Normally I wouldn’t fire off a blog post like this so quickly after receiving product however, something happened which has never happened before.
I’ve been off and on on 80 meters for a couple of decades. It’s difficult to get a full size efficient antenna up and running on 80m, so we often accept the losses. Still, last night I was running JS8Call with the Icom IC 705 at 10 watts on 80m, as I often do.
Was this a fluke?
Previously I’ve been able to get all over Europe consistently with 10 watts or less, using the same antenna. That same antenna has been used on 60m and 40m to work other continents. It’s a good system, and I’ve had extremely good results with it. Now the only thing which changed between the previous nights versus last night and this morning, is the addition of the Icom AH-705 tuner. And before you guys get going, I absolutely understand one night out of hundreds can be a fluke. So we’re definitely going to try to repeat these results.
Back to the point however. I’ve run a very similar setup overnight on 80 meters for months. The difference is instead of the AH-705, I’ve been running the MAT-705+. Same antenna, same coax cable, same radio, same settings, different tuner. With all that said, this was the first time EVER, the station was able to get in to North America on 80 meters, with 10 watts or less.
Now that I think about it
There was one noticeable difference between having the MAT-705+ inline versus the AH-705. There was absolutely no noise on 80 meters. In fact that point was so “odd”, while walking the dogs last night, I mentioned it to my wife. I mentioned how something might be wrong with the station, because of the abnormal lack of background noise on 80 meters. She said “don’t think it to death, just be grateful”. 😂
Checking pskreporter this morning, that discussion came to mind. Indeed I threw it out of my mind as my wife suggested, but the results of “whatever was different” were right there on pskreporter. It’s certainly not possible to say definitively if the AH-705 is the reason for the improved performance. One thing is for sure, it isn’t hurting my station performance at all.
Receiving the Icom AH-705 basically completed the station. It was the last puzzle piece of the Icom IC-705 based station, for both home and portable use. It is just one of many tools, in my communications toolbox.
Versus other tuners
For the curious, the AH-705 is interesting because it completely integrates with the IC-705. No push button required for tuning. The AH-705 is switched on by the radio, and the radio and AH-705 do everything else entirely on their own. Change bands, it tunes up. Change antennas, it tunes up, and it’s riduculously fast. Certainly you can manually trigger tuning if you like, but it will always find the best match anywhere between 160 meters and 6 meters, before you even notice the SWR is less than perfect.
It is pretty freakin big to be honest. I wish it were as small as the Elecraft T1, or MAT-705+ but it doesn’t have their issues. For example, the T1 is AWESOME, but has no control interface between itself and the IC-705. This is ok if you’re using a paddle or microphone, but having to push that button, then trigger a tone in software with every band change, becomes annoying with data modes. The MAT-705+ seems to work pretty well, but its battery life is measured in hours not in days, weeks or months. If you keep the MAT-705+ inline with the IC-705, you’ll be lucky to get 7 continous hours of operation out of it. The closest thing to the AH-705 in regards to performance is the LDG z100+. Functionally, the z100+ works just like the AH-705. If it were mounted at the feedpoint, the operator would not be able to tell which one was tuning up the antenna. The battery life of the z100+ is also amazing, as it can be measured in months, drawing very little current while not tuning.
So we are going to cover the AH-705, MAT-705, Elecraft T1, LDG z100+, and also the DIY599 PA500 because it also has an internal tuner, compatible with the IC-705.
Here is a video from Waters and Stanton on the AH-705. It’s abut the best video out there at moment. He is a bit long winded, but has incredible story telling capabilities. It is very much like watching a BBC nature documentary.
Then there is a post from Mark M0IAX on the AH-705. Mark does a very good job of giving a pragmatic perspective about the gear he uses. I often look to him as a source of balance, validation or even invalidation of my own thoughts and ideas.
We have been blessed with some pretty incredible updates over teh past half year. I can’t wait to show you all how the home and portable station has evolved.
So guys, please Stand by!