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Logging Your First Ultralight TA or TP
There are very few experiences in the AM-DX hobby more thrilling than logging your first TA or TP on an Ultralight radio. As the fall DX season approaches, propagation will slowly improve to make transoceanic stations stronger and stronger. Already there is much anticipation and discussion in our Ultralightdx group about how to make these thrilling catches.
Obviously, those lucky DXers living near ocean beaches will have the best chances of logging TA's or TP's on Ultralights, but there are certain general guidelines that will increase your odds, no matter where you live.
1) Familiarize yourself with the strongest-signal TA (or TP) stations and their frequencies. Mark Connelly posted an excellent list of the 18 strongest TA possibilities in a message to Richard Allen on August 27th, complete with extra information on other TA possibilities. To Mark's outstanding advice, I would submit the following list of great TP possibilities, all of which have been received on a stock ULR here on the west coast:
594 JOAK Tokyo, Japan (300 KW)
693 JOAB Tokyo, Japan (500 KW)
747 JOIB Sapporo, Japan (500 KW)
774 JOUB Akita, Japan (500 KW)
828 JOBB Osaka, Japan (300 KW)
972 HLCA Dangjin, S. Korea (1500 KW)
1566 HLAZ Jeju, S. Korea (250 KW)
1575 VOA Ban Rasom, Thailand (1000 KW)
Of these, the strongest bets are usually JOAK-594, JOIB-747 and JOUB-774. Choose a few possibilities from this list, according to your local QRM situation. The stations in S. Korea and Thailand are more challenging than the Japanese stations, but are very possible on stock Ultralights.
2) If you are chasing TA's, you will need to listen around sunset, and if chasing TP's, you will need to lose some sleep like the rest of us by listening around sunrise. (Note: If you actually end up logging TP's, the loss of sleep is easier to tolerate).
3) Use an SSB-equipped "spotting receiver" to check the signal level of the transoceanic stations you are attempting to log. Place the SSB receiver (E1, ICF-2010, ICF-SW7600GR etc.) in either USB or LSB mode, and dial in the transoceanic station's frequency. Then offset the dial about 500 Hz, and check the strength of the heterodyne (whistling sound) to see if the station is strong, weak or non-existent. If you can hear audio on the station's actual frequency (on the SSB receiver in LSB or USB mode), then your Ultralight has a fighting chance to log the TA or TP.
4) Ultralights are always stuck in the AM mode. For this reason, they have trouble hearing TA's or TP's only 1 or 2 kHz away from strong domestic stations. If the TA or TP's frequency ends in a 3, 4 or 5, your chances are better than if the transoceanic frequency ends in a 1 or 2.
5) If you live in an east coast or west coast state and can drive to the ocean coast for a DXing session, you will increase your chances of success immeasurably (as long as it is reasonably isolated, without many local stations). Salt water can make almost any Ultralight perform like a champion.
6) Hot-rodded Ultralights need hot-rodded SSB spotting receivers. These Ultralights (with 7.5" or larger loopsticks) can easily exceed stock SSB receivers in sensitivity. The new E100 Slider Loopstick-equipped models will outperform any stock SSB receiver, making it necessary to use something more sensitive (table receiver with external antennas, or SSB portable with huge loopstick) for best results.
7) Experienced DXers will go out of their way to help you-- feel free to ask questions about languages, programming, ID's, etc.
8) Have fun! Receiving 3 TP's on a stock SRF-59 is what hooked me on the Ultralight concept. Be psychologically prepared for a similar transformation in AM-DXing excitement! :>)
73, Gary DeBock
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