Monthly Archives: August 2022

Radio Angela (WBCQ 5130 kHz) Schedule for September 2022

(from Bill Tilford)

The following is the Radio Angela (WBCQ 5130 kHz) schedule for September 2022.   Radio Angela welcomes Austin Saturday Night, a new monthly program by Terry Colgan, who also produces Texas Radio Shortwave on other frequencies/stations, and Venerable Verses with Lainie Petersen on Sunday nights.  That program begins with a serialized reading of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

http://wbcq.com/radio-angela-schedule-september-2022.pdf

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Small Unidirectional Loop Antenna (SULA) Part 3: Questions & Answers

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor extraordinaire, 13dka, who brings us Part Two of a three part series about the new SULA homebrew antenna project. This first article describes this affordable antenna and demonstrates its unique reception properties. The second article focuses on construction notes. This third and final article will essentially be a Q&A about the SULA antenna. 

This wideband unidirectional antenna is an outstanding and innovative development for the portable DXer. I love the fact that it came to fruition via a collaboration between Grayhat and 13dka: two amazing gents and radio ambassadors on our SWLing.net discussion board and here on the SWLing Post. So many thanks to both of them!

Please enjoy and share Part 3:


Part 3: SULA Q&A

by 13dka

Q: Where can I ask questions, discuss all aspects of the the SULA or collaborate in its further development?

A: There is a thread dedicated to the SULA in the new SWLing.com message board: https://swling.net/viewtopic.php?t=55

Q: Since the antenna is “lossy”, what’s the point of having a “beam”?

A: The answer is once again “SNR”: First off, remember that the LNA is there to make up for most of the losses. Secondly, this is all about the noise pickup, 20dB less gain/more losses outside the main lobe means also a reduction of atmospheric/cosmic/whatnot QRN and of course everything manmade from all these sides. The wide horizontal lobe is more or less one hemisphere horizontally, but the flat-ish vertical pattern makes that only a slice of it. In other words, there will be less QRN and QRM pickup from the back and the top. The idea is that the SNR will ideally increase more than the preamp’s noise figure will cost and it often sounds like this is what actually happens. Of course it’s also nice that you can turn an unwanted signal down using the more or less pronounced notch in the backside pattern up to 21 MHz – also very helpful for direction finding.

Q: Do I need a rotor?

A: It depends. If you are one of the lucky few still having a low-QRM-environment at home and you want to put it in the backyard, you really may want to be able to turn it remotely. If you’re using it portable you can simply rotate the mast manually. If you have local QRM or can’t mount it very far away from your or other houses, you may want to rotate the back of the antenna towards that source, leave it at that position forever and enjoy what’s coming in on the pretty wide main lobe of the antenna. The horizontal lobe covers more or less half of the horizon, depending on your stations of interest and location you could get away with never turning the antenna at all.

Q: Is it better than the XYZ loop?

A: Hey, that’s exactly what I wanted to ask you! 🙂 Even though the SULA is very similar in appearance and performance to a good SML working in ideal (ground conductivity) conditions, the SULA is a pretty different animal with a different behavior: Regular small loops, besides being bidirectional, can lose quite a bit of their low angle sensitivity over “poor” ground while the SULA is supposed to be retaining its properties better over any type of ground. Also, while many SMLs are tuned for VLF through the lower portion of the shortwave, the SULA complements those with quite uniform (good) properties up to 30 MHz and beyond.

Q: I have an end-fed random wire or dipole strung up from the house to a tree etc. – can the SULA beat that?

A: That’s quite possible. To get low takeoff angles from horizontal wire antennas you need to string them up at least 1/2 wavelength high, that’s 20m/66ft on 40/41m, 10m/33ft on 20m and so on. If you can’t do that, the SULA may be your ticket to listen farther beyond the horizon. Also, wire antennas are often strung up to match space restrictions or avoid QRM vectors and that way you may end up with some directionality in directions you don’t want, or no directionality at all when the wire is too low. Another noteworthy point is the ground: For most horizontal antennas, better ground means a considerable higher takeoff angle so the dipole needs even more height for low angles. The SULA’s takeoff angle benefits a little from the better ground and only gets a little worse over poor ground.

Q: Do I really need an LNA?

A: I hope so? Of course it depends… if you are going to try this antenna in a very noisy environment, the LNA may have little to no benefit. The noise is limiting your “radio horizon” to very loud signals anyway and for those you may not need an LNA, ever. On the other hand, the antenna is very lossy and in a quiet environment where noise is not an issue at all, weak signals may drop below the sensitivity threshold of your receiver without the LNA. The less noise you have, the more you’ll be able to benefit from an LNA. You will also need one when your radio isn’t all that sensitive, similar to the requirements to run a YouLoop. Andrew kept the loop impedance as constant as possible in order to allow any low impedance coax preamp to work behind the Balun. Any LNA with 20dB of gain should do, as per usual, better stuff may bring better results.

Among the sparse offers for decent shortwave LNAs, the NooElec LANA HF seems to be the only decent LNA sold via Amazon. It’s comparatively low-cost and unlike the other offers on Amazon, ready to be powered via Bias-T or even via Micro-USB and therefore happy with 5V. Since I also had the balun from the same company I could simply connect that all with a couple of these cute little SMA plumbing bits and it worked. The downside is its unknown but perceivably low resilience against intermodulation (low 3rd-order intercept point), this is usually not a problem with such a small loop but it can be in the presence of nearby transmitters.

If you do have nearby transmitters and don’t mind sourcing an LNA from Europe, Andrew recently pointed me to preamps from here. They offer a moderately priced preamp with a 2N5109 transistor (based on the W7IUV design) for a high IP3 value and low noise, which is also available in PCB-only and fully assembled versions including a compartment. They also offer Bias-T boxes.

Another alternative would be https://www.sv1afn.com/en/product-category-5/-6.html – the design (using a GALI-84 MMIC) is promising more headroom than the LANA HF (which seems to use the lower voltage GALI-39), but needs 12V power like the W7UV preamp above. This LNA is available in a ready-to-use box as well.

Q: What is special/different about this antenna? There are already very similar designs!

A: It’s supposed to be simpler and more compact/portable, and it seems to deliver more consistent results over the entire coverage range in different usage environments than similar designs. The SULA was designed to be made with things that are particularly easy to obtain, or which were already obtained — many of us SWLs have some of that Nooelec stuff in our drawer anyway, even when (or because) we’re not habitual antenna builders and balun winders. Now making a better balun and buying a better preamp is not hard and could even bring better results but the point is that you don’t have to. In summary, this is not meant to be a miracle antenna, just number of compromises re-arranged to create a particularly uncomplicated, small, unidirectional loop antenna that aims for DX, for apartment dwellers and DX nomads like me.

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Julian spots a Sony ICF-SW77 on eBay

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Julian, who writes:

Hi Thomas,

I found this eBay listing for a seemingly new in the box Sony ICF SW77 complete with accessories and paperwork. It may interest SWLing readers.

Click here to check it out on eBay.

Best wishes,
Julian

Thank you for the tip, Julian. This does look like a solid unit and in great shape. The seller also has a positive review history which is always a plus. As I always mention with portables of this age, you would need to plan to have it serviced in the future to make sure there are no leaky capacitors or other issues ongoing. I’ll admit I’ve always liked the design of the SW77! That said, 480 EUR is a steep asking price!

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Radio Waves: The Gamut All Digital at 4 Years, Glory Days of Pirate Radio, AIR to Kashmir, and Podcast Collaborations

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to Eric Jon Magnuson for summarizing these news items for Radio Waves!


Hubbard Is Four Years In With All-Digital AM. Here’s How It’s Doing. (Inside Radio)

It has been just over four years since Hubbard Radio’s adult alternative “The Gamut” WWFD, Frederick, MD (820) powered down its analog signal and began operating as a digital-only AM station under experimental authority granted by the FCC. Since then, new FCC rules permitting all-digital AMs industrywide have broadcasters taking a closer look at WWFD as they consider options for struggling AMs.

WWFD posted a 1.5 share (12+) in Nielsen’s Frederick, MD spring survey with a weekly cume of 3,300. Before it went all digital, Dave Kolesar, Senior Broadcast Engineer at Hubbard and the station’s PD, says it was a ratings no-show, “a wasted signal.”

The idea for making the all-digital leap came around Christmas 2016 when Kolesar concluded that a music format on AM – even one as differentiated as The Gamut’s expansive playlist – was “pretty much a nonstarter that exists for the purpose of having an FM translator. In all-digital mode, the AM signal has the capability of becoming relevant again” with digital sound quality, and artist and album title and album artwork displays.

According to Xperi, about 35% of cars on the road in the DC market are equipped with HD Radio receivers. Yet only a small fraction of listening to radio in the market is to AM radio. The station focuses on the one-third of the market that could enjoy a music format that looks and feels like any other service in the dashboard. The strategy involves using the FM translator as promotional vehicle for the digital AM frequency: “when you’re outside the coverage area of our 94.3 FM signal, tune into 820 and hear us while you’re driving around,” Kolesar explains. [Continue reading…]

OPINION: Remembering the glory days of pirate radio 55 years on (Eastern Daily Press)

Radio DJ Tom Edwards looks back at his youth spent broadcasting off the East Anglia coast

Although I’ve lived in Lincolnshire for nearly 30 years having been born and educated in Norwich, I will of course always be a Norfolk man. At 77 years of age now I’ve been a broadcaster for 57 of those years.

During Easter of 1964 a somewhat mysterious radio station came on the airwaves playing non-stop music and the presenters seemed to be just ad libbing at the microphone in contrast to the rather staid BBC light programme which hardly played any popular music. The station turned out to be the now famous Radio Caroline, which was transmitting from a ship off the East Anglia coast.

I was a Bluecoat at Pontins holiday camp at Pakefield and the site had a Radio Pontins Tannoy system so I asked the boss for some money to buy some 45 hit singles which he agreed to and so started doing record requests for the happy campers.

Other stations, whether they were ships or wartime fortresses, suddenly began to appear right around the coast of the UK. Apart from Caroline there were other stations including Radio London, Radio England, Radio270 and Radio 390.

The more I heard of these stations, which were becoming so popular with an estimated audience of 22 million, the more I wanted to be out there at sea with them. I wrote and sent tapes of my Pontins shows to all of them. While on a few days off in Norwich, a man called Reg Calvert called me and said he liked what he heard and offered me a weekend try out on Radio City. [Continue reading…]

AIR’s Station At 9,000 Feet Along LoC In Kashmir Broadcasts Programs For People Living Across Border (India Times)

Surrounded by the barbed wires, dense deodar trees and Pir Panchal mountains in the backdrop, this is the All India Radio (AIR) Srinagar’s Radio Station which has been set up close to the Line of Control (LoC) in Rustum area of J&K’s Uri sector.

Set up in November 2020, the station has been built 9,000 feet above the sea level.

The radio station has been set up with an aim to provide access to the Kashmiri people living on the other side of the border to listen to their favourite programs.

“The local news, music programs and especially Pahari and Gojari programs are aired from this station for the Kashmiri population living on the other side of the LoC,” said Qazi Masood who heads the station in Uri. [Continue reading…]

Podcast Collaborations: The positives, the pitfalls, and the public interest (Public Media Alliance)

Three top public media podcast executives discuss with PMA the benefits and complications that come with collaborations, and how ultimately, they can help public media organisations fulfil their public service obligations.

As the podcast market globally becomes ever more saturated and competitive, PMA invited three top podcast executives from three leading public media organisations to discuss how collaborations might provide the pathway for public media organisations to remain the premier podcast producers. It came after a talk about podcast collaborations at Radiodays Europe in Malmö, Sweden in May 2022.

They spoke to PMA’s Editorial Manager, Harry Lock.

Harry Lock: Could you give me some examples of podcasts which you’ve worked on where you collaborated with another organisation? How does it actually work logistics-wise? 

Arif Noorani, Director of CBC Podcasts: Hunting Warhead is a collaboration we did with VG, Scandinavia’s biggest newspaper, on a story they’d spent more than two years on (it was nominated for a Prix Italia.) Production wise – CBC led the podcast and embedded a VG team member in the production team providing contacts, research and notes on scripts.

We have three international co-productions with the BBC World Service – launching in the next year. It’s an equal joint effort – Jon Manel, commissioner for the BBC World Service and I co-lead all aspects of the project. We think the combined heft of CBC Podcasts and the BBC World Service was attractive. We meet weekly and more (along with Whatsapping each other if it’s urgent) to discuss production, content, rollout and all the business side of things. We have one point person between the production teams and the BBC/CBC to keep it streamlined. To make this work, you have to have lots of trust between all sides, and a shared vision of the type of content you want to make (in this case journalistically-driven serialised narrative storytelling rich in characters and heartbeat). Jon and I have informally collaborated for a few years so that really helped. We’ll also combine our audience building, digital and marketing efforts in the launch and rollout.

Andrew Davies, Digital and Engagement Editor, ABC Australia: Co-productions and collaborations with external organisations/partners is still a relatively new area for the ABC in podcasting. There have been a number of collaborations between Radio National (ABC’s specialist talks network) and the BBC but those have mostly been radio focused. The ABC’s Audio Studios team did a co-production with WNYC Studios a few years ago with Short & Curly, our very popular ethics podcast for children.

More recently we’ve worked with Arif and the CBC Podcasts team around the release of series two of our popular Stuff The British Stole podcast. That involved the CBC team helping with audience building (through cross-promotion, publicity, marketing and digital/social content) in the North American market. That was a really successful collaboration and we were excited to work with the CBC as we knew they recognised not just what a great show it is but also wanted to help it reach a bigger audience. There were a large number of people involved from both broader teams but I want to echo Arif’s point about having clear point people on both sides to keep things streamlined.

Tim Watkin, Executive Producer of Podcasts & Series, RNZ: RNZ Podcasts has produced 46 podcasts in partnership with 38 different organisations. That includes other broadcasters and media, production houses and funders. Collaboration can take many forms.

The most common form of collaboration for RNZ is where we make a podcast alongside an independent production company. For example, Eating Fried Chicken in the Shower is a series that was pitched to us by an independent producer, Charlie Bleakley, and host James Nokise. RNZ paid for the series but was very hands-on, more than a mere commission. We provided a supervising producer, sound recordist on location, draft audio edits, studios for the final mix and promotion. [Continue reading…]


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Matt’s 2022 Portable Loop Antenna Shootout

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Matt Blaze, for the following guest post:


Matt’s 2022 Portable Loop Antenna Shootout

by Matt Blaze, WB2SRI

Followers of this blog may be familiar with my “shortwave radio shootouts” that I post from time to time. The idea is to compare how well different radios demodulate the exact same signal. Basically, I take a bunch of radios, hook them up to the same antenna via an RF distribution amplifier, tune the radios to some distant signal, and record the audio output from them simultaneously. Sometimes that kind of comparison can be more revealing of actual real-world performance than lab measurements or technical specifications.

The other day, I decided to do the same thing, but for antennas instead of radios. Essentially, I inverted the setup. Instead of hooking up different radios to the same antenna, I hooked up identical radios to different portable antennas and recorded them demodulating the same signals at the same time.

In this first of perhaps a series of these antenna shootouts, I wanted to compare three portable amplified magnetic loop antennas. When I say “portable” here, I mean broadband antennas that can pack reasonable compactly for travel and that can be set up and broken down easily for use “on location”, say on a picnic table or hotel balcony, or perhaps installed temporarily on a roof, without too much fuss.

The antennas are:

The Wellbrook FLX1530LN with a 1 meter diameter loop of LMR400 coax. This is my “standard” portable antenna (I use a telescoping broom handle for the support; I wrote about it here as the “signal sweeper” last year). Excellent performance, but on the bulky side for travel. Performs well from LW through HF. Not cheap, at about USD 225 including shipping for the amplifier and power injector, but not including the loop, mounting hardware, or feedline.

The Wellbrook FLX1530LN with a 0.5 meter diameter loop of RG142 (a stiff “aircraft grade” version of RG58 that holds it shape well at this size). I used some 1/2 inch PVC pipe as the vertical support. Because of the smaller diameter loop and thinner coax, it packs down to a much smaller and lighter package than the 1 meter LMR400 version.

The K-180WLA, an inexpensive (about USD 60) 0.5 meter loop from China, sold on eBay and Amazon. The loop is steel wire (which can be wound down to a small diameter for transport), and the kit includes everything you need, including a rechargeable power injector. (However, the power injector uses a noisy voltage booster, so I substituted my own bias-T injector for these experiments). Ostensibly covers LW through VHF, but the low end coverage is, shall we say, somewhat aspirational, as you will see.

– I also recorded, for comparison, the built-in ferrite bar (for LW/MW) and whip antenna (for HF) of the receiver.

This is, of course, only a small sampling of portable loop antennas, both commercial and homebrew. But I wanted to start with what I had on hand and with what meets my own needs. (I omitted from consideration loops that require tuning, since I want to be able to install the antenna without needing access to it every time I change frequency).

For each signal captured, I oriented and positioned each antennas to maximize signal quality, taking care to move them away from each other and interfering metal objects. So you’re hearing (approximately) the best each antenna had to offer (on my roof under suboptimal band conditions).

The receivers I used were four Sangean ATS-909×2 portable LW/MW/SW/FM/Air radios. I believe this to be the best currently available (relatively inexpensive) portable shortwave receiver on the market. It has excellent performance (and is admirably resistant to overload and intermod when used with an active antenna). It lacks a sync mode, but that’s rarely implemented well on portable radios anyway. As a practical matter, it has a good line-level output jack, and I already happened to own four of them.

As in my other shootouts, for each signal, there are a total of five recordings: a monoaural recording of the audio from each of the four antennas, plus a narrated stereo recording comparing a reference (the 1M Wellbrook) on the Left channel with each of the other antennas in succession on the Right channel. The stereo recording is intended as a quick overview, but it will only make sense if you listen in stereo, preferably with good headphones. (You can switch the earcups to get a quick comparison as you listen.)

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Guest Post: Dan’s letter concerning the new Elite Satellit

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who publishes the following guest post:


Letter to Eton:  Cutting Corners on Elite Satellit Won’t Succeed

by Dan Robinson

As SWLing.com readers will recall, weeks before Eton shipped the first group of Elite Satellit receivers I published a commentary that asked a key question:  would Eton be able to meet the higher standards of the listening community in 2022 when it comes to new advanced portables?

Unfortunately, we all see what the answer to that question was.  Eton was forced to recall Elite Satellit radios that had been shipped to major resellers such as Universal Radio, Ham Radio Outlet, and others as defects became all too apparent.

A radio that had been on its way to me for review was among those recalled.  But I recently was able to examine a unit that a friend in the Washington, DC area purchased.  What I found I am putting in this commentary as a letter to Eton.

If the company takes these points seriously, I think there is still hope that the Elite Satellit can join the ranks of respectable multi-band portables – after Eton has gone back to the drawing board so to speak.  However, if Eton continues to cut corners with this receiver, its future is not bright:

Letter to Eton on the Elite Satellit

Dear Eton,

MUTING WHILE TUNING

As many who purchased or tested the Elite Satellit have remarked, the fact that you decided to release a radio with this issue is beyond comprehension.  Tuning on the Elite Satellit is, tragically, an uncomfortable and frustrating experience.  This needs to be corrected/fixed – you only need to take a look at Tecsun receivers such as the H-501 or PL-990x to know what needs to be done.

POORLY-IMPLEMENTED PASSBAND TUNING

Perhaps even more puzzling than muting, the Elite Satellit I tested had an even more mind-boggling issue.  Passband tuning should function to adjust the signal pitch without changing the audio frequency.  On the radio I tested, PBT was actually TUNING and changing the frequency.  Using PBT on this radio was virtually no different from tuning in SSB, with injected tones heard, until a zero beat was achieved.  All you had to do was take a look at a E1 receiver, or any other receiver with well-implemented PBT to understand how real PBT is supposed to function.

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Andy hears Morse Code in B52s concert

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andy, who writes:

Thomas,

I was just listening  to an old B52’s music gig on YouTube when it got
to 51:57 mins in.

You can clearly hear NAWS DE CFH and some other stuff.

How did that get there–?

73 de Andy

Thanks for sharing, Andy!

Ah yes, Planet Claire! I actually heard the eB52s play this one live at a concert in the early 90s.

The “CHF” that you hear is the callsign of the Canadian Forces Station Mill Cove. This is a partial recording of a CHF broadcast listing frequencies for RTTY transmissions. The B52s have been known to incorporate radio feedback and snippets in their work. You can hear CW more clearly in this video:

In fact, when I saw the B52s live, Fred Schneider used a walkie talkie Morse Code button (the type that you could find on kids’ walkie talkies) for audio feedback in at least Planet Claire and Rock Lobster

I bet there are some other B52s fans out there who will have even more insight! Thanks again, Andy!

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