Anita and I had the good fortune to attend the 2013 Hamvention in Dayton, Ohio USA again this year. The Dayton Hamvention covers almost everything Amateur Radio that one can image and it has something for everyone. We’d like to share some of the highlights of this year’s Dayton Hamvention that were of interest to us.
Anita, AB1QB, began her Dayton Hamvention experience by spending a day at Contest University where she gathered some ideas and information to forward her knowledge as a contester. Anita put together a nice summary of what she saw and learned at Contest University which can be viewed here. We spent the following two days looking at all of the exhibits on the main show floor. Our first stop was the ARRL Area. Here we looked at the latest books and publications, dropped off a pile of cards going to the US Bureau, and had a couple of hundred cards checked towards endorsements on our DXCC and WAS awards.
All of the major radio manufacturers (Icom, Yaesu, Kenwood, Ten-Tec and Elecraft) had large displays at the show and they were all packed. One of the more interesting things we saw there was a prototype of Elecraft’s new KXPA100, 100w amplifier for use with the KX3 and other QRP transceivers.
The unit is a compact and highly portable package and should be a very nice complement to the KX3 for higher power portable operations.
We also spent quite a bit of time at the FlexRadio Systems booth. Anita and I have a new Flex-6700 Software Defined Radio on order and we wanted to learn as much about the Flex-6700 as we could. Fortunately, we had a chance to talk with Steve Hicks, VP of Engineering at FlexRadio to gain a much better understanding of the design, architecture and evolution plans for the Flex 6000 series. I expect that this will be one very impressive radio! Unlike previous designs, the 6000 series radios directly sample signals in the RF domain and do all processing and detection of signals digitally. This eliminates the need for roofing and other RF band filtering and allows the radio to operate on multiple frequencies/bands at the same time. The Flex-6700 can implement up to 8 separate receivers simultaneously allowing multiple bands to be monitored. It should also make a great contest radio as its capable of up to SO8V operation. The direct RF sampling approach coupled with the radio’s dynamic range of 140 dB creates a radio that has much lower distortion products and better selectivity that anything else which is currently available. Steve gave an excellent presentation on the architecture of the 6000 series which includes some very good information as part of one of the Forum sessions at the Dayton Hamvention. Creating a new radio and all new software for it is a very large project and it appears that the folks at FlexRadio are almost ready to begin shipping the Flex 6000 series radios. We are hoping to have our Flex-6700 by the end of the summer and we will provide a post here on the new radio once we have it in place in our shack.
As you may know from reading our Blog, I have been working on my CW skills for the past several months. I am beginning to get pretty serious about CW operation and I wanted to get a really good set of paddles. After looking around at many options at Dayton, I decided to purchase a Begali Sculpture Key.
Begali makes some of the finest CW keys and paddles in the world. I really like the feel of the Sculpture. It is very solid, heavy and has a very short “throw” during operation. Mr. Begali spent some time with me to show me how to properly setup and maintain my new paddles.
I cannot wait to get home and get the Sculpture key setup in the shack. It will surely provide more good motivation to continue to improve my CW skills!
While a big part of the displays at Dayton are about hardware equipment (radios, antennas, accessories, etc.), I have noticed an increasing trend towards software vendors at Dayton over the last two years. Anita and I have recently switched to the DXLab Suite of software for logging, award tracking, rig control, QSL’ing, etc. DXLab had a nice display at Dayton. We spent some time with Dave Bernstein, AA6YQ who showed us several features of the DXLab Suite that we did not know about. One cool one was the ability to use Google Earth to plot all kinds of QSO information on a world map. You can see an example of this feature in our Blog by clicking here. Dave also gave an excellent presentation on the DXLab Suite as part of one of the forums at Dayton.
Another interesting piece of software we saw was FreeDV. This software implements a royalty free codec inside a software program which can be used to send and receive digital voice transmissions on the HF bands. The royalty free codec aspect of this software is a key element as the licensing fees associated with the codecs used by other digital voice systems from Icom, Yaesu, etc. make up a significant portion of the cost of a digital voice enabled radio. The FreeDV folks are also working on a 2M HT which will have their codec built-in. This should be a very interesting product when it comes to market. I plan to try FreeDV in the near future and I am planning a Blog post to share more information about it sometime in the future.
Anita and I spent quite a bit of time with Chris and Budd Drummond and the gang at Buddipole. Anita and I are big fans of the Buddipole System and we have used it in numerous portable operations including Field Day and a DXpedition to Bora Bora Island in French Polynesia. We heard a lot about various portable operations and DXpeditions that Chris and the gang have done using their portable antenna system. We also talked about some projects that are underway related to yagi’s built using the Buddipole system. Stay tuned for more on this topic in future Blog posts.
The folks at Green Heron Engineering have a new Az-El Rotator Controller in the works which should be very useful for controlling Satellite and EME antenna systems. Green Heron Engineering is also continuing to expand the capabilities of their GH Everywhere remote control hardware and software lineup. We use the Green Heron RT-21D Rotator Controllers in our shack and have been very happy with them.
Anita has long been interested in the idea of operating our station remotely via her iPad. We visited Pignology at Dayton to learn about their Piglet and PigRemote devices which enable this sort of operation with the Elecraft KX3 and other radios. We decided to try the PigRemote and we are planning a post on our Blog sometime in the future which shares our experiences with the product.
There were also some great Forum Presentations at the Dayton Hamvention and one of our favorites is the DX Forum. We listened to several presentations on recent DXpeditions including the 7O6T Operation in Yemen and the PT0S Operation on St. Peter & Paul Rocks. It is always fun to hear about the planning and work that goes into a DXpedition and these talks were no exception.
We also attended the Top Band Dinner at the Dayton Hamvention where we met some very nice folks and heard some great presentations from a few of the top 160m DX’ers.
All of this just barely scratches the surface of what there is to see and learn at the Dayton Hamvention. We hope that you have enjoyed this post and we hope to see you at the Dayton Hamvention sometime in the near future.
– Fred (AB1OC)