Sarah Jane and the Hallicrafters

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While the summertime weather heats up, the band conditions are definitely cooling down. Aside from a few notable exceptions listed in our summertime listening guide, not much is happening on the HF bands. Solar activity has left 15, 12, and 10 quiet, while 17 and 20 sound like they’re broken. Meanwhile whatever is broadcasting on the tropical bands is buried under a layer of hiss and static crashes.

Here at HF Radio Review though, we have a plan to help heat up the ionosphere with vintage tube gear and the lovely Miss Sarah Jane. I don’t think it will help propagation any, but it should help take your mind off of things.

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First Impressions: Pixel Pro-1B Magnetic Loop Antenna

rotate-loopIt’s been a pretty busy week or two at the QTH. Between the big photo shoot (more pics to come, I promise!), post-production work, a class reunion, and Stanley Cup hockey, I haven’t had nearly as much time in front of the radios as I would have liked. That changed a little yesterday though when the FedEx man dropped off my new antenna: a Pro-1B magnetic loop antenna from Pixel Technologies.

If you’re unfamiliar with magnetic loops and how they work, check out this video from Pixel technologies on how they work, and why you might want one if you live in a noisy urban environment. I am fortunate though in that I live in a small town, and don’t have a lot of noise sources to contend with. For me, the big attraction is directionality. With a cheap TV antenna rotor, I have a rotatable, bi-directional antenna that requires very little in the way of a footprint or or support. In my case, this antenna is basically mounted to the corner of a chain link fence about 10 feet off of the ground. No guy wires needed, just some pipe clamps and a few cable ties.

I’ve only had a chance to play with this antenna for a couple of hours, but so far I am very impressed, and somewhat surprised by the results. I was not expecting the signals to be as strong as they are using this loop. in fact, the signal level is almost identical when compared to my long wire. I was also somewhat concerned by the antenna’s proximity to the chain link fence, and whether or not it would adversely affect the directional performance of the loop. I’m happy to report that is not the case at all. While I suppose performance could be even better if it was in a more isolated location, this antenna is capable of reducing the signal of WHO, my local 50 KW flame thrower,  by about 30 dB. Other experiments, which I tried to commit to video, show how this antenna can be used to null out a local ‘graveyard’ station KASI on 1430, reduce the signal of Radio Nacional da Amazonia on 11780, or separate Cuba from Radio Australia on 6150.

All in all, I’d say this antenna has made a heck of a first impression. It not only holds its own on signal strength with my long wire, it gives me an element of directionality I didn’t have before. All in all, I’m looking forward to having this antenna in my DXing arsenal.

 

 

Recovering from Dayton

A couple of the goodies that "followed me home" from Dayton. So I’ve been home from Dayton for a few days now, and i am only now starting to feel like I’m returning to normal. I guess three days of long drives, eating like crap, hiking through the tailgate multiple times, and sleeping on a couch will take its toll on you.

Of course, I would do it all again tomorrow if I had the chance. It was great to hang out with some old friends, not to mention talk a lot of radio with all kinds of like minded people. All in all, I’d say this was  a great experience, one I’m looking forward to doing again in the future.

As you can see, I didn’t leave Dayton empty handed. (Hey, who does?) The good folks over at  Universal Radio had the Perseus SDR deeply discounted for the show, so I decided to take the plunge and see if it lives up to its rep. I’ve had more than one DXer tell me it’s the best receiver they’ve ever used. I will be letting you know what I think over the next few weeks.

On a completely different side of things is this beautiful Hallicrafters SX-62a. I’ve seen these radios on eBay for about $300, and they looked like they’d been drug behind a truck. This one is clean and seems to work, and it only set me back $175. It’s probably not much of a DX machine, but it will be an awful lot of fun. I can’t wait to hear Radio Nacional da Amazonia played through those tubes!

Besides these finds and a few books, I also ordered a couple of receive only antennas that will be arriving at the home listening post here in a few weeks. The first one is a Pixel Technologies RF-PRO1B magnetic loop, which should be a nice addition to my existing long wire.

The second one is worthy of its own write up, as it is new to the market from Array Solutions. They have taken the foundation laid by the K9AY Loop and come up with what they’re calling the ‘Shared Apex Loop Array’. Not exactly the catchiest of names, but it could be a beast of a receive antenna. It’s four loops can be steered to one of eight directions, as well as omni and bi-directional as well. It also fits into a circle with an 18′ radius, meaning it will fit in a pretty modest back yard. I have been in lust with the K9AY for about 15 years now, so it didn’t take much arm twisting to get me to pick up their latest and greatest. Expect a full write up about this antenna after it arrives sometime early this summer.

So there you have it, my trip to Dayton in a nutshell. If you’ve never made the trip, you really owe it to yourself to make the effort. Your bank book may never be the same, but your radio room will thank you.