**DIRT CHEAP**: PSK31 Setups for Dummies

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by AD7N, Mar 24, 2010.

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  1. AD7N

    AD7N Ham Member QRZ Page

    "I would like to try PSK31 sometime, but I just don't have the setup."

    "I gotta try that PSK thing, but I gotta get some expensive interface..."

    The Dummy's Guide to PSK31 Setups

    Rule 1) THROW OUT YOUR HESITATION, and most importantly stick that money back in your wallet! you don't need a cent to try PSK31. Really, it is NOT that difficult (I'm talking to you, Pat 'MHZ here!! :D)

    You don't need no high falutin, new fangled fancy pancy interface. Why would you want to spend $100 on one of these ritzy interfaces to TRY OUT PSK31?!?!

    Ok, I've just ranted and railed against Rigblaster/Signalink and other dedicated hardware interfaces, what is the secret formula to getting started on PSK31 for free?

    Here are your necessary parts:

    1) Radio, preferably with VOX setup. If it doesn't have VOX, no problem!
    2) Hand microphone for radio. Any other kind will also do.
    3) Speaker/Microphone on your computer. Either built in or jack will work for both.
    4) Software - If you're running windows, Digipan is the most popular option. For Linux, MacOS or others (including Windows), FLDigi is an excellent option. Best of all, both are free.
    Optional 5) Headphones. Not required, but will make transmitting easier.
    Optional 6) audio patch cable, like the one found here

    1) Find out the central PSK31 Frequency for the band you want to work. Tune your VFO to the listed frequencies, and bump the SSB mode into USB
    2) If you have an audio patch cable with the necessary adapters if any for your radio, plug it into the audio out (headphone jack) of your radio into the microphone jack on you computer's soundcard. If you don't have a patch cable but rather a built in microphone on your laptop/webcam/etc, move that to as close to the radio's speaker as possible.

    3)With your radio's handmic, place it to as close to your computer's speakers as possible. If you have headphones, plug them into the audio out of your computer's soundcard and rubber band one side of the headphone to the radio hand mic.
    TIP: If your radio has VOX, turn it on.

    4) Fire up the PSK31 software. If you're running digipan, you will get something like this:


    Note the blue/yellow area. It should look like the area above, where it is mostly blue/black and some slight yellow. If it looks anything like below, it means you are overdriving the audio. Turn down the radio's audio until you see what like above.

    5) Adjust the speaker volume on your computer until you are getting at most 30-40 watts output from your radio. Any more and you're likely overdriving your audio. THIS IS BAD

    You don't want to overdrive your audio with PSK31, especially! This is the same thing as turning the microphone gain all the way up and screaming into the mic. Sure, you're pegging the watt meter but your signal will be raspy and ####ty. THIS IS BAD

    Keep the audio as low as possible, and keep turning it up slowly until you get it just right. :D

    6) Start playing!! :D :D There are "macros" in your program that are there to make it easier to get QSOs going. There are ones for "CQ", for "brag" which tells your partner ham your station. Take the time to fill these in and you'll save yourself a lot of unnecessary time and typing, especially for calling CQ. Note though, don't rely on macros as a crutch. Some hams rely on them so much they forget to actually talk! They just hit buttons all day. At least be a person, not a robot and talk with your partner ham!

    The lines on your waterfall are signals. Click on them to read what the QSOs are. If you want to call CQ, click someplace in the waterfall which doesn't have any yellow lines and click the CQ button.


    If you have VOX then your set. All you have to do is hit transmit and the radio will key up automatically.

    If you don't have VOX, the technique is to type your whole message first before transmitting. Once you're ready to transmit, then key down the handmicrophone by pressing the PTT button, and then hit transmit in the program. Simply unkey once done.

    There you have it! the Dirt Cheap PSK31 Guide for Dummies

    Go, get on PSK31! Don't just sit there sulking over the price of a Signalink.

    GO GET ON PSK31! :D
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2010
  2. M0DSZ

    M0DSZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for the software pointer, I hope to be on LF (136kHz) soon.
  3. AD7N

    AD7N Ham Member QRZ Page

    LF is an amazing band, and given its extreme low power, narrow bandwidth requirements Digital Modes are excellent fit. Best of luck!
  4. N2RJ

    N2RJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    If you don't mind soldering some SMT parts, you can build a SoftRock which does PSK31.

    1 watt out only though.
  5. AD7N

    AD7N Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hey, it's all made up in the antenna! I've had QSOs across the nation on 500 milliwatts on PSK31. The trick is timing and antennas.

    Very valid though, as the Softrock TX/RX is only 60-70 bucks! http://www.kb9yig.com/
  6. AG3Y

    AG3Y Guest

    There are many things not quite right about the OP !

    Yes, you can do PSK-31 with nothing more than two microphones, but it is so much better to build a small hardware interface and eliminate the possibility of picking up sounds in the room, on both receive and transmit!

    I use a simple interface which consists of two tantalum capacitors, and a couple of resistors, plus a small box to stuff the parts in to. The total cost of the interface was probably around $5.00, and I never have to worry about a grandchild running into the room, screaming and carrying on! Everything is hard wired.

    When you start experimenting with the more sophisticated modes that require a more exact waveform, you are going to be exasperated with that dual microphone setup. But you do NOT have to go out and buy a $100.00 interface. There are bunches of schematics for home-brew interfaces on the net. All you have to do is look for them.

    73, and good luck, Jim
  7. AD7N

    AD7N Ham Member QRZ Page

    Jim, good point. I have made homebrew interfaces out of a few resistors and an 1:1 audio transformer pulled from an old computer modem. Cost? $0

    The point of the OP was "Quick n' Dirty", with emphasis on dirty :D

    Unfortunately many people who want to give PSK31 a try will balk at having to invest. The "audio coupler" with microphones is the dirtiest and cheapest solution. I've used it for years on PSK31 and had few issues. Granted, I don't have loud music playing in the background or dealing with screaming. But it works for most people, and takes 5 minutes to setup without even having to pull out the soldering iron or digging through the junk box. A good way to "test drive" PSK31. If they want to use it some more, than the hardwired interfaces (homebrew or commercial) are a good idea.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2010
  8. KR2D

    KR2D Ham Member QRZ Page

    Agreed, please don't use the microphone method. I have heard all kinds of crap being transmitted from those setups. The worst was last year on Field Day when there were several mics transmitting all of the surrounding noise on 14070.
  9. AG3Y

    AG3Y Guest

    It's not only NOT "good amateur practice", it's ILLEGAL to transmit all kinds of audio in the CW-digital ONLY portions of the band !
  10. G0GQK

    G0GQK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Its about time Eric turned his considerable talents to writing a technical help document for PSK and all the other dozens of digital communication modes,for those who don't know where to begin. He could also produce some documentation on the reasons for owning a G5RV, and the reasons for not owning one !

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