Author Archives: Thomas Witherspoon

Video: Icom IC-R8600 sync detector in action

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), who shares the following:

For your listening pleasure. Here is the best video yet showing the Icom IC-R8600’s Sync Detector in use.

Sounds like Icom “finally” got the Sync Detector performance right with the R8600. Appears to greatly reduce fading distortion, where as with the expensive IC-R9500 it does not help much with fading distortion (if at all).

Click here to view on YouTube.

Good news indeed !!

I agree, Dave. This is most promising indeed!

I look forward to checking out the IC-R8600 at the Dayton Hamvention this year.

The Eleventh HOPE Conference

HOPE-2016

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ed, who writes:

You might consider reporting on The SWLing Post that there will be several talks at the The Eleventh HOPE conference this Fri/Sat/Sun that might interest your readers, including:

Tuning in to New York City’s Pirates of the Air

David Goren

Pirate radio in New York City is a homegrown cultural phenomenon that is at once aesthetically vibrant, technologically tumultuous, and undeniably illegal. Emanating from clandestine studios and hidden transmitters, the sounds of Kreyol, Yiddish, Spanish, and Caribbean-accented English waft into the urban atmosphere. On an average night in Flatbush, Brooklyn, it’s not uncommon to be able to hear as many as three dozen pirate stations between 87.9 and 107.9 Mhz. This flowering of outlaw micro-radio stations in Brooklyn and throughout the greater New York City region is a major disruption to the status quo of corporate controlled, robo-playlisted mega stations. Their unregulated presence and programming often reflects the throb and hum of a diverse city more authentically than traditional media outlets. Join radio producer David Goren for an audio tour of these stations featuring the music, programs, and personalities that make up New York City’s pirate radio scene.

Monitoring Dusty War Zones and Tropical Paradises – Being a Broadcast Anthropologist

Mark Fahey

Tuning in distant foreign radio and television stations is a conduit to unique and exotic information. These signals are often confronting, uncensored, and unsanitized. In the western world, we blur or pixelate images of death and torture, but signals from war zones or rebellions show tragedies happening live on the air. Other signals broadcast the joy of life on this planet through exotic song, music, and film. Digital wide-band recordings of the electromagnetic spectrum allow virtual time travel, a form of mental teleportation whereby recorded spectrum is tuned to hear stations as if they were being tuned in real time. Take a virtual tour of Mark’s monitoring station in Sydney, Australia which is wired to access the world’s mass media via whatever delivery conduit is needed to capture the content. The station receives hundreds of thousands of inbound digital audio and video channels that let him monitor domestic radio and television from most parts of the world. If he wants to watch breakfast television from Tibet, or maybe the nightly news from the remote Pacific islands of Wallis and Futuna, then it’s available in perfect studio quality. You’ll also see his visits to remote broadcasters and rare, uncensored video from telejournalists that captures the tragedies and joy served up by our planet.

Democratizing Wireless Networks with LimeSDR: Open Source, Field-Programmable RF Technology

Ebrahim Bushehri

This talk presents new, low-cost, open-source, field programmable RF technology, where flexibility is extended from the digital to the RF domain. See demonstrations from the open-source community using the LimeSDR platform, which incorporates two transmitters and two receivers covering 100kHz to 3.8GHz which can emulate GSM, LTE, UMTS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, RFID, HDTV, radio astronomy, passive RADAR, 2G/3G/4G cellsites, IoT gateway, amateur radio, wireless keyboard/mouse transmission/detection, aviation transponders, utility meters, satellite reception, remote tire pressure monitoring, drone command and control, RF test and measurement, and more.

We have more than 150 speakers this time over three days in three tracks.

Thank you Ed! I trust a number of SWLing Post readers will attend HOPE 2016. I certainly wish my travels would make it possible for me to attend this year–it would especially be great to see presentations by my good friends, David Goren and Mark Fahey.

Click here to view The Eleventh HOPE site.

UPDATE: Live streams

Many thanks to post reader, Aaron Kuhn, who notes the following:

In regards to those HOPE talks, the conference talks will be streamed.

[The] schedule of the talks is here:

https://hope.net/grid.html

The streams will be at:

http://livestream.com/internetsociety
http://livestream.com/internetsociety2
http://livestream.com/internetsociety3

(depending on the room the talk is in)

Alexander reviews the Avion AV-DR-1410 DRM receiver

81-58a+inIL._SL1500_

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Alexander (DL4NO), for the following review of the new Avion DRM receiver:

A review of the Avion DRM receiver

by Alexander von Obert (DL4NO)

The Avion AV-DR-1401 DRM receiver has appeared on the SWLing Post before in a previous review.

Amazon India does not sell the Avion outside of India. As it happens, I found someone who was willing to buy it for me and bring it with him from India to Germany.

The first impressions were quite disappointing. This feels more like a prototype, not a polished product:

  • The power supply produces lots of interference and runs quite hot. Unless I find another power supply, I can either charge the battery or listen to the radio.
  • The handle rattles. Such things often are symptoms for the whole product.
  • The firmware fails in many ways: update errors of the display, very confusing user interface.
  • No acceptable field strength indicator, especially in DRM until a signal is decoded. If you have a selective antenna you need to switch to AM to tune it. And then you tune it by ear or by numbers. No bar of any kind.
Avion AV-DR-1410 DRM

Radio Romania

Radio Romania produced very good signals this evening in southern Germany on 41m. But with the built-in antenna, DRM reception was impossible even in my shack directly under the roof. A Degen 31MS selective active antenna indoors enabled sketchy reception of Radio Romania and All India Radio on 41m. Reasonable reception was only possible with my external antenna.

All India Radio

All India Radio

Just imagine why I took the trouble to get the receiver! It is a far cry from what I really wanted: a modern replacement of my trusty Sony ICF7600D from the 1980s. I had to retire it for mechanical reasons after it travelled with me for 20 years.

In India, they might not have the industrial infrastructure they have in China or Japan, but an intensive firmware update is urgently needed. Software is something they are good at in India. Many problems could be solved that way:

  • The volume knob has no stop and must be pressed for a few seconds to turn the radio on or off. A short press could be used to switch it between volume and tuning.
  • A reasonable field strength indicator should be introduced.
  • The remote control does not work reliably.
  • With the “mode” switch I can select AM, FM, or DRM. But I have not found anything that the “band” switch could be doing.
  • The “scan” switch works on FM and puts all transmitters found into the favorites. But neither is that the function I would expect it to do nor does it work on other bands.

From my preliminary tests I fear the unit has massive large-signal problems. For example, I heard distorted signals of Radio Romania on bands where they were not transmitting at all. I use an active antenna but this is the same I use for the DX Patrol or SDRplay RSP, therefore I know that my antenna is not to blame. I also see this as an indicator about the DRM signal of Radio Romania.

I could not help but open the Avion receiver: [the internal antenna worked so poorly, I wanted to investigate].

I must say that the rattling handle was an accurate indicator of production quality.

Inside the Avion

Inside the Avion

See “Inside the Avion” image above (click to enlarge). The back side on the left was originally covered by an aluminum shield. I had to remove it as the wires are quite short–one cannot put the two parts flat on the bench otherwise. You see that they tried to improve the shielding on the right.

AVION internal antenna preamp

Avion internal antenna preamp

See “Avion internal antenna preamp” above (click to enlarge). The circuit board at the lower left corner of the first picture is the preamp for the internal antennas. In the lower left corner is the telescopic antenna connection. The wire here was extremely short–either it broke before and made contact by chance or I broke it when I dismounted the circuit board. At least I did not force it (still a bad manufacturing practice).

If you examine the circuitry, you see very bad practices: C2 directly connects the antenna to the base of Q2. It must be a bipolar transistor considering R3/R4. At least there is DN1 which seems to be protection diodes. On the whole board I can find no inductivities at all. There is absolutely no band limiting.

AVION broken shilding wire

Avion broken shilding wire

See “Avion broken shielding wire” above. The shielding wire had broken from the soldering. That was definitely not my fault. At the yellow isolation, a second wire is connected. That is the wire routed around the backside without any connection. This doesn’t make sense to me.

Avion crushed battery holder

Avion crushed battery holder

See “Avion crushed battery holder” above. The battery holder is fixed together with the aluminum shielding. The worker crushed the lug of the battery holder while mounting the shield. A few other threads were torn, too. A typical case of too much strength.

Avion seems to know about the inherent RFI problems of this receiver, but could not solve them. No wonder I have to use an external antenna.

Perhaps I will replace the antenna preamp with something reasonable.

Otherwise this radio will gather dust here.

Thank you for your report, Alexander–I’m sorry to hear about your experiences with the Avion, especially after the trouble you went to obtaining it.

So far, I’ve heard no truly positive reviews of the Avion AV-DR-1410. Sadly, it sounds like a radio to avoid.

Mike IDs a Hallicrafters Skyrider in Avengers scene

Avengers-Ultron-Hallicrafters-Radios

In response to my post about finding a glowing Hallicrafters radio in a scene from the Avengers: Age of Ultron, SWLing Post reader, Mike (AC4NS) writes:

“I put the pic in Lightroom and pulled it out of the shadows.

It is definitely a Skyrider and not an SX-28.”

Avengers-Ultron-Hallicrafters-Radios-1024x429

Wow–I’m amazed there was enough information in that photo to pull it out of the shadows! You can see the silk screening and the SEND-REC. switch in the lower right corner.

Again, here’s my Hallicrafters SX-24 Skyrider Defiant for comparison:

My Hallicrafters SX-24

I know why they used a Skyrider in the film; the warm glow of the dials and signal meter were simply irresistible! (At least, they are for me!)

Thanks for helping ID this, Mike!

Video: The Skelton HF Transmitting Station

Many thanks to Jonathan Marks, who shares this short video about the history of the Skelton HF Transmitting Station: