Category Archives: Mobile Shortwave

Travelling and DXing with the Bonito MegActive MA305 antenna

 

Ok, so officially it wasn’t a DXpedition; it was a well needed vacation in the sun after several hectic months of work, some of which involved travel to slightly more exotic locations. However, these days, I view any travel, whether it be for business or pleasure as a ‘DXpedition’ opportunity! Some of you might remember that I purchased a Bonito Boni Whip at the beginning of 2017 because (a) I needed another antenna and (b) a second Wellbrook loop felt like too much of an extravagance. They’re excellent antennas for sure, but at around £300, I couldn’t justify buying another. Thus, for about a third of the price I bought the Boni Whip. It proved to be an excellent choice – very compact and so perfect for my regular DXpeditions, quick to set up and capable of really excellent DX. There are many videos on the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel that are testament to this. I wrote a couple of articles, published here on the SWLing Post which were seen by Dennis Walter of Bonito, who subsequently contacted me and offered to send over their MegActive MA305 E-field antenna for testing. Dennis made it crystal-clear that I was to ‘do my own thing’…test the antenna in any way I saw fit and publish my findings so DXers/radio enthusiasts could learn more about the capabilities of the antenna – from another DXer. I was happy to agree to this arrangement and the MegActive MA305 duly arrived, complete with two lengths of (bayonet BNC terminated) high quality H-155 coaxial cable.

 My portable Dxing kit with MA305 antenna                 The MA305 power inserter and USB power ‘brick’

The specifications of the MegActive MA305 are very similar to the Boni Whip; they both offer a Gain of +3 dBs, second and third order intercept points of greater than +30 and +50 dB respectively and both tune to 300 MHz. The MA305 is supplied with a longer radiating element and tunes down to 9 KHz (versus the 20 kHz lower limit for the Boni Whip). Obviously this isn’t a specification that is going to concern most radio enthusiasts; both offer fantastically wide operating bandwidths. The way in which these antennas do differ quite significantly however, is in how they are powered. The Boni Whip operates from 12 to 15 V, whilst the MA305 operates from 5 to 15 V. Bonito’s design philosophy regarding this feature is based on the increasing difficulty in procuring reasonably priced analogue external plug-in power supplies (they are no longer allowed to be produced due to power consumption restrictions).

Interestingly, when the power supply for my Wellbrook ALA1530 packed up, I called them to purchase a replacement and was told they only have limited stocks remaining. Thus, a solution for powering active antennas with a suitable low-noise supply is an issue that needs resolving. The guys at Bonito figured a USB power source was suitably quiet and with USB ‘power bricks’ almost ubiquitous these days for charging mobile phones and other portable electronic devices on-the-go, the idea could be applied to their active antennas. The result is the MegActive MA305, designed to operate at 5 Volts with no loss of performance. As a DXer who probably spends more time listening on DXpeditions than I do in my shack at home, the USB power solution was perfect. I myself often carry a cheap Chromebook laptop to use as an additional power source for my camera phone when I’m DXing, so Bonito’s design approach resonated with me completely.

 

Travelling with the MegActive MA305

Ok, so the MA305 is very compact and very light indeed – perfect for a trip to Crete! However, I know from many conversations with my YouTube friends and followers that some of us feel a slight sense of trepidation carrying shortwave radios and antenna systems on board flights, be they national or international. I myself wasn’t really concerned other than if my bag got pulled from the X-ray machine, there’s often quite a long wait whilst the security staff work through the queue of luggage requiring er…human intervention! Predictably, my rucksack did get pulled and I waited patiently until it was my turn to explain the contents! Looking back on this retrospectively, it’s hardly surprising. Other than the usual holiday paraphernalia, my rucksack contained:

  • A 10.0 metre length of H-155 coaxial cable
  • A 1.0 metre length of H-155 coaxial cable
  • Eton Satellit receiver
  • MA305 Coaxial Power Inserter
  • MA305 Antenna Amplifier
  • Bonito USB ‘Power Brick’
  • Bonito USB Power Cable
  • NooElec RTL-SDR dongle
  • NooElect ‘Ham It Up’ upconverter
  • Various screened cables and connectors
  • 10 metres of equipment wire

I explained to the (friendly) security chap that I was a shortwave radio hobbyist and identified the various pieces of equipment for him, as he removed them from my rucksack. He confirmed my X-ray had ‘lit up’ (in blue as it happens) with metallic/electronic items and was even kind enough to swivel his monitor to show me the mess of items strewn across the screen – just as I had thrown them all into my rucksack! However, after quickly swabbing some of the items, he said all was fine and hoped that I enjoyed my holiday and listening. Service with a smile at Gatwick Airport – and I was on my way. My outbound experience got me thinking whether it would be possible to pack my DXing kit in such a way that it wouldn’t alarm airport security. Thus, for the trip home, I packed all of my cables into my (checked-in) suitcase. I figured it would be obvious there was no security risk associated with cables alone. I then packed my RTL-SDR, upconverter and all of the MS305 components very neatly into a single box and put that in my carry-on rucksack. Now, some might argue that security measures at Heraklion International Airport in Crete differ a little from London Gatwick, but I observed staff at the X-ray machine very carefully monitoring every piece of luggage passing through it – including my own and I passed straight through without a problem. All I did was take my laptop out as usual, and put it in a separate tray. Job done.

DXing with the MegActive MA305

                                      My listening post in Crete, with the brilliant Eton Satellit receiver

My apartment in Crete was on the second floor and a large balcony provided a decent outdoor location for DXing. As regards electrical noise, the location was much quieter than my shack at home, but it certainly wasn’t perfect, thus a good test of the MA305 in a real-world pseudo-urban environment. in an attempt to improve SNR, I bought a cheap ‘Selfie Stick’ and some tape and managed to construct a mount for the amplifier, increasing the overall height above ground by about 1.5 metres and displacing the radiating element an additional 2 metres thereabouts from the building. I’m not sure whether it made much difference, but it seemed like the sensible thing to do for less than 10 Euros.

During my week-long stay, I managed to fit in several listening sessions and copied some really excellent DX from this ultra-compact, USB-powered set up. In fact, the MA305 coupled to the Eton Satellit performed so well, I managed to copy a number of personal firsts, including CRI on 7295 kHz, via their relay in Bamako, Mali, The Voice of Beibu Radio on 5050 kHz, Nanning, XSL ‘Slot Machine’ on 6251 kHz USB, Ichihara, Japan, S32 ‘The Squeaky Wheel’ on 3828 kHz and NHK World Radio Japan, 11910 kHz. I also copied RTM Wai/Limbang FM on 11665 kHz from Kajang, Myanmar Radio on 5985 kHz and AIR Bhopal on 4810 kHz, amongst others – all of which I would certainly consider to be difficult catches in Europe. To hear them with an 18 cm antenna felt pretty special. African shortwave stations were also very well represented and I managed to copy a number of them including Radio Hargeysa on 7120 kHz, Voice of Tigray Revolution on 59150 kHz, Radio Oromiya on 6030 kHz, Radio Fana on 6110 kHz, Radio Ethiopia on 7235 kHz, Radio Sonder Grense on 3320 kHz and Radio Guinée on 9650 kHz. I expected to hear all of these stations, except for Radio Guinée, which is farther away from Crete than the UK. So, all-in-all an excellent result.

Despite hearing a lot of excellent DX whilst in Crete, there is one signal I copied, which more than any other, demonstrates the DXing credentials of the MA305 – and Eton Satellit for that matter. In the early hours of the morning (00:59 hrs UTC) I copied and recorded Radio Tarma from Peru on 4775 kHz. With a TX power of 1 kW, this is a very difficult station to hear in Western Europe, even with a longwire. To catch this station in Crete, at all, was incredible on an ultra-compact set-up. It was at this point during the trip that I realised E-field antennas really do work superbly well for hard-core DXers on the move. It inspired me to conduct further tests back home in the Oxfordshire countryside, where electrical noise is absent. This I did a few days ago, with some quite amazing results on the Tropical Band. More on that to come in my next post. In the meantime, please find text links and embedded videos for selected reception recordings, below. Many more recordings are available on the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you require further information on the MA305 or the Eton Satellit. Thanks for reading/watching/listening and I wish you all excellent DX.


Personal firsts

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Radio Tarma, Peru, 4775 kHz

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Other notable catches

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.

The Bonito Boni Whip goes from strength-to-strength: hardcore DXing in compact package

Hi there, subscribers to the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel and regular readers of this excellent website will be aware that I have been using a Bonito Boni whip E-field wideband antenna for a couple of months now. You may have seen my previous post here, detailing some excellent initial DX results achieved with the Boni Whip. What makes this antenna so compelling for a DXer such as myself is simply that it’s so light and compact; I can literally take it anywhere. Currently it lives in a small flight case (see above & below) on the back seat of my car, with either my Sony ICF-SW55 or Eton Satellit, a home-brew battery pack (that literally cost pence) and some peripheral bits and pieces; spare batteries, cables etc. I think it’s probably already clear that if you consider the Boni Whip’s performance as a function of portability and price, it’s out there on its own – I’m not aware of another antenna that can match it. Of course, there are H-field antennas, such as the excellent Wellbrook active loops that will effectively reject QRM, if that’s an issue for the user, but at a significant cost delta.

 

Since my last posting, I have continued to use the Boni Whip regularly on my DXpeditions and upload the reception videos to my YouTube channel. I have been nothing but totally impressed with this antenna, to the point that I’ve actually been surprised by the signals I’ve caught and recorded with it. Recent catches include a number of low-power stations from Brazil, including Radio Bandeirantes – Sao Paolo, Radio Voz Missionaria – Camboriu (on the 49 and 31 metre broadcast bands) and Radio Aparecida. Some of these signals are incredibly difficult to hear in Europe at all, let alone well and yet the ultra-compact Boni-Whip running off AA batteries, coupled to the (equally brilliant) Eton Satellit managed it with aplomb. Other catches include Zambia NBC Radio 1 – Lusaka and a signal from Bangladesh Betar that sounded as if the transmitter was 5 miles down the road!

All-in-all, I’m extremely satisfied with the performance of the Bonito Boni Whip and highly recommend it to those DXers requiring a high-performance, compact antenna, for use at home in electrically quiet environments or on any DXpedition. You certainly won’t be disappointed.

Please find embedded reception videos below and text links that will take you to the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel. Thanks for reading/watching/listening and I wish you all great DX.


Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to watch on YouTube

 

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.

The Panasonic RF-B65: the legendary portable with a cult following amongst DXers

Hi there, back in 1990 I was given a Panasonic RF-B40 for my birthday (I think it was my birthday…1990 was a long time ago!). I found that radio to be very sensitive on shortwave, more so perhaps than my Sangean ATS-803A, but ultimately it didn’t really add much value to any serious DXing because it would only tune on shortwave in 5 kHz steps. This rather course tuning arrangement was very limiting in terms of tuning out adjacent noise and copying tropical band – and other signals that weren’t quite on-frequency etc. Frustrated, I  lent my RF-B40 to my brother a few years ago and serves me right; following a house move, he managed to lose it! Quite a shame really because almost three decades later, I would have been very interested to put the RF-B40 through it’s paces on a DXpedition or two. You really don’t see them in action very often at all these days.

 Above: the Panasonic RF-B40 (not mine – unfortunately) and the RF-B60, mid-DXpedition!

At that time, which was around the beginning of the 1990s, I read a review somewhere and it became clear that the better receiver was quite obviously the RF-B65. Upon it’s introduction into the market, the RF-B65 was immediately recognised as an excellent receiver, however, in the intervening years it’s reputation has continued to grow to the point today where it enjoys legendary status amongst DXers and bit of a cult following. There’s a lot of information on the RF-B65 to be found on the internet, so I won’t go into huge detail, but the obvious question is: what makes thsi receiver so special? Well, it’s a quite compact PPL double conversion receiver, covering 153 kHz to 29,999 kHz AM and 87.5 to 108 MHz, FM. It has a keypad for direct frequency input, although you have to press either the ‘FREQ’ or ‘METER’ buttons prior to punching in the numbers to define whether you wish to access a particular frequency, or band. I actually find that slightly annoying, but you easily learn to live with such trivial matters when using a radio of this quality and performance.

Furthermore, there’s an electronic signal strength meter, a DX/local attenuation switch, external antenna jack, SSB reception mode, 1 kHz tuning steps on shortwave (unlike it’s little brother the RF-B40) and fine tuning. The single bandwidth filter is 6 kHz wide and thus limits selectivity a little, although the SSB option and fine tune helps offset that somewhat.  It would have been nice to have a couple more filtering options, particularly narrower for serious DXing in crowded bands, to combat adjacent channel QRM. Build quality is generally excellent as you would have expected from a high-end Panasonic portable and with a very compact form-factor – roughly the size of a paperback book and weighing in at just 1.4 Ibs, it is eminently more portable than a Sony ICF-SW77 or the iconic ICF-2001D/2010.

 

Ultimately, the RF-B65 continues to enjoy an excellent reputation today, nearly 30 years after it was introduced because it is a wonderfully sensitive receiver and arguably the best-ever performing shortwave portable in the paperback book size category – often touted as ‘travel portables’. I managed to acquire an example in as-new condition from eBay, although mind you, I paid through the nose for it lol – that cult following ensures prices remain very robust! I have tested my example against the equally legendary Sony ICF-2001D, still considered by many to be the benchmark for shortwave portables, and in my experience the Panasonic is right up there with it. There’s virtually no difference whatsoever in sensitivity. Where the Panasonic comes a little unstuck is the lack of bandwidth filtering and SYNC, leading to lower selectivity. However, clever use of SSB and fine tuning does provide quite good compensation for these shortcomings. Overall though, given it’s size, sensitivity, build quality and audio, as a complete package, in my opinion, the RF-B65 is equal to the ICF-2001D, and this is why today, it remains so highly sought after.

Below are embedded reception videos and text links to the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel, with various DX catches on the RF-B65. Some of these are considered quite rare in Europe, for example EXPPM Radio Educación’s 1 kW signal from Mexico City, the now defunct ABC Northern Territories on 120 metres and Radio Bandeirantes from Sao Paolo, Brazil, amongst others. Please note; right at the bottom of this post is a link to some very recent comparisons with the brilliant Eton Satellit – one of the very best portables currently on the market today. The vintage Panasonic holds its own, despite 30 years of supposed technical innovation in electronics. Thanks for reading/watching/listening and I wish you all great DX.


Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view some comparison videos of the RF-B65 and Eton Satellit

 

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.

The Eton Satellit: my thoughts after 3 weeks of DXing and some recent catches…

Hi there, it’s been about three weeks now since I started DXing with the Eton Satellit and I thought it time to post an updated review, based on my experiences thus far, along with some recent catches. Noting that other radio hobbyists with a strong presence online have been posting neutral to negative reviews on this receiver, I would just like to point out, perhaps rather obviously, that no receiver is perfect and just as importantly, the criteria on which a portable radio is judged will be different from user to user, based on their listening habits. I am almost exclusively engaged in DXing with the Satellit, whilst others will be listening on the broadcast bands on a more casual basis. I know that for some, the ultimate quality and finish of a product is as important as performance and they would make their physical assessment in a very detailed manner. I on the other hand focus mainly on performance and as regards quality, I’m reasonably satisfied if it doesn’t fall apart in my hands, straight out of the box! That actually happened – and it’s sort of where I draw the line 🙂 I guess the point is, I try to respect everyone’s opinion, irrespective as to whether we are in agreement or not and I believe that’s healthy for the future of our hobby.

Ok, back to the Satellit. Firstly, I am able to confirm that in terms of ultimate sensitivity, this portable is very close to my Sony ICF-2001D – one of the most highly regarded portables ever made. The delta in performance between the two is most perceptible on the weakest of fading signals that intermittently deliver audio with the Sony, but can’t be heard on the Eton. On stronger signals, my experience is that either radio might provide the strongest and or highest fidelity audio. I have a series of comparison videos already in the can, which will be uploaded to the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel soon.

In terms of selectivity, the digital bandwidth filters work very well, although I note that even on the narrowest setting (2 kHz) when operating in a crowded band, adjacent channel QRM can occasionally still sound quite pronounced, as compared to my Sony ICF-SW55 or ICF-2001D receivers. As regards synchronous detection, this is more of a hit-and-miss affair. Subscribers to my channel might notice that in nearly all of my reception videos featuring the Eton Satellit, I have not engaged the SYNC. That isn’t to say it doesn’t work, however, even with selectable sidebands, the SYNC mode often appears to increase the overall signal amplitude and noise floor, without positively influencing the SNR. However, it’s interesting to note that signals on the Satellit in AM mode often almost match the ICF-2001D in SYNC mode, in terms of overall SNR. More on that to come.

There are a number of ways to tune the radio; manually using the tuning knob (and this has a decent feel/ resistance to it), direct frequency input which requires pressing the ‘AM’ button to engage, automatic search and access to 700 memory locations, via 100 screen pages. In the real world – and by that I mean ‘my world’ which is most often in the middle of a field, or the woods, all of the above tuning options are as ergonomic as most of my other portables. With regard to SSB reception, there are fast, slow and fine tuning options with a maximum resolution of 10 Hz and this works very well to reproduce natural sounding speech in LSB and USB modes. The tuning speed/fine options are engaged by pressing the tuning knob inwards towards the set – quite a neat idea. With SSB and SYNC there’s always a little pause whilst the electronics engage – a set of chevrons appear on the screen to indicate the receiver is actually doing something. It’s similar to the Sony ICF-SW77 where you effectively toggle between SYNC USB and LSB and wait for lock. Not an issue for me, but it might annoy some, particularly those who have experience with the ICF-2001D, where SYNC engagement is instantaneous, if the signal is of sufficient strength. A small point, but worth making.

 

So, overall, a brilliant little radio that in my opinion is completely worthy of the ‘Satellit’ branding, at least in terms of ultimate performance. As I mentioned previously, one of the most experienced DXers I know, with more than 3 decades of listening to the HF bands and an owner of a number of vintage Satellit receivers noted that the Eton Satellit outperformed them – and by some margin. To further demonstrate this, I have included links to recent reception videos. In particular, I copied three of the regional AIR stations with signal strength and clarity that had never previously been obtained. I also copied HM01, the Cuban Numbers Station for the first time on the 11 metre broadcast band, Sudan and Guinea on the 31 metre broadcast band (a whopping signal from Guinea) and Polski Radio 1 on longwave. I hope you find them interesting. Since featuring the Satellit on my channel, one of two of my subscribers have purchased this radio and thus far have been very happy indeed with it’s performance.

Ultimately, I have to strongly recommend this portable to anyone interested in DXing and in particular those that embark on DXpeditions. I just hope that should you decide to buy one, you receive an example that performs was well as mine. Embedded reception videos and text links follow below, In the mean time and until my next post, I wish you all great DX!


Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.

A quick view of my shack in Oxford, UK & recent transatlantic medium wave DX

Someone recently described my shack in Oxford as ‘an impressive mess’…. and that really is just about the most positive comment I’ve ever received regarding my listening post! So, my apologies for displaying the mess in public, but in response to having been asked many times by subscribers to Oxford Shortwave Log to ‘share my shack’, here it is, well most of it at least, in all it’s unadulterated glory.

 

The primary reason however for this post is to share my most recent transatlantic medium wave catches using the brilliant Elad FDM DUO and Wellbrook ALA1530 magnetic loop antenna. This excellent combination continues to pull in really nice DX, although not so much very recently as propagation has been fairly rubbish. However, since early to mid December, the dynamic duo have managed to pull in a number of transatlantic medium wave signals, including Radio Rebelde, Cuba on (670 and 710 kHz), KVNS Texas, CHIN Radio, Toronto, WFED Washington DC, WWNN Health and Wealth Radio, Pompano Beach, Florida, and huge signals from WMEX Boston and WWKB Buffalo, New York. Embedded reception videos and text links follow below and in the mean time, I wish you all great DX!


Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

 

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.