[VHFcontesting] VHFcontesting Digest, Vol 166, Issue 22

James Duffey jamesduffey at comcast.net
Sun Oct 30 18:17:15 EDT 2016

Mike - I know you asked if someone were to start from scratch what kind of contest station one would build up, but you have the makings of a quite serviceable VHF contest station with what you have. I would use the FT450D on 6M and the FT100D on 2M, 432MHz, as a transverter driver and a backup 6M rig.  You can adjust the power independently by band on the FT100D; so drive a 222MHz transverter from the HF/50MHz port. You can also use the FT100D as a backup for 6M. To make the whole operation “switchless”, you can use an HF/50MHz duplexer on the HF/50MHz antenna output and a 144MHz/432MHz duplexer on 432MHz. I prefer the DEMI transverters to the Elecraft transverters, but the delivery time on the assembled DEMI transverters can be quite long, perhaps longer than the time between now and the January contest. You might also consider the Ukranian transverters, $125 on e-bay, quick delivery, but they are only 10W. The new version seems to have solved many of the problems people noted with the original versions. 

So to summarize, use the FT450D on 6M and the FT100D on 2M, 222MHz, and 432MHz. This setup has a very real advantage of being able to monitor 6M and 2M at the same time. Often during 6M openings a workable station will appear on 2M. If you are busy working stations on 6M, you will miss working that station, not only on 2M, but more importantly on the higher bands, where the QSO points are more and they may be new mults as well, so time taken away from a good run on 6M to work the higher bands is usually worth it, providing you and the other station can QSY efficiently. Having a good setup on 2M is one of the keys to success in VHF/UHF contesting. I call it “be pound on two. At 50W on 2M and 20W on 432MHz, the FT100D may be considered a bit anemic in the power department on 2M and 432MHz, but brick amplifiers are available used for not much money and you can use them when you upgrade. Add a good headset and foot switch to the rigs. You should also add some kind of switching so that you can monitor either rig, both and have the transceiver switch with the phones. Google SO2R boxes; HF contesters do that all the time. Oh yes,  computer logging for contesting is important, as is running CW, so throw a key/paddle in there as well and a computer if you don’t already have one. CW will get you a lot of weak contacts that SSB won’t. Plus with two rigs, you can operate with others if you want and have a multi-multi station. That is lots of fun and with the contests that don’t have a lot of activity you won’t get burnt out as quickly. 

Now, neither the FT100D or FT450D are great strong signal handling receivers, but if you live in an area where there are no nearby strong VHF stations, and I think you do, you will probably be OK with those rigs. You will certainly know after your first contest with that setup. Equally important to the rigs you use in contesting is operator skill and the above combination will help you acquire that. After you have worked a few contests, you will have a better feeling for what you want in a VHF contesting rig. If you want some VHF contest operating tips, just ask here. You will receive lots of advice here, much of it useful. 

Antennas are important as well and I don’t know what you have in mind there, nor if you want antenna advice, but there are advantages of having all of the antennas more or less the same boom length. Fifteen feet is a good size. With the same length antenna, the capture area will grow as the frequency increases, which will compensate for the path loss increasing with increasing frequency. That means that if you contact a station on 2M, he will stay the same strength, more or less, as you QSY up the bands. Use good low loss feed line, depending on the length try to keep feed line loss below 1dB. A Fifteen foot boom length is a good length to start, as that provides good gain on 2M and pointing is not hard there. The pattern will be sharper on the higher bands, but if you peak on 2M, you should be close on the higher bands. With these antennas and 100W to 150W out, you should be able to work out to 300 miles consistently. That should put 10 to 12 grids on each band consistently in your mult column, assuming that there is activity in those grids. That will go a long ways to making you competitive.  

It has taken me a long time to reach your original question. To a large extent, it depends on how competitive you want to be. If you are willing to buy a K3 and associated transverters, I assume that you are interested in investing in being competitive. Having said that, if you operate with what you have, you will have a much better idea of what you want. There are lots of options. The K-3 is a good rig and interfaces easily with the Elecraft transverters, but it is expensive. The TS-590SG is quite a bit less than the K-3 with nearly as good performance and has the capability to drive transverters. You can buy two TS590SGs for what a modestly equipped K-3 costs. Use one on 6M and the other to drive transverters on 2M up. You will need to find a way to switch the transverters, but if you don’t use the Elecraft transverters you would have to do that anyway for the K-3. I use a TS-2000X, which, in addition to HF, has 6M and 2M at 100W and 432MHz at 50W, and 1296MHz at 10W. I drive a 222MHz and 902MHz transverter from the HF port. It doesn’t have the best strong signal handling capability, but if you find that from your regular operating that strong signals are not a problem in your area, you might consider getting a TS-590SG or K3 for 6M and use the TS-2000 for the other bands and to drive transverters. The Flex radios are nice, but pricey, but have the advantage that you can see all the band and easily identify new stations when they come on the band. They do need a standalone computer or other interface to use though. The 6700 has a low power 2M output to use with transverters or follow with an amp. With any of the rigs, you should also consider a panadapter to see the whole band. You can use a computer and SDR on the radio’s IF to do this or the Elecraft panadapter with the K3. There are lots of other rigs that will work and I am sure that you will get input from others. A lot depends on personal preference. The IC-9100 is a good rig and has a better receiver than the TS-2000, but you cannot adjust the power independently by band and I think that is important, not only for driving transverters, but also if you want to drive amplifiers with different drive levels. After you have operated awhile with the rigs you have, you will have a much better idea of what you want in your contest quality station. It does depend a lot on you, the stations available to work around you, and your operating style more than you would think. Having said all that, if money were no object, I would probably have a Flex 6700 with the DEMI amp and DEMI transverters. But that is a lot of bucks. The 6700 provides simultaneous monitoring of 6M and 2M, visual monitoring of the bands, great strong signal handling capabilities, and a clean transmitted signal so that one is a good neighbor on the bands. The down side is that you need a separate computer or the Maestro accessory and of course the cost. K2DRH runs the Flex radios on his station and is consistently on or near the top of the heap for SOLP. Now Bob is a great op, which contributes to much of his success, but he has chosen a great rig to supplement his capability. But there are single ops out there that are being competitive with much more modest rigs. 

You can use the TYT rigs to monitor the FM simplex frequencies for activity or to occasionally call an FM CQ on those bands when the normal bands get slow. There are good points and mults to be had that way. 

Oh yes, find a local or semi-local club to which you can contribute your contest score to join. You will find support and encouragement there as well as some subtle (and not so subtle in some cass) peer pressure to get on in the contests and contribute your score to the contest contribution. It matters more than you would think. 

Let us know what you end up doing. We will listen for you in case we get some good Es in the January contest. - Duffey KK6MC


On Oct 30, 2016, at 10:00 AM, vhfcontesting-request at contesting.com wrote:

> This is an opinion question, so tell me your opinion and why you feel the way you do.  I have been wanting to get into vhf contests, but haven't got it all together yet.  I currently have a Yaesu 450D and 100D.  Also have 3 Tyt 9000 (2m, 1.25m and 70cm FM). … So if you were to start from scratch to build a decent single operator station primarily for Vhf contest (I’ve be doing HF just fine with what I've got now), what equipment would you use?  

James Duffey
Cedar Crest NM

More information about the VHFcontesting mailing list