Saturday 27 February 2021

Here Comes The 2021 Novice Rig Roundup (NRR)!

One of the most enjoyable operating events of the year is fast approaching -- the Novice Rig Roundup or 'NRR'. This year, the activity is dedicated to NRR founder and long-time participant, Bry, AF4K, who sadly became a silent-key last year. 


Bry - AF4K

Technically, the NRR is a contest, but I have the feeling that most participants think of it as just a lot of fun and a nice opportunity to hear and work some of the great old 'classics' of the past -- rigs that were used when they were teenage Novices or rigs that they could only drool about owning, back in those formative years when they each discovered the magic of radio.

Once again the bands will be alive with the sounds of Heath AT-1s, DX-20s, DX-35s, DX-40s and DX-60s, Johnson Adventurers, Eico 720s, Drake 2NTs, Knight T-50s and T-60s, Ameco AC-1s and of course, an endless variety of lovingly-constructed homebrew delights and ... a full week plus two weekends to celebrate the 'good old radio days' of their teen years, as many of us remember them.

The dates to remember are 0000 UTC March 6 to 2359 UTC March 14 and this multi-day opportunity is, for me, what makes the NRR so enjoyable. With a nice diversion from the usual 'contest frenzy' associated with standard weekend operating events, the NRR can be enjoyed throughout the week, whenever you choose to participate. If last year's operating patterns continue, you should find activity at any time of the day ... and even more as sunset arrives.

With the early growth of Cycle 25, we will likely be treated to some transcon opportunities on 15m or even 10m, as many 15m transcon contacts were made during last year's event thanks to some well-timed solar activity! 
If you operate during the daylight hours, please get on 15m or 10m and give it a shot ... and be sure to announce your activity on the NRR's sked and chat page here, so that others will know where to find you, especially if you are rock bound in true Novice fashion. With our present spotty conditions, we need all the help we can get and the sked page proved a very valuable asset during last year's affair.

Although technically not required, if you plan to participate it's best to obtain your own NRR number, which is an easy 30-second process.

Additionally, there is an online logger where participants can post their daily log. The nifty logger also keeps track and figures out your score as it goes and no 'after contest' log needs to be submitted. If you plan on submitting a log, the logger is a requirement. The logger will also require you to set up a 'log-in' and once again, a simple 30-second process will take care of that from here. If you used the logger last year, you will have to set it up again for this year as the old system has been changed.

Stations may run either crystal-control or VFO or can switch between either method ... the online logger will keep track and score things appropriately.

All of the rules and information can be found on the NRR's excellent website. As well, the soapbox comments and station pictures from last year's NRR may provide the inspiration that you need to spark-up your own activity in this year's event ... from what I can tell, this year will be bigger and busier than ever!

There is also a dedicated NRR Group, often the source of much valuable discussion but there is a now HUGE group of great NRR chat and activity now on Facebook's NRR Group here. I avoided Facebook for many years and have now discovered that it is an excellent forum for real time chat and information exchange ... one can still choose to maintain a very low profile and avoid unwanted interaction if set up correctly.

If you have access to the web while operating, be sure to bookmark and check into the NRR's realtime chat page. Many ops that are crystal controlled will announce their operating frequencies, making it easier for you to find them ... sometimes way up or down from the normal NRR watering holes of ~  3550 - 3650 kHz7100 -7125 kHz, 21.100 - 21.150 MHz and 28.114, 28.120 MHz ... and don't forget to check the colorburst crystal frequency of 3579!

'CQ'ers should always remember to tune up and down the watering hole for replies from other NRR stations that may be crystal controlled and not able to answer you on your own frequency!! This is extremely important and a real reminder of what was common practice back in the Novice days.

courtesy: Harry - VE7AIJ
Harry's homebrew 6AQ5 crystal oscillator (Feb '55 Popular Electronics) and Hallicrafters S-53, pictured above, allowed him to work the world back in the amazing radio days of Cycle 19. Let's relive some of that excitement in the early days of Cycle 25 ... in the NRR!

You still have time to get that old clunker on the air but if that's not possible, you can join the fun with your modern rig as well ... all are welcome to jump in and have a great week of radio-fun. I think you will be surprised, just as I was last year, how good some of these old classics can sound ... and you'll hear some great bug-fists as well.

The NRR once again provided many notable highlights over the nine day event.

Almost topping the list was just experiencing the variety of old classics and hearing how well almost all of them sounded. Numerous Knight T-60s, Drake 2NTs, Heath DX-40s, Johnson Adventurers and Eico 720s, along with a nice variety of homebrew MOPAs and one-tube power oscillators graced the nightly airwaves. These oft-forgotten shelf-queens always seem to develop super-powers, far beyond their expectations, when the NRR rolls around!

I was really surprised to work so many T-60s, a small and inexpensive 60 watt transmitter kit from 1962 using a popular 6DQ6 television  sweep tube ... one never expected to achieve such RF greatness! I was very impressed with every one that I heard.

What radio-struck pre-Novice teen, dreaming about getting on the air, could resist a clever ad like this.

Scott, KA9P's 80m T-60 signal sounded as sweet as it looks in his NRR setup, paired with his Heathkit HR-10B inhaler.

KA9P  NRR station with RAF Vulcan bomber Type 51 hand pump

Right up there with the plethora of T-60s was the Drake 2NT, another great sounding radio and also my choice for this year's event. My summer refurbishing project, described here, proved a worthy companion, although my much-treasured VF-1 VFO's short term drift probably had my 2NT getting red in the face whenever I took her off of crystal control to scurry around the band, seeking out the CQ'ers. I've had a love-hate relationship with the VF-1 ever since buying my first one back in '63!

VE7SL  NRR with 2NT, VF-1 and my Original '63 Vibroplex

Yet another 2NT packed a powerful punch from West Virginia, keyed by Dave, W3NP, when we exchanged 579 reports on 40m, 45 minutes before sunset.

W3NP -  NRR setup 

K2YWE's Globe Scout and Adventurer were worked on all three bands!

My NRR exchanges with George, N3GJ (KA3JWJ) in Pennsylvania, truly demonstrated just how well the low bands were performing. More than an hour before my local sunset, I responded to his 569 40m 'CQ NRR' only to learn that his signal, now reaching a solid 579, was coming from an original Ameco AC-1! This one-tube crystal-controlled power oscillator has, over the years, reached Holy Grail status among many amateurs. Originals are guarded like precious jewels and handed down from father to son ... or in George's case, from uncle to nephew!

N3GJ and his all powerful original AC-1 

I was astounded at the strength of George's signal and before exchanging '73's added 'CUL on 80', not really thinking how low the chances of that might really be. Two hours later, his even stronger 'CQ NRR' was heard on 80m, as his 579 signal flirted with reaching S8 ... all emanating from just a low hanging inverted-V.  It's nights like this that remind me how I was bitten by the radio bug so many years ago and to have them coincide with the NRR was an added bonus. I've rated my contacts with George's AC-1 the highlight of this year's NRR for me!

Heathkits were plentiful too, with the DX-60 seeming to be the rig of choice, often paired with the matching HG-10 VFO. Both Mark, VA7MM and Gary, W8PU, packed a wallop with these fine examples.


W8PU -  NRR set-up

But it wasn't just DX-60s representing Benton Harbor engineering in the NRR. All of these neat old Heaths made it out to the west coast, sometimes on both 40 and 80. KN8RHM's (Rick) HW-16 made it here on 40m with a solid signal almost every night, while KE4OH (Steve) sported a modernized DX-20 in the form of Heath's HX-11. Steve even received the highly-treasured 'OO' report for his NRR chirp ... good job!

KN8RHM - HW-16 NRR set-up
KE4OH - HX-11 NRR station

Not to be forgotten was the ubiquitous DX-40, used by several, including this proud old warhorse, lovingly keyed by Doug, N3PDT.

N3PDT - DX-40 NRR transmitter

Rich, WN7NRR / AG5M operating in nearby Washington state put some of his 44 crystals to work with his HW-16 ... that's some collection!

WN7NRR - HW-16 NTT set-up


It seems that many NRRers are as adept with a soldering iron as they are with a hand key, as several homebrew transmitters were worked from here as well.

Howie, WB2AWQ in Reno, was using his homebrew pair of 807s, driven with a Millen 90700 swing-arm VFO from 1945. Most shacks worldwide, including the Novices, found plenty of use for the 807 as they were dirt-cheap in the post war surplus market. The filament has a beautiful illumination and if a bit gassy as most are by now, emit a wonderous blue glow with each press of the key.

WB2AWQ - 807s

KD7JG (Joe) in Oregon, sported a 12 volt version of the 807, a 1625, in his home brew rock-crusher. With 25 watts into his ladderline-fed 160m inverted-V, his 599 signal up here was hard to miss on both 40 and 80m.

KD7JG's 1625 NRR mainstay


K4IBZ down in Florida also utilized the magical 6DQ6 sweep tube in his homebrew rig for 80 and 40m. Bill was worked on both bands from here with his 10 watts receiving a 569 on both contacts.

K4IBZ's 10 watter


AA8V, Greg in Maryland, used an LM-13 war surplus frequency meter to drive a popular Novice pairing of the 6AG7 / 6146 at 90W input ... good enough for a 579 report on 40m, 30 minutes before my sunset.

AA8V's homebrew NRR stack
The runner-up highlight was my 80m QSO with Lou, VE3BDV / VE3AWA who worked me on 3568 kHz using his Bare-Essentials 50C5 crystal controlled power oscillator at 7 watts. I understand that this rig enjoyed some popularity among many Novices as a 'first transmitter'. Being connected directly across the A.C. mains, fully exposed, would require some delicate handling!

VE3BDV / VE3AWA - 50C5 Bare - Essentials power oscillator

As indicated on the NRR website, this is "more of an EVENT than just a typical contest ... once again taking our OLD ham radios off the shelf and putting them to use again! "

See you in the 2021 NRR!

Saturday 13 February 2021

Hunting For NDBs In CLE265

WC - 332 White Rock, BC

It's almost CLE time once again! 'CLE's are 'Co-ordinated  Listening Events, and NDB DXers around the  world focus their listening time on one small slice of  the NDB spectrum. 
This time around the hunting ground is the entire NDB spectrum ... and it has five challenges!
When tuning for NDBs, put your receiver in the CW mode and listen for the NDB's CW identifier, repeated every few seconds. Listen for U.S. NDB identifiers approximately 1 kHz higher or lower than the published transmitted frequency since these beacons are modulated with a 1020 Hz tone approximately.

For example, 'AA' near Fargo, ND, transmits on 365 kHz and its upper sideband CW identifier is tuned at 366.025 kHz while its lower sideband CW ident can be tuned at 363.946 kHz. Its USB tone is actually 1025 Hz while its LSB tone is 1054 Hz.

Often, one sideband will be much stronger than the other so if you don't hear the first one, try listening on the other sideband.

Canadian NDBs normally have an USB tone only, usually very close to 400 Hz. They also have a long dash (keydown) following the CW identifier.

All NDBs heard in North America will be listed in the RNA database (updated daily) while those heard in Europe may be found in the REU database. Beacons heard outside of these regions will be found in the RWW database. These databases have recently been re-vamped and are slicker than ever before!

From CLE coordinator Brian Keyte (G3SIA), comes the following CLE info:


Hello all

We have something special for our 265th Listening Event, now less than a week away.

     Days:      Friday 19 February - Monday 22 February

     Times:    Start and End at midday, your LOCAL time


It is just 20 years since fully-organised CLEs started.  Encouraged by Alan, to mark the anniversary Joachim and I have five separate, new, and mostly gentle ‘Challenges’ for you!

They are all based of ’20-ness’.   Whether you have enjoyed 20 years of our CLEs, or are thinking of trying your very first, this CLE should be a good one. 

                  CHALLENGE 1.   20  NDBs ( N )   Log any 20 NDBs located in any ONE RADIO COUNTRY of your choice. 


    CHALLENGE 2.   20  Radio Countries ( C )   Try to log ONE NDB from each of:

        listeners in Europe:       20 different EU radio countries

        listeners in N America: 20 different USA/CAN States/Provinces

        listeners elsewhere:     20 different radio countries


               CHALLENGE 3.   20  re-logged OLD NDBs ( O )  Try to log any 20 of the NDBs that were also logged in our first formal Event - CLE003, 20 years ago.

       In the Final Details a list will be provided of the 80 CLE003 loggings of NDBs in Europe and N America that are still probably active.


               CHALLENGE 4.   20  ‘n20 kHz’ loggings  ( K )   Try to Log a total of 20 NDBs on the ‘n20’ kHz frequencies

        i.e. on 220 kHz and 320 kHz and 420 kHz and 520 .. .  . up to 1220 kHz (as possible!)

       (The other four challenges can use the whole NDBs frequency range)         


    CHALLENGE 5.   20 loggings at 20:-- hrs  ( H )   Log a total of 20 NDBs between 20:00 and 20:59 LOCAL time during the CLE.  

       (If you find the challenges a bit too gentle, there will be an alternative hard version of this 5th one.

        We will explain in the Final Details)

How will you set about tackling those different kinds of listening?   Some ways are good, others not-so-good, perhaps prompting some questions from you!

About two days before the start, the Final Details will have some answers and suggestions and full advice on tackling your listening and log-making.

So the Final Details will explain how one logging CAN satisfy more than one Challenge without any problems, but, as always, each NDB must appear only once in a CLE log.

 (If you are interested in what was going on 20 years ago I’ve added a short ‘Background for Historians’ below)

Background for Historians!  

Alan Gale still has archive information about what was going on 20 years ago.

At that time several of us were thinking about trying out some coordinated listening.

For example, early in 2001 Bill Hohnstein wrote “What would seem interesting to me would be to have a weekend (certain days) where ndblist would sponsor concentrated monitoring of a 10 – 20 kHz segment of the LF NDB range with everyone reporting their results” and Lionel Roithmeir organised an event for 2182 kHz monitoring.   Andy Robins, Michael Oexner, Morris Sorensen, Kathleen Redding, Brian Keyte and others contributed further ideas.

We were talking about ‘Coordinated Monitoring Events’ or CMEs.

We had an informal ‘CME’ on 20-21 January listening on 380-400 kHz.  There were logs from Alan, Kathleen and Brian (all ENG), Roger Caird (IRL), Andy, Bill, Dave Tomasko, Douglas Klein, Ken Zichi and Phil Atchley (all USA), and Morris (CAN)

Phil rescued us from the ‘CME problem’!   He wrote “I have one big suggestion. Let's change the name from CME to CLE, Coordinated Listening Event".  Every time I see CME in a message subject line I think a CME "Coronal Mass Ejection" has just taken place.”

Then on 3-4 February we were also joined by Bo Nenson (SWE), Christoph Mayer and Norbert Reiner (both DEU), Lionel and Mike Trodd (both ENG), Bob Parsons and Chris Steele (both USA) for a second informal Event which we called a ‘CLE’.



It was three weekends later, 23rd - 25th February 2001, and exactly 20 years ago, when we had our first ‘recognisable’ CLE (335 – 344.9 kHz), later labelled CLE003.   A grand total of 23 of us joined in with good participation from Europe and North America.  196 different NDBs were logged and ‘Combined Results’ were made, looking a bit like our present ones.


Michael Oexner, Roschbach

Morris Sorensen, Winnipeg

Jean Jacquemin, Merville

Rodney Valdron, New Brunswick

Pat Vignoud, SE France

Phil Atchley, Merced, Central CA

Tore Ekblom, Nr Helsinki

Dave Tomasko, Chicago

Lionel Roithmeir, Guernsey

Andrew Robins, Kalamazoo

Alan Gale, Lancashire

Doug Klein, Hastings

Brian Keyte, mid Surrey

Bill Hohnstein, Nr Lincoln

Kathleen Redding, NE London

Bob Parsons, Gloucester City, NJ

Mike Trott, W. Sussex

Jack Woods, Oregon

Robert Connolly, Kilkeel

Chris Steele, while at Ft Worth

Costas Krallis, Athens


Roger Caird, Dublin


Bo Nensen, Ornskoldsvik



Good listening
    Brian & Joachim
From: Brian Keyte G3SIA          ndbcle'at'
Location: Surrey, SE England     (CLE co-ordinator)

If you are interested in some remote listening - maybe due to local difficulties - you could use any one remote receiver for your loggings, stating its location and with the owner's permission if required.( e.g. see ) A remote listener may NOT also use another receiver, local or remote, to make more loggings for the same CLE.

These listening events serve several purposes. They

• determine, worldwide, which beacons are actually in service and on-the-air so the newly-re-vamped Rxx online database can be kept up-to-date

• determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range

• will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations

• will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working

• give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed

Final details can be found at the NDB List website, and worldwide results, for every participant, will be posted there a few days after the event.

The NDB List Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other DXers in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome. As well, you can follow the results of other CLE participants from night to night as propagation is always an active topic of discussion.

You need not be an NDB List member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers.

Remember - 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the NDB List Group or e-mailed to CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. If you are a member of the group, all final results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

Please ... give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.

Have fun and good hunting!

Monday 1 February 2021

A 5763 Crystal Power Oscillator For the Neophyte Regen


I've just added a new page to my main website, 'The VE7SL Radio Notebook' that describes the recent construction and operating adventures with the small companion transmitter built to pair with my NEOPHYTE REGEN. I may have worked several of you with the pair already and if so, many thanks. I hope to work the rest of you soon!