File this under: you never know and . . . what’s the harm in experimenting?



by Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Ever since Thomas (our Maximum Leader) posted the latest DX Central MW Challenge, I’ve been curious . . . what could I hear if I gave it a shot?

Habitually, I get up early, between 4 and 5 am, so I decided to give it a try. Conventional wisdom is that, if you want to do AM (medium wave) DXing, you need a hot AM radio with a big ferrite bar, like the CCrane 2E . . .

Wanna guess what radio and antenna combo acquitted itself pretty well?

My old ham rig, an Icom IC-706 MkIIG, (which I wrote up here), hooked to my 50-foot wire indoor antenna, the horizontal room loop (which I wrote up here).

This AM’s listening, from my home outside Troy, NY, produced:

1170, WWVA — Wheeling, West Virginia
1180, WHAM — Rochester, NY
1200, Talk 1200 — Boston
1210, WPHT — Philadelphia

Now, before you hard-core AM DXers get all up in my face — Hey, I could hear those stations on the fillings in my teeth! — I’ll simply say that I get a kick out of hearing a distant station . . . any distant station . . . even it’s just a few hundred miles away. Sure, it’s not the astonishing stuff that Paul Walker and Gary DeBock accomplish, but to hear that faraway signal, crackling through the airwaves does me good.

Bottom line: you don’t need the latest and greatest optimized-for-the-task gear to give something a try . . . and you just might really enjoy it!

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10 thoughts on “File this under: you never know and . . . what’s the harm in experimenting?

  1. Luke

    I remember some 10 plus years ago I used to love AM DXing in my work car. I remember one day after work, late at night (I worked swing shift) I was faced North in my car and was parked outside of our office filling out forms or something. A very faint station came in, but I was able to get an ID. It was a AM station out of Chicago, over 2,000 miles away (I was in Oregon).

    I tried moving the car forward a bit to see if I could get a better signal, but I lost it. I then moved back and got it again, but I was able only to hear it at that one spot……give or take a few inches, ever again. Odd huh?

    1. Jock Elliott


      Odd and cool at the same time.

      On occasion, I’ve had the experience of a long drive in the middle of the night, pulling in distant stations to keep me company.

      Cheers, Jock

  2. Mario Filippi

    Jock, this challenge is an excellent idea and thank you Thomas for posting it.

    Many of us, in our larval stages, listened to radio for the first time via a small, 9 volt battery powered transistor AM broadcast radio tucked under the sheets with us at night. An earphone plugged into the radio gave us privacy and prevented siblings from hearing unwanted noise at bedtime. That’s when we heard distant stations from around the country fading in and out and marveled at the magic of radio.

    AM BC band radio endures today, along with the ability to receive stations from hundred of miles away is just as exciting as it was in many decades past.

    1. Jock Elliott


      I love it . . . larval stages!

      I can remember listening to distant stations under the covers . . . with a germanium diode radio. This was high adventure for a 10-year-old boy!

      And, yes, radio is STILL magic.

      Cheers, Jock

  3. Jake Brodsky, AB3A

    When driving on highways at night or just before sunrise, I have several Stations among the buttons on my car radio. Examples include WSM (650), CFZM (740), WWVA (1170), WBZ (1030), and so on. I choose my stations, usually for content. Saturday nights, I’ll make an effort to hear WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. Friday nights (after midnight) I attempt to listen to Ziggy’s Midnight Blue and Sunday evenings Big Band Saturday Night on CFZM.

    WSM has a great bluegrass program from 6 AM Eastern (5 AM Central) for about a half an hour. I don’t always get a clear signal from any of these stations, but when the Geomagnetic field is quiet, I usually hear them pretty well.

    1. Jock Elliott


      Thanks for your comments!

      The first time I heard Earl Scruggs, it was like being struck by lightning (I was already a guitar player).

      Now, 50 years later, I play 5-string banjo and “Scruggs-pick” a 12-string guitar. I share your enthusiasm for bluegrass.

      Cheers, Jock

  4. Robert Gulley

    AM DXing holds a very dear place in my heart. I started my radio hobby over 50 years ago chasing AM DX after the Reds game was over, with my little transistor radio hidden under my pillow (wasn’t supposed to still be awake!).
    My cousin is to blame – I saw his radio shack one day (he was a ham of course) and after that I started chasing AM DX and then shortwave DX after I convinced mom to buy me a shortwave radio with money I had saved up.
    Fast forward all these years later, still love the chase with a portable, but have also used an Elad SDR to record the whole swath of the AM band one night when signals we exceptionally good. Wow!! Another thrill to see at a glance the hundreds of stations coming in. It was a snapshot of the whole AM band all at once, about a half- hour’s worth of recording, if I recall. Then you play each catch back on the Elad software.
    I have recently moved to a much quieter location, so I can’t wait for winter to chase AM DX here, as well as things even lower.

  5. Sam

    I enjoy DX Central’s MW Challenges. Once or twice with each weekly challenge, I get up a little earlier, get the dog walked, put on a pot of java lava and man the SDR controls. From my desk, I have an eastern view and the sun rises can be gorgeous. This, in the hope of catching something new or something my routine early evening listening is missing.


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