Echolink is a program that allows phones and computers to connect to a repeater or simplex radio node, or two repeaters to connect to each other over the internet. The program can run in either Single-User (client) mode or Sysop (server) mode.
The Single-User mode is what you need to use to connect your smartphone or computer to a repeater over the internet. It's very useful to check in to nets or connect with other hams when you're out of reach from the repeater.
- The Windows program can be downloaded from the Echolink Download page
- The iOS app can be found on the App Store
To adjust the Echolink levels on the app:
- While the introduction is playing, adjust your phone volume so the level is comfortable: Loud enough, but not too loud that it's distorted.
TRANSMITand record a short message and press the PTT again to end. Your message will replay.
- Now compare your sound level to the level of the introduction earlier. If it's different (quieter or louder), click the three little dots on the top right corner, select
Settings, and scroll down to
Microphone Gain. Adjust higher or lower depending of the situation and retry. On my phone, I had to crank up the gain to +18 dB and my voice is still a little quiet so I know I have to speak a bit louder. Every device will be different, but keep in mind that how you hear yourself is how others will hear you.
The Sysop mode is used to interface a radio (or repeater) to the echolink system via the internet. The VE7RXZ-R node consists of:
- Kenwood TM-721A dualband radio
- A 4-element 2m yagi antenna pointed towards VE7RXZ
- SignaLink USB unit
- Cevana MiniPC (64GB HD / 4GB Ram) Windows computer
- For this setup, I had to tweak the network settings of my router to allow traffic to find the Echolink computer. See more here.
The first step is to configure the Signalink unit properly in Windows. At first, it'll probably show as a USB sound device, but I changed the name to “Signalink”, which is what you'll see in the screenshots here.
- A new setting for the TX Ctrl is the sub-audible tone. Without this, the Signalink will transmit only when it hears a voice signal, which is why it needs some delays otherwise it would click in and out at the end of every word. But the sub audible tone keeps the PTT on until the person stops transmitting, even when they pause. This allows the delay on the Signalink to be shortened considerably (more on that later).
Update: I've had to disable this because I think it might be causing interference to the tone used by the repeater. I found that the tone transmitted by Echolink is 77Hz but the tone our repeater is expecting is 100Hz so it seems our repeater is not able to decode the two mixed together.
Radio and Signalink
This next part is trickier. We need to adjust the transmit and receive volumes of the rest of the equipment. To do this, we'll need:
- Access to the Echolink radio and Signalink
- A second radio to listen and transmit
- A phone with the Echolink client app.
The first step will be to adjust the receive of the echolink system.
- On your phone, make sure the volumes are adjusted properly. Go through the steps above again to make sure the audio is good (that'll be important for later).
- Tune the Echolink radio to a quiet simplex frequency and connect your phone to the node.
- Once the node identified, tune the Echolink radio to a busy frequency like one with a net for example. Don't worry, we won't be transmitting there (that's why we connected the phone to the node before tuning to that frequency).
- You should now be hearing the conversations on your phone via Echolink.
- Turn off the power of the Signalink (little red button) and roughly adjust the volume of the Echolink radio until you can hear the conversation at a good level. We'll fine tune this again later.
- Now turn on the power of the Signalink again and adjust the RX dial until the volume is the same as when it was off. You might have to turn it on and off a few times until you find this spot. For me, it was in the 11 o'clock position.
- You can now leave the Signalink turned on.
- Also, when no-one is talking, the level should stay below the slider (which is like an audio squelch). Anytime the level exceeds this, there will be a beep on the phone and it'll be impossible for the user to use the
TRANSMITbutton. I found that using the computer for other tasks creates “noise” that can be heard on the phone.
- Once the radio volume is set, make a note of it. Mine is in the 1 o'clock position.
- We're done with this part but before we move on, tune the second radio to the net and adjust the volume to a comfortable level. This is simply to adjust the volume. We'll be comparing the echolink volume to this later.
First, adjust the Signalink delay. Ideally, we want as little delay as possible but some is needed.
- Find a quiet simplex frequency and dial the Echolink and a second radio there (don't change the volume though).
- Set the delay all the way down to the 7 o'clock position.
- ID with your second radio saying something like: “VA7FI testing Echolink”
- On your phone, press
TRANSMITbut don't talk yet.
- You should hear the Signalink PTT click on and off rapidly and hear it on the second radio. Slowly turn the delay up until the clicking stops and it stays on (then turn it up a notch further). For me, that was in the 9 o'clock position. You can now ID and stop transmitting.
- Make a note of the Signalink delay.
The final step is to adjust the Signalink TX knob:
- Disconnect the echolink from the node and reconnect it (still on the simplex frequency).
- Adjust the TX volume of the signalink until the volume of the announcement is similar to that of the net on the other frequency earlier.
- You can also try talking, but depending on your phone, that volume might be weaker, which is not very reliable. The node ID is a better measure of transmit volume.
- Make a note of the Signalink TX volume.