I decided to crank the F5K up in the ARRL CW contest this weekend. I am by no means a die hard contester. In fact I was on call Friday and I was up all night in the operating room and not on 40M. I have spent so much of my life awake all night that the idea of doing it on purpose just to work a bunch of EA's and LZ's going 50wpm no longer appeals to me.
There is a lot of FUD broadcasted regarding the F5K's contesting capability. This is a FINE contest radio, in fact better than my Orion was
Here is the setup at W9OY
I'm using the latest PB-PAL code and drivers, DDUTIL, CW skimmer, and N1MM. I use CW skimmer for the spotting function, and this is the first time I have tried this particular setup. Skimmer can act as a Telnet server and it serves up what it copies to the N1MM band map, so all those stations in the band map were populated in the map by skimmer. You can also have your band map populated by a DX cluster if you like, and this is the way I have run the station in the past. One thing to be sure you HAVE to copy the station before you enter the callsign into the log entry screen in N1MM. Skimmer just decodes what ever it hears, and what it hears could be the other side of a DX contact. For example if UT9DX was on 14.020 and was being called by K3RR you may just as easily have K3RR in your band map as UT9DX, so this is assisted, but not very assisted. What it does do is give you a clear picture of what is on the band at any given time. One thing N1MM does is keep you abreast of new multipliers and that is a good feature especially for SnP and SO2R operations. I decided to run this contest at 100W instead of full power. I don't have great antennas. I have a 43ft vertical to use on the high bands 20, 15 and 10, and I have a 135ft open wire dipole to use on those bands as well, and a 160M 80M, 40M and 20M dedicated verticals. On 20 the flat top is almost always better than the verticals, so I figured running this contest with this antenna compliment and 100W would be a challenge and would be a good example of what the average guy could do with simple antennas.
I ran all bands from 160 to 10, but I only put in about 3 hours total doing SnP. The radio performed flawlessly. Here are some shots of the band noise
Here is 15M
and here is 20M
This is about what my band noise runs on 20M contest or not. There was not ONE beep or boop in the RX passband that I did not expect to hear (as in overload) even though the band was chock full of super strong stations.
Later in the contest I decided to switch from Skimmer feeding my band map in N1MM to the W9AZ DX cluster server. I think over all I prefer the DX cluster feeding the band map and Skimmer over to the side doing its own thing. With the cluster feeding the band map it was super easy to just go down the list one after another picking up multipliers. Using DDUTIL there was no problem controlling the rig either from N1MM or from Skimmer so I just hit the call I wanted to work and BAM I was on freq. For my keyer I used my K1EL USB version, but I ran it from push buttons instead of N1MM
I later switched to the F3K using a laptop, and my 43ft vertical on 20M and used N1MM and skimmer to do the duties. I had this radio set up on a separate power supply as well essentially a completely separate station. Running the 3K single band was basically just like running the 5K except I didn't have all the auto band switching of antennas set up on the 3K like I have for the 5K. My 43ft vertical has a MFJ auto tuner set up at the base of the vertical so I just tune that on any band I want to work.
The F3K however does have the capability to seamlessly integrate completely into my auto band switching station. All I would have to do to integrate it is go unplug the F5K, plug in the F3K into my station computer, change RF output cable on my patch panel from F5K to F3K and plug in some headphones to the F3K For the average guy the 3K is a very good choice for a contest radio as well and would be a good choice to throw in the bag and take on an island DX pedition. The receiver in that radio is superb.
I was only able to operate a scattered 3 hours 10 minutes total time during the contest but it was a lot of fun. It was great to see activity on 10 and 15. There was an amazing number of 160 and 80M stalwarts holding the fort and 40 and 20 were just nuts
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