IC-756 for sale

Looks like I’ve got an Icom 756 (with dual 500 Hz CW filters) for sale (Make me an offer.)

The 756 has served me well since the day I bought it. It has DSP but unlike some later rigs which had full-time DSP, on the 756 you can turn it on or off. This is a great feature if you’re working in a neighbourhood with another ham. With Harry, VA3EC, 360 meters north of me, it’s a big advantage to take the DSP out and add 12db of front-end attenuation. With that setup I can work within 5 kHz of him without much effort.

The 756 has one issue and that’s the front display panel has some bars (a known issue) but that affects the selling price 🙂

So why am selling my trusty IC-756? 

It’s called the Flexradio 1500 (Oh here he goes again.)!

Last weekend was the CQ 160 meter CW contest. So just for fun I wired up the IC-756 and the Flexradio 1500 to an A/B switch and I listened to the same signals using the same antenna by switiching back and forth.

I’ve always found the CQ 160 CW contest to be a tough test of equipment. First my only 160 antenna is an Alpha Delta 160/80/40/30 sloper that comes off my tower at around 45 feet and is terminated by tying it off from a fence post about six feet off the ground. This is so not good. Also I don’t have a Beverage antenna or K9AY loop for receiving so I can’t hear anything due to my noise. Being situated less than 500 meters from the north shore of Lake Ontario means I don’t have any elevation.

So lots of noise, no elevation, an antenna that acts more like a dummy load, only 100 watts right now and what do you get? A headache and few QSOs.

So how did the rigs compare?

I tuned (I think) N4ZZ running early on Friday night. He was about S9 (or better). Many of the stations calling him I could barely hear or not hear at all.

On the 756 N4ZZ sounded terrific. Beautiful CW note and lots of strength. I brought in both 500 Hz CW filters (making for an effective filtering around 350 to 400 Hz) and I listened intently.

On the 1500 I reduced the filter bandwidth down to 400 Hz.

I pipped the audio to ordinary (crappy) computer speakers on both systems so as to avoid better audio from better headphones (I’ve got at least six pair.)

First thing I noticed was the noise between the 756 and  1500 read around S5 on both receivers but on the 1500 the background noise wasn’t anywhere near harsh. While listening to stations calling I could clearly hear stations on the 1500 that were less readable on the 756.

On both receivers I could hear other less strong stations just off frequency but when I reduced the bandwidth on the 1500 I could easily reduce or eliminate the signals.

So impressive was the difference I asked Marion, VE3HEN, (my XYL and SHMBO*) to witness the difference. (This was the beginning of the new computer campaign on the home front.)

So what was the end result? The 1500 was quieter and much less fatiguing to listen to. The 1500’s ability to filter down to 25 (yes you read that right) Hz without any noticeable deterioration of the quality of the CW note was amazing. Also there’s no comparison between the full-screen panoramic display on the 1500 compared to the cramped 2″ display on the 756. …and so the 756 is up for sale 🙂

So is everything perfect?

NO. Not by a long shot. I’m using really crappy computers that don’t have enough CPU power to run an SDR properly. If my CPU goes over 30 per cent usage it can affect the 1500’s keying. Nothing like have the computer drop a character of your call sign in the middle of a contest.

Also I’ve got the 1500 working in one window and Writelog working in a second which is activated by the mouse hovering over it. This system works better than it sounds. I can establish rig control and fire the CW memories in Writelog but it taxes the computer and I’ve screwed around with virtual ports and messed up both machines.

The simple answer to better SDR is a new more robust computer which is on the drawing board.

BTW the LDG Pro 200 autotuner worked perfectly (read the furbished manual) on 160!!! This is an amazing feat for such a small box. Once I got the autotune memories setup I could QSY anywhere on the band without the tuner readjusting itself. The Palomar 100-watt amplifier never even got warm despite putting out 60 to 80 watts into the autotuner.

So what’s in the plans?

I’m going with a Flex 300o or whatever is new once I’ve got $1500 in cash. The new computer will have sufficient horsepower to run it. Then it comes down to which amp and I’m leaning toward the Acom 1000 or Tokyo Power HL-1.2 or 1.1. I’ll likely go for the LDG high-power autotuner as well and then I’m done…  🙂





* SWMBO – She who must be obeyed from Rumpole of the Bailey.

Receiver Test Data

One of the highlights of Contest University which takes place at the Dayton Hamvention in May is the annual report by Sherwood Engineering rating receiver performance. Trust me, Sherwood gores some highly expensive and overrated receivers during his past presentations and this year (if he’s doing it) report should be even more controversial.


Well read it yourself and rate your rig!

The top 10 are:

  1. Yaesu FTdx-5000D
  2. Elecraft K3
  3. Perseus
  4. Flex 5000A
  5. Ten-Tec Orion II
  6. Ten-Tec Orion
  7. Ten-Tec Eagle
  8. Flex 3000
  9. Kenwood TS-590s (20 meters down-conversion)
  10. Kenwood TS-590S (17 meters up-convesion)

A couple of observations:

First, Ten-Tec, an American radio manufacturer should be over the moon with this report. Amazing to have three radios in the top 10 especially when one of the radios, the Eagle, costs around $2K.

Second, Yaseu is the top dog but at $6K plus and 46 pounds in weight it should be top something.

The K3 continues to impress but the bigger news (IMHO) is the rise of the SDR with Flex taking two spots and Perseus taking number three.

Kenwood’s under $2K TS-590s looks like a real winner and they are going to sell a ton of them at this price.

The bad news: Icom’s 7800 comes in 18th place just above the K2 and Icom’s 7600 is even further down the list. IC-756 Pro IIIs don’t rate as well as an ancient Atlas 210.

Remember, Sherwood is rating receiver performance. If you’re hanging out on 80 meters talking to your friends, an SB-101 Heathkit will do just fine.

My Drake 2-B receiver is the pride of my operating table (for now) and it doesn’t make a mention on the list (nor should it). But it is a lovely radio to listen to and use on CW and SSB plus you can warm your hands from the heat of the tubes (hollow glass vacuum devices that promote the flow of electrons).

We aren’t obsolete. It’s worse.

If I read the tea leaves correctly New Brunswick has become the latest province to ban the use of handheld devices by drivers on provincial roadways. The legislation provides no exemption for the use of amateur radio equipment prompting “hysterical outpouring” from at least one local ham and snarly comments by readers in response that are appearing in the letters to the editor section of the province’s Times & Transcript newspaper.

This comes as no surprise.

We feel passionate about our hobby and are quick to defend it but as I counselled when I was VP of Public Relations for Radio Amateurs of Canada: This is not a fight we can win in the public arena.

Individual amateurs should be discouraged from firing off letters to the editor of newspapers or demanding petitions be sent to politicians.

The public and, in turn, the politicians don’t care about a bunch of ageing radio nuts who want to use their CB sets while driving to the beer store. Remember the general public just lost its own ability to talk freely on their precious cell phones (and in fact still do breaking the law in many jurisdictions) and have no sympathy for a bunch of hobbyists who want to talk to their friends.

Arguments that point out Amateur Radio’s long history of public service are long on vague references to participation and short on details which would add some credibility to our claims.

We aren’t obsolete. It’s worse. We’re considered irrelevant if considered at all.

It’s the same thing for the lame argument that provinces can’t legislate the use of radio equipment in motor vehicles. Whether they can or can’t is of no importance. The fact is they have and there’s nothing we can do about it (short of launching a million-dollar legal challenge). Repeating this dream in letters to the editor just muddies the waters and confuses the public.

What we should be doing is demanding our national organization mount a proper public relations campaign personally delivered by local regional directors or executive vice presidents who live in the affected regions to their politicians and other community leaders.

This isn’t rocket science folks.

We should be providing information to help guide legislation in those provinces which are considering banning handheld devices and creating a case for a permanent exemption in those provinces where legislation has already been passed. This requires someone to sit down and write out an argument supported by facts (such as a list of all the American and Canadian jurisdictions that exempted Amateur Radio along with supporting documents showing why).

Sending a letter, which RAC has done, is just not enough.

If fact, it’s less than enough, as it gives the impression that something is happening when in fact sending a letter like this is just a waste of paper.

If you want to write hysterical (or any other kind) of letters write them to your RAC executive and tell them what you think but don’t involve the general public in the discussion. They don’t care and nothing we can say will change their minds on this issue.

How to fund your ARES

Oakville, Ontario’s ARES group’s January 2011 newsletter is seven pages in length. I know of some national organization’s that don’t keep their members as well informed as this active group of willing volunteers.  🙂

The group meets in the new Halton police station (This is one way to get the police to notice your group.) in Oakville. The weekly net sees about a dozen checkins and there is a nightly six meter net on 50.130 at 20 hours (local EDT).

One innovative idea was a request to readers to donate any Canadian Tire money to the group. I’ve got a couple of bucks and I’ll be making a donation. Could your ARES group use a couple of bucks? Bet they’d be delighted.

Happy New Year

It’s January 4, 2011 and I’m back from two weeks vacation. Nice just to let the emails pile up and work the pile ups on the radio for a change. HI.

The ARRL Contest Update for January 5 has a couple of really good articles. The first is more of a list of SDR kit sites. If you haven’t used a software-define radio yet, this might be your year. SDR is going to grow in the next few years to the point that anything else is going to be considered an antique. This is going to be unpleasant for some of us but like the guys who used to be on AM (a few still are) on 80 meters every night, they’ll adapt..in time.

And yes SDR has issues especially with PCs (it is reported to run pretty good on MACs using PC emulators due to the way Apple computers work as compared to PCs) but these are minor issues as compared to amazing filtering, much quieter noise floors, huge panoramic displays that aren’t an extra $600 plus SDR radios themselves are tiny compared to analogue rigs.

The second article is one about how we have viewed amateur radio and the radio spectrum as a “tuned circuit” where we tune our radios sequentially by frequency. Now with software define radios it’s possible to tune all signals on the band at once in parallel. The article is by Ward, N0AX, and I highly recommend it. Very thoughtful commentary on the future of amateur radio.

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,800 times in 2010. That’s about 14 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 41 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 67 posts. There were 65 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 21mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was October 5th with 264 views. The most popular post that day was Thanks for the email.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were va3qv.wordpress.com, ve3mpg.blogspot.com, ve3clq.blogspot.com, radioroom.ca, and twitter.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for ve3hg, ts950, ve3hg blog, http://www.ve3hg.wordpress.com, and ts-950.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Thanks for the email October 2010


Kenwood TS-590s November 2010


Flex 1500 and CQP October 2010


So what happened? September 2010


Read VE3MPG’s Blog September 2010