New to Ham radio and DX........

Discussion in 'The DX Zone' started by KE9RJM, Apr 30, 2018.

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  1. KE9RJM

    KE9RJM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have a very basic setup, an IC-718, Z-100Plus tuner, and a HyEndFed 40-20-10 antenna. I am fairly new having passed my general exam last fall.

    While trying to learn basic radio operations, a little about correct protocol and the very basics of phone, CW, digital modes etc, I happened to make voice contact with a Ham in Italy....WOW! I haven't been that excited since I met my bride 40 years ago . :)

    My questions for more experienced DX'ers

    Do you use any of the website that track current DX contacts to "get a jump" on what frequencies to try and, if so , which lists do you use?

    Would there be any significant advantage in DXing to upgrading my IC-718? (I wasn't planning on doing so for a year or so)

    Are there any basic radio setting that help; with DX signals?

    Finally, is the book "the complete DX'er" the "best" source of specific DX'ing guidelines?

    Many Thanks,

    Bob McCann
  2. W4POT

    W4POT Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I will often be looking at the or the websites while I'm trying to work DX. I will create a filter to only show spots on the bands and modes that I'm working, made by people in the US.

    Some logging software allows for a connection to a DX Cluster. This is a telnet like feed of the spots that's probably delivered in a text only format. If you know the entity DXCC prefixes it can be handy as well.

    More power, better antennas, a great low noise location, and hours of experience doing it will make it significantly significantly easier. I think a good location is the only one of those I have. I routinely work DX using QRP power levels with temporary antennas I setup in a park or at home. I passed my General last fall and I'm up to about 50 counties confirmed using SSB. You COULD upgrade something now, but the point I'm making is that you might appreciate using the radio you currently have and getting some experience in the coming year instead. My contacts are split between a FT-817ND QRP radio, and an Icom 7100 and 7300 which are 100 watts. The bandscope and DSP on the 7300 makes it easier to operate, and the superior transmit audio I thinks help other stations hear me.

    I can't recommend a book, but finding an Elmer who's also into DX chasing that can help you an answer questions will make it easier. Good luck.
    US7IGN likes this.
  3. W4PG

    W4PG Super Moderator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    HI Bob! Welcome to ham radio and the fun of DX!

    FIrst, LISTEN then LISTEN some more. You can learn a lot about operating by listening. Of course, not everyone does it correctly but with time, you'll learn from hearing what is best and what is not. Many logging programs let you connect to the DX Cluster and will tell you what DX is where. There are stand-alone programs that work very well too. CC User by VE7CC is a very nice stand-alone program that will email or text you when your favorite DX station is on the air.

    It's not so much the rig you have but the antenna when it comes to Dxing. You will need to be able to work split from time to time as many rare DX stations call on one frequency but listen on another. Having a rig with 2 built in receivers is ideal for that! But, that can get expensive real quick. You will need to become very familiar with your rigs RIT and XIT controls.

    One of the nice ways of working DX with a simple setup and simple antenna is running FT8 mode. It's not the same as talking with a station but allows you to work DX nevertheless with low power and simple antennas.

    I've heard of some books on working DX but can't tell you anything about them as I've never read them.

    Good luck!

  4. N7WR

    N7WR Subscriber QRZ Page

    There are a number of DX spotting resources available on the internet and many allow you to show only spots from your geographical area. In 60 years of DXing with good success I can tell you that the #1 equipment item is the best and highest directional antenna you can afford. Your current rig will, with a good antenna, hear most of the DX the most expensive rig will hear but in very noisy or crowded band conditions will not do as well as a better rig. But I have used the 718 with modest antennas and still worked DX. After the antenna I would look to an amp in the 500-1000 watt range as my next improvement. A good antenna system and decent amp will be useful even when you upgrade to a better transceiver. Upgrading the transceiver would be the last investment on my list.
    W4IOA and US7IGN like this.
  5. K4LRX

    K4LRX Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hello Bob and welcome to the world of being a dx hound. There are a couple of things to mention, as you have been told many times I am sure and that is listen follow directions of DX stations. This does apply for DX stations as to where they are listening, up is the common set up for this type of operation. In other words, up from the DX stations frequency. One thing I should mention about the 718 there are no adjustments for AGC it has one, fast attack, fast decay. This causes a pumping action and to me was quite annoying, big reason I sold that rig with in a short time of purchase. I prefer, fast attack, slow decay more relaxing and less strain on the nerves.

    I use DX heat as my cluster network, you can custom program it to only show the bands, modes, or only dx, and not stateside contacts. DX scape is pretty good, but it seems a lot of people self spot, or report stateside to stateside contacts, this is a dx site and these practices are the result of those not thinking before they post.

    In my case I use a tri-band yagi at 80 feet, works fine cuts the interference and your signal stands out for sure, you can have the best gear on the ground, but if you have a poor antenna system, no contacts in the dx world. Lastly, I agree with N7WR add a linear of some sort, with all the new solid state entries on the market today, look toward that route and the future. Tubes are high priced and are dinosaurs these days, solid state is the way to go, I have two solid state amps, one is a Tokyo High power, 1500 output and the other is an Expert 1.3. but be patient, listen and listen some more, be honest with your self if you have copy of the dx, or not. Good luck in your pursuits.

    No stupid questions just intelligent answers.

    Bill, K4LRX licensed since 56, DXer since 62, honor roll, 5 band and DX challenge. Age 77 and still going strong.
  6. KI4AX

    KI4AX Ham Member QRZ Page

    Welcome to Ham Radio.

    Use DX spots if they help. Personally, I believe I have made more contacts by hunting and pouncing. And, as others have suggested it's Antenna before Amp. A good directional antenna can be invaluable for DXing.

    You can read books about DXing and they may help; most of what you need to learn can be learnt by LISTENING.

    The first thing that I would like to impart, upon those that are new to Ham Radio and DX, would be to LISTEN first. Familiarize your self with proper DX etiquette. Learn what it means to work split frequencies, how to set your rig to work split frequencies, and how to determine if a DX station is working on a 'split.' Usually you will hear (while you are LISTENING) the operator say something like "up 5" or "listening 5 up." Sometimes they will simply say "listening up." You will not believe how many LID operators will call the DX on his calling frequency when he is working a split. And finally, before you make any call, make sure you know what the DX station's call is. This requires you to LISTEN before making any call. Again, you would not believe how many LIDs will ask the DX station what his/her call is. This is NOT proper DX etiquette.

    Oh, and use your Dummy Load. If you don't have one get one. You should not be tuning up your amp 'on the air.' At least get the tuning really close using your Dummy Load and then very briefly check it on the Antenna.

    Good luck and have fun.....

    Dan KI4AX
    US7IGN likes this.
  7. US7IGN

    US7IGN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I came to the conclusion that with a poor antenna and a small power dx clusters do not make sense. Except DX with a huge split. Usually, if a station appears in a cluster, it starts to be called hundreds hams with kw and yagi, which leaves me no chance to be heard. I prefer hunting in silence.
    Look for K3WWP advises on his site.
    K2CQW and W5BIB like this.
  8. KE9RJM

    KE9RJM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thank you all for the advice. I wish i was in a position to build a better antenna system but my subdivision really limits tower and antenna height so a directional antenna is problematic. I might be able to get away with a vertical antenna but I'm not sure that would be much better than my end fed. I will work on learning about split frequencies and etiquette. Sound like I have a lot of listening to do.

    K2MOB likes this.
  9. US7IGN

    US7IGN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Vertical antenna is the best for DX.
  10. WF4W

    WF4W Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    here's my advice to a new DXer... stay off the clusters - or set aside specific time to chase reported DX. As you experienced, you got inadvertently made a contact with Italy. Now imagine doing that all the time - it's like a treasure hunt. Call CQ ands have France, germany, UK, etc. come back to YOU

    PS - as I was writing this, I was calling CQ on 20m FT8 (I rarely call CQ on FT8) and CHINA came back to me... CHINA! I havent worked China in the 30 yrs I've been a ham! So I just felt what you felt when you got Italy...
    Last edited: May 1, 2018

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