Tag Archives: ABC Northern Territories

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.

End of Radio Australia shortwave service, Mark compares final moments

This morning, I woke up, tuned to 9,580 kHz and all I heard was static.

Other than when the Shepparton transmitting station has been silenced for maintenance in the past, 9,580 kHz is one of the most reliable frequencies I’ve ever know on shortwave. Radio Australia has met me there every morning I’ve listened since I was eight years old.

I feel like I’ve lost a dear friend and certainly a staple source of news on shortwave radio. I know I’m not alone–a number of readers have shared similar sentiments this morning.

Archiving Radio Australia’s final days on the air

Listening to Radio Australia on 12,065 kHz with the Titan SDR Pro.

Since the beginning of the year, a few of us have been making a concerted effort to thoroughly archive Radio Australia’s final days on the air. Mark Fahey, London Shortwave, Richard Langley, Rob Wagner and I (to name a few) have been making both audio and/or spectrum recordings.

At 0100 UTC on January 31, 2017, we heard the “Waltzing Matilda” interval signal for one last time. As I understand it, the crew at the Shepparton site left the transmitter on a few extra seconds extra so their famous interval signal would be, in essence, the final sign-off.

Our friend and contributor, Rob Wagner, from Mount Evelyn, Australia, posted an excellent recording/video of the final minutes earlier today.

Due to propagation and the time of day when the shut down happened, I was unable to make a recording, so I’m pleased others could.

Mark compares shortwave and satellite feeds

Mark Fahey’s Wellbrook Mag Loop antenna.

I’m grateful to friend and contributor, Mark Fahey, who lives near Sydney, Australia, and was also able to record the final moments of Radio Australia as well. Mark recorded the shortwave service and RA satellite feed simultaneously.

Mark shares the following recordings and notes:

Recording 1

This is RA’s final few minutes on shortwave – it was recorded on 17840kHz.
The file picks up the regular program ending, then into a Promo for RA “Pacific Beat” (a Pacific current affairs program), then the classic RA Interval Signal then the transmitter clicks off and the void is heard.

Click here to download the MP3.

Recording 2

The file starts at exactly the same time as the first file, but in this example we are monitoring the Network Feed from Intelsat 18 at 180.0 degrees east (above the equator right on the international date line). This satellite feed is the way Radio Australia gets to the network of FM Transmitters they have scatted around the Pacific Region (which is why they feel they don’t need shortwave anymore for – most populated areas of Radio Australia’s target area now is covered by a network of Radio Australia FM transmitters).

Click here to download the MP3.

Some differences to the first file – Radio Australia is produced in FM quality stereo, though of course DXers only ever heard it in shortwave quality mono. So this network feed is in stereo and has a wider dynamic range that what DXer’s are familiar with from Radio Australia. At the end of the Pacific Beat Promo, Radio Australia goes straight into News, the closing of the shortwave service was not an event that would have been noticed for the typical listeners of RA who now listen via FM in Pacific capitals and major towns.

Thank you Mark for your comparison–I’ve never heard RA so clearly. Only you would’ve thought to simultaneously record the satellite feed! It gives the moment that much more context.

A number of SWLing Post contributors have been sharing recordings this morning. I will plan to collect these and put them on the Shortwave Archive in the near future.

Moving forward

Though senator Nick Xenophon says he will introduce legislation to Parliament to force the ABC to reinstate its shortwave radio service, we have to assume we’ve heard the last of Radio Australia and ABC on shortwave. (With that said, I understand Xenophon is a determined fellow.)

Rest assured: if Xenophon’s legislation gains traction, we will post updates!

No doubt, Radio New Zealand International’s shortwave service has just become that much more important in remote Pacific Islands. Click here to view RNZI’s schedule.

Radio Australia shortwave services silenced: “Like listening to our old aunt passing away”

Locals hold a wake to signal demise of ABC shortwave service; destroy a donated shortwave radio with a golden sledge hammer.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dennis Dura, who shares the following report via ABC News 24 on Twitter:

Click here to view this video on ABC News 24’s Twitter feed.

Radio Australia’s final day broadcasting on shortwave

Listening to Radio Australia on 12,065 kHz with the TitanSDR Pro.

As I write this post, I’m listening to Radio Australia on 9,580 and 12,065 kHz. Other than the sports reports and weather, world news is chock-full of stories–many of which are quite sad.

This will likely be the last morning I listen to Radio Australia on shortwave.

SWLing Post contributor, Phill Brennan–who has done a fine job keeping us up-to-date with RA developments–shares the following message:

On the local ABC news tonight it was mentioned that the NT transmitters were going to be shut down at midday local time or 0230 UTC on 31 January. I cannot confirm this, but it may be useful to alert listeners who wish to hear the end of the broadcast. I have no information on RA’s shutdown but it may be the same.

Apparently there will be a gathering at the Katherine transmitter by local listeners tomorrow to mark the end of the broadcasts.

Political pressure continues. A South Australian Senator (Xenophon) is going to introduce a private members bill into the Australian Parliament which will mandate that the ABC must provide a SW service to the NT. I don’t think I would back this in succeeding, but it’s worth a try.

The whole exercise has been a public relations disaster for the ABC as it has been a major news story nationally for weeks now. Not enough damage to change the ABC management’s mind on the matter though.

Thank you for the update, Phil, and for following this story as it developed.

Again, if I understand correctly, for those of us in North America, today is the final day we’ll hear Radio Australia on shortwave (9,580, 12,065 and 12,085 kHz).

I feel I should mention that I did receive a tip that the shut for some of the Radio Australia shortwave services might be as early as 11:00AM Tuesday local time Shepparton (00:00 UTC).

ABC unveils “enhanced support measures” for those affected by loss of shortwave services

(Source: The Australian via Andy Sennitt)

[…]In a statement yesterday rebutting opposition claims that the ABC’s decision was somehow linked to government funding cuts, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the ABC’s ­decision, announced unexpectedly in December, had since been “confirmed”.

“While the ABC has confirmed its decision I think the public broadcaster has learnt some valuable lessons about community consultation and engagement in regional and remote areas,” Mr ­Fifield said. “This is entirely a call by the ABC who have the legis­lated operational independence to make these decisions.”

Mr Shorten told The Australian the ABC’s rural listeners had been “shabbily” treated.

“The people of the Northern Territory have been treated shabbily throughout this process. The Prime Minister needs to start listening to locals and speaking up for them,” he said.

[…]In a statement issued yesterday, the ABC said it was “deeply committed to rural and regional Australia and the one-third of Australians who live outside the capital cities”.

[…]It promised to expand an existing “information awareness program” with the addition of easier access to information packs about alternative services, one-on-one telephone support and “how-to” videos to guide listeners to catch up on programs using podcasts.

“The National Broadband Network satellite services ‘Sky Muster’ will also assist those in remote Australia, by providing access to all ABC online and digital content,” the statement said.

“The ABC will also supply (donate) a VAST satellite system unit to all Royal Flying Doctor Service bases and 4WD Radio club bases in the affected region, allowing them to rebroadcast emergency or warning messages as required.”

Those things are unlikely to placate pastoralists, who usually live and work far from 4WD clubs and cannot realistically mount large VAST (viewer access satellite television) systems on their ­vehicles. Cattle station owners and staff continue to complain bitterly about the poor quality of NBN satellite services, where one connection typically offering less than 100GB of downloads per month may be shared among a dozen or more people for both personal and business purposes. In practice, they say, this makes all ABC digital content inaccessible in the bush.[…]

Read the full article at The Australian online.