Category Archives: FM

A review of the Icom IC-705 QRP Portable SDR Transceiver

The following review was first published in the February 2021 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine:


It sometimes seems that one of the biggest enemies of a radio enthusiast these days is RFI (radio frequency interference), which is to say, human-originated noise that infiltrates––and plagues––vast chunks of our radio spectrum.

Yet I believe RFI has, in a sense, also managed to energize––and even mobilize––many radio enthusiasts. How? By drawing them out of their houses and shacks into the field––to a local park, lake, river, mountain, woodland, or beach––away from switching power supplies, light dimmers, street lights, and other RFI-spewing devices.

Shortwave and mediumwave broadcast listeners have it easy, comparatively speaking. They can simply grab a favorite portable receiver, perhaps an external antenna, then hit the field to enjoy the benefits of a low-noise environment. In that a portable receiver is something of a self-contained listening post, it’s incredibly easy to transport it anywhere you like.

Ham radio operators, on the other hand, need to pack more for field operations. At a minimum, they need a transceiver, an antenna, a power source, not to mention, a mic, key, and/or computing device for digital modes. Thankfully, technology has begun miniaturizing ham radio transceivers, making them more efficient in the use of battery power, and integrating a number of accessories within one unit.

Photo from the 2019 Tokyo Ham Fair

Case in point: in 2019 at Tokyo’s Ham Fair, Icom announced their first QRP (low-power) radio in the better part of two decades: the Icom IC-705.

Introducing the Icom IC-705

 

It was love at first sight among fans of Icom when the 2019 announcement was made. Why? The instant thrill came courtesy of the IC-705’s resemblance––in miniature––to the IC-7300, one of Icom’s most popular transceivers of all time. Not only that, but the IC-705 sported even more features and a broader frequency range than the IC-7300. What wasn’t to love?

But of course, unlike the IC-7300, which can output 100 watts, the IC-705’s maximum output is just 10 watts with an external 12V power source, or 5 watts with the supplied Icom BP-272 Li-ion battery pack. Nevertheless, enthusiasts who love field radio––this article’s writer being among them––were very pleased to see Icom design a flagship QRP radio that could take some portable operators to the next level. Power was traded for portability, and for field operators, this was a reasonable trade.

And since, again, the IC-705 has even more features, modes, and frequency range than the venerable IC-7300, I felt it important to note them up front. Here are a few of its most notable features, many of which are not available on its bulkier predecessor:

  • VHF and UHF multimode operation
  • D-Star mode
  • Built-in GPS
  • Built-in Wifi connectivity
  • Built-in Bluetooth connectivity
  • Portable size
  • Battery power

The receiver design is similar to the IC-7300 below 25 MHz in that it provides a direct conversion. Above 25 MHz, however, it operates as a superheterodyne receiver. While the user would never know this in operation, it’s a clever way for Icom to keep costs down on such a wideband radio.

At time of publishing, there are no other portable transceivers that sport all of the features of the Icom IC-705. It has, in a sense, carved out its very own market niche…At least for now.

I’ve owned the IC-705 since late September 2020, and I still haven’t fully explored this radio’s remarkable capabilities. It’s really a marvel of ham radio technology, and I’m having fun exploring what it can do.

One conspicuous omission

Let’s go ahead and address this promptly. The IC-705 does have one glaring shortcoming.  It lacks one feature that is standard on the larger 100-watt IC-7300: an internal antenna tuner (ATU).

To be frank, I was a little surprised that the IC-705 didn’t include an internal ATU, since it otherwise sports so many, many features. Not having an internal ATU, like a number of other general coverage QRP transceivers in its class, definitely feels like a missed opportunity. With an ATU, the ‘705 would truly be in a class of its own.

I’m sure Icom either left the internal ATU out of the plan due to space limitations––perhaps wanting to keep the unit as compact as possible?––or possibly to keep the price down? I’m not sure.  At release, the price was $1300 US, which is undoubtedly on the higher side of this market segment; at that price point, it might as well have included an ATU.

With that said, not having an internal ATU is still not a disqualifier for me. Why? Because I have a number of resonant antennas I can add on when in the field, a remote ATU at home, and a couple of portable external ATUs, as well. Yes, it would be helpful to have it built in––as on my Elecraft KX1, KX2, and KX3, or on the ($425) Xiegu G90––but for me it’s not a deal-breaker.

One other minor omission? A simple tilt stand or foot. I do wish Icom had included some sort of foot on the bottom of the IC-705 so that it could be propped up for a better angle of operation. Without a tilt stand or foot, the IC-705 rests flat on a surface, making its screen a bit awkward to view. Of course, a number of third-party tilt stands are available on the market. And if you have a 3D printer or access to one, you can find a wide variety of options to simply print at home. I printed this super simple tilt foot, which works brilliantly.

But why not include one, Icom?

My 3D printed tilt foot

But while the IC-705 lacks a tilt foot, it actually sports a number of connection points on the bottom, including a standard tripod mount. Thank you, Icom, for at least including that (other radio manufactures please take note)!

Initial impressions

Funny: the IC-705 is the first new transceiver I’ve purchased with a color box.

If you’ve ever owned or operated the Icom IC-7300, you already know how to operate many of the functions on the IC-705. The user interfaces on the touch screens are identical. Features that are unique to the IC-705 are easy to find and follow the same standard Icom user-interface workflow.

Having less front faceplate real estate, the IC-705 has less buttons than the IC-7300––about 11 less than its big brother, to be exact. However, the twin passband, gain, multi-function knob and encoder are in the same positions and layout as on the IC-7300.

And if you’ve never used an IC-7300 before, no worries: this is one of the more user-friendly interfaces you’ll find on a ham radio transceiver.

The build of the IC-705 is excellent. It’s not exactly hardened for the elements––there is no waterproof rating or dust rating, for example––but it gives the impression of a solid little radio, likely to withstand a bit of less-than-delicate handling. Yet even though it’s designed to be a portable field radio, I’ll admit that the front panel and especially the color touchscreen feel a little vulnerable. I do worry about damaging that touchscreen while the radio travels in my backpack.

The Icom LC-192

On the topic of backpacks, Icom released a custom backpack (the LC-192) specifically for the IC-705, Icom AH-705 ATU, antennas, and accessories. I did not consider purchasing this backpack, although I’m sure some operators would appreciate it, as it has dedicated compartments for supplies and the radio can be attached to the floor of the backpack’s top compartment. Again, I passed because I’m a bit of a pack fanatic and tend to grab gear that’s more tactical and weatherproof.

IC-705 and Elecraft T1 ATU at Toxaway Game Land

While its in my Red Oxx or GoRuck backpack, I house the IC-705 in a $14 Ape Case Camera insert. Eventually I want to find a better solution, but this does help pad the IC-705 while in my backpack and certainly fits it like a glove––hopefully protecting that touchscreen.

A number of third-party manufacturers have designed protective “cages” and side panels for the IC-705, but I’ve been a bit reluctant to purchase one because I feel they may add too much weight and bulk to the radio.

To the field!

Sandy Mush State Game Land

The day after I received my Icom IC-705, I took it to the field to activate Sandy Mush State Game Land for the Parks On The Air (POTA) program. Typically, when I review a new radio, I spend a few hours with it in the shack before taking it to the field. In this case, however, I felt comfortable enough with the IC-705 user interface, so I decided to skip that step entirely––I was eager to see if this little radio would live up to expectations.

The previous evening, I’d connected the IC-705 to my 13.8V power supply, so the BP-272 battery pack was fully-charged and attached to the IC-705. There was no need for an external battery to be connected.

[Tip: Click here to view my YouTube playlist of field activities with the IC-705.]

Getting on the air that day was very straightforward; indeed, the set-up couldn’t have been more simple: radio plus antenna. I connected the IC-705 to a Vibroplex EFT-MTR end-fed 40, 30, and 20-meter resonant antenna, thus an external antenna tuner was not required.

The Vibroplex/End-Fedz EFT-MTR antenna

Next, I plugged in the included speaker/mic, spotted myself to the POTA network, and started working stations. I asked for audio reports and all were very positive using only the default audio settings. Obviously, the small hand mic works quite well. I did quickly decide to unplug one of the two connectors of the speaker mic (the speaker audio side) so that the received audio wouldn’t be pumped through the hand mic, using the much better IC-705 front-facing speaker.

In the field that day, I had a few objectives in mind:

  • See how well the supplied hand mic works for SSB contacts, thus intended to ask for audio reports
  • Check out full break-in QSK operation in CW mode
  • Measure exactly how long a fully-charged Icom BP-272 Li-ion battery pack would power the IC-705 under intense operation

SSB

SSB at Lake Norman State Park

I was very quickly able to sort out how to record and use the voice memory keying features of the IC-705. There are a total of eight memory positions that can be recorded to the internal microSD card. It’s very simple to use one of the memories in “beacon” mode––simply press and hold one of the memory buttons and the recording is transmitted repeatedly until the user presses the PTT to disengage it. This is incredibly helpful when calling CQ; I typically set mine to play “CQ POTA, CQ POTA, this is K4SWL calling CQ for Parks On The Air.” I’ve also set a five-second gap between playback, allowing for return calls. As I’ve mentioned before, voice-memory keying is incredibly useful and saves one’s voice when calling CQ in the field.

The voice and CW-memory keying features of the IC-705 are robust enough that they could be used in a contest setting to automate workflow. One important note: voice-memory keying saves recordings to the internal MicroSD card. If that card is removed, formatted/erased, or if the file structure is altered, the voice-memory keyer will not recall recordings.

CW

CW at South Mountains State Park

Next, I plugged in my paddles and started calling “CQ POTA” in CW.

As with the voice-memory keyer, CW-memory keying was incredibly easy to set up. Once again, the user once has eight memory positions. As the keyer plays a pre-recording sequence, the IC-705 will display the text being sent.

One of the questions I’m asked most by CW operators about the IC-705 is whether the radio has audible relay clicks during transmit/receive switching. Radios with loud relay clicks can be distracting. My preference these days is to operate in full break-in QSK mode, meaning, there is a transmit/receive change each time I form a character––it allows me space to hear someone break in, but results in much more clicking.

The IC-705 does have relay clicks, but these are very light––equal in volume to those of other Icom transceivers, neither louder nor softer. These clicks, fortunately, are not too distracting to me, and to be fair, I find I don’t even notice them as I operate. With that said, transceivers like my Elecraft KX2 and Mission RGO One use PIN diode switching, which is completely quiet.

Battery Life

Tapping the battery icon will open a larger battery capacity monitor.

My third objective at the first field outing was to test how long the Icom BP-272 Li-ion battery pack would power the IC-705 while calling CQ and working stations in both SSB and CW for an entire activation.

After nearly two hours of constant operation, the BP-272 still had nearly 40% of its capacity.

I didn’t expect this. I assumed it might power the IC-705 for perhaps 90 minutes, max. Fortunately, it seems at 5 watts, one BP-272 could carry you through more than one POTA or SOTA (Summits On The Air) activation. I was pleasantly surprised.

Four months later…

POTA activation at Tuttle Educational State Forest

Since that initial field test, I’ve taken the IC-705 on easily thirty or more individual POTA activations. I’ve also used it at home to chase POTA stations and rag chew with friends.

In short, I’ve found that the IC-705 is a brilliant, robust portable transceiver for SSB and/or CW and a pleasure to operate.

Herein lies the advantage of purchasing a radio from a legacy amateur radio manufacturer: it’s well-vetted right out the door, has no firmware quirks, and is built on iterations of popular radios before it.

I’ve found that IC-705 performance is solid: the receiver has a low noise floor, the audio is well-balanced, the AGC is stable at any setting, and it’s an incredibly sensitive and selective radio.

Digital modes

POTA activation at Lake Jame State Park

One huge advantage of the IC-705 is that it, like the IC-7300, has a built-in sound card for digital modes. This eliminates the need for an external sound card interface. After you’ve read the installation guide, and installed Icom’s USB drivers, simply plug the IC-705 into your computing device via USB cable and you can directly control the ‘705 with popular applications like WSJT-X.

I have not used the IC-705 for digital modes while in the field, but I have done so in the home shack. It was one of the easiest radios I’ve ever set up for FT8 and FT4.

I’m not the biggest digital mode operator, but if you are into it, I expect you’ll be very pleased with the IC-705. It must be one of the most portable, uncomplicated transceivers for digital mode operation currently on the market. I know a number of POTA activators have been using the IC-705 for FT8 and FT4.

D-Star

Being perfectly honest here, I have a chequered history with the D-Star digital voice mode. I purchased an Icom ID-51a and D-Star hotspot several years ago because a local ham pretty much convinced me it was the coolest thing since sliced bread.

And in truth? It is rather amazing.

But at the end of the day I had to admit to myself that I’m an HF guy, and found the user interface and operating procedures just a bit too other-worldly. I kept the ID-51a for perhaps a year, then sold it, along with the hotspot.

Although I knew the IC-705 had D-Star built in, I really hadn’t given it a second thought. But since I’m a reviewer, I simply had to check it out. I still had my D-Star credentials from some years ago, so I set up the IC-705 and connected the transceiver to the Diamond dual band antenna on top of my house.

Fortunately, I was able to hit our only local D-Star repeater and connect on the first go. Note that, like the ID-51a, the IC-705 can use your GPS coordinates, then automatically find the closest D-Star repeater and load the frequency and settings from the default database on the IC-705 MicroSD card.

After reviewing a YouTube video demonstration, I was on the air with D-Star and found the user interface much easier to use than that of the ID-51a. It really helps having a large touch screen.

I’ll admit it: I’m warming back up to D-Star, and I have the IC-705 to thank for that.

Some day, I plan to use D-Star on HF, as well. I acknowledge that it might take some pre-arranging, but perhaps I could even make a D-Star POTA––or better yet, SOTA––contact, if the stars align. It’s certainly worth the experiment.

Let’s talk about broadcast listening

Radio Exterior de España’s interval signal on the IC-705’s waterfall display

Although I’m a pretty active ham radio operator, I’m an SWL and broadcast listener at heart. One of the appealing things about the IC-705 is its excellent receiver range (0.030-470.000 MHz) and multiple operating modes, as well as its adjustable bandwidth.  Broadcast listeners will be happy to know that the AM bandwidth on the IC-705 can be widened to an impressive 10 kHz, which is certainly a stand-out among general coverage transceivers.

After turning on the IC-705 for the very first time, I tuned to the 31-meter band and cruised the dial. I felt like I was using a tabletop receiver: for such a small transceiver, the encoder is on the large side, and the controls are ergonomically designed. The spectrum display and waterfall are amazingly useful.

The front-facing speaker on the IC-705 is well-designed for audio clarity on the ham radio bands. It’s not a high-fidelity speaker, but it’s adequate and has enough “punch” to perform well in the field. Speakers on portable QRP radios are typically an afterthought and are terribly compromised due to space constraints within the chassis. The IC-705’s speaker design feels more deliberate, akin to what you might find on a mobile VHF/UHF rig. Broadcast listeners, in other words, will certainly want to hook the IC-705 up to an external speaker––or, better yet, use headphones––for weak-signal work.

While the received audio isn’t on par with a receiver like the Drake R8B, it’s pretty darn good for a portable general coverage transceiver. The audio is what I would call “flat,” but you are able to adjust the received audio in EQ settings to adjust them to your taste. Audio is well-tailored for the human voice, so I’ve found weak signal IDs are actually easy to grab on the air.

Audio samples

One of the brilliant things about the IC-705 is the fact that it has a built-in digital recorder. Both transmitted and received audio can be recorded in real time and saved to a removable MicroSD card. I made audio recordings of two broadcast stations on the 31-meter band as samples: the Voice of Greece (9420 kHz) and Radio Exterior de España (9690 kHz). The Voice of Greece was moderately strong when I made the recording and Radio Exterior was quite strong. Click on the links to download the .mp3 files for each recording:

Voice of Greece

Radio Exterior de España

I’ve also used the built-in digital recorder to record long sessions of my favorite shortwave, AM, and FM stations. Even with the recorder on, I can typically achieve hours of listening on one battery charge and need no other power supply.

Want more audio samples?
Check out our survey results from an Icom IC-705 blind audio test.

In short? The IC-705 makes for an excellent portable shortwave, mediumwave, and FM broadcast band-recording receiver.

Charging ahead…

The supplied BP-272 battery pack snaps snugly on the back of the IC-705

Power supply is always a concern when taking a transceiver on travels. Most transceivers need a 12-13.8 volt external supply, or an external battery, one that will eventually need to be charged.

This is not the case with the IC-705, because while it can be charged or powered via a 12-13.8V source, it can also be charged via a common 5V USB power supply. Simply insert any USB phone-charging cable into the MicroUSB port on the side of the IC-705, and it will charge the fully-depleted attached BP-272 battery pack in just over four hours.

Indeed, I traveled to visit family one week, and had plotted two park activations both en route and on the way back home. After my first activation, I quickly realized I forgot the supplied IC-705 power cord that I’d normally use to hook the IC-705 up to one of my LiFePo batteries. I was quite disappointed, expecting that I’d missed this opportunity.  Then I remembered USB charging: I simply plugged the IC-705 up to my father’s phone charger, and in four hours, the battery was completely recharged.

To my knowledge, there are no other transceivers that have this capability without modification. A major plus for those of us who love to travel lightly!

Summary

POTA activation at the Zebulon Vance Historic Birthplace

Every radio has its pros and cons. When I begin a review of a radio, I take notes from the very beginning so that I don’t forget my initial impressions. Here’s the list I formed over the time I’ve spent evaluating the Icom IC-705.

Pros:

  • Frequency range
    • TX: 160 – 6 meters, 2M, 70cm
    • RX: 0.030-470.000 MHz
  • Modes include SSB, CW, AM, FM, DV, RTTY
  • 4.3 inch color touchscreen that’s (surprisingly) readable in full sunlight
  • Multiple means to power/charge:
    • Icom BP-272 battery pack (supplied) for 5 watts output
      • Can be charged via 12V power supply or
      • 5V USB phone charger with standard MicroUSB plug (admittedly, I wish they would have adopted now standard USB-C rather than MicroUSB)
    • External battery for 10 watts of output
  • Top-shelf receiver performance (see Rob Sherwood’s assessment)
  • Wireless LAN connectivity that even allows for native remote control (not tested)
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • Built-in GPS
  • Built-in Digital Recording
  • Full D-Star functionality
  • RTTY can be sent (using macros) and received/decoded natively
  • Multiple standard connection points on base for mounting (see con)
  • Supplied speaker mic is compact and has programmable buttons
  • Frequency stability is less than ± 0.5 ppm (–10°C to +60°C; 14°F to 140°F)
  • The IC-705 ships with an abridged owner’s manual; I recommend downloading the full version via Icom

Cons:

  • No internal ATU option
  • No built-in tilt stand (see pro)
  • Some minor ergonomic issues:
    • Angled speaker/mic connectors can be challenging to insert as they are too close to the recessed area behind front face, especially for those with larger fingers and/or if in chilly conditions in the field
    • MicroSD card also difficult to access––I use needle-nose pliers to remove and insert

Conclusion

POTA activation of Second Creek Game Land

I purchased the Icom IC-705 with the idea that I would review it and then sell it shortly thereafter. Much to the dismay of my (rather limited) radio funds, I find that I now want to keep the IC-705…indefinitely.

I didn’t think the IC-705 would fit into my QRP field radio “arsenal” very well because I tend to gravitate toward more compact radios that I can easily operate on a clipboard on my lap when necessary. My Elecraft KX2 (TSM November 2016), Elecraft KX1, LnR Precision LD-11 (TSM October 2016), and Mountain Topper MTR-3B probably best represent my field radio interests.

But I’m loving the versatility and overall performance of the IC-705. It’s providing an opportunity to do much more than most of my QRP radios allow.

Here are just a few of the things I’ve done with the IC-705 thus far:

  • Activated numerous parks in SSB and CW
  • Connected to a local D-Star repeater and talked with a fellow ‘705 owner in the UK
  • Listened to ATC traffic (and recorded it)
  • Listened to NOAA weather radio
  • Listened to and recorded local FM stations
  • Enjoyed proper FM DXing
  • Recorded GPS coordinates during a POTA/WWFF activation
  • Made numerous digital mode contacts by connecting the IC-705 directly to my Windows tablet
  • Made a 2-meter SSB contact

POTA activation of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Indeed, there are more features on this transceiver than I can fully cover in one review; truly, I consider that a very good thing.

So if you’re looking for a portable transceiver that can truly take you on a deep dive into the world of QRP HF, VHF, UHF, and even satisfy the SWL in you, look no further than the Icom IC-705.

Well played, Icom.

More Icom IC-705 articles, information, and resources:


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A preliminary look at the Tecsun TU-80 FM Tuner

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mei Tao, who writes:

Hi Thomas:

I saw one reader had asked about Tecsun TU-80 FM Tuner several days ago, Fortunately, I have had this machine for only a couple of weeks.

Tecsun’s Chairman, Mr Liang Wei has told us that TU-80 was not designed for the pure Bclers not for the pure audiophiles either, but for the person who is both Bcler and audiophile. We have to use it with high quality external speakers. That’s it.

Let me show you some pictures I took yesterday:

Additionally, one reader misunderstood me as a seller, absolutely no, I am just a radio enthusiast and a college teacher, I major in western philosophy, especially American Pragamatism.

Yours sincerely.

Mei Tao

Thank you, Mei Tao. We truly appreciate your early access to these various models of portable radios. The TU-80 appears to be a truly unique model and I’m sure FM DXers are following it carefully. Thanks again!

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Klubrádió: Hungarian independent talk radio station leaves the airwaves

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Balázs Kovács, who writes:

Hi Thomas,

As it was first announced last September as a possibility now happens: (one of?) the last major independent talk radio station in Hungary, the Klubrádió is forced off the air (92.9 MHz, Budapest region) from Monday (they will continue online).

“With the silencing of Klubrádió, it’s not just my morning commute that will suffer. Europe will have failed to stand up for its most fundamental values.”
A detailed article about the situation at the Independent from a former member of the governing party:
https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/eu-hungary-media-viktor-orban-b1799214.html

“There is a huge propaganda balloon built up by the government and Klubrádió was a little hole, a little piece of truth where the air could escape, so they had to close this little hole in the balloon and so they can construct their own propaganda world which does not reflect the realities of Hungary.”
The latest news in a shorter form at the CNN:
https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/09/europe/hungary-klubradio-ruling-intl/index.html

“Finally, Ms. Karas says that Klubrádió still has a chance to be on air in case of a successful tender, but then right after this, she symbolically pulled the plug out of the transmitting equipment.”
Latest news release in response to the state from the radio:
https://www.klubradio.hu/adasok/klubradio-news-release-116227

with best regards,
Balazs

Balazs also shared this video which captures the last broadcast of Klubrádió:

Thank you for sharing this Balázs. I’m certain there are other SWLing Post readers in Hungary and throughout Europe who appreciated this independent voice over the air.

To listen to Klubrádió online, check out their website for details.

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Radio Waves: China Bans BBC, Invention of Radio, Diversity and Connections, and DJ Broadway Bill Lee Talks Radio and AM DXing

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Patrick, Marcus, Mike and Tracy for the following tips:


China bans BBC World News from broadcasting (BBC News)

China has banned BBC World News from broadcasting in the country, its television and radio regulator announced on Thursday.

China has criticised the BBC for its reporting on coronavirus and the persecution of ethnic minority Uighurs.

The BBC said it was “disappointed” by the decision.

It follows British media regulator Ofcom revoking state broadcaster China Global Television Network’s (CGTN) licence to broadcast in the UK.

Separately, the broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) said it would stop relaying BBC World Service programming in the region, prompting condemnation from the BBC.

China’s State Film, TV and Radio Administration said that BBC World News reports about China were found to “seriously violate” broadcast guidelines, including “the requirement that news should be truthful and fair” and not “harm China’s national interests”.

It said that the BBC’s application to air for another year would not be accepted.

The BBC said in a statement: “We are disappointed that the Chinese authorities have decided to take this course of action. The BBC is the world’s most trusted international news broadcaster and reports on stories from around the world fairly, impartially and without fear or favour.”[]

In Our Time: The Invention of Radio (BBC Sounds)

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the invention of radio. In the early 1860s the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell derived four equations which together describe the behaviour of electricity and magnetism. They predicted the existence of a previously unknown phenomenon: electromagnetic waves. These waves were first observed in the early 1880s, and over the next two decades a succession of scientists and engineers built increasingly elaborate devices to produce and detect them. Eventually this gave birth to a new technology: radio. The Italian Guglielmo Marconi is commonly described as the father of radio – but many other figures were involved in its development, and it was not him but a Canadian, Reginald Fessenden, who first succeeded in transmitting speech over the airwaves.

With:

Simon Schaffer
Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge

Elizabeth Bruton
Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Leeds

John Liffen
Curator of Communications at the Science Museum, London

Producer: Thomas Morris

Click here to listen via BBC Sounds.

World Radio Day 2021: Radio creates diversity and connects people (RADIOZENTRALE GmbH)

World Radio Day 2021: Radio creates diversity and connects people

World Radio Day will be announced by UNESCO for the tenth time on February 13th and once again refers to how important radio is for society and why it connects people.

Time to celebrate: UNESCO has proclaimed World Radio Day for the tenth time. In Germany, radio has been the everyday companion of people for a hundred years and, more than ever, radio is the medium of the hour. So this jubilee round provides many good reasons to pause and ask what radio means for each individual, society and the world. Radio itself does not take a break, it is on the air – every day and around the clock. Radio informs, entertains and offers a variety of programs, opinions and content. As a matter of course – and yet so indispensable – radio, both large and small, is the vital voice of people and for people.

At the global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium

The world is changing rapidly. Social and political processes are becoming more dynamic due to new technologies, the communication network is getting faster and bigger and the challenges are becoming more important. In these processes, radio not only offers diversity, classification and orientation, but is also an integral part of opinion-forming because it is the platform for democratic discourse. This unique ability to reach a wide audience means radio can shape a society through diversity and is the place for those who want to speak up.

100 years of radio in Germany

In Germany, the medium for the ears and the head cinema is celebrating its centenary this year. The innovative strength of the medium and the trust base with listeners that has grown over the decades make it possible for radio to be the medium of the hour more than ever. It is the last mass medium and at the same time can digitally reach everyone with the entire range of offers. Radio is at eye level with people – both in terms of content and technology. Because just as society and people’s everyday lives have changed dramatically, so too have listening habits and content. What remains, however, is the great art of putting complex topics into understandable words and giving diversity a voice.

“Today we are experiencing that the world is changing rapidly. We face major challenges when I think of climate change, the current corona pandemic or the debates on racism, for example. The task of radio here is to inform and classify. To make the soft tones heard and to reflect the diversity of opinions, ”says Grit Leithäuser, Managing Director of Radiozentrale. “But the most important thing is to act at eye level with the listeners. This grown connection and mutual trust are something for both sides that one should be aware of and that it has to be preserved every day. Then, in a hundred years, radio will be the medium for people who listen on whatever technical route, in order to learn from one another and to live diversity. ”

World Radio Day was first proclaimed by UNESCO in 2012 and this year it has the motto: “New World, New Radio”. At the suggestion of Spain, the General Conference of UNESCO initiated World Radio Day in memory of the founding of United Nations Radio on February 13, 1946. The aim of the day is to make the public and the media more aware of the importance of radio, to the decision-makers Encourage information to be established and made accessible through the radio.

Further information on World Radio Day can be found at: https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/worldradioday

The generic initiative Radiozentrale sees itself as a common platform for public and private radio stations as well as generic companies in the radio industry. The radio center has set itself the goal of positioning the medium of radio and providing comprehensive information about the (advertising) medium of radio. More information: www.radiozentrale.de

DJ Broadway Bill Lee talks about today’s radio, AM DXing and much more (Stars Cars Guitars via YouTube)

Broadway Bill Lee raps to Alex Dyke about growing up in Cleveland, the impact of the Beatles in 1964 and honing his craft as a DJ. Bill remembers being on-air in New York City the night that John Lennon was murdered and how he felt compelled to take to the air on September 11th 2001.

 


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Today is World Radio Day 2021

Today is UNESCO World Radio Day and this year the theme highlights diversity on the airwaves. Here’s the announcement from UNESCO:

Proclaimed in 2011 by the Member States of UNESCO, and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 as an International Day, February 13 became World Radio Day (WRD).

Radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse. At the global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium. This unique ability to reach out the widest audience means radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity, stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard. Radio stations should serve diverse communities, offering a wide variety of programs, viewpoints and content, and reflect the diversity of audiences in their organizations and operations.

CELEBRATIONS IN 2021
On the occasion of World Radio Day 2021 (WRD 2021), UNESCO calls on radio stations to celebrate this event’s 10th anniversary and the more than 110 years of radio.

This edition of WRD is divided into three main sub-themes:

  • EVOLUTION. The world changes, radio evolves.This sub-theme refers to the resilience of the radio, to its sustainability ;
  • INNOVATION. The world changes, radio adapts and innovate.Radio has had to adapt to new technologies to remain the go-to medium of mobility, accessible everywhere and to everyone;
  • CONNECTION. The world changes, radio connects.This sub-theme highlights radio’s services to our society—natural disasters, socio-economic crises, epidemics, etc.

Click here to check out the UNESCO website devoted to World Radio Day 2020.

Radio Taboo Issa Nyaphaga on the right with a community friend and Radio Taboo listener on the left.

AS mentioned in a previous post, I also suggest you checkout this documentary produced by our friend, David Goren:

World Wide Waves: The sounds of community radio

We may think we live in a digital age, but only half the world is currently online. Across the globe, small radio stations bind remote communities, play a dazzling array of music, educate, entertain and empower people to make change. Cameroon’s Radio Taboo, in a remote rainforest village 100 miles off the grid, relies on solar power; its journalists and engineers are all local men and women. Radio Civic Sfantu Gheorghe in the Danube Delta preserves the history of the community. Tamil Nadu’s Kadal Osai (“the sound of the ocean”) broadcasts to local fishermen about weather, fishing techniques—and climate change. In Bolivia, Radio Pio Doce is one of the last remaining stations founded in the 1950s to organise mostly indigenous tin miners against successive dictatorships. And KTNN, the Voice of the Navajo Nation, helps lift its listeners’ spirits in a time of loss and grief.

Produced by David Goren
Presented by Maria Margaronis.

Click here to listen on the BBC World Service.

Happy World Radio Day, everyone!

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WRTH 2021: A look inside the 75th Anniversary Edition!

Last week, I received a long-awaited Christmas gift: the 2021 World Radio TV Handbook. Normally, I’d receive this annual guide in the December time frame, but because of delays in international postal services due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I took delivery a few weeks late.  

I always look forward to receiving this excellent staple radio reference guide–and this is their 75th edition! As I say each year, 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 Stig Hartvig Nielson. His path to becoming a WRTH contributor began in his childhood when he said he was “tall enough to reach the radio tuning knob and tune away from dull Radio Denmark.”  His love of radio lead him down the path of becoming a broadcaster. Many of us know him via his station, Radio208.

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 AOR AR5700D wideband communications receiver–a radio I’d likely never touch in real-life, so it’s wonderful to take such a deep dive.  Next up is a review of the Bonito NTi MegaDipol MD300DX antenna which gets high marks for high gain, low noise, and good dynamic range. The following in-depth review is of the benchmark Icom IC-7610 general coverage transceiver. This was the first time I’ve read a review of this SDR transceiver with radio listeners in mind. WRTH then review the Bonito NTi CCMC30 common mode noise filter–a tool that can help radio enthusiasts mitigate RFI.

A review of the SDRplay RSPdx follows and the review speaks to the performance improvements included with the new HDR mode. The next review is actually one I authored of the Tecsun PL-990 portable radio–it’s always an honor to be in the pages of the WRTH!

The final review is of the Valent F(x) KiwiSDR; a little web-connected SDR receiver that has certainly transformed the nature and accessibility of remote listening.

WRTH Features

The first feature article, written by none other than Dave Porter, focuses on the development of HF broadcast transmitters. This article adds to the one he authored last year which focused on broadcast antennas. Dave is amazing because he has such an extensive history in the world of HF broadcasting and his experience and expertise are obvious in all of his writing. This is a must-read for those who want to know more about the “business side” of an international broadcast signal!

Manfred Rippich’s feature, Radio in Bhutan, explores the story of broadcasting in one of the most mountainous countries in the world where communities–including the capitol–are not easily accessible. Radio broadcasting plays an important role in this amazing country.

The following feature, Coastwatchers & the AWA Teleradio 3BZ written by Dr Martin Hadlow, takes a look at the importance of portable radios in the Pacific War. An absolutely fascinating piece for those of us who love radio history.

The final feature was written by Alan Pennington and explores the dynamic Scandinavian Weekend Radio.  It’s hard to believe SWR has celebrated 20 years on the air as of 2020. Pennington’s article explores the grassroots energy of this unique broadcaster!

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

The 75th 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.

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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Any experience with the Tecsun TU-80 enthusiast-grade FM tuner?

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

Hi Thomas -I hope you’re keeping well.

[…]I have had my eye on the Tecsun TU-80. However, I seem to find no videos on its use and no reviews. Perhaps it’s because it’s new.

I wonder if any of the SWLing Post readers have some info about it.

Post readers: If you have any experience using the Tecsun TU-80 FM tuner, please comment. I am not familiar with it. Very curious if it might be a great dedicated FM DXing receiver. It is pricey ($530 US on eBay).

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