The Belka (-DSP/-DX/-v3) appreciation thread

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13dka
Posts: 133
Joined: Sat May 28, 2022 4:27 am
Location: On or near a dike

Re: The Belka (-DSP/-DX) appreciation thread

Post by 13dka »

Hi Mike!

Glad you finally got yours too! Yes indeed, what strikes me most is that it never makes me think "aw, if I had a big antenna connected now, I could hear this" when I'm DXing on walks. Re MW DXing, I'm incredibly curious if "transatlantic DX on walks" could be a thing, for that I bought a little (well, still big in relation to the Belka) amplified and tuned MW ferrite antenna that can be attached directly to the radio. :) I'm pretty sure that should work at least for the blowtorches (well, 50kW lol) WBBR, WINS, WBZ, VOCM.... and I tend to think this should be even easier in the opposite direction, trying to get Absolute Radio 1215 or one of the "split-frequency" real (400-600kW) blowtorches in northern Africa and the middle east. The best time to try this would be much more biorhythm-friendly on your side too, starting probably an hour before sunset.

Unfortunately my new Belka got a bit sick and is on its way back to Alex, at the same time I ordered another one and it seems both parcels are stuck at their respective airports waiting for a freight plane to their destination countries, so I can't really test how it goes. On top of that we seem to be in the "mid-winter D-layer anomaly" at my northern latitude now, so there are currently no TA signals, at least not from North America so I guess I'll find out in 8-12 weeks only. But before that happened I compared the Belka with my IC-705 on the YouLoop indoors with WBBR 1130 and the AM2 sync detector made the Belka present that station even a tad better than the Icom! The other station I tried that night was WINS 1010 and that worked as expected on USB (to get rid of the signals on 1008 kHz), of course without any fine tuning needed.

I hope you soon get around fully testing and enjoying yours! :)
13dka
Posts: 133
Joined: Sat May 28, 2022 4:27 am
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Re: The Belka (-DSP/-DX) appreciation thread

Post by 13dka »

Today I received my "backup"-Belka, got robbed by German customs and I just did one of my after midnight walks with this to prove that transoceanic MW reception in true pocket size might be a thing now:


Portable_MW_Rig.jpg
Portable_MW_Rig.jpg (82.86 KiB) Viewed 5427 times

We're now exactly in the middle of the mid-winter anomaly I guess, yet I could hear briefly some traffic report from WINS, a few QSB peaks from WBBR and some murmur from VOCM, nothing spectacular under normal circumstances but given the bad time in the season and how tiny this stuff is and at the same time so apt for the task it's kind of a breakthrough to me. Once the MW conditions are improving again this might be a pretty entertaining thing to do in the middle of the night.

The other Belka is on its way back to me too, Alex is actually repairing his radios and he did it quickly. I can't remember when I last heard about someone doing this, instead of just throwing them away?
13dka
Posts: 133
Joined: Sat May 28, 2022 4:27 am
Location: On or near a dike

Re: The Belka (-DSP/-DX) appreciation thread

Post by 13dka »

While I tested some recording gear in the pocket yesterday:



ZL6B IBP beacon on 14Mhz, with the 10W dash clearly and the 1W dash ever so faintly audible... of course on the whip. :)

Edit: I also recorded ZKAK (Auckland VOLMET) on 8828 but that's suffering badly from the thunderstorm belt:



JIA 13282 kHz was much better but not so far away of course:

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Andrew (grayhat)
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Re: The Belka (-DSP/-DX/-v3) appreciation thread

Post by Andrew (grayhat) »

which antenna did you use ? The belka whip or an external one ?
13dka
Posts: 133
Joined: Sat May 28, 2022 4:27 am
Location: On or near a dike

Re: The Belka (-DSP/-DX/-v3) appreciation thread

Post by 13dka »

I was walking - the Belka whip.
13dka
Posts: 133
Joined: Sat May 28, 2022 4:27 am
Location: On or near a dike

Re: The Belka (-DSP/-DX/-v3) appreciation thread

Post by 13dka »

Today I used the currently (for a change) calm(-ish) ionospheric conditions for a very early walk in order to try catching some TA DX. Chances are rather slim now merely 3 weeks to the summer solstice, because there's very little darkness between TX and RX, leaving only a very short time window for a hop over the big pond. When I checked the band 4:00am local with my indoor YouLoop I saw some signals and thought "Now or never". :)

When I had the Belka and the AFA200 and the little recorder all stowed away in my pockets it was already almost too late and I could catch only the last skip from some stations, but I could at least record something:

UNID, likely WXKS 1200 in Newton, MA unfortunately no ID, only unmistakably Mark Levin:



Of course WBBR 1130 was there too, also coming up only once during 30 minutes of walking:



I also heard 1010 WINS but that one never came back after I recorded the other stations. Overall not exactly results to phone home about but given the minuscule equipment and the season I'm glad that I finally managed to capture some proof that "MW TA DX on a stroll" can be a thing. Well, only if taking walks at an absolutely ungodly hour is your thing (it isn't mine). :)
13dka
Posts: 133
Joined: Sat May 28, 2022 4:27 am
Location: On or near a dike

Re: The Belka (-DSP/-DX/-v3) appreciation thread

Post by 13dka »

I made a few casual visits to the dike this month, just to relax for an hour after work and not wanting to aggravate the tonsillitis I'm currently dealing with, so I didn't bother with putting up antennas and just suction-cupped the Belka to the side window. Since I was sitting in the car, I took the opportunity to actually write a log:

Code: Select all

2023-06-04  Condx mediocre to OK-ish
1820Z  14177  TF/PD9DX		Iceland
1830Z  14177  JA3PJL
1840Z  18128  JK1THF		Tokyo
1845Z  18133   G4NVF		"Bicycle Mobile" w/ 120W (wtf?)
1949Z  18113  JH3NGD		Kazu-san
1956Z  18165   FY5KE		Kourou, French Guyana

2023-06-11  Better condx
1708Z  18152  ZL1XR		100W out of an IC7300 in New Zealand
1721Z  18148  VE1SK		POTA VE-0466
1726Z  21216  V51MA		Namibia, Michael, 100W
1744Z  14237  YB1DX		Indonesia +40dB (=S9)
1750Z   8828   ZKAK		Auckland VOLMET
1800Z  21277  YC2DBW		Indonesia
1807Z  18155  JK1THF		+30dB (S7), Jou, Tokyo
1836Z  20000    WWV		Time announcement audible

2023-06-14  Pretty good condx
2055Z  18144  KL7KK		Alaska (unusual in the evening), QSO /w Amir 4X6TT
2058Z  18144  FK8IK		Noumea, New Caledonia (rare!)
2102Z  18144  TF2LL
2113Z  21217  PY8WW		Belem, Brazil
2117Z  21266  JR6CSY		Taka, Kyushu Island
2120Z  21231  LU4FBH		Rudi, Argentina
2127Z  21248  PJ2ND		Curacao Island
2130Z  21284  JI8NW
2133Z  21284  JE7MQV
2135Z  21316  HP9SAM		Panama
2137Z  21284  JL8PZO
Why I'm posting this... a few of these stations are literally from the other (antipodal point) side of the globe again, others are "difficult", some pure luck and the entire logs read like they were made with some big rig, and really not like from a "sub-miniature" radio with a whip. Of course, we know that by now since I keep banging on about this for years now, but what really gets me is that this kind of results was something I could only dream of for most of my life, even when I had a half- (or quarter-) decent radio. I heard other, much closer stations talk to stations like that but rarely the DX itself, the best I could occasionally achieve was some big guns from the US having somewhat readable signals when the conditions were really good.

Now I hear them all, literally from all over the world within an hour or two and most of them without any effort... on a tiny radio with a whip. That just doesn't stop amazing me, I thought it'll wear off with the years but obviously it doesn't. :)
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Andrew (grayhat)
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Re: The Belka (-DSP/-DX/-v3) appreciation thread

Post by Andrew (grayhat) »

An incredible log, but ... take care of your throat please !!

As for the bycicle activation...

https://www.qrz.com/db/G4NVF

:)
13dka
Posts: 133
Joined: Sat May 28, 2022 4:27 am
Location: On or near a dike

Re: The Belka (-DSP/-DX/-v3) appreciation thread

Post by 13dka »

Wow, that's more shack than bicycle but the "pedestrian mobile" trolley isn't bad either. :)

BTW, a bit earlier that day I also heard the guy who inspired G4NVF to go bike mobile on the same frequency, G4AKC (first comes JK1THF, still a bit weaker):

13dka
Posts: 133
Joined: Sat May 28, 2022 4:27 am
Location: On or near a dike

Re: The Belka (-DSP/-DX/-v3) appreciation thread

Post by 13dka »

I just had a scary thing happening at the dike:

When I arrived there this evening, I could already see that the rain forecasted for 0:00 local was about to arrive an hour earlier. I parked and stuck the Belka + whip to the side window anyway. After a while I noticed that the AGC was triggered (gain dipping harshly) every time I touched the Belka. While I was thinking about how this could be the gain started dipping in kind of regular intervals by itself, without touching anything. Then after a while the meter dropped and the Belka was playing only noise.

WTF? I tried turning it off an on again (a shout out to Roy Trenneman of Reynholm Industries!) and it worked again! Then the rain started and with it the strange touchiness came back. Not only that, whenever I touched the Belka with a finger tip, it didn't only pop and trigger the AGC, the popping would reverbate for a while as if some loose wire is vibrating inside, touching some contact. Then it got even worse. the damped waves of popping turned into a permanent "tone" so that I started filming that for an error description for Alex:



After hitting the stop button the rain got stronger and I decided to retract the whip and close the window but now I got a little electrical shock every time I touched the Belka or the whip! Foreboding that static electricity may or may not be the source of this weird effect I squinted through the gap between side window and roof where the whip is running through multiple times and there was nothing to see. But now there was a sound coming from this gap and when I looked up I could see the bright and permanent arcing between the whip and the metal of the roof!

There were no thunderstorms announced,I couldn't see or hear any lightning (in the radio) but apparently the air was full of surplus electrons or something, causing static buildup on the whip, which then got shunted to my finger, then to the roof metal (or everything vice versa, not a physicist). 10 minutes later the first lightning discharges could be seen in some distance, there was definitely electricity in the air!

Luckily the Belka seems to have survived this, which is probably a testimony to its electrical robustness, particularly of the first HF amp stage! I remember lively how the input FET of my ICF-2001D got fried in 2000, just because a lightning struck something in a few 100m distance. :)
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