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Old 20-11-2014, 18:55   #1
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SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

Hi to all the good folks on CF!

We installed a new SSB HF MARINE IC-M802 Icom unii on our cat over a year ago now.
The unit apparently has a 'Super terrific transmission' - so we are told by nearby boats who hear boats far afield commenting on this ... but we hear little to nothing.

In Raiatea, we met a fella called Richard who told us the issue was our antennae which uses a shroud with isolators on it.

He installed a 'rope antennae' ... and yeah ... maybe ... we had ever so slightly better reception ... not much though, and we ONLY HEAR YACHTS in close proximity ... kinda like a super VHF.

Today in Fiji, some sailor told us there is a setting on the 'receiving end' of the Icom which he called a 'damper' and it is possible we have it set high which allows for better reception on nearby yachts as opposed to those further afield - short range reception - long range transmission.

He suggested we set this value down in order to receive better signal over longer distances - he was not sure of the code, but suggested that by holding and entering certain softkeys one can adjust the 'damper down' a bit. He is foreign language speaking to English, so perhaps the word 'damper' is not correct?

He refers to a shorter wave oscillation for nearer objects or a greater wave oscillation for further objects?

We have googled and searched books for this setting ... I am afraid I find no such thing

Am I missing something simple here?

Can anyone come up with some suggestions ... we have had a number of cruisers and 'experts' try all the usual stuff without success!
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Old 20-11-2014, 19:39   #2
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

You might try contacting ICOM. Their tec people are very helpful.

Maje
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Old 20-11-2014, 21:54   #3
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

Impi,

Get out the 802 manual. Look at the page that talks about squelch, agc and rf gain. The rf gain control reduces the received signal level. This may be what your friend was talking about. For receiving distant signals turn the rf gain all the way up to 9. Also, turn the squelch function off for now. Try turning AGC on and off to see if that makes a difference. AGC off for distant signals might be better. But AGC has to be on for nearby signals.

It could also be some device on your boat interfering with the reception. This is very commonly caused by LED lights, inverters, battery chargers, solar chargers and several other devices. Turn all the DC systems off except for the radio and see if you can hear signals better. Then turn each one on one by one to see which ones might be causing interference. A common LED light that causes trouble is a masthead anchor light or tricolor. They can radiate a lot of noise.

It probably won't make a difference but try turning the noise blanker on and off to see which way is better.
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Old 20-11-2014, 22:33   #4
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

By "nearby boats" do you mean lots of boats, possibly that you are in a marina? There can be a lot of interference from other boats in a marina. I can typically hear a neighbor's Danfoss compressor go on when I'm on our radio and their refrigeration system cuts in. Try it in a more isolated spot.
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Old 21-11-2014, 06:15   #5
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

Guys thanks a lot ... already see a few possibilities here ... going to give it try.
I never considered turning off Solar PAnel MPPT so will give that a try too.
We hear no interference at all .. we just hear nada, nil and nothing but the usual swishing noise.

Another interesting development is that if I transmit, my wind instruments DIE ... as in no wind readings are seen ... they are all ---
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Old 21-11-2014, 06:31   #6
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

Try listening with headphones. If you can hear with them you have a speaker problem. Pages 10-12 in the Operators Manual will give you all your listening options. RTFM
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Old 21-11-2014, 06:51   #7
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

Quote:
Originally Posted by transmitterdan View Post
Impi,

Get out the 802 manual. Look at the page that talks about squelch, agc and rf gain. The rf gain control reduces the received signal level. This may be what your friend was talking about. For receiving distant signals turn the rf gain all the way up to 9. Also, turn the squelch function off for now. Try turning AGC on and off to see if that makes a difference. AGC off for distant signals might be better. But AGC has to be on for nearby signals.
.....
Learning to use these controls will make a lot of differnce. Also turning off items on the boat that maybe creating RF interference while listening -- such as reefers, LED lights, ...
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Old 21-11-2014, 07:44   #8
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

When using my ICOM 802, switching off the battery charger and the refrigerator make a huge difference in reception. Just don't forget to turn them back on when you switch off the radio, otherwise ....

Learned this one the hard way.
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Old 21-11-2014, 09:49   #9
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

impi,
I need to be brief, as I have a lunch to get to...
Dan and Paul have got you going the right direction....

But, here are a few things to do FIRST....

1) Set your RF Gain to 9....and turn the Squelch Off...leave the AGC On....
There are NO secret codes, nor special key sequences needed...(this is all explained in the M-802 manual and in the videos referenced below...)

And, there is NO "damper"....although perhaps this other sailor was referring to the RF Gain setting....


2) Look at your display and see if there are any "bars" illuminated on your receiving "S-meter", when you say your hear nothing but the normal whoosing noise...

On frequencies above 12mhz, you should none (or only one) bar illuminated....and on freqs of 8mhz and below one or two (maximum) should be illuminated....
If you have more than this number of "bars" of noise, you have some on-board RFI (Radio Frequency Interference), which can be from a LOT of sources!!


3) Read over this index / reference here, where you'll find links to pages where you can find a wealth of info on RFI, etc...(as well as lots of other "radio" stuff...)
Marine SSB Stuff (how-to better use/properly-install SSB)

Marine SSB Stuff (how-to better use / proeprly-install SSB, & troubleshoot RFI, etc.)


4) And, if you have good internet access, please WATCH these youtube videos, where you will learn almost everything you'd ever want to know about HF Marine Radio and the M-802...
Icom M-802 Instr Videos(basic-adv) & LIVE DSC-Distress Call

More later...
Fair winds...

John
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Old 21-11-2014, 11:24   #10
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

Quote:
Originally Posted by impi View Post
Hi to all the good folks on CF!

We installed a new SSB HF MARINE IC-M802 Icom unii on our cat over a year ago now.
The unit apparently has a 'Super terrific transmission' - so we are told by nearby boats who hear boats far afield commenting on this ... but we hear little to nothing.

In Raiatea, we met a fella called Richard who told us the issue was our antennae which uses a shroud with isolators on it.

He installed a 'rope antennae' ... and yeah ... maybe ... we had ever so slightly better reception ... not much though, and we ONLY HEAR YACHTS in close proximity ... kinda like a super VHF.

For the little I remember? You are using a "long wire" antennae. For a transmission no matching is required for reception an antennae needs to be tuned.
Today in Fiji, some sailor told us there is a setting on the 'receiving end' of the Icom which he called a 'damper' and it is possible we have it set high which allows for better reception on nearby yachts as opposed to those further afield - short range reception - long range transmission.

He suggested we set this value down in order to receive better signal over longer distances - he was not sure of the code, but suggested that by holding and entering certain softkeys one can adjust the 'damper down' a bit. He is foreign language speaking to English, so perhaps the word 'damper' is not correct?

He refers to a shorter wave oscillation for nearer objects or a greater wave oscillation for further objects?

We have googled and searched books for this setting ... I am afraid I find no such thing

Am I missing something simple here?

Can anyone come up with some suggestions ... we have had a number of cruisers and 'experts' try all the usual stuff without success!
If this is redundant forgive me. Think I deleted the original.

From what I remember you are using a "long wire" antennae. No tuning is required for transmitting but reception is a different story. Don't recall if I have the terminology correct but you probably have a matching devise to make the antennae tuned. I would start there. Key up in a marina? the neighbors are probably getting it on the TV. Ops. I forgot they are digital today
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Old 21-11-2014, 11:44   #11
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

Tuning is not generally required to receive. But it is important for transmitting. The transmitter does not like to operate into a mistuned antenna.

The best guess from the OP description is some local noise source (inverter, refrigerator, water maker, etc. ) causing interference. It could be on the boat or nearby if tied up in a marina.
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Old 21-11-2014, 12:04   #12
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

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Originally Posted by transmitterdan View Post
Tuning is not generally required to receive. But it is important for transmitting. The transmitter does not like to operate into a mistuned antenna.

The best guess from the OP description is some local noise source (inverter, refrigerator, water maker, etc. ) causing interference. It could be on the boat or nearby if tied up in a marina.
Maybe I have it ass backwards. I thought the antennae needed to act as a tank circuit to receive? I believe he is speaking long wire which does not worry about being half wavelength or quarter or whatever. To transmit. Again I could very well be wrong it's been a long time.
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Old 21-11-2014, 14:35   #13
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

Radio has a 'Law of Reciprocality' which basically says if two stations are running the same power... both station will hear each other about the same. Even if one station has a BIG tower & beam and the other station is in a car or boat with a compromise antenna. This is because the big antenna has gain which will increase your weaker incoming signal to him because of your less efficient antenna. And the beam station also transmits much more focused energy in your direction/ to your less efficient boat antenna which makes you hear him like you had a bigger antenna.

If this isn't happening... something is really wrong.

About the only things that tip the balance is if you have a specific receiver issue or if you have localized boat RFI (noise/ interference) which will make an otherwise normal receive signal sound very weak (because of all the extra noise). Biggest sources of local RFI noise are LED lights, ('switching' technology battery charger, fluorescent lights, any kind of 'wall wart' charger for phones, computers, tools on your or near by boats (at dock).

While the other station's energy to your antenna will be the same... all this extra local noise also enters via the antenna and the received apparent signal strength (to the ear) is all about (desired) signal to noise ratio. Your received signal strength can be quite good, but with a lots of extra local noise getting into the receiver via the antenna, the total result can sound like the desired station its weak- very weak.

These issues/ possible noise sources are very hard to find, even for old hams/ boater like me... 45 years at this. When I'm asked for help I ask that they take their boat out and anchor away from everything. Then while turned into a Net (Waterway, ECAES, Mid-CARS, 7272, WWV... whatever with a consistent signal/ Net Control to use as a reference we shut off everything on the boat (battery switch to off/ inverter off/ solar panels/ wind gen disconnected... while listening to the Net/ background noise. Usually on a new the SSB HF boater the difference is night & day. Then you flip breakers/ plug-unplug things until you find ALL the sources. Eventually the S-meter on the radio should be reading zero.


If this test doesn't indicate local noise, then the possible issue points to a receiver malfunction/ setting, especially if distant stations hear you very well... aka your transmitter, tuner, and antenna are working just fine.

Depending where you are, try tuning in WWV the time station at 10 MHz during early evening. WWV should by quite strong... S9 or more. In the 7- 7.3MHz there are foreign broadcast stations that will be even stronger than WWV time station. Are they strong on your system?

I've never heard of the word your foreign helper used. My guess is he was trying to communicate to make sure you have your RF Gain all the way up & your AGC to fast. So if you have a RF gain control knob or menu option is all the up. Also if there is a AGC ( automatic gain control) / menu item) make sure for now it is set to FAST. A slow setting allows noise spikes fool the receiver that it's receiving a strong signal and to reduce its sensitivity and the slow setting forces it to stay low for 10-20 seconds after any noise spike, thus reducing your receiver sensitivity to so low that you will not be able to ear any normal signals. And with constant local impulse noise from the previously listed items... your receiver stays deaf, if the AGC is inadvertently set to slow AGC.

Back to the transmitter, tuner, and antenna... a near necessary item for HF stations is a SWR meter (Google or call Ham Radio Outlet). These meters will tell you so much more than just someone saying they can hear you well. SWR meters measure the vital signs of your transmitter output, tuner function and antenna health.

Don't know if you installed the radio/ tuner and feed line or it came with the boat or if it was professionally installed. Regardless, I've seen even marine electronic shops do horrible installs because most are not HF radio experts. Coax cable must be used between the radio and the tuner... you must be using a tuner, and depending on what type of tuner you are using... the line from the tuner to the insulated shroud must be either coax or a just a well insulated wire (GT-15 is the usual spect for this wire). If the tuner calls for coax it can be run next to/ tie-wrapped to any other cables along the path. BUT if your tuner calls for/ uses non-coax/ a single insulated wire (GT-15) to connect to the antenna... this wire CAN NOT BE RUN NEAR/ tie-wrapped to anything (no other wires, cables, or even to the lower grounded section of the shroud. Doing so will couple both xmit and receive rf energy into your wiring or ground it is near. Having just un-shielded wire from the tuner to the antenna and near other ship's wiring will also couple very high levels of RFI noise from your electronics/ chart plotter / autopilot into your weak receive signals. I've found many 'professional' installations that did the install this improper way. And yes, you can show the owner 'it works' by receiving a strong local signal... but it will not do well with typical HF marine / ham signals. This is why I strongly recommend installing the tuner just a few feet from the antenna and not let the feed wire come close to anything or where not possible... use a coax cable type output tuner where you can have more flexibility in tuner mounting/ feed-line routing.

So let us know what you find. If you are still scratching your head... find a ham in your area. Hams and radio clubs exist almost everywhere. They'd be happy to figure out what's going on with your system. Good luck.



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Old 21-11-2014, 14:41   #14
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

Quote:
Originally Posted by transmitterdan View Post
Tuning is not generally required to receive. But it is important for transmitting. The transmitter does not like to operate into a mistuned antenna.

The best guess from the OP description is some local noise source (inverter, refrigerator, water maker, etc. ) causing interference. It could be on the boat or nearby if tied up in a marina.
Tuning isn't required to receive, but a properly tuned antenna will receive better. I use manual tuners at home, and the first pass tuning is done on receive by ear. It makes quite a difference on a non-resonant antenna system. I can certainly notice a signal strength difference on the maritime net on 14.300 MHZ between the 802 being tuned vs. "thru" setting on the boat.

Sounds like the RF Gain is cranked down. I have an older analog tube driven HF rig, and the AF Gain (volume) is the knob and the RF Gain is the ring around it. I sometimes mistakenly lower the RF Gain when I turn the volume down. Same symptoms.

JRM

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Old 21-11-2014, 15:40   #15
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Re: SSB ICOM- IC M802 GREAT TRANSMISSION / POOR RECEPTION

impi,
Now that I've got a few extra minutes, I can be a bit more specific...and I have LOTS of suggestions, but in order to be specific, I'd need a lot more info from you (see below at bottom....but, until then, this should get you going in the right direction....)


First off, if other boats are hearing you well and say that you have a super transmit signal, there is NOTHING wrong with your antenna nor antenna tuner!!!! (and almost certainly nothing wrong with your original insulated shroud antenna either....)

Most likely your problem is one, two, three or all four, of these 4 things...
a) Significant on-board RFI (Radio Frequency Interference), causing you to hear nothing but noise...
b) Improper settings/adjustments of the radio...
c) Insufficient knowledge of Radiowave Propagation, thereby not using the proper frequency for the distance of communication, for time-of-day, etc...
d) Insufficient knowledge of what signals you SHOULD be hearing and what you SHOULD NOT be hearing....


You mention that you have had other cruisers and many "experts" on-board and nobody has been able to find the cause of this problem....
Not knowing who, when, nor what any of these folks tried, it is impossible for me to comment in detail on this....but...
But, IF these folks were really trained / experienced technicians, and they couldn't find the problem, then there is a possibility (albeit slight!) that your M-802 has a defect in its receiver circuitry....but this would be very rare, and until you've tried all of this below, we wouldn't know anyway....so, please proceed with ALL of this and report back the results/info requested...



With the above said....Please read all of this below and Please follow these directions/instructions step-by-step and completely....(and watch the Youtube videos as well...)
If you do all of this, you WILL find out one of two things...
a) You WILL find the problem fairly quickly....
or
b) You will find that your radio has an internal problem...


All of the referenced videos are linked to and explained here...
Icom M-802 Instr Videos(basic-adv) & LIVE DSC-Distress Call



So again, Please do these things FIRST....

1) Set your RF Gain to 9....and turn the Squelch Off...leave the AGC On....
There are NO secret codes, nor special key sequences needed...(this is all explained in the M-802 manual and in the videos referenced below...)

And, there is NO "damper"....although perhaps this other sailor was referring to the RF Gain setting....

a) Press the "F" key and then the number "6" key, your display will change to show RF GAIN and a number (1 thru 9)...
Turn the big right-hand knob (the "CH" knob) until the display shows:
RF GAIN
9
The press the "ENT" key....
And, your RF Gain is now at maximum (9)...


b) Verify that your Squelch is turned Off...(you should not see "SQL" on the display, near the left side lower part of the display, just above the radio's "S-meter".....if "SQL" is shown there the Squelch is On and you need to turn it Off...)
To turn the Squelch Off, press the "F" key, and then the "2" key...


c) If your AGC was Off, you'd hear a lot of noise and nearby stations would be very loud....but little else....
You should have the AGC turn On all the time (or at least 99.999% of the time)
To turn the AGC On or Off, press the "F" key and then the "5" key....


Please watch this video for details of these and other functions....




2) Next....you need to determine if you have on-board (or nearby) RFI, which is Radio Frequency Interference....also known as "hash", "noise", "garbage", etc....

Look at your display and see if there are any "bars" illuminated on your receiving "S-meter", when you say your hear nothing but the normal whoosing noise...

On frequencies above 12mhz, you should have none (or only one) bar illuminated....and on freqs of 8mhz and below one or two (maximum) should be illuminated....
If you have more than this number of "bars" of noise, you have some on-board RFI (Radio Frequency Interference), which can be from a LOT of sources!!

There are two videos that show SOME natural / atmospheric radio noises, and SOME RFI noises...(as well as some actual stations transmitting....)
Please watch these videos and you'll get an understanding on what noises are natural (normal) and what are unnatural (man-made RFI), and what some stations / signals should sound like.....





AND....a VERY IMPORTANT VIDEO....(video #4), which shows the differences of using the correct/proper frequency, for the expected distance of communications, time-of-day, etc...as well as shows what many of these useful stations should sound like....
Please have a look at this video here...





3) For further info on RFI, finding it, and reducing/eliminating it, etc., please read these pages....

Follow the installation and testing procedures that I lay out here (and have been using for about 40 years)....and that Sailmail has been recommending for 15 years....
SailMail Primer


FYI, even if the titles of these pages don't seem to apply to your problem, trust me these pages should help....read the descriptions and click on the links, and read them...

Testing a SSB/Ham radio - poor reception
(lots of info on RFI and radiowave propagation)
Testing a SSB/Ham radio - poor reception


ICOM 706 MK2 G optimization.
(lots of info on RFI and radiowave propagation, and radio operating tips)
ICOM 706 MK2 G optimization.


Icom M802 in fresh water
(info on RFI and radiowave propagation)
Icom M802 in fresh water


How to reduce RFI from an Airmar depth sounder?
(info on unusual RFI)
How to reduce RFI from an Airmar depth sounder?




4) Read over this index / reference here, where you'll find links to pages where you can find a wealth of info on RFI, etc...(as well as lots of other "radio" stuff...)

[note that ALL of the info that I'm posting here, and ALL of the links I'm providing here, are ALL listed right here in this thread (which has been made a "Sticky" and is right at the top of the page), as an "index" of where to find all of this....please have a look...]
Marine SSB Stuff (how-to better use/properly-install SSB)

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/marine-ssb-stuff-how-to-better-use-proeprly-install-ssb-and-troubleshoot-rfi-etc-133496.html




5) And, if you have good internet access, please WATCH these youtube videos, where you will learn almost everything you'd ever want to know about HF Marine Radio and the M-802...
Icom M-802 Instr Videos(basic-adv) & LIVE DSC-Distress Call




Please understand that none of this is "magic", nor is it "rocket science"....unless you have a VERY rare internal radio defect, you should be able to learn what is what, and what your exact radio problem is, in less than one hour....
[I hope you notice that except for some of the specific discussions I reference above in #3, I never mentioned any special tools / equipment, nor made mention of any special tests.....these "tests" might still be needed, as well as some minor use of some test equipment/meters.....but...
But, most of what you need to figure this out, you already have....your ears and your brain....all you need is a bit more "radio knowledge"....

AND all WE need is a bit more info from you....
Such as:
---- what level your radio's RF Gain is set at....
---- whether you've gotten the RF Gain set to 9....
---- verify that you've turned the AGC On...
---- verify that you've got the Squelch turned Off...
---- tell us what you are actually hearing....
---- what noise levels you have (how many "bars" of noise),
---- what signal levels you have (how many "bars" of signal, ----- etc...


If sailors take the time (< one hour) to learn about "radio", etc.....and follow the proper steps/procedures that they just learned, anyone can have excellent results and enjoy easy and happy HF Radio Communications on-board....
(however, the problem is that first word "If"....


I hope this helps...
Fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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