Category Archives: Reviews

Hot Off The Press: The Worldwide Listening Guide’s Eleventh Edition

As a dedicated content DXer and broadcast enthusiast, I’ve always found joy in the pursuit of obscure programming across various mediums. While shortwave radio has been my preferred method since childhood, the allure of Wi-Fi radio and streaming content has grown increasingly appealing over time. Amidst the vast landscape of online content, The Worldwide Listening Guide (WWLG) has consistently stood out as my go-to resource, and the recently released eleventh edition continues to be an invaluable tool for content discovery.

Once again, author and curator John Figliozzi has crafted a comprehensive guide tailored to the diverse interests of SWLs like myself. Going beyond a mere programming guide, the WWLG delves deep into the world of broadcasting and content delivery, covering platforms such as AM, Shortwave, FM, Satellite Radio, Internet (WiFi Radio), and Podcasting.

Each chapter dedicated to these platforms serves as a simple primer, offering insights into the state of broadcasting from both the broadcaster’s and listener’s perspectives. Reminiscent of the informative Passport to Worldband Radio that I first encountered in the 1990s, the WWLG not only provides programming details but also addresses the health and potential longevity of each platform.

What truly sets the WWLG apart is its attention to both over-the-air and online broadcasting.

Even for someone reasonably knowledgeable about radio and the media landscape, each edition of The Worldwide Listening Guide brings fresh discoveries. The eleventh edition, presented in a slim volume, maintains this tradition. What particularly pleases me is the WWLG‘s spiral-bound format, which makes it incredibly convenient to reference while exploring the airwaves or navigating the internet.

Figliozzi’s exploration of the many facets of radio is both insightful and detailed, making the WWLG an indispensable resource for anyone interested in broadcasting. It serves as a curated guide, akin to a local independent bookstore for online content and programming, aiding listeners in navigating the abundance of options.

Furthermore, each edition of the WWLG contains new and updated content, showcasing Figliozzi’s keen awareness of the dynamic space that is online streaming and downloadable media. As a dear friend of mine, I know there simply couldn’t be a better author and curator for this volume.

Packed with a wealth of information, The Worldwide Listening Guide is a true bargain, promising to keep content DXers engaged for years to come. I wholeheartedly recommend it to those seeking a deeper understanding of broadcasting and a reliable tool for content discovery.

Click here to purchase from Universal Radio.

Click here to purchase The Worldwide Listening Guide on Amazon.com. Note that this Amazon affiliate link supports the SWLing Post at no cost to you. Thank you!

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Michael compares the Choyong LC90 Export and Chinese Versions

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Ye (BD4AAQ), for the following guest post:


Twins, Yet Each One Unique – A Comparison of the Worldwide Version of LC90 with its Chinese Counterpart

by Michael Ye (BD4AAQ)

The export version of the LC90 is now available in the market [affiliate link]. Previously, we examined the Chinese version, which has been in the China market since early 2023. Instead of a review of the export version, this article will focus on the similarities and differences between the two LC90 versions – the version that has just started to be distributed outside China and the version that is already being sold in China. A link to my previous article can be found by clicking here.

One thing to note is the name of the manufacturer. In my previous review, I used Chaoyuan, the “pinyin” phonetic of the Chinese characters of the name of the company. As it turned out, the westernised spelling that the company uses is Choyong, or Choyong Electronics.

The LC90, a hybrid radio that combines the Internet radio with the traditional radio, is a bold move and seems to be well-received by shortwave listeners and beyond. Let’s explore what these two versions of the same model have to offer.

Appearance

The two versions of the radio look the same in appearance. However, upon closer inspection, you will notice the language on the buttons differs. The export version has all the buttons labeled in English, while the buttons of the Chinese version have a mixture of Chinese and English.

Traditional Radio

I do not find differences between the FM, MW and SW features of the two versions. Both versions have the specifications as follows: FM: 64-108 MHz, MW: 522-1710 kHz and SW: 2.3-26.10 MHz. Shortwave performance remains excellent. However, for the export version, you could toggle the MW tuning step between 9 kHz and 10 kHz, and the FM tuning step as well, through the setup (gearbox) button, but it does not seem possible to change any tuning step on the Chinese version – this seems to be a matter of software upgrade and so is not really an issue.

On both versions, press MW again to enter LW (153-279 kHz).

Internet Radio

In terms of the stations that can be heard, the Internet radio exhibits significant differences from that of the Chinese version. The Chinese version is designed to exclusively feature Chinese language stations (and a few English language stations) in China. If we were to liken the Chinese Internet radio to a closed system such as iOS, it would be stable, reliable but restrictive. In contrast, the export version could be compared to Android, offering more open, inclusive and customisable user experience.

On the export version, the MENU button provides access to the main menu, which begins with the six continents (excluding Antarctica) and allows users to navigate to the desired country and then select a specific station. Additionally, shortcut keys are available for direct access to MUSIC, PODCAST, NEWS, TAG and LANG (languages).

TAG and LANG for Ai1 and Ai2 Buttons

On the Chinese version, two buttons, Ai1 and Ai2, serve as voice assistants. Activate and speak to them and the radio directly plays the content (Ai1) or displays search results for users to choose from (Ai2). They come in handy when you look for a specific item, for instance the title of a song or a talk show. On the export version, however, the voice assistants have been removed and replaced with shortcuts TAG and LANG.

Add Your Own Stations

The Chinese version has about 1000 Chinese Internet stations built-in. On the worldwide version of the radio, there is a vast number of Internet stations available, literally tens of thousands of them, in different languages, and from different corners of the world. The number is updated from time to time. And that is not all. A really cool feature is the ability to add stations of your choice and it is easy to do with the help of a mobile phone. Unfortunately, this feature for adding your own stations is not available in the Chinese version.

Nano SIM card

The Chinese version comes with a built-in nano SIM card that is prepaid and provides Internet data. To continue using it, simply add credit to the card. In contrast, the export version does not include a prepaid, data-enabled SIM card for the user. Still, the user can use a WI-FI connection or purchase a 4G nano SIM card to insert into the device’s slot.

Some Features Not Discussed Previously

Both versions have the following features:

  • Keyboard backlight;
  • IPS LCD with backlight;
  • Type-C charging cable supplied;
  • TF card supported (to store and play your own music); and
  • Bluetooth for the radio to serve as a Bluetooth speaker.

The integration of high-tech gadgets and advanced devices into our daily routines has become indispensable in this age of the Internet. It is essential to adapt to the ever-evolving nature of the times.

Bottom Line

The Choyong LC90 is an exceptional radio that combines traditional radio features with modern Internet capabilities. It is available in both domestic and worldwide versions. The revolutionary design of the LC90 allows for excellent overall performance in both over-the-air radio reception and online streaming/podcasting.

There is no difference in traditional radio reception and performance between the domestic and worldwide versions of the LC90. However, the Internet features are drastically different, as the worldwide version serves audiences around the world, while the Chinese version is dedicated to the audience in China.

Overall, the Choyong LC90 offers a unique combination of traditional radio and modern Internet capabilities, making it a versatile and high-performing device for radio enthusiasts and music lovers.

Wish List

Is SSB decoding necessary? Well, it depends. The radio primarily caters to broadcast listeners, but both hardcore amateur radio hobbyists and general listeners may find it appealing. While adding SSB decoding can enhance its functionality, it will increase costs and may require additional space, considering it already combines two radios in one device.

There are two switches, the red button (upper right) and the volume/sleep knob (lower right side). Is it really necessary to have both?

On the export version, the “network error” message may occasionally pop up, and the radio would become quiet until human intervention steps in. Is it feasible for the radio to automatically resume play after the network error is cleared?

For some users, the antenna jack is a bit too close to the tuning knob. In most situations, this proximity does not impact the radio’s operation. However, if you need to connect an antenna using a connector, you may encounter difficulty or even find it impossible to plug it in.

Click here to check out the Choyong LC90 (export version) on Amazon.com.

Note that this Amazon link supports the SWLing Post at no cost to you. Thank you!

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Taking a look at the XHDATA D109-WB . . . a sweet spot on the price/performance curve

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

The XHDATA D109-WB is a small radio that hits a sweet spot on the price/performance curve, delivering a lot of performance for not a lot of money (probably less than $60 US, depending on the source).

The D109-WB measures 5.9″L x 1.45″W x 3.07″H and weighs just over 10 ounces. It covers FM 64-108MHz, AM (medium wave) 520-1710KHz, LW 153-513KHz(9K), SW 1711-29999KHz, and seven NOAA Weather Radio channels 162.40-162.55MHz with alert function. It does not receive single-sideband signals. It offers 100 FM memories, 100 LW memories, 100 MW memories, and 300 SW memories. Further, it offers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 kHz bandwidths on MW and SW bands.

On the left side of the front panel is a plastic grill that fronts an inch-and-a-half speaker. On the right side is a small LCD screen with backlight that functions as information central for the D109-WB. Below it are 15 buttons (3 rows of 5 buttons each) that control various functions, including an “SOS Emergency Distress Sound and Light Alarm,” manual tuning and various auto scanning and auto memory storage schemes, band selection, DX/local receive mode selection, 9/10 kH MW spacing, clock alarms, bandwidth selection, a key lock/display switch, and a manual tune/memory mode switch, among others. Below those 15 buttons is a 3 x 4 numerical key pad for memory and direct frequency entry functions. To the right of the keypad are 5 buttons set in a circular pattern for controlling Bluetooth use and connectivity and MP3  playback (I did not test these last two functions).

On the right side of the case, you will find a type-C socket for plugging in a cable to charge the 18650 battery, a wheel for volume control, and a tuning knob.

On the left side of the case are 3.5 mm headphone and external antenna jacks.

On the back panel is a flip-out support and a hatch for accessing the battery. On the top, there is a fold-over 21-inch telescoping antenna and, on the bottom, two anti-skid rubber feet.

In all, I found the D109-WB to be solidly constructed with fit and finish appropriate to a radio in its price class. The only serious deficit I found in the D109-WB was the extremely small type in the owner’s manual. Consult the photograph below to see what I mean.

The D109-WB was straightforward to operate, and I enjoyed it. One cute trick was variable-speed tuning: on MW, turn the knob slowly, and it will change frequency in 1 kHz increments. Turn the knob fast, and the tuning rate jumps to 10 kHz increments (or 9 kHz, if you have selected that tuning option). Variable-speed tuning works the same way on the shortwave bands, and on the FM band, the slow tuning rate is .01 MHz, and it jumps to .1 MHz when the knob is turned quickly. I had not experienced variable-speed tuning in any other radio, and I like it . . . a lot.

But what I was really wanted to know was how well did the D109-WB perform?

Now here’s the rub: I don’t have any test equipment . . . but I do own a CCrane Skywave 2. So I sat down on a bright sunny afternoon with the D109-WB and the Skywave 2 side-by-side and compared them. I found that both would receive two weather channels loud and clear and one more weather channel marginally. Then I tuned firm the medium wave band, then the FM band, running the two radios in parallel and found that there was nothing that I could hear on Skywave 2 that I could not also hear on the D109-WB, and vice versa. In other words, I found the electrical performance of the two radios to be very similar . . . except, of course, that the Skywave receives the AIR band, and the D109-WB does not.

One of the things that I enjoy doing is to grab a radio, select a band, punch the SCAN button, and see what’s out there. Since I also own a Tecsun PL-880, I decided to run a scan on each band on each radio (D109-WB, Skywave 2, and PL-880) with its native whip antenna and see how many detectable signals I could find on each. By “signal,” I mean any place where the scan stopped where I could hear music, voices, or anything that sounded like a transmitted signal, as opposed to pure noise.

So here are the results of two different testing sessions on two different nights:

D109-WB vs. CCrane Skywave

D109-WB vs. Tecsun PL-880

A caution: before you start drawing conclusions from the results above about which radio is more sensitive than another, it is important to consider that those results may be heavily skewed by whatever “SCAN” algorithm is programmed into each radio. Further, the parameters of the SCAN algorithm for a particular radio are a black box to those who use the radio. What I can conclude from those results is that, if you want to be a lazy DXer like me and use the SCAN button for cruising the bands, the D109-WB will deliver pleasing results.

Since the D109-WB has a socket for plugging in an external antenna, I plugged in a 45-foot loop antenna. The D109-WB overloaded, but when I set the DX/local switch to local, the overloading went away but there was still a boost in signal-to-noise from the external antenna.

So, the bottom line: the XHDATA D109-WB delivers a whole lot of fun and performance at a very reasonable price, and I can easily recommend it for both newbies and old-timers alike.

In fact, if you want to turn a kid onto radio, here’s an idea: give the child a D109-WB and a paper atlas, explain how both work, then set that kid to work logging as many stations as possible and looking up where they are located. Heck, that sounds like fun to me.

Click here to check out the XHDATA D109-WB on Amazon.com

(note: this affiliate link supports the SWLing Post at no cost to you)

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Checking out CCrane’s Solo Earbud

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

The marketing email from CCrane intrigued me. “The cable is Kevlar™ reinforced for maximum durability” it said. The product in question was the “CC Buds Solo In-Ear Single Earbud for Radio, Audio Books and Podcasts.”

Sadly, many of the headphones and earbuds that I have owned and liked had to be tossed out because of a breakage somewhere along the cable. As a result, a more durable cable sounded like a great idea.

After checking out the Solo Earbud on CCrane’s website I decided to buy one. I was in the very act of pulling the trigger on the purchase when I noticed the deal: buy two, get one free. Well, heck, I thought, why not?

I revised my order, clicked the button, and a few days later three solo earbuds arrive.

We’ll get to how well the solo earbud works in just a moment, but I can almost guess what you’re thinking right now: “Listen with one ear? Why?”

There are a bunch of times when listening with just one ear is the best strategy. For example, when you are out and about or engaged in some sports activity and want to be situationally aware of what is going on around you. Or when you are listening at home and you want to be able to hear things going on in the household (for example, dinner is ready . . . don’t want to miss that! . . . or someone in the house needs something). Well, you get the idea.

The Solo Earbud is small and well-made. It has a four-foot cable with a clothing clip that terminates in a stereo to mono 3.5 mm plug. According the C.Crane, the audio is tuned for “superior voice quality.” I liked the sound it delivered from my shortwave radios, scanners, and even audio books and I found it helped me to pick out faint signals. In addition, I found that using a Solo Earbud was less entangling with smoother operation than using just one earbud from a stereo pair of wired earbuds . . . that unused dangling earbud seems to always get in the way or get caught on things.

The Solo Earbud comes with three silicone and three compressible foam covers – sized small, medium and large. After a little experimentation, I found one that fit my ear very comfortably. The Earbud even comes with a small drawstring bag for storing the Earbud when not in use.

I have saved perhaps the coolest use for last. Frequently I rise well before dawn to monitor the airwaves. With a pair of Solo Earbuds, I can plug one into a scanner and another Earbud into a shortwave radio. With one Earbud in each ear – voila! – I can cruise the HF bands and monitor a scanner without interrupting the peace of the early morning household.

Bottom line: I found the CCrane Solo Earbud to be a useful and worthy piece of gear for general listening or DXing.

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Checking out BHI’s HP-1 and NCH headphones for DXing

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

As an oldster with a bit of hearing deficit, I am a big fan of anything that helps me to hear better when I am trying to tease out hard-to-hear signals, whether medium wave broadcast, shortwave broadcast, or single-sideband signals on the HF ham bands.

Toward that end, headphones help a lot. They deliver the audio signal directly into the ear canal while reducing distraction from external sounds. I had some inexpensive headphones from a big-box store, but I wondered if there were headphones that would be better suited for DXing.

So I contacted the folks at BHI to see if they had any headphones that would help with medium wave DXing. BHI is the British company that manufactures really effective noise cancelling products.

In response, the folks at BHI sent me their HP-1 Wired Stereo Headphones and their . . . NCH Active Noise Cancelling headphones . . . free of charge.

BHI describes the HP-1 Wired Stereo Headphones as “Comfortable Folding dynamic stereo headphones for Radio Communications,” and, in my view, they are just that. I found the HP-1 to be highly useful for medium wave and shortwave DXing. To my ear, they sound like they are biased toward high frequencies, with lower bass response than on the headphones I bought from the big-box store years ago. Because of the lower bass response, I find it easier to tease out faint signals on the airwaves, and the ear cups are comfortable for long-term listening. The cable is 1.9 m long and is terminated with an integral 3.5mm stereo jack plug.  The HP-1 headphones are supplied with a 1/4″ stereo to 3.5mm stereo adapter.

The NCH Active Noise Cancelling headphones are a bit of a different beast: they are NOT designed to cancel noise on the broadcast signal you are listening to. Instead, they are designed to reduce external noise. According to the BHI website:

The bhi NCH active noise cancelling headphones (ANC) do not work like our other DSP noise cancelling products but effectively reduce external ambient background noise enabling you to concentrate more and enjoy your listening experience when listening in a noisy environment.  The over-ear style NCH headphones also give good passive audio isolation from external noise.”

These headphones are powered an AAA battery. There is a switch to turn the noise-cancellation circuity on and off, and there is an LED that lights when the unit is activated. The NCH headphones have a 1.25m detachable cable with 3.5mm jack plug (both ends).

So I tried out the NCH headphones while mowing the lawn with a gasoline-powered lawnmower and listening to an audio book on my digital recorder. Bottom line: they really work to significantly reduce (but not totally eliminate) an external noise source and make the listening experience more pleasant. And when they are not turned on, they work really well as ordinary headphones for DXing. Like the HP-1 headphones, they are comfortable and biased toward high frequency.

In the end, I found both these headphones worked well for their intended purpose, and I am happy to recommend them.

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A review of the outdoor Planespotter antenna prototype

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Zach R., who shares the following guest post:


A review of the outdoor Planespotter antenna prototype

When it comes to airband monitoring, the stock whip antennas that ship with desktop and portable scanners are not the greatest. They’re fine if you’re at an airport and only interested in communications specific to your immediate area, but if you are someone like me who lives well out from any major airport, quality listening in can be impossible without some help in the antenna department.

Ideally, you want something like a discone or similar for omnidirectional listening, mounted as high as possible. This is not always possible or practical, however. SWLing Post contributor Ron recently reviewed the indoor Planespotter antenna, and I have one as well that works better than any rubber ducky, and can be easily hidden away when company comes.

Recently, the creator has come out with a prototype outdoor model. It’s the same design as the indoor unit, but with a longer run (25 feet) of coax, terminating in a BNC connector.

Besides the longer cable, the only other obvious change is the antenna is house in a skinnier PVC tube from the indoor model. It’s also sealed at the bottom so moisture won’t get in.

It has the same small metal hook on top, suitable from hanging from various mounts. I’d like more mounting options, but the hook does make for quick installation and removal. The half-wave length isn’t ungainly to handle and if painted it could easily be mounted on the side of a home without many people noticing.

The indoor version definitely works best on the VHF air band and seems to roll off aggressively above and below that band. The outdoor version, in side-by-side tests, seemed to perform the same on the air band but notably better on the VHF public safety band. It also pulled in more UHF air band traffic than the indoor model, despite being basically the same design.

The new outdoor version is a good choice for someone looking for a simple, already assembled antenna that’s suitable for temporary use or stealth mounting.

Disclosure: The outdoor prototype was supplied to me for free in exchange for a review. While taking more photos of the antenna I noticed the weatherproofing had come undone from the bottom. Hopefully this issue can be addressed before the antenna goes into production.

[Zach R. is the owner and editor of the Alabama Broadcast Media Page.]

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Ivan compares the new RTL-SDR V4 and the Airspy Discovery HF+

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ivan (NO2CW), who writes:

I ran a test of weak signals RTL-SDR v4 against Airspy HF+ Discovery. Using sdr # and a few gain adjustments particular to each of the receivers. I ran the test at approximately 9 pm local time using the same W6LVP loop antenna from my location near Miami Florida and I was intentionally looking for barely readable weak signals. The RTL-SDR v4 is a great budget SDR receiver!

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