Saturday, April 24, 2010

Interesting QRPTTF results

First off .... where did the propagation go? Where did the sunspots go? Before that Coronal Mass Ejection that occurred a few weeks ago, it looked like the sun was finally waking up and that Cycle 24 was on the upswing. Now the solar flux is below 80 and the SSN is zilch again. I was hoping for better conditions for QRPTTF this year; but it seems like the same conditions that plagued is for QRPTTF 2009 came back for 2010.

I did hear a lot of Florida QSO Party stations; so there were signals. It seems that there were not a lot of QRPers active today. I could not persuade the kids to come with me to the park for the event (where the fountain is that was built as a WPA project); so I operated as a "field station" from the backyard - temporary antennas and battery power. Actually, it turned out to be for the best as I finally got the chance to allow the PFR3A and the K1 to go against each other, head to head, mano a mano.

Not too surprisingly, the K1 ended up as the clear winner, at least according to my tally. This is for several reasons, some which are just personal preferences, I guess. But here goes:

1) I really hadn't thought of this before; but the K1 is actually smaller than the PFR3A ! It's roughly 1/2 to 2/3 the size.

2) The built in memory keyer in the K1 is MUCH, MUCH better - in fact, the PFR3A doesn't even come close. It's way easier to key in messages, and they playback without any issues. The PFR3 and PFR3A have a firmware problem that Steve KD1JV is addressing.

3) Display - in the bright sun, the LCD display of the K1 is so much easier to see than the PFR3A's LED (or I guess even Elecraft's own KX1 for that matter) display. Also, it is way more obvious to remember when the K1 is in RIT mode than the PFR3A. On the PFR3A a little decimal lights up. On the K1, the decimal blinks, AND a big green LED lights up to remind you that the RIT is on.

4) Audio output - the K1 is much louder. The speaker that is built in is quite adequate. The PFR3A is also adequate; but seems to work better with earbuds than an external speaker.

5) Tuning - I prefer a knob - what can I say?

6) Output power - not an issue as far as max power goes. But with the K1, I can vary the output down to milliWatts if I want to. Can't do that with the PFR3A unless you lower the supply voltage.

All that being said, the PFR3A's receiver is no slouch. I think the K1 holds a definite edge - but just about everything I was able to hear with the K1 - I could hear with the PFR3A. I won't go into the built in tuners between the two because that is like comparing apples to oranges. The K1's tuner is an auto tuner - the PFR3A's is a manual tuner.

I used both my Buddistick and the NorCal doublet. Again - apples and oranges. The Buddistick was a solid performer; but it is a pain in the keister when you want to change bands. Collapse the painter's pole, change the tap settings, extend the painter's pole again - adjust the counterpoise for an acceptable SWR. With the doublet, it was a simple matter of changing bands, and either letting the K1's autotuner do its thing; or touch up the settings on the Emtech ZM2 tuner when I was using the PFR3A. But the Buddistick was a better performer on 40 Meters. With the doublet, I was getting some power fold back issues - the same as last year.

In all, I think I only worked about five other QRPTTF stations. Not the outcome I was looking for; but it did allow me to experiment and play around. The PFR3A will definitely be relegated to back up status as far as my choice of field radios goes. Or perhaps ..... I really would like to acquire a Kenwood TH-F6A HT for my CERT activities. Maybe I can convert the PFR3A to cash. I'll have to think about that.

72 de Larry W2LJ

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