VI5ANZAC Activation report

Tuesday evening (28th April) A small group of us put the VI5ANZAC special event call on air with a QRP portable activation from Morialta Conservation Park.

Morialta Conservation Park   the location of our operation
Morialta Conservation Park the location of our operation

First off, let’s step back a few weeks.  I was chatting with Grant VK5GR and he asked if I was available for 1 evening during the week whilst AREG has the VI5ANZAC callsign to put it on the air.  It eventually came to pass that the best option would be for me to lead a small group and do it as a QRP portable activation from one of the Local Conservation Parks just East of Adelaide in the Mt Lofty Ranges, the rest is now history!

This was not going to be an issue getting a portable station set up, so of course, we went 1 better and put 2 portable stations together so we could do our best to cover more than 1 band.  If you have been following, you would have seen my proposed activation details

With a whole 2 weeks to get it together, I set about doing a quick review of available operators within the Club and then on the qt also invited Paul VK5PAS to come along.  It was literally a case of hoping we had decent weather!  The best laid plans and we had a last minute work commitment by one of the operators, but still we managed to pull it all together.

The Wx held out and we had a predicted clear evening (no rain or wind) but knowing it would be still quite cool on the the top of the hill.

We were not disappointed!

Sun setting over Adelaide
Sun setting over Adelaide

On Tuesday afternoon, I met Gary, VK5FGRY on site at around 17:00 local time and we started getting set up for the evening.

A quick review of where to set up antenna’s and we got started.

Bob (left) and Gary (right) setting up  one of the Squid poles next to the tent
Bob (left) and Gary (right) setting up one of the Squid poles next to the tent

Paul VK5PAS arrived as we were setting up and assisted with the final details and we had the station ready to go and started calling at around and the first contact was logged at 08:49

Just as we got underway, Andy, VK5AKH arrived, and Ray VK5RR arrived about 20 minutes later.

Andy (front) and Paul (back) operating the 2 stations
Andy (front) and Paul (back) operating the 2 stations

The initial flurry on 40m was to be expected and we worked at a steady pace, rotating thru the operators on 40m for the next 90 minutes or so.   As the calls dried up on 40m we wound down the calling somewhat and 40m did in fact close out for all local contacts as well.  We could hear quite a bit of DX, but not work it.

The 2nd station started out on 20m and it was very slow – as feared, we had only just caught the tail end of 20m and had just a handful of contacts.

Gary (center) Ray (right) watching the operations by Bob
Gary (center) Ray (right) watching the operations by Bob

Given the conditions, we decided to move the 2nd station over to 80M earlier than we had initially planned and started calling there as well.  It was a slow and steady trickle of takers on 80m and we had an unusual request – could we try 160m!

Well, this was a bit of a challenge in itself as we were not at all prepared to have any sort of antenna on top band, but being challenged, we jury-rigged an EFHW as an extension onto the end of 1 of the 80M dipole elements, hit the tune button on the KX3 and managed to get it to tune!

Andy Operating one of the Stations
Andy Operating one of the Stations

The 2 stations for this operation were both KX3 Transceivers  with a headset running 10 watts on SSB, each set up with a laptop for logging.

Yes, we did manage 2 contacts on 160m – the first to Mt Gambier (400km) and the 2nd to an Adelaide Station.  Pretty impressive really considering the “Antenna” and power we were using!

Grant, VK5GR was a very late arrival and his plan was to set up and see how many local contacts we could get on 2m and 70cm to add to the mix.

Once everything really slowed down, we decided to call it quits just on 21:30 local time (12:00 UTC) and started pulling the station down.  Within 30 minutes we had everything down and packed up, with the final task to check the logs and upload them.

The final tally for the Tuesday Evening QRP* activation  (QRP on HF) was as follows.

Total contacts logged 73

160m 2
80m 12
40m 45
20m 3

2m 5
70cm 5

In the mix we had 1x US, 2 x ZL and remaining VK1 (VI1ANZAC), VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, VK6 and VK7 -so a good representation right across the country, and we only missed on getting a VK8 in the logs.

Operators for the evening

VK5FO, Bob
VK5PAS, Paul
VK5AKH, Andy
VK5RR, Ray

and Grant VK5GR

Without the awesome logistical support from Gary VK5FGRY we would not have been as comfortable in the heated tent!

Bob (l) Andy (mid) and Paul (r) in the heated operating tent
Bob (l) Andy (mid) and Paul (r) in the heated operating tent

A big thanks to all the chasers who make such an activation even more enjoyable, and yes, all of the logs will be uploaded to WWFF in the coming days as the HF operation was compliant with VKFF and from a recognized park.

Thanks To Paul for the photos from the Evening’s Event.

Check out Paul’s report as well.


AX Award 2015

For chasers of the AX QSL Award  I have created a Special AX5FO QSL card.  When I had my last lot of cards printed, I had 25 AX cards printed as well, so the first 25 cards received will be replied to within a few days.

I will respond to all DIRECT QSL requests only – Do not send via buro (I will never see the card and therefore not respond).

Please send cards to:

Bob – VK5FO
GPO Box 2900
Adelaide, SA,  5001

Enclosing a SASE will guarantee a fast turn-around and would be appreciated!

Hope to get you in the logs and receive your card for this historic year.


On Tuesday Evening the 28th April (approx 2 weeks time) it is our
privilege as part of the AREG – Ray, ‘5RR, Mark ‘5QI and myself, Bob ‘5FO plan on activating the special event station VI5ANZAC for a few hours. There will be a couple more AREG members whom will also be part of this activity.  Please keep an eye on both the AREG website and here for any updates.

We will be operating QRP Portable from the Morialta CP, VKFF-783 using my “normal” portable station/s.  This will be a QRP SSB activation and Yes, I know that this does have limitations and we may or may not be able to work everyone.

This of course will be local weather-dependent – as long as it is not
raining, we plan on being on the air. We will confirm on the day.

All being well, we should have the 40M station on air by 17:45 (local
time) and plan to operate to 21:30 local time. This is approx  08:15UTC to 12:00UTC.

We will be calling CQ VI5ANZAC /QRP /Portable

We will have a 40M station on-air for the duration and potentially look at working on other bands during the evening as well to try and put this station within reach of all of VK (and beyond).

All being well, we will be on or around 7.145, 14.245 and given the
success of the QRP contest a few weeks ago, we are considering moving the 20M station to 80M on 3.675 at around the 10:30-1100UTC time.

We have the capability of operating 2 and maybe even a 3rd station, but no promises other than 40M. If you have a special request for another band then please contact me via the contact form  so we
can try and co-ordinate, we might be able to try for a short time on other bands.

In all cases we will go split and be listening up ~5Khz from our
(nominated) TX frequency.

I am extending this invitation to all of the “regulars” whom I chase and who chase me whilst I am out portable, and hope that We can log some of the Regular portable operators and non-regular chasers as well.

Our target for the evening will be to work at least 100 stations  across all VK call areas, and hope to be early enough to work ZL stations as well.

We will NOT be spotting on Parks and Peaks, but we will be operating in accordance such that all contacts are valid for both VKFF and SANPCPA.

Please feel free to post this advance notice to your contacts, club
members and any other interested parties and we hope to work you on the evening of the 28th.

Once we are On-Air and we we will be asking early on for stations to spot us on the Clusters – we may not be able to self-spot.

There will be a lot of other opportunities to work VI5ANZAC so if you are not able to get in our logs on the 28th, keep an ear out across the whole week around the bands. The AREG will be operating over the weekend and during this week in various capacities.

At the conclusion, we will be providing the full logs to the WIA who are co-ordinating the eQSL’s – Please see the WIA website for the details and roster.

Long Weekend

Easter weekend presents an opportunity for portable activation’s -well 4 opportunities as it turned out.

Although the weather was not perfect, i took the opportunity on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday to get out portable somewhere!

Friday Afternoon – Horsnell Gully CP

Horsnell Gully CP

This is a new CP for me.  I have driven past within 1-2km several times but never stopped and activated.  It was a late afternoon activation of this CP and set up not far from the entrance tied up to the fence.  set up using and EFHW as an inverted L.

We accessed the CP at the end of Coach Road (top end off Ridge Rd).  Chose this end of the park as it is further away from houses (and QRM) and also about 200M higher in elevation than down towards the bottom of this CP.  Surprisingly, even though there is HT power lines running alongside the CP and all within about 500M of where we set up there were no issues with noise at all like you can get.


As soon as I set up, I managed to work Peter VK3PF who was set up in Cape Liptrap Coastal Park MP(VKFF-745) before finding a frequency and managing to log around 20 contacts on 40M mainly with VK3 and VK5 chasers.

Now, i wish I had made better notes, but 1 contact with a VK3 was a highlight as I gave this hunter the contact to push them to Gold for the SANPCA award.

Saturday Evening – QPR Hours Contest – Mt Gawler VK5/SE-013

Qrp Hours 2015 Mt gawler

For the QRP hours contest on Saturday evening, I headed up to Mt Gawler – VK5/SE-013 and set up the 80m dipole as an inverted V

It was a bit sub-optimum with the height of the apex being only about 8M high.  The first hour I operated PSK31 and managed a handful of contacts including VK1, VK3, VK5 and VK6 using 3W.  The 2nd hour, for SSB whilst not a real high score was tough going, the noise on 80M was a bit of a battle, but did manage contacts to VK1, VK2, VK3 and VK5 using only 5W.

So, remember, if you worked me during the hours contest, Please go ahead and claim your Sota contact – I have uploaded the logs to Sotadata

Sunday – Black Bullock Hill VK5/SE-016


Yes, you might see the Deep Creek CP sign, but the Summit is not in the CP!  the CP is around another 6km down the road, You can almost see the trig point in the background just over the fence on private property.

This was an opportunistic Activation and also a new summit for me.  I was down on the Peninsular and given that it was only about 40km out of my way, headed home via this “summit”.  As we were setting up, we were watching the rain coming in and threatening to drown us.

It was far quicker than I really wanted, and signals were not too great, but did manage to work several of the regulars and even manage a S2S with VK3KAB on VK3/VE-023.

A total of 22 contacts logged across VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4 and VK5 – most on 40m and a couple on 20M.

this activation pushed my activator points up to a massive 30 points – so at this rate, it will only be another 34 years until I reach goatdom!

A very easy summit to activate apart from the distance!


Monday Mt Lofty – Trifecta Activation

My Lofty always was a double – with VK5/SE-005 and Cleland CP, but with the recent addition of Cleland CP to VKFF as VKFF-778 it makes the trifecta.  Any chasers here now can get credit for all 3.

Monday weather was miserable.  I was watching the weather radar and it indicated that there should be a bit of a break for a couple of hours, so we headed out.

Got to the parking area and whilst it was a bit windy and cold, it was not raining.  Within 5 minutes of setting up it got a bit horrible – just enough drizzle to get everything damp, but not quite strong enough to drive me off the summit.

Before I decided it was too cold I managed to log 26 contacts across VK1, VK2, VK3 and VK5 most on 40M and a few on 20M.

I did not quite hit the 44 contacts this time, but once I do I’ll submit a log for WWFF.

No photos from here -it was too cold to push the button on the phone to get something!


Across the weekend, I used the FX-4a and an EFHW cut for 40M for 3 of the activation’s.  exception was for the QRP hours contest where I used the KX3 and an 80M dipole.

My normal fare antenna-wise is to use a dipole.  I wanted to try using the EFHW as some operators swear by them and some swear AT them!  I also use the T1 tuner to get the best possible match and so far am finding that It is very difficult to get a good match on 40M.  It does manage to match it, but I might need to take a further look at this.

I am sort of in the middle of the road with this antenna.  Yes, it is trivial to deploy, Yes, it does seem to tune up reasonably OK on all bands from 40-10M with both the KX3 internal tuner and the T1 External tuner, and yes, still manage to put 20-30 contacts into my logs for each outing I have used it.  Now once I manage to get the tuning sorted out for 40M I will simply add it to my kit and use as required.  Always good to have choices as sometimes it can be difficult to find the 3rd point to deploy a dipole, but it is usually trivial to get somewhere to tie up a squid pole and then a single end of the EFHW wire in an inverted L type of configuration.

4 activation’s, total of around 6 -7 hours and I only used about 50% of 1 of my 4S, 5000maH Lipo’s.  really loving these batteries – even in the cold they seem to be performing really well.

Now, the last thing I need to do is to put the gear together into 2 kits and have a choice of how I operate somewhat – the lightweight kit with the KX3 and the even lighter kit with the FX-4a for the longer hikes where every extra gram counts!


FX-4a Transceiver Review

Late last year (2014) the FX-4 got a re-design (update) and has been re-released as the FX-4a. I was able to get one a few days ago (March 2015) and have been putting it thru it’s paces.  For reference, the tested FX-4a in this review has serial number 000047.


Spec- wise the FX-4a looks to fit into a hole in the market of available QRP portable HF transceivers.


First off, a quick look at the manufacturer’s specifications.

FX-4a Specifications

ItemManufacturer's spec
TX power5W CW and SSB
Input power10-15V
RX current: 250ma
TX current: 1200ma
Tx and RX,
40M Band
30M Band
20M Band
17M Band
Tuning Steps10hz, 100hz and 1khz
VFO2 independent VFO's
RIT+ and - 10khz
Dimensions112 mm L
76 mm W
42mm T
Plus connectors and knobs
Spurious emissions-43db at 5W (Meets FCC guidelines)
RX sensitivity0.3uV
RX Selectivity-3dB/2.6Khz
SSB and CW
Audio OutputVia Speaker Mic or
1 W into 8 ohm external speaker
CW keyer5-50wpm
Iambic A and B
Memories10 per band
Frequency Stability<5hz after 5 minute warm-up to 30deg
<10hz after 1 minute operating at 40deg.
The Specifications for the FX-4a

CW – an Operators perspective

First off, let’s look at the CW performance from an operating and usability perspective.  Not being a CW operator, I asked Theo VK5MTM to have a bit of a play with the FX-4a and provide feedback on the CW performance from a User’s perspective.

Theo’s normal CW set-up is with his IC-7410 and his Bencher Paddle.

The FX-4a – tuning in CW mode was fine – the Filter is sharp enough to tune a single station. Using an external speaker, there is plenty of volume to comfortably listen. The sidetone tone can be adjusted via the menu, but for the testing was left at the default 800hz

Usage, The built-in keyer is variable from 5-50 wpm and we set the speed up to around 18wpm – which is about Theo’s normal operating speed.  The Menu was configured for his Paddle, and then we tuned around the CW segment on 40m to start with and connected to his normal OCF dipole.

RX sensitivity was pretty good – no trouble using the SDR to “spot” and then tune to any signal that was seen.

With the tuning steps set to 10hz, tuning was crisp and precise, with the 100hz and 1K tuning steps making it easy to scan the band (segment).

A little bit of checking, by sending a CQ – and Theo found that the Keyer was ” a bit clunky..” by this, it was not perfectly clean with a bit of lag and non-responsiveness at times. After a bit of trial and error, and adjusting the keyer speed a bit (up to 21wpm) it was a bit better.

Theo had a few calls and contacts on both 40M and 20M and after a bit of getting used to it, he described the CW keyer in the FX-4a as “a bit different, not as good as his 7410, but certainly usable once you get used to it” – but good enough to use.

As a direct comparison, I also had my KX3 with me – and the KX3 is the Benchmark QRP/Portable TXCVR. We connected up the Bencher paddle, and antenna to the KX3 and Theo found the keyer to be very similar to his IC7410 – nice and smooth by comparison.

Summary: Features are fine (adjust tone, set keyer type and also A/B, tuning steps, RX filter, keyer speed), configuration via the menu – took a few tries to understand the options and set up the paddle, but once done no problem. The keyer itself is a little “clunky” and not as refined as keyers in more expensive rigs. 

SSB – real world usage

I took advantage of the 2nd Year anniversary of the SANPCPA and went out and used the FX-4a on 2 portable activation’s over the weekend.

I used my normal 4s 5000maH LiP battery and fed it via a DC-DC 12A step-down module with the output adjusted to 13.0V

Initial impressions on the RX was that it was pretty good –  I had no problems making several contacts.

Whilst the RX is quite basic – fixed filter, good working AGC with just a tuning knob, and a volume control.

On the volume, the supplied speaker-mic for RX is fairly quiet – but usable in a pinch!  as this rig has no internal  speaker, you will need a suitable external speaker or earphones.  I was using it with an external 8 ohm speaker and found that about 1/3 volume was quite comfortable.

TX – no bad reports on TX and i was using the supplied speaker-mic.  My initial testing of the mic indicated that I had to be very close and really “talk it up” to drive the radio, so I pulled it apart and drilled out a 2mm hole  which was a big improvement – “normal” speaking volumes 2-5cm from the Microphone would drive the TX just fine.

Power Usage:  This is where things get interesting!  This thing is a real miser!  For my first activation, it was around 2 hours, and my little battery usage meter on the lipo indicated that I had only used 11% of my battery capacity.  My 2nd activation of about 2 hours on the same battery gave a repeat performance, with only 24% total usage from the battery.   So, Yes, It is fair to say that even a much smaller (and lighter) battery such as a 3s 2200maH (220g) would give 4+ hours of use and additionally remove the requirement for the DC-DC step-down converter as well.

Menu and user interface:  The usage is pretty straight-forward – simple to change bands, change tuning steps, swap between the A and B VFO’s.

Summary:  Easy to use, small and lightweight, Capable basic TX and RX.


The test Bench

Real-world usage is only half the Story, and that half is positive. so onto the bench testing. I arranged with Matt, VK5ZM to assist in the testing, as his test bench is much better equipped than mine!

All tests were carried out using a 4S Lipo and a DC-DC buck converter with the output voltage set to 13.0V

Current Draw

(measured on the 13V input)

RX Current draw  210ma
TX Current draw (CW, 12W output) 1790ma

RX Sensitivity and Selectivity

Using a calibrated signal source, set to 7.120 it was plugged in using my standard 10M run of RG316 (cable and connectors approx 1db of losses) the MDS (minimal discernible signal) was down at -132dbm.  we tested this by having a carrier mid-way in the audio passband and turned the signal down until it was no longer heard, then verified by sweeping across the RX as well.

MDS at the connector is a very respectable 133dbm or 0.045uV

Yep, a pretty good start!

Next, we set the signal source up to -120dbm and did a sweep across the filter.  The filter bandwidth was found to be 2.1kz wide at approx -10db point.   A quick sweep at -90dbm indicated that it was out to around 4.4khz – again quite respectable.

Output Power

First off CW.

Key-down  it was 12W.  Much better than the expected 5W

During the testing the sidetone became pretty annoying, so I jumped into the menu and set it at level1.  When I next keyed up this was a little surprise – as the CW output actually dropped off to 1W.  A bit puzzled, a bit more testing was done at each sidetone level from 1 thru 10.

Sidetone LevelOutput Power
11 Watt
25 Watts
310 Watts
411 Watts
5-1012 Watts

This then led us to believe that the CW being generated is by injecting an audio signal into the SSB, and most likely the explanation for why the CW keyer felt a little off when Theo was testing!

Next, SSB output.

The simple grab the mic and whistle indicated that the PEP is around the 8W mark, but injecting 2-tones, the maximum output was up at 12W again.

 Spectral purity

The final things that we looked at was how clean the output is, so it was hooked up to the Spectrum analyzer.

Opposite sideband suppression  was more than 50db  down on the wanted sideband, as was the carrier suppression – so we have a good, clean SSB signal.

 Spurious emissions

The noise floor of the spectrum analyzer was about 65db below the carrier.

Key-down on all 4 bands indicated that there were no sign of any mixer products at all, if they were present then it is less than -65db

40M2nd -60db
30M2nd -60db
20M2nd -50db
3rd -52db
17M2nd -55db
3rd -60db

Once again, there was very little unwanted radiated signal – very clean output.


Final test was to inject a 2-tone audio signal – which was done at very high level (pushing the output to the maximum 12W)

BandIMD output Level

The worst IMD products were -25db, and on seeing this, Matt’s comment was “I would have no hesitation using this as an exciter and driving to 400W – that is pretty good”


Now where would any Ham be without pulling something apart to look at the internals! Of course we wanted to take a look.

FX-4a End cover removed

First off, the case on this is good – excellent fit, and feels rock-solid. Reality is, that I wish the physical construction of the KX3 was as good!  Inside the case there are 3 Circuit boards – The display/processor and audio board (top) – The Mixer/IF board (middle) and the output/PA board, which has a shield between it and the Mixer board (bottom)

All boards were inspected under a 50x scope to check the quality of the assembly – all looked to be of good quality.  It was reasonably easy to identify the major blocks – the Micro-Controllers, the Mixer, IF Amplifier, 6-pole Xtal filter, the DDS’s – yes there are 2 in there, the Drivers and Final Amplifiers.


All tests show that it is a good quality build, and good specs.  Short of physical abuse, there is not a lot to go wrong.  Yes as noted, the keypad may be a weak part, but only time will tell on that.

Short of dropping it into the knobs or BNC connector this looks like it will survive being in a backpack and regularly used as a portable HF rig for a long time.


Honestly, look at the spec’s of both the Yaesu 817nd  and the KX3 – you will see that it falls right between them.

The bench testing results did reveal a few interesting insights (CW being an audio injected tone) but they also validated everything else that was already determined from real world usage.

OK time to rate it:

CW 3.5/5
As noted in the testing, the keyer is only OK, and as identified on the bench testing, the probably reason was identified.  Yes, it works, it has a keyer, it is configurable for straight key, and Iambic A and B.  The added bonus is of course, that the output power is adjustable via the sidetone level.

SSB 4.5/5
No real complaints here – rock-solid performer.

RX 4/5
The sensitivity is very good, the selectivity is very good, the AGC is just fine, I guess just because I sort of expect an RF attenuator, noise blanker, notch filter, variable Bandwidth filters etc why I marked it down a little.  It is a rock-solid, basic single conversion RX.

Build Quality: 4.5/5
Nice solid aluminum case, VFO knob feels great to use, standard connectors.  The only potential issue as already noted is the membrane keypad and that the connectors are soldered directly the boards,

Ease of use:  4.5/5
A quick look at the User manual and a 3 minute play with it and you know everything that you need and want.

Overall rating: 4.25/5

Supplied speaker/mic is adequate, adding an external speaker or headphones is a big improvement.  There was no supplied power cable – so I had to supply a standard DC 2.5mm plug.

Where it fits in the marketplace – well that is easy!  This is the perfect ultra-lightweight SSB HF transceiver that is incredibly capable.  Let’s be honest, Not everyone can afford a KX3, and with this rig you will not feel you are wanting. A quality contender and a serious step up from some of the other cheap HF radios that have hit the market over the last 3 or 4 years.  It nicely fills the gap between a kit and the KX3 (which I consider the Benchmark in portable HF)

With 40M and 20M being the 2 most popular HF bands for SOTA and portable operations in general, it would also be a great First HF radio for an “F” call.

I  would not hesitate to recommend anyone wanting a compact portable HF rig or even a 2nd or 3rd portable rig to get one!


I am currently negotiating with the designer of this little radio to be the VK dealer, more information to follow as and when this may occur.   Bottom line, I would not even consider putting my name against this if I was not happy with it!