Tag Archives: TS-480SAT

Current consumption for various HF rigs

In working out some additional battery power for portable operation I wanted to know the current consumption of some of the HF radios that I own. While I have a KX2 I didn’t include it as I’m not all that concerned about power consumption as it sips electrons.

Sometimes more than 10W may be necessary so taking a 100W radio for some portable operations is a nice option. I measured the current consumption in 5W increments for the following radios:

Yaesu FT-857D
Kenwood TS-590SG
Icom IC-7100
Kenwood TS-480SAT

While I would never use the TS-590SG for portable operation I included it just for comparison. The results are in the table below (current in Amps):

857

590

7100

480

Power (W)
5 3.77 6.43 5.66 5.08
10 4.93 7.47 6.77 6.34
15 5.42 8.23 7.46 7.08
20 6.02 9.02 8.07 7.88
25 6.62 9.77 8.67 8.67
30 7.18 10.09 9.35 9.22
35 7.76 10.51 9.93 9.85
40 8.34 11.18 10.53 10.40
45 8.90 11.81 11.19 11.02
50 9.47 12.50 11.80 11.64
55 9.75 12.90 12.21 12.13
60 10.08 13.23 12.58 12.63
65 10.49 13.61 12.94 13.12
70 10.82 13.94 13.40 13.62
75 11.17 14.30 13.79 14.03
80 11.58 14.67 14.16 14.26
85 11.93 14.99 14.53 14.36
90 12.27 15.32 14.92 14.37
95 12.70 15.59 15.31 14.45
100 13.07 15.75 15.72 14.49
Receive 0.68 1.39 0.65 1.00

Current consumption vs. Power level

The measurements were made using a Samlex SEC-1223 power supply and a Powerwerx Inline Power Meter.

Powerwerx meter

Measurements were made in CW mode on 20m into a Drake DL1000 dummy load.

Drake DL1000

Current consumption was a bit higher on lower frequency bands. For instance, on 40m most of the measurements were anywhere from 300-500mA higher.

 

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Last camping trip of the season

The last camping trip of the year is done. It was a great week with NO RAIN for the first time this year. Every other trip this year featured rain on way too many days. The temperature was right on the edge of warm at the start of the week and cooled each day. As with most trips there was plenty of bike rides, walks, naps, and reading, with a bit of radio operations tossed into the mix.

Q: Why is this man smiling?  A:It’s night in Wisconsin and there are no mosquitoes!

As usual conditions were up, down, and sideways so you need to have options. Based upon how conditions seemed I operated SSB with 10W using my KX2, SSB with 100W using my TS-480SAT, or FT8 with 5W using my KX2 on either the 20m or 40m bands using my LNR Precision EF-Quad antenna strung across the campsite. With the KX2  I was able to make a fair number of contacts including nice QSOs with AE8O in New Mexico, N4AVV in Myrtle Beach, and AE2B in Macon, GA. All with good signal reports. FT8 operations were good but five watts wasn’t enough to get outside of North America.

The best contact of them all was with Rich, K2RLF in New Jersey. He is newly licensed and had literally just got his antenna up and his station going. I was his first HF contact. That’s a better contact than the rarest of DX.

There were a few openings to Europe in the afternoon on 20m and later into the evenings on 40m. I made contacts with stations in Scotland, Belgium, France, Slovenia, Italy, Madeira Island, Austria, and the DXpediton of 5T5OK in Mauritania. That one surprised me the most. They were working split on 20m. I heard their call and “5 up.” I quickly put the split into the 480SAT, made one call and instantly got a response.

Late night operation

Most every night was beautiful, clear, and insect free so if the bands were open I was outside at the picnic table operating for awhile.

Moon at camp

For some new reading material I loaded a bunch of old 73 issues on my tablet. It was fun to read articles and reviews from years ago.

The squirrels were busy with their pine cone gathering.

Red Squirrel

Squirrel lookout

And someone clearly has a caffeine issue:

When one is not enough

Other than the rain this was a good camping season. I’ve got my portable station pretty well sorted out. The only additions I’m going to make for next year are a 20Ah Bioenno Power battery and I need to sort out the interface for  my SignaLink USB so that I can use it with the 480SAT to have some more digital options.

Last campfire of the year

 

POTA: KFF-4354 Point Beach State Forest

My XYL and I just returned from another camping trip. This trip almost didn’t happen as my XYL’s appendix decided that it needed to be removed a few days before our planned departure day. After a run to the emergency room at 4:30 AM and subsequent surgery I was sure that the trip was off. However the surgery went well and the surgeon said that she could go if she was feeling OK with some restrictions (such as no bike riding.) Within a couple of days she was feeling well enough so we departed one day later than planned. I guess the outdoors is good for what ails you.

XYL @ camp several days after an appendectomy

While at camp, in between taking care of my XYL, I was able to squeeze in some radio operation. When I started operations the band conditions were:

Band conditions – 9/6/17

Given conditions, it appeared to be a 100W day as opposed to a 10W day so I left the KX2 in its bag and pulled out my TS-480SAT. I used my LNR EF-Quad antenna strung across the campsite with one end at about 30 feet and the other at about 8 feet.

EF-Quad Matchbox view

The 40m band was pretty dead but I was able to make about 15 contacts calling CQ for POTA with some stations interested in the POTA numbers and others not. There wasn’t really any pile-up and it was more like a nice bunch of casual contacts.

480SAT @ camp

While calling CQ between contacts I was observing a red squirrel collecting green pine cones. It would grab a pine cone from a group of them about 20 feet in front of the picnic table I was sitting at in my campsite, run about 30 feet to a stump, stop, drop over the side of a slight depression, pop back up on a stump adjacent to the one that it just was on, look around, run to a portion of a hollow log, look around some more, proceed back to the pile pine cones, pick up another, and start the whole process over again. It must have made at least 15 trips following the same process.

Squirrel process flow

After about 2 hours of calling CQ, making an occasional contact, and watching the squirrel, local weather was closing in (passing bands of mild rain) so I ceased operation for the afternoon. I believe that the squirrel did as well.

Damselfly visitor

Later that evening the local weather had cleared and conditions were dramatically improved (I forgot to capture the chart.) It was a clear night and about 50 degrees F so I set the station back up on the picnic table and found the 40m band was very much alive. I found a clear spot to call CQ for POTA and while it started a little slow, after about 40 minutes and a spot by Mike, KK4KHS, I had a nice pile-up going.

Night operation

Over the next 1.5 hours I made 78 contacts. It was a lot of fun. I was actually quite amazed at the amount of interest. It reminded me of an NPOTA activation. It’s nice to see the interest in POTA. There were some calls that I recognized from NPOTA and when I added the contacts to my ACLog there were quite a few that I had worked during the NPOTA event.

Among a bunch of very nice contacts, there is one of note. I worked NU0C, Jim in Nebraska early in the pile-up. About 35 minutes later he called me back to tell me that he had been reading a recent blog post in which I mentioned that the last state that I needed for an FT8 WAS was Nebraska. He wanted to tell me that he’d be happy to setup a sked to put Nebraska in my log with FT8. I told him thanks but I had already logged a Nebraska station. It was very nice of him to call back with the offer. What a fine example of an Amateur Radio operator.

After shutting down for the night my XYL and I walked out to Lake Michigan and were treated to a nice moon over the lake.

Moon over Lake Michigan

While I had planned to be on the air more, as it turns out that was the extent of radio operation for the trip. Between the local weather (more rain) and band conditions I wasn’t able to get on the air again.

Band conditions 9/8/17

It was a nice trip that almost wasn’t. My XYL is doing very well and we’ve got one more trip planned before we put the camper away for the season.

 

Rig Expert @ Rawley Point Lighthouse

While on the first camping trip of the year I once again activated the Rawley Point Lighthouse (USA-689.) This time I chose to operate from the parking lot just to the north of the lighthouse. I used my Kenwood TS-480SAT and instead of my Alpha Antenna Alpha DX Sr I chose to use my LNR EF-Quad.

The parking lot just to the north of the lighthouse is located behind a very large dune at the top of which is a rather tall tree perfectly suited as support for one end of an end fed wire antenna. Using my arborists throw bag and line I quickly placed the line over a limb about halfway up the tree. I hoisted one end of the EF-Quad into the tree and ran the feed end back to my truck.

EF-Quad @ Rawley Point (light red line highlights antenna)

EF-Quad

I used my RigExpert AA-55 Zoom to quickly check the antenna and obtained the following readings:

Frequency SWR
7180 1.35
14250 1.27
21325 1.29
29000 3.1

AA-55 Zoom @ Rawley Point Lighthouse

AA-55 Zoom – Outstanding in its field

The RigExpert AA-55 Zoom continues to be outstanding in its field (pun intended.)

Due to the fact that it was a very windy, and somewhat cold day, I chose to setup the radio in the back of my truck. Once the antenna was up and checked I was able to start making some contacts on 20m. Even though band conditions weren’t great I was able to make a number of contacts in the time that I had for operation. The EF-Quad is a very nice antenna for portable operation and is a great option for windy days where I would have had to guy a vertical antenna like my Alpha Antenna Alpha DX Sr.

Some day this summer I’ll tune the EF-Quad to get 10m closer to what is spec’d. Now that I have the AA-55 Zoom it will be much easier to tune this multi-band wire antenna than with the old MFJ-259B.

 

NPOTA activations

It’s September which means there are only four months left for the NPOTA event. As I write this there have been over 612,000 QSOs with over 11,000 activations of the 489 units. If you look at the stats you’ll see that there are only 40 units that haven’t been activated. This means that over 90% of the 489 units have been activated at least once, with many of those activated a number of times. I wonder if anyone at the ARRL and the NPS thought that this event would generate this level of interest.

Some significant portion of those 11,000 activations involved Amateur Radio in the view of the public at the units. What a great promotion for the hobby. My activations have drawn interest from people at the units that I’ve activated with the first question usually something like “what are you doing?” followed by the typical responses of either “people still do that?” or “my <fill in the blank family member> used to be an Amateur Radio operator.” All the interest I’ve seen has been very positive. I’ve enjoyed doing activations as it’s fun to be on the other end of the pile-up. It’s not like being some ultra rare DX such as Outer Swobovia but I’m not likely to travel there anytime soon so a pile-up in Wisconsin will serve. I’ve also enjoyed the chase as well. As of this moment I’ve done nine activations and have 107 units confirmed.

Wisconsin doesn’t have any National Parks but we do have five units on the list:

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – LK01
  • Ice Age National Scenic Trail – TR05
  • Ice Age National Scientific Reserve – AA11
  • Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway – WR09
  • North Country National Scenic Trail – TR04

Of which two, Ice Age National Scenic Trail – TR05 and Ice Age National Scientific Reserve – AA11 have multiple locations throughout the state, many of which are very near my home or where my XYL and I camp.

Ice Age Trail - Point Beach Segment

Ice Age Trail – Point Beach Segment

NPOTA TR05 portable station

NPOTA TR05 portable station

At one activation I had some assistance from a dragonfly:

Dragonfly counterpoise

and an odd little bee that spent about 20 minutes flying around and walking about my portable station:

QRB???

QRB???

For all of the activations I’ve used my Kenwood TS-480SAT @100 Watts powered by a trolling motor battery and either my Alpha Antenna DX Sr, EARCHI end fed, or LNR EF-Quad end fed, all with good results.

NPOTA portable station

NPOTA portable station

On occasion I’ve used my folding wagon to transport the station equipment:

Portable station transport

And other times I’ve worked largely out of the back of my truck:

Ice Age Trail - Northern Kettle Moraine

Ice Age Trail – Northern Kettle Moraine

NPOTA station @ TR05 and AA11

NPOTA station @ TR05 and AA11

The current run rate is about 76,000 QSOs per month so with four months to go the final tally will probably be just over 900,000 QSOs. Maybe there will be a push through the fall and we’ll break one million QSOs for the year. Who knows.

I’ve visited a number of the units over the years and it’s been fun to work them in this event, recalling the times that I’ve visited the unit in the past. With the popularity of this event, and the interest that it has generated I wonder what the ARRL is going to come up with next. I know that I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

 

 

Portable station box

I’m really enjoying portable operation with the combination of camping more and the NPOTA event . My portable radio is a Kenwood TS-480SAT. I know that it’s not the lightest portable radio but I really like it a lot and I’m usually never that far from my truck.

My entire portable station, less the battery, fits into an MTM Sportsmen’s Plus Utility Dry Boxes (SPUD box.) Mine is the SPUD 7.

Portable station in a box

Portable station in a box

The box contains the following items:

Top storage

Top storage

A small assortment of pens, pencils, and a Sharpie along with a slip-joint pliers and at least one double female barrel connector.

Top tray

Top tray

The top tray contains some paracord for guying, some old screwdrivers that double as stakes, some tape for the joints on the Spiderbeam pole, a jumper with powerpoles, an MFJ-108B as I use a paper log when I’m portable, and a homebrew panel meter with powerpole connectors that plugs into the RIGrunner to allow me to monitor the battery voltage. The panel meter is from eBay. They come in various configurations and cost around $5.00 shipped. I mounted it in a little project box and added a pigtail with powerpoles.

Panel meter

Panel meter

Inside the lower portion of the box is the main equipment:

Inside the box

Portable equipment

Comprising the TS-480SAT, a Dentron JR Monitor antenna tuner, a pair of Kenwood HS-5 headphones, a West Mountain Radio RIGrunner 4005, and an MFJ-259B.

And finally the EARCHI wire antenna, some coax jumpers, a battery cable with powerpoles, the Kenwood power cord with powerpoles, and an assortment of various coax cable lengths.

Coax and wire antenna

Coax and wire antenna

All of this fits in the SPUD box just fine although it does weigh 28 pounds. It’s definitely not playing in the same league as a KX2\KX3 station but as I said I’m typically not very far from my truck and when I am I have a heavy duty folding wagon to haul the SPUD box, a battery, a small folding table, a bag chair, my Alpha antenna, and the Spiderbeam pole if I’m going to use it. On occasion I’ve walked a few miles pulling this load and it works well as long as the trail is relatively smooth.

Folding wagon with portable station

Folding wagon with portable station

I originally purchased the SPUD box with the intent of building an EMCOMM box along the lines of this:

Emcomm box

Emcomm box

There’s an entire thread of various go boxes here. Most of these boxes are really well done but the more I thought about it the easier it was just to set the station in the box. I don’t mind pulling the stuff out of the box and wiring it up. It doesn’t take all that long. The emcomm boxes certainly have the advantage of simply attaching an antenna and power plus most have both an HF and VHF\UHF radio. To some extent these are probably serving a different need than my simple portable station.

Power for my portable station is provided by a trolling motor battery. Not the lightest power source but it provides plenty of capacity to run a portable radio at 100W for a fair amount of operating time. Eventually I’ll add a portable solar panel and charge controller to my portable station. For now what I have is working well. Over the past year the vast majority of my contacts have been from my portable station. As Andrew, VK1AD says, “Get out of the Radio Shack and Live Life.

 

LNR EF-Quad initial test

Well it’s Father’s Day and dads don’t do flowers but they do like antennas. I gave a big hint to my family that I had enough ties and fishing rods, but that I could really use, one might almost go so far as to characterize it as a need, an LNR EF-Quad. And here it is:

LNR EF-Quad

LNR EF-Quad

Yes, they are a bit expensive when strictly considering the materials but any good products is more than just the sum of its parts. Additionally, the EF-Quad along with the the rest of the LNR family of wire antennas get great reviews on eHam. I’ve watched enough auctions for used LNR antennas on eBay bid up to nearly the same price as new.  It appears that they are desirable and so it was time to jump in.

I attached the end to my Spiderbeam 12m fiberglass pole and stood it up, bungee cording the pole to a picnic table. I deployed it as a sloper so as to allow the tuning stubs to hang freely. There are three tuning stubs on the antenna, one for 10m, the next for 15m, and the last for 20m. The antenna is intended for use on the 10m, 15m, 20m, and 40m bands. It is very well made. I can easily see how some choose to deploy these permanently. I can also see how this antenna would work nicely as a stealth antenna. The antenna wire and tuning stubs are made of Poly Stealth 18 and virtually disappear.

LNR EF-Quad: Quietly giving HOA Busy Bodies nightmares

Where’s the antenna?

This thing would be perfect for those living in HOA-restricted areas. Run a stealth operation at night to get the end well up in a tree and run it back to your shack. Done correctly it will likely never been seen by the HOA cranks when they are out measuring the length of your grass. Little will they know that you are tickling the ether in their controlled airspace.

The total length of the antenna is 65 feet. Just for fun, dust off your trigonometry, a²+b²=c²:

a²+b²=c²

a²+b²=c²

So the matchbox ends up 50 feet away from the base:

Another view

Antenna Feedpoint

I didn’t have time to operate with it but simply tested it with my MFJ-259B, As shown it appears to work as specified:

20 meters

20 meters

On the 20m band the SWR ranged from 1.7 at 14.000 to 1.4 at 14.350.

15 meters

15 meters

On the 15m band the SWR ranged from 2.0 at 21.000 to 1.3 at 21.450.

40 meters

40 meters

On the 40m band the SWR ranged from 1.1 at 7.000 to 2.0 at 7.300.

The 10m band needs some tuning as out of the box the SWR ranged from 4.3 at 28.000 to 7 at 29.7. The instructions state to tune the antenna from 40m down. I’ll need to tune the 10m stub another day and 15m could probably use a bit of a tweak as well. For now though 15m, 20m, and 40m are plenty good enough for initial operation which will hopefully be soon.