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Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Trevor, who writes:
You might wish to share this with your readers. An example of an excellent commercial rack-mounted receiver at (what I would consider) a reasonable price on eBay: the Harris RF-550.
If I lived in The States, I would buy it. Sounds like it’s had a go-over with a technician, checks out and the seller has 100%. Shipping is reasonable, too. BuyItNow at $975 or (current bidding at $750).
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary DeBock, who shares the following notes and recordings from an Ultralight DXpedition in Kona, Hawaii:
April 2017 Kona, Hawaii Ultralight DXpedition
The first long-range test of a “Frequent Flyer” FSL Antenna
By Gary DeBock, Puyallup, WA, USA April 2017
Ever since the U.K.’s Graham Maynard published his innovative article about the “Ferrite Sleeve” antenna in early 2011 an enthusiastic group of DXers and tinkerers has continually refined and upgraded the design, with most of them going in the pursuit of maximum possible gain. Monster FSL models were designed with weights of up to 38 pounds (17 kg), and considering the size, weight and subversive appearance of the typical model, the general assumption was that this new type of antenna was highly unsuitable for air travel, since it would send airport security personnel into a serious panic.
This situation continued for a full 6 years, during which the FSL antenna became a star performer in the related new niche of ocean cliff transoceanic DXing. But was there another possible application for the antenna’s compact performance advantage? What if a very lightweight, high-performing model could be designed which would not only provide a huge boost in DXing gain, but fit inside a hand-carry suitcase, and routinely pass airport security screening inspections around the world? This was a tough design challenge, but well worth the effort if successful!
Since the new antenna would need the maximum possible performance for its small, lightweight size, the use of the Russian surplus 100mm x 20mm x 3mm ferrite bars was mandatory. Every possible effort would be used to make the antenna as compact and lightweight as possible, although the choice of the highest-sensitivity 1162/46 Litz wire was critical for best performance. The PVC frame would be shrunk down to the smallest practical size. Finally, in a major experimental effort here over the winter season, the first of the new 5 inch (127mm) “Frequent Flyer” FSL’s became a reality. The finished antenna had a very non-subversive appearance, and could fit inside a custom-sized plastic tote within a hand-carry suitcase. Most importantly, it could still deliver a serious amount of inductive coupling gain– roughly similar to that provided by a 4 foot (1.22m) air core box loop, but with the advantage of somewhat lower noise reception.
Because the Russian surplus 100mm x 20mm x 3mm ferrite bars are extremely scarce (without any current supply source) only five of these original “Frequent Flyer” models would be made, although alternative models using the commonly available 140mm x 8mm ferrite rods were also designed. These antennas would be somewhat heavier and larger, but these “Baby FSL” ferrite rod models could be easily assembled from parts available on eBay, fit inside the hand-carry suitcases, and still deliver a lot of DXing performance (while routinely passing airport security screening). Finally, an economic model using the commonly available 62mm x 12mm x 4mm Russian surplus ferrite bars was also designed. This lightweight FSL can be constructed for around $65 US, and can still provide a serious DXing gain boost to a stock Ultralight radio. For want of better terms, these three classes of “Frequent Flyer” FSL antennas are called the “first class,” the “business class” and “coach class” models, with FSL sensitivity scores (ferrite length x coil diameter) of 585, 490 and 300 respectively.
From April 9-12 a Mini-DXpedition was conducted on a 6th floor oceanfront room at the Royal Kona Resort Motel in Kona, Hawaii. This was the first of many long-range DXing trips based upon the performance boost provided by the compact new antenna– which was specifically designed to easily pass through airport TSA security checkpoints. A 5 inch (127mm) “Frequent Flyer” FSL antenna was packed inside a matched-size plastic tote within a hand-carry suitcase, and breezed through TSA security screening in both the Seattle and Kona airports (without even a single question ever being asked). This was one of the “first class” Frequent Flyer models described previously, and was used to boost DX station gain on a 7.5″ loopstick C.Crane “Skywave” Ultralight radio. This combination was effective enough to track down many exotic Pacific Island stations (540, 621, 1440, etc.) at S9 levels during transmitter-site sunset skip propagation into Kona, as well as Asian TP-DX of varying strength around local sunrise.
This Kona trip was primarily designed as an anniversary celebration with my wife, so before we took off I had (somewhat reluctantly) agreed that DXing would have a secondary priority to sightseeing over the four days. Because of this there were many frequencies that could not be investigated in Kona, but I knew very well which Pacific island stations were tough challenges in both North America and Japan, and I was determined to go after them with a vengeance. 540, 621 and 1440 would all receive serious attention in Kona– not because they were great challenges in Hawaii, but because most DXers in both North America and Japan needed all possible information about them if they were to have any chance of reception at all. Besides this I was eager to try my long-range luck chasing exotic Asians around local sunrise with the innovative FSL antenna, but I knew that east-west propagation was almost totally dependent upon solar activity– and as it turned out both the A and K indexes shot up after our arrival.
Overall the Kona MW propagation to the Pacific islands was exceptional around local midnight (as expected), but the sunrise propagation was somewhat challenging for long range Asians. Perhaps the biggest success of this entire trip was the interest and excitement that the “Frequent Flyer” FSL antenna series (the major experimental project here this past winter) has inspired among DXers who routinely travel to foreign countries and other faraway venues. As I write this Craig Barnes of Wheat Ridge, Colorado is conducting his own 5 inch “Frequent Flyer” FSL- based DXpedition to Hawaii. Good luck, Craig!
[Note: a selection of audio files have been embedded in the post below, but all audio is available to download and stream via the links provided.]
531 6DL? Dalwallinu, Australia Presumably the one with the same-sounding announcer and program as the one on 630-4QN at the time (at 1547 on 4-9; see MP3 for 630-4QN), but it didn’t seem to be exactly parallel (maybe a time zone delay?)
540 2AP Apia, Western Samoa This station features a lot of Samoan music (with both male and female announcers), and dominates the frequency in Kona at night as long as it transmits. Unfortunately it doesn’t follow the listed PAL sign off time of 1000, but runs past this time routinely, which made it tough to track down an exact sign off time during my limited sessions. My guess is that it signs off sometime between 1030 and 1100. The following MP3 is of S9+ level Samoan Christian worship music at 0931 on 4-9. This overwhelming signal was one of the most awesome recorded during the entire DXpedition:
558 Radio Fiji One Suva, Fiji Somewhat of an underperformer considering its South Pacific location and (nominal) 10 kW power level. My guess is that the station has some transmitter and/ or antenna issues. Here is some fair level male speech with island music at 1001 on 4-9, which was the strongest signal it managed during the entire trip
621 3RN Melbourne, Australia This LR network station would start to fade in just when Radio Tuvalu was about to sign off (around 1000), although it never provided any serious competition for the exotic station. This MP3 was made just after Tuvalu’s sign off at 1006 on 4-9
621 Radio Tuvalu Funafuti, Tuvalu A very tough station to track down on the mainland, but certainly a “piece of cake” in Kona. Routinely has sign off at 1003 UTC, preceded by island choral music and the national anthem (sung by the same choral group). Around 0950 a female announcer begins the routine by giving a monolog news broadcast about 5 minutes long, typically followed by an island music song right before the fixed 5-minute sign off routine. The latter two features are included in the following 8 minute recording (at near S9 strength) made at 0955 on April 10
The usual female announcer with her 5 minute news broadcast at near S9 strength at 0955 prior to the sign off routine on April 11. The lady giving the correct pronunciation for “Tuvalu” is at the 11 second point
630 4QN Townsville, Australia This 50 kW station was far and away the strongest Australian signal heard throughout the trip. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the same time zone as fellow LR network stations on 531 and 558 in Western Australia, making parallel checks seem dubious. Here is a typical signal at 1543 on 4-9
657 Pyongyang BS Pyongyang, N. Korea This bizarre station was far and away the strongest Asian heard during the trip– almost like it was a South Pacific semi-local. When solar activity cooled off it could blast in with serious power, such as at 1555 on 4-9
693 UnID-TP This mystery signal showed up at 1604 on 4-9, after NHK2 (JOAB) sign off. Obviously there is male speech and some kind of backup music at various times, but I’m totally unfamiliar with stations on this frequency (except for JOAB). Any hints or suggestions? This station only showed up on 4-9; rising solar activity brought in only 690-Honolulu splatter on the other three days
1035 Newstalk ZB Wellington, NZ Received late in sunrise enhancement at 1611 on 4-12, this was a rather modest signal from the Kiwi big gun, which never seemed to get anywhere close to its Oregon cliff strength during the entire trip
1098 V7AB Radio Marshalls Majuro, Marshall Islands One of the regular Pacific island stations received in Kona, and one of the best bets for Mainland reception. The frequency has very little QRM, although Newstalk ZB could be weakly received in between the island music songs after around 0900.
Strong island music at 0955 on 4-9 (its best performance during the trip)
1440 Radio Kiribati Bairiki, Kiribati Because of its domestic frequency this obscure station is another of the toughest Pacific island stations (and countries) to receive on the Mainland, but some very helpful identity clues were discovered in Kona (where the station is a breeze to hear). The station routinely signs off at 0936 UTC each evening, with a very loud 1000 Hz audio tone right before it cuts power. The sign off routine includes station ID’s in both the local language and English around 0932 prior to the choral music national anthem, although because of her heavy accent the fact that the female announcer is talking in English might well go unnoticed. The full sign off routine is included in the following MP3, preceded by an Island music number (during which a 1440 Spanish pest attempts a run on the frequency, only to be immediately drowned out)
The American country music format can be heard prior to the 4-bong time signal.
Prior to the sign off routine this station also uses its female announcer to give a final news update (like 621-Tuvalu). This recording is of such a news update at 0925 on 4-11, with several mentions made of the American president
1566 HLAZ Jeju, S. Korea Fairly regular with its Chinese Christian service around 1530 each morning in Kona, but never at very great strength (possibly due to unfavorable solar activity). Here at 1609 on 4-9 it is the music station playing the Chinese version of “I Would Rather Have Jesus,” in a mix with the (presumed) Mainland Chinese Yanbian Jammer
1566 Yanbian, China (Presumed location, Jammer) Because of Chinese inflection this is the apparent co-channel of HLAZ in the same recording at 1609 on 4-9; it was also received at 1600 on 4-10 with Chinese 5+1 time pips (thanks to Chris Kadlec for his assessment)
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.
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.
I also wanted to let you know your confidence in Ebay seller Anna and Anon-co continue to be well founded. Remembering your recommendation and wishing to pick up a Tecsun PL-360 as a spare to my CountyComm GP-5 SSB (Tecsun PL-365), I placed the order for it and a couple of other bits of Tecsun kit with Anon-co.
The order arrived in 6 working days to my Gulf coast Texas home, taking longer to travel from Chicago to my home than it took to move from Anon-co in Hong Kong to Chicago and clear customs.
I then had a question about the connecting cable included with the Tecsun badged, Tecsun / Kato / Grundig / Eaton, AN200 Loop Antenna. Posed through Ebay Anna promptly answered the question and added a photo of the cable to Anon-co’s Ebay listing for the AN200. It just doesn’t get better than that. You can continue to recommend Anon-co with full confidence from my perspective.
I picked up the PL-360 as a lower cost AM/FM/SW backup to the GP-5 SSB that would allow me to accept the risk of using the larger and heavier extended ferrite rod loop stick aftermarket antenna that garnered so much interest on your blog a year ago, before CountyComm warned of accelerated wear on the antenna jack. Happily the antenna works just as well on the PL-360 as it did on the GP-5 SSB.
Overall I am pleased with the PL-360.
The performance on AM and SW appears to match that of the GP-5 SSB (Tecsun PL-365) albeit with a slightly higher noise floor. Whether this is due to something akin to sample to sample variation or a direct result of inherent design differences between the PL-360’s Silicon Labs Si4734 DSP chipset versus the GP-5 SSB’s Silicon Labs Si4735 DSP chipset I can’t say. I can say the PL-360 with the included High Gain loop stick external tee antenna received my list of news gathering AM clear channel stations out to 900 miles during the night hours matching the GP-5 SSB. This list includes WGN, WBBM, WLS and KOA at the furtherest extreme. It also includes Mexico City’s XEEP 20kW at night at 800 or so miles. Switching to SW broadcast using the whip antenna and Tecsun’s / CountyCom EZTune system day or night the PL-360 and GP-5 SSB select and load the same stations within the PL-360’s slightly shorter SW tuning range.
Dittio on FM on the whip. Both radios snag my list of FM stations out to 60 miles.
For my purposes both are extremely close in performance to my Sony SW7600GR when using their supplied external loop stick. On AM if you combine one with the larger and heaver aftermarket loopsticks they will slightly outperform the 7600GR combined with a Tecsun / Kato / Grundig / Eaton, AN200 Loop Antenna. The Sony’s speaker gives it the edge in listening pleasure, but on earphones or plugs all three are close.
None of forgoing addresses the SSB performance as the PL-360’s chipset doesn’t offer that option.
I am pleased with the PL-360, Anna and Anon-co and I do thank you for posting my 7600GR inquiry.
I look forward to your blog.
Thank you, Steve! I’m happy to hear the 7600GR posting helped you–that’s what this community is all about…helping each other. Thanks to everyone who commented on that post.
And, yes, I think what surprises so many SWLs is the fact that Anna at Anon-Co actually knows Tecsun radios as well, if not better, than the manufacturer. I’ve only had good experiences working with Anon-Co and that’s why I recommend them so readily. Anna provides excellent customer service. (Click here to check out Anon-Co on eBay.)
I’m also happy to hear you’re enjoying the PL-360 and that you understand the risk of using the large ferrite bar on this radio series (PL-360, 365 and GP5 DSP and SSB). I use my antenna as well, though like you, very carefully.
I only use the large ferrite bar when I’m stationary and I’m careful not to put a strain on the antenna in any way; keeping it balanced and steady. In other words, you must handle it with kid gloves. If you take these precautions, I think your radio will enjoy expected longevity.
Thanks, again, Steven for sharing your review! I’m very pleased to hear you’re enjoying the SWLing Post!