No, not the old debate again! I was out activating yesterday and found that in these times of difficulty, SSB was rather nice and reassuring. It was pleasant to hear the callers and have a quick chat. How odd.
I think I will be doing more SSB over the next few weeks God willing.
Nice integration of rugby reference, Barry. I think rugby is out too.
Yes I didn’t think about the lack of aircraft, but still, I think the inherent unreliability of paths on microwave bands lends a special sound to the ssb signals. Instability of LO lends additional speciality!
When first licenced, I spent a lot of time on 4m (70MHz). It has a particular “sound” to it for some reason, related in large part to the quality of QSB and phase distortion from, I suppose, multi pathing - in which aircraft no doubt play a part.
I’m not so active on that band now, but I still find the sound evocative and comforting!
If you want a challenge on SSB, try 70cm mobile. I did back in the 80s and soon gave it up. At certain speeds the flutter made the audio virtually unintelligible. I did enjoy making the 70cm halo and it was used portable for quite a few years.
I agree with what Richard is saying. I try to balance the modes in my activations by running 2m SSB in conjunction with 30m CW. Probably the best of both worlds.
Funny you should say that Richard coz a few of us in the southern Lake District area have been reviving 2m-SSB in recent months (for SOTA, WOTA and neither) particularly portable and pedestrian mobile. I’ve dusted off my 19-year old FT817 and it’s found new life as a ‘walk n talk’ in-rucksack setup.
And we’ve also commented how enjoyable SSB is as an alternative to FM. I can’t put my finger on it as to why. Is it nostalgia? The sound of that slightly-off-frequency station? Good fun anyway.
SSB is a great mode to use for HF SOTA. If you’re still on a summit after exhausting CW, FT8 and 2m FM that is.
Yes I know this thread isn’t about the tired old debate, but this next few weeks has the potential to be worse than the annual “November lull” when contributors start getting tetchy on the Reflector - so I’m making a start…
Probably. I can remember a few weeks after getting my first callsign in 1990 the thrill of 2m SSB with 8W from a Trio7010 and Jaybeam 5ele on a TV rotator. It was impressive what could be achieved with such a low ERP when many people were on the bands. I also remember studying weather charts on the TV all the time (no internet). First opening was 3mths into being licenced… repeaters were full of DX. By the time I was QRV on 2m a day later it had subsided and just fun chasing 2m SSB WAB. 3 weeks later I worked 1st non-UK DX, a nice opening to Belgium/Holland. You learned quickly that the white noise sounds different when conditions are up. Turn on radio, hah, sounds different tune about and above all else, call CQ!
Daftest thing ever was selling that 7010. It was hot-rodded with a lower noise front end FET and had been re-crystalled so it tuned 144.2-144.295 & 144.3- 144.395. Sure it cost me £50 and I sold it for £110 but I have kicked myself ever since.
As most know, I am no good at CW - tried to learn it a few times without success, some say if I wasn’t totally non-musical and tone deaf I might stand a better chance. That be as it may - it remains a fact that it’s easier to get through on CW than on SSB for long distance contacts. Various numbers have been bandered around but I think the quote of a 10dB gain by using CW over SSB sounds like it could be about right.
Than means for a contact that is possible with 5 watts of CW, I need 50 watts of SSB to have the same chance of getting through (ditto the station on the other end).
In my recent rush of activations - before the lock-down comes / bad weather comes back / winter bonus points stop - I have been running 20w of SSB on HF (40m) and just a loaded whip. I have not had a problem with being heard rather a problem of dis-entangling the pile-up. To do this I have about 17 kilos of weight in the ruck sack. The equivalent to provide 2 watts of CW would most likely weight about 5 kilogramms . Despite that I prefer the challenge of SSB and the different accents from different countries.
I’m told you can recognise CW operators by how they send their morse code. I can certainly recognise who is calling me by their voice before I get their call sign for probably about a dozen chasers (and increasing).
I believe that both SSB and CW bring some “feeling” into a HF transmission that a computer generated digital mode never can.
OK - now get tetchy - but remember at the end of the day we’re all radio “Mates and Mate-esses” in this big big world!
I’ve just packed my KX2 and ‘Ukrainian’ 2m 10W all-mode transverter into a re-purposed bike handlebar bag [it’s now an elegant over-the-shoulder number] to go up the smallest SOTA summit in the UK (and my local one, 10 minutes drive) for a 2m-SSB/CW field trial on this dry sunny but cold afternoon. Excuse me while I do some social distancing.
Fantastically sunny and cold here. I noticed just how cold it was standing in the queue at the pharmacy for 35mins outside (they only let 1 person in the store at a time). Had to tell the bloke behind me I’d appreciate it if he stood a bit further away. Then I noticed how sunny it was when the queue moved and I was no longer in the sun and how really cold it was. Still they had my pre-filled syringe and a box of needles so I’m good for another 30days. Wouldn’t be too surprised if VHF propagation isn’t up a bit.
Well, I didn’t work any Dx but I did have my first 5-way 2m SSB QSO followed by a couple of 2m CW QSOs. So I’m pleased with the first portable test of the 2m transverter in my pedestrian mobile shoulder bag.
Seemed like a good idea at the time but it was bitterly cold, with a cutting wind and spitting with rain and on top of that the radio was pants. Victor, HA7WA gave me the contact that made the outing into an activation but the best part of an hour’s calling produced nothing else Listened for the various continental stations spotted whilst I was active, but nothing heard (though the band was hellish noisy with much QRM - seemed to be a lot of really strong signals spreading 10kc/s or more). Also listened for Richard 'CWI on G/SP-004 on 2m fm but wasn’t surprised not to copy him on the HT…
Still, I did get the one contact and a (short) walk so not all lost!
Hoping for better luck next time - a few cracking days forecast so hoping to get out again soon
I think you have put it well. Although I am a definite fan of CW, especially cw sent correctly (which not all ops do, often not their fault) I also enjoy ssb, again I have a qualification to that, I really enjoy properly tuned ssb, where the harmonics in the voice properly land on the right frequencies. It is sad that so many operators tune ssb voices high in pitch by 100 to 300 Hz. And awful to listen to.
However, even with people calling off frequency, ssb is still my favourite voice mode. With fading typical of vhf dx signals, it is often a challenge to stay focussed and copy the voice in the noise. My wife asks “how can you understand what they are saying” when I answer someone with “copied all that”. Compared with that, in my view fm is flat and featureless, tends to fade out suddenly when the signal drops below the detector threshold, very frustrating. And to be honest I don’t find it a challenge either technically or operationally, it’s more like making contacts using a mobile phone. I’d prefer to struggle making even one contact on 144 ssb and go home with a very short log, than make a dozen contacts using fm to people in their lounge rooms using HTs. It’s just too far from the amateur radio I grew up with, waiting for short path to come alive in our afternoons on 40m cw to work europeans with the home made transmitter and the vertical on the garage roof. Yes nostalgia, it’s all the rage…
73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH
Back in the early days of SOTA, there was the periodic grumble about CW (from phone-only ops) saying that it couldn’t convey the tone/warmth/personality/context that a real human voice could. It amuses me that CW has now joined SSB as one of the good guys in the face of the common enemy that is FT8!
I started with AM, rockbound on 70cms and later on 2m, that was in 1964-5. No commercial gear for 70cms was available when I started. I had to homebrew a converter, it was the G2DD design, a crystal diode mixer, a crystal oscillator and multipler chain and an IF amp, a tight cluster of valves on a four inch chassis. Once that was working (and it was deaf as a post!) it was time for the TX. An 8 MHz crystal oscillator, a multiplier chain driving a 5763 on 2m then a pair of QQV02-6 tripler and amp. I used Lecher wires to select the third harmonic and the result was just about enough power to light up a torch bulb! Even the antenna was homebrew, a 6/6 skeleton slot yagi made out of brake pipe tubing. I actually got fed up with soldering and modulated the beast with the amp in my tape recorder, and it took me a year to find a coaxial changeover relay so going from receive to transmit and vice versa called for a sudden flurry of activity. After a couple of years getting contacts (yes, it really worked) the first TV transisters became available and it was almost a miracle how an AF139 improved reception. It was needed, you called CQ and tuned from 432 to 434 MHz, looking for long answers from other rockbound hams! SSB and the technology that made it available on V/UHF with VFO control was a revelation, although with the first rigs, the Liner-2 and Liner-430 tuning was hardly plain sailing, but that’s another story!
So yes, I like SSB, you can’t beat having another person talk to you over the air (even with it tuned high to make it cut through the noise better!) but my nostalgia is for AM. I don’t denigrate CW, and I got myself up to ~15 wpm just to say I did it, but for me it lacks flavour. Each to his own!