Category Archives: Accessories

Guest Post: Old School Infrared Wireless Headphones

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who shares the following guest post:


Old School (Infrared) Wireless Headphones

by Mario Filippi (N2HUN)

Have you ever mindlessly walked away from your TV with headphones/ear buds still tethered, causing all sorts of havoc? Been there, done that hi hi! Let’s face it; there are plenty of avenues to remedy the situation by upgrading to wireless headphones. Nowadays most state of the art wireless headphones use radio frequencies to achieve a wireless method of listening. For example, my XYL blissfully listens to TV audio with Sony stereo wireless headphones, using a frequency of 915.5 MHz; below is the actual signal viewed with an RTL-SDR dongle.

Sony wireless headphones signal viewed via a SDR dongle; FM modulation.

But hold the presses: there’s good news for folks not averse to old-school technology.

I recently purchased a set of RCA wireless headphones using infrared technology from shopgoodwill.com.  Yes, those of us who are somewhat long in the tooth remember infrared as the common method for consumers to “cut the headphone cord” way back when.  Infrared is located just above the radio frequency spectrum starting around 300 Gigs (Gigahertz) and is still commonly used in TV and satellite remotes, but less so now with modern wireless headphones operating in the  900 MHz  and 2.4 GHz ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) bands.

Admittedly, the new breed of wireless headphones possesses an array of options not available with older infrared units, but if you are satisfied with a no-frills method of headphone freedom (well about 25 feet range that is), check out the pre-owned inventory offered on shopgoodwill.com.  The pair I purchased started at  $7.99 with no other interested bidders so the total with shipping was $16.82 with the original box and was complete, including the rechargeable NiCad batteries which still functioned but undoubtedly will need replacing.  To boot, the money went to a charitable organization.

Wireless IR stereo headphones from shopgoodwill.com

Interestingly, I tried using the wireless IR headphones in conjunction with a shortwave receiver (Panasonic DR22) but there was lots of interference, evidently from the IR transmitter; shortwave and the AM BCB were wiped out by the interference. Now on the FM BCB it worked fine. Even tried it with a scanner and it seemed to work well with FM transmissions (police, fire, EMS) but not with aero AM (108 – 136 MHz).

In the end my venerable older headphones have been relegated to the “shelf of infrequently utilized equipment.” Radio hobbyists might want to visit www.shopgoodwill.com as there are lots more radio memorabilia for window shopping or adding to one’s armamentarium. Remember to read the descriptions carefully as to the working condition. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not associated with ShopGoodWill in any way except that I’m a very satisfied customer. And yes, there are new, state-of-the-art wireless headphones available at a comparable price, so why the reason for this tale? Well, for knowledge, a little history, and a dash of sentimentality, that’s all! hi hi!


Thanks, Mario!

I briefly worked in a RadioShack store in the mid 1990s. We had a set of IR wireless headphones on display and hooked up to a receiver. I remember putting them on and listening to music after/before store hours completing mindless tasks like inventory, clean up, etc. It felt incredibly liberating to walk around the store without a headphone cord umbilical cord! The IR footprint covered the entire store, but fell apart if I had to duck below an end-cap or shelf partition.  

Thank you for taking us on a wireless stroll down memory lane, Mario!

A review of CozyPhones sleep headphones

A few months ago, SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi–being both a good friend and an (ahem!) enabler–sent the following note:

My XYL bought me a set of CozyPhones for Christmas.  If you like listening to the radio, especially at night while in bed, these work great. Speakers are nice and flat.  And if you are outdoors you can listen to shortwave and not suffer from ear frostbite hihi.

https://www.cozyphones.com/

[I’ve attached the photo below of] the one I got.  Absolutely amazing!

Little did Mario know that, back in 2014, I ordered a pair of similar sleep headphones by the company Acoustic Sheep after reading SWLing Post contributor Anil Raj’s brilliant entry in our Virtual Radio Challenge II.

I purchased an open-box pair of the Acoustic Sheep SleepPhones for about $33 and was very pleased with the purchased…initially, at least.

I used the Acoustic Sheep SleepPhones a couple nights a week for several months. I was disappointed, however, when the braided jacketing started coming off of the headphone cord, bunching up, and the rubberized jacketing underneath began staining my pillowcase, so I was no longer able to wear them at home or when traveling. My wife was amused and said it looked as if I had worn mascara to bed.  Well, at least until she attempted to clean the marks off of the pillowcase with limited success.

I feel it’s only fair to state that my SleepPhones were a fairly new product in 2014, thus may have been an early iteration and may not accurately reflect what the product is like currently. I’m guessing that Acoustic Sheep have improved the design and reinforced the jacketing since then, because they seem to enjoy relatively positive reviews on Amazon.

Panasonic Ergo Fit (in-ear) Headphones

At any rate, I set the troublesome SleepPhones aside and and went back to using my go-to in-ear sleep phones: the Panasonic Ergo Fit Headphones. The Panasonics are the least uncomfortable of all of the in-ear headphones and do a decent job of isolating any environmental noises while you sleep. Still, having something inside your ear while you slumber isn’t exactly the definition of comfort.

Enter CozyPhones

I replied to Mario’s email telling him about my experience with the SleepPhones. He encouraged me to give the CozyPhones a try.

I took a quick glance at Amazon (the only distributor I could find for CozyPhones) and the price for a pair was only $22. Almost $16 cheaper than a pair of new SleepPhones?  I even noticed combo packs with two sets of CozyPhones for $24. My doubts about quality resurfaced.

I decided to contact CozyPhones customer service directly and ask if their headphones were likely to experience the same problem as my SleepPhones–I mentioned my hesitancy and the fact these would likely be mentioned in a frank review (hint, hint: if quality is poor, this will get a negative review).

They promptly addressed my concerns, standing confidently behind their product, and even offered to send a sample. One week later, the CozyPhones arrived.

The CozyPhones arrived in a thick plastic re-sealable bag (seen above)–a nice touch! Included in the package were both the headphones and a satin carry bag.

Performance

Let’s be frank here: with sleep phones, I’m not expecting the same audio fidelity I would achieve with my Sennheiser HD558s––which, by the way, would be incredibly uncomfortable as sleep headphone; I simply wanted to be able to listen to my bedside radio as I drifted off.

Here’s what I do expect from a pair of sleep headphones:

  • decent audio fidelity at low volume levels–something suitable for listening to AM or shortwave radio
  • something with enough sound isolation that it won’t keep my wife awake while I listen to the Voice of Greece into the wee hours
  • comfort around my head and against my ears as I lie on a pillow…actually, this might be the #1 priority for me
  • headband’s earphones (speakers) stay in place, don’t shift within the band
  • quality construction and the potential for product longevity
  • no black marks on my pillowcase!

Let’s see how the CozyPhones deliver on my points:

Audio fidelity

The CozyPhones easily pass this test. I’m very pleased with audio fidelity for radio listening. Indeed, the audio response is pretty well tailored for AM/SW broadcast listening. FM and music sounds fine, too; good enough that I would consider wearing these in the winter while hiking. Again, these are not audiophile quality to be sure, but they surpass my needs for this application.

Sound isolation

The CozyPhones do a respectable job in this regard. My wife can’t hear what I’m listening to while lying in bed, not even a hint of what I hear. Now, if I were hard of hearing, listening to music and had the volume cranked up, I’m sure she’d at least hear percussive sounds.

Comfort

I should note hear that there are essentially four versions of CozyPhones:

CozyPhones sent me the second version mentioned above, the headphones with Cool Mesh lining and a lightweight Lycra-like exterior. I was quite pleased, as it’s what I would have selected. If anything, I tend to generate a lot of heat, so don’t like products that make me feel even warmer at night while I sleep.

After a few months with the CozyPhones I can say that I’m very pleased with how comfortable they are. The material is soft, the headphone speakers are very thin and seem to stay in place even as I move around and adjust my head on the pillow during the night.

Quality

The SleepPhones I purchased in 2014, in contrast, were also comfortable, but the earphones, essentially mini speakers, tended to migrate within the soft headband. I’d often wake up and find the speakers had completely moved within the band away from my ears; it was then a matter of trying to bunch up the headband material and re-position the speakers.

The CozyPhones don’t seem to have this problem. The ear speakers might shift a little some nights, but not enough to be annoying–certainly not as the SleepPhones initially did.

The braided headphones cord is non-obtrusive and comes out the back of the headphones. So far, the CozyPhones haven’t suffered the same fate as the SleepPhones–the braid has remained intact and seems quite sturdy, resilient to light tugging and normal movement.

And as for my pillowcase?  Still clean…no black marks.

Summary

If, like me, you enjoy listening to radio in bed, but don’t want to disturb your partner, CozyPhones really are a fantastic option.

Perhaps as a side effect of my years of SW listening, I find I’m a bit sensitive to environmental noises when I travel; often hallway noises, nearby traffic, children screaming, doors slamming, can disturb me, so I never leave home without earphones in my pack to quiet the noise. Quite often I’ll listen to my radio at bedtime, then, right before nodding off, I tune to a blank spot on the AM dial to the soothing sound of static. This “white noise” tends to drown out other abrupt environmental noises, and I find I drift off peacefully.

I think CozyPhones will serve you well. At $18-22 shipped? I think they’re a good bargain and a great gift. In fact, I intend to buy a pair for my wife!  Shhhh…don’t tell her.

Click here to view CozyPhones on Amazon.

Shortwave List: Cap’s shortwave schedule Android app now open to Beta testing

A few months ago, long-time SWLing Post contributor, Cap Tux, designed a simple shortwave schedule application for his Android phone. Though he never intended to make the app public, he shared it with me to test on my Moto G5 Plus.

Cap has recently decided that if others in the SWLing Post community would like to Beta test his app, they’re welcome to do so. He notes:

The app was created initially to meet my own requirements as at the time I was travelling a lot for my job and other apps I tried didn’t meet the requirements e.g. Broadcast stations only, filter by Station, Freq, Time, Language and more recently ‘Target Area’ which was added to the app very recently as I was initially using the AOKI list but found that EIBI was updated more frequently and tended to be more accurate.

I do miss some of the features and simplicity of the AOKI list as programming some of the code to respond to the amount of info in the EIBI list was challenging and there is still more that can be done. There is a bug on Android v4.4 (not my bug but the frameworks bug) which I have fixed in v1.1.10 which I can send through later.

I wrote this app as I needed a phone app for my portable radios (PL-660/PL-365) so I could search for shortwave stations using any combination of Station, Frequency, Language, Time (Specific, Real-time incl. day or Any!) or Target Area. The search can even take account of the day of broadcast so if it’s a Friday and the broadcast is only a Saturday, then it won’t show it.

Shortwave List Features:

  • Search the list using any combination of Station, Frequency, Time, Language, Time or Target Area
  • Only broadcast stations are included in the list
  • Scrollable list of stations based on search criteria
  • Get Station, Frequency, Times, Language, Target, Days on-air, Transmitter location and the Broadcasters country of origin of the selected broadcast by a tap on a station
  • Powerful search features with a simple interface
  • Search for specific broadcast times with any combination of Station, Frequency or Language, Target area with future or past times being searchable, although this lists all stations irrespective of the day (as you may want to know a time for a broadcast tomorrow, or yesterday)
  • Search for stations in real-time with any combination of Station, Frequency, Language or Target Area, so the app only lists broadcast stations on-air now (also takes the day into account, so, for example, a station listed as only on-air on a Friday will not show if today is a Saturday)
  • Search for stations transmitting at any time with any combination of Station, Frequency Language or Target Area

Future features in active development:

  • Update shortwave list from the internet

A few examples of use:

  • You hear a station in an unknown language, Select ‘ON AIR’ and enter the ‘Freq’, ‘SEARCH’ and the app will list the possible stations
  • You hear a station in English, select ‘ON AIR’ the ‘Language ‘ set to ‘English’ and enter the ‘Freq’, ‘SEARCH’ and the app will list the possible stations on that frequency right now
  • Want to know when a station is transmitting at a specific time? select the specific time by selecting the UTC time, set the Hour/Minute and enter the station name in the ‘Station’ box and ‘SEARCH’
  • You are listening to a SDR recording from last week and trying to identify a station, enter the ‘Freq’ and the specific UTC time (or ‘Language’ if known), ‘SEARCH’ and the app will list the possible stations
  • Want to tune into broadcasts right now in your language? no problem, just select ‘ON-AIR’ and select your ‘Language’ and ‘SEARCH’
  • List all broadcasts from a specific station, just enter the ‘Station’ name and click ‘SEARCH’
  • List all broadcasts on right now by selecting ‘ON-AIR’ and ‘SEARCH’

Phones that have been tested and will work (You will need Android v5.0.1 or above):

  • Samsung Galaxy S4/S7 (I think all the S series from S4 above should be fine as all have a good screen resolution)
  • Samsung Galaxy J3
  • Google Nexus 4
  • Moto G5 Plus

It should be noted that due to the number of low resolution display phones out there some will not be able to operate the app correctly at present due to the current layout of the components and recommend you use a phone with a decent screen resolution around 1080×1920. I plan to address the screen res issue soon.

What I need from Beta-testers who want to file bug reports:
Phone Make/Model:
Android version:
Shortwave List version in use:
Ease of use:
Speed/Performance:
What would you change/remove/add:
Any screen issues, layout problems or difficulty using a feature:

Please submit your feedback on my Twitter account: @swbcdx

Thank you, Cap!

Readers, please keep in mind that this application is not in the Google Play store because it’s in Beta. You’ll need to download the application to your phone, temporarily allow “Unknown Sources” (here’s a short tutorial), then install the app. It’s very important to only temporarily allow “Unknown Sources”–once this app is installed, please reinstate this security measure.

Please note: If you’re not comfortable downloading and installing an app that is not in the Google Play store, please simply wait for this app to hit the Google Play market possibly at some point in the future.

Click the following link to download the application file to install:

http://www.filedropper.com/shortwavelist-v119-no-permissions

This app requires no permissions. The trade-off is that updates to the schedules cannot be initiated without re-installing an updated app with new schedules embedded.

For what it’s worth, I really like this app! Very simple, effective and works offline.

Here are a few screenshots–I love how he’s kept the interface clean and simple:

Thanks again, Cap, for opening Beta testing to our community.

Please submit your feedback on Cap’s Twitter account: @swbcdx

eBay find: 2:1 Remote/Local Antenna Switch $26.99 shipped

Many thanks to Kenneth Crips who recently shared an eBay link to this antenna switch on the Gary J. Cohen’s Shortwave Listeners Global Facebook page.

The switch is not a kit–it is pre-built and appears to contain quality parts. The manufacturer, Electro Resales, makes a number of other products for the radio, astronomy, RC and model railroad markets. They have 99.9% positive feedback and a deep history of sales via eBay.

I’ve pasted the product description from eBay below:

Coaxial Electronic Switching unit for Antenna – 2:1 unit – Ready Built Unit

Switch 2 antenna to one radio or 2 radio to one antenna.

Using high quality Schrack Brand relays this antenna switcher works up to 200 MHz with SWR below 1:1 and minimal insertion loss.

Features include:
1. SO-239 input/output connectors
2. 8 Amp switching relay (Operation to 1 KW)
3. LED mimics indicate which port is active
4. Built in push switch for ease of operation – Selects relay coil to energize,
5. Remote installation operation possible
6. 1 KV Suppression capacitors and back EMF diodes on each relay coil
7. Relay coil : Capacitor tank frequency = 93 KHz – Minimizes RF interference on activation.
8. PCB Isolation Slots to minimize cross talk
9. 12 volt operation
10. Via stitching in critical signal paths and connector ground plane
11. Complete, self contained unit, ready to use. Not a Kit.

PCB dimensions are 4″ x 3.25″ (100 mm x 80 mm). Ready to mount in your installation

Pictures illustrate actual item that you will receive.

Questions – Please ask – Free Shipping as always

Sale includes:
1. Finished PCB with all components
2. Link to our on-line user guides

No other items such as power supplies, RF equipment or cables are included in the sale

I might purchase one of these as I have a remote antenna box with a solar-powered LDG ATU. This switch would allow me to change antennas without manually changing feed lines outside. I had planned to build a switch like this with my buddy, Vlado (N3CZ), but the price is awfully enticing! Have any SWLing Post readers purchased from this store before? If so, please comment.

Click here to view on eBay. 

Off-grid/RV enthusiasts need a radio-quiet solar charge controller: reader advice?

The Solar Boost 3000i solar MPPT charge controller

I’m currently in the process of adding 200-300 watts of 12-volt solar panels to my truck camper.

Solar panels will keep my camper’s 12V deep-cycle battery topped off, thus allowing longer stretches of time for boon-docking or primitive camping, during which an occupied camper is off-grid from shore power.

My truck camper actually came with a simple built-in charge controller which charges the battery via shore power. Thing is…this shore power charger is incredibly noisy when I’m on the radio.  The QRM it generates is broadband, and almost entirely wipes out HF and MW radio listening.

Because of this, I’m forced to unplug my power whenever I’m in the camper and want to hop on the air. And since the whole idea of camper living is to enjoy a bit of rest-and-relaxation, in other words, to pursue one’s hobbies in modest comfort, having to unplug the power––or else not play radio––limits my total enjoyment of RV camping.

But. Before I invest in a new solar charge controller, which would essentially charge the battery any time the sun is out, I need to be absolutely certain it doesn’t create RFI, too. Yet I’m finding it difficult to confirm whether a charge controller is RF-quiet prior to purchasing…

What’s more, I suspect I’m not the only radio listener or ham radio operator with an RV who has encountered the noise dilemma.

What’s a radio geek with an RV to do––?

A ham radio buddy who is an avid RVer recommended the Solar Boost 3000i (see top photo above). While it might be overkill for my application, I’m willing to invest, knowing it may charge without creating RFI.

But before I do, I’m curious if any SWLing Post readers have any experience with solar charge controllers, and/or can confirm models that create little to no RFI? I’d even appreciate knowing which models do pollute the spectrum––models to avoid, in other words, if radio listening or ham radio operations are your goal.

My hope is that SWLing Post reader recommendations may not only help me with this problem, but might help other RVer/off-grid radio enthusiasts, as well.

Please comment!