Category Archives: Scanners

The two-pocket listening post . . . for when “they” are after you

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Man on the run thrillers, like The 39 Steps by John Buchan* and Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household hold a special fascination for me. Give me a yarn about someone being pursued by the bad guys, and I am enthralled. (Incidentally, there are a couple of good lists of these thrillers. Here and here).

Sometimes I like to play the mental game of: if I were that guy trying to stay ahead those who wished me evil intent, what radio(s) might I want with me?

The other day I realized I had the perfect combo, a pair of radios that cover a huge swath of spectrum, will fit in a couple of pockets (or one big pocket) and weigh just 14 ounces combined. Further, both will run off ordinary AA batteries, which are widely available.

Candidate number one is the C Crane Skywave SSB, which measures 3 inches by 4.75 inches by 1.1 inches. It receives AM, FM, shortwave (1711-29999 kHz), VHF aviation and NOAA weather radio with alerts. Because it receives single sideband (SSB) on HF frequencies, it can tune in aeronautical, marine and amateur radio stations that transmit in the SSB.

The Skywave SSB comes with a pair of ear buds that fit my ears well and offer pleasing audio. In addition, the SSB comes standard with an auxiliary wire antenna that can be deployed and clipped to the SSB’s whip antenna to boost signal-to-noise. Perhaps most useful for the man on the run, the SSB has excellent “signal seek” functions that can be used on any band. In fact, if you put the radio in SSB mode and activate the signal scan, it will search the ham bands and automatically switch from upper sideband to lower sideband as appropriate.

For the man on the run who can “hole up” for a while, I’ve tried clipping a 50-foot long wire to the SSB’s whip and antenna, and I was amazed at how well it can pull in faint ham signals. It’s the “little radio that could.” About the only thing that I wish I could change on the Skywave SSB is that it mutes between tuning steps when using the tuning knob.

But suppose our man on the run needs to monitor signals above the coverage of the Skywave SSB?  Candidate number two is the Icom R6. Measuring just 2.3 inches by 3.4 inches by 1.2 inches, the diminutive R6 covers from 100 kHz to 1309.995 MHz (less cellular and gaps) in AM, FM Narrow and FM wide modes (no SSB). It has 1300 alphanumeric memories, search-and-store capabilities, and rapid scanning of memory channels.

For high stealth, there is a setting that allows the R6 to use the wire that connects headphones or ear buds to the R6 as the antenna instead of the usual antenna. For a non-stealth application, using an aftermarket antenna like the Comet W100RX 25MHz-1300MHz Handheld Scanner Antenna, the R6T does a surprisingly good job of receiving shortwave stations. This antenna has markings on the side so that it can be set to the right length for various frequencies.

As you can see from the photo, the R6 has only a few buttons on its face and two on the side. Every button has multiple functions, and I found trying to program memory channels using the buttons to be a trial. As a result, I can highly recommend the RT Systems cable and programming software for setting up memory channels. In addition, some very useful notes for setting up and using the R6 can be found here: https://forums.radioreference.com/threads/icom-ic-r6-notes.442112/

Finally, I know that there are several tiny ham transceivers that might fill the bill, including the Yaesu VX-6R, although I am not aware of any that can receive single sideband. Besides, if you had the ability to transmit, “they” might be able to direction-find you . . . and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

*For sharp-eyed readers: yes, I know that The 39 Steps is set in a time before radio was widespread, but it is still one of my favorites.

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The new Alinco DJ-X100 wideband receiver

It appears that Alinco will soon introduce a new wideband handheld receiver covering 30 to 470MHz. I first learned about this during Ham Fair 2022 in Tokyo via HamLife.jp’s Twitter account.  That Twitter account lead me to the HamLife.jp website where I translated the details into English via Google Translate:

On August 20, 2022, Alinco Co., Ltd. released the DJ-X100 handheld wideband receiver that supports WFM/FM/AM in analog mode and C4FM/D-STAR/DCR/NXDN/DMR in digital mode. , Announced at the company’s booth (B-17) at Ham Fair 2022. The reception frequency range is 30 to 470MHz (some frequencies are excluded), the external dimensions are 58W x 110H x 32.5mm, and the weight including the antenna and battery pack is about 260g. The price is undecided and it is scheduled to be released in early spring 2023.

This isn’t an HF receiver, but it will be interesting to those who enjoy monitoring many of the digital voice modes in those frequencies. It’s one of the few receivers I’ve seen that can decode both DMR and D-Star among others modes. 

Check out HamLife.jp for more details (in Japanese).

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Dave spots a Realistic PRO-16 in WKRP episode

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave (N9EWO), who shares the following:

“WKRP In Cincinnati” – “Tornado” S01 E12 (February 1979)

“The station staff finds themselves in danger when Herb unplugs a teleprinter just as it is receiving a local tornado warning.”

Look for the Radio Shack Realistic PRO-16 (cat no. 20-165) scanner receiver at 35:15 in this dual episode “Internet Archive” video. A Midland 13-902 weather radio sits on top of the PRO-16 scanner.

Dave Zantow N9EWO
Janesville WI

Sharp eyes there, Dave!  Thank you for sharing this! WKRP is classic!

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Abbree AR-F8: Rolf’s mod to achieve zero volume

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Rolf, who writes:

Hello Thomas,

I have a Abbree AR-F8 portable.

It had a small problem: the volume would not get to zero, so you hear still hear noise if
the volume knob was on low/zero.

I opened the radio and found a solution. Continue reading

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Mark spots a scanner in Chicago Fire TV series

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Hirst, who writes:

Thomas,

I’m currently enjoying ‘Chicago Fire’ on Netflix and spotted this scanner at the fire station.

Taking a wild guess, I typed ‘realistic scanner’ into image search and eventually found one that looked similar, the Realistic Pro-57.

Perhaps scanner enthusiasts can confirm this, and maybe share some memories about it, good or bad!

Thanks for sharing this, Mark! Certainly not an easy scanner to ID from such a quick video frame, but I’m willing to bet some of our readers can comment and confirm the model and share any thoughts about this particular scanner! 

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Listen to a live ARISS contact on Friday, February 2021

The number of ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) has been lower during the Covid-19 pandemic due to so many schools being closed and relying on remote instruction. Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bruce Atchison, who notes that there will be an ARISS contact tomorrow (February 5, 2021) in Canada.

Listening to an ARISS contact is actually quite easy as long as you’re within the footprint of the ISS during the pass. Almost any radio–a scanner, handheld radio, etc.–that can receive 145.8 MHz can tune in. Click here to read a previous post describing how to listen.

Check out the RAC news item below with full details:

ARISS contact with Ottawa Carleton Virtual Online School: Friday, February 5

Ottawa, Ontario

ARISS Event: February 5, 2021 – As part of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program, NASA Astronaut Mike Hopkins, KF5LJG, will connect with students from the Ottawa Carleton Virtual Online School in Ottawa, Ontario  and answer their questions (see below), live from the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS call sign is scheduled to be NA1SS event and the will take place on Friday, February 5, 2021 at 17:41:04 UTC 40 deg via AB1OC. It is recommended that you start listening approximately 10 minutes before this time.

The duration of the contact is approximately 9 minutes and 30 seconds. The contact will be a telebridge between NA1SS and AB10C which is located in New Hampshire:

Ground Station Coordinates:
AB1OC New Hampshire Latitude 42.712N; Longitude 71.590W; Elevation 110m

The contact should be audible over the USA and Canada (Eastern regions) and adjacent areas. Interested parties are invited to listen in on the 145.80 MHz downlink. The contact is expected to be conducted in English.

Steve McFarlane, VE3TBD, ARISS Central and Northern Canada representative, is the Mentor for the event and Brian Jackson, VE6JBJ, ARISS Western Canada Mentor, is the Moderator.

ARISS is an international program aimed at inspiring students worldwide to pursue interests and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through Amateur Radio communications opportunities with the ISS crew.

For more information on ARISS please visit:

RAC ARISS webpage: https://www.rac.ca/ariss/

Main ARISS website: http://www.ariss.org

Multipoint Telebridge Contact via Amateur Radio

As mentioned above, members will ask their questions to Astronaut Mike Hopkins, KF5LJG, via an adapted telebridge link which will use a multi-point system in which they are connected to the conference call centre from their own homes.

The concept requires three things:

  • the ARISS telebridge radio ground station – a satellite Amateur Radio station with special equipment that an ARISS team member uses for teleconferencing
  • the astronaut on the International Space Station using the ARISS Amateur Radio station
  • students at their homes here on Earth

The telebridge radio operator links to the astronaut at the ARISS radio mic, and each youth then connects from home via their telephones. Their families can listen along with school faculty and the public from home.

ARISS invites the public to view the livestream of the upcoming ARISS contact at: https://youtu.be/Ery1JYmk72o

Click here to read the full article at the RAC website.

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Icom IC-R30 new firmware (v 1.11) now available

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Markku Koskinen, who shares the following:

Just letting you know that Icom has released new firmware for the IC-R30 receiver.

Please read carefully and follow all instructions:

https://www.icomjapan.com/support/firmware_driver/

Changes from version 1.10: Fixed the problem of when the ANL of the band that is not used is ON, while the Dualwatch function is OFF, the received DCR audio may not be output from the speaker.

This firmware is for the USA version that has a serial number beginning with “16”.

This firmware is for non-USA versions that have a serial number beginning with other than “16”.

Thank you for the tip, Markku!

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