[CQ-Contest] RX Heresy?

Chris Plumblee chris.plumblee at gmail.com
Thu Feb 25 12:38:50 PST 2010

K5RC wrote something addressing this in NCJ at some point in the
relatively recent past. I don't recall the details exactly, but the
title was something like "The Next 3db." The thesis of the article was
that, as your station improves, the cost and complexity of a 3db
improvement rises exponentially.

So, you go from a single vertical or wire antenna to a tribander on a
low tower. Then you add a 500w amp. Then you add a 1500w amp. Then you
add a few tower sections until your tribander is at a respectable
(100'+) height. Then you stack another tribander. Then you add another
tower and put up some monobanders. Then you change your feedline for
heliax. Then you put up larger monobanders and a Big Bertha. Then Big
Berthas on every band.

The first few improvements above are real 3db improvements and are
comparatively inexpensive, but that probably stops at a 1500w amp and
tribander. The rest of the improvements are infinitely more complex
and expensive for very small returns (compared to moving from a wire
antenna to a tribander, for instance).

I put improvements inside the shack in the latter category.
Improvements at a superstation (like N3HBX, for example) are hard to
come by and expensive. If a K3 allows a given operator to make 10 more
QSOs in CQWW than his old FT-1000, even though the old radio is
perfectly good and is paid for, the lure of those extra QSOs is

I'm sure any of the big multi-op or single-op station owners in the
USA could easily spend $10,000 and the entire summer improving aspects
of their station with which they're less than satisfied, and
potentially make a few dozen more QSOs than they might otherwise have
in the 2010 CQWW. However, if you could spend $6,000 (on a pair of
K3s) and virtually no time, and make perhaps 10-20 more QSOs in the
next contest, why not? At some point in the evolution of a contest
station, improvements in ergonomics and technology are the only cost-
and time-effective improvements than can be made.

Chris WF3C

Message: 3
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2010 08:46:14 -0500
From: Pete Smith <n4zr at contesting.com>
Subject: [CQ-Contest] RX Heresy?
To: CQ Contest <cq-contest at contesting.com>
Message-ID: <4B867F26.2000201 at contesting.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed

I have watched with some amazement as the Elecraft K3 has seemingly
taken over the top dog's spot among contest radios, both among the top
ops and the rest of us.

This impels me to wonder, though - how much does improved RX strong
signal performance really improve your ability to score in contests?  My
suspicion (showing my going-in bias) is that most of us have long since
developed responses to our receiving problems that tend to minimize the
damage they do. Knowing when to abandon a run frequency, QSYing just a
bit ("skootching"), riding the gain instead of using AGC, all of these
devices have been useful since the dawn of time.

And so the question - how much do serious, full-time, top-ten contesters
feel that improve RX hardware has really improved their scoring ability,
compared to other improvements in their stations over the years?

73, Pete N4ZR

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