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Author Topic: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW  (Read 12735 times)

jackson_r

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thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« on: September 16, 2015, 1257 UTC »
Greetings!  I've been lurking here for a while and finally decided to register today.  I've been broadcasting a 5 watt FM station out of my home for a while now.  Despite using a varying schedule I'm getting increasingly paranoid that I'm tempting fate and could get the "knock" one of these days if I keep it up.  The records don't show any NOUO actions in my area for over 3 years but with my luck I'll be the one.   ;D

I've been a SWL since I was a kid and have recently started thinking of moving over to SW broadcasting.  From what I read it sounds like a better way to stay off the fed radar.  I've been researching all sorts of equipment but it seems like a lot of stuff is DIY and trust me, you don't want me anywhere near a soldering iron or I'd probably not only burn down my house but the neighbor's house at the same time.  However, almost by accident I ran across this little gem yesterday:

http://www.wouxun.us/item.php?item_id=302

I haven't seen any mention of it around here and I was wondering what thoughts members have?  I've read the instruction manual and have confirmed that with a little programming tweak it can be made to broadcast on any frequency between the regular amateur bands.  It seems low power enough to keep everything fairly low key.  I also like the fact that it's small enough that I could build a weather proof enclosure for it, hook up a solar panel and battery, and place it somewhere offsite.  If it's ever discovered all they'd be able to do would be to take the gear.  Yeah, it'd stink to lose several hundred dollars worth of gear, but I figure it'd still be cheaper than dealing with what could be expensive legal actions.

One question I would have for the experts on a transmitter like this relates to the PTT microphone.  Is there an adapter of some sort that would allow a person to plug an iPod or similar device in to the PTT port? 

Offline ff

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2015, 1426 UTC »
Hi Jackson!  What a cool little rig!  I'm not familiar with it. 

First - I think you have the right idea to go to shortwave.  Although predicting risk would be folly, I can at least say that if you are careful NOT to abuse legitimate users, you are at LESS risk on SW than on FM.  There are commercial interests (read that $$$$$$$$) at stake on FM.  No such motivation exists on SW.  Also, running a jukebox on FM is mainly electromagnetic masturbation.  No one listens much - even if they tell you they do.  People rarely tune between the presets. So unless you are serving a minority neighborhood or some other disenfranchised group who will actually listen to you... what's the point?
- BUT-
Shortwave and Mediumwave (AM band) are places where radio enthusiasts play.  The listeners here are ACTIVE and INTERESTED and DEVOTED.  Treat us well and you will have an enthusiastic audience.  Welcome...

I studied the X1M manual but really couldn't get much from it about pertinent things like the pinout to the RS232 connector or the bandpass filter Fco-s or yada yada yada - always a problem with Chinese stuff.  Much of it is surprisingly good but the documentation sucks.  Long story short, I can't gather enough info to give you a good thumbs up/down on it.  For about the same $$$, you can go to ebay and buy an old transceiver that - although used - will put out way more power than the X1M.  I'm partial to the Icom IC-735 that is actually designed for hour-long keydown sessions, but many other good ones can be found there too.  I'm sure that Boombox and WREC and many others here also have suggestions.  Best of luck in your endeavors...
Hailing from the upstate boondocks region of the progressive paradise which once was New York State

Offline ff

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2015, 1457 UTC »
Forgot to address your second half questions -

MIC adapters are cheap and easy to wire up. 

I have lots and lots and lots of experience with solar panels and batteries, having lived with them off-grid in a remote cabin for over 10 years.  To do it correctly for a full-time operation would cost you at least a couple thousand dollars.  Even for that little draw.  Yes, really.  And battery maintenance has to be done at least once a month or they will soon fail, once the weather gets cold. 

And let's face it, nobody really wants to listen to another jukebox anyway, even on shortwave.  Thank God the operator of Old Time Radio exclusively runs old radio shows and has a very deep collection of them.  I tune OTR often as a propagation check and rarely hear a repeat.  If you really want to please listeners, think quality, NOT quantity.  Be creative.  THAT is the justification for your station to exist.  Shortwave gives you the opportunity to do that.  If you transmit your show in the pirate bands, you will have listeners.  You will be heard.  You will be sharing your creativity and your passion with others.  Even on a Tuesday night.  Even on a Saturday morning.  If the band is open, you will have listeners.  And they are interested in hearing something different, maybe unexpected.  Don't bore them.  Have fun...
Hailing from the upstate boondocks region of the progressive paradise which once was New York State

jackson_r

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2015, 1514 UTC »
Thanks very much for the welcome and the tips!  I've definitely seen some used rigs on Ebay that are capable of putting out a lot more power but I've always been worried that they might need some modifications to work on the bands I would use.  The two main things I like about this unit are that is requires no mods and also that it's low power by design.  I have no way to confirm this, but I imagine that of the SW stations the feds have shutdown, very few have been at QRP broadcast levels.

I think you're right as far as the microphone.  There's probably something out there on the market already but I'm sure it'd even be within my skills to pull a microphone apart and wire up something.  As long as I don't have to solder!   ;D  Point well taken about not subjecting listeners to an endless loop of music.  I'd have no issue with doing other stuff, but it'd still likely have to be prerecorded and inserted in with the daily broadcast "playlist."  I have a young family and screaming kids running around asking, "daddy, what are you doing" in the background while I was trying to live broadcast wouldn't work so well. 

I have quite a bit of experience with solar myself, although not for OTG living.  I currently use a 100 W panel, regulator, and marine battery, to power an array of outdoor landscaping lights and fountains.  It'd be an even easier system to make for powering a radio like this. 

Offline Zazzle

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2015, 0815 UTC »
Hi there jackson_r!

Avoding 'the knock' is always a thing thinking about. ;)

Quote
"daddy, what are you doing" in the background while I was trying to live broadcast wouldn't work so well.  

Aww! I love kids. That'd be fun! :)

Audio-Output 2 MIC: Naa, that's no rocket science. Maybe ask for help with the soldering in your circle of friends or relatives? Help ist just around the corner most times. Without reading the manual for the baby you have your eyes on: usually it takes two modifications:
  • Bridge teh PTT switch so it's broacasting permamently.
  • Adapt the voltage level of the headphone out to the MIC input. That's usually 2V to 2mV. That can be done by a simple resistor based voltage divider. In case you keep on your actaual plan and need some help with the valkues: poke me.

About the Solar-Power thingie: If you're not happen to live somewhere with a LOT of sunshine all day long (like in a country/state around the equator) that can be tricky. I hate to ruin the fun but it won't work in areas with something called "winter" and "snow" around.

Basic calculation: We assume you whole rig (with 5W PO) consumes about 1,5A. For one day that's 25h*1,5A = 36Ah. That the entire charge of a full standard (small) car battery.

A standard value for solar charging estimates (during summer) 5 sunhours (with full power) per day. 36Ah / 5h = 7,2A. That's a 180W (+) PV Panel. The dimensions for such are approx 1x1.7m. About 150 bucks (ebay). And it won't be easy to hide.

And this goes for perfect conditions. Rainy day? Forget it. You're out of power. We still assume you have nothing called "winter" in your area I'd say you've to go for 300+W PV power to provide a stable charge into a (at least 88Ah) battery.

(those are all quick'n'dirty calculations. Doing a proper evaulations that ensure a reiable power supply will be way more complex. I forsee from that for now.)

Also, a car battery will wear down within one year (or less). They're not made for full swing (dis-)charge cycles. You can, of course, go for a special battery made for solar operation. But, eh, expensive. 75Ah is about 250 Bucks.

Other sidenotes: keep an eye on the specs of the Radio. Is it made for long term key-down operation? Also, when putting it outside: spend some thought on the ambient temperature. In case sun hits the box the ambient temperature can easily exceed 60+C. The device temperature adds to it. 90C isn't unlikely.

Greetings,
~Zazzle
Trans-/Receivers: JRC NRD-525,  ICOM IC-R72,  YAESU VR-5000,  YAESU FT-897D
Antennas: 80M Halfwave Dipole,  40m Inverted-V,  5/8λ Groundplane,  20M Longwire,  misc. UHF/VHF Scanner Antennas.

jackson_r

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2015, 1134 UTC »
Thanks for the additional tips, zazzle!  I didn't mean to sound flippant in how easy it would be to create/operate the solar system.  I was speaking more to how easy it would be to wire it up.  You're right, making sure I got enough insolation would be critical.  A 200 watt panel bolted to a tree with a wire running to a mysterious padlocked box is going to draw some attention (if not the feds, some punks looking to cause mischief).  If I went with setup like this I'd likely wire in a 12 volt timer between the regulator and the rig.  I currently use one for my solar landscaping setup.  This is the unit I use:

http://www.amazon.com/Neewer%C2%AE-Digital-Power-Programmable-Switch/dp/B00AJGX0JS/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1442489415&sr=8-2&keywords=12+volt+timer

Awesome level of control.  I could program numerous ways to not only vary broadcasting schedule, but to also make sure I wasn't broadcasting for more than say 1-2 hours a day.  
« Last Edit: September 17, 2015, 1136 UTC by jackson_r »

Offline ff

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2015, 1555 UTC »
Unless you live in an area where Winter is almost nonexistent and cloud cover is nil - you have a lot more figuring to do.  I am in the Northeast U.S. east of the Great Lakes - in other words, about the worst place in the U.S. for solar power except for parts of Washington State.

Also, car batteries die quick deaths in this type of usage.  They are designed to deliver a huge wallop of current, and then be charged back with another hard wallop of current.  Car batts suffer when taken on drawdowns of more than 20%.  You will be discharging far more than that.

SLAs are a better choice if not subjected to below freezing temps.  Deep cycle batts are what you should be looking for.  I generally use marine batts from Wal-Mart but my usage these days is intermittent.  For a regular operation golf cart batts are reasonable.  They usually come as 6V units which you'll need to use 2 in series for your 12V.  If you can find some used Nickel-Iron batteries retired from locomotive duty you will have about the hardiest option out there.

You will need a charge controller.  Reflexive types are the cheapest.  PWM controllers are best - however - you'll probably go insane trying to filter out the RFI in your system.  I ended up using a reflexive controller when operating.  The problem with that is they waste more of that precious power coming off the panels.

Lots to think about for a full-time operation Jackson.  And let me say from experience, any place you factor in an "optimal" assumption in your calculations is exactly the place that will come back to bite you in the you-know-where.  As I said before, I LIVED with one of these systems for more than a decade.  Lots to think about...  If you limit your operations to an hour or two per day you will have a FAR easier time with this.  Have fun.
Hailing from the upstate boondocks region of the progressive paradise which once was New York State

Offline ff

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2015, 1540 UTC »
I currently use a 100 W panel, regulator, and marine battery, to power an array of outdoor landscaping lights and fountains.  It'd be an even easier system to make for powering a radio like this. 
Okay Jackson, here I go blabbering again.  I keep getting hit in the brain with other things you should be considering.  This situation is much harder than your fountain and lights setup.  Please understand, your present loads are "stupid" loads that can run on just about any raw power supplied at the approximate voltage.  Your radio is a "smart" load that is very sensitive to EVERYTHING.  Although the textbook will say that your battery will "buffer" the incoming panel voltage, I'd be leery about running it with no protection.  Depending on the cell count in your panel(s), the output at full sun will be anywhere from 16-20V.  Even a very brief intermittent "quirk" will fry the X1M.  At the very least, you should consider a protective zener diode.  And you'll need some stiff voltage regulation too.  You could sidestep all this by NOT operating the radio during charging hours.

Also if you desire to operate during charging hours you MUST MUST MUST filter that power - clean the crap out of it.  A PWM charge controller will be throwing enormous amounts of RFI and will be very difficult to clean up.  As I said earlier I ended up using a reflexive charger while operating radios.  You will still need some filtering to clean the switching artifacts out of your power although a decent amount of capacitance and an in-line choke would probably be enough.  Again, you can sidestep all this by NOT operating during charging hours.

Zazzle makes a lot of great points in his post and you should study it carefully.  But remember, Zazzle's setup is powering a crystal-controlled beacon transmitter whose PA is turned on and off at a Morse Code rate.  Your setup takes everything to a much more complex level.  The X1M has PLL frequency generation and microprocessor control - highly sensitive to RFI and voltage changes.  Also, your PA will run continuously and you will be overlaying modulation atop that carrier.  Your audio will also be greatly affected by dirty power.

Let me end by saying that I'm not trying to dissuade you, but only to give you an idea of what you're up against should you decide to spend $$$.  There's a lot to consider and to plan for.  We haven't even mentioned charge / discharge rates, battery and panel sizing, battery maintenance, etc.  It's a fascinating project should you decide to do it.  But easy?  No.  It WILL be much easier if you curtail your operating times to a few hours a week... 73


 
Hailing from the upstate boondocks region of the progressive paradise which once was New York State

jackson_r

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2015, 1856 UTC »
Thanks for the additional information, ff.  I may not have been completely clear in how I use my current solar setup.  All power from the 100 W panels runs through the following controller:

http://www.amazon.com/WindyNation-Regulator-Controller-Adjustable-Settings/dp/B00JMLPP12/ref=sr_1_5?s=lawn-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1442602049&sr=1-5&keywords=solar+charge+controller

From the load output of the controller, the wires are run through the 12v timer so I can precisely control when the lights/fountains go on and off.  There's no "raw" power so to speak, and there are no power fluctuations.  The only fluctuation that can happen is if the charge on my 100 amp hour marine deep cycle battery drops below a certain voltage.  At that point it actually doesn't fluctuate...it simply kills the power to the controller load.  So my idea is to build a nearly identical setup with the transmitter connected as the controller load.  When the power is "on," I'm transmitting.  When the timer shuts off based on my programmed schedule, the transmitter shuts off.  If I only ran the transmitter an hour a day, for example, I believe a deep cycle marine battery could hold up quite well.  And if I'm only doing that 1 hour of transmitting at night, the battery has the entire next day to build back up its charge.  Now, if I don't have enough sun I could certainly still run a deficiency that could leave my battery drained after a week or two.  This also says nothing to the mentioned need for filters so the power from the controller doesn't screw with the radio.  I'll definitely have to do some more research on that. 

All in all, good things to think about and I appreciate all the info.  I'm sure that I'll be testing this unit out indoors first before trying out my remote solar solution.   :)

jackson_r

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2015, 1758 UTC »
ff - If you don't mind, a question for you (or anyone else who wants to jump in) about this project.  I've been casually surfing a bit looking for QRP linear amps that I could use if I wanted to occasionally boost transmit power higher than the 5 watts this unit is capable of.  Let's assume we're not talking about the complexity of working it in to the solar system I've been talking about.  Let's just say I want to run it inside the house hooked up to AC.  Most of the HAM related QRP amps out there are only user selectable to working on the main HAM bands.  I'd likely be transmitting in the 43 m band, but the closest any of the consumer amps out there I've seen can get is 40 m.  Is an amp designed for 40 m capable of being used on a 43 m transmission?  What's going to happen if I tried to transmit on 43 m using a 40 m linear amp?  This could very well be a dumb question, so forgive me.  If the answer is, "you're going to have some very pissed off HAMs knocking on your door because of the filthy signal you'd be transmitting," feel free to tell me.   ;D

Offline ff

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2015, 2052 UTC »
Hi Jackson- Most solid state linear amps for ham service use selectable LOW pass filters.  Generally, the 40 meter filter has a cutoff frequency of approximately 7.4 MHz.  In that case, you could use the amp at its 40 meter setting for the 43 meter pirate band.  Yes, the filtering would be looser.  But it shouldn't create a major problem PROVIDED you are careful about driving the amp, which you should be anyway.  Your 5 watt PEP signal is approximately 1.25 watts of carrier power if the X1M is set up properly for full AM modulation.  The 5 watt level is pretty much standard for proper input drive power to most of the solid state linears out there.  I use them quite a bit in my "activities" and I generally like driving a bit more gently, usually with about 1 watt of carrier (4 watts PEP).  That way, any occasional modulation spikes that get past the processors don't intermittently overdrive the amp.  This keeps the audio clean and nice.  The headroom keeps the modulation from being progressively scraped away and any compression effects from the linear stage are more or less nonexistent.  And I'm not making enemies by blowing spurs and artifacts from DC to light.  You'll need to be doing some experimentation to see what works for you.  Using linears are do-able, but its not as straightforward as just flipping the switch.  I guess you should get re-aquainted with that hated soldering iron of yours.  I think you've been bitten by the bug ;)
Hailing from the upstate boondocks region of the progressive paradise which once was New York State

jackson_r

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2015, 2021 UTC »
Well, it looks like I'm the proud owner of a new X1M.  It should be here in a couple of weeks.   :)  ff- I wanted to pick your brain a bit more about a couple of things I'll be thinking about and planning while I wait for the unit to arrive.  For right now, I'm setting aside the remote solar power idea until I get comfortable just operating it within the comfort of my home.  For an antenna, I've been considering this:

http://www.dxengineering.com/search/department/antennas/section/hf-stealth-and-portable-antennas/product-line/mfj-1621-portable-hf-stealth-antennas?autoview=SKU&N=4294953330%2B4294944175&sortby=Default&sortorder=Ascending

I like the idea of being able to operate it indoors (perhaps sitting in front of a window).  Easier to hide and move around when necessary.  I'm sure performance will suffer but for a SW beginner like me I think starting with an antenna like this would make sense.  However, you'll note this antenna isn't designed to operate below 7 mhz.  What sort of problems am I going to run in to if I try to transmit on this antenna in the 6.8 - 7 mhz range?  A related question...the X1M manual warns that if you attempt to use frequencies outside of the main Ham bands, a band pass filter may be required.  I don't know if such a filter is necessary given what I want to do with the setup or not? 

My last question goes back to the mic question.  I've been researching how to replace the electret mic with a "line in" set up.  There are quite a few discussions about this that can be found on Google.  A lot of people say (as you mentioned) that you need to wire in a resistor to make it work.  But there are also people who say this isn't necessary, so long as you keep the volume down low on your input device (iPod, etc).  Do you have a take on this?

Offline ff

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2015, 2106 UTC »
Congratulations Jackson!  I like the stealth antenna idea for small power.  Although it technically doesn't "do" below 7 MHz, I would imagine there's enough overshoot to give you a reasonable SWR down to 6.9 or so.  Running only 5 watts PEP won't be stressing components like running the full 200 watt capability into the antenna.  As for the mic connector, what I do is take a couple of 10 K resistors (stereo, right?), connect one to each of your audio channels and then join the other ends and connect those to your mono signal input.  With small modern day devices like cheapie MP3 players the resistors are probably not necessary.  They provide isolation for each channel output.  If in doubt and you really DON'T want to run the resistors, get a cheap dollar store player and try it.  If you fry the chip, you won't be out much $$$.  Have fun!
Hailing from the upstate boondocks region of the progressive paradise which once was New York State

Offline moof

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2015, 2247 UTC »
At home get ye a magnet wire dipole connected to coax right at a window as high as you can get.  You would be amazed. Thicker red magnet wire hung over nails on trees with a large spray painted black bolt draped on each end to weigh it down.  Way better than a tuned vertical. Put it over head level and people 10 feet from it have not noticed. It can handle Big Radio output if you dont go nuts.  Dont know about that radio in the link since it doesnt have big old heat sink or fan.  May just pop a component after keying it for >5 minutes.  I hope not.

Offline JehovahsWettness

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Re: thinking of making the leap from FM to SW
« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2015, 0109 UTC »
A related question...the X1M manual warns that if you attempt to use frequencies outside of the main Ham bands, a band pass filter may be required.  I don't know if such a filter is necessary given what I want to do with the setup or not? 

I read that on the spec sheet also.  It sounds like some/all bandpass filtering can be disabled (or is automatically disabled) when selecting a frequency outside ham bands.  Bandpass filtering is there to make sure there are no spurious harmonic emissions unintentionally broadcast along with the target frequency.  Noise and splatter are your enemies, especially when your "Nickelback Marathon" is inadvertently being broadcast over top of some obscure government band.  Assuming that you'll be camping at 6925, you won't run into harmonic issues until like the 70cm band  but that's over 15th order. 

At least educate yourself/be aware of bandpass filtering techniques.  There's tons of good websites and LC calculators:

http://www.electronics-tutorials.ws/filter/filter_4.html

Or just buy one from MFJ for $60.   ::)  But at 5W I wouldn't sweat it.  Game on, Wayne.

Curious to hear more reports about this rig.... although all those nights of completely SMOKING FT-101s makes me a little jealous of noobs with no solder skills being able to plunk down $ and get heard... but I digress.  Most of all, HAVE FUN!

Hallicrafters Skyrider Defiant, longwire.
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