A 20m Vertical Beam

This interesting design achieves results

Adventures in Amateur Radio

JP1QEC developed a portable 20m vertical beam he calls the “Garden Beam Antenna“. I built one this afternoon and have it pointed towards Europe. Construction is stratightfoward. I used a fishing pole to first make a 20m 1/4 wave vertical. It has two ground radials that are about 18 feet long. A third radial extends 18.7 feet from the driven element in the direction opposite where you want the main energy to go. This is connected to two more 18 ft radials and the vertical reflector element also mounted on a fishing pole. I ended up with a very flat SWR of 1.6 across the entire 20m band. I suspect that there needs to be some tweaking to optimize the pattern but I am seeing some directionality based on signal reports from making some JT-65 contacts. The beam is pointed on a bearing of about 40°. I get…

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A Quick Look at the Xiegu G90 with added Comments

At Dayton Hamvention 2019, the CSI Group announced a special deal on the Xiegu G90. The G90 is the first model of the new Xiegu G-series and is from a Chinese manufacturer. It is a man pack style portable 20W HF 10-160 meters transceiver with handles. The G90 uses 24-bit digital SDR architecture. It also includes an internal automatic antenna tuner.

Why another QRP radio in your collection?

I wanted a radio that had enough HF power (20 watts) to run off a reasonably sized Bioenno battery (the 4.5 or 9A) to make up for bad band conditions. 20W is about an S unit down from a typical 80-100 watt base station so no penalty for field operating (5W would be another S unit). I have found the military man packs all run around 20 watts on HF and my practical experience shows it to be a great trade-off. I can drop the power down for sanctioned QRP contests but 5w SSB can be tiresome whereas 5W CW works very well. OK, I also wanted something small with a form factor similar to an FT-891 and the G90 does this and adds handles for free ($100 option for the Icom 7200).

I have spent an hour on the radio and am just making some quick comments until Sherwood Engineering gets their hands on one.

A front and center 1.8” Color TFT LCD Display shows: ± 24 kHz bandwidth spectrum and waterfall. It is bright with adjustable levels. The sweep/refresh rate is very fast. The status of all functions are shown on the LCD display. The ability to see SWR and battery voltage is an excellent user feature. This was a selling point for me.

The microphone has two configurable and several dedicated function buttons and looks like the Icom mic from the 7000. I/Q outputs are available. The G90 has a removable display head that can be separated from the main body.

Modes: SSB / CW / AM
RF Output Power: 20W (SSB/CW), 5W (AM Carrier), 13.8VDC, stepping 0.5W
Voltage range: 10.5-16.5 V DC (voltage must be in 13.8-15V if need 20W)
Transmission frequency: All amateur bands in the range of 1.8 to 29.999 MHz plus 60 meters in USA
Receive current draw: 500mA
Transmit current draw: 8A max.
Size: 4.75″ x 1.75″ x 8.25″ (main body without handles)
Weight: 2.3 lbs

Right off the bat I added an Anderson Pole connector to the lightweight power cord. There is an inline fuse on the positive lead. I am not sure if there is any power drop but I would love to swap out the Molex for an Anderson pole connector to simplify my life.

I was able to figure out the radio interfaces in order to make some changes without the manual. The manual is typical of Chinese brands with chinglesh and incomplete sections. However, even the Japanese brands can have bad manuals. Xiegu has released an improved manual with some charts showing the FUNC and Mic buttons.

I tossed a homebrew EFHW wire across the deck and swept up 20m and landed on K1M in a little pile up. OK let’s try this before I run to my base set up, I hit the tune button and  the tuner was quite fast and did not make a racket. Hit PTT a few times and added him to the log. WOW That’s Happy Day Ham Radio Today.

K1M is a special event station for the Apollo 11 and 1st Landing on the moon. He was 59 plus and he gave me a 57 for 10 watts (which makes perfect sense).

Therefore, my first contact is truly memorable on this man pack radio.

Like the Icom 703, the battery pack or power source is external.

One thing I noticed right away is the lack of a mobile bracket. I was hoping to mount this radio on a backpack and now I found that the inner foam packaging material fits into a Pelican 1400 box very nicely. Therefore, this radio will live life in a Pelican box. I also do not seem to have any CW memories in the G90 so I will have to use my Pacific Antennas keyer.

The radio lacks an adjustable leg or bail so I just added some rubber feet. Maybe, Windcamp or a 3D expert can solve this problem.

The radio is missing an RIT control. Hmmm, I am not sure if I will miss this or it gets added in the next software update.

CW decoder seems to operate fairly well but the radio only accommodates a Paddle keyer and not a straight key.

Not sure how FM mode works as I cant seem to access the menu for it and it needs a extra device. Who cares about this as no one bothers with 10m FM anymore.

Bandwidth is adjustable for each mode.

I did some basic IMD tests and it seems to hold up OK and will have to investigate further.

No drift was noticed.

Radio was slightly warm after an hour of use.

No external speaker jack. The internal speaker is ok and audio output is very good. I will look into the mic assembly and will have to investigate further (no schamatics) if this is a Yaesu mic interface or Icom. Actually, for a field radio the need for an external speaker jack would mean lugging one more item. I think the audio is louder than the Elecraft KX series.

The external Mic has some feature buttons like direct entry and up/down and they did add a Tune button. This could be a work in progress or a better manual may explain it better.

The spectrum display is always on and not that useful but then I do not bother with that on 7300/7610 or 991 radios. I am forced to use it on my SDR Play but I tend to hunt up and down looking for stations using a VFO knob. The 24 kHz bandwidth is not that great anyways but the display looks nice if not highly functional for those that need a band view.

There are two tuning controls: a 100 KHz and then one that can click in to vary the step that is a bit quirky to use but it just takes a bit of a learning curve.

It receives better than the Yaesu FT-817 and has better front end performance and DSP filters. Whatever I hear on the Icom 7300, the G90 hears.

This a great radio for the price point, has enough power to make it usable for SSB with low sunspots and has a rugged build and feel. I was surprised how heavy it was. 20 watts output at 8A 13.8V is battery friendly and an EFHW with the zippy internal tuner makes it a wonderful field radio.

My version came with the latest release 1.6 and Xiegu has listened to its customers with some incremental improvements and bug fixes. I hope to see some enhancements down the road.

As usual, Jerry Wagner and the team at CSI (Connect Systems) group shipped it out after a quick check over and with awesome customer service. When you call, Jerry answers the telephone and his initial shipments sold out quickly.

I think this Xiegu G90 is going to be a popular little radio.

For a new ham in the hobby with a $1000 to spend could get a G90 for HF $450, a $200 dual band DMR handheld, a $150 Yaesu 2m FTM-3200DR mobile (Fusion), a Zumspot and a local club ham can donate a 2m mobile antenna. Bioenno battery and charger, Add a PackTenna 9:1 Mini antenna by brown bagging lunch for a week and think of all the fun you will be having.

This radio makes for a cost effective SDR Field radio. During a lunch break, take it out to the picnic table at the back of the building, toss a wire into a tree, hit TUNE and go make QSOs

Ham Radio is not a Hobby it’s a Way of Life!


Tin responded with some clarifications and tips:

Hi John,

Just read your detailed and informative eHam review of the Xiegu G90.  I’ve had the rig for about 3 months now and am very happy with it.
There are a a few points I wanted to clarify:
  • The G90 does support straight keys.  Wire the dit and dah contacts together in the plug (or wherever is convenient) and use the Manual key setting.  The manual (even the crappy basic one) has a pictorial showing how to do this.
  • FM is not available until you add the GSOC large screen, which is supposed to be on sale later this year.
  • The power plug is a Tamiya (as used in radio controlled drones etc). Avoid buying ready-made cables as they will not be the same polarity.  There are discussions in various Xiegu Facebook groups on this subject, and also a description of how to swap out the Tamiya for powerpoles. Also, check that the inline fuse is assembled correctly,  A lot of G90s went out with the spring inline, which overheats and melts the assembly.  I believe Connect Systems fixed this or at least provide a different cable on their stock.
  • You can connect an external speaker to the headphone jack on the left of the front panel.  The output is a bit low though.
  • The manual is indeed not much help. Connect Systems manual is based on a crowdsourced version, and is way better – and you’ll find another really good one on Radioddity’s website.
  • I bought a Windcap FT817 stand.  It’s a fraction bigger than the G90, but supports the rig quite well.  I added some padding and rubber feet to stop the thing from slipping around.
I hope this is helpful.  Please feel free to drop me a mail if you have any other questions about the G90.

The Basics of NVIS

The Basics of NVIS

NVIS (pronounced  “niviss”) is Near Vertical Incidence Skywave HF-SSB propagation for communications between 1.8 and around 9 Megahertz and is essential to anyone requiring reliable HF communication from 1 to 400 mile radius.

For practical communications plans and operations, NVIS functions between 1.8 and around 9 Megahertz. Frequencies above that range the signals penetrate the ionospheric layer instead of the desired reflection back to earth. NVIS requires the signals to bounce back.

A NVIS antenna is always horizontal. A vertical antenna can never be used, including mobiles. Mobile antennas are actually angled to be horizontal if you wish to operate in NVIS.

A NVIS antenna has omnidirectional radiation.A NVIS antenna is low to the ground. It should be deployed less than twenty feet above the  ground.

A multi-frequency NVIS antenna requires an antenna tuner at the feedpoint of the antenna system.

If you use a dipole antenna with an automatic antenna tuner to operate on more than one frequency, cut the dipole to the lowest frequency to be used with the conventional formula.

You can use a regular dipoleat regular height but when its lowered to the ground the SWR will change.

End-fed long wire antennas are NOT recommended. Unbalanced antennas are prone to creating interference other electronic systems in the vicinity.

When the user has a choice of several frequencies, the best choice is generally ten percent below the MUF or Maximum Usable Frequency obtained from propagation programs.

www.hflinkcom/propogation is a great tool

HF Communications is at the lowest of the solar cyle. Amateur Radio operators will find that 80 meters will often work better in the daytime than 40 meter  and that 160 will be better than 80 at night.

60M will continue to be a mid band and is usually the first channels to call CQ or to check for activity.


50.06-50.09 Beacons
50.0-50.1 CW
50.090 CW Calling Freq
50.06 QRP CW Calling Freq
50.7 RTTY Calling Frequency
50.100 to 50.130 DX Window (USB)
50.110 DX Calling Frequency (USB) Usually Non-USA Stations Call Here.
50.115 DXpeditions Frequently operate CW and SSB here
50.125 USA National SSB Simplex Frequency (USB)
50.1-50.6 Weak Signal, AM
50.260 is the WSJT Meteor Scatter calling frequency in the USA
50.270 FSK Meteorscatter
50.300 FM Simplex Calling Frequency (West Coast)
50.385 USB PSK31
50.4 National AM Simplex Frequency
50.885 QRP SSB Calling Freq
51.910 FM Internet Linking
52.525 National FM Simplex Calling Frequency

The HF Oracle Predicts Better DX coming but Be Patient

Bonnie Crystal KQ6XA has done a lot of study on propagation and good news is coming if your patient

Last year, on 3 September 2018, The HF Oracle predicted the solar minimum in 2019

We have arrived.

Her prognostication has come true

Today we are wallowing in the propagation mud, deep in the valley between 2 solar cycles. 

We will soon start to climb out and into Solar Cycle 25 at the end of 2019.

This bad news is also good news 🙂

There may start to be a few randomly good propagation days every so often, especially later this year.

According to The High Frequency Oracle’s prognostication, we will see improved HF propagation in 2020.

Propagation is predicted to get even better in the next 3 years.  solar 2019 2solar 2019

-Bonnie Crystal KQ6XA, 

Scribe and Chronicler of The High Frequency Oracle 


Field Operations Radio Checklist

Field Operations Radio Checklist

Get outside and operate from a park, a picnic table, your backyard, or rest stop mobile.

Choose QRO or QRP operations

QRO – Get a 100W portable transceiver like a Yaesu FT-891/857D/897D, Kenwood 480SAT, or Icom 7000/7300. Get a 100W antenna like a SuperAntenna vertical, Chameleon Antenna, Buddipole, Dipole, or Hyend end fed. Get a 12V 30/20Ah Lipo battery like a Bioenno or a 12v car battery.

QRP – Get an Elecraft KX2/KX3 or a Yaesu FT-817/818ND. Get an Alex Loop, LNR Precision end fed or a dipole. Get a Zippy Flightmax 5000 mah 3S1P 20C battery or a Bioenno battery.

Easy Propagation Understanding in 3 Steps

Thanks to Bonnie for clearly explaining what all this solar index stuff means

40m has been opening up in the evening and even cases of 20m opening up in the evening. 20m has become a daytime DX band lately and when conditions are right 40m is showing VK and European stations. The following explains why

How To Read HF Propagation Numbers

The A index = LOW is GOOD.
1 to 6 is BEST
7 to 9 is OK
11 or more is BAD

SFI index: HIGH is GOOD.
100+ BEST

K index: LOW is GOOD.
0 or 1 is BEST
2 is OK
3 or more is BAD

A low “A index” is most important!
For Low Power Portable DX openings at 10MHz to 30MHz, look for an A index LESS THAN 6.

73—Bonnie KQ6XA

Right NOW the conditions are: A-SFI-K=OK, Not Good, Best

 Data provided by N0NBH

SFI=75 / SN=27 / A=3 / K=0.

A-SFI-K=Best, Not Good, Best …………means bands are open for DX (usually)

YAESU FT-891 Current Draw at 13.8V

The Yaesu engineer who put the brochure together obviously has not used the radio

I tested the following current draw figures

Yes, it is very high at 5w due to the finals inefficiency at low outputs but I can rock it up to 80 watts and add 2  units to my signal for those receiving station using poor antennas

You cant do that with a FT-817/818 or KX2/KX3. Just think of the 891 as what the FT-818 should have been with a built in amplifier in a single form factor

FT-891 Current Draw at 13.8V

Receive                1.0 A

5 Watts                5.7 A

10 Watts              6.9 A

20 Watts              8.3 A

30 Watts              9.3 A

40 Watts              10.5 A

50 Watts              11.5 A

60 Watts              12.2 A

70 Watts              12.9 A

80 Watts              13.7 A

90 Watts              14.4 A

100 Watts           15.2 A

I uses several Bioenno batteries for this and other radios. The 9AH battery will peak to 20AH for B use

Launch of the Icom IC-9700 – Yawn

Launch of the Icom IC-9700

Icom has a new VHF/UHF/23cm SDR transceiver called the Icom 9700

Icom is now announcing radios a year in advance of release.The IC-9700 has several unique aspects that I have provided below:

WOW! $$$$$$ You would not buy this radio to chat on the local repeater unless you have pension money to blow

The 1.2Ghz/23cm band comes as standard. Great for Japan and Germany but not so much for the Toronto area that has no 1.2 repeaters except for a single D-Star one. It stacks on top of your 7300 and 8600

D-Star included as they replaced the 7100 with this radio. Many hams bought the 7100 for D-Star as the HF side of the radio was not that great so now you either get a 5100 with the wishy washy display or go full tilt clour boogie on this radio

This transceiver covers the 2m, 70cm and 23cm bands. Power levels are 100/75/10W respectively. The radio uses the latest SDR technology with direct sampling on both 2m and 70cm, echoing the underlying technology of the IC-7300 and IC-7610. There is a touchscreen with waterfall and spectrum display. Modes include SSB, CW, AM, FM, RTTY, DV (D-STAR).

Satellite operation is the real reason to buy this radio with dual-watch and duplex facilities, plus normal and reverse tracking (to take account of the problem with the Doppler shift).
Interfaces include USB and the usual Icom C-IV for rig control but also a LAN port – remote operation can be achieved without a PC connected directly to the transceiver. A 10MHz reference signal input allows very accurate frequency control, important for some low-signal data modes and satellite activity.

If you are an active satellite operator then this radio is for you.

A fan of the magic band  NOT as 6m is not included

If you are tired of the Icom 7100 and need a stackable radio on your 7300 then the 9700 is for you.

If you operate on one analog repeater and can’t figure out the programming for D-Star then this radio is NOT for you.

The 9700 I out in the field and Icom has already issued software patches due to the lack of proper testing before release as seen by the bug fixes:

Changes from Version 1.04

  • Faster boot-up time.
  • Improved TX/RX Call Sign Display function.
  • Realigned the display layout when using the DR function.
  • Fixed an issue where “MY CALL SIGN” may not be properly transmitted.

CS CS-9700 Version 1.01

  • Fixed the problem that the wind speed of the reception history is displayed as “mph” even if it is set to the display unit “km / h” of the wind speed