2200 (and 630) Meters

Quick link: 2200m Trans-Atlantic Reception List

Related blog posts:
Adding 630 and 2200 Meters to the MFJ-259B
Comments on the Jackson Harbor press LF Converter
The Dreaded SMD & Building a 630-Meter SDR
Evaluating the SoftRock Lite II on 630-Meters
More on SoftRock Lite II 630-Meter Performance
More Evaluating the SoftRock Lite on 630-Meters
Final Test of SoftRock Lite II on 630-Meters
2200 Meter SoftRock Lite II
Low Noise Vertical for LF and MF Receiving
Building a 2200-Meter Transmit Converter
Building a 630-Meter Transmit Converter

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 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.

As of mid November 2017 I have switched to a different antenna for LF and MF reception. It is a 30 foot (9 meter) LNV or low noise vertical. This has the advantage of keeping my LF/MF receiving operations completely separate from 160m and up. In fact I can chase DX using the full 1500 watts on 160 meters while my LF and MF receivers continue doing their thing, completely undisturbed. The LNV is clearly working 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 for now I am not concerned. I was given a somewhat tired TS-930S which has become a fun addition to the lineup. I use it for general listening to CW on 2200 and 630 meters without disrupting digital mode monitoring. It is also useful for "out of band" monitoring of commercial signals for propagation checks, or perhaps getting the latest news from BBC Radio 4 on 198 kHz or a little music from Medi-1 (171 kHz) or RÚV (189 kHz). This is what the receiving setup looks like at present:

Waterfalls, anyone? We got 'em! Here's a quick shot of the listening post. The software configuration changes regularly here, but this is fairly typical:

Here is a look at the hardware end of the receiving setup. Why did they ever call this wireless? Looks like plenty of wires involved to me! The hardware configuration is constantly evolving too. Here we see the shack end transformer for the LNV antenna not yet mounted. It's being held from slipping off the edge of the cabinet by a wire stripper. That's not a proper splitter on the end of it either. Ah well, I will get around to tidying that up... eventually.

The LNV antenna in the foreground, just to the right of the southwest tower which serves as a 160 meter transmitting vertical. With these antennas only about 40 feet apart, LF and MF receiving is not impacted at all by 160 meter operation at full legal limit of 1500 watts. Usually the antennas on that tower aren't so messy! The LNV was installed and the photo taken after a storm with 70 mph winds and I hadn't been up to realign things yet.

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.

The 630m variometer and muti-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.

The matching transformer has been put into a box with tap switches.

Created November 21, 2017 and last update December 31, 2017

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