November 23, 2011

Chasing 10m FM DX

There are so many interesting modes in which to operate our amateur radios.  Most hams are familiar with the "meat-and-potatoes" modes like, CW, SSB, AM, and RTTY.  Surprisingly, few hams seem to have tried working DX with FM.  The return of sunspots provides ham with an opportunity to jump into FM DX'ing.  You can work 10m FM DX with a modest station - a 100W rig and an 10m antenna will do the job.

You can even work QRP (low power < 5w) FM DX when the 10m band is open.  This is really amazing thing to experience.  Give it a try sometime.  One approach is to start the QSO with higher power and then back the power level down to QRP and see if you can maintain the contact.  How low can you go?  Another approach is to simply work the contact with low power.

Kenwood TS-480SAT HF + 6m Transceiver
Kenwood TS-480SAT HF + 6m Transceiver

Generals, Advanced, and Amateur Extra's have HF FM privileges on the 10m band.  The United States HF band plan allows FM between 29.6Mhz and 29.7Mhz.

5 Tips for 10m FM DX
  1. Keep the QSO short  - 10m FM DX is fast paced since the conditions are typically unstable.  Make the exchange quickly so you can log the contact.
  2. Monitor beacons for 10m openings - When 10m is open, dial up the 10m FM band plan frequencies.
  3. Monitor spots for 10m FM - Monitor 10m spots and look for frequencies that fall within the US FM band plan.  Once you see a spot, move quickly as the station will often disappear quickly.
  4. 29.600Mhz is the FM simplex calling frequency.  This is a good place to start listening.
  5. Dial up-and-down.  FM simplex changes quickly.  Stations will appear and disappear.  Keep moving, listening, and pounce.
On November 20, 2011, we had a great time making 10m FM contacts with Europe including OK2OV (Czech Republic), PB2A (The Netherlands), and GI7AXB (Northern Ireland).  All of these contacts were with full quieting and rich audio.  10m FM DX can sound awesome!

If you have a 10m radio with FM, we encourage you to get onto 10m and try working FM DX.  You will be amazed that this typically local mode works so well over great distances.  You will also enjoy the nice clean sound of FM too.

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2011.