Yes, but sparingly. Compression can be beneficial to reduce (compress) the dynamic range of your voice. At a proper adjustments, lower level word phrases will rise toward already louder phrases improving the ability of your transmit audio to “sit higher above the existing band noise” with greater presence. Avoid over-compression. A properly adjusted compressor should never be obvious to other hams!
Yes, unless you are fortuanae to have a quiet shack. Problems sometimes arise when shack background noise (air conditioner, linear amp fan, etc.) becomes more audible after the lower end of the dynamic range is raised. This calls for the use of a noise gate. The noise-gate threshold could be set at the bottom of the dynamic range of the vocal, say -10 dBu, such that the gate would shut out the unwanted signals between spoken phrases. Be mindful to minimize the sensitivity of your microphone in picking up unwanted shack noise. K4QKY aways uses microphones with a cardiod pickup pattern, minimizes his microphone gain setting and speaks about 3 inches into his microphone.
Noise gating is the process of removing unwanted sounds from a signal by attenuating all signals below a set threshold. As described, the gate works independently of the audio signal after being “triggered” by the signal crossing the gate threshold. The gate will remain open as long as the signal is above the threshold. How fast the gate opens to let the “good” signal through is determined by the attack time. How long the gate stays open after the signal has gone below the threshold is determined by the hold time. How fast the gate closes is determined by the release. How much the gate attenuates the unwanted signal while closed is determined by the range.
Noise gates were originally designed to help eliminate extraneous noise and unwanted artifacts from a recording, such as a hiss, rumble, or transients from other instruments in the room. Since hiss and noise are not as loud as the instrument being recorded, a properly set gate will only allow the intended sound to pass through; the volume of everything else is lowered. Not only will this strip away unwanted artifacts like hiss, but it will also add definition and clarity to the desired sound. This is a very popular application for noise gates, especially with percussion instruments, as it will add punch or “tighten” the percussive sound and make it more pronounced.
Nothing really, until such time your ready to experiment with more advaced processing techniquess.
(1) K4QKY recently replaced his Rhode NT-USB condensor microphone with a newer Diety VO-7U dynamic USB microphone originallt designed for streamers and podcasters. It features a tight pickup pattern that allows it to reject room noise so other hams are less apt to hear shack noise.The VO-7U works natively on all major operating systems, no drivers or software required.
(2) A Windows 11 PC is home for a digital audio workstation (DAW). This computer software application handles processing of live transmit audio processing chores for Amateur Radio transmissions. Regardless of configuration, modern DAWs use effects processors to tailor audio. Most DAW's used an an amateur radio application host separate vst-plugins such as noise gate, eq and compression.
(3) The scheme presented in this article describes a methodology for using a USB microphone together with a software-based processing system for onward routing of process transmit audio via a USB cable to a Kenwood TS-590SG.
(4) Alternatively, Appendix A provides a more complicatedguide for setting up up a conventional XLR microphone together with an outboard USB audio interface instead of a USB microphone.
(5) Some hams may prefer a purely analog (hardware-based) approach to audio processing. Appendix B describes a simple, inexpensive and highly effective scheme that can be implemented for about $200.
How the scheme diagramed at left works
- Digital audio output from the Diety VO-7U dynamic USB microphone is routed to the computer via a type C/A USB cable.
- Digital audio is then processed within the computer by the software-based DAW system called "Reaper" hosting noise gate, eq and compression vst plugins.
- Digital transmit audio output Reaper is then routed via Type A/B USB cable to the Kenwood TS-590SG. Note: Type A/B USB cable is a standard-issue USB 2.0 cable. TS-590 is the most common A to B Male/Male type peripheral cable, the kind that's usually used for printers.Finally, it is converted from digital to analog within the transceiver and transmitted.
- 55 watts RF output from TS-590SG transceiver.
- 700 watts RF output from the ACOM 1010 linear.
- 700 watts RF output from Palstar AT1500BAL to a full wave 40 meter loop antenna.
- Received audio from the Kenwood 590SG is transported via USB cable from the 590SG back to the computer and outputted to the speakers. Alternatively, receive audio can be routed from the 590SG's rear panel speaker output jack direct to a pair of near-field monitor speakers.
Why do it this way?
There are several advantages to using a USB microphone together with real-time software-based transmit audio processing software including:
- Less expensive compared to conventionally audio processing hardware.
- Several higher quality USB microphone choices have recently become available.
- Potentially less susceptibility to RFI and hum than a conventional microphone.Ability to process transmit audio with software rather than more expensive external processing hardware.
- Facilitates remote operations via the Internet.
Note: K4QKY enjoyed using the Rode NT USB condenser microphone for many years before recently shifting to the newer Deity VO-7U preferring to use a dynmic microphone. More about this highly capable microphone at https://deitymic.com/products/vo-7u/ . There are many excellent USB microphones to consider including those described at http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/feb07/articles/usbmics.htm. Alternatively, as discussed in Appendix A of this article, a convention XLR condenser, or dynamic microphone such as the Heil model PR35 is used together with a Behringer U-Phoria UMC202 USB audio interface as described at http://adamivy.com/behringer-umc202hd-review/.
K4QKY's setup includes:
Software: (just one example of many available options)
- Kenwood TS-590SG
- Dell PC running Window’s 11 with internal Realtek sound card
- Deity VO-7U dynamic USB microphone which is a highly versatile front-address microphone that is ideal for Amateur Radio.
- Type C/A USB cable connected to the microphone and computer. Another type A/B cable routes the computer's process audio output to the TS-590SG.
The following software needs to be downloaded and installed:
- “ASIO4ALL” which can be downloaded free from http://www.asio4all.com/ . Audio Stream Input/Output (ASIO) is a computer sound card driver protocol for digital audio providing a low-latency and high fidelity interface between a software application and your computer's sound card. Alternatively, you can skip this download and resort to using the windows built-in sound management system as discussed elsewere in this article.
- "Reaper", a complete digital audio production application for computers offering a full multitrack audio and MIDI recording, editing, processing, mixing and mastering toolset described and downloaded from https://www.reaper.fm/. Reaper comes with all necessary vst plugins including noise gating, eq and compression. Google keywords Reaper videos to gain a more complete understanding of the powerful yet easy to use DAW.
Note: K4QKY often uses PreSonus Studio One® 4 Artist, a software-based audio processing digital audio workstation (DAW) that contains everything you’d expect from a modern digital audio workstation with a fast, flow-oriented, drag-and-drop interface. You can purchase and download it from https://shop.presonus.com/products/new-noteworthy/Studio-One-4-Artist. It has the advantage of being a complete stand-alone system with its proprietary plugins.
Kenwood 590SG settings for software based audio processing: (Menu numbers differ in the 590S)
||TX filter SSB/am low cut
||TX filter ssb/am high cut
||Speach processor effect (see note below)
||TX equalizer (see note below)
||HF linear amp control relay (if applicable)
|67 & 68
||Audio input line for data
||Audio source of send/ptt
||USB input audio level
||USB output level
MIC - 0 as the front panel connected conventional microphone is not normally used with this scheme.
Menus 36 and 37 are not applicable when using outboard processed transmit audio techniques to the rig as compression and EQing are integral to most outboard processing schemes.
Hams who prefer using the 590SG's built-in TX EQ should install Kenwood's control software as discussed at http://www.kenwood.com/i/products/info/amateur/ts_590g/arcp590g_e.html which facilitates setting up this functionality.
Use a type AB USB cable for hookup to the 590SG. Windows should automatically install the necessary silicon labs driver. Check Windows Device Manager to determine which port is designated for the UART and make certain that the 590 and ARCP-590 software is set up to reflect the correct port, baud rate (preferably 115200).
Windows sound manager settings:
> Speakers High Definition Audio Device set as Default Device. Properties set initially at level 90, no enhancements, 16 bit, 48000 Hz and no exclusive mode.
> Speakers-USB Audio CODEC set as Default Communications Device. Properties set at level 37, no enhancements, 16 bit, 48000 Hz and no exclusive mode. Adjust level as necessary to adjust transmit audio input to the 590SG as necessary to achieve a slight ALC meter deflection on voice peaks.
> Microphone set as Default Device. Properties set at level 37, 16 bit, 48000 Hz and no exclusive mode. Address the microphone at about 3 inches to alleviate pickup of shack noise.
> Microphone-USB Audio Codec. Properties set at level 80, 16 bit, 48000 Hz and no exclusive mode. Note: Hams who prefer to route receive audio output from the 590sg to their desktop speakers should select the "Listen" tab and the checkbox opposite "Listen to this device". Then, enter your “Default Playback Device” from the drop-down box. Select the “Levels” tab and set the slider to 80 as a starting point to adjust the audio output from your speakers. Adjust as necessary. Alternatively, Hams who prefer to route receiver audio via a 3.5 mm analog cable connected between the 590G's back panel speaker out jack directly to their monitor speakers can disable this device.
Step 1 - ASIO device driver software setup. “ASIO4ALL” should first be downloaded free from http://www.asio4all.com/ . Once installed you should search for and open the Windows "ASIO4all offline settings" to set up appropriate inputs and outputs as per the below screenshot. It should be noted that the computer's built-in Realtek soundcard is not selected as it is essentially only used for non-ham radio applications.
Step 2 - Download the trial version of Reaper as per the above instructions. Once installed and started, click "options" and then Preferences from the main menue. Then dlick "audio" and then "device. Next select "asio" from the audio system drop down box. Lastly, click the "asio" cofiguration button to insure that your microphone is selected as input device and usb codec as your output device
Step 3 - insert noise gate (reaGate), eq (ReaEQ) and compressor (ReaComp) vst pugins in that order. Once installed, your main screen should appear similar to the screenshot below:
How to setup to this configuration is regretabbly beyond the scope of this article. K4QKY suggests that you first become thoroughly familiar with Reaper by watching a madrid of videos that exist on the internet, Google keywords "Reaper for pod casting and voice overs."
Finally comes the all-important task of making final adjustments to your entire system. Do this by routing your transmit RF to a dummy load, listening to your transceiver's monitor with headphones and speaking into the microphone. If necessary, adjust input and output gain levels on the above window together with the audio level of the “Speakers” device in the Windows sound manager playback tab together with the “Microphone” audio level in the recording tab and the rig’s audio input gain control as necessary to achieve just a slight deflection of the ALC meter on voice peaks while all the while listening to yourself from the rig’s audio monitor. This is a necessary “balancing act” to find your “Sweet spot.” Take your time and get it right!
Once you have arrived at a preferred scheme, be sure to save your setup.
USB microphone operations via a USB cable connected between a computer and the 590SG transports transmit audio exceptionally well. Moreover, this can be accomplished without the necessity for using any Kenwood-specific software and without the usual latency shortfall.
The Kenwood 590SG's simple to use USB cable connectivity is one of it's "killer" features! Try it for yourself. It is anticipated that more hams will come to embrace the use of a USB microphone on the phone bands once they learn more about the inherent advantages of this method of operating.
Alternative processing software:
This article has described a method of transmitting audio processing with the stand-alone DAW, Studio One 4. There are many other alternatives that K4QKY continues to experiment with including "Breakaway One" audio processor as described at http://www.breakawayone.com/breakaway-one/. You can download and install the fully functional demo version from this site. Once installed and set up (consult the included quickstart guide), the graphical user interface (GUI) will look similar to the below screenshot.
XLR microphone together with a USB audio interface instead of a USB microphone
Hams often already own one or more conventional microphones and may understandably be reluctant to spend the extra dollars on a USB microphone. Assuming that they desire to experiment with the digital (or analog) processing techniques, they may want to consider integrating their microphone with a USB audio interface as discussed below.
Oher pros and cons
- USB mics are less complicated to set up.
- XLR mics require an audio interface.
- XLR mics are typically more sophisticated in design.
- USB mics are preferable for portable radio operations with a laptop.
Choosing an audio interface
The webpage at https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/audio-interface-buying-guide/#io provides a useful buying guide for hams who elect to purchase an audio interface to use with their favorite conventional XLR microphone.
K4QKY's audio interface of choice
That's a Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD USB audio interface sitting atop K4QKY's 590SG. This one is hard to beat from a value perspective. Moreover, unlike some other interfaces, Behringer's companion software driver is rock-solid dependable. More about that, later on, is this Appendix. You can learn more about it by watching the video at
or from another vendor of your choice.
Nothing could be more simple!
- Download and install the driver for the interface from https://www.musictri.be/Categories/Behringer/Computer-Audio/Audio-Interfaces/UMC202HD/p/P0BJZ/downloads.
- Run an XLR cable between mic and front panel of the interface.
- Hookup a Type A/B USB cable between your PC and the rear panel of the interface.
- Restart your PC and enter your PC's windows sound manager. Setup the recording and playback devices to conform to the instructions below.
Recording tab - Note that the interface is set up as the default device. Levels at 52, no Enhancements and Advanced tab at 2 channel, 24bit, 19,2000 Hz.
Playback tab - Note that this tab is mainly set up much like the one previously discussed above when using a USB microphone. The Behringer speakers are not set as the default device in order to continue to listen to Internet-delivered audio and other entertainment through the ham shacks default near field monitor speakers. This scheme runs contrary to the Behringer's documentation which calls for the audio interface to drive your speakers rather than your PC's Realtek sound card. Moreover, to make this scheme work, you will need to rely on your ASIO4ALL driver instead of the Behringer driver. Not that you shouldn't use the Behringer scheme, K4QKY prefers this scheme as it is far more straightforward to implement than the Behringer scheme. Moreover, keeping ham radio audio separate from PC audio simply is the better way to do things.
Now, restart your PC and open your ASIO4All offline settings app and make it conform to the screenshot below.
Restart your PC once again and proceed to make a test run together with your overall processing scheme.
That's about all there is to implementing this scheme other than ensuring all input and output levels are correctly adjusted between elements of your audio path to exhibit just a slight deflection of your 590SG's ALC meter on voice peaks. The scheme presented in this appendix is equally applicable to processing audio input from a USB microphone.
Congratulations, you've got your new Amateur Radio license and can't wait to start operating on HF phone! Perhaps you're not certain how you want to conduct yourself. After all, there very few mandated rules as such. Most hams have developed good operating practices and etiquette simply by listening to more experienced hams and you will as well. Here are some of my preferences for your consideration. Have fun!
Opinions from Don "K4QKY"
► Exercise politeness regardless of the circumstances. Whenever you begin to feel that you can't, then stop transmitting.
► Be a good example especially for newly licensed Hams as well as short wave listeners who may be thinking about becoming a ham.
► Be a good listener. It will help you better organize your thoughts before transmitting.
► Reply to a CQ, or call CQ yourself. It is and always should be a major ingredient in the magic of ham radio.
► Speak clearly and slowly, especially when giving your call sign to someone you have never worked before.
► Promote friendship and goodwill to DX contacts. Look for ways to get to know each other rather than simply exchanging signal reports and 73s!
► Try to keep track of everyone in the QSO. Hopefully, someone has assumed the role of "traffic director" to make sure everyone has a chance to contribute to the discussion. If not, don't hesitate to do it yourself.
► Make it clear at the end of each transmission which station is expected to transmit next. Try to do this even when operating VOX.
► Operate on frequencies that are in whole Khz (e.g. 18.130Khz). This alleviates ambiguity and makes it easier for everyone to be on the same frequency.
► Openly praise other hams when you observe them doing something that you feel is especially deserving. e.g., helping demo ham radio to a group of scouts.
► Always be ready to quickly and calmly respond to emergency situations. Rehearse what you would do if presented with various scenarios.
► Operate in keeping with good amateur practice. Be certain to always comply with the provisions of Part 97 of the rules.
► Pause between transmissions. "Quick keying" gives the appearance that other hams are unwelcome in your QSO.
► Consider using the Internet to enrich your QSO. Avail yourself of the opportunity to add additional information and photos to your qrz.com page. You may also want to consider developing your own comprehensive personal website.
► Respect the privileges of hams operating in other modes on the HF bands including those who enjoy AM.
► Make a point to try 17 and 60 meters. Good practices are especially prevalent.
► Look for opportunities to "Elmer" newly licensed hams when you hear them on the HF bands. Welcome them, solicit their questions and give them pointers on good operating practices.
► Remember that no one country can proclaim to be the leader of the Amateur Radio world. Likewise, no one country's foreign policy is any more right or wrong than that of another country. Let's always keep this in mind when operating on the ham bands.
► Talking politics is generally considered to be in poor taste on the ham bands. However, if you are willing to courteously listen to the opinions of others while not insisting that you're right and their wrong, then you may want to do it. Just be careful to not offend others, especially if they are in another country.
► Develop good operating practices. You will be doing your part in helping insure the continuance of our long and proud tradition of self-regulation. Moreover, you just might convince someone else to also become a ham.
► Acting like some sort of broadcast radio station. Your fellow "Amateurs" will most likely not appreciate such a blatant display of personal ego.
► Acknowledge the presence of deliberate interference. After all, that's their overall objective.
► Being excessively long-winded especially when in a round-table discussion. (KG9OM often fails to head his own advice)
► Just talking about ham radio. Many hams often have other interests.
► Operating when you are in a bad mood. You will be that much more vulnerable to losing your temper.
► Overusing Q-codes and other ham radio jargon on the phone bands.
► Claiming any particular frequency for nets, schedules, etc. If your designated frequency is already in use, simply move up or down as necessary.
► Transmitting before first determining if the frequency is clear. This includes transmitting within 3Khz of other known QSOs.
► Breaking into an ongoing QSO unless you can hear the majority of the participants.
► Ignoring someone new to a round table QSO. Do your part to make everyone feel welcome. It is inappropriate to say anything that makes the discussion appear exclusive to a particular circle of friends.
► Testing your radio on the air. It is far better to use a dummy load.
► Coughing, sneezing, or clearing your throat into your microphone.
► Operating VOX when it may potentially tend to foster "quick keying" as it may tend to give the appearance that you don't welcome breakers.
► Becoming a "Band Policeman" quick to tell others what you feel they are doing wrong. In instances where it may be called for, always be polite and constructive.
► Turning up your microphone gain or resort to excessive speech processing in order to be heard. Such practices will most likely result in diminished audio quality and an increased likelihood of interference (IMD) to nearby QSOs.
► Using the word "break" when wanting to join an ongoing QSO. Simply give your call sign between transmissions and reserve use of the word "break" for more urgent situations.
► Joining an ongoing QSO unless you have something to contribute to the discussion. Try not to interrupt other hams with a request for audio checks, signal reports, etc.
► Knowingly interfere with an ongoing QSO just because you are working DX especially split frequency. Working DX is great fun but should never assume to assume to include special operating privileges.
► Saying that the frequency is not in use if you hear someone ask if the frequency you are listening to is in use. You should only respond if you know that the frequency or one nearby is in use.
► Ridiculing other hams or express any negative views of the overall state of Amateur Radio. If you don't have something positive and constructive to say, don't say anything at all.
► Hiding behind your microphone. Don't say anthing over the air to someone that you wouldn't say face to face.
(1) The foregoing list represents the opinion of one ham. As such, it is intended to be nothing more than a “shopping list” of suggested guidelines presented almost entirely from the perspective of a “rag chewer”. DXers, contesters, and hams who enjoy other modes will most likely have somewhat different views. Equipment-related issues are generally well known, are purposely not included here. In any event, it is hoped that this list may prove somewhat useful especially for new operators. The overriding theme is common sense and courtesy to others. Let’s always remember what a privilege it is to operate on the ham bands! This will help avoid doing anything that might impinge on the enjoyment of our hobby for others.
(2) Equipment-related practices, although beyond the scope of this article, are nonetheless important. Always be aware of your signal quality especially through careful adjustment of microphone gain and speech processor/EQ settings. Let's all do our part to avoid generating interference.
(4) You or the organization you represent are welcome to create a link to this page.
(5) Links to other related resources:
http://www.hamuniverse.com/proceduers.html - "Good operating practices and procedures for the ham bands" by AJ4D
http://www.dxzone.com/catalog/Operating_Aids/Beginner_s_Guides/ - "Guides to amateur radio for beginners" courtesy of The DXZone
http://www.w9uvi.org/?page_id=68 - "HF Operating Practices" by W9UVI
Other K4QKY amateur related publications:
Vintage Radio restoration
Some old photos
Two element Delta loop antenna array
Letter from a silent key (deceased):
This letter was received on the occasion of Don's retirement from a 28 year Navy career. What wonderful support that Frank and others provided me then, afterward and still today. Indeed, this is what our hobby is all about!