Category Archives: Listener Posts

AM Dxing with the Sangean PR-D15

Guest Post by Troy Riedel

Since the demise of my Sony ICF-SW100, I’ve decided to do some AM Dx’ing. A few years ago I purchased a Sangean PR-D15 as my dedicated “AM Dx Radio”. Despite owning it for a few years, I hadn’t yet really put it through its paces.

Note: My 1994 Gründig Yacht Boy 400, with its 150mm (5.9″) ferrite rod antenna, performs splendidly on AM and until this purchase, the YB400 was the radio I grabbed for AM Dx.

At the time of my purchase – if my memory is correct – the other models I had considered were the CC Radio 2 (now discontinued), the CC Radio 2E (it was a relatively new release at the time), and the Original CC Radio EP (now discontinued & replaced by the CC Radio EP Pro).

Admittedly, part of my decision was based on cost. At the time, the CC Radio 2 & 2E were priced over 2x the cost of the PR-D15 and the CC Radio EP was $15-$20 more when shipping was added. Besides the cost, I chose the PR-D15 based on a few things I had read online. But the aspect that really appealed to me is the 200mm (7.9”) Ferrite Rod Antenna and that compared favorably with the C. Crane offerings (yes – ferrite size isn’t everything, but it is an important consideration). So after having read online comments (reviews, discussion boards, etc.) about the PR-D15, I felt very comfortable with my decision and it wasn’t based on cost alone.

Frankly, I don’t really care how well my AM radio performs during the day (I hope this isn’t sacrilege). Why? During the day whether I’m in the car, working in the garage – whatever – I’ll typically stream my favorite station (NYC) via radio.com on my iPhone so I can pause, rewind, or pick-up where I left off. Until my Sangean PR-D15 can do that, I prefer to daytime stream. My “hobby” of AM Dxing is in the evening – to relax and have fun (and isn’t that what a hobby is supposed to be?). Keep that in mind as I reveal my results.

I intended to do my AM Dx Nighttime Test in one night, but I was getting so may stations that I had to extend it over two nights. I started each session around 8PM and they lasted until 11:30PM – 12AM (over 7.5-hours of testing on consecutive nights late this week). I had my PR-D15 on a lazy susan turntable and I had two nearby laptops – one to aid as an AM Station locator and the other I used to stream. Stream? Yes – to count as a recorded station I had to get a positive station ID. However, many radio programs are syndicated. Syndicated radio (and ESPN radio) can go on seemingly forever between station IDs. If I didn’t get a station ID within 15-minutes, I used the second laptop to go to the web site of the station I believed it to be to “listen live” to see if the radio and the stream matched-up (luckily live web streams are slightly behind live terrestrial radio so the IDs were easy). Often by the time I had given-up and gone to my 2nd laptop, I’d finally get an on-air station ID. I just didn’t want to waste too much time on one station and miss other stations.

Since my test extended for 2 nights, on night two I quickly dialed-through nearly all of the stations I confirmed on night one to make a quick re-confirmation they were still audible on the 2nd night.

Since I captured so many stations, I was overwhelmed trying to finish and thus I feel this test is still incomplete. My wife typically ends all of my radio playtime (my man cave is a “sitting room” off the side of the master bedroom & there is no wall – no door – so it’s completely open). But my wife and my step-daughter have a weekend out of town in mid to late March. And that means I can stay up all night and do one non-stop test session. Is it bad to say that I cannot wait to be alone?

My QTH is ~ 35-miles east of RIC (Richmond, VA) Airport. The tables below (broken into three files) are my results. Some frequencies have multiple station IDs – since when turning the radio and nulling signals, sometimes one station disappeared and another jumped onto the dial. If/when I post an update of my all-nighter, I’ll add another column to the spreadsheet to include the transmitter strength for better context. It should also be noted that I recorded straight-line distances & not driving distances (via an online straight-line/GPS calculator).

I was impressed that I successfully captured three Iowa stations. And though I find it almost unfathomable, I truly believe I was on the verge of successfully logging a station in Sandy, UT which is over 2000-miles away (there are only six stations assigned to the 1640 frequency, and given the content I [barely] heard, all indications are that it was KBJA)!

I also believe I captured at least one Super-Clear Channel station from Mexico, but unfortunately I just couldn’t successfully verify the station ID. I hope to have a future opportunity to add it to my list.

My ultimate goal is to: (1) compile & maintain a spreadsheet of every AM station that I am able to successfully ID; and (2) maintain a record of the most AM stations I was able to ID in a single one-night, non-stop session.

Despite being somewhat incomplete, I’m impressed by my results. I’m interested to see what you think so please post your comments below!

I should note that my results are strictly off the internal ferrite antenna – no external antenna, no passive loop antenna was used to enhance any signal.

To save column space, please click on each table below. A larger & easier to read image will open in a separate window or tab (depending upon your browser setting).

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Listener Post: From a broken console radio to the Kenwood R-600

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jim Meirose, who recently shared the following listener post:


Listener Post by Jim Meirose

My interest in radio started around 1960-61. My uncle was going to take a giant worn-out console Record Player/AM/FM/SW 1940s monstrosity to the dump. My father, who was an electrician and a general nut for all things electrical, stopped him, took the radio out before the console got trashed, put it in a makeshift cabinet, and showed me how to use it. That was how I got started.

A neat thing about the radio was it had one of those old “magic eye” tubes to aid in tuning. What could be cooler for a kid to play with? Plus, being able to hear all of what was to me just “weird stuff” on shortwave, was what got me hooked.

After a year or two I got the Heathkit GR-91 as a gift and my father helped me assemble it. We also put up a better antenna.

My Heathkit GR-91 and Q-mult I used starting in 1963, with a variety of antennas, up to 1971. (Stored in the cellar now, as you can see)

I spent several years and many many hours listening and logging and having fun with it. We were at or near the peak of the sunspot cycle then, so as you can imagine, it was amazing. That made it a pretty “hot” radio (although in that decade the high sunspots made most every radio “hot”) but it had one flaw that was really bad. The tuning dial was not even close to accurate. I even had it professionally aligned, in vain. You only had a ballpark idea of what frequency you were on.

The next problem with the GR-91 was that as you tuned up past around 14 MHz, a hum began and grew to where there was no point trying to listen at all for anything all the way up to 30 MHz. I gradually became most interested in 20 meter amateur radio listening.

I learned to tune SSB, helped by the fact that the set had a good BFO and great bandspread tuning. From about 1964 to 1968, I heard hams from over 250 ARRL countries. These were mostly on 20 meters, using a dipole. Then, I got drafted to the Army until 1970, came back, and listened again until about 1972. Then, life took over, and the radio was put away.

Around 2004, I started getting interested again. I got an old Hammarlund HQ-180, thinking to pick up where I left off in ’72, but gave up when I found the sunspot cycle was bottomed out. Plus, the old set was too complicated and difficult to use, and not in the best shape. So, again, radio was put aside.

Finally, early this year, having the time at last to do things right, after shopping around, I got the Kenwood R-600, put up a good antenna, and started in. Once I got in the groove again, I found the R-600 to be incredible. The reception is crystal-clear across all bands. Plus, lo and behold, with the digital dial I know EXACTLY what frequency I am on! And as far as DX, even with today’s low sunspots, I am hearing the whole world, better than in the 60s. Might not be “booming in” as they say, but still very cool. The key is to know when, where, and how to listen.

Lastly, besides the better technology of the radio, imagine the difference between now and the ‘60s, when there was no internet, no computers, and practically no reliable hard copy directories to be found. At least with ham radio listening, it was easy to ID what country was on, because of the standardized call sign prefixes. But, for broadcast stations, the only real way to identify the more “exotic” non-english language stations, was by listening, sometimes for hours, hoping to catch some recognizable station ID. More often than not, this would never come before the station went off-air, or faded out. Today, with online directories, that is not such a problem. But, imagine how, with my GR-91, being unable to provide exact frequency readings, that even the modern online directories would have been practically useless.

That’s it, there are the highlights of my shortwave experience from 1960 to today. Hope it was of interest.

Thanks,

Jim Meirose


Thank you, Jim, for sharing your radio journey!

Jim’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: 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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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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