Your favorite radio stations that stream online?

The Grace Digital Mondo WiFi radio

The Grace Digital Mondo WiFi radio

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time with WiFi radios.

You see, I’ve been preparing a three part series about WiFi radios for The Spectrum Monitor magazine (Part 1 will appear in the April 2016 issue). Not only have I been evaluating and reviewing several radios, but also station aggregators: the curated databases of radio stations to which WiFi radios link.

Internet radio = Local radio discovery

Internet (or Web/WiFi) radio is a fantastic platform for discovering small, even semi-isolated, community radio stations that, until the Internet, had never broadcast signals beyond their local communities. With Internet radio, we can enjoy these stations as if we, too, are locals. Local becomes international.

WHKY-AM-Radio-Tower

As I travel, I try to note the callsigns of AM/FM radio stations I enjoy.

Sadly, not all of my favorite local radio stations stream online as it’s a major expense for a small broadcaster and yields very little in the way of ad revenue. After all, who in South Africa is going to buy auto parts from a store in Homer Alaska? It’s a conundrum for sure, and one shared by private shortwave broadcasters.

Still, there are a number of stations that do manage to have a reliable streams online.

In no particular order, here’s a short list–a handful–of some of my favorite stations that stream (click on the callsign to listen to the station live):

  • WTZQ Everything from Glenn Miller to Steve Miller (Hendersonville, NC)
  • WXRC Classic Rock (Charlotte, NC)
  • WDRV Classic Rock (Chicago, IL)
  • WHGM Classic Hits (Havre de Grace, MD)
  • WFED Federal News Radio (Washington, DC)
  • CBAL French language music from (Moncton, NB, Canada)
  • CKUT McGill University radio, (Montreal, Canada)
  • CIAO World Music and Talk Radio (Brampton, ON, Canada)
  • 6WF ABC local talk and music (Perth, Australia)
  • Fréquence 2 (Ivory Coast, Africa)
  • CFZM Nostalgia (Toronto, Canada)
  • Saint-Pierre & Miquelon 1ère French music/talk (St. Pierre and Miquelon)
  • WNMB 1950’s music (North Myrtle Beach, SC)
  • KBON Cajun/Zydeco/Blues and variety (Louisiana, USA)

What are your favorite stations?

Please comment and share some of your favorite streaming AM/FM radio stations! I’m all ears!

eBay Find: BANG & OLUFSEN BEOMASTER 900-K

beomaster900-closeWhile quite out of my price range, this is a beautiful piece of radio art nevertheless. (I recommend viewing the close-ups on the listing to really see it.) The receiver/amplifier has Broadcast, Long Wave, Short Wave plus FM, and the ability to reproduce beautiful stereo for its time, according to user reports.These were produced during the mid-sixties until 1970. I miss the artwork involved in many older radios as compared to today’s utilitarian radios. We may have better components and features, but we do not have the beauty or style in many cases.

I’ll be watching with interest to see how this auction ends!

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

Netherlands: proposal to open mediumwave band to low-power stations

AM-Dial-Digital-Grundig-Mediumwave-MW

(Source: Mike Terry via Medium Wave Circle FB Group)

Ydun’s Medium Wave Info
By Marcel Rommerts
12 January 2016

After switching off a number of high power transmitters in 2015, at the end of December the Dutch government has launched a public consultation on ‘opening up’ the medium waveband for radio and non-radio applications with ‘low power’ and with limited government regulation.

When referring to ‘low power’ this means both a power in the range of 1 – 5 watts (site coverage) and 50 – 100 watts (municipal coverage). The idea is that the same frequencies will be re-used across the country. They will be handed out on the basis of a first-come, first served basis. Deadline for comments is 14 February 2016.

http://mediumwave.info/news.html

James reviews the Heathkit Explorer Jr. GR-150 TRF AM radio receiver kit

HeathkitExplorerJrMany thanks to SWLing Post contributor, James Surprenant (AB1DQ), who shares this review and photos of the new Heathkit Explorer Jr. TRF AM radio receiver kit:


 Heathkit Explorer Jr. Review

I received this Heathkit kit for Xmas from dear old Dad.

Heathkit Explorer Jr. Manual

The Explorer Jr. manual is very nicely done, spiral-bound, and very reminiscent of the old Heathkit manuals in terms of lay-out and detail.

Heathkit Explorer Jr. Retro envelope packaging

The packaging of the parts is also reminiscent of the old Heathkits with parts grouped into envelopes by phase, ie. “Active Components,” “Passive Components,” “Small Parts,” “Knobs,” etc.

The first night, I worked through completion of the circuit board attaching all electronic components and stopped at the step for winding the coil. I thought it would make sense to start fresh on that step since winding coils is generally a pain.

Even on the first night, I had a few criticisms:

  • A couple of the envelopes were ripped open when I unpacked the kit. There were nuts, bolts, spacers and an Allen wrench loose in the outer box. That said, no parts were missing.
  • I found two errors in the manual:
    1. The color code for one of the resistors was incorrect in the manual. With my aging eyes, and the miniaturization of components today, I always use an ohm meter to test all resistors before attaching them to the PCB when I build a kit.

      Incorrect color code in manual.

      Incorrect color code in manual.

    2. The circuit contains 10 resistors and all 10 were included in the kit. But one was completely missing from the step-by-step instructions. After I finished attaching all active and passive components, I had one resistor left over and fortunately there was a matching empty space on the circuit board for the same value resistor. I double and triple checked the instruction manual and I can not find where it calls for this resistor to be attached.
  • My biggest criticism so far is the fact that this kit is “solder-less.” All components are attached to the PCB with screws, lock washers and a nut. You insert the leads for each component through the over-size pass-through holes on the PCB, and bend the leads tight against the edge. Then you insert a screw in from the topside, place a lock washer on the bottom side and fasten with a bolt.
Bottom of the PCB board

Bottom of the PCB board

On the upside, the fact I didn’t need to work with a hot solder iron meant I felt comfortable building the kit at the kitchen table. (My XYL would not be pleased if she found burn marks on the table!) So I had a nicer environment to work in than the basement work bench.

Heathkit Explorer Jr. sheered off resistor leadsOn the downside, I managed to sheer off the leads on TWO resistors when tightening the screws. Fortunately I was able to replace the busted resistors from my on-hand stock.

The other odd thing about this method of attaching components is that Heathkit included a nifty screwdriver in the kit, but leaves it up to the kit builder to provide a small socket wrench or pliers to hold the nut in place while tightening the screw.

Finally, the instructions call for the kit builder to ‘bend the excess leads back and forth’ until they snap off, rather than instructing the kit builder to snip off the excess leads with nippers. That seemed really strange to me.

Heathkit Explorer Jr. Completed coil

I completed my build of the GR-150 Explorer TRF radio this past weekend. I had no difficulty winding the coil, which involved 56 turns of magnet wire around a ferite core and securing it with transparent tape.

Heathkit provided the black ties, which were too large.

Heathkit provided the black ties, which were too large.

The next problem I encountered was attaching the wound coil to the PCB. The kit came with two zip cords to use as fasteners, but the zip cords were much much too large to fit through the holes drilled in the PCB. So this required a trip to the hardware store.

You can clearly see that the holes are too small for the black cable ties.

You can clearly see that the holes are too small for the black cable ties.

Once I had the coil mounted, I encountered the problem again with the bolts and nuts shearing off the leads – this time, it took me about 4 tries to attach the thin fragile coil wires to the PCB. It’s a very fragile process that again had me wishing this was a solder kit.

Heathkit Explorer Jr. Top of PCB front

The rest of the assembly went well. The only other glitch I encountered was in assembling the cabinet, the kit came with six locking star washers for the cabinet, in fact the parts list indicates that six should have been included in the kit. But then the actual assembly called for 10 star washers.

Heathkit Explorer Jr. Top of PCB

Heathkit Explorer Jr. Nearly finished frontHeathkit Explorer Jr. Completed PCB mounted

So, how did the radio perform? About as expected. It is a single stage TRF receiver without a proper audio amplifier. The instructions say you should use earbuds to listen to the radio, but I found that my standard stereo earbuds to be off too low an impedance for while the radio worked, all stations heard were very faint – about as strong as you’d hear from a typical crystal radio kit.

Heathkit Explorer Jr. 1st run sticker

I hooked the radio up to a set of PC speakers which helped – a lot. Once I could hear the audio output, I was very pleased with the radio’s performance. The tuning cap is geared and it takes a good five turns of the tuning knob to cover the entire broadcast band. The radio was fairly sensitive and not too selective – again, as you’d expect.

So, was it worth it? For me, sure… but it depends on what you are looking for.

It’s a bit pricey for what you get, but if you want to support Heathkit as it attempts to rise from the ashes, and if you have the $$$ to ‘donate’ towards the cause, it may be worth it.

Heathkit Explorer Jr. Completed w. screwdriver

Here is my take:

The good

  • Very nice quality materials….the PCB, tuning cap, and cabinet were of a quality you don’t often see in kits.
  • Nostalgia factor–from the packing to the manuals, the kit really does capture some of the Heath nostalgia.
  • Level of detail in the step-by-step instructions.
  • Documentation. The manual ends with a very nice feature on radio theory and theory of the different stages of the TRF and how to read a schematic. It’s clearly written for a youngster as it’s complete with drawings of smiley-faced electrons moving through the components and circuits.
  • The radio does work and is a joy to tune across the dial.

The bad

  • Quality control is lacking. It’s hard to imagine a kit ever leaving Benton Harbor back in the day with such glaring errors in the manual (wrong color code, missing steps), or with the wrong size zip ties, etc.
  • Price. Even though the materials are high-end, the retail price seems a bit high.

The ugly

  • I really wish Heathkit had included either a built in audio amp circuit (there is plenty of room in the cabinet to add a simple IC-based amp), or would have marketed a separate audio amp kit. Having an amplified speaker would add a lot in terms of pleasure from the completed kit. Another kit vendor, Peebles Originals, peeblesoriginals.com, sells a nice little audio amplifier kit for use with their regen radio kits. I’ve built it, and it’s a simple straight forward kit. Heathkit could have done this and it would have made a big difference. (I think I’ll try my Peebles amp with the Explorer!)

Overall, I really enjoyed the build and I like the radio. I’m looking forward to see what the ‘new” Heathkit does next.

I applaud Heathkit for making a go at a come-back and will continue to support their efforts by buying and building their pricey stuff – yeah, I’m that guy.

73 de AB1DQ
James


James, thank you for not only sharing your experience–along with errors and omissions–but providing excellent, detailed photos. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been confused by kit instructions and turned to Google to help me find photos and notes from other builders. Your details will help others attempting to build the Heathkit GR-150.

I hope you enjoy your new Heathkit! You’ll have to let us know how that Peebles powered speaker works with the G-150!

In the US, radio audience continues an upward trend

tivoli-model-3-radio

(Source: CNN Money via Andrea Borgnino)

It turns out that radio still gets results.

Amid all the changes in television and digital media, a report from Nielsen released Tuesday found that radio’s nationwide audience reached an all-time high during the second quarter of 2015.

According to Nielsen, about 245 million Americans ages 12 and up used radio during the that span.

It was a continuation of an upward trend for radio, which has seen its national audience swell to record highs in each of the last two years. In the first quarter of this year, radio eclipsed television as the country’s top reaching medium.

Continue reading on CNN.com…

New from Heathkit: the Explorer Jr TRF AM radio receiver kit

HeathkitExplorerJr

The Heathkit Explorer Jr. (Image Source: Heathkit)

Yes, the legendary Heathkit company is back and their first kit is a simple Tuned Radio Frequency (TRF) AM/mediumwave analog receiver: the Explorer Jr.

I knew Heathkit was back in business and under new management, but hadn’t heard any updates as of late. Their president, Andy, just sent a message to the “Heathkit Insiders” group explaining what the team has been up to:

“We’ve designed and developed a wide range of entirely new kit products. We authored the manuals for these kits, complete with the beautiful line art you rely on, preserving and respecting our iconic historic Heathkit style. We developed many new inventions and filed patents on them. We relocated Heathkit, and set up a factory, and a warehouse, and offices, in Santa Cruz, California, near Silicon Valley. We built the back office infrastructure, vendor and supply chain relationships, systems, procedures, operations methods, and well-thought-out corporate structure that a manufacturing company needs to support its customers, to allow us to scale instantly the day we resume major kit sales. All this effort enables us to introduce a fleet of new kits and helps ensure Heathkit can grow, prosper, and continue to bring you great new products for a very long time.”

The Insiders’ message goes into much more detail–I would encourage you to contact Heathkit about joining this group.

The big news in this message was the launch announcement of the Explorer Jr. kit which can be ordered from their website now. The price is $149.95 plus shipping. Heathkit anticipates a 30-day shipping time for the first set of orders.

Here’s a description of the kit from their website:

A Radio Kit Whose Time Has Come.

Again.

When Heath started designing & selling do-it-yourself airplane kits shortly after the Great War, the state-of-the-art in radio was the Tuned Radio Frequency (TRF) design.

A TRF radio was a great deal. If you had a great deal of money. A TRF receiver became a fixture in the homes of families around the world, receiving the news and music AM broadcasts of the day. A family AM radio was a big investment — $100 to $625 in 1929 dollars. (With inflation, that’s $1,400 to $8,700 in today’s dollars.)  Of course, at that price radios also were beautiful. They were made of fine wood, and designed to last. Radios were a visible and attractive furnishing you could be proud to have in your living room or parlor.

Heathkit’s TRF radio is a great deal. And a great deal of radio. This Explorer Jr TM radio is modeled on the original TRF designs, but better. You get to build it yourself. It’s safe and simple enough for beginners to assemble and understand. But it receives AM broadcast stations with performance superior to the vintage radios of 1930.

With the number of Heathkit enthusiasts out there, I suspect this first run of kits won’t last long. The kit trim is available in six colors: Silver, Cranberry, Cucumber Green, Plum Pie, Sapphire Blue, and Tangerine.

Click here to view and order the Explorer Jr on Heathkit’s webstore.

Tuning in to AM broadcast history and the venerable RF-2200

Panasonic-RF-2200-2

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Eric (WD8RIF), for sharing a link to this excellent article in the Illinois Times by James Krohe Jr. Here’s an excerpt:

Tuning in: Making a small world bigger and the big one smaller

So much of happiness, I’ve realized, depends on getting tuned in. When he was a young married, my father used to tune in the console radio in the living room of the Krohe family mansion on Manor Avenue to the live broadcasts of big-band music “from the beautiful Blue Room in the Roosevelt Hotel” in downtown New Orleans. He was able to be in two places at once thanks to WWL-AM, whose 50,000-watt clear channel signal was beamed north. For all I know, while he tapped his toe on the sofa in Springfield, Inuit couples were jitterbugging on the tundra.

For Springfield teens in the 1950s and ’60s, getting a chance to listen to what kids in bigger cities had already decided they liked was important. WCVS-AM was just crawling out of its cocoon, having crawled into it as a country station and emerging as a rock station – although in the late ’50s there wasn’t that much difference. “Rock ’n’ roll” was, in stations like WVCS that catered to mostly white markets, rockabilly and pop-ish country ballads. (Geezers will recall when Brenda Lee was, briefly and laughably, marketed as a rock artist.)

For Top 40 music, as for so many other things, if you wanted to get the really good stuff you had to go to the big city. Around here that meant WLS-AM, WCFL-AM out of Chicago (whose Ron Britain made Soupy Sales look, or rather sound, like Noel Coward), and KXOK-AM out of St. Louis. George Lucas’s American Graffiti brilliantly captured the ways that car radios, transistors, radio stations blaring over PAs in drive-ins, permeated the bubble in which teenagers then lived.

Later I learned I could hear WBZ out of Boston if I acted as the antenna on my transistor. (“Turn on, tune in, drop out” to me meant losing the signal when I lighted a smoke.) WBZ was one of the first stations with the newest 45s from Britain, which allowed us yokels to hear The Yardbirds while the records were still on their way to Midwest stations by stagecoach from Boston harbor.

Continue reading…

Krohe also mentions the virtues of the Panasonic RF-2200 which is, in my opinion, one of the best AM broadcast portable receivers ever.

Click here to read the full article at the Illinois Times website.

Side note: The Panasonic RF-2200 still has a loyal following among mediumwave DXers of the world. The RF-2200 can be found on sites like eBay (click here to search), but make sure you’re purchasing from a reputable seller and not over-paying.