Category Archives: AM

Steven is impressed with the CountyComm GP5/SSB and high-gain bar antenna

GP5SSB-Front

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steven Crawford, who sent the following message to me (several weeks ago) and has kindly allowed me to share it here. Steven writes:

I hope this finds you and yours well. I just wanted to take a few moments and express my sincere thanks to you for your posts of 12/20/2014 and 1/6/2016, and for sharing Larry Thompson’s post of 2/28/2016, and Ron’s post of 1/16/2016. If you are in regular contact with the other individuals please feel free to pass along my thanks as each of you and the respective post convinced me to purchase a CountyComm GP5/SSB and Ebay seller playloudfm’s high-gain ferrite bar antenna. I am so glad I did, so a hearty Thank You to each of you.

The afternoon of March 19th local was the first chance I had to use my GP-5/SSB. After popping in three fresh AA’s on AM using the internal ferrite bar antenna Beaumont, Texas’ own powerhouse 5,000 watt KLVI 560 was there as was 1,000 watt Orange’s KOGT 1600, 23 miles away and my AM daytime benchmark 50 kW KTRH 740 Houston 70 or so miles away on the back side of their pattern. KTRH surprisingly can be a little difficult during the day due to noise. The surprise was 50 kW WWL New Orleans 240 miles away was intelligible above the background noise. Extending the whip a quickie SW test showed WWV Fort Collins time signal was present at 15 MHz.

On the AM side the real money lay after dark once the sun had set in Beaumont and San Antonio. Using only the internal ferrite bar antenna all of the aforementioned AM stations were present. Continuing the internal antenna’s test 50 kW WBAP 820 Dallas 244 miles away and 50kW WOAI 1200 San Antonio 266 miles away were present. I started grinning when 50 kW WLAC 1510 Nashville 598 miles away and 50kW KMOX 1120 St. Louis 632 miles away were just intelligible above the background noise. Keep in mind these stations were received using only the internal antenna.

GP5SSB-MW-Antenna-1

I popped the CountyComm included factory external ferrite bar on and used it 9 -10 PM Saturday local, 0200 – 0300 March 20 UTC. Using the external antenna rotated for best reception WLAC and KMOX improved to the point they were easily listenable. 50 kW WSB 750 Atlanta 625 miles away was listenable above the noise and most surprising 50kW WBBM 780 Chicago 892 miles away(!!!) was just intelligible above the background noise. Another quickie SW test was performed at 10 PM local, 0300 March 20 Sunday UTC by extending the built in whip and the WWV Fort Collins time signals were present at 5 and 10 MHz with 10MHz being particularly well received.

Ferrite-Bar-Antenna-PL-365-GP5SSB

Photo source: eBay

A real treat lay in store after receiving Ebay seller playloudfm’s aftermarket high-gain ferrite bar antenna, the subject of your 1/6/2016 and Ron’s 1/16/2016 post, yesterday. I am not experienced enough to judge what the space weather or propagation conditions were like from 0300 to 0400 March 27th UTC but I was extremely surprised and pleased with the reception results the new antenna afforded.

As I sat relaxing in my easy chair before bed I decided to try the combo out using the included earphones so as to not wake my wife. With the lights off and my iPad open to www.oldradio.com/archives/stations/ccs.htm to help identify clear channel stations I took the handheld combo for a spin. All of the stations found with the factory supplied external ferrite bar antenna were present. There was just so much more signal present using the aftermarket antenna each became easily listenable. For WOAI, WWL, WLAC and KMOX the effect was as if I was located within their local night coverage area. 50 kW WHAS Louisville Kentucky 740 miles away was newly found present. Chicago’s WBBM was there as before and I was surprised to find 50 kW WGN 720 Chicago as well. The reception quality was such that one could enjoy listening to a Cub’s game or breaking local news story should one be so inclined on WBBM or WGN. The listening experience was similar for newly found 50 kW XEROK 800 Ciudad Juarez 738 miles away.

The most surprising and gratifying, to me anyway, find of the night using playloudfm’s antenna was receiving 5,000 watt (nights!) KCMO 710 Kansas City Missouri 624 miles away. The ability to rotate the antenna to take advantage of it’s directional and nulling ability really aided in this reception. It really is a great benefit to be able to rotate the GP-5/SSB’s external AM antennas for peak signal strength while nulling interfering signals and noise. Indeed KCMO was missing in one antenna orientation but rotating the antenna 90 degrees and the station popped in. I really should have jotted signal strength to noise ratios down but I was just enjoying tuning through the spectrum too much. I have not fully tested SSB Exalted Carrier tuning on the GP5/SSB of difficult stations but have tried it 3 or 4 times and it does appear to work as does tuning 1 kHZ either side of the nominal frequency. The later technique did help clean up some signals by further reducing background noise without greatly affecting listenability.

As best I can tell I ordered and received either the last or next to last of playloudfm’s current batch of high-gain ferrite bar antennas as the Ebay add showed two available when I ordered and the ad was almost immediately replaced with an “accepting pre-orders” ad. Currently there are no ads by seller playloudfm.[Note: it appears more inventory has been added to eBay.] My transaction and shipping was quick and smooth. The bulk of the two week wait occurred after the package was received at the Athens airport where tracking stopped. It should be noted by buyers should more antennas become available the tracking number supplied does not work on the USPS tracking service but it will track the package to Athens through Greece’s Hellenic Post tracking service at http://www.elta.gr/en-us/personal/tracktrace.aspx

Note: all distances listed above are “as the crow flies”, straight line city center to city center and are not necessarily correct for the transmission tower location.

This little radio is fast becoming a hand holdable favorite with easy to learn button placement for use in the dark. I am all ready beginning to prefer it to my Sony SW7600GR / AN200 loop combo for MW broadcast AM reception but I really must do more work with SW before calling the CountyComm my favorite of the two.

Steven followed up a week or so later with this addendum to his review:

I finally got the opportunity to test the FM performance of the radio using only the extended whip on the afternoon of April 1st, April 1st 19:30 – 21:00 UTC. Using www.radio-locator.com and my zip code I found 51 FM stations listed as local, distant and possible fringe reception. I was very surprised and pleased when I was able to log all of the most distant fringe stations, KUHF, KKBQ, KTBZ, KKHH, KHMX, KBXX, KODA, KILT, KLOL, KMJQ, KRBE, KOVE, and KGLK, with ERP’s listed as 90 to 100 kW and distances in the given in the 80 to 90 mile range. In short I was able to log all 51 listed stations. The FM broadcast band is crowded indeed with this little rocket radio. It should be noted my little corner of Southeast Texas is dead flat with nothing between me and these stations broadcast towers but Houston skyscrapers, the typical urban / suburban sprawl, timber and marsh. Ground elevations range from 16 ft to 80 ft above sea level between me and many of the broadcast towers.

[…]My Sony SW7600GR / AN200 loop / Sony AN-LP1 loop combination sits in it’s go bag rapidly falling into disfavor, replaced by the easily used in the dark one handed CountyComm GP-5/SSB. Again thank you for your kind response and thanks again to all who motivated me to purchase this rig.

Steven, thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with the GP5-SSB and the high-gain ferrite bar antenna.

I also have the high-gain ferrite bar antenna and have been meaning to post videos showing how it performs compared with the supplied GP5 antenna. I must say, it does do a pretty amazing job. I’ll get some videos posted in the coming weeks!

Netherlands clears way for licensed low power mediumwave/AM stations

AM-Dial-Digital-Grundig-Mediumwave-MW

SWLing Post readers might recall that the Netherlands was considering opening licensed mediumwave broadcasting to low-power stations–it appears the path is now clear. Yesterday, Minister Kamp gave the green light to low-power stations (those with a power output from 1 to 100 watts) who can now apply for a broadcasting license.

Stig Hartvig Nielsen posted the following on the WRTH Facebook page:

Today Dutch minister Kamp has made it public that the Medium Wave band now will be open for low power stations operating with a power of max. 100 Watt. Full story here (in Dutch): http://radio.nl/…/groen-licht-voor-laagvermogen-uitzendinge…

One of the first stations to go on the air under the new legislation may be the long time pirate – Atlantis Radio 1521 – in Friesland. They got a license (?) from Commissariaat voor de Media in March 2016, and they recently purchased a new 75 W AM transmitter (300 W PEP). The format is golden oldies – and the station can be heard online here:http://www.atlantisradio.eu/radio/ – and more details can be found here:https://www.facebook.com/RadioAtlantis1521KHz/

It will be interesting to see how this decision plays out and how many stations will apply for a license. I’ll certainly listen for new stations on the U Twente Web SDR as they pop up.

BBC Predicts Internet-Only Radio in the Future

BBC-logo(The following is part news / part editorial)

According to a report going to Parliament for the BBC’s broadcast charter proposal, the BBC is preparing for an Internet-only world for broadcasting. This has prompted an investigation of other radio broadcasting services by Radio World magazine to get their take on this perspective. Part of the article “Is Broadcast Radio Doomed”  follows:

 Conventional radio and television broadcasting are doomed, eventually. Or so one might reasonably assume from reading “British, Bold, Creative,” the BBC’s broadcast charter proposal for the next decade of its mandate. The BBC’s 10-year broadcast charter is up for renewal in 2016. The proposal is the Beeb’s funding pitch to Parliament.

To be sure, the BBC didn’t use the word doomed, or put a timetable on it. However, over the next 10 years, “We will be moving to an Internet-fit BBC, to be ready for an Internet-only world whenever it comes,” states the BBC proposal. The only limiting factor will be to “move at the pace of our audiences”; ensuring that older subscribers have access to content on radio and TV as long as they need it.

Subsequent to issuing this proposal, the BBC announced that it is reorganizing its internal divisions along content rather than platform lines. For instance, “Each overarching division would have subsidiary divisions such as BBC Youth, a mooted subdivision of BBC Entertainment, which would include the online channel BBC Three, and pop music station Radio 1,” reported The Telegraph newspaper . . . .

In the current transitional environment, it is impossible to see just where broadcast radio will be in 10 and 20 years’ time. The BBC’s prediction of an inevitable “Internet-only world” notwithstanding, there are still many parts of the Third World where one-way radio broadcasts remain the only economical, effective way to reach mass audiences; no matter what advances are being made in 4G-and-beyond smartphones in the First World. Add broadcast radio’s resiliency in the face of natural and man-made disasters — compared to the frequent overloading and failure of cellular telephone networks during such incidents — and the notion of shutting down broadcast lifelines seems unlikely in these regions.

– See the full article at: http://www.radioworld.com/article/is-broadcast-radio-doomed/278577#sthash.YrBAkCfQ.dpuf

The demise of broadcast radio has been predicted many times in the past 50-60 years and yet it remains. Still there is a growing mindset in what I call  the Western culture’s business mindset that the pervasiveness of the Internet is the dominant factor in future media decisions. This is the same justification for various governments reducing or eliminating SW Broadcast budgets. After all “Everybody has the Internet now!”

This is a mistake, and belies a Western-centric view of the world. I cannot claim to know the real numbers, but I have little doubt the numbers representing Internet availability are inflated, partially because of assumptions and partially for selfish business interests.

In an ever-competitive entertainment market broadcasters (and governments) are naturally worried about such things as market share and the like, but this is only looking at things from one side of the coin. Anyone who uses the Internet outside of the home knows data fees can become enormous, and therefore we watch just how much traffic we pass through our wireless devices. (Yes I admit it – any place I go regularly which has “free Internet” gets loaded into my list of networks so as to keep my data charges down.)

How many people are going to listen to radio streams like they do now to radio broadcast stations? Are you going to drive home with your radio on through the Internet? I doubt it. Similarly how many people listen to the radio in places where there would be no coverage of wireless? I believe the market share would decrease rather significantly in these same western cultures where the Internet is indeed plentiful, but not certainly not free.

Having been involved in the early days of the public Internet back in the 90s, I remember meeting with city planners when they were looking to offer free Wi-Fi within the city so everyone could have access. While the idea sounded good, the logistics of equipment, and more importantly the expense of such an ongoing system, quickly laid such plans to rest for most government budgets.

I hope the pendulum swings back over time and business leaders and government officials recognize the value of both shortwave and OTA radio broadcasts. The Internet is a shiny diversion to be sure, but it is not the answer to all of our media needs. And whether folks like to admit it or not, the Internet is a fragile thing. As the old saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. How many times a year does your Internet service go out for no apparent reason, much less because of weather or other disasters?

Broadcast radio needs to be supported for many of the same reasons as shortwave radio – there simply is no more reliable way getting information out to the most number of people over the greatest possible coverage area.

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

Nothing to hear on shortwave? Jacques disagrees…

MauritiusIsland-IndianOcean-SM

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Jacques Catherine, who left the following comment on our post from 2012: Is there anything to listen to on shortwave?

“I live in Mauritius Island in the Indian Ocean and I’ve been listening to Shortwave since I was a kid (I’m 58 today) on my dad’s good old Phillips wooden valve radio.

I’m sorry, but shortwave is certainly not dead. After having read all the comments above, I come to the conclusion that reception definitely depends on your location.

The Tecsun PL-660.

The Tecsun PL-660.

I have two Tecsun receivers ( Tecsun S 2000 and PL 660) hooked to a Windom antenna and an ATU. I receive dozens of stations from all over the world here as well as a lot of stuff on ssb, including – in the morning – New York MWARA (8825.0 usb), Gander (8831.0 usb) or, in the evening, Brisbane (5634.0 usb).

Broadcast stations from Japan, Taiwan, India, Iran, Australia, Singapore, China, Africa and even the US, come in here loud and clear with very little static, depending on the season and time of the day. I think I’m privileged to be located where I am !

And I bought some years back a pair of cheap small wooden amplified speakers in Hong Kong that reproduce exactly the sound of my dad’s old valve radio!”

Thank you for your comment, Jacques. You’re right: it’s all about your location…and you certainly live in a prime spot!

I’m most fortunate that I live where I do–quite far away from sources of noise that plague our urban readers/listeners (and that have plagued me in the past). My location is not ideal (from a radio/receiving standpoint) because my ground conductivity is very poor and I’m in North America where very few broadcasts are targeted these days. I do, however, have the space for a rather large horizontal delta loop antenna that serves me well across the HF bands. I might have invested $50 in the antenna wire and components five years ago.

When propagation is good, some broadcast bands are actually packed tightly with signals. Indeed, Thursday last week, I could’ve easily logged two dozen stations on the 31 meter band alone.  Here’s a screen capture from the spectrum display of my SDR:

TitanSDRPro-Spectrum-31MB

If you live in an urban area and feel that you’re missing out on the action, consider taking your receiver outdoors and away from interference. Take your receiver on hikes, camping trips or to the beach. You might be surprised by the number of stations you’ll log!

Recently, our friend London Shortwave has been posting an amazing array of broadcast recordings he’s made in a park in the middle of London, England. He’s the guru of mitigating urban interference.

When I have time to curate the recordings, I hope to do a 2016 update of “Is there anything to listen to on shortwave?“–it’s been on my to-do list for a while now.

Jacques, thanks again for your comment and reminding us to keep listening!

A.P. Richards’ 1939 thesis on the Crosley WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver

Crosley

In response to our recent post about the Crosley WLW Super-Power receiver, SWLing Post contributor, Larry Hagood, writes:

A photo of Dr Richards from the class of 1927.

A photo of Dr Richards from the class of 1927.

I am an EE student at Oklahoma State (Formerly Oklahoma A&M)–the school where the designer of the WLW [Super Power receiver], Amyle Richards, got his BSEE in 1927.

[Richards] wrote and submitted a masters thesis on the design of this radio, which earned him a PhD!).

I found a picture of him in the Engineering South building and found him in the 1927 yearbook in the library.

Anyway, the archive department located his paper on the WLW and is scanning it for me.

Many thanks to Larry for doing the research and sharing a scanned copy of Dr. Richards’ thesis about this Crosley benchmark receiver!

Click here to download A.P. Richards’ thesis as a PDF.