Don Moore’s Photo Album: Cuenca, Ecuador (Part One)
by Don Moore
For me travel is all about seeing new places and having new experiences. When I retired in 2017 my plan was to spend the next fifteen years visiting new countries and new places in countries I already knew. Is that a viable goal? Three years ago while crossing the border from Ecuador to Colombia I shared a taxi with Dutch man who, like me, was traveling overland by bus with just a knapsack and a suitcase. And two weeks earlier he had celebrated his eightieth birthday. I don’t remember his name but he’s my hero.
The pandemic put a pause on travel but I’m happy to be back on the road. I’m currently in Ecuador, the country where I’ve spent more time than anywhere except the United States and Honduras. After landing in Quito at the beginning of December I visited four provinces I hadn’t been to before, including spending three nights at the bohemian beach town of Montañita where I had some good DX. I like seeing new places but there is also something to be said for returning to a familiar place that holds a special meaning. For me that place is where I am now – Cuenca, Ecuador.
My ex-wife and I finished our Peace Corps service in 1984, flew home to get married, and then in January 1985 flew to Quito, Ecuador to begin a long journey that would take us overland all the way to Buenos Aires and back. On our way to Peru in late February we stopped for a few days in Cuenca and fell in love with the little city. We visited Cuenca again in July at the end of our travels. When we left I knew we would be back but I never could have imagined the circumstances that would lead to that next visit. In 1997 we returned with our seven-year-old daughter to adopt a six-year-old son. We spent almost three weeks in Cuenca doing all the required paperwork but we had no complaints as we enjoyed being there so much. I clearly remember sitting in a park one day and commenting that Cuenca would be a perfect place to retire in someday. I was only ten years ahead of my time.
La Voz del Río Tarqui
Cuenca was home to several shortwave broadcasters over the decades but La Voz del Río Tarqui was probably the best known to my generation of DXers. The station was founded in 1960 by Manuel Pulla but didn’t begin its shortwave service on 3285 kHz until 1982. My loggings of the station run from July 1982 through 1997 but I believe they were on shortwave for a few more years after that. (Don’t confuse La Voz del Río Tarqui with Radio Tarqui, a sometimes broadcaster from Quito on 4970 kHz.)
La Voz del Río Tarqui in 1985. The facilities inside were no more impressive than the outside of the building was.
La Voz del Río Tarqui takes its name from the famous Battle of the River Tarqui. After the new countries of South America gained their independence from Spain there was often disagreement over just where the boundaries were that they had inherited from Spanish rule. Ecuador was in a union with present-day Colombia and Venezuela until 1830 and during this time Peru claimed much of present-day southern Ecuador, including Cuenca and Guayaquil. In 1828 a large Peruvian army occupied Loja, to the south, and a few months later marched north to complete their conquest. In February 1829 General Antonio de Sucre, a hero of the war of independence, met the Peruvians on the banks of the Tarqui, twenty-five kilometers south of Cuenca. Both sides suffered heavy losses but Sucre’s army routed the Peruvians. Cuenca, Guayaquil, and Loja remained a part of Ecuador. Continue reading →
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Zoltan Azary, who has written an extensive theoretical analysis of ferrite sleeve loop antennas. This article has a very academic flavor and for those who are interested in antenna design, he welcomes your comments!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Walter Salmaniw, who shares the following guest post:
10 Meter Beacon DXing
by Walter Salmaniw, Masset, BC
My hobby of radio listening has evolved over the years. Beginning with crystal radios as a child in the 60s, I’ve migrated through SWLing with numerous rigs including the kings of valve technology, like the Collins R390A and Racal RA17, and then on to high end mil-spec solid state rigs: Racals, Harris, Ten-Tec, and my all-time favourite, the Rockwell-Collins HF-2050 receiver. Unfortunately, broadcast band stations, especially transmitting to North America, have dwindled over the years, and my favourite Pacific stations also disappeared: 120 and 90 meter Indonesians, the 60 meter AIR network, and the numerous PNG stations. Well, what’s one to do?
About 10 years ago, I switched over to MW DXing, and especially trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic DX. My cottage near Masset, BC is the ideal location for such DXing, as I have an ocean beach location, the room for some great antennas, and very low noise in the area. This has produced some incredible DX, and I’ve been honoured with visits by some pretty eminent DXers, including Victor Goonetilleke from Sri Lanka, Mauno Ritola from Norway, Vlad Titarev from Ukraine, as well as our own experts in DXing from Victoria and the Pacific North-West of the US.
MW DXing is great, but that involves DXing primarily during the night time and early morning hours. What to do with the rest of the day? Well, with the rising sunspot counts and heading toward the peak of the next solar cycle, why not look at 10 meters? About 2 years ago, with a lot of help from the local DX geniuses, I was able to remote my set-up in Masset, and DX even when at home in Victoria, BC. 10 meters has consistently remained open almost every afternoon. Now, I’m not a ham, and at this point, have no interest in obtaining my ham license. However, I noted a lot of beacon activity on 10 meters.
I’ve dabbled in LW NDB DX, which can be a lot of fun. Why not do something similar on the higher frequencies? Not being a ham, I needed some help with decoding the beacons. Thankfully, one can often see the CW and it’s slow enough to read in many cases. Being a bit too lazy for that exercise, though, I’ve tried several software solutions to use with my KiwiSDR and Perseus SDR in Masset. Fldigi is probably best known, and works fairly well. Another program I use is MixW, which I’ve always liked for SSTV reception. Another is CW Decoder. None, however, get anywhere close to how well CW Skimmer works. It’s an awesome program, albeit a pricey one. I’m still in the test phase, but will likely go ahead and fork over the $75 to purchase this. It will even take control of my Perseus receiver and decode 192 kHz worth of spectrum. Wow!
Here’s an example of what the band looked like last weekend:
There happened to have been a world-wide CW DX competition, but nonetheless, there were literally hundreds of CW signals to be decoded! Now, for me, however, I was more interested in the Beacon region of 10 M which is roughly between 28150 and 28300 kHz. I’ve found CW Skimmer to be a perfect tool to decode the beacons. Not only is it very accurate, but one can also easily see the CW signal with the dahs and dits on the screen and a continual readout of the messages. Most of these beacons run 5 or 10 W, and all are run by amateurs. Where to find information about who they belong to? That’s easy as well. WI5V.net has a great 10 M beacon list at https://wi5v.net/beacon-list-table-version/ . That’s my go to, but I also have DL8WX.de’s beacon list on my laptop, giving even more information, like contact e-mails, etc. He’s found at: http://www.dl8wx.de/BAKE_KW.HTM
What type of antenna do I use? Well, none of mine are 10 M antennas at all. Most are, in fact, for DXing trans-oceanic MW DX! Still, they seem to work quite well. My go-to has been a DKAZ antenna aimed 290 degrees. Now, that’s 180 deg to where most of my Beacon activity comes from. How come? Well, Nick Hall-Patch, MW DXer extraordinaire, used his ENZEC antenna prediction program to see how the DKAZ works on 28 MHz, and sure enough, it’s opposite to MW DX. On the lower band, it’s best aimed 290 deg, but 180 deg opposite on 28 MHz! Who would have guessed that one? In any case, the next time I’m in Masset, I plan on putting up a simple vertical for 10 meters, seeing that solar max is still a year or two away, so there’s plenty of time for some fun DX!
Here’s what I’ve heard with a few afternoons of listening. My best catch has been Darwin, Australia!
28207 N4XRO 1924 CW 5 watt beacon heard with a bit of a buzzy signal best deciphered on my 110 deg DKAZ…. 17/Oct/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28236.5 W0KIZ 1933 CW Another well heard beacon this morning giving ID in CW along with location. Also very strong at 23:11 recheck. Almost a barn burner! Not bad for 5 watts! 17/Oct/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28244 WA6APQ 1934 CW Much stronger, and it shows with their 30 watts output, with slow CW giving callsign, then location. Very strong when rechecking at 23:05 UTC. Frequency is actually a little lower than listed. Actually measuring 28243.942 kHz. 17/Oct/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28287 WI6J 1949 CW Poor reception, but with same format giving ID and location. 17/Oct/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28250 K0HTF 2248 CW Fairly good copy of this beacon away from the coast now in Iowa. Only giving callsign/B. Tom ‘Doc’ Gruis
replyed to my email confirming he’s feeding 20 Watts from an Old President radio and feeding an AR-10 antenna. Thanks, Doc! 17/Oct/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28248.3 NJ5T 2258 CW A relatively difficult catch, but I decoded the J5 part of his call, as well as ‘dipole’. 17/Oct/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28215 KA9SZX 1954 CW Beacon quite well heard from Masset. Most of my 10 meter beacon loggings have been a more N/S axis, but this one is coming in nicely in our early afternoon. Callsign and power listed as 3 W, along with his email address. 5/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28218 AC0KC 2035 CW Despite being listed as on 28218.5, he’s actually on the even channel at fair level into Masset. Solar powered and only 3W, into a Bazooka antenna (what’s that?). Call sign repeated. 5/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28220 AA8HS 2123 CW Despite listed as 30 Hz higher, I’m hearing them on the even channel with repeated IDs. Fair level. Antenna listed is a vertical J-Pole. 5/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28230.3 W2MQO 2125 CW Strong reception with call sign as W2MQ0/B repeated twice, then tones, and cycle repeats. Into a Bazooka Antenna. 5/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28203 KG8C0 2132 CW Another strong beacon with call sign, and prolonged tone, and repeat. 5/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28203.5 K6LL 2134 CW Strong signal also from California, ID’ing as K6LLL/BCN, and giving location and QSL info. 5/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28193 VE4ARM 1827 CW Excellent reception of my first 10 meter Canadian Beacon. Run by the Austin, MD Amateur Radio Museum, as outlined in their beacon text. 6/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28284.8 N9TNY 2226 CW Another new one for me from Illinois. Not a particularly great afternoon, but nonetheless, a number of CW Beacons on 10 meters are visible/audible. Callsign is given, then PSE RST. Not sure what that means? Wiki tells me that this is like SIO or SINPO code. Stands for Readability-Signal Strength-Tone. Hmm. 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28297 NS9RC 2237 CW Another Illinois Beacon audible. This one is weak, but fiddling with the KiwiSDR AGC settings, makes for a much better decode (mostly raising the CW Threshold (marked Thresh CW in the AGC section). Near 100% correct decode now. Chicago is sent along with call sign. 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28287 WI6J 2240 CW Strong signal from this Californian, and heard before. VVV VI6J/B Bakersfield CA DM 5 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28254.5 K4JEE 2243 CW Good copy with VVV DE K4JEE/B K4JEE/B K4JEE/B LOUISVILLE, KY 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28236.5 W0KIZ 2300 CW Always one of the strongest beacons on 10 meters, and not disappointing this afternoon. VVV W0KIZ/B DENVER, COLORADO . 5 WATTS, So does he mean 5 or 0.5 Watts? Presumably 5 Watts. 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28206.5 KA7TXS/B 2303 CW Nice reception with VVV DE KA7TXS/B DM22 Listed in dl8wx.de website, but not the primary one I use (wi5v.net Beacon Website). 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28209 N5TIT/B 2315 CW Fair reception with VVV DE N5TIT/B EM1UPX, or something similar. 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28211.8 AC7GZ 2321 CW Good reception for only 3 W with VVV DE AC7GZ AC7GZ AC7GZ DM3BI. The latter is the ham grid square, near Mesa, AZ. 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28232.3 W7SWL 2323 CW I like the callsign! Fair reception with VV DE W7SWL TUCSON AZ DM42 The band is fading fast. Fascinating that the best antenna for 10 m Beacon reception today is my 290 deg DKAZ (and not the 110 deg DKAZ). Not sure why! 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28206.5 N4SO 2231 CW Very weak, but really picked up just now. DE N4SO/B repeated. A fine catch! 30/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28212.8 AC7GZ 2253 CW Very strong reception with VVV DE AC7GZ AC7GZ AC7GZ DM43BI 30/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28209.5 N2UHC 2300 CW Tough copy, but bits of STPAUL decoded. as well as N2UHC/B. 30/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28254.5 K4JEE 2308 CW Strong reception with ID and location. Deep fades, as well, though. 30/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28255.8 WI5V 2310 CW Fair reception with occasional good fade-ups with WI5V/B repeated. 30/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28175.5 VE3BKM 2034 CW Hearing an unlisted beacon. VE3BKM/BCN repeated, often at strong level. A new one for me! 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28168 VA3KAH 2040 CW I have no idea where this island is located, so had to look it up. Fair reception with VV DE VA3DAH/B It’s located to the north of Lake Simcoe in southern Ontario. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28145 DL2WB 2048 CW A highly tentative logging. All I hear is the occasional tone for several seconds, then off. Nothing else listed on this frequency, so no idea! 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28203 KG8CO 2055 CW Very strong signal with repeated KG8CO/BT 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28203.5 K6LLL 2058 CW Weak reception with VVV K6LLL/BC Grid Square coordinates, and PSE QSL TNX DE K6LL/BCN. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28206.3 KA7TXS 2100 CW Strong reception, although a bit of a congested part of the band making decodes a tad difficult. Not listed on my main source (WI5V Beacon website), but it is on the dl8wx.de website. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28208 WD5GLO 2126 CW Fair copy with WD5GLO/B repeated 3 times and OK OK 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28209.1 N5TIT 2130 CW Poor reception this afternoon, but making out the call-sign. VVV DE N5TIT/B. 100 Hz higher than listed. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28209.5 N2UHC 2133 CW Poor reception, but seeing his callsign. Fades up to quite good at times. N2UHC/B EM27JM N2UHC/B ST PAUL KS. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28212.1 AC7GZ 2140 CW A regular visitor to Masset. Fair to good this afternoon with VVV DE AC7GZ DM43BI 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28215 KA9SZX 2142 CW A slower rate beacon at good reception: VVVV KA9SZX KA9SZX KA9SZX BCN MACOMB IL PWR 3W GRID EN40PK EMAIL KA9SZXWAYAHOO.COM Now that’s a full information beacon! 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28217.7 K4PAR 2152 CW Very weak, but fully decodable with VV DE K4PAR/B. Listed as from the Piedmont ARC and 25 W. Just barely audible. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28220.15 AA8HS 2155 CW Measuring below their listed 28.2203 frequency. Weak but in the clear. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28232.3 W7SWL 2206 CW Now that’s a call-sign! He wasn’t there a few minutes ago, but noticed a very powerful beacon. VVV DE W7SWL W7SWL TUCSON AZ DM42 and repeated. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28254.5 K4JEE 2220 CW Another beacon I recognize from previous sessions. Fair to good reception this afternoon with VVV DE K4JEE/B K4JEE/B K4JEE/B LOUISVILLE, KU EM78. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28255.8 WI5V 2226 CW Weak reception, with some AM QRM. VVV DE WI5V/B 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28278.5 WA4OTD 2228 CW Weak, but in the clear with callsign and location. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28280 K5AB 2231 CW Strong reception with DE K5AB EM01BEACON, repeated, then CENTRAL TEXAS 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28281.1 W8EH 2234 CW 100 Hz above their listed frequency at fair level with callsign and grid square reference. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28284.8 N9TNY 2237 CW Strong reception with callsign and grid square reference. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28236.5 W0KIZ 2243 CW Again, a beacon not there a few minutes ago, but really burning up the receiver with repeated VVV DE W0KIZ/B DENVER COLORADO 5 WATTS. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28240 W8EDU/B 2223 CW Weak, but readable. For only a watt, I’m impressed! Giving callsign and grid square location. Found them on the dl8wx.de beacon website. Location and operator is the Case Western Reserve University amateur radio club. 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28252.5 WD8INF 2227 CW Good reception with callsign and grid square locatioon (EM79). 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28258.5 AC5JM 2229 CW Good copy with callsign and OK repeated. 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28277.56 WA4OTD 2232 CW Fair copy. Listed in the WI5V beacon website on 28.2788, so a bit lower in reality. Giving callsign, grid square, and CARMEL 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28281.1 W8EH 2235 CW Good reception with callsign and grid square (EM79). Clearly, Ohio is coming in well this afternoon. Normally I’m hearing AC7AV on or near this channel (Green Acres, WA). 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28284.8 N9TNY 2237 CW Strong signal with VVV DE N9TNY/B EN51 PSE RST. 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28271 W4ZZK 2245 CW A very weak signal heard while monitoring another very adjacent signal. , giving the callsign/B. CW Skimmer comes through again! 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28290.8 K5TLJ 2302 CW Weak reception, but able to copy AR AR AR DE K5TLJ/B K5TLJ/B K5TLJ/B AR Band is quickly fading, so looks like this is the top frequency beacon I can hear now. 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28250 K5AB 2341 CW A this late hour, very little propagating in the 10M Beacon band. Nonetheless, good reception from this high power beacon with DE D5AB EM01BEACON DE D5AB CENTRAL TEXAS. 14/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28268.334 VK8VF 2344 CW My first Australian beacon! Very weak, but the call sign is being decoded by CW Skimmer. Not even visible on the waterfall. 334 Hz high compared to the listed 28.268 on the WI5V Beacon website. 14/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28189 VE4TEN 2100 CW Great reception this afternoon. The band had many 10 M beacons, but unfortunately, I had other family matters today. Still, nabbed this one, with an interesting call, and flea powered as well. 18/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28193 LU2DT 2355 CW My surprise for the afternoon, and my first Argentinian beacon. Fair reception. Long, somewhat garbled tone, followed by VV DE LU2DT LU2DT GF12FA. Distance approximately 12,432 kM with bearing 125 degrees! 19/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
I hope that I’ve wetted your appetite into trying something, “completely different” in our radio monitoring hobby. Who knows next what I’ll want to try!
Watching Shortwave Broadcast Stations on the TinySA Spectrum Analyser
by Bill Meara
November 18, 2022 1244 UTC. I was using a TinySA spectrum analyzer to look at noise levels on the 40 meter ham radio band. I also wanted to take a look slightly above the band (in frequency) to see Radio Marti at 7355 kHz. As I was doing this I remembered that Vatican Radio was on the air at 7305 kHz from 1230 UTC to 1245 UTC. So was just going to catch the last moments of that day’s transmissions. Sure enough, I caught it, and watched it disappear from the TinySA screen. See the video below:
Radio Marti continued on. In the morning we can hear the rooster recordings from that station. We are using it to test how well our homebrew Direct Conversion receivers avoid AM detection. In the video I mistakenly said these two transmitters were on the air with 250 megawatts. The correct power is 250 kilowatts. Both transmit from Greenville NC. I think the signal from Vatican Radio is stronger here because they are using a different antenna pattern — Radio Marti is aimed at Cuba.
The new 2022 “Belka” (generation 3) general coverage receiver
Since its introduction in 2019, the super-tiny Belka (back then called “Belka DSP”) shortwave receiver sure gained an enthusiastic followership among SWLs and hams. The main reason for this is certainly the way how the Belka is incredibly small yet playing in a different league than the various consumer grade, Chinese mass-production radios, particularly the DSP-based ultraportables: The Belka is an all-mode shortwave communications receiver with a completely different (direct conversion SDR) architecture, developed and produced by a radio enthusiast (Alex, EU1ME) in a small mom&pop shop in Belarus.
In case you’ve never heard about it amidst all the buzz about more popular brands, here’s the skinny:
The Belka offers true allmode (including NFM and CW) reception with a proper 400 Hz CW filter and individual settings for the low and high filter slopes for AM, FM and SSB. It has an AM sync detector and comes with a 0.5ppm TCXO-controlled local oscillator for absolutely spot-on, calibration-free frequency precision and stability, which makes SSB or ECSS reception of broadcast stations a pure joy. The second iteration “Belka DX” brought a slightly extended coverage down to 1.5 MHz and an I/Q output for panadapter display and/or processing via your favorite SDR software.
All Belkas are quiet and very sensitive radios with a surprisingly robust front end, the filters are better and its AGC works like you’d expect it from a communications receiver, without the artifacts and distortion the DSP radios are infamous for, and of course smooth, non-“muting” tuning in variable steps down to 10Hz.
The Belkas have no built-in speaker (available as option tho) but really excellent audio on headphones and external speakers and they actually give my Icom IC-705 a run for its money in terms of reception quality, and they do that for up to 24 hours on a single charge of the internal Li-Ion battery. This stunning feature set is crowned by the best performance on a telescopic whip antenna ever – the Belkas have a high-impedance (>10 kOhm) antenna input optimized for this whip and taking it on a walk is (really!) like having a big rig with a big antenna in tow…
Despite all this goodness setting the Belka(s) quite fundamentally apart from most (if not all) current and former, even much higher priced portables and simultaneously putting it solidly into pricey tabletop territory, it hasn’t put Tecsun et al out of business for a couple of reasons: One reason is that it can only be obtained from Alex in Belarus, which is now often assumed to be impossible (it isn’t, more on that later). Another reason is that it doesn’t try to compete with aforementioned multiband radios from China, so there is no FM broadcast band and – until now – no AM BC band, but most owners and potential buyers particularly in the US really wished it had at least the latter. Well, Alex obviously heard us! After the Belka DSP and the Belka DX, the new Belka is just called “Belka”, so in order to avoid any ambiguity I’m going to refer to this model as “Belka 2022”.
The most prominent addition to the Belka 2022 is the extended 0.1-31 MHz coverage, the previous version only started receiving at 1.5 MHz. With LW and MW included, its “pseudosynchronous” detector (as featured in venerable radios from Harris, Racal or Drake), the great filtering and the great frequency precision for hassle-free ECSS reception are promising that the “squirrel” is now an ultra-ultraportable companion for MW DXers as well.
Author’s Airspy HF+ Discovery (small black box to the left of the laptop)
A Short Review of the Airspy HF+ Discovery SDR
by Mario Filippi (N2HUN)
I recently purchased an AirSpy HF+ Discovery. As a SWL for over 60 years who’s owned many shortwave radios by manufacturers such as Drake, Yaesu, Icom, Zenith, Kenwood, Panasonic, Sony, Radio Shack, Grundig, CountyComm, MFJ, Sears, AOR and have used a number of different SDRs such as the RTL-SDR.com, HackRF, NooElec and many other rudimentary inexpensive first generation SDR dongles, I feel the AirSpy was an excellent choice. It cost $169 plus shipping.
For LW/MW/HF reception, I use a 30’ ground mounted vertical with about 50 buried radials in different stages of decomposition hihi. For VHF, a roof mounted 2m/70cm SlimJim antenna is used, but I haven’t done much listening in that portion of the spectrum yet except for occasional foray into the aero, 2m ham, NOAA satellite and public service bands. Note that the AirSpy also covers 60 – 260MHz.
An older Dell Inspiron laptop and SDR# are used in conjunction with the AirSpy. For decoding, MultiPSK, FLDigi, MTTY, Yand (for NAVTEX), along with VB cable are the accompanying software to make the digital modes intelligible.
So far I’ve logged a few local LF aeronautical beacons and some DGPS beacons on longwave but will be in a better position to judge its performance when winter sets in. As for the medium (520 – 1710 kHz) wave AM broadcast band, the AirSpy easily brings in both local stations during daytime and distant stations at night with no adjacent channel interference whatsoever. Even low powered community Emergency Alert Stations in the 1600 – 1710 kHz portion of the band can be heard daily from this QTH. A rotatable loop would certainly improve reception though.
As for shortwave listening the AirSpy HF+Discovery is, in my opinion, great for listening to both shortwave broadcasts and utility stations though I tend to concentrate on UTES mostly such as VOLMET, WEFAX, RTTY (the few that remain unencrypted), CW marker stations (e.g. XSG and XSQ from China) NAVTEX (519 kHz), aero/maritime SSB, time signal stations (WWV, CHU) and many of the other esoteric digital utility signals populating the band. As for SW broadcast stations, WRMI, Radio Exterior, RFI, R. Marti, BBC, WWCR and Radio Algerienne, to mention a few have been received. The Frequency Manager (memory storage) in SDR# has quickly filled up with intercepts using the AirSpy.
As a ham and CB operator (yes, the two can mutually coexist in the same human body), I’ve found the AirSpy HF+ Discovery to be a trouper on all the HF ham and CB bands. One of my favorite hangouts is the 28.100 – 28.300 MHz slice of 10m where domestic and international low power CW beacons transmit their callsigns (and at times their grid squares and power output) into the ionosphere and achieve great distances. Recently, beacons from 5, 6 and 7 land in the US along with DX prefixes ED4, PY4 and XE1 were logged. If you’re into 10m FM operation you can also tune the AirSpy to hear local and distant repeaters on 29.62 – 29.68 MHz. When the band is open, .62 and .64 seem to be the most active here in Central NJ.
If you’re a CB (aptly named the Citizen’s Band) op, the AirSpy HF+ Discovery does a stellar job on Channels 1 – 40 which is especially exciting when the band’s open. While domestic (USA) CB’ers are limited to frequencies from 26.965 – 27.405 MHz you’ll nonetheless hear DX ops below our (USA) channel 1 and above channel 40 conversing in French, Spanish and German in LSB/USB. Add to this mix the fact that the FCC dropped the 150 mile limit for US ops a few years back and now the advent of the FM mode operation in the US, you’ll find the AirSpy won’t disappoint. In my opinion the AirSpy HF+Discovery was an excellent choice and I’m more than satisfied with its performance.
In the matter of honesty and full disclosure, I purchased the AirSpy HF+ Discovery completely on my own in an effort to upgrade my station. My choice was based on information gathered from the Internet and YouTube video reviews. The performance of this receiver was based on my experience using the vertical antenna described earlier, the hours spent at my QTH (location) listening to stations of interest to me and my six decades experience as a SWL. No test equipment to assess sensitivity, selectivity or other empirical methods to measure performance was used. That information can be found on the Airspy website. The main purpose of this article was to craft a rudimentary review for those interested with the caveat that reception will vary depending on many factors such as location, antenna, ionospheric conditions, feedline quality, computer/software variations, QRN, QRM, and operator experience. The results presented in this article are typical for my location; others may experience different results. Thanks very much.
EC-130J Photo By Staff Sgt. Tony Harp | An EC-130J Commando Solo aircraft from the 193rd Special Operations Wing performs a flyover during Community Days at the Lancaster Airport in Lititz, Pennsylvania, Sept.17, 2022. (Source: DVIDS)
Radio Waves: Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio
Welcome to the SWLing Post’sRadio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!
Built using open tools and readied for manufacturing at SkyWater using the Efabless platform, the chip on this SDR is something special.
New Hampshire-based RadioStack is looking to launch a piece of amateur radio equipment with a difference: the Maverick-603 is powered by free and open source silicon, built using the Efabless platform at a SkyWater fab.
“Maverick-603 is the first affordable FT8 receiver board built around an RF receiver chip that was designed using fully open source tools and fabrication,” its creators explain. “It is capable of acquiring FT8 signals between 7MHz and 70MHz. With this frequency range, you will be able to receive signals from around the world with high accuracy. The use of our Low Noise Amplifier (LNA) will also give the chip the ability to amplify very low-strength signals, which is necessary for an effective FT8 receiver.” [Continue reading…]
MIDDLETOWN, PA, UNITED STATES
Story by Master Sgt. Alexander Farver
193rd Special Operations Wing
Airmen from the 193rd Special Operations Wing here, who operate the only flying military radio and TV broadcast platform in the U.S. military, transmitted their final broadcast today to spectators at the Community Days Air Show at Lancaster Airport, Lititz, Pa., bringing to close a 54-year chapter in unit history.
The EC-130J Commando Solo mission has helped keep this Air National Guard unit’s aircraft and its Airmen at the tip of spear for nearly every major U.S. military operation since the Vietnam War. Before bombs dropped or troops deployed in the Global War on Terror following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, this specially modified aircraft was already over the skies of Afghanistan broadcasting to America’s enemies that the U.S. military was bringing the fight to them.
“Any world event or crisis that our military has responded to in recent history, our 193rd Airmen – and Commando Solo – were likely key components in that response,” said Col. Eric McKissick, 193rd SOW vice commander. “As we prepare to open a new chapter in our history, we thank those who have enabled us to be among the very best wings in the Air National Guard.”
The genesis for this airborne information operations platform can be traced back to 1968 when the 193rd Tactical Electronics Warfare Group received its first aircraft, called the EC-121 Coronet Solo. In the late 1970s, the aircraft were replaced by the EC-130E before finally being replaced by the current aircraft in 2003. Throughout its history, it was instrumental in the success of coordinated military information support operations, earning the wing the moniker of “the most deployed unit in the Air National Guard.”
These deployments included: Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operations Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector in Libya, Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Resolute Support/Freedom’s Sentinel, Operation Secure Tomorrow and Operation Unified Response in Haiti.
Although this unique mission has earned the wing many prestigious accolades, Lt. Col. Michael Hackman, 193rd Special Operations Squadron commander, believes the mission’s success and legacy lies in winning the hearts and minds of adversaries and providing vital information to allies, refugees and victims in times of crisis.
“This capability has been an essential tool in our nation’s inventory, from the battlefields to assisting hurricane and earthquake-ravaged nations,” Hackman said. “During this time, thousands of Pennsylvania Air National Guard volunteers fulfilled their call to duty in this unique capacity, leveraging this capability against U.S. adversaries and supporting allies while always fulfilling the unit tenet of ‘Never Seen, Always Heard.’”
Aside from sporting an impressive operational record, the aircraft holds another distinction with having completed over 226,000 hours of accident-free flying.
“Having that many thousands of hours of accident-free flying is a testament to the excellence of our maintainers, to the operators and anybody who has touched that aircraft. Thank you for leaving that foundation and setting that example that we’re building from,” said Col. Jaime Ramirez, 193rd Special Operations Maintenance Group commander.
McKissick believes the success of the 193rd in operating the Commando Solo mission over the past few decades has led to Air Force Special Operations Command selecting the wing to be the first and only ANG unit to operate the MC-130J Commando II. The Commando II flies clandestine, or low visibility, single or multiship, low-level infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces, by airdrop or airland and air refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft, intruding politically sensitive or hostile territories.
“Today we honor the men and women, past and present, who have served this unit and mission with unparalleled distinction,” said McKissick. “The Airmen who came before us created an enduring culture and spirit of hard work, innovation and grit. We thank them for that, and we will do our best to carry this forward.”
The final broadcast of the EC-130J was transmitted to the ground and played at the Community Days Air Show at Lancaster Airport. In the transmission, the wing thanked the local community for their support over the past 54 years before broadcasting the Santo and Johnny song, “Sleepwalk.” The transmission ended with the phrase, “Commando Solo, music off.” [Read the full article here…]
The South Eastern Amateur Radio Group (EI2WRC) will be active from The Waterford and Suir Valley Railway station Kilmeaden, Co. Waterford for the ‘Railways On The Air‘ event on Sunday, the 25th of September.
WSVR is a community heritage project. The project has enabled the magic of rails golden age to be brought to life in Kilmeaden. A heritage narrow gauge railway runs along 17 kilometres of the abandoned Waterford to Dungarvan line.
The South Eastern Amateur Radio Group would like to thank the manager Maria Kyte and all the staff of The Waterford and Suir Valley Railway for all their help and allowing us access to the station to do this event again this year. For more information about the WSVR please see www.wsvrailway.ie .
The September meeting of the South Eastern Amateur Radio Group EI2WRC will take place on Monday, the 26th of September 2022 at 8.00 p.m. sharp at The Sweep Bar, Adamstown, Kilmeaden, Co. Waterford, Eircode X91 H588. New members or anyone interested in learning more about amateur radio or the group are as always very welcome to attend.
For anyone that wishes to find out more about the South Eastern Amateur Radio Group and their activities you can drop them an email to southeasternarg /at/ gmail.com or please feel free to go along to any of their meetings. You can check their website www.searg.ie and you can also join them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.