ARRL RTTY Roundup 2014

Spent a few hours on the radio this weekend playing in the ARRL RTTY Roundup. It’s my first digimode contest and it was an interesting experience.

I’ve found that with digital modes, I like to have the sound on so that I can hear (in addition to see) the activity in the passband. I started off on 20m and right off encountered a bunch of loud and overdriven signals. Some of the transmissions were so bad that they washed out the entire passband during the transmission. Here’s a brief sample of what some of the better transmissions looked like.

20m RTTY passband during the 2014 ARRL RTTY Roundup
20m RTTY passband during the 2014 ARRL RTTY Roundup

I also found that fldigi’s decoding the RTTY signals seemed to be spottier than PSK decoding. I’m not sure if that was just because of the quality of the transmissions it was having to decode or just the nature of RTTY. I’ll have to try to find some non-contest RTTY  to test with.

For most of the contest, I was running 30-35W which seemed to be pretty sufficient to get me heard reasonably far. I finished up with around 110 QSOs and decided to call it a day a few hours before the end of the contest because I was getting tired of sitting.

Highlight of the contest was a 20m contact with VK3TDX all the way in Austrailia. That sets the record for my longest QSO at over 16 000 km. Here’s the excerpt from the fldigi log

RX 14132540 : RTTY (2014-01-05 21:34Z): cq test vk3dx vk3tx vk3tdx cqzw qzy
TX 14132544 : RTTY (2014-01-05 21:34Z): ab4ug ab4ug k
RX 14132545 : RTTY (2014-01-05 21:34Z): lieetpab4u ab4u 599 484 484 484 abfuvia
TX 14132540 : RTTY (2014-01-05 21:34Z): vk3tdx 599 sc sc tu 73 ab4ug
RX 14132540 : RTTY (2014-01-05 21:35Z): hvur call? ur call?”
TX 14132540 : RTTY (2014-01-05 21:35Z): ab4ug ab4ug k
RX 14132540 : RTTY (2014-01-05 21:35Z): cciyxly l b4ug qsl 73 vk3tdx qrz w6oat w6oat

There’s some garbled decoding, but it looks like he got everything. Using 35W, I was very surprised he was even able to pick up my signal. I suppose it’s possible he was listening remotely using a station closer to me (with SDR and Internet connected radios, you can listen and potentially operate from anywhere in the world from the comfort of your computer desk). I’ll hang on to the thought that I just had some astoundingly good propagation.


(Sweet, just checked on LoTW and it’s confirmed there. Woohoo!)

At a couple points toward the end, my sound card interface started acting up and would rapidly switch PTT on and off. Not sure what was causing it, but both times it happened there were some really strong signals coming through the radio. Don’t know if it’s related or not, and this is the only time the interface has acted up like that.

After today, I haven’t quite decided if digimode contests are quite my thing. I think I’ll have to try a few more contests out.