Nothing to hear on shortwave? Jacques disagrees…

MauritiusIsland-IndianOcean-SM

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Jacques Catherine, who left the following comment on our post from 2012: Is there anything to listen to on shortwave?

“I live in Mauritius Island in the Indian Ocean and I’ve been listening to Shortwave since I was a kid (I’m 58 today) on my dad’s good old Phillips wooden valve radio.

I’m sorry, but shortwave is certainly not dead. After having read all the comments above, I come to the conclusion that reception definitely depends on your location.

The Tecsun PL-660.

The Tecsun PL-660.

I have two Tecsun receivers ( Tecsun S 2000 and PL 660) hooked to a Windom antenna and an ATU. I receive dozens of stations from all over the world here as well as a lot of stuff on ssb, including – in the morning – New York MWARA (8825.0 usb), Gander (8831.0 usb) or, in the evening, Brisbane (5634.0 usb).

Broadcast stations from Japan, Taiwan, India, Iran, Australia, Singapore, China, Africa and even the US, come in here loud and clear with very little static, depending on the season and time of the day. I think I’m privileged to be located where I am !

And I bought some years back a pair of cheap small wooden amplified speakers in Hong Kong that reproduce exactly the sound of my dad’s old valve radio!”

Thank you for your comment, Jacques. You’re right: it’s all about your location…and you certainly live in a prime spot!

I’m most fortunate that I live where I do–quite far away from sources of noise that plague our urban readers/listeners (and that have plagued me in the past). My location is not ideal (from a radio/receiving standpoint) because my ground conductivity is very poor and I’m in North America where very few broadcasts are targeted these days. I do, however, have the space for a rather large horizontal delta loop antenna that serves me well across the HF bands. I might have invested $50 in the antenna wire and components five years ago.

When propagation is good, some broadcast bands are actually packed tightly with signals. Indeed, Thursday last week, I could’ve easily logged two dozen stations on the 31 meter band alone.  Here’s a screen capture from the spectrum display of my SDR:

TitanSDRPro-Spectrum-31MB

If you live in an urban area and feel that you’re missing out on the action, consider taking your receiver outdoors and away from interference. Take your receiver on hikes, camping trips or to the beach. You might be surprised by the number of stations you’ll log!

Recently, our friend London Shortwave has been posting an amazing array of broadcast recordings he’s made in a park in the middle of London, England. He’s the guru of mitigating urban interference.

When I have time to curate the recordings, I hope to do a 2016 update of “Is there anything to listen to on shortwave?“–it’s been on my to-do list for a while now.

Jacques, thanks again for your comment and reminding us to keep listening!

Nothing on shortwave? I still disagree.

SpectrumDisplay-31Meters-WinRadioExcalibur

One of the most popular posts on the SWLing Post is one published nearly two years ago: “Is there anything to listen to on shortwave?

In that article, I posted recordings made on the 31 meter band of eight different broadcasters, all of which I found within a 250 kHz chunk of bandwidth on a Friday afternoon.

On February 8th (this past Saturday), I recorded a 160 kHz chunk of spectrum on the 31 meter band with my WinRadio Excalibur, starting around 1:00 UTC and lasting for about 9 hours.  I made this spectrum recording in attempt to capture the Voice of Korea on one of their three scheduled frequencies.

While VOK wasn’t audible enough to make a good recording, I did log the following stations all within this thin slice of radio spectrum (click on links for recordings):

I’m guessing that I only logged 50% of what I heard as this list was put together from a quick scan through the recording. In fact, I’m systematically making recordings of each of these broadcasts, from the spectrum file, and adding them to the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive. I may actually discover more stations in the process.

My point is, if you think there’s nothing to listen to on shortwave, you’re simply not listening!

Now back to my radio…

VOA Radiogram includes EasyPal comparison this weekend

VOARadioGram(Source: VOA Radiogram)

During the weekend of 29-30 June 2013, VOA Radiogram will continue experiments with the EasyPal digital image software. EasyPal will be transmitted in both its 4-QAM and 16-QAM settings to see if the former can be decoded in conditions where the latter cannot. Download EasyPal from  vk4aes.com.

VOA Radiogram for 29-30 June 2013:

2:31  MFSK16: Program preview

4:19  MFSK32: VOA News: “super-earths”

2:05  MFSK32: Accompanying image

:23  MFSK32: Introduction to MFSK64

2:15  MFSK64: VOA News: China space mission

2:53  MFSK32: Accompanying image

:33  MFSK32: Introduction to EasyPal

7:00  EasyPal 4-QAM: “super moon” in Greece

2:40  EasyPal 16-QAM “super moon” in Singapore

1:08  MFSK16: Closing announcements

:24  Surprise mode of the week

 VOA Radiogram transmission schedule (all days and times UTC):

  • Sat 1600-1630 17860 kHz
  • Sun 0230-0300 5745 kHz
  • Sun 1300-1330 6095 kHz
  • Sun 1930-2000 15670 kHz

Is there anything to listen to on shortwave?

I am asked this question, or a variation of it, almost every week:

“I’ve been thinking about buying a shortwave radio, but have heard that shortwave is dying out. Is there actually anything to listen to on shortwave? Should I even bother?”

It’s no wonder I get asked this question so much. First of all, the root website for the SWLing Post is SWLing.com, which is dedicated to teaching people the basics of using a shortwave radio. Indeed, if you search the internet for shortwave radio reviews or how to use a shortwave radio, you’ll most likely see this site somewhere near the top of the search results.  So it makes sense that many of our readers are just starting out in shortwave.

But the primary reason people wonder about shortwave’s vitality and want to check its pulse, is due to recent news about shortwave broadcasters leaving the spectrum. Most recently, Radio Canada International, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Radio Bulgaria have all closed up shop, and broadcasters like the BBC World Service and Vatican Radio have trimmed down their shortwave offerings.  It’s unfortunate, and does make the continuation of shortwave seem doubtful to those who know less about it.

The Edward R. Murrow Tranmission Station’s slewable curtain antenna.

Question: So is there anything to listen to? Answer: Absolutely!

Regular shortwave radio listeners already know the answer to this question. Sure, the landscape of the shortwaves is changing, but it’s such a vast landscape that, even with a few major players dropping out, there is still so much to hear and appreciate. In fact, we’ve only been talking about  governmental international broadcasters, in the main–which doesn’t even include pirate radio, clandestine stations, utility stations, religious networks, spy numbers stations, digital modes, and ham radio communications.  Among others.

Doubt me?  Well, then–check this out:

250 kHz of 31 Meters on a Friday afternoon

The WinRadio G31DDC “Excalibur”

Last Friday, I spent a pleasant afternoon reviewing the WinRadio Excalibur software defined receiver (SDR). Perhaps my favorite feature of many modern software defined receivers is their ability to record not only individual shortwave radio broadcasts, but also record radio spectrum.  In other words, instead of recording a single station on 9,555 kHz, the WinRadio Excalibur (and similar SDRs) could easily record everything between, say, 9,410 and 9,635 kHz. Later, you can play back the spectrum to listen to and record individual broadcasts as if they were live. At least, this is exactly what I did last Friday at 20:00 UTC.

Fast forward to yesterday:  While listening and tuning through the Friday spectrum, I once again realized how many stations are crammed into this relatively small chunk of the shortwave spectrum. Yet I only captured about 250 kHz, or .25 MHz of shortwave spectrum. To put this in perspective, this is a chunk of spectrum so small, you could fit four of them between 95 and 96 MHz on your car’s FM dial.

And  what did I find? A lot of stations–and a lot of variety! In fact, I then went through and recorded 8 samples of the stronger broadcasts.

Here is some of what I heard just in that wee swatch of spectrum:

Voice of Greece – 9,240 kHz

Voice of Iran – 9,460 kHz

WTWW – 9,478 kHz

Deutsche Welle – 9,490 kHz

Radio Riyadh –  9,555 kHz

Radio Marti – 9,565 kHz

North Quebec Service – 9,625 kHz

Voice of Turkey – 9,635 kHz

Here is how the actual spectrum chunk appeared on the Excalibur’s display:

Note from the DDC spectrum window (the one immediately below the tuning knob and S Meter) that there are many, many other stations–indicated as spikes in the spectrum, above–that I did not bother to record.

I didn’t set out to find the most active piece of shortwave spectrum–I chose this one pretty much by chance.

Is shortwave radio dead?  Only if you’re not listening

Perhaps the real fascination I find in listening to recorded spectrum, as I did above, is that each time I go back through a recording, listening carefully, I find so many other items that I would have otherwise missed. In other words, the better your ears, the more you will hear. And there’s lots to hear.

A good portable radio, like the C.Crane CCRadio-SW, can easily receive the major international broadcasters and even some low power regional shortwave stations.

So, what are you waiting for?

Prove it to yourself. Pull out your portable radio, your tabletop, your SDR or your general coverage ham radio transceiver, and just listen. There’s still a vast, informative, oftentimes mysterious world out there on the shortwaves, simply waiting for your ears.

Join me in the Shortwave Radio Archive Project:  post coming soon!

A little more Saturday Night Country via Radio Australia

Saturday Night Country host, Felicity Urqhart, receiving CMA’s 2012 International Country Broadcaster Award (Source: RadioInfo)

I’ve mentioned before how much I love this show–you don’t even need to be a fan of country music to have a true appreciation for it.

Saturday Night Country should be on your shortwave listening schedule. If you live in North America, you’ll find the signal out of Shepparton, Australia is so strong that even a mediocre portable radio can receive it with ease.

Here’s a two hour and 50 minute taste of Saturday Night Country for your Monday morning:

Radio Australia’s Saturday Night Country is a part of my Saturday morning

Felicity Urquhart, host of ABC's Saturday Night Country. (photo: ABC)

Even though it’s well over 9,800 miles (15,800 kilometers) and many time zones from where I live, I listen to Radio Australia’s Shepparton broadcast site perhaps more than any other on the shortwave bands. For decades, it has beamed a broad and booming signal into North America on 9,580 kHz every morning. Well, I say “morning” here in the southeastern US, but in Australia, it’s their (or, for our Aussie readers, your) evening.

One show Radio Australia broadcasts that’s popular across the globe is ABC’s Saturday Night Country. Felicity Urquhart hosts the program, which showcases the best in Australian country and, indeed, country music worldwide. She knows her stuff, too–not only is she a talented host, but also an accomplished country music star in her own right. (What’s more–see above–she’s got “a face for radio”–? Try television:  she’s very photogenic.)

What I love about Saturday Night Country is that there’s lots of music, but also excellent interviews as Felicity chats with well-known and upcoming stars. Since the Radio Australia shortwave signal out of Shepparton is always so strong coming into the US, the audio fidelity is often on par with local AM (MW) stations.

I listen to the show many Saturday mornings, and I’m not even that big a fan of country music. And I’m not alone; several of you have written asking when I’d write a post about Saturday Night Country. For our readers, I’ve done one better:  check two hours out the latest show for yourself in the recording of ABC below (or click here for the mp3). The broadcast begins with a news segment at the top of the hour; if you like, fast-forward to 4:30 for the beginning of SNC:

Incidentally, I used making this recording as an excuse to test one of the newest receivers on my bench, the WinRadio Excalibur. Its recording functionality is perhaps the best in the SDR world–and, I’ve got to say, I’m most impressed with it. Out of the chunk of spectrum I recorded, I was also able to hear RCI’s Sackville site broadcasting All In a Weekend on 9,625 kHz. In the past, these two have had conflicting schedules between 8:00-9:00 local, but with the Excalibur’s three individual receivers, I can record one while listening to the other–or better yet, record both, and track down yet another station!