Monthly Archives: June 2024

Checking out the XHDATA D-808

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Size matters . . . especially when it comes to antennas. In general, the more aluminum or wire you can get up in the air (presuming, of course, that it is properly designed), the more signal you are going to pull in. A radio friend has a 560-foot loop erected on his property, and its performance is, well, impressive.

I’ve had my share of high-performance antennas over the years, and I enjoyed them.

Lately, however, I have yearned for simplicity. So when I encountered the phrase “Ultralight DXing” a couple of years ago, it had a kind of magic allure to it.

At first, I was intrigued: “What the heck is that?” I wondered. After poking around on the internet, I discovered that at the heart of ultralight DXing was the notion of having a whole lot of fun trying to hear distant radio stations (usually on the medium wave band) with tiny, shirt-pocket-sized radios.

Gary DeBock got the whole ultralight DXing thing rolling in 2007. He already had deep experience in DXing, having worked 144 countries as a ham radio operator with a 1-2 watt transmitter he had built. That was his apprenticeship in radio propagation. Then in 2007, he wondered if it would be possible, using his skill and knowledge of propagation, to hear Japanese and Korean broadcasters from his home in Washington State using – wait for it – a cheap pocket radio: a Sony Walkman SRS 59. At 1 am on an autumn night, he put propagation and operating skill to work and heard a couple of medium-wave stations from Japan and one from Korea.

In November 2007, he posted his results on the internet and got a lot pushback, the upshot of which was: “How could you possibly do this?

To which he replied (in essence), “Try it and see for yourself.

Some people did try for themselves, some with notable success. For example, one DXer from Canada logged 300 stations in 30 days. The idea caught fire, and ultralight DXing was born, concentrating on medium wave stations because there are lots of them to DX. (Ultralight DXers have their own forum, which can be found here: )

In the intervening years, ultralight DXers have experimented with exotic antennas and achieved some astonishing results, but for me, the soul of ultralight DXing is simplicity: a tiny radio, a pair of headphones, and a comfortable place to sit.

In 2021, DeBock published an “Ultralight Radio Shootout,” and when I encountered it online, I saved it (I’m a bit of a pack rat with interesting files). Earlier this year, I was rummaging through my computer when I rediscovered the Shootout and found that DeBock thought very highly of the XHDATA D-808.

Now, here’s the weird part: strictly speaking, the XHDATA D-808 is not an ultralight radio. A radio must be no bigger than 20 cubic inches to be considered an “official” ultralight radio. The D-808 is actually around 27 cubic inches.

Curious, I contacted the XHDATA folks, asking if they would like to send me one for review, which they did, without charge.

The D-808 measures just under 6 inches wide, 3.5 inches high, and 1.25 inches deep and weighs about a half a pound. It receives:  FM: 87.5 – 108 (64-108) MHz, LW: 150 – 450 kHz, MW: 522 – 1620 kHz (9k Step) 520 – 1710 kHz (10k step), SW: 1711 – 29999 kHz (including single sideband), and AIR: 118 – 137 MHz. It is powered by an 18650 battery that can be recharged by a USB cable.

Others have written extensively about the D-808, but my overall verdict is that it is indeed, a neat little radio for listening in general. Because it has a larger internal ferrite rod “loopstick” antenna, it can do a better job of pulling in faint medium wave stations than some of the “official” ultralights with smaller internal antennas. In addition, the D-808 has a longer telescoping antenna that makes it easier to hear faint shortwave stations.

On the face of the D-808 are 24 buttons that control various functions, and they pretty much “work as advertised.” There is, however, one small issue that some users may find confusing. Just below the orange power button is a circular button marked SSB. Push it, and it engages single-sideband mode and can be used on medium wave as well as shortwave signals. Below that button, in tiny orange letters is an indication: USB/LSB. It refers to the INFO button below, NOT to the SSB button above. If you press the SSB button, hoping to switch between upper sideband and lower sideband, it will not work, and you will think the radio is broken (I spent several minutes searching the manual, trying find out what was wrong). When SSB is engaged, press the button marked INFO between to switch between sidebands, got it?

Playing around with the D-808 on a rainy Saturday morning, I found that it is a “hot” receiver – for its size – on medium wave, shortwave, and FM. Using the UP and DOWN buttons to search for stations, and I found that it would, indeed, find interesting stuff to hear that I could not hear so readily on “official” ultralight radios with smaller antennas. It’s a small, fun radio that virtually begs me to find a comfy chair, clap on the headphones, and tune around to see what’s out there.

Having said that, if this were a trip to Santa’s lap, there are a couple of things I would change about the D-808. The first is the soft muting that occurs between tuning steps, which is accompanied by a mechanical “clunk, clunk, clunk” at each step in both the main and fine tuning knobs. It’s like driving down a highway with expansion cracks or tar strips every 20 feet . . . it’s annoying. My personal preference is for smooth, continuous tuning, and, even when a radio has jumps between tuning steps, it is possible to deliver a smooth, “clunkless” tuning experience such as in the CCrane EP-PRO or the Tecsun PL-880. You can, however, get around the clunking by directly entering the frequency you want using the keypad (be sure to press the FREQ button first) or by using the UP and DOWN seek buttons to search for stations . . . the radio simply quiets itself until it find the next signal. Second, while the D-808 seems to just sip power from the 18650 battery, I prefer portable radios that are powered by AA batteries, since they are so readily available in so many places. In the grand scheme of things, that is a relatively minor consideration.

Bottom line: the D-808 packs a whole lot of fun and pleasing performance into a package that can be slipped into a jacket pocket. Even more important, it delivers the simplicity of an ultralight: a radio I can grab, kick back in an easy chair, slide on the headphones, and tune around for a bit of radio fun, and I can heartily recommend it.

Check out the XHDATA D-808 at XHDATA.

Check out the D-808 at (affiliate link).

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Alan Roe’s A-24 season guide to music on shortwave (version 3.0)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Alan Roe, who shares his A-24 (version 3.0) season guide to music on shortwave. Alan provides this amazing resource as a free PDF download:

Click here to download Music on Shortwave A-24 v3.0 (PDF)

As always, thank you for sharing your excellent guide, Alan!

This dedicated page will always have the latest version of Alan’s guide available for download.

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“Music On The Move” explores portable audio technology developments over the decades

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

Last night on my bedside radio I heard on BBC World’s ‘The Forum’ a wonderful 49-minute piece about portable audio. Much of it covers the earliest portable electron tube radios and transistor radios, and their influences on society in different countries. Mediumwave, Shortwave and FM radios and stations are discussed, as well as evolving technologies. The societal impact of the Compact Cassette and digital audio players and recorders is also discussed. Probably all SWLing Post readers will find this worth listening to!



The Forum: Music On The Move

Released On: 22 Jun 2024

Many of us remember the first portable music device we owned: a transistor radio, a boombox, a Walkman or perhaps an iPod. We might even recall the songs we played on it. But we might be less aware of how profoundly audio technology developments from the 1950s to 2000s changed the ways in which we consume music and other audio outside of the home or concert venue. Transistor radios allowed outdoor sounds and noises to mix and compete with those coming over the airwaves, creating new auditory experiences; the cassette player gave the listener a cheap way of making and re-making their own playlists; and the advent of digital music players encouraged us to ‘own’ music recordings without possessing a physical copy of the audio.

Iszi Lawrence discusses the history of portable music with Dr. Annie Jamieson, Curator of Sound Technologies at Bradford’s National Science and Media Museum; American drummer and writer Damon Krukowski; Dr. Jahnavi Phalkey, science historian and Founding Director of Science Gallery Bengaluru, India; Karin Bijsterveld, Professor of Science, Technology and Modern Culture at Maastricht University; and World Service listeners.

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War Diaries: Stalemate by Volodymyr Gurtovy (US7IGN)

I am pleased to announce that my friend and SWLing Post contributor, Wlad (US7IGN), has released his latest book: War Diaries: Stalemate.

You might recall Wlad’s first book, War Diaries: A Radio Amateur in Kyiv, which we’ve recommended here and mentioned several times.

Wlad has seen firsthand what it’s like to live and work in Kyiv during the Russian invasion. Through his diaries, you feel like you’re right there with him, experiencing the dangers and instability that come with living in a country under attack.

I highly recommend Wlad’s first book, and I’ve already ordered his second. I hope you’ll consider ordering a copy as well. It’s available in both print and eBook formats.

Wlad is a regular contributor here on the SWLing Post (and over at–his books offer a unique perspective on the war from the viewpoint of an SWL and ham radio operator. It’s a fascinating perspective from a truly remarkable individual.

Click here to purchase War Diaries: Stalemate.

Note: All Amazon links are auto-converted to affiliate links that support the SWLing Post at no cost to you.

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Carlos’ Shortwave Art and recording of ZP-30 (June 27, 2024)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and noted political cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, who shares his recording and illustrated listening report of the news, in German, from broadcaster ZP-30 on June 27, 2024.

Carlos notes:

ZP-30, Christian radio station in Paraguay broadcasting News in German. Listened in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Impressive work!

I’m impressed with Carlos’ ability to put so much news into a 10 x 6cm space! Carlos shared this photo of his original work:

Brilliant work! Thank you for sharing your recording and amazing work, Carlos!

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RTVE approves additional shortwave transmitter and “secures the future of the public shortwave service”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors, Paul Jamet and Tracy Wood for sharing the following article (translated into English) from RTVE:

RTVE secures the future of the public shortwave service of Radio Exterior de España

The RTVE Board of Directors has unanimously approved the purchase, installation, and implementation of a new shortwave transmitter. This is the first of five new transmitters that Radio Exterior de España (REE) urgently needs to guarantee the continuity of this public service.

The new transmitters will replace the current equipment, which has far exceeded its useful life and whose frequent breakdowns put the continuity of shortwave broadcasts at risk. They will be responsible for carrying the shortwave signal to West Africa, the Middle East, North America, and South America.

With this decision, RTVE fulfills its public service obligation set out in the Framework Mandate and in Law 17/2006 of June 5, which establishes that the Corporation must “aim to serve the widest audience, ensuring maximum continuity and geographic and social coverage, with the commitment to offer quality, diversity, innovation, and ethical standards.”

This is a great advance that ensures the continuity of REE’s public service to Spaniards who are outside our borders and to foreigners interested in Spain. This commitment by the Corporation comes after years of uncertainty. In 2014, the closure of REE’s shortwave was implemented for a few months. It was in 2018 that an eight-hour daily shortwave broadcast was achieved again.

The power of shortwave

REE’s shortwave carries the voice and vision of Spain to the entire world. For this reason, the director of the station, Luis Manuel Fernández Iglesias, has advocated in his speech before the RTVE Board of Directors to “involve the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Culture of Spain in the future of Radio Exterior, both in the design of its programming and in the financing of this public international broadcaster, such as REE.”

As seen in the invasion of Ukraine, shortwave escapes control and censorship, guaranteeing the democratic right to truthful and honest information. Another advantage is its free nature for listeners and the low cost and investment needed for its reception anywhere. These circumstances make it very attractive, especially for fishermen, merchant seamen, missionaries, or Spanish volunteers who carry out their work where the internet signal does not reach.

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