Tag Archives: Ultralight DX

Travelling and DXing with the Bonito MegActive MA305 antenna

 

Ok, so officially it wasn’t a DXpedition; it was a well needed vacation in the sun after several hectic months of work, some of which involved travel to slightly more exotic locations. However, these days, I view any travel, whether it be for business or pleasure as a ‘DXpedition’ opportunity! Some of you might remember that I purchased a Bonito Boni Whip at the beginning of 2017 because (a) I needed another antenna and (b) a second Wellbrook loop felt like too much of an extravagance. They’re excellent antennas for sure, but at around £300, I couldn’t justify buying another. Thus, for about a third of the price I bought the Boni Whip. It proved to be an excellent choice – very compact and so perfect for my regular DXpeditions, quick to set up and capable of really excellent DX. There are many videos on the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel that are testament to this. I wrote a couple of articles, published here on the SWLing Post which were seen by Dennis Walter of Bonito, who subsequently contacted me and offered to send over their MegActive MA305 E-field antenna for testing. Dennis made it crystal-clear that I was to ‘do my own thing’…test the antenna in any way I saw fit and publish my findings so DXers/radio enthusiasts could learn more about the capabilities of the antenna – from another DXer. I was happy to agree to this arrangement and the MegActive MA305 duly arrived, complete with two lengths of (bayonet BNC terminated) high quality H-155 coaxial cable.

 My portable Dxing kit with MA305 antenna                 The MA305 power inserter and USB power ‘brick’

The specifications of the MegActive MA305 are very similar to the Boni Whip; they both offer a Gain of +3 dBs, second and third order intercept points of greater than +30 and +50 dB respectively and both tune to 300 MHz. The MA305 is supplied with a longer radiating element and tunes down to 9 KHz (versus the 20 kHz lower limit for the Boni Whip). Obviously this isn’t a specification that is going to concern most radio enthusiasts; both offer fantastically wide operating bandwidths. The way in which these antennas do differ quite significantly however, is in how they are powered. The Boni Whip operates from 12 to 15 V, whilst the MA305 operates from 5 to 15 V. Bonito’s design philosophy regarding this feature is based on the increasing difficulty in procuring reasonably priced analogue external plug-in power supplies (they are no longer allowed to be produced due to power consumption restrictions).

Interestingly, when the power supply for my Wellbrook ALA1530 packed up, I called them to purchase a replacement and was told they only have limited stocks remaining. Thus, a solution for powering active antennas with a suitable low-noise supply is an issue that needs resolving. The guys at Bonito figured a USB power source was suitably quiet and with USB ‘power bricks’ almost ubiquitous these days for charging mobile phones and other portable electronic devices on-the-go, the idea could be applied to their active antennas. The result is the MegActive MA305, designed to operate at 5 Volts with no loss of performance. As a DXer who probably spends more time listening on DXpeditions than I do in my shack at home, the USB power solution was perfect. I myself often carry a cheap Chromebook laptop to use as an additional power source for my camera phone when I’m DXing, so Bonito’s design approach resonated with me completely.

 

Travelling with the MegActive MA305

Ok, so the MA305 is very compact and very light indeed – perfect for a trip to Crete! However, I know from many conversations with my YouTube friends and followers that some of us feel a slight sense of trepidation carrying shortwave radios and antenna systems on board flights, be they national or international. I myself wasn’t really concerned other than if my bag got pulled from the X-ray machine, there’s often quite a long wait whilst the security staff work through the queue of luggage requiring er…human intervention! Predictably, my rucksack did get pulled and I waited patiently until it was my turn to explain the contents! Looking back on this retrospectively, it’s hardly surprising. Other than the usual holiday paraphernalia, my rucksack contained:

  • A 10.0 metre length of H-155 coaxial cable
  • A 1.0 metre length of H-155 coaxial cable
  • Eton Satellit receiver
  • MA305 Coaxial Power Inserter
  • MA305 Antenna Amplifier
  • Bonito USB ‘Power Brick’
  • Bonito USB Power Cable
  • NooElec RTL-SDR dongle
  • NooElect ‘Ham It Up’ upconverter
  • Various screened cables and connectors
  • 10 metres of equipment wire

I explained to the (friendly) security chap that I was a shortwave radio hobbyist and identified the various pieces of equipment for him, as he removed them from my rucksack. He confirmed my X-ray had ‘lit up’ (in blue as it happens) with metallic/electronic items and was even kind enough to swivel his monitor to show me the mess of items strewn across the screen – just as I had thrown them all into my rucksack! However, after quickly swabbing some of the items, he said all was fine and hoped that I enjoyed my holiday and listening. Service with a smile at Gatwick Airport – and I was on my way. My outbound experience got me thinking whether it would be possible to pack my DXing kit in such a way that it wouldn’t alarm airport security. Thus, for the trip home, I packed all of my cables into my (checked-in) suitcase. I figured it would be obvious there was no security risk associated with cables alone. I then packed my RTL-SDR, upconverter and all of the MS305 components very neatly into a single box and put that in my carry-on rucksack. Now, some might argue that security measures at Heraklion International Airport in Crete differ a little from London Gatwick, but I observed staff at the X-ray machine very carefully monitoring every piece of luggage passing through it – including my own and I passed straight through without a problem. All I did was take my laptop out as usual, and put it in a separate tray. Job done.

DXing with the MegActive MA305

                                      My listening post in Crete, with the brilliant Eton Satellit receiver

My apartment in Crete was on the second floor and a large balcony provided a decent outdoor location for DXing. As regards electrical noise, the location was much quieter than my shack at home, but it certainly wasn’t perfect, thus a good test of the MA305 in a real-world pseudo-urban environment. in an attempt to improve SNR, I bought a cheap ‘Selfie Stick’ and some tape and managed to construct a mount for the amplifier, increasing the overall height above ground by about 1.5 metres and displacing the radiating element an additional 2 metres thereabouts from the building. I’m not sure whether it made much difference, but it seemed like the sensible thing to do for less than 10 Euros.

During my week-long stay, I managed to fit in several listening sessions and copied some really excellent DX from this ultra-compact, USB-powered set up. In fact, the MA305 coupled to the Eton Satellit performed so well, I managed to copy a number of personal firsts, including CRI on 7295 kHz, via their relay in Bamako, Mali, The Voice of Beibu Radio on 5050 kHz, Nanning, XSL ‘Slot Machine’ on 6251 kHz USB, Ichihara, Japan, S32 ‘The Squeaky Wheel’ on 3828 kHz and NHK World Radio Japan, 11910 kHz. I also copied RTM Wai/Limbang FM on 11665 kHz from Kajang, Myanmar Radio on 5985 kHz and AIR Bhopal on 4810 kHz, amongst others – all of which I would certainly consider to be difficult catches in Europe. To hear them with an 18 cm antenna felt pretty special. African shortwave stations were also very well represented and I managed to copy a number of them including Radio Hargeysa on 7120 kHz, Voice of Tigray Revolution on 59150 kHz, Radio Oromiya on 6030 kHz, Radio Fana on 6110 kHz, Radio Ethiopia on 7235 kHz, Radio Sonder Grense on 3320 kHz and Radio Guinée on 9650 kHz. I expected to hear all of these stations, except for Radio Guinée, which is farther away from Crete than the UK. So, all-in-all an excellent result.

Despite hearing a lot of excellent DX whilst in Crete, there is one signal I copied, which more than any other, demonstrates the DXing credentials of the MA305 – and Eton Satellit for that matter. In the early hours of the morning (00:59 hrs UTC) I copied and recorded Radio Tarma from Peru on 4775 kHz. With a TX power of 1 kW, this is a very difficult station to hear in Western Europe, even with a longwire. To catch this station in Crete, at all, was incredible on an ultra-compact set-up. It was at this point during the trip that I realised E-field antennas really do work superbly well for hard-core DXers on the move. It inspired me to conduct further tests back home in the Oxfordshire countryside, where electrical noise is absent. This I did a few days ago, with some quite amazing results on the Tropical Band. More on that to come in my next post. In the meantime, please find text links and embedded videos for selected reception recordings, below. Many more recordings are available on the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you require further information on the MA305 or the Eton Satellit. Thanks for reading/watching/listening and I wish you all excellent DX.


Personal firsts

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Radio Tarma, Peru, 4775 kHz

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Other notable catches

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave Log

 

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.

Gary DeBock’s April 2017 Kona, Hawaii Ultralight DXpedition

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary DeBock, who shares the following notes and recordings from an Ultralight DXpedition in Kona, Hawaii:


April 2017 Kona, Hawaii Ultralight DXpedition

The first long-range test of a “Frequent Flyer” FSL Antenna

By Gary DeBock, Puyallup, WA, USA April 2017

Introduction

Ever since the U.K.’s Graham Maynard published his innovative article about the “Ferrite Sleeve” antenna in early 2011 an enthusiastic group of DXers and tinkerers has continually refined and upgraded the design, with most of them going in the pursuit of maximum possible gain. Monster FSL models were designed with weights of up to 38 pounds (17 kg), and considering the size, weight and subversive appearance of the typical model, the general assumption was that this new type of antenna was highly unsuitable for air travel, since it would send airport security personnel into a serious panic.

This situation continued for a full 6 years, during which the FSL antenna became a star performer in the related new niche of ocean cliff transoceanic DXing. But was there another possible application for the antenna’s compact performance advantage? What if a very lightweight, high-performing model could be designed which would not only provide a huge boost in DXing gain, but fit inside a hand-carry suitcase, and routinely pass airport security screening inspections around the world? This was a tough design challenge, but well worth the effort if successful!

Since the new antenna would need the maximum possible performance for its small, lightweight size, the use of the Russian surplus 100mm x 20mm x 3mm ferrite bars was mandatory. Every possible effort would be used to make the antenna as compact and lightweight as possible, although the choice of the highest-sensitivity 1162/46 Litz wire was critical for best performance. The PVC frame would be shrunk down to the smallest practical size. Finally, in a major experimental effort here over the winter season, the first of the new 5 inch (127mm) “Frequent Flyer” FSL’s became a reality. The finished antenna had a very non-subversive appearance, and could fit inside a custom-sized plastic tote within a hand-carry suitcase. Most importantly, it could still deliver a serious amount of inductive coupling gain– roughly similar to that provided by a 4 foot (1.22m) air core box loop, but with the advantage of somewhat lower noise reception.

Because the Russian surplus 100mm x 20mm x 3mm ferrite bars are extremely scarce (without any current supply source) only five of these original “Frequent Flyer” models would be made, although alternative models using the commonly available 140mm x 8mm ferrite rods were also designed. These antennas would be somewhat heavier and larger, but these “Baby FSL” ferrite rod models could be easily assembled from parts available on eBay, fit inside the hand-carry suitcases, and still deliver a lot of DXing performance (while routinely passing airport security screening). Finally, an economic model using the commonly available 62mm x 12mm x 4mm Russian surplus ferrite bars was also designed. This lightweight FSL can be constructed for around $65 US, and can still provide a serious DXing gain boost to a stock Ultralight radio. For want of better terms, these three classes of “Frequent Flyer” FSL antennas are called the “first class,” the “business class” and “coach class” models, with FSL sensitivity scores (ferrite length x coil diameter) of 585, 490 and 300 respectively.

From April 9-12 a Mini-DXpedition was conducted on a 6th floor oceanfront room at the Royal Kona Resort Motel in Kona, Hawaii. This was the first of many long-range DXing trips based upon the performance boost provided by the compact new antenna– which was specifically designed to easily pass through airport TSA security checkpoints. A 5 inch (127mm) “Frequent Flyer” FSL antenna was packed inside a matched-size plastic tote within a hand-carry suitcase, and breezed through TSA security screening in both the Seattle and Kona airports (without even a single question ever being asked). This was one of the “first class” Frequent Flyer models described previously, and was used to boost DX station gain on a 7.5″ loopstick C.Crane “Skywave” Ultralight radio. This combination was effective enough to track down many exotic Pacific Island stations (540, 621, 1440, etc.) at S9 levels during transmitter-site sunset skip propagation into Kona, as well as Asian TP-DX of varying strength around local sunrise.

This Kona trip was primarily designed as an anniversary celebration with my wife, so before we took off I had (somewhat reluctantly) agreed that DXing would have a secondary priority to sightseeing over the four days. Because of this there were many frequencies that could not be investigated in Kona, but I knew very well which Pacific island stations were tough challenges in both North America and Japan, and I was determined to go after them with a vengeance. 540, 621 and 1440 would all receive serious attention in Kona– not because they were great challenges in Hawaii, but because most DXers in both North America and Japan needed all possible information about them if they were to have any chance of reception at all. Besides this I was eager to try my long-range luck chasing exotic Asians around local sunrise with the innovative FSL antenna, but I knew that east-west propagation was almost totally dependent upon solar activity– and as it turned out both the A and K indexes shot up after our arrival.

Overall the Kona MW propagation to the Pacific islands was exceptional around local midnight (as expected), but the sunrise propagation was somewhat challenging for long range Asians. Perhaps the biggest success of this entire trip was the interest and excitement that the “Frequent Flyer” FSL antenna series (the major experimental project here this past winter) has inspired among DXers who routinely travel to foreign countries and other faraway venues. As I write this Craig Barnes of Wheat Ridge, Colorado is conducting his own 5 inch “Frequent Flyer” FSL- based DXpedition to Hawaii. Good luck, Craig!

Recordings

[Note: a selection of audio files have been embedded in the post below, but all audio is available to download and stream via the links provided.]

531  6DL?   Dalwallinu, Australia   Presumably the one with the same-sounding announcer and program as the one on 630-4QN at the time (at 1547 on 4-9; see MP3 for 630-4QN), but it didn’t seem to be exactly parallel (maybe a time zone delay?)
https://app.box.com/s/7bg1hruxrufccuys5axc4yzumexr3q36

540  2AP   Apia, Western Samoa   This station features a lot of Samoan music (with both male and female announcers), and dominates the frequency in Kona at night as long as it transmits. Unfortunately it doesn’t follow the listed PAL sign off time of 1000, but runs past this time routinely, which made it tough to track down an exact sign off time during my limited sessions. My guess is that it signs off sometime between 1030 and 1100. The following MP3 is of S9+ level Samoan Christian worship music at 0931 on 4-9. This overwhelming signal was one of the most awesome recorded during the entire DXpedition:

https://app.box.com/s/8ejvx8s7udh5ibtqymtxs5ew65mquqcl

Energetic Samoan music at 0956 on 4-12. This is typical of the station’s music format

https://app.box.com/s/tbo84s7gb2jci6gfxkawo7rsqpmpkyp3

More typical Samoan choral music at 0835 on 4-11 — a staple of programming in the station’s format

https://app.box.com/s/z8ecbvx14fyqx0tpjtw2ahy2r7omhst4

Relaxing Samoan choral music at 1013 on 4-12

https://app.box.com/s/v50700yxviojl4qkkdgh9omdx1hf0yrl

The usual male announcer in Samoan at 1028 on 4-12

https://app.box.com/s/03xy87zls2aqqz52oiz8pbobi9f433rt

The usual female announcer in Samoan at 0856 on 4-11

https://app.box.com/s/6rkd8ckcd1005fyc5itupxowaf6jqhex

558   Radio Fiji One   Suva, Fiji   Somewhat of an underperformer considering its South Pacific location and (nominal) 10 kW power level. My guess is that the station has some transmitter and/ or antenna issues. Here is some fair level male speech with island music at 1001 on 4-9, which was the strongest signal it managed during the entire trip

https://app.box.com/s/ly0u5y34rg85e1aotimyjjj1bksunsd3

558   UnID-TP    Once again, this weak signal sounded a lot like the 630-4QN program at the time (1548 on 4-11), so my guess is that 6WA in Wagin, Australia is the most likely possibility

https://app.box.com/s/10plmz0gumpjk7ymwi6ay44oqzo67ong

603   HLSA   Namyang, S. Korea   One of the common Asians which ran the gauntlet of dicey solar activity. It was fairly good at 1521 on 4-12, but was MIA during a couple of days

https://app.box.com/s/9s3g67w2j5ge9ggsj31kwuwnqmfdiyh9

621   3RN   Melbourne, Australia   This LR network station would start to fade in just when Radio Tuvalu was about to sign off (around 1000), although it never provided any serious competition for the exotic station. This MP3 was made just after Tuvalu’s sign off at 1006 on 4-9

https://app.box.com/s/x0k4bnu3jmytorhzjphz5a6nqyet4h5r

621  Radio Tuvalu   Funafuti, Tuvalu   A very tough station to track down on the mainland, but certainly a “piece of cake” in Kona. Routinely has sign off at 1003 UTC, preceded by island choral music and the national anthem (sung by the same choral group). Around 0950 a female announcer begins the routine by giving a monolog news broadcast about 5 minutes long, typically followed by an island music song right before the fixed 5-minute sign off routine. The latter two features are included in the following 8 minute recording (at near S9 strength) made at 0955 on April 10

https://app.box.com/s/3z2ql91i5afhhi6kmjsnvos4p9q2j56y

The usual female announcer with her 5 minute news broadcast at near S9 strength at 0955 prior to the sign off routine on April 11. The lady giving the correct pronunciation for “Tuvalu” is at the 11 second point

https://app.box.com/s/knpjrxdb40p7hfe9xx7djlwyz3fzf8j3

Around five minutes of typical Island choral music at good-level strength at 0921 on 4-9

https://app.box.com/s/0vouj030pvoxy96o7xtvg45zq0uxed1n

Here is a different recording of the female-announced news broadcast just prior to the sign off routine at 0956 on 4-9 (at very good strength)

https://app.box.com/s/u0rg1xlye0le5jth12x8wccw6nc5sv99

630   4QN   Townsville, Australia   This 50 kW station was far and away the strongest Australian signal heard throughout the trip. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the same time zone as fellow LR network stations on 531 and 558 in Western Australia, making parallel checks seem dubious. Here is a typical signal at 1543 on 4-9

https://app.box.com/s/j82og05m8v4umqacm78e41cs1xht21to

657   Pyongyang BS   Pyongyang, N. Korea   This bizarre station was far and away the strongest Asian heard during the trip– almost like it was a South Pacific semi-local. When solar activity cooled off it could blast in with serious power, such as at 1555 on 4-9

https://app.box.com/s/9exi01zvab4y2fjemxbqhz6ma1q3gv8o

For those who really don’t mind wacky-sounding music (this is your final warning), the 3 minute long version of this signal is posted at

https://app.box.com/s/m69fuqcxrjul7y06wu5f5ge63bap3cka

693   UnID-TP   This mystery signal showed up at 1604 on 4-9, after NHK2 (JOAB) sign off. Obviously there is male speech and some kind of backup music at various times, but I’m totally unfamiliar with stations on this frequency (except for JOAB). Any hints or suggestions? This station only showed up on 4-9; rising solar activity brought in only 690-Honolulu splatter on the other three days

https://app.box.com/s/8yabwqs7llyac52tsfv4taannfuggedq

774   JOUB   Akita, Japan   Solar activity limited the usual potent signals from this NHK big gun, but it did manage fair strength at 1505 on 4-11

https://app.box.com/s/uigxcvv382u7ryq1k1xqcsvw7uuj5bd9

972   HLCA   Dangjin, S. Korea   Another Asian big gun taking somewhat of a hit from unfavorable solar activity at 1517 on 4-12

https://app.box.com/s/uigxcvv382u7ryq1k1xqcsvw7uuj5bd9

1017   A3Z   Nuku’alofa, Tonga   Island music at very good strength at 0944 on 4-9; this station was strong every evening at this same time

https://app.box.com/s/6cq35g3lio356v4hserwpehi5o3cofcc

Live play-by-play of a sports competition at 1015 on 4-12, with a “goal” at the 10 second point in the recording

https://app.box.com/s/umg0rj0as6h97wmwqsrqni57scs1woee

The usual male announcer in the Tongan language at very good strength at 0835 on 4-11

https://app.box.com/s/4ngp7fhuru3l6rmvgxnkqftu9nzmu3sn

The same Tongan male announcer at good level at 0953 on 4-11, obviously on “island time,” with very long pauses in his speech pattern

https://app.box.com/s/4y59xljxk0d24kvtbab8yjvnc5q1gc71

1035   Newstalk ZB   Wellington, NZ   Received late in sunrise enhancement at 1611 on 4-12, this was a rather modest signal from the Kiwi big gun, which never seemed to get anywhere close to its Oregon cliff strength during the entire trip

https://app.box.com/s/1lwotewd38bn4z26l786ihjv5eyuklzf

1098   V7AB   Radio Marshalls   Majuro, Marshall Islands   One of the regular Pacific island stations received in Kona, and one of the best bets for Mainland reception. The frequency has very little QRM, although Newstalk ZB could be weakly received in between the island music songs after around 0900.

Strong island music at 0955 on 4-9 (its best performance during the trip)

https://app.box.com/s/cmqbngvvtnfvkm201jqlpcbws4te5wk5

More energetic island music at 0958 on 4-9

https://app.box.com/s/nvljx11f8tvrnrb2hyelci4fsxjwff93

Typical island music on the same night at 0948 (4-9)

https://app.box.com/s/znb2botiiuzq7201xponc35c7o06blov

1098   Newstalk ZB   Christchurch, NZ   Heard only once in between island songs on V7AB (at 0957 on 4-9); and never really strong enough to compete for the frequency with Radio Marshalls

https://app.box.com/s/x1i5e35rxkzgx6wxrnome06r9g2122j5

1440   Radio Kiribati   Bairiki, Kiribati   Because of its domestic frequency this obscure station is another of the toughest Pacific island stations (and countries) to receive on the Mainland, but some very helpful identity clues were discovered in Kona (where the station is a breeze to hear). The station routinely signs off at 0936 UTC each evening, with a very loud 1000 Hz audio tone right before it cuts power. The sign off routine includes station ID’s in both the local language and English around 0932 prior to the choral music national anthem, although because of her heavy accent the fact that the female announcer is talking in English might well go unnoticed. The full sign off routine is included in the following MP3, preceded by an Island music number (during which a 1440 Spanish pest attempts a run on the frequency, only to be immediately drowned out)

https://app.box.com/s/s9sgwesnmi3ljjf1fkuhlsb08st7ty5y

The station uses a distinctive 4-bong time signal on the half hour, as in this recording made at 0929 UTC (at the 35 second point).

https://app.box.com/s/ks6n49yjreqdykdu2am76jl7qqj9mvyu 

The American country music format can be heard prior to the 4-bong time signal.

Prior to the sign off routine this station also uses its female announcer to give a final news update (like 621-Tuvalu). This recording is of such a news update at 0925 on 4-11, with several mentions made of the American president

https://app.box.com/s/a1zx6jelrvhguyzjfy6b5dgwlfjfceij

This station plays a lot of American country music (of all formats). Here is typical programming at 0912 on 4-11

https://app.box.com/s/fdtbl3tk01yz7u2y5lb7xyaaauc33km8

1566   HLAZ   Jeju, S. Korea   Fairly regular with its Chinese Christian service around 1530 each morning in Kona, but never at very great strength (possibly due to unfavorable solar activity). Here at 1609 on 4-9 it is the music station playing the Chinese version of “I Would Rather Have Jesus,” in a mix with the (presumed) Mainland Chinese Yanbian Jammer

https://app.box.com/s/m66yi638bm6r1vrigiewo9680yuydvk6

1566   Yanbian, China   (Presumed location, Jammer)  Because of Chinese inflection this is the apparent co-channel of HLAZ in the same recording at 1609 on 4-9; it was also received at 1600 on 4-10 with Chinese 5+1 time pips (thanks to Chris Kadlec for his assessment)

https://app.box.com/s/m66yi638bm6r1vrigiewo9680yuydvk6

1593   CNR1   Changzhou, China   Good strength at 1525 on 4-12, with co-channel NHK2 quite a bit weaker underneath

https://app.box.com/s/3shbri3d8hfpaej6kvzyklkz6kl1oq4j

1593   NHK2   Matsue/ Niigata, Japan   In a mix with CNR1 at about an equal level around 1520 on 4-12

https://app.box.com/s/my9bdqgobvo4iuvgd3hhrkh9yap28xgr

The “Business Class” Frequent Flyer FSL antenna


Many thanks, Gary, for sharing your Kona DXpedition report and audio with us! It sounds like you had a great vacation and some excellent DX to boot!

Video: Gary DeBock’s “Baby FSL” antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary DeBock (N7EKX), who shares this video and notes the following on YouTube:

This is the new 3.5 inch (89mm) “Baby FSL” antenna, designed to provide a powerful DXing gain boost for Ultralight radios (or any other portables) despite its very small size. It has 32 Russian surplus 140mm x 8mm ferrite rods and 31 turns of 1162/46 Litz wire. In the demonstration video it provides a daytime DX gain boost for 750-KXTG (Tigard, Oregon, 50 kW at 160 miles) from inaudible up to about S7 on the Eton Traveler III Ultralight radio.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Gary is certainly a first-rate DXer and an ambassador of our radio hobby. Gary shows us here that, with a little ingenuity, we can take a $50 radio and turn it into something exceptional! Homebrewing at its best.  Thank you, Gary!

Also, I had never considered that a high-gain FSL antenna would require very precise placement of the receiver for proper inductive coupling. It makes sense, though. This loop is tuned for razor-sharp precision!

Some day, when I have a little free time, I’m going to build one of Gary’s FSL designs.

The brilliant little Tecsun PL-310ET: serious DXing on a budget – part 1

tecsun-pl-310etHi there, a good friend of mine Mr Thomas Brogan mentioned to me recently that his little Tecsun PL-310ET was proving to be an excellent receiver and that it would suit my DXpedition activities. Now, as someone who likes to push the envelope of performance with sophisticated portables, usually coupled to very large antennas, a cheap little Tecsun might not have been an abvious choice for my next purchase. However, Mr Brogan (who has an excellent Youtube channel by the same name – check out his wonderful collection of vintage and modern receivers) previously suggested I buy, for similar reasons, the Sony ICF-SW100. That little masterpiece of electronics turned out to be one of the best receivers I’ve ever owned. I felt compelled to take notice because Tom never gets this stuff wrong! A few days later I found myself in Maplins – again – and there it was on the shelf at just under £40, so I bought one.

I got back into shortwave listening about 18 months ago, after many years of inactivity whilst my poor Sangean ATS-803A rotted away in the garden shed and Sony ICF-7600G long-gone via eBay. To start all over again, I bought a Tecsun PL-360.  What a great little portable that turned out to be – there are over 100 reception videos on my YouTube channel demonstrating how it continually performed above and beyond the very modest price tag. I even managed to hear ABC Northern Territories 4835 kHz on it once –  simply amazing for a receiver under £30. Given my extensive experience with the PL-360 and having learned the PL-310ET shared the same DSP chip, I was expecting the same, or at least very similar performance and the only real benefit to upgrading to the PL-310ET was the direct frequency access.  However, I was wrong about that!

pl-360

The brilliant Tecsun PL-360 got me back into shortwave radio for less than £30

About a week after buying the PL-310ET,  I managed to get out on a DXpedition and with 30 metres of wire attached to it via the external antenna socket, I started tuning around the SW bands. Quite simply, I was amazed at the sensitivity and selectivity of this diminutive little portable. With the proven DSP receiver chip and a number of audio bandwidth filter options  from 1 to 6 kHz, coupled with direct frequency access via the keypad, it was a joy to use and listen to. In just over an hour I had  copied signals from North Korea, including their internal service KCBS Pyongyang, Zanzibar BC, ABC Northern Territories (at the first attempt!), Zambia NBC Radio 1, Radio Oromiya and Radio Amhara from Ethiopia, amongst others. Brilliant stuff and clearly demonstrating that the overall hardware/software package with the PL-310ET is a step up in performance over the PL-360 and capable of proper DX for a very modest outlay. Interestingly, in a conversation with Thomas Witherspoon regarding the PL-310ET, he reminded me that it was one of his go-to radios for travelling and confirmed it’s excellent performance.  I would definitely recommend this radio to novices and experts alike.

Reception videos follow below, with more to come in part 2; I hope you enjoy them. Thanks for watching/listening and I wish you all excellent DX!

 

 

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.