Category Archives: Articles

The Sony ICF-M780SL: Peter catches some serious MW DX on Gran Canaria

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Peter Wilson, for sharing the following guest post and DXpedition report:


Sony ICF-M780SL MWDX on Gran Canaria

by Peter Wilson

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain

I have spent the last two months in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.
I travelled light and didn’t bring my radio/SDR collection with me.

A portable I saw in a local department store caught ny eye, and I ended up buying one from a local electronics retailer which had it on special at €55. It is a Sony ICF-M780SL which as turned out, is something rather special. It is a four band (LW, MW, SW,FM) DSP receiver, with an AM IF (LW, MW,SW) of 45 kHz and an FM IF of 128 kHz.

There’s too much hash in my apartment block to use it at home, but as I am a couple of streets away from the Ocean I intended to use it there.

Problem is there almost as much RF hash at the oceanside as at home. Also the Atlantic breakers crash loudly on the shore, and the wind can howl quite loudly. I did have some limited success and have included a couple of clips.

I discovered a better DX location at a small Plaza a short distance inland from the Ocean. There is an early morning peak for MW TA leading up to about 07:30 UTC (= local time)

The radio is used barefoot in each clip. There is some camera hash.

Here are the highlights:

USA Transatlantic

1500 WFED booming with ID 5736 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

790 WAXY with ESPN Radio ID 6369 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1540 KXEL 6935 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1530 WCKY 6373 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

770 WABC 5459 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1520 WWKB

ESPN Radio with sports talk. 5841 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

Ocean front around dusk

1350 TWR Armenia 5377 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1521 Duba Saudi Arabia 5004 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1458 Lyca Radio, Brookmans Park UK 2914 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

The Sony ICF-M780SL is a great MW/LW/FM performer. SW propagation has been mediocre and suffers from the RF hash QRN, so difficult to test.


Amazing, Peter! It’s hard for me to believe the reception you had of WFED (Federal News Radio). I listen to that station every time I go through the DC/Baltimore area and I think your reception is just as good. A TA crossing of almost 5,000 km with armchair copy! Quite an accomplishment!

Thank you for sharing your Gran Canaria DX with us. I’m pretty impressed with the Sony ICF-M780SL as well.

Post Readers: make sure you check out Peter’s YouTube channel by clicking here.

Click here to search Amazon.co.uk and click here to search eBay for the Sony ICF-M780SL.

Paul explores the Luxembourg Effect

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Hansgen, who shares the following article by Paul Litwinovich at WSHU:

In this article I’ll look at two things that, unless you are a serious ham operator or an absolute radio geek, you probably are unfamiliar with.

First, we will take a look at a very rare phenomenon first noted by radio listeners back in 1933. It generated several theories, but the correct one was only verified experimentally in recent times.

Second, we will look at a government-funded project that, while built for other purposes, was used to confirm the phenomenon 75 years later.

The Luxembourg Effect was first documented by electrical engineer and professor Bernard Tellegen. The professor is also credited with the invention of the tetrode vacuum tube. My past article, A Radio for the Roaring Twenties, features one of the first radios to use the tube.

One night, Mr. Tellegen was in the Netherlands, listening to a station transmitting from Beromunster, Switzerland, on 652 kHz. In the background of the Swiss signal, he could hear the audio of Radio Luxembourg, which normally broadcast on 252 kHz. He was far enough away from each station that neither station’s signal would have been strong enough to overload his receiver. The two signals seemed to be mixing somehow, but by what means?[…]

Click here to continue reading at WSHU.

Going By the Numbers

For those who follow numbers stations or, like me, enjoy seeing articles about numbers stations, below are a few paragraphs from a recent article in Radio World by author James Careless:

“6-7-9-2-6. 5-6-9-9-0.” Tune across the shortwave bands (above AM/MW), and chances are you will come across a “numbers station.” There’s no programming to speak of; just a mechanical-sounding voice (male or female) methodically announcing seemingly random groups of single digit numbers for minutes on end.

Congratulations! You are now officially a spy-catcher, to the extent that you may have tuned into a spy agency’s “numbers station” transmitting one-way instructions to their minions worldwide.

Numbers stations are unidentified radio broadcasts that consist usually of a mechanical voice “reading out strings of seemingly random numbers,” explained Lewis Bush, author of “Shadows of the State” a new history of numbers stations and the spies who run them. “These are sometimes accompanied by music, tones or other sound effects.” He said. “There are also related stations broadcasting in Morse Code and digital modes.”

The article goes into some of the history of numbers stations, but also talks about modern stations from all over the world. A worthwhile read for those so interested!

Do Shortwave ‘Numbers Stations’ Really Instruct Spies?

Cheers! Robert AK3Q

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

Off-the-shelf affordable SWL antennas

The Par EF-SWL antenna.

One of our SWLing Post contributors recently sent the following message with a request:

I have a suggestion/challenge for a post: what’s out there for low cost, off-the-shelf HF antennas?

I simply can’t drop $500 on a Wellbrook. The AirSpy HF+ and the new $100 RSP1A SDR are super enticing, but then I look at the antenna connectors and think, “What do I have to connect to that…!?!”

Googling takes you down the rabbit hole of home brew antennas. I’ll admit that I don’t have the skill or patience to dig through hundreds of DIY posts of antenna construction. For my first proper outdoor antenna, I’d like to purchase one that’s rugged, well-tested and optimized for HF and MW listening. Something easy to install.

You know? I get it.

Many listeners simply don’t have the free time or enthusiasm to explore home brew antenna options especially if they’re seeking one optimized antenna for their location and listening habits.

Like it or not, antennas can become a barrier of entry to proper, low-noise radio listening and DXing.

I have built almost all of the antennas I use so I’m not an expert in this area, therefore I asked Fred Osterman at Universal Radio for a couple of suggestions. He and I have talked about antennas in the past and he’s the most knowledgeable person I know on the topic. I’m willing to bet Universal Radio stocks more SWL antennas than any other radio retailer. Fred also has the added benefit of hearing customer feedback daily.

I asked Fred specifically for wire antennas that are easy to install, require no soldering or tuning/cutting and work well right out of the box. Something under $200.

Fred replied with two recommendations–I include his comments in quotes:

Alpha-Delta DX-SWL Sloper $129.95

“[The Alpha-Delta DX-SWL Sloper] is very well built. Actually, over-built for listening. Easy to erect with the feed point being up high. And really works well on the SW bands (including Tropical) and MW too. Fully preassembled. Down-side is it is kinda obtrusive with the heavy wire and large coils.”

Click here to check it out at Universal Radio.

Par EF-SWL $72.95

“[The EF-SWL is very popular] these days. It does work best with a ground, but still usable without. It is interesting, as it can be configured many different ways. I suspect it is popular because it is very easy to erect, and very, very stealthy. (Increasingly important these days). And the wire is flexible, not too thick and not obtrusive. Seems more immune to noise than others. Priced right.”

Click here to check it out at Universal Radio.

Thank you, Fred!

I have some experience with the Par EF-SWL antenna. It offers excellent performance and the antenna line has a durable black coating that makes it nearly impossible to spot from a distance. I’ve even taken the EF-SWL on travels and posted a review a few years ago. I agree that it performs very well.

I have a friend that’s relied on the Alpha-Delta DX-SWL Sloper as his main SWL antenna for years. He lives in an urban area and I’ve been favorably impressed with its performance. I agree with Fred–it’s incredibly durable and beefy! Built like a tank.

Of course, there are also incredibly low-profile antennas like the Bonito Mini Whip (check out some of Oxford Shortwave’s posts) but note that some versions don’t handle a noise-rich environment very well.

Post readers: Please comment if you know of other off-the-shelf antenna options–especially those you have personal experience using and installing.

“Farewell to Miki Gurdus, Israel’s National Listener”

(Source: The Tablet via Richard Cuff)

With a powerful shortwave radio and a battery of TV screens, he broke national news long before the internet, scooping everything from the Entebbe raid to the first Gulf War

Had he been born two or three decades later, Miki Gurdus would probably have been just another middle-aged man glued to his smartphone, scrolling through endless torrents of social-media ephemera. But Gurdus, who passed away in Israel this week at the age of 73, was born with a radio. And early on, he knew the device would change his life.

[…]And listen Gurdus did. Commanding six languages—Hebrew, English, Arabic, French, Russian, and Polish—as well as numerous shortwave radios and as many as 11 television sets, he tuned in not only to broadcasts from far and wide but, often, to private conversations, military wire exchanges, and other dispatches not meant for public consumption. In late June of 1976, for example, he interrupted a radio broadcast to announce that he had just picked up a conversation between Palestinian terrorists and an air traffic controller in Libya announcing that they had just hijacked an Air France flight and intended to land it in Benghazi en route to Entebbe, Uganda. It wouldn’t be his last scoop: In 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Israeli military intelligence got the news from Gurdus, who had intercepted the transmissions of the Iraqi army.

[…]With each passing decade, Gurdus’ fame grew. A reporter interviewing him in 2003 described his office as “half Aladdin’s cave and half control tower, a labyrinth of television screens, radios, remote controls, electric wires, speakers, model airplanes and photos of Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush stuck on the walls.” And in the center of it all was Gurdus, tartan slippers on his feet and dark shades covering his eye, to protect his vision from the glare of a dozen screens. Even as Israel’s media landscape flourished and more and more commercial radio and television channels debuted, giving rise to new generations of reporters, anchors, and celebrities, Gurdus remained a national treasure, a name you knew even if you weren’t sure exactly what “our listener” did.

And then came the internet.

Gurdus, in his typical tough manner, minimized it, calling it just another arrow in his quiver. “The internet is just another tool for me,” he said in a recent interview, “and not a major one at that because you can’t compete with what’s broadcast on all these satellites. Besides, neither the internet nor anything else can make me stop working, or make me irrelevant. I’ll continue to report the news, to listen, and to try and deliver scoops. I’ll be there for as long as I’m breathing.”[…]

Earlier this week, Gurdus passed away in his home in Yehud. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin both eulogized him, the latter calling him “our mythological listener, the man who brought into our nation faraway voices even before the internet.”[…]

Read the full article at The Tablet Magazine.