Scott's Radio Room for 2023

KC1UA

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Hello all, and welcome to the official release of Scott's Radio Room for 2023. To quote my favorite mentors, who else but The Three Stooges, "It's stupendous! It's colossal! It's mediocre!" With that, here we go...bear with me, this will be nauseatingly a lot longer than you want to deal with, I assure you...

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Here's the big picture. The desk pre-existed from the last go-round. It rolls out, primarily from the left side, to allow access to all of what you see from the back side. The old 12U racks have been replaced with a 3 bay 4U rack from Audiorax. Shout out to @N9JIG for causing me to spend even more money; thanks pal. However, well worth it. Not the cheapest piece of furniture I've ever bought for my radio setup but WELL worth it if you like to rack stuff. As you can see, "The Monolith" that has come and gone for years is back in earnest as well, but more on that in a bit. Four monitors support four computers. Things I would like to improve on here would be to lower the monitors down closer to the top of the Audiorax furniture, and add a mixer to eliminate the individual speakers shown. I did get a Behringer 1602 for this and it was not happy with all of the scanners you see, especially the SDS200. Not sure why but for the moment I scrapped the project.

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Here's a closer view of the Audiorax furniture and the main monitoring station. As Rich C. has mentioned the monitors are just a tad high for long term comfort. I can live with it for now and I'll only report back when/if I don't make improvements to this and subsequently wind up in traction. Stay tuned. The two sets of Bose Companion speakers support the four PC's used in the setup, as each speaker set allows for two different inputs. Great bang for the buck and sound with these speakers, in my humble opinion. The thing that looks like a roll of toilet paper is actually one of three TP-Link Deco wifi mesh devices. I went wireless and eliminated a great deal of interference that my former wired LAN was creating, even with Cat 6 shielded cables. Some of the other devices were killing me. I have tried very hard this time to eliminate as much RFI as possible and have made some amazing strides with some interesting fixes, such as simply different length HDMI cables, changing to a Dell Port to HDMI cable in one case, and about 25,000 or so snap on chokes. That may be an embellishment but at least 23,000 were actually used. The monitor on the right supports an Intel NuC i7 with 32GB and a 1TB SSD. It is the main PC and is shown here running WSJT-X and Gridtracker for FT-8 amateur use. On the left is another Mini-PC, this one a Dell Optiplex 7050 with an i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. It primarily runs the FMPA software from DSD+ FL for searching area trunked systems, both business and public safety. I also use it for spectrum analysis with SDR#.

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Closer view of the "digital" side of the setup. The 536 does the primary scanning as most of my area is still analog. The SDS200 lays in wait for CoMIRS to make it to Cape Cod, when it will become the #1. For now it does some auxiliary scanning and monitors various digital systems or licensees. As shown earlier, each scanner has its own speaker, something I intend to eventually improve on.

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The centerpiece of the monitoring station is the Icom IC-R8600. Yes, I know, it's about the 500th one I've owned since they came out but I really truly (I hope) think (I think) I'm going to keep this one. I have learned of its incredible value to me by simply using it as it is and not trying to dump the scope out to a larger monitor through SDR software. As it is in its own right it is as formidable as a consumer level receiver can be, and it is here to stay (almost surely).

7a.jpeg
When the 8600 is running, so is this. I use the 12kHz IF out of the receiver which is fed out via USB. I use SDR# software with the "Baseband from Sound Card" input selected. When it runs, I tune to 12 kHz. Then I run SDR#'s DSD interface. Finally, I run the KGTone software as well so I can instantly decode CTCSS and DCS tones. When I use the 8600 for searching, if I come across a digital signal I just lower the volume and let DSD+ FL do the decoding work. In this way my 8600 can indeed receive DMR signals. I let it use DSD for decoding P25 and NXDN as well. If I am specifically monitoring a P25 signal with the 8600 though there is no substitute for its internal decoder, the finest sounding P25 I have heard from a radio that I can (sorta) afford.

Not sure how long messages from RR can be these days before I exceed the size, so before I bung this up and have to start over again I'll continue in part two!
 

KC1UA

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Still awake? I'm struggling but I'm hell bent on finishing this, so...

9.jpeg
Here is the analog side of the console. I use the BCT15 in the lower right exclusively for pre-programmed military air frequencies for my area. The remaining scanners provide auxiliary search functions of various different natures.

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Move over Stanley Kubrick...I have a Monolith too, and it's back. At the top are Motorola Maxtrac and Radius mobile radios programmed for receive only. They monitor my local PD and local FD/EMS, maritime activity, Cape Cod Canal vessel traffic control, various VHF-HI stuff, and the VHF-HI frequency used by the MA Emergency Management Agency. All are fed with an Electroline multicoupler which is connected to an Antennacraft Scantenna (no it is not for sale). As has been in several prior incarnations of this mess, the patch panel allows pretty much any radio to be connected to any antenna. Below that is a 5U vented plate that I drilled holes in and attached a monitor mount to. It came out nice, minimal swearing involved, and it looks good. Most importantly it works.

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If you can't see that clock...well, when I take my contacts out things get ugly, so just in case. Also an Ambient Weather Station too. They are mounted in ways that I won't show you but they haven't fallen down yet so I'm confident we're good. The IC-7300 and MFJ 993B tuner are connected to a 40-10m doublet with 600 ohm ladderline from trueladderline.com . Outstanding antennas and strongly recommended. FT-8 is a current favorite mode for me.

6.jpeg
The rack mounted monitor connects to another Intel Nuc, this one also an i7 with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. It primarily runs SDR# using an Airspy Mini for some auxiliary spectrum analysis. For some reason I prefer the Airspy Mini's over the Airspy R2, in my case I seem to see a lot less artifacts on the display. Also there are two HP Elite mini PC's. One feeds a Broadcastify Calls feed and the other eventually will as well. Behind the mesh rack insert is an Astron RS20A linear power supply that is used exclusively for the IC-7300 transceiver. Below that but out of sight in this picture is a rack mounted Astron RM35A, which powers the rest of the radios in the shack.

Antenna setup will follow in part 3, and then I will mercifully be done with this rigmarole...
 

KC1UA

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Last but not least, ya can't hear diddly without antennae, so here's what I have kicking around to get the job done.

ant1.jpeg
I was up on the tower the other day and a truck from FedEx Ground showed up with an Amazon delivery. For some reason he decided to take the package to the back of the house. From above I told him he could just leave it at the front door. He looked up surprised and said to me, "sheesh, if I was up there I'd crap my pants!" I replied, "what makes you think I haven't?" Anyway, plenty of antennas for everything DC to daylight, and a few weather station guts thrown in to boot.

ant2.jpeg
A Diamond DJ-130N Discone for auxiliary use on the other end of the house.

ant3.jpeg
And finally, on what's left of the shed is a Wellbrook ALA-1530 loop antenna for HF. This beautiful creation has saved my HF monitoring as I live in the land of quarter-acre lots and lots of 21st century tech that eviscerates the RF spectrum. Sad that they're going out of business but there are equally good alternatives.

Hope you enjoyed the tour! Of course something with it will piss me off and there will be a new tour with a new setup in about a year, but by God this is the best setup I've ever had (so far). ;)
 

mass-man

trying to retire...
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Nice...very nice! Just wondered if you've considered a mixer and fewer speakers! Sure made my listening more enjoyable! I'm now considering a compressor/limiter affair for better level control.
But not a criticism at all...and sure wish I had that antenna farm.
 

KC1UA

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Criticism is welcome! I tried the Behringer 1602 and had a heck of a time making the SDS200 sound right. It was a while back while this was a work in progress and to be honest I don't remember the specifics of the problem other than it was bad enough that I gave up. I did try inputting the 200 on other inputs with the same results. Probably me being a blubberhead, but nixing the speakers is definitely a to-do!
 
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Congratulations Scott,
absolutely up there with the best monitoring stations I’ve seen.

Sadly the owner of the famous Wellbrook loops is retiring. I really hope if he sells he doesn’t sell to MFJ, but DX Engineering or Chameleon Antennas. As they will keep the quality assured.

 
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N9JIG

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A suggestion:

Get a clamp-on dual monitor arm, one that uses a pole and not the gas-elbow ones. Something like this one:


That will allow you to adjust the monitor height right to the top of the cabinet. That might mess up the speaker collection. I suspect that leaving them behind the monitors would still provide decent results and, if you center the monitors, you should have room to the left and right for the Bose Companion speakers. Perhaps you could get a couple of those shelves that mount to the top of the monitors for the speakers if the reflected audio is an issue.

My biggest need for the speakers is access to the volume control and headphone jack. I too use the Bose Companions, albeit in black, but now that I share the office I need to use headphones. It is more convenient to plug them into the speakers than the mixer.

I am considering going back to the 4u cabinet like yours (I have the identical one but of course in black) but using my 3u panels. This would allow the mixer to be included in one bay, a power strip in another and some other accessory panel in the third.
 

CKnobb

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Beautiful, complete and elaborate. And very tidy!
But...toilet. I do not see a toilet...
 

KC1UA

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What size Husky workbench is that?
It's a 62" with height adjustment, although I don't use that.

A suggestion:

Get a clamp-on dual monitor arm, one that uses a pole and not the gas-elbow ones. Something like this one:

Thanks Rich, this has crossed my mind and as you state the question is the speakers. In the short term it would probably work out okay. I'll have to have a look and dig up the top of monitor shelves you referred to, but ideally a mixer solution would be best I think. I'm guessing this could come as a one-time modification a little ways down the road.

impedance mismatch, probably! When you recover from the build, give it a try again and look for matching transformers if need be!
You're likely right. As stated above I'll almost certainly revisit this at some point. Another thing I'd have to do is reduce the 8600 rack mount from 4U to 3U and then add in the 1602 above (or below) it. Ah what the hell it's only money, right? :D

Beautiful, complete and elaborate. And very tidy!
But...toilet. I do not see a toilet...
What makes you think I'm not sitting on it? But seriously folks, for those "little emergencies" and general overall comfort, the KC1UA and wife's water closet is right next door and a mere 5 second walk (or run?) from here.

Thanks to all for the kind remarks. We'll see where it goes from here!
 

KC1UA

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Do you have uninterruptible power supplies for all of you equipment?
All of the PC's do, yes, either APC or Tripp-Lite. I can power the radio part of the room during a power failure via a generator and use a laptop if necessary. I don't have the fancy Generac type auto-on generator but the one I am using is sufficient to run the fridge, a few lights, and the radio room when necessary.
 

izzyj4

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Love it and jealous!! I'll be up in Dennisport in July so hopefully I'll hear you on one of the local repeaters. I bet this is more impressive in person. Great work!
 
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