Category Archives: Articles

Giuseppe discovers his homebrew rotating ferrite antenna works amazingly indoors and nulls RFI

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Giuseppe Morlè, who writes:

Dear Thomas,

This is Giuseppe Morlè again. First of all, Happy New Year to you and to the whole SWLing Post community! I’ve been continuing the tests on my “T Ferrite” antenna for medium wave and the 160 meters ham meter band.

I tried the antenna inside my shack listening to Rai Radio 1 from Milan Siziano, about 800 km from me, on 900 kHz in the early morning after sunrise. The antenna, despite being inside, proved to be perfect for the cancellation of the electrical noise that I had around me.

Disconnecting the antenna from the receiver–a Sangean ATS-909–the noise occupied everything without being able to listen to anything. Putting the antenna back, the noise disappeared completely making the modulation re-emerge, with a weak signal, it was already day, but with good understandability.

The antenna, as I described in another article, is composed of 2 ferrites 12 cm long each, bought at ham fests, tied together with insulating tape.

For the two windings, I used a small section of cable used for telephone systems that is rigid enough to model perfectly on the ferrites–43 turns for the primary and 3 turns for the coupling link to the receiver. The variable capacitor is 850 pf.

I should mention that the magnificent W1VLF channel was my original source of inspiration for this antenna.

Check out the following video:

Click here to watch on YouTube.

That is amazing, Giuseppe! We often think of magnetic loops as the only choice for coping with urban noise and RFI, but ferrite bars–especially configured like yours–are a brilliant tool for indoor low-band listening. Thank you for sharing! We love your experiments.

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Patrick asks: “Was James Bond a ham radio operator and shortwave listener?”

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

Many of us have more time during the holiday season to watch good old movies on either streaming services or just old-time DVD. My favourite pastime is to watch James Bond movies, based on the books by Ian Fleming. The iconic British agent in Her Majesty’s service offers insights to technical advancements in different areas.

The other night I was wondering if the fictional character was a licensed ham radio operator and a shortwave listener? First, let me say that he most likely had advanced techniques to master radio communications in several aspects, among them most likely amateur radio and listening to shortwave broadcasts.

In the first movie, Dr. No, (1962), the presence of ham radio or shortwave radio communications is most present, as noted by the SWLing Post blog and we can also get a glimpse of what could be the BBC Monitoring Station. The matter is also discussed by Dr. Bob Heil (K9EID) on YouTube:

But even in other James Bond movies there are different forms of radio communications. In the 1979 movie Moonraker, James Bond confronts the Dr. Holly Goodhead in Venice, Italy, by taking her purse at 01.12.15 in the movie and concludes in what seems to be a shortwave radio with morse that it is standard CIA equipment.

As a commander in the Royal Navy, James Bond would know morse code as well as several aspects of shortwave band. Both at sea but also in his duties as a Secret Service agent operating abroad he most likely listened to BBC World Service and British military radio stations, numbers stations among them, Although we do not know if he carry with him a shortwave receiver or a very small shortwave transceiver. The innovative character of Q probably equipped him with the latest technology.

In the opening scenes of the 1985 movie A View To A Kill James Bond traced a signal with a gadget that looks like a typical yellow Sony Walkman and in the movie The Spy Who Loved me (1977) James Bond receives a message on his watch what seems to be a tape coming out from the watch, telling him to contact the Headquarters.

In the movie Thunderball (1965) at 00.56 James Bond enters a room where a radio operator listening till BBC Overseas programme is listening to a news bulletin with a coded message that Big Ben had strike seven times at six o’clock.

This is fun, Patrick–thanks so much for sharing! Without a doubt, in real life, Cold War era spies used the shortwaves heavily for both receiving and sending coded messages. Indeed, we believe foreign operatives still use the services of numbers stations.

Your message is so timely: I’ve heard from both family and friends recently who are on a bit of a James Bond binge!

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A comprehensive review of the Mission RGO One general coverage 50 watt transceiver

The following review was first published in the November 2020 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine:


A review of the Mission RGO One ham radio transceiver

by Thomas (K4SWL / M0CYI)

Wow…I love this!

If I am perfectly frank, that would sum up my initial impression of the Mission RGO One.

It was the 2018 Hamvention in Dayton, Ohio, and I had just met up with radio engineer Boris Sapundzhiev (LZ2JR) who was debuting the prototype of his 50-watt transceiver kit, the Mission RGO One. With its clean, functional design and simple front face, large weighted encoder, and enough tactile buttons and multi-function knobs to keep one’s most needed features within reach, the kit was certainly pushing all the right buttons for me.  Without a doubt, I was impressed from the start.

Boris (LZ2JR) the designer and engineer of the Mission RGO One.

To my mind, the RGO One smacks of classic 1990s-era transceivers:  a traditional tabletop front-facing panel, a large fold-out bail, and a unfussy backlit LCD display that’s large enough to read in the field and viewable at any angle.

Perhaps it’s only because I can’t turn off the innate radio reviewer, that I was rapidly checking mental boxes in this first encounter with the RGO One.  Indeed, when I first set eyes on any new radio, I do skim through my mental “operations checklist” to see how difficult the rig might be to use at home and/or in the field. Specifically, I’m looking for the following controls:

  • Encoder
  • AF Gain
  • RF Gain
  • Mode switch
  • Power output adjustment
  • Tune/Xmit button
  • Preamp/Attenuator
  • VFO A/B
  • Split and A=B
  • Mic gain and keyer speed
  • RIT
  • Filters
  • Band switching and direct frequency entry
  • Key and encoder lock

Of course, these days it’s fairly rare that radios actually contain all of these functions without the user having to dig into layers of menus, multi-function controls, or touch-screen options to access them.

Remarkably enough, the Mission RGO One, despite simple design, manages to include all of these features on the front panel without the need of embedded menus. In contrast with some of the radios I’ve tested and evaluated over the past several years, I could tell by the layout alone that the Mission RGO One was developed by an active ham radio operator and DXer: the controls are that intuitive.

Alas, the tantalizing prototype on Boris’ table in the 2018 Hamvention flea market was for show only.

Boris promised that he’d have fully-functional models available at the 2019 Hamvention. Because of this, following that first meeting in 2018, I kept in touch with Boris; we arranged to meet again at the 2019 Hamvention so I could take a second, much closer look at the RGO One––especially since he intended to start shipping the first very limited, early-production-run rigs shortly afterward.

So…did Boris deliver?  And more importantly: did the RGO deliver––?  Let’s find out.

On The Air

Within hours of taking delivery of the prototype radio, I had it in the field activating parks.

It was May 2019 when Boris delivered on his promise, handing me a loaner prototype RGO One. He did so with the understanding that the prototype was still a little rough around the edges. I acknowledged this, thinking in terms of a late Beta-test model since he welcomed reports of any bugs or anomalies I encountered and was fully prepared to address them.

After taking the initial RGO One to the field, I did note a few bugs, but nothing major.  All of my field notes were then sent to Boris and turned into action items.

Then, in July of 2020, Boris sent me a fully-upgraded Mission RGO One with the new internal ATU and optional adjustable filter. This radio represented the “fully-grown” production model, and in preparation to put it through its paces, I returned the prototype.

Although there are planned hardware upgrade options and, of course, firmware upgrades, the RGO One has now reached full maturity as a transceiver.

However, it was one thing to have ham-friendly ergonomic controls. The real question was, how did the RGO One stack up against the competition? It was time to find out.  After all, this is the danger of a “love at first sight” radio encounter––it often leaves the door open for disappointment, and of this I was well aware.

What follows is my full review of this 2020 Mission RGO One transceiver. Let’s take a deep dive into this rig…

Features and specifications

 

What follows are some of the RGO One features and highlights as written in the product manual (PDF):

  • QRP/QRO output 5 – 50W [can actually be lowered to 0 watts out in 1 watt increments]
  • All-mode shortwave operation – coverage of all HAM HF bands (160m/60m optional)
  • High dynamic range receiver design, including high IP3 monolithic linear amplifiers in the front end, and diode ring RX mixer or H-mode first mixer (option)
  • Low-phase noise first LO – SI570 XO/VCXO chip
  • Full/semi (delay) QSK on CW; PTT/VOX operation on SSB. Strict RX/TX sequencing scheme with no “click” sounds
  • Down conversion superhet topology with popular 9MHz IF
  • Custom-made crystal filters for SSB and CW and variable crystal 4 pole filter – Johnson type 200…2000Hz
  • Fast-acting AGC (fast and slow) with 134kHz dedicated IF
  • Compact and lightweight body, only 5 lbs
  • Custom-made multicolor backlit FSTN LCD
  • Custom-molded front panel with ergonomic controls
  • Silent operation with no clicking relays inside – solid state GaAs PHEMT SPDT switches on RX (BPF and TX to RX switching) and ultrafast rectifying diodes (LPF)
  • Modular construction – Main board serves as a “chassis” also fits all the external connectors, daughter boards, plus inter-connections, and acts as a cable harness
  • Optional modules – Noise Blanker (NB), Audio Filter (AF), ATU, XVRTER, PC control via CAT protocol; USB UART – FTDI chipset
  • Double CPU circuitry control for front panel and main board – both field programmable via USB interface
  • Memory morse code keyer (Curtis A, CMOS B); 4 Memory locations 128 bytes each

Build quality

First impressions proved accurate in terms of construction.  I’m very pleased with the build quality of the Mission RGO One. Keep in mind, however, you might note from the photos that some items––like the volume and multifunction knobs––are 3D printed, and I’m not certain if they’ll ever have custom knobs manufactured.  But I really don’t even think this is necessary, as the 3D printed ones are very nice, indeed––moreover, should a replacement ever be needed, I love the idea I could simply print one myself!

The RGO One main optical encoder/tuning knob is just brilliant. It’s weighted properly for the right amount of “heft” while tuning. I’m very pleased with the overall feeling and quality. It’s substantial, yet silky-smooth in operation, just what I look for in a tuning knob.

On the back of the unit, there is an externally-mounted heat sink with two small fans. These fans are quiet and efficient.

The chassis and bail are both top-shelf quality and should withstand years of field use. Just do keep in mind that like almost every other amateur transceiver currently on the market (save the recently reviewed lab599 Discovery TX-500), the chassis is neither water-proof nor weather-proof, so will require common-sense care to protect it from the elements.

Portability

The Mission RGO is relatively compact, lightweight (only 5 lbs without the ATU), and has a power output of up to 55 watts, even though the specs list just 50 watts. As a point of comparison, most other rigs in this class have a maximum output of 10 to 20 watts, and require an external amplifier for anything higher. The form factor is very similar to the Elecraft K2.

The light weight of the rig and the extra power makes the RGO One a capable and versatile field radio. Although the RGO One is configured like a desktop radio (with a front-facing panel), it’s still relatively compact and can easily be set up on a portable table, chair, or on the ground. Unlike field-portable rigs with top-mounted controls (think the Elecraft KX3 or KX2), obviously, it would be tough to do handheld or laptop operation.

The RGO One should also play for a long time on battery power as the receive current drain is a respectable 0.65A with the receiver preamp on. It’s not as efficient as, say, an Elecraft KX3 or the new Icom IC-705, but keep in mind the RGO One can provide 50 watts of output power and has a proper, internally-mounted, amplified speaker. The popular 100 watt Yaesu FT-891, in comparison, has a current drain closer to 1.75 to 2.0 amps [update: actually the specifications indicate 2 Amps in receive, but user reports are less than half that amount].  I pair the RGO One with my larger 15 aH Bioenno LiFePo battery. When fully-charged, I can operate actively for hours upon hours without needing to recharge.

Mission RGO One Bioenno LiFePo

The Bioenno 15aH battery powers the Mission RGO One for hours at a time in the field.

If it’s any indication of how much I wanted to take this rig to the field, when Boris handed me the prototype RGO One on Saturday at the 2019 Hamvention, I had it on the air that same day doing a Parks On The Air activation at an Ohio State Park.

Since then, I’ve easily taken the Mission RGO One on 30 or more park activations.

Performance

What’s most striking and obvious about the Mission RGO One’s receiver from the moment you turn it on is the low noise floor. It’s incredibly quiet. So much so that more than once, I’ve double checked to make sure RF gain hadn’t been accidentally altered as I started a field activation. I’d call CQ a few times, though, and when stations return they literally pop out of the ether. The RGO One currently has no digital noise reduction (DNR) but frankly, I don’t miss it like I might in other transceivers. Indeed, the RGO One is a radio I’ve reached for when the bands are noisy because the AGC and receiver seem to handle rough atmospheric conditions very well.

The RGO One’s built-in, top-mounted speaker provides ample audio levels for the shack, but in a noisy field environment, I wish it had a little more amplification. I’ve also used my Heil Pro headset and even inexpensive in-ear earphones connected to the front panel headphones jack in the field. The audio via headphones is excellent.

Let’s take a look at how well the RGO One performs by mode:

CW

First and foremost, CW operators will appreciate the RGO One’s silky-smooth full break-in QSK. The  RGO One employs clickless and quiet pin diode switching–a design feature I’ve become particularly fond of as traditional T/R relays can be noisy and distracting when not using headphones.

The RGO One also has a full compliment of adjustments for the CW operator including adjustable delay (default is 100ms), iambic mode, weight ratio, hand key/paddle, adjustable pitch, and sidetone volume.

The key jack is a standard three conductor 1/8” jack found on most modern transceivers. It’s located on the back of the radio.

My review unit has the optional variable width narrow filter which I highly recommend if operating in crowded conditions. I’ve used the RGO One on ARRL Field Day and found that it easily coped with crowded band conditions. Even after a few hours on the air, I had very little listener fatigue.

I also find that, as I mentioned earlier, CW signals just seem to “pop” out of the ether due to the low noise floor and excellent sensitivity/selectivity.

The RGO one also sports four CW keying memories where you can record your CQ, callsign, or even contest exchange. I’ve become incredibly reliant on memory keying to help facilitate my workflow in the field—while the radio is automatically sending my CQ or my regards and callsign to an station I’ve just worked, my hands are free to log the contact, adjust the radio, or even eat lunch!

Memory keying does require one long-press of the “6” button followed by either the “1,” “2,” “3,” or “4” button to play a message. Occasionally I won’t hold the 6 button long enough and accidentally move my frequency down one meter band since the 6 button is also the band “down” button. While it doesn’t happen often, it’s frustrating when it does but I think it could easily be fixed in the firmware as it’s really a timing issue.

SSB

Likewise, phone operators will be very pleased with the Mission RGO One. During all of my testing, I’ve only used the microphone supplied with the radio mainly because I don’t currently own another radio with an RJ-45 type microphone connector.

I do love the fact the microphone port is on the front panel of the radio—it’s very easy to connect and disconnect (in contract to the recently released Icom IC-705, for example). I’ve gotten excellent audio reports with the RGO One in SSB mode and have even monitored my own tests and QSOs via the KiwiSDR network.

Compression, gain, and VOX controls are easily accessible. One missing feature at present is a voice memory keyer. For field operators activating sites for the POTA, WWFF, or SOTA program, voice memory keying is huge as it saves your voice from calling “CQ” over the course of a few hours. I understand Boris does plan to implement voice memory keying in a future speech processor board.

AM Mode

Since the RGO One has general coverage receive and since I’m a shortwave broadcast listener, I was disappointed to find that there is presently no AM mode. Boris told me he does plan to add AM mode, “to be implemented in future versions of the IF/AF board only on RX.”

With that said, I can always zero-beat a broadcaster and use a wide SSB filter to listen to broadcasts which is more than I could do, for example, with my (ham band only) Elecraft K2.

At the end of the day, the RGO One is a high-performance, purpose-built ham radio transceiver, so the current lack of AM mode isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but I would love a wide AM filter on this rig.

ATU

The 2020 review model I received has the internal automatic antenna tuner which I feel is a worthy upgrade/addition. In the field, I’ve paired the RGO One with my Chameleon CHA Emcomm III Portable random wire antenna which requires an ATU in order to find matches across the bands. The pairing has been a very successful one because the Emcomm III can handle up to 50 watts power output in CW and covers the entire HF band when emptying the RGO One ATU.

 

Even though it’s a minor thing, I also like the fact that the RGO One ATU operates so quietly, even though with the present firmware it takes longer than some of my other ATUs to find a match.

Power

One thing I’ve found very useful in the field and, no doubt others will as well is the power output. In many ways, the RGO feels like a larger QRP radio (think Ten-Tec Argonaut V or VI) but it’s actually able to pump out 55 watts (often five watts more than specified). In single sideband mode, this is a meaningful amount of power output compared to, say, 5 or 10 watts. When I activate a rare park, or an ATNO (All Time New One), I’ve been taking the RGO One more times than not in order to get the best signal possible and maximum amount of contacts. Running full power, the rig never feels warm—heat dissipation is superb—and the fans on the back of the heat sink are super quiet.

I actually feel like the 50 watts of output power gives the RGO One a market niche since it sports top-shelf performance as you might expect in the venerable Elecraft K2, for example, but  not being a 10 watt or 100 watt radio, rather something in between which saves a little weight and also the need for heftier heat dissipation.

Other unique features

The RGO One has some interesting features not found in similar radios.

For one, there are no less than ten color options for the custom backlit LCD display, along with adjustable contrast and backlighting intensity.

The RGO One team also documents how to access hidden admin menus for granular adjustments to transceiver parameters, but of course you’d want to adjust those with caution and note values prior to changing them. When you receive your RGO One, Boris includes a sheet with all default values to make stepping back much easier.

Hands-on philosophy

At the end of the day, the Mission RGO One is a kit that can eventually be purchased in kit form, or as a fully assembled transceiver. It’s modular: you can add and upgrade features as you wish. Some field operators, for example, may wish to omit the ATU to save a little extra weight or cost. I actually love this philosophy and I think it’s one that’s made Elecraft such a successful manufacturer.

The process of upgrading firmware is slightly more involved than you might find with, say, an Elecraft, Icom, or Yaesu product. It’s a two stage process where one upgrades both the front panel and the main board separately. I completed a firmware update only a few weeks prior to publication. It took me perhaps 15 minutes with my PC as I followed Boris’ step-by-step instructions (http://lz2jr.com/blog/index.php/rgo-one-firmware-update-procedure/).

There is also an active email discussion group for the Mission RGO One (https://groups.io/g/RGO-ONE/) where participants share experiences, modifications, and even any glitches or bugs that are discovered. This group is closely monitored by the RGO One team, so items are addressed very quickly. I highly recommend joining this discussion group if you see an RGO One in your future.

Also, I’ve gotten great customer support from Boris (LZ2JR) and have heard the same from group members. He’s very much open to critical customer feedback.

Summary

Mission RGO One POTA

Every radio has its pros and cons. When I begin a review of a radio, I take notes from the very beginning so that I don’t forget some of my initial impressions. Here is the list I formed over the time I’ve spent evaluating the 2020 production model Mission RGO One.

Pros:

  • Excellent sensitivity and selectivity
  • Very low noise floor
  • Excellent, clean audio (see con)
  • Silky-smooth QSK
  • Full compliment of CW and SSB features and adjustments
  • CW memory keyer
  • Superb ergonomics with no need to access embedded menus for common features
  • 50 watts output power with effective quiet heat dissipation
  • Lighter weight compared with comparable transceivers
  • Direct frequency entry
  • Standard Anderson Powerpole power port on rear panel

Cons:

  • No voice keyer memory (at time of posting, but is planned in upgrade)
  • No notch or auto notch filter (at time of posting, but is planned)
  • No 6 meter option
  • No AM mode (at time of posting, but is planned)
  • Firmware updates are a two stage process
  • Would like slightly more audio amplification while using internal speaker in noisy outdoor environments

Conclusion

If you can’t tell, I’m impressed with the Mission RGO One because it does exactly what it sets out to do.  The RGO One is designed for an operator who appreciates rock-solid performance with simple, intuitive ergonomics.

While teaching an amateur radio course to our homeschool cooperative high school students last year, I picked the RGO One as the best field radio for HF demonstrations.

I’ll never forget setting the (prototype) RGO One for the first time on a folding table outside the classroom under a large tree. I had the students erect both an end-fed resonant antenna and a simple 20 meter vertical. I picked the RGO one because all of the adjustments we had talked about in the classroom—AGC, Filters, A/B VFOs, Direct Frequency Entry, Pre Amp, Attenuation—are on the front panel and one button press away.

We hopped on the air with one of my students calling CQ single sideband on the 20 meter band.  Her very first contact was with a station in Slovenia—and she simply beamed with excitement. All of my female students that term passed their Technician exam by the end of the term.

The RGO One is a very inviting radio.

I’ve had the luxury of testing, evaluating, and working with everything from one of the first prototypes to the latest updated version of the RGO One. It’s rare that I’m able to evaluate a radio over such a long period of time.

Even with the very early, bare-bones prototype, I was impressed with this transceiver’s performance characteristics. I’m not the only one either. It’s almost become routine new discussion group members join prior to receiving their radio, then announces how blown away they are with its performance. Check out eHam reviews, too—at time of posting, it’s a solid five stars at time of posting.

The RGO One reminds me of simple, classic radios of the 1980s and 90s, but underneath, it’s packing state-of-the-art performance.

Is it perfect? No radio is perfect, but I must say that for what it offers, it really hits the sweet spot for this radio operator.  It’s a joy to use.

There are still features in the works that will either be implemented with future firmware updates, or with future boards. In terms of performance and appearance, it reminds me of the Ten-Tec Eagle and Elecraft K2—both benchmark rigs in my world. And like the Eagle and K2, the RGO One is happy in the field, at home, or even on a DXpedition. It’s a simple radio that beckons to be on the air.

If you’re interested in the Mission RGO One, check the following web page for the pre-order form and pricing list. The RGO One is produced in batches, so you’ll need to reserve your model.

Click here to view the Mission RGO One order page.

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Paolo warns of persistent classifieds scams targeting radio collectors and advises how you can be scam savvy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paolo Viappiani (SWL I1-11437), who shares the following guest post:


A recent resurgence of Internet scams involving quality radios

by Paolo Viappiani (SWL I1-11437)

After my previous post on this subject, I found on the Internet other very dangerous fraud attempts concerning high-quality radios offered at very convenient prices. Below, you’ll find the details of a recent attempt concerning the highly-desirable SONY CRF-V21 receiver.

The methods are always the same, but the scammers greatly refine their fraudulent techniques, even going so far as to carry out real identity thefts, as in this case.

Of course, I knew from the beginning that it was a fraud (I don’t let myself be fooled anymore!), but I tried to continue corresponding with the scammer in order to get as much data on his real identity as possible. At the same time, however, I reported the fraudulent advertisement to the site webmaster in order to prevent other users from falling into the trap. The ad was promptly removed, but the scammer noticed it and immediately he slipped away…

Here is the story…

I have been trying to detect and report Internet scams from some time (since I was scammed!), and recently I found an advertisement for a SONY CRF-V21 radio, described as working and in good cosmetic conditions, on the Italian website “Clasf”, look at the picture below:

The radio was offered for Euro 2.600 from a seller who supposedly resided in Rome, Italy.

I sent him a message through the “Clasf” site and almost immediately I received a reply from someone who claimed to reside in Reichertshofen, Germany.

Déjà vu… Germany, Spain or Portugal always seems to be the same story…

But this time the very serious thing is the fact that the scammer identified himself as an “implantology dentist”–a fake identity–also providing a counterfeit website:

From my investigation it appears that both the picture and the website were stolen from a true professional from Hamburg, Dr. Bernhard Brinkmann, look at the websites (here and here).

Of course I tried to contact Dr. Brinkmann and I still make all the documents available to him, in case he wants to prosecute the thief.

About the pictures I received from the scammer (you’ll find some of them below):

All photos were stolen from a Canadian eBay advertiser instead:

So, buyer beware! The number of frauds in the radio market on the Internet is growing day after day, and it always advisable to keep your eyes wide open, even in the rush to purchase a much desired item at an affordable price.

Today scam techniques are increasingly refined, as shown in the example reported above.
Sincerely I don’t know if this user has something to do with the other European scammers (supposedly from Spain and Portugal) I quoted in my former post. The Italian Postal Police, after having examined the headers of the e-mails that I received along with other documents, believe that such scammers can reside anywhere in the world.

Most scammed

Anyway, the three “most scammed” radios are currently the Panasonic RF-8000, the Panasonic RF- 9000 and the Sony CRF-V21 (pictures below):

Please also notice that a number of advertisements on the most popular classifieds sites (Quoka.de and ebay-kleinanzeigen.de in Germany, Subito.it, Clasf and AAAnnunci.it in Italy, Le Bon Coin in France, ComoFicho in Spain, etc.) still are mirrors for larks only, and you have to pay a great attention in order not to be scammed.

A recent trip over all the mentioned sites revealed that only a few ads are really true…

Red Flags

I repeat some notes about scammers and their usual techniques:

A.) The scammer advertises a very rare radio in like-new conditions at an unbelievably low price. The buyer does not want to miss the bargain, so he contacts the seller and promptly transfers the money to him without further ado, but after that he waits in vain for the delivery of his item.

B.) If you contact the seller, the item is always abroad. The alleged seller then proposes to handle the purchase through a “trust company”. The radio should be paid in advance and the amount sent via cash transfer, but after that you never hear anything from the seller again.

C.) Alternatively, the buyer is requested to to deposit the money to the eBay company account to get the product. But the account is fake (eBay HAS NO “Company Account” and never handles private transactions!), so the buyer loses his money and receives nothing in return. Please also notice that often the fraudulent sellers offer a free period for evaluating the item, saying that if you do not like the device you can send it back. Please don’t fall into this trap, it is only one of the means the scammers use to entice you to purchase, but IT IS NOT TRUE AT ALL!

I repeat also some useful advices in order to make secure and safe purchases on the Internet:

1.) Always beware whenever the item is in a place (or a country) different from the one that was specified in the advertisement; also there is a valid reason for suspicion when the name or the address of the advertiser does not match the seller’s ones;

2.) Do not completely trust the pictures sent by the seller (they could be stolen from the Internet) and don’t forget to proceed to a “Google Reverse Image Search” in order to find the sources of similar ones;

3.) Always ask the seller for some specific pictures or videos (radio precisely tuned to various frequencies and/or modes) and do not accept any runarounds about it (“you can try the radio for some days”, etc.);

4.) Never pay the item in advance by rechargeable credit cards, Western Union or other non-secured/guaranteed ways of payment. Also Bank Transfer (Wire Transfer) is not a secure form of payment in order to avoid frauds;

5.) Always ask the seller for paying by PayPal “Goods and Services” (NOT “Send money to friends”); via “Goods and Services”, your purchase will be fully covered by the PayPal warranty.

In the case you are a victim of a scam anyway, please always report the incident to the Police or the Judiciary of your Country, and don’t forget to also warn the site where the announcement was found.

Best regards!
Paolo Viappiani – SWL I1-11437


Thank you so much for sharing this, Paolo! All very solid advice for avoiding scams. 

If you think about it, scammers want to optimize their scam profits per transaction–in other words, go for the “low-hanging fruit.” This is why quality, rare radios are their bait of choice. They know there are motivated collectors and buyers who need to act quickly in order to secure a deal. The stakes are very high if you’re purchasing a rare/vintage radio via online classifieds sites. 

Bookmark this article. Before making a radio purchase, re-read this post and follow Paolo’s advice. I promise: real vintage/rare radio sellers will happy take specific photos and videos in order to prove that the radio is indeed in their possession and that it functions as specified. If you receive an excuse–any excuse–from the seller, consider that a major read flag and do not proceed. 

Thank you again, Paolo! I hereby name you an honorary SWLing Post Investigative Reporter!


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Steve builds a simple SWL antenna tuner that pairs brilliantly with the Belka-DX

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steve Allen (KZ4TN), who shares the following guest post:


A Simple Antenna Tuner for SWL Radios

by Steve Allen, KZ4TN

After reading 13DKA’s excellent review of the Belka-DSP on SWLing.com a few weeks ago I knew I had to have one! The size, features, and performance of the Belka-DX (latest version of the Belka-DSP) is phenomenal. I won’t go into reviewing the radio as I couldn’t come close to 13DKA extensive review. If you are considering this SWL receiver his review is a must read.

I love bedtime SWLing and have been putting off setting up an outside antenna specifically to feed into the bedroom for too long. Given that the resonant frequency of the antenna would not be broad enough for the tuning range of the Belka-DX I decided to build a small antenna tuner just for SWLing.

After a couple of hours searching the internet for a simple tuner I found just what I was looking for on http://www.hard-core-dx.com/nordicdx/antenna/lab/tuner.html. It’s a simple L match using a single variable capacitor and coil.

For the coil I wound ~100 turns of 26 Ga wire on a one inch diameter wooden dowel. The wire size can be whatever you have on hand. I twisted a tap every 10 turns. I drilled a hole in each end and glued in a machine screw to mount the coil to the bottom of the enclosure. I’ve had this enclosure in my junk box for a long time and have been waiting for just the right project. The variable capacitor I used was one I found on EBay a few years ago that had two sections, 330 pF and 120 pF. I tied them together for 450 pF. For the rotary switch I had to scratch around on eBay for a while until I found a 12 position single pole.

The plans for the tuner suggested adding a fixed value capacitor with a toggle switch to increase the lower end of the tuning range. I found a 510 pF silver mica and wired it into the circuit.

The antenna I put up is a sloper about 30 feet long.The high end is up about 40 feet and the low end is at about 12 feet. I put the antenna and tuner to the test last evening and the reception on the Belka-DX was superb. With the tuner the strength of the signal would peak about 2-3 units when I found the sweet spot.

The tuner also does double duty as an attenuator for very strong signals.

One mod I made to the Belka-DX was the addition of some grip tape to the tuning knob. It makes fine tuning much easier.

I believe we will continue to see a number of innovative receivers coming to market in the near term utilizing SDR technology. The ratio of performance to size of the Belka-DX is truly amazing in my opinion.


Thank you, Steve, for sharing this brilliant weekend project! As always, brilliant craftsmanship!

Click here to read Steve’s other posts and projects.

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Radio Waves: RFI rebroadcasts halted in Taiwan, City Radio, Plans to Recover Titanic Radio On Hold, and Martin visits Radio Globo and Radio CBN Radio studios

Replica of the Titanic’s radio room at the Antique Wireless Museum (Source: Tripadvisor)

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 David Iurescia, Dan Robinson, Scott Gamble, and Martin Butera,  for the following tips:


Rebroadcasts of RFI programs halt over alleged “pro-China” stance (RTI)

Taiwan’s National Education Radio has decided to stop domestic rebroadcasts of Radio France Internationale’s programs. That’s after receiving listener complaints that the station’s news programs repeated Chinese talking points that praised Beijing, belittled Taiwan, and criticized the US.

National Education Radio had rebroadcast Radio France Internationale’s French and Chinese programs for Taiwanese audiences during two daily time slots under an agreement arranged by RTI.

During a meeting of the Legislature’s culture and education committee Wednesday, KMT lawmakers said that the education ministry should investigate whether the listener complaints were justified or not. They also expressed concern about what pulling the plug of the rebroadcasts might mean for freedom of speech and the press in Taiwan.

During the meeting, Education Minister Pan Wen-chung said that the rebroadcasting agreement had been intended to foster exchanges with France. Pan said the programs originally rebroadcast were mainly focused on educational and cultural topics. However, Pan said that RTI and National Education Radio have decided to temporarily stop the rebroadcasts, since the content of the re-broadcasted programs had begun to deviate from these non-political topics.

Pan said that he had not personally listened to the rebroadcast programs. He also said that the education ministry had not been informed about the decision to halt rebroadcasts until RTI and National Education Radio had already decided to do so among themselves. However, he said that the education ministry supports the decision.[]

Listen to radio stations from around the world with the push of a bright red button (Huckberry.com)

There’s one type of travel that’s always ready at the drop of a hat: mental vacations, or, travels of the mind. If that sounds pretty namby-pamby, wait until you see what we mean. Inside this handheld radio are 18 windows into the cityscapes of 18 international locations. Streaming live radio from whichever far-off locale you prefer, The CityRadio is a living, immediate connection to the authentic sounds, music, language, and culture of vibrant cities across the globe. Turn it on, tune in, and let your mind wander while your passport stays stowed in a drawer.

U.S. government tries to block Titanic expedition as archeologists say human remains could exist (Yahoo News)

A plan to retrieve the ocean liner’s radio received pushback as archaeologists say human remains could still be there.[]

 

Martin visits Radio Globo and Radio CBN Radio studios

I’m sending you a PDF about my visit to the Radio Globo and Radio CBN Radio studios, all with photos, video links, lots of texts, all very complete.

It also contains an interesting interview with a quite famous journalist, here in Brazil, creator of podcast content, who worked for 2 years in international Chinese radio and currently works in CBN Radio.

Click here to download (PDF 2.5MB).


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How to install a mechanical SSB filter on the Yaesu FRG-7

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kostas (SV3ORA), for sharing the following guest post which originally appeared on his radio website:


How to install a mechanical SSB filter on the Yaesu FRG-7

by Kostas (SV3ORA)

The Yaesu FRG-7 is a general coverage MW/SW receiver that uses the Wadley Loop system for stabilizing the frequency tuning. The receiver has a good sound on AM mode, that reminds me the tube receivers sound. However, on sideband mode, it is pretty much useless. The IF ceramic filter that is used, does not have enough selectivity to reject the opposite sideband. No matter if the front panel mode selector switch states USB/CW and LSB, these just shift the BFO, nothing more. The receiver is a DSB set not SSB. A cheap way you can accomplish single signal sideband reception with the FRG-7 is described in this link. Whereas it works, it increases the audio bandwidth of the signals to the high pitch.

A better approach is to install an additional mechanical filter to the receiver. This of course requires expensive 455KHz mechanical filters, but if you have one in hand or if you are willing to pay for the improvement in performance, then this is the recommended option. But you can’t just desolder the ceramic filter of the receiver and solder a mechanical filter in place. On AM mode, you need wider bandwidth, but on SSB mode you need narrower. So both filters must be in place and a selection must be done in each mode. Thankfully, this modification is pretty easy on the FRG-7 and it does not require any modification of the external appearance of the radio.

The schematic of the FRG-7 is shown above. Everything with red color, are part of the modification. The modification is pretty straight forward. You have to desolder the original ceramic filter from the FRG-7 PCB and install it on a separate PCB along with the new 455KHz mechanical filter. To select between the two filters, a 9-12v DPDT relay can be used and it must be connected as shown in the schematic. The power for the relay coil is derived from one section of the mode switch (S3d). On USB or LSB modes, the BFO is energized and this power is also used to energize the relay, which in turn switches to the narrow mechanical filter on these modes.

A good place for the new PCB that accommodates the filters, is just below the main tuning dial of the receiver. There is a hole there and three screws, which can be used to also hold this PCB in place. I needed to replace these screws in mine with longer ones, because I used spacers to prevent the PCB from touching the chassis. But this is optional.

Two small pieces of coaxial cables are used to connect the new PCB to the pads of the ceramic filter, that has been now removed from the original PCB of the receiver. Ground these cables on both ends.

The power cables for the relay coil (shown with red and black in the picture above), are passed below the PCB to the chassis opening and through a hole to the bottom of the original PCB of the receiver. The ground wire is soldered to the filter ground point and the red wire is soldered to the mode selector switch S3d. S3d is the outer wafer onto the switch. Use a multimeter to find the contact of the switch that has VCC when the mode is switched to USB or LSB. This is the point where you want to connect the red wire.

After installing everything, you should perform an alignment of the TC404 and the T406 in the BFO section as described in the manual. This requires a frequency counter, but I did my alignment by simply adjusting the two controls by ear, until I got roughly the same pitch on LSB and SSB audio bandpass. These controls interact, so you have to do a bit of back and forth in both of them. It is very easy.

After installing the modification and aligning the receiver, the result is pretty obvious. No more DSB reception, SSB signals are received just once in the dial and their bandwidth is limited as it should on SSB. The mechanical filter I had, was a bit narrow (2.1KHz) so I can also hear a bit os “seashell” sound on SSB, but SSB voice signals are perfectly understood. It is interesting that the audio volume between the ceramic filter and the mechanical filter was just about the same, which indicates that there is no additional loss in the newly installed filter. Another interesting thing is that there was no need for any impedance matching using active devices or transformers on the mechanical filter. It worked just by directly connecting it. Neither it’s loss, not it’s response seems to be affected by any possible impedance mismatches.

Note that Collins produced both symmetrical and asymmetrical mechanical filters (yes they used two filters, one for USB and one for SSB in some of their gear). My filter is a symmetrical one (same roll-off response curve on both sides of the filter passband). If you use an asymmetrical filter, expect a bit different pitch when switching from LSB to USB and vice versa. Not a huge problem, but just a note.

By performing this simple modification, you will end up with an FRG-7 receiver that is trully selective, allowing for real SSB reception. Most importantly you do not ruin the appearance of your precious FRG-7, but just improving it’s performance. This modification would probably be appreciated much when deciding to sell your FRG-7 to someone else.


Thank you for sharing this practical and affordable project with us, Kostas!

Post Readers: Check out this project and numerous others on Kostas’ excellent website.

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