Anyone have a document of testing procedures for HF with new antenna/radios?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KB7OK, Sep 12, 2016.

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  1. KB7OK

    KB7OK Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have recently purchased a Yeasu FT-847 and an FC-20 autotuner. Yesterday I installed a G5RV Max antenna. I'd like to do some structured testing so I know the performance of both radio components and antenna, specifically in the HF bands. Does anyone have, know of, or heard of anyone with a good document that steps thru checking the various bands to ensure both radio components and antenna are working optimal, or thru the process of checking, determine if there are weaknesses in antenna or the HF bands?
  2. KC4YLV

    KC4YLV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, if one of the autotuner features is 'memories' of tuner settings for different bands, it is probably a good idea to do SWR tests at the bottom/middle/top end of each HF privilege bands you have. Make sure to ID and use low power! And stay a good 5-10khz from the actual edge.

    This will give you an idea of the SWR curve you're looking at, which due to the fact you're using that antenna*, doesn't really matter. But the tuner may have a harder (or impossible) time on some bands, and this will show you that too.

    *opinions vary on the G5rv and i would prepare for spirited discussion
    KB7OK likes this.
  3. KB9UWU

    KB9UWU Ham Member QRZ Page

    KB7OK likes this.
  4. KY5U

    KY5U Subscriber QRZ Page

    G5RV? Same procedure as using a dummy load. :)
    WY5V likes this.
  5. W3MMM

    W3MMM Ham Member QRZ Page

    A hard and fast checklist is somewhat impossible due to the variables involved. What are you testing for? Under what conditions? To optimize what?

    So what's right for one isn't right for another. That doesn't mean you can't test, get answers and learn/improve. Rather it just means that everyone's path is different.

    You've told us "HF" bands and 'YLV gave some good advice - to note the SWR at the top/mid/low end of each band you want to work. I'd maybe cut that again and note the SWRs in the top/mid/low end of each segment of each band - so if you're going to do both digital and voice modes, check each.

    But of course SWR is only part of the story. Remember that a dummy load will give you a great SWR and not do diddly for you. So 'UWU has suggested a way to check actual performance. Note that you can use CW almost anywhere, so you might (quickly) perform the same test as you did with the SWR across the different bands. I say quickly as you're looking for relativity here, since the band conditions (which have nothing to do with your antenna) are the main factor here. You're looking to see if your antenna is stronger in one part of the band vs the same band conditions. This can only be done in a small window.

    Now, all of this still only gives you a few answers to a few questions of medium value. These tests are NOT telling you if you have a fully optimized station - rather they are telling you the following:
    - If you have any major errors on your antenna that are killing a band
    - If the antenna could be lengthened or shortened to maximize performance in a particular band segment
    - If the antenna is actually getting out, at all, on a given band under given conditions. (reverse beacon)

    Some things you aren't getting from these tests:
    - Is my audio correct (thus maximizing communicability)
    - Is the configuration of my antenna maximized? (ie, could it be better at a different angle or placement?)
    - Is my receiver maximized?

    This is one of the great things about ham radio - the variety and complexity of it all. That and the idea that there isn't one single set of instructions, as there is neither a sing

    At the end of the day, much of this doesn't matter too much if you're having some success at what you want to do. i.e., if your goal is to join an evening net and you can do're good to go! And some questions are never answered - the grass is always greener and there's ALWAYS a better antenna! And some questions are best answered with lots of experience; where you work many stations over time and begin to tweak things and make improvements as you go.

    Good luck and don't sweat it too much - see you on the air!

    There's always the simplest test - to call CQ and ask for feedback. It is the least scientific of the tests yet offers a good way to catch things you might not have been expecting, like clicks or chops or something like that. One thing it will definitively tell you is if someone else heard and understood your CQ? :)
    KB7OK likes this.
  6. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page


    It may take more than "one" CQ for the skimmers to catch you. But if you call a few, they will and then you'll know.
  7. W7UDI

    W7UDI Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi Kerry,

    First off, welcome to the hobby and glad to have you here.

    As far as structured testing goes, aside from bench testing the radio into a dummy load, get on the air and make contacts. No two days will be the same on HF due to many factors, but that's OK. Go spend time on the air and you will find pattern on say 40 meters, who and where you are making QSO's with. Same for 20 and other bands. For a number of years I used my FT847 along with a FC20 tuner with a Radio Works Carolina Windom 80 here at the current house. After some time spent operating I pretty much got a idea who and where I could work.

    Another tool to help you out is, operating in a contest. Look at some of the major contests, this way you will have many on the bands wanting contacts. Now the important thing to remember is everyone is 59, but don't get hung up on that. What you are looking for is, WHO you are making the contact with. It does not matter if you are S1 or 60 over S9, everyone is 59. After spending a few hours or the whole contest, you can go back review your log and see where you were successful. At my old QTH, I did that same thing on 160 meters. I had a simple dipole up and spent a few hours on the 160 contest and found out I had a 500 to 750 mile range with that setup. Same radio and tuner, but just a simple dipole for 160.

    So go out and spend time on the air and have fun. In time you will have a good idea how your station is working. Also you will learn how the bands react in the day and how they react at night. Enjoy your new station and have fun. And if one day is not so good, then try another day or band. Like I said no two days are alike on HF.

    See you on the bands. And remember go have fun.

    KB7OK, W3MMM and K7TRF like this.
  8. W1VT

    W1VT Ham Member QRZ Page
    This site is useful for testing your station with the digital modes JT65/JT9. You can easily compare your signal with that of other stations on the band.

    Zack W1VT
    KB7OK likes this.
  9. W3MMM

    W3MMM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Along these lines, OP, get to know some of your local hams - either directly or "indirectly" (like, I know that is Bob, KX7XXX, and he has a tribander at 40') then listen to them on the air, especially in a contest. Can you hear what they are working? Do they beat you pileups?

    Of course the big guns will beat you but how about others with similar or marginally better setups? If they are crushing you consistently, you may have a deeper issue. Talk to them to find out how they've maximized their setups. They are a good reference point as they might be heard on ground wave and they will have basically the same conditions (propagation, QRM/N, etc) at a given time.

    Back to the original question - not to be glib but the radio's manual will likely have guidance or a checklist for tweaking the settings for performance, or maybe indicators of performance issues. That will be unique by radio and you could do those steps periodically.
    KB7OK likes this.
  10. K7TRF

    K7TRF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Good advice above.

    You can definitely test things like antenna SWR and you can bench test things like receiver sensitivity or transmitter output power on different bands but when it comes to over the air testing, propagation variability from day to day, day to night or even minute to minute with QSB makes it very hard to validate equipment or antenna installations in a rigorous way. That's not really a problem, just get on the air and start making QSOs as others have said.

    Over time you'll probably start deploying additional antennas and then you can rapidly A/B test the same stations received by the different antennas but you'll want a good antenna switch that supports rapid A/B switching as signal strength can change very fast in some channel conditions. If you do start doing these kinds of comparisons it's typical to see that one antenna works better for some signals and the other antenna may work better for different signals or at different times of day or night.

    IOW, even with two antennas to compare side by side on the same signals it's often hard to pick one that is best in every circumstance (unless one is really terrible or one is really great) so in your current situation with only one antenna and rig it's almost impossible beyond simple bench testing to know if the rig and antenna are working 100% to their theoretical capabilities. So we get on the air and put it to test in real world situations, and sometimes we tinker with alternative solutions (often alternative antennas) to see if we can improve our stations for the kind of radio work we're trying to do.

    But if you want a check list, it might look like this:
    - Test antenna matching on all bands of interest
    - Test transmitter output power on all bands of interest into a dummy load
    - Listen to your receiver tuned to background noise on all bands of interest, if the receiver noise floor drops when you disconnect the antenna and rises when you connect the antenna then the receiver is sensitive enough relative to band noise and more sensitivity won't help.

    KB7OK likes this.

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