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Heard VK0EK on the radio

Heard Island (Image: VK0EK)

Heard Island (Image: VK0EK)

Regular SWLing Post readers know that I’m a ham radio operator (call sign K4SWL). Being a shortwave radio enthusiast, of course, I spend most of my time on the air in the HF portion of the amateur radio spectrum. Contacting distant stations and connecting with other ham radio operators around our little planet gives me immense joy.

Most of you also probably know that I’m a fan of all things Antarctic, so it should come as no surprise that I really wanted to work VK0EK: the Heard Island DXpedition.

Thing is, my life has been so hectic lately, I’ve barely been home during the Heard Island DXpedition (March 29th – April 11th). And the days I have been home, VK0EK’s signals have been incredibly weak.

In short: timing and propagation were all working against me.  And VK0EK was soon to pack up and come back home. I was becoming desperate…and beginning to lose hope that I’d make any contact with this unique and rare entity in the isolated stretch of ocean between Madagascar and Antartica.

"Antennas with a clearing" on Heard Island (Photo by Bill, AE0EE)

“Antennas with a clearing” on Heard Island (Photo by Bill, AE0EE)

My hope was waning.  Then, Tusday evening, I gave a presentation about shortwave radio at the Blue Ridge Amateur Radio Club. On the hour-long drive home, I stopped by my good friend Vlado’s (N3CZ) to confess my troubles to the radio doc.

Now it just happens that Vlado has a much better antenna set-up to work DX than I do, and what’s more, (close your ears, fellow QRPers) he has an amplifier.

Most importantly, though, Vlado is a keen DXer.  He’s got 330 countries under his belt, and ever up for a challenge, routinely pushes himself to accomplish more with less. In January, with members of the local club, he entered a QRP challenge; he had 100 countries worked by the following month, all in his spare time. And a few years ago, Vlado actually built a radio of his own design and worked 100 countries within two months (you can read about that here).

So, of course, he was game to help me make a contact…even if it was a long shot.  A very long shot.

Juan de Nova

When I arrived at Vlado’s QTH around 21:00 local, VK0EK was impossibly weak, so we focused our efforts on 30 meters and FT4JA: the Juan de Nova Island DXpedition (another all-time new one for me).

A portion of the FT4JA antenna farm. (Image: FT4JA)

A portion of the FT4JA antenna farm. (Image: FT4JA)

After more than an hour of calling, FT4JA finally heard my call and (woo hoo!) I was confirmed in their log.

But what about Heard Island?

penguin-chow-line4_6-1600px

After working FT4JA, we moved down to 40 meters where VK0EK was slightly louder than before. Well, maybe it’s not impossible, I thought hopefully. Just next to it.

Between QSB (fading) and tuner-uppers, my ears were bleeding trying to hear Heard’s minuscule CW signal–so faint, so distant were they.

After only about ten minutes of steady calling, Vlado made a sign to get my attention, and we strained to listen, very carefully.

VK0EK came back very faintly with just one letter incorrect in my call–it was enough that I didn’t catch it at first. But Vlado heard it, and after sending the call back a couple of times, then the report, VK0EK confirmed my call with a signal report, and I reciprocated.

Vlad and I leapt to our feet, yelling, “WOO HOO!” (and hopefully didn’t wake up any of Vlad’s neighbors).

Heard Island is actually running an online log that is updated live. We immediately looked there to confirm I was in their log, and was greeted with this great circle map and a line from Heard Island to my call sign in the States. Vlado made this screen capture as a momento:

k4swl VK0EK 40m cw 0231 april4 2016

Here’s to good friends and mentors

In one incredible evening, I snagged two all-time new ones–and I owe it all to my good buddy, Vlado. Most importantly, I’ve been learning so much from him as he patiently coaches me through some weak DX with serious pileups. Plus it’s just always fun hanging around Vlado, the best broken radio doctor I know, to whom “challenge” is…well, a piece of cake.

Thanks Vlado, for your enthusiasm and patience–I’m lucky to have a friend like you!

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.

Ken’s E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of Light console radio

E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of Light Open 2

In response to an inquiry in our post about the Crosley WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver, SWLing Post contributor, Ken Carr, writes:

I’m not sure if my radio is a ‘benchmark’ but it sure is close to it.
It is the E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of Light console radio.

E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of Light Outside Closed

Mine appears to have been built in 1939 or early 1940. It has 30 tubes, most of which are covered by chrome-plated shields. The power supply/amplifier (4 6L6’s in the output stage), receiver, 15″ speaker and cabinet easily weigh over 150 pounds.

E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of Light inside

It took me two years of occasional work (I am retired so I don’t rush) to get it going and working reasonably well. I had to replace over 100 capacitors and correct some B+ voltage problems left by a previous repair person. 

None of the knobs are correct (mine came without them … 9 required) and replacements are difficult to come by (and quite expensive when they do appear).

When receiving a strong station the volume is such that it would easily drown out anything within 100 yards (and with no distortion).

E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of LightDial

Some day I will post some details and photos on my WordPress site (idlenot.com). I’ll be sure to let you know, Thomas. [Note: Yes, Ken, please do!]

Oh, the first time I powered it up and received a station they were playing Light My Fire (The Doors, I think). Appropriate. I put a video of it on YouTube. The radio is all apart as I was still working on it at the time.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Now that is serendipity, Ken–I mean, the first music you hear after restoring this beauty is Light My Fire? Brilliant!

The E. H. Scott Philharmonic Beam of Light is a benchmark console by any standard. I first learned about this radio through a local classified ad–the owner was selling the internal components (and original knobs) but had no cabinet. I believe he was asking $1200. The chrome plating is such eye candy, I can see why some owner in the past removed it from the cabinet to save space. Still, it was a shame the cabinet had been discarded–as one can see from your photos, the craftsmanship is simply stunning.

Ken, thank you for taking the time to share the Beam of Light console with us!

Post readers: you should check out Ken’s blog, Idlenot.com, where you’ll find more vintage radio and classic cars!

Guest Post: Building a magnetic loop antenna & broadband amplifier for your SDR

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Gahimer (K9ZCE) for the following guest post:


Loop-Antenna

Small Magnetic Loop Antenna with Broadband Amplifier for SDR Reception

by Dave Gahimer (K9ZCE)

Those with limited space, or antenna restrictions, might find a small 1 meter loop antenna a solution.

My son lives in an apartment. One Loop leaning against a wall gives him acceptable reception with the SDRPlay RSP on the ground floor–2nd or 3rd level flats should have very good reception.

Ten meters off the ground outside should give reception equal to any SWL antenna. We all with SDRs fight the image problem. Normal resonate ham band antennas show too strong reception of unwanted bands/stations. Did I mention noise? Loops are well known for –6 db noise reduction.

Then there is the possibility of SDR chip damage from your 1.5 KW station! In researching Loops we came across LZ1AQ. A Brilliant design /engineer (http://www.lz1aq.signacor.com/). Deep reading sometimes, but a great understanding of what makes a good receiving loop antenna.

Those who chase DX know that sometimes fading is caused by the signals’ polarization changing in the Ionosphere. Having both vertical and horizontal loops, and the ability to combine both signals diminishes this fading problem. Being able to filter the powerful, commercial FM transmitters diminishes image problems. Clipping strong signals at the antenna from very near powerful antennas/transmitters could save the SDR receiver from damage.

The LZ1AQ broad band Amp solves all these problems. http://active-antenna.eu/amplifier-kit/.

My son Ted and I built three, one meter loops from soft ½ inch copper plumbing tubing. One for his apartment, two for my crossed loops antenna. We weather proofed the Copper from corrosion by coating with outdoor clear spar varnish. We shaped the circle by drawing the tubing around a round glass top patio table.

The soft copper loop in held by white PCV plastic plumbing pipe. 1” or 1.25 inch schedule 40. Be careful to check that the PVC is schedule 40, thick wall. The thin wall pipe is not strong in the wind and will crack when you try to drill it.

Drill up to a 3/8 hole for the ½” copper tube to go through, then file out to fit. Here are some photos (click to enlarge):

crossed loops up 3 crossed loops up 4

Check out these links (all courtesy of LZ1AQ) to acquaint yourself with the loop construction and amplifier installation:

http://active-antenna.eu/tech-docs/2_ActiveAA_Mount_20.pdf

http://active-antenna.eu/tech-docs/1_ActiveAA_DandS_20.pdf

http://active-antenna.eu/tech-docs/3_ActiveAA_Antena_11.pdf

Many SDR receiver owners have seen improved noise and Image reduction by placing the plastic cased SDR unit on a small shielded/ grounded case.

crossed loops up 5

The Amp needs 12VDC from in the shack. The Amp has two relays that you can switch, from in the shack, to select Vertical or Horizontal loops, or a dipole. The loop amp connects back to the shack via a shielded Cat 5 cable, Make sure you get shielded CAT 5 to reduce noise pickup. Make sure you provide an adequate good Ground below the antenna, less noise pickup and lightening protection.

crossed loops up

Have fun!
Dave, K9ZCE
Retired from EE Dept @ Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Terre Haute, Indiana


Thank you so much, Dave!

Readers: yesterday I saw Dave’s loop antenna photos on the SDRplay RSP Facebook page. I was fascinated by his horizontally/vertically oriented loops and asked if he would write up a short guest post.  He kindly obliged in a matter of hours!

If you have an antenna project you’d like to share, please contact me. So many SWLs and ham radio operators live in areas with restrictions and pervasive RFI–projects like Dave’s can revive one’s radio life!

Radio Prague: Underground agents and plots in the Cold War broadcasting war

HalliDial

Many thanks to several SWLing Post readers who shared the following story from Radio Prague:

Underground agents and plots in the Cold War broadcasting war

In this week’s Czech History we look at one aspect of the Cold War, the use of secret agents to spy on and disrupt the enemy’s propaganda services. In particular, we focus on the circus that surrounded the return of a Czechoslovak double agent Pavel Mina?ík 40 years ago in 1976 which was aimed at discrediting the US financed and Munich-based broadcaster Radio Free Europe.

Click here to read the full article and listen to the radio documentary on Radio Prague’s website.