[CQ-Contest] RX Heresy?

pa5mw at home.nl pa5mw at home.nl
Fri Feb 26 03:06:41 PST 2010

Hi Pete,

Our club station has moved from back end to sub top-ten position this year. Since that is also due to some hardware changes  I'd like to share our experiences during these last few years.

Hardware history PI4TUE during contests:

This has been the main rig for the last 6 years.
OK for SSB, but seriously lacking in strong signal/close-in selectivity for CW. Endless fiddling with ATT/BW/AGC/Shift/RFgain knobs trying to dig out the stations. We never could find/hold any run freq below the 040's on any band. Sub RX awkward to use.

FT1000MP(inc MKV Field)
Several models tried, including Inrad filtering and roofer. Most friendly user interface for common ops. 2nd RX easy to use for S/P+Mult in N1MM. But lacking in strong signal/close-in selectivity both SSB and CW. Endless fiddling with ATT/BW/Shift/AGC/RFgain/DSP knobs trying to dig out the stations.

On 40&80m strong local EU stations completely blew-by all 3 ATT stages. The more ATT the worse IM we got. Not that strange having antennas at 200ft AGL. Rig was moved to Mult position, using 'smaller antennas'. Please note YMMV.

Only demonstrated. Very detailed/analytic RX. Not tested during contest. User interface impractical/difficult for operators, unless everyone owns one at home.

Superb RX. Delivers as promised. Keeps getting better due to fw upgrades. User interface difficult to use; too many hided/sub-sub menu buttons(programmable macro buttons might cover important functions during contest). Current settings of sub RX not visual on screen.  Only main RX communicates to contest operator, the sub RX seems hided inside a black box. The K3 lacks knobs and a multifunctional display here. Again YMMV. We restricted operating to main RX, using volume and bandwidth only. That proved very well; fixed set-up only BW and volume knob needed. In fact we would  prefer two K3's (without internal 2nd RX) set-up as RUN and MUlt station. Hey , we have budget restrictions :). 
I'm sure this is all different if our operators would have K3's at home and know how to get the best out of it. Local environmental city noise and lack of real estate makes it impossible to use serious RX antennas and diversity RX. Personally I'm anxious to see a K4 in the future  (XXL version of K3).

We bought this second hand and use it as the main rig for two years now. 
Superb RX.  From start of use we were able to RUN in the lower sections of the HF bands, between big guns. Without pain or strain; "skootching" works fb. No frequency fights anymore.
Ergonomics are different from any past rig used; Ten-Tec did design this around the contest operator. User interface also has a learning curve but  especially the extended sound setup and available buttons (toggle buttons for volume on/off, RIT & PBT clear) offer quick performance for MULT & S/P operation on the 2nd RX.  Integration with RUN/MULT operating in N1MM worked fb. With a good fixed set-up only volume and BW are needed during the whole contest. 
But the Orion occasionally locks up; sometimes due to lack of internal cpu performance (don't push too many buttons at once), sometimes RX is suddenly deaf. A quick on/off is about 2-4 times needed during 48hrs contest. We would appreciate a sponsor for  an ORION II :)  (or 2 K3's for that matter).

No second rig set-up available for contesting.
This remains a challenge for the future.

Shack noise
Due to some 50 pcs in the room, this is at 69-71dBa. 
Operators use David Clark passive noise reduction stereo headphones, model 10S/DC.
Standard headphones, active noise cancelling (various Philips models) showed bad performance in the past.

Past: 3el trapped(noisy compromise) tri-bander, dipoles for 80&40m, 160m sloper all at 220ft AGL.
Present: 3el SteppIR for 20-10, dipole and HF2V for 40m, full wave horizontal loop  and HF2V for 80m, sloper for 160m. All at heights between 180 and 220ft AGL.


Answering your question on "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?

Besides from trying better antennas (which is key in the final result) and environmental propagation (noise too), yes we did improve substantially going from the TS950/FT1KMP  to the new ORION/K3 generation. 
Our last two ARRL CW entries showed 2150 QSO's and after skipping in 2009, 2010 delivered 3150 QSO's. 1000 Q's extra (46%) is not only due to better propagation we presume 
The operators love the friendly &informative user interface, ease of use with mult/run in N1MM.
The new rig (ORION and tried K3) offer much better rx performance and are easier on the ears.
We can hold a run frequency below 025 on al bands now, without too much effort.
We are sharper than ever before during the final 4 hours.

Mark, PA5MW

More information about the CQ-Contest mailing list