Guest Post: London Shortwave’s guide to mitigating urban radio interference

London-Urban-CityMany thanks to SWLing Post contributor, London Shortwave, who is kindly sharing this guest post–a brilliant article he recently posted on his own website.

I’m very grateful: one of the most common questions I’m asked by readers is how to cope with the radio interference so many listeners and amateur radio operators experience in high-density, urban areas. If this is you, you’re in for a treat–just keep reading:

Dealing with Urban Radio Interference on Shortwave

by London Shortwave

Shortwave radio listening is an exciting hobby, but for many of us city dwellers who either got back into it recently or tried it out for the first time not long ago, the first experience was a disappointing one: we could barely hear anything! Station signals, even the supposedly stronger ones, were buried in many different types of static and humming sounds. Why does this happen? The levels of urban radio frequency interference, or RFI, have increased dramatically in the last two decades and the proliferation of poorly engineered electronic gadgets is largely to blame. Plasma televisions, WiFi routers, badly designed switching power adapters and Ethernet Over Powerlines (also known as powerline network technology, or PLT) all severely pollute the shortwave part of the radio spectrum.

Does this mean we should give up trying to enjoy this fascinating medium and revert to using the TuneIn app on our smartphones? Certainly not! There are many angles from which we can attack this problem, and I shall outline a few of them below.

Get a good radio

The old adage “you get what you pay for” certainly holds true even when it comes to such “vintage” technologies as shortwave radio. Believe it or not, a poorly designed receiver can itself be the biggest source of noise on the bands. That is because many modern radios use embedded microprocessors and microcontrollers, which, if poorly installed, can generate interference. If the receiver comes with a badly designed power supply, that too can generate a lot of noise.

So how does one go about choosing a good radio? and have fantastic radio review sections, which will help you choose a robust receiver that has withstood the test of time. My personal favourites in the portable category are Tecsun PL310-ET and Tecsun PL680. If you want a desktop radio, investigate the type of power supply it needs and find out whether you can get one that generates a minimal amount of noise.

It is also worth noting that indoor shortwave reception is usually best near windows with at least a partial view of the sky.

Tecsun PL310-ET and Tecsun PL680, my two favourite portable shortwave radios.

Tecsun PL310-ET and Tecsun PL680, my two favourite portable shortwave radios.

Identify and switch off noisy appliances

Many indoor electrical appliances generate significant RFI on the shortwave bands. Examples include:

  • Plasma televisions
  • Laptop, and other switching-type power supplies
  • Mobile phone chargers
  • Dimmer switches
  • Washing machines / dishwashers
  • Amplified television antennas
  • Halogen lighting
  • LED lighting
  • Badly constructed electrical heaters
  • Mains extension leads with LED lights

Identify as many of these as you can and switch them all off. Then turn them back on one by one and monitor the noise situation with your shortwave radio. You will most likely find at least a few offending devices within your home.

Install an outdoor antenna

If you have searched your home for everything you can possibly turn off to make reception less noisy but aren’t satisfied with the results, you might want to look into installing and outdoor antenna. That will be particularly effective if you live in a detached or a semi-detached property and have a garden of some sort. Of course, you will need a radio that has an external antenna input, but as for the antenna itself, a simple copper wire of several metres will do. An important trick is making sure that the noise from inside your home doesn’t travel along your antenna, thus negating the advantage of having the latter installed outside. There are many ways of achieving this, but I will suggest a configuration that has worked well for me in the past.

Fig.1 Schematic for an outdoor dipole antenna.

Fig.1 Schematic for an outdoor dipole antenna.

I have used a three-terminal balun (positioned outdoors), and connected two 6 metre copper wires to its antenna terminals to create a dipole. I then connected the balun to the radio indoors through the feed line terminal using a 50? coaxial cable. In the most general terms, the current that is generated in the antenna wires by the radio waves flows from one end of the dipole into the other, and a portion of this current flows down the feed line into your radio. The balun I have used (Wellbrook UMB130) is engineered in a way that prevents the radio noise current from inside your house flowing into the receiving part of the antenna.

Wellbrook UMB130 balun with the feed line terminal disconnected

Wellbrook UMB130 balun with the feed line terminal disconnected

Antenna preselectors

There is a catch with using an outdoor antenna described above — the signals coming into your radio will be a lot stronger than what would be picked up by the radio’s built-in “whip” antenna. This can overload the receiver and you will then hear many signals from different parts of the shortwave spectrum “mixing in” with the station you are trying to listen to. An antenna preselector solves this problem by allowing signals from a small yet adjustable part of the spectrum to reach your radio, while blocking the others. You can think of it as an additional tuner that helps your radio reject unwanted frequencies.

Fig.2 Schematic of a preselector inserted between the outdoor antenna and the receiver

Fig.2 Schematic of a preselector inserted between the outdoor antenna and the receiver

There are many antenna preselectors available on the market but I can particularly recommend Global AT-2000. Although no longer manufactured, many used units can be found on eBay.

Global AT-2000 antenna coupler and preselector

Global AT-2000 antenna coupler and preselector

Risk of lightning


Any outdoor antenna presents the risk of a lightning strike reaching inside your home with devastating and potentially lethal consequences. Always disconnect the antenna from the receiver and leave the feed line cable outside when not listening to the radio or when there is a chance of a thunderstorm in your area.

Get a magnetic loop antenna

A broadband loop antenna (image courtesy of

A broadband loop antenna (image courtesy of

The outdoor long wire antenna worked well for me when I stayed at a suburban property with access to the garden, but when I moved into an apartment well above the ground floor and without a balcony, I realised that I needed a different solution. Having googled around I found several amateur radio websites talking about the indoor use of magnetic loop receive-only active antennas (in this case, “active” means that the antenna requires an input voltage to work). The claim was that such antennas respond “primarily to the magnetic field and reject locally radiated electric field noise”[*] resulting in lower noise reception than other compact antenna designs suitable for indoor use.

Interlude: signal to noise ratio

In radio reception, the important thing is not the signal strength by itself but the signal to noise ratio, or SNR. A larger antenna (such as a longer copper wire) will pick up more of the desired signal but, if close to RFI sources, will also pick up disproportionately more of the local noise. This will reduce the SNR and make the overall signal reading poorer, which is why it is not advisable to use large antennas indoors.

The other advantage of a loop antenna is that it is directional. By rotating the loop about its vertical axis one can maximise the reception strength of one particular signal over the others, once the antenna is aligned with the direction from which the signal is coming (this is termed “peaking” the signal). Similarly, it is possible to reduce the strength of a particular local noise source, since the loop is minimally sensitive to a given signal once it is perpendicular the latter’s direction (also known as “nulling” the signal).

It is further possible to lower the effect of local noise sources by moving the antenna around. Because of the antenna’s design, the effect of radio signals is mostly confined to the loop itself as opposed to its feed line. Most local noise sources have irregular radiation patterns indoors, meaning that it is possible find a spot inside your property where their effects are minimised.

Many compact shortwave loop antennas require an additional tuning unit to be attached to the loop base (much like the preselector described above) but broadband loops do not. Wellbrook ALA1530S+ is one such antenna that is only 1m in diameter, and it was the one I chose for my current apartment. I was rather impressed with its performance, although I found that I need to use a preselector with it as the loop occasionally overloads some of my receivers when used on its own. Below is a demo video comparing using my Tecsun PL680’s built-in antenna to using the radio with the Wellbrook loop.

As you can hear, there is a significant improvement in the signal’s readability when the loop is used.

Experiment with a phaser

Although the loop antenna dramatically reduces the levels of ambient RFI getting into the radio,  I also have one particular local noise source which is way too strong for the loop’s nulling capability. Ethernet Over Powerlines (PLT) transmits data across domestic electrical circuits using wall socket adapters, as an alternative to wireless networking. It uses the same frequencies as shortwave, which turns the circuits into powerful transmitting antennas, causing massive interference. One of my neighbours has PLT adapters installed at his property, which intermittently become active and transmit data. When this happens,  it is not merely noise that is generated, but a very intense data signal that spreads across the entire shortwave spectrum, obliterating everything but the strongest stations underneath. Fortunately, a mature piece of radio technology called antenna phasing is available to deal with this problem.

Fig.3 The principle of antenna phaser operation (adapted from an original illustration in Timewave ANC-4's manual)

Fig.3 The principle of antenna phaser operation (adapted from an original illustration in Timewave ANC-4’s manual)

Signal cancellation using phase difference

A phaser unit has two separate antenna inputs and provides one output to be connected to the radio’s external antenna input. The theory of phase-based signal cancellation goes roughly as follows:

  • The same radio signal will arrive at two different, locally separated antennas at essentially the same time.
  • The phase of the signal received at the first antenna will be different to the phase of the same signal received at the second antenna.
  • This phase difference depends on the direction from which the signal is coming, relative to the two antennas.
  • The phaser unit can shift the phases of all signals received at one antenna by the same variable amount.
  • To get rid of a particular (noise) signal using the phaser unit:
    • the signal’s phase at the first antenna has to be shifted by 180° relative to the signal’s phase at the second antenna (thus producing a “mirror image” of the signal received at the second antenna)
    • its amplitude at the first antenna has to be adjusted so that it is the same as the signal’s amplitude at the second antenna
    • the currents from the two antennas are then combined by the unit, and the signal and its mirror image cancel each other out at the unit’s output, while the other signals are preserved.

Noise sampling antenna considerations

To prevent the possibility of the desired signal being cancelled out together with the noise signal — which can happen if they both come from the same direction relative to the antennas — one can use the set-up illustrated in Figure 3, where one antenna is dedicated to picking up the specific noise signal, while the other is geared towards receiving the desired broadcast. That way, even if the phases of both the noise and the desired signals are offset by the same amount, their relative amplitude differences will not be the same, and thus removing the noise signal will not completely cancel out the desired signal (though it will reduce the latter’s strength to some extent).

It is possible to use any antenna combination for phase-based noise signal cancellation. However, one has to be careful that, in the pursuit of removing a specific noise source, one does not introduce more ambient RFI into the radio system by using a poorly designed noise-sampling antenna. After all, the phaser can only cancel out one signal at a time and will pass through everything else picked up by both antennas. This is particularly relevant in urban settings.

For this reason, I chose my noise sampling antenna to also be a Wellbrook ALA1530S+. The additional advantages of this set-up are:

  • It is possible to move both loops around to minimise the amount of ambient RFI.
  • By utilising the loops’ directionality property, one can rotate the noise sampling loop to maximise the strength of the noise signal relative to the desired signal picked up by the main antenna loop.
Two Wellbrook ALA1530S+ antennas combined through a phaser

Two Wellbrook ALA1530S+ antennas combined through a phaser

And now onto the phaser units themselves.

Phaser units


DX Engineering NCC-1 (image courtesy of

I have experimented at length with two phaser units: the MFJ 1026 (manual) and DX Engineering NCC-1 (manual). Both solve the problem of the PLT noise very well, but the NCC-1 offers amplitude and phase tuning controls that are much more precise, making it a lot easier to identify the right parameter settings. Unfortunately this comes at a price, as the NCC-1 is a lot more expensive than the MFJ unit. As before, a preselector is needed between the phaser and the radio to prevent overloading.

Below is a demo of DX Engineering NCC-1 at work on my neighbour’s PLT noise. I have chosen to use my SDR’s waterfall display to illustrate the nefarious effect of this type of radio interference and to show how well the NCC-1 copes with the challenge.

Cost considerations

Fig.4 Final urban noise mitigation schematic

Fig.4 Final urban noise mitigation schematic

It would be fair to say that my final urban noise mitigation set-up, shown in Figure 4, is quite expensive: the total cost of two Wellbrook antennas ($288.38 each), a DX Engineering phaser ($599.95) and a Global AT2000 preselector ($80) comes to $1257. That seems like an astronomical price to pay for enjoying shortwave radio in the inner city! However, at this point another old saying comes to mind, “your radio is only as good as your antenna”. There are many high-end shortwave receivers that cost at least this much (e.g. AOR AR7030), but on their own they won’t be of any use in such a noisy environment. Meanwhile, technological progress has brought about many much cheaper radios that rival the older benchmark rigs in terms of performance, with Software Defined Radios (SDRs) being a particularly good example. It seems fair, then, to invest these cost savings into what makes shortwave listening possible. You may also find that your RFI situation is not as dire as mine and you only need some of the above equipment to solve your noise problems.

Filter audio with DSP

If you have implemented the above noise reduction steps but would still like a less noisy listening experience, consider using a Digital Signal Processing (DSP) solution. There are a number of different approaches and products available on the market, and I shall be reviewing some of them in my next post. Meanwhile, below are two demo videos of using DSP while listening to shortwave. The first clip shows the BHI Compact In-Line Noise Elimination Module at work together with a vintage shortwave receiver (Lowe HF-150). The second video compares using a Tecsun PL-660 portable radio indoors on its own and using the entire RFI mitigation set-up shown in Figure 4 together with a DSP noise reduction feature available in the SDR# software package, while using it with a FunCube Dongle Pro+ SDR. As a side note, it is worth remembering that while DSP approaches can make your listening experience more pleasant, they can’t recover what has been lost due to interfering signals or inadequate antenna design.

Set up a wireless audio relay from your radio shack

The above RFI mitigation techniques can result in a rather clunky set-up that is not particularly portable, confining the listener to a specific location within their home. One way to get around this is by creating a wireless audio relay from your radio shack to the other parts of your house. I did this by combining the Nikkai AV sender/receiver pair and the TaoTronics BA01 portable Bluetooth transmitter:

Head for the outdoors!

So you have tried all of the above and none of it helps? As a last resort (for some, but personally I prefer it!), you can go outside to your nearest park with your portable radio. After all, if shortwave listening is causing you more frustration than joy it’s hardly worth it. On the other hand, you might be surprised by what you’ll be able to hear with a good receiver in a noise-free zone.


Many of the above tricks and techniques were taught to me by my Twitter contacts. I am particularly grateful to @marcabbiss@SWLingDotCom, @K7al_L3afta and@sdrsharp for their advice and assistance over the years.

Thank you–!

What I love about my buddy, London Shortwave, is that he didn’t give up SWLing just because his home is inundated with radio interference–rather, he saw it as a challenge. As you can see, over the years, he has designed a system that effectively defeats radio interference.

I also love the fact that he uses an even more simple approach to defeating RFI: he takes his radio outdoors. A kindred spirit, indeed.

I encourage all SWLing Post readers to bookmark and search London Shortwave’s website. It’s a treasure trove for the urban SWL. We thank him for allow us to post this article in its entirety.

Posted in Articles, Guest Posts, Ham Radio, How To, News, Shortwave Radio, Software Defined Radio, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Radio Romania International: New frequencies as of October 25

RomaniaMapMany thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David Iurescia (LW4DAF), for sharing the following additional update from Radio Romania International:

Dear friends,

As of October 25th 2015 RRI broadcasts on new SW frequencies. Please check them out:


Posted in Broadcasters, International Broadcasting, News, Schedules, Schedules and Frequencies, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , | Leave a comment

RRI Listener’s Day: November 1, 2015

RRI-RadioRomaniaInternationalMany thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David Iurescia (LW4DAF), for sharing the following from Radio Romania International:


Dear friends, on Sunday, November 1st 2015, RRI celebrates Listeners’ Day. As usual, we invite you to be an active part of our special program airing on that day. The topic of this year’s edition is refugees. We have all followed the news about the refugee crisis, and have seen that hundreds of thousands of people risk their lives leaving their native countries in search of a better life in Europe. This wave has become a big challenge for Europe, for European values, the labor market, economic growth, and the process of integration into society. However, no one can ignore that each refugee has his or her own personal story, which sometimes is very sad.

Therefore Listeners’ Day on RRI invites you to share your opinion on the refugee issue, and to tell us stories you know about refugees. We are sure that many of you know such stories, since the refugee crisis affects the whole world.

We are looking forward to receiving your pre-recorded or written contributions, which you can send by e-mail or by Facebook and of the other social networks on which RRI has a profile. Our address is RRI, 60-64 General Berthelot street, sector 1 Bucharest, PO BOX 111, postal code 010165, e-mail:

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Vibroplex acquires International Radio Corporation

vibro (1)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike (K8RAT) who shares this press release from Vibroplex:

Vibroplex LLC of Knoxville, TN announces the acquisition of International Radio Corporation of Aptos, CA.

inrad-logoThe sale was finalized on September 23. International Radio, commonly referred to as “Inrad”, is the leading manufacturer of aftermarket and OEM crystal filters for Amateur Radio transceivers and receivers with some 250 different models currently available for present day equipment and obsolete gear dating as far back as the 1950’s.

Inrad is presently the OEM roofing filter supplier for the popular Elecraft K3/K3S series of HF transceivers. The last day of operations in California was September 22. Inrad is now up and running at the Vibroplex offices in Tennessee but the backlog of present orders on hand will take several more days to fill.

The former and new owners say thank you to the Amateur Radio community for more than 40 years of Inrad business. Inquiries about Inrad can be directed to the main Vibroplex email address at

Posted in Ham Radio, News, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

New from Heathkit: the Explorer Jr TRF AM radio receiver kit


The Heathkit Explorer Jr. (Image Source: Heathkit)

Yes, the legendary Heathkit company is back and their first kit is a simple Tuned Radio Frequency (TRF) AM/mediumwave analog receiver: the Explorer Jr.

I knew Heathkit was back in business and under new management, but hadn’t heard any updates as of late. Their president, Andy, just sent a message to the “Heathkit Insiders” group explaining what the team has been up to:

“We’ve designed and developed a wide range of entirely new kit products. We authored the manuals for these kits, complete with the beautiful line art you rely on, preserving and respecting our iconic historic Heathkit style. We developed many new inventions and filed patents on them. We relocated Heathkit, and set up a factory, and a warehouse, and offices, in Santa Cruz, California, near Silicon Valley. We built the back office infrastructure, vendor and supply chain relationships, systems, procedures, operations methods, and well-thought-out corporate structure that a manufacturing company needs to support its customers, to allow us to scale instantly the day we resume major kit sales. All this effort enables us to introduce a fleet of new kits and helps ensure Heathkit can grow, prosper, and continue to bring you great new products for a very long time.”

The Insiders’ message goes into much more detail–I would encourage you to contact Heathkit about joining this group.

The big news in this message was the launch announcement of the Explorer Jr. kit which can be ordered from their website now. The price is $149.95 plus shipping. Heathkit anticipates a 30-day shipping time for the first set of orders.

Here’s a description of the kit from their website:

A Radio Kit Whose Time Has Come.


When Heath started designing & selling do-it-yourself airplane kits shortly after the Great War, the state-of-the-art in radio was the Tuned Radio Frequency (TRF) design.

A TRF radio was a great deal. If you had a great deal of money. A TRF receiver became a fixture in the homes of families around the world, receiving the news and music AM broadcasts of the day. A family AM radio was a big investment — $100 to $625 in 1929 dollars. (With inflation, that’s $1,400 to $8,700 in today’s dollars.)  Of course, at that price radios also were beautiful. They were made of fine wood, and designed to last. Radios were a visible and attractive furnishing you could be proud to have in your living room or parlor.

Heathkit’s TRF radio is a great deal. And a great deal of radio. This Explorer Jr TM radio is modeled on the original TRF designs, but better. You get to build it yourself. It’s safe and simple enough for beginners to assemble and understand. But it receives AM broadcast stations with performance superior to the vintage radios of 1930.

With the number of Heathkit enthusiasts out there, I suspect this first run of kits won’t last long. The kit trim is available in six colors: Silver, Cranberry, Cucumber Green, Plum Pie, Sapphire Blue, and Tangerine.

Click here to view and order the Explorer Jr on Heathkit’s webstore.

Posted in AM, Kits, Mediumwave, New Products, News, Radios | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

SWLing Post DXpedition at PARI…this weekend!

If you’ve registered for, and plan to attend, the PARI DXPedition, please make sure you’ve joined our Yahoo Group.  This is where we’re finalizing details and communicating about the DXpedition, noting any changes, updates, etc.  


If you’ve tried to contact me recently and haven’t gotten a response yet (sorry about that!) it’s because I’ve been unusually busy: writing a shortwave radio buyer’s guide for The Spectrum Monitor, several reviews for WRTH 2016, plotting another reader challenge, and last but not least, putting together the final details of the SWLing Post DXpedition at PARI this weekend.

Soon I’ll be another kind of busy, at the DXpedition:  exploring the bands, gazing at the stars, and hanging out with some of the SWLing Post community. Needless to say, it’s going to be fun, and I’m looking forward to it.

If we have Internet access at PARI, we hope to post a few loggings and photos from our Twitter account.

We have about a dozen registrants this year, a good start.  If you can’t make it there, no worries; if all goes well, we may have another next year.

Posted in Current Events, DXpeditions, News, Specials | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Met Office guide to space weather forecasts


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike (K8RAT), who writes:

The Met Office has this brief introduction to the subject of space weather and the methods they use to make predictions. It may be useful to beginners in the radio hobby.

This download is found on The Met Office’s forecast page:

They are not giving us any good news regarding the next couple of days on HF.

Click here to download the Met Office guide: “Space Weather: Find out more about how we forecast space weather” (PDF).

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