As we are now in a new year (2020) all the summits I activated last year, will furnish activators points again, and some, such as Peissenberg, 3 winter bonus points as well.
I have recently bought a DYC-817 speech processor “kit” from FunkAmateur/Box73 and modified it to work with my Xiegu X108G transceiver (they are wired to work with the Yaesu FT8x7 range of transceivers normally). I have tried using this unit on a previous activation and I did not get the expected results. Following this I have been involved in a thread on the SOTA reflector where others are also trying to get the unit to work correctly – some with great success.
As Mike, 2E0YYY had arranged to go out on the 8th of January as the weather forecast looked good in the UK (after some recent rainy days) and he had lined up skeds with Jonathan VK7JON, Ernie VK3DET and John VK6NU to listen for him, we agreed I’d tag-on to the schedule and activate Peissenberg at the same time as he was on Shining Tor in the UK.
I would test the speech processor now that I had the controls inside the unit set where others had had success and at the same time, perhaps manage an S2S with Mike in the UK and contacts also into Australia.
As I was not going to use the VP2E antenna, to keep the things being tested to a minimum, so while I would still use the HF amplifier I would rely on the good old linked dipole antenna and 6-metre fishing pole mast. Then the only variable from items that I know work would be the speech processor.
The 40 minute run down to Peissenberg went without any problems. This time I had decided to go back to my usual location, right on the summit beside the church, as I didn’t need the room to put up the VP2E.
Here’s a 360-degree picture of the bench location by the church, on the exact summit thanks to Google maps: https://maps.app.goo.gl/nGJb47z2JbqHpMen7
Upon arrival, I checked the Internet connectivity via my phone and was surprised to see an indication of 4G+ on my phone on both networks that I have (Telekom and Vodafone) – so no spotting problems on this activation, the internet access was really “snappy”. I wonder if they have installed 5G already in this location and as my phone is “only” 4G capable it was indicating this? This was certainly the first time I had seen 4G+ on the phone and the network was stable the whole time I was on the summit.
After setting up the station on my usual bench (about 30 minutes earlier than I had alerted for) I tuned around 20 metres and found activity from Russia and Italy – so nothing out of the ordinary but more importantly the band wasn’t dead.
I found a free frequency of 14.290 MHz (which for most of my time on the summit, stayed clear of QRM), spotted myself and started calling CQ. I actually started with the speech compressor in circuit but turned off and using it with my Leson amplified microphone that I have re-wired to look like a Yaesu Microphone.
First CQ call, no response, second call no response, so I checked my spot was up – yes no issues there. After 15 minutes of getting no calls, I decided to take the whole speech compressor set up out of circuit and plugged in just the standard Xiegu microphone. Another self spot on SOTAWatch and I got my first call – Lars SA4BLM from Sweden called and gave me a 5-5 report. When I asked him about the audio, he said it was strong but occasionally with a little crackling. Given that this was with the standard microphone, and that I wanted to get 4 contacts in the log to get the summit’s points, I decided to leave it at that and see if anyone else was hearing me now. They were, Lars was followed by Jack OH3GZ – a booming 5-9 signal which he also said I was. The next contact was with Jose EA7GV in Spain who was even stronger than Jack, so the band was definitely opening up! Number 4 contact to get the summit points was a surprise – it was John ZL1BYZ from New Zealand “You BUTE!”. We exchanged 5-3/4-2 reports but I knew it was John’s antenna system that was doing all the work. He is often the first ZL SOTA Chaser to come back to calls from EU. He has a good station and good ears! After John, there was a call from Hans SM4CJM where we exchanged 5-7 reports. About 15 minutes later I heard John ZL1BYZ working Mike 2E0YYY in the UK and while I couldn’t hear Mike, John had gone up to a good 5-5 signal!
For the next 45 minutes, I couldn’t “buy” a contact and signals that had been strong were suddenly weak and later strong again. Looking at Propquest when I got home, it seems the MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency) was bouncing up and down like a Yo-Yo around this time and sometimes dropping below 14MHz, which would, of course, explain the stations disappearing.
During these 45 minutes, I also took a listen for Ernie VK3DET who I had an email conversation running with and we “blind called” each other. Based on the contact with John in New Zealand, this should have been about the right time to have got a contact but it was not to be. I also heard nothing from VK7JON or VK6NU either (but in John VK6NU’s case, it may have been too early for Western Australia). Interspersed with my attempts for a contact into VK, I was also putting out CQ calls and also listening on Mike 2E0YYY/P’s frequency. Nothing!
During my time on the summit, I had two different couples come up and ask what I was doing, so they got an introduction in Amateur Radio and a brochure in German.
It was 50 minutes after my last contact that I got another call and that was from Christos SV2OXS down in Greece. I had activated this very summit with Christos when he was visiting Bavaria two years earlier, so he commented that he remembered the summit.
Jack OH3GZ then called me again and asked if I was still on the same summit as my signal had dropped considerably and I could confirm that I was indeed still on the same summit. Jacks signal, although still easily readable was down from the earlier good S9 to an S5 level, so the band was dancing all over the place. After Jack, Ricardo EA1DHB came in with a good solid 5-9 signal and gave me a 5-4.
All of this time, I had not had the opportunity to get any reports on the speech processor as the signals were varying too much. For some of my CQ calls, I put the processor in, some not. In any case, none of my SOTA contacts were made with the speech compressor in place – so I still don’t know if it works!
After being active for almost an hour, I decided to take one last listen for Mike 2E0YYY/P and suddenly he was there at about 5-7, so I gave him a call and we made the contact. 3 minutes later, he was gone again, I couldn’t hear anything from him, only the chasers calling him. Strange band conditions indeed.
A quick last spot and CQ call and then it was time to pack up and head back to the car.
Xiegu X108G 20w HF transceiver (running at 3w)
50/70watt HF portable linear amplifier
LambdaHalbe 6 Metre telescopic “Squid Pole” mast.
SOTABeams “band hopper” linked dipole antenna at about 5m AGL in inverted-V format.
Painters plastic sheet.
Battery Box with 2 x 5Ah 4S LIPO hard-case batteries
Smartphone using PocketRxTx app to control and display the X108G display
The main purpose of the activation was to test out the speech processor – that was not possible with the 20m band the way it was. The contact into New Zealand was a nice bonus but why wasn’t I able to get through to the VK stations?
Coldness (even in the sunshine) remains a limiting factor to the length of my activations. If I had been able to stay another hour the contact into VK3 may have been possible, even though those into VK3 and VK7 failed. A small tent could help with this problem but it needs to be one that is an instant pop-up type as I wouldn’t put it up if a lot of time is needed. It would not work at the bench location at Piessenberg but it would in the field near the lower car park.
I was using the bench effectively as my table for the radio equipment but I ended up crouching in front of it, which was uncomfortable. I have some small lightweight camping stools in the car, which I need to think about bringing up to the summit next time.
73 ’til the next Summit!