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Bi-Directional Radio Control with Commander

RVnRadio
 

After a few years of using SDR devices such as RTL dongle and a PEABERRY V2 with CAT, HDSDR and of course Sound Card Codec configurations, I just never liked that much computer involvement forr a second receiver.  Of course we get a band scope on a large screen that we can manipulate with the computers keyboard and mouse which in turn operates many parameters on the transciever.  And vice-versus we can manipulate controls on the radio that affect what the 'scope on the computer is displaying. However, sometimes the Sound Card settings get foiled because of ahh, me tinkering with other software.  But the real annoying thing for me personally is the body/eye rotation/pupil focusing changes from radio to computer & monitor and back.  Trivial?  Perhaps for a few of you.  Or maybe everyone else except me. I have some issues with my eyes and I believe this extra panning of body/eye/brain exerts some level of stress for me but maybe I am blowing it out of proportion.  On a completely different path of thought - I love to tinker.  So while the following might make you scratch your head as to why anyone would do what I have done...maybe this has some interest to a few of you:  Make my own expensive do it all radio on a tighter budget.

Ok so here in my shack I have a "hardware" radio that I consider perfect for my use.  A KENWOOD TS-590SG.  It has many features and refined operation that are not found in some less expensive radios and some radios that cost even a lot more.  Except for one thing...  it does not have a built in band scope. I could add that it doesn't have a 2nd receiver built into it either but that isn't as significant to me as a few of you folks.  But I now have a dual receiver setup and a band scope which for all practical reasons, are built into my TS-590SG now. Figuratively speaking anyway. Let me explain.

While I could have purchased another rig that "has it all", I really, really like the 590SG.  It has its faults but overall, happy camper.  What I did in the last few days - I purchased an ICOM IC-7300 solely for the purpose of placing it directly above the TS-590SG to use its receiver & band scope, tied into the '590SG. This was a simple matter to provide VFO and Mode Control between these two with the excellent DXLabs Commander program.  Setting up the General, Ports and MultiRadio Tabs in the Configuration window allow me to control the VFO and Mode on one radio with the other radio responding immediately in kind.  Bi-directional control.  Spin the VFO on the '590, the '7300 instantly is at the same.  Press any one of the 10 key buttons on the '590 except the CLR button, the '7300 responds in kind.  Press a band button on the '590 three times in a row for band-frequency registers, the '7300 again responds in kind.

Vice-versus, I can change band, mode and frequency on the '7300 and the '590 also responds identically.  Faster operation to use the '590 for most of these changes EXCEPT now I also have the band scope on the '7300 to show me active signals.  I can therefore use the touch screen feature of the '7300 to instantly select a signal and wala, the '590 is on track!  Either way, I am still using my '590 as my Transmit radio.  Or my receive radio with certain reception parameters selected from either of these radios. 

From a receive signal point of view, I pass the antenna signals from the TS-590SG out of its DRV/RX Ant Out port, into the IC-7300 which in this scenerio is used as a receiver only.  Basically think of the '7300 in this case as a a cheaper ICOM RS-8600 Receiver only.  The glaring problem with this is with the '590 RX Ant Out cabled to the SO239 on the '7300, a single transmission could potentially smoke the receiver in the '590.  Simple solution here - I am presently waiting for a VIBROFLEX / INRAD RX7300 "kit" to provide an isolated receive only path inside the '7300.  While this is all that is required, I can take other steps to provide additional safety.    Focusing on just the addition of this kit, what it means is that I can actually utilize this dual radio setup for Diversity reception with two different antennas or I can simply separate the radios to be two independent transceivers.  The various scenarios can be manually done via cabling but I intend in another phase,to automate this with break before make switching hardware with as needed RF isolation.  Anyway, for now the RX7300 kit will provide me with my fundamental goal:  A high resolution, fast response graphics, adjustable bandwidth Center or Fixed spectrum band scope placed 4-ish inches above the TS-590SG with band/freq/mode changes between the two rigs as if they were really a one box IC-7610, or TS-890s or pick a few others.

Does this Commander program CAT control between these two radios work? YES. 

Will the receive path setup work with the RX7300 when I get it late next week?  YES, I can confidently state.

Could I have used the $10 cheaper version of this kit from France, offered on Ebay? YES.  But.... I already trust INRAD's build quality.  Granted this is a simple kit but one thing the INRAD has is that is uses RCA Phono jacks, not the SMA used by the french connection. Faster manual config changes with INRAD because I won't be unscrewing SMA connectors.  But the INRAD also matches the RCA Phono jack choice that KENWOOD put on the TS-590SG DRV/RX Ant Out port. The little details. 

Do I think the INRAD kit is spendy for what it is?  YES.  But it's buy in USA thing if I can, it has for me my preferred low frequency connectors outside the '7300 and it is well documented how to install.  Not that big a deal, the french version would work fine too and it is attractive at $30 including shipping.

Will I lose access and use of the Auto Tune connector on the '7300?   Not really; I can as I saw described somewhere, hang it out as a pigtail from the '7300.  Except I have no care to use this feature for a few reasons of my own.  By the way, the internal 3:1 tuner isn't as good as the one in the '590SG but I don't care about that tuner either so not a problem for me.Nonetheless the internal still works and an external LDG or other can still work too.

Why not use the Commanders excellent scope feature?  Two reasons.  One is that I prefer this configuration to have the '590 as the primary and if I understand right, the scope function in Commander for the '7300 will not work. Regardless of that, the real reason is that I want the small scope on the '7300 that is directly above my '590's LCD display to be used. Back to the aftorementioned ergonomics simplicity for me including the eye motion/pupil action/brain action and hand control stuff.

Interestingly I have found that the '7300 still perks indication of RF output when RF POWER (MULTI Knob controlled) is set to zero. Hmmm.  This better not present itself through the RX path I connect to the RX Ant Out of the '590SG.  Otherwise I will have to devise additional measures to irradicate even this tiny residual RF before I make this receive signal connection between these two radios.

After successful inclusion of the RX7300 I am waiting for, what next?

I need to integrate other software I still have to use on the computer because we can't have everything on the displays in the radios.  I am not a contester so I don't use the choice logging programs.  I do like and use for my casual ops, the N3FJP Logging program.  No matter, the issue will be the same in that these and other programs will be denied access to the COM port that is actively being used between the active radio and the Commander program.  Hmmm.  This is solveable with the use of Virtual Port emulation.  I see some topical discussion with N1MM and Commander on this site that I will have to study.   How to tie this all together with the existing pair of virtual ports of the Silicon Labs CP210x port-configuration; I have no clue yet. 

If anybody can shed some light on what best to use and how to actually configure my COM4 ('7300) and COM6 ('590SG) virtual ports to live within another layer of Virtual Port emulation, I am all ears.

Gene / K7TXO

Dave AA6YQ
 

+ AA6YQ comments below

Why not use the Commanders excellent scope feature? Two reasons. One is that I prefer this configuration to have the '590 as the primary and if I understand right, the scope function in Commander for the '7300 will not work. Regardless of that, the real reason is that I want the small scope on the '7300 that is directly above my '590's LCD display to be used. Back to the aftorementioned ergonomics simplicity for me including the eye motion/pupil action/brain action and hand control stuff.

+ You could use Commander's Waterfall-Bandspread window without moving your 7300 from atop your 590; you'd have a new window with new information -- active callsigns -- to reference when appropriate. To use Commander's Waterfall-Bandspread window, however, you'd have to connect your 7300 as a "primary" transceiver and you 590 as the secondary transceiver, which would reduce Commander's control over your 590.

I need to integrate other software I still have to use on the computer because we can't have everything on the displays in the radios. I am not a contester so I don't use the choice logging programs. I do like and use for my casual ops, the N3FJP Logging program. No matter, the issue will be the same in that these and other programs will be denied access to the COM port that is actively being used between the active radio and the Commander program. Hmmm. This is solveable with the use of Virtual Port emulation.

+ No, it is not. You cannot reliably enable two different applications to control the same transceiver using an application like com0com or VSPManager, which are ignorant of CAT protocols. You can purchase a port multiplexer designed to allow multiple applications to control the same transceiver, but such multiplexors are only available for Elecraft, recent Icom, and recent Yaesu radios.

+ You might take a look at DXKeeper, the logging component of the DXLab Suite:

<https://www.dxlabsuite.com/dxlabwiki/Logging>

+ DXKeeper interoperates with Commander for transceiver control.

73,

Dave, AA6YQ