Thursday, July 7, 2016

N1MM QSOrder Plugin How To For The Flex 6000 Series (Or Any Radio) with AutoCQing

A few weeks ago I discovered the plugin QSOrder, as I was looking for a way to record my QSO's during contests with my Flex radio.  After downloading and playing around with the program for an afternoon, I got it fully configured.  I used it during Field Day 2016 and found it worked great with my setup.  I even configured it to get both sides of the conversation (TX & RX), which I'll explain below.  By default, QSOrder only records one side of the conversation, so when you key your mic, it blanks out the audio because there is no feed for that audio into your sound card.  I will explain how to capture both sides of the audio QSO with the Flex software and combine into one audio file.

I have a Flex 6500, which loads virtual sound cards on your computer.  The Flex talks directly to these virtual sound cards so you don't have to connect any wires externally from the Flex to your PC, it's all done internally.

If you have a different radio, this setup works basically the same, but externally via cables, as you just need to figure out how to get audio out of your radio.  Typically there is a serial port or external jack you can pull audio out of and into the mic/line card in on your computer.  If all else fails, you can split your headphone jack and bring one side into your PC's sound card.

I setup QSOrder in a batch file so I can setup my radio, configure N1MM and then double click two files on my desktop with the already defined parameters for QSOrder and it's recording, no re-setup each time.  This works great and is super quick to start recording.

This is how I setup my QSOrder for my Flex.  Your mileage my vary.

Step 1 - Setup the Correct Directory Structure
In your "N1MM Logger+ directory (typically \Documents\N1MM Logger+\), create a new directory named "MicAudio". This is where we will put the audio directly from your microphone.  Confirm you have a directory named \Documents\N1MM Logger+\QsoRecording, as it should already be there from the N1MM program install.  If not, create that directory.

Step 2 - Download and Install QSOrder
Download the QSOrder files from the Sourceforge website, extract and place them in the \Documents\N1MM Logger+\QsoRecording directory.  Then copy all the program files into the \Documents\N1MM Logger+\MicAudio\ directory.  You will now have QSOrder and Lame existing in two different directories.  We will run two instances of QSOrder, one to capture RX and the other to capture TX.

Your directory structure should look like the below with Lame.exe and QSOrder.exe both the MicAudio and QsoRecording folders.  Don't mind the extra child directories, we'll get to those in a minute.

After you run QSOrder for the first time, the program creates some default directories.  QSOrder saves continuous audio in a directory named "Audio_<year>" in the same directory QSOrder runs in.  I usually record the whole contest just to make sure I have another audio source if the individual QSO recordings fail.  For the actual QSO recordings, it creates a folder with the same contest name as the contest name in N1MM.  So in the above example, I recorded Field Day 2016, so it created a folder called "FD_2016" and put all the individual QSO files in that directory for that event.

Step 3 - Update your N1MM .ini File
Next you'll need to change your N1MM .ini file.  Typically it's located in \Documents\N1MM Logger+\N1MM Logger.ini.  Once you have changed the ini file and saved it, make sure to re-start N1MM for the changes to take place.  You can edit your .ini file in a basic text editor.

Per the instructions, you'll need to add the lines under the [ExternalBroadcast] section of the file.


This sends out a UDP network packet when a contact is logged (enter is pressed) to trigger QSOrder to do it's magic. Note this is the same port that Flex uses to control logging focus.  If this is the case, use port 12061 or another port for QSOrder and remember that port number, as we'll need it later.  Change the .ini file to reflect that new port.  If you don't use the Flex Focus Helper, disregard.

Step 4 - Configuring QSOrder Parameters
Now we need to actually run the program and find out some parameters so we can setup a test recording.  Open a command prompt and navigate to \Documents\N1MM Logger+\QsoRecording\.  For you new comers, that's "cd \Documents\N1MM Logger+\QsoRecording\.

Type in (without quotes) "qsorder -h" ; this will show the help file (see below).

We want to display our sound card, so the next command will be "qsorder -q" to display all the sound cards our system sees.  See below.

QSOrder sees all the virtual flex sound cards.  Since I want to record slice 1 on my Flex, I need to find DAX Audio RX 1 for slice 1.  That is index #5.  Also make a note what index your mic audio is.  Mine is #1.  These index numbers will be used to tell QSOrder what soundcard to listen too.

If you were using a regular sound card mic/line in, you would choose your sound card listed.

Step 5 - Setting Up QSOrder Parameters
I like to record a constant stream of audio for 1 hour intervals, plus the actual call QSO audio. I  also like to set a new hotkey to record anything interesting I hear while I'm listening.  For these options, I use the following command.

c:\qsorder -C -k Z -i 5

Qsorder calls the program.
-C says to start a continuous recording.
-k Z says to make the hotkey <ctrl> + <alt> + Z.
-i 5 says to listen to the index 5 sound card as mapped by QSOrder.

Here again is the batch file (be sure to put the .bat extension on the file name).

Step 6 - Setting Up QSOrder Mic Stream Capture (Flex Only)
Now you want to setup your mic stream.  Same items as step 5, just point your -i parameter to your mic stream index.  Keeping the same parameters is important as when you load both your TX and RX continuous streams into Audacity to combine the audio, very little adjustment is needed to make it sound good.

Step 7 - Setting Up the DAX Channels
On the slice receive you wish to capture audio, you'll need to make sure your DAX is configured to send audio to channel 1 (or at least the sound card and index number you choose in step 4 above).  Below is the first slice, so it's channel 1.  This corresponds to index 5 sound card.

To ensure you're getting audio and streaming correctly, check your DAX control panel to ensure RX Stream #1 is on and streaming.

Also make sure your Mic Stream channel is on and streaming when you PTT.  I set my mic level down around 45 to ensure I don't overload the audio channel.  If you're using N1MM for SSB autoCQing, you'll need to make sure the TX Stream is on also.  Configuring N1MM for autoCQ is out of scope for this setup.

If you want to N1MM to autoCQ, click the DAX button under your mic settings.  This will use the DAX TX channel as it's main source of audio.  If you have a mic or headset connected, it will still work as usual.  This just allows your sound card you've designated in N1MM to autoCQ out to the world.

Step 8 - Testing the Recording Parameters
Now you're all set.  Just test the setup.

If you made the two batch files and saved them on your desktop, all you need to do is double click on them.  To shut the program down, click CTRL+Break to close the batch file down.

You probably want to start N1MM first and configure a dummy contest to capture some logs with audio.  After you start each batch file, the below screen will appear and stay like this to log what the program is doing.

Below is the log of the end of a recorded QSO file.  It displays the basic parameters and output of the options the program is using for recording.

Once the file is processed, it will save it to your hard drive under a folder named whatever the contest name is in N1MM underscore <year>.  For the below example, it created a folder called FD_2016 for Field Day, year 2016.

Each QSO file will be individually named with the QSO station, your station, contest, mode, band and date of the QSO.  This makes searching and finding each QSO very easy.

Below is the status of a continuous recording.  Every 10 mins it reminds you that it's still recording.

Again to break out of the batch file, hit CTRL + Break.

Step 9 - Using Audacity to Line Up Mic & QSO Audio
Now that you have recorded both sides of your audio, what's next?  You can import both audio clips into Audacity and edit/cut/boost anything you want with it.  You might see the audio off just a slight tad, so you can take one of the clips and move it over so it lines up perfectly with the other file.  You can then export this audio in whatever format you want.  Also I recommend you pan each file a little R or L to give some spacial presence to the QSO.

Step 10  - (Optional)
Someone has setup a neat program to allow users to play back the audio on your QRZ page.  After the contest if you load your QSO files on to a specific folder in Dropbox, and place some HTML on your QRZ page, it will play it back by loading a player directly on your QRZ page.  Rather neat.  You can try it on my QRZ page.  Search for K4MNF in the search box to play the recorded audio.  You can also search N1MM as we worked that station for FD as you can hear him way down in the noise.

The applet looks like this on your QRZ page.

Link to QSOrder Dropbox Lookup

Tips and Tricks

1) If your contest starts at 1pm, start your continuous recording at 12:55.  Then when the contest starts at 1pm, you'll have started a new continuous recording at the top of the hour.  Your QSO continuous recording and your mic audio continuous recording should line up with every little effort.

2) The default time setting to start recording is 45 seconds.  I found that not long enough with long winded operators and also long exchanges.  I would often miss their call on the recording. My suggestion is for longer than average exchanges, bump that default time to 1 min to ensure you got everything.

3) Play with your audio levels to make sure you get a good loud recording of the QSO.

4) You don't have to start N1MM to record audio, but you do have to have N1MM running in order to record and save individual QSO's.  If you just want to record what your hearing, start the program and let it run.  It can record continuous audio of what your listening to for play back later.  Hot keys work even when N1MM is not running also.  If you hear something interesting and want to capture it in a separate file, press your hot key combo.

5) Before starting a contest test N1MM, test QSOrder, test them together...see what works, and what doesn't work.  TEST!!!!

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