My Shack
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LAST UPDATED: 5th March 2021

THE G4UCJ RADIO SHACK

Welcome to my radio shack! This is the room (or rather part of a room) where my radio gear is located.  Due to space limitations at the current QTH, I have had to become inventive with both the location and the content of my radio shack. Originally, it was located in our bedroom, which is obviously not the best place (especially for late night/early morning DXing!). I am now downstairs in a part of the kitchen that once housed a ‘pantry’ type store. It is just over 1m wide but has floor to ceiling access. I found a desk small enough to fit, and made some shelves to arrange the  gear on. My 2 existing monitors just about fit in this space, by using a dual monitor support. I can tilt and rotate the monitors as needed - I could even have one or both in portrait mode, should it be necessary! The only thing I can't do is to adjust the height of each monitor independently of the other. The easy way to cure this would be to have two monitors of the same make and size - but one thing at a time, for now!

I have arranged my equipment so that it is easy to use and everything I need to adjust is within reach. Having an efficient layout is very important, there is nothing worse than having to stand up, stretch or reach over to adjust a control, especially when you are in the middle of a contest or chasing that elusive DXCC. My equipment is stacked vertically (as opposed to the more common side-by-side arrangements usually seen), which allows me to arrange my equipment in a very small space whilst retaining usability. The image below details the various important components of my radio gear. The main radio is an Icom IC-756pro (the original mk1 ‘pro’ version) which covers HF and 6m. I have used Icom gear for a good many years now and rate it very highly. For 2m, I have a transverter that is used with the 756.

I’m still tinkering with the layout to best accommodate my current operating style. It is tricky to get it arranged in a way that will allow me to operate as I wish and accommodate the equipment. I will hit on the best arrangement but the layout is in a state of semi-flux as my equipment evolves, or my interest moves to a different area of the hobby.

Having moved downstairs, I have had to rethink my antennas.  I have 5 outside antennas at this time, all for receiving, excepting the 2m yagi can also be used for transmit. These are: Folded dipole for 200-400MHz at 4m agl; 5 element 2m (144MHz) ‘Powabeam’ yagi at 6.5m; a 1m diameter aluminium loop with CCW loop amplifier and rotator at 4m;   Cross Country Wireless Active Loop at 7m; 2 element colinear for 1090MHz (ADS-B). Images of these appear further down the page. The amplifier in the Wellbrook loop failed after many years of service and has been replaced by the CCW Loop Antenna Amplifier + (LAA+). Works very well!

The layout changes a little every so often and over time tends to look rather different to the original layout (rather like this website)!

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IC756pro IMG_9785
atu 0414
brassracer1
G90 stand
G90 front
HF+ compared
DJ2GO
VTT101 13_53834_96f1d2c7f55d604 ShuttleXpress Spyverter
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HF+ discovery
FCD HF+ dual
u5link
bhi
transverter

1: Icom IC-756pro (the MK1 ‘pro’ version). Great workhorse that I have owned for a good number of years. IF DSP is fitted to these radios and is a massive step up from using analogue crystal/mechanical filters, such as those featured on the original IC-756.

2: Vibroplex Brass Racer Twin Paddle Iambic CW Key. I really like this key, it  has become my favourite and is now my only set of paddles. It does have a keyer built in, but has a faulty ‘Curtis’ keyer IC (very scarce - not found a replacement yet). Luckily both my HF radios have built- in keyers!

3 & 4: Inner & outer views of the Comet CAT-10 low power 2-50MHz ATU. Will take a very mis-matched load, with up to 10 Watts of RF without flash-over. It is rated at 10W CW and seems to do that with ease.

5: Xiegu G90. The G90 is an HF only radio covering 0.5-30MHz & based on SDR technology. Xiegu are a new manufacturer and offer a small range of HF transceivers and add-ons. It is a surprisingly compact & sturdily built radio. Power output is noticeably higher than is usual for these types of radio as it manages a full 20W, whereas the usual for the portable/field use transceivers is between 5 and 10 Watts. Another unusual feature is a built in ATU, and a good one at that. I was looking for  a radio that I could take with me on trips to the /A QTH in Norfolk. The G90 fits this criteria nicely. I wanted a general coverage receiver, with good filtering, that didn’t require a computer/laptop to work - as most SDR type radios do. Not having to be reliant on a computer means that is one less potential noise source to worry about. My portable radios, like the DE-1103 & ATS-909 perform well on broadcast stations, but the IF bandwidth is too wide for SSB/CW work (even on ‘narrow’). Couple the G90 with a small 3-5A PSU and a simple antenna you’ll be in business. New features are being added/tweaked all the time through regular firmware updates. The G90 now boasts a CW decoder, which works quite well, given clear and well sent signals. I have replaced the VFO control with one that has a circular finger dent, which makes band-scanning quicker and less fatiguing. At around 400, the G90 is very good value for money. I bought mine from a friend, it had not seen much action so was pretty much in ‘like new’ condition. At 300, it was a good 25% saving on the new price and I am very pleased with it. This image shows the G90 on a laptop stand that was purchased from Amazon. Not only does this elevate the front of the G90 to a more usable level/angle, it also allows more air to circulate thus aiding cooling. The stand folds away to a very small size and is really well made. At around 10, it is much cheaper than the matching stand for the G90 (retails for between 50 and 95).

6: The G90, with its original tuning knob and showing the CW decoder in action on 20m. If the CW is clear and of a good enough Signal-Noise Ratio (SNR), the decoder will make a good job of displaying the received text.

7: Side by side size comparison of the Airspy HF+ ‘Dual Port’ and the Airspy HF+ ‘Discovery’.

8: Numark/ION DJ2GO twin deck Midi DJ mixer. This is a nice compact unit with plenty of controls. I like the twin ‘VFO’ spinners (these would be used for decks A & B when used as a mixer), which have a smooth, free running movement, complete with finger recess. One spinner s set for ‘normal’ speed tuning, whilst the other one is set for ‘fast’ tuning. For very fine ‘incremental’ tuning, the ‘Browse’ control with its ‘click-stop’ movement is set to adjust tuning in 1Hz steps.This was picked up’used’ on eBay for less than 20 including postage - a good bargain.

9: VTT-01, made by DJ-Tech, is a very basic DJ controller and can be purchased for a good price, if you can find one! I waited for over a year to get my hands on this one. Prices vary wildly - between about 15 and 70. I paid about 12 for mine - and it was brand new. Bargains like this do come along but you do have to be vigilant.

10: The Hercules MP3 DJ controller, like the VTT-01 above, is a midi device and, with the right software, can be used to control your SDR receiver(s).

11: Contour ShuttleXpress. This is a device that works with various programs, with the controls being customisable for the software in use. I use this with SDR Console, where it works in the same manner as a mouse. The middle control has a finger dent and acts like a tuning control. The outer jog/shuttle ring can be used to change frequencies at a faster rate than by using the centre control. The jog ring has an incremental control meaning the further to the side the control is twisted, the faster the displayed frequency is changed. Really useful for scooting up and down a band and then using the centre control to tune into specific stations. The only downside is that the SDR Console window must have focus (in the same way as a mouse would work). SDR Sharp has a special plug-in for the ShuttleXpress so that the buttons, etc, can be programmed for very specific processes (such as adjusting filter widths, or selecting an entire frequency band, etc).

12: The Airspy (R2) VHF/UHF SDR receiver covering 24-1600MHz.

13: The Airspy Spyverter is an ‘up’ converter that enables a VHF only SDR ro receive HF by converting the HF signals to somewhere in the VHF region (120MHz or so). You then tune your VHF SDR from 120.1- about 180MHz, thereby giving coverage of 100kHz to 60MHz. There are many on the market, this one though matches the Airspy R0 and R2 SDR’s. It can also be used with the RTL dongles.RTL-SDR.com .

14: Band 2 band stop filter (to block strong B2 sigs from causing overload problems.

15: Funcube Pro Plus LF-UHF SDR receiver. This is the mk2, or pro plus, version of the FCD. The Pro Plus is a complete redesign of the original FCD and as such has significant performance improvements over the previous design. Originally developed for the reception of the tiny Funcube amateur radio satellites, it is a super little receiver. The FCDPP can sample 192kHz of spectrum, which means it can be used for receiving broadcast FM (band II, 88-108MHz), for which is very good.

16: Airspy HF+ Dual Port SDR. Covers from 0.01-31MHz and 60-260MHz approx. Fantastic receiver, really impressed with how well it copes with the bands. Superb on VHF too.

17: Airspy HF+ Discovery. The new receiver from Airspy, it is tiny - measuring just 70mm long and is enclosed in a shielded plastic box, rather than the metal case of the HF+ dual.. However, within that tiny package are some very big electronics! This receiver is simply amazing for the price. Ithas been side by side tested with many other receivers and it is either better than, or as good as pretty much all of them, even ones costing many times as much. I’ve not yet seen a review where the Discovery was anything other than almost the equal of whatever it has been put up against. Coverage is the same as the HF+, but this has just a  single antenna socket. Apart from some other redesigns, the Discovery has inbuilt preselectors which keep out of band signals at bay and helps even further with strong signal handling.

18: U5Link for Icom. This is a digimodes soundcard and CAT (CI-V) interface. Nice compact unit, well made and seems to retail for about 55 - mine cost 15 and was in ‘as new’ condition. Very simple to configure and saves on the extra cables and issues that are often experienced when using separate units for soundcard and CI-V interfacing.

19: A 28MHz in - 144MHz out transverter, requiring only a few mW of drive and produces around 10W output. I run mine at about 5W out to keep it linear and to keep the temperature down during digimode operations.

20: BHI ‘NCH’ active noise cancelling headphones. These make a decent difference by reducing the amount of ‘room’ noise heard in the headphones as well as amplifying the wanted signal from the input - thus increasing the apparent signal to noise ratio.

ANTENNAS

Most radio amateurs tend to collect bits and pieces over the years, particularly if they are into making their own gear. I am the same with antennas, I have collected several complete antennas and loads of spare parts, that can be recycled into new antennas as required. This can save a lot of money, particularly if you are an experimenter (as am I). Not all of my antennas are in use all the time, I chop and change depending on what I am trying to receive. Ideally I would like to have all the antennas installed and available all of the time, but due to limited space and not to annoy other residents in the area, I keep the number of antennas deployed at any one time to the minimum for what I am doing at that particular time

Below are images of some of the antennas I have used in the recent past (the last 3 or so years), in the configuration they were used. I also have a selection of antennas that are not in use at the present time.

On the subject of antennas, My long-serving Wellbrook loop has failed. From tests and other users experiences, it would appear to be the amplifier on the loop that has failed. Oddly, I can still pick up signals but with a much reduced signal strength. The other symptom was rather strange: The loop has lost all directionality! No matter where I turn the rotator, the signal remains exactly the same, despite the antenna visibly turning. At each 90 degree interval there should be either a signal peak or a very definite and deep signal null. Having replaced the feeder (50 ohm coax) I noticed no difference, indicating the cable was not at fault. The original feeder was a length of RG58 that had been spliced (by me) and then joined to a length of RG8x (Mini 8) to reach the shack. There was also a pl259 to bnc adapter at the loop end, so plenty of opportunity for ingress of water. This arrangement had been in place for almost 7 years so the feeder was due for a change. Upon inspection of the feeder, it was found to be in as good a condition as it was when originally installed. Absolutely no ingress, all connectors/adapters were shiny and no corrosion was found at any point. Ingress of water was the reason for splicing the feeder a couple of years ago. There was a join between the RG58 and RG8 mini consisting of the usual pair of PL259’s and a barrel adapter. The method a sealing the joins had failed and water had worked its way up the feeder a few inches (by osmosis). The feeder was stripped back about 12 inches on either side, ensuring the coax was clean and free from the signs of ingress. By splicing the coax, I was able to remove the pl259s and the barrel adapter. Not many people bother to splice coax these days as it takes a while to do it properly and requires the careful use of a soldering iron. Once spliced, I covered the joint in self-amalgamating tape, then a layer of waterproof UV stabilised tape and, finally, sprayed the whole area with several coats of an outdoor/marine quality laquer/varnish, giving the joint complete protection from the elements.

I am still using the Wellbrook loop, in conjunction with the CCW loop but I have ordered a new amplifier. I had considered ordering a replacement Wellbrook amplifier as that could be attached on top of the existing amp, but the price was prohibitive. Instead, after a good deal of research, I opted for the new Cross Country Wireless ‘Loop Amplifier +”. The LAA+ covers from 100kHz up to 150MHz (the Wellbrook ran out of steam at 30MHz) and a is low noise, low impedance amplifier ideally suited to being mounted on the Wellbrook loop, using the aluminium frame as the radiating/receiving element. Other advantages of the CCW amp are that it is reverse polarity protected (Wellbrook is not); it is protected against accidental transmissions (Wellbrook is not); it is half the price of the Wellbrook replacement amp and may offer deeper nulls. Also, as the amp is a stand-alone unit, it can be used in other configurations and with other sized loops. Should I decide to try a large aperture loop (I could run a 10-15m circumference loop around the garden - fixed position, of course), this amplifier could be used. The CCW loop amp can be used with a 5V Bias T supply (from a USB power bank or similar if you take it out portable) and with a second amplifier in the base unit (for use with radios of limited sensitivity, such as the Yaesu FT817/818 type or portable multi-band radios rather than SDRs). Alternatively, it can be run with a 12V bias T and forego the base unit amplifier, to give a  higher dynamic range for use with sensitive receivers such as the current range of mid-range to high-end SDRs. This is the option I have chosen  given that I use the well respected Airspy range of SDR’s and an old, but remarkably good, RF Space SDR-IQ.

 1m diameter active loop (ex Wellbrook ALA1530)

CCW loop 1-1

Left: 1m diameter active loop in position, towards the bottom of the sloping garden. This puts the loop about 10m away from the house and about 14-15 feet above ground to the top of the loop. However, due to the downward slope of the garden, the top of the loop is about eye level when viewed from the house. about 1.5m below the loop feedpoint is a common mode choke, made from 12 turns of RG58 on an FT240 #43 ferrite core. This will cover all the HF bands, but a 31, 61 or 75 mix would give differing coverage. It is my intention to add a 75 mix ferrite choke to cover down to the  LF range.

 

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Above Right: View from the rotator to the feedpoint of the loop The aluminium poles are part of a 20 feet long flagpole that was purchased online. The poles are just over 50mm in diameter (was probably manufactured from imperial, rather than metric, measurements. The tubing is quite thin so can be made to fit in the rotator mount with a little gentle ,er, ‘help’. Additionally, the tubes are swaged to fit inside one another, so do not require additional fixings.

 

The converted ALA1530 is now in use with the replacement pre-amplifier. Performance is as good as ever, despite being from a different company. Over time, I have tried the loop in a number of positions, the latest one being on the side fence near to the bottom of the back garden. This is about 10m away from the nearest house and is, for the first time in the 15 or so years since I acquired it, mounted on a rotator. The base of the loop is about 4m (13 feet) up and attached to the fence with a wall bracket. The cross-brace was made from bamboo, but has recently been changed for a length of plastic ducting as that is stronger, and will weather better (I have experimented and found this to be the case). The bracing provides some extra protection against the high winds we sometimes get here, as the location is quite exposed to the West and South. The garden does have quite a large slope from the house down to the far end, this means the loop is at eye level when viewed from the house. Another few feet would probably help reduce noise but that is unlikely to happen as it would mean the loop being at 15-20 ft up, which would put too much strain on the rotator. To achieve this height, I would have to use a second pole beside the rotator to take a thrust bearing. This would stop the now overly long stub mast from swinging about in the wind, thus wrecking the gears and probably the bearings on this small rotator, in no time.

CROSS COUNTRY WIRELESS (CCW) ACTIVE LOOP

Another antenna in my ‘DX arsenal’ is a Cross Country Wireless (CCW) Active Loop. This is a great antenna, it has a small footprint and is easily portable. I have used this antenna on a mini DX-pedition to Suffolk, and it worked very well. The loop covers from 150kHz right up to 70MHz (in fact it covers 2m and beyond - I have received good signals from some distant DAB multiplexes up in the 180-230MHz range). This antenna will cover most things you want to listen to, and is fed not by the usual coax cable, but instead by CAT5 ethernet cable! This means there are fewer losses and common mode noise can be all but cancelled out. The (CCW) Active Loop is a triangular loop approximately 1.5m across. Ideally the loop needs to be as high and as in the clear as possible. This not only gets it out of the near field noise area of your house, but will also help signal pick up of VHF ground-wave signals. I have used this antenna mounted at about 7m up on top of my mast and it performed very well, certainly better than on the fence. Like the ex-Wellbrook loop, the CCW antenna is directional. They both have sharp nulls, which can be a real asset when trying to reduce local noise pick up. In actual fact, the nulls on the CCW are sharper than those of the ex-Wellbrook. At VHF, turning the antenna reveals signals that were otherwise hidden. Also, the radiation pattern is complex and appears to pick up both horizontal and vertical signals equally well. Most useful for VHF Band 2 DXing as I can hear coastal France pretty much all the time (usually horizontally polarised), but at the same time I can hear distant vertically polarised signals from the UK. Works pretty well on the 2m and 137MHz weather satellites. All in all, it is a great antenna. CCW do a couple of other active antennas, you just need to choose the one that fits your criteria the best. You will also find useful accessories such as zero loss antenna splitters, HF preselectors and their own design SDR receivers. Worth checking out their website. I have used the CCW loop in a number of positions around the garden, trying to find the best place for low noise and good signals (the search for a high Signal to Noise Ratio, the Holy Grail of reception)! The worst place, unsurprisingly, is the loft space / attic. I would not recommend this unless you have no other choice. For me, below 14MHz is not possible due to s9+ noise levels, probably coming from the internal house wiring of both my house, and that of my neighbour who is joined to us on one wall. At 14MHz, and above, the loop seems fairly happy and I can hear plenty of stations. No where near as good as outside but better than nothing. I usually take the loop with me when I am on holiday in the UK as it is quite portable and can be mounted on a normal camera tripod, providing it is not too windy! The very best place I have found for the loop is on top of my mast, sitting at around 6-7m. On the mast, VHF performance was brilliant. I logged 97 DXCC on 6m in just one year with it (that year being 2018)! I want to concentrate on 4m and 2m in 2019 so need to think carefully where I put it and what other antennas may be of use. 

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Above: Close ups of various components that make up the CCW loop. The one remaining thing that would need to be done before final installation is the feeder would need to be installed. The feeder in this case is not the usual 50 Ohm coax feeder, such as RG58 or RG213, instead it is an external quality Ethernet cable (CAT-5, unshielded), with almost no loss between head unit & indoor unit and, as the wires inside the cable are twisted together in signal pairs, the feeder is balanced. This means there will be virtually no common-mode interference pickup on the feeder.

Right: CCW Loop, fully assembled and mounted on the telescopic mast just above the 2m yagi. The loop is mounted at 90 degrees to the plane of the yagi as small loops have maximum signal pickup off the ends. Signal null are broadside to the loop, so when the yagi is pointing to a particular area, so is the loop. From what I understand, as the loop becomes a larger portion of the wavelength (as reception frequency increases), the radiation pattern changes. At VHF, signal nulls are off the ends of the loop and polarisation is mainly vertical.  

Discone 1

137MHz 2 + 2 ELEMENT CROSSED DIPOLES - A.K.A. TURNSTILE

This antenna is designed for satellite reception, in this particular case for reception of the NOAA weather satellites broadcasting on 137MHz. I purchased this antenna from an East European seller on Ebay who hand makes these, and other specialised antennas. I was initially looking for a QuadriFilar Helicoidal (Helix) antenna (QFH) as these are regularly quoted as being the best omnidirectional antenna for satellite work. A bit daunting to build as it involves bending of copper piping and silver soldering - I’m not a plumber and my metal work skills are pretty poor. I’ll stick to a normal soldering iron and hook-up wire - that’s what I know about! In looking for a ready made QFH I found very few, and the ones I did come across were way out of my budget. So what next? Crossed dipoles? Eggbeater? Turnstile? or a yagi on a rotator? Having looked at many different designs I decided the turnstile was probably my best bet. I found this one on Ebay for a good price and it has been a great antenna. I have made an improvement to it as I found the self tapping screws that hold the elements in place would work slightly loose after a time and the elements could wobble making the holes larger over time. I fitted larger screws and put self-amalgamating tape over the joints. This has made the antenna much sturdier and it has stood up to the various wind storms we have had over this winter. This antenna is currently in storage, until I return to downloading  satellite imagery. I do not have enough room available, at the present time, to keep this antenna installed and unused.

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Left: Turnstile antenna for 137MHz NOAA weather satellites, mounted on top of the mast at around 6.5m - 7m. Works very well for 2m FT8 signals despite the polarisation difference.

2 ELEMENT CO-LINEAR 1.09GHz

(ADS-B FEEDER)

Moving the HF antenna has freed up the far end support, which I have moved to the rear wall of the house and have mounted my 2 element colinear antenna for 1090MHz - the frequency used for ADS-B broadcasts from aircraft, which is used to plot route, speed, altitude and other information.

Most civil and military aircraft are fitted with ADS-B transponders, which means we can, with the right hardware and software, plot these aircraft on a map. The antenna was mounted in the attic and gave very reasonable performance.

 

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It was always my intention to mount it outside at some point but it took me over a year to figure out how to achieve this. My telescopic (ex telescopic, I can’t un telescope it now, the sections are totally jammed together!) 9m fishing pole had been supporting my HF OCFD, with the last 3 sections taken away so that it was shorter, but much stronger.

I have re-purposed that to be the support for the colinear. I inserted a metal pole into the top section to give extra strength where the antenna was mounted, and then cable tied it to the house soil pipe (having checked the strength of the soil pipe carefully before considering it as a support).

The ADS-B colinear now sits at about 7m above ground and has a good view over a decent amount of sky and has increased my range considerably.

Further information on my ADS-B page.

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Above (Top) Left: Turnstile antenna as mounted in attic, on a small tripod. Fed by RG58 coax, better performance is observed when using lower loss cable (RG213).

Above: Close up of the ADS-B colinear showing the mount and radials

Far Right: 2 element Co-linear for 1.09GHz mounted at around 7m, on top of a telescopic fishing pole and fed with about 3m of W-103 low loss cable. I have attached a single guy.

Left: The other antenna that has been on the mast was a DAB (200+MHz) folded vertical dipole, which was also rather good for receiving the military aviation frequencies between 250-400MHz. This is now mounted at 4m, on another telescopic fishing pole, under the ADS-B antenna. I can receive aircraft audio out to 130+ miles with this antenna (although this is limited to South-West-North directions due to the house blocking signals from North, through East, to South). The folded dipole is being mostly used with the Yupiteru MVT-7100 scanner. It also performs well with the Airspy R2 (picking up 85+ DAB stations/channels during a recent scan).

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Far Left: 2m 5 element ‘Powabeam’ yagi installed at G4UCJ. This is at about 6.5m above ground level.

Left: Feedpoint of the Powabeam showing the air cored common mode choke.

Above: Feedpoint showing the ‘Powabeam’ logo. The feedpoint is factory sealed, complete with a short length of Ecoflex 10 and terminated with an ‘N’ type socket.

Alternative Antennas (not currently used, but available when required)

I have a collection of various antennas that I have built up over the past few years and use them according to my current area of interest. In an ideal world I would have all operational and mounted outside at a respectable height. However, this is real life and it is not possible to have more than I already have up at any one time (unless I can find a way to mount another one without it being obvious).

So what antennas do I have in my collection?

Discone: covers from 25-1300MHz (the bottom end is not very good, but from 70MHz up it is not bad at all).

6/2/70 White stick vertical *: Useful for 6m, 2m and 70cms plus general VHF/UHF monitoring. My other vertical colinear (2m/70cm) is at the /A location in JO02.

5 element Band 2 yagi *: Great antenna for the VHF FM broadcast band. Will be put to use again soon, in the attic facing South East, ready for Sporadic E openings in the spring.

20-6m OCFD *: Off Centre Fed Dipole, these work rather well, providing you have them in the right configuration. For some reason my one would not match on anything other than 20 or 10m. Actually, that is not strictly true - it would match, but my inbuilt atu would not match it. On 20 and 10m though it was a 1:1 VSWR so no atu required. I think it may have been the choke I was using when it was outside that caused the odd behaviour.

6m or 4m half wave dipole *: Made from aluminium tubing with tunable end sections. The dipole can be tuned to either the 50MHz or 70MHz bands. Originally purchased as a 4m dipole but soon discovered that the end sections are long enough to enable it to be brought to resonance on the 6m band. This is connected and usable in the shack, but is rather noisy as it picks up QRM from the house wiring (and doubtless, the neighbouring houses too).

Various wire/nested/parallel dipoles *: Various experimental antennas, including a 6m wire delta loop built from bamboo.

EQUIPMENT LIST

 

Transceivers:

HF:

Icom IC-756pro (0.1-60MHz) 100W
Xiegu G90 (0.5-30MHz, SDR based) 20W

V/UHF:

Baofeng GT3TP3 mkIII; 2m/70cms; 8W; handheld
Baofeng BF888s+; 400-500MHz; 16 Channel; 5W; handheld (x2)
Standard C510 2m/70cm handheld (with matching 50W/35W) linear amplifier
Ukraine 2m Transverter, 10m I.F; 1-50mW input; 10W output.

Receivers:

Software Defined Radios:

RFSpace SDR-IQ (0-30MHz 14bit)
Airspy HF+ Dual Port (0-30 & 60-240MHz)
Airspy HF+ Discovery (0-30 & 60-240MHz)
AirSpy R2 SDR (24-1800MHz) + SpyVerter (HF upconverter, 0-60MHz).
Funcube Dongle Pro Plus (150kHz-2GHz) SDR
Various RTL R820T2 Dongles (8 bit, non modified 24-1600+ MHz)
FlightAware Prostick Dongle + external ADS-B filter

Analogue:

Yupiteru MVT7100 (150kHz-2GHz) all mode scanner
Roberts R861 (Sangean ATS 909 clone) LW, MW SW (with ssb) and FM RDS.
Roberts R9914 (Sangean ATS 606 clone) LW, MW SW (with ssb) and FM (x2)
Degen DE1103 (non DSP version) LW, MW SW (with ssb) and FM
Racal RA-1792 0-30 MHz all-mode rack mount receiver (ex Government/Armed Forces use)

Auxiliary Equipment:

MFJ 1026 Noise canceller.
MFJ 784B Audio DSP filter
Comet CAT-10 low power ATU
Nissei RX203 HF/VHF Power/SWR meter
Spectrum RP6S 6m Pre-amplifier
Numark/Ion DJ2GO twin deck midi controller
DJ-Tech VTT-101 Midi controller
Hercules MP3 Hercules MP3 E2 Midi controller
Contour Shuttle Xpress (multi-application mouse wheel emulator)
u5 Link - USB soundcard, CW and CI-V interface. A small unit that provides full control of attached Icom radio, plus interfaces between the radio and the PC soundcard for digital modes/CW.

Morse Keys:

Vibroplex Brass Racer twin paddles (with magnetic tensioning);
Various manual / pump Morse keys, including a bespoke hand made manual key based on the admiralty pattern (with a floating trunnion tensioner). Made from solid brass and has my callsign embossed onto each moving part. Even the knob was measured to fit my fingers and thumb (the space between the flared top of the wooden knob and the baseplate fit my thumb exactly) which, together with the fine adjustments of the key, enables me to send Morse code to the absolute best of my ability.

SHACK COMPUTERS

How it began - the evolution of my shack PC:

It became obvious that I needed something better than my elderly core 2 duo laptop as that was struggling to do any SDR work and was also very slow processing the information I required for my work on WRTH. My boss (the publisher of said book) bought a new pc as I had pretty much burnt out my laptop having it run at 100% for around 24 hours trying to get the final files ready for work. This was around 8 years ago, and consisted of a core i5 2320 CPU, 8GB RAM and the on-chip Intel HD2400 graphics, plus a 1TB HDD. A reasonable system at that time. It had enough power to knock the processing time down from around a day, to 4 hours or so.

Being a quad core, it was also good for my SDR work. After about a year of using the PC I had thoughts of upgrading various components over time. Having check the specifications carefully, I could see that a decent overall improvement could be made for not much financial outlay. Graphics was the first port of call. Although fine for everyday stuff, the on-board/on-chip graphics could be stretched to the point where resources became low enough for the PC to start misbehaving if I tried to do too many things at the same time, particularly when they involved complex graphics - such as the FFT displays that various SDR software are famous for using. Check the options and see what was a good but cheap graphics card, with enough grunt to help take the strain off the main CPU. Enter the NVidia GT730. The GT730 has a single cooling fan and 1GB of pure graphics only RAM. That meant thaty it would not be sharing memory resources with the CPU and whatever else was running. It made a noticeable improvement. I was able to run the FFT display at better resolutions and higher speeds. I could even run 2 instances of the SDR software at the same time, although things got bogged down after a while due to CPU bottle-necking. This system kept me going until I was able to fund the next upgrade: RAM. Putting another 8GB of matching DDR3 gave the PC a goodly 16GB - there should be no further issues of running out of memory.

Next upgrade: Solid State Drive (SSD). Swapping from a mechanical hard drive to a solid state drive made a BIG difference to the PC as a whole. Boot time was now less than half of the previous time. No waiting for the drive to ‘spin-up’from sleep - whatever you wanted was there, ready and waiting as soon as you needed it. The power saving is another useful bonus of upgrading. This was a few years back, so SSD’s were more expensive than they were then. The 240GB drive in this PC cost around 100. Today they are available for about 25. I was never going to use the 1TB capacity - I prefer to have a smaller main drive that holds programs and OS with larger data drives for storing everything else. This means the PC has the 240GB SSD but is USB linked to an external 3GB drive and a networked 2GB ‘cloud’ drive.

Next in the line of upgrades were two things: a different case and a different PSU. The case firstly. When new, the PC was in a midi tower style case, reasonable amount of room but not much in the way of extra fan positions to remove some of the excess heat build up. All it had was a small (80mm) fan on the rear of the case. I felt that not only did I need a case with better cooling, the supplied PSU was getting towards its limits as it was only a 300W job. I had lent out one of my home built  PC’s a couple of years prior, and by luck I had just had it returned to me. The PC was an old single core Pentium 4, with a massive 4GB RAM - not good enough for most things these days. The case, however was a full tower, and a beast of a tower at that!

The CPU is around 7-8 years old and is a 3rd generation Intel core i7. Intel are currently on generation 10, but the 3rd gen is still a very decent performer and can run everything here with ease. It has taken me a long time to get my current computer system to the state it is now. Although it is a fossil by today’s standards, 8 years ago this system was pretty much top of the tree and would have cost a good amount.

The i7 CPU alone was about 500 or more ($700) when new. They can be picked up on the used market for about 100. The only improvements I could make to this system without having to change the motherboard, CPU and RAM would be to put in an i7 3770k (I have the ‘locked’ non ‘k’ version) and to upgrade the RAM to 32GB. To be honest I don’t think it would make a really noticeable difference to the performance.

Main PC:

CPU: Intel core i7 3770 @ 3.6GHz on a Z77 platform
RAM: 24GB DDR3
Graphics: NVidia GTX770 (2GB DDR5)
Storage: 240GB SSD; 3GB External USB3 storage drive + Networked 2GB HDD
OS: Windows 10 home 64bit O/S
 

Laptop/Notebooks:

Toshiba C850 Celeron dual core + 4GB RAM. OK for low bandwidth SDR (1MHz or so)
Fujitsu Esprimo with Intel T7300 dual core + 4GB RAM. OK for low bandwidth SDR.
Asus Core i7 4510u laptop with 12GB RAM. I use this for radio etc, when away from the main pc.

Raspberry Pi 3, with flight radar software, feeding aircraft & routing details to 360 Radar (https://360radar.co.uk/)

I seem to be collecting dying laptops (and sometimes base units too) - I have a small collection when people give them to me rather than throwing them away, which is good for parts robbing and cobbling together a working pc at short notice

Disclaimer:

I do not have any affiliation, etc., to any of the manufacturers mentioned, I’m just a happy user of their gear and feel it my duty to pass on my findings so that it may help others who are looking to change their equipment.

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