PL-880 Hidden Feature: Adjusting FM muting threshold

PL-880-RightSideMany thanks to SWLing Post reader, Hector (AD4C) for discovering and sharing this hidden feature of the Tecsun PL-880. Hector writes:


“I have been using the Tecsun PL-600 for some time but never was satisfied with its performance in SSB, you can read my review on eham.

Last night I received the PL-880 I purchased trough amazon.com and I am really impressed with its performance, its a day and night difference compared with the PL-600, especially for SSB–the addition of narrow filters for LSB and USB made a huge improvement to the performance, also the availability of choosing different BW either on SSB or AM also improved a lot the reception.

I have to congratulate you for the well designed webpage you did to show all the hidden menu in this great radio but I have to tell you also that when performing all the menu by your links, I found by accident another one you did not mention. I’ll explain with details:

  1. Turn the radio ON, select FM, and go to freq that be in between two stations–an empty frequency–in my radio it will sound like complete silence because the squelch circuit is acting properly and majority of users will prefer to leave it like that to avoid the squelch noise BUT that decreases receiver sensitivity a few microvolts on FM, so because I am a dxer in any band, I reset the squelch threshold to have permanent noise or “open squelch” condition.
  2. Now press the key #9 to display the squelch value
  3. Use the tuning wheel to adjust the squelch value. Mine was at 3 but when I moved it down to zero using the tuning knob the noise appeared in all frequencies between used ones and I could detect weak stations more than 100 miles away. This is good to know when propagation by sporadic E is open and an indicator for the 2 and 6 M dx chasers.”

Many thanks, Hector! I’ve added this to the Tecsun PL-880 hidden feature list. The ability to lower squelch is, as you say, essential for FM DXing.

Note that I tried this hidden feature on my Tecsun PL-880 and it didn’t work. My FM muting threshold must be set to 0, however, because I can hear static between stations. Tecsun must have made this addition after my radio was produced (mine came from one of the first ’880 shipments in November 2013).

Have any other SWLing Post readers tried to adjust the FM muting threshold on their PL-880?

Posted in Articles, How To, News, Radio Modifications, Radios, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

“Success Requires Independence and Consolidation”

VOA transmitter site in Greenville, NC

Edward R. Murrow Transmission site in Greenville, NC, USA

Regarding the passing of HR4490 in the US House, Jonathan Marks comments:

“[This] article by Kim Andrew Elliott is 2 years old, the arguments well over a decade. Lest we forget the original authors……

http://mountainrunner.us/2012/02/elliott_on_bb/

Kim Andrew Elliott is an audience research analyst in the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau and is the founder and producer of the VOA Radiogram.

Many thanks for sharing, Jonathan!

Posted in Broadcasters, International Broadcasting, News | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Weekend Hamfesting: Waynesville, NC

ZenithSaturday morning, I drove to Waynesville, North Carolina, for the Western Carolina Amateur Radio Society‘s annual hamfest. I’d attended this small-town hamfest before; it has always been enjoyable, as I met friends and even found a few radio bargains.

The Zenith TransOceanic, above, attracted a lot of attention, including mine.  But this year, I had more modest goals: $100 and a specific shopping list, which consisted mostly of components (adapters, connectors, jumpers) and a decent dual-band mobile antenna. I ended up spending $85, including $7 entry fee, and checked off literally everything on my list.  Among my purchases were:

  • Dual band 5/8 whip antenna with large mag mount: $45
  • SMA to SO239 jumper: $5
  • PL259 to BNC adapter: $3

I also found a couple of extras, including this Realistic Tape Control Center (below) for $1. It will make an ideal speaker switch box for my boat anchors that currently share one quality audio transformer (600 to 8/4 ohms).  I discovered that this box had been used by its previous owner for a similar purpose.

RealisticTapeControl

My best bargain at this hamfest, however, was this brand new ground buss system (below) for just $20!

StationGround

The family who manufactures and sells these ground busses also sells antennas and a few other radio accessories. Unfortunately, they do not sell online (else you’d see a link here) only at local hamfests such as this one. The $20 price is an absolutely amazing one for this ground buss system.  All one has to do is connect the braid to the ground terminal on each piece of radio equipment, and connect the ground wire to a ground rod.  It’s packaged and ready to deploy–everything else is already assembled. Wow!

I viewed many other goodies at this hamfest that, alas, I had to pass on. Here are a few photos:

AMRadio

This restored wood-paneled tube radio (above) was very tempting, but in order to avoid making the purchase, I intentionally didn’t ask the price.

Hallicrafters-Sky-Buddy

This Sky Buddy (above) really caught my attention, and if I had $250 extra, I would have purchased it. The Sky Buddy is not an extremely rare Hallicrafters, nor is it a particularly strong performer, but it is very rare to find one in such beautiful condition that’s not been modified or restored–a completely mint original.

Perhaps I’ll regret not making this purchase…sigh! I just hope it will find a good home.

Grundig-Top-Boy-500

I was also tempted to buy this Grundig Top Boy 500 (above), circa 1972. Twenty dollars was certainly a fair price, but the seller had bought it at an antique sale and had not yet tested it. Additionally, it had a German plug, and runs on 220 VAC or C cells. Upon handling the radio, I also found myself a little concerned by the fragility of its plastic body. The antenna design, however, is pure engineering genius: it’s recessed in the top of the radio’s handle.

Drake-PRN-100

This Drake PRN-1000 (above) was produced by Drake as a promotional item for the People’s Radio Network (more info).  It’s the progenitor to the Drake SW1. The PRN 1000 is very basic; it has no memory functions, no SSB, and no synchronous detection. It’s a mediocre performer, frankly–not on par with other Drake offerings–but certainly an interesting piece of Drake history. I’ve seen PRN 100s for sale before. The $50 asking price from this seller was quite reasonable.

Yaesu-FRG-7The “Frog 7″ (above) is a classic shortwave receiver and has great audio if you use an external speaker. My good friend, Mike Hansgen (K8RAT), loves his recently acquired FRG-7 so much, he named it “Freda.” Mike snagged Freda for $125, by the way, a much better price than the $240 this seller wanted for his FRG-7.

Just out of curiosity, how many SWLing Post readers cut their teeth on the Yaesu FRG-7?

All in all, it was a great little hamfest (thanks, WCARS!) thoroughly enjoyable, and I look forward to making the pilgrimage to Waynesville again next year.   See you there!

Posted in Boat Anchors, News, Radios, Shortwave Radio, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

BBG Watch: VOA coverage of H.R.4490 “lacks balance”

VOA-Screen-Shot-2014-07-28-at-9.53PM-EDT(Source: BBG Watch)

“It took Voice of America a few hours to post a report, which includes quotes by two outside opponents of the bill: former VOA deputy director Alan Heil and Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire, but has no quotes from any outside supporters of the bill, including human rights NGOs, U.S. community leaders, and former Voice of America journalists who wrote a letter to President Obama in support of the legislation.

So much for balance in Voice of America news reporting as required by the VOA Charter.

For an alternative view, see BBG Watch report and commentary on the House passage of H.R. 4490, called the U.S. International Communications Reform Act of 2014.

If VOA English News quotes non-congressional critics of the bipartisan bill — there was no criticism of the bipartisan bill voiced today in Congress since it is widely supported as essential for saving Voice of America from mismanagement — VOA English News should have also quoted non-congressional supporters of the bill.”

Continue reading…

Hat tip to SWLing Post reader, Dan for sharing this post.

Posted in Broadcasters, International Broadcasting, News | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

US House passes H.R. 4490

View of the Capitol Building from the roof of the Voice of America on 330 Independence Ave., S.W.

View of the Capitol Building from the roof of the Voice of America on 330 Independence Ave., S.W.

The United States International Communications Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4490) has just passed the the House today, next it will go before the US Senate.

This bill proposes major changes to the overall structure of US international broadcasting. Click here to read previous posts about the bill and read the press release below for more information.

We will update the SWLing Post with news about H.R.4490 as it is presented before the Senate–follow the tag HR4490.

(Source: House Committee On Foreign Affairs)

Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, applauded House passage of bipartisan reform legislation to improve the missions, objectives, and effectiveness of U.S. international broadcasters, such as the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the Middle East Broadcasting Network (MBN).  The legislation, the United States International Communications Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4490) was unanimously passed by the Foreign Affairs Committee in April.  Chairman Royce and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Memberintroduced the legislation in April.

On House passage of H.R. 4490, Chairman Royce said:  “For many years, our international broadcasting has been broken and ineffective.  While strongmen, despots, and terrorists are working overtime on their public disinformation campaigns, the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees our international broadcast efforts, meets once a month.  The status quo is a recipe for failure on the critical information front.  The legislation the House passed today provides serious reforms to U.S. international broadcasting, allowing for a strong, effective tool in the fight against censorship and harmful misinformation.”

H.R. 4490 reforms U.S. international broadcasting, including in the following ways:

Fixes Well-documented Management Problems – Currently, five U.S. international broadcasting entities report to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (“BBG”), a group of 9 part-time individuals, who meet once a month to make management decisions. Important decisions can languish if the Board does not have a quorum, which is often the case. This legislation would establish a full-time, day-to-day agency head and reduce the role of the Board to a more appropriate advisory capacity. These changes have been recommended by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General and are widely recognized as needed reforms.

Clarifies the Mission of the Voice of America (VOA) – The VOA charter states that VOA will provide a “clear and effective presentation of the policies of the United States.” Over time, VOA has abandoned this mission and adopted a mission of the so-called “surrogates” to provide uncensored local news and information to people in closed societies. This legislation makes clear that the Voice of America mission is to support U.S. public diplomacy efforts.

Consolidates “the Freedom Broadcasters” – Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the Middle East Broadcasting Network (MBN) have the same mission – to provide uncensored local news and information to people in closed societies – with different geographic reach. Consolidating these organizations into a single, non-federal organization will achieve cost savings, allow for closer collaboration, and improve responsiveness. While the consolidation would mean shared administrative staff and other economies of scale, they would retain their distinct “brand names.”

For information of Chairman Royce’s efforts to reform international broadcasting, visit www.foreignaffairs.house.gov/broadcasting.

Posted in Broadcasters, International Broadcasting, News, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shortwave Radio Recordings: The Mighty KBC

DX-402-KBC-2Sunday at 00:00-02:00 UTC, I tuned to 9,925 kHz to listen to The Mighty KBC.

KBC’s signal was clean and blowtorch strength into North America. Though I used my WinRadio Excalibur to record the broadcast, I stepped outside with my recently acquired RadioShack DX-402 (above) and heard KBC as if were a local station.

As we’ve come to expect, The Mighty KBC’s Giant Jukebox of music has a lot of rock-n-roll and Euro-pop variety, spanning the decades.

This broadcast begins with a tribute to Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 which had a large number of passengers from the Netherlands, where The Mighty KBC is produced.

Click here to download the recording as an MP3, or simply listen via the embedded player below. Enjoy:

Posted in Broadcasters, Music, News, Recordings, Shortwave Radio, What's On Shortwave | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Straits Times: “Western radio broadcasters tuning out”

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Richard Cuff, for sharing this article from The Straits Times which interviews our friend Victor Goonetilleke. This is one of the first articles I’ve seen in the international press which gives a listener’s perspective on recent cuts to shortwave broadcasting.

Analog Radio Dial(Source: The Straits Times)

For 67-year-old Victor Goonetilleke, sitting with his headphones on in his house in the lush green Sri Lankan countryside, June 30 was the end of an era.

Voice of America’s (VOA) short-wave broadcasts to Asia abruptly went off the air, raising howls of protest from many of the US government-funded broadcaster’s listeners across the region.

But as the broadcasts had already been greatly diminished, this was not a surprise. The big Western radio broadcasters have gradually ceded the political “soft power” space they once dominated to a new heavyweight: China Radio International (CRI).

In recent years, Radio Canada International and Radio Netherlands Worldwide have shut down while the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and VOA have cut back on their range of languages and hours of programming. Now, the VOA has left Asia.

Mr Goonetilleke is not just an avid radio listener. He professionally monitors radio frequencies for the VOA. He is also a former veteran radio correspondent with Radio Netherlands for 24 years in an era when short-wave radio broadcasts from the likes of the BBC, VOA, Radio Netherlands, and Deutsche Welle were often lifelines to other worlds for hundreds of millions especially in times of conflict and misery.

The BBC now broadcasts in 29 languages across the planet, down from a peak of 69 in the 1970s. CRI broadcasts in 65, up from a reported 43 in 2006. Some programmes are run by local FM stations.

These days, Mr Goonetilleke can listen to four hours of CRI broadcasts in Sinhala and Tamil daily, compared with 30 minutes each on BBC.

CRI’s Tamil language broadcast is one of its oldest, run by fluent Tamil speaker Zhu Juanhua, a Shanghai native better known by her tens of thousands of listeners as Kalaiarasi.

According to the CRI website, it has 3,165 listener clubs around the planet, including CRI netizens’ clubs.

[Continue reading...]

 

Posted in Broadcasters, News, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment