Tag Archives: TS-590SG

Late Adopter Panadapter

After great delay I finally got around to setting up my SDRPlay RSP1A as a panadapter for my Kenwood TS-590SG. It’s been on my list of things to do but that list has been severely derailed due to on-going health issues. Today I felt almost normal and up to the task. It’s actually not difficult at all but I ran into some odd USB driver issues that impeded progress for a wee bit.

I know that everybody and their mother has a panadapter and I’m way late to the party. There’s probably someone that has a panadapter for their Hallicrafters HT-30 with an Arduino based servo control providing CAT. I’m typically a late adopter.

KA9EAK: Late Adopter

Some representations of this adoption curve label the “Late Adopter” portion of the curve “Laggards.” That seems a bit harsh.

My understanding is that you can use any of a number of SDR receivers for this purpose. I purchased an SDRPlay RSP1A late last fall and so it was available for panadapter duty.

As I said, the configuration isn’t difficult at all. Assuming that you have already installed the Kenwood USB drivers (more on that in a minute) and have successfully configured the Kenwood ARCP-590G Radio Control Program to work with your radio, you are well on your way. The only other piece of hardware you need is an SMA to RCA cable. I found one on eBay.

As for software, my understanding is that there are a number of different applications that you can use for this purpose. I chose to use HDSDR, in my case HDSDR with RSP1A. I ended up having to use OmniRig as well. More on that later.

My approach was a follows:

1) Given that the Kenwood ARCP is working with your radio, note the configuration (Tool\Setup) for COM port and Baud rate.

2) Attach the SMA connector to the RSP1A antenna connector and the RCA connector to the DRV connector on the rear panel of your TS-590SG.

RSP1A and TS-590SG

3) Go into the menu for your TS-590SG and set menu 85, DRV Connector to ANT (see page 52 in the TS-590SG manual.)

TS-590SG Menu 85

4) If you haven’t already done so, install the HDSDR software.

5) In the lower left section of HDSDR you will see some buttons, one will be Options (F7).

HDSDR Options

You will notice a selection for “CAT to HDSDR.” Initially I attempted to get this to work with no success. I ended up installing OmniRig and while it appeared to work it was intermittent. It would indicate that the radio was on-line for a few seconds and then indicate “rig is not responding.” After a fair amount of troubleshooting (verifying config and connection with the Kenwood software, restarts, etc.) with no success I searched the Internet for the problem and found this thread in the SDRPlay forum:

https://www.sdrplay.com/community/viewtopic.php?t=2730

It was from December 2017 and exactly described the problem. Thankfully it was a complete thread in that it contained a solution as well. I had version 6.7.4 of the Kenwood (actually Silicon Labs) USB driver and it appears that the fix was to go back to version 6.7.3. I changed the driver to the older version and the problem was solved. Is this actually “the fix,” who knows but it worked for me and that’s good enough. The Kenwood ARCP software worked fine after the change.

It may be important to note that you will see a decrease in sensitivity.

Signal Change

So now I have a fully functional panadapter for my 590. As with all SDR’s, it is interesting to “see” radio as opposed to only hearing it. Prior to the wide spread adoption of panadapters, interaction with a radio was sort of the audio equivalent of peering through a narrow keyhole. Now one can see an entire band at once. While I find this relatively new practice of seeing radio interesting, there’s a part of me that likes the notion of the unknown inherent in the turn of the VFO knob.

Panadapter

I’m sure I’ll use the panadapter at times but it’s more likely I’ll simply spin the big knob to hear what’s just out of sight. Out of curiosity, I checked Kenwood’s site for USB drivers for my TS-830S. Oddly they didn’t have any. Maybe there’s a message in that.

 

PS: If you’re not sure which end of a soldering iron to grasp it might be best to ask for help with this configuration. As with all of this, YMMV. This is what worked for me. If you blow up your RSP1A and your 590SG while simultaneously causing a tear in the space-time continuum you probably should have stayed in bed.

 

PPS: The picture above was a few minutes before the start of Field Day. This is  a few minutes after. Apologies for the difference in detail. There is A LOT more activity indicated on the panadapter.

40M at the start of Field Day

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FT8 WAS: One more to go

It’s over. I’m all in on FT8. It actually is very interesting and a lot of fun. Over this last month aside from some WSPRing the day of the eclipse and some SSB contacts mobile while driving to and from work, home operation, which actually hasn’t been all that much in the face of other non-radio projects, has been 99% FT8 on 20m and 40m. I’m down to one more state, Nebraska. I’ve got multiple contacts in Alaska and Hawaii and even Washington, D.C. but I haven’t found a station in Nebraska yet, but I’ve enlisted the help of PSK Reporter to find the needed station.

FT8 WAS

WSJT-X provides the ability to send all of your decodes to PSK Reporter.

WSJT-X PSK reporter Spotting

My understanding is that WSJT-X reports a spot for every station that you decode, not just those that you work. Using PSK Reporter in combination with WSJT-X effectively closes the loop on your digital operations. With the spotting information available you can use PSK Reporter to determine who is hearing your signal including signal strength in a manner similar to that of WSPR. I’ve been varying my power output to see how it impacts signal reports. Additionally, the spotting information can be used with FT8 to attempt to make a directed contact with a station. I had this happen once to me while in an FT8 QSO. I noticed a call to me in the Band Activity pane (left pane) from a call different than that of the station I was communicating with in the Rx Frequency pane (right pane.) Once my QSO was complete I  responded to the other stations call on the frequency upon which they called me. I adapted a form of this technique to get my North Dakota contact with KDoUXO. I noticed in PSK Reporter that he heard me but didn’t see his call in the Band Activity pane so I picked a clear spot on the waterfall and called directly for him. After a few rounds of calling CQ he responded to my call and I put my first (and only thus far) North Dakota FT8 contact in the my log. Given a bit more time and observation of PSK Reporter I should be able to put a Nebraska station in my log for the fastest WAS I’ve ever completed.

FT8 cat

Our youngest cat appears to like FT8 as well, while our older cats find it too fast paced. Or it could be that they can’t fit on my desk between the keyboard and radio.

UPDATE: FT8 WAS is complete! AJ0Z confirmed Nebraska.

 

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.

 

The moment has finally arrived…

The most anticipated moment in recent Amateur Radio history has finally arrived. No it’s not the pricing and release for the ICOM IC-7610. Nor is it the next radio from Elecraft (KX3.5? K4S?) or when Kenwood is going to introduce an SDR-in-a-box rig. Nope, it’s way more important than any of these.

LoTW now accepts FT8!!!

With the recently released update for TSQL’s Config.xml file (version 11.1), contacts made with the most amazingly popular new mode in Amateur Radio, FT8, are now supported in LoTW.

LoTW updated

Has there ever been a mode that has been adopted so quickly? FT8 seems to be everywhere. As of the time of this writing look at the PSK Reporter stats:

PSK Reporter stats 8/16/17 @ 01:02 UTC

I added my comparatively small FT8 log from the wsjtx_log.adi file created by the WSJT-X software into my ACLog software log file and uploaded to LoTW tonight. It appears as if there is a rather large backlog at LoTW Server Central:

LoTW processing queue status

I’ve not looked at the LoTW processing status page before so I don’t know if this is normal. It seems like a lot of QSOs have been processed or are in process in the last several hours. Based upon the PSK Reporter stats I wonder if this is a flood of pent up FT8 contacts? Was the Internet bogged down today with thousands of operators uploading their FT8 contacts? I know that the WAE DX CW contest was this past weekend. Maybe that accounts for some of the influx? That would certainly put a smile on the face of the average CW op to know that somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 CW QSOs were recently added to LoTW!

As for me and FT8, it’s sort of growing on me. Typically I’m a CCOG™ (Certified Crabby Old Guy) and don’t take kindly to all these newfangled modes. I dabbled with it a bit this past weekend on 20m and I must admit it is sort of fun and pretty interesting. With not all that much time invested I was able to make a fair number of contacts across the US, some in Canada, a few in Europe, and three New Zealand stations in a row! The lowest signal levels I decoded were -14 from DL9RDM in Germany and -13 from ZL3TRR in New Zealand (the other two New Zealand stations were -7 and -9 and all within 5 minutes of each other.) The lowest signal level reports that I received were -18 from ZL3TRR and -16 from MM0CPZ in Scotland. Most all of these contacts were made with 30 watts (some with a wee bit more) from my TS-590SG into my 4BTV.

I’m not going all in and selling my mic and key but I suspect that there will be some additional FT8 operation in my future. If a CCOG like me finds it interesting you may as well.

UPDATE: 8/17/17

The spanner in the works at LoTW Server Central has apparently been removed. There was quite a backlog to chew threw. I just updated my ACLog with LoTW and a whole host of FT8 confirmations came pouring in. We now return to our regularly scheduled program…

LoTW back to normal

 

W9SIZ’s new radio

After quite a bit of consideration my great uncle Paul, W9SIZ decided he wanted to get a new radio. When he first told me he was thinking about this my response was “Are you sure? You’ve been a Collins man nearly all of my life.” There isn’t a time that I don’t remember Collins equipment sitting on W9SIZ’s radio desk. We talked about it on and off for over a year and he made a final decision to buy a new rig.

With the decision made the next stop was Ham Radio Outlet to pick up his new radio. He wanted to get a Kenwood TS-590SG like the one that I purchased. He’d visited my station a few times and really liked the radio. Now he wanted one for his own. Dave and Paul at HRO Milwaukee completed the sale.

New radio for W9SIZ

New radio for W9SIZ

On the drive down to HRO I asked him when the last time was that he bought a new in the box radio. He told me that his last brand new radio was a Hallicrafters HT-17. He said that he bought it new but that it wasn’t in a box. He bought it from a man named Wendell who ran Central States Radio in Milwaukee. He purchased the radio from Wendell sometime after he returned from Europe after WWII. He also worked for Wendell for a bit after the war selling Hallicrafters, National, Hammarlund, and other brands. So it’s been roughly 70 years since he bought a brand new radio and this may be the first one that was new in a box.

Hallicrafters HT-17

Hallicrafters HT-17

Once we got it home the work of unboxing and setting up his new radio began.

W9SIZ unboxing the new rig

W9SIZ unboxing the new rig

After connecting the rig to his power supply (a vintage 12 VDC power supply from an old aircraft), his vintage National NC-125TS speaker, and his Vibroplex bug for a nice mix of old and new, the new 590SG came alive in the space on his desk previously occupied by his Collins equipment for many years.

W9SIZ and his new TS-590SG

W9SIZ and his new TS-590SG

Thus far he’s very happy with his new radio though change doesn’t come easy at 92. Every once and awhile I’ll get a call from him asking how to undo something that he did. Thankfully the TS-590SG has a lot of knobs and buttons on it so you don’t need to use the menu system much at all, but there are quite a few more knobs and button than on the KWM-2.

And yes he still uses his Hallicrafters SX-100 with the 50’s vintage homebrew CW transmitter below it. Some old habits aren’t worth breaking.

 

KA9EAK QRO – Update

Back in October I purchased a Heathkit SB-200 amplifier. The pictures in the original post show that it was a bit dusty from sitting for quite some time but otherwise it was in good shape and best of all it was not modified through the years. I purchased the Harbach updates but they largely have sat waiting for time to build, install, and test them. With time off for the holidays I was finally able to complete the work and I got the amplifier on the air yesterday afternoon. All appears to be well. Voltages and currents are where they should be in addition to no smoke or loud noises.

SB-200 HV

SB-200 HV

With 55 W of drive from my TS-590SG I am seeing a peak of 500 W on 40m SSB which is just where I wanted to be. I’m not interested in pushing the amp to its limit. The first contact with the amplifier was Frank, WA3RSL on 40m SSB late in the afternoon. I started the contact with the amp off and finished with it on with a nice and noticeable signal improvement as reported by WA3RSL. Frank has the same radio and also an amplifier so it was nice to walk through bringing it up with someone with the same radio and experience with using an amplifier with it. Second contact was Scott, K3IVN with a good signal report as well on 40m SSB. Later in the evening I was able to contact ZS6CCY on 40m SSB with a 59 report after only a few calls in a messy pile-up with a fair amount of noise and QSB followed by YV5AL, HI7MC, and J6/NY3B all with relative ease and great signal reports. I was happy with the investment.

I had purchased the power supply board, soft start, keying interface, and cooling fan updates from Harbach Electronics. Once they were all built and installed I brought the amp up on my Variac and there were no surprises and the high voltage looked good at 2250 V. The last step was to build the interface cable for the TS-590SG. Thankfully Kenwood provides the DIN connector with the radio and JG1VGX provided a very nice explanation of all of the possible ways to connect the TS-590 and TS-990 radios to amplifiers.

Here are some before and after pictures of the amplifier:

SB-200 top view

SB-200 top view

SB-200 Bottom view

SB-200 bottom view

In addition to the JG1VGX site referenced above I also found the following three sites helpful for this project:

http://www.crompton.com/hamradio/heath/sb200/sb200.html

http://blog.kotarak.net/2008/03/sb-200-part-1.html

http://www.wlwaters.com/id37.html

While there is some more testing to be done across a few more bands I’m very happy with the results thus far for the amount of money invested. In 1964 an SB-200 went for $200 which inflating the dollars to today is about what I have in this amplifier. I essentially purchased approximately one S-unit which is all that I set out to do and I learned a lot along the way which is much more valuable than the S-unit.

1964 SB-200 ad

1964 SB-200 ad

 

K9AY Complete

Today I finished running the cables for the K9AY down to my shack so my station is now fully operational with a receive only antenna.

K9AY

K9AY antenna

K9AY wire highlight

K9AY antenna wires highlighted

The yellow dashed lines highlight the Northeast\Southwest loop and the red dashed lines highlight the Northwest\Southeast loop.

K9AY base detail

K9AY base detail

Operator actual size

Operator actual size

In the spring I’ll spray paint the arms some combination of brown and green so that they blend in better as opposed to the lovely gray that they are now. The arms are the only part that you can see from the house. Once they are painted the antenna will be reasonably stealthy, to the degree that an antenna comprising a 24 foot pole with two loops of 85 feet of wire supported by four 16 foot arms over a circular area 30 feet in diameter can be called stealthy.

You know what I’m going to be doing all winter.