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Old 23-09-14, 09:38   #1
IZ0IEN's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Frosinone JN61sp
Posts: 1,700
Some question to Dave, N2NL (KH2/N2NL), about topband..

This is the original Q&A posed to Mr. Dave, N2NL (aka KH2/N2NL) about topband. Dave kindly had the patience and the time to reply to my question list; is very interesting to know the point of view about lowbands and other related things from someone operating very far from EU and in a good DX prefix.

Enjoy reading!

Q: In what year you start operate in the top band ? And where start yout interest about TB ?

I became interested in Topband from friends WW2Y and K2WI, along with N2NC. Topband contesters may recall when Peter, WW2Y, built a competitive 160m station in the early 1990s in New Jersey, and was one of the first guys to experiment with phased beverage arrays. I grew up in the same vicinity of New Jersey and met Peter through mutual friends, and joined his multi-op team for one or two Topband contests. Later, when I joined the N2RM M/M team, I had some single operator opportunities in various contests and had some success in the ARRL 160m contest in the mid 1990s. My job was to be the Beverage RX maintenance person because I was the new guy, and the youngest, so I got to walk through the forest fixing the receive antennas before every contest. I have always loved the challenge of the low bands, but depending on where I am living, sometimes the lowest band I can be QRV on is 40m, or 80m. In Guam I was fortunate to have space for an excellent Topband RX system.

Q: What kind of receiving antenna you used in the past and now ? What is the best in your opinion?

I have probably experimented with just about every RX antenna available except for the newest active antenna arrays now on the market. I am a member of the US Coast Guard, and have to relocate every 2-4 years. Each move brings new challenges. In some places, I have only a small area for antennas - with compromise RX antennas such as wires laying on the ground, EWE antennas, low dipoles, or flag antennas. In my opinion, you can't beat a full sized Beverage RX antenna. In Guam I was fortunate to live next to the jungle where I had unlimited space for Beverages. At one time I had six Beverages of different lengths from 500ft (150m) to 1200ft (360m) in length. My best RX antenna was actually an 880ft (270m) antenna pointed at Europe. When conditions were good, I could easily hear Europeans running QRP. My best small area RX antenna was a W7IUV flag which was located on a dock over salt water in Key West, FL. I believe that N4IS's "Waller Flag" antenna would perform better for small areas, but I was not able to eliminate common mode noise.

Q: What is at present day the best contact you made on TB ? And the strangest ever ?

I can't say any one specific QSO was better than any other. One of the best was 7O6T. I never had a problem working zone 21 from Guam (7O6T was in Z37 but very close to the border with 21). I heard 7O6T nightly, but could never break through the EU/JA pileup. When K1ZM arrived, I knew it was my best chance because of his TB experience. One morning, right at my sunrise, he peaked up and he heard me in the pileup calling just above the JA 160m band edge. He said I was very, very weak, but the time was perfect (my SR) and since we've worked several times before, he knew it was me calling. Previously, at the bottom of the last sunspot cycle, I remember working JT1CO from Florida, and working several UA9s and UA0s during this time with my 50ft base loaded vertical which was mounted over salt water. From Guam, I would often experience very strange "spot light" conditions into Europe on 160m. One morning, the Scandinavians would be the only region of Europe worked. The next morning it would be the Italians who were the loudest. Rarely, the Western Europeans would be louder than the zone 16 guys. You would think this would occur more on VHF bands (like E-skip propagation) but I noticed it very clearly on 160m most mornings when I had propagation to Europe.

Q: What you think about the *actual* behavior of the TB operators ? Is still the TB the "gentlemen" band? Differences compared with the past ?

I am not sure I am old enough to have experienced the old days of TB operating when it was considered the "gentleman" band. I think most hams who are familiar with the band are "gentleman" with regard to band allocations outside of contests - SSB above 1840, DX window, ETC. During contests, though, things get very "un-gentleman" like. Key clicks to keep people away from your transmit frequency. Big amplifiers to do the same. As a remote DX station, I never participated much in 160m contests from Guam. During ARRL 160, I could rarely get NA stations to hear me, and the contest rules count a QSO with KH2 the same as KH6, even though Guam is located 3,800 miles further west from Hawaii. Same with EU in the CQ 160m contest. I can work both continents easily before and after these contests, but rarely during because of the elevated noise floor. On the other hand, I had some good runs during CQWW DX, because there is less station density on the band.

From a DXing standpoint, the big DXpeditions with Clublog band/mode charts has made pileups larger and more unruly as everyone tries working the DX on every single band-mode possible.

Q: Internet era have dramatically changed behaviours and operation styles of radioamateurs. Is this true?

The internet and the creation of the global DX cluster and skimmer has definitely changed Ham Radio, and I don't think for the better. 10 or 15 years ago, someone tuning the bands could find some rare DX calling CQ with no callers. Those days are gone. Today a DX station calls CQ once or twice and has a pileup, first from skimmer users, and then a big pileup once spotted on the cluster. It has made the game much more difficult for the low power/small antenna guy. Brute force is now needed in many cases, and it has led to the point where use of illegal power (>1500w) is very common in Europe. This increases the noise floor for everyone, making the problem worse.
Skimmer and packet have led to a new type of ham - the guy who really can not hear the DX station, but calls and calls and hopes to show up in the online log. This creates a lot of frustration for the DX station who responds to someone who can not hear them, wasting time for others to have a chance at a contact. From Guam, this occurred to me many times. Most mornings, my opening to Europe lasted only 10 to 15 minutes during my local sunrise when there was enhancement on my signal (and callers could hear me). Very often I would get one or two regular callers who would not stop. Many times I would send them a signal report, but no response at all. I understand QSB but every once in a while I just knew that he was calling blind. Eventually I would learn these calls and ignore them in the pileup. If no one else was calling, I would try to work them, otherwise I would ignore them. Many times I would find that a much weaker station could hear me very well, while the loud caller could not hear me or could barely copy me.

Q: What about remote operations on lowbands? How you face callers into your operations when you recognize that they maybe are using remote stations ?

I feel remote operation is a very valuable tool for people who live in antenna restricted locations (like my new QTH here in Hawaii). As long as RX and TX are from a single point, I don't think it matters if the headphones are connected to a 1m cord to the radio next to me or a 3000km cord through the internet to a remote TX/RX. My problem is with those who use remote RX on other continents from their TX antenna. In every-day DXing, this person is only cheating themselves. In contesting, however, it is cheating your fellow contesters to do this. For example, someone in NA cheats and uses a remote RX in Europe, and can hear all callers, and can use in-band SO2R. He is competing against someone else in NA who does not cheat, but makes great effort to install very good RX antennas and station engineering. It really is not fair. From my experience, most times I experienced callers who could not hear me. A few times, mostly on the high bands, I would get called by an EU while running NA at a time which was impossible for propagation. It was obvious in these cases that they were using a remote, but in most of those cases I think it was only playing, since most did not request a QSO or LOTW confirmation.

Q: Are you QRV from KH6 in TB ?

Unfortunately, I am not QRV on TB regularly. I live on Oahu in a very dense populated area (city), and I have no room for a worthwhile antenna. From my home I am QRV with a stealth 40m dipole fed with balanced line that is hidden on the roof. There are many other KH6 stations much more capable on TB than I can ever hope to install myself. I will be active from the KH6YY contest station (KH7X and KH7XX in contests) and will like to play on 80m and 160m during DX contests. I am currently planning on setting up a remote station from my home state in W4. This will allow me to enjoy DXing from the same place where I plan to retire after the Coast Guard. I was on DXCC honor roll before I moved to Guam - but no longer because I have not worked the new PJ countries from home! This way, I will not miss out on working DXpeditions which may not happen again, such as KP1. Remember, I am serving in the military, and it is not always my decision where I am transferred. I have never tried a remote station before and I am looking forward to the engineering challenges of setting one up, and this will allow me to enjoy the hobby regardless of where I am stationed. DXCC is a life-long challenge and I often have missed out on rare DXpeditions that I may never have a chance to work again on some bands because of my job. Now, remote technology may help me overcome this.

Q: Last question What is the primary need for anyone that intend to seriously challenge the lowbands today in your opinion?

This is an easy question but with two answers. The answer is RX. The ability to hear is so much more important than being loud. Being an "alligator" gives you a bad reputation. Having ears lets you better time your calls so you can use finesse and skill to break a pileup. You can use propagation to assist your TX - using sunrise/sunset peaks to your advantage. The second answer is time. You need to spend time on TB to have success. Often you may get one day of propagation during a 10 day DXpedition. If you miss that day, you don't get a QSO. From KH2 (and VK/ZL) it is so very, very frustrating when EU and AF stations get on the air for JA sunrise, which in the winter (TB season) is 1-2 hours AFTER sunrise in Oceania. There are many DXCC countries and DXpeditions I never worked because they did not understand propagation and never were QRV before sunrise to this part of the world.
Founder of FOC - Frigo Operators Club
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