Category Archives: K9ZW Shack

Island Building, a new Shack and Workshop, Equipment, Tower and Antenna Decisions

More significant construction is happening on my Washington Island (Wisconsin – Island #WI-001L) building.

Garage Build - Framing

Garage Build – Framing

Presently my physical operating position is in the basement of the house, though with the shack technology I’m using I can operate really anywhere on the property or where there is good internet.

This 1200+ square foot building is of course multipurpose – Garage, Workshop, Storage and Shack space.  Initially my focus is on the first three in the list, as this had QTH lacked garaging, a place to work inside on a car or boat, and was lite on storage.

Provisions were designed in to use the building as a Ham Shack when my “on-Island time” increases enough to warrant heating the new building over the winters.

Initially I’m anticipating keeping all the gear in the present shack location, while setting up a dedicated operating position in this new building.  With the FlexRadio System Flex-6700 Radio, their PowerGenius XL Amp, and then 4o3a’s “Flex-Aware” AntennaGenius, RotorGenius and control modules, remoting basically involves bringing fiber out to this new building to connect the operating position gear.

Initial operating position gear concept is a Maestro, a Desktop Win10 PC, and an iMac.  When time allows I’m aiming to do a custom switch-control with slave control heads in both the new building operating position and in the main physical shack.  That’s down the road, as antenna building is the next red hot priority.

First permanent antenna going in is a custom Extra-Heavy-Duty Five-Zero multiband vertical.  Hoping to get the base in when the new building’s approach is poured to save concrete mobilization costs.

I am deciding what follows next, as I may be reserving the 70 Foot Skyneedle and may put up a much simpler “intermediate tower” on the island.

My intent is to operate from the Island with a Hexbeam.   Both noting that Hexbeams perform best somewhat lower than Yagi’s and LPDA’s, and that Hexbeams are questionable in stacked-antenna situations, it seems a waste to put up the 70 foot Skyneedle while only needing to get the Hexbeam up 40 feet.

Presently I have three different Hexbeams – the DX Engineering Multiband I bought while waiting for the others to arrive, the Custom RadioWavz Barrett Sentinel which adds more bands, but is quite large, and an SP7IDX Expedition Grade Hexbeam that was delayed in transit seemly forever while in customs clearance.

Lots to decide.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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FlexRadio Systems Flex-6600M Transceiver and Power Genius XL Amplifier in early use

FlexRadio Systems extended me an opportunity to acquire one of the first production run Flex-6600M Transceivers and a few weeks back a PowerGenius XL Amplifier both early as a “Beta Team” participant.  (I’ll be abbreviate Flex-6600M as just “6600M”, Flex-6700 as just “6700” and the PowerGenius XL Amplifier as “PGXL.”)

As mentioned, I’d participated in a similar program when the Flex-6700 launched.

The “Beta Team” really couple be considered “Late Addition Alpha Team” or “Temporary Alpha Team” or “Little Alpha Team” team members, as to handle the information flow.

Quick disclaimer FRS is still working on parts of the product package for the new Radios, so while I will receive production hardware, the configuration and software parts are not in the final general release form. This again parallels the Flex-6700 program I had participated in.

In my case this new Flex-6600M it will temporarily displace a Flex-6700 at my main home QTH.   I’m definitely planning to retain that Flex-6700.  I have configured the station temporarily to allow fairly quick A/B switching from the 6600M to the 6700.  I have enough W2IHY switchgear to potentially hardwire the A/B setup, but for now the intent is to do plug and play.

My shack is compact – and is especially compact as the sanctity of my radio shack in the old wine cellar room has been encroached  upon severely by buying too much wine in Italy and from a long time Alpha team’s family’s California Vineyard, all arriving as I decided that personal health triumphs.  So those cases have filled what extra area the shack had.

To make room, after my personal testing of the PGXL I’ve decided to remove the Alpha 9500 Amplifier and the Expert SPE 1KW backup Amplifier physically from the operating area, putting them on my “shack reserve shelving” for the moment where they join my fail-safe Alpha 78 Amplifier and a 6M King Conversion Amplifier.  Actually I enlisted some help from my youngest son, Victor KC9NWB, as any college kid home for winter break should get a chance to lug his Dad’s ham shack gear around, right?

I still need to figure out where to move a few items to, especially the audio-amplifier that was going to help tweak my main Shure SM5B microphone’s voice signal but has ended up set so flat that it is really just isolation and audio signal gain.   That said, here is the 6600M/PGXL as of January 6th 2018:

K9ZW 6600M and PGXL Overview

K9ZW 6600M and PGXL Overview

 

I’ve found the 6600M/PGXL combination really awesome to use.  Reports “out of the box” have been so good that I’ve not spent much time optimizing settings yet.

My station is pretty simple, smaller scale, and gets ends up effective.  The6600M/PGXL combination have in two simple pieces of gear have noticeably improved my station.

I was having so much fun working DX on 20m, that I forgot to snap a photo to share until propagation changed enough that 80m was the lively band.  My present home antenna situation is limiting on 40/80/160m bands compared to 20/17/15/12/10 and the UHF/VHF bands.  So I turned things back on a shot a quick snap will running 80m figuring you all have seen a full panadapter screen before!

So here a quick “station selfie” snap:

 

K9ZW 6600M and PGXL Up Close

K9ZW 6600M and PGXL Up Close

As previously mention that like both of my Flex-6700’s, this new Flex-6600M was ordered with the GPSDO option.  If software eventually allows I hope to use the accurate time stamping on a station-mixing basis.  If that doesn’t happen the extra accuracy never hurts.

 

My “Late Addition Alpha Team” status came with my agreeing to not speculate and to not detail the exact Alpha Team’s progress & problem solving details, but I am pretty sure it didn’t have any agreement preventing my speaking to how absolutely engaged the FlexRadio Systems, 4o3a Team, and the Alpha Testers really are.  The efforts, feedback/update speed is truly impressive!!

More later this week, and as a teaser I’m going to add two more photos that I will explain in-depth in a later posting – with the SmartSDR versions improving I’ve run into a band situation where 160m was unworkable until I engaged the FlexRadio Systems exclusive WNB (Wide Noise Blocker).

 

SmartSDR no filters and a bad 160m band

SmartSDR no filters and a bad 160m band

 

SmartSDR with WNB making the 160m band okay

SmartSDR with WNB making the 160m band okay

Pay attention to the waterfall difference – the noise is gone I was in business, if RX a bit faint (55 to 53 – clear but weak).  As for the source of the noise, I’ll have to see if it reappears and track it down.

Much much more to follow!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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What is that holding up my Power Meter? FlexRadio Systems 4o3a Power Genius XL Amp!

 

Alpha Power Meter Stand?

Good News:  My FlexRadio Systems Power Genius XL Amp has arrived and is working great!

Not So Good News:  I am having so much fun that I won’t have much extra time to blog about the experience until next weekend.

I’m doing a lot of exploring with the new amp, given my time limitations.  As you can see in the picture there is no problem putting out the power.   I’ll post some statistics once I have a good systematic run through the bands.

I’m thinking I will also have a Flex-6600M very shortly to pair with the Power Genius XL Amp!

More when I get time.  Kind of wished I had more free time this week, but alas something has to pay for radio pleasures.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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FlexRadio Systems 4o3a Power Genius XL Amplifier – arrived but still in the box….

Power Genius XL in its Shipping Box

Good News:  My FlexRadio Systems Power Genius XL Amp has arrived

Not So Good News:  I am still at work.

I’ve walked up to look at the box 3-4 times so far.

Guess I know what I will be preoccupied with at home tonight! Setting up the Power Genius XL Amp!

73

Steve
K9ZW

FlexRadio Systems Flex-6600M Transceiver – also on the way

FlexRadio Systems extended an opportunity to acquire one of the first production run Flex-6600M Transceivers early as a “Beta Team” participant.

As mentioned, I’d done a similar program when the Flex-6700 launched.  I currently have a FlexRadio System PowerGenius XL (PGXL) amplifier in transit on the same early-adopter program.

Quick disclaimer FRS is still working on parts of the product package for the new Radios, so while I will receive production hardware, the configuration and software parts are not in the final general release form. This again parallels the Flex-6700 program.

In my case this new Flex-6600M it will temporarily displace a Flex-6700 at my main home QTH.   I’m definitely planning to retain that Flex-6700.  More when the Amp shows.

Like both of my Flex-6700’s, this Flex-6600M was ordered with the GPSDO option.  If software eventually allows I hope to use the accurate time stamping on a station-mixing basis.  If that doesn’t happen the extra accuracy never hurts.

Oh, in clarity the FRS expanded test team has been both called “Beta Test Team” and as temporary Alpha Testers.  This special status is expected to disappear in a few weeks, so basically FRS cloned the agreements from the established Alpha team and pressed them into service in the effort to get these radios (and the first PGXL amps) into  wider range of user’s hands.

Timing is interesting, as my piggy bank got spanked with two units of expense.  Glad I saved for these station components!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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FlexRadio Systems 4o3a Power Genius XL Amplifier – in transit and due Monday….

Good News:  my Power Genius XL should be here before Christmas.  Fingers crossed.

Per UPS: Delivery by End of Business Day Monday December 18th

Should be fun when the Amp shows.

73

Steve K9ZW

 

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