For some time I have desired to pass on my 60 years of experience in radio station design and functionality. If you want some info on Mega Contest Stations, there are others that you can go to. If you want a functional and realistic station and you are a serious operator with some contesting operation in mind then stick around.
I have never had the inclination to climb towers or spend home equity loan money on a station. On the other hand, I have been a contester since 1959. I have a blog page on my contest history if you want to verify my achievements. While that is not my interest now, I still want to expand my DXCC when ever something comes up. Part of contesting is figuring out your category of competition after reviewing the past score history and existing records I shoot for my call district records in categories like "Single operator, 15/20 meter cw assisted by packet," Plenty of opportunities if you want to test yourself and your station.
This page is not as much on detailed equipment or antenna design as it is on the philosophy to adequately design and operate a station you enjoy. I am not selling a thing but I see some who never enjoy radio because their station is inadequate and I see some who way "over do it" and still never get on the air. If you are not going to get on the air , find another hobby.
BUILD A STATION THAT YOU WANT TO OPERATE!!
Let's look at the the following guidance concepts:
1, The Transceiver
You need a 100/200 watt multimode transceiver 160- 6 meters. Don't do qrp. No one can hear you and you will quickly get discouraged and quit. Take your 100 watt transceiver like and Icom, Yeasu , Elecraft Kenwood or Ten Tec and move the RF down to 5 watts and knock yourself out if you want not to be heard above the noise. Don't buy some rig designed not to get out above an ESP signal. It is actually rude to force pain on your fellow ham trying to copy your name. Get a 100 or 200 watt transceiver.I love my IC 7300. What a buy.
Spend some money.What if you had a fishing boat, a nice little bass boat with a 100 HP motor will whack you for about $20k. You might use it 5 times a year. You will use that radio 1000 times a year it it is handy and functional. How about a years worth of golf green fees or dues out at the old country club? Learn to fly your plane! What does that cost? How about a little road racing? Sky diving? Travel? My point is --SPEND SOME MONEY on a radio. I am not talking $8000 but $3000 -- Why not? . Buy something you like and want to enjoy. The best radio for the money today is easily the Icom 7300.But look at a K3S or the IC 7610. !!, the new sdr yeasu and kenwoods are fantastic. You might as well go SDR. I finally did and it was awesome.
In the selection of your rig be sure it is fully ready to interface with your computer. You will be logging, and able to control your radio on your computer. You will see a packet spot on a new country, click that spot with a mouse and your radio will move to that frequency and mode ready to pounce. Also your computer with the right operation software like Ham Radio Deluxe ( DM70) will be allowing you to copy and send all digital modes ( afsk rtty , psk 31, jt65, FT8 etc). Modern software allows you to instantly bring up QRZ.Com during a qso to assist you in understanding who you are in contact with and increase your conversational topics. The number one greatest contribution to the joy of operating your station is the computer and its abilities.
2. Get a linear DAMMIT!!
Don't wait . Just get one. 500 Watts is fine . The bigger the better-- Solid State-- Tube type , old- new I don't care. I use mine for DX -- I use it for poor bad conditions-- I may go days without using it but I NEED it on occasion and so will you. Bite this bullet!
This subject is my favorite.
Get a good Tribander or Multi band 2/3 element or better. The FORCE and HEX beams are two elements Multi Band and are great . I would rather have 8 db gain that 5, especially in contests and pile ups but to each his own according to your needs and real estate I do like the HEX with Warc bands . If you do nothing else on antennas -- Get a BEAM for 10 15 20.
Mount that beam at least 30 feet off the ground. You cannot believe the pile ups I have defeated with a 38 foot nested crank down tower and 1000 watts, I have a crank down and crank over tower for many reasons but get that antenna on a rotator at least 30 feet high.It will change your life.
If you are HOA restricted ,I really like mini Curtain ( see my page on that) . It can be very stealty and has 4 db broadside gain. I am amazed by that antenna,
Get a ground mounted vertical . I have article here on the Fan Vertical. You need to read that. I recommend 30 radials as long as practical on your estate. A good vertical will get you on the WARC bands with the fan concept. Really easy. Be sure and guy your vertical with weed eater line ( see article),Radials should be insulated and any length over 1/10th wave lengths unless they are elevated and then they need be 1/4 wave. Pretty simple stuff.
On 160 and 80 I recommend the half sloper off the top of the tower with the coax braid grounded to the tower, if you have the real estate. if you don't then use a loading coil to reduce the size but not the electrical length of the antenna. I have loading coils on my 160 meter half sloper. It works great, I have 89 countries confirmed on 160. ( I know-- not great but I just got a linear that will work on 160)
6 meters is fun. Get something up. I built a simple quad out of PVC and mounted it up 23 feet with a cheap TV rotator. Works great ( 48 state 22 countries). Don't just do 6 meters !! You will miss so much more. Most wire antenna and even beams will load 6 meters.
Now.I recommend an out door antenna switch so that only one coax comes out of the shack . I have two Ameritron RC5 s in series..This allows a number of antennas to be switched at the shack. These are called "Rat packs" but they are essential to a good station.
I like and recommend two antennas per band at 40 meters and above.That is why I have the vertical and the other antennas you can read about, Let me give you a practical application for the beam and a vertical on 20 meters.The Beam is directional-- If you have a clean shot at a new one and a short window of opportunity and that beam is in the wrong direction when you switch to that vertical that receive signal will pop and so with the ERP in that direction- Pop him on the Vert.
Finally, you need a tuner --I have both an external tuner and my Pro 3 and 7300 have an internal tuner. I use the external tuner to assist the rig on 60 meters using the 160 sloper. I use the internal tuner to range up into the SSB bands because I resonate antennas in the CW end of the bands. Don't go without a tuner.
I advocate a multi band and multi mode quality station . I do not advocate a single band approach. With conditions so poor , you must roll with the punches. you must be agile. Now sit down and qso with some one. I spend time on dx -- yes. but 90 % of my time is with old friends on CW -- guys that I know well because I TALK TO THEM. My station is in a room where my wife hangs out -it has a TV and her computer and we spend time together. I know its cool to have the remote shack - Its not for me. I had the station in my bed room until I was 45 years old. You can't believe the stuff I worked on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I want to advocate CW. I know you don't have to but you are not a real HAM in my opinion, if you don't. It takes time and discipline. Most of us will slow to YOUR speed if that is necessary. Practice sending 3 qso's every day. Use proper procedure. Listen to W1AW -- its free. It separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls.
I hope this has helped focus your goals with a station that will put you in that chair and on the air. BCNU on the bands. In November of 2017 I was ranked 59th most active ham in the world on cw Reverse Beacon listing of 75,000 monitored stations. In December of 2018 I as still in the top 73. Get active, It doesnt take a fortune to get on the air. Make qsos! I have 42,000 qsos on LOTW since 2004. MAKE SOME NOISE.God bless and 73s.