Burlington Flea Market

While there weren’t the crowds we used to see a decade ago, the Burlington Flea Market yesterday for me was excellent as I sold all but one Vibroplex bug.

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The rest of the guys staffing the Oakville Amateur Radio Club table had much the same results as we sold tons of stuff in the first hour and then the buyers left and the tourists arrived :)

By 10 am I was ready to go with a pocket full of cash and a lot less equipment piled up around the station.

It didn’t hurt that I’d advertised most of the stuff on the Ontario Swap Shop site and several pieces of equipment went even before I arrived at the flea market.

Now I’ve got to think about my next Ham Radio project before I head off to Dayton.

Stuff For Sale

Just in time for the Burlington Flea Market this weekend (Feb. 28) I’m cleaning out the shack with these four sale items.

_DSC0001This is Ten Tec’s excellent R-4020 five-watt QRP CW rig with custom stand that’s perfect for cottage or QSOs from the trail or even some contesting (as it has filters!). Here’s what it’s got and I’m looking for $150 including the stand.

Bright easy to read LCD display informs you of frequency, mode, supply voltage, S meter, RIT and more
• BNC RF connector
• Sensitivity (typical) .8 micro volts. MDS .2 micro volts
• Transmitter power, 5 watts (typical)
• Powerful DDS electronic synthesizers allow 5-16 MHz general coverage receive.
• Convenient 20 frequency memory storage
• Includes internal battery holders for alkaline batteries. An external (optional) 12 to 14 VDC regulated power supply may also be used.
• Easily adjustable tuning steps for both Amateur bands and general short wave listening.
• Low current consumption: About 55 mA on receive or about 550-950 mA on transmit depending on supply voltage
• Built in adjustable keyer with automatic CQ and call sign insertion for memory keying.
• Use with straight key or your favorite key paddle.
• Built in crystal filters for 2.2-1.6 kHz SSB or 900-400 Hz in CW
• 8 ohm headphone output (requires stereo plug). No internal speaker.
• RIT (receive incremental tuning) allows for 10Hz or 100 Hz tuning
• Power Plug- 2.1mm ID x 5.5mm OD with center positive. The Radio Shack part number for an equivalent is 274-1567. They come in a two pack for $3.29.
• Battery holders for eight “AA” batteries are packaged inside the transceiver. The transceiver can be powered by internal batteries (customer provided) or external DC power.
• Size: 5.7” X 3.7” X 1.4” (not including knobs)
• Weight: 15.8 oz (not including batteries)

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Next up is my excellent and very clean NorCal 20. This contest-quality QRP rig runs 5 watts CW across most of the 20-meter CW portion of the band. It’s got filtering on receive and the 10-turn pot is very stable. Frequency is determined by pushing the annunciator button which sounds off in CW. There’s a built-in keyer and it can take a memory keyer Tick chip which are available online for $20 or so. It’s a first-class rig and gets you on the air for a mere $60. I’ve got three of these so this one has got to go :)

_DSC0005This is a Vibroplex Lightening Bug at $70! Why so cheap? It works perfectly but has a small chip in the chrome on one corner which hasn’t moved in the 25 years I’ve owned it. I’ve got four bugs and two hands so this one is up for sale.

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This is a Vibroplex Standard bug that’s in perfect condition. It runs as fast as you can send and at $125 it won’t last long.

All of the above will be at the Burlington Flea Market so come on out and pickup one of these bargains!

OARC Meeting Tuesday

There is nothing more annoying (even costly) to get hacked these days.

Our own Rod Hardman, VE3RHF is giving a workshop on OnePassword which is an amazing way to secure your passwords.

Personally I can’t wait for Tuesday’s workshop as I’ve got OnePassword on my computers, IPhone and IPad and I haven’t figured out how to use it :(

We’re meeting at 7pm at Abbey Park High School likely in a second-floor school room (there is an elevator) and the meeting will end no later than 9pm.

Hope to see you there.

Is Neil Young Crazy?

Huge debate about whether Neil Young’s new PonoPlayer is a “revolution in music listening” or an audio scam?13dcca4963a4ea8d50ff39ed1ae1b580243ac376

You’re hearing from a guy who bought headphones that cost as much as most entry-level Ham Radio transceivers and DAC (digital audio convertor) that wasn’t much less.

Plus I had to have the Astell and Kern digital player which is described in rave reviews as ak120II-690x690insanely expensive and then I bought a $400 Picollo amp to boost the audio to drive my super expensive headphones and my semi-super expensive in-ear monitors (Shure 535) which require a dead-quiet amp or you can easily detect a background hiss. (Which I can’t with this setup.)CypherLabs_Picollo(blk)

So here we have online tech guy David Pogue who lines up a bunch of “average” folks (who we know nothing about) and asks them whether they prefer the lossless music files that the Pono can play (which contain about 20 times more data than an MP3 music file) as compared to the Apple IPhone which plays MP3-quality audio.

Let’s be clear here. Apple devices in general are pretty good music players. Ask any kid walking down the street with his $10 earbuds plugged into his IPhone and he or she will tell you that they like what they hear. An Apple IPod line-out feeding a small headphone audio amp into decent headphones will astound you with its quality and punch.

And compared to most crap systems that people have in their houses, their cars and in their pockets, the kids have got it right. The Apple system especially if you listen to it through good headphones will be nearly perfect.51T9W65jR0L._SY355_

I highly recommend the Grado 60s at $90. These headphones are very very good for the price and can be driven by just about any music player including the IPhone or any smartphone for that matter.

And, in general, listening to MP3s with decent headphones at less than nose-bleed volumes will sound to most people just fine. It’s no surprise to me that everyone in Pogue’s online test preferred the sound of the IPhone even when using the cheap earbuds.

It’s a sound that we’ve become uses to hearing when we listen to music. And let’s face it: There are some people (I’d say most) who can’t hear the difference a really great music system playing really high-end digitally perfect lossless makes.

MP3s and CDs can sound tinny especially when listening to symphony orchestras. But who listens to symphony orchestras anymore?

20140710114627I am listening to Maria Callas being losslessly streamed from Tidal Sweden and her voice is ripping the heck out of my $85 Fiio DAC/Amp which is feeding my Tivoli stereo with a sub-woofer whose speakers are shredding under the assault.

Plug in my Audeze LCD-X headphones and it’s a whole new experience.

Anybody could tell the difference.LCD-X-3Q-Left

Next up is Callas singing Madame Butterfly and if you were listening there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house. Callas and the reproduction I’m listening to is transcendent.

So why did Pogue’s test fail old Neil Young so completely and so badly?

Well first off, as I said we don’t know the listeners and whether they can actually hear good streaming music but what’s worse are the headphones that Pogue dragged out.49510

Sony MDR 7506 at $140 aren’t what I’d consider Hi-Fi let alone about to resolve the sounds coming out of the Pono. (You’ll notice if you search that the Sony’s aren’t reviewed on any of the high-end audiophile sites but the consumer sites rave about it. I’m sure it’s an adequate upgrade from $10 earbuds but that’s not what we want here. Ignore the word “professional” on the earphones covers.)

Also Pogue used a RadioShack switcher and RCA connections in his test. I can’t think of a worse system and one designed to make everything sound like the same crap coming out of the headphones.f99b83dc5fba298a7f4c78de64897e0b5b88138a-2

Neil Young’s Pono system isn’t designed for the Dave Pogues of this world or his friends with their hearing issues.

It is designed for people who love music. It is designed for young people who still have the full range of their hearing. (I’ve lost a lot of my top end as I age. Tinnitus doesn’t help either but such are the burdens of old age. A great music system is partially lost to me but the part that remains…well, it is a worthwhile experience despite all that.

So let’s pretend there isn’t a difference between an IPhone with earbuds and Neil’s Pono device and the accompanying lossless downloads. Let’s just say it’s all in the head of the listener.

So what?

If the listener’s eyes cross when Maria hits high C, it doesn’t matter which system you’re using so long as you’re enjoying the experience.

And trust me, I am enjoying the experience…a lot. It is the best sound I have ever heard.

My father was into music. He was a musician back in his youth playing trumpet in a band. When he grew older he had one of the first high-end Hi-Fi systems (before stereo) in the neighbourhood. He had hundreds of 78s and 33 1/3 vinyl records. The custom-built furniture filled the dining room and the speakers in the front room were the size of large blanket boxes on stubby legs. My mother wasn’t much amused.

Dad would be amazed to listen to his music through a decent set of headphones being streamed losslessly from Sweden (I have a subscription to Tidal at $20-/month.) out of player the size of a deck of cards.

And I think he’d agree: Old Neil has actually got it right.

Contest Club Ontario’s Annual Winter Lunch

With almost 50 in attendance, Contest Club Ontario’s annual winter luncheon was a huge success.P1270029

Falling on a non-contest Saturday, some of Ontario’s (and the World’s) best contesters gather in Oakville at the Knights of Columbus Hall for food, talks and eyeball QSOs.P1270018

I have a presentation on QRP contesting (CCO.key) and Igor, VE3ZF gave a presentation on a contesting expedition to Manitoulin Island; John, VE3EJ, gave his Contest U presentation on coaxial cables; and Pete, VE3IKV, gave a presentation on using elevated verticals.P1270036

That’s John in photo right holding a piece of hardline. Wonder if this is any indication of how much power VE3EJ is actually running….just kidding as this is a piece of commercial hardline.

For more information about Contest Club Ontario please visit their website and see you in the next contest.

New Ontario Small Parts Seller

I managed to mangle a small capacitive trimmer on my CRK-10A and I didn’t have any in the junk box. A trip to the local small parts guys in Burlington didn’t help so I was thinking I might have to wait until my May trip to Dayton.th2W72A4AD

But as chance would have it (thanks to Google) I found Netty Electronics.

Netty Electronics is a retirement opportunity of Earl Andrews, VA3AB who is located in Elliot Lake. Earl has been going around to flea markets and buying up small parts and if you’ve got bags of small parts he might be interested in hearing from you at earl@nettyelectronics.com

BTW he has a couple of small capacitive trimmers and the total cost including postage is under $5.

Try getting one of the big parts guys to work with you if you’re just buying a couple of trimmers!

Checkout Netty Electronics for your next small parts purchase.

Champagne Music On Beer Budget

There is a way to great really great music streaming in your home without it costing just under $5,000. (Photo left – Audeze LCD-X)LCD-X-3Q-Left

Sure a $1500 DAC paired with $2000 headphones makes for a pretty good start but you can get 80-85 per cent of the same quality for under $200!51T9W65jR0L._SY355_

The cheapest audiophile quality headphones I know of are Grado 60s (Photo right). They’re available from a few top-end retailers for under $100 and worth every penny.

As for a decent DAC/AMP you can’t go wrong with Fiio which is available online for around $100. I’ve got a couple of them.41o+llXS8cL

Both the Fiio line and the Grado headphones of all types are available from Headphoneshop on Yonge Street south of the 401 and worth the visit. Just keep control of your wallet. I went in a couple of weeks ago to buy a DAC for around $75 (my secret high price was no more than $300) and I came back after a few trips with what I paid for my first car!

839353Of course with equipment this good you’ll want to get a subscription to Spotify for $10 a month which streams CD quality audio or Tidal at $20 a month which streams lossless files more than twice the size.

Regardless of which way you go, you will be treated to some of the best listening you’ve every heard. I’ve setup my downstairs stereo and a second stereo in my upstairs music room to accept streaming audio which I can access using a computer, tablet or smartphone.Side Bronze

My last purchase (or I’m going to start going to meetings…I’m an audiophile and I am helpless upon entering audio stores) is a set of Shure 535 in-ear monitors. I’m still getting used to them but there is a secret to putting them on. Use a mirror. It speeds up the process. They sound amazing.

Duelling QRP Rigs

The Oakville Amateur Radio Club had a QRP rig build day at my QTH on Saturday. We had four guys building and two guys coaching (one guy visiting) as we put together the CRK-10a 3-watt CW xtal-controlled on 7030 (I already had one so I build the 30-meter version)._DSC5231

To say we had a great time wouldn’t even be close. And we all learned a lot about building and to take any estimate on build time and multiple it by three :)

Any way I now have duelling QRP rigs running simultaneously on 7030 (into the 40-meter loaded dipole on the Hy-Gain beam) and 10.106 (into a Butternut vertical).

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Thanks to Jim VE3AJ, and Denny, VE3OKD for their excellent coaching. Waiting to hear the guys pop up on 7030. Maybe tonight around 7pm or so have a listen to the signals from the Oakville club.

Introduction To Contesting

Despite the sub-zero temperatures the members of the Oakville Amateur Radio Club were treated to a red hot presentation on Contesting by our own world-class contester Dennis, VE3JAQ.

Dennis has won his category in some of the big international contests and trust me, as a long-time contester myself, Dennis taught me a thing or two about improving my contesting abilities.

Here’s a link to a PDF of Dennis’s talk. So you wanna try contesting

After Dennis’s presentation I offered a quick overview of contesting quality software and hardware.

Here’s a link to a PDF of my talk. Contesting Resources

Coincidentally the ARRL Contest Update newsletter has links to several other contest-related PDFs that I think you’ll find worthwhile:

Adding an SDR to an SO2R Station – Google Slides

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N6TV_Dayton_2013_Using_the_RBN

N6TV_Dayton_2014_CW_Skimmer_Update

N6TV_Dayton_2014_Using_Waterfall_Displays

N6TV_Visalia_Waterfall_Displays