Minimalist and Maximalist Ultralight DXing-- Try Them Both!

Gary DeBock

Hello Guys,
     Thanks to all (Kevin, Rob, Carl, Allen, John, Kirk, Richard, Dennis, Greg and many others) for your generous comments about the first anniversary of the Ultralight Radio boom, which are all greatly appreciated.  Our exciting new niche hobby has restored the interest of many AM DXers, and certainly has a very positive future.
     Perhaps the most fascinating advantage offered by ULR DXing is the chance to choose your own level of challenge.  There is never any reason to feel bored, when such a huge variety of radios, accessories and even modifications are available to provide new DXing challenges and opportunities-- all at reasonable prices.
     John Cereghin's recent comments about the "minimalist" approach (DXing with a stock SRF-59) very effectively described the challenge and rewards offered by using only a basic analog Ultralight to chase domestic and international DX.  Allen Willie has also thrilled us all with a minimalist approach to transoceanic DX, and Rob Ross, Greg Schoom and others have done the same with domestic DX.  There is a strong "work ethic" required in this type of DXing, but the rewards are certainly in proportion to the effort. Like most major projects, your success requires patience and perseverance-- but the reward of hearing rare DX on a stock Ultralight is an indescribable thrill that is unlike any other hobby experience.
     On the other side of the Ultralight enthusiast group are the "maximalist" DXers, who have been on a one-year mission to modify pocket radios into a state of supreme DXing effectiveness.  John Bryant and myself have perhaps led the charge in this, with serious assistance from Guy Atkins, Steve Ratzlaff, Kevin Schanilec and many others.  From the beginning of the Ultralight boom we have had filter modifications (SRF-M37V, DT-200VX and others) and loopstick transplants (SRF-39FP and DT-200VX), but serious performance boosts didn't happen until we learned to combine extreme sensitivity with extreme selectivity.  Today our modified E100's can embarrass classic DX portables on ocean beaches, and anywhere else.
     If you are looking for new DXing challenges this winter, you are certainly in the right group!  Try the "minimalist" approach, and se if you are up to the challenge.  The ultimate challenge is offered by the Sony SRF-S84, a radio half the size of an SRF-59 (with a loopstick only 1.2" long).  Think that this tiny radio would be useless for DX?  Guess again-- it has already received 3 TP's here in my modest location (JOAK-594, JOIB-747 and HLCA-972).  But you will have to learn to play the propagation peaks, and work hard to get rare DX on this tiniest of Ultralights.
     Have you logged a lot of DX on stock Ultralights, and are running out of possibilities?  West coast TP DXers had the same feeling-- about a year ago!  An exciting world of passive and active antennas awaits you.  Check out Kevin's excellent article "Using Tuned Passive Loop Antennas," posted on DXer.Ca.  Investigate the possibilities of inductively coupling your external antennas to stock Ultralight loopsticks (read John Bryant's several articles on the subject, also posted on DXer.Ca.).  Using an external antenna with an Ultralight radio provides an exciting change from the modest stock sensitivity, opening up a new world of weak-signal possibilities.
     Finally, if you would like to try the ultimate in stand-alone Ultralight performance, check out the E100 Four Variant Shootout article, also on DXer.Ca.  Full information is given on the relative performance of the amazing Murata CFJ455K5 IF filter, the innovative Slider loopstick, and a combination of the two improvements.  It's tough to imagine how a modified Ultralight could get more exciting than this-- receiving 49 TP's (and 5 UnID's) in one night at Grayland. 
     For new DXing challenges this winter, Ultralight DXers truly have a world of exciting possibilities.  Thanks again to all who made our first year so enjoyable, and best wishes to all for the most exciting season yet!
     73,  Gary DeBock        

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