2200 (and 630) Meters

I am QRT on 2200 and 630 meters! In December 2020 the LF/MT T antenna broke during a snowstorm. It, the towers and all other antennas were heavily burdened with sticky wet snow at the time. Sudden reduction in side loads on the towers when the T fell caused movement that devasted the other antennas, damaged masts and even damaged one top section of tower. I was able to repair the damage in 2021 but cannot risk having this happen again. Therefore I did not put the LF/MF antenna back up. I will be continuing to maintain Hall of Flame! I hope to resume LF reveive operations at some point.

Quick links:
Hall of Flame!
EbNaut Information for LF
North American 2200m QSO Stations List (I have given up on this due to lack of interest within the 2200m community)
Off-site links:
Around the World on LF (AWLF)

Related blog posts: (newest posts at the top)
Update on 'A Low Drive 2200 Meter Amplifier'
A High Power 2200m Amplifier Saga
Experimenting with a K9AY Loop on LF
Multiple WSJT-X Instances on the Windows Desktop
2200m Reboot: Phasing Exciter
2200m Reboot: The Receiver

Older blog posts, mostly about lagacy equipment now retired:
A Low Drive 2200 Meter Amplifier
A Low Drive 630 Meter Amplifier
Building a 630-Meter Transmit Converter
Building a 2200-Meter Transmit Converter
Low Noise Vertical for LF and MF Receiving
2200 Meter SoftRock Lite II
Final Test of SoftRock Lite II on 630-Meters
More Evaluating the SoftRock Lite on 630-Meters
More on SoftRock Lite II 630-Meter Performance
Evaluating the SoftRock Lite II on 630-Meters
The Dreaded SMD & Building a 630-Meter SDR
Comments on the Jackson Harbor press LF Converter
Adding 630 and 2200 Meters to the MFJ-259B

First 2200m Amateur Radio USA / Europe QSO! This took four nights using DFCW60!

Second 2200m Amateur Radio USA / Europe QSO! This took five minutes using JT9 and was a random QSO. I saw surprised to see Chris call CQ and pounced.

Third 2200m Amateur Radio USA / Europe QSO! This took some effort but it was worth it!

QSO using the new FST4-1800 mode.

In October of 2016 an officer of the local amateur radio club asked me if I could prepare a report on our two "soon to be" new bands, 630 and 2200 meters. I hadn't given these bands any thought whatsoever at that point, but I said I would look into it and try to get up to speed on happenings there. That was my first mistake! I should have realized this would be a particularly challenging aspect of ham radio and because of that I could easily become addicted!

I immediately found I could hear stations on 630 meters using any of my relatively short Beverage antennas. I began listening regularly and in early November made a couple of cross band (80 meter to 630 meter) contacts with Canadian stations during a special activity night. There were many stations operating in the U.S. under FCC Part 5 experimental licenses. They could work each other but could not engage in two-way communications with Part 97 amateur radio stations, crossband or otherwise. The "idle mode" for these stations was WSPR, a digital beacon mode used for propagation study, antenna testing and so forth.

It didn't take long to realize my FT-2000 seemed to lack sensitivity on 630 meters and was stone deaf on 2200 meters. I began hastily throwing together preamps out of the junk box but even with 40 dB gain ahead of it the FT-2000 was still deaf on the lower band! It took weeks of fooling around with preamps and trying different antennas to detect my first signal on 2200 meters, which happened to be VO1NA sending QRSS (extremely slow speed CW, in this case probably using dits of 60 second length). After more playing with the setup I heard WD2XES on WSPR. These stations were only a few hundred miles away. I knew that stations not too far to my south and west were hearing the powerful WH2XND station in Arizona every night. I made it my goal to hear him too.

Clearly something had to be done about a receiver. I tried an inexpensive low frequency receive converter with a 10 MHz and 4 MHz IF range but found it unsatisfactory. The local oscillator in the converter drifted but even if I managed to control that I was still drifting up and down in a cyclic pattern. It was OK for WSPR and I was now hearing WH2XND! The drift was just a few Hertz but that was enough to completely destroy reception of some modes, especially DFCW. After more investigation I disocvered this was the fault of the very poorly performing TCXO in the FT-2000! It was wandering up and down several Hertz with the 5 degree temperature variations as my furnace cycled on and off! That was it. The FT-2000 could not be a part of my 2200 meter efforts. Seeing that others were having some very good results with modified versions of the very inexpensive Softrock Lite II SDR kit, I decided to try it myself. I am greateful to those who sent information on their approach to modification. However I used it as a rough guide and set out to find my own way from there. After all that's what exerimentation is all about. I purchased two of the "455 kHz IF" versions of the Softrock Lite II. One works fine on 630 meters without modification, though I did add some additional front end filtering to help keep strong medium wave broadcast siganls from being a problem. Modification of the front end and oscillator is necessary for 2200 meters. There is more information on the modifications for both bands over on my blog.

The modifed Softrock has essentially no drift at all, even on very slow DFCW it is barely noticeable and not a problem. I still had a feeling things weren't fully optimized. I had a definite noise increase when switching from a 50 ohm termination to the best available antenna but I just had an instinctive feeling it might not be enough to get best signal to noise ratio on the weak ones. I went back to the preamp building business and made one to put in front of the SDR. The very first night listening with this setup I decoded DC0DX on 2200 meter WSPR! Trans-Atlantic on 2200 meters! It was at this point I realized I was hooked. There was no escape now. This was going to be like 2 meter EME had been in the 1980s... the next big chapter of my radio exploration. Sanity be damned! This was now full on exploration of a new frontier for me!

I applied for and was granted a Part 5 experimental license in the spring of 2017, callsign WI2XTC with privileges of 10 watts ERP on 2200 meters and 50 watts ERP on 630 meters. My intent was to run as much ERP as I could manage in order to study trans-Atlantic propagation. Shortly after receiving my grant, FCC moved on opening up these bands to amateur radio use.

In mid November 2017 I switched to a different antenna for LF and MF reception. It is a 30 foot (9 meter) LNV or low noise vertical. This had the advantage of keeping my LF/MF receiving operations completely separate from 160m and up. In fact I could chase DX using the full 1500 watts on 160 meters while my LF and MF receivers continue doing their thing, completely undisturbed. The LNV clearly works better than the wires for trans-Atlantic on 2200 meters. I am not certain whether it is equal or slightly poorer to the west. On 630 meters it may be about equal or a small bit worse than the wires for Europe and quite a bit worse to the west, but this "easy" band is not my focus so I was not overly concerned.

It wasn't long before I realized most of the early equipment wasn't going to be good enough for my interests on 2200 meters. I wanted the best possible DX results, which means using long T/R durtion modes which typically require very good frequency stability. I also wanted to completely separate LF/MF equipment and operaitons from 160m and up. As of early 2021 I have built new receivers and a phasing exciter. I relocated LF/MF operations out of the primary ham shack and into the workshop. My best receiving antenna is now a K9AY loop built in late 2020.

The transmitting antenna is a Marconi T with 90 feet vertical and 3 x 100 foot top loading wires spaced 5 feet apart. The top hat spreaders are aluminum and are electrically part of the system. The end 'Y' sections are wire and also part of the top hat out to the big instuators. It is difficult to get a good picture of this antenna.

A tower monkey's view of the transmitting antenna top hat. This was taken with the camera at the 90 foot level on the shorter tower.

The 630m variometer and multi-tapped matching transformer. This is a sliding variometer where the inner coil simply moves up and down for adjustment. The matching transformer can handle 12.5 to 90 ohms by selecting primary and secondary tap.

The 2200m loading coil/variometer. Like its higher frequency counterpart, this is a sliding variometer where the inner coil simply moves up and down for adjustment. It is used with the same matching transformer. Since the below photo was taken, the variometer has been motorized for remote adjustment (photo).

Last update January 3, 2022