For months now I’ve been fighting with a particular issue with my Kenwood TS-480SAT & my RigBlaster Advantage (an external sound card for digital modes and more). Whenever I would plug both the Serial to USB cable (for CAT control) & the USB cable (for sound) in for the RigBlaster Advantage, the radio would start doing all sorts of crazy things, the VFO would scroll, the menu would change, etc. This all occurred at the simple ‘touch’ of the USB cable to the port on my laptop, which led me to believe that there was some stray RF coming from somewhere, but where? I tried just about everything you can imagine to remedy the issue. What’s odd is the issue never presented itself at my home QTH – only when I went portable & disconnected from the antenna & power source at home. It could have been that being connected to the home main wiring was acting as a ground?
I had heard of a more ‘simple’ device called the ‘Easy-Digi’ by KF5INZ (now N5CEY). Which allows you to use the soundcard in your computer rather than the RigBlaster which is a soundcard device all on its own. Don’t get me wrong, the RigBlaster Advantage is a great sound card – but it’s bulky, big & entirely too expensive for what it does IMO. Luckily it works perfectly for my Elecraft KX3 so I suppose it’ll stay in use for now! (no issues with the KX3 using the RigBlaster either). Big thanks to N2ADV, James (Admin in the FT8 Facebook Group) for helping me get the Easy Digi up and running with the 480!
Enter the Easy-Digi…. why concentrate on external sound cards when most modern PC’s & laptops have them built in, and even if they’re not, you can invest in a USB sound card dongle for less than 10 bucks. Previously I indicated in some of my tutorials that you can just connect directly to the computer soundcard – and while that may work for some (every computer is different) – the best way is to isolate that audio going into & out of your computer so that you get a clean transmitted signal on the bands. That’s what the Easy-Digi does – it uses optocouplers to isolate the audio circuits on your computer so that no nasty AC hum can hop onto the audio. It’s also available in kit form if that’s your fancy! Check Clifford out on eBay.
I wasn’t going to have another failed portable digital outing so I needed to test this thing out! I hopped on 40 meters last night just to take the device on a test run – setup a temporary 40m 1/4w vertical (using the Wolf River Coil/MFJ-1979/Buddipole antenna arms) in the backyard last night with one elevated radial just about 4 feet off the ground. Radial was pointed towards Maine for this session. Furthest contact was IT9CCB using JT9 @ 35 watts last night. The FT8 modes have gotten quite packed lately – I find snagging DX on the JT modes easier than ever before!
I might have to snag the smaller version of the Wolf river coil though to shave a bit of weight off this setup. Why not just use the Buddipole coil? I could if I wanted to sit there for 10 minutes while trying to find the sweet spot with the tap. The Wolf River Coil allows me to quickly adjust for resonance whereas I could never find an acceptable SWR on 40 meters with the Buddipole coils. I can find the sweet spot in a matter of seconds with the sliding mechanism on the Wolf River Coil.
The 2 to 1 curve is a bit narrower on an antenna that uses some amount of coil, but you can see that I can move up and down a bit and still stay within the acceptable limits, and readjusting is a cinch with this coil. I’m pretty happy with the results of the KF5INZ device – now I can successfully use the TS-480 on digi modes portable! I’m planning on making my next POTA or SOTA activation completely digital. I’m reviewing some PSK31 tutorials as we speak!
73 de K5ACL