Paul’s SWLing videos

Digital-Frequency-Dial

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Paul Walker, who writes:

I think you and your readers might enjoy these videos.

I’ve upgraded from a Tecsun PL880 and Sangean ATS909X to a JRC NRD535D. I live in Camden, Arkansas which is in southern Arkansas, 75 minutes east of Texas and 75 minutes north of Shreveport, Louisiana

When DX’ing on shortwave, I often record a short video with my iPhone 6plus held up close to the radio so you can see the frequency and signal level meter.

I record videos anywhere between 20 seconds and 5 minutes depending on what I feel like at he moment and what I will be using the video for. Sometimes I record a shorter video to post on Facebook then record longer audio via an MP3 recorder in my phone to use in a reception report.

Sometimes I record long 3-5 minute videos and send those to the station instead.

I don’t record everything I hear but what I feel is a worthwhile catch or is interesting. My videos can be seen here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/OnAirDJPaulWalker

Thanks for sharing a link to your videos, Paul! You’ve got some good catches in your library. That JRC NRD535D is a great receiver, too–noise floor seems quite low!

Video: Shortwave listening and radio astronomy

Sony-ICF-SW100

On Thursday I attended an event at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI)–location of the 2015 SWLing Post DXPedition.

During a break, I had a couple of free hours, so I reached in my messenger bag and pulled out the Sony ICF-SW100: a radio that has quickly surpassed all others as my favorite EDC (everyday carry) radio. It has so many useful features in such a small package!

Radio astronomy observatories are ideal locations for impromptu shortwave radio listening as there is little to no radio interference/noise present.

PARI-26E-and-26W

PARI’s “Building 1” and the 26 West (left) and 26 East (right) radio telescopes.

While the weather on Thursday was gorgeous, HF band conditions were…well…miserable. There was very little to hear other than China Radio International, Radio Havana Cuba and a few other blow torch broadcasters.

Still, time signal station WWV was on my mind since I had just purchased Myke’s new edition of At The Tone and have been reading your excellent comments with early memories of listening to WWV and WWVH.

I tuned to 15 MHz and, of course, there was reliable WWV in Fort Collins, Colorado on frequency. Though WWV’s signal was relatively strong (despite the conditions) I turned on the SW100’s sync detector because fading (QSB) was pronounced at times.

Here’s a short video of the ICF-SW100 on a picnic table in the middle of the PARI campus. That’s PARI’s 26 (meter) West telescope in the background:

Dan compares the Sangean ATS-909X with two classic portables

Sangean-ATS-909X-Sony-SW07-Panasonic-RF-B65

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares a radio comparison he initially posted in the excellent Extreme Shortwave Listening Facebook group. Dan writes:

When the Sangean ATS-909X was first released a few years ago, I decided that I would hold off obtaining one to let whatever bugs there might be in production get worked out.

I have always been impressed by the design of the 909X, but was cautious when it came to the question of overall sensitivity. I once owned the 909, had it modified by Radio Labs, but that seemed not to do much — the 909, in my view, suffered too much from the well-known deafness issue when using the whip antenna.

Over the years, I used and still own many of the classic portables. This includes the SONY 7600GR, Grundig SAT 500/700, 2010, E-1, SONY SW100/SW07, SONY SW-55, and the radio I consider to be at or near the top of the small portable heap, the Pan RF-B65. But a couple of weeks ago, I broke down and bid for a new in box Sangean 909X. It’s the black version, and arrived a couple of days ago.

I remain impressed by the 909X’s design — beautiful radio, wonderful large LCD and backlight, excellent filtering, along with a feature we used to see in the SONY’s — adjustable/variable attenuation. But I wondered how the 909X would stack up against two of my favorites, the SW-07 and RF-B65. I was crossing my fingers — but alas, initial results are not encouraging.

While the radio initially on its own seems to be quite sensitive, I lined it up next to the SW-07 and RF-B65 and did a comparison. Now, first I must note that propagation continues to be in the dumpster and I conducted this test in late afternoon.

All three receivers were tuned to Cuba on 11,760 khz — they were located next to one another on a table in the top level of my home here in Maryland. The results are seen in the video below.

You can hear how much more clearly the SW-07 and especially the RF-B65 handle a signal. With the Panasonic, stations just pop. Same with the SW-07.

Disappointingly, as you can hear, stations on the 909X appear to be buried in noise. It’s quite extraordinary — I was very surprised by this comparison and intend to perform additional side-by-side tests in different areas of my home, which does suffer from high noise levels likely produced by electric lines and a transformer outside (which is why a run a Wellbrook on my main radio stack downstairs). But it is notable that the 909X appears to struggle so, while the old classic portables SW-07 and B65 excel. Interested in the views of others . . .

Dan, this is very similar to my experience with the Sangean ATS-909X.

Like you, I absolutely love the design of the 909X–the large display, tuning wheel, front-facing speaker, ergonomics–but was pretty disappointed when I pitted it against three other (less expensive) portables on the shortwave bands.

I know the 909X performs much better when connected to an external antenna. I’ve also learned that fresh batteries are a must as the 909X’s sensitivity is directly related to supplying optimal voltage. I know, though, that you had fresh batteries in your 909X, Dan.

Again, many thanks for sharing your comparison.

UVB-76: The Buzzer surfaces on 6,998 kHz

Photo: Andrea Borgnino

Image: Andrea Borgnino

My buddy, Andrea Borgnino, recently heard UVB-76 (The Buzzer) on 6,998 kHz with his Elecraft K3 in Italy. Check out this short video:

While the audio sounds identical to that of UVB-76’s on 4,625 kHz. I strongly suspect this is simply a pirate radio station relay–especially since it’s broadcasting just below the 40 meter ham radio band. Either way, it’s a great catch! Thanks for sharing, Andrea!

Tony’s homebrew mag loop antenna and amplifier

Fullscreen capture 10312015 115110 AM

Yesterday, Tony (K3DY), shared a video (via Twitter) demonstrating his new home brew loop antenna and amplifier.

This is actually a great demonstration of how even a relatively simple, inexpensive loop antenna can improve reception in locations with heavy radio interference. Tony includes the following notes with his video:

“Testing a new receiving loop antenna that I built today. It uses a pre amplifier based on deferential setup of two 2N5109 transistors. Loop is made out of coaxial cable, only the shield is connected to the circuit.

Quick demo on 31 meters, lots of stations at sunset time. No time for further testing but I observed a pronounced directivity below 7 MHz. 75 meters is so quiet that it makes me forget I live in a townhouse. As a comparison, my noise level on 75 meters is at S8 on an end fed [antenna].

I will use this loop primarily for SWLing purposes but I may use it as a separate receiving antenna with my amateur radio equipment.

A lot of fun, loops are fascinating and efficient!

Indeed, Tony! And perhaps the icing on the cake is that loop antennas are so portable, low-profile and easy to deploy. They’re ideal for those living in restricted areas and with picky home owners’ associations.

Inspired by my buddy Vlado (N3CZ), I’ve actually been collecting the pieces to build my own mag loop antenna this winter. I doubt the parts for my loop will exceed ten dollars as I plan to use the shield of some heavy coax for the primary loop and a little PVC for support (much like Tony’s loop).

Tony’s video is inspiring me to go a step further and also build a simple amplifier. Any suggestions or schematics for doing so are most welcome!

The BaoFeng UV-5R is tougher than the $25 price tag implies

UV-5R

I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of a handheld radio snob.

I don’t own many HT transceivers, but the ones I do own are manufactured by the “big three”–namely, Yaesu, Kenwood and Icom. For ages, these three companies dominated the handheld radio market.

A few years ago, several Chinese radio manufactures (BaofengWouxun, TDXone and TYT to name a few) started flooding the market with inexpensive handheld transceivers–radios that literally cost a fraction of those produced by the “big three.” Where a Yaesu dual band handheld might cost between $150-250 US, a Baefeng model might cost $25-50 US.

As one might imagine, these inexpensive transceivers gained quite a following in the ham radio community and with preparedness/communications enthusiasts.

I’ve read that many of these ultra-cheap transceivers are difficult to program and I’m sure that’s one of the factors that has kept me from purchasing one.

I also assumed that a $25 radio must be very poorly constructed. Seems I’m incorrect at least on this point.

Many thanks to Dave (K4SV) for sharing the following video from Chris (K5CLC), who put the popular Baofeng UV-5R through an “extreme” field test:

The Baofeng UV-5R is available at Amazon.com for a mere $25.80 US shipping included.

UV-5R accessories. Click to enlarge.

UV-5R accessories. Click to enlarge.

The UV-5R even comes with a number of accessories:

  • a ANT5 SMA-J flexible antenna,
  • BL-5 Li-ion battery (7.4V 1800 mAh),
  • belt clip,
  • wrist strap,
  • AC adapter (8.4V 600ma)
  • and drop-in charger.

Frankly, it’s hard to believe you get so much radio for the price.

Curiosity is getting the best of me and I believe I very well may purchase a UV-5R in the coming days. I’ll probably purchase the USB programming cable as well [UPDATE: several readers suggested this proper FTDI cable as a much better option].

Click here to view the Baofeng UV-5R on Amazon: I encourage you to read the numerous reviews–many of which sing its praises, others do not.

Readers: if you have the UV-5R, please post your comments about this little radio. I’m curious if you find it easy to use and if the battery life has held up over time.  Any tricks for programming it?

Mini DXpedition: Oxford Shortwave Log and the Sony ICF-SW55

Sony-ICF-SW55

SWLing Post reader, “Oxford Shortwave Log” recently noted the following on our Facebook page:

“Hi there, I received some very nice feedback regarding almost perfect reception of Radio Australia during a mini DX-pedition into the Oxfordshire countryside and thought I would share it.”

“I use a (now vintage I guess!) Sony ICF-SW55 and a 25 metre long-wire. There are lots more videos at on YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log

Great proof that Mini DXpeditions can pay off!

Sounds like that Sony ICF-SW55 performs admirably–it is certainly a classic portable.

I remember when the ICF-SW55 was introduced in 1993-1994; back when I was doing my undergraduate studies and had no funds for it. In the 1990s, Sony’s portables almost seemed to be sent to us from the future–large informative displays, advanced memories, and incredible portable performance were the hallmarks.

On eBay, you’ll find that the ICF-SW55 still fetches a high price.

OSL: thanks for sharing the videos!