Tag Archives: Grundig AN200

Guest Post: My Evolving, Morphing, SW Listening Station

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, for the following guest post:


Sony-2010

My Evolving, Morphing, SW Listening Station

by TomL, May 26, 2016

My interest in radio listening has been rekindled after a long hiatus in parallel to my dwindling interest in Mainstream Media.  It is now about 8 years without cable TV and I seriously do not miss it, especially with the evolving nature of discovery with respect to other forms of media.  SWL radio was important to me in my formative years during the Cold War; fascinating were the many ways governments used shortwave radio to influence populations, each with their own brand of propaganda!  Young people today know nothing about the endless (and entertaining) tirades of East German editorial commentaries denouncing the evil, decadent West.  Or, of the free, large-sized envelopes full of travel and promotional brochures, pennants, bumper stickers, and booklets sent from the government broadcasters such as Poland, Hungary (yes, communist countries!), Australia, Netherlands, etc. just for sending in one simple QSL report!!!

I quickly realized that those days are gone forever, consigned to a period of history where radio was THE main method of disseminating copious amounts of government propaganda to very large swaths of humanity.  Now, the internet and cable TV fulfill that function in a much more CONTROLLED manner, both technically and socially (Big Brother like).  So, I have diversified my interests and have an unusual listening station.  It is multiple things in one small space.  You see, I live in a very small condo in a noise-plagued environment with only a 2nd floor wooden deck (owned by the Condo Association!) in which to put up any outside antennas.  Only a single “Dish” type antenna is allowed.  So my shortwave antenna needs to be well hidden.  Same for the TV antenna, since I also have a north-facing deck, I cannot have any line-of-sight to the Southern sky for a Dish.

The first wire antenna strung from the top and brought inside was a dismal failure receiving nothing but noise.  I gave up for a couple of years.  I built a loop TV antenna and mounted an FM antenna instead since those were less susceptible to noise issues.  Also recently added to this station are two cheap 4G antennas with wires into a single Verizon USB aircard plugged into my computer and getting up to 14 mbps performance.

But, I still wanted to try shortwave radio again (and medium wave too) but the noise issues were very, very discouraging.  S9 noise on some bands.  Tried preselector, a noise “phaser”, different lengths.  Nothing worked.  However, I read something from an amateur radio operator in Northern California who had a space problem.  He put up a helically-wound-vertical (HWV) antenna with radials for 160 meters (John Miller HWV antenna).  I also read about various “broomstick” antennas.  So, I tried my own version with an old RF Systems Magnetic Longwire Balun I still owned and NO radials.  Put it together with a 2 foot long, 4 inch schedule 40 PVC pipe wrapped in 200 feet of 18 awg magnet wire.  Well, still noisy but, at least now I had a portable antenna!

So, I went camping in March of this year!  Holy Cow, was it cold out but the helical antenna performed well enough to hear All India Radio for my very first time, a small 1kw Mexican station in the 49 meter band, and various others from Asia that were elusive for me in the distant past.  I was finally encouraged again to continue my research.  I did this a few more times and finally got tired of going camping just to listen to a radio!  NOISE at home was still the big bugaboo to kill (and it still is).

I read up on Common-mode noise travelling on ground and shield components of antenna systems.  So I bought a bunch of toroid ferrites of different types to cover different frequencies (something about initial permeability….) to make my own homemade “Super RF Choke” to cover all frequencies made on a Home Depot Homer bucket lid, winding the coax 5 or 6 times through all the toroids, the full diameter of the lid.

Measurements by Jim Brown published on the web (RFI-Ham.pdf), pages 32-33) indicate good choke performance using coax with these larger-sized coils.  I still hoped to salvage the use of the HWV antenna.  So, added the choke and noticed some improvement across most bands (less noise).  Medium wave broadcast was not effective and decided that I did not want to keep tuning an antenna that HAD to sit outside to get away from the noise inside my listening station.

I also shut off the power to my condo and found out which noise sources were mine vs. other noise that came from all the neighbors (very important step to do!!!).  For instance, I did not know before that USB charging adapters are PURE RF-NOISE EVIL in an innocently small package?!?!?!  I rearranged wiring to shut off certain devices and power strips when I want to listen to the radio!

So, I kept reading.  Found out about another magnetic balun from Palomar.  Tried it but not impressed –  performance was too lossy compared to the good old RF Systems MLB (what a great product that was back then!).  Kept reading and found out good things about the EF-SWL from PAR electronics (product is now made and sold by LNR).  The ground connections on it (and the Palomar) intrigued me.  So, I decided to go to Hamvention for the first time, even though I was skeptical of finding anything useful, I told myself, I could at least buy the EF-SWL on sale (which I did).

Installed EF-SWL to the HWV but no difference compared to the RF MLB. The antenna did perform better outside on the deck in the far corner, so there it still sits.  Then, I hooked up the wire they gave me with the EF-SWL to the ground and it resulted in MORE noise.  Then, took off the jumper (which connects the coax shield to the ground side of the balun) and connected only the middle post (balun ground) to the ground wire and a lot LESS noise resulted along with a small reduction in radio signal level!!!  Finally some progress – the wire seems to be acting like an old-fashioned “counterpoise”, which is misunderstood these days.  Apparently, back in the 1930’s-1950’s, people involved in radio knew the differences between an “earth ground”, a “radial system”, and a “counterpoise”.  Technically, they are all different and their use is different as a result.  Now, people moosh all these concepts together interchangeably which risks creating very ineffective antennas.

Photo of installed EF-SWL at the bottom of the HWV with coax at the output, the red magnet wire input on top, the middle post for the counterpoise wire, and the coax shield post is unused. 

Photo of installed EF-SWL at the bottom of the HWV with coax at the output, the red magnet wire input on top, the middle post for the counterpoise wire, and the coax shield post is unused.

The HWV antenna now has 600 feet of 26 awg teflon wire on the outside PVC, an inside 3 inch PVC “sleeve” with 102 Russian ferrite rods, a 56 inch stainless steel whip at the top, and one inch hole through the center to accommodate the 7 foot PVC mount to my carbon fiber photo tripod when I take it camping again.

So, I am on a new quest to understand counterpoises, how to actually TUNE them and, hopefully, how to use them to increase the performance of shortened antennas like my HWV (something about reducing the dB loss incurred by shortening….).  A second result I hope will be how to use the counterpoise to keep signal-to-noise ratio high at the same time (maybe with this used $100 Dentron Super Tuner bought at Hamvention?).

Transmatch

Also bought at Hamvention (thanks Thomas W. for the tip!!) and installed Bonito’s Galvanic Antenna Isolator GI300.

If input directly to the input of the radio, led to more reduction in noise and signal!!  Too much actually, so I took off my Super RF Choke and now I had a better result compared to the EF-SWL with the RF Choke (slightly cleaner sound with less hissy noise).  Apparently, the GI300 completely isolates the coax shield, better than my homemade choke!  The requirement is to use coax from the feedpoint and not bare wire.  I then placed a few clamp-on ferrites I bought from eBay to help with slightly higher frequency choking of the shield at various places on the feedline.

Bonito-Galvanic-Isolator

Photo of GI300 on radio with NO extra coax lead into the radio at right (Thanks to Dennis Walter of Bonito for that tip)

Before Hamvention, I wanted to try out AM broadcast.  I wanted to know more about this “FSL” antenna a well-known eccentric from Ireland (Graham Maynard FSL) developed before he passed away a few years later.  So read up and bought a whole bunch of ferrite rods and tried different configurations.  Well, my particular design did not work all that well because I did not follow directions for winding wire into a balanced design.  So, I added all those ferrite rods to the 2 foot HWV (inside a 3 inch thin-walled sewer PVC pipe).  The antenna is louder down to about 3 MHz with a stronger signal (including noise) than without.  I do not have measurements, and find it too time consuming to document.  Maybe one day, I will compare and document by sliding the ferrites out on the 3 inch PVC and measure actual signal levels.  The ferrite sleeve seemed to pick up MORE noise and radio signal than without it.  So, if you need more signal strength in a small package below 7 MHz, then the idea seems to have merit.  But since it increased noise as much as radio signals, it has limited usefulness to me.  I do have another project where I will put ferrite bars onto a tuned medium wave loop antenna (Tecsun AN100) that is much more portable and directional.  The bars and loop were both relatively inexpensive from eBay.  The ferrites change the tuning lower, so I have to figure out how to make it tune higher again…….

Photo of unfinished MW loop project.

Photo of unfinished MW loop project.

Summary

Evolving understanding of dealing with major problems like overwhelming noise and limited space have led to unexpected additions to my SW Listening Station:

  • A 2 foot long, 4 inch diameter helically-wound-vertical antenna (HWV) with way too much wire on it (and now inserted with 102 160mm Russian ferrite rods on a 3 inch diameter “sleeve”). Originally built because of its portability.  Can now be mounted on a carbon fiber photo tripod with a 7 foot 3/4” PVC pipe through the center length
  • A magnetic balun from LNR (designed by Parfitt) attached at the feedpoint of the antenna
  • A proprietary galvanic isolator from Bonito attached right at the radio’s antenna terminal
  • A “boat anchor” Dentron Super Tuner attached to the HWV feedline to help tune it
  • An unfinished MW loop antenna with more ferrite bars
  • An unused, homemade toroidal Super RF Choke
  • Clamp-on ferrites everywhere in proximity on wires and power leads
  • Re-arranged power strips and wires as needed for easier shutoff in functional groups

For shortwave, I still pick up mostly noise on many bands.  With the uncalibrated S-meter on the ICF-2010 – 49 meters is around S1 (before about S3).  31 meters is MUCH improved and is now listenable to stronger stations (S2 instead of S7 noise!).  Even 19 and 16 meters is improved from S6 to S7 down to about S3 now – noise still too annoyingly loud to understand any language being spoken however.  And forget about DXing from this location!  Will have to go camping again soon.

BUT, listening now to Voice of Greece, Radio Nacional Brasilia, or Radio Romania International is a much cleaner sounding experience than just a couple of months ago.  They are there to re-discover and appreciate, even though many speak a foreign language and I do not understand a word they are saying!  Also, there is the odd observation (like just this morning), that I can actually learn to enjoy listening to Country Music if it is the unique sounding Australian flavor!!

Do I miss cable TV??  Not a bit!!

Future investigations

  • Employ the Dentron Super Tuner in various configurations to find any improvements (currently attached to the coax of main feedline from the EF-SWL, it is helping tune different SW bands (not sure why it helps, does not make sense, must be a mismatch between coax and balun)
  • Obtain old book(s) on counterpoises
  • Get a Linear DC power supply for use with all the EVIL RF-spewing devices that use 5 volts. Maybe this one:  (Tekpower 3Amp Linear)
  • Replace any cheap/old RG58 cables with LMR-240 or similar
  • Finish the AM loop w/ferrites so I can take it places
  • Perhaps an ultra low-noise outdoor amplifier for the HWV, depends on counterpoise experiments: (Wellbrook ALA100M-2)  (I don’t want to spend that much money now)
  • Somehow use a noise antenna with a better phaser: (DX Engineering NCC-1) (gulp, don’t want to spend THAT much money now also!!!)
  • Get some relief from background noise using a really robust noise blanker. I don’t want to spend on the portable radio, would rather get something like the Bonito 1102S or an ELAD model both supposed to have excellent audio quality and excellent DSP noise blankers.  But that means getting a cheap laptop to run it and replacing the Sony.  MOAR big bucks…. but not right now
  • Maybe a real loop antenna, BUT it has to be remotely tunable and remotely turnable and small enough to HIDE. MOAR big bucks, sigh….

TomL from noisy Illinois, USA



Many thanks for sharing your experiences, Tom! Also, it was great meeting you at the Hamvention this year.

I must say that there is something to be said for brute-force experimentation when it comes to mitigating radio interference. I hope you keep us posted as you continue to experiment and improve upon your unique listening system.

Aluminum foil: Larry’s simple AN200 antenna modification

TecsunAN200

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Larry Caracciolo, who comments:

I bought the AN-200 in the spring of 2015 off of eBay. I was favorably impressed with the product. Comparing it to my old 9′ diameter tuned/shielded loop from 1992, there are some similarities and differences.

The Hallicrafters SX-96 (Image: Universal Radio)

The Hallicrafters SX-96 (Image: Universal Radio)

I live in an apartment complex so plenty of radiated electromagnetic noise is present. I use a modified [Hallicrafters] SX-96 (AVC ckt was modified for improved modulation acceptance). The AN-200 does null out local static sources, somewhat, but not well enough to dig out weak stations. The tuning range for the loop is just at the bottom of the AM band (about 535 khz) to just over 1700 kcs.

On a whim, I wrapped aluminum foil around the loop and grounded it to the SX-96 chassis – in wistful hope of achieving some shielding from the RF has. As soon as I connected the aluminum foil ground clip to the rx chassis, all RF noise ceased and signals appeared from the mud. However, the tuning range is attenuated above 1200 kcs.

My favorite frequency on the AM band is 590 kcs. During the night, as many as seven different stations rose from the noise and provided station IDs at just the right moment. My best catch here in Everett, WA is KCSJ, a 1KW station in Colorado Springs.

From time to time, stations on the low portion of the AM band are accompanied with echoes – what I took for two stations and a small time delay between the same broadcast was actually multi-path to the degree that nearly 1/2 second separated the arriving signals. Short-delayed echoes, anyone? I’ve not observed this on frequencies above 1000 kcs.

Other sources of RF noise can come from the laptop, the cable modem, and even CFBs in other rooms. For truly noise-free listening environment, I place the laptop in sleep mode and unplug the cable modem. I’m quite happy with the AN-200 loop. Affordable, easy to use, easy to tune.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience with the AN200 loop antenna, Larry!

As anyone who grew up in the era of TV rabbit ears knows, aluminum foil can simply work magic in a pinch! There is no easier material to work with either!

As I pointed out in previous posts, the AN200 loop antenna is quite affordable.  I just did a quick price search:

Jay Allen reviews the AN200 loop antenna

TecsunAN200Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ron, who shares a link to this review of the AN-200 mediumwave loop antenna by Jay Allen:

Tecsun/Grundig/Kaito AN-100/AN-200 Loop Antenna

I’ve had the Grundig (version) AN-200 for many years and can certainly endorse it as a cost-effective antenna for the casual mediumwave DXer.

Thanks for the tip, Ron!

Eton Traveler III/AN200 bundle at Universal Radio

The Eton Traveler III

The Eton Traveler III

This morning, I noticed that Universal Radio is now bundling that AN200 medium wave loop with the purchase of a Eton Traveler III.

TecsunAN200I’ve had an AN200 for years and it does make quite a different when inductively coupled with portable radios. You simply set the AN200 next to your portable radio, tune your radio to a station, then adjust the AN200 tuning knob for maximum gain. It’s pretty impressive, especially when used with radios hat lack a good ferrite bar antenna.

Gary DeBock gave the Eton Traveler III high marks for medium wave reception (less for shortwave, though) in his recent Ultralight Shootout.

Click here to view this deal on Universal Radio’s website.

SWLing.com’s 2010 Radio Gift Buying Guide

(Update: Check out our new 2011 Radio Gift Buying Guide)

Would you like to buy a shortwave radio as a gift for someone, but you don’t know a thing about radios? gift_box_iconOr, are you thinking about buying a radio for yourself (cashing in a gift card, for example) but aren’t sure how much you need to spend to be satisfied with function and performance? Want a little help leaving a hint for Santa or Ms. Santa?  If so, no worries:  you’ve found the right place in this vast world wide web to answer your questions, or help you with that hint–just leave a link to this article somewhere that Santa can find it!

Following you’ll find a few select radios I recommend based on best performance, lowest price, and ease of use. I’ve also included current pricing and made suggestions where these radios may best be purchased. Of course, radios are available at large internet retailers–occasionally for better prices–but I highly recommend you purchase from the manufacturer and/or authorized retailer. Most radio retailers offer much better customer support in case you have a problem or question, or just need a little help getting started.

This quick guide is basic, non-technical, and to the point. For more comprehensive reviews, please consult SWLing.com’s Radio Reviews page. Also, take a look at our new Radio Marketplace page where we have pre-filtered shortwave radio eBay search results.

How current is this information? This guide was last updated on: 6 December 2010

 

Best performance for price

I start with this category because I believe that if you’re going to the trouble of finding the right radio as a gift, you at least want one that will perform and give years of listening pleasure.  All of the following radios are sure to please those who are new to shortwave radio, and seasoned radio listeners as well. Most of these radios fall between the $100-150 price range.

g4000a1The Grundig G4000A ($99.95 US)

The G4000A is a great portable radio and I include it here first because it is a part of a special promotion continuing through the end of March 2010. The receiver performance is very good, and it has all of the major features one might expect in a radio in its price class. I owned a version of this portable for over ten years and traveled with it extensively–it’s the perfect little travel companion, and it even has an alarm clock. But what’s really amazing about the G4000A is that it’s currently part of an exceptional package promotion by Universal Radio. If you buy the G4000A for $99.99, you also receive a free Grundig FR350 self-powered (emergency) shortwave radio, and a Grundig AN200 indoor antenna. I wrote about this special in a previous post if you want more info. Suffice to say, this is the best advertised deal for a portable shortwave radio I’ve ever encountered. You could, of course, buy the G4000A for someone and give the two extras as gifts to others on your holiday shopping list–or, better yet, keep one for yourself!

The Sony ICF-SW7600GR ($150)

This Sony shortwave radio is a classic, with solid, time-tested performance, and features to please both the beginner and the seasoned radio enthusiast. The instruction manual is comprehensive and easy to read. Read the full review here.

g3_selectorThe Grundig G3 ($150 US)

The Grundig G3 was introduced in August 2009. It’s the latest portable receiver from Grundig and is an upgrade of the popular Grundig G5. I reviewed this radio right after it hit the market and found it to be excellent, save that its sync detection (a new feature for this model) did not perform up to spec, so I simply never use it–but this is no problem, as the receiver has many other outstanding features. The latest models of the Grundig G3 all have good sync detection.  Overall, the G3’s performance is on par with–or in some respects, better than–the Sony (above). Read full review here.

The C. Crane CCRadio-SW ($150 US)

This large portable would be my first pick for someone who wants excellent radio performance, but also wants a radio that is very simple to use (i.e., grandparents, children, your uncle who gets muddled by the TV’s remote control).  It comes with an owner’s manual, but you most likely will not need it.  The CCRadio-SW has robust, room-filling sound, and is a joy to operate. Ergonomics are excellent, and it sports a large tuning knob. Performance is top-notch on all shortwave bands and it’s top of it’s class on Medium Wave (or the AM broadcast band). It’s a little bigger than the previous radios (not really for flight bags), but still fine for car, camper, and fishing trips.  The CCRadio-SW will please both the beginner and seasoned radio listener; speaking for myself, I find I use mine all the time. Read the review here.

rx320controllerThe Ten-Tec RX-320D ($369 US)

This radio is more expensive than the others listed here, and is not a portable, however, I couldn’t help but include it because I recently reviewed this radio and found that it offers high-end performance for a fraction of the cost of a tabletop receiver. The little RX-320 is PC-controlled, meaning, you need to hook it up to a computer to bring it to life. It’s the perfect gift for your favorite ham radio operator or a computer enthusiast who also likes radio. Read the full review here —or, if you prefer, a short review here.

Budget Portables

Let’s face it, these are tough economic times, and it may very well affect your gift budget this year. Below, I’ve put together a small list of radios for $100 or less that would make excellent gifts for a radio enthusiast or for someone who has never used a shortwave radio. Keep in mind, of course, that you pay for what you get; thus these radios do not perform quite as well as the portables above.

Grundig G6 ($100 US)

The G6 has many of the features of the portables above and comes at a much better price and in a smaller package. This radio could easily fit in a glove compartment or coat pocket. Its shortwave radio reception is very respectable for such a small radio. Read the full review here.

ka1103newKaito KA1103/Degen 1003 ($80 US)

The Kaito KA1103 (a.k.a. Degen DE1003) offers the best performance I’ve tested under $100. But keep in mind, the ergonomics of this radio (pretty much any Kaito/Degen radio) leave something to be desired:  for example, to turn up the volume, you have to press the volume button and use the tuning knob to adjust. Still, it’s fairly easy to operate, and comes with a one-of-a-kind digital display that imitates an older analog style dial. Another Kaito/Degen Product to consider is the KA1102/DE1102–read a review of this $60 portable here. In general, I’ve found that Kaito offers great performance for price, but their quality control is sometimes sub-par. I have had to return two of their products in the past, and each time was relieved I had purchased from an authorized dealer (see below). Read the KA1103 full review here.

ccradio-swpC. Crane CCRadio-SWP ($50 US)

 

The CCRadio-SWP has a great receiver, especially in such a tiny package. C.Crane ergonomics are always very good, and you’ll probably never read the manual, it’s so simple to operate. I keep one of these in my car to listen to shortwave radio when I have  few minutes to spare. A few “AA” batteries will run this little radio for 70 hours! Now, the CCRadio-SWP has some limitations, as does any little radio in this price bracket, so read the full review here before purchasing. But this cute radio can make a great stocking stuffer–and will fit in that stocking’s toe just fine!

Grundig G8 Traveller II ($25-50)

The Grundig G8 is a nice pocket radio and the perfect traveling companion. I’m quite impressed with this radio. Shortwave reception is good and FM reception exceptional. The AM broadcast band does suffer from some images, though still quite respectable. The G8’s audio is a little tinny, though quite good for a radio this compact. The customary price for the G8 is $49.95, but occasionally retailers place them on sale for nearly half this price. It’s a grab at $50, it’s a steal at $25!

Grundig M400 ($30)

The M400 is a fun, ultra-portable, ultra-thin shortwave radio. Though its performance isn’t as good as other portables on this page, it is a super simple radio and is quite capable of picking up strong SW broadcasters–at $30, it’s also super affordable. I wouldn’t purchase this radio for someone who is just discovering shortwave radio since they will want a better performer with more features (like the portables at the top of this page). I do think the M400 makes for a nice stocking-stuffer or small gift for the radio enthusiast in your life. I take mine with me on morning walks and overnight travels.