Category Archives: Antennas

The Professor reviews the RFA200 external ferrite antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, The Professor, who shares the following review of the RFA200 external ferrite antenna:


The Tecsun R-9012 and RFA200 MW antenna (Photo credit: The Professor)

A Quick Review of the RFA200

The Professor

I’ve considered saying something here about RFA200, as I bought one of these not long after its existence was announced on this blog a few months ago, but I’ve been hesitating because I didn’t have much good to say about it. A couple of times I’ve placed it up snug up against the the top of the two Tecsun sets I have handy (the PL-310ET and the PL-880) and found that despite a lot of knob turning it had little or no effect on improving signal on medium wave stations. I was not impressed.

But I guess I’ve kind of changed my mind on that. And oh yeah, I bought another radio. It’s funny how you can talk yourself into things when you’re talking someone else into something. But after I had mentioned to a reader here the other day that the very inexpensive Tecsun R-9012 was a worthy analog DX portable, I decided to drop twenty and pick one up for myself. After all, it was about the same price as a fancy Brooklyn hamburger. It arrived a couple days ago.

So, I have been playing with it a bit over the last few days. It’s as good as the other ones I’ve had which are the same basic radio (I’d mentioned that the bandswitch slider broke in a couple of mine). It’s single conversion. The bandwidth is a little wide, but it’s a very sensitive and simple analog set.

Yesterday I was going through the AM band and remembered that ferrite from Greece, and I pulled it out recalling that in my experience some radios are more susceptible to reception improvements using passive loops than others. Maybe this ferrite bar might be similar. And sure enough, the antenna made a notable difference this time. By placing it up against the R-9012 and tuning the thing I could certainly increase signal a bit. And I could even see it in the slight brightening or steadiness of the tuning light.

So, not a total waste money after all. I would emphasize that the difference in reception doesn’t seem to be as dramatic or sustaining as you might hear with a tunable loop antenna next to your radio. But it’s not junk either. Then again, for fifty dollars shipped it is a little pricey. Twice as much as a Tecsun tunable loop antenna, and two and half times more expensive than the R-9012 itself.

I found the best way to use this antenna is to tune the radio separately first and when you find a weaker signal you want to improve physically go ahead and rotate the radio until the signal is strongest and THEN put the antenna along the top of the radio and adjust the tuning knob on the antenna. Focus in on strengthening the signal you actually hear, going back and forth until it gets strongest. If you seem to be pulling up other stations it’s because the antenna adjustment will bring in adjacent stronger stations if you move it too far either way.

I’m surely not able to pin down the science involved in exactly how these things work, but perhaps somebody can chime in on this. I’m wondering if analog radio tuning in particular is better suited to the use of these tunable passive antennas, as opposed to PLL and DSP radios?

If you buy one of these be prepared to wait. At least mine took weeks to get here from Greece. And don’t expect miracles. But it seems rather well constructed, and will probably work with some radios. The seller has a 100% rating on eBay and has all sorts of interesting antennas for sale. I’m glad to see people succeeding in that business.


Many thanks, Prof, for sharing your fine review of the RFA200! Thanks for also mentioning the Tecsun R9012–I purchased one a couple years ago with the intention of reviewing it, then gave it to teenager who expressed interest in shortwave. I don’t think I actually put it on the air myself. I do enjoy simple old school analog radio–especially when making band scans. 

Click here to view the RFA200 antenna on eBay.

Backpack Shack 2.0: an update from the field

Finished Backpack Loop 2.0 and accessories assembled together

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, who shares the following update about his homebrew Backpack Shack 2.0 portable loop antenna:


Quick Field update

by Tom Lebryk

This is just a quick Field Update for my Backpack Shack 2.0 antenna. It is not the most powerful antenna but in the right location it can be useful, especially with using an SDR. It was used during February in two Forest Preserve (County Park) locations outdoors and once from my usual Grocery Store parking lot!

Field Recordings

Please excuse some of the computer generated noises (caused by a slow CPU) as well as some audio connector problems on a couple of recordings.

Each Time is in UTC and Frequency in kHz. Where can you hear unique programming like these samples except Shortwave Radio??? Enjoy!

VOA, @03:00 on 6080 kHz in English from Sao Tome towards Africa (backside of their antenna, opposite of my location)

China Radio Int’l, @23:00 on 9415 kHz in Vietnamese from Beijing (not sure if this traveled around Antarctica to get to me or a backside of their antenna over the North Pole?)

WHR, @15:59 on 9965 kHz in Korean from T8WH Palau

Mighty KBC, @01:48 on 6150 kHz in English from Nauen Germany (announcer sound effects included!)

Voice of Greece, @20:34 on 9420 kHz in Greek from Avlis (unique stylized Greek music, INTERESTING artistic expression)

Vatican Radio, @20:27 on 9660 kHz in English from Vatican City to Africa

WINB, @21:30 on 9610 kHz in English from Red Lion, PA USA (a FUN song about promoting Radio listening!)

And my favorite Government-run authentic folk music station of Mexico, tiny 1KW XEPPM @04:17 on 6185 kHz with clear station ID

I will be working on a larger version of this antenna to transport in my car as well as a small VHF loop antenna for the outside deck for Air/Police/Weather scanning.

Hope to report sometime this Spring.


Thank you so much for the update, Tom! It looks to me like you’re having an amazing time with you homebrew loop in the field! 

As always, keep us in the loop! (Yeah…bad pun, I know!)

Guest Post: Radios I Have Known #2

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Neil Goldstein, who shares the following guest post which originally appeared on his blog, Fofio:


Radios I Have Known #2 The old, the new, and the Select-A-Tenna

by Neil Goldstein

L-R: Select-A-Tenna, Tivdio V-115, Sony ICF-5500W

After promising this series a year and a half ago, I finally have started digging through the collection, and will start posting about once a week.  The radios, and accessories may not have anything in common (as seen in this post), but were all acquired because they were in some way interesting, or sentimental to me.  Here’s the first three:

Select-A-Tenna
One of the original air-core tunable AM antennas.  You just put this near the radio and peak it for reception.  I was watching for one of these in good shape, and not overpriced, and they have been in and out of production over the years.  This one is from a later production run as can be seen by the extended AM range (1700).  Jay Allen reviewed the S.A.T by comparing the the TERK Air Core antenna not long ago here:  https://radiojayallen.com/select-a-tenna-vs-terk-am-advantage/  The TERK reviewed well, and looks more modern, but I wanted the classic cheesy art-deco looking S.A.T.

Tivdio V-115
I won’t post a long, boring review here.  Many have already reviewed this radio.  All I can say is that if you like small, decent-sounding transistor radios, you will not be disappointed.  If you are expecting top-shelf performance, and perfect ergonomics, then you you may not be happy, but for around $19 you really should be happy with this little gem.  A great little radio at a great price and the most impressive thing here is the sound.  The radio has a small passive radiator like the Meloson M8, and M7, and really surprises me.  It can also be used as an amplified speaker, and has a micro SD slot for using it as a standalone MP3 player.  Grab one!

Sony ICF-5500W
Most transistor radio collectors know this radio.  It’s a classic for sure, but I have to give a little background on why I wanted one.  When I was about 12 years old, I had a few analog SW portables, but nothing with direct frequency readout.  Panasonic had introduced it’s series of direct-readout radios, the RF-2200, 2800, and 4800, and Sony was competing with the ICF-5900W.  Dad acknowledged the quality and technology of these radios, and told me that if I saved most of the money by working for him, he may help me get one.  The 2800, and 4800 were way out of reach, but one Sunday in the local paper, a department store in Kingston (Britt’s, which was Newberry’s answer to Macy’s) had the 2200 advertised for $138.88.  I had been flip-flopping between the Sony and the Panasonic for weeks, but that was the clincher.

The radio is still in use.  My sister in law has it.  I had given it to my late brother Paul at some point and she still uses it as her main radio.

Why this Sony though?  I still want a 5900W.  When I saw this one come up at an auction, I recognized the shape it was in.  The ICF-5500W was the companion radio to the 5900W.  AM/FM and VHF Hi (with a basic, but functional squelch control).  The 5500 and 5900 are a monument to Sony design at the time.  The pop-up antenna (which still works flawlessly), The separate Bass, Treble, and Loudness controls, The overall quality of sound and function, all of this is an example of what Sony was producing at the time.  I think their modern small electronics are a shadow of what they were capable of years ago.  This thing still sounds great and performs well next to my modern DSP radios.  I still would love to get a pristine 5900W but they usually fetch premium dollars.  Maybe someday.

Bravo Sony, but where did you go?

More to come!!


Thanks for sharing, Neil!  I, too, have the Tivdio V-115 and the Sony ICF-5900W.

The ‘5900W is a gem of a solid state receiver. It has brilliant AM broadcast band reception and rich audio. I need to open my ‘5900W and clean all of the contacts since some of the sliders are scratchy. It’ll make for a nice rainy day project!

We look forward to your next installment! Post Readers: be sure to check out Neil’s blog, Fofio!

The Lazy Susan: Mario’s mediumwave companion

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who writes:

Grundig AN-200 Loop Antenna and Lzy SusanHere is a handy tip for those using small magnetic loops, like the Grundig AN-200. Using a simple Lazy Susan makes rotating the loop a lot easier as in the picture attached. It gives you a very smooth 360 degree rotation using a simple flip of a finger. Lazy Susans come in all sizes and luckily I had one already which fits the AN-200 perfectly.

This is a handy tip, indeed! In fact, I once spoke with a mediumwave DXer who told me that when he prepares for a DXpedition, he packs the Lazy Susan before he packs his portable’s batteries!

Lazy Susans are quite easy to find. Most “big box” retailers have them, Amazon.com has a massive inventory (affiliate link), IKEA and I’ve had incredible luck finding them at thrift stores for next to nothing! In fact, if you have a local thrift store with a large selection of kitchen accessories, you’ll likely find a Lazy Susan or two on the shelves.

Thank you for the tip, Mario!

WBCQ builds 500 kW transmitting station

Here at the Winter SWL Fest, there has been much chatter about the new Ampegon rotatable antenna and transmitter system at WBCQ.

WBCQ made the following press releasee yesterday:

(Source: WBCQ)

For Immediate Release: March 2, 2018

WBCQ The Planet Announces New Showcase Radio Facility

Plymouth Meeting, PA:

WBCQ The Planet announced today that it is building one of the most powerful and versatile radio stations in the world. WBCQ’s new shortwave radio station, now under construction in Monticello, Maine, features a new 500-kilowatt transmitter from Continental Electronics and a state-of-the-art antenna system from Ampegon Antenna of Switzerland.

The new station, funded by private investors, will be able to direct a powerful shortwave signal to any country on Earth. Our new facility is planned to be a showcase for the radio world and is dedicated to our free speech mission.

The new station is planned to commence operations in fall 2018.

Obviously, the investor has deep pockets and I understand is affiliated with a religious organization. The new antenna and transmitter building is being built on land adjacent to the existing transmitter site.  WBCQ actually broke ground last summer and the massive antenna’s foundation is already in place. The antenna is on site now, but has not been assembled. Most of the construction is on hold during the winter, but WBCQ plans to have this 500 kW station on the air by Fall 2018.

Follow developments by bookmarking the tag: WBCQ