Friday, September 25, 2015

Better Results Today!

2 hours on the local hill brought a bit of activity out today. Not bad for mid week, midday!

25/09/15 12:08:00 12:13:00 MW0YDH/P DAVID CORWEN
25/09/15 12:15:00 12:23:00 GW4GRW/M JOHN CONWY
25/09/15 12:24:00 12:27:00 M6NKB/M NOEL URMSTON
25/09/15 12:29:00 12:31:00 M0OTE/M DANIEL STOCKPORT
25/09/15 12:31:00 12:36:00 M6GOF MARK SKELMERSDALE
25/09/15 12:34:00 12:36:00 M6AIF KEIRON WIGAN
25/09/15 13:00:00 13:06:00 M0OGG/P CHRIS WITHINGTON
25/09/15 13:07:00 13:09:00 GW4VPX/P ALLAN DOLGELLAU
25/09/15 13:16:00 13:26:00 M1ANX/M MAX URMSTON
25/09/15 13:29:00 13:38:00 G7ILP KEVIN BICESTER
25/09/15 13:38:00 13:47:00 G4NHO JOHN SHEPHERD'S BUSH
25/09/15 13:47:00 13:48:00 G4KWT DENIS READING
25/09/15 13:49:00 13:57:00 M0KPH/M PHIL BURY
25/09/15 13:58:00 14:15:00 M0OGG/P CHRIS WITHINGTON
25/09/15 13:59:00 14:15:00 M3DNA/M DAN ALTRINCHAM
25/09/15 14:13:00 14:15:00 M6GYT/M ASHLEY ASHTON UNDER LYNE

Thanks for reading!
73's, Lewis M3HHY.

Manchester, UK.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Dying Hobby...

I think it's safe to say that in the UK, activity on 2m and 70cm is on the decline. It may be slow, and it may be quieter in some areas than in others but it definitely seems to be on the decline. I went up Matchmoor lane near Winter Hill in Bolton the other night to play a bit of radio /p. I spent a couple of hours putting calls out on S20 and managed 6 contacts! We had 2m FM, 2m SSB, 70cm FM, 6M, DMR 70cm and DSTAR 2m/70cm at our disposal and that is all we managed. This made me wonder what is happening to our hobby.

Now don't get me wrong, some nights are busier than others and that was only a 2 hour snapshot of the hobby but I spend alot of time listening around from home and get disheartened about how quiet 2m and 70cm are getting.

Are people leaving the hobby? Is anyone interested in radio anymore? Are many people taking their foundation exams? Well when you look at the numbers, there's quite a lot you can take from them. Here's some of my thoughts on the amateur radio license statistics from Ofcom.

Since the new year, there have been 528 new foundation licenses issues but if your area is anything like Manchester, they don't come on the air much. Possibly due to nerves, some never come on air after getting their license. Some use it just to talk to one or two friends. I don't hear many M6's around here, or new ones at least.

The worrying thing its that we've lost 1051 full license holders. Sadly there's lots of silent keys which can be seen on the RSGB website, and some that become too old to be bothered with the hobby, and others that just never re-validate their licenses. A lot of full license holders were probably the older generation of amateurs that we mainly active in the 70's and 80's.

All in all there are -308 less amateurs as of this September than there was in January 2015.

Club Foundation Full (Recip) Full Intermediate Total
January '15 1500 19951 759 53059 8468 83737
February '15 1497 19929 761 52589 8460 83236
March '15 1493 20017 761 52493 8495 83259
April '15 1475 20101 768 52448 8544 83336
May '15 1473 20164 768 52084 8564 83053
June '15 1477 20266 770 51912 8584 83009
July '15 1473 20339 776 51870 8625 83083
August '15 1473 20444 778 51957 8675 83327
September '15 1473 20479 777 52008 8692 83429
Total +/- -27 528 18 -1051 224 -308

Some people reading this may have different views than me but I do feel the hobby is slowly dying which is such a shame. Now on the other side of things, there are plenty of new avenues to go down linked to amateur radio, many of which have come about in the last couple of years such as DMR, SDR and the slightly older DSTAR.

Equipment is getting cheaper and cheaper too, Baofeng handhelds and all these cheap £60-£150 mobile radios are making it easier to get on air from a financial point of view. So why are there less people on the air nowadays? Could it be social media and the ever falling price of mobile phone tarrifs? 

In the early 2000's I remember having so much choice when it came to what I listened to on those late nights sat up in bed with my scanner. When I became licensed in 2004, there were so many people to talk to on many different frequencies around 2m and 70cm. Nowadays I can scan around 2m in the evenings and be lucky to come across anyone. More than one local QSO going on at the same time on 2m these days is a rarity around here.

Let me know your thoughts on this. Is your area busy?

Thanks for reading!
73's, Lewis M3HHY.

Manchester, UK.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Werneth Low

I've always liked Werneth Low in Stockport for a few reasons. The view is awesome and you can see as far as Jodrell Bank to the left and Holme Moss Transmitter Station to the right. I play radio portable and mobile from up there too when I get chance as it obviously offers an excellent take off from the top of the hill. Lastly, I like the Home Office masts that are up there. I can't really find much info about them on the internet but I thought I'd share some photos.

These 2 towers could be ex Home Office masts but I can't be sure. Their primary use nowadays is for Police Airwave antennas. There is a 25w transmitter on this site that serves the area. There's a few other antennas dotted around the site which could be used for community repeaters which serve business users in the area but again due to lack of information on the site I can't be sure.

The view from the transmitter site at Werneth looks out towards Harrop Edge in Hyde. This site has a few cellular transmitters for O2, Orange and 3 aswell as GB3WP 70cm amateur repeater.

 Back to Werneth Low, the Golf Club carpark houses a mobile phone transmitter covered in all sorts of antennas. 3 and T-Mobile are the primary users but there are all sorts of white stick antennas, microwave links and folded dipoles which I can't identify.

 The scenery from Werneth Low is beautiful especially on a nice day, there are benches at the war memorial on the top of the hill which make a great location for portable radio operation.

Thanks for reading!
73's, Lewis M3HHY.

Manchester, UK.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Zastone ZT-V900 First Impressions

I got the Zastone ZT-V900 that I talked about in a previous post in the mail this morning and thought I'd share some first impressions.

This radio is described by Zastone as bullet proof and claims to have a bullet proof plastic casing. Where they get these ideas from I have no idea, but that aside this radio is very solid, sturdy and feels very well made. It's also quite weighted too which adds to the quality feel.

I bought it from a power seller for £11.60 which is a bargain compared to the £35 pricepoint on other websites. It took around 10 days to arrive which isn't to bad from China.

It is single band VHF 136-174MHz and has the usual bells and whistles that any cheap radio has. One thing I like is the absence of the flashlight function! I think these cheapen any radio and was glad not to see one. The front of the radio has a nice sized screen with an alphanumeric display instead of the dot matrix display. orange backlight and a simple keypad which unfortunately doesn't light up.

The left side has the PTT and monitor made from rubber unlike the plastic PTT from Baofeng. The right side of the radio has the speaker mic port which is covered by a screw on cap so it has to be removed to plug a microphone or programming cable in.

In the box is the battery, radio, belt clip, hand strap, antenna, charger base and power supply. I assembled the radio together and switched it on to be greeted with the Chinese voice prompt which I quickly turned off!

The label inside the radio shows the specifications but like alot of manufacturers, they lie! The label says the radios output is 8w but it isn't. I measured it on my power meter and it is 4.7 watts.

I tested the radio and found the audio quality on RX and TX to be very good. Nice and clear and nice and loud which is perfect for the intended use. I bought this radio for using on 2m simplex in the hills.

One issue I've found is programming via software. Despite managing to find the software from Zastone's website I can't seem to get it to work. I plugged the radio in with the programming cable, switched it on, opened the sofware and selected the correct port but I'm greeted by the message below every time I try to read from the radio.

I'm sure I'll find a resolution to this problem and it isn't too much of an issue as I have changed all the settings in the radio itself and there aren't any 2m repeaters in the Manchester area anymore other than GB3MI so I can manage from the VFO for now.


All in all a fantastic, good quality radio for the price I paid. I'm not sure I'd pay the £35 for it as it is only single band. I'll post some test footage in time to come.

Thanks for reading!

73's, Lewis M3HHY.

Manchester, UK.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

4M Testing - Disappointing Results

Me and my friend Roydan M0LEX thought we'd do a bit of range testing the other day and we chose 4m analogue and 70cm DMR and analogue. I used the Wouxun KG-699E on 4m, TYT MD-380 on 70cm analogue and DMR and the Baofeng UV-82 on 70cm analogue.

Roydan used the Wouxun KG-816 pon 4m, TYT MD-380 on 70cm analogue and DMR and the Baofeng UV-5R on 70cm analogue. He also brought along his Icom E-92D.

I went to Werneth Low which is a hill in Hyde, Cheshire and Roydan went to a slightly raised area in Flixton, Manchester. The distance between us was 13.95 miles line of sight with complete visibility between us both.

For some reason the 4m test was complete waste of time. Roydan could hear me talking reasonably clear but I jsut couldn't hear him and I think it was purely down to the QRM I was receiving up on Werneth Low. Being so high above Manchester and its urban surrounds, I think his signal was just jammed by strong QRM splattered all over 4m. We're going to test it again a bit closer next time but I'm not holding out much hope.

On the other hand the TYT MD-380 did fantastic on both digital and analogue on 70cm simplex. Audio on the DMR side was extremely clear with no loss or warbling whatsoever. Analogue on 70cm was very clear too on the stock antenna.

Similar story on the Baofengs with me on the UV-82 and Roydan on the UV-5R. No issues at all at 14 miles across the city. Nice clear audio at both ends and strong signals coming across. Video here:

Thanks for reading!
73's, Lewis M3HHY.

Manchester, UK.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Kirisun PT617A VHF Mobile Radio Inside Pictures

Some pictures of the inside of the Kirisun PT617A i'm hoping to get working. Mic and cable still on the way!

The massive heatsink on the back extends into the radio and covers most of the top of the board. Looks like it will take some juice when transmitting for a sink that size.

The circuit board inside is pretty simple, nothing like the older radios. Microcontroller is visible to the left and the baseband processor in the middle and I have no idea what anything else is!


RA30H1317M is a 30 watt RF MOSFET Amplifier Module commonly used on these sort of radios that operate in the 135 to175 MHz range. 

On the top of the radio is the tiny speaker and some other bits and peices. The speaker just sits on a foam spacer and is not fixed in place.


Lastly is the front face, nothing really to note on there. The volume control is on the left of the photo, the mic socket is on the right. Note the picture is upside down.

Hope someone finds it interesting! Just hope I can get it running this week.

Thanks for reading!
73's, Lewis M3HHY.

Manchester, UK.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Veasu UV-8R / Yaesu VX-8R

I spend a lot of time browsing online stores and other websites for new models of Chinese radios and I found one recently that made me laugh. The Veasu UV-8R! I found this on AliExpress, eBay and another leading Chinese radio store.

It is a dual band radio covering 136-176/400-520MHz on transmit and receive and contains the usual features:
  • Dual band, Dual display, dual standby
  • 2w/3w/5w Power Setting 
  • Emergency Alarm
  • FM Radio
  • DTMF
  • Low Battery Alert
  • Squelch Tail Elimination
  • Power. >5W
  • Channel Annunciation
  • Auto Power-savimg
  • Multiple Scanning
  • Sound Alarm
  • Keypad lockout
  • Full-function keypad
  • Program alphanumeric channel name
  • Large Capacity Li-ion Battery
  • Busy Channel Lockout(BCLO)
  • Squelch Level Programmable
  • 128 memory channels 
Note the tri power setting, not sure why any manufacturer would put 2w and 3w power settings in a radio as it wouldn't be noticeable at all.

It certainly doesn't have the same price tag as a Yaesu at £300-£360. The Veasu is around £35 delivered which is a bargain for a two way radio which I have no doubt works very well.

It has all the same buttons and lights that the Yaesu has which makes me think that some factory in China has gotten hold of Yaseu injection moulds and slightly modified them to produce their own radio. Note the screen size is slightly different.

Although this is a blatant copy of the Yaseu VX-8R, I do rather like it and think I'll get one in the coming weeks to test out. It is clearly a UV-5R inside as you can see from the screen layout in the image below. It claims to be submersible but that is definitely not true.

The main difference is the printing on the buttons, the keypad has different functions to the Yaesu version. Oh and the Yaesu is a tri-band radio, the Veasu is just a dual band.

Technical Info:

Frequency Range
Channel Capacity
Frequency Stability
Frequency Step
2.5kHz/ 5kHz/ 6.25kHz/ 10kHz/ 12.5kHz/ 25kHz
Antenna Impedance
Operating temperature
–20°C to +60°C
Supply voltage
Rechargeable Lithium-Ion  7.4V/1200mAh
Consumption in standby
Consumption in reception
Consumption in transmission
Mode of operation
Simplex or semi-duplex
RF Power
Type of modulation
Emission class
Maximum deviation
Spurious emissions
Receiver Sensitivity
0.2μV(at 12 dB SINAD)
Audio output
Adjacent channel selectivity

These Chinese clones usuall annoy the hell out of me but I do like this one, it looks the part and you'd easily mistake it for the genuine article at a glance. Stay tuned, I may well be reviewing this in time to come! 

Thanks for reading!
73's, Lewis M3HHY.

Manchester, UK.