QRP Blues

By Jose B Rivera - N2LRB

August 10, 2015 - It has now been a few months (since May 15th) that I have been using my Elecraft KX3 both at home in my ham shack and out in the field. My initial attempts at making contacts with the radio were very encouraging. I made at least one contact each time I tried. I attribute this to good band conditions. But even with good band conditions, some loud/strong stations did not hear me.

Low Audio
As long as I made contacts I was happy and did not let that get me down. I did find that a lot of the stations heard me just above the noise level.  And they said that my audio was ‘low’. But KX3 owners swear by their radio audio features. That it can be tweak via the equalizer. I have found that this might help but it’s not like having a power microphone. Not many microphones exist for the KX3. This surprises me. You would think there would be a mountain of them for this popular little transceiver. It certainly would help to have louder audio when working low power.

Other Factors
Other possible reasons for not being heard include always being at ground level here in the city. I don’t have a car, so going off to some mountain top is hard to do. And I tend to use verticals, which are ok, but not the best antenna to have at ground level. I need to find a way to put up a rotatable dipole for 20 meters. But a good dipole needs good height. That would be about 32 feet for a 20 meter dipole. The New York City Parks Department frowns on use of poles larger than 10 feet tall.  Added to that, they don’t allow anything (not even wire) to touch their trees. I do so envy my hams friends who can actually use their park spaces (ground rods, wires on trees).d

No Contacts
Lately I have been taking the radio portable or even working from home and have not made a contact. This is discouraging. I don’t like wasted effort. I know this is the nature of QRP. But my real love is going portable, not necessarily QRP. The lack of contacts has me thinking about getting the 100 watt amplifier. But then the cost of this little portable setup would near the $2,000 mark. If I want to talk portable with 100 watts I can easily use my FT-857D or FT-897D and not have to spend 1K on an amplifier and tuner. Elecraft makes great equipment, but it is pricey. Especially for someone not making much money at this time.

Even though it is discouraging to go through the trouble of setting up to go portable, transport the equipment (now down to 4lbs minus the antenna and coax), find a place to put the equipment (spacious, safe, with some people around, but not a crowd), call CQ and not make a contact, I will continue to try. I love my little KX3, But it would be nice just want to be heard at this point.

I am still undecided about the Elecraft KXPA100 amplifier. It is quite long (10 inches) and weighs at least 7lbs. That weight would bring me back to the 15-20 pounds total that my other radios would have as oppose to the 4lbs I current can manage. So much for portable & QRP work. But I want to be heard. Sooner or later I will get the 100 watt amplifier with tuner.

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