Monthly Archives: August 2011

Using exalted carrier reception to tune in pirate radio

I’ve found that one side benefit of installing a 40 meter delta loop this past weekend is that I now have an antenna which is practically ideal for listening to pirate radio stations in and around the 6925 kHz “watering hole.” So, I’ve been spent a lot of evenings recently listening for pirates with the new antenna.

Shortwave Pirate MAC Shortwave featured DJ Ultraman

Shortwave Pirate MAC Shortwave featured DJ Ultraman

But Sunday night was a noisy night on the 40 meter band–I was hearing active static crashes probably associated with hurricane Irene. I did pick up a relatively strong signal from pirate station MAC Shortwave with DJ Ultraman at around 20:40 EST (00:40 UTC)–listen to the end of the broadcast here:

Note that I start the recording using the Alinco DX-R8T, but find the bandwidth too wide (hence the adjacent broadcaster you hear), so I switch to my Palstar R30C. One bonus in this recording: Commander Bunny’s parody of “I Shot the Monkey” originally recorded from WBNY studios. 

At the top of the hour I heard Renegade Radio start a broadcast, but the signal was very weak here in the southeastern US. In fact, I couldn’t even ID the station. So, I turned to a trick I’ve used on tabletop and portable shortwave radios alike–namely, Exalted Carrier Reception (ECR) also known as Exalted Carrier Single Sideband (ECSS) reception.

What is ECR or ECSS?

Simply put, it’s when you tune in an AM broadcast using the SSB mode on your radio. In my case, I turned on the USB  (upper side band) mode on my Palstar and zero-beat the frequency–meaning, I tuned out the hetrodyne whine until the audio sounded as natural as possible.

This is sort of a “poor man’s version” of synchronous detection (and, frankly, a little inferior to sync detection on most radios).  Still, in this case, it made a huge difference in the intelligibility of the broadcast.

Why does it work?  Well, as my ham buddy Mike recently explained it:”You are removing any selective fading problems by filtering away one of the sidebands and injecting a carrier of steady amplitude which eliminates the ‘tearing’ heard when a broadcast carrier is varying in amplitude.”  Got that?

The Palstar R30 in USB mode tuned to Renegade Radio

At any rate, one of the reasons it works so well on my Palstar is because I can keep the bandwidth set rather wide while listening in SSB, thus helping a bit with the loss of fidelity that happens when moving off of the AM mode. If your radio automatically switches to a narrow filter in SSB mode, the audio fidelity may take a bigger hit, and degrade further.

Though I don’t have a comparison without using the ECR/ECSS method, I can tell you that the AM signal was barely audible. After tuning in using ECR, it became armchair listening.

Listen to almost one hour of Renegade Radio for yourself:

Those of you who have old radios with a very stable variable BFO (beat frequency oscillator) instead of a product detector might try using your BFO tuning to inject the BFO directly over the fading broadcast carrier to accomplish same kind of reception as ECR.

So, next time you have difficulty hearing a weak shortwave station, consider turning on the SSB mode and using the ECR/ECSS method. You may like what you hear!  Ahoy, there…

A West Dorset view on the Rampisham Radio Transmitting Station closure

Photographer: Nigel Mykura. (Creative Commons)

(Source: Real West Dorset)

RAMPISHAM’S radio transmission station may close before Christmas with the loss of more than 20 jobs, even though it’s currently broadcasting into Libya.

The proposed shutdown of the Dorset site follows the BBC’s decision earlier this year to cut back on World Service shortwave broadcasting and stop it altogether by 2014, even though nearly half of the World Service’s audience (184 million in 2010-11) listens via shortwave.

The BBC says it’s phasing out shortwave because the Foreign Office cut the World Service grant by 16% (£46 million).

The author, Jonathan Hudston points out:

Britain has three major sites broadcasting internationally on shortwave. The others are Woofferton in Shropshire and Skelton in Cumbria. Rampisham broadcasts more hours than they do, is more reliable, and has a wider reach across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. (It’s a little-known fact that the National Grid runs right through the Rampisham site, supplying 60,00 volts. I think it has only ever lost power twice in 70 years. Once was during the Great Storm of 1987, which shows it takes something pretty extreme).

He goes on to ask:

Is it really in the UK’s national interests to dismantle Rampisham and sell its equipment for scrap?

The modern preference is said to be for internet-based services, but Jo Glanville, in a good piece about the World Service in the current edition of the London Review of Books, makes the point that shortwave radio can reach many millions of people in ways that internet-based services cannot.

He has a very good point. As we’ve mentioned numerous times before, shortwave radio crosses borders better than any other medium. It’s hard to block and untraceable.

(Read the Full Article Here)

Pirate Radio and Hurricane Irene

Last night, I tuned to the pirate radio watering hole of 6,925 kHz shortwave. I caught a bit of the Southern Relay Network as they played several hurricane and storm themed songs.

I recorded a bit of the end of the show for you. Note that there was a lot of noise on the frequency–many of the static crashes were attributed to Hurricane Irene herself.

Click here to download/play the mp3 file, use the archive.org flash player below (if visible) or simply visit the archive.org audio page. Enjoy!

Radio used, by the way, was the Alinco DX-R8T. We will be posting a review of this receiver, so check back soon!

Listen to hurricane watch nets on your shortwave radio

As of time of this posting, Hurricane Irene is on a path that could threaten a large swath of the east coast of the United States. If you have a shortwave radio, even a portable, that can tune in SSB (or Single-Side Band) you can listen to or participate in the Hurricane Watch Net courtesy of your radio.

How to find the Hurricane Watch Net on your portable shortwave radio

Simply tune your radio to 14,325 kHz (or 14.325 MHz). Since these signals are often weaker than AM broadcast signals, you should fully extend your antenna.

Next, turn on the SSB or BFO switch on your radio.  These are labeled in various ways, but when you activate the SSB mode, the audio characteristics of your radio will change rather dramatically.

If there is activity on the frequency (i.e., the Watch Net is busy), you should hear voices. More than likely, you will need to tune the SSB to make the voices intelligible.  Typically, there will be a dedicated fine tuning knob/wheel to allow you to do this.

Keep in mind that if you hear nothing but static, that may only be because there is no current traffic on the net. Patience will pay off.

Participation

Can you participate in the Hurricane Watch Net and make reports on your weather observations if you’re not a licensed amateur radio operator? Of course! In fact, the Hurricane Watch Net states:

The National Hurricane Center collects observations from people in coastal areas who have home weather stations.  Send an e-mail to wx4nhc@wx4nhc.org and request information about this program or use their on-line submission form by clicking here.

I will attempt to record some sample audio from the Hurricane Watch Net and post it here (on this page) in the near future.

Also, please note that there are many other frequencies to monitor in the resources section below. Many frequencies are specific to a region, like North Carolina (tune to 3923Khz or  7232Khz SSB), so be sure to try several, not just the HWN.

Resources

 

North Carolina Public Television features VOA Greenville

This is an excellent video about the VOA Greenville transmitter site produced by North Carolina Public Television. What I love most is the time they took to explain the importance of shortwave radio across our globe, how it is an existing technology that governments and regimes cannot easily block or track. We certainly repeat this theme often, here on the SWLing Post.

Please enjoy and share.