Category Archives: Accessories

Ed’s ultra low-cost “upcycled” radio case for the Realistic DX-440

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Edward Ganshirt, who writes:

I have seen some very good radio cases for carrying your radio with you with a price tag.

I needed one for my DX-440 but did not want to shell out a hundred bux for it, so I made a home brew version out of packing foam, bubble wrap, Velcro patches, hot melt glue and lots of imagination. this is what I came up with:

Thanks for sharing, Ed! I’m sure your upcycled case will serve the DX-440 quite well. Bubble and foam wrap are durable materials and it’s always get to give them a second life!

Post readers: Have you made your own radio protective cases? Please comment!

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Tripp Lite dual ferrite USB cables

I found this tip from Lorne Waters on the SDRplay Facebook page:

I was having a lot of trouble with local noise and not getting really good signal spikes. Well I took a chance after reading many articles on using better USB cables. The picture below is what I purchased from amazon. It’s a USB with dual ferrite cores mounted at each end. Well this did wonders for me. It’s like less than 10 bucks. Well worth it. Try it for yourself. Using with SDRplay RSP1a.

Click here to view on Amazon.com (affiliate link supports the SWLing Post).

Lorne has a good point. All of my SDR USB cables have at least one in-line ferrite choke. Cables with dual chokes like the Tripp Lite are pretty rare. Note that this USB cable fits SDRs (like SDRplay models) with a USB-B port. I’ve had a difficult time in the past finding dual ferrite choke USB-A to Mini or Micro USB ports. In those cases, I often employ these inexpensive snap-on ferrite chokes.

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Estate Sale: Jerry takes home a Geochron world map clock

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jerry Rappel, who writes:

Being both retired, my wife and I frequently visit various estate sales and garage sales. I’m mainly looking for ham radio items, vintage radios, Beatles items, and pre 1925 – 78 records. I have been rather lucky in finding a couple vintage phonographs, vacuum tubes, and other items that I try to fit into my over stuffed ham radio room.

This day at an estate sale I did a breathtaking double take on a Geochron Special boardroom model world wall clock sitting on a table in a special wood desktop display stand (these stands alone are around $200.00 according to their website). And it had a small engraved presentation placard on the bottom front panel. (Thanks to XXXXX and Associates for your contribution).

The clock was marked $150.00. I took some pictures and checked it out on line when I returned home, sure enough this was the clock I had sent for additional information on in a ham radio magazine many years ago, discovering to my surprise it was over $1,200. Off my list immediately. WOW!! The very next day I was at the sale again as it was 20% off the second day!! I plugged it in to make sure all was well with it, and immediately took it to the table to purchase it, all 38.4 pounds of it.

Before the internet, the Geochron World Clock was the only way to see the Sunrise and Sunset on Earth in real-time, in sync with the Earth’s 23.4 degree axial tilt against the Sun. President Reagan presented as a gift to Mikhail Gorbachev as an example of American Engineering, and these photogenic world clocks have appeared in motion pictures like the The Hunt for Red October.

So back home again, I designed a solidly built shelf for it above my computer monitor, with special supports. 34 x 22 x 7 inches it just fits. This is a great help for my ham radio and SWL propagation.

I’m still in amazement at this unique find and what I paid for it. No one at the sale really knew what it was, including the people giving the estate sale! Yes I lucked out big time, being in the right place at the right time. Estate sales are great!!

There is a new version of this clock out now: The Geochron Digital 4k UHD gives viewers beautiful displays of the Earth with the sunrise-sunset rendered in real-time through a small computer that plugs directly in to your TV via HDMI.

A Geochron Digital 4k UHD (Source: Geochron)

The size of your display is only limited by the size of your TV, as you take in the terrestrial movement of the Earth’s orbit in sync with the Sun.

Click here to check out Geochron products on eBay.

Yes indeed, Jerry, you certainly snagged that Geochron for a brilliant price! Those mechanical clocks are truly a masterpiece of engineering and design.

I love the versatility of the 4K Digital Geochron clocks and had considered reviewing one for a magazine shortly after they were introduced.

Readers: If you love the idea of a greyline/sunlight map in the radio shack, but can’t afford a proper Geochron clock, consider building a simple Raspberry Pi version!  I’m about to re-purpose a Raspberry Pi 3B to be a dedicated map based on these instructions. All in–if you use an existing monitor/TV–the project will only set you back $35 or so. In my case, even the Raspberry Pi is an extra unit sitting here in the shack waiting for the project! I’m also considering Ham Clock as it has more options for customization. When I finally have a bit of time to do the project, I’ll publish it on the SWLing Post!

Thanks again, Jerry!

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The Ham Radio Workbench 12 VDC Power Distribution Strip Kit

I had a number of important plans and goals yesterday which I conveniently set aside to build kits instead. Have you ever had one of those days?

Building kits is a little like therapy for me. I find it relaxing, fun, and it gives me an opportunity to tune out everything else in the world while that soldering iron is hot.

The first kit I built was one I purchased this year at Hamvention: the Ham Radio Workbench 12 VDC Power Distribution Strip.

I’ve been on a search for two types of fused Anderson Powerpole distribution panels: a portable one for the field with at least 4 ports, and a large one for the shack with 12-16 ports and at least two USB 5VDC ports.

Sadly, there is no large one on the market that I would like right now. I checked every vendor at Hamvention and the Huntsville Hamfest this year and while there are large panels available, none of them have USB ports. That and the price for a 12-16 position DC distribution panel can easily exceed $120.

As for the small panels for field use, many of them are a bit too bulky and pricey. The inexpensive ones lack individually fused ports.

My buddy Dave (K4SV) knew I was on the hunt, so at Hamvention he directed me to the Ham Radio Workbench podcast table. There, I found the ideal portable solution in kit form.  And the price?  A whopping $25.

Take my money!

Yesterday, I built the kit in near record time. It went together so fast, I forgot to take progress photos.

What I love about this DC distribution kit is it actually has more features than other products on the market:

  • There’s a green LED to indicate power has been applied to the panel and a red LED to indicate any faults
  • Each position is individually fused with standard blade fuses
  • Each position also has a red LED to indicate if the fuse has blown

I also love the size and configuration.

The kit does not come with an enclosure or base of any sort, so I had planned to simply attach it to a dielectric plate to prevent the bottom of the board from shorting on a conductive surface.

This morning, however, I discovered a 3D-printed enclosure from Rocket City 3D:

This enclosure protects the entire panel on all sides so I’ll be able to throw it in my backpack and not worry about the connectors snagging on other items. The price is a reasonable $12 shipped. Done!

This little DC panel pairs well with the 4.5 aH Bioenno Lithium Iron Phosphate battery I purchased on sale at the Huntsville Hamfest. Together, they’ll power the portable SDR system I’m putting together. More on that in a future post! Stay tuned!

Click here to check out this kit at HamRadio Workbech. It’s currently out-of-stock, but you might contact HRW and see if a future run is in the works. Click here to check out the custom enclosure from Rocket City 3D.


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Backlit keys, headlamps, and radio listening in the dark…

The Digitech AR-1780 has a very tactile button/key arrangement, but it is not backlit.

No less than two readers have contacted me this past week asking if I know of a shortwave portable that has backlit keys. Both of these guys, of course, are simply looking for a digital radio that’s a little easier to use at night in the dark.

Backlit keys would certainly make a lot of sense.

I’m going to look through my inventory of portables when I’m back home, but at the moment I’m drawing a blank. I can’t think of a single portable that has backlit keys, but I’m sure there are some out there in the wild. Can someone jog my memory–?

Readers: Please take a moment to comment with the make/model of any shortwave portables that have backlit keys! It would be nice to have a list to reference.

The indispensable headlamp…

I do quite a bit of portable shortwave listening in the dark. I especially like sitting on my porch at night to catch a little DX, pirate radio activity, or simply listen to one of my favorite broadcasters.  Even though I have much more capable radios in the shack–ones that are connected to large outdoor antennas–I love the simplicity of a potable for band scanning. Portables are especially fun for night time mediumwave DXing.

I also live in a relatively rural and remote area and one of the things I love about living here is the lack of light pollution at night. This also means that if I want to see when walking outside–and avoid walking into a visiting black bear (true story)–I’ll need some sort of flashlight/torch.

I’ve been made fun of before for carrying so many flashlights around (Mark Fahey, I’m looking at you–!), but frankly, these lighting tools have saved my bacon more than once.

I have an array of high-power portable flashlights, but the one I use the most is actually a headlamp. By using a headlamp, both hands are free to do work–especially helpful while tuning a radio.

These days, I never leave home without a headlamp. I always have one packed in my backpack, EDC bag, or luggage. Headlamps used to be heavy, expensive and sometimes used odd battery types. Today, headlamp prices are very reasonable, they’re lightweight, USB rechargeable, and they’ve become incredibly versatile.

The Nitecore NU25

My favorite for performance vs. price is the Nitecore NU25. I’ve had this particular model for three months. The price is approximately $35 depending on the color you choose. It’s very lightweight and, best of all, USB-rechargeable.

The battery life is excellent; I use it all the time, yet I think I’ve only recharged it twice just to make sure the battery was topped-off.

I also like the Nitecore NU25 because it has an array of lighting options:

  • A primary light with up to 360 lumens (4 lighting levels)
  • A 20 lumen high CRI LED which better replicates soft sunlight
  • A 13 lumen red LED with two light levels and a flashing option

For radio listening, I often use the the CRI LED, or the brighter red LED setting which preserves my night vision.

If I’m reading a book, then I use the CRI LED which casts a very wide, comfortable, full spectrum light.

For walking, hiking, or doing DIY projects in the attic/basement, I use the main headlamp light which has a tighter beam and can cast light a significant distance.

The Nitecore NU25 is very compact and easy to take on my one-bag travels. I feel some sense of comfort knowing that if my hotel experiences a loss of power (again, true story) I’ve got a capable, multi-function light in my EDC pack.

Click here to check out the Nitecore NU25 on Amazon (affiliate link supports the SWLing Post).

There are actually a number of excellent headlamps on the market. Personally, I look for ones that are affordable, rechargeable, lightweight, compact, and have at least an auxiliary red LED (which I find most useful for astronomy). I considered the PETZL Bindi because it’s incredibly lightweight and a friend recommended it, but it lacks lighting options and is pricier than the Nitecore NU25. The PETZL Bindi is an excellent option for runners, however. The PETZL ACTIK CORE also came highly recommended, but it costs almost twice what I paid for the Nitecore NU25.

Of course, if you just want a simple, basic headlamp for SWLing, you can get away with this $15 Foxelli headlamp. It does almost everything the Nitecore does at less than half the cost. In fact, I’m tempted to buy one of these to keep in my truck.

Any headlamp/flashlight recommendations?

I know for a fact that there are some dedicated flashlight/torch enthusiasts in our community who are active members of the excellent Candlepower Forums. I’ve tapped into their knowledge more than once when purchasing flashlights. I hope they’ll chime in and comment with their recommendations!


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Review of the C.Crane CC Buds Solo In-Ear Single Earbud (and a chance to win one!)

A few weeks ago, C. Crane sent me one of their newest radio accessories: the CC Buds Solo Single Earbud.

Here’s the description from the C.Crane product page:

Single Earbud Optimized For Voice

The CC Buds™ Solo single earpiece provides a unique advantage over traditional earbuds because it allows you to interact better with others while listening to radio, podcasts or audiobooks (your boss will love you). The integrated stereo to mono plug works with smartphones, radios, tablets, and most other audio devices.

The Solo can give you a safety advantage when running, biking, or walking because you are more likely to hear if danger approaches. The cable is Kevlar™ reinforced for maximum durability. It is perfect for scanner radio listening. Can work well for law enforcement when greater awareness is needed.

Audio is tuned for superior voice clarity. Included are three silicone and three compressible foam covers––sized small, medium, and large. The small covers usually fits a small ear comfortably. Standard 3.5 mm headphone jack. Cord Length 48″.

At first blush, the idea of a single earpiece smacks of vintage solid-state radios. I’ve a number of classic portables that were designed around a hard-plastic single earpiece–anyone else remember those?

In fact, my Sony ICF-5500W (above) even has a little compartment to house its custom earpiece.

The Sony ICF-550W’s unforgiving 1970s era earpiece.

In my youth, I carried a hard plastic single earpiece with me everywhere, especially at school, because it made listening to the radio and still having some situational awareness possible. [Unfortunately, I was known to listen to the radio during classes…what a renegade I was back then!]

If you, too, used those hard plastic earpieces, I doubt you’d have ever described them as “comfortable.” I never found them even remotely so. Those earpieces were functional, but the audio they produced was tinny and it was always difficult to keep them in my ear.

Think of the CC Buds Solo as the earpiece we all wish we could have had back then!

The Solo includes numerous earpiece options, a carry bag and owner’s manual.

Here are some of the CC Buds Solo pros:

  • The audio quality is superb for spoken word
  • The earpiece is very comfortable (see notes below)
  • The audio plug allows for mono listening on stereo devices (obviously a must in 2019)
  • Features a super-strong Kevlar-reinforced cord
  • Includes a clothing clip that acts as strain relief
  • Ships with a small, soft carry bag

So does the Solo deliver what it promises? Yes, it does.

What I really love is the number of soft silicon and foam earpieces that ship with the Solo: a total of seven options, when including the default earpiece.

If you’ve ever used in-ear earbuds, you’ll understand the importance of swapping out the soft earpieces to a size that best suits your ears––that is, to a size that makes for a comfortable seal.

The Solo might also be useful if your hearing is a bit better in one ear than the other.

Unlike single earpieces of old, it’s actually a pleasure to use the CC Buds Solo earpiece.

Before using the Solo, I would often wear only the right earpiece of my stereo earbuds when I needed to be able to hear the environment around me. This obviously isn’t ideal because the left earpiece would dangle, catch on my shirt or otherwise get in the way, and often lead to jerking out the right earpiece. Not to mention, it led to an awkward muffling (or altogether missing) of some of the sound in that other dangling earbud when stereo sound is split or processed differently for each ear. Clearly, not the best way to listen.

Note the adjustable clothing clip.

Now, when I’m driving, working, or walking, I can use the Solo clipped it to my shirt; it’s a more simple and annoyance-proof solution that allows for greater mobility and permits me to hear all of the intended sound.

I’ve only used the Solo for spoken word; primarily AM/SW broadcast band listening and for listening to podcasts.

These days, while I’ve been at work on a home renovation, podcasts have become an essential part of my day by helping me pass the time while painting, sanding, cleaning, mowing, doing yard work, or carrying out other tedious tasks. A good podcast definitely keeps it fun. The Solo makes podcast listening easy.

And of course, the Solo is also a great solution for listening to audio books, too.

I’ll admit, when I first saw the product announcement for the CC Buds Solo, I was curious if there’d still be a market for a mono earpiece. I suppose I proved it, myself, as I have found it quite useful when I don’t need the total isolation or stereo sound from two in-ear earbuds.

Well played, C.Crane!

Click here to check out the CC Buds Solo Single Earbud at C.Crane.

Win a CC Buds Solo!

C.Crane kindly sent me two samples of the CC Buds Solo at no cost to me. I’ve used one for evaluation purposes and C.Crane is kindly allowing me to give the other away to a lucky SWLing Post reader.

Here’s how you can enter our Solo giveaway!

As I mentioned, I consume a lot of podcasts these days. Here are just a few you might want to check out:

What are your favorite podcasts or radio shows?

Please leave a comment with some of your favorite podcasts or radio shows for a chance to win! Next Tuesday (July 30, 2019) I’ll pick a winner at random from the comments section and ship them a brand new CC Buds Solo single earpiece courtesy of C.Crane!

Click here to leave your comment!

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Dennis approves of the Hermitshell Case for CC Skywave radios

 

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dennis Dura, who notes that after seeing a number of posts about radio cases, he thought he’d share a link to the case he uses for the C. Crane CC Skywave SSB.

It’s the Hermitshell Travel Case and it fits both the CC Skywave SSB and original CC Skywave.

Thanks for sharing, Dennis. This case is well-loved by Skywave owners! Note that this case fits the Skywave series like a glove and only has enough extra room for a set of earphones and/or perhaps a wire antenna.

Click here to view on Amazon (affiliate link supports the SWLing Post).

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