Monthly Archives: August 2012

Review of the 2012 Pirate Radio Annual

Pirate radio is perhaps one of the most dynamic aspects of the diverse landscape of SWLing. In direct contrast with major broadcasters, many of whom are now thinning out their offerings, pirate radio just seems to adapt and grow.

I started listening to shortwave pirates in earnest only a few years ago. I had listened to pirates in the past, but had never followed the pirate scene, nor understood how to reliably find pirates on the shortwave radio dial. I now know, by the number of emails I receive from SWLing Post readers, that there are many others who feel as I did then.

Pirate radio broadcasters do not follow a regular broadcasting schedule, often operate at very low power, and are not necessarily always on the same frequency or even mode.  It’s no wonder they’re hard to find.

I wish, in those early days of exploring the pirate bands, I had known about the Pirate Radio Annual, produced by pirate radio guru Andrew Yoder.

Not only is this book, which explores the pirate radio scene in North America, well written and insightful, it is chock-full of information. It’s a bit like the programming section of the former Passport to Worldband Radio, only focused on pirates. The book also comes with an accompanying audio CD.  Yoder, by the way, has been covering the pirate scene for decades; he’s also the former publisher of hobbyist magazine Hobby Broadcasting.

The 2012 Pirate Radio Annual is divided into several sections:

  • An intro to the guide which–among many other things–explains important terminology, such as the difference between a pirate and a jammer
  • How to QSL pirates
  • Pirate station classification
  • A feature article comparing three different AM shortwave pirate transmitters
  • Other articles with interviews and events/media that have had an impact on the pirate scene (including the controversial “Pirate War” of 2012)
  • Profiles of pirate radio stations heard in 2011, with an additional section on international pirates heard in North America
  • An index for the included audio CD

I especially like the extensive station profiles of pirates who were active in 2011. Not only can I get more info about the more elusive stations that don’t offer many clues to their raison d’etre–such as Radio Strange Outpost–but it also makes for a handy resource to glean QSL contact info. In fact, I learned a lot about the personalities, broadcast histories and habits of many pirates we’ve featured here (like Undercover Radio, Captain Morgan Shortwave, Wolverine Radio, and North Woods Radio, to name a few). Yoder is able to provide details about these station that your average listener just wouldn’t know, including the types of transmitters used, output power, and historical perspectives.

The accompanying audio CD features clips from 78 stations, and includes audio from the transmitter comparison in the book.

For about $20.00 US (with shipping), the 2012 Pirate Radio Annual is unquestionably a great buy for those interested in pirate radio.

You can purchase the 2012 Pirate Radio Annual from:

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Shortwave Radio Recordings: Voice of Greece, Radio Croatia and Radio Romania International

For your listening enjoyment:  Voice of Greece (9,420 kHz), Radio Croatia (9,925 kHz) and Radio Romania International (9,700 kHz). The Voice of Greece and Radio Croatia  broadcast an extensive mix of music; while Radio Romania International offers their English and French hours.

I recorded these broadcasts simultaneously via my WinRadio Excalibur, yesterday at 00:00 UTC.

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National Radio Day 2012

Click to enlarge. (Source: NPR)

Today in the US, it’s National Radio Day–a day to acknowledge the significance of radio technology and the way it has shaped our past, shapes our present, and continues to shape our future.

National Public Radio and its member stations typically celebrate with some fanfare. I especially love their vintage-inspired graphic this year, featuring Guglielmo Marconi.

In fairness, we should also acknowledge Nikola Tesla, whose 17 patents may have helped Marconi win his Nobel Prize as the father of radio.

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Update: REE’s Cariari de Pococi transmitter

Yesterday, I posted that REE’s Cariari de Pococi transmitter has been causing significant spurious transmissions.

This morning, I received the following message from REE:

We are very thanked for your feedback about the reception in SW. We are certainly going to investigate […] and will send your report to the transmitter site.

They also indicated that it could be caused by a multiple harmonic, possibly local to my receiver. Since this problem has been documented by others, including Glenn Hauser, I know it’s a transmitter problem on their end.

Regardless, I’m very pleased they’re taking this seriously.

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REE’s Cariari de Pococi transmitter malfunctioning

For several weeks, I have noticed that Radio Exterior de España’s Cariari de Pococi transmitter has been sending spurs up the band during broadcasts on 17.850 MHz.

I’m certainly not the only one who has noticed, either. Glenn Hauser has mentioned his frustration with this continuous band pollution on several episodes of GH’s World of Radio broadcasts. It seems that contacting REE is not improving the situation.

The spurs are actually travelling up as far as the 17 meter amateur radio band. Today, while on 18.118 MHz, I could hear the tell-tale signs–pops and crack sounds with a faint voice signature. I recorded what it sounds like in AM on 18.118 MHz–click here to listen.

When I turned on the spectrum display of my WinRadio Excalibur, I could see as well as hear that it was emanating from an REE sports broadcast on 17,850.

Below are some screen shots of what the spur looks like on a spectrum display. If you compare the two images it’s easy to see. (Note that spurs appear as flashes on the spectrum and are not constant, like noise level or other “clean” AM carriers.)

If a domestic AM broadcaster in the US was causing this type of harmful interference, a correction would be enforceable, and most likely, the station would be taken off the air until the problem was solved. The transmitter is harming other broadcasters and the amateur radio spectrum. It’s an embarrassment for REE, too–their signal is quite strong into North America and I would otherwise love listening to them. While their transmitter is malfunctioning, however, their fidelity is compromised with distorted, “splattering” audio.

If you have noticed this, please consider sending a message to REE’s main email address:

Perhaps if they receive enough complaints, they will take action.

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The Degen DE1129 features 10 kHz steps on medium wave

I just received confirmation from a representative at that the Degen DE1129 will offer selectable 10kHz steps for the medium wave (AM) band in North/South America (ITU Region 2).

My contact had to verify this fact by actually trying out a radio and making the selection manually (see photo), as the written radio specifications were unclear.

Upon learning that its predecessor, the Degen DE1128, did not have 10 kHz stepping, it lost an audience in the Americas.  I feared that the DE1129 would have the same limitations, but fortunately (for Degen) it is not. Of course, here in North and South America, we have the Grundig G2 Reporter–which is sold and supported here in the US as a DE1128 alternative.  But this newest member of the Degen line is a welcome addition.

ITU (International Telecommunication Union) Regions Map

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Frank’s assessment of the Elad FDM-S1

The ELAD FDM-S1 Software Defined Receiver

SWLing reader Frank Holden (VK3JFH/VP8DNM) contacted me by email to share his experience with the ELAD FDM-S1–of particular interest because we have yet to see many reviews of this particular software defined receiver. Although the FDM-S1 was announced with some modest fanfare, its actual release and availability skipped over many of us. Not over Frank, however:  he purchased an FDM-S1 and had it shipped to his home in Australia, where he apparently put it through its paces.

Frank’s overview of the ELAD FDM-S1 is quite good, and he has kindly given us permission to post his observations here:

I have had an ELAD FDM-S1 now for over a month, having purchased it directly from the manufacturers, and while I don’t feel qualified to write a review you may be interested in my opinion of it.

In my shack at present I have an Icom R-1500, Icom 718, Tecsun 390, Tecsun 660, Grundig G6, Sangean ATS 909, Drake SW 8, Kenwood R5000, a Funcube Dongle and an Alinco DJ-X11. In the way of antennas I have a couple of dipoles, a G5RV , and a 10 metre vertical for TX together with an AOR DC to Daylight, a Diamond discone , a GWhip longwire and a simple 7 metre long untuned vertical on a squid pole for RX.

I was going to buy my ELAD pre-release from WoodBoxRadio but language difficulties and confusion over getting it VAT-free put paid to that. I take full responsibility for the confusion……

In the end I bought one direct from ELAD sdr for 362.81 Euros VAT-free, which price included 10 Euros postage to Australia. It arrived within a week… would that everything that I bought from overseas was as cost effective and fast.

Out of the box it was simple enough to set up with just a USB connection to the computer. I have it connected to a Dell Netbook and this had to be upgraded to XP Service Pack 3 together with some .Net software, the purpose of which remains something of a mystery. I imagine with a newer computer it would operate straight out of the box. It came with a DVD which had both the .net software on it plus an early version of the operating software. I immediately upgraded this software to v3.07 which is what I am currently using.

I believe that originally the frequency range stopped at 30 MHz… however, it can now receive up to 452 MHz if this is selected in the advanced menu. As I write this I am monitoring aviation traffic on 132.200.  Likewise the original viewable spectrum was quite restricted,  but in the latest version 1.2 MHz can be viewed in the waterfall.

Tuning is straightforward… either by direct keyboard entry or by clicking on the waterfall…. there are also three ‘sliders’ at the bottom of the screen which permit ‘mouse tuning’ by either metre band, MHz, or kHz. Mode selection and quite a bit of other stuff (did I mention that this is not a technical review?) are on a drop down menu at the right hand side of the screen. DRM is included amongst the modes and I listen to RNZI DRM most evenings.

I haven’t used any of the recording options on this radio yet.  What I have been doing is either simple SWLing where the ability to monitor an entire Metre band is excellent, especially when combined with the info on the WRTV frequency guide DVD. I also use it at other times of the day  in what I suppose you could call ‘Ham’ mode where it can be left watching the 20 metre, 40 metre or other ham band and I can see when a band has opened… far simpler than scanning around…

So all in all, I am very satisfied and would recommend this SDR to anyone.

My #2 radio these days is my Tecsun 390 with its ETM… another bit of brilliant kit.

Frank also sent some helpful photos of his screen, and added:

I am currently running v.3.07 beta… the last shot is the latest  ‘polished’ version   3.01.

As you can see in that shot, you can now get three screens, including an AF and an IF screen. That version also comes with a separate program that lets you work with recorded files more easily.

He even included some photos of recording:

Thanks for your most interesting observations, Frank.  If there are any others out there who have experience with the Elad FDM-S1, feel free to comment below or simply contact me.

For those of us here in the US, to my knowledge there still is no FCC approval of this device. I have contacted Elad with this question; they’re on annual holiday leave just now.

Follow our other Elad FDM-S1 posts with the tag: Elad FDM-S1

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