DStar Audio Samples Added to Website

If you would like to hear samples of DStar audio, I have added them at the bottom of the DStar information page. These samples were recorded directly from an Icom ID-51A handheld using the built-in recording capability of the 51A. These are actual unaltered recordings.

You can listening to them by clicking here and going to the bottom of the webpage.

Digital Voice in Amateur Radio - Still a Fragmented Mess

While D-Star still reigns king as the digital voice standard in Amateur Radio, there is growing fragmentation in the ranks. Everyone has their own biases as to which one they like. Everyone throwing fud around trying the make the other guy’s choice look inferior. Yeah, I have been somewhat guilty of that too.

But it is amazing the number of choices out there. Icom with D-Star and Yaesu with its System Fusion are the only manufacturers making equipment specifically for hams. Those who want to use P25, DMR, NXDN have to rely on getting equipment from manufacturers who are concentrating on the commercial markets.

Then of course there is the Open Codec projects. All the systems mentioned above use a proprietary codec. Open Codec is an attempt to create a codec free of license fees. No ham manufacturer has adopted it and it seems to be only used on the HF bands right now using a software application that has to reside on a PC/Mac/Linux system.

In any case, Icom and Yaesu have put their digital stakes in the ground. Kenwood and the others continue to sit on the sidelines I guess waiting to see where the chips fall.

I just wonder how long the inevitable shake-out with the digital voice technologies will take. It could be years and years. One thing is for sure, the longer it takes, the longer it will be for the vast majority of amateurs to move from FM and adopt digital. No one wants to buy a radio that is going to end up an orphan.

Moved to New House

Been away from blogging ham radio activities for a few months. Hardly any time since we recently moved to a new home, well new to us, after 23 years in our other home.

What a major pain - especially for a ham radio operator. Cannot believe all the electronic stuff I accumulated over the years. Had to take all the antennas down at the old house and still have to erect them at the new house.

So right now most of my ham radio activity is on the repeaters using D-Star and FM.

I’ll blog when I am back on HF and 6 meters when I have time to put the antennas back up and run all the antenna cables.

Jerks in Ham Radio

Someone, I suspect another ham, sent me an anonymous email message about an error that appears on my website. I checked it out and this anonymous person is correct.

However, his response was very rude and just unbecoming of any rational adult. Honest mistake that I would have been happy to correct right away had this person not been such a jerk. The error is not technical in nature, so I am just going to leave it in there until someone who acts like an adult can respond in an appropriate manner. So happy hunting!

I also decided to implement a new website policy. Anonymous emails will not be read. They'll go directly into the bit-bucket, better known to most computer users as trash.

JT-65 on Six Meters

This Independence Day extended weekend has been great for 6 Meter propagation. Quite a lot of activity with the digital mode JT-65 on 50.276.

Ten-Tec Discontinues Omni II

I received an email from Ten-Tec announcing they have sold the last Omni II transceiver and have discontinued the radio. The text of the email in its entirety follows:

Dear TEN-TEC Ambassadors & Friends,

We hope everyone is having an enjoyable summer experiencing all the thrills of DX and working QRP. Your friends at TEN-TEC are busy as usual making ready the new Rebel 506 for delivery in late July. Dayton was a huge success this year with sales exceeding 2012. We thank you and also the wonderful group of Ambassadors who helped us in the booth this year. We could not have done it without you.

As time is marching on we are beginning to make plans for another TEN-TEC Homecoming Hamfest September 27th & 28th. This is always a huge event and preparation will begin before we know it to welcome our guests from far and near. Check the web site and watch for further information and news as time draws nearer.

On a rather sad note, about the time you read this message, we will have sold out of the last 566 Orion II transceiver. Unfortunately, due to the availability of some very critical parts plus skyrocketing prices for difficult components, the staff at TEN-TEC decided to discontinue this product. This does not mean we will not trade or sell used and demo Orion's and Orion II models. We will continue service and support this product as we have done in the past with all TEN-TEC products. Is a new Orion III on the horizon? There are plans for several new TEN-TEC products lined up for the future but at this time no concise decision has been made for another Orion transceiver.

We are very pleased with the results of our efforts on the Argonaut VI with matching 418 linear amplifier. Check out the product review in the August QST and Rob Sherwoods testing www.sherweng.com. More fantastic news: This year, a pair of Eagle transceivers will be working as W4S at Ft. Pitkins on Santa Rosa Island off the coast of Pensacola in July for another IOTA contest.

As always the staff here at TEN-TEC continue to welcome your support and participation in the TEN-TEC user nets that meet every Sunday. The TEN-TEC 40 meter SSB net will start first at 20:00 UTC on or about 7.260 LSB and the 20 meter SSB net will follow at 21:00 UTC on or about 14.325 USB + or -

Sincerely & 73

Your TEN-TEC Sales Staff

I have to wonder about Ten-Tec in recent years. Elecraft is running rings around them. Elecraft can bring new products out faster than Ten-Tec. Ten-Tec's new QRP transceiver not only took an extremely long time to make it to market, but when it finally was available for sale, it arrived crippled without the 60, 12 and 6 meters bands. When I asked a gentleman working the Ten-Tec booth about it at the Dayton Hamvention, I received a very smart-a$$ answer.

He stated that the case was too small to put in the additional bands! So I asked how your competitor Elecraft was able to do it AND have space for battery, tuner and 2 meter module? He said go ask them.

I did, they told me they are capable of superior transceiver designs. So there you have it.

But I digress.

The real issue is the lack of a follow-on model. Now there is no high-end transceiver from Ten-Tec. Based on the amount of time it took them to bring out a new Argonaut, who knows when we'll see anything that might replace the Omni II.

Too bad for a company once so highly respected with a fiercely loyal customer base. If you can't change fast enough and are not nimble enough in this competitive world, if could mean the death of the company. I do hope not.

But there appears to be a downward direction for Ten-Tec. To the best of my knowledge they have not had any new kits or refreshed the kit line in over 10 years. They started selling Chinese made QRP CW radios - yikes! Are you kidding me? What happened to the Made in America focus? Ten-Tec needs to recapture their mojo fast.

Dayton Hamvention 2013 Recap

Another Dayton Hamvention has come and gone.

The weather was pretty nice most of the time, though there was a quick shower on Saturday morning. Attendance seemed on par with last year. Noticed that a large number of people taking the amateur license exams were passing.

There were a number of vendors missing this year. AES, Ham Station, Scanner Master were the vendors I noticed. But some of the indoor display areas had isles completely empty. Not a lot, but very noticeable to those of us who go to Dayton annually.

Again, as last year, there were a large number of empty flea market spaces. Also, as usual, most of the stuff being sold in the flea market is junk that no one would even put on eBay. It seems to be a recurring theme that the good stuff that will bring increasing bids goes to eBay, while the junk that no one really wants is brought to the flea market. Prices for the junk in many cases is too high and unrealistic. Why would I buy a beat-up and scratched radio with questionable history for $100 less than I can buy one new? But people don't seem to mind bringing that same junk back to hamfest after hamfest. Seems to me, you take what you can get quickly and move on.

As far as the big-five at the Hamvention.

Icom's exhibit was packed as usual. DStar is still hot and growing rapidly. At the DStar forum they indicated that world-wide, there are now over 2,000 DStar repeaters and 50,000+ DStar registered users. The reports that you see on dstarinfo are only for U.S. Gateway 2 registrations and do not include the other gateway infrastructures. So clearly, DStar is even bigger than many of us thought. Icom as usual had a separate DStar display that was packed with people all the time. The ID-51A dual-band DStar radio was flying off the shelves with most vendors sold out by Friday night. HRO some how got another 50 for Saturday and they blew out. This radio has all the world-wide DStar repeaters already loaded. It can program the nearest repeater using its built-in GPS. As usual there was much interest in all the Icom HF offerings.

Kenwood's display seemed lightly attended. The only "new" thing they had was a $7,000 HF rig so since that is way out of the budget of most hams, it was not creating much excitement. Fact is, I have never witnessed such a dismal crowd at the Kenwood display. Probably because there was nothing new.

Yaesu was not giving out their traditional hat. They were giving out mouse pads instead. Yawn. Their display was also lightly attended, though not as bad as Kenwood. Hardly any interest in their new digital VHF/UHF handheld which is finally for sale. The woman who was manning the position could not say much about it. Still no repeater offering from Yaesu. Frankly, Yaesu's entrance into the digital voice world has been a disaster. Yaesu, wake up and go with DStar as that is where the momentum is in the worldwide market.

The DMR Mototrbo folks are trying to make everyone think DMR is overtaking DStar, but their booth was no where to be found. Someone told me yesterday it was located in the ARRL area. I was in the ARRL area at least four times, and did not see them at all. Frankly DMR has so many issues that DStar is continuing to rule and outgrow them. The DMR radios are a nightmare to program. Each radio has to be registered and not the more simple method of registering the ham call sign only. TDMA is reported to having problems when the distance is more than 45 miles. It does not seem to do integrated data and voice as some say it is "capable" of doing. It's not the right technology for ham radio. It's a commercial standard for a commercial market. But some people continue to push a square peg into a round hole.

TenTec was fairly busy all the time. They had a new computer controlled CW QRP radio. Boring. Yet another CW QRP rig for the market (I have a picture of it on the Hamvention 2013 Photo page on this website). Does anyone have any ingenuity? Their new QRP radio the Argonaut VI was not creating a lot of excitement. Many hams have shied away since it is a crippled radio missing 6, 12 and 60 meters. In this day and age given the technology, how can you create an HF radio with missing bands?

Elecraft was packed as usual. Their influence in the U.S. ham market is obviously growing. The fact that they continue to create new products and rapidly bring them to market is why they create excitement at the Dayton Hamvention year after year. TenTec needs to take a lesson from them. They created an all-band QRP rig in a smaller package than TenTec that can also include an antenna tuner, battery and 2 meter module. Why TenTec cannot do the same is beyond me. Elecraft was also not offering any discounts because the demand for their products is so high.

As for other vendors.

Flexradio had a lot of visitors to their booths as usual. Still showing the 6000 series of radios and software, but still no deliveries. Mel K0PFX told me that he has had his order into Flex now for a year and still no radio. The Flex1500 and Flex3000 are still the most economical way to get into an SDR transceiver.

Ham Radio Deluxe is doing well and has a growing following since the new owners have taken over. Great full-featured product for rig control, digital modes, logbook and satellite tracking.

LNR Precision was showing a dual-band CW QRP radio - again yawn - BUT the real exciting thing was a quad-band SSB and CW QRP radio that they will be offering around the Q3/Q4 timeframe. 5 watts and very small. This was really neat and supposed to be less than $500 when offered for sale. Watch for an announcement at http://www.lnrprecision.com.

Silent System is a tiny Japanese company who is offering a very small QRP PSK transceiver with built-in display. Connect a keyboard, antenna and power supply, and you have a fully-functional PSK station. The only issue I saw was the power output was only 100 milliwatts. The price was under $300 as I recall and you can get more information or order it at http://silentsystem.jp/handypsk.htm.

The FreeDV/Codec2 folks had a nice display in the main arena. They even showed a concept of an open source digital voice handheld.

Palstar was showing their new TR-30 5-Band SSB/CW (full QSK) touch screen transceiver. Great idea, but not yet available, but it should be later this year. My only concern is the price as they quoted it would be around $1,600. Maybe a little high if it were all band, but for only 5 bands I think it is a bit overpriced.

GRE America was there and yet not there. They used to have two booths in the past. One for scanners and the other booth showcasing Alinco. This year it was a combined single booth and none of the usual GRE America folks were there as it looked like all Alinco staff manning the booth. GRE made some of the best scanners in the past. But the parent shut down the scanner line and it looks like GRE America is trying to become independent and restart scanner manufacturing. Not sure where they are in that process.

The ARRL had a lot of visitors to their usual large display. Again, there was a great focus on youth in ham radio.

I expected to see more SDR (software defined radios) this year. WinRadio's booth was scaled down. Bonito had their integrated SDR/Control application on display and it looked very interesting, but I expected to see a few more vendors.

Summary - In general the Hamvention is THE hamfest of the year. But clearly the continued poor economy is keeping away vendors and some hams. Another thing that might be keeping away hams is that there just wasn't anything really new to generate the interest in going. Prices on radios and the like were not as good as they have been in the past. Even the cheap Chinese radios were not discounted as much this year. In fact, some of the radios offered could be purchase for less money on Amazon.

I would also suggest that the Hamvention start giving new and smaller ham radio vendors the chance to come for the first year for a very discounted price ($100?) on a first-come-first-served basis for the open slots on the inside. It's a shame to see those precious spaces sitting their empty. I know new upstarts that would love to come to Dayton, but find the cost too much for their budgets. Come on Hamvention committee, let's give them some assistance while growing the Hamvention with new products.


It's Hamvention Week!

Not only is it Mother's Day today, but it is also the start of Hamvention Week!

Can't wait to head up to the greatest ham radio show on Earth.

Rod, WI0T will be coming up from St. Louis, Missouri to join me for this annual expedition to Hamvention.

I'll post a report on the Hamvention early next week so stayed tuned.

The Upcoming Hamvention

I always get fired-up for the Dayton Hamvention. It's really is a great time in spite of the fact the Dayton Hara Arena where the Hamvention is held each year is truly a dump and in disrepair. I bathrooms stink since the ventilation is poor. The parking lot where the flea market is located is still in fairly good shape.

The sad fact is that I cannot think of anywhere else in the Dayton area where they could hold this event. So for the foreseeable future, I guess it is stuck at Hara.

The fun part is meeting all the hams from around the world and running into people you have talked to on DStar.

Then there are the vendor hams working the booths trying to sell their latest and greatest products. I just love seeing new equipment, new features, and new innovations. New product introductions at Dayton always intrigue me.

There are rumors this year that AES (Amateur Electronic Supply) will not be attending Dayton. Frankly, if you are a major vendor of amateur radio products and you are not at Dayton, it speaks volumes. It sends one of three messages.

One, they really don't care about meeting their customers at Dayton, or two, they are having financial difficulties and cannot afford to attend, or three they are not competitive against the other vendors at Dayton. It's all just speculation since they have not stated their reason for not attending.

AES tries to push I think what they call their "Superfest" but from what I have read, it's not very super and mostly attracts a mostly local crowd.

AES used to be THE ham radio retailer. But they seem to have lost their luster years ago. I think they even closed a few of their stores as they do not seem to have the same number of retail outlets as they did years ago. I guess other vendors such as Ham Radio Outlet, Gigaparts, R&L and the like have taken their toll on AES. Too bad.

In any case, Dayton should be fun and I will post pictures of the Hamvention to the website again as usual.

Hope to see you there!

DStar versus DMR

Recently I have noticed a few people promoting DMR as the DStar replacement. So I have been looking into DMR a bit. Some of you may have read about Mototrbo which is Motorola's marking name for the DMR technology.

I intend to do a more in-depth comparison here between the various digital technologies. Not just DStar versus DMR, but also look at whatever Yaesu is coming out with, APCO25 and Nexedge/NXDN.

So I signed up on Yahoo Groups with a few of the DMR and Mototrbo groups. Via radio reference website, there even is a link to listen to one of the DMR networks/repeaters.

One of the first questions I asked on the groups, "can you build you own DMR/Mototrbo repeaters?" In other words, is it practical?

The answer I got was basically "no" that it is not practical and they way to get a repeater is to "get some of my friends together to share the cost." Also, not practical.

Now with DStar you can build a repeater yourself very easily. You need two transceivers with packet ports capable of supporting 9600 baud packet, a hotspot board and a computer. So here is what it cost to build a home-brew DStar repeater that a couple of folks in a local radio club are considering building.

Two single band Alinco radios. $279 each. Moencomm GMSK Node Adapter (hotspot board) at $120 and a computer, in this case a Raspberry Pi with Ethernet Adapter ($35 for the RPi and $30 for the Ethernet adapter. Total cost of the DStar repeater is $743 using all new equipment except for the duplexers and antenna which the club already has for the old UHF FM repeater days.

DMR well for a new repeater, since there are not a lot of used repeaters, about $3,000.

The other issue I see as a problem is with DMR each radio has an ID that has to be registered and is tied to the callsign of the user. This appears to be a real issue with sharing equipment and callsign routing, that is not an issue with DStar.

Also DMR programming is very complex. Mainly because DMR was meant for the commercial market. There are things that need to be programmed like "talkgroups" which do not exist in ham radio. If I read correctly, since all repeaters in a network are tied together, all transmissions go out over the entire network. There seems to be no way for an amateur operator to connect and disconnect the repeater to the network or network of choice. This is all easily done in DStar.

So here is what it really comes down to. DMR was designed for the commercial user in mind. DStar was designed for amateur radio. One fits better than the other. Both are open protocols except for the Codec which in both cases is proprietary. Both sound equally good.

DStar has over 1,000 repeaters world-wide. DMR less than 100. DStar has thousands of users world-wide while DMR has about 300.

DStar current generation radios can be used without any programming except for entering in the callsign of the user. DMR has to be programmed.

Clearly, DStar is way ahead. The question among many is will it remain there. DStar users say yes and DMR users say no. It's the 21st Century version of the code/no-code argument all over again.

Misguided Hams on eBay and Mototrbo

I was doing a search on eBay the other day for DStar equipment. I came across this posting. Actually the person had a couple of beat-up commercial items up for auction using this or a similar description:

50 watt 32 channel VHF 136-174

You are bidding on the next technology in digital FM communications. Once I figured out that Motorola commercial Dmr was cheaper than my icom dstar equipment, i sold all my dstar repeaters and gear!

No kidding! Yaesu is coming out with DMR radios soon, but motorola, hytera, vertex already exist. DMR is an open ETSI standard and is legal on the hambands. You can buy a complete repeater new for less than $2000, and mobile rigs for less than $500. This technology fits 2 voice / data channels into 1 repeater! To do this with an icom dstar stack you would need 2 rp and 1 contoller - would cost $4500! Lets face it Dstar is 10 year old technology now.

Yes motorolas software is $250 - but it programs every version of mototrbo mobile and portable. The ham software costs $50 for each model of radio!

Once you've used commercial gear on the ham bands you will never turn back!

See my other auctions for a mototrbo repeater.

I have licensed cps and will program for free for winning bidder, or radio ships with 162.400 and 162.55 wx channels.

Included in auction but not pictured is new mobile bracket and new oem power cable. Radio is in mint condition and never seen mobile use.

Due to the technical nature of this equipment and the potential to brick the unit - No returns! all sales final.

Now I left the grammar and spelling as is. Let's analyze all these claims.

This used and beat-up stuff is supposedly cheaper. The current bid was $200 for a single-band radio with no warranty. I can now buy a NEW DStar radio single band for less than $300 with warranty. Why would I want to buy used stuff without warranty for $200 or more as the bidding is not over? Oh, and that under $300 DStar radio also has a built-in GPS unit.

Then I have to buy the programming software for $250. So now we're at $450 or more. Cheaper? No.

Actually the person says that all software for Icom cost $50 a radio. Not true at all. In many cases, Icom gives you the programming software for free. Or, in all cases, you can use the FREE software from Chirp to program them. Oh, Chirp does not support this commercial crap.

DMR is an open standard. OK, so is DStar. No difference there, but the poster leads you to believe there is. In both cases the Codec used for digital communications is proprietary. Again, no difference.

The other claim, once you have used commercial gear on ham bands, you'll never turn back. Well I have, and because it is not made for the amateur market, I did turn back and will never use commercial surplus again. It is not supported by the manufacturers for amateur use. It is made for commercial markets so it does not have the same flexibility for amateur use. Oh it works, but not worth the aggravation or expense.

The seller will program for free. Great, now that you have the radio, you want to change the programming? Good luck. In most cases, you'll be lucky if you can actually buy the programming software.

Finally here is another myth. The technology is 10 years old so it is outdated. Not true in being outdated. Yes, it is 10 years old, but it is technology designed specifically for hams! All this commercial garbage is designed for markets other than ham radio. Second, if I use that logic, in 5 years when something else comes out for the commercial market, then this Mototrbo stuff the seller is trying to get rid of is also outdated.

Sure, this commercial stuff fits 2 voice/data channels into one repeater. Yup, but at twice the bandwidth of DStar! Doh, didn't tell you that did he/she!

So he sold all his DStar stuff and went to Mototrbo. Great, who is he talking to? Yaesu has yet to begin selling a Mototrbo for ham radio and apparently whatever it is Yaesu will introduce for hams is not the same at Mototrbo. There are darn few DMR repeaters compared to thousands for DStar. Nothing for this Yaesu ham mototrbo stuff.

Hams have a choice. You can go with DStar with over 1,000 repeaters worldwide. Use a PROVEN technology used by thousands of hams around the world. Use a technology designed for hams by hams.


You can use Yaesu's commercial equipment, adapted for ham use. Designed without hams in mind. With hardly any users. With maybe a couple of repeaters. No one to really talk to. Price of their equipment still unknown, unless you want to use this "refurbished" commercial junk which is still at a price close to DStar's NEW with warranty equipment.

BTW, one only has to look at Yeasu's record of going against the tide. In the U.S we developed IRLP and Echolink. Yaesu went against IRLP and Echolink and created WIRES. Yeah, that's the useless "WIRES" button Yaesu still puts on their radios. No one barely uses WIRES outside of Japan.

Going against an established trend in Amateur Radio is stupid. Yaesu should have adopted DStar which is already well entrenched around the world.

In any case, don't be fooled by outlandish claims by people trying to dump used commercial gear on unsuspecting hams. Unless or course you are looking for a new boat anchor for your bass boat.

Worked All States with JT-65

Checked LoTW this morning, and what do you know? The final QSL from Hawaii using mode JT-65 finally came through.

Of course with ARRL's LoTW system, applying for awards is so easy. So right away I applied for the award and paid the $15.00 fee.

This is the 4th WAS award that I will have. I have one WAS using only paper QSL cards; another WAS using electronic confirmations only from LoTW; another WAS using all digital modes; and now another WAS using only the digital mode of JT-65.

If you have not started using LoTW, consider doing it now. LoTW makes it much easier and less expensive to obtain QSL confirmations when chasing operating awards. So please consider jumping on the 21st Century bandwagon and use the technology that the ARRL is providing to all hams around the world.