Norway DXer tunes into CBC Saskatchewan

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Many thanks to my pal, Sheldon Harvey (of the International Radio Report and CIDX), for sharing this news item from the CBC News in Saskatchewan:

Ole Forr is a 58-year-old radio lover who tunes into radio stations across the world for fun

A dairy farmer in Norway went to great lengths to tune into CBC Saskatchewan.

Sure, The Morning Edition with Sheila Coles is the No. 1 morning radio show in Saskatchewan. But few people could have expected it to reach a group of listeners more than 5,800 kilometres away— and not through the internet.

Ole Forr doesn’t let thousands of kilometres and the Atlantic Ocean get in the way of his hobby.

[…]Every late October, Forr and three friends visit a remote location in northern Norway, where he said they spend up to two weeks listening to radio broadcasts using some very long-range receiving antennas.

On Oct. 27, 2015, Forr tuned into CBK 540 AM from Andøya, Norway.

“It’s very remote, so there is no man-made noise,” Forr said. “From October to March, it’s very dark up there so to have dark between the transmitter and the receiver.”

Forr contacted CBC Saskatchewan to verify his recording, providing MP3 evidence of the broadcast.[…]

Read the full article, along with audio, on the CBC News Saskatchewan website.

Thanks again, Sheldon! I love stories like this that give our radio hobby a little time in the limelight!

Guest Post: Wellbrook 1530LNPro vs ALA1530S+ Imperium Loop Antennas

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and noted DXer, Guy Atkins, for the following guest post:


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Wellbrook 1530LNPro vs ALA1530S+ Imperium Loop Antennas

-Guy Atkins

This past weekend I found some interesting results from medium wave DXing with both models of Wellbrook Imperium loop antennas at the “fabled” Rockworks cliffs near Manzanita, Oregon USA. This location has become popular the last few years with Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia DXers due to the signal enhancement at this narrow strip of land approx. 450 feet above the Pacific ocean. The main benefit seems to be splatter reduction of “pest” stations due to the signal blockage of the rock walls blasted into the cliffs for the coastal highway 101. However, a boost of signals around local sunrise is also beneficial, and is a common occurrence near salt water beaches.

Here is a Google Maps Street View of this beautiful “wide spot in the road” along the cliffs.

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Because of the limited space along this scenic coastal highway, all antennas used for DXing need to be both compact and temporary. Wellbrook loops supported on pro-audio speaker stands are a great way to go, and can easily be set up in the pre-dawn darkness.

Comparison

Both Wellbrook loop antennas mounted on "pro-audio" tripod stands right at the cliff edge at Rockworks Cliffs. (Photo: Guy Atkins)

Both Wellbrook loop antennas mounted on “pro-audio” tripod stands right at the cliff edge at Rockworks Cliffs. (Photo: Guy Atkins)

This is a comparison file of weak signal reception with the two models of Wellbrook Communications “Imperium” series loop antennas: the ALA1530LN “Pro” Imperium and the ALA1530S+ Imperium.

Both models of compact, 1-meter dia. active loops are excellent for reception from longwave & medium wave upwards. However, the ALA1530LN “Pro” excels at LW & MW with its low overall noise level and 9dB higher gain, engineered by Wellbrook for improved signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) of up to 10 dB. S/N on the HF bands is reportedly better also.

My laptop running HDSDR software in my SUV; the receiver is an Elad FDM-S2. (Photo: Guy Atkins)

My laptop running HDSDR software in my SUV; the receiver is an Elad FDM-S2. (Photo: Guy Atkins)

On the weekend of October 24th, 2015 I was DXing at the “Rockworks” cliffs on the Oregon coast near Manzanita, OR. Both of these Imperium series antennas were in use and I was recording the medium wave band with an Elad FDM-S2 SDR receiver. Both antennas were fed with identical 25 ft. lengths of RG-58 coaxial cable.

The demonstration in this video begins with 10 seconds using the ALA1530LN Pro Imperium loop, alternating with 10 seconds with the ALA1530S+ Imperium loop.

The first signal tuned is aviation voice beacon “SQM” from Level Island, Alaska on 529 kHz (400 watts). The signal is weak, but audible as it rises above the noise floor. The reception improvement with the ALA1530LN Pro is evident.

Half way through the recording the frequency is switched to 1710 kHz, where an unidentified station (possibly a MW pirate) is audible playing the 1967 Zombies tune “Time of the Season”. Again, the clip starts with 10 seconds with the ALA1530LN Pro alternating with 10 seconds of the ALA1530S+ Imperium.

Each antenna is a worthy, compact loop for DXing, but for chasing the weakest signals with the best readability I think the ALA1530LN Pro shows its advantages.


Many thanks, Guy, for sharing your loop research! 

What I love about your portable SDR set-up, is that you can go to the cliff side, set up your antennas and equipment, record the spectrum on your SDR, then go back home to analyze and listen to what you captured.  It takes some of the pressure off while you’re on-site. 

This year at the Dayton Hamvention, I purchased the Pixel Technologies RF PRO-1B mag loop antenna. I used it (for the first time) at the PARI DXpedition. We were all impressed with its performance. I would love to compare it with the ALA1530LN Pro at some point in the future.

SWLing Post DXpedition at PARI…this weekend!

If you’ve registered for, and plan to attend, the PARI DXPedition, please make sure you’ve joined our Yahoo Group.  This is where we’re finalizing details and communicating about the DXpedition, noting any changes, updates, etc.  

PARIdish

If you’ve tried to contact me recently and haven’t gotten a response yet (sorry about that!) it’s because I’ve been unusually busy: writing a shortwave radio buyer’s guide for The Spectrum Monitor, several reviews for WRTH 2016, plotting another reader challenge, and last but not least, putting together the final details of the SWLing Post DXpedition at PARI this weekend.

Soon I’ll be another kind of busy, at the DXpedition:  exploring the bands, gazing at the stars, and hanging out with some of the SWLing Post community. Needless to say, it’s going to be fun, and I’m looking forward to it.

If we have Internet access at PARI, we hope to post a few loggings and photos from our Twitter account.

We have about a dozen registrants this year, a good start.  If you can’t make it there, no worries; if all goes well, we may have another next year.

Dr. Phil’s radio articles: portable SDR and pocket DX

RTL-SDR-001SWLing Post reader, Dr. Phil, recently contacted me regarding a collection of articles he’s written about DXing and radio modifications.

His site actually has a number of useful articles that I’ll plan to convert to future posts, with his permission.

Sony ICF-S10MKIII asked Dr. Phil for links to two of his most popular publications. He replied:

My two big recent articles are shown below. One is about “Pocket Radio DX”: using under-$20 radios to DX (started in 2003). Click here to download as a PDF.

The other is about using an $18 NooElec TV-tuner as a MW and shortwave receiver. Click here to download as a PDF.

Brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing these, Dr. Phil!

I actually have a  Sony ICF-S10MK2, which I consider to be a capable and useful little AM/FM receiver for the sub $20 price. I’ve also been very tempted to purchase an RTL-SDR dongle, so I may go ahead and bite the bullet on one of the NooElec SDR dongles.

SWLing Post DXpedition at PARI is all systems go!

DSC_0884Some of you may recall a post I published last year regarding a shortwave and medium wave DXpedition at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), a 200-acre radio astronomy observatory and former NASA tracking station located deep in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Since this is the first event of its kind, we’ve been working closely with PARI staff to put the DXpedition together.  And come together, it has.

I’m pleased to announce that we’ve now received the official go-ahead: we’re clear to launch the (first-ever!) 2015 SWLing Post DXpedition, which will take place Friday, October 9, through Sunday, October 11.  Come join us!

PARI will soon post the official registration form on their website; of course, I’ll post an update when this form is ready.

Meanwhile, those of you who may be interested in attending, keep reading…and do join our dedicated email discussion group (more info below).

A few DXpedition details…

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As I mentioned last year, PARI has agreed to handle all of the event’s arrangements, and will even provide a limited number of basic shared dormitory rooms to the first registrants who request them. An event fee will pay for facilities and PARI staff (see below); modest profits, should there be any, will benefit PARI’s worthy science education mission.

We are fortunate to be sharing the beautiful PARI campus with with a larger party of amateur astronomers, aka, a “star party,” taking place the same weekend; the DXpedition will benefit from this in terms of expanded facilities access. An additional benefit is that we can share our passion for radio with members of the star party, while learning a little about astronomy from their members.  And for those of us who enjoy both, all the better.

Costs

The costs associated with the event are as follows:

Registration fee: $100

Lodging: On campus, the fee is $50 per night, per person, in a shared dormitory room; or $20 per night, per tent or travel trailer (no hook ups, though electricity is available). Want to come along, but not interested in roughing it? You’ll find numerous comfortable hotels and inns within a 30-40 minute drive of PARI’s mountain campus.

Meals: Catered meals will be provided for a modest charge to be determined (PARI is working with local food services to arrange our meals currently). Of course, you can always bring your own food and prepare it on-site, as well.  The campus has a lunchroom with a microwave.

The PARI campus and accommodation

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PARI was formerly a NASA tracking station, and following that, a Department of Defense monitoring facility.  Because of the remote nature of the campus, basic on-site dormitories were built; scientists use these throughout the year as they conduct their research, and the shared rooms are available upon request.

Typical PARI dorm room (click to enlarge)

Typical PARI dorm room (click to enlarge)

The dormitories are conveniently located in the heart of the 200-acre campus, and sleep about four to each room.  These are simple facilities, and no private rooms are offered. Bathrooms (with showers) are shared, and separate buildings house men and women; thus the dormitories may not be the best option if you plan to bring a spouse, a large family, or young children.

Of course, if you enjoy camping and/or star-gazing, you can pitch a tent (just $20/night), or park your travel trailer on campus (also just $20/night). Note that this is not a travel park, thus hook-ups for travel trailers are not supplied, although power is available.

For those who prefer not to camp or stay in a shared room, the nearby mountain town of Brevard, NC (approximately 35 minutes from PARI by car) is a charming small town offering numerous hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and other comfortable private accommodations. PARI often recommends the Hampton Inn in Brevard, NC. Hotels.com and AirBnB offer alternatives.

Receivers, antennas, and other radio equipment

DSC_0904DXpedition participants should bring their own receivers, antennas, and accessories. If you wish to bring an SDR or tabletop receiver, there are quite a few places on campus where you’ll have access to power. At least one main listening post will be set up under cover, as well, for our participants.

Feel free to bring any type of receiver you like. A few potential participants have noted that they plan to bring a portable receiver only, and that’s absolutely fine–this is your DXpedition, your chance to sit back and listen to your radio without distraction, so any radio you choose to bring is the right one.

Of course, a few SDRs, tabletops, and portable receivers will be available for participants to try out, so if you can’t bring your own receiver, please let me know in advance; I’ll try to reserve a time slot for you to use one of the available rigs.

SWLing Post DXpedition email group

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We have created an email discussion group for the DXpedition. If you are seriously considering joining the DXpedition, click here to become a member of the group as this is the place where we’ll organize and make further plans.

Since this is the first time the SWLing Post and PARI have sponsored a DXpedition, we’re certainly trail-blazing here. My sincere hope is that this event will lead to future DXpeditions…not to mention, real friendships among our readers and fellow SWLers.

Looking forward to the DXpedition–we’ll see you at PARI in October!

Anthony rediscovers radio

Analog Radio DialCheck out this charming article about rediscovering radio by Anthony M. Castelletti in The Buffalo News:

“As a child in the 1960s, I enjoyed listening to distant radio stations, I suppose initially for no reason other than because they came from far away. It was a young boy’s hobby based on the accidental discovery of 1050 CHUM in Toronto. Remember, this was quite a feat for a one-transistor, pocket AM radio without an antenna that was the product of 1950s technology. I soon discovered that if I took that little radio outside, even more distant stations were right there on that dial.

Along with my beloved hometown Buffalo Bisons, I also became a fan of the Fort Wayne Komets hockey team, not due to any connection to Indiana, but rather due to my ability to listen to their games on WOWO-AM. This was soon followed by CKLW from Windsor, Ont., a rock ’n’ roll station as powerful as my hometown favorite KB 1520.

It took a couple of years of playing with that little radio for me to figure out that if I snuck outside and listened to the in-dash radio in my father’s Chevy, without starting the car and giving myself away of course, broadcasts from faraway places like New York City, Chicago and on rare occasions Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and other places I had never visited, were right there at my finger tips.

It also didn’t take long for my father to find out why the battery in his car had suddenly died. This was followed by a calmly delivered, yet lengthy and technically detailed lecture from my father, an electrician, on the effects of using a car battery without doing anything to charge said battery.”

Continue reading the full article at The Buffalo News…

Bill solves the CRI echo mystery

Earth

A few days ago, I posted an article about Bill Meara (producer of the SolderSmoke Podcast) who was hearing audio echoes on his home brew regenerative receiver.

Bill has now solved this mystery (hint: it’s all about the receiver):
http://soldersmoke.blogspot.com/2014/09/radio-china-international-echo-mystery.html