Category Archives: Portable Radio

Guest Post: Everyone should have a “Crisis Radio”

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


The Crisis Radio

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Sooner or later, it will happen to you. What’s ‘it’? Short answer: a crisis.

It could be as simple as you wake in the morning to find the power is out; you don’t know how long it has been out, and you don’t know when it is coming back. It might be a weather event: a blizzard, a sandstorm, a tornado, a derecho, a hurricane. It might be a geologic event like a tsunami, earthquake, or even volcanic activity. As recent events have shown, it could even be a war or a revolution.

When normal life is disrupted, and uncertainty is perched on your shoulder like a vulture, you will want to know what’s going on, and your usual means of getting information – telephone, smart phone, internet device – may also be disrupted.

When that happens, radio can come to your rescue. Your local FM or AM (medium wave) station may be on the air, providing vital information to your community, or NOAA Weather Radio may be providing hazard information. In extreme cases, shortwave radio may be beaming information to your area when all else fails.

One of the points that was made when our own Thomas Witherspoon was interviewed recently was that people tend to regard shortwave radio as “crisis” radio.

So I have a couple of very specific recommendations.

First, make sure that your household has a “crisis radio.” By that I mean one that will receive your local AM and FM broadcasters as well as shortwave radio, and, if you live in the US or Canada, NOAA Weather Radio. If you can afford it, I recommend getting a crisis radio that has single sideband capability (SSB) so that you have the ability to intercept ham radio communications, which might be another source of information.

Toward that end, I can heartily recommend the CCrane Skywave SSB radio. (Let’s be clear: I have no commercial connection with CCrane; I get nothing from them for making this recommendation, I purchased my Skywave SSB with my own money.) It has AM, FM, Shortwave, Weather, VHF, Aviation and SSB Bands. It is very small, measuring just 4.8″ W x 3″ H x 1″ D and weighing just 6 ounces without batteries. It will run for over 50 hours on a couple of AA batteries and comes with CC Earbuds, SkyWave SSB Carry Case, and CC SW Reel Antenna which boost sensitivity for shortwave and ham radio listening.

It is a crisis radio that you can stick in your pocket, backpack, purse or briefcase for deployment when the need arises or you simply want to listen to some radio programming. Further, you don’t have to be an expert to operate the CCrane Skywave SSB. Thanks to the Automatic Tuning System, just select the band you want to listen to, press and hold the ATS button for two seconds, and the Skywave SSB will automatically search for stations in that band (AM, FM, Shortwave, etc.) and store those stations in the memory banks for that band. You can later check those memories to hear what programming those stations are broadcasting.

Second, and this is important, if you listen to shortwave radio at all, take the time to let the stations know. Drop them a postcard; shoot them an email, do whatever you can to inform them you are listening, and you value their transmissions.

Why? Because we all want those stations to be there if and when the next crisis happens. And if your local AM or FM station provides special programming to the community a weather event or geologic emergency, for the same reason, be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.

As a fire captain observed a couple of years after the North Ridge earthquake in California: “You cannot be over-prepared for communications in an emergency.”

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HanRongDa HRD-747: Expanding reception to include longwave

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares the following video which shows how connecting an external antenna to the HDR-747 extends reception range down to longwave:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thanks for the tip, Dan!

Note: Dennis adds that the antenna used in this video can be found here.

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eBay Find: A “near mint” Sony ICF-6000W PSB/FM/AM band receiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares a link to this Sony ICF-6000W he found on eBay:


The seller notes that the condition is “near mint” and the radio works perfectly both electronically and mechanically.

I absolutely love the design of this radio. When this was being produced (assuming sometime in the 1980s), Sony and Panasonic’s aesthetic smacked of utility, simplicity, and had a near military-grade feel. Ever function had a switch or knob.

Neither Dan nor I have ever seen this particular model before. If I had money to burn, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Sony radios of this era tended to have stellar AM/MW performance. I’d love to see how large the ferrite antenna inside might be.

Note that even though this radio may work perfectly–it’s obviously been very well taken care of–you would need to mentally allot funds to have it re-capped at some point soon (Vlado could do this, I’m sure). You wouldn’t want a leaky cap to damage the board or other components inside. With radios pushing 40 years old, you must plan to replace the capacitors.

The price is $399 US with a modest shipping fee. The seller has stellar ratings and there’s a 30 day return window .

Click here to check out this Sony ICF-6000W on eBay.

If you own or have owned an ICF-6000W, we’d love to hear your thoughts about its performance! Please comment!

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Guest Post: Comparing the Reuter Pocket and the Icom IC-705 from an SWL’s perspective

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Uli (DK5ZU), who shares the following guest post:


SWL with a Reuter Pocket and the Icom IC-705

by Uli (DK5ZU)

Some time ago I asked how the IC-705 performs on longwave and I got some great feedback. Thanks a lot again. Since the HAM bug bit me again, I wanted to do SWL and HAM Radio portable with one rig. I started with SWL some weeks ago (just before the bug bit). I acquired a second hand Reuter Pocket RDR 51 Version B2. It is a standalone SDR Receiver 0 … 30 MHz / 50 ..71 MHz, and in my B2 version it has also FM (Stereo/RDS) and Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB). You may find the detailed specs here:
https://www.reuter-elektronik.com/html/pocket.html

The Reuter Pocket could, at one point, be configured as an QRP Transceiver, but it is no longer supported. There is a new RDR 52 small tabletop models, which can be ordered as a transceiver, too. But due to Covid related supply chain problems and price changes for the components, the new model is currently postponed.

The IC-705 is available, though. And for portable HAM operations it is a no brainer; obviously with a high price tag, but comparable with a new Reuter RDR 52 tabletop. And since my budget for the hobby is limited, I thought about funding part of the IC-705 price by selling the Reuter Pocket. But I wanted to do a side-by-side comparison so I ordered the 705 and was able to check them both on one antenna. The goal was to compare their sensitivity and selectivity on the lower bands: BC on AM and HAM bands for SSB. I did not compare CW since I am not a CW operator.

The antenna is a MiniWhip from PA0RDT which works quite well on the lower bands.

This comparison is not at all scientific and reflects just my opinion and what I heard. But anyway, there may be some people out there interested in this. So much for the intro.

Let’s start with my overall findings. Continue reading

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Looking back: What radios did you use the most in 2021?

I’m not sure why, but near the end of the year I always like to look back at my radio routine and figure out which radios I used the most. Often, the answer is surprising.

This year, I realized there was a very clear winner…

The C.Crane CCRadio3

The C.Crane CCRadio3 has taken lead position as my daily driver. I have it turned on most days for as much as 4-5 hours at a time depending on how much I’m at home.

Here’s why it has become my daily driver:

  • Benchmark AM/FM reception: The CCRadio3 grabs a solid lock on my favorite local and regional MW and FM stations. At the end of the day, my favorite news program (Marketplace) is available on a local WCQS and distant WFAE. The CCRadio3 can lock onto both equally well. I’ve very few portables that can do this. In addition, I use the CCradio3 for casual MW DXing when I’m not using the Panny RF-2200 or my Chuck Rippel-restored SRII.
  • Audio: The audio from its internal speaker is superb for voice content, but also robust enough for music. I love the dedicated Treble/Bass controls. The audio can be turned up to the point that it can be enjoyed throughout our house.
  • Bluetooth: I listen to a lot of content online and pipe it via Bluetooth from various devices to the CCRadio3. I stream the CBC, FranceInfo, ABC, and/or the BBC most mornings from my laptop. I use Radio Garden on my iPad to explore a world of local radio. I also stream Apple Music from my Mac Mini to the CCRadio3. When I do workouts on my stationary bike, I’ll often listen to both podcasts and music on the CCRadio3 via my iPhone.
  • Battery life: The battery life on the CCRadio 3 is simply stellar. It takes four D cells which offer up a lot of capacity. There are so few digital display radios today that can quite literally play for a few months on one set of batteries. I invested in a set of EBL D Cells and Charger (this package–affiliate link) and have been super pleased. When in the shack/office, the CCRadio3 is plugged into mains power via the supplied AC adapter. All other times, it runs on rechargeable battery power.

It’s ironic, too, because the CCRadio3 doesn’t cover shortwave which is, without a doubt, my favorite band. Thing is, now that so many of my staple news sources are difficult to reliably get on shortwave in the mornings (oh how I miss Radio Australia) I turn to FM and online sources for news content. I still listen to the BBCWS, RNZ, RRI, and at least a dozen other news programs on shortwave, but due to my schedule, it’s mostly casual listening.

On the go: The Belka-DX

Speaking of shortwave, though, the portable I’ve used the most this year for SWLing has been the Belka-DX. Besides it being a super-performing DX machine, it’s also incredibly compact and portable. I keep it in a small Tom Bihn zippered pouch and it lives in my EDC bag which accompanies me on all errands and travels.

The Belka-DX is so small, I forget it’s there. Even some of my smallest compact portables are nearly three times the size of the Belka-DX.

In the field: The Icom IC-705

If you follow QRPer.com, you’ll no doubt see that I spend a lot of time in the field doing QRP amateur radio activations of summits and parks. As I’ve pointed out in my review and 13DKA has pointed out in his reviews, the IC-705 is a benchmark shortwave, mediumwave and FM DXing machine. At $1300 US it’s pricey for sure, but it offers up a usable spectrum display/waterfall, audio RX controls, customizable filtering, HF/VHF/UHF coverage, and built-in audio recording/playback.

You don’t even need a 13.8V power supply with the IC-705 as it’ll charge from most any USB source via a Micro USB plug and run in receive for at least 5 hours without needing a recharge. Of course, you could invest in a second, higher-capacity battery pack and get even more battery life.

When I take the IC-705 on a field activation, I’ll often do a little listening after I finish the ham radio portion of my outing. It’s a great reminder of how important it is to take your radios to the field these days. With no QRM, it’s amazing what you can receive.

How about you?

What radios did you use the most in 2021? Please comment!

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Jock explores “The Essential Listening Post”

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


The Essential Listening Post

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Listening to shortwave radio (or any radio, for that matter) is just plain fun.

So what do you need to get in on the fun?

A radio. With today’s crop of portable SW radios, many of which have search and store capabilities, a newbie SWL can get started quickly without a lot fuss and bother and no extra stuff. Just hit the search and store function (it has different names on different radios), let the search function do its thing, and step through the memories to see what’s out there. If your radio doesn’t have search and store, you can just tune around to see what’s currently broadcasting or, if you have a computer or smart phone, use it to explore one of the online directories like https://shortwaveschedule.com/

What follow next are some things that I’ve found increase my enjoyment of SWLing. Continue reading

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Guest Post: Remembering the Radio Shack TRFs

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bob Colegrove, for the following guest post:


Remembering the Radio Shack TRFs

As recalled by Bob Colegrove

There has always been an interest in DXing on the cheap.  At the same time, most of us don’t want to sacrifice any more capability than necessary.  In the late 1970s and the early 1980s, Radio Shack provided an attractive answer to this conundrum for medium wave DXers.  These were identified respectively by their Radio Shack stock numbers 12-655 and subsequently the 12-656A.  I remember them being very popular among National Radio Club members of the time.

These radios were commonly known by their sobriquet “TRF.”  Initially applied by Radio Shack itself, the term stuck.  TRF stands for tuned radio frequency receiver.  In the early days of radio, the term referred to the necessity for the operator to manually put an RF amplifier stage on frequency by adjusting the value of a variable capacitor or inductor.  As amplifier stages became cascaded in two or three stages, this became a real problem, as each stage had to produce the correct frequency before anything could be heard.  Eventually, designers hit on the idea of mechanically connecting all the RF stages together so tuning could be accomplished with a single knob.

Fast forward to the standard AM radios of a later generation.  Entry level (read cheap) radios were limited to two stages consisting of a converter and an oscillator.  This was standard design practice during the vacuum tube and transistor eras.  Better, more sensitive radios added a third stage, an RF amplifier operating ahead of the converter stage.  Obviously, this required more circuitry and, consequently, more expense.

Enter the Radio Shack TRFs.  The term TRF was a throwback to the days of the tuned radio frequency radios and referred specifically to Radio Shack’s addition of an extra RF amplifier ahead of the converter stage.  The TRFs were by no means the first radios to have this feature, but they were obviously marketed to folks who wanted longer than normal distance reception.  Further, the radios were AM only uncompromised by FM circuitry, which would have to be integrated into the design and provide a distraction at best and a performance compromise at worst.

I didn’t discover these treasures until late in their production cycle.  Consequently, my comments are mostly focused on the 12-656A.  In later times, the -656A retailed for $34.95.  On final clearance this dropped to $25, and I snapped up several for my friends and my own tinkering.  The internal layout was not especially good for repair or modification, but at least was well within this enthusiast’s capability.

The picture below shows the dial of the -656A.  The radio was designed prior to the expansion of the AM broadcast band to 1700 kHz; thus, it is only specified to cover 520 kHz through 1620 kHz.  Although I don’t recall ever having tried it, the circuitry could possibly be coaxed to 1700 kHz.  On one of my “hot rod” units, I replaced the silk-screened dial with a plain piece of Plexiglas backed with a hand-calibrated dial, which permitted accurate calibrations for 10-kHz channel identification.  The tuning knob and dial cord mechanism work very well right out of the box.

The controls are aligned along the right front side of the radio.  Below the tuning knob are tone and volume controls followed by an off/on switch.  The 655 is similar, except the tone switch is replaced by a slider potentiometer like the volume control.  In retrospect, the off/on switch should have been recessed into the front panel, as it is easy to accidentally turn on the radio with the protrusion of the switch.

The back of the cabinet (below) features standard 1/8” phone jacks for earphones (left) and an external antenna (right).  The TRFs may be powered by either four C cells or from 115-Vac mains.  Rather than having a separate 6-Vdc wall wart, the ac power supply components, cord and all, are contained inside the radio.  For storage, the power cord is simply wrapped up in its own compartment next to the battery compartment.

Below is a tinker’s view of the innards of a -656A.  Could the box have been made smaller?  Obviously, one could replace the internal ac power components with a wall wart.  Perhaps the C batteries could be replaced with AAs.  Problem is with the speaker.  The PC board hides a large drum for the tuning mechanism.  Given the smooth tuning and large dial, the tuning arrangement is not something I would compromise.  So, stacking the speaker with the PC board would require a much thicker box.

The external antenna uses the standard approach of a small transfer coil wrapped around the ferrite bar for signal transfer.  Just as an aside, keep in mind for any long- or medium-wave radio having an external antenna coupled to the internal ferrite bar, the ferrite bar will remain active with the external antenna attached.  The external antenna is effective only to the extent that the phase and amplitude of its signal compliment or reduce that produced by the ferrite loop.

In addition to two intermediate frequency (IF) stages, the circuitry includes a 455 kHz ceramic filter in the base circuit of the first IF stage.  This provides very good selectivity.  Never satisfied the way things are, when I first got these radios, I duplicated a third IF stage in one of the units.  The result was a nice tight bandwidth still providing good audio.

The “improvements” in the -656A seem to be focused on the reduction of production costs.  I’ve already mentioned the tone switch for one.  Another example is the replacement of discrete components in the -655’s audio amplifier with a whopping 0.5-watt integrated circuit in the 656A.  Having no way to make a performance comparison, I will say my experience with the -656A is that it is still a very hot radio.

The TRFs filled a relatively minor marketing niche, namely DXing enthusiasts and perhaps a small number of expatriates who wanted to listen to broadcasts from their old hometowns.  The format evolution of medium wave broadcasting was already well on the way toward news-talk-ethnic broadcasting, and the appeal to rock ‘n rollers or virtually any music lovers just wasn’t there.  A sensitive radio had to include an FM band.  So, the TRFs faded into history sometime in the early ‘80s.

Enter the long-distance “superadios,” notably General Electric’s Superadios I, II, and III in the 1990s.  Radio Shack itself produced a clone-like Optimus 12-603.  The “super” by that time referred more to the audio quality than the sensitivity.  This later generation featured two higher-quality speakers packaged in a cabinet with somewhat better acoustics, separate base and treble controls, all driven by a higher-powered audio amplifier.

Having worked in the industry for a couple years as an assembler, I have never been convinced that inclusion of multiple band coverage does not result in some performance compromise.  Radios such as the TRFs have a special appeal to me.  The General Electric P780 is another well-regarded example of an AM-only, high-sensitivity, radio.  Maybe you have a favorite of your own.  If you’re into tinkering, and even if you’re not, a functional TRF or such radio can provide a lot of cheap entertainment.

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