Category Archives: Listener Posts

Listener Post: Mike Stutzer’s love of radio began with a Hallicrafters S-120

Photo: Universal Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Stutzer, who recently shared the following listener post:

I started SWLing as a teenager. My favorite uncle gave me a Hallicrafters S-120.

My dad hung a longwire under an eave and through a casement window frame into my bedroom. I marveled at all the AM international stations broadcasting in English, listening to everything from BBC cricket coverage on Saturday morning to hysterically unbelievable Albanian political news coverage.

After college I could afford something better, so I upgraded to a “boat anchor” Hallicrafters SX 110. It had a useful crystal filter to improve selectivity, but it was still nigh on impossible to decipher a Ham on SSB.

Photo: Universal Radio

Many decades later I bought a house on a steep foothill. Realizing that it was a perfect QTH for a Ham station, I got licensed and now am President of the local ARC. Here is a loving look at the original SWL receiver that got me hooked.

Prof. Mike

Boulder, CO

Thank you for sharing this, Mike!

Mike’s radio story is the latest in our multi-year series called Listener Posts, where I place all of your personal radio histories. Feel free to submit your own by contacting me.

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Listener Post: Fabien’s love of radio which lead him to collecting

Fabien’s radio story below is the latest in our series called Listener Posts, where I place all of your personal radio histories.

If you would like to add your story to the mix, simply send your story by email!

In the meantime, many thanks to Fabien who writes:


I’ve been a radio listener since the age of 14. I was an SWL and a listener of local VHF free stations too.

In the beginning, my receiver was a poor radio-cassette, with a little segment of the shortwave bands. I used it for two years.

Then, for 16th birthday I received a Philips AL 990 shortwave receiver.

It was a great receiver because the sound was clear and it was easy to identify the stations when listening with my usual headphones–even those broadcasts with very weak signals and an unidentified language. The negative of this receiver was the frequency was not easy to see/read and I was at the same display for hours.

After my school period, I worked for two years and with my savings I was able to buy a JRC NRD 525 in Swizterland, where this receiver was less expensive and easier to find than in my country of France at the time.

The Japan Radio Company NRD 525 receiver. Photo: Universal Radio

The good with the NRD 525 is that it was easy to tune to a frequency, easy to read the display and easy to connect the receiver to another unit for decoding RTTY signals with an old computer monitor and a small EPSON dot printer.

I was in paradise!

But the NRD 525 has a problem with its sound. Even with my best headphones, I was not able to understand the station voices when the signal was poor and the language was not mine, so it was difficult to have sufficient details to make a good reception report for sending it proudly to the logged radio station.

My solution was strange but the only one possible : I searched for rare signals with the NRD 525 and after I found them, listened to those signals with the AL 990 and my headphones.
With this solution, I was able to send a lot a reception reports and receive some beautiful QSLs from official, pirate and clandestine stations (clandestines were my favorites).

This SWL period was until 1988. In 1988 I was obliged to move from my city to a new location where it was more difficult to be a SWL. The following years, I was more a BCL (Broadcast Listener) than an SWL.

I did BCL DX until 1999, and after 1999 most of my radio listening time was only BCL easy listening, without looking for weak signals.

Because of the Internet, online SDRs, and the closing down of a lot of broadcasters, I’m less  interested in contact stations directly, save from time to time. For me, the chase of weak signals was the most important part; now we can listen to a station via the Internet (online on a website or with a SDR online)…even the pirates stations.

My actual interest today is to have all of the receivers I was dreamed about when I was a teenager. In 2020, at 53 years old, I am now more a collector of receivers than a real BCL. I like all electronics, including many hifi systems/components and radio items.

I also love black and white film photography/laboratory too and I collect stickers from French radio stations.

Here are two pictures of part of my actual listening post. On one, you could see a model boat of the famous offshore radio station ” Radio Caroline “.

My favorite shortwave receivers are the Drake R8-E (European version of the R8), the BEARCAT DX-1000 and the Yaesu FRG-7.

My favorite receiver for synchronous detection reception is the SONY ICF-2001D (the European version of the ICF 2010).

To receive mediumwave stations, I prefer my JRC NRD 515 connected with an Australian active loop antenna.

For travel, I use a small Lowe HF 150.

For VHF FM-commercial band, I use my Grundig Satellit 500 and a Sony ICF 6800W.

Some of my best souvenirs/memories of SW reception are Radio La Voz de Alpha 66 (USA), Radio Venceremos (El Salvador), Radio Botswana, Radio Bardaï (Tchad or Libia), Radio RFO Tahiti, and Radio Bandeirantes (Brasil).

My regrets from the years 1981-1988 are not being able to receive the signal of Radio BHUTAN and the signal from The Faklands Islands.

I don’t like to travel outside my beloved country, but for the pleasure of visiting some radio stations, I made an effort and I traveled to Phnom Penh (Cambodia), La Habana (Cuba), San Salvador (El Salvador) and Ciudad Guatemala (Guatemala).

Truly Yours,
Fabien SERVE, in France


Thank you, Fabien, for sharing your story! You’ve added some truly classic receivers to your collection over the years!  I love the Radio Caroline model too! 

I encourage other SWLing Post readers and contributors to submit their own listener post! Tell us how you became interested in radio! 

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Bruce’s passion for SWLing and single transistor regenerative receivers

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bruce (VE3EAR), who shares the following:

I live in the village of Saltford, ON, Canada, near the eastern shore of Lake Huron. It’s a quiet location signal wise, and I’m lucky that I have enough property to erect some big antennas. My two favourites are a 1200 foot long terminated Beverage, aimed at 50 degrees true, which targets Europe and the UK. The other is a 333 foot perimeter delta-loop, apex up and oriented north-south. Both antennas are fed with RG-6 coaxial cables and impedence-matching transformers.

I use the loop with a recently acquired Airspy HF+ Discovery SDR and the Gqrx SDR software, in my iMac. I like to listen to amateur activity on 160, 80, and 40 metres, along with the few shortwave broadcast station that are still on the air. I also like to listen to the trans-Atlantic air traffic control stations in Shannon, Ireland and Gander, Canada.

I once heard a U2 spy plane returning from a mission over Russia!

My other hobby is designing and building simple, one transistor regen receivers, most of which tune the AM broadcast band, although I have built a couple covering the lower portion of the HF broadcast bands as well, just for a challenge. All my receivers are built breadboard style.

My favourite of them is one based upon the Vackar oscillator, with the addition of a diode detector and “Benny”, as is used in crystal radios.

Here is the schematic of the Vackar circuit:

The diode and “Benny” connect to the collector of the transistor, then to a pair of home made headphones using two telephone earpiece elements installed in a pair of hearing protectors. The receiver is both very selective and very sensitive. Here is a pic:

Most of the electronics are on a proto-board, which allowed easy component substitutions during the build. When I had it optimized, I decided to leave it that way! The controls, left to right, are on-off switch, regen, fine tuning, main tuning, and range selector switch, hidden behind the reduction drive. Audio is taken from the DET OUT jack, to either the headphones described above, or to an audio amplifier for listening with a speaker.

Bruce, it sounds like you certainly have an excellent spot and excellent antennas for DXing! I love regen receivers as well and radio design can hardly be more simple.

Thank you for sharing!

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Guest Post: Missing the Static

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


Missing the Static

by Lou Lesko

Nineteen-ninety-one, my girlfriend Michelle and I were asked to house-sit her parent’s place in a remote part of Morgan Hill, south of San Jose, California. One had to drive for two miles on a dirt road through a running creek to get to the house deep in the woods. It was magical. The place ran on generators and a massive array of batteries.

We stayed in the master bedroom. Bob, Michelle’s step-father, had a shortwave radio on his bedside table. The radio was connected to a huge twenty foot high antenna stuck in the ground outside the bedroom window. Fumbling through the controls for the first time I found the BBC in London and a myriad of other broadcasts in different languages from cities all over the globe. It was mesmerizing.

Thanks to a book I found, Passport to World Band Radio, I learned that scanning to find broadcasts was called DXing. The book also listed frequencies and some of the known active times of stations around the world. It also explained the phenomena of shortwave: radio signals within a specific frequency range have properties that cause them to bounce between the ionosphere and the earth’s crust allowing efficient propagation around the globe. Conditions like weather, the electronic interferences of modern life, and solar flares all had an effect on the quality of the signal and how far it could travel.

The more I learned, the more I listened. Scrolling through the static to discover random broadcasts from radio Cuba or radio Moscow was blissful escapism that charged my imagination. At the time the BBC had 120 million weekly listeners. The largest audience of any broadcast medium in history.

It was a sad day when Michelle’s parents returned. Not only did Michelle and I have to go back to our tiny apartment—playing house was fun—I had to give up the shortwave radio.

A month later Michelle gave me a portable shortwave radio as a Christmas gift. It wasn’t nearly as powerful as the rig in Morgan Hill, but it worked fabulously well for receiving strong signals. I listened to it every night before falling asleep.

Three years later, during an annual trip to Yosemite, I wondered what the reception would be like if I were to take the portable radio up a few thousand feet way out of the range of street lights, televisions, toasters—all things electronic that impede reception of anything except the strongest signals.

I embarked on a solo hike up 12,000 feet to the top of Mammoth Peak in Tuolumne Meadows. Optimal listening time was just after sunset and into the night California time. Alone, wrapped in a subzero sleeping bag, a bitting breeze blowing, bathed the etherial pale glow of moonlight reflecting off the white granite, I turned on my radio. It was overwhelming. Every tiny turn of the dial yielded something new I had never heard before. I tuned in to almost every part of the globe.

Shortwave has faded. Its gradual decline started at the end of the cold war, Western governments no longer saw the need to shoulder the large costs associated with transmitting on shortwave frequencies. The demise was further hastened in 2001 when then BBC World Service Director Mark Byford stopped the broadcasts to North America citing the emerging Internet and satellite radio as the future for reaching audiences. He was of course correct.

Radio Garden, a web site that delivers a graphical version of what shortwave used to do, offers an animated picture of the globe dotted with internet radio broadcasters. Click on a dot, listen to a radio station in another part of the world in crystal clarity. Radio Garden is exceedingly clever and a wonder of modern technology. As are podcasts, streaming television, Facetime calls. All of it extraordinary and life altering. And yet, every once in awhile, I miss that unique thrill I used to get when I discovered a voice broadcasting from a far away place I’ve never been. Every once in awhile, I miss the static.


Lou Lesko is a writer, and a former editor-at-large for National Geographic.

Click here to visit Lou’s website.

Lou, thank you for sharing the static!

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Guest Post: Rawad shares his radio story

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


My Story With Radios

by Rawad Hamwi

My passion for the world of radios started 15 years ago when I “accidentally” got my hand on a vintage Sanyo U4SS radio/cassette player.

At that time, FM didn’t mean that much to me, and to make the long story short, it was anything but interesting! So let’s move on and discover that SW band.

I was totally shocked with the findings! Music of different genres, languages I heard for the first time ever, bizarre sounds, Morse broadcasts, etc.. However, the most chilling and exotic thing which caught my attention was that weird “presumably” number station, broadcasting an endless and never-ending loop of “Alpha, Bravo, Charlie”! I could never ever forget that! That SW “thing” was quite interesting, isn’t it?

Back in 2004, the shortwave band was HEAVILY crowded with so many stations from all over the globe, and the idea of being able to listen to all of that stuff without moving away from your couch was something interesting!

Over that period, I owned some portable shortwave receivers/antennas, starting with the Grundig G3, Tecsun PL-660, and last but not least, the trust-worthy Sony ICF-SW7600GR with Sony AN-LP1 active antenna and the Terk Advantage AM antenna, that’s just to name but a few.

And now, drum roll, please!! May I proudly present the legendary Zenith Solid State Trans-Oceanic Radio Receiver. That armored tank is far from anything portable in today’s terms! But still, its reputation can’t be questioned.

Zenith Transoceanic

 

Last Christmas (Dec – 2018), my uncle gave me his Sony ICF-7600D which was in a perfect cosmetic/working condition. It was sitting in his drawer for almost 20 years without being used! Operating that “piece of history” is satisfying!

Sony ICF-7600D

A year before, my grandparents gave me their “Made in Japan” Sony ICF-SW11. You may notice that screen protector over its display, it did a good job in disguising some fine scratches. This radio had been used occasionally, though it’s a solid performer.

Sony ICF-SW11

Whoa, lots of radios to choose from! A decision was made by giving the Grundig G3, Tecsun PL-660, and the Sony ICF-7600GR/AN-LP1+Terk Advantage a short break and keeping them in my hometown (Lebanon). Both the 7600D and SW11 will join me in Saudi Arabia for at least 6 months until I return back.

Here comes the turning point! Last month, there was a great deal on eBay. A decent Sony ICF-2010 with an above-average condition. I didn’t think twice before buying it, I wanted that radio a long time back and at last, at last, it’s here..sitting on my desk!

Sony ICF-SW2010 ICF-2010

To add some nostalgia to the scene, a brand-new vintage “Made in Japan” Seiko World Time Rate Exchanger was listed on eBay, and you can predict what happened next! It was a beautiful add-on.

It joined my vintage Casio DQ-580 alarm clock that was set to display UTC time

Unfortunately, Sony ICF-2010s had some issues with their front-end FET if they were hit by a strong static charge. The solution was by building a DIY protection circuit, based on a schematic available online.

The random wire antenna I use is connected to a 9:1 impedance transformer for the purpose of impedance matching, and to add more protection, a lightning arrester joined the setup. Furthermore, some folks said that winding the 50-ohm coaxial feed cable to a toroid could improve the reception, so..why don’t I give it a try?!

Finally, the BNC male plug coming out of my protection black box is coupled with a female BNC to male 3.5 mm mono adapter which goes towards radio’s external AM antenna socket.

Now, why don’t I utilize the FM band too? I have two in-car FM transmitters. The first one is connected to a satellite receiver to transmits its audio feed via a RCA to 3.5 mm stereo cable, and the second one is attached to a Chromecast Audio device.

-1-Turn on the transmitter
-2- Go to TuneIn
-3- Look after “Conyers Old Time Radio”
-4- Pipe that audio stream throughout Chromecast
-5- Set your radio’s sleep timer to 30 minutes and…I wish you a very good night!!


iCluster ($2.99 for iPhone and iPad) is a useful tool I regularly use when listening to amateur bands over shortwave DXWatch.com and DXMaps.com can be helpful too.

Google’s Play Store contains much more radio-related apps than Apple’s App Store. Below are my main drivers for decoding digital transmissions.

When it comes to rechargeables, my choice for AA size is Eneloop and Energizer for D size

Batteries and Recharger

The Internet contains enormous easy-accessible resources but having a hard copy isn’t a bad idea I guess!

That’s all folks, thanks for reading and if you think there are some rooms for improvements, sharing your ideas will be much appreciated.


Thank you for sharing this, Rawad!  You’ve amassed a fantastic collection of portable radio gear and all of it seems to be in excellent shape! I think it’s brilliant that you took the time to build antenna protection for your Sony portables–so many people don’t think of this and end up using an antenna that’s too long and static zaps their FET. 

Again, many thanks for sharing your story with us.

Post Readers: Rawad also made an attractive PDF of this story–you can download it here. Please contact me if you’d like to share your radio story!

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Listener Post: Fred remembers discovering the shortwaves

Radio Japan QSL (Source: Fred Waterer)

Many thanks to my buddy, Fred Waterer, who shared the following message with friends on Facebook and has kindly allowed me to post this here on the SWLing Post. I thought it would make a welcome addition to our Listener Posts category.

Fred writes:

On a hot humid day in July 1978, much like today, I discovered what would become a life long avocation. International broadcasting aka shortwave radio. I was playing around with a radio belonging to my father.

It was a Nordmende, manufactured just after WW2, everything on the radio, the dials and buttons were all in German. The summer before, I had figured out that UKW was FM and listened to it off and on, despite the fact it only went up to 100 MHz. No Rock 102 or CHUM-FM on this baby.

But on that day 40 years ago, I pressed KW, kurzewellen, German for shortwave. I turned the dial and heard a woman speaking English. Not unexpected. A few minutes later she identified the broadcast as coming from Radio Sofia, Bulgaria! I was astounded!!

Radio Sofia QSL (Source: Fred Waterer)

The rest of that day I tuned around and heard the BBC, and Radio Moscow, HCJB in Ecuador, Radio Prague, Radio Canada International and so many more. It was the beginning of what has become a life long hobby/obsession.

(Source: Fred Waterer)

In 40 years I have heard everything from the mundane to the dramatic. Lectures on Soviet grain production. The invasion of the Falklands. The fall of the Soviet Union. Wars. Elections. Assassinations. Music. Literature. Jamming. Propaganda. Three filing cabinets full of program schedules, reception logs, magazines and other goodies. Binders and boxes full of QSL cards, stickers and pennants. Bankers boxes full of audio recordings. That day in July 1978 changed my life. 40 years passes way too fast. Oh well, now it’s onwards to 50 🙂

Amazing, Fred! Yes indeed, for many of us one moment of discovery makes for a welcome lifelong companion!

Let me know if you’d like help digitizing those off-air recordings–I’d love to add them to the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.

I encourage other SWLing Post readers and contributors to submit their own listener post! Tell us how you became interested in radio! 

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Dean: An intrepid young DXer!

Dean’s trusty Tecsun PL-660

UPDATE (28 October 2017): We’ve updated links to Dean’s website to reflect his new URL.

A few weeks ago, I received a message from SWLing Post reader, Dean Denton, who lives in Hull, UK. Dean is not your typical contemporary shortwave listener–he’s twelve years old and has been DXing since the age of eight! While, decades ago, that used to be the norm–indeed, I started SWLing at eight–Dean is bucking the trend in 2017.

Dean’s listening post consists of a few receivers:  the Tecsun PL-660, a Tesco RAD 108, a Uniden UBC360CLT and a Hitachi TRK P65E. Dean also spends a great deal of time on the excellent University of Twente WebSDR.

Dean noted in a recent message:

“I typically love a lot of broadcasters, but generally China Radio International, Radio Romania International, BBC, Voice of America plus many more. I like talk and news on shortwave radio as it gives an insight of a typical country’s actions.

I also love music on shortwave due to Amplitude Modulation and its characteristics. Not to mention Pirate Radio, HAM Radio, Numbers Stations and anything else.”

Dean, you’re a kindred spirit indeed–to me, there’s nothing like the sound of music via the “sonic texture” of shortwave radio.

Not only is Dean a radio enthusiast, but he also started a website and is building a library of videos on his YouTube channel. Indeed, most recently, he’s been experimented with Narrow Band TV on his YouTube channel.

While looking through his channel, I found this screencast and recording he made as France Inter shut down their 162 kHz longwave service as 2016 came to a close:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Dean, keep us informed about your DXing adventures and don’t hesitate to ask questions!

Post readers: Let’s officially welcome Dean into our community! While you’re at it, check out his website and YouTube channel!

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