Category Archives: AM

Guest Post & Review: Test Driving the Russia-Made Malahit DSP-2

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


 

Test Driving The Russia-Made Malahit DSP-2

Poised on Edge of Greatness?  (Some Challenges To Overcome)

by Dan Robinson

By now, the Malahit SDR is well known in listening hobby circles.  We have the made-in-Russia original, and those manufactured in China with various firmware and some physical differences such as location of the tuning encoders.

News about the Malahit began to spread in 2019, with articles here on the SWLing Post, including two in February and April of 2020 (https://swling.com/blog/2020/02/the-malahit-dsp-a-potential-holy-grail-portable-sdr/ and one in which the Malahit was put up against an Afedri LAN-IQ SDR (https://swling.com/blog/2020/04/fenu-posts-a-malahit-dsp-afedri-lan-iq-head-to-head-comparison/ ).

At the same time, we saw the development and appearance of the Belarusian Belka SDR.  I consider the latest Belka DX to be the ideal portable – a sensitive diminutive miracle that has become a must-have device for many of us.

As for the Afedri LAN-IQ, I held off on purchasing one until the “Standalone” version was available.  It is made in Israel by a Russian developer who supports the receiver with fairly frequent firmware revisions (though upgrading remains a bit of a challenge involving some obscure boot-loading software).

I waited and observed reviews of the original versions of the Malahit.  When its designer, Georgiy (RX9CIM), announced availability of the new DSP-2 version of the receiver, with expanded coverage to 2 GHz and a claim of improved performance, I finally purchased one.

As was observed in one of the early SWLing Post articles “It seem[ed] the project is open source, the schematic, PCB and software are available to download. . . we hope [these] receivers become popular and available world wide [and that] this new project “shakes” a bit the industry of shortwave receivers.”

Malahit project authors RX9CIM George, R6DAN Vladimir, and R6DCY Vadim, had the apparent objective of “designing a low-cost portable SDR radio, using only easily obtainable components and to become the natural successor of the popular Degen and Tecsun radios.”

At the time, the price for a finished Malahit, with an ARM chip at its center was about $195 US.  Coverage was to 1 GHz – this has since been extended to 2 GHz.  Synchronous AM mode was added, and the DSP-2 also comes with an internal battery tray for a single 18650 Li-on battery.

This is a change from the original flat Li-on cell, and in my opinion a welcome one  since 18650s are easily obtainable.  Being able to easily change out a battery is important, rather than messing around with soldering (the famous Reuter Pocket receiver made in Germany should take a hint).

In this age of the SDR, we’re all familiar with the SDRplay series and various AirSpy receivers, along with other SDRs such as the RX666/888.  Before that, we had the famous Perseus, which still has a strong following, and numerous WinRadio receivers.

See the articles here on the SWLing Post assessing the performance of these, as well as reviews at eHam.net, and numerous SDR dongles all over eBay, coming from China.  There is also an SDR group on Groups.io.

Of course, receivers and transceivers with panoramic displays began to appear some years ago – the ICOM IC-R8600 and IC-7300 are examples of how this technology was integrated into the listening and amateur radio markets.

What we had not seen was integration of this kind of technology into portables.  Even in its latest iteration, the Belka DX has a small screen without any PAN display.  So, the advent of the Malahit has made this kind of advanced display widely available.

The price, by the way, for my DSP-2 as of July 2021 was 19,500 Russian rubles, with an extra 2,000 rubles for express delivery via Russian Post (though due to COVID Georgiy stressed that no guarantees could be made as to timing).  That’s $263 – not a small investment and rivaling the cost of a Tecsun ATS-909x and H-501x.

According to the description I received when ordering, the Malahit DSP-2 was improved over the previous version with the following differences:

  • Frequency range – from 50 kHz to 380 MHz, and 400 MHz to 2 GHz
  • Improved RF shielding and hardware improvements to reduce interference
  • Changes in software functions
  • Dimensions changed to 140x 88x 39mm
  • 18650 battery

The DSP-2 is in a thin black metal cabinet with dimensions 5 x ½ by 3 x ½ by 1 x ½.

A power button and headphone jack are on the right along with a power LED.  On the top, we find the SMA antenna input, and a small telescopic whip is included.

The speaker, capable of some decent audio, is located on the inside rear of the receiver – audio level exceeds that of the Belka DX with its very small speaker, but the Belka has a clarity that often exceeds the Malahit.

My first testing of the DSP-2 was indoors, in a far corner on the top floor of my home, using just the included whip antenna.   For comparisons, I used a Tecsun PL-368 with its whip antenna and a Belka DX in the same location.  I find that indoor testing tends to identify some issues that would not be apparent outdoors.

In this, the Tecsun PL-368 and other Tecsun portables consistently performed best, followed by the Belka DX and the Malahit.  This may be surprising, but shows that radios specifically designed for shortwave reception, often provide better reception because they are matched better with their internal telescopic antennas.

Now, when I say “best” I mean best basic audio quality, using auto-memory and ETM functions on the PL-368 and 990x.  But what those radios can do with the signal after that point is pretty limited – there is no NR (noise reduction), you’re limited to a handful of set bandwidth selections, and SYNC mode leaves much to be desired.

Which is where the Malahit comes in with its numerous levels of flexibility, accessed through MENU icons on the lower part of the screen:  HARD, AUDIO, VISUAL, NR, MODE, and BAND.  I refer the reader to the Malahitteam site links showing the user manual (this is still a bit in the rough, with translation from Russian) and another link with a Quick Start guide written by John Pitz (KD8CIV).

KEY HIGH POINTS ON MALAHIT

SUPERIOR COLOR DISPLAY

The color display, also seen on numerous China-made clones, is the best on any handheld SDR.  Where the Belka LCD is a basic utilitarian tool that performs well for that receiver, the Malahit display is an invitation to the wonderland of what this receiver offers.

At the top are small icons for:  SQ, NB, NR, AGC, ANT, PRE, MODE.  Right of center, and controlled with pushes of the small volume encoder knob, are ATT, VOL, FILTER, and the battery icon.  Below those are headphone and speaker icons and an excellent, if small, frequency window.  Pushing the small encoder knob selects/controls volume, attenuation, and main filters.  The large tuning knob, with a press, selects step increments.

EXCELLENT NOISE REDUCTION

Noise reduction on the Malahit is superb, as many users have observed.  It’s activated directly with a front panel icon and Threshold is adjustable with an icon under AUDIO, with 0 to 30 increments.  NR is so good that I compare it with the latest firmware version on the ICOM IC-R8600 – it’s actually probably better than the ICOM even near and at the highest 30 level.

EXCELLENT FILTERING

Whereas the Belka DX offers fixed audio filtering values accessible via its front panel, the Malahit DSP-2 offers continually variable LOW FREQUENCY adjustment from 0 Hz to 2350 Hz, and HIGH FREQUENCY adjustment from 100 Hz all the way up to 150,000 Hz.   This is in addition to standard NARROW, NORMAL, and WIDE filter options selectable with the volume encoder knob.  This is nothing short of extraordinary for a handheld portable receiver.

The latest (and possibly last) Tecsun receivers offer set value multiple bandwidths, which is excellent but is a throwback to radio design from years ago.  So, the DSP-2 capabilities can be compared to the kind of filtering that a Watkins Johnson or Cubic receiver have, but in the palm of your hand.

As I often observe, what we would have given in gold to have this kind of capability in consumer receivers during the glory days of international broadcasting!

AGC / MGC FLEXIBILITY

The Malahit allows the listener to use AGC, with choices of SLOW, MEDIUM, and FAST.  But it also allows, again through the AUDIO settings menu, control of AGC GAIN 0 to 60, and AGC LIMITER 40 to 90 db.  Wow – priceless!  So even if you prefer, as I do, to listen to shortwave using AGC, you still have amazing flexibility.  You can still switch to MGC with 0 to 60 range.

NOISE BLANKER FLEXIBILITY

Just as the Malahit delivers on AGC, so does it deliver with its regular noise blanker function.  With NB activated, there are 3 configurations with a separate THRESHOLD icon adjustable for each of these.  Amazing.

RF GAIN FLEXIBILITY

RF GAIN is adjustable from 0 to 59, and there is a separate icon for adjusting gain for the PRE-AMPLIFIER.  Where the PREAMP comes in very handy is when one has the Malahit indoors – it provides a more sensitivity in situations where one is using the telescopic whip antenna, though care must still be taken not to overload the receiver and distort signals.

FCORRECT FUNCTION MAKES FOR EASY RE-CALIBRATION

The Fcorrect function located under the HARD settings menu enables one to re-calibrate the receiver to correct for error.  This is similar to the capability that Tecsun added to its 330, 909x and 501x receivers (there are indications Tecsun has or will enable this ability also in the PL-368) but seems, based on my testing of the Malahit to be more effective.  After I corrected my DSP-2 to about +57, calibration was pretty much on the money up and down the HF bands.

SQUELCH FLEXIBLITY

The Malahit not only has SQUELCH, but SQUELCH THRESHOLD control, another example of the tremendous flexibility in this receiver’s firmware.  Since I do not do much listening outside of the HF bands, or have the antenna for it, I have not extensively tested the Squelch above 30 MHz and up to the maximum range at 2 GHz.

There is yet another feature described as adaptive noise canceling that allows the user to significantly improve the intelligibility of the received station under conditions noise and interference.

[From the manual]:  The squelch uses different algorithms [depending] on filter bandwidth.  With a bandwidth of more than 1 kHz, a squelch of more than suitable for speech type signal.  With bandwidth less than or equal to 1 kHz, the squelch is suitable for tone type signals.  Choice of algorithm is carried out automatically, depending on bandwidth.  Meanwhile, squelch for speech signals can be used with NR (see further details on this in the manual).

FM RECEPTION WITH RDS

What the Belka DX lacks, namely reception of the FM range, the Malahit delivers in droves.  FM sounds excellent to me, on the same level perhaps of the Afedri LAN-IQ Standalone receiver.

RDS is enabled by touching the waterfall area of the display which brings up the RDS information.  The speed with which station information appears varies depends on position of your antenna and signal level.

As one user (Harold Hermanns) on the Facebook Malahit group observed:  “ I don’t think it works very well. I just checked mine, and went to about 25 stations. The RDS or station name came up on only 5 stations. Letters I get are PS, PT, and PTY. When you tune a strong station, give it a minute or so, that’s what I did, and the RDS feature does work, but again, it’s not 100%.  Maybe will be improved with firmware?”

The RDS information could be better organized – currently the name of the station, and name of the program scrolls on different lines.  Another touch of the screen brings up an old style FM scale – this is nice, but I prefer the PAN display.  Yet another touch returns the screen to the PAN display and waterfall.  Mode options include NFM and WFM, and another option provides FM-STEREO.  Also in FM, there is an auto-search function and station labeling

MISCELLANEOUS FEATURES

There are some other features in the mind-boggling list of options in various menus:

  • In FM (WFM) there is an eight position EQUALIZER function with SOFT, LIVE, CLUB, ROCK, BASS, JAZZ, POP, and VOICE positions.
  • A voltage monitoring function allows the user to turn off the receiver when voltage drops lower than 3.3 volts.  As explained in the manual this is intended to preserve battery life and avoid full discharge.
  • Antenna selection can be 50 ohms or Hi-Z (preferred for telescopic antenna use).
  • As the Malahit manual details, internal gain of the receiving chip can be adjusted.  Accessed from the HARD menu, this is too much for me to go into here, but it’s another example of the detail that went into designing the Malahit.
  • Brightness of the display backlight is adjustable as well as time after which backlight level is reduced to minimum and turned off completely.  Rate of change of the display spectrum is adjustable as is spectrum display range, color, ratio of waterfall and speed and brightness of waterfall.  Spectrum scale and view are adjustable.
  • There is a 5 page memory system, with M1 to M10 in each, so a total of 50 storable memories.

LOW POINTS OF THE MALAHIT

NOISE FROM THE DISPLAY

Example of noise on 1,000 kHz

As I was testing my Malahit DSP-2 it quickly became clear that there is one major low point, and thus a challenge for Georgiy and other members of the design team.

There’s no other way to say this:  internally-generated noise remains the major issue keeping the Malahit from achieving greatness.

 

The developers of the Russian version receiver have not attempted to hide this, and users noticed it from the beginning, with one writer identifying “internally generated noise, which peaks at various frequencies” as one of the key drawbacks of the Malahit.

I had hopes that the DSP-2 version of the Russian-originated Malahit might have less of this problem.  There are numerous internally-generated noise/buzzing spikes, some stronger than others, by my estimation at intervals between 125 and 200 kHz throughout the HF bands.

Example of noise on 6,000 kHz (RHC)

In the case of one huge noise spike appearing at or around 6,000 kHz – right over Radio Havana – it ruins any chance of hearing clear signals at, below and above that point.  As you can see in my video, the Belka DX does not have this problem (note: apologies for mis-spelling Malahit as Malachit).

VIDEO: Malahit With Display Generated Noise

Click here to view on YouTube.

Via Telegram, Georgiy asserted to me that when using an external antenna, noise is not as serious, and notes differences between the Malahit and Belka.  The Belka, he says, is a simpler device that concentrates only on shortwave, while Malahit is a wide band receiver with more complex DSP and user functions.

“When Belka cannot receive something, Malahit can.  And where Belka does not have noise, Malahit has it.  These devices are in different classes.”

The result is that a major workaround is often necessary – to disable the VIEW PAN&WTF option, a key feature that is a major highlight of the radio.

Georgiy says that this problem is mainly linked to telescopic antenna antenna operation because of the antenna’s proximity to the display.  But as you can see in my video, when testing the Malahit and Belka on 6,000 kHz it’s a night and day situation.

A quick push of the power button blanks out the display completely – and seems to completely resolve the noise issue.  But you don’t buy a radio to see a dark display, and it’s depressing to think that turning off a major feature, namely panoramic display, has to be part of standard operating procedure.

When testing the Malahit from its bottom frequency of 50 kHz, even with the PAN & WTF off, huge buzzing noise spikes are heard.  In mediumwave/AM, they are seen at  615 kHz, 790 kHz, 965 kHz, 1140 kHz and so on.

If a radio had emerged from a known large manufacturer with this issue, such as Tecsun or Sangean, it would have been roundly condemned by users and reviewers and sent back to the drawing board.

Georgiy does say that in the new firmware interference from the display was decreased, with a “step of about 2.5 MHz, from 1MHz (i.e. 1MHz, 3.5MHz, 6MHz).  After correction it will be with a step [of] 4 MHz”.  I’m not quite sure what he’s saying with this, due to language issues, but the overall indication is that he is aware of  this issue and will continue trying to tackle it in future revisions.

CW DECODING

In the MODE section of the Malahit there is no confirmation that the receiver is actually in CW.  Decoding is enabled with an icon, but again no confirming icon at the top of the display.  This is a bit odd.

Going to the Telegram app discussion group for the Malahit, and re-reading the translated Russian manual, I discovered that confirmation of CW appears as a white bar under the SPEAKER/HEADPHONE icon on the right.  There is also a MINIMUM SNR option in decoding, with a 0 to 70 range.

A You Tube video (the Gerry DX channel) shows the decoding process and notes that it’s important to keep the filter setting at NARROW when attempting to use the decoding feature on the Malahit and also important to set the SNR at the right level.

One would think that this could be easily rectified, but adding a CW indicator to the top row of small icons on the front display might not be as easy as one thinks, unless the display can be modified to also display “CW” in the icon spaces for AM, LSB, or USB.

It turns out that CW decoding on the Malahit works quite well, at least in my attempts.  I was able to decode fairly strong CW signals in 40 meters.

LCD/TOUCH SENSITIVITY

When I first got the Malahit, I was puzzled by what seemed to be a serious lack of sensitivity on the display when trying to use the touch icons to change configurations and modes.

This was so bothersome that I raised it with Georgiy who responded that this is by design.  The present capacitive touch method, he says, is preferable and more comfortable for users.   “If [we were to] change the touch [enable faster response] then [some] people will demand to decrease it.”

With benefit of some time, I have concluded that a slightly firmer and longer press of about half a second to a second almost always brings up the menu selected.  But this is definitely a characteristic of the DSP-2, so potential owners should be aware of it.

ISSUE WITH CLOCK

Another issue that prospective purchasers should be aware of involves instances where the internal clock of the receiver does not retain the time, and the solution for this directly from Georgiy is not necessarily satisfactory.

“Yes, they need to be removed from the PCB” he says, a reference to two capacitors on the main PCB, C29 and C30 which are next to each other below a larger M7 device on the PCB.

These are SMDs so anyone without good soldering skills will be hard pressed to want to mess around with that PCB.  This is not a confidence-builder, nor a solution – clearly these receivers should come from the supplier without such an issue.

This was upsetting enough for some users that the Malahit team faced some sharp criticisms.  One user said the clock on his DSP-2 was working perfectly.  Another said: “Unless I power off the unit the date stays good but the time is always 2 hrs and 10 minutes behind. As soon as I power off the unit the date defaults back to 15:08:2062.”

One user said:  “Problem is voltage is very inaccurate causing the clock settings to be lost. I have tried several 18650 batteries (good Panasonics) and fully charged they are 4.2v, but the DSP-2 indicates 4.6v. When the battery runs down to 4.0v the clock settings are lost. Also, the battery indicator continues to show FULL. I think there is an internal problem with the DSP2. Perhaps the new design, or new internal parts are causing this. This is very disconcerting.”

In exchanges on Telegram, Georgiy said he personally checks each outgoing Malahit for sensitivity on each band, and clock operation, among other things.  In a later comment just before this article went to press, Georgiy said that C29/C30 should be replaced only if there is a problem with the clock.

There is no mention by the Malahit team of any official return policy – which of course would be quite challenging and costly involving an additional round trip for a receiver back to Russia and then back again to the user.

On my DSP-2, which I have used with an Anker 26800 USB battery, so far my clock/date settings have maintained accuracy with no reset, even after the USB cable is unplugged from the receiver.  I have not yet tested longer times to see if the clock/date is reset when voltage drops below a certain point.

[UPDATE: 22 July 2021]

In a message sent after publication, Georgiy says that the C29 and C30 capacitors will be deleted from the next series of the Malahit, and for now they are being removed from receivers that have not been sold yet.

[UPDATE 23 July 2021]

Further testing revealed that the observations of Malahit users are accurate. When voltage of a 18650B battery in my Malahit dropped below 3.7 v the receiver did indeed shut down — this is with the battery icon still showing 50%. So this is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed in future updates. That said, I got hours of operating time before the full 18650 dropped to the cutoff level — but obviously an inaccurate battery icon is something that the Malahit team will have to correct.

THE BATTERY GAME

Example of 18650 rechargeable batteries

The Malahit DSP-2 uses a 18650 Li-on battery.  Unfamiliar to many people, these are actually well known among professional-grade flashlight collectors/users (flashlight collecting is another of my vices).

One of the first things I realized when my Malahit arrived was that my existing button top 18650 cells were too long to comfortably fit in the battery tray.  A bit of research on the Facebook Malahit group page revealed that some users have modified the receiver to take two 18650 cells, with a double tray replacing the single tray.

The original Malahit tray requires shorter “unprotected” flat top 18650 cells.  At the time I write this, there is a shortage of these cells at the major battery / flashlight suppliers (Battery Junction is one).  DO NOT try to force a slightly larger 18650 in the stock Malahit battery tray!

So, one recommendation I would make to the Malahit Team in Russia would be to make it possible for the receiver to use regular protected button top 18650s, of the type one would easily use in a Tecsun receiver such as the 909x and H-501x.

However, in a message to me just before this article went to press, Georgiy said that the Malahit team has used “typical holders” available to them and that they had been unable to obtain a sufficient number of alternative trays for protected 18650 button top batteries.  So, for now at least the Malahit will require unprotected flat tops.

My 18650B flat top batteries arrived just as I was completing this review – easily charged up in my Littokala charger, each then fit easily in the single battery tray and power the Malahit perfectly.

ENCODER KNOBS

Higher quality replacement knobs

The original encoder knobs on the Malahit can be replaced by higher quality, metal construction ones for the small and larger knobs.  I got mine from Nikolay, a member in Russia of the Malahit Facebook group (he says he sources them from Switzerland, but I have not confirmed this).

I am, however, not sure that the new knobs can simply be installed on the Malahit – there are no set screws on the original plastic Malahit knobs and I chose not to mess around to see whether the metal knobs can easily be installed, at least for now.  Price for the higher quality metal knobs:  $17

[UPDATE 23 July 2021]

Nikolay Vedeneev in Russia produces high quality encoder knobs for the Malahit, Afedri, and Belka SDR receivers. He can be reached at: nickstrannik@gmail.com and received a very positive review from Fernando Duarte who is known for his reviews of numerous receivers. Both of his knobs fit perfectly on the shafts of my Malahit DSP-2 and have a much better feel than the originals (NOTE: I used a 1.5 mm hex key to tighten the set screws) https://fenuradio.blogspot.com/2020/07/custom-tuning-knopfe-fur-jedes-gerat.html

VIDEO

Click here to view on YouTube.

POISED ON THE EDGE OF GREATNESS

The subtitle of this article asks whether the Malahit is poised on the edge of greatness.  I believe it is, but anyone’s choice to join the Malahit user/fan club comes with some headaches.

We can only hope that the Malahit team can work on the problem of noise spikes that permeate the lower frequency ranges from mediumwave on up.  There’s no way to minimize this:  at $263 (the price of a DSP-2 as of July 2021) buyers should not have to be shutting off the display to eliminate noise.

As for the question of the clock on the DSP-2 not maintaining time/date, etc it’s clear that Georgiy and the Malahit team are aware of this issue and one hopes this could be checked off the list of concerns that users have raised.

Whether one needs all the bells and whistles that a Malahit offers is the major question, especially when the Belka DX offers excellent stepped (not continuously adjustable) audio filtering and a form of synchronous AM detection in what has to be the smallest high performance receiver ever available to the listener.

More than a few Malahit owners have observed that between 1.5 MHz and 30 MHz the Belka DX seems to be the better shortwave receiver, with no display noise issues, superb battery life and an amazing small size that makes it the ultimate ultra-portable.

In short, if you choose to step aboard the Malahit train you enter a world where there will be constant improvements in software and hardware, and bugs along the way, of which noise spikes issue is a perfect example.  But if you’re someone who gets enjoyment from being on the leading edge of technology in radio development, the Malahit may be for you.

It’s impressive that the Malahit originated in Russia, not generally been known for innovations at this level.  In recent years, Asia was the main source of advances from the likes of ICOM, Yaesu, AOR etc in the amateur radio area, and from Tecsun, Sangean, and Eton in the area of portable receivers for HF listeners.

Finally, one has to wonder about the potential that the Malahit design holds for integration into the kind of portables seen over the past two years.  Some observers have asked why the LCD display and other features on the Malahit could not be part of a future receiver that looks like a Tecsun 990x or Sangean 909×2 with additional advances such as off-air microSD recording, and DRM.

FINAL ASSESSMENT:  I boarded the Malahit bus fairly late, but I am definitely a fan.  Owning one of these receivers is indeed a roller coaster – anyone climbing on should become a member of the Facebook and other discussion groups where users exchange views, suggestions, and their own experiences.

For ultimate portability in 2021, the Belka DX wins the race.  But the Malahit wins on the sheer number of advanced signal processing and other features it contains, though it is hobbled to an extent by the problem of display interference.

If Georgiy and the Malahit team can continue to make steady progress in confronting the noise issue and fine tune the already amazing array of features, the Russia-made Malahit has a bright future ahead.

Spread the radio love

Radio Waves: Navajo Nation Airwaves, Yamata Transmitting Station at 80, ARRL & Maglite, FCC Proposed Revisions, and Why So Many Plugs?

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: 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 SWLing Post contributors Aaron Kuhn, Ron Chester, Ronnie Smith, Dan Van Hoy, and Dennis Dura for the following tips:


The Airwaves of Navajo Nation (The Verge)

KTNN radio station’s headquarters in St. Michaels, Arizona is less than ten minutes away from the Navajo Nation capital of Window Rock, but its reach encompasses all 27,000 square miles of the Nation across four different states. The station has been broadcasting bilingual content in both the Navajo language, Diné Bizaad, and English for over 35 years. But the station is quiet nowadays — many staff members are working from home if they can. That includes Dee Dixon who, after 15 years at KTNN, had to install internet access to her home an hour and a half away in Dilkon, Arizona so she could broadcast her 6AM show.

Her regular listeners are scattered. During the day, KTNN covers the majority of the Navajo Nation across New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. One can also tune into KTNN’s programming online via livestream from anywhere in the world. It is not the region’s only media. A few regional newspapers cover the reservation extensively, and Navajo Nation is also the only tribe in the country that owns, funds, and operates its own television station. But none of these mediums produce stories primarily in Diné Bizaad: radio is the only way to hear the language in local media.

When the COVID-19 pandemic bore down on Navajo Nation in early 2020, Dixon noticed a distinct divide between her regular listeners at home on the reservation and those outside of it. As Dixon worked on translating public health announcements and taking calls on the air, she noticed an uptick in listeners tuning in from Florida, Maine, Alaska, Louisiana, and Montana. Those callers away from home were hungry for local updates to know what was going on within the Nation — an ambiguous virus that no one understood thoroughly just yet was spreading. People wanted to know if their families were safe and just how transmission was occurring in a place where households are far flung across vast swaths of desert. But Dixon realized as her local listeners, specifically elders, called in that they wanted something different from her: they did not want to hear about the virus whatsoever, no matter how high the rates of infection in Navajo Nation were.

“According to Navajo tradition, you’re not supposed to give a name to anything that is not good for the reservation,” Dixon says. “The virus was like a monster. Traditionally, the more you talk about something like that, the more you’re inviting it into your home.”

Navajo Nation is the second-largest Indigenous tribe in the country with about 300,000 enrolled members, over half of whom live on the reservation. Much of the land is rugged and rural. Of those on the reservation, about 27 percent of households do not have electricity. Cellphone service can be spotty to nonexistent.

But transistor and car radios do not require electricity to function. Radio waves are not dependent on cell towers. In fact, KTNN was the last station in the country licensed for a clear-channel radio signal at 50,000 watts — a strength used in the early 1900s to provide rural America with radio that wouldn’t be vulnerable to interference.[]

Japan’s only shortwave station still in business after 80 years (The Asahi Shimbun)

KOGA, Ibaraki Prefecture–Standing tall and proud over an area of 1 million square meters or so, a forest of steel towers in two-tone red and white is the dominant feature under the blue sky against the backdrop of Mount Tsukubasan.

This is KDDI Corp.’s Yamata Transmitting Station, the nation’s only facility broadcasting shortwave radio programs to overseas listeners.

The station started broadcasts on Jan. 1, 1941. The main building still retains a prewar ambience.

Shortwave radios were the primary means for people across the world to receive audio content from Japan without a large-scale facility before satellites and submarine cables came into existence.

The 1945 announcement of Japan’s surrender by Emperor Hirohito was transmitted from here to military personnel on overseas battlefronts.

When it was completed in 1940, Yamata, now part of Koga, was a typical farming village with a population of 4,536, of whom 90 percent were farmers, according to a 1941 local history pamphlet.

“A large area of flatland was available, and it was less prone to damage from snow and typhoons,” said Kazuhiro Matsui, 50, a senior official in charge of infrastructure, who served as a guide when the station was shown to media representatives in April. “I think it was the only place fit for the station in the country.”

The steel towers are arranged in such a way that 18 transmission antennas cover 360 degrees to send broadcasts as far north as Boston and London and as far west as Seoul and Nairobi.[]

ARRL Announces Partnership with Maglite (ARRL News)

ARRL  The National Association for Amateur Radio® and Mag Instrument, the US manufacturer of the MAGLITE® Flashlight have announced they have formed a partnership based on common interests in equipping people to be prepared for emergencies and to serve their communities in extreme situations such as natural disasters. ARRL members expand the reservoir of trained operators and technicians in radio communications and radio technology, and provide public service through the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®). Maglite is the leading maker of U.S.-manufactured high-quality flashlights that have a deserved reputation for toughness and durability.

“Amateur radio operators, or ‘hams,’ help people in times of difficulty, often by supporting emergency communications when critical infrastructure is damaged, and by aiding first responders’ need to keep connected,” said Anthony Maglica, Founder, Owner and CEO of MAG Instrument Inc. “We manufacture a product that has been used in public safety for over 40 years, and we are very supportive of the incredible dedication of radio amateurs, so culturally this is a great alliance for both brands.”

“ARRL is delighted that Maglite recognizes the service and skill of ARRL members. This partnership will help us introduce amateur radio to more people,” said David Minster, NA2AA, ARRL CEO. Mag Instrument is creating a special laser-engraved Maglite® product collection for ARRL, as well as offering their members special pricing on a select line of Maglite gear. In turn, those purchases raise funds to support ARRL’s mission. Members can find details at www.arrl.org/benefits and by clicking “Member Discounts” in the left-hand navigation on that page.

Maglite is also promoting a special giveaway in recognition of 2021 ARRL Field Day (no purchase is necessary). Visit Maglite on the web for entry details and Terms and Conditions at https://maglite.com/pages/the-maglite-arrl-2021-field-day-giveaway.

ARRL, headquartered in Newington, Connecticut, counts the majority of active radio amateurs in the US among its ranks. Since its founding in 1914, ARRL and its members have advanced the art, science, and enjoyment of Amateur Radio.

For more information about ARRL visit www.arrl.org.

FCC Report 6/27: FCC Proposes Revisions To Seven Technical Rules (Radio Insight)

At the FCC’s upcoming July Open Meeting scheduled for July 13, Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed voting on seven rule changes to eliminate those that are “redundant, outdated or in conflict” with other rules.

The seven changes are described as:

1. Eliminate the maximum rated transmitter power limit rule for AM stations set out in section 73.1665(b)[…]

2. Update the NCE FM community of license coverage requirement set out in sections73.316(c)(2)(ix)(B) and 73.1690(c)(8)(i) to match that used in section 73.515;

3. Eliminate the requirement that applicants demonstrate the effect of any FM applicant transmitting antenna on nearby FM or TV broadcast antennas set out in section 73.316(d);

4. Update the signal strength contour overlap requirements for NCE FM Class D stations set out in section 73.509(b) to harmonize with the contour overlap requirements for all other NCE FM stations, set out in section 73.509(a);

5. Eliminate the requirement for broadcast services to protect grandfathered common carrier services inAlaska operating in the 76-100 MHz frequency band set out in sections 73.501(b), 74.1202(b)(3), the secondsentence of 74.702(a)(1), and the second sentence of 74.786(b) given that there are no longer such commoncarrier services;

6. Amend the definition of an “AM fill-in area” set out in section 74.1201(j) to conform to section74.1201(g);

7. Amend the allocation and power limitations for broadcast stations within 320 kilometers of the Mexican and Canadian borders, set out in sections 73.207(b) and 74.1235(d), to comply with current treaty provision

[Read the full article with details about each proposed change at Radio Insight.]

Why Does the World Harbor So Many Different Voltages, Plugs, and Sockets? (IEEE Spectrum)

Blame it on the varied evolutionary history of electric power grids and the products that have grown up alongside them

Standardization makes life easier, but it is often impossible to introduce it to systems that have a messy evolutionary history. Electricity supply is a case in point.

Edison’s pioneering 1882 Pearl Street station transmitted direct current at 110 volts, and the same voltage was used when alternating current at 60 hertz took over in American homes. Later the standard was raised a bit to 120 V , and in order to accommodate heavy-duty appliances and electric heating, North American homes can also access 240 V. In contrast, in 1899 Berliner Elektrizitäts-Werke was the first European utility to switch to 220 V and this led eventually to the continent-wide norm of 230 V.

Japan has the lowest voltage (100 V) and the dubious distinction of operating on two frequencies. This, too, is a legacy from the earliest days of electrification, when Tokyo’s utility bought German 50-Hz generators and Osaka, 500 kilometers to the east, imported American 60-Hz machines. Eastern Honshu and Hokkaido island operate at 50 Hz. The rest of the country, to the west, is at 60 Hz, and the capacity of four frequency-converter stations allows only a limited exchange between the two systems.

Elsewhere, the world is divided between the minority of countries with voltages centered on 120 V (110–130 V and 60 Hz) and the majority using 230 V (220–240 V and 50 Hz). North and Central America and most countries of South America combine single voltages between 110 and 130 V and the frequency of 60 Hz; exceptions include Argentina and Chile (220/50), Peru (220/60), and Bolivia (230/50). Africa, Asia (aside from Japan), Australia, and Europe work with the higher voltages: 220 V in Russia and Ethiopia; 230V in South Africa; and 240 V in Brunei, Kenya, and Kuwait.[]


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

The Icom IC-705: Is this really a new holy grail SWL/BCL receiver?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, 13dka, who shares the following guest post:


The Icom IC-705: Is this really a new holy grail SWL/BCL receiver?

by 13dka

When Thomas got wind of its development in 2019 he immediately asked “could the Icom IC-705 be a shortwave listeners holy grail receiver?”. I usually wince a little when I hear “holy grail” because it means very different things to different people, it’s also a moving target with many people aiming at the spot where it was decades ago. But Thomas certainly had a very level-headed assembly of technical performance, quality and practicality requirements in mind when he used that term, and I thought he might be onto something!

There are some excellent, trustworthy reviews of the IC-705 out there. The following is not one of them, I just want to share an opinionated breakdown on why I think this is an interesting radio for SWLs/BCLs indeed, also deliberately ignoring that it’s actually a transceiver.

Jumping shop

While the era of superhet/DSP-supported tabletop holy grails ended with the discontinuation and sell-off of the last survivors more than a decade ago, powerful PC-based SDR black boxes were taking over the mid-range segment and it became very slim pickings for standalone SWL receivers: Thomas just recently summed up the remaining options here.

Between the steady supply of inexpensive yet serviceable Chinese portables, upgraded with a least-cost version of DSP technology, and the remnants of the high end sector there’s very little left to put on the wish list for Santa – that doesn’t need to be paired with a computer that is.

No surprise that SWLs/BCLs in search of new quality toys with tangible controls are taking a squint over the fence to the ham transceiver market: Hams are still being served the best and the latest in radio technology in all shapes and sizes, and even entry-level rigs usually come with feature-rich general coverage receivers. But transceivers never had SWLs much in their focus in the past decades, and particularly not BCLs: Frontend adaptation, additional AM filters, switches and functions would’ve meant increasing costs and so transceivers were never perfected for that purpose. DSP and SDR technology allowed for improvements on that without actually adding (much) hardware and so some interesting alternatives surfaced in the past years, but most of them still come with little downers, at least for BCLs.

Continue reading

Spread the radio love

Medium Wave Circle website sports updates and upgrades

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steve Whitt, who writes:

Hello Thomas

Just a brief note to tell you about exciting developments here at the Medium Wave Circle.

We’ve just launched our new-look website at

https://mwcircle.org/

And we’d like to share the news far and wide.

Some of the features of the new website are:

    • easy to use membership with secure online payment
    • access to the full archive of Medium Wave News (all 500 issues)
    • access to the latest 2020 Editions of the All Time DX Heard in the British Isles
    • a new section for news and feature articles
    • a completely new and re-written library
    • For the first time we also host the archive of the European MW Guide which was the most
    • complete directory of radio stations in Europe.

All the content is either new or completely revised and updated. Most importantly we want our website to be unique and that is why the features, photos, QSLs and audio clips are not to be found elsewhere online.

The new website has been carefully designed to work on desktop PCs, laptops, ipads and even smartphones. It has also been updated to improve security – you will notice the https web address & the padlock next to the url in your browser.

Click here to check out the new site!

Introduction to Long Distance Medium Wave Listening

Thanking you in anticipation.

Kind regards

Steve Whitt

I like the new look and upgrades!  Thanks for sharing, Steve!

Spread the radio love

Giuseppe’s Tecsun S-8800 aluminum case is a self-contained listening post!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Giuseppe Morlè (IZ0GZW), who shares the following video and notes:

I recently bought a Tecsun S-8800 to be used mainly on shortwave. I carry it in an aluminum case to use it everywhere:

Many thanks for sharing this, Giuseppe! I love the integrated antenna–so clever!

Post readers: Giuseppe has had issues with the S-8800 accidently turning on in the case. Can anyone describe the button combo needed to lock the dial and controls during transport? I checked the manual but have found no reference. Please comment if you can help!

Spread the radio love

Guest Post: Remembering the great “Radio Moving Day” of 1941

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Hemphill, who shares the following guest post and addendum to his most recent post on BBC Re-Tune messages:


Radio Moving Day

by Bill Hemphill (WD9EQD)

After listening to the BBC “Re-Tune” broadcasts, it reminded me of when the United States had its own “Re-Tune” day on March 29, 1941.  It was referred to as “Moving Day”.

At 3:00 am, 802 of the 890 radio stations moved frequency.  Following are a couple of articles about this day:

http://www.jimramsburg.com/the-march-of-change-audio.html

https://www.radioworld.com/columns-and-views/in-1941-stations-confronted-39moving-day39

And a previous SWLing Post article:

https://swling.com/blog/2021/04/am-radio-history-80th-anniversary-of-the-havana-treaty/

Like the BBC, there were also broadcasts helping listeners to get ready:

Audio Clip 1

Audio Clip 2

Audio Clip 3

Audio Clip 4

 

I love how it was used as an opportunity to get the radio listener to call on the radio technician to re-program the radio push buttons.  And of course while the technician is there, have him do a full alignment and maybe replace a tube.

The March 1941 issue of Radio and Television Retailing (Pages 16-17) had the article “Radio’s Opportunity for Contact”.

Link:  https://worldradiohistory.com/Archive-Radio-Retailing/40s/Radio-Retailing-1941-03.pdf

While the entire article is an interesting read, the first few paragraphs sums up the opportumities:

THE OPPORTUNITY for contact with consumers using pushbutton-tuned radios., afforded by dramatic March 29 broadcast station frequency shifts, represents an absolutely unique invitation to move more major merchandise, with the promotional expense at least partially covered by service and accessory sales.

Imagine what slick automobile salesmen could do if roads were suddenly altered in such a manner that 10,000,000 cars required some adjustment to operate properly, what refrigerator salesmen might accomplish if a change in current necessitated motor manipulation, how laundry equipment salesmen would positively gloat over the glut of prospects if that many people with old machines actually asked them to call.

Calls make sales, as the records of many home specialty retailers conclusively prove, and the beauty of this particular opportunity to make them lies in the three-fold fact that cold-canvassing is completely unnecessary, that the motivating power of any campaign built around it is obviously not just trumped-up by the trade and that only dealers selling or servicing radios can capitalize in all departments of their business.

So valuable from a major merchandising sales angle is the opportunity to call upon consumers afforded by the necessity for changing pushbutton settings that we suspect many radio retailers will hesitate to charge for this adjustment.

This may be particularly true where consumers so contacted are obviously prospects for new merchandise and will undoubtedly occur in some instances where customers are still being carried on time-payment accounts.

The Feb 1941 issue of Radio Service-Dealer (Page 8) also stressed the opportunities.

Link: https://worldradiohistory.com/Archive-Radio-Service-Dealer/40s/Radio-Service-Dealer-1941-02.pdf

From Page 8:

Reallocation of Broadcast Frequencies M arch 29th Opens Big Job For Service men Resetting Nation’s Push-Buttons

YOUR JOB

There are approximately 10 million push-button receivers in operation in this country. It will be your job to re-set the buttons for the new frequencies in the shortest possible time and with the least amount of confusion. It will also be your job and your opportunity to inspect these receivers for faulty operation. No such opportunity is likely to present itself again, so make the best of it.


And on page 7 of the Mar 1941 issue of Radio Service-Dealer has the article FREQUENCY REALLOCATION SERVICING PROBLEMS

Link: https://worldradiohistory.com/Archive-Radio-Service-Dealer/40s/Radio-Service-Dealer-1941-03.pdf

The first Problem discussed is the IF Frequency:

1A—If a station with a strong signal intensity happens to be operating on double the frequency of the intermediate frequency of a receiver, there is liable to be a heterodyne whistle. The frequency of 455 kc has been used as the standard intermediate frequency on receivers manufactured in the United States.  One main reason for selecting this frequency was that the broadcast frequency of 910 kc was assigned to Canada and, therefore, the possibility of a heterodyne note being produced on a receiver in the United States was at a minimum. Under the terms of the reallocation several American stations will be moved to 910 kc thus producing a problem in the cities where these stations are to be located. If a heterodyne note is heard due to this cause the remedy is to shift the intermediate frequency to one side or another.


Thank you, Bill, for shedding more light on Radio Moving Day and, especially, providing us with the broadcaster and technician’s point of view.

Spread the radio love