 30 foot radials in a wide open space at least 50-70 feet away from any structures.

10m band

Frequency SWR
28.000 1.1
28.300 1.3
28.800 1.4
29.300 1.4
29.700 1.4
10m SWR

10m SWR

15m band

Frequency SWR
21.000 1.1
21.200 1.3
21.300 1.4
21.450 1.6
15m SWR

15m SWR

20m band

Frequency SWR
14.000 1.3
14.150 1.4
14.250 1.5
14.350 1.6
20m SWR

20m SWR

40m band

Frequency SWR
7.000 2.4
7.125 1.8
7.225 1.6
7.300 1.8
40m SWR

40m SWR

Obviously some tuning is in order, at least on the 40m band but for a temporary mount and sixteen radials it seems to be performing well.

While the XYL is away the OM will play

With one exception, all of my HF antennas are wire. I’ve thought about getting a vertical for quite some time. My original station when I was first licensed had a homebrew 10m vertical strapped to the chimney of my parent’s house. Not the most effective but it worked with the old Swan 350.

The Hustler x-BTV line has always been interesting. They been around for a very long time and consistently get good reviews. Plus they are relatively inexpensive when compared to their competition. I also like the fact that, setup properly there won’t be any need for an antenna tuner.

While there are a three versions, 4-BTV, 5-BTV, and 6-BTV I chose to get the 4-BTV. Covering 10m, 15m, 20m, and 40m is all that I was interested in as I can solve the 80m problem with wire antennas that I already have deployed and I don’t operate on 30m.

A friend and fellow operator, Josh KD9DZP recently obtained a 4-BTV to test as he sets up his new HF station. I was really impressed with the simplicity and build quality of the antenna. It’s performance was so good with his TS-590S that I quickly decided to move my planned purchase of a 4-BTV from “some time” to the very next day. This was helped by the fact that AES had them marked down from $160 to $140. The order was placed Sunday night and the antenna was dropped off by Brown Santa early Tuesday afternoon.

4-BTV

4-BTV

It was very late Friday afternoon before I had time to start to work on the antenna. I picked up a roll of radials on the way home from work and started to put together a set for a temporary deployment.

Roll of radials

Roll of radials

I planned to do a temporary deployment until I had the time to make the permanent install. Some years ago I picked up a very nice temporary folding vertical antenna mount.

Portable folding vertical mount

Portable folding vertical mount

Portable folding vertical mount

Portable folding vertical mount

It has bolts for 16 radials. With a 500 foot roll of 14 AWG wire, I made the radials 30 feet long.

Sixteen radials

Sixteen  30 foot radials

The cat thought I was making sixteen new cat toys for him.

Radial or cat toy?

Radial or cat toy?

He just about lost his mind when I started to pull all of the radials out into position.

With the radials prepared it was time to unbox the antenna and start to assembly.

4-BTV unboxed

4-BTV unboxed

The antenna parts are nicely packed and the build quality is very good.

4-BTV traps

4-BTV traps

My wife’s mom had surgery this week and my wife is up at her house taking care of her so I needed to go up there for awhile on Friday evening. By the time that I returned home it was almost sunset. I didn’t want to wait until Saturday morning to finish the antenna as I really wanted to operate into Friday evening. So I hauled out an LED worklight  and some bug spray and completed the antenna assembly and deployment. It was completed at 10:30 PM CDT by the clouded light of the moon and the LED worklight.

4-BTV in the moonlight

4-BTV in the moonlight

Following the initial recommended dimensions resulted in an SWR of 1.6 in the center of the phone portions of 20m and 40m. This was plenty good enough for a 10:30 at night. I ran 100 feet of RG-8x to my workshop and attached it to a drop of RG-8 that goes to the shack and connected the 4-BTV to one antenna input of my TS-480SAT and left my Cobra Ultralite Senior on the second antenna input.

First contact was N6JW, John in Riverside, CA with a 57 report! It was 10:45 PM CDT. I could hear him on the Cobra Ultralite but he was weak (44). He was 59 on the 4-BTV! I typically can’t work west on 20m that late into the night. This was quickly followed by contacts with stations in Washington, the Virgin Islands, and more in California. I’ll grant varying band conditions but it appeared that I was off to a great start.

My initial plan for Saturday was to spend the morning doing another NPOTA activation but with a brand new antenna and good results the first night of operation I decided to stay home. So Saturday morning I cleaned up the radial deployment from the prior night and began to operate. I did however decide to have a bit of fun with my wife as she was up at her mom’s. She thought I was going to be gone out on an NPOTA activation so I texted her a picture of the antenna in the middle part of the backyard at home:

XYL fun

XYL fun

She knew that I got the antenna but thought it was out on a portable operation. Little did she know that it was right in the middle of our backyard. (She came home later in the day Saturday and realized the location. It was funny. We quickly agreed on a permanent install location. She’s a keeper.)

4-BTV

4-BTV

4-BTV radials

4-BTV radials

Over the course of Saturday I had a few nice QSO’s and picked up a bunch of NPOTA stations. I did a lot of A\B testing from the 4-BTV to the Cobra Ultralite Senior and in most cases the signal was stronger on the vertical by around 2 S units. As I was writing this post I worked K6QCB at Yosemite (NPOTA NP58). This was at 01:39 AM UTC. He was 57 into my station and I received a 56 report in return. I could barely hear him on the Cobra Ultralite Senior. (Granted that he was running a portable station.) I also worked 4V1G while writing this (02:24 UTC). I broke the pile-up on the first call with a 59 report, granting the standard DX reporting standard – everyone’s a 59, and a bunch of other variables, it still feels good to do that with a new antenna even though there may well be a number of factors involved in obtaining the result. What’s most important is that he heard me in a pretty good sized pile-up. He was 57-58 into my station on the 4-BTV and 43-53 on the Cobra Ultralite Senior.

So far I am very very happy with the 4-BTV. In it’s temporary location it seems to be functioning very well. To be fair to my Cobra Ultralite Senior, one end has dropped a bit down in the tree that holds that end so it’s probably at 20 feet instead of 30 feet which in turn causes a bit more sag at the feedpoint in the middle. Another antenna project is to get its anchor points up higher in the trees. My guess is that this will improve it’s performance. In no way am I saying that the 4-BTV is better overall. It was better given today’s conditions and the Cobra’s current deployment. What I am saying is that having antenna options is very nice and I’m glad to have added the 4-BTV to my antenna farm. I can’t wait to get it permanently deployed. I’m going to use the DX Engineering radial plate so that I’ll have 60 radials as more is definitely better in the case of radials for a vertical antenna.