Tag Archives: AM

What radio would you grab in a fire?

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Lately, fires have been on my mind. No doubt, this is because there are so many wildfires in the greater southern Appalachian region right now, which is in the midst of a record drought. Brush fires start up almost daily, and no rain is in sight.  In the mountains, the air is hazy with smoke, and it’s become a struggle for fire departments to contain these blazes, even with help from outside the region.

Living, as we do, in a forest, we’ve always had to think through contingency plans if a forest fire should threaten our home:  with only a two hour (or so) warning, what items would we grab and load into our truck?

Of course, we’d likely focus on those things that are irreplaceable and thus essentially invaluable: our few family heirlooms, boxes of photos, documents––you know, stuff you can’t buy.

But what about radios?  I hope I’ll never be forced to choose the one thing I should save from my shack, because there are several to which I’m rather sentimentally attached…There’s my Zenith Transoceanic, for example–the first proper shortwave radio I ever owned. There are also a number of vintage radios as well as some SDRs which have become my staple receivers.

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In the end, though, there’s no question which radio I’d grab. It would have to be my Scott Marine Radio Model SLR-M, affectionately nicknamed “Scottie.”. True, she’s not even close to portable at a solid 90 pounds, but I’d strap her to the roof of my vehicle, if I had to.

Why?  Well, it’s the most pristine vintage radio I own, and I use it daily. If it’s not tuned to Radio Australia in the morning, it’s tuned to my AMT3000 AM transmitter on 1570 kHz drawing in any of a number of stations I relay from my WiFi radio.

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Scottie simply isn’t replaceable. Even though my Elecraft KX3 probably costs more in terms of monetary value, I could eventually scrape together the money to buy another KX3. But I couldn’t buy Scottie again. Not this one.

So, there you go: after we’ve saved those things important to our family, I’d grab a 1945 receiver and haul it to safety.

Post readers: Now I’m curious–if your home was threatened by fire or other disaster, what radio would you save? Please comment!

Sangean WR-22: Bill’s tale of radios and outdoor antennas

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Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill, who writes:

I was interested in the Sangean HDR-18 which showed up on SWLing Post. But I ended up going for the similar-looking WR-22 (here on the Sangean site) because it lookscooler. Well, yes, it also costs a bit less. Also, it trades the HDR-18’s HDRadio capability for Bluetooth streaming. Since I have a phone that canstream, and since there is as yet only one HD radio station, which streams,and which I can also get in my car, I thought the Bluetooth might be a bit more use to me.

I got the WR-22 expressly to use outdoor antennas. I had been using a CCRadio 2E for that purpose. The CCRadio actually worked better hauling it out of the house, out to the picnic table in the back yard, clear of the aluminum siding and the household electronic buzz. It’s nice to be able to use the portable as a portable.

I’d hoped the WR-22 would both stream from my phone and work on AM and FM as well as the CCRadio. It surprised me by working far better. Therein hangs a sad tale of radios and outdoor antennas.

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I have a rooftop FM antenna I’d used on an old stereo. The CCRadio doesn’t have an external FM radio jack, so I could never use the FM antenna with the CCRadio.

The CCRadio does have screw terminals for an AM outdoor antenna. A few months ago, I put out a temporary one in the back yard. It’s quite modest, within the ability of anyone with a small back yard. A ground rod pounded into the ground outside the drip line of the roof, where the soil will get wet; wet soil makes for a better ground, I’m told. Then a bit less than 50 feet of insulated copper wire, looped across the back yard to a pine tree branch and then to a post we used to have a satellite TV dish on. Nothing too complicated here.

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The results were disappointing. I could get signals with this antenna not quite as well as the CCRadio would do on its own on the picnic table. Oh well, maybe nothing better was possible?

Then, after I’d ordered the WR-22 through the mail, I came across a description of a different external AM antenna. I found it on two web sites, but C Crane’s own web site has a description of the thing. Here’s thearticle.

It could use the wire I’d already strung across the back yard and the ground rod I’d already planted, so why not try it? I couldn’t see how an antenna that didn’t connect to the radio directly could be any better than one that did, but hey, it didn’t cost anything to try.

Here’s how to make the antenna: String an outdoor wire somewhere SAFE, well away from anything carrying electric current, both because it can get you fried and because of radio noise. Reserve some of the wire to wind a coil at the end of the wire inside the house, near your radio. Wrap a coil in the wire near where your radio will be. C Crane says a 3 inch coil with 7 turns, another site said a few turns of 6 inches diameter; apparently it’s not too critical.

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The wire continues unbroken through the coil, back out of the house again, and to your ground rod outside. It doesn’t connect directly to your radio at all. Of course you could do the wire in several pieces; have a separate coil which attaches to the aerial wire and the ground wire with alligator clips, for example. This would let you replace the different parts, experiment with different sizes, shapes, and orientations of coils, and so on.

As with any inductively coupled antenna, you get this loop to work by moving the coil around the outside of the radio until you find the “sweet spot” where it couples best with the portable radio’s internal ferrite bar.

Good heavens! It worked far better than coupling the wire directly to the CCRadio. I was astonished! I planned to put out a longer antenna- I have the space for it, if I’m careful- and a neater installation, with a neatly wound coil. I planned a program of trying different coils to see what would work best. However, I had the WR-22 on order. Since that was where I wanted to attach outdoor antennas, I decided to wait until it came in before experimenting with any new antennas.

It came in and I set it up.

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To my disappointment, the coil-type outdoor antenna didn’t seem to send the WR-22 any signal at all. Before getting all antisocial about it, I hooked the external antenna to the WR-22’s AM antenna screw terminals.

My goodness, all over again! Where the CCRadio hadn’t responded to this setup at all well, the WR-22 lit up with all sorts of signals. Now, I’d read on your site that the HDR-18 coupled the external AM antenna via a coil wrapped around its internal ferrite rod. Perhaps this radio already HAS the magic coil that seems to make so much difference built in, from the factory.
It goes to show that your mileage may vary; a little experimentation with your particular setup never hurts!

I have a problem I’m sure a lot of your readers would love to have; there are exactly NO really powerful AM radio signals in my area. Today I set up several radios for a rough comparison to give you an idea of how things work here.

Tecsun PL-880, no external antenna, sitting on the “best” windowsill in the back of the house: 4 AM (Medium wave) stations.

  • CCrane CCRadio 2E, no external antenna, same windowsill, 8 AM stations.
  • Car radio outdoors, 14 AM stations.
  • Sangean WR-22 with the external antenna: 20 AM stations.

This was during the day. At night pretty much anything lights up on most of the AM frequencies; I expect the WR-22 will do well here, although I haven’t tried it yet.

As for FM, with the rooftop antenna, the WR-22 did well enough. I got anything I could reasonably expect to get with it. I had unreasonably hoped to get a certain second public radio network I like to switch over to when the main public radio network here goes to a pledge drive (which is approximately 11.5 months a year, it seems). Didn’t get a peep of it. I had only been able to get it with the CCRadio, twisting the antenna to a 45 degree angle to the vertical in a certain direction.

The rooftop antenna is horizontal. I read somewhere that FM signals are polarized at 45 degrees to the vertical so that they would work on both horizontal TV antennas and vertical car antennas, therefore for maximum discrimination a FM antenna that could also be tilted to 45 degrees would be helpful. I don’t know if that’s true or not. As textbook writers say when they are lazy and don’t want to do their job, building a rotating rooftop FM antenna with variable remote-adjustable tilt is left as an exercise to the reader.

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If you’d like to see what I’ve received with this radio so far, click here for my
station log map.

Yellow is AM daytime signals, green is FM, red is AM nighttime signals; only about three of those so far. I just did a quick bandscan to show you so some of the identifications may be a bit shaky, but it gives an idea of the performance I’m getting.

WR-22 performance

What about the radio itself?

I have no way of measuring performance with test instruments, but with the external antennas at least sensitivity and selectivity seem to be perfectly good.

The radio comes packed in good quality materials, very well protected. It is heavy and seems very solid. I like that the remote control actually allows tuning the radio from across the room, not just switching from one memory to another. I think this is the first radio with remote I have had which allowed this.

Sound is very good. As another reviewer said of the HDR-18, the WR-22 has a loudness function to boost bass (and probably treble too). It wasn’t hard to find the setting to turn that off, and I prefer sound without it.

I found no electronic birdies anywhere in either band. Bluetooth pairing was easy and quick to my Samsung smartphone, and the sound when streaming Bluetooth is also very good.

The only thing I don’t like about the radio so far is that in switching source you have to go through all of them: from AM, push the button to go to USB to Aux 3.5 mm plug input to Bluetooth to FM and back to AM again. That’s a pretty minor irk.

I’d expected this radio to have an external power supply. The manual, in fact, says to put the power supply away from the radio in order to prevent AM interference. But my WR-22 doesn’t have an external power supply, just a power cord. Mine is the USA version; the manual describes two different versions. Perhaps the other has an external power supply.

I’m not complaining. I prefer a radio without a wall wart.

I’m happy with this set. I have no idea how it would work without external antennas, but it works beautifully with them.

Thanks, Bill, for sharing your antenna experiments and your review of the Sangean WR-22. As you’ve discovered, often finding the performance “sweet spot” of any given radio requires a little experimentation! The AM performance of the WR-22 is very encouraging!

The Sangean WR-22 can be purchased at:

CountyComm: A note of caution about the high-gain ferrite bar antenna

Ferrite-Bar-PL-365After our post this morning regarding the high-gain ferrite bar antenna (available via eBay), I received a message from Nick at CountyComm.

Nick notes:

“[The high-gain antenna is] very cool however we wanted to let you know that we found out it [can] actually destroy the antenna input to the GP5/SSB or GP5/DSP because of its heavy weight. [W]e had at least five radios come back [after] customers had purchased the large ferrite antenna from an eBay seller.”

Many thanks, Nick, for the feedback. It is important to note that the high-gain bar antenna is not an OEM product, so CountyComm isn’t responsible if it harms the radio’s antenna jack.

While still relatively lightweight, the high-gain bar antenna is substantially heavier and longer than the GP5’s supplied MW antenna.

I’ve been concerned about dropping the GP5/SSB with the larger bar antenna inserted–fearing the jack could break off–so I’ve been very careful using it. I’ll probably continue using the larger ferrite bar, understanding that I’ll have to handle it with care.

If you’re concerned about damaging your radio, I would suggest using an inductively coupled AN200 loop antenna instead.

Again, Nick, thanks for the heads-up!

Steven is impressed with the CountyComm GP5/SSB and high-gain bar antenna

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Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steven Crawford, who sent the following message to me (several weeks ago) and has kindly allowed me to share it here. Steven writes:

I hope this finds you and yours well. I just wanted to take a few moments and express my sincere thanks to you for your posts of 12/20/2014 and 1/6/2016, and for sharing Larry Thompson’s post of 2/28/2016, and Ron’s post of 1/16/2016. If you are in regular contact with the other individuals please feel free to pass along my thanks as each of you and the respective post convinced me to purchase a CountyComm GP5/SSB and Ebay seller playloudfm’s high-gain ferrite bar antenna. I am so glad I did, so a hearty Thank You to each of you.

The afternoon of March 19th local was the first chance I had to use my GP-5/SSB. After popping in three fresh AA’s on AM using the internal ferrite bar antenna Beaumont, Texas’ own powerhouse 5,000 watt KLVI 560 was there as was 1,000 watt Orange’s KOGT 1600, 23 miles away and my AM daytime benchmark 50 kW KTRH 740 Houston 70 or so miles away on the back side of their pattern. KTRH surprisingly can be a little difficult during the day due to noise. The surprise was 50 kW WWL New Orleans 240 miles away was intelligible above the background noise. Extending the whip a quickie SW test showed WWV Fort Collins time signal was present at 15 MHz.

On the AM side the real money lay after dark once the sun had set in Beaumont and San Antonio. Using only the internal ferrite bar antenna all of the aforementioned AM stations were present. Continuing the internal antenna’s test 50 kW WBAP 820 Dallas 244 miles away and 50kW WOAI 1200 San Antonio 266 miles away were present. I started grinning when 50 kW WLAC 1510 Nashville 598 miles away and 50kW KMOX 1120 St. Louis 632 miles away were just intelligible above the background noise. Keep in mind these stations were received using only the internal antenna.

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I popped the CountyComm included factory external ferrite bar on and used it 9 -10 PM Saturday local, 0200 – 0300 March 20 UTC. Using the external antenna rotated for best reception WLAC and KMOX improved to the point they were easily listenable. 50 kW WSB 750 Atlanta 625 miles away was listenable above the noise and most surprising 50kW WBBM 780 Chicago 892 miles away(!!!) was just intelligible above the background noise. Another quickie SW test was performed at 10 PM local, 0300 March 20 Sunday UTC by extending the built in whip and the WWV Fort Collins time signals were present at 5 and 10 MHz with 10MHz being particularly well received.

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Photo source: eBay

A real treat lay in store after receiving Ebay seller playloudfm’s aftermarket high-gain ferrite bar antenna, the subject of your 1/6/2016 and Ron’s 1/16/2016 post, yesterday. I am not experienced enough to judge what the space weather or propagation conditions were like from 0300 to 0400 March 27th UTC but I was extremely surprised and pleased with the reception results the new antenna afforded.

As I sat relaxing in my easy chair before bed I decided to try the combo out using the included earphones so as to not wake my wife. With the lights off and my iPad open to www.oldradio.com/archives/stations/ccs.htm to help identify clear channel stations I took the handheld combo for a spin. All of the stations found with the factory supplied external ferrite bar antenna were present. There was just so much more signal present using the aftermarket antenna each became easily listenable. For WOAI, WWL, WLAC and KMOX the effect was as if I was located within their local night coverage area. 50 kW WHAS Louisville Kentucky 740 miles away was newly found present. Chicago’s WBBM was there as before and I was surprised to find 50 kW WGN 720 Chicago as well. The reception quality was such that one could enjoy listening to a Cub’s game or breaking local news story should one be so inclined on WBBM or WGN. The listening experience was similar for newly found 50 kW XEROK 800 Ciudad Juarez 738 miles away.

The most surprising and gratifying, to me anyway, find of the night using playloudfm’s antenna was receiving 5,000 watt (nights!) KCMO 710 Kansas City Missouri 624 miles away. The ability to rotate the antenna to take advantage of it’s directional and nulling ability really aided in this reception. It really is a great benefit to be able to rotate the GP-5/SSB’s external AM antennas for peak signal strength while nulling interfering signals and noise. Indeed KCMO was missing in one antenna orientation but rotating the antenna 90 degrees and the station popped in. I really should have jotted signal strength to noise ratios down but I was just enjoying tuning through the spectrum too much. I have not fully tested SSB Exalted Carrier tuning on the GP5/SSB of difficult stations but have tried it 3 or 4 times and it does appear to work as does tuning 1 kHZ either side of the nominal frequency. The later technique did help clean up some signals by further reducing background noise without greatly affecting listenability.

As best I can tell I ordered and received either the last or next to last of playloudfm’s current batch of high-gain ferrite bar antennas as the Ebay add showed two available when I ordered and the ad was almost immediately replaced with an “accepting pre-orders” ad. Currently there are no ads by seller playloudfm.[Note: it appears more inventory has been added to eBay.] My transaction and shipping was quick and smooth. The bulk of the two week wait occurred after the package was received at the Athens airport where tracking stopped. It should be noted by buyers should more antennas become available the tracking number supplied does not work on the USPS tracking service but it will track the package to Athens through Greece’s Hellenic Post tracking service at http://www.elta.gr/en-us/personal/tracktrace.aspx

Note: all distances listed above are “as the crow flies”, straight line city center to city center and are not necessarily correct for the transmission tower location.

This little radio is fast becoming a hand holdable favorite with easy to learn button placement for use in the dark. I am all ready beginning to prefer it to my Sony SW7600GR / AN200 loop combo for MW broadcast AM reception but I really must do more work with SW before calling the CountyComm my favorite of the two.

Steven followed up a week or so later with this addendum to his review:

I finally got the opportunity to test the FM performance of the radio using only the extended whip on the afternoon of April 1st, April 1st 19:30 – 21:00 UTC. Using www.radio-locator.com and my zip code I found 51 FM stations listed as local, distant and possible fringe reception. I was very surprised and pleased when I was able to log all of the most distant fringe stations, KUHF, KKBQ, KTBZ, KKHH, KHMX, KBXX, KODA, KILT, KLOL, KMJQ, KRBE, KOVE, and KGLK, with ERP’s listed as 90 to 100 kW and distances in the given in the 80 to 90 mile range. In short I was able to log all 51 listed stations. The FM broadcast band is crowded indeed with this little rocket radio. It should be noted my little corner of Southeast Texas is dead flat with nothing between me and these stations broadcast towers but Houston skyscrapers, the typical urban / suburban sprawl, timber and marsh. Ground elevations range from 16 ft to 80 ft above sea level between me and many of the broadcast towers.

[…]My Sony SW7600GR / AN200 loop / Sony AN-LP1 loop combination sits in it’s go bag rapidly falling into disfavor, replaced by the easily used in the dark one handed CountyComm GP-5/SSB. Again thank you for your kind response and thanks again to all who motivated me to purchase this rig.

Steven, thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with the GP5-SSB and the high-gain ferrite bar antenna.

I also have the high-gain ferrite bar antenna and have been meaning to post videos showing how it performs compared with the supplied GP5 antenna. I must say, it does do a pretty amazing job. I’ll get some videos posted in the coming weeks!

Netherlands clears way for licensed low power mediumwave/AM stations

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SWLing Post readers might recall that the Netherlands was considering opening licensed mediumwave broadcasting to low-power stations–it appears the path is now clear. Yesterday, Minister Kamp gave the green light to low-power stations (those with a power output from 1 to 100 watts) who can now apply for a broadcasting license.

Stig Hartvig Nielsen posted the following on the WRTH Facebook page:

Today Dutch minister Kamp has made it public that the Medium Wave band now will be open for low power stations operating with a power of max. 100 Watt. Full story here (in Dutch): http://radio.nl/…/groen-licht-voor-laagvermogen-uitzendinge…

One of the first stations to go on the air under the new legislation may be the long time pirate – Atlantis Radio 1521 – in Friesland. They got a license (?) from Commissariaat voor de Media in March 2016, and they recently purchased a new 75 W AM transmitter (300 W PEP). The format is golden oldies – and the station can be heard online here:http://www.atlantisradio.eu/radio/ – and more details can be found here:https://www.facebook.com/RadioAtlantis1521KHz/

It will be interesting to see how this decision plays out and how many stations will apply for a license. I’ll certainly listen for new stations on the U Twente Web SDR as they pop up.