Category Archives: Accessories

Checking out CCrane’s Solo Earbud

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

The marketing email from CCrane intrigued me. “The cable is Kevlar™ reinforced for maximum durability” it said. The product in question was the “CC Buds Solo In-Ear Single Earbud for Radio, Audio Books and Podcasts.”

Sadly, many of the headphones and earbuds that I have owned and liked had to be tossed out because of a breakage somewhere along the cable. As a result, a more durable cable sounded like a great idea.

After checking out the Solo Earbud on CCrane’s website I decided to buy one. I was in the very act of pulling the trigger on the purchase when I noticed the deal: buy two, get one free. Well, heck, I thought, why not?

I revised my order, clicked the button, and a few days later three solo earbuds arrive.

We’ll get to how well the solo earbud works in just a moment, but I can almost guess what you’re thinking right now: “Listen with one ear? Why?”

There are a bunch of times when listening with just one ear is the best strategy. For example, when you are out and about or engaged in some sports activity and want to be situationally aware of what is going on around you. Or when you are listening at home and you want to be able to hear things going on in the household (for example, dinner is ready . . . don’t want to miss that! . . . or someone in the house needs something). Well, you get the idea.

The Solo Earbud is small and well-made. It has a four-foot cable with a clothing clip that terminates in a stereo to mono 3.5 mm plug. According the C.Crane, the audio is tuned for “superior voice quality.” I liked the sound it delivered from my shortwave radios, scanners, and even audio books and I found it helped me to pick out faint signals. In addition, I found that using a Solo Earbud was less entangling with smoother operation than using just one earbud from a stereo pair of wired earbuds . . . that unused dangling earbud seems to always get in the way or get caught on things.

The Solo Earbud comes with three silicone and three compressible foam covers – sized small, medium and large. After a little experimentation, I found one that fit my ear very comfortably. The Earbud even comes with a small drawstring bag for storing the Earbud when not in use.

I have saved perhaps the coolest use for last. Frequently I rise well before dawn to monitor the airwaves. With a pair of Solo Earbuds, I can plug one into a scanner and another Earbud into a shortwave radio. With one Earbud in each ear – voila! – I can cruise the HF bands and monitor a scanner without interrupting the peace of the early morning household.

Bottom line: I found the CCrane Solo Earbud to be a useful and worthy piece of gear for general listening or DXing.

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Checking out BHI’s HP-1 and NCH headphones for DXing

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

As an oldster with a bit of hearing deficit, I am a big fan of anything that helps me to hear better when I am trying to tease out hard-to-hear signals, whether medium wave broadcast, shortwave broadcast, or single-sideband signals on the HF ham bands.

Toward that end, headphones help a lot. They deliver the audio signal directly into the ear canal while reducing distraction from external sounds. I had some inexpensive headphones from a big-box store, but I wondered if there were headphones that would be better suited for DXing.

So I contacted the folks at BHI to see if they had any headphones that would help with medium wave DXing. BHI is the British company that manufactures really effective noise cancelling products.

In response, the folks at BHI sent me their HP-1 Wired Stereo Headphones and their . . . NCH Active Noise Cancelling headphones . . . free of charge.

BHI describes the HP-1 Wired Stereo Headphones as “Comfortable Folding dynamic stereo headphones for Radio Communications,” and, in my view, they are just that. I found the HP-1 to be highly useful for medium wave and shortwave DXing. To my ear, they sound like they are biased toward high frequencies, with lower bass response than on the headphones I bought from the big-box store years ago. Because of the lower bass response, I find it easier to tease out faint signals on the airwaves, and the ear cups are comfortable for long-term listening. The cable is 1.9 m long and is terminated with an integral 3.5mm stereo jack plug.  The HP-1 headphones are supplied with a 1/4″ stereo to 3.5mm stereo adapter.

The NCH Active Noise Cancelling headphones are a bit of a different beast: they are NOT designed to cancel noise on the broadcast signal you are listening to. Instead, they are designed to reduce external noise. According to the BHI website:

The bhi NCH active noise cancelling headphones (ANC) do not work like our other DSP noise cancelling products but effectively reduce external ambient background noise enabling you to concentrate more and enjoy your listening experience when listening in a noisy environment.  The over-ear style NCH headphones also give good passive audio isolation from external noise.”

These headphones are powered an AAA battery. There is a switch to turn the noise-cancellation circuity on and off, and there is an LED that lights when the unit is activated. The NCH headphones have a 1.25m detachable cable with 3.5mm jack plug (both ends).

So I tried out the NCH headphones while mowing the lawn with a gasoline-powered lawnmower and listening to an audio book on my digital recorder. Bottom line: they really work to significantly reduce (but not totally eliminate) an external noise source and make the listening experience more pleasant. And when they are not turned on, they work really well as ordinary headphones for DXing. Like the HP-1 headphones, they are comfortable and biased toward high frequency.

In the end, I found both these headphones worked well for their intended purpose, and I am happy to recommend them.

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Announcing DXtreme Monitor Log 14!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and supporter, Bob Raymond with  DXtreme who shares the following product announcement:


Product Announcement 

DXtreme Monitor Log 14™ 

DXtreme Software™ has released a new version of its popular logging program for radio and TV monitoring  enthusiasts: DXtreme Monitor Log 14. Its familiar, uncluttered, industry-standard Windows® interface lets  listeners and DXers log the stations they’ve heard using features that enhance their monitoring enjoyment.

New Features in Version 14 

Signal Modes, Transmission Modes, Grid Square Tracking 

  • We added a Signal Modes field to let users specify the signal mode their receiver is tuned to (for example,  AM, CW, FM, LSB, USB, RTTY, etc.) plus a Transmission Modes field to let users specify the transmission mode  the station is transmitting (for example, CW, FAX, FT8, HFDL, MIL-STD-188-141A, SSB, STANAG 4285, etc.). And we added Signal and Transmission Mode modules to let users maintain tables of signal and transmission  modes.
  • We added a Transmission Mode Details box to allow users to type free-form information about the  transmission mode received, such as baud rate, bandwidth, etc. (for example, 1200bps/L). New Log Variables enable users to share Signal, Transmission, and Detail mode information so readers (and users) can  reproduce the monitoring environment and log (or relog) the stations. Here are two  examples: “1200bps/L STANAG 4285 crypto tfc on USB” and “MIL-188-110A/B continuous mode idle on LSB.” 
  • We added support for tracking Maidenhead grid squares, which is useful when monitoring/logging stations  not located in traditional countries, like aircraft and ships operating in international airspace and waters. Grid  squares are calculated from specified latitudes and longitudes. Both Performance and Stations reports let you  track grids. Search functions let you find log entries for viewing or editing based on their grid squares.

Verification By Improv Imaging 

Similar to the legacy Verification By Audio feature, where the presence of an audio file in a log entry designates  the station as “Verified By Audio,” we added a Verification By Improv Imaging feature which counts the station as  “Verified By Improv Image” if the Shows ID check box on the Improv Imaging tab is selected, indicating the  presence of an ID on the window of a captured digital software application (such as PC-HFDL).  Performance, Stations, and Log Entries reports let you track verifications by traditional QSLs, presence of Audio  files, and presence of Improv Images for which the Shows ID check box is selected.

Schedule Checker Monitoring Advice and Tuning 

  • When Schedule Checker advises users to monitor a station for a new or verified Country, it does so now for  the Class (SWBC, Ute, Ham, etc.) and QSL Type (Verified By QSL, Audio, or Improv Image) selected in Properties. The foreground and background colors that indicate the Schedule Checker’s monitoring advice can be defined by users in Properties. The colors appear in an upgraded legend on the Schedule Checker.
  • Users can now tune their radios to the schedule item’s signal mode and frequency by selecting the desired  signal mode in the Signal Mode list box and double-clicking the schedule item.

Solar Indices Enhancements 

  • Acquisition of current solar indices has been improved on the Monitor Log and Schedule Checker windows. • Editing of solar indices has been added to the Monitor Log window for when NOAA is down.
  • We restored historic solar indices adjustments based on date and time changes made on the Monitor  Log window provided users have downloaded historic solar indices from the NOAA FTP site into the Solar subfolder. An interface is provided on the Edit menu of the Monitor Log window for this FTP activity.

For more information about New Features, click https://www.dxtreme.com/monitorlog_whatsnew.htm.

Standard Features 

Logging Stations 

Monitor Log 14 lets users log all kinds of stations: radio, television, broadcast, utility, Amateur Radio, military,  etc. across the radio spectrum.

Finding Stations to Monitor 

The Schedule Checker lets users import schedules from Aoki, EiBi, and FCC AM web sites and display broadcast  schedule data according to the filter criteria they specify. Users can filter schedule information by band,  frequency, station, country, time of day, language, and more. EiBi schedules also include utility stations.

For each schedule item, Schedule Checker queries the Monitor Log 14 database to let users know – through user-defined, foreground and background display colors – whether they need to monitor a station for a brand new or verified country. The colors appear in a legend on the Schedule Checker window. When Schedule  Checker advises users to monitor a station for a new or verified Country, it does so for the Class (SWBC, UteHam, etc.) and QSL Type (Verified By QSL, Audio, or Improv Image) selected in Properties.

Reporting Reception 

Users can create customized paper and e-mail reception reports for sending to stations plus log entry data  shares for reporting catches to clubs and magazines. Using the Script Editor window, users can create and edit  scripts that format reception reports, eReports, and shares to their liking. The software prompts users to select  the script they want to use. Dozens of scripts come with Monitor Log 14. Users can also send eQSL requests to  hams automatically via the popular https://www.eqsl.cc site and update their databases with downloaded  eQSL.cc Inbox records.

Imaging 

Improv Imaging lets users associate ad hoc images with log entries using Capture, Scan, and Clipboard  functions. Captures of stations received on digital applications, waterfall displays, facsimile and Amateur TV  pictures are popular. The Improv Imaging tab and Application let users view images anytime, and an Improv  Image Explorer lets them peruse their entire collection and display associated log entries. A QSL Imaging facility  functions the same as Improv Imaging for associating QSLs.

Other Features 

  • Rig Control — Retrieves the frequency and mode from supported radios and permits tuning from the  Schedule Checker and Direct Tune. Rig control is provided through integration with Afreet Omni-Rig  (http://www.dxatlas.com) and CAT for SDR applications like SDR Console (https://www.sdr-radio.com) and SDRuno (https://www.sdrplay.com).
  • Audio Archiving — Lets users maintain an audio archive of stations heard.
  • Reporting and Searching — Produces Performance, Stations, and Log Entry reports that track the  performance and progress of the user’s monitoring station and provides criteria-based log entry searches.
  • Documentation — Context-sensitive Procedural Help, Field Help, and Microhelp are accessible on every  window to provide instructions quickly. Installation Instructions and a Getting Started Guide also included.

Supported Operating Systems, Pricing, Contact Information 

DXtreme Monitor Log 14 runs in 32- and 64-bit versions of Microsoft® Windows® 11, 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista® XP.  Retails for $94.99 USD for Internet distribution (discounted pricing for upgrades available). Product support by  Internet e-mail. For more info, visit (https://www.dxtreme.com) or write [email protected].

SWLing Post readers should note that DXtreme was one of our first company supporters. Their ad revenue helps bring the SWLing Post to you daily. Thanks, DXtreme!

Click here to check out DXtreme Monitor Log 11.

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Martin builds a simple ferrite rod to inductively couple radios to his external mediumwave antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Martin Tobisch, who shares the following guest post and videos from his home in Malta:


New AM Signal Coupler

Many AM medium wave listeners are looking for solutions to improve the reception performance of their radios.

After many attempts, which I don’t want to entertain anyone with, a coupler was created that feeds the external antenna directly into the ferrite antenna. I use my 66 foot long wire antenna on 50 ohm RG-58 cable, but other antennas will have similar success.

The clips available on YouTube speak for themselves:

 

Experiments with smaller ferrites and antenna rods met with no success. It is important that the coupler still works even at a distance from the ferrite antenna and without precise alignment.

With tube radios it easily bridges the distance from the housing to the ferrite rod Antenna
The finished coupler consists of 6 NiZn ferrite cores, which are connected with glue to form a rod. 8 turns of wire are wound over this and soldered to an RG-58 cable. Some electrical isolation tape and ready. So far I’ve just put it in a box. Of course there are finer solutions and it should be protected against shock. Ferrite cores are notoriously brittle.

Here is a link to the ferrites used (purchased at AliExpress).

Advantages: Advantages to what? Nothing comparable exists.

So there are advantages to feeding via an antenna socket. The signal coupler is also good for radios without an antenna socket. But in case of using an antenna socket, common mode wave interference picked up in the house goes unlimited into the radio. Due to the magnetic coupling to the ferrite antenna, common mode waves are completely suppressed. They do not create a magnetic field in the coupler.

No changes are necessary in the radio

The biggest advantage is, that you can listen to distant stations loud and clear, which previously only produced a quiet scratching noise.

I very much welcome reports of experiences.

[email protected]

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Guest Post: Here Come the Lithiums

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bob Colegrove, who shares the following:


Power Play – Here Come the Lithiums

by Bob Colegrove

I have belonged to several radio-oriented user groups in recent years and can’t help noticing how often the subject of batteries comes up.  It’s almost a sub-hobby within the hobby.  There are a couple of reasons for this, first is the unending quest for the ultimate cost-effective, everlasting battery, and second, it’s a rare opportunity for most of us to tinker in an increasingly complex world of technology.

Lithium batteries offer a sustainable voltage output well into their discharge cycle and can deliver a higher rate of current than alkaline batteries.  They are somewhat lighter in weight than alkaline batteries – 2.5 oz. versus 5 oz. for D-cells.

Considering the fast pace of technology, lithium batteries have been with us for a comparatively long time, this in the form of cell phone and camera power, not to mention a host of electric appliances.  Most of these batteries have limited purpose, that is they have been developed and packaged for just a few applications, thus resulting in an incredible variety of sizes and shapes, and no doubt a host of frustrations due to obsolescence.  It’s somewhat reminiscent of the early days of transistor radios which ran on a wide array of zinc-carbon batteries.

Perhaps I have been asleep at the wheel, but it has only come to my attention recently that lithium chemistry has begun to backfill the standard battery sizes we have long been familiar with, namely AAA, AA, C, D, and even the PP3 standard 9 volt.

I have been running along quite successfully for more than 10 years on AA NiMH technology on several portable radios.  Although these run at a slightly lower cell voltage of 1.25 Vdc, the one-for-one substitution of these for alkaline chemistry has seldom been a problem in terms of performance.  In most cases, newer radios are provided with an alkaline/NiMH-NiCad setting to compensate for the difference in voltage.  Even the venerable Sony ICF SW7600GR, for which alkaline batteries are assumed, seems to operate equally well either way.

My problem has always been the larger power consumers running on D-cells – the Sony ICF 2010 and Grundig Satellit 800 to cite two examples.  A fresh set of NiMH batteries put the 2010 on the cusp of poor performance.  Lithium batteries having a sustainable single-cell voltage of 1.5 Vdc now provide a possible alternative to a steady diet of costly alkaline cells.  Even more attractive, some are equipped with a USB-C connector and can be recharged without a dedicated charger.

In the figure above, a set of four lithium D cells are connected simultaneously through a 4-lead USB-C harness and USB charger (not shown).  Many of the brands include the harness with a set of batteries.  I have added a USB multimeter, which I find very useful to monitor the progress of the charge, but this is not necessary.  This particular meter can also show accumulated capacity.  However, it should be noted that, unless batteries are charged one at a time, charging rate and capacity will show the total values for the number of batteries being charged.  I would also recommend that the USB charger be rated at least 3 amps.  In the figure below, one of the USB-C leads is connected at the top of the battery.  The built-in LED flashes during charge and remains on when the charge is complete.

Cost is an equally important consideration.  There is a lot of hype in the marketing department about how many times these batteries can be recharged.  The key compound preposition here is “up to,” and as long as they use those words, they can make the number anything they want to.  That said, it simply won’t take more than a few cycles for the cost-benefit cusp to be reached in favor of lithium batteries.

I am just getting started with this.  Although the batteries came highly recommended for the portable radio application, I can make no judgment at this time as to their ultimate quality or convenience.  It just seems like the next logical way to go.

There are some things to remember when choosing lithium batteries.  Not all lithium batteries are rechargeable, particularly smaller sizes.  Some do not come with the built-in USB-C charging jack, so a separate charger intended for lithium batteries will be required.  D size batteries are also available at 3.6 Vdc/cell.  There may be other options, so watch out.  Be sure to thoroughly check the features of any batteries you consider.

I would close by warning that lithium batteries come with safety caveats regarding their transport, handling, use, charging, and disposal.  These precautions are all well stated in the literature, which should be followed with an abundance of caution.  Of note is the fact that not all chargers support lithium batteries, and their capability should be checked as well.


Click here to check out these Lithium D Cells on Amazon.com (SWLing Post affiliate link), or explore other brands.

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High Noon: Belka MW shootout part 2, with a review of the AFA200C active MW ferrite antenna

High Noon: Belka MW shootout part 2, with a review of the AFA200C active MW ferrite antenna

by 13dka

When I reviewed the updated Belka (gen3, 2022) for its MW/LW performance in October last year, I just wanted to know if it’s any good with just the whip antenna and used the XHDATA D-808 as a reference radio because it’s a Jay Allen 2.5-star average performer on MW and my expectations were not high for MW reception on a short whip.  To my surprise that average bar turned out way too low for the Belka!

That was sure asking for a comparison with the most sensitive MW radio I have and gave me hope to use the Belka for ultra-portable MW DXing on the move.  The omnidirectional whip doesn’t allow me to null out unwanted co-channel interference though, therefore I wanted to find a reasonably sized loopstick antenna to pair with the Belka.  Continue reading

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Bob’s Bespoke “Rack of Radios”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bob Colegrove, who shares the following:


A Rack of Radios

by Bob Colegrove

You simply cannot have enough radios – a principle I learned a long time ago.  The difficulty occurs when it comes to storing them and yet having them at the ready when necessity calls.  Turns out several of my portables fall within a dimensional range that they can be conveniently stored in a rack on the table.

I would like to say I made a project out of this choosing a fine hard wood for construction, carefully routing each divider into a finely milled slot, tastefully finishing the whole thing off with appropriate stain and varnish, and perhaps lining each slot with felt of finest virgin wool.  However, never having been one to let form triumph over function, instead, I found a couple empty cracker boxes of the right dimensions, made a few cuts with a hobby knife, and applied some hot glue.  Whalla!

Wait a minute.  Is that an unused slot at the end?  Hmm!


I love it, Bob!

I mean, you know those cracker boxes just wanted to become a custom radio rack–! I say save the fine wood working to build the shelf upon which you’ll place your bespoke cracker box radio rack. 

Thank you!

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