Category Archives: Guest Posts

Jack’s Tailgate DXpedition

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jack Blanke (WB5LVP), who shares the following:

Really enjoyed your article yesterday, and felt compelled to respond with a similar DX’ing jaunt of mine two days ago.

I found myself in the same mindset and ventured out to a nearby peaceful fishing and yacht harbor to try out my new Tecsun PL-380. I have had it about 10 days and I have figured out that I have about all the urban power line and electrical noise I can stand at my home location, so I was headed out to give the 380 a chance to exercise its ears.

I found the most deserted corner of the parking lot at the harbor, positioned my pick-up for maximum shade, dropped the tail gate to provide a work surface, strung out about 75 feet of stranded #14 insulated copper wire and positioned my portable chair for DX action.

I did not have a copy of the WRTH, but I do use an iPhone app called Shortwave Broadcast Schedules by Black Cat that has really worked well for me and I highly recommend. With great anticipation, I flipped the power switch and enjoyed the most beautiful silence from man made electrical noise that I have ever experienced!! I could not believe how much quieter the receiver was in a more more pristine environment.

Jack’s ultralight Tailgate DXpedition kit

I opened the app to search for some DX’ing frequency possibilities, began tuning the bands and I was amazed at the number of short wave broadcast stations, the strength of their signals and the pure listening quality coming out of my 380, which is little larger than a pack of cigarettes!! I have been a licensed ham since 1970 and at one point back in the early 1970’s, I had a complete R. L. Drake HF station which might be called “Boat Anchors” by today’s standards. I was now listening to stations from around the globe on a receiver that comfortably fit in my pocket and a long wire strung out to a nearby “NO PARKING” sign post.

The Tecsun PL-380

Within a matter of a couple of relaxing hours, I had logged and enjoyed listening to Radio Habana, Voice of Vietnam, China Radio Int., Voice of Nigeria, Radio Romania Int., KBS World Radio and several other stateside shortwave broadcasts from Miami, Nashville & Lebanon Tennessee. I was totally thrilled at the performance of the radio/antenna combo and I anxiously await the opportunity to visit the area again for another Tailgate DXpedition!! I am particularly looking forward to fall days and cooler temps to go lose myself in the reverie of the shortwave bands, this time with a few brewskies in the ice chest, along with lunch.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day and I could not help but relate to your article when I read it!! Next time, I plan to photograph my Tailgate DXpedition, simple though it may be to share with others. I have been away from radio for some time, but have maintained my amateur license for nearly 50 years. Now that I am retired and have more time, I plan to enjoy my long lost love of radio once again.

Thanks for your web sight. I look forward to the newsletters and enjoy its resources.

Take care.

’73’s
Jack Blanke

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Jack!

Isn’t it amazing how the shortwave bands simply open up when you remove all of the urban noise that plagues our receivers? That’s the brilliance behind impromptu DXpeditions. Plus, I’ve always believed that radio is best enjoyed outdoors.

We look forward to seeing some photos and a report of your next Tailgate DXpedition, Jack!


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Guest Post: Decoding Inmarsat L-Band AERO and STD-C messages using the SDRplay RSP SDR

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Ladd (KD2KOG), who shares the following guest post. Note that the following tutorial is also available as a PDF (click here to download).


Basics to decoding Inmarsat L-Band signals using the RSP SDR

by Mike Ladd

Note: CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL LAWS BEFORE DECODIING ANY SIGNALS FROM THE INMARSAT SYSTEM

Hardware used

SDR: RSP1a SDR from SDRplay? https://www.sdrplay.com/rsp1a/

Antenna: Modified GPS patch antenna for L-Band from SDR-Kits, model A154.? https://www.sdr-kits.net/L-Band-Receive%20Antenna

Software used

SDRuno v1.32
https://www.sdrplay.com/downloads/

VBcable (Donationware) vPack43
https://www.vb-audio.com/Cable/

VAC (Paid for use) v4.60
https://vac.muzychenko.net/en/

JAERO (Free) v1.0.4.9
https://github.com/jontio/JAERO/releases

Tekmanoid STD-C Decoder (Paid for use) v1.5.1
Requires Java JRE, check your local laws before using this decoder.
http://www.tekmanoid.com/egc.shtml

https://www.java.com/en/download/

Introduction

(some text taken and edited from the RTL-SDR Blog website)

This document is not a definitive guide to Satcom, L-Band transmission or the Inmarsat system. This is a collection of information that I have found scatter throughout the internet and re-compiled into a document, this document. My aim is to help you get started and hopefully guide you in the right direction. Expect typographical mistakes, inaccuracies, or omissions

Inmarsat is a communications service provider with several geostationary satellites in orbit. Inmarsat provides services such as satellite phone communications, broadband internet, and short text and data messaging services. Geostationary means that the Inmarsat satellites are in a fixed position in the sky and do not move.

The Inmarsat 3-F(x) satellites have transponders transmitting data in L-Band (1.5 GHz) that can be decoded. 

The modes we will cover in this document are Aeronautical (Classic Aero or ACARS) and Inmarsat-C (STD-C) using an RSP1a, RSP2/2pro or RSPduo connected to the SDR-Kits modified L-Band patch antenna. The Inmarsat system is not limited to only these types of networks. We are limited to the decoders available.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inmarsat

Some regions that use the I-3 satellite services moved and migrated to the Inmarsat I-4 Satellites.  See the following document.  https://www.inmarsat.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/INM_C_I3_I4_migration_guide_V3.0.pdf

Two of the most popular decoding applications are JAERO used for ACARS and Tekmanoid STD-C Decoder used for decoding STD-C NCS transmissions on the Inmarsat 3-F(x) satellites

https://www.sigidwiki.com/wiki/Inmarsat_Aero

https://www.sigidwiki.com/wiki/Inmarsat-C_TDM

Software installation

Virtual Audio Cable: A virtual audio cable allows you to pipe audio from application (SDRuno) into another application (a decoder like JAERO) digitally. I will assume SDRuno is already installed with your device attached and functioning properly. 

You can now download a virtual audio cable package.  If you already have a virtual audio cable package installed, you can skip to the next section. If you don’t have a virtual audio cable application installed, you only need to choose one and only install one of the two, either one works fine

Close any running apps, install the virtual audio cable and reboot your computer. When your computer boots back to your desktop, your computer will now have a virtual audio cable pair installed on the system. 

You can verify by going to your Control Panel and double clicking the Sound icon. VB-Cable and Virtual Audio Cable will only install a single virtual audio cable pair, one is for the input (Recording) and one is for the output (Playback). A single pair is all that is needed (as shown below).

JAERO

(some text taken and edited from the JAERO website)

JAERO is a program that decodes ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) messages sent by satellites (in this case Inmarsat) to Airplanes (SatCom ACARS). This is commonly used when airplanes are well beyond VHF range. 

JAERO also allows for decoding and demodulation of voice calls, due to local laws and privacy, I will not show or discuss how to do this. You can find more information about that JAERO feature online.

JAERO can be downloaded from the link provided on the first page of this document. After downloading the installer, simply double click the setup file and install it on your primary drive.

Tekmanoid STD-C Decoder

(some text taken and edited from the USA-Satcoms website)

Inmarsat STD-C is a data or message-based system used mostly by maritime operators. An Inmarsat C terminal transmits and receives on L-Band to various geosynchronous satellites that service each major ocean region. 

The Tekmanoid STD-C decoder will decode STD-C Inmarsat EGC (enhanced group call) and LES (land earth station) messages. Some of these messages contain private information. Reception of these messages may not be legal in your country; therefore, your local laws should be checked.

The Enhanced Group Call (EGC) service is a message broadcast service with global coverage (except the poles) within the Inmarsat-C communications system. Two of the services provided are:

FleetNET and SafetyNET

FleetNET is used to send commercial messages to individuals or groups of subscribers (for example, individual companies communicating with their own Mobile Earth Stations (MES). SafetyNET is used for broadcasting Maritime Safety Information (MSI) such as Navigational warnings, meteorological warnings, meteorological forecasts and other safety related information (including Distress Alert Relays) from official sources.

The LES station acts as an interface (or gateway) between the Inmarsat space segment and the national/international telecommunications networks. 

The Tekmanoid STD-C decoder requires Java JRE in order to run. The link for the Java runtime environment is on page 2 of this document. For information contact the developer direct admin@tekmanoid.com

There are alternatives to using the Tekmanoid STD-C decoder, but in my opinion the other decoders available do not perform as well on low end systems or even work without needing “helper” applications to be installed. Tekmanoid STD-C decoder is very easy to use and works great on my low-end system using minimal system resources.

Putting all the pieces together

ACARS and STD-C messages will transmit via the Inmarsat satellite deployed within your coverage area/region, you will need to choose the Inmarsat satellite that is closest to your coverage area. 

Note that only different frequencies are used between ACARS transmissions and STD-C transmissions. You will only need to receive from one of the available 3-F(x) Inmarsat satellites. 

L-Band ACARS transmissions are in the 1.545 GHz range but STD-C messages are on fixed frequencies (shown on page 8)

Since STD-C transmissions are broadcasted on fixed frequencies, we want to monitor the TDM NCSC channel, again these are fixed for the following Ocean Regions. Choose the region closest to your location (page 9).

Again, some regions that use the I-3 satellite services moved and migrated to the Inmarsat I-4 Satellites.  See the following document.  https://www.inmarsat.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/INM_C_I3_I4_migration_guide_V3.0.pdf

STD-C transmissions are broadcasted on fixed frequencies, NCSC channel. The NCSC frequency per region is noted below.

Inmarsat satellite: Inmarsat-4 F3 (AOR-W)
Direction: 98° West
Frequency: 1.537.70 GHz

Inmarsat satellite: Inmarsat-3 F5 (AOR-E)
Direction: 54° West
Frequency: 1.541.45 GHz

Inmarsat satellite: Inmarsat-4 F1 (IOR)
Direction: 25° East
Frequency: 1.537.10 GHz

Inmarsat satellite: Inmarsat-4 F1 (POR)
Direction: 143.5° East
Frequency: 1.541.45 GHz

I will assume you have located the Inmarsat satellite that covers your region. I suggest using a compass on your mobile phone to pinpoint the general direction. The direction is in ° (degrees). I am referencing true north, not magnetitic north (traditional analog compass). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_declination

You can also download an app for your smartphone called Satellite AR (Android and IOS). After you locate the correct direction of the Inmarsat satellite, you will want to place the L-Band patch on a flat metal surface. I have read that the receive pattern of this patch antenna is z (about 85-90°, straight up). Point the top of the antenna facing the Inmarsat satellite. Using the roof of my car worked just fine, just remember to point the front of the antenna at the satellite.

https://www.u-blox.com/sites/default/files/products/documents/GPS-Antenna_AppNote_%28GPS-X-08014%29.pdf

Launch SDRuno and click the PLAY button, remember that if the RSP(x) is in ZERO IF mode, give frequency separation between the VFO (top frequency) and LO (bottom frequency). In LOW IF mode this is not needed. I suggest running a sample rate of 2 MHz, larger bandwidths are not needed. 

The SDR-Kits patch antenna requires that the RSP(x) Bias-T be enabled. The Bias-T option is enabled within the MAIN panel of SDRuno. See the SDRuno manual located here. https://www.sdrplay.com/docs/SDRplay_SDRuno_User_Manual.pdf view page 17.

With the Bias-T enabled. Set the RSP(x) RF GAIN to max. The RF GAIN slider is located on the MAIN panel. See the SDRuno manual located here. https://www.sdrplay.com/docs/SDRplay_SDRuno_User_Manual.pdf view page 17.

For more information about the RF GAIN settings of the RSP(x)
https://www.sdrplay.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Gain_and_AGC_in_SDRuno.pdf

Select the Virtual audio cable as the output in SDRuno, this is selected via the RX Control panel. SETT. button and clicking on the OUT tab.

Have SDRuno’s Volume slider (RX Control) at about 35-40%

Upper sideband is recommended but I found the best mode to use for L-Band ACARS or L-Band STD-C decoding is DIGITAL with a filter width of 3k. 

Be sure to set a proper step size (right click the RX Control frequency readout). The step size is not important for STD-C transmissions because these signals are only on one frequency for the satellite in your region but L-Band ACARS signals will be on many frequencies. Setting the proper step size will avoid issues when you point and click on signals you want to decode using the JAERO decoder.

You will want to center the signal with a little breathing room within the AUX SP filter passband. The filter slopes are very sharp. Keep the signal centered and away from the extreme edges (red markers). 

Select your virtual audio cable within the decoder’s audio input preferences.

The Tekmanoid STD-C decoder sound properties are located under Settings in the toolbar menu.

JAERO’s sound settings is located under the Tools menu and Settings.

For STD-C decoding use the frequency from page 8 of this document, remember we only want to monitor the TDM NCSC channel in the Tekmanoid STD-C decoder.

For JAERO decoding, I suggest you start in the 1.545 GHz portion and observe the constellation in the JAERO decoder. 

The signal to noise ratio (SNR) needed for successful decoding in these decoders will need to be greater than 7dB. When working with a weak satellite signasls, try decimating the signal using SDRuno’s decimation feature. (MAIN panel, DEC).

Click here to view on YouTube.

Additional resources

Videos:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

SDRuno:

L-band frequency bank
https://mega.nz/#!jRFRiSaA!CcmRRRpjToxPzyGV9bf7MkDkKnqCYZCwwjC5curWj6g

PDFs:

https://www.inmarsat.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Aero_Service_External_Com_Kit_I3_to_I4_Transition_21AUG2018.pdf

http://seaworm.narod.ru/12/Inmarsat_Maritime_Handbook.pdf

Websites:

https://usa-satcom.com/

https://uhf-satcom.com/

I hope this document helps you get started decoding Inmarsat L-Band transmissions from the I3-F(x) satellites. I am sure I missed some key features, remember this is only a primer/basics to decoding these types of transmissions.

Warmest of 73,
Mike-KD2KOG


Many thanks for sharing your tutorial here on the SWLing Post, Mike! This looks like a fascinating activity that really requires little investment if one already owns an RSP or similar SDR. I’m certainly going to give L-Band a go!  Thank you again!


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Guest Post: Bolivian Mining Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Martin Butera, who shares the following guest post which was originally published in the June 2019 issue of the British DX Club magazine:


Bolivian Mining Radio

By Martin Butera

Radio Mineras Bolivianas are unique in the world, because they belonged to the unions of mining workers, and were created to defend the interests and the struggle of the workers’ movement.

Mining was fundamental in Bolivia long before the country reached its independence in 1825. When the Spanish conquistadores began to exploit the silver of Potosí in the 17th century they never imagined that there was such a quantity under the “silver mountain”. Bolivia’s exports were mainly based on silver and then tin, until the country’s economy was transformed in the last decades of the 20th century. For three centuries the silver extracted from Potosí was taken to Spain, until the mountain lost its original shape and gradually collapsed. It has been written that six million Aymara and Quechua Indians, plus a considerable number of African slaves, lost their lives in the mines during that period. Potosí was then one of the great cities of the western world. In 1625 it had a population greater than London or Paris, and more churches than any other city in the new world. Although isolated in the altiplano, at an altitude of 4,200 meters, in Potosí the most luxurious goods imported from Europe could be found.

From the independence of Bolivia in 1825 until the mid-1970s, mining continued to be the main economic activity generating income. Silver gradually became less important, but the country became the world’s second tin producer. In the mid-1950s minerals accounted for 70% of exports. A few thousand workers in the mining centres had on their shoulders the responsibility of sustaining the economy of the country and its five million inhabitants. No government could afford to ignore the political opinion of the miners, especially when their unions were reputed to be the most democratic and politically advanced in Latin America.

Station Resistance

The 1980 military coup of General Luis García Meza had triumphed in Bolivia, many citizens who resisted were killed or imprisoned, others escaped into exile. The army managed to completely control the cities. The first military objective was the media: all the radios, television channels and newspapers were closed and when they came to light again, it was under strict military censorship. Actually, not all radio stations …

The chain of approximately twenty stations in the mining districts of Potosí and Oruro, in the Bolivian highlands, continued transmissions under very high pressure. In order to know what was really happening in Bolivia after the coup, people searched the radio for the frequency of La Voz del Minero Radio Animas or Radio Pío XII. Even foreign correspondents based their news radios on mining radios. The army knew, that is why every day the troops came closer to the mining districts, breaking little by little the resistance of the workers who defended their stations with their lives.

Photo: The radio station door shattered by bullets, during the military coup of Garcia Meza

One of the last mining stations to fall under military control was Radio Animas. This is the transcript of the dramatic final live broadcast:

The troops are approximately five kilometres from Siete Suyos and very close to Santa Ana … so we are preparing to defend ourselves … The number of detainees reaches 31, who have been moved to the city of Tupiza according to the reports that have reached us … This is Radio Animas for all the south of the country … We are in this crucial hour, we are in constant mobilization, women have contributed greatly in the preparation of the defence … We will be to the last comrades, because that is our mission, to defend ourselves …

That was near the end. Minutes later shooting was heard at Radio Animas. The last thing the announcer managed to transmit was a message to the other stations, Pío XII and Radio Nacional de Huanuni, to take the signal and continue with the live broadcasts of the mining chain. Others continued until the army silenced the last one, destroying the equipment and killing those who defended their right to communicate.

La Voz del Minero, Radio Vanguardia de Colquiri, Radio Animas, Radio 21 de Diciembre, Radio Nacional de Huanunison are some of the radio stations created, financed and controlled by the mining workers of Bolivia.

In the Beginning

It all started around 1949, with a station that settled in the mining district of Catavi. During the following 15 years, other districts followed suit: they bought equipment, trained young people from the camps, financed by workers who gave a percentage of their salary to support the radio stations.

The stations started precariously, equipped with the bare minimum. Some managed to obtain international support and became more sophisticated broadcasters, with better equipment and facilities. Several even built an assembly hall next to the station, in order to broadcast the union meetings live. Radio Vanguardia decorated its living room with a large mural that tells the story of the Colquiri mining centre. A scene in the mural depicts the bombing of Bolivian Air Force aircraft in 1967, when the country was subjected to a military dictatorship.

At the beginning of the 1970s there were 26 stations in operation, almost all of them in the mining districts of the Bolivian highlands. At that time, the miners’ unions were still very important, considered as the political vanguard in Latin America.

In times of peace and democracy – which were not the most frequent – mining radios were integrated into the daily life of the communities. They functioned efficiently as alternatives to telephone and mail services. The people of the mining centres received their correspondence through the radio and sent messages of all kinds, which were read several times a day: calls for meetings of the Committee of Housewives, messages from the union leaders about their negotiations with the Government in the capital, messages of love between young people, sports activities, funerals, births and local festivities.

In times of political conflict, trade union radios became the only reliable source of information. While the military attacked newspapers radio and television stations in the cities, the only information available came through the mining radios. All of them joined in the “mining chain” until the army penetrated the mining districts and stormed the facilities, defended to the last by the workers. A movie of Jorge Sanjinés, El Coraje del Pueblo, rebuilds the  army attack in June 1967 in the mining district of Siglo XX and the seizure of union radio.

Click here to view on YouTube.

The mining radios were important insofar as the miners were important in the economy and politics of Bolivia. But also the influence of the miners grew during the decades in which they had at their disposal this powerful means of communication to express their ideas. As the importance of mining declined in the 1980s, trade unions weakened and many of the stations disappeared, at the same time the mines were closed.

Participatory Communication

The radio stations played a preponderant role in strengthening the mining unions in the struggle for unity. All unions were affiliated with the Bolivian Trade Union Federation of Mining Workers (FSTMB), which for four decades (1946 to 1986) was the vanguard of the powerful Bolivian Workers’ Central (COB). It is not simply coincidence that unions and radio stations shared premises in most of the mining districts, and that the union’s Secretary ofCulture was usually the director of the radio station.

The social impact of the radio stations of the mines was also important in the process of construction of a cultural identity in the mining centres and in the surrounding peasant communities. On a daily basis, the mining radios were open to participation. The visits to the stations were very frequent, whenever people needed to express themselves on any topic that affected their lives.

The most innovative in the experience of mining radios in Bolivia is community participation. The characteristics of this participation constituted a revolutionary event in the 1950s, as they still are today. Very few experiences of participatory communication have reached a level of total appropriation of a means of communication in terms of technology, day-to-day management, content and service to the community.

One of the most interesting aspects is that of training. The mining stations gave rise to new generations of journalists. The training was usually done locally, with the support of other organizations. Some journalists and broadcasters who began their professional activity in the mining radios later became well-known radialistas when emigrating to the cities.

The end of mining radio stations

Although the mining radios were oriented by the ideology of the unions, this did not represent an obstacle to participation insofar as they reflected the will of the workers. In the positions of responsibility of the union, leaders of different political parties were elected, but none of them intended to break the  sense of unity that was reflected in the radio programmes.

The real challenge of the mining radios was political repression, the same one that affected the mining class as a whole. Some stations were destroyed by the army six or seven times in the course of their existence. Several chose to preserve the traces of resistance on their walls: the bullet impacts received. Again and again, destroyed equipment was replaced by new equipment purchased with the contribution of the workers. Impoverished but worthy, they offered one day of their salary to their station.

Martin Butera with mining radio journalist (La Paz, Bolivia)

From the technical point of view, the mining stations suffered material deficiencies. The equipment of most of them was very elementary, although sufficient to carry out the work. When equipment was damaged it was repaired by local technicians who lacked the necessary replacement parts but were abundant in creativity. The low capacity to pay salaries to producers made the quality of programming low, especially in terms of educational content.

What finally caused the mining radios to end in the 1980s was the abrupt change in the country’s economy. Traditional mining ceased to be central in exports and the cost of producing tin was higher than the international price. The government closed state mines; workers moved to cities in search of employment, leaving ghost camps behind. The influence of the unions decreased, and few stations survived the transition to the new century.

On 28 August 2017, the Ministry of Mining presented a decoration to the directors of the mining radios that are still in force. The award also recognized the “high level of awareness of workers to convey their ideals against the editorial position of the commercial media that did not take into account these struggles.”

The Bolivian government recognized the mining radios for their contribution to the democratic political history, the defence of human rights and their consequences in defence of the working class and workers.

“One of the disastrous actions was when several military radios intervened in the military coup, the equipment was destroyed, many journalists and journalists were imprisoned, because the network of mining radios constituted a whole subversive network of communication for revolution and liberation. , that is why this type of media is important, “said the current Minister of Mining, Cesar Navarro Miranda, when he offered the tribute.

Likewise, he indicated that the political participation from the chain of mining radios in dictatorial processes was decisive for the return of democracy and that is why they constitute a political and democratic history, thanks to the sacrifice of the workers. Among those that stand out: Radio 21 December, National de Huanuni, Vanguardia de Colquiri, 16 March of the Bolívar mine, Ánimas and Chichas de Siete Suyos, among others. The event was nuanced with musical participation achieving great emotion among the participants.

One of the few survivors

On 24 June Huanuni National Radio will be 60 years old. The historic National Radio of Huanuni, one of the first miner-union radios in Bolivia, recognized for its active participation in the country’s social struggles, is ready for its re-launch with a powerful team and state support.

Now with a modern FM equipment (and on 92.5 MHz), it will be a witness to the new Huanuni radio that emerged to the ether in the 1950’s and was a faithful witness of the struggle of the mining unions and the popular classes.

Respondent since its birth, Radio Nacional de Huanuni became the inseparable companion of the workers of this mining centrw who bled tin for the benefit of the great powers and the so-called “tin barons”.

Since then, the union radio station has written an unprecedented story in Bolivia, as an inseparable companion of the workers’ struggles and vanguard of the resistance of the miners against totalitarian regimes between 1964 and 1982.

Also as a school of Bolivian broadcasting, by the passage of the brightest speakers and budding journalists by their microphones. Because of the station’s irrefutable identification with the social movements it suffered several attempts to silence its voice, through dictatorial governments that destroyed equipment and assassinated several miners.

Like the one perpetrated in 1967 in the ferocious massacre of San Juan when military forces razed all their equipment and looted their nightclub when the radio accompanied and encouraged a mining protest against the government of President René Barrientos Ortuño.

www.radionacionaldehuanuni.com

Documentaries

First documentary about one of the most important historical experiences of participatory communication: the radio stations of the mining workers of Bolivia. Made in 1983 for UNESCO by Eduardo Barrios and Alfonso Gumucio Dagron, in 16 mm.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Voices of the Socavón Two Argentines produced a documentary that highlights the struggle of mining radios in Bolivia during the dictatorships. Voces del Socavón, a production made by Argentine filmmakers Julia Delfini and Magalí Vela Vázquez and is about the radio La voz del minero from the Siglo XX mine in Potosí, which was the first station financed and controlled by workers, and a pioneer in America Latina

The voices of the tunnel tells the story of Bolivia’s mining radios, led by La Voz del Minero, and its role in the workers’ union struggle during the second half of the 20th century. The protagonists of this story, union leaders, women of the Housewives Committee, miners and announcers, relate the historical events they went through in search of the Bolivian workers’ revolution. The

film links the culture within the mining camps, accompanied by the poetry and stories of the famous Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, in what is one of his last interviews.

Here you can see his trailer https://youtu.be/HUM40UGEQTA

Mining Radio Stations Today

Currently of the more than 20 mining radios that operated in the country of Bolivia, only three of them are on air. These are Radio Nacional de Huanuni (Huanuni- Oruro), Radio Vanguardia (Colquiri- La Paz) and Radio 16 de Marzo (Bolívar-Oruro).

National Radio of Huanuni (Huanuni-Oruro), that used to transmit by short wave, is on FM (94.5 MHz) and online: www.radionacionaldehuanuni.com/

Photos of Radio Vanguardia’s building and transmitter:

Radio Vanguardia of Colquiri, owned by the mining workers of that district, currently has a new transmitter on medium wave 1270 kHz with a power of 3 kW and an FM transmitter, 98.3 MHz with a power of 1 kW. The AM signal can be heard in the remotest corners of the department of La Paz and even nationwide.

About the author

Martín Butera is a journalist, documentary maker and founding member of Radio Atomika 106.1 MHz (Buenos Aires, Argentina) www.radioatomika.com.ar

Photo: Martín Butera visiting, Radio Club La Paz Bolivia CP1AA

Martín Butera

He is an Amateur Radio operator with more than 29 years of experience, and has participated in DXpeditions throughout South America, with the Argentine radio callsign LU9EFO and Brazilian callsign PT2ZDX.

It is to collaborate for the newsletter of the British Dx Club (United Kingdom).

Martin is Argentinian, born in the city of Buenos Aires capital. He currently lives in Brasilia DF, capital of Brazil

About the The British DX Club

This guest post by Martin Butera was originally published in the June 2019 issue of “Communication” magazine of the prestigious The British DX Club. It is now available for free from the club site http://bdxc.org.uk/, remembering that like this report many other very interesting ones can be downloaded.

We congratulate Martín Butera for this interesting report, as well as his editor Chrissy Brand.

If you would like to be a member of the Briitish DX Club, you can find information here http://bdxc.org.uk/apply.html


`Thank you for this fascinating look at the history of Bolivian Mining Radio, Martin!


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Guest Post: Summer Daytime DXing 2019

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, who shares the following guest post:


Summer Daytime DXing 2019

by TomL

I took note of the mediocre band conditions this summer amongst amateur radio operators as they were making off the cuff comments about still being in a solar minimum.  Some had gone out and bought upgraded transmitters to solve the problem (MOAR WATTS!). And more power thrown at a weak ionosphere does seem to help get a signal farther.  I had not been out since the spring and decided to find out for myself. But instead of more watts, I wanted more height.

Greene Valley Scenic Overlook is open to the public from May through October on weekends only (and only from 11am-6pm).  It was the largest land fill (aka, garbage dump) in Illinois, now covered over and producing captured methane gas. On August 3 & 4, I ventured over there to see if its 190 feet above the surroundings might help my radio reception.

After trying my luck with a 12 foot vertical antenna on a tripod (and numerous children running around it chasing butterflies or looking at the view of Chicago), I went out the next day and parked away from anyone and put up my 19 foot vertical on the roof of the car.  This setup is still amazing to me and works much better than the tripod mounted antenna, probably because it has a proper ground plane as well as being 7 foot taller.

So, yes, the conditions were so-so, not too bad and not too good.  Lots of weak signals and some empty frequencies that I had expected to hear some South American stations around the 5 – 10 kw range.  Weak stations from Asia were more scratchy sounding than usual even with the extra 190 feet of height. Here are 5 broadcast recordings as a sample (times in UTC):

9920 kHz at 21.14 – Radio Thailand in Thai, just catching the end of the broadcast:

9685 kHz at 21.20 – Radio Free Asia in Chinese from Kuwait:

9650 kHz at 21.23 – Radio Guinea in French:

9445 kHz at 21.30 – All India Radio in English (fighting off computer generated noise on my SDR and cheap Dell laptop) and just getting a station identification:

11780 kHz at 21.44 – Radio Nacional de Amazonia booming in with the usual annoying host yelling enthusiastically over every tune he played:

Running out of things to listen to, I wandered over to the 20 meter amateur radio band and found a different situation.  Propagation was decent between the Western hemisphere and Europe. Lots of “pile ups” going on with people trying to make contact with their trans-Atlantic counterparts.  Some said they were running 500 watts or more, so more power does seem to help! Here are 5 recordings to show how active it was:

14171 kHz at 21.55 – Inaki (F5RAG) from southwestern France conversing with Carlos (YV3CRT) in Venezuela (surprised anyone is left in Venezuela with operating radio equipment and not sold off for food with the ongoing difficulties there).  Then Inaki makes contact with Alejandro (CE2ATS) from Chile with a good signal. All in Spanish:

14199.38 kHz at 22.04 – Ervin (VE3GAL) tries his QRP portable setup from Ontario to contact Ron (F4VSM) in Southwestern France who has a 500 watt setup and large Yagi antenna. Sometimes things do not go so well but that is the challenge of using low power, maybe around 10 watts (meaning that just because you can hear them, you cannot always transmit to them with the same effectiveness and vice-versa, for various reasons):

14228 kHz at 22.12 – “BAN” (IZ1PNT) from Italy makes contact with Norman (N3PVQ) in FL after asking everyone to be quiet. Good control over the frequency:

14238 kHz at 22.17 – Slavko (S57DX) booming in, making a contact (Rob, KK4HEQ) in Florida:

14245 kHz at 22.24 – Gabrielle from the Czech Republic, participating at a Youth event using station OL88YL contacting Ira (VP2EIH) in the British Virgin Islands and then another dude from Florida, Roy (AD4AN).  She handled it very well:

This outing was quite educational and I find it curious that people running 1000 watts or less are able to be heard well between continents but the large broadcasters were difficult to hear.  Antennas pointed in the right direction, at the right time of day and frequency, can certainly do amazing things, plucking those weak signals out of the air so easily. And I do think the extra height had something to do with hearing this magic, too!

Happy Listening,

TomL

NOTES:

  1. An easy way to lookup amateur radio operator “call signs” is to go to web site QRZCQ.com which does not need a login.  Some records may be out of date, but most of it is accurate.
  2. Setup used was a cheap Dell laptop, Windows 10, SDR Console 3.03,  connected to the AirSpy HF+, a Palstar amplified preselector, and an old Kiwa BCB filter, then going up to the car roof magnetic balun (a Palomar MLB2) which is then connected to the 4 magnet base and the MFJ 19 foot stainless steel antenna.  You can read about it here:

https://swling.com/blog/2018/07/guest-post-backpack-shack-3-0-part-3/


Brilliant report, Tom! It’s true: the bands are fickle, but like you I always find interesting things to hear on HF. I think your setup using your vehicle as the ground plane for the antenna is a fantastic idea. Plus, set up is easy, self-supporting, and you’ll never have to worry about a park ranger, for example, complaining because you have a wire suspended from a tree. And when there are no trees? You’re still golden. 

Thanks for sharing your experience and DX! Amazing that even with mediocre conditions, you still snagged some distant signals.


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A detailed comparison and review of the C.Crane CCRadio 2E

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, 13dka, who shares the following guest post and review:


Do I really need this radio? A very belated review of the C.Crane CCRadio 2E

by 13dka

Ever since my relapse into radioholism a few years ago, I had a craving for a top-notch medium wave radio. This became even more of an urge when Germany abandoned the AM BC band just like many other European countries, leaving a band full of new opportunities but little left to receive during the day, at least with all the average portables I own. When checking the options, there’s no way around Jay Allen’s website if you want to know what’s best on MW, and I learned how little choices there are on the summit of the “5-star”-radios. Over the years I kept looking for an RF-2200/DR-22 et al but they are few and far between over here, and buying a dusty old radio with an unknown history, likely in need of repairs, restoration and alignment, for an insane premium price (up to 400€!) from a stranger was not exactly a pleasant prospect for me.

The CC Radio 2E and its predecessors, successors and siblings are the only radios in the topmost 5-star bunch that can be bought new and at a reasonable price. Sadly, the best product for the European market is only a 4 1/2 star radio and I realized that I have to buy a radio clearly made for the USA only, and accept the parts that don’t make any sense over here (120V, 10kHz AM spacing only, WX band). The problem: getting one shipped to Germany was rather complicated until Amazon.com made that much easier last year.

Performance comparisons

AM Broadcast Band

After 2 weeks of gleeful anticipation it finally arrived last month and I rushed to the mall to buy plenty of ‘D’-cells, then to the dike to answer my own, most pressing question: “how much better is a top tier Jay-Allen-5-star radio than my average 3-star radios anyway?”. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the 2E, partly because the videos I could find compared it with other good AM radios, or they didn’t compare it at all and sometimes the radio didn’t even get turned on. Nothing really related to the radios I have, after all they represent a whole bunch of popular radios people currently own with a similar (around average) AM performance, like the Tecsun PL-nnn, Eton Executive Satellit or Field, or ICF-7600, Zenith TO/R-7000 to name a few older types – and I was looking forward to fill that gap!

Sensitivity

Spoiler alert: the CCR2E’s sensitivity obviously bests all of my other portables. Duh! It should, because my example of the PL-660 isn’t good on AM at all, the XHDATA D-808 [read my full review here] is a 2-1/2 star radio and the Tecsun S-8800 [read my full review here] is a 3-star radio on the “Jay Allen rating scale”, even though I’d rate my examples of these radios the other way around – my D-808 has a tiny sensitivity edge over my S-8800.

So how much better is it? Here’s a cellphone video letting the radios speak for themselves, alas with plenty of wind noise (sorry, it’s usually windy here at the coast!). Make sure you watch it past the somewhat unspectacular first minute:

Click here to view on YouTube.

I hope you’ll agree that this is pretty impressive, and that’s the kind of results I was hoping for. There’s also a simple way of quantifying how much better it is in numbers: if I tune across the band in the afternoon and note all frequencies that clearly show signs of a station (not counting how well it comes in, just the pure existence of some signal that can be identified as “broadcast station”), the D-808 has 11 frequencies populated, the CCR2E has 25. That’s more than twice as much, the 2E has twice as many stars, sounds about right. Let’s also keep in mind that the XHDATA or the Tecsun represent “average”, “serviceable” or “decent” AM radios that are quite satisfactory for most people, and yet there is apparently a whole world between an average radio and the top of the heap. To be honest, I didn’t expect how dramatic the difference would turn out.

That made me curious how my battered old Grundig Satellit 400 would do, after all it was always a tad better than the other portables I have (Jay Allen might rate it 3-1/2 stars), and MW is the only thing in it that still really works. I decided to buy it the last bunch of batteries of its life and took it to the dike:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Evidently the Grundig is a bit more sensitive than my other average radios but without much benefit. Stations with some appreciable level turn out a bit better but it fails at the same stations as the other radios and the C.Crane unsurprisingly runs circles around the Grundig as well. The first and the last station recorded in this video demonstrate that nicely – my favorite low power benchmark station (1602 kHz) transmitting with 100W from a moored old pirate radio ship was just making it over the noise on the S-8800 in the previous video. The Satellit picks it up OK but with more noise. The last station is the BBC transmitter in Redmoss (Aberdeen, Scotland), which is pretty crystal clear on the CCR2E while the Satellit has only little remnants of modulation and the D-808 is at least on par with the Satellit there. That station pretty much didn’t exist on the S-8800 in the previous video either and I wish I’d know why this example turns out so extreme, why the 2E and that station like each other so much.

The closest stations in these videos are in The Netherlands, 150+ miles away and have only 100W, most of the UK stations are between 350 and 420 miles away (most of them not very powerful either), Scottish stations are around 500 miles from here and the Redmoss 2kW BBC transmitter on 1449 kHz with its beautiful signal is 490 miles. Given that this is daytime groundwave reception with no help from an external antenna, I consider this pretty darn impressive. But keep in mind that a part of the impressive results is due to the low noise location and the conductive North Sea water being only 50m from my position behind the dike, then stretching most, sometimes all of the distance between the radio and the transmitters, which definitely helps groundwave propagation a lot.

To put the benefit in some more practical metrics – my average radios pick up at most 3-4 stations in a halfway sufficient quality for continuous listening during the day, the 2E makes that at least 8-10 stations. While sensitivity is playing a somewhat lesser role at night, it’s pure fun to browse the band and discover stations that didn’t stick out of the noise enough in the past. It is undeniably an exceptionally sensitive and stunning AM receiver.

Selectivity, overloading resilience

The 2E has a wisely chosen single bandwidth more on the narrow side. Given the intended purpose of this radio, I think one can live very well with the “one size fits all” setting and the intelligibility remains excellent. At night when the band is getting crowded even over here, the 2E has absolutely no trouble separating the channels.

Other reviews mentioned that its dynamic range may not be sufficient to cope with local blowtorches and I’m sure that this is true. I don’t have local blowtorches, but I tried coupling wire fences between 200 and 1000m (600-3,000′) to the loopstick antenna, and it could cope with those arrangements better than the S-8800 and the D-808: at night, both of the latter present some roar between the stations on the lower end of the band (which is of course mostly intermodulation products). Both radios then need some looser coupling from the coupling coil, on the the S-8800 I can also lose the preamp stage (“local” switch) to mitigate this, the D-808 can’t do that and has the most problems with images, for example clearly discernible images from the top of the NDB band just 100 kHz lower in the same band.

The CCR2E stays pretty quiet on the few frequencies the fence antennas leave unpopulated. In other words, its frontend may not be as good as the one in some vintage receivers, but it still takes more of a beating than e.g. the Tecsun S-8800 with its improved (over the PL-880) frontend.

AGC

Lacking really strong signals, I can’t comment much on all of the AGC action but I too think it doesn’t pull up weak signals as much as other radios. That makes the 2E appear even less noisy between stations, but being desperate to catch some transatlantic DX before sunrise (yawn!) despite the season being over, I found myself a few times with the volume knob turned up all the way to the right stop on some quiet channels, while the band was filled elsewhere with considerable signals from that 3,000′ fence. The time constants are more on the slow-ish side, thunderstorm impulses make the signal dive away for half a second and it seems to struggle with weaker stations that come with a fast fading. SDRs with fully adjustable AGC characteristics sure have spoiled me.

FM Broadcast Band

Sensitivity

FM sensitivity is excellent in all of the portables I have (S-8800, D-808, PL-660) and the CCR2E can match their performance, there are generally only very little differences between all those. As mentioned in my S-8800 review, I found its sensitivity can’t fully match the PL-660 and the D-808, even though it employs the same DSP chip type as the D-808. I briefly compared the CCR2E with the S-8800 on FM (simply because both are big radios, and I guess I wanted the 2E to win this too).

Comparing portables on FM is a bit of hit and miss though – you need to find borderline weak stations to begin with, and then you have to make sure each radio’s whip antenna is adjusted for maximum signal, and you need to put one radio at a time on the table, because otherwise the whip antennas can interact with each other and make it hard to find the optimal antenna postion/tilt/rotation. When I tried the CCR2E at the dike, a complete lack of tropo conditions limited the number of test stations a lot, and the remaining stations were not really weak enough to find a clear winner among the two. Both radios were on par most times, sometimes it felt like once the 2E gets a bit of signal it will present it a tad less noisy than the S-8800.

But then a very borderline faint Dutch station on 88.1 MHz made it over the North Sea with much noise on the S-8800. No matter what I tried with the 2E (antenna gymnastics, raising, repositioning, lifting up and tilting the whole radio and swearing at it), it picked up nothing at all. That looked much like the 2E is actually less sensitive than I thought, but as it turned out later there is a much happier explanation for this:

Selectivity

Since the day I got it, I had the impression that the 2E has a narrower FM filter than my other radios. Tuning 50 kHz next to a weak station makes it almost disappear and 200 kHz off a local station gave me much hope for letting a weaker station pass unharmed. Now when I checked the station listings for my Dutch mystery station on 88.1 MHz it turned out to be very unlikely that I received the station listed there for 88.1 – “Radio 10” in Hilversum has only 3 kW and is a bit too far away, without any tropo help anyway. What’s way more likely is that I actually heard the much closer 60 kW “NPO 2” transmitter in Smilde on 88.0, that is, its upper sideband on 88.1. To understand this you need to know that Dutch (and AFAIK French) FM stations like to plow their channels with some rather hefty FM deviation unknown in Germany. The wider filter of the S-8800 picked up so much of that extra-wide deviation that I could identify the language. I could not hear the station on its actual frequency 88.0 MHz either, because a much stronger local station on 87.9 was whacking it.

The CCR2E just didn’t pick up any of the surplus deviation from 100 kHz lower, which is a quite striking evidence for a narrower filter (<200kHz), and this might also explain why it appears more sensitive when it picks up some weak station – a narrower filter means a better SNR on FM. I did not read Jay Allen’s “FM shootout” (where the 2E is the topmost radio as well) before tried the radio and I’m not sure yet if I’d put it above all other radios too. But it’s very safe to say that the 2E is likely about as sensitive as all of the contenders in the very crowded 5-star class in the “FM shootout” and its selectivity might be giving it an advantage over other radios. Too bad such a good performer on such a short antenna doesn’t have an external FM antenna input and RD(B)S.

2 Meter – VHF and Weather Band, SSI

Short story, there is no NOAA WX band in Europe, and my local 2m repeaters don’t even seem to transmit their ID every 10 minutes anymore like they were supposed to do in ye olde days, maybe they’re gone. Analog VHF ham radio has ceased to exist around here and if we’d have some catastrophic event, all a 2m receiver could do to help you is emitting some soothing white noise.

I will use this section to talk about the signal strength indicator on the CCR2E instead. With 12 discrete bars it has a better resolution than e.g. average portables, which often try to look like they had even more bars but actually have 5 sections of 4-bar groups, in other words they just have 5 real bars. The better resolution of the 2E is certainly helpful, for example when you pair it up with some kind of tuned external antenna – but it seems to indicate levels with some delayed response and that ruins it a bit.

Sound

The 2E has a quite satisfying bass and treble response for music listening on FM (if you turn up the controls). It has the biggest speaker of all of my portables and creates some audio that rather reminds me of a small home stereo than a portable radio. However it doesn’t have the power to really do “loud” and the bass may run out of breath and distort pretty soon on some music styles.

For a few days I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it didn’t put that much of a smile in my face like the S-8800 or my old Satellit 400 do, and I remembered the quite controversial ratings of the 2E’s sound I had read. I felt that it doesn’t have that special “big portable” in-your-face bass sound my other big radios have, a sound that was burned into my eardrums by all the big Grundigs and Nordmendes I had since when I was a teenager.

The answer might be quite simple though: the 2E has a much wider frequency response than those radios, it actually reaches down lower and the treble range is also extended. What we (OK, at least I) perceive as that “warm” and “big” sound in those old portables is actually “pseudo-bass”. Pseudo-bass is a psychoacoustic effect that tricks our brain to perceive louder and fuller bass when actually only the first harmonics (typically one octave higher) of bass instruments are heard, for example because the speaker is too small to actually render the fundamentals, with the “bass” tone control boosting the harmonics instead. The 2E sounds more like a small 2-way hi-fi speaker and tries to do “real bass” rather than pseudo-bass, which is much more demanding in many ways. Pseudo-bass is also much less depending on automatic loudness correction at low volumes, so the 2E seems to lack bass at “bedroom” volumes sometimes, compared to the Tecsun or the Grundig. Though once a station plays the right music and the 2E is turned up a bit, it’s getting quite obvious that it can sound even bigger than those other radios.

On AM the CCR2E can even produce too much bass that needs to be dialed back: like talk radio dominates the US AM band, its EU pendant is still reigned by pop/rock stations (usually employing lots of signal processing for extra-fat sound). On those stations, the CCR2E can be bassy to a degree where the bass is almost sounding detached from the rest of the signal, as if it’s coming from a different, stronger station. It’s a more boomy, “wet” or maybe a hint less “musical” bass sound, this is rather a wordy description of impressions and not a complaint though. It just doesn’t massage my auditory cortex the same way the other radios do, which is of course a matter of taste and “getting used to it”.

The tone controls are modern and efficient like the ones you find on the S-8800 – compared to my old Satellit, they have a steeper roll-off at well-chosen cutoff frequencies so you can eliminate just the hissy top end in the treble range or remove all that rumble below 200Hz, leaving the midrange in between untouched. On the positive end of the knob range, they just add deep bass and a nice clarity on the top, as if the 2E had a tweeter.

So it does sound great and I can see now why the successor radio, the C.Crane Radio 3 got upgraded with Bluetooth. But the 2E is a great powered speaker as well, it has an AUX input radio nuts can use to boost the audio of an SDR connected to a laptop or a small SW portable to the same level of fidelity. The manual claims that the 2E has a battery endurance of 250 hours, which would mean it should serve all day for at least a whole week as an awesome powered speaker for your other radios out in the woods, and it even might become the best speaker (with very useful tone controls!) in your home shack. This works so well that I deem this a serious (and perhaps often unconsidered) asset.

Quirks

One thing I don’t like a bit is a strange scratchy narrowband distortion that seems to come up within a certain level range. It’s independent from the station, the frequency or the noise on it (and not to be confused with multipath distortion), it’s showing up across the band and is solely depending on the input signal as it seems. It doesn’t affect stronger signals (so there shouldn’t be anything overloading) but if a station hits a certain low signal level it’s quite permanent and also quite disturbing, if there’s fading the noise will come and go when it passes through that level range. The only way to mitigate that prickly “frying pan” sound is turning the treble knob all the way down. I don’t know if that’s a bad case of demodulator distortion or some AGC related malfunction and for some reason beyond my understanding (strong out-of-band signals playing a role maybe?) this does not always happen. Still a bit of a fly in the ointment.

A rather harmless little quirk I (among others) found is happening when I recall preset stations on AM: under unknown circumstances the 2E will not tune the antenna properly so I need to change the frequency and tune back to get full signal. I assume that the coil tuner setting is saved with the preset, and when the environment of the loopstick changes (like when you saved the preset at a different place), the saved tuner setting does not fit anymore. Retuning, then saving the preset again should fix that.

Rather fast fading can have a similar effect on the tuning process, if I tune and retune to such a station, I may end up with different signal meter readings and volume every time – it seems that the integration time window used to automatically tune to peak signal can be too short in relation to the fading speed and that may lead to a less than optimal match of the coil. Admittedly, tuning to peak signal on fickle stations like that is just as hard for a human being. Since the tuner seems to rely much on locking onto a carrier, offset tuning (e.g. like DXers often do to optimize reception of a station with a strong channel neighbor) may not work as well as with regular receivers, signal and volume can drop quite dramatically when tuning 1 kHz to the side, and it sounds like this is bad for the SNR too.

Here’s a video demonstrating these issues:

Click here to view on YouTube.

My example of the 2E has a “birdie” between 99.7 and 100.0 MHz, which luckily doesn’t make any noise on FM. It doesn’t seem to harm reception much (if at all), I can still get a rather weak Danish station on 99.9 MHz but I can’t tell what effect it has on stations on the other affected frequencies.

External AM antennas

This is not a quirk, it’s rather a design decision I deem not working anymore in many (if not most) of today’s homes, or simply an oversight: the CCR2E is yet another radio that has screw terminals for an external AM antenna but no means to take the internal loopstick out of the circuit. This is not a problem as long you are using radio and antenna in an electrically quiet and interference-free environment, in which you may not even need an external antenna because the CCR2E is such a good performer. If you want to use one anyway, the 2E will benefit only from antennas with considerable gain, very lossy designs that trade gain for low noise and high SNR (like BOG, LOG, EWE…) may not even leave a clue of their existence on the 2E.

If you live in the city, in an apartment building, a crowded neighborhood or just a modern home and want to let your family use computers, appliances, switching-type wall warts and so on while you listen to distant stations, an external antenna may be the only way to enjoy the radio’s performance but even an antenna with lots of gain will not help getting rid of the hash and noise of the digital world. It may increase the signal a bit to improve the SNR, but the noise level will stay the same because it’s being picked up and added back by the internal loopstick. I think that any ambitious modern receiver should take the ever-worsening noise situation into consideration. Paradoxically, back in the 50s and 60s local noise was much less of an issue but a lot of radios had switchable loopsticks. They were all tabletops though and to be fair, I know only one portable radio with that feature (and that’s a scanner which sucks on AM).

The hardware

First off, using this radio is generally very straightforward. The only thing I needed to learn from the manual was how to keep the frequency on display, which is only possible with newer versions of the firmware. My radio was manufactured in January 2018 and it has this option, plus an updated version of the printed manual, now describing that (and the antenna calibration) procedure. (Just hold the “Clock” button, then immediately hit the ‘1’ memory button on top. The radio should emit a beep and from then on the display will show the frequency.)

You may want to think twice about buying the “Titanium” version of the radio. The product photos on Amazon were showing the radio with somewhat different and darker hues between grey and champaign, so I spontaneously decided to not buy yet another black radio. What I pulled out of the box was blindingly silvery and yelling “plastic” though, so don’t let any pics fool you – “Titanium” is just a fancy name for the same old standard “light grey-ish/silvery plastic” seen on a billion products from the Far East in the past 50 years. A matter of taste of course.

If it wasn’t obvious to everyone already – this bulky radio is more like a “portable tabletop”, it’s only little more “portable” than a big old Transoceanic or Grundig Satellit with a broken handle. New radios get lighter and lighter even when they get big (like the S-8800), the CCR2E brings gravity back into the game, so on the plus side it will stay put on the table when you push a button, or when there’s an earthquake.

While it does radiate some quality feel (nothing is loose, wobbly or rattling), the tuning knob is the exception: it has a tiny bit of play and it feels and sounds like it had a former life as a hairspray can cap. The stepping/rasterization of the encoder resonates in that cap and if you want to tune to a distant frequency on the dial you just need to say “rien ne vas plus” before you turn the knob to create a great acoustic impression of a roulette table. On the other hand, the solid steps of the encoder causing that sound are very precise and the sound helps me counting the 9 steps I need for hitting the next channel in the European AM BC band. Some reviews also complained about the flimsy FM whip and I used to think the D-808’s whip is flimsy, but this one has a top segment with a diameter of one millimeter, the antenna is the shortest of all my radios and looks exactly like the whips I’ve seen on most of the cheapest (<$20) radios I came across. But that doesn’t affect its function of course – that is, while it lasts.

Now that’s even more a matter of taste, but I just can’t leave the design uncommented. I’m still undecided whether it looks more like a hi-tech humidifier than a radio or not, luckily it says “Radio” in red letters on the speaker grille but still… I don’t know if it’s the complete lack of “retro style” and its sober, “senior-friendly” approach or just the color – whichever way I look at it, it ain’t the most handsome radio of the pack. I think I can get over it, provided I never watch any of Thomas’ videos featuring his gorgeous RF-2200s again. So all it can do to win my heart is working well, that is, very, very well. Let’s see if it succeeded:

Summary/Verdict

The C.Crane CC Radio 2E is an extraordinarily sensitive radio on AM and certainly among the best on FM. It puts some effort in picking up AM stations that most other portables won’t and that’s what it really does as advertised. Like any other radio (so that’s not Bob Crane’s fault like some disappointed Amazon reviews allude), it will not be able to do that in noisy, interference-infested environments and not even an external antenna might help much with that, because the internal loopstick stays on. In an electrically quiet environment though, it’s nothing short of marvelous.

It has a great sound and to my own surprise, I found its qualities as a powered (also long-lasting battery-powered) speaker for other radios a serious asset. It’s simple and easy to use but that also means it lacks all advanced features that would help in difficult, “hardcore DX” reception cases. With its bulky form factor, the built-in power supply, the 4 D-cells, the weight that all brings and the lack of a proper handle, it might not fit into everyone’s understanding of “portable” and its specs are rather meant to cater the needs of American homes. However, importing it to Europe can make sense even with the extra taxes and shipping (which means a 40% markup in Germany), at least for AM radio lovers who want top performance and avoid the problems vintage portables can bring. It’s at any rate a sensible choice if your favorite station is somewhat beyond the range of average radios, if you just want more stations to choose from, or if you enjoy general daytime groundwave DX, all without making an external antenna a necessity.

Of course the CCR2E is not the mythical “perfect radio” either. The muting and automatic loop-tuning when browsing the band isn’t great, it has a few quirks, a flimsy whip antenna and a tuning knob with a cheap feel to it but then again, it’s not an overly expensive radio either and its price/performance ratio is certainly appropriate and attractive. It may not be much to look at but I like it anyway because – among all the all-rounder radios I have – it’s the specialist doing that one thing really well: making AM radio feel like it used to be.

So do I really need this radio? Maybe I don’t, but now that I’ve learned how excellent it really is, I know that I really, really wanted it!


Wow!  What a brilliant review! I absolutely love the details you fit into your evaluation and your wit, too (especially that bit about the tuning knob possibly having “a former life as a hairspray can cap”–!). Ha ha!

No doubt the CCRadio 2E is a solid performer and among the best AM portables currently available. While the CCRadio 2E has been replaced by the CCRadio 3, many 2E models can still be found on Amazon (note this is an affiliate link), and eBay (partner link).

The CCRadio 2E is still available new on C. Crane’s website, but you should also check out C. Crane’s Orphan page for the occasional discounted unit. 

Thanks again for a thoroughly enjoyable and informative radio review! I, for one, can’t wait to read your next review! 

Click here to read 13dka’s previous posts and reviews.


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