Radio deals: Tecsun PL-380, Grundig Mini 400, G5 and Satellite 750

Grundig-Mini400-RadioGrundig Mini 400

Discount retailer, Blinq.com is selling the Grundig Mini 400 for $15.09 US shipped.

I have a Mini 400; it’s a handy radio, though not especially sensitive. The built-in speaker is rather shallow as the radio is very thin–you can’t expect great audio fidelity.

Still, $15.09 is an excellent deal for a small radio that can be tucked away in your car’s glove compartment for impromptu SWLing.

Grundig G5

GrundigG5Blinq.com  is also selling a number of used Grundig G5′s via Amazon.com and via their website for $45.59 US shipped.

According to Blinq.com, these units are slightly used and may show some signs of wear. The Grundig G5 is a great, full featured radio that is no longer in production. The G5 is a sensitive and selective radio–certainly a great deal at $45.59. Note, however, that some G5′s have a rubberized coating that, over time, can feel sticky. We have a couple of posts that describe how to remove the sticky residue.

Grundig Satellite 750

Grundig-Satellite-750Blinq.com is also selling a number of used Satellite 750′s for $170.19 via Amazon.com and their own site. The ’750 is a larger footprint portable shortwave radio that has above average performance. I like the large controls and analog signal meter. Audio fidelity from the 750′s built-in speaker is also top-notch. The 750 is surprisingly light weight for its size.

Keep in mind that all of the radios above are used units; most likely open box items Blinq.com acquired. If you purchase one, test it thoroughly and contact Blinq if you notice any problems. SWLing Post reader, Eric (WD8RIF), purchased a used DX-402 from Blinq.com two weeks ago–turns out his unit was defective. Blinq gave Eric a hassell-free refund within a couple of days.

Tecsun PL-380

My Tecsun PL-380 and the small Eagle Creek pack that also holds my Zoom H1 recorder, earphones, audio cables, external antenna, spare batteries and Kindle.

My Tecsun PL-380 and the small Eagle Creek pack that also holds my Zoom H1 recorder, earphones, audio cables, external antenna, spare batteries and Kindle.

The price of the Tecsun PL-380 was recently lowered to $41.99 US (shipped) on Amazon.com. Price includes a new unit with headphones, clip on antenna, and soft case.

As I’ve mentioned before, the PL-380 is one of my favorite compact travel radios. I’m very tempted to buy a spare one.

Posted in News, Radios, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

CC Skywave release delayed

CC-SkywaveSWLing Post reader, Ed, writes:

“It looks like the new SW/AM/FM/Air  Skywave radio from C.Crane will be delayed according to their website. The new date for release will be October 31st. But, you can reserve yours now to avoid the rush that is sure to come.”

I hope to review this radio shortly after its release. Click here to view the CC Skywave on C.Crane’s website.

Posted in New Products, News, Radios, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

BBC News to cut 415 jobs, but add £5M to World Service budget

(Image source: BBC)Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Richard Cuff, for sharing:

(Source: BBC News)

The BBC’s News department is to axe 415 jobs as cost-cutting measures continue, the BBC’s director of news James Harding has announced.

The move is part of £800m efficiency savings required after the licence fee was frozen in 2010.

The latest cuts are expected to save £48m by 2017.

BBC News currently employs around 8,400 people, including around 5,000 journalists, based in London, around the UK and overseas.

He also set out plans to substantially restructure the news division and put the BBC at the forefront of producing news for the digital age using new technologies.

A total of 195 new posts will be created to fulfill this plan, meaning a net reduction of 220 full-time jobs overall.

Around 70% of the annual running costs of BBC News are staff-related, meaning there would inevitably be an impact in this area, Mr Harding said.

(Continue reading…)

The article continues by outlining all of the cuts and gains to the BBC.

I took note that BBC Radio 4′s The World Tonight and the World Service program Newshour will be consolidated under a single editor. The BBC World Service’s budget, however, will increase from £245m this year to £250m in 2016-17. (Perhaps the most positive news in international broadcasting circles this week.)

Also check out Jonathan Mark’s comments on Critical Distance.

Posted in Broadcasters, International Broadcasting, News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

SWRA to end shortwave broadcasts

Zimbabwe ranks 135 out of a possible 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index.

Zimbabwe ranks 135 out of a possible 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index.

The clandestine station, Shortwave Radio Africa, announced today that it will end shortwave radio broadcasts to Zimbabwe. As we’ve posted before, Zimbabwe is a country that does not exactly embrace free press. Indeed, Mugabe has even been known to order the confiscation of self-powered shortwave radios from citizens.

I have a hunch this closure is due to financial constraints. I’ve pasted SWRA’s announcement below:

SWRA shortwave broadcasts to end

Gerry Jackson
SW Radio Africa
17th July 2014

It is with regret that SW Radio Africa announces that after 13 years, our shortwave broadcasts are to end on Friday 18th July.

You have welcomed us into your homes since our first shortwave broadcast on 19th December 2001.

Our broadcasts will continue on our website, via Channel Zim through TV decoders, and by various other forms of new media.

We know how much these shortwave broadcasts have meant to our listeners in more remote areas who have so little access to news and information, and we sincerely regret that we will no longer be able to provide this service.

We would like to thank our listeners who have been such loyal supporters for so many years and also for their willingness to share the stories of their lives with us on our Callback program. This has allowed people all over the world to have a better understanding of the many crises that Zimbabweans continue to face.

We can only hope that one day, sooner rather than later, there is real media freedom that allows Zimbabweans, wherever they are in the country, easy access to what is a basic human right – freedom of information and expression.

Posted in Broadcasters, Clandestine, International Broadcasting, News, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Designing a truly portable SDR

SWLing Post reader, London Shortwave, is working on a portable SDR (software defined radio) system based on his Toshiba Encore 8″ Windows tablet, FunCube Dongle Pro+, and supported by the excellent SDR# application. Today, he shared this photo of his entire kit, including his comments. If you’re interested in a similar portable SDR, take note of the USB isolator and extra (AA battery) power supply.

LondonShortwave-PortableLondon Shortwave plans to make an enclosure for the SDR, AA power supply, and USB isolator.

And although it may be easier said than done, it would be super if this enclosure has the same footprint as the Toshiba tablet, and the whip antenna can be mounted on the enclosure…He would then essentially have a case that he could attach to the tablet for instant portable shortwave radio fun.  (Oops–did I just raise the bar for you? Ha!)

Thanks for sharing, London Shortwave!

Posted in How To, Kits, News, Podcast, Software Defined Radio | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Voice of Russia closes DC bureau, fires staff

Voice-of-Russia-Logo(Source: VOA News)

Facing legal problems, the Russian government-funded radio network — the Voice of Russia — has fired its Washington bureau staff and closed the office.

The shutdown happened Monday, amid allegations of tax fraud and claims of racial discrimination at the network.

Alexei Iazlovsky, the head of the VOR’s U.S. operations, pleaded guilty last year to tax fraud and will be sentenced later this year.

VOR’s employment practices also have attracted attention from the IRS and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The IRS is investigating whether VOR used contractors alongside full-time, salaried employees to skirt payroll taxes. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took an interest in VOR after several former staffers claimed they were fired because of their race.

The employees have filed a lawsuit against International TV Services, VOR’s contract manager in the United States.

Some suspect Voice of Russia will quickly return to the U.S. through a different management company without the legal troubles.

Earlier this year, the Russians stopped Voice of America broadcasting in Moscow on AM radio.

Posted in AM, News | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Recording the 2014 World Cup Final

WorldCupBall-001Sunday was the FIFA World Cup Final, and not only was I looking forward to the game, but (to tell the truth) I was also looking forward to recording the game via the BBC World Service for the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive. Due to the BBC WS cuts, part of me fears this may be a last chance to capture this radio and sports history.

If you would like to hear the recordings of the World Cup Final, skip to the bottom of this post. But if you want to know how I managed to make the recordings, and why I made the choices I did, feel free to continue reading…Warning: full-on radio geek tech ahead!

Making the recording

I had two SDRs (software defined radios) at my disposal: the Elad FDM-S2 and my trusty WinRadio Excalibur.  To record this match, I choose to use an SDR rather than a tabletop receiver for several reasons, namely:

  1. I wanted to make a spectrum recording so that I could record more than one frequency at a time;
  2. SDRs make recording radio content on the fly much easier than using a tabletop receiver, which must be connected to an external audio recorder, and I wanted ease of use so I could enjoy the game, too.

Propagation was rather mediocre Sunday, and there were only three feasible BBC World Service English frequencies I could tune in mid-afternoon, none of which, of course, were targeting North America:

  • 11,810 kHz from Ascension Island
  • 13,660 kHz from Woofferton, UK
  • 15,400 kHz from Ascension Island
  • 9,915 kHz from Woofferton, UK (starting at 20:00 UTC)

My hunch was that either 13,660 or 15,400 kHz would be my best bet for the early part of the match (pre-game starting at 18:30 UTC, half time at 20:00 UTC), however, I knew they would drop off after the first half of the game. And 11,800 kHz would be my best bet in the latter part of the game, unless 9,915 kHz happened to be stronger.

In the past, 11,800 had served me quite well for afternoon BBC listening, but yesterday there was an unscheduled religious broadcaster on 11,825 that was causing interference a full 30 kHz on either side of their carrier! During my pre-game check of the frequency, each attempt I made to block this broad interference was unsuccessful–very frustrating.

Which SDR?

The FDM-S2 is a fine SDR, and I was very tempted put it to the test.  But while the Elad FDM-S2 is quite capable of making very wide spectrum recordings (up to 6 MHz) and could easily record all four frequencies on four different meter bands at the same time, I decided to use the WinRadio Excalibur, instead.

Why? If 11,800 kHz was my only viable frequency option in the latter half of the game, I needed a receiver that could sync to the less noisy lower sideband of 11,800 kHz. While Elad plans to add USB/LSB selectable synchronous detection in the next version of their SDR application, it currently does not have this capability.

I suppose, too, I feel more comfortable with the WinRadio Excalibur; I’ve been using it now for well over two years. If something were to go wrong during the broadcast, I knew I could diagnose it quickly on the Excalibur.

In addition, the Excalibur can do both a spectrum recording and up to three individual AF recordings at the same time (though limited within a 2MHz bandwidth). I’m not sure if Elad has plans for this in their next SDR.

Setting up the Excalibur

The Excalibur only has a 2 MHz bandwidth for spectrum recordings. I knew if I focused on the middle frequency of 13,660, I would be able to record it and either 15,400 or 11,810 at the same time, but not all three.

The first half of the match, I recorded both 13,660 kHz and 15,400 kHz in a 2 MHz wide spectrum recording. At the same time, I recorded the audio (an AF recording) from 13,660 kHz, which was consistently the stronger of the two frequencies.

Half time

By 20:00 UTC, I knew both 13,660 and 15,400 kHz would stop transmitting and I would need to either hop to 11,810 kHz or 9,915 kHz.

While maintaining a good audio recording of 13,660, I stopped the 2 MHz spectrum recording and moved it to encompass 13,660 and 11,810 kHz. A quick check proved that 11,810 was the strongest station. Fortunately, the interference above 11,810 had quieted somewhat at that point, and by using the LSB sync lock, this noise was successfully mitigated a bit.

Still, I could hear a chuffing sound coming from the splatter 11,825 was producing. So I enabled the notch filter and widened it to 2 kHz. By shifting it around in the upper side band, I was able to find the “sweet spot” where most of the splatter noise was canceled. I then started the audio recording on 11,810 a few minutes prior to 20:00 UTC, making a little audio overlap with simultaneous recording on 13,660.

Syncing on the lower sideband and using the notch filter in the upper sideband mitigated most of the interference.

Syncing on the lower sideband and using the notch filter in the upper sideband mitigated most of the splatter interference.

In the end, I was very pleased with the results of the recordings. While capturing the BBC World Service isn’t exactly like snagging rare DX, I felt I had a lot riding on this recording, so pre-game preparations were necessary, especially since the Excalibur couldn’t record spectrum from 9,915 to 15,400 kHz.

And in theory, had I used the Elad FDM-S2, I could have recorded the entire chunk for three hours and then revisited the material later to make audio recordings from the AF.

The recordings

For your listening pleasure: the full 2014 World Cup final via the BBC World Service. This broadcast is broken into 3 sections: pre-game and the first half, second half, and extra time. Enjoy!

Pre-game and first half (13,66o kHz):

Second half (11,810 kHz):

Extra time and game wrap-up (11,810 kHz):

Posted in Broadcasters, Current Events, International Broadcasting, News, Recordings, Shortwave Radio, Software Defined Radio, Specials, Sports, What's On Shortwave | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments