[VE7SL] January's Crystal Radio DX Contest

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Jan 14, 2022, 2:36:10 PMJan 14

VE7SL - Steve - Amateur Radio Blog

January's Crystal Radio DX Contest

Posted: 14 Jan 2022 10:34 AM PST

The first time I was involved with a crystal radio DX contest was about 20
years ago when I built a well-performing crystal receiver for the Yahoo
Crystal Radio Group's annual DX contest. It was a great learning
experience and taught me much about circuit losses and how to overcome
them. I originally built several sets but was unable to hear anything
other than local stations until I eventually figured things out ... the
system was only as good as its weakest link or links!

Fast forward to more recently when I obtained and wrote about the Heathkit
CR-1 Crystal Radio, a simple but very well-designed tuner that has become
popular with collectors. Using the CR-1 re-kindled my interest in the DX
contest activity of years ago and when talking with two other amateurs
that had an interest as well (one had also been in the earlier contests
sponsored by the Alabama Crystal Radio Group), we decided to bring the
contest back once again. The Facebook Crystal Radio DX Contest Group was
formed last fall, a set of rules drawn up and the contest date set for the
first week of January of this year. This gave interested participants
plenty of time to build something they could use in the contest.

I spent all of December designing and constructing a new contest radio,
hopefully one with enough selectivity to get around the 15 local
flamethrowers (10-50kW S9++ signals) that plague the band for me and
eventually drove me from crystal radio activities.

The new radio makes use of several 'traps' to null strong signals ... two
are in the antenna line while one is loosely coupled inductively to the
detector tank circuit. The two inline trap coils are wound with Litz wire
on ferrite toroids (R40C1) while the third is a basket-wound Litz coil
(660/46) on a 4" diameter form.

The antenna tuning stage also uses the same ferrite material but in the
rod / bar form. I wound a low-end as well as a high-end coil for the tuner
using the same high-count Litz as on the big trap coil. The low-end coil
is wound on a bundle of three rods while the high-end coil uses a single

Antenna tuner

The detector stage uses another Litz coil with this one being
solenoid-wound on a 4" diameter form. Both the antenna tuner and the
detector use excellent quality hi-Q ceramic insulated air variable
capacitors (18-360 pfd). All components that handle RF are insulated from
the plywood bases in order to reduce losses. Moving a capacitor from the
plywood to the insulated standoffs makes a noticeable difference,
something learned the hard way years ago but actually measured while using
the new radio.
Detector stage
The detector also has provisions for comparing various diodes as not all
diodes are created equal ... not even all diodes with the same number!
When testing and comparing diodes of the same type such as the popular
1N34 germanium, every once in awhile one of them will turn out to be
noticeably more sensitive than the others. In my built-in B-A-C diode test
module, the hottest diode is always mounted in middle-position A, making it
easy to quickly compare by switching to the left for B or to the right for
C. So far the best one I have found is the vintage Russian D18 germanium
diode but an old 1N34 removed years ago from a 1950s-era Heathkit has
given it a good run for the money! I've still several hundreds of early
germanium diodes, pulled from old diode matrix boards years ago, to test
against the D18 as well as numerous Schottky diodes.Also on board the
detector module is a Selectivity Enhancement Circuit (SEC) that increases
selectivity by unloading some of the diode's effect on the detector coil,
similarly to tapping the diode further down the tank coil. It uses a small
butterfly capacitor seen to the right of the main tuning capacitor in the
photo above. I found it extremely effective when needed and is well worth
the addition to a high-performance tuner.
The detector stage is followed by an impedance-matching transformer for the
sound-powered headphones. This stage also houses a 50uA meter to measure
diode current / signal strength levels.

The meter can be switch-bypassed to prevent needle-bounce on stronger
signals. It is particularly helpful when using the traps to null a signal
to the minimum level.
The three traps utilized have been very effective in eliminating what I
had originally perceived as an impossible DXing situation.
Here are the daytime-power signal strengths of my 15 line-of-site blowtorch
stations that, without trapping, very effectively block most sections of
the band. Anything over 50uA is ear shattering and problematic, usually
requiring the use of all 3 traps: KVRI 1600 50uA
KRPI 1550 100uA
CJVB 1470 40uA
CFTE 1410 350uA
CHMB 1320 100uA
CJRJ 1200 400uA
CKWX 1130 300uA
CKST 1040 90uA
CKNW 980 150uA
KGMI 790 100uA
CHMJ 730 450uA
CBU 690 650uA
CISL 650 200uA
CJWW 600 100uA
KARI 550 100uAOverall I was very pleased and surprised at the
good performance of the new radio. During the contest period I identified
and logged 92 unique stations in 16 states / provinces. More than one
station was logged on 9 different frequencies as the propagation varied
from night to night.Highlights of the DX Contest were hearing WHAS in
Kentucky (2,007 miles), WJR in Michigan (1,970 miles), KXEL in Iowa (1,556
miles), WCCO in Minnesota (1,423 miles) and CBW-990 in Winnipeg, smack up
beside local blowtorch CKNW-980! Additionally, hearing Washington state 250
watter KFLD-870 and 250 watt KWBY-940 in Oregon were great surprises.
I found the use of a spotter radio (Sony ICF-2010) to be very useful in
locating signals to target and to zero-beat with an RF signal generator.
The generator’s tone-modulated signal can then be tuned in and the xtal
radio and antenna / detector stages optimized. From here, any pest signals
are then tuned to and individually nulled using the traps while watching
the signal meter. Antenna and detector stages are then re-tweaked before
disabling the generator and listening for the desired signal. Often it is
heard immediately following the above tuning procedures but if not,
monitoring the frequency for several minutes often allows time for the weak
signal to fade up to audible levels. Comparing programming audio with what
is heard on the spotter radio will confirm hearing the correct signal as
will comparing audio to the station’s own live-feed on the internet.
Due to the larger and much better antenna (inverted-L 70’ x 100’) on the
crystal radio, I would often hear good audible signals on it and not on the
spotter (something that I found surprising) so often times it was
productive to just tune around the band on the crystal radio, tweaking
stages as required.
I’m looking forward to further improvements of the tuner as well as to the
next DX Contest whenever that will be scheduled ... hopefully you can join
in as well! CONTEST LOG (pests in red)

540 3:50 CBK Watrous, SK 764
550 1:04 KARI Blaine, WA 25
560 1:30 KPQ Wenatchee, WA 168
570 3:45 KVI Seattle, WA 107
580 3:42 KIDO Nampa, ID 492
600 1:17 CKSP Vancouver, BC 32
610 4:15 KONA Kennewick, WA 271
620 1:22 KPOJ Portland, OR 241
630 3:40 CHED Edmonton, AB 530
630 21:10 KCIS Edmonds, WA 87
650 1:05 CISL Richmond, BC 24
660 3:30 CFFR Calgary, AB 693
660 21:23 KAPS Mt. Vernon, WA 52
670 3:25 KBOI Boise, ID 807
690 1:06 CBU Vancouver, BC 19
710 3:21 KIRO Seattle, WA 108
730 1:02 CHMJ Vancouver, BC 22
750 3:55 KXTG Portland, OR 243
760 4:01 WJR Detroit, MI 1970
770 3:17 KATL Miles City, MT 831
780 4:00 KKOH Reno, NV 658
790 1:07 KGMI Bellingham, WA 39
810 4:05 KGO San Francisco, CA 786
820 1:59 KGNW Seattle, WA 106
830 2:20 WCCO Minneapolis, MN 1423
840 4:10 CFCW Camrose, AB 530
840 4:00 WHAS Louisville, KY 2007
850 4:20 KOA Denver, CO 1118
850 1:12 KHHO Seattle, WA 121
860 3:48 CBKF Saskatoon, SK 758
860 1:04 KPAM Troutdale, OR 226
870 4:30 KFLD Pasco, WA 266
880 1:17 KIXI Seattle, WA 102
890 4:35 CJDC Dawson Creek, BC 494
900 4:38 CKBI Prince Albert, SK 810
910 4:40 CKDQ Drumheller, AB 468
920 4:42 KXLY Spokane, WA 285
930 1:50 KBAI Bellingham, WA 37
940 4:45 CJGX Yorkton, SK 940
940 0:58 KWBY Woodburn, OR 256
950 4:50 KJR Seattle, WA 106
960 4:52 CFAC Calgary, AB 444
970 4:55 KBUL Billings, MT 722
980 1:08 CKNW New Westminster, BC 32
990 4:58 CBW Winnipeg, MB 1156
1000 3:45 KOMO Seattle, WA 105
1010 4:59 CBR Calgary, AB 453
1020 0:54 KWIQ Moses Lake, WA 216
1030 5:06 KTWO Casper, WY 918
1040 1:09 CKST Vancouver, BC 23
1050 5:10 CJNB N Battleford, SK 707
1060 5:07 CKMX Calgary, AB 441
1070 5:10 cfax Victoria, BC 33
1080 0:33 KFXX Portland, OR 232
1090 1:40 KFNQ Seattle, WA 109
1100 3:55 KFAX San Francisco, CA 779
1110 5:15 KRPA Oak Harbor, WA 48
1120 0:48 KPNW Eugene, OR 340
1130 1:10 CKWX Vancouver, BC 22
1140 5:20 CHRB High River, AB 443
1150 5:50 CKFR Kelowna, BC 185
1160 5:53 KSL Salt Lake Cty, UT 781
1170 1:11 KPUG Bellingham, WA 39
1180 5:09 KOFI Kalispell, MT 416
1190 5:55 KEX Portland, OR 241
1200 1:12 CJRJ Vancouver, BC 23
1260 5:58 CFRN Edmonton, AB 522
1290 6:00 KUMA Pendleton, OR 306
1290 6:00 KGVO Missoula, MT 449
1320 1:13 CHMB Vancouver, BC 23
1360 6:12 KKMO Tacoma, WA 115
1370 4:32 KXTL Butte, MT 535
1380 6:16 KRKO Everett, WA 88
1410 1:14 CFTE Vancouver, BC 22
1460 1:55 KUTI Yakima, WA 207
1470 1:15 CJVB Vancouver, BC 25
1480 1:20 KBMS Vancouver, WA 227
1520 1:05 KKXA Snohomish, WA 88
1520 1:13 KQRR Oregon City, OR 241
1530 4:30 KFBK Sacramento, CA 698
1540 1:50 KXPA Bellvue, WA 102
1540 4:46 KXEL Waterloo, IA 1556
1550 1:16 KRPI Ferndale, WA 31
1560 1:14 KVAN Burbank, WA 272
1580 6:25 KGAL Lebanon, OR 297
1590 1:22 KLFE Seattle, WA 91
1600 1:00 KVRI Blaine, WA 25
1620 1:30 KYIZ Renton, WA 111
1640 6:45 KDZR Lake Oswego, OR 239
1660 0:56 KBRE Merced, CA 812
1680 1:35 KNTS Seattle, WA 91
1690 0:53 KFSG Roseville, CA 705

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