Monday, July 20, 2009

WSPR while you work

DIY is one of my least favourite activities. If any major job needs to be done around the house, I'll get someone in. However, this is Britain, the country where everyone wants to get paid for sitting on their backside instead of learning a trade and getting their hands dirty. Good painters and decorators, joiners, plumbers and electricians are hard to find, and usually booked up months ahead (or on one of their biannual holidays in Barbados.) If they aren't booked up months ahead they are probably either cowboys or East European immigrants who are happy to get off their backsides and earn a living but may not have any actual painting/joining/plumbing/electrical qualifications. So if you need something done quickly and don't want to be ripped off or featured on "Homes from Hell" there is often no alternative to doing it yourself.

Having just had a conservatory built there were some finishing-off jobs that needed doing now, so having just finished making my Wonder Loop I couldn't spend any more time on the radio. Instead, I set it up on WSPR and left it. This was probably a good thing, as it enabled me to get an objective view of its performance. Unfortunately the objective view is that it doesn't work as well as I hoped it would.

Although my 1W signal on 30m was heard as far away as Poland, and I even received signals from the East Coast USA, results on 20m, 17m and 10m (the only other bands with enough WSPR monitors to be worth trying) were disappointing. Nothing at all was heard on 10m, although another G station was active and being received. 20m was difficult to test due to the interfering presence of RTTY on the WSPR frequency band. I was heard in Germany on 20m, but weakly and not very often

Reports on 17m were also disappointing - so much so that I switched to the ATX Walkabout for comparison and received reports more than 6dB better. The ATX Walkabout is a great little antenna for both the size and price. Anything that can't outperform it isn't worth using.

The Wonder Loop is a good receive antenna. It is much quieter than the vertical ATX and has a sharp null axially through the centre of the loop that allowed me to reduce the QRN I'm plagued with almost to nothing. But clearly it needs to be made more efficient. The 40cm diameter loop is a convenient size, but whether it is just too small, or whether efficiency could be improved by using thicker wire or some heavy co-ax for the radiating element is something that will have to be determined by further experimentation when I have more time to spare.

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