Category Archives: DX

Radio Travel: A complete SDR station for superb portable DXing

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don Moore–author of  Following Ghosts in Northern Peru–for the following guest post:


One of my favorite DXing locations was this little cottage at the El Rancho Hotel just outside San Ramon, on the edge of the Amazon jungle in Peru. At $18/night, including breakfast, the hotel was a bargain, and there was plenty of room for my delta loop.

A Guide To Vagabond DXing

By Don Moore

Ever since I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras in the early 1980s, Latin America has been my primary focus for both DXing and traveling. So when I retired in 2017, my main goal was to begin taking long annual trips . . . and I do mean long. From October 2017 to May 2018, I traveled through Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia visiting about fifty different towns and cities. This year, I’m on a five-month trip through southern South America. In Latin America you can get just about anywhere cheaply and easily by bus, so that’s how I get around. It’s also a great way to meet people and to see the countryside. But luggage can become a burden, so I limit myself to a single mid-sized wheeled suitcase and a large knapsack. And that means that my mobile DX shack has to be very carefully planned.

Your plans may not include multi-month odysseys like mine, but I think my experiences will help you prepare to DX on your next trip, wherever it might be. Of course, what makes a good mobile DX shack depends on what your DX interests are. I consider myself a station collector, in that I want to make loggings of lots of new and different stations and to build up an understanding of radio broadcasting in different regions. So on my travels I concentrate on the medium wave broadcast band and longwave beacons, with maybe little bit of shortwave utility DX. (There’s not much on shortwave broadcast that I can’t also hear at home.)

Take the DX Home With You

For years my standard DX travel gear was a Sony ICF-2010, a cassette recorder, and an old Radio West ferrite loop antenna. But listening time was always limited since it was a vacation. There were other activities on the agenda and I was generally too tired to get up early for DXing. I always went home with some interesting loggings and audio recordings, but once I left for home the DXing was done.

SDRs have changed all that and now my first rule of travel DX now is take the DX home. The best souvenir of a trip is the hundreds of hours of DXing that I take home with me. In a 2016 trip to central Colombia, I made about 300 MB of recordings of the medium wave band. While listening to them later I logged over 400 stations from twenty countries (and I still have about half the files to go through). I never would have even gotten close to that many stations listening on my Sony like an ‘old-fashioned’ DXer, hi!

Lately, I’ve been accumulating SDR files much faster than I could possibly go through them, so it’s a fair question to ask what the point is. When will I ever listen to them all? Like most DXers, I’m not fortunate enough to live in a perfect DX location. When conditions are mediocre, I’d rather spend my DXing time going through some more interesting SDR files.  And, I know I’ll have lots of good DX waiting for me years from now when I’m no longer able to travel the way that I do now. For me, SDR recordings make much better souvenirs that some cheap tourist trinkets that will gather dust on a shelf. It doesn’t matter whether your travels take you to a nearby park or to a distant continent. SDRs can preserve the DXing experience for years to come.

My Mobile DX Shack

This is my typical DXing setup with the Afedri. The rooftoop terrace at the Hotel Rosa Ermila ($10/night) in Cascas, Peru was the most elegant place I’ve ever DXed from, but reception was only average with the PA0RDT dangling from the railing.

The centerpiece of any DX shack is the receiver. On my 2017-18 trip, I had an Afredri SDR-Net with an SDRPlay RSP1 as a backup, but this year I replaced the Afedri with an Elad FDM-2. Together, my two SDRs are smaller than all but the smallest portable receivers. Of course I also need a laptop, but I’m going to take one anyway. An important consideration in selecting a travel SDR is to get something that is powered off the laptop’s USB connection so that it is easy to DX totally off battery power if line noise becomes an issue.

The other vital component of DXing is the antenna. A good on-the-road antenna for SDR DXing has to be small, easy to erect, broadband, and versatile. That sounds like a lot to ask, but the perfect DX travel antennas do exist.

For compactness and ease of use, nothing can surpass the PA0RDT mini-whip. How good is it? That’s what I used to log over 400 medium wave stations in Colombia in 2016. I just attached the unit to my coax and threw it about three meters up into a short tree. The antenna works best when mounted away from nearby structures, but sometimes I’ve gotten decent results placing the PA0RDT on balconies and windowsills of tall buildings. It’s mostly a matter of luck as to how bad the local noise levels in the building are and how much the building itself may block signals. Using a short support, such as a broom or a hiking pole, it may be possible to mount the unit a meter or so away from the building.

While it’s best to mount the PA0RDT away from obstructions, the antenna might give good results anywhere, even on the neighbor’s roof. (Just make sure it’s not likely to get stuck. Pulling the unit out of a stubborn papaya tree is no joke.)

The biggest drawback of the PA0RDT for serious MW and LW DXing is that it is non-directional. For a directional antenna, a Wellbrook loop is great if you’re traveling by car, but that one-meter diameter aluminum loop doesn’t fit in my suitcase. Fortunately, a few years ago Guy Atkins and Brett Saylor told me about an alternative: buy a Wellbrook ALA-100LN unit and attach it to a large homemade wire loop. Now my travel kit includes two nine-meter lengths and one eighteen-meter length of #18 stranded copper wire. The wires can be spliced together for loops of 9, 18, 27, or 36 meters circumference, according to what fits in a location. Erection of a wire loop is easy enough with a suitable tree branch. I just throw the wire over the branch and then form it into delta (with the bottom running just above the ground) using two tent stakes and some short cord to hold the corners. The ALA-100LN unit goes in the bottom center.

Items that go in my suitcase, left to right: tent stakes and wire for the Wellbrook loop, a small box with more adapters, another battery box, 50 foot coax, 12 foot coax, and my hiking pole. The pole doubles as a support for the PA0RDT sometimes.

The loop doesn’t have to be in a delta; that’s just often the easiest to erect. I’ve successfully used squares, rectangles, trapezoids, oblong diamonds, and right angle triangles. Any balanced shape with the ALA-100LN in the bottom center should be bi-directional in a figure-eight pattern. Non-balanced shapes will work equally well but with unpredictable directionality. Just keep the wire in a single plane and place the ALA-100LN unit someplace along the bottom.

Both the PA0RDT and the Wellbrook require a 12V power supply. The North American version of the Wellbrook comes with an excellent noise-free 110V power supply, but that’s of no use in 220V countries and also I want to be able to DX totally off battery power when necessary. Fortunately both antennas use the same size power connector, so I carry three eight-cell AA battery packs for remote power.

Contents of the DX box, clockwise from upper left: the two pieces of the Wellbrook ALA-100LN, the two pieces of the PA0RDT mini-whip, two 8xAA battery boxes and a set of batteries, USB and coax cables, a passive 4-way antenna splitter, battery tester, various adapters and cup hooks (for securing wires), 4TB hard drive, the SDRPlay RSP1, the Elad FDM-2, and more short patch cords.

My mobile DX shack is rounded out with everything that is needed to connect the parts together. I have at least four of every adapter and patchcord, since I know they won’t be easy to replace on the road. For lead-ins, I have 12-foot and 50-foot lengths of lightweight coax with BNC connectors. I also have a few F-to-BNC adapters so I could buy some standard TV coax if needed. A 4 TB hard drive provides plenty of space the SDR recordings I plan to make. (Before leaving, I fill it with videos that I can delete after I watch them or when I need space.) For DX references, I download various station lists online so that I have them available even if I don’t have an Internet connection. It’s also important to keep those lists with the SDR files from the trip so that if I’m listening to the files years from now I’ll have references which were current at the time.

Airport Security

A common concern for traveling DXers is getting through airport security. When I went to Colombia in 2016, I wrapped my DX gear in clothing for protection and then stuffed everything into my backpack. Security didn’t like what they saw and I had to empty the bag so that every single item could be examined and swabbed for explosive residue. The TSA lady was very nice about it, but I wanted to minimize the chance of that happening again.

At an office supply store I found a plastic storage box that fits inside the main pocket of my backpack. My SDRs, antenna components, and hard drive get wrapped in bubble wrap and all placed together in the box along with small cables, adapters, etc. Larger items – the wire, coax, and stakes for the loop – get packed in my checked bag.

The DX Box packed and ready to go.

At the airport, I slide the box out of my backpack, place it into a cloth shopping bag, and then send it through the X-Ray machine on its own so that the agent can get a close look at the contents. So far in about a dozen security checks in the USA, Peru, and Mexico, the box of gear hasn’t caused so much as a pause on the conveyor belt. And, if the box would get pulled for a closer look, at least I won’t have to empty the entire backpack again.

Most of my equipment fits in this plastic box which slides into my backpack.

Where to DX

A mobile DX shack isn’t worth anything without a suitable place to DX from. Hotels may work if you have a balcony where you can put a small antenna, but more likely than not there’ll be problems with RF noise. The best hotels are ones that are a collection of cottages or bungalows or that otherwise have an open yard-like space for an antenna. My favorite place to find possible DXing sites is on AirBnB. It’s often easy to find AirBnBs that are on the edge of town or even in the countryside with lots of space. Of course, since I don’t have a car, I need to make sure I can get there using public transportation.

While visiting Huanchaco, Peru with DX friends Karl Forth and John Fisher, we had a beach-front apartment with an adjoining rooftop terrace. We had excellent results with an oblong loop and the ALA-100LN on the terrace.

The key to selecting a DX location is to examine all the photos very carefully. Is there open space for the antennas? Are there trees or other potential supports? Is there a gazebo, terrace, or other space that could be used for DXing? Google satellite view and Google street view can be very helpful in scouting out a location (And it’s surprising how much of South America is now on Google Street View.)  And, I always look for possible noise sources. One place I almost rented in Colombia turned out to have high voltage power lines running next door when I found it on Street View.

I always tell the hotel staff or AirBnB host what I’m doing so that they understand why the gringo has wires running around. And I make sure not to put my antennas or coax anywhere that might interfere with the employees or other guests. Most of the time I’m able to erect the antenna near my room and run the lead-in into my room through a window. Then I can leave my laptop running all night to make scheduled SDR recordings. That’s the Holy Grail of DXing – catching the overnight DX while you sleep. But if my room turns out to have too much RF noise (as has been the case a few times), then I head out to the gazebo or terrace to DX using battery power.  That does mean I have to stay up late or get up early since I can’t leave the laptop outside on its own. But, some of the best DX that I’ve had has come from running off full battery power in gazebos.

My delta loop had plenty of space at the Posada de Sauce ($25/night with breakfast) in the jungle near Tarapoto, Peru. The lodge was totally powered by solar panels and was one of the quietest places I’ve ever DXed from.

Antenna security is another consideration. At one place I stayed I wasn’t comfortable leaving my expensive antenna components unattended outside all night. And then there was what happened on my first trip to Colombia in 2010. I knew that a place I would be staying at for two nights had an open field right behind it, so on that trip I took 500 feet of thin insulated wire for a mini beverage-on-the-ground. DXing was great the first night but terrible the second. When I went out the next morning to wind up the wire I learned why. The worker who had been weed-wacking the hotel gardens the previous day had also done the field, and in doing so he had cut my wire in three places. He had, however, very nicely tied the wires back together.

Share the DX

DXing off battery power in the gazebo in the Mauro Hilton Hostel in the mountains above Manizales, Colombia. The antenna was the PA0RDT thrown in a tree. I had great DX with the loop from my room, but I came here to enjoy the views one evening.

Finally, if you take an SDR on a trip and get some good DX, make a selection of your files available for download. Other DXers will enjoy hearing what the band sounds like somewhere else. Several dozen of my files from Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia are available for download in a shared Google Drive folder. If you see something you want, be sure to download it now. The winter DX season is just starting here in deep South America and in the coming weeks I’ll be replacing some of those older files with ones made in Argentina and maybe in Uruguay and southern Brazil. I’ve found a lot of places to stay that look to be perfect for a vagabond DXer.

Links

For fun, here are some of the better places I DXed from in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. The key thing to look for is an open place for the antennas:


Don, thank you so much for sharing your travel DXing expertise. This article is absolutely brilliant and so informative for anyone who wishes to make SDR field recordings. I love how carefully you’ve curated and distilled your portable setup and have given priority to having antennas for all occasions. I also think carrying spare parts and, especially, a spare SDR makes a lot of sense.

Post Readers:  As we mentioned in a previous post, Don is an author and has recently published “Following Ghosts in Northern Peru: In the Footsteps of 19th Century Travelers on the old Moyobamba Route” which is available in Kindle and print formats via Amazon.

Purchasing through this Amazon link supports both the author and the SWLing Post.

Click here to check out other guest posts by Don Moore.


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Guest Post: Indian DXer enters into Limca Book of Records

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Sandipan Basu Mallick (VU3JXD), for sharing the following guest post:


Indian DXer enters into Limca Book of Records

Jose Jacob from Hyderabad, India has collected QSL from 132 different stations of All India Radio over a period of 42 years. Radio stations ranging from Shot wave, Medium wave, FM to the latest DRM mode. In the process he has achieved the feat of creating an Indian Record of collecting maximum number of QSL of different stations of a radio broadcaster in India.

As a teenager Jose started listening to radio and started to write to stations way back in 1973, when in his school days. Few years later in 1976 he first wrote to All India Radio, when his reception report was first verified with a QSL. Over next 42 years, he has used various mediums, ranging from inland letters, post cards to emails, for sending reception reporting. Currently he has over 2500 QSL from 130 different countries, many of which left the airwaves.

Over the years, with his special interest in All India Radio, he is one of key country contributors, from India, of World Radio TV Handbook updating about All India Radio to the directory of global broadcasting.

Jose Jacob, is also a licensed amateur radio operator with call sign VU2JOS currently serving as Asst. Director at the National Institute of Amateur Radio (NIAR) www.niar.org

Jose Jacob (VU2JOS) with Certificate from Limca Book of Records

Limca Book of Records is an annual reference book published in India documenting human and natural world records. The world records achieved by humans are further categorised in education, literature, agriculture, medical science, business, sports, nature, adventure, radio, and cinema with Limca book of Records rules. (https://www.coca-colaindia.com/limca-book-of-records)

Limca Book of Records has recognized the feat as one of the Indian records in the radio category and awarded the certificate acknowledging the achievement.

QSL received in 1997 from All India Radio, Nagpur

QSL received in 1988 from All India Radio, Nagpur

QSL received in 1987 from All India Radio, Nagpur


Congratulations to Jose Jacob VU2JOS for an amazing accomplishment!  Thank you for sharing this news, Sandipan!

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Guest Post: Report from the 2019 Henry’s Island DXpediton

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Sandipan Basu Mallick (VU3JXD), for sharing the following guest post:


Henry’s Island DXpediton 2019

World Radio day is observed by the UNESCO on 13th February every year. This year is the 8th year world day being celebrated with theme “celebrate radio and how it shapes our lives”.  In recent times there has been a sea change in radio listening and radio broadcasting. More and more radio broadcasters are shifting to FM which radiate over a small distances and require low power transmitters. Medium wave broadcasting and shortwave broadcasting which is used to reach audience over larger distances is gradually becoming less important with the growth of internet connectivity. Broadcasters are increasingly streaming their content over the internet to reach their audience via the PC, Laptop and now via the mobile phone.

DXing is the hobby of listening to the faraway and distant signals and the hobbyist are called DXers. DXers would switch on their radio set, connect it to the piece of wire which is the antenna and turn the dial to search and listen to the far away and sometimes feeble radio signals. For these radio enthusiasts challenge is becoming greater. The big names of yesteryear such as BBC, Voice of America, Radio Moscow and Deutsche Welle, the German radio are all gradually shifting their content from shortwave broadcasting to the internet. Now with data connectivity to the mobile phone available to everyone, the shortwave broadcasters find a more reliable and popular route to reach their audience through the internet rather than troublesome “bounce” through the ionosphere. Then with the rise of household electrical devices which radiate “radio noise” such as the LED bulb or the TV, the radio signals from distant lands have to rise over this local noise to reach the ear of the audience.

That is why a band of radio enthusiasts from all over India have travelled to the listening camp set up at a resort in Henry Island at Bakkhali in the state of West Bengal, India. This year the listening camp ran from 10th – 13th Feb, which celebrated World Radio Day and the hobby of radio. The dedicated radio enthusiasts who have been drawn into this radio listening camp, are drawn from different parts of country varying from New Delhi to Tripura. Kolkata the home of the Indian DX club International (www.idxci.in), has been promoting the hobby since 1980 has naturally most participants in this camp. They were very upbeat while worldwide radio enthusiasts have to cope up with bad news for the hobby. In the last few years, stations after stations have closed down and so have iconic radio clubs like Danish Short Wave Club and periodicals like Monitoring Times. Broadcasting mega corporations like VOA and DW have reduced their presence in the airwaves to a faint whisper compared to their former roar.

Sandipan Basu Mallick (VU3JXD) with Dr Supratik Sanatani (VU2IFB)

Sandipan Baus Mallick (VU3JXD), who is the principal in organizing this year’s DXpedition from IDXCI says that the appeal of radio is still there among the various age groups. These camps are set up in remote locations, which enable the radio enthusiast to come together with likeminded people to exchange ideas and experiment with their equipments and brush up their skills with conventional radio. People from various races of life participated in this years camp.

Among the participants Sudipto Ghose (VU2UT) who just retired from a job with the Ministry of Finance is drawn by the technical part of the hobby and toys with new radio receivers and accessories such as antennas and preamplifiers.

C K Raman (VU3DJQ) from Delhi whose job incidentally involved professionally monitoring broadcast stations, has narrowed his interest down to the medium wave stations and the tropical band stations such as stations from Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia and has come down looking for such exotic signals.

Suvendu Das (SWL), who professionally managed ship communications has suddenly become interested in the hobby of broadcast band listening.

Pradip Kundu (SWL) of Tripura who after retiring as a Principal has more time to pursue his childhood passion and is an avid QSL collector.

Babul Gupta (VU3ZBG) an interior designer still spends time to seek those rare signals at the wee hours and has to his credit listening to some of the most rare to hear stations from India such as Cross Radio, an evangelist radio station broadcasting from the Carribean.

Alokesh Gupta (VU3BSE) has flown in from Delhi for the radio camp is an avid enthusiast who also served to coordinate the Listeners association of Radio Taiwan and runs the website radioactivity.org which disseminates information related to radio broadcasting.

Kallol Nath (SWL) is among the newest entrants in the DXer squad. Armed with XH Data D-808 receiver, he logged a number of pirate stations on the MW band.

For Sandipan, a marketing professional worked to set up this camp and bring together radio enthusiast from various parts of India. He is also drawn by the technical aspects of the hobby and can flaunt many a radio gear just like his friend Debanjan Chakraborty (VU3DCH) who is a radio collector and has radio sets.

Accompanying them is Eye Surgeon Dr Supratik Sanatani (VU2IFB), who has key interest in home brewing various radio equipment, and a veteran in DXpedition also came together explore the airwaves from the Bay of Bengal.

Henry’s Island marked with a red location pin.

Henry’s Island is at the tip of the Bay of Bengal which for the radio listener gives a good opportunity to hear distant signals from Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, Indonesian archipelago and Papua New Guiniea.

DXpeditioners strung long wire antennas aimed in their favorite direction and then connect their modern digital radio receivers to try to catch the feeble signals from exotic radio stations. During their whole night listening sessions, some would exclaim at 2.30 am that the Phillipines medium wave station was opening with a greeting its local audience in the local language Tagalog–or someone might simply record the Maldivian medium wave station from Male ending its transmission with their national anthem. The fisheries ground also has the advantage of low noise from electrical devices. To run away from local noise, the hobbyist might even have to pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere and use their advanced radio receivers with battery power.

What is the pinnacle of success? Just like the bird watcher catching a glimpse of the rare migratory bird, for the DXers it is the thrill of listening to exotic signals such as from the American Forces Military Base at Diego Garcia to the barely audible Papua New Guinean station from Port Moresby. Then there are others like that Peruvian station Radio Tarma with excited football commentary which comes through to India only during a short window in the very early morning before day break and only on few days in a year. Even though the 11 year old solar sunspot cycle which influences radio transmission, is at its favorable “ low”, we can still confirm that DXing as a hobby is still alive and kicking!!!

DXers in Action


Thank you so much for sharing this report, Sandipan! It appears that you not only enjoyed some excellent DX on Henry’s Island, but you also strengthened friendships that will last a lifetime. Well done!


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Preview: The C. Crane CCRadio3 AM/FM/WX and 2 Meter receiver

In early January 2019, C. Crane sent me a pre-production unit of their latest radio for evaluation: the C. Crane CCRadio3.

Since I received the CCradio3, I’ve had it on the air and have been evaluating it in real-life listening conditions, searching for any potential quirks that C. Crane should address before a full production run of the radio hits the market.

Yesterday, C. Crane announced the CCRadio3 in their email newsletter:

So now, finally, I can break my silence to inform you all about this latest iteration of the venerable CCRadio. And, indeed, I have a lot to tell…

CCRadio3 Preview

What follows is a preview of the CCRadio3 based on my time with the pre-production unit. I will not refer to this as a “review” of the CCRadio3, since this is a pre-production unit.  I’ll obtain a first production run unit when available and post a full review at that time.

In the meantime…here are some of my impressions based on the pre-production unit, organized by feature.

Bluetooth

What’s new with the CCRadio3? The major upgrade is the addition of Bluetooth connectivity. In fact, that’s the only obvious upgrade other than the fact you can now toggle between AM/FM band rather than scroll through all the bands on one band button.

With Bluetooth connectivity, you can pair with your smart phone, tablet, laptop, PC or any other Bluetooth device, and use the CCRadio3 as your Bluetooth speaker.

How many radios do you know that include simple operation instructions on the chassis? Very simple.

The pairing is incredibly simple and Bluetooth connectivity most impressive. I find that no matter where I go in my house, the CCRadio3 maintains a solid Bluetooth connection with my iPhone. Most of my other Bluetooth devices will lose connectivity if I put a couple walls between my iPhone and the receiver, but not the CCRadio3.

Audio

The internal speaker on the CCRadio3 provides room-filling audio with clear, rich fidelity. The separate bass and treble controls do help tailor the sound based on the audio source. It reproduces music brilliantly in FM and Bluetooth modes.

2 Meter Ham Radio Band

One unique feature of the CCRadio series is 2 meter ham band reception. This is a great way to monitor local amateur radio repeater traffic.

In truth, I’ve spent comparatively little time with the CCRadio3 on 2 meters thus far, having focused instead on the AM/FM and WX bands, but I have verified that I can receive local repeaters and the squelch functionality is quite effective.

I’ll spend more time on this band in my upcoming full review.

Weather Radio (WX) Band

The CCRadio3 can receive all seven NOAA/Environment Canada radio frequencies.

And here’s something that really surprised me: this pre-production CCRadio3 has the best weather radio reception of any radio I’ve ever tested to date. Normally, at my home, I can receive two NOAA stations with the average weather radio. The best of my weather radio receivers might hear a total of three. The CCRadio3, with antenna fully-extended, can receive five NOAA stations! I can almost WX DX with this rig!

I’m so pleased C. Crane places an emphasis on WX band performance. Their CC Skywave and CC Skywave SSB also have best-in-class weather radio reception.

Like the CCRadio2E, the grab handle is built into the back of the radio.

The CCRadio3 uses four D cells for battery operation which should yield about 120 hours of AM broadcast listening at moderate volume.

FM

Thus far I’m very pleased with FM performance. I’ve noted that the CCRadio3 receives all of my local and distant benchmark stations with ease. I believe it would certainly be an FM benchmark receiver. As I mentioned earlier, audio fidelity is excellent via the internal speaker.

AM/Mediumwave

I consider the CCradio3’s predecessor––the CCRadio2E––to be one of the finest AM broadcasting listening portables currently in production. I’ll admit that when I heard the CCRadio3 added Bluetooth, I feared somehow that would equate to possible noise somewhere in the audio chain…Fortunately, this fear was entirely unfounded. In fact, looking at the CCRadio3 announcement, I note that C. Crane took this concern seriously:

“The CCRadio 3 is one of the few high-performance radios with Bluetooth® that has no detectable noise and some of the best reception available.”

When I first turned on the CCRadio3 and tuned to the AM band, I did what I always do when testing mediumwave performance: In the early morning, as the sun was rising (i.e., grey line propagation), I tried to pull my benchmark station––WAIZ, a 1,000 watt station about 95 miles away as the crow flies––out of the muddle. The CCRadio3 was able to do it; in fact, I could hear the station’s morning crew doing their “Wacky Wake-Up” shenanigans. Turning the radio body, I also gathered, rather quickly, that the CCRadio3’s Twin Coil Ferrite Bar antenna does an excellent job of nulling out unwanted stations.

An impressive start of the evaluation.

Comparing the CCRadio3 with Panny RF-2200

Looking around SWLing Post HQ, I picked up my recently re-capped and refurbished Panasonic RF-2200. I wanted to see how the CCRadio3 would stack up against what I consider one the finest AM broadcast portables ever produced…

I’ve tested the CCRadio3 and ‘2200 at various locations––in the morning, midday, and at night––and can say that not only does the CCRadio3 give the RF-2200 a run for its money, but it even outperforms the RF-2200 at times, in terms of weak station intelligibility.

In fact, I think the CCRadio3 may possibly have a very slight edge on the RF-2200 in terms of sensitivity, as well.

However, note that there are two factors that make this comparison a tough call:

  • First of all, I find that the RF-2200’s AGC is smoother than that of the CCRadio3––the peaks and dips in audio are not as strong when listening through AM flutter. Most of the time, this makes it a little easier for me to discern weak signal audio. I believe the CCRadio3’s AGC and soft mute may be making the troughs in AGC a little deeper, as well. It would be amazing if C. Crane could allow users to disable soft mute like recent Sangean models have.
  • Secondly, the RF-2200 has two AM bandwidth settings: narrow and wide. I almost always use the RF-2200 with the wide bandwidth setting. I find the narrow filter is a little too narrow unless I need it to block an adjacent signal.  In general, I use wider AM filter settings than many DXers because I find that the filter between my ears does a better job of discerning signals with a little more audio information.

The CCRadio3 has only one bandwidth. I’m guessing––based purely on my listening experience––that it’s 4 to 6 kHz in width.  (I’ll try to confirm this with C. Crane).   Obviously this is narrower than the RF-2200’s wide filter. In side-by-side comparisons, the RF-2200’s AM fidelity therefore sounds much richer, especially when music is involved.

That this is so really shouldn’t be a surprise, as the Radio3 and its predecessors were designed around spoken word intelligibility––in other words, making it easy for the listener to understand what’s being said. And, frankly, it works. Most of the time, I find that the CCRadio3 does a better job of making weak signals “pop” out of the static. It’s a little easier catching weak signal station IDs with the CCRadio3, even if you have to listen through a more active AGC/soft mute tug.

So…is the CCRadio3 (at least, this pre-production unit) better than the RF-2200 at weak signal DXing? In some respects, yes. In others, not quite. Yet the fact that it can even compare with the RF-2200 speaks volumes…no pun intended. I would have never guessed that it would have a sensitivity edge on the RF-2200.

Of course, the CCRadio3 has both AM antenna and ground terminals.

I made a few early afternoon videos comparing the CCRadio3 with the RF-2200. In the first video, I’m tuned to a station approximately 20-25 miles away. You’ll note how the RF-2200’s audio fidelity, with the wide filter engaged, is hard to match:

Click here to view on YouTube.

In the second video, I’m tuned to 1290 AM (WHKY), a 50,000 watt station about 95 miles away. [Note that I erroneously give an inaccurate mileage figure in this video; not sure what I was thinking!  Sorry about that, folks.]

Click here to view on YouTube.

In the third video, I’m tuned to 630 AM (WAIZ), again, a 1000 watt station about 100 miles away. As you can imagine, it’s very weak and both radios struggle to receive any intelligible audio through the ocean waves of fluttering radio jumble. [Again, please ignore the distance I give in the video; this station is actually a little over 95 miles away.]

Click here to view on YouTube.

I also did a late afternoon comparison video around sunset using one of my favorite AM radio stations ever: CFZM in Toronto–about 980 miles distant. Here’s the video:

Click here to view on YouTube. 

In these video comparisons, the radios are nearly side-by-side.  I found this had little to no effect on reception. When comparing these radios off camera, I had them spaced at least 40″ apart and always, of course, oriented the antennas identically.

Conclusion

Again, this is merely a preview of the pre-production unit of the CCRadio3. I thought I’d touch on reception and a few of the key points that might help some of the CCRadio3’s early adopters make a purchase decision. I have yet to do testing with headphones or external antennas and still wish to compare it with even more radios, to make my review as thorough as I’d like.

And I’m really looking forward to reviewing the production unit of the CCRadio3, because this pre-production receiver has certainly surpassed my expectations!

This latest iteration of the CCRadio should remain king of AM radio reception, compared with any other portable radio currently in production.

C. Crane has announced that they have a very limited number of first-production-run units available for order right now.  If you order one, use the coupon code CC3B19 at checkout, so that, as the above ad suggests, you can snag it for $179.00–$20 off the future retail price. I suspect this first run will sell out fast.

Click here to check out the CCRadio3 product/order page.

Eager for the full review of the C. Crane CCRadio3? Stay tuned!


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Top 10 DX Of The Year Contest Results!

Many thanks to Istvan Biliczky, from the Top 10 DX Of The Year Contest who shares the following results from the December 2018 contest:

Click to enlarge results sheet.

Istvan tells me that the “certificates are printed, verified, t-shirts are done, and all packed, will be sent this week.”

Check these photos:

Brilliant news and congratulations to the many friends and SWLing Post readers I see in the winners circle! Thank you for sharing, Istvan and thanks for hosting this impressive DX contest!

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