When HF conditions suck this bad (yes – I’ve spent countless hours the past few weeks with not much success on single side band)… I become a little bit more active on using digital modes! We haven’t had this low of sunspot activity since the last solar minimum! Digi modes really cut through due to their narrow bandwidth & the amazing software that’s able to really dig the signals out of the noise! I figured why not try it out indoors with the W4OP Mag Loop!?
LNR Precision decided to come out with the tripod adapter plate for the W4OP magnetic loop just right after I had received it – so I placed another order for the tripod plate. I was originally going to make something of my own, but there’s nothing I could have made that would have compared to the craftsmanship of this tripod plate. It’s machined aluminum, exactly what I needed to ensure that the loop stays put on the tripod.
I’m really loving the fact that they use heliax on this loop. If you’ll notice other mag loops that use LMR400 (or worse), the coax starts to droop after awhile, not with heliax – it stays put and maintains its shape – the only thing I’m concerned with is the repeated flexing of the heliax – time will tell.
I setup the loop -purely by using the noise level on the speaker on the Kenwood TS-590SG & tuned into the 40 meter WSPR frequency -7.038600 – immediately started to pickup spots as I could see the faint lines appearing in the WSJT-X waterfall. So I left it on overnight hoping to at least pickup some stateside contacts – but I was surprised to pickup VK & ZL land last night on 40 meters!
The loop really provides for a much lower noise level @ my QTH – probably due to the fact that I live in suburbia electrically surrounded by who knows what?! After all, – reception depends more importantly on your signal to noise ratio – not antenna gain or efficiency. Don’t get me wrong though – an outdoor deployment is always recommended – but I’m interested in experiencing the same kinds of challenges on HF that so many other hams are!
I also made my first ‘indoor’ digi mode contact with AC6EG out of California on 20 meters using JT9 & 10 watts on the W4OP loop – 10 watts is the max for digi modes on the loop, whereas 15 watts can be used on Phone & CW.
I was considering using the W4OP loop this weekend in the CQ WW SSB contest if it isn’t too crowded (even though I say the bands are dead – they seem to come alive during contests when a lot of folks are pumping out 1.5kW!). Might be a good opportunity to get some practice in before I head out for one of my first activations. Speaking of which – I checked into SOTA – there just really isn’t a lot of opportunity to participate in SOTA here in Central Texas due to the fact that almost all of the SOTA summits that are even relatively close to Austin are on private property – or just too far. Recently I heard about a program called the Worldwide Flora & Fauna (WWFF) program which is similar to National Parks on the Air (NPOTA), but a worldwide program so that everyone can participate! The spots are also located in or near public areas, almost always ensuring public access.
The WWFF program provides a bit easier access to some activation points closer to Austin. But I plan on trying to participate in both – as I really am anxious to try out each one! I’d hate to drive to a summit that hasn’t been attempted before only to learn that I’m unable to access the site. So I may play it safe and try to activate summits that have already been attempted.
Good luck to everyone participating in the contest this weekend…