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!

Recordings of final mediumwave broadcasts from Luxembourg, France and Germany

AM-Dial-Digital-Grundig-Mediumwave-MWMany thanks to several of you who recorded the final sign-ons and sign-offs of several European broadcasters who pulled the plug on mediumwave transmissions this past weekend.

SRAA contributor, Richard Langley, recorded the following broadcasts and posted them to our Shortwave Radio Audio Archive. Click on the following links for recordings and Richard’s excellent notes:

Bernhard Albicker of IntervalSignals.org and AM-Tuners also contacted me with links to recordings he made of the following:

Radio Luxembourg (RTL) special broadcast in honor of the former English service:

Notes:

  • 00:00:00 CRI german, no closing announcement
  • 00:07:49 RTL special broadcast: final 2 hours of RTL “Great 208” from Dec., 1991
  • 02:12:12 National Anthem of LUX

Deutschlandfunk DLF final sign-off:

A special thanks to Bernhard for including the following notes from the final DLF broadcast (in German):

  • 01:03 Announcement of closure. This announcement was broadcast before the full hour since the month of November followed by time signal and news.
  • Within the news at 05:05–item about shutdown of Medium Wave “Era of medium wave ends in Germany” followed by weather report at 05:37
  • 46:35 switch from regular programming to interval signal loop
  • 51:57 sign off transmitter Nordkirchen 549kHz
  • 53:13 sign off transmitter Thurnau 549kHz

Norway DXer tunes into CBC Saskatchewan

SX-99-Dial-Nar

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!

Ayar notes LW and MW transmitters still active in France

AM-Dial-Digital-Grundig-Mediumwave-MWIn response to our previous post about France, Germany and Luxembourg leaving the AM broadcast bands, SWLing Post contributor Ayar (HB9EVW) comments:

It is indeed a sad day for AM broadcasting. Not only Germany, France and Luxembourg, also the Czech Republic will turn off 3 MW transmitters on January 5th 2016. The three transmitters carrying the CRo Plus program are: 639, 954 and 1332 kHz.

[In the Czech Republic, there] are 2 transmitters on 693 kHz, the bigger one in “Liblice” with 750 kW will be switched off, but the smaller one in “Ostrava-Svinov” with 30 kW will remain active for now, or at least until the FM coverage is good enough for this region.

In France (including Monaco), there will still be few active LW and MW stations:

162 KHz. Allouis (France Inter)
216 KHz. Roumoules (RMC)
1467 KHz. Roumoules (TWR)
1467 KHz. Col de la Madone (Radio Maria France)
1593 KHz. St Goueno (Bretagne 5)

I am already recording some of the transmitters from Germany and France. I can receive few of them here in Switzerland even during the day.

Many thanks, Ayar. I would love to share some of your recordings on the SRAA.

Mediumwave: France, Luxembourg and Germany go silent

france-germany

On Facebook, Mike Terry reminded me:

“Tomorrow France, Germany and Luxembourg go very quiet on medium wave.”

He’s right–there will be more empty space on the AM broadcast band for those living in or near France, Germany or Luxembourg.

I hope there are Post readers out there who might be able to make recordings of some of these stations as they go off the air.  I would like to add those recordings to the archive. Please comment or contact me if you can.

Radio France to shut down mediumwave

La Masion de la Radio, Paris, France, (Photo source: Gérard Ducher via Wikimedia Commons).

La Masion de la Radio, Paris, France, (Photo source: Gérard Ducher via Wikimedia Commons).

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Marc, who shares this news from Radio France.

The article (in French) notes that as of midnight on December 31, 2015, Radio France will cease all mediumwave broadcasts permanently. Up to this point, Radio France’s mediumwave transmitters have broadcast France InfoFrance bleu RCFM and France Bleu Elsass.

The article notes that regions previously within the broadcast footprint of their mediumwave transmissions are now serviced via FM and/or online streaming.

Click here to read the article on Radio France’s website.