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Old 10-04-2013, 08:48   #16
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Re: Are all SSB Receivers crap, or is it just mine?

Hey everyone,

Thanks for all the input... the opinions are about as varied here as they were in response to the blog post.

Just to clarify, the SSB I'm referring to is a receiver alone... it can't transmit. I'm wondering if the added $4,000 expense for a transceiver is what makes it possible to actually hear Chris Parker...but then the question is, is it worth the extra $4,000?

The thing is, I'm not likely to spend that kind of money on a fixed unit that I can't take to my next boat (since we'll definitely be getting another boat within the next year)...and I want weather reports NOW, while we're cruising through the Caribbean.

I was informed of the issue of noise interference, so we've factored all that in. Turned off fans, generators, other items that could interfere with the transmissions. The urban issue is kind of moot... we've tried this Kaito 1103 EVERYWHERE... including when we were on secluded island in the Bahamas with no buildings, no towns and not even other boats around.

Surely if it doesn't work stateside, and it doesn't work in secluded islands... it doesn't work?

The enthusiasm for SSB seems to be coming from those of you who have transceiver units. So I think my conclusion is still the same... that for the cost, the trouble, and for what we want it for, the satellite phone is the best option?

Unless I've missed something else?

Thank you all for your responses. I've been tearing my hair out over this SSB receiver for months. I think I will keep it on board in case I need to knock a burglar in the head with something that I'm happy to destroy...otherwise I'll just continue to scowl at it...

Tasha (Turf to Surf)
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Old 10-04-2013, 09:13   #17
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Yes you did miss my comment on what I bought.

After having similar results with my kaito, I bought a used Icom transciever for well under $500. I did not buy a tuner yet nor did I spend money on backstay insulators, grounding devices, etc. Those are needed for transmitting but not for receiving. I made a short wire with an alligator clip. The clip gets clamped to a side stay and the 12 ga bare wire gets jammed into the antenna jack on the receiver. This works fine for RECEIVING, which is what you are trying to do. Total outlay well under $500

I hear Chris Parker very well almost every morning unless I'm in a marina. Even then I sometimes get reception, depends on power transformers, etc
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Old 10-04-2013, 09:15   #18
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Re: Are all SSB Receivers crap, or is it just mine?

I understand your frustration I too was about to use my SSB receiver as an anchor but realized it wasn't heavy enough to even be a good anchor. I finally invested in a good matched antenna and antenna amp. Since then it works very well although it did take a lot of playing with till I mastered it.
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Old 10-04-2013, 09:27   #19
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Re: Are all SSB Receivers crap, or is it just mine?

Thanks gettinthere...

I think I may have thought you had a transceiver...what's the exact model of the Icom you bought? I'll have a look into that...

Tasha
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Old 10-04-2013, 09:52   #20
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I do have a transciever!
What you may be missing is that in order to transmit a transciever typically also needs a tuner. Another box for more money. You also need better grounding to transmit vs receive only and you need better antenna as well. All more money!

I found an Icom M600. Any of the older Icoms will work great for you. All under $700, used.
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Old 10-04-2013, 10:12   #21
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Re: Are all SSB Receivers crap, or is it just mine?

I also suggest you get a used ham radio, or real marine SSB. Some are amazingly cheap. Older Kenwood 430, 440's, SEA radios etc. For reception you will not need an antenna tuner o r ground plane, but will need an external antenna. I've seen SEA radios as low as $200
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Old 10-04-2013, 10:49   #22
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Re: Are all SSB Receivers crap, or is it just mine?

There has been some good advice here already, so I will just chime in to report that I have used my Kaito 1103 to receive WFAX (using a laptop and a WFAX decoder program). It took some tweaking, choosing the best times and frequencies, and careful control of on-board noise sources, (and these are critical issues regardless of the radio you have) but it *did* work. The Kaito is a decent cheap receiver, better than many.

I also have a full SSB and satphone setup so I rarely use the Kaito. I carry it as a spare.
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Old 10-04-2013, 13:26   #23
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Re: Are all SSB Receivers crap, or is it just mine?

I just downloaded this image with a 1103 in the cockpit, internal antenna, just the radio. Couldn't find a jack to jack so had a little mic lying on the locker lid next to the radio plugged into a laptop running JVcomm. Image is flipped 90deg to the left so any interference is vertical, a lot of what is there is actually me washing the dishes in the galley a few feet away

Boat is on a mooring in the Medway, tidal river about 40 miles SE of London. I would probably have got an image in a marina but it would have been nowhere as clear, maybe unreadable but this time of day, just around sunset on 3853Mhz might have got something in a marina, having some space round the boat really makes a load of difference.

So the radio works fine for digital, as per previous post I had readable wfax images across the Atlantic with a 1103, I don't think I even bothered with any voice, istr hearing a faint Herb once or twice but I've always been happy with wfax offshore so wasn't too bothered.


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Old 10-04-2013, 13:34   #24
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Re: Are all SSB Receivers crap, or is it just mine?

Also, hideaway, this bit of free software is great for listening to what's out there on someone elses expensive radio & antenna setup
Software Defined Radio
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Old 10-04-2013, 13:47   #25
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Re: Are all SSB Receivers crap, or is it just mine?

Crossing the North Pacific, I had various systems, but the best was: using an Iridium phone I daily texted a waypoint to my sister's iphone. Using Buoy Weather, she would text me the two-day forecast for that waypoint. Using Passage Weather, she would watch for long range problems. It was fun, cheap with our Iridium package and she liked being involved.
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Old 10-04-2013, 15:06   #26
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Re: Are all SSB Receivers crap, or is it just mine?

Lots of good advice here, albeit somewhat contradictory (which is normal).

I don't have much to add except to say that sat phone and SSB don't fulfill the same tasks. There is relatively little overlap between their respective functionality. Satphone is point to point; HF radio is point to many points. How would you do a net on sat phone? And this is really useful.

I doubt that marine HF is going to disappear. I think the main obsolescent aspect of it is the fact that it is still done with a primitive, steam-punk, analogue modulation mode (amplitude modulation). The military continues to use HF radio as intensively as ever; why shouldn't we? They switched to digital modes long ago. Surely before long we'll get them, too, and that will breath new life. Hams use the original digital mode -- CW - or Morse Code -- with great effect; using a watt or two, sometimes, to communicate with other hams around the world, and using only 250Hz or less of bandwidth (SSB phone -- voice -- uses more than 10x as much, around 3kHz). PSK31, another text digital mode, uses fantastically little bandwidth -- only 31Hz -- so one-eighth or so of what is needed for CW.

To put this into perspective -- marine VHF channels are spaced 25kHz apart. 25kHz! If you figure that half of this is real used bandwidth, you could still have 4 SSB analogue voice conversations going on in one VHF channel, or 50 (!) CW conversations, or fully 400 (!!) PSK31 conversations. Marine VHF is FM -- frequency modulation -- so suffers much less from noise than SSB, but needs much more bandwidth than SSB.

Digital voice modes likewise pack a lot more information into the same or less bandwidth. One possible breakthrough is here: Codec2 - Next-Generation Digital Voice for Two-Way Radio. Voice communications using this require only 1.1kHz
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Old 10-04-2013, 18:05   #27
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9:1 UNUN makes all the difference.

I bought a Grundig G3 radio which receives ssb. I got mediocre results with it until I figured out how radio actually works, and took steps to spoil it with signal.

I realized quickly that these little radios are really built to receive signals in the kilowatt range. Smaller stations just don't come through.

I made a 9:1 (unun) balun which connects the radio to a long wire antenna and a ground into the external antenna phone jack. It's amazing what difference a good ground makes for reception.

You can see in this picture that the black ground wire runs straight through the box and feeds the outer sleeve of the phone jack. The red wire connects to the antenna and can be switched to run through the 9:1 balun or straight to the tip of the phone jack. Some frequencies sound better through the balun, others straight. This box cost me a few dollars to make.

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Old 10-04-2013, 20:11   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gettinthere View Post
I do have a transciever!
What you may be missing is that in order to transmit a transciever typically also needs a tuner. Another box for more money. You also need better grounding to transmit vs receive only and you need better antenna as well. All more money!

I found an Icom M600. Any of the older Icoms will work great for you. All under $700, used.
That's what I'm saying. The original poster is talking about a $4K expense and I just don't see that. If you go to West Marine and plop down cash on the barrelhead for a brand new SSB with all the trimmings, yes, you will bleed money.

But why do that when for less than 1/4 of the cost you have a radio that's just as good? The differences between my 700pro and a new 800 are really minimal unless you're a radio geek.
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Old 10-04-2013, 21:26   #29
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Re: Are all SSB Receivers crap, or is it just mine?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
That's what I'm saying. The original poster is talking about a $4K expense and I just don't see that. If you go to West Marine and plop down cash on the barrelhead for a brand new SSB with all the trimmings, yes, you will bleed money.

But why do that when for less than 1/4 of the cost you have a radio that's just as good? The differences between my 700pro and a new 800 are really minimal unless you're a radio geek.
Exactly what Rebel Heart said,
I bought a used Kenwood 440 for $200, 20meter dipole $50, Coax $50 and MFJ manual tuner $50. I run one end to the mast and tie the other end of to stern rail. $350.00 done! still need to install it all properly..

This Kenwood has great ears!!

Sure I cannot TX on marine bands but listen in However have made quite a few contacts on 40-10m.....

Also remember, You are dealing with HF, some days propogation works with you and some days it doesnt. If you are having trouble hearing on one frequency try another band(frequency range) Good chance there is nothing wrong with your Kaito, you are just not giving it a chance. Do a little research on long wire antennas, or better yet just hook the kaito to a dipole....you be amazed at the difference.

Also one last note, if Chris the weather guy is using a directional beam to broadcast to his customers you will have a hard time picking up his transmissions unless you are in his path no matter what receiver you are using.

SSB is far from dead, check out 14.300Mhz sometime, very busy martime net. FCC issued Amateur radio licenses are at an all time high. We had 14 people pass the technician exam and earn their licenses this past week alone here at the local club.

Good luck
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Old 10-04-2013, 21:30   #30
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Re: Are all SSB Receivers crap, or is it just mine?

As someone has suggested already, a good, old, used marine SSB would be a great idea. There is an Icom M700 (not the newer pro model) on Ebay right now. With a tuner, current bid is $200.

I had one has my first radio. It worked great. I found HF communication so valuble that soon upgraded to the 700Pro and an SGC tuner. Well worth it.

But, on a budget, the M700 is a work horse that should be easily found for well under $400 (just guessing.....perhaps much less, $250-350 for the radio alone) and serve you well.

A good, real marine SSB is a great radio. Even these old ones can out perform some newer low end amateur transceivers. You will actually be able to do something with it...rather than be frustrated.

Installing a marine transceiver can be cheap and easy. It has been discussed many places. You can set up a dipole antenna for each frequency you want and not use a tuner or antenna coupler.

There is nothing like one. Those little receive only radio's are often just frustrating and really don't give you what you want when cruising. A sat phone will not allow you to participate in the many cruising nets, where people really communicate and good information is found.

Hope this helps

Best

John
ps - If you wanted to spend the money, my absolute favorite set up is an Icom M700Pro transceiver and SGC-230 tuner.
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