[CQ-Contest] What am I Missing

K3BU@aol.com K3BU at aol.com
Tue Feb 28 18:24:19 EST 2006

In a message dated 2/28/2006 4:26:23 PM Eastern Standard Time, 
pete.n4zr at gmail.com writes:

>>I am perplexed.  After reading the review of the FTDX9000 Contest in the 
March QST, I can't imagine why a contester would buy one of these, even given 
the adoring subjective comments by the ARRL reviewers. <<

Too much money in the radio fund? 
Or craving for nice piece of furniture.  :-)

Over the years ham radio rigs drifted from good classic (old tube) designs to 
general coverage "feature" loaded gizmos, gradually losing the most important 
features - overload immunity and clean signals.

As the result of general coverage and instant QSY we got VHF IFs and 
frequency synthesizers. First screwed up the overload immunity (too much mixing - 
active stages before filtering) second added phase noise with dirty synthesizers 
and switching diodes instead of switches or relays.

With some pressure we see now some drift back to improving the specs, soo 
important for contesters on the crowded bands with strong signals (better 
antennas and amps). 
The key design features to achieve good performance in that department is to 
have filters ("roofing") as close to the antenna as possible, that means few 
circuits, mixers between the antenna and filtering. Then clean synthesizers 
without outrageous phase noise which harms RX and TX alike. Then no diodes 
switching RF tuned circuits (harmonics, intermods). The rest is bell and whistles by 
marketing departments.

Orion is close to the original mixing scheme and has one of the cleanest 
synthesizers. But then it is messed up with "computer control" which has its own 
mind, when to quit and the software "updates" tend to fix one thing and screw 
couple other. 
I was glad to see finally new V2 update that supposed to fix many quirks 
(took over a year) only to find that now the DSP detection is ignoring weak 
signals. I had hard time to dig weak ones out of the noise, when switched to IC781, 
it was no problem copying. Looks like my patience with Orion is exhausted and 
it will go on the auction block. Wal, W8LRL had his quit completely just 
before the contest, got blank display stare in the face and dead as a door nail. He 
wanted to run over it with his tractor, but I begged him for mercy :-). Orion 
has some advantages in crowded band, strong signal situations, but is weak on 
weak signal performance and mind of its own. 

Looks like modifying some of the old receivers like R4B, R4C and 
complementing souped up ANALOG product detector transceivers is way to go. I have not 
tried FTDX9000, but I am not keen on it. It seems to be a nice piece of furniture, 
but does not appeal to me as contester. If anything I would go for IC7800. 
Looks like present workhorses are IC781 and FT1000D with INRAD filters. Good old 
performers, complemented with Drakes for CQing radios.

So far my number one RX is modified R4B, it has sharp "roofing" filter, 
modified mixer and preselector with separate RF gain control (not AVC IF type). 
Second LC tuned IF and just one crystal filter makes in unbeatable for static 
crash (noooo ringing), weak signal performance on the crowded band. It beats 
anything out there, but no synthesizer and digital display :-()

We are considering and testing the stuff for DR1, but until we got better 
performing rig than the current crop of radios, it stays on the lab burner.

Magazine reviews and some "reviewers" and cheerleaders that are paid off with 
free radio are not doing justice to ham community, jus' keeping manufacturers 
"happy" with producing clicking, noisy, bells loaded furniture :-)

This is why some old fashioned hams can have some advantage with their 
modified rigs over run of the mill appliance contesters.

You are not missing anything, just victim of marketing departments bloviating.

73  Yuri, K3BU
Tesla RC N8T, N2EE, K8V  in recent 160 ramblings

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