Foundations of Amateur Radio Contest Headphones and glorious HF SSB Foundations of Amateur Radio Recently I managed to get some quality on-air time when I participated in a contest. This isn't about contesting. Although I suppose tangentially it is. It was a most enjoyable experience shared with some friends and because we did it at a local radio club, Sunday morning had all manner of visitors joining us for a little social chat, just the ticket for breaking the monotony of calling CQ. Normally when I do a contest I wear headphones, actually it's a headset, that is something over my ears with an attached microphone to capture my contacts without me having to use my hands or move my head towards a fixed location while I'm making the contact. One hour in my trusty headset broke clean in half. They've been with me since 2012 so I was a little disappointed. They weren't cheap. I'm not going to tell you what brand it is, but they're very popular in the contesting community and I bought them based on those recommendations. Given that I now had no headset I immediately went to the nearest social media outlet to ask for recommendations on what to do next and the typical responses included different brands, ways of repairing, better models, those kinds of things. Everything you'd expect from a community which has some experience in creating a headset that actually works within the context of amateur radio. Don't get me wrong some of these suggestions were great but I don't particularly fancy spending $500 on a headset that is suited to listen to glorious HF SSB. If you're not familiar, think long distance AM radio playing music you can barely hear hosted by a DJ you can almost make out. Making a contact using HF SSB is really an exercise in deciphering really bad audio, often with lots of people on the same frequency at the same time, all vying for your attention. Making a contact, a QSO, in that kind of pile-up can be a challenge. The contest ran for 48 hours so in my down time I had to come up with a solution since making a repair within the time available seemed unrealistic, even though I happened to have spare parts somewhere in my shack. As an emergency standby I brought along my mobile phone in-ear headphones. They're lightweight, cheap, and they block out the audio from nearby conversations in the shack. Everything you want in a contesting headphone. I used a microphone on a boom, attached to the desk, but that wasn't ideal, moving your head, looking at the logging screen, operating the radio, from a user interface perspective, it left me wanting. I should add that I prefer to operate a contest using Voice Operated Control, or VOX, that is, setting up your radio in such a way that you don't need to push any buttons to talk, you open your mouth and the radio automatically starts transmitting. Very helpful when you have your hands on the keyboard and the foot-pedal is just out of reach or making your leg tired because you have to hold it up so you don't accidentally key up the transmitter. It occurred to me that I'd never seen this particular use of a headphone in the context of amateur radio. After the contest I went out to find a similarly spartan microphone. I'm still weighing up the options but I think I might have settled on the idea of pursuing headphones and microphones intended for use on a mobile phone, precisely because they are designed to deal with blocking out surrounding audio from both the earpiece and the microphone. As I'm describing this to you it occurs to me that it doesn't even need to be wired, a simple Bluetooth audio module plugged into the radio with wireless mobile phone headsets might just be the ticket. What has been your recipe for success in creating an environment where you can hear a HF SSB QSO in a contest environment without spending half the value of the radio? I'm Onno VK6FLAB To listen to the podcast, visit the website: http://podcasts.vk6flab.com/. You can also use your podcast tool of choice and search for my callsign, VK6FLAB. Full instructions on how to listen are here: https://podcasts.vk6flab.com/about/help All podcast transcripts are collated and edited in an annual volume which you can find by searching for my callsign on your local Amazon store, or visit my author page: http://amazon.com/author/owh. Volume 7 is out now. Feel free to get in touch directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, follow on twitter: @VK6FLAB (http://twitter.com/vk6flab/) or check the website for more: http://vk6flab.com/ If you'd like to join a weekly net for new and returning amateurs, check out the details at http://ftroop.vk6flab.com/, the net runs every week on Saturday, from 00:00 to 01:00 UTC on Echolink, IRLP, AllStar Link and 2m FM via various repeaters.