Monthly Archives: December 2015

BBG Watch: Apology issued for digital media outages

BBG-LogoSome of you may have noticed that the Voice of America has been having problems with their online and internal digital content the past few days.

The BBG Watch–a watchdog for US government broadcasting–took a very critical look at the recent failures and connects them to a much bigger picture of dysfunction.

Click here to read the BBG Watch story.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor (and former VOA White House Correspondent) Dan Robinson, for the tip.

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Sangean DT-500W: a new AM / FM / Weather Alert Pocket Radio


Many thanks to my pal, Jeff McMahon from The Herculodge, who has just apprised me of a new Sangean AM/FM/WX portable: the DT-500W. Jeff learned about the new pocket radio via a comment on his blog.

DT-500W-SideIt appears the DT-500W is powered by a rechargeable Li-ion Polymer 3.7V (1850mAh) battery. I would expect good longevity from a full charge.

Based on the specifications, the receiver covers all NOAA weather radio frequencies, the FM broadcast band (87.5 – 108 MHz) and the full AM broadcast band (520 – 1710 kHz). I also noted on the spec sheet, however, that the AM broadcast (mediumwave) band is limited to 10 kHz tuning steps. Not a great contender for the ultralight DXer or someone who travels outside North America if so!

Click here to view the Sangean DT-500W on Sangean’s website.

As of posting, I can’t find the DT-500W listed with any online retailers.

Thanks again for the tip, Jeff!

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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.

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Mediumwave: France, Luxembourg and Germany go silent


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.

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A Little Taste of Cuba on Free To Air Satellite

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi, for the following guest post:

A Little Taste of Cuba on Free To Air Satellite

by Mario Filippi, N2HUN

(All photos courtesy of author)

Tropical countries have always held a fascination for me, Cuba being at the top of the interest totem pole.  Perhaps it’s due to the fact that baby boomers (such as me) remember early 1960’s weekly drills in grammar school, ducking under our desks during the Cuban missile crisis when the cold war was a fact of life. President John Kennedy, Fidel Castro, and Nikita Khrushchev were the primary combatants in those days, and we had to be prepared for a possible attack.  Fortunately our country was spared from any stateside skirmishes, but since those days when Cuba became a forbidden place for US travelers, its history and its people have always captivated my imagination.

For those interested in what’s going on in Cuba there’s always shortwave radio; Radio Habana Cuba always pegs the  shortwave “S” meter and is received loud and clear. On certain nights when propagation on the BCB (broadcast AM band) is favorable towards the Caribbean, Radio Reloj (Radio Clock) can be heard with its’ “RR” identification in CW every minute on the minute.  

But there’s another way to keep current with Cuban events in ways that a shortwave radio cannot provide, and that is through Free To Air satellite, which provides worldwide reception of television and radio stations. A typical FTA satellite installation appears below, consisting of a dish and an LNB pointed towards a satellite of interest.  There are about a dozen Ku band satellites available in the Clarke Belt 22,600 miles away in geostationary orbit all beaming programming to different parts of the globe.

WS International Ku band offset dish with Chapparal Ku LNB

WS International Ku band offset dish with Chapparal Ku LNB

The signal from the satellite dish is fed via RG/6 coax to a satellite receiver which decodes the satellites’ data into TV and radio format that can be viewed or listened to on a standard television, and an example of a modern FTA receiver, the X-Square Premium Mini, sometimes called a STB (Set Top Box) is below. The X-Square Mini is one the smallest of the FTA receivers available and works very well.

X-Square FTA receiver, about the size of a cigarette pack.

X-Square FTA receiver, about the size of a cigarette pack.

Okay, so we have our receiver, dish, etc., now all we need to know is where to find Cuban programming in the Ku satellite band.  As of this writing, Cuban television and radio programs are found on Hispasat at 30W, which has a spot beam to the USA and is easily received on the East coast.  For more information on Hispasat just Google it or look it up on  Pointing your dish at Hispasat, or for that matter at any other FTA satellite requires patience and knowledge, and you can check YouTube which has many videos on the subject.  Best bet would be to have someone who’s experienced with FTA to assist you.

You’ll find about 55 TV channels on Hispasat covering S. America, Asia, Europe, USA, and the Middle East with several TV channels from Cuba such as Cubavision,  Cubavision International,  Senal ACN, Contribucion, Educativo, and Educativo 2.  And from the USA, Radio Martis’ cousin TV Marti (yes there is a TV Marti!) is beamed.  

Screen shots from some of these appear below:

TV Marti talk show with logo on lower right.

TV Marti talk show with logo on lower right.

senal acn

News, sports, music, info channel Senal ACN.

Cubavision International  station identification.

Cubavision International  station identification.

Let’s move on to Cuban radio stations to be heard on Hispasat.  First off, Hispasat covers about 57 radio stations  from the Middle East, S. America, and Europe.  Some of them will be familiar to SWLs while others are local AM and FM stations originating from the mother country, a distinct advantage to having FTA satellite.  Cuban radio stations available on Hispasat are shown in the satellite scan below.  A total of ten stations come in with FM quality reception over FTA satellite, with no fading or hiss.  However, in the event of rain, Ku signals suffer terribly from moisture attenuation but that’s about the only reception hurdle you’ll have to endure.  One of my favorite stations is CMBF with its beautiful classical music.

Cuban radio stations scanned in from satellite Hispasat at 30W.

Cuban radio stations scanned in from satellite Hispasat at 30W.

So  hopefully this little introduction into Cuban radio and TV using Free To Air satellite will kindle interest in this “ultra-shortwave”  mode of looking  (and listening) into what’s happening in this culturally rich island that’s been out of reach for most United States citizens for over half a century.

Thank you so much for the excellent post, Mario. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m planning to install an FTA system at my house in the near future. Your guidance is most helpful!

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The Amateur Astronomer: Tune in to Troy’s Christmas gift

imageSWLing Post reader, Troy Riedel, received a gift like no other from his son this Christmas. No, it wasn’t the fabulous Celestron telescope in the above photo.  On Christmas Eve (December 24) Troy sent the following message:

Merry Christmas, Thomas.

I have to tell you what my son gave me for Christmas a few hours ago.

He purchased 1-hour of radio time for me on WBCQ (5110) for Wednesday, 30 December at 8 P.M. EST.

I will have to pre-record approximately 50-55 minutes over the coming days (not much time to prepare).

After telling my son this is cool – I also added this is the most stressful gift I’ve ever received.

My son suggested I may want to talk about astronomy.

A cool gift, indeed.  Evidently––and even more cool–– Troy is something of a hardcore amateur astronomer. I also encouraged him to do a show on this topic; I can’t think of the last time I heard a show about astronomy on shortwave!

Troy Riedel, host of The Amateur Astronomer

Troy Riedel, host of The Amateur Astronomer

So, despite the challenge of putting a show together in less than a week, Troy confirmed yesterday that he has already completed the show and WBCQ will air it at the following time/frequency:

5,110 kHz on Dec 30, 2015 at 8:00 PM EST (1:00 UTC December 31, 2015)

Troy is looking forward to reception reports and will announce the address during the broadcast.

Oh––and being the good man he is, Troy is also including a PSA for Ears To Our World. Thanks, Troy!

Looking forward to the show!

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QSO Today Interview with Bob Heil

Bob-HeilEric over at QSO Today has posted an interview with Bob Heil, the founder of Heil Sound, whose microphones have transformed both the amateur community and the professional recording industry (Heil Sound is the only technology company featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!)

The interview is about an hour and half long, and I was fascinated with every minute. In addition to talking about how Amateur Radio laid the foundation for his incredible career(s), Bob also talks about the need for Elmers in the hobby and the need to get hams building again. Along the way there are tips about audio for both transmitting and receiving, as well as a bit of discussion concerning the science of phasing – these alone are worth the price of admission!

Here is the info from the QSO Today site:

Bob Heil, K9EID, is no stranger to ham radio, as a pioneer in audio systems, not only for the rock and roll stars in the 60’s and 70’s, but for ham radio as well. As the founder of Heil Sound, Bob’s injection of audio experience and know how has raised the bar of what is acceptable for good sounding voice communications on amateur radio. Bob shares his ham radio story with Eric, 4Z1UG, on this episode of QSO Today.

Show Notes:

Podcast Link:

iTunes Store:


— 73, Robert

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

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