Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mid Winter Greetings

With Winter Solstice passed, days in the Arctic will gradually get lighter, in more than one way for many, until we see the sun again early February. Our noon right now is in fact darker than the photo suggests.

It's been another good year for the MW enthusiasts, and another lousy year for the HF amateurs. While I wish nothing bad for the HF amateurs, I'd still prefer to have another year with extremely low solar activity.

And who knows what 2010 will bring? New receivers? New antenna designs? New DRM and Iboc noise towers on MW...?

A happy midwinter celebration to all my readers and everyone else around, and happy new year as well!

Monday, December 21, 2009

More On The Winradio Excalibur

As per info received today from Winradio, the Excalibur will be available in March 2010. The "MW Filter" I was concerned about in my previous post is user selectable.

And the really, really good news: As I hoped, RF recording (or IF recording as Winradio puts it) can be chosen from any of the 21 bandwidths within the DDC spectrum (20 kHz to 2 MHz). I didn't ask specifically which bandwidths are selected, but I'm confident that there will be one which matches the MW spectrum nicely. The output files are WAV files.

The Excalibur will be cheaper than the USD 1,200 WR-G313e. So perhaps in the USD 1,000 - 1,100 range. Winradio expects the Excalibur to be at least as sensitive as the Perseus.

(Picture from Winradio)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Recent Verifications

1090 KXMA Aurora CO was heard rather frequently this autumn and probably received a flood of reports. Eventually I received a brief email .

1270 WWWI Baxter MN sneaked around the dominant WXYT one full hour on Oct 10. Friendly response today. Minnesota no 35.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just When You Thought You Had Enough SDRs

You suddenly discover that you don't. I was prompted by Alf Årdal to check out the new Winradio SDR - actually I had heard people talk about an ad in the upcoming WRTH but a few days ago there was no info on their website of any new product.

When I checked yesterday, that had changed. The Winradio WR-GR31DDC Advance Information page shows a very interesting product, with the magic words: "Audio and IF recording and playback".

At last! In fact, the "Excalibur", which is a lot easier name to remember than WR-GR31DDC, promises to record a 2 MHz DDC spectrum to hard drive. If I understand the preliminary info correctly one will have 21 different bandwidths to choose from when making an RF recording, making it the most versatile RF-recording SDR so far.

And if that didn't make you drool, three different "radios" can run simultaneously within the DDC passband, with audio recording.

The program window looks a little cramped with three displays; a 30/50 MHz wide general coverage spectrum at the bottom, the DDC spectrum above left, and the current "radio" above right. I assume the spectrums are resizeable.

With a stated 500 Hz MDS at -130dBm, I expected the AM sensitivity to be higher than the stated -98 dBm. This is a disappointing figure. About on par with the QS1R SDR, and 5-7 dB worse than the Perseus. It will need an external preamp.

According to the Excalibur specifications, it has a"MW Filter" which appears to be highpass filter with a cut-off frequency of 1.8 MHz, attenuating 60 dB on 500 kHz. I assume that it is switchable... if it isn't the radio will be useless for MW DX.

Stated IP3 is +31 dBm, but no info on IP2. Frequency range is 9 kHz to 50 MHz and it uses 12VDC, 500 mA power.

No info yet on availability or price. Could we hope for 1st quarter of 2010? Their HF receivers are priced from 500 to 1200 USD, and I'll be surprised if the Excalibur is more expensive than their current top of the line WR-G313e.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Recent Veries

Well only one actually, 1290 KOUU Pocatello ID after a few tries. KOUU was heard with their day time power 30 kW prior to local sunset on October 24/25. Their night time power is only 24 watts. Wanted for many years.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Recent Verifications

Nothing much to report, conditions aren't out of this world. That said, I did hear 1450 KVCK Wolf Point MT with a good signal on Nov 27. Friendly response tonight stating mine was the best recording they've had.

1350 WARF Akron OH has received a number of requests from me the past few years. A nice October recording prompted a friendly response even from WARF.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Kongsfjord QDFA v. 2 Operational, Veries

One cold, windy morning in the end of October, the Kongsfjord QDFA amplifier ceased working. The reason is most likely static discharge, from which the amp was not protected. Blowing snow creates a lot of static if there's enough snow and enough wind, up to the level when most or all signals are covered in noise, and the Perseus goes into clipping.

So I removed the amplifier from the phaser enclosure, and mailed it to Dallas, who replaced the faulty transistors and retro fitted gas discharge surge arrestors to the input and output of the amp. In addition, Dallas increased the amplification from 10.3 dB to 14 dB.

The amp was reconnected yesterday, and the QDFA was put into action again. I am amazed that the cheap angling rods are still up. Anyway, I think the changes made to the amplifier justifies a "Version 2" label. For those who want to build their own QDFA, fitting gas discharge surge arrestors is probably a very good idea.

Two veries lately:
920 KVEL Vernan UT was a 2008 log; they talked about my reception in a recent morning show.

1340 KBNW Bend OR heard on Nov 23 (with the 310 beverage) when Oregon stations in general had good signal levels.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Recent Verifications

Received the past few days:

1460 WBNS Columbus OH. New log.

1450 KHIT Reno NV heard on Oct 25 at a time when conditions in general were rather on the dull side. Nice signal. New log.

540 CBGA New Carlisle QC after a few attempts.

1020 KWIQ Moses Lake WA heard to and from this autumn.

590 KQNT Spokane WA was a 2008 log.

1350 WPDR Portage WI a new log this season, but has become very common this autumn.

930 WKY Oklahoma City OK finally in! A new log although heard several times this autumn but it took a while before I got their TOH ID with good audio quality. Most friendly response - thanks OJ for v/s info.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Recent Verifications

A few nice ones the past few days:

1460 WBRN Big Rapids MI was heard 0100 at Oct 19. Usually, ESPN-announcements on 1460 are KXNO in 99 of 100 instances. This was the one. New log.

1431 Radio Kidnappers, Hastings-Napier NZL was a surprise log on the excellent Kiwi afternoon on October 24. Barely audible but what would you expect from 2.5 kW over 14,000 km.

1370 KGNO Dodge City KS was an October 3 log. A very brief email was the response.

580 KUBC Montrose CO was heard in October 2008.

1210 KOKK Huron SD had an excellent signal on October 24 at 0000Z. Brief email, most welcome. It's been on my wish list for some time.

980 KVLV Fallon NV never made it to my wish list, since I wasn't aware that it existed...I mostly use the KOJE lists for reference and being a true daytimer, never heard before in Europe, it wasn't listed. Lynn Pearce, Chief Operator and co-owner says this is a true family business. They are a 5 kW Country Music station founded in 1957 by Lynn's parents.
KVLV was reportedly heard in Finland at the same time. Maybe elsewhere too. Nevertheless, one of the KONG19 DX-pedition's real highlights. Heard 0000Z on October 25.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Recent Verifications

A few new veries in:
1110 KBND Bend OR, most likely running on their daytime power at the time of listening. Briefly heard before but not reported. Super signal.

1590 KBWG Boone IA long sought for, finally logged.

1060 KBGN Caldwell ID one of the big surprises on Oct 25's "Midnight Special" excellent western daytime opening. According to the verie, I was listening to the last few seconds of their 10 kW day power before switching to their somewhat more modest 58 watts. A most friendly, informative and informed response, including a hi-res photo of their transmitter mast (yes, that's the one above). Great signal.

1490 WLFN La Crosse WI promoted a Polka Show when I heard them. Otherwise they do Adult Standards.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recent Verifications

Several reports out, few QSLs in. But I did receive proper QSLs from Radio New Zealand's Domestic Service today; 1116 Nelson and 1458 Westport. A MW QSL from New Zealand is always most welcome.

Three NAs have responded as well, 980 KDSJ Deadwood SD, 1450 KIOV Notus ID and 870 KFLD Pasco WA. To cite from the latter: "we're the kind of radio station Obama loves to hate...haha!"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 25 Update - Departure Day - Wow Day

We rarely use words like "the best night ever", "the best (name goes here) DX-pedition ever", or similar phrases at KONG. But it was a night to remember. Not only the fabulous Italian dinner at Kongsfjord Guesthouse, but even more what happened afterwards.

The daytimers. The signal levels. The everything. What a night we had.

Currently checking the recordings; we have to drive to the airport in an hour. We should start packing soon.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

October 24 Update - Stirred, Not Shaken

Apparently, the relatively strong disturbance we got late on the 21 did little harm but a lot of good - maybe a good stir in the ionosphere was what was needed to get rid of the dominants.

The first two hours on the 22 were quite good, but little of interest happened during the morning hours and throughout the day. The pattern repeated on the 23 with excellent signal strengths (and weak Europeans) allowing stations like 880 KRVN Lexington NE and 970 KQAQ Austin MN. Amazingly, west coast stations were audible at 0030 and so was the 970 Alaskan - long before their sunset. 870 KFLD Pasco WA, 1280 KRVM Eugene OR, 1280 KIT Yakima WA and 1480 KYOS Merced CA were among the logged. But again, after 0200Z little of interest except a few short openings towards the west.

The evening of the 23 revealed that things were about the happen, although we had to wait until 2300 for some proper DX, like 1460 WBNS Columbus OH. The coming two full hours were rather spectacular. Some of the stations heard: 760 KKZN Thornton CO, 930 WKY Oklahoma City OK, 1090 KMXA Aurora CO, 1210 KOKK Huron SD, 1350 WPDR Portage WI, 1550 KMRI West Valley City UT and 1580 KMBA Tempe AZ.

Good signal levels throughout the night but a little less intense than the first two hours. At the time of writing, 1120Z, North American signal levels are still good, and we are enjoying 1017 Tonga, 1098 Marshall Islands and New Zealand as well.

Tomorrow is departure day. We will celebrate the DX-ped with an Italian evening at Kongsfjord Guesthouse - five meals with 10 different recipies and (of course) Italian wine. The coming night could turn out just as busy as the one before.

UPDATE 1450Z: Quite good conditions towards New Zealand. Some new stations logged, among them 1431 Radio Kidnappers, Hastings-Napier. Huge signal from 1458 Radio New Zealand, Westport (heard before of course).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

October 22 Update - Morning

This night's look at the northern sky revealed a sight different from that of last night: Aurora. Although very far to the north, it confirmed what we heard around Midnight UTC: A disturbance had set in. We did have a nice opening at 0000Z though, with stations like 1350 KCAR Clarksville TX and 1070 KATQ Plentywood MT, plus some very interesting prospects.

Prior to that, OJ and I had a most interesting email exchange with the CE of 1590 WVNA Tuscumbia AL. Not only did he confirm our reception with great joy, he also turned out to be an ex-DXer, having used an R-390A in his time. My own R-390A is standing only a meter away from my listening post, and although I don't use it for DX-ing anymore it is in excellent condition. We sent a couple of pictures to our new friend in Alabama.

Another QSL that evening came from 1650 CINA Mississauga ON.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Rare October Night

Calm, mild (+3C) and clear skies when I got up just before 03Z/05 local. Exceptionally clear air, the only light outside were the stars and the Milky Way - and not even the faintest sign of an Aurora. Amazing how light even a moonless night can be. Urban dwellers, whose night sky is polluted by their own artificial light, should experience this.

In the living room I find voices from hundreds of towns, small cities, large cities and political and economical centers only a microsecond away. At one moment, I share CFRW's music from the 70's with a 51 year old man driving home to his Winnipeg suburb - at the next, I listen to WSM as Merle Haggard accompanies a Nashville mother making dinner for her kids. And then I switch to KFOX and imagine that in California, a newly arrived, nervous but excited Korean finds comfort in hearing his own language on the radio.

From a tiny, remote spot on top of the world I can hear everywhere. What a unique hobby we have.

Oh, and by the way I got a most welcome verie from 1320 KHRT Minot ND. Heard on the great opening we had on October 3. The station's been on my wish list for years.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 20 Update - Evening

My previous post was a bit premature in deciding that conditions weren't good - we hadn't checked all the files...

The full hours at 0000 and partly at 0100 revealed some very nice loggings, such as 930 KOGA Ogallala NE, 960 WTCH Shawano WI, 1020 KJJK Fergus Falls MN and a few hours later 610 KNML Albuquerque NM. The rest of the night and morning was not very eventful though.

Some veries: 930 KOGA, 960 WTCH, 980 KBBO Selah WA, 1020 KJJK, 1400 KIHH Eureka CA and 1430 KMBQ Wasilla AK.

Waiting for OJ to do a marinated salmon dish.

October 20 Update

Exceptionally quiet. Lots of stations on all frequencies. Superb signal levels. But everything's been heard before! Signals are spread from coast to coast so it is extremely difficult to find new stations. Cool to hear my favourite band Steely Dan on CKDO 1580 though. But the day is not over!

Yesterday's good pre-noon opening towards the west coast brought 550 KMVI Wailuku HI, 680 KNBR San Francisco CA, 980 KBBO Selah-Yakima WA and 1590 KUNX Ventura CA in addition to those mentioned in yesterday's blog. KBBO is new for me. KNBR is very rare due to KBRW's monster signal. Other than Hawaii, nothing interesting from the Pacific, and China dominated the afternoon's Asia reception.

Quite windy but mostly dry and relatively mild with 2-3 degrees Celsius.

Check out the KONG19 Weblog for further details.

Monday, October 19, 2009

October 19 Noon Update

Yesterday was less than inspiring - very broad conditions and little if any of interest. Better from 2300 and onwards with several nice logs, like 920 KWAD Wadena MN, 1020 KJJK Fergus Falls MN, 1370 WLJW Cadillac MI, 1460 WBRN Big Rapids MI, 1470 KMNQ Brooklyn Park MN and probably quite a few others still hiding in the hard drives.

As of writing, 0940Z, very strong signal levels from the west coast on the 340 beverage, like 610 KRTA Medford OR totally owning the frequency. Still a little early for the Asian and Pacific stations.

Weather has been mild, yesterday allowed a nice jog to the Veines lighthouse in 7 Celsius. Cooler, and a lot more wind today.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October17 Update - After Dinner

Things did turn out quite well after we had checked the recordings. 980 KDSJ Deadwood SD, 1130 KWKH Shreweport LA, 1590 KWBG Boone IA and especially 1590 WVNA Tuscumbia AL were tonight's highlights - all except KWKH were new logs for me.

Other than that, we enjoyed a magnificent king crab dinner with cloudberries for dessert. We drank Calles Riesling white wine with the crab, and Poli grappa with the cloudberries. We're ready to hunt US daytime stations!

October 17 Update - KONG19 Day 2

Good signal levels from North America from yesterday evening, allowing for US Daytime stations to be heard. We followed the sunset path over North America but nothing much of interest was heard. Overnight and into the morning the signals were again very good but wide-spread so it was difficult to find new stations.

As of writing at 0928Z the west coast dominates, some GY stations like 1490-KCID, 1450-KONP and 1230-KKEE have huge signals. Tahiti noted on 738 just after 0800. The QDFA is still performing admirably. If it wasn't for its somewhat reduced sensitivity on the lower part of the MW band, we wouldn't need the beverages at all.

We're hoping for good signals from the Pacific the next few hours.

Cloudy with sunny spells, dry, a light breeze and 3 degrees Celsius.

Friday, October 16, 2009

October 16 Update - Afternoon

Nice signals from many Hawaii stations. A new Alaska log for us: 1430 KMBQ Wasilla nice signal at 1400Z with their TOH ID. Only minutes before KBRC Mount Vernon WA dominated.

October 16 Update - KONG19 Countdown Completed

The KONG crew arrived as scheduled 1148Z today. As we unpacked, we enjoyed signals from 1500 KUMU Honolulu HI and 1035 Newstalk ZB. The first day starts up in a light manner radiowise, as we will attend the biweekly Pub Quiz at Neptun Pub at 1900.

Conditions last night was a bit up and down due to the disturbance, short flashes with good west coast conditions. At the time of writing (1330Z) lots of Hawaiian stations with good signal strengths.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

October 15 Update - KONG19 Minus 1 Day

Not much to report since I haven't checked much. OJ heard 1240 KNRY Monterey CA at 0900Z yesterday. This morning, conditions appeared to be quite good but westerly oriented with 1230-KKEE, 1240-KTIX and 1490-KEYG at 0700Z. At 0800 the band was empty! It turned out it was not a faulty antenna but a sudden disturbance. At 1130 the band is slowly returning to normal. Right now I'm listening to 1500 KUMU Honolulu HI with fair strength, and Japan is getting stronger too.

Less than 24 hours until the rest of the KONG crew lands on ENBV.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October 13 Update - KONG19 Minus 3 Days

Been away a couple of days, so I don't know much about what's heard, but OJS reports that Tonga-1017 and Marshall Islands-1098 were well audible today. The internet connection with Kongsfjord was lost at 1223Z today. I don't know if it's the modem or the line. We'll see by Thursday.

Two veries: 1210 KTBK Auburn WA and 1350 WWWL New Orleans LA. Entercom-owned, like its big brother on 870, WWL. Their nighttime pattern isn't exactly favourable.

And now only three days until Odd-Jørgen Sagdahl, Arnstein Bue and Tore Johnny Bråtveit arrives! I'm in heavy shopping mode.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October 10 Update

Some New Zealand stations were heard on October 9 from 1215, unfortunately what seemed to become a great opening fizzled out and at 1300 only Newstalk ZB 1035 was left. Around 1220 the following Kiwis were noted: 1008, 1035, 1080, 1107, 1116, 1143, 1242, 1296, 1332, 1341 and 1386. Possible NZ also on 954, 972, 981 and 1359.

The 58 beverage proved superior to the QDFA this time.

Not too exciting conditions toward North America on the 9th and 10th, but I did hear 1270 WWWI Baxter MN for the first time on the 9th. Also an unidentified on 1240, starting their full-hour ann. with "Since 1939..." The audio is here, first with, then without the Perseus noise reduction. Suggestions?
EDIT: Solved. WJMC Rice Lake WI.

One QSL: KZZJ Rugby ND 1450.

Weather: Sun, wind, rain, sleet, snow; everything within 10 minutes or so. 3 Celsius right now

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

October 7 Update

Not much to report. From the October 3 opening, two new stations were found, 1370 KGNO Dodge City KS and 1600 WRPN Ripon WI. Today very good signal strengths, but conditions were "wide", allowing the dominants to - well - dominate. 1210 KTBK Auburn WA with its new (since when?) 10 kW night power was quite strong. Spoke with Mika Mäkelainen on the phone from Lemmenjoki this afternoon; his impressions were the same. Quite a few Hawaii stations audible around 1300Z.

A few new veries lately: 1600 WRPN Ripon WI, a very friendly email from 1350 KCAR Clarksville TX and finally 1130 KWKH Shrewport LA.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

October 3 Update

Only a small fraction of tonight's recordings have been checked, still a few new stations for me, like 1130 KWKH Shreweport LA, 1350 KCAR Clarksville TX, 1350 WWWL New Orleans LA and 1450 KZZJ Rugby ND. Romanticas on 930 may have been WKY, the way conditions were last night.

Nothing of interest during the afternoon here, only modest signals from Japan and nothing (at least noteworthy) from Down Under.

Friday, October 02, 2009

October 2 Update - Still New Zealand

More from Down Under! We are monitoring the BOH og TOH and enjoying periods with excellent signals from Newstalk ZB 1035 kHz in between. Listen to this! Or click on the recording in the box below.

Edit: The Newstalk ZB file was recorded from the Perseus SDR in Synchronous AM mode, bandwidth 5.55 kHz. Antenna: QDFA.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 30 Update - New Zealand!

Semi-interesting conditions towards North America. The afternoon was very interesting though, as OJ spotted a DU dialect on 1233 and then on 1224. First thought to be the Australian. Absolutely not. A "B-Sport, Sports news update" revealed that this was Invercargill, New Zealand! Several other NZ stations found on the full hour at 1600Z including 927, 1080, 1107, 1116, 1152 and 1233, 1287 and 1458. The familiar Newstalk ZB Wellington 1035 had a very potent signal.

First September log of New Zealand in Kongsfjord. Albeit only 8 hours away from October...

Antenna in use: QDFA. We should have compared it with the original NZ antenna, the 58 beverage but we didn't pay attention to the stations until after we had recorded the full hour on the Perseus'.

One verie last night, 1370 WFEA Manchester NH.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September 29 Update

A few interesting stations, such as 1230 KSYM Mankato MN on the 28, and also a few Aussies, but nothing like the DU bonanza experienced in Lemmenjoki on the 27. Well, we weren't listening at that time, were we... Interesting conditions today - OJ reports that the QDFA has nailed its first Hawaiian with 1500 KUMU Honolulu at 1300Z. We were complaining that the QDFA didn't work in daylight. OK so maybe it does...

In any case, the 350 degree bearing of the QDFA makes it a much more westerly oriented antenna than I had expected, given its broad front lobe. The 310 hears eastern North America better, but the QDFA sort of takes the rest, including Hawaii and Japan. The big question is: Is it too broad? Will the more directive beverages prove better in the long run? Time will tell.

Recent veries: 1330 WRCA Waltham MA, 1230 KSYM Mankato MN, 1410 KOOQ North Platte NE and 1490 KCFC Boulder CO.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Full Kongsfjord QDFA Story

has finally been written. You should find a 1.2 MB pdf here.

Conditions: Nothing exciting this night and morning. Except that the grim weather report never materialized.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

September 26 Update

Checked a few of the Sept 24/25 recordings and all the Sept 26 recordings. Conditions not too bad. Stations worth mentioning are 710 KCMO Kansas City MO, 790 WAYY Eau Claire WI, 1370 WFEA Manchester NH (basically a new log), 1410 KIIX Ft Collins CO under KOOQ, 1430 KCLK Asotin WA, 1470 WNYY Ithaca NY and a very potent 1490 KQDS Duluth MN with its new moniker "The Fan 1490".

The QDFA still proves to be superior at night, while the 310, connected to my other Perseus, dominate mornings. Actually, comparing the QDFA and the 310 is a bit unfair to the QDFA since the 310 has many of the European stations in its side null. It is somewhat more sensitive towards eastern North America and South America while the QDFA with its 350 degrees bearing goes further west. To illustrate my point: At one instance on 1430, the 310 beverage had KLO on top and CKHT audible underneath, while the QDFA had KLO on top but KCLK Asotin WA close behind.

Winds up to 25 meters per second expected overnight, so it will be interesting to see if the QDFA is still up tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

September 23 Update

The minor disturbance seen on the 21 apparently stirred up the ionosphere enough to allow good conditions the day after. Very good signals especially from Colorado and Nebraska on Sept 22. A brief check of two of the TOH recorded (0200 and 0300Z) revealed KKAR Omaha NE 1290, KFKA Greely CO 1310, KOOQ North Platte NE 1410 (new log), KGRE Greely CO 1450 (with a monstrous signal for a GY station!) and KCFC Boulder CO 1490 (new log). Most interesting stations were found above 1100 kHz.

The QDFA is still performing well. With two Perseus' running, one with the QDFA and the other with the 310 beverage, I could compare the two antennas at 0300Z, 42 minutes before sunrise. Even at this transition period, the QDFA was noticeably quieter than the beverage.

Monday, September 21, 2009

September 21 Update

Not very exciting the last few days, especially tonight with higher K-indices and little to be heard. Friendly email from the PD on KYES Rockville MN though. KYES is serving the St. Cloud area and they also air Relevant Radio. I also received a Twitter message, making it my first Twitter QSL.

Cool to see new AM voices. KYES is going to be quite dominant in the Arctic part of Europe.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

QDFA Payback Time

A few new ones for me logged the past weekend and Thu morning local: First KXYZ Houston TX 1320 on the QDFA, later on WCCN Neilsville WI 1370 on the 310 beverage. At 0200 Thu KYES Rockville MN 1180 surfaced over 1179 on the QDFA with a nice full-hour ID. KYES is new, 5 kW nights most of it going NE so is bound to be a dominant in these parts. Veries from KXYZ and WCCN. Receiver: Perseus.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Finally Confirmed - The QDFA Blows The Beverage Away

Yes, it does. At nighttime, when strong signals from Europe dominate the band, the QDFA has proven to be totally superior. In a large number of instances where EU QRM totally obliterated the NA frequency when using the beverage, the QDFA either brought audible levels, or even readable levels. If I had audible levels with the beverage, the QDFA produced readable levels. And in every instance where the beverage had readable levels from North America, the QDFA produced better readability.

There is no going away from this. Check it out yourself. These 10-second recordings from 1510, 1520, 1540, 1550, 1560, 1570 and 1600 should provide enough evidence. The first 5 seconds are recorded off the beverage, the last 5 off the QDFA.

So what brought these dramatic changes from last weekend? I don't know for sure. Maybe the radials I put out worked. Maybe propagation didn't favour the properties of the QDFA. Maybe there is some other obscure reason. My unqualified guess is that the radials worked. Btw I added another set of radials just before it got dark; they run perpendicular to the loop.

Of course this doesn't change the fact that the QDFA sensitivity rolls off from around 1000 kHz and downwards, and the fact that when the interference is reduced by approaching daylight the beverage is always more effective. But we knew that all along. The QDFA is set up for being able to DX the difficult midnight to dawn period. Thanks Dallas Lankford for this extraordinary experience!

Update: It appears that the effect of the QDFA bleeds away when civil twilight approaches. 45 minutes before sunrise (twilight lasts much longer at northern latitudes) there is virtually no difference between the QDFA and the beverage, although EU interference is still quite heavy.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The QDFA Strikes Back

I wasn't prepared to let tens of hours of work go down the drain. Several sources have indicated that antennas with vertical elements such as the EWE and K9AY depend on good ground to produce good nulls. And that radials is one way to improve their performance on poor ground. So I found some rather thick copper string, surplus from navaid upgrades at the airport, and laid the wire on the ground at 45 degrees intervals.

I don't know if it's the radials or condtions in general or what, but it appears that the QDFA is indeed functioning better now. I was able to null the slop from St. Petersburg 1494 enough to get a readable signal from Longyearbyen-1485. Furthermore, I tested 1557, where the 58-degrees Asia beverage had Taiwan and France (backlobe) equal strength. The North America beverages had Lithuania very strong on their backlobes, while the QDFA (which points directly towards Lithuania on its back lobe) had Taiwan soundly on top with France underneath.

So maybe, maybe, maybe. The coming night will tell.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

First Chinese NDB Heard In Europe (Edit: Norway)?

Maybe not. I don't have the statistics. But NDB Database expert Michael Oexner was very enthusiastic when I asked him what station on 439 kHz ID'ed "WD". His reply:

WD-439.0 Zhonghao/Taiyuan/Wusu CHN N37 39 30 E112 46 54

Heard today with my Perseus connected to a 58-degree beverage at 1800 UTC. The distance should be roughly 6,500 km. Extremely weak, of course. Thanks for your info, Michael!

Monday, September 07, 2009

The QDFA - A Possible Conclusion

First, let me point out that ground matters. Very poor ground favours the beverage (and other longwire type) antenna. Antenna designs like the EWE and K9AY want good ground. Both the EWE and the K9AY have been tested here, with mediocre results while a good ground K9AY made wonders for me home in Berlevåg. The beverage is literally on "home ground" here in Kongsfjord and would prove to be a worthy opponent to any other antenna design. A beverage in Grayland may not be allowed to reach its potential because the beverage thrives in the lossiest ground.

Let me also point out that the two places where the QDFA has been tested before have much better ground than the rocky, stony morenes in Kongsfjord. Dallas Lankford mentioned that EZNEC simulation did not give any answer as to how the QDFA would perform over lossy ground. Maybe this real-world test does.

Last night we compared the QDFA with two beverages (and even one pointing way off North America). The 310 is my favourite nighttime beverage because of less European QRM than the 340. The latter performs best during daylight hours. So basically, the competition was between the QDFA and the 310. Conditions favoured the eastern part of the USA and Canada. Signal levels were from threshold to "fair".

In short, there was no significant difference. On upper MW, the signal-to-noise levels were roughly the same or a few dB in favour of the QDFA. Readability was mostly the same. What I heard on the QDFA I could also hear on the 310. The reduced sensitivity of the QDFA revealed itself on frequencies like 740 (Ontario) and 590 (Newfoundland) where the 310 had audible and even readable levels (590) and the QDFA couldn't hear any audio. On an undisturbed frequency like 1650 (Ontario) the QDFA and the 310 were identical. The QDFA was less sensitive to Loran C noise though, even if the Loran C station is in its front lobe.

So, is the QDFA a failure? Definitely no. It is probably just placed on the wrong spot, and even then it matches the 310 in performance, at least on the upper half of the MW band. It has a wide front lobe, and it can null a very wide angle off the back. And it is extremely quiet. It performed somewhere along the lines Dallas Lankford had predicted (or feared), given the lossy ground. Since it was an astounding success at Grayland, it should be equally good on a European site with good ground conditions.

The downside is of course that you have to make it yourself and it takes up quite a bit of space (120 meters from end to end). And you need to make sure that the deltas don't collapse if you're in a windy location.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Some QDFA Impressions

Tests performed Saturday night at around 2300 local suggested that NRK Longyearbyen 1485 (in the desired signal path and in fact an indicator station) was around 5 dB stronger on the QDFA than on the beverage. At the same time, European interference was down by a few dB up to 10 dB, giving a net signal to noise improvement of 6-7 up to 15 dB over the beverage. Listen to this audio clip to hear the difference (beverage first, after 5-6 seconds you hear the QDFA).

However, at half an hour prior to sunset Sunday morning, we were unable to detect significant effects of the improved back-to-front ratio. It was also quite evident that the QDFA is less sensitive than the beverage up to around 1100 kHz. So in cases of low signal levels (say from the last hour before sunset and onwards) a beverage will outperform the QDFA with its gain alone, except perhaps in the highest part of the MW band (1400 kHz and up).

This is part of the equation though. We did not expect the QDFA to outperform the beverage at any other instances than during periods of high signal levels. If it in fact does that, and to what extent, can not be determined by one morning's listening.

The QDFA lobe is wide. Too wide to separate stations with close bearings, say 20-30 degrees, which a well designed and long beverage can do. We knew that. It was interesting to hear Northern Asian stations like Japan with similar signal strength as the North Asia beverage. This is not necessarily an advantage if you are pursuing daytime North America DX as Asian stations will tend to interfere. But it means that DX-ing Japan in the evening may be possible with less interference from European and Middle East stations than is possible with a beverage. Further tests are needed to confirm this.

We also don't know which effects different kinds of propagation has on the QDFA performance. It is plausible that in some instances, the attenuation of signals off the back may be significant, in other instances it will be undetectable. Again, one or two nights of listening is not enough to draw any conclusions.

A quick visit to the 60 meter and 49 meter bands revealed that the QDFA has a significantly higher noise level than the beverage and is much less suited for DX-ing than the beverage. Up to and including the 90 meter band the QDFA may actually be better, while they are roughly equal on the 75 meter band. The noise level is still marginally higher. Don't waste your time on the higher Shortwave bands with the QDFA.

The two illustrations shows the difference in gain in two ways; one over the MW spectrum where the QDFA gain "rolls off" towards 500 kHz, and one compares a small spectrum on low MW one hour after sunrise. The NA signals on the beverage weren't very strong either with VOWR-800 as the strongest one.

QDFA Still Preliminary

We are beginning to become hysterically enthusiastic about the QDFA.

QDFA Preliminary Tests

We are underway. Yesterday and this morning we were quite frustrated. First, I managed to switch polarity from the battery and thought the phaser preamp was dead. So we replaced it with another preamp. Tests today revealed that it was by no means dead, so it was refitted.

We were taken aback by the low signal level compared to the reference antenna, a beverage directed towards North America. Testing on groundwave signals yesterday afternoon was not promising at all. So we thought something was wrong, and tried every possible way to find out what it was. No luck. So this morning we made some more measurements and called the QDFA Helpdesk, aka Dallas Lankford.

Following his advice we connected two preamps with a total of 24 dB to the antenna. The noise floor barely moved. Dallas also informed us that the QDFA doesn't work too well on groundwave signals. Groundwaves is all we got at the moment of writing, but it now appears that the QDFA works as it should. A beacon on 348 to the SE is attenuated some 10 dB more relative to a beacon on 399 to the NW. Groundwave signals to the SE on 657, 1134 and 1449 kHz are much more attenuated than 399 (which is in the desired direction).

So: It works. We will not know how well until we have skywave signals, especially waiting for Longyearbyen 1485 which is in the desired direction.

Friday, September 04, 2009

QDFA Setup Completed - Minor Flaw Prevents Testing

OJ and I worked fast and efficiently to get the QDFA finished before the rain started in the evening. It is now up, but not yet running. Looks like we'll have to wait until Saturday until we get it going.

The red wine is very good, though.

QDFA Setup Underway!

OJ Sagdahl arrived today at 1300 local. The QDFA setup is now underway, at present we are soldering all the leads and preparing for the outdoor work later today. Weather is surprisingly pleasant for September; 16 Celsius and sunny. Rain expected towards the evening so we're keeping the pace up (but allowing ourselves the odd beer can in between).

More as it happens. Updates will be frequent!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

QDFA Antenna Countdown, 7 Days Remaining

Only a week now until OJ Sagdahl and I will test run the QDFA antenna. All primary and secondary main supports are up. Four 200-ft lengths and one 300-ft length of twin-lead wire have been cut and ends tinned. Two 17Ah batteries for the QDFA preamp are fully charged. The four 60-ft horisontal lengths of the deltas are cut and will be mounted today.

And I got my second Perseus SDR a week ago.

KGIM 1420, KSDN 930 Aberdeen SD Verification

Back when I was hunting veries, I sent a report to KGIM-1420 and KSDN-930, both in Aberdeen SD. They didn't respond at the time, a pity since I had heard KGIM only once and KSDN wasn't particularly easy to hear either. A follow-up yesterday was quickly taken care of though, and a friendly confirmation was emailed back. Both reports are from October 2007, although I heard KSDN on a number of occations in 2008 and 2009.

All those who believe that Aberdeen is a junction in South Dakota should know that the city is the county seat of Brown County, has a population of around 25,000, is susceptible to flooding and that a hospital is the largest employer. If we dare to trust Wiki. Of course, Aberdeen is also a junction in South Dakota.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Running The QS1R SDR On a Netbook

In previous postings, I have tested the SDR-IQ and the Perseus on the MSI Wind netbook, to see if relatively low powered netbooks can run processor-intensive software like software defined receivers. I was able to run two parallel instances of the SDR-IQ, and I also managed to run the Perseus in 1600 kHz recording mode when I overclocked the processor. All well so far.

So what about the QS1R? It appears to demand a little more from the processor than the Perseus, but the graphical user interface is responsible for most of the load. Once the GUI is minimised, the QS1R runs very light indeed. Otherwise, CPU load is around 20-40 %. I tried to lower the Panadapter Update Rate to around 5 fps and that may have caused a slight reduction in CPU load.

The GUI is scaleable, which is an advantage over Perseus with its fixed window size. Perseus is a little too large for the Wind's 1000 x 600 display, while QS1R can be adjusted to fit.

Since a recording function is not yet implemented, I don't know how well the Wind will handle a QS1R in recording mode.

The picture shows the QS1R in demod mode. The conclusion is: There is no problem running a QS1R with a netbook like the MSI Wind or similar. The processor is an Intel N270 Atom running on 1.6 GHz. This, and newer Atoms with higher speeds, are found in many netbooks nowadays.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

QDFA Project Underway

The Quad Delta Flag Array (QDFA) which was tested with great success in Grayland, WA is going to be tested in Kongsfjord too this autumn. Supports are being bought and built, and 10 (!) 5-metre fishing rods were bought at a Finnish travel fair a few weeks ago. And the "Central Processing Unit", the phaser, arrived from the US today, thanks Dallas. Two 17Ah batteries are on their way, to power the 30mA Norton push-pull preamp (see photo). And lots of other stuff needs to be purchased, not least proper weather insulation. The Arctic winter only meters on shore is a hostile environment. Needless to say we are very excited as to how well this new antenna design will perform here.

The air photo shows the layout of the QDFA as a red line. My cabin is on the right.

July 11 Update! A high-res picture of the phasing box is here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Kongsfjord - An NDB Hunter's Heaven?

I did some NDB DX some years ago, but I've done very little of it lately. I know that great NDB DX is possible though, since I've heard several 50-watt Papua New Guinea stations in the 1600-1700 kHz range.

One of my January Perseus files contained a recording down to 200 kHz, and well-known NDB DX-er Roelof Bakker (NED) offered to compile a log of what was heard on Jan 10 at 1430 UTC. The list left me stunned. I need to take up this part of the hobby...

Roelof made a very detailed report which you will find here. All from a few seconds, one late afternoon when conditions weren't really out of this world. One can but wonder what can be heard with a little more effort. Thanks very much for your detailed report, Roelof!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Sensitivity Measurements - Bjarne's Receivers

I’ve owned a few receivers over the years. I’ve measured the MW sensitivity on most of them, and on one I borrowed.


500 kHz

1000 kHz

1500 kHz

Telefunken E-1501[1]

-108 dBm

-112 dBm

-112 dBm

Racal RA6790/GM

-108 dBm

-109 dBm*

-109 dBm

EAC R-390A

-116 dBm

-116 dBm

-112 dBm**


-112 dBm

-114 dBm

-115 dBm

Icom IC-R75[2]

-111 dBm

-111 dBm

-110 dBm

Icom IC-746Pro[3]

-112 dBm

-112 dBm

-111 dBm

Icom IC-703[4]

-110 dBm

-113 dBm

-113 dBm

Icom IC-7000

-102 dBm

-109 dBm

-111 dBm

Icom IC-R1500

-96 dBm

-96 dBm

-96 dBm

Etón E1

-112 dBm

-114 dBm

-115 dBm


-101 dBm

-101 dBm

-101 dBm


-105 dBm

-103 dBm

-104 dBm

QS1R/QS1R ext.preamp[6]

-93 dBm/-105 dBm

-94 dBm/-105 dBm

-95 dBm/-106 dBm

*Measured on 1100 kHz. On 1000 kHz there was a tone (spurious signal?) that prevented measurements.

** Surprisingly low. Measurements on 1400 and 1600 kHz showed -114 dBm sensitivity.

All measurements made with 400 Hz tone, 30% modulation on AM with AGC off and "wide" bandwidth (nominal 6 kHz except RA6790/GM; nominal around 4.5 kHz, and Etón E1, nominal around 7 kHz).

And the winner is… not very surprisingly, the EAC R-390A, but with the NRD-525 a very close second. At most locations, sensitivity is not always an issue. But at my location, sensitivity certainly is. The 525 is no more in my possession, but the R-390A will stay.

The SDRs lack a few dB to be up front, but they have other virtues. There will never be a perfect radio.

[1] Attenuation pad removed below 1.6 MHz

[2] Fully Kiwa-modified

[3] Attenuation pad below 1.8 MHz removed, and preamp enabled

[4] Attenuation pad below 1.8 MHz removed

[5] Preamp on/off, dither off, preselector off. Other settings give less sensitivity. 500 kHz reading actually 800 kHz.

[6] A Wellbrook, 11 dB (nominal) preamp was put in the signal path to compensate for the QS1R not having an internal preamp (unlike the other receivers)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Another Kongsfjord Perseus File

This Perseus file is recorded on Jan 10, 2009 at 1430 UTC. This is rather late in the day, with  the eastern half of North America already sunlit, but some of the more dominant west coast MW stations can still be heard, together with several Pacific Canadian NDBs in the LW band. The half hour is full hour in India and Iran, and there should be a few stations from that region as well. Iran 702 and India 1566 were certainly very strong.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

SpectraVue Beta Reads 1600 kHz Perseus Files!

With the exception of Winrad, SDR software has been proprietary to the hardware. SpectraVue for the RF Space SDRs, and Perseus for the - you guessed it - Perseus SDR. Finnish DX-er Tarmo Kontro alerted me about SpectraVue 3.0 beta 19 which is in fact able to read 1600 kHz Perseus files! The beta 16 could read 800 kHz Perseus files, but I was hoping Moetronix would develop Perseus support further. And indeed that happened! Above is an image of SV 3.0 beta 19 running a 1600 kHz Perseus file from October 2008 (incidentally just as I heard a KVXR ID on 1280). The software, although in beta, appeared to be very stable.

Now, this seemed to be good news also for other users. Netbook owners! The Perseus software is a fixed window 1024x648 (?) pixels, while most netbooks only run 1024x620, or even 1024x578 pixels. With 620 lines, running Perseus is sort of OK if you move the window a bit upwards and allow the task bar to be hidden. But SpectraVue is scaleable, leaving you in better control over the task bar and the desktop. I tested a 1600 kHz file on my MSI Wind running at turbo mode (1.98 GHz instead of the standard 1.6 GHz), and it was running very smooth, although with a high (90%) CPU load. As was pointed out by Anders Hultqvist though, a "chopped" Perseus file (using Chuck Hutton's excellent "WavChopper" utility) will not play at the utility's current state.

SpectraVue 3.0 beta 19 is [Update: Was!] available from this site. Only the latest beta is downloadable, and there is no guarantee that following betas will support Perseus. Also, I am quoting the usual caveat: If you are not comfortable un-zipping and dealing with bugs and program crashes PLEASE do not download these Beta versions as they are continually changing and can be unstable or non-working.

Update: Well, Spectravue was "open" just for so long. The current beta on the link above is 20, which has a new limitation: "Limit Perseus File playback to SDR-xx owners". So there you go. No SDR-IQ or SDR-14, no Perseus playback. This posting has been changed accordingly.
Update: No, I will not distribute the beta 19. No more requests please.

Friday, April 17, 2009

New Kongsfjord Perseus File

Since the first Kongsfjord Perseus file was downloaded 188 times before I removed it, many seem to have found an interest in hearing how arctic dx is like. So I thought I'd keep you lads busy a bit more.

This file is from Feb 26 at 0600. Conditions towards North America were rather undefined with signals stretching from Ontario/Ohio to the west coast. A few Mexicans too. Again, most Europeans are Russian stations. Note 1485 - NRK Svalbard with regional programming originating from Tromsø before national news on the hour. 1485 is my indicator station as it is located in the signal path. Again, this file will only be available for a few days or perhaps a week.

The file is zipped from original 686 MB to 488 MB. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Kongsfjord DX Files

Update 16 April: The file has been removed. It is still available on this blog.
I have uploaded a 2-minute 1600 kHz Perseus file to  this location. It is 907 MB, so be sure you have a reasonably quick internet connection before you try to download. It will only be available for a limited time due to storage restraints.

The recording was made on November 1, 2008 at 1300 UTC. Most stations from the Americas are western US and Canada, from Montana/Idaho/Utah to the Pacific coast, Alaska and at least one Hawaiian. The European stations found are mostly Russian.

I was queried about the background noise. The general noise level is low, but I also have a "ticking" noise which is my local powerhouse, the Loran C. It is 250 kW, 14 km away as the crow flies, and in the same direction as North America. The frequency is 100 kHz. This is an extremely challenging adversary, if you excuse the expression. In order to avoid overload to broadband receivers like the Perseus (and many others), a 100 kHz notch filter is crucially important. Stefan Wikander made one for me many years ago, and I've copied that design (and a
modified design by Dallas Lankford) for all my antenna feedlines. Search elsewhere in this blog for details.

To avoid excessive Loran C noise bleed, maintaining the rest of the equipment at a 100%
quality level is equally important and takes a lot of time. For me, one poor connection is detrimental.

Setup: The beverage was fed with RG-316 coax to a self-made antenna connector made up of a cannibalised SE-6 switch box (an accessory to the Sherwood SE-3 sync detector). From the antenna selector to a Wellbrook 10 dB preamp w/ bypass, then to a 1:8 Wellbrook splitter/13 dB preamp w/ bypass. Bypass is important. During nights, often no preamps are engaged. During the lightest part of the day, often both preamps are engaged. I don't remember the preamp settings at the time of the recording, but at least one preamp was on to compensate for the loss
in the 1:8 splitter. Probably both.

Some of the Russian stations are quite strong, such as 657, 1134, 1449 and 1521. These are "local" stations, located on the Kola peninsula. Other Russian stations of potential interest are the VOA station on 810 (Kurkino) and one on 846 ID'ing as Radio Moscow Oblast. Location Electrostal?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

QS1R Recording Function

RF Recording for the QS1R has been in the works for some time, and a few of us have (politely, I hope) queried the whereabouts of this critically important feature. While it is still  not ready, Phil Covington has written a dll for use with Winrad, which appears to be quite useful. Winrad's latest version as of March 15, v. 1.42 build 49, supports QS1R without problems. One can choose frequency spans from 50 to 1250 kHz, and RF recording is done by pressing the VCR-type recording button. The file saves by default to the winrad directory.

The picture is a bit misleading since it was screen-dumped from a remote connection. Winrad tends to be rather graphic-intensive, so updating via remote is difficult. Hence, the bandwidth window is "empty".

So, we can finally record RF from this excellent receiver! But I am hoping that the "real thing" isn't too far away.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Arctic Norway MW Bandscan

My Kongsfjord PC has been offline for the better part of a month due to a failing modem/router. I finally got a replacement, and finally the adverse weather we have had the past few weeks calmed for a few hours allowing me to drive to Kongsfjord and set it up.

While testing the remote control, I did a 30-second Perseus recording of the MW band at 1900 UTC. This is a time of the day when little interesting (from my point of view) is heard, but others might find interest in hearing signals from Eastern Europe and the Middle East (and even India). A few Western European stations also audible. I used the backlobe of my 310-degree North America beverage. Lots of Russian and Romanian stations, Iran mostly everywhere. KBRW-680 and KNOM-780 audible but not strong (they improved later on). NRK Svalbard 1485 very weak; this is usually a super dominant when conditions are right.

I suspect that the beverage is not in a very good state. The general signal level when I checked North America this morning was rather on the low side. It's been too dark, too windy and too snowy to even think about checking, not to say repairing it.

The Perseus file can be downloaded from Guy Atkins' blog under "Perseus SDR WAV Files". It's about 250 MB and covers 1600 kHz from 1859:46 to 1900:19 UTC.

Sorry about not having been very active on the DX scene lately. I have chosen to put my focus elsewhere for some time.