Category Archives: FM

“Visualizing the Geography of FM Radio”

(Source: ERDavis.com)

This project, like the one before it, started as an offshoot of another project that I’ll finish… someday…

I start one project, which brings up questions I need to answer in other projects, so I start those projects, which lead to more questions… and before I know it I have a tangled mess that’ll take months to sort out.  To illustrate, there’s currently 11 projects in my “Active” queue and 11 more in my “Paused” queue. I’m personally very proud that I get anything done at all!

For this particular tangled project mess, I needed to see how many classical music radio stations there are in the States. That quickly lead to wanting to plot where those classical stations broadcast. That lead to a burning desire to map all radio station broadcast areas, ever, and also to map how many radio stations broadcast in a given area.

[…]I started by simply plotting the service contours of the 20,000-odd stations on my list. I love the way this looks, like phosphorescent jellyfish or raindrops on water.[…]

Click here to read the full article and view all images.

 

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External FM antenna for Android phones/tablets

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

Check this little gadget for android phones or tablets

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32976847250.html

If they have the FM app installed than this will come handy.

One needs to select speaker and not earphone as expected.

It works fine here. (I don’t know if Apple phones have an FM module)

Thank you, Adid! Very cool! This little antenna costs $0.90 USD–an insanely low price.

If you have an old set of earphones lying around the house (I probably have two dozen that ship with various radios) you could also snip off the earpieces and use the pigtail as a wire FM antenna.

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RadioInfo: “Fires hit ABC Radio’s Batemans Bay transmitter”

Photo by Benjamin Lizardo

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Bird, who shares the following story from RadioInfo.com.au:

In an example of radio industry cooperation during adversity, commercial network Grant Broadcasters is working with the ABC on the South Coast of NSW to keep transmissions on air during the fires in that area.

As fires raged through the area last week, the ABC’s Mt Wandera transmission site at Bateman’s Bay was disabled by flames (see pictures below) and is expected to take some time to repair.

The ABC, through its transmission provider Broadcast Australia (recently renamed BAI Communications) asked if it could share Grant Broadcasters’ nearby transmission mast and infrastructure, and has now combined its transmissions onto the Grant Broadcasters antenna.

Local radio services, including ABC South Coast, are now back on air, but operating at reduced power. The ABC’s television transmitter on the site is also off air.

BAI has also established additional temporary low power facilities at Batemans Hill for ABC Local Radio (operating on 101.9 MHz) and ABC television (operating on Channel 41).  As this facility operates from a lower altitude and at lower power than those at Mt Wandera, its coverage will be largely limited within the town of Batemans Bay.

On the South Coast, the Grant Broadcasters stations 2EC and Power FM  had “no issues with transmission coverage” and have so far remained on full power. Diesel generators have 4-5 days capacity and are being refuelled continuously.

[…]Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has commended media and transmission providers for their efforts to keep services operating:

“I commend the network operators’ efforts in responding, which has included deploying temporary facilities to restore communications services for impacted communities, particularly those that are isolated. Many of the outages are due to power supplies being cut off, and in some cases are the direct impact of fire on network infrastructure. The current fire situations across Australia have made access difficult and unsafe at some sites to assess and restore services…

“In many cases, a portable transistor radio with a spare set of batteries is a vital way to receive emergency information, in the event there is a loss of mains power or mobile coverage.

“The ABC and other local radio stations are doing an excellent job transmitting vital emergency information to Australian communities. Telstra and Optus are offering targeted relief packages in affected regions in NSW and Victoria, including free use of payphones, call diversions from affected lines and other financial assistance.”[…]

Read the full article and view photos at RadioInfo.com.au.

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WRTH 2020: A look inside

I received my review copy of the 2020 World Radio and TV Handbook (WRTH) shortly after returning from holiday travels last week. I always look forward to receiving this excellent staple radio reference guide–and this is their 74th edition! The WRTH has never disappointed, so my expectations are always quite high.

Once again, the WRTH lived up to my expectations.

WRTH’s team of noted DXers from around the world curate frequencies and broadcaster information by region; while I’m not sure how they orchestrate all of this, the end result is truly a symphony of radio information. In addition to broadcaster listings, WRTH’s radio reviews, feature articles, and annual HF report make for excellent reading.

But the WRTH isn’t just a frequency guide: the publication always devotes the first sixty or so pages to articles relating to various aspects of the radio hobby. Following, I offer a quick overview of these.

The first article always features a WRTH contributor:  this year, they feature Luis Cavalho who is their contributor for Portugal, the Azores and Madeira. His path to becoming a WRTH contributor began in his childhood snagging mediumwave DX with an array of portable radios. His love of radio lead him to the world of shortwave radio, WRTH and eventually his own radio website to serve Portuguese listeners.

WRTH Reviews

The second set of articles is always my favorite: WRTH receiver reviews.

This year, WRTH begins with an in-depth review of the excellent ELAD FDM-DUOr tabletop SDR receiver.  Next they build on their 2019 review of the SDRplay RSPduo by exploring its unique diversity reception capabilities. They also review the AirSpy HF+ Discovery and were so impressed they awarded it the 2020 Best Value SDR.

This year, WRTH also reviewed two portable radios by Pure: the Pure Elan E3 DAB, DAB+, FM receiver and the Pure Elan IR5 WifI radio.

The final two reviews are of affordable products that offer incredible value for the radio listener: the venerable Tecsun PL-310ET ultralight radio and the Tecsun AN-200 MW Loop Antenna. I enjoyed reading a fresh review of each of these products as I’ve personally used both for nearly a decade.

WRTH Features

The first feature article, written by none other than Dave Porter, focuses on the development of HF broadcast antennas. His article serves as an excellent primer on the topic, covering Rhombic Antennas, Corner Quadrant Antennas, Log-Periodic Arrays and ALLISS /Rigid Curtain Arrays. A must-read for those who want to know more about the “business side” of a broadcast signal!

Hans Johnson’s feature, Sea Breeze and Wind from Japan, explores the story behind the broadcasts to Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea. Truly, an inspiring story of a determined and mission-dedicated broadcasters.

The following feature article was written by WRTH contributor and chief editor of the New Zealand DX Times, Stu Forsyth, who outlines the history of broadcasting from New Caledonia in the Pacific.

The next feature article focuses on the “finer points” of mediumwave propagation. I thought this was an informative and and timely article as so many shortwave DXers (including yours truly) spend time on the mediumwave bands especially during winter and times of rough HF propagation. A must-read!

Ashraf Chaaban, president of the Association des Radio Amateurs Tunisiens, takes WRTH readers with him on a visit to the Sidi Manson Transmitter Site in Tunisia in the final feature article. Having an affinity for broadcast sites, I sincerely enjoyed the focus on Sidi Manson which fell silent on shortwave in 2014.

Next, WRTH spotlight the annual Digital Update which summarizes the dynamic state of digital broadcasting. I’ve found this feature to be incredibly informative as we see how digital broadcasting is penetrating both domestic and international services.

The final article–a tradition–is the WRTH  HF propagation report/forecast by Ulf-Peter Hoppe. Always an informative read especially as we work our way out of a log-term solar slump.

The 74th is another fantastic edition of the World Radio TV Handbook. As I say every year, I’ve never been disappointed with WRTH. Their publishing standards are such that the quality of their reviews, their writing, and (most importantly) their broadcast listings are simply unparalleled.

At the heart of any WRTH is an uncompromising and unparalleled amount of information regarding regional and international broadcasting.

For DXers who collect QSL cards, you’ll find that broadcaster contact information in WRTH is often more up-to-date than a broadcaster’s own website. When readers contact me asking for QSL information from an obscure broadcaster, the first place I search is the current WRTH. Remember: their information is based on volunteer contributors who specialize in specific regions of the world–the most knowledgeable regional DXers keep this publication accurate.

Purchase your copy of WRTH 2020 directly from WRTH’s publishers, or from a distributor like Universal Radio (US) , Amazon.com (US),  or the Book Depository (international).

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Guest Post: Radio Seribatu’s Three FM Stations Launch on January 1st, 2020

Radio Seribatu FM Tower

Many thanks for the following guest post about SWLing Post supporter, Mark Fahey, who will soon be launching three local Balinese radio stations:


Radio Seribatu New Year 2020

A 2018 personal DX-pedition by SWLing Post supporter Mark Fahey to a remote village community in Indonesia’s Bali Province was intended to capture and record local and regional MW and SW Tropical Band spectrum on a WinRadio Excalibur for the Radio Spectrum Archive.

The field trip took a most unexpected turn; It was a total failure. Mark didn’t suffer any equipment problems, the loop antennas performed well; the problem was that MW, SW radio was irrelevant to the local population and there were just no longer any local stations broadcasting to archive.

Mark hanging backstage for Radio Volcano

To salvage the experience, Mark shifted his focus to recording video and audio of local gamelan and soundscapes. Seen as a strange novelty by the local jungle community, Mark was soon allocated land, the village built him a house and he has become the first foreigner to ever become a resident of the district and village.

Radio Seribatu Studio Building Studios are on Lower Levels of the house

In return, he has undertaken a project to introduce, and up-skill the village in sustainable eco-industries and educate the village millennials on how to manage these ventures using digital technologies. A component of the project has seen the establishment of three radio stations broadcasting 100% Balinese content. They are the first 24-hour radio stations in the province.

For the last six months, the three stations, Radio Seribatu – Village; Radio Seribatu – Volcano and Radio Seribatu – Mesin have been building the studio complex, solving power and bandwidth issues and training the staff. The network licensing is now permanently allocated and at midnight on January 1st, the test transmissions finish and the three stations officially open.

Each station brings many firsts to the region. They are the first to broadcasts 24 hours per day in the province, the first to broadcast 100% Balinese content and the first to deploy a fully digital workflow and studio complex.

Radio Seribatu Studio A sports state-of-the-art digital workflow

Late February, Mark is presenting a deep dive of the stations in a presentation at the upcoming NASWA Winter SWL Fest in Philadelphia, and at that time the SWLing Post will present a detailed tour of the network, discuss the journey, how unexpected twists and turns were overcome, and explain how Radio Seribatu’s test broadcasts in less than twelve months have reached the third most listened to radio network in all of Indonesia.

Most (if not all!) SWLing Post readers are beyond Radio Seribatu’s FM footprint; however, the majority of the station’s listeners tune in via their IP web streams and so can you! You will find the stations in most online radio directories, iOS and Android Apps and new generation factory fitted car radios (including Buick, Hyundai, Subaru, Mazda, Chevrolet, VW, BMW, GMC, Ford, Chrysler, Kia, Honda, Audi, Toyota, RAM, etc.).

Radio Seribatu Worldwide on Car Radio

A sure-fire way to listen is via the stream links on their website www.radioseribatu.com

 

On the Radio Seribatu VILLAGE station, you will hear everything that is happening around Seribatu village and wider across the island. This is the place to hear live gamelan, festival broadcasts and discussions about issues affecting the community.

On VOLCANO, the playlist is 100% Balinese Indi Rock, Alternative and Punk. 24 hours per day this is the place to hear Balinese bands.

On MESIN Radio Seribatu is playing 100% Balinese Electronic, Trance, House, Techno and Dance.

Each station’s test transmissions are on air right now and continue up until 6 PM Bali Time on New Year’s Eve, December 31st (1000 UTC December 31st). Then all three stations will be in simulcast, presenting a 6-hour special soundscape/actualities program that allows the listener to experience the tropical sounds of Seribatu. With the stroke of midnight; at the beginning of the new decade, all three stations launch into their regular programming.

Putu and Radio Seribatu_s Scoppy

Radio Seribatu is QSLing anyone who listens in, be it via stream or FM. Simply send a hello note and brief report of reception to info@radioseribatu.com and in return, you will receive a limited edition QSL, complete with an exotic postage stamp, posted directly from the Balinese jungle. No return postage required!


Here’s a rundown of what you can hear on the 31st December 2019 launch broadcast:

1000 UTC – (6:00 PM Bali Time)

Puja Tri Sandya Prayers

The Trisandya (from Sanskrit ??????????? ??? , Trisandhy? Puja, “three-evening prayer”) is a commonly-used prayer in Balinese Hinduism. It is uttered three times each day: 6 am, noon, and 6 pm, somewhat reflecting the Muslim azan prayers heard in other parts of Indonesia.

1005 UTC – (6:05 PM Bali Time)

Seribatu Village Awakens

Most Balinese families live within a family compound in villages that may have a population of around 700 – 800 people. In Seribatu the family compounds typically contain several homes for different members of the extended family. A typical home compound may comprise up to three families and grow to approximately 30 people. The village stirs to life just before the crack of dawn; roosters crow and chickens are fed. Early morning is a busy time in Seribatu, listen for village drums, Motor Bikes and Scooters heading off to the Dawn Market, Women sweeping their homes with a wicker brush, crickets chirp, and villagers trade at the dawn market. School starts early, and before the heat the day the Indonesian National Anthem is recited.

1017 UTC – (6:17 PM Bali Time)

Balinese Wisdom – The Song of Morality

Please don’t ever think you are very Clever; Let people either say you are good or great.

1019 UTC – (6:19 PM Bali Time)

Morning Market

Simple Seribatu village compounds do not have a refrigerator. Meat, fish and other food are purchased the local central market at dawn and the following few hours before the heat of the day descends. Farmers trade their vegetables and other produce. Merchants sell hardware and household supplies. Minivans packed to the roof with purchased fresh produce maneuver around the narrow lanes of the market.

1044 UTC – (6:44 PM Bali Time)

Ducks in the Rice Fields

Rice is a staple food in Bali, and it has strong ties to the Balinese culture. The cycle of rice growth pretty much sets the tone for much of the traditional Balinese life. The Balinese community views rice as a gift from God and a symbol of life. For thousands of years, the Balinese people have been growing rice and cultivating the beautiful rice terraces of Bali where three kinds of rice are grown: white rice, black rice, and red rice.

1102 UTC – (7:02 PM Bali Time)

Balinese Cleansing Ceremony

This ceremony is intended to cleanse the bhuana alit (the inner world of the individual human being or the micro-cosmos) of negativity so that he/she will be able (again) to enclose and utilize this inner power in an appropriate, spiritual way. The symbolism of this ceremony is intended to remind the individual to guard himself against the selfish desires and actions of the ego in favor of the unselfish goals of the soul or higher self. One prays for a clear mind with positive thinking and for strength to keep one’s self- control in situations where negative emotions are bound to arise.

1114 UTC – (7:14 PM Bali Time)

Satria Bird Market

As a popular Indonesian saying goes, a man is considered to be a real man if he has a house, a wife, a kris (dagger), and a bird. Keeping wild birds as pets is a massively popular hobby in many parts of Indonesia. The better the bird sings, the higher the demand for it. On a visit to Bali’s Satria Bird Market, you will see many thousands of birds from hundreds of species. Many of the birds are caged in poorly maintained conditions. Among the strangest are vendors who keep birds in bags, from unfledged chicks still in nests to breeding adults.

1115 UTC – (7:15 PM Bali Time)

Bats at the Goa Lawah Temple

One of nine sacred temples on the island of Bali, the cave temple of Pura Goa Lawah is home to thousands of bats. If the local legend is to be believed, it also hides a river of healing waters and a titanic snake wearing a crown.

While the site had no name when the temple was built, it gained its name due to the thousands of bats that cling to the ceiling and walls of the natural chasm, “Goa” meaning “cave” and “Lawah” meaning “bat.” It is thought that the cave may extend through the mountain right to a nearby town. The legend goes that the dark recesses of the tunnel are home to a mythical snake king known as Vasuki, a massive naga that wears a crown on his head. He is said to live on the copious amounts of bats in the cavern. Yet another legend claims that a river of miraculous healing waters rushes through the depths of the cave.

1120 UTC – (7:20 PM Bali Time)

Balaganjur Traditional Musicians Rehearsal

Baleganjur music is an inseparable part of life and death in Bali, heard in every village across the island. Its traditional purpose is to accompany funeral processions, so this intensely rhythmic yet dignified ensemble has a permanent role in Balinese society. The musicians play their instruments as they walk, and due to this portability, Baleganjur is now a fixture of all celebratory processions. A standard Baleganjur ensemble consists of about 20 musicians, plus helpers to carry gongs, but these days in Bali bigger is better!

1155 UTC – (7:55 PM Bali Time)

A Brief Balinese Radio Interlude

Listeners phone in and sing, callers discuss the terrorist bombings in Bali, Rinso (Indonesia’s most popular detergent) Soap Powder advertisement and how to cure a stubborn cough.

1242 UTC – (8:42 PM Bali Time)

Subak – Water Irrigation

Subak is a traditional ecologically sustainable irrigation system that binds Balinese agrarian society together within the village’s Bale Banjar community center and Balinese temples. For the Balinese, irrigation is not simply providing water for the plant’s roots, but water is used to construct a complex, pulsed artificial ecosystem. The water management is under the authority of the priests in water temples, who practice Tri Hita Karana Philosophy, a self-described relationship between humans, the earth and the gods.

1255 UTC – (8:50 PM Bali Time)

Temple Ceremony

In Bali, there are over 4,500 temples where ceremonies take place almost every day of the year. Temple festivals are held on the anniversary of when the temple was consecrated and usually on a new or full moon.

An Odalan or temple ceremony usually lasts for three days, but larger ones, which occur every 5, 10, 30 or 100 years, can last for 11 days or longer. The Balinese are honoring the deities that rule over the temple by giving them a myriad of offerings, performances of vocal music, dance and gamelan music. They invite them down from their abode on Mount Agung to partake in the activities. Every ceremony in Bali is to maintain the natural balance of positive to negative, so the Balinese do not destroy the negative forces, but balance them in harmony with the positive.

1426 UTC – (10:26 PM Bali Time)

Seribatu Evening

As the end of the year and the decade approaches, the sounds of frogs, crickets and tropical rain delight the ear while a cool bottle of Bintang refreshes your thirst.

1505 UTC – (11:05 PM Bali Time)

Radio Seribatu Countdown to Launch

Sinaga Goatama’s (Mendira Village) original electronic composition “Blazing Fire” guides us to midnight and the launch of regular programming on all three Radio Seribatu stations.

1600 UTC – (Midnight AM Bali Time)

It’s 2020 and Radio Seribatu has Launched!

All three of Radio Seribatu’s Radio Stations; Village, Volcano and Mesin radio are officially on-air, and commence their regular programming!


Wow, Mark! This is a most impressive endeavor and, no doubt, all three Seribatu stations will have a loyal following in Bali and across the planet! I’ve already become a fan of MESIN! 

We wish you and the Seribatu staff/volunteers massive success in your 2020 launch year!

Post readers: Again, Radio Seribatu, is QSLing anyone who listens in. Send a brief, accurate report and you will receive a limited edition Seribatu QSL. Send all reports to: info@radioseribatu.com

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Mike reviews the Retekess TR608 AM/FM/AIR/SW receiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike S, who shares his assessment of the Retekess TR608. Mike writes:

For this model, the company marketing electronics under the Retekess brand seems to be using a different supplier compared to the previous digital-radio-plus-memory—card-player products. The result is a more traditionally styled multiband DSP radio which runs on (gasp) traditional AA batteries. Its feature set takes inspiration from the Radiwow R108 and original CCrane Skywave, but with mixed results (albeit at a fraction of the price). It delivers decent performance for its price class but more serious listeners would be advised to spend a little more on a more established model.

Pros

    • Usual set of features: sleep timer, alarm, scanning, auto memory fill.
    • Uses replaceable alkaline or NiMH “AA” cells.
    • Decent sensitivity across the board.
    • Full shortwave coverage.
    • Frequency display is large and contrasty.
    • Dial light is effective and can be disabled. Display is readable without it, even in dim light.
    • No annoying keypad “beep”, so no mad rush to discover how it can be disabled.
    • Speaker can play reasonably loud without distortion.
    • FM reception is solid with good frequency response and stereo reception through headphones; this also activates a display indicator.
    • MW/SW reception is NOT plagued by digital hash bleeding through from the processor as with most other models in this price range!

Cons

    • Significantly larger than expected.
    • Unfortunately the added cabinet space is not utilized for a more wide-range speaker; audio is tinny.
    • Clumsy mounting of one spring in the battery compartment on my sample makes it almost impossible to insert the third AA battery without risking damage.
    • Many keypad buttons are so tiny and almost flush with the cabinet, that they are difficult to press.
    • Lens over LCD display is molded and unpolished with moiré distortion at some viewing angles.
    • Air band reception marred by birdies, bleed-through from other bands, and lack of squelch.
    • Volume control defaults back to level “10” under some circumstances (the manual warns about this).
    • Confusing 2-level LOCK function requires close attention to almost microscopic indicator on LCD.
    • No battery level indicator.
    • Although the manual advises that batteries can be charged using the 4.5V coaxial socket, no charging indicator is obvious.
    • Rotary knob, used for both tuning and volume adjustments, has no detents and so can easily spin off target.
    • Assigned function (no indication) depends on whether the tuning or volume buttons on the keypad were the last to be used.
    • No fine tuning outside of pre-programmed increments.
    • MW selectivity is a bit too wide for congested night reception.
    • MW reception occasionally exhibits weird artifacts; ghost images, sputtering audio on marginal signals, and “processed” sounding voice audio. Don’t know if these are DSP or AGC related, or a mixture of both. I have observed the same thing with the Eton Mini and other inexpensive portables using marginal DSP implementations.

SHOWSTOPPER ALERT: MW band channel assignments marred by 9kHz-centric firmware bug. Even after changing to 10kHz channel spacing (undocumented), the CPU still “thinks” in 9kHz assignments for direct input. Entering FREQ-1-0-1-0-FREQ should get you to 1010 kHz; but it actually lands on 1018 kHz because that is the nearest channel in the 9kHz band plan. You are now stuck in frequency step hell, as the up-down frequency keys still operate in 10KHz mode but do not know they are now off bandplan. UP/DOWN yield 1028/1008, not 1020/1000. The only way to recover is to enter a MW frequency that is the same in both bandplans, or to power off and double-reset the step rate resulting in all memories being lost.

Thank you so much for the review, Mike.  It sounds like this little receiver isn’t ready for prime time yet. The issues with frequency steps on the mediumwave band is certainly a show-stopper for anyone in North America. Indeed, it sounds like mediumwave reception, in general, is mediocre at best. At least the receiver isn’t plagued with internal noises.

With pricing around $29.99-$39.99 it’s certainly a bargain radio. But I’m sure you’re thinking what I’m thinking: you pay for what you get.

The Retekess TR608 can be purchased on eBay or Amazon.com (affiliate link).

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Sangean DT-140 & SR-32: New Sangean AM/FM radios


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Schuster, who writes:

The Sangean SR-32 from the 2020 catalog.

Attached image [above] is extracted from a PDF of the 2020 catalog, it shows the
upcoming Sangean DT-140 and SR-32.

Wondering if the SR-32 (from the almost-defunct “slide rule” series) uses DSP-as-analog tuning like its larger sibling with speaker.

Thanks for the tip, Mike!  Yes, I’d be willing to bet that the SR-32 is DSP-based. I might have to check these out further.

It’s also nice to see that they also feature both the ATS-909x and ATS-405 shortwave portables in the 2020 catalog!

Click here to download the Sangean 2020 catalog (PDF).

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