New Ham ops, suggestions for combating poor propagation

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by K9KQX, Oct 29, 2019.

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  1. K9KQX

    K9KQX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Well its not to often I start threads around here, but the subject of poor propagation comes up a lot with the low sunspot cycle, and for good reason its not been easy to work DX. Its discouraging to many long time ops, newer radios with scopes give a quick appearance of dead bands, and many don't bother and give up all hope. For the die hards we say call CQ, the band is probably open somewhere. But if no one is on the air, who's a new ham supposed to talk to.

    So in the interest of the new hams just experiencing the solar cycle that it is today, maybe we can share some technical tips on cost effective solutions to giving that new ham a fighting chance of working HF and maybe help out others in the process. The fun part of this hobby is trying things new, so why don't we share some positive experiences.

    For me, one of the things I've been doing of late has been to utilize a magnetic loop antenna I built for receiving, while transmitting at high power on a dipole or inverted L. I find the mag loop does wonders in reducing my background noise on average 3 S units or more allowing weak signals to be heard. I'm lucky that with my rig I have a receive antenna port, but I'm sure a cheap antenna switch could work in a pinch. And if your wondering, during the CQ Worldwide contest, I was working a station in Finland. I could not hear him on my dipole, but I could on the magnetic loop. Much to my amazement he was able to hear me when i transmitted on the dipole. A perfect example of, "you can't work them if you don't hear them". I honestly don't think I can do with out the loop now.

    As for antennas, my go to antenna has been my fan dipole antenna for 40,20, and 10, while I use an inverted L for 160 and 80.

    Anyway I'd like to keep this thread informative to help give others ideas on how to improve there station and not go off on a tangent about sucky band conditions or 200k contest stations. We all know the bands aren't like they used to be, so lets move on from there help out the newbies.
    K0UO and WW2PT like this.
  2. N6PAT

    N6PAT Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Get a Hustler 6BTV vertical and cover all the bands. This is a really good antenna that works without needing a lot of power!

    Check my QRZ page.
    W4NNF, AA9F and WF4W like this.
  3. N0TZU

    N0TZU Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    You’ve pretty much answered your question, I think.

    1. Persistence. You can’t find DX if the radio is off.
    2. Use contests as a big DX opportunity. I just did that myself in the CQ WW SSB contest.
    3. Improve SNR with a receiving loop (fairly inexpensive or DIY), or possibly other receive only antennas (BOG, etc.)
    4. Put up the best and highest antenna your circumstances allow.

    I would add

    5. Use a DX cluster to help find contacts.
    6. Use common mode chokes on coax to reduce that avenue of noise pickup.
    7. Find and reduce local sources of noise if at all possible, starting with your own home.
    8. Use narrow bandwidth modes to improve SNR: CW and digital.
    9. Study how propagation works on the various bands and stay aware of daytime/nighttime/gray line paths to your DX so you can operate at a favorable time.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2019
    NM9L, K0UO, WE4E and 2 others like this.
  4. W6RZ

    W6RZ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    NM9L and KK5JY like this.
  5. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    There’s more to amateur radio than “working” DX. At least there used to be.

    It is OK to just talk to other hams, even in the USA. At least it used to be.

    This is not the first sunspot cycle minimum there’s ever been. Ham radio has continued just fine through them all. It’s just different, that’s all.
    K6RUV, NM9L, KU4X and 7 others like this.
  6. W4IOA

    W4IOA Ham Member QRZ Page

    And check the all the bands every time you turn on the radio
    I go from the bottom to the top slowly, then down, then up again. I'm constantly surprised what I missed on a pass. I don't look at the band scope or dx spotter.
    Wear head phones and listen.
    Then I yak with whoever wants to.
    I started my haM journey at the bottom of the last cycle, I had a good time and made some good dx contacts.
    N0TZU likes this.
  7. N6PAT

    N6PAT Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Just got VP6R Pitcairn Island on a 160 homebrew mod to the 6BTV with just 100 watts from NY. My 160 meter amp is in the shop so 100 watts is all I have on 160 at the moment because my other amp doesn't have 160.

    Took a while to get him. The first time he didn't RR73.

    Gotta love the Hustler 6BTV.
    AA9F likes this.
  8. KE0EYJ

    KE0EYJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    And get to know VOACAP:

    Personally, I'm more about building antennas than buying. I talk about it all of the time, but a Spiderbeam 12mHD fiberglass pole was one of the best investments I have made.

    There is an app called "Antenna Tool" for free in the Google app store. Use it to build your wire antennas. Spend $35 on a basic 100w+ 1:1 Current balun, use your Spiderbeam pole, and build some monoband dipoles on it, like this.

    That mast will easily fit a 20m vertical dipole, with a few meters off of the ground to spare.
  9. W2AI

    W2AI QRZ Lifetime Member #240 Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Two words:
    Better antennas
    K0UO and K8AI like this.
  10. K8AI

    K8AI Ham Member QRZ Page

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