Guest Post: Troy takes us on a tour of his listening post

DoxyTronics 8020CA Antenna

DoxyTronics 8020CA Antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel, who writes:

I don’t have a “shack”, but I wanted to take the time to share with you my “listening post”. But first, let me start from the beginning.  

I’d call myself an amateur astronomer first – and a Shortwave Listener (SWL’er) second (I have never been a Ham Operator).  

I started my astronomy hobby as a young kid who was enthralled by the Apollo Missions.  I was also fascinated by weather & I learned how to make short-term 12-36 hour forecasts by making cloud observations, following the barometric pressure trend & noting changes in wind direction.  I am still an amateur astronomer (a very expensive endeavor).  I was able to pursue my childhood interest in weather and I became an Aviation Weather Forecaster in the military (I also instructed synoptic meteorology in the military at the schoolhouse).  I promoted myself out of meteorological jobs in my Service but I was able to transition to a deployable job that allowed me to visit 50 countries.  I retired with slightly over 30-years served.

When I was a kid, a buddy had a shortwave radio but we could never hear anything (we had no clue).  I had an Electro-Brand EB2100 5-band radio that had AM/FM, Police, Fire, Aviation & NOAA (if I recall).  We heard transmissions on that EB2100!  I didn’t truly discover shortwave until the early 1990s.  My first shortwave radio was a Panda 2006 (I challenge readers to look-up that model in the 1994 Passport to World Band Radio).  I liked shortwave so much, I sold the Panda to help finance my next radio.  I pre-ordered & subsequently received one of the first Gru?ndig Yacht Boy 400s released in the U.S. (I still have the radio & the receipt).

I think, for a SWL’er, I have a decent collection of shortwave radios & antennae:

  • Grundig Yacht Boy 400
  • Grundig  G6 Aviator Buzz Aldrin Ed.
  • Grundig G3 Globe Traveler
  • Tecsun PL-390
  • Sony ICF-7600GR
  • Tecsun PL-365
  • Grundig Satellit 750
  • Grundig G2000A Porsche
  • RadioShack 140-214 Digital Recorder
  • AMECO TPA Active Antenna
  • Crane Twin-Coil Ferrite Antenna
  • DoxyTronics 8020A Passive Antenna
  • Kaito KA35 Active Loop Proximate Antenna
  • NASA PA30 Wideband Passive Antenna
  • A Helical/Slinky Antenna
  • RadioShack 20-280 Active Antenna
  • Sony AN-LP1 Active Magnetic Loop Antenna
  • Tecsun AN-200 AM Passive Antenna
  • Terk Advantage AM-1000 Passive Antenna
  • TG34 Active Magnetic LoopAntenna
  • Yo-Yo Antennas & various Longwires
  • Extended AM Ferrite Rod for PL-365/360
Slinky, ST3 Scanner Antenna (EB2100 on top of the wall unit library)

Slinky, ST3 Scanner Antenna (EB2100 on top of the wall unit library)

Okay, so what is my “listening post”?  It’s a sitting room attached to my master bedroom.  I have a roll-top desk.  A slinky antenna stretched across one side of the room above the window.  And an ST3 “Sputnik” Scanner Antenna hung in front of the window (for my RadioShack Pro-651).  I use an old-school iPad 1st Gen next to my radios because I found that it emits virtually no RF compared to my iMac, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pros.  Besides using the iPad Gen 1 as an Internet reference, it’s also loaded with every one of my radio & antennae manuals, nearly every copy of Passport to World Band Radio, and many Spectrum Monitor issues.  If I cannot find a pdf version of a manual, I use my document scanner to create my own pdf’s.

Typical set-up (the metal basket bin is completely filled with radios, antennae, adapters, etc., all in their own cases)

Typical set-up (the metal basket bin is completely filled with radios, antennae, adapters, etc., all in their own cases)

Having my listening post essentially in the master bedroom causes conflict because my wife must get up early & drive 60-miles to work thus I am kicked-out and banished downstairs fairly early each night … while carrying a radio or two with me if I wish to continue listening.  Nearly all of my shortwave listening occurs before 8:30 P.M.

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I have all of my radios and antennae neatly organized in padded bags & cases within an arms reach of my roll-top.  Since everything is organized in its own case, I can easily grab whatever combination I want if I were to travel (or go outside, or go downstairs when my wife kicks-me-out of my listening post).

My radios in their padded cases (remember my GPS & Tablet case recommendations many months ago?)

My radios in their padded cases (remember my GPS & Tablet case recommendations many months ago?)

What are my favorites?  I typically use the Grundig Satellit 750 the most – mainly because of its size & large intuitive buttons.  The direct BNC connections make it quick & easy to transition from one antenna to another.  My favorite SW radio feature is Tecsun’s ETM (I wish every radio had it) thus I find myself using the PL-390 & PL-365 especially when out of my listening post.  My favorite antenna is the TG34.  I find that it greatly enhances the signal with a minimal increase in noise.  The Slinky is great in that I can add it to another antenna that I’m using to make a more effective combination (e.g., AMECO TPA with the Slinky & the NASA PA30 with the Slinky on the radio whip work well for me).

The bins and black cases with my gear (those are two Plano Gun Cases … a 2-gun case and a 4-gun case; I have 8 more filled with my astronomy gear but that’s another story).

The bins and black cases with my gear (those are two Plano Gun Cases … a 2-gun case and a 4-gun case; I have 8 more filled with my astronomy gear but that’s another story).

I think shortwave listening is a great hobby that compliments my amateur astronomy.  Why?  No matter the clouds, extreme temperatures, etc., I always have something interesting to do.  But I do miss the days when the wave bands were crowded with international broadcasters.  At least I know that Jupiter, Saturn & the thousands of deep sky objects within grasp of my many telescopes & binoculars will NOT be leaving the sky until long after I leave this planet!

You’ve set up an excellent listening post, Troy! As you well know, I’m a bit of a pack junkie, so I love the fact you have so many padded cases and protective gear for your equipment–no doubt, this is championed by your amateur astronomer half!

SWLing Post readers might recall that, last year, Troy actually put together a shortwave broadcast dedicated to amateur astronomy. We published a full recording of the show on the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.

Thanks, again, for sharing a tour of your listening post, Troy!

13 thoughts on “Guest Post: Troy takes us on a tour of his listening post

  1. TomL

    Troy,
    Would you recommend the TG34 loop as a good traveling setup? I am looking for a very portable loop. I am finding lots of noise even at campgrounds (people take their plasma TV’s and such with them in their RV’s !!!).

    And how do you like the performance of the Doxytronics 8020A ? That might also work well for portable use.

    TomL

    Reply
    1. Troy

      Hi Tom,

      I do like the TG34 (FYI, the “TG” is from “Tquchina” or Tao Qu). Tao Qu had an eBay store called “Sino Radios”. Unfortunately, Tao Qu doesn’t appear to be on the U.S. eBay site any longer. I remember Tao Qu sending an email to his past customers re: a problem re: China Customs &/or importing to the U.S. However if you search for TG34 on the UK eBay site, you will find this antenna there.

      There is a new, re-designed antenna that was based off the TG34 (and KA33 – no longer in production). Since I wrote this Guest Post, I have ordered the ADDWARDS A38-LMS from Anon Co. in China. The A38-LMS is said to have more durable (thicker) wires than the TG34, it now has a dial to control “Gain” and the bands are now separated in three vice two (LW, MW, SW switch). Since I really like the TG34, I’m very hopeful this new A38-LMS is even better.

      In my corner of the house, I seem to be in a low RFI Zone. Maybe that’s why I like the TG34 so much? At a campground I’d think that it would perform very well since there are so many places you could set-up away from the noise.

      As I ramble … I’ll simply tell you that once I receive the A38-LMS, I’ll follow-up with a new post right here.

      Deal?

      BTW, the A38-LMS is also listed on eBay but it’s about $3 less expensive ordering directly from Anon Co.

      The DoxyTronics is the most recent antenna I’ve purchased & received. It has a BNC connection. I use an adapter to connect it to my portables, but my Satellit 750 has a direct BNC connection for the antenna. In very limited testing, the DoxyTronics didn’t seem to improve any of my portables. But it did improve reception with the Satellit 750. But I stress, this is a very limited evaluation as I’ve only had it for exactly 7-days.

      I hope this answers your question. Again, I’ll update my thoughts on the A38-LMS. It should be here in about 10-days.

      Reply
      1. Troy

        Hi Tom,

        I received the A38-LMS yesterday, much earlier than anticipated. I’ve only scratched the surface of testing & using it, but thus far I’m disappointed.

        (1) The newly added “GAIN” button goes from zero to full GAIN … there is no gradual adjustment and I’m extremely disappointed in that.

        (2) It seems a bit more sensitive than the TG34 to interference.

        (3) None of these antennas are magic, and I surely didn’t expect that, but the only positive I can see is that it will take a “good” signal, that may vary a bit up/down on the S Meter, and make it slightly steadier & more even.

        I may do a comprehensive review and send it to Thomas.

        Reply
        1. Troy

          Tom,

          Just to close my thoughts on the A38-LMS Active Antenna … three words: “I returned it”. I never understood why so many people dislike active antennas. Now I know. I’ve always had good luck until now. At least Anon Co. has a great return policy.

          I’m going to keep testing the DoxyTronics 8020CA Magnetic Loop. Tonight I heard the BBC on 9890 (around 2310) with the 8020CA connected to my Satellit 750. Not bad when you consider who & where that signal targets. I think I could have a bad BNC to 3.5mm adapter & that may be the reason it doesn’t work with any of my portables. I’ve ordered another adapter & a BNC to 3.5mm cable so I can connect the 8020CA directly.

          Thanks again for the comments.

          Reply
          1. Thomas Post author

            Hi, Troy,

            Wow–thanks for letting us know. If you don’t mind, could you send me your mini review and I will post it, or I can simply pull from your comments? Sometimes it’s important to point out the products that don’t work. Sounds like this one was completely ineffective.

            And you’re right–active antennas are problematic:
            https://swling.com/blog/2013/01/the-truth-about-portable-amplified-shortwave-antennas/

            Thanks for sharing!
            Cheers,
            Thomas

  2. Robert Gulley

    Troy –
    Thanks for sharing your listening post with us – very, very inspiring!! It’s got me remembering some slinky(s) I bought just for such a purpose and never put up. I really appreciate your organized approach and the variety of options you have given yourself.

    Reply
    1. Troy

      Hi Robert,

      Well, thank you very much for the nice comments.

      People either love or hate slinky antennas. But I’ll tell you what, that is my most used antenna. And like I stated in the post, I often get great results when I add the Slinky to another antenna to create a combination. As long as you have a radio that won’t overload, combinations seem to work for me. Remember, I’m just a SWL’er, not a ham, I’m no radio expert … but as an example, I can’t combine two antennas with the pocket-sized Grundig G6 aviator – that will overload. But the Slinky + 1 works on just about all of my other radios.

      Reply
  3. Broadwing

    Avery nice selection of equipment, and well organized. We live in a Cape Cod style home with my radio room being directly above the master bedroom. When I go up late at night or early in the morning, I always use headphones while listening. That way I don’t disturb anyone below me. I didn’t see you list or state you use headphones. They might be a solution to noise issues? Just a thought. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Troy

      Hi Broadwing,

      Thank you, great comments.

      Unfortunately, the room that I use is … call it an off-shoot & continuation to the Master Bedroom off the backside of the house. There is no door. No wall. So the radio noise isn’t the only issue … it’s lights, the noise I make, etc. Happy wife, happy life … right?

      I’m also an auto racing fan (I typically make an annual pilgrimage to Road Atlanta for the 10-hour IMSA endurance race). I have four headsets for listening to the in-car communications as well as the TV feed & race commentary. The best headphones I’ve ever used for that are the “Koss QZ-99 Noise Reduction Stereophone” (full over the ear type). These $40 headphones are great for shortwave listening! They’re great when you’re trying to coax-out & distinguish that faint signal. These headphones really allow you to “focus”.

      Reply
  4. Eric

    Troy, nice write-up and nice listening post.

    Were the PDFs of Passport to Worldband Radio found on the internet or did you scan physical copies yourself? If it was the former, could you point me to the files?

    Many thanks,

    Eric, WD8RIF

    Reply
  5. Troy

    Hi Eric,

    The “American Radio History” web site had, for a short period of time, uploaded 18 issues of Passport To World Band Radio as PDF files. Unfortunately the publisher asked for them to be removed – and they were. I was lucky enough to download them before they were removed.

    It’s unfortunate, very unfortunate. Since the books are no longer published, all of the sales are “resales” on the used book market. Unless I am missing something, I can see how these PDF files would be harmful to the publisher.

    I am lucky to have collected every print issue of Passport. That first issue took me years to find – and I severely over-paid for it. But I’m glad I did.

    Reply
  6. Mario

    Very nice and cozy listening post Troy, looks like the perfect place to unwind, relax, and travel the world. Regarding the slinky antenna in the second picture, just as Robert mentioned, I have seen these for years and years and never considered purchasing one until now. Some, in the past were designed for ham use but I guess they’d be fine as SWL antennas. Time to start shopping for one, so thanks for the inspiration and the post.

    Reply
    1. Troy

      Hi Mario,

      Thank you for replying.

      I purchased my Slinky Antenna from seller “peanutpaster” on eBay. When I first received & tried it (6-8 yrs ago), I didn’t notice much of a difference. But as I experimented with placement, how it was hung, how it was stretched, etc., it started making a big difference. As an example, I consider the little Grundig Porsche Design radio to be a “decoration” – it’s nice to look at but nothing more (mine is horrible – a ham gave it to me for free when I bought another receiver from him). If I attach the end of the slinky to the Porsche, it will pick-up the strongest signals (still not a Dx machine but the improvement was startling).

      I recommend you buy a Slinky Antenna made from a full-size slinky, not the “Slinky Junior”. The full-size Slinky is about 65-feet of wire & the Juniors are under 30-feet.

      Reply

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