Friday, April 29, 2016

Omnia SDR on WSPR

Omnia SDR on WSPR

Putting your Omnia SDR on one of the digital modes!

 
Updated 4/30/2016-- Synchronizing your computer to Internet time.
 
 
One of the really neat features of the QRP SDR radios is the ability to couple these radios with several automated computer programs where the radio + computer get to make "QSO's" while you are off doing other things. WSPR a program developed by Nobel Laureate, Joe Taylor, K1JT is a really cool program where your rig listens for weak signals and then uses  automated reporting via the Internet to a central database. WSPR is an acronym for Weak Signal Propagation Reporting. My Omnia SDR operates on 60-20M and so that is a great mix for 24 hour operation. So far it has been used on 40,30 and 20M WSPR.
 
Using this program your radio can listen for a variable time, based on a synchronized Internet clock,  say 80% of the time and for 20% of the time your radio takes a turn at transmitting. Stations all over the world provide signal reports. Aside from the thrill of having your signal heard around the world, there is much to learn about propagation on the various bands and at various times of the day. The SDR waterfall let's you visually see the signals.

[Here is an important consideration --your computer clock. Note that earlier I mentioned about synchronized internet time. You might find as I did when I first started with WSPR about 6 years ago --it wasn't working. I thought I had done everything right! But the problem was my computer clock was not correct so there was the synchronization problem. Periodically I synchronize my computer clock with nist. If you do not know how to update your computer clock do an internet search for info on how to do that!]
 
A typical database display would look like what is shown below. I had a bit of a problem fitting this in one photo as there is additional data along the right hand side (not shown)  which displays actual distances for stations being heard and stations hearing your signal. The best "DX" for me was when I lived in Washington State and was heard over 11,000 miles away running 1/2 watt. QRP Rules!
 
 The later log shows all of the data --notice the trip down to ZL Land --about 6500 Miles.
 
 
 

The first problem one has in using the Omnia SDR with the WSPR program is how to interface the radio to the WSPR program. There are set up functions that must be done in the HDSDR Program as well as the WSPR program if you want to have the full functionality of not only receiving but also transmitting. If you just want to listen and report other stations then some of the additional steps and additional software is not required.
 
A long time ago when I was using the Power SDRIQ on my computer along with the SoftRock V6.3 and the M-Audio Delta 44 sound card two additional pieces were needed and these include installing software for Virtual Audio Cables (VAC) and for the establishment of Virtual Com Ports which must be in pairs (Com0Com). The VAC software at that time had to be purchased from a site in Russia but the Virtual Com Port software is a freebie download. I happen to have the VAC software so that was not an additional purchase but you may need to buy the VAC software. On the Com Ports you can set up an unlimited number of pairs and name them what you will --I chose Com Ports 4 and 5.
 
The Com Port data pair will need to be entered in both the HDSDR software as well as the WSPR software. When you down load the VAC you will have Virtual Cable 1 and Virtual Cable 2. In essence you will connect Com Port 4 to Com Port 5 and similarly Virtual Cable 1 on the HDSDR gets connected to Virtual Cable 2 on WSPR. Sounds complicated? It is and it took me several days to get it working. Caution --what you set up on HDSDR for normal SSB and other modes of operation it will be different from what is needed to do WSPR -- that is why it took me several days to get it working.
 
A photo is worth 1000 words. Look carefully at the choices for as you will see on the Sound Card menu that the Rx Output connects to Virtual Cable 1 and the Tx Input connects to Virtual Cable 2. This is different than the normal operation Omnia SDR setup where the RX out is connected to Speakers and the Tx Input is connected to the Microphone. On the WSPR setup note that the Audio Input is from Virtual Cable 1 (which is the Rx Output) and the Audio Output from the WSPR program is Virtual Cable 2 which is now the TX input. Bottom line you want the WSPR program to hear the Omnia Rx via VAC 1 and the transmitted output from the WSPR program is sent to the Omnia via VAC2.
 
Look also at the other settings in the WSPR setup. You must call the radio a TS2000 and you are using Com 4 and CAT to turn on the transmitter. Note also the other settings such as the Baud rate and the other two settings. [The HDSDR set up tutorial specifies the Kenwood TS2000 Selection.]
 
Now in the HDSDR menu under Options you must also bring up the CAT to HDSDR Menu and elect Com 5 as the Com Port (Com Pairs) and the Baud rate at 9600 and the method of keying is None (CAT) and be sure to Enable the CAT to HDSDR
 

 
 
There are some additional adjustments that need to be made. FIRST!!!! There are specific WSPR frequencies which can be selected from a drop down menu on the WSPR GUI. On 40M the listening frequency is 7.038600 KHz. and on 20M the listening frequency is 14.095600. There is an automatic transmit offset (higher in frequency). It should be mentioned that while their are stock frequencies you can "twizzle" these so that you are slightly higher or lower so as to avoid QRM.SECOND the radio must be in UPPER SIDEBAND no matter what band you choose.
 
Next is signal level. In the lower left hand corner of the WSPR GUI is a box marked Rx noise where the game play is to have the Rx Noise = 0 dB. This can be achieved by setting the AGC slider bar to mid-point and the Volume slider then can be used to set the value to attain 0 dB. I have found that with my Omnia SDR that the volume is set to a very low level almost near the left hand edge of the slider bar.
 
One additional adjustment in the WSPR setup GUI is the power level you are running. 30 dBm is one watt and 33 dBm  is two watts (well almost). When the Omnia SDR is placed into transmit the Volume/AGC bars switches over to Mic Gain and Power Output, I set the Output to the maximum right hand side and then adjust the actual power output with the microphone gain slider. I am able to set the Pout to one watt (30 dBm) or two watts (33 dBm).
 
There just a couple of more changes. The VAC likes to see a bandwidth of 44.1 KHz. On the Bandwidth tab of the HDSDR -- that is one of the selections and thus set both the Tx and Rx bandwidth to 44.1 KHz.
 
I did not see this when I ran Power SDRIQ (for about 4 years) but just now noticed that when you change bands on the WSPR Band tab -- the Omnia automatically changes bands. That is something new and averts a problem I previously  had where you had to manually set both of them --at times reports were given as being on 40M when the radio was actually on 20M. I even got a nasty note from a DX ham that I reported him on a specific band (my error) and that frequency was not allowed in his country --so simple errors can be a headache for others. The HDSDR has a bit of a safeguard with the frequency selections.
 
Have fun.
 
73's
Pete N6QW


3 comments:

  1. could you say which version of wspr you were using?

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  2. Hi Rob,

    For that particular post I am not sure. BUT I do know that in later posts its the combo program that has WSPR and the JT-9 and JT-65 all menu selected. So I think that is what is called WSPR 2. Haven't had the Omnia fired up for over a month as I have been taken to building homebrew hardware radios and even now an LDMOS amp.

    Thanks you for your post.

    73's
    Pete N6QW

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