Decoding CW – (Nov 2, 2018)
This past week I decided I wanted to get CW decoding working in the shack. I had previously tried to do this with FLDIG, but didn’t spend a lot of time on it and never could successfully decode CW signals (Always just got garbage characters). But, after reading about CW decoders and realizing that this could be a helpful tool particularly for contesting, I decided to spend some time figuring it out.
FLDIG – Since fldigi seemed like the logical choice (already had it installed on my Win10 machine) I decided to fire it up and see if I could make it work. One obvious configuration to check was whether or not my sound card from my FT-991 was configured in fldigi for the speaker and microphone (USB Codec’s). As I suspected, yes this was correct already in fldigi. I then tinkered with literally 100 different settings in the software (see this video if you don’t believe me 🙂 ) only to get to the point where nothing worked. To make sure I was getting very good CW signals to decode – I figured if I tune into “clear code” such as 20 meter beacons and W1Aw practice transmissions that should remove any doubt on the quality of the code I am receiving. But, still no joy. Still garbage code. I am sure now it is a setting or some configuration between my Yaesu and the software. But, for the life of me, I couldn’t find it. So… as a final lifeline, I phoned a friend and sent a few texts, pics, and video clips to N1RWY and AC7FF. They offered some solid advice, but even after them graciously helping me, still no dice on decoding. So… it was time to cut bait on fldigi and move on…
MRP40 – Since it was time to move on and explore other options for CW decoding, I ran into a youtube video from AF5DN which compared MRP40, CWGet and CW Decoder. AF5DN/David did a nice job of comparing the software (both the decoding and UI) and I agreed with his assessment that MRP40 did a good job of decoding and the UI was clean and easy to use (plus big fonts!). I am always leary at downloading and installing random software on my system because I don’t feel like having to deal with browser add-ons and other “freeware” , aka, “adware”, that tends to be packaged in with software when developers use “free” software packaging tools to distribute their software. But, after reading several reviews on MRP40 , I felt confident enough to give it a go. Since the software has a 30 day trial, I figured I didn’t have much to lose.
Well, for all the complexity I ran into with fldigi, MRP40 was a breeze! All I had to do was tell the software which sound card devices to use (again for my Yaesu Ft-991 its the Codec 3 devices for Speaker and Microphone) and it started decoding. And, after playing with it for awhile, going between CW and SSB and pointing the software to the center of the signal, it got deadly accurate. Then , tying in my SDRPlay2 and SDRuno software into the mix, I could use the ZAP function in SDRuno to “zap” to the center frequency for CW, made it dead on accurate. Phew, this was nice after all the fldigi challenges. I understand that the fldigi problem is likely a “user problem” and I accept that. But moving on to MRP40 allowed me to be up and running and doing radio rather than fiddling with software.
Here are a couple of quick (and ugly) video clips of my set up with the Ft-991, SDRPlay/SDRuno software and MRP40 doing the decoding.