Recording Contest QSOs

You will see on my past couple of posts that I am starting to record my contesting. I’ve received a few questions about how so I figured it deserves a blog post.

I’ve been interested in recording contacts since I found GW4BLE’s online recording archive. If you ever worked him in a contest, you can go to his website, search his logs, and be able to listen to the exchange. I was amazed by this because I was always interested in how I sounded. I wanted to do the same.

The obvious choice was to contact GW4BLE and ask him how. I wanted the exact same thing. However his response was that someone else wrote the software and that I would have to contact that person. I tried with no response so I wanted to find another way. I was disappointed because it appears they do not want to share. I will have to find another way.

Some web searching later I came across a plugin for N1MM+ called QSOrder written by Vasiliy Gokoyev (K3IT). The software/plugin does exactly what I want… Almost. It’s able to record contacts and make individual files or it can record the entire contest or both. Since it appears to be my only option, it will do.

QSOrder Setup

How the software works is that it listens to a soundcard and creates a buffer. When you hit the log button on N1MM+, it will trigger the software to make a recording X amount of seconds before and X amount of seconds after the contact. It can create individual files for each contact or it can record the entire contest or both.

In order for the software to work properly, you need to make sure you have installed the LAME Encoder. This allows files to be output in a compressed .mp3 format. Each 45s recording ends up being around 170kb

Another thing you would need to do is modify an .ini file in N1MM+ to enable UDP Streaming. This is how QSOrder knows when to set the buffer and obtains the QSO details to create the file name from.

You would also need to setup your audio and this varies depending on your setup. If you have some kind of sound card interface that has it’s own sound card built in (like the Signalink), you can use that. If not, you will have to find a way to get the audio from the radio to the computer’s mic or preferably the line input.

Software installation is straight forward if you follow the directions listed on the QSOrder website. I would suggest you install it in a subfolder right off the main drive (C:/qsorder for example).

I would also suggest for the first couple times to run the software from a command line instead of trying to click on the executable. The reason why I say this is because if you have multiple sound cards, there is a good chance that QSOrder will default to the wrong card. You would have to tell the software to use a different card.

If you have experiance with DOS or other CLI clients then you should have no issue getting this up and running

QSOrder Review

As a person who is used to using a GUI (Graphical User Interface. i.e. Windows), the setup and install was a bit tricky. Even more so when I had to tell the software to use a different input device/sound card. However it wasn’t really that bad to get up and running.

Software works exactly like it should. It records contacts and makes .mp3 files for each contact. I would suggest that you make a test contact well before the contest to make sure both N1MM and the recorder is working. I would then listen to the mp3 file to make sure the levels sound good. I made a mistake on my first recorded contest and everything was loud.

Can it run with the big dogs?

Yes it could. There were a couple times where I had 100+ hr rates and the software held up nicely. I would love to try it out at a multi/multi contest station where I could get bigger rates to really test it out. But for my station, it works out great.

Now that I have all these mp3’s, what should I do?

I wanted to have the exact same thing as GW4BLE. However OSOrder doesn’t create a searchable DB that can be displayed on website for others to search. I also see that GW4BLE records the entire contest on one mp3 file and the software/website/db links to the section of recording that you want to listen to. QSOrder outputs each contact on it’s own .mp3 file.

However the filename allows you to easily make a directory listing of your contacts. I was able to print a directory listing and some cut and pasting later, I was able to share them here on my blog. Even though I now have my contacts online for all to listen, it’s not searchable like GW4BLE’s site or wintest.

Can This Be Automated?

I still wasn’t completely satisfied. I would like for an All-in-one software that will record the contest, upload the files to a website, create a db and make it searchable from a website. But for the price I shouldn’t complain at all. I decided to contact Vasiliy and see what can be done about it. I e-mailed him in November and he did agree that it could improve. At first I didn’t think nothing would become of it but a couple months later I got an e-mail saying that he created a searchable index with the use of the cloud storage service “dropbox”.

All I have to do is create a dropbox account (free 2gb storage), link my account through his website, upload my files to a subfolder that was created and embed an iframe into my website or QRZ page.

Check it out for yourself. Who knows, you might have contacted me. If not type in “K1KI” to see both a phone and CW contact.

You can embed this into your website or even your profile. It makes for an exciting page.

I was able to beta test this feature and even though I am not a fan of using a third party service like dropbox, it’s much easier to upload, search and manage. Vasiliy was very responsive and I am glad he devoted time to making it happen.

Contest Rules And Reg

Even though I love to share my recordings, I found out that uploading your contacts directly after a contest could cause some trouble. Other operators could use your recordings to scrub their logs for more points. In CQWW contests rule number 9 states

9. Correction of logged call signs and exchanges after the contest, by use of any database, recordings, email or other methods, is not allowed.

I would suggest to wait until after the log submission deadline to post any records publicly.

I hope to record more contests for all to enjoy. I hope that you do as well. It’s great to see how one sounds on the other side of the signal.

Thanks for reading,
Jeffrey Bail (NT1K)

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