Category Archives: Mediumwave

QTC Article: Clear Channel MW Broadcast Stations in Australia

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kris Partridge, who notes that the July/August 2020 issue of the Australian amateur radio magazine QTC (an issue we noted in a previous post is free) actually has an article about the mediumwave scene in Australia.

Click here to download a PDF of those pages only from the magazine, or better yet, grab the full issue from our previous post.

Thanks for pointing out this article, Kris. I really enjoyed reading this issue of QTC. Great to see a ham radio publication that covers more than *just* ham radio!

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Bruce compares two homebrew NCPL antennas to the Airspy Youloop

The Airspy Youloop

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bruce (VE3EAR), who writes:

I decided that more testing of the Noise-Cancelling Passive Loop (YouLoop) antenna was needed, but I wanted to start with a clean page.

I built two identical loops using some 3/8 inch heliax scraps I had on hand. Both are one metre in diameter and employ the same feed arrangement, with a balun wound on a half inch square binocular core of type 75 mix. There are four turns on the antenna side and eight on the feed line side, of #24 gauge plastic insulated wire. The feed line shield connects to the antenna shields. The only difference between the two antennas is at the top of the loop, opposite to the feed point. One has a simple one inch gap in the shield, with the centre conductor passing across the gap, while the second one uses the crossover connection of the YouLoop design.

I’ve been running some A-B comparison listening sessions, both mid-day and in the evenings after local sunset. The testing is done outside, with the antennas hanging on a low limb of a maple tree in front of the house. The feed line is about twenty feet of coax which connects to my Realistic DX-440 receiver on the front porch. Testing is done listening to the AM broadcast band and the 160, 80, and 40 metre ham bands, with the loop aligned both E-W and N-S and about one loop diameter off the ground.

Both loops work well, but I do have to give the nod to the YouLoop (by Airspy), which produces a stronger signal of two S-units higher than the conventional loop. It also has deeper and sharper nulls, which can sometimes produce total nulling of the station!

73, Bruce, VE3EAR

Thank you so much, Bruce, for sharing your findings with us! I, too, have found that the Youloop generally outperforms my homebrew NCPL antenna. I believe one of the reasons for this as Youssef at Airspy once told me is because the Youloop has a lower loss transformer than anything that can be wound by humans (0.28 dB)–this improves gain.

Click here to read our review of the Youloop and click here for step-by-step instructions on building your own Noise-Cancelling Passive Loop antenna.

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Giuseppe’s cross-loop experiments

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Giuseppe Morlè (IZ0GZW), who shares the following:

I’m Giuseppe Morlè from Formia, central Italy, on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

I wanted to share with you and friends of the SWLing Post community this antenna project of mine dedicated to those who do not have enough space on the roof or in the garden to install antennas.

These are two separate loops, with two different diameters, one 60 cm, the other 90 cm, each with two variables for tuning … the system is able to receive from 3 to 30 MHz.

I joined these two loops in an opposing way, better to say crossed that can communicate with each other due to the induction effect that is created between the two small coupling loops that are placed one under the other at the top.

In the videos you will be able to see how the antenna system receives. I can use one loop at a time, to detect the direction of the signal or I can use them together for a more robust signal and in an omnidirectional way.

I really like experimenting with the induction effect and you can see that even when closed at home the two loops do a great job.

From my YouTube channel:

I’m not a technician but I really want to experiment to try to listen as well as possible.

Thanks to you and CIAO to all the listeners of the SWLing Post community.

Giuseppe Morlè iz0gzw.

Very cool, Giuseppe! I must say I’ve never tried dual loop experiments like this where one can experiment with the induction interplay. I imagine this could give you some interesting nulling capabilities if you have an unwanted station interfering with a target low-band signal. Thank you again for sharing!

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Radio Waves: Narco-Antennas, Pirate Radio Beginnings, Arqiva Restructure and Redundancies, and the Ghostly Buzzer

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

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

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Skip Arey,  David Goren, Paul Evans, Kanwar Sandhu and Dave Porter for the following tips:


Special Report: Drug cartel ‘narco-antennas’ make life dangerous for Mexico’s cell tower repairmen (Reuters)

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The young technician shut off the electricity at a cellular tower in rural Mexico to begin some routine maintenance.

Within 10 minutes, he had company: three armed men dressed in fatigues emblazoned with the logo of a major drug cartel.

The traffickers had a particular interest in that tower, owned by Boston-based American Tower Corp (AMT.N), which rents space to carriers on its thousands of cellular sites in Mexico. The cartel had installed its own antennas on the structure to support their two-way radios, but the contractor had unwittingly blacked out the shadowy network.

The visitors let him off with a warning.

“I was so nervous… Seeing them armed in front of you, you don’t know how to react,” the worker told Reuters, recalling the 2018 encounter. “Little by little, you learn how to coexist with them, how to address them, how to make them see that you don’t represent a threat.”

The contractor had disrupted a small link in a vast criminal network that spans much of Mexico. In addition to high-end encrypted cell phones and popular messaging apps, traffickers still rely heavily on two-way radios like the ones police and firefighters use to coordinate their teams on the ground, six law enforcement experts on both sides of the border told Reuters.[]

How Pirate Radio Rocked the 1960s Airwaves and Still Exists Today (HowStuffWorks)

If you’ve been binge-watching movies lately, you may have come across “Pirate Radio.” Director Richard Curtis’ 2009 comedy-drama stars the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as The Count, a disc jockey for an unlicensed rock radio station that broadcast from a rusty, decrepit ship off the British coast in the mid-1960s, defying government authorities to spin the rock records that weren’t allowed on the BBC at the time. The plot is based loosely on the saga of an actual former pirate station, Radio Caroline, that was founded by an offbeat Irish entrepreneur named Ronan O’Rahilly, the inspiration for the character portrayed by Bill Nighy.

“Pirate Radio” is a period piece, set in a time when the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and the Who’s “My Generation” were still scandalous and controversial rather than nostalgic anthems for today’s aging baby boomers. So you couldn’t be blamed for assuming that it depicts a long-vanished phenomenon, like Nehru jackets with iridescent scarves and psychedelic-patterned paper mini dresses.

To the contrary, though, more than a half-century later, pirate radio is still a thing. In fact, it’s possibly more widespread than it was in the 1960s, even in an age when streaming internet services such as Spotify and Pandora put the equivalent of a jukebox in the pocket of everyone with a smartphone. And as a bonus, Radio Caroline still exists — though, ironically, it’s gone legal.[]

Arqiva confirms restructure and redundancies (IBC.org)

[Note: Arqiva is the UK domestic broadcast transmission provider.]

Arqiva is working on a restructure of its business that could result in a third of its staff being made redundant.

According to a report in the Telegraph, the media infrastructure business is preparing to cut around 500 staff, which is approximately a third of its workforce.

An Arqiva spokesperson confirmed to IBC365 that some job losses will occur.

They said: “The sale of our telecoms business makes Arqiva a smaller organisation, changes our revenue profile and reduces our available profit pool.

”We are therefore conducting a review of the costs and systems we need to run our business over the next three years.

”Regrettably, we will need to reduce the size of our workforce, but it’s much too early to speculate about numbers.”

The Telegraph report cites the shift to streaming and a drop in income for broadcasters as reasons for the potential cuts.[]

The ghostly radio station that no one claims to run (BBC Future)

In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

It’s so enigmatic, it’s as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as “the Buzzer”. It joins two similar mystery stations, “the Pip” and the “Squeaky Wheel”. As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.[…]


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UK analog commercial broadcasters given permission to go digital at their discretion

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kris Partridge, who shares the following article that notes the UK will not follow a Norway-style digital switch-off. Rather, broadcasters will be allowed to switch off individual AM (and eventually FM) transmitters once they determine it is no longer a cost-effective strategy.

From Radio Today:

Analogue commercial radio licences to be given ten-year renewal

Analogue commercial radio licences due to expire in the next couple of years will be given a 10-year extension under new government plans.

During a consultation, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport had originally proposed either 5 or 8 year extensions, but in light of the Coronavirus pandemic’s impact on commercial radio revenues has decided to offer stations an extra 10 years.

[…]Minister for Media and Data John Whittingdale said: “As we move into an increasingly digital world we’re making sure the licensing landscape for radio is fair and up-to-date and allows audiences to enjoy a wide range of high-quality stations.

“Today’s step ensures there is no disruption for loyal listeners of treasured FM and AM radio services such as Classic FM, Absolute Radio and TalkSport over the next decade.

“We will soon be turning our attention to providing similar long-term certainty to support the future growth of digital radio.”[…]

Click here to read the full story.

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Bill’s first DX contest using a Panasonic RF-2200 and a hombrew diode/loop radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Hemphill (WD9EQD), who shares the following guest post:


My First DX Contest

by Bill Hemphill, WD9EQD

Being a recent new member of NJARC, this is my first time competing in this contest.  I have always been a big fan of BCB DXing and have recently got back into it – especially with the amateur radio bands being in such poor conditions.  The acquisition of a couple of Loop antennas plus two Panasonic RF-2200 radios have just enhanced my enjoyment.

For the contest, I used two completely different radios.  First was the RF-2200 and second was a spur of the moment creation.

The RF-2200 was its usual good performer. While the RF-2200 has a beautiful built-in rotating bar antenna, I enhanced it with the 27” Torus-Tuner Loop Antenna as made by K3FDY, Edmund Wawzinski.  I think I had picked this antenna up at one of NJARC’s swap meets.  So I wish to thank whoever it was that was nice enough to bring it and sell it at the meet.  I have really enjoyed using it.  With this setup, I was hoping that I might be able to pull in Denver, Salt Lake City and maybe even a Mexican station, but it was a complete bust on them.  But I did have a nice surprise in receiving the Cuban station Radio Enciclopedia on 530 in addition to the usual Radio Reloj time signal station.  Following is photo of it in operation:

Originally, I had thought that my second contest entry would be done with a 1962 Sony TR-910T three-band transistor radio.  This radio has a fairly wide dial along with a second fine-tuning knob which would be a big help.  I would have again used the 27” hula-hoop antenna.

But I made the nice mistake of running across Dave Schmarder’s Makearadio website:

http://makearadio.com/

Dave’s site is a wonderful resource for creating your own Crystal, Tube, and Solid State radios as well as Audio Amplifiers and Loop Antennas.  While going down the rabbit hole of his site, I ran across his Loop Crystal Set, #19 Crystal Radio:

http://makearadio.com/crystal/19.php

What grabbed my attention was the wood frame loop antenna which is similar to one I had acquired a couple of years ago at a ham fest:


It was a really nicely constructed, nice swivel base.

I replaced the tuning capacitor with one that has a 6:1 ratio.

At this point I started thinking that I could create something similar with my loop.

I randomly grabbed a diode from my parts box.  Not sure what the exact model is.  (I later found out that it was an IN-34 which is what I was hoping it was.)  Then quickly soldered the diode, a resistor and capacitor to a RCA plug:

I then proceeded to use some jumper cables and just clip it to the tuning capacitor on the antenna base:

The RCA plug was then the audio out (I hope) from the radio.

I quickly realized that I did not have a crystal headset or any headset that would reproduce any audio.  So I used an old Marantz cassette recorder to act as an amplifier.  Fed it into the mic jack and then tried to listen to the monitor out.  Bingo – I could pick up or local station on 1340 really weak.

So I then fed the audio from the Marantz into a Edirol digital recorder.  Now I was getting enough audio for the headphones plus could make  a recording of the audio.

At last I was receiving some signals.  To boost the audio some more I removed the resistor from the circuit.

I found out the I could only tune from about 530 to 1350.  I probably needed to clip the lead on one of the loop turns, but I really wanted to see how it would do at night.  I spent several hours and was just totally amazed at how well it performed and how good the audio was.  The hardest part was when there were very strong signals on the adjacent frequency.  What I found really interesting was that it was not linear in its tuning.  At the low end of the band the stations were more spread out than at the higher end.  This made tuning fairy easy at the low end and very touchy at the high end.  I was able to hear a couple of Chicago stations along with Atlanta and St. Louis.

Here’s photo of it in action:

I have created an audio file of the station ID’s heard with the diode/loop radio.  The audio file is on the Internet Archive at:

https://archive.org/details/bcbstationidsondioderadio

I had a lot of fun in the contest and especially enjoyed trying something really different with the diode/loop radio.  Now I have a whole year to try to think up something really creative for next year’s contest.


Absolutely brilliant, Bill! I’m so happy to see that your ham fest homebrew loop has served you so very well in a contest. I love how you pulled audio from your homebrew, make-shift diode radio as well–using your audio gear in a chain for amplification obviously worked very well.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Bill!

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Is there such a thing as “too close” when requesting a QSL–?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dziugas, who recently contacted me with the following question:

Hello,

I have a question – what is the legit distance to ask for a QSL card? As a Lithuanian, I have sent (and succeeded) with requests to Hungarian, Czech and Estonian stations. But would it be fine according to DX etiquette to send QSL requests for local/national FM stations? It would be nice to get a collection from them as well.

Thanks

Thank you for sharing your question, Dziugas. I hope that readers will comment with their input, but I’ll share with you how I feel about the matter.

I personally believe if you’re sending an honest, courteous, and detailed report, you can request a QSL from any station. The station could be in your neighborhood for that matter.

Include the basics!

It is very important, however, that you include some basic information in each listener report. Obviously, you’re already doing this Dziugas, but for the record–and others reading this post–I always include:

  • When and where I heard the station (date and time in UTC)
  • The broadcast frequency (important too for national broadcasters that use local relays)
  • Details about the broadcast from my own informed listening:
    • Including specifics about the topic being discussed
    • Noting any names of presenters or interviewees
    • Noting music titles (you can use your phone or an app like Sound Hound to help you ID)
    • Noting times I heard details (time stamps)
  • A signal report–I always use the SINPO code/system. Of course, with local stations, this might not be as necessary, but I’d still give them an idea of their signal quality.
  • How I heard them, giving them details about my receiver and antenna. If it’s an online station, I’ll also let them know if I’ve listened to their stream before (although, I base the QSL on my over-the-air listening–not online listening)

If I’m making a request by email, I’ll often include an MP3 recording, too.

For a more thorough overview though, check out Fred Osteman’s guide to reporting and QSLing at DXing.com.

Frankly, I think it’s a good idea to request QSLs from local and regional stations because these may actually be some of your most cherished QSLs in the future.

Also, keep your expectations in check. You may find it very difficult to get an actual QSL card from broadcasters today–typically, only international broadcasters still send these. I would also send your request via the post if you want a letter or paper reply.  Even then, it can be quite challenging to get a reply these days, but go for it and know that when you send a request, you’re representing radio listeners and DXers everywhere, so be a top-shelf diplomat!

With all this said, it sounds like you’re already doing all the right stuff, so I say go for those local QSLs!

Post readers: Please comment with your thoughts and suggestions!

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