Apr 12, 2009

Location, location, location..........

Another measurement?
I like spending my hobby time spinning that VFO, searching for that new signal, working a new country, give away points in a contest etc.. I'm not the type who sits hours at his workbench doing some serious measurement, endless building/soldering etc..... unless, it can bring me new qso's.
Nothing beats being able to hear more, unleash another layer of signals from the mud.
For that reason I like trying new hardware; other antennas, other RF equipment.

Being able to make that extra QSO yes/no. That is my most important criteria when doing experiments.

While there is plenty of well documented information on the web, every now and then you really do need to verify matters before making a decision on what step to take next.

The Perseus as a measurement tool
I have shown earlier that the new Perseus SDR receiver has some pretty good options in its receiver user interface. I did some quick 6m band frequency sweeps in 3 major directions, see my previous blog. Having the Perseus on loan for some more time, the next logical step would be to do noise mapping at my current home for 50 and 144Mhz.

Current antennas for 2m: 17el and for 6m: 5el

What exactly is being measured?
A band segment of 6.3Khz is carefully monitored for its band noise level. I have chosen 144.461 as the centre. This is right in a clear spot of the beacon section. The found level of background noise is noted and put in a table.
This is time consuming since you need the level to settle in on the averaging and you want to monitor the band behavior for some 20 seconds at least. After some practising for a day or two, I was able to make reliable measurements within 0.5 dB.
The antenna is turned in steps of 10 degrees. In total 38 directions are monitored; the two steps overlap are for verifying earlier found values.

IMPORTANT: the diagrams show the difference from the quietest measurement. It does NOT show absolute noise levels, only the delta.

144Mhz noise mapping at my QTH
The receiver set-up consists of the following:
17el Tonna yagi @13mtr AGL, aperture angle@-3dB:33 degrees
25mtr Ecoflex-15
Elecraft XV144 transverter, including the crystal oven option
Perseus SDR receiver
Settings: span 6.3Khz centered at 144.461MHz, averaging at 80%

Time slots: 00:30 UTC, 07:00 UTC, 11:00 UTC, 18:30 UTC

Comments on the 144MHz radar view at PA5MW:
The worst directions offer between 6.5 and 9.5 dB more noise disturbances. Go figure! Even in the middle of the night(00:30 is at 02:30 local) there is a horrible RF noise from 3 major directions.
My house is at the east border of the town. I'm lucky that my QTH is at a slightly higher level(+2-3mtrs); at the highest spot in town. I recognize the quiet area from 30 -160 degrees. QTF 290 is pointing at 6 apartment buildings, 10 storeys high, which are at a distance of about 1100mtr. QTF 190 I cannot really explain yet.

In order to verify the whole testing procedure, I did a similar quick test at the QTH of PA3FGA. Rens lives in a much smaller town(2240 inhabitants, compared to the 30000 in my town). His set-up has the exact same 17el Tonna yagi antenna and the same Elecraft transverter. He is able to extend his tower to a max height of 24mtrs. Because of wind and time restrictions we decided to do two measurements; one with the antenna at 12mtrs AGL and one at 16mtrs.

Comments on the 144MHz radar view at PA3FGA:
Although Rens is suffering from much less band noise, he is plagued by disturbances from my city in the direction of 160 degrees. Which is actually the exact QTF for his favourite 2m beacon, HB9HB from Switzerland. The other two lobes point at two other towns. Lowering the antenna involves less band noise, but also less tropo signal from the dx beacon in HB9. We spent another evening finding the optimal height for maxiumum signal/noise level. However, the constant QSB spoiled any possible measurement. From experience we know that 18mtrs is the optimum height for best s/n on tropo signals at his QTH. Due to the wind we were not able to confirm this using the Perseus setup at this point.

50MHz noise mapping at my QTH
The receiver setup consists of the following:
5el M2 yagi @11mtr AGL, aperture angle@-3dB:42 degrees
20mtr Ecoflex-10
Elecraft XV50 transverter, including the crystal oven option
Perseus SDR receiver
Settings: span 6.3Khz centered at 50.087MHz, averaging at 80%

Time slots: 01:00 UTC, 06:30 UTC, 12:00 UTC, 18:30 UTC

Comments on the 50MHz radar view at PA5MW:
The giant noise lobe which peaks between +8 and +10dB from QTF 280 to 360 is an eye-opener for me. I have spent too much time on worrying about my less than average ability to hear the USA on 6m. I can work them usually easy at first or second call. No wonder! I simply have 'bad ears' towards that direction because the band noise level is much higher than other directions.
The other big lobe, which is evident on the 144Mhz view, also exists here.
During the night all is relatively more 'quiet' than on 2m.
One can also pick the wrong time slot; I started measuring at 17:45 UTC when just before 18UTC the noise suddenly became outrageously high. What had just happened? Well, since the start of television people turn on their TV's for the 8 o'clock news. During the first minutes a tv produces its peak of EMC noise. I waited some 30 minutes and did the measurement again. The evening disturbance sure is a bummer on 6m.

  • Noise levels at my QTH from various directions differ MUCH more than expected; up to 10 dB on both 144 and 50MHz.
  • My direction for dx would be roughly east between QTF 30-160
  • I cannot concur that with pre-amps, better rig or just another antenna
  • Going extremely high and using a stack with a low noise temperature is not feasible for me
  • Live with it and change operational tactics to make the best out of it

Does this mean I cannot work dx, not have any fun anymore? No, of course not. First of all, my current QTH is a lot better than my previous location. That was in the middle of a large city, and although my antennas were at 19mtrs AGL(6m higher than currently) I suffered from even more noise in every direction.

One very important matter: no hardware is going to solve that wall of 10dB noise.

Next question is: what is the relevance of those found minimum levels? When is your QTH a quiet loation?
In order to do a comparison test we need to design a portable setup and do several measurements at many different locations, both urban and very remote.
For now I need to accept the situation and make the best from it.
It is what it is.


Mark said...

Forgot to mention that 'Ecoflex' is a coax brand. The type 25 has 1 inch thickness and requires special connectors.
73 Marka

Aurelio - PC5A said...

Another fine example of how measurements can make you understand things. Real nice job Mark!