webform at b41h.net webform at b41h.net
Mon Oct 31 05:31:37 PDT 2011

                    CQ Worldwide DX Contest, SSB

Call: N1EU
Operator(s): N1EU
Station: N1EU

Class: SOAB(A) HP
QTH: Albany NY
Operating Time (hrs): 32

 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
  160:   15     6        9
   80:   94    16       53
   40:  115    20       71
   20:  299    37      121
   15:  369    37      129
   10: 1155    35      142
Total: 2047   151      525  Total Score = 4,012,736

Club: Yankee Clipper Contest Club


Believe me, I have long been a card carrying member of the “cw contesters who
loathe ssb contesting” club.  Between the splatter-covered bands crowded with
3 dx stations running in every kilohertz of usable bandwidth and the
impossible-to-understand over-compressed audio, I limit my ssb contest activity
to gathering a few hundred thousand points toward the club effort.  Gulp. 
Honestly, I didn’t mean to really end up shouting all that much into the
microphone this weekend but I just couldn’t help myself.  Conditions on the
high bands were just too incredible to stay away, despite the bands being
filled with more splatter (and dx stations) than I’ve EVER heard before.  

This was my first contest with the new-to-me 3-element SteppIR, which replaced
a Force 12 C3S at 60ft.  Although the C3S over-performed in every way for the
last 10 years, the improvement with the SteppIR was not subtle.  Things just
seemed louder on both ends and slipping through dense pileups was the norm.  A
highlight was working A52AB (15M) on the first (okay, maybe second) call.

The sloppy snow storm Saturday sent SWR all over the map, especially on the 40M
dipole.  I wrongly concluded that the antenna had broken and I gave up operating
40M for all of Saturday night.  This was a mistake, and in retrospect I should
have just brought the tuner in-line and continued to operate.

15M and 10M opened early (1100Z/1130Z respectively) and stayed open late, with
fb openings into Asia.  As good as the high bands were, 160/80M were terrible
with very weak signals.

I won’t run in a ssb contest unless I can find a clear frequency.  I refuse
to put up with a lot of noise impinging from neighbors, making it difficult to
pull out the really weak callers.  Contesting is all about fun for me and an
unclear run frequency is NOT fun for me.  So for ssb contests, running is out
of the question unless 10M is open, which hasn't been the case for several
years - 20M/15M are impossible to find a clear ssb run freq.  And that’s why
more than 50% of my qso’s were on 10M and why my score shot up this year. 
Run rates really got up there, often seeing 300+ on the meter.  What is so
frustrating on the other hand, is that even though I’d go well up the band
(28.9+Mhz), it was only a matter of a short time before significant splatter
entered my passband.  Always. And I'd just pull up the stakes and move.  Oh
well, I guess it’s the wild west until the contesting community embraces the
available technology (wideband spectrum analyzing recorders) or otherwise tries
to clean up the bands instead of relying on "might makes right".  The same issue
applies to key clickers to some extent during cw contests.  But I'm convinced
the problem is getting worse, not better.  WHY DO SO MANY STATIONS THINK
THE RECEIVING END?  And why don't they simply turn on a second receiver and
listen to themselves?

Since this is all about having fun, I played with three different radios
through the contest: Elecraft K3, a modified Ten-Tec Omni 6 and an enhanced
Ten-Tec Orion.  SSB contests are brutal on the ears and I’m always searching
for more listenable audio solutions as well as better separation of calling
stations in a pileup, which seems to be a weakness of the K3.  I’m a big
proponent of the work K3NA has done on maximizing audio dynamic range and I
always turn off AGC when running, use high isolation headphones, and run high
AF Gain and low RF Gain â€" however, this honestly hasn’t helped that much in
improving K3 pileup readability.  

There is no question in my mind that the modified analog i.f./audio chain of my
Omni 6 is MUCH smoother sounding than the dsp radios.  It is just much easier to
listen to, especially over extended periods of time, and also sounds better at
reduced ssb bandwidth.  Additionally, I believe (just a theory) that there is
inherent compression in the dsp circuits and analog-digital-analog conversion
of the K3.  This compression results in great difficulty to separate signals in
a pileup, even when going to extreme measures to maximize dynamic range. 
Turning off AGC and maximizing listening isolation won’t solve what I believe
is this inherent dsp compression flaw.  Much more investigation and
experimenting (a la K3NA) needs to be done to start to crack this issue and get
beyond just throwing theories into the ring.  Again, I have proved to myself
that the pileup readability issue with the K3 is NOT the AGC.  That’s why I
continue to experiment with my modified Omni 6.  I need to add a roofing filter
and ssb monitor.  Adding a subreceiver for diversity is going to be a challenge 

Thanks for all the q’s and sorry for the callers that I couldn’t pull out
â€" despite the fb condx, there was still quite a bit of qsb near the noise
floor on 10M.

73, Barry N1EU

Elecraft K3, Ten-Tec Orion, Ten-Tec Omni 6 (one at a time)
Acom 2000A
160M inv L 
80M wire vert
580ft Beverages NE,SE,NW,SW
40M dipole
20M-10M 3-element SteppIR @ 60ft
N1MM Logger

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