Monthly Archives: August 2011

All India Radio – special Independence Day broadcast tomorrow

All India Radio (AIR) will broadcast a running commentary in English and Hindi of the flag hoisting ceremony and the Prime Minster’s speech to be held at Red Fort, New Delhi between 0135-0240 UTC (0705-0810 hrs IST) on 15th August, 2011 (Monday) on the following frequencies.

4,860 kHz Delhi 50 kW
11,830 kHz Delhi 50 kW
13,620 kHz Bengaluru 500 kW
15,050 kHz Delhi 250 kW
17,510 kHz Delhi 250 kW

6,030 kHz Delhi 100 KW
6,155 kHz Bengaluru 500 kW
9,595 kHz Delhi 250 KW
11,620 kHz Aligarh 250 KW
15,135 kHz Delhi 50 KW

(Source: Shortwave Central)

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Tecsun about to update their product line? Photos surface of the new Tecsun PL-505 and Tecsun PL-398BT (Bluetooth)

The new Tecsun PL-398BT will feature Bluetooth technology, which should allow for remote radio listening on computers, mobile phones and other devices with Bluetooth capabilities.

This week, I noticed a post on the excellent Herculodge blog that Tecsun is about to update their product line, placing an even stronger emphasis on quality control and offering up innovative features like Bluetooth technologies on their new PL-398BT. Some of the Herculodge’s information came from one of their own sources and a discussion thread from Tecsun’s user group that was started by a member who had recently taken a tour of Tecsun’s Shanghai service center.

This is very exciting news indeed as I have become quite fond of the Tecsun product line. Tecsun portable radios seem to have excellent quality control (especially when compared to the likes of Degen and Kaito, for example) and offer innovative features like an adjustable IF bandwidth and ETM (Easy Tuning Mode)–features not typically associated with shortwave portables.

The Tecsun PL-505 looks to be an improved version of the popular Tecsun PL-606.

I would have to assume that these radios will primarily be available through Honk Kong distributors on eBay. This year, Kaito USA became North America’s only authorized distributor of Tecsun radios–meaning, they can offer a manufacturer’s warranty, something Hong Kong distributors cannot. However, reports are that Kaito USA’s Tecsun radio stock may not be as updated as the versions sold by Tecsun distributors on eBay. In general, feedback from eBay purchasers has been very positive as eBay sellers offer their own guarantee and many check each radio before it is shipped (hence, your box may look like it has already been opened).   Before purchasing any radio on eBay, make sure you check each seller’s user feedback points.

If history is an indicator, the Tecsun PL-505 and Tecsun PL-398BT will first be available to purchase on eBay. I have provided links below to automate your search–please note that until these products are available, don’t expect to see any results.

I have added the Tecsun PL-505 and the Tecsun PL-398BT to the Shortwave Radio Index (SWRI) and will make every attempt to update product specifications and reviews of these two products there.

Please contact me if you have any new information or announcements to share.

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Radius – Shortwave inspired audio art

I have a particular fondness for artists who use shortwave radio to inspire their work, so you can imagine how pleased I was to stumble upon Radius–an experimental radio broadcast platform based in Chicago, IL, USA. In their own words:

Radius features a new project semi-monthly with statements by artists who use radio as a primary element in their work. Radius provides artists with live and experimental formats in radio programming.

The goal is to support work that engages the tonal and public spaces of the electromagnetic spectrum.

All audio works are broadcasted locally on 88.9 fm with a secondary stream online.

Radius’ website contains audio by episode. Most of this work is toward the art spectrum of the sonic journey–me, I love it.

Want a taste? Check out some of this audio from Episode 08 by Osvaldo Cibils:
Episode 08: Osvaldo Cibils by Radius #4

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Throw away AC adapters, invest in rechargeables

I receive a lot of emails from readers and listeners who are new to shortwave radio. The bulk of the emails I receive ask for advice about which radio to pick for travel, for home, or for work. A lot of emails, however, are from listeners who wish to improve the performance of their portable radios.

One of the first things I suggest–especially if they’re hearing a lot of interference noise on the radio–is simply to unplug the AC adapter (a.k.a., “wall wart”) and run the portable off batteries. Why?  Quite often, those wall warts are injecting a lot of noise into your receiver. Find it hard to believe?  Give it a try!

Not all rechargeable batteries are created equal. Choose name-brand, higher quality cells. Dollar store batteries lack longevity and capacity.

Solution: Rechargeable batteries

I get so annoyed with noisy wall warts, that I simply never use them. Instead, some time ago I started investing in rechargeable batteries.  Though one pays a bit more for them (than for alkaline batteries) initially, they can be recharged hundreds of times, and thus last for years.

You can buy rechargeable batteries nearly anywhere these days, and the price has dropped significantly over the past few years, even for name-brand batteries.

It’s worth noting that I’ve bought rechargeable batteries at radio hamfests or dollar stores that were as cheap as $1US per AA cell. Big mistake–not only do these ultra-cheap batteries not hold a charge for long, but they also wear out more quickly. Instead, stick with name brand rechargeables, like Energizer, Duracell, RadioShack, or (my personal favorite) Powerex.

About 85% of the shortwave portables I own are powered by AA cells, the remaining 20% off of AAA’s (you’ll find that I gripe about the ones that use AAA’s, by the way). When I buy a new portable–one that I plan to keep after reviewing on–I invest in twice the number of rechargeable batteries that the portable holds. For example, my Sony ICF-SW7600GR operates on 4 AA cells, thus I bought a pack of 8 cells for its operation. That way, I can always have an extra set of charged batteries available when I deplete those in the unit.

There are three main types of rechargeables available: NiCd (nickel cadmium), Lithium Ion, and NiMH (nickel-metal hydride). Without going into too much detail, I recommend NiMH batteries–they offer the best bang for the buck, are widely available, and with correct care, do not easily develop a memory effect.

A few tips for making NiMH rechargeables last longer

NiMH batteries are fairly fool-proof, but there are some simple rules of thumb you should follow to insure that they provide years of service:

  • Never mix old and new rechargeables
  • Never mix LiIon and NiMH cells
  • Nickel-based cells, such as our NiMH’s need to be fully discharged occasionally, else the batteries lose capacity over time in a phenomenon known as the “memory effect.” Once my radio has depleted its current set of batteries, I’ll often pop them into a flashlight to deplete them even further before recharging.
  • Label your batteries with a piece of colored tape or  a marker to note the purchase date on the cell–that way, you’ll easily keep like batteries together and charged in sync.

The Maha MHC9000 is pricey, and you will need the manual to operate it, but it's a very high-quality battery charger and conditioner. I have brought nearly dead NiMH batteries back to life with this wonderful machine.

Like batteries, not all chargers are created equal. You should opt for a higher-quality, NIMH-specific charger. Ideally, since most radios require 3-4 batteries at a time, purchase a charger that will hold at least 4 batteries.

Personally, I’ve found it helpful to own three chargers: one for rapidly charging batteries (the Maha MH-C401FS-4), one for conditioning and charging batteries (the Maha MH-C9000) and one that is solar powered (which I use only in a pinch).

You can see that I’m very fond of the Maha brand battery chargers, though there are other good chargers on the market. Maha receives high praise from many amateur radio operators, and I’ve had excellent luck with them, too. What I especially like about the Maha/Powerex company is that they focus all of their innovation in the area of batteries and charging systems for a wide variety of uses.

Throw away the wall warts!

Have I convinced you yet? Don’t even bother unpacking the AC adapter that comes with your radio!  You don’t really need it.  “But wait,” you may be thinking, “my radio has a built-in battery charger, so don’t I need my AC adapter?” Even if your radio has a built-in battery charging function, it’s probably very basic and should only be used if you have no other option. Many of these are prone to over- or under-charge batteries, and take hours to complete this relatively simple task.

Trust me:  your portable shortwave reciever will perform at its best when powered by quiet, rechargeable NiMH batteries charged properly with a good-quality charger. Try it, and hear for yourself.

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KMRE radio

Since posting the article about the American Museum of Radio and Electricity last week, I’ve been listening to their low-powered FM station KMRE online. If you’re into radio nostalgia as I am, you, too, may enjoy listening to their tunes and other historic recordings. Great stuff!  Give it a listen:

Listen to KMRE online.

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A review of the Sony SRF-59 — cheap, fun Mediumwave DX thrills

The Sony SRF-59

A few years ago, I heard a lot of buzz in AM/Mediumwave radio circles about a small, inexpensive radio called the Sony SRF-59. Discussions were focused on the incredible performance of this diminutive low-cost radio and how it held it own against some real benchmark receivers. Out of curiosity, I did a search on the radio to see what it looked like–I expected some Tecsun PL-like unit–and found that, much to my surprise, it’s a simple, analog, totally unassuming AM/FM walkman.  Say, what?

The far biggest surprise came with my price search, however. The SRF-59 is easy to find at $14.95 US. Really, you ask? Oh, yes–and it’s readily available at many online and big box stores.

So–carefully counting my pocket change–I took the plunge, and bought one.

The radio came in a basic plastic blister pack, and it also included headphones. I can’t comment on the headphones as I didn’t even bother unpacking them; instead, I plugged my new SRF-59 into my favorite Sony earbuds.

I have to admit, the AM band on this little radio does indeed shine. Not only is the receiver sensitive and relatively selective (meaning, I don’t hear adjacent signals when tuned in), but it also has excellent audio.  Amazingly, it lives up to all of the praise I had heard about it. I’m quite amazed, in fact, at how well this little unit can null out stations by rotating the radio body a few degrees. Most impressive.

Though I’m no major FM radio listener, I can also vouch for its FM performance, which is quite good.


  • lightweight–indeed, one can safely say, “ultralight”
  • very inexpensive, by comparision
  • operates almost indefinitely on one AA cell
  • simple design, durable construction
  • AM (Mediumwave) sensitivity and selectivity comparable to $100 shortwave portables
  • because tuning is analog, it works in North America just as well as in Japan (see cons)
  • tuning is analog, thus no stations can be saved to memory and there is a noticeable amount of receiver drift if listening over long periods of time
  • no fine-tuning mechanism means that tuning in weak stations takes precision skill on the SRF-59’s very small dial
  • no built-in speaker (this is a Walkman, after all)
In summary, you will regret not purchasing this radio should Sony pull it from the market without warning. While it is a walkman with the above listed limitations, it’s nonetheless a first-rate AM/MW receiver and might be a great avenue into the fun hobby of ultralight DXing.
In short, the Sony SRF-59 is a real gem. But don’t take my word for it, either–go check one out for yourself!
Where to buy:

  • B&H photo
  • Amazon


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SWLing Book Review–Roger Tidy’s Hitler’s Radio War

Not only am I a long-time radio enthusiast, but I’m also something of a history buff—I have a particular affection for WWII era radios, often experiencing virtual time travel while listening to, for example, my Hallicrafter’s SX-24, or my father’s RCA console radio.

I suppose that’s why I was so intrigued to receive a review copy of Hitler’s Radio War by Roger Tidy. Although I know quite a bit of WWII history, I knew relatively little about Hitler’s radio propaganda machine, which Tidy describes in detail in this recent work.

Hitler’s Radio War (Robert Hale, publisher, 2011) is a comprehensive history of the multi-language, insidious Third Reich initiative to brainwash their perceived antagonists, both prior to and in the aftermath of each invasion.

Tidy’s complex and multi-faceted history unfolds in a very logical and deliberate manner. By placing his emphasis on the broadcasters, or radio talent, Tidy also presents a history of traitors, misguided expatriates, and political opportunists. Personalities such as the infamous Lord Haw Haw and Axis Sally (although there are actually two Sallies, as Tidy reveals) often had a passion for political change or their own self-centered achievement, and allegiances which were known to shift with the wind. Tidy describes how the Third Reich’s Gestapo became particularly adept at hunting this type of personality and turning any discovered talent into the “friendly” voice of Fascism.

Tidy’s comprehensive radio history is made particularly relevant to radio enthusiasts like myself in a number of ways. For example, his text frequently includes large sections of original broadcast transcripts, most fascinating in their revelation of the seductively crafted politicism of Hitler’s war machine.  And Tidy’s mention of stations quite often includes specifics such as:

  •  frequency information (i.e., the meter band),
  • a description of the interval signal or theme, and
  • the geographical transmission sites of broadcasts, particularly useful in understanding their efficacy.

It is clear that Tidy has spent a great deal of time conducting original research in BBC monitoring archives and listening to recordings of many of these broadcasts first-hand, which significantly enriches his work.

In short, I found Hitler’s Radio War an insightful, thought-provoking, and enjoyable account of WWII radio history. Also of particular interest to current-day radio listeners, Tidy’s book describes the birth of large government international broadcasters, many of which are still on the air today–namely, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, and the like.

Many thanks to Roger Tidy for writing this fascinating history with radio listeners in mind.

Click here to purchase Hitler’s Radio War from

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