My main bands of interest are 28MHz (10m) and 50MHz (6m). On both bands my antennas are nothing special: a low end fed Par 3-band antenna on 28MHz and a V2000 vertical omni on 6m, fed with lossy RG58 coax in both cases.
We are now on the downward slope of the current sunspot cycle. The conventional wisdom is that 28MHz is “dead” for much of the year. We now have weak signal modes that help to dispel this myth. Using WSPR or JT65, one can be assured of monitors around the world, looking in a very narrow window in each case. Not only that, but these excellent modes only need very low power to prove a path is open. Although WSPR is theoretically a few dB better, I find JT65 gets results more often, no doubt due to higher levels of activity. For both modes, WSJT-X v1.6 software may be used. This is free software by Joe Taylor K1JT. When not looking for 2-way JT65 contacts, “B <callsign><locator>” is sent which shows up on PSKreporter maps. For WSPR, the standard message format is used.
It is rare for a day to pass without 28MHz opening to somewhere. OK, unlike SSB at the height of a solar peak, one has to be patient, but there is usually plenty to get on with whilst JT65 is running in the background. No, weak signal modes have proved that 28MHz is “open” far more often than is thought. With SSB, brief openings are easily missed, whereas with weak signal modes they will be noticed. People do a quick tune across the band, assume it is “dead” and go down a few bands.
What I am advocating is stick with 28MHz, run weak signal modes in the background and be prepared to be surprised.
With JT65 it is also possible to make basic QSOs at signal levels way below those needed for SSB or CW. It is important to ensure your PC clock is accurate. This is usually achieved using one of the many software packages that link to an internet time server. These update the PC clock at regular intervals and ensure that you transmit at the right times.
With WSPR and JT65, big stations, high power and beams are not needed. It brings back ”fun” to amateur radio and at the same time advances radio science.