Category Archives: Shortwave Radio

In search of the unique, the weird, the unusual . . . a reader participation post

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

There is a richness in human experience, and I want to sample it.

When I worked the world on the HF ham bands, I considered myself a “conversation hunter.” I wasn’t content to simply make a contact, exchange signal reports, and move on; I wanted to talk to people in foreign lands, to chat with folks who did unusual things, to hear things you would not normally hear otherwise.

Here’s a quick sampling:

  • I spoke with a ham in England, a falconer, who flew the birds for the movie “Lady Hawke,” and who had a side business of manufacturing tiny transmitters that falconers could use to track their birds.
  • The chief groundskeeper for a major university in Ohio once explained, on ten meters, the difference between commercial and consumer lawn mower engines (the commercial units are designed to be rebuilt quickly and easily).
  • Recently, on 2 meters I heard a ham explain how he used VHF/UHF crossband repeat to provide coverage for a special event.

Similarly, I enjoy hearing the unusual on the AM, FM, or shortwave broadcast bands. For example, one evening years ago, on shortwave I heard “Radio Peace and Love” from somewhere in the Caribbean, followed (on another frequency) by “Mark from Michigan” extolling the militia movement. On another occasion, I heard a story on Radio New Zealand about a Maori weaver’s collective.

So, bottom line, I am interested in the unique, the unusual, the weird (could be all three!) . . . and I prefer stuff that is NOT syndicated across a bunch of stations. Marion’s Attic comes to mind as I write this.

So, now it’s your turn: what’s your favorite programming that is off the beaten path? Please respond, and be sure to mention the time and frequency when it might be heard.

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Tom’s Recommendations: Earbuds and EQ Settings for Shortwave Listening

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


Earbuds for Shortwave Listening

by TomL

A few years ago I had bought the discontinued Sennheiser MM 50 earbuds for a cheap price on Amazon to use in my various radios.  The portable radios in particular can use more fidelity because of their small, raspy speakers.  I also like to listen without bothering others around me who might not want to listen.  And earbuds are a LOT more comfortable for my ear lobes than any over-the-ear headphones I have ever used.  Furthermore, the old Apple iPhone 4 earbuds were very harsh to listen to.  However, a trade-off is that, generally, earbuds are somewhat fragile; one of the two pairs of MM50’s died through mishandling.

I was generally happy with them while listening to Shortwave broadcasters with a mix of news/talk and music.  I especially liked them on Mediumwave listening; stations can sound surprisingly good when playing music.  Then I tried using these earbuds on my Amateur Radio transceiver, a Kenwood TS-590S.  I was impressed how clear they sounded with a lack of distortion, although there was too much bass.  Fortunately, Kenwood supplies USB connected software with an TX & RX 18 band EQ (300 Hz spacing, not octaves).

Here is a frequency response chart I found from Reviewed.com for this model:

One of the notable things about these earbuds is the total lack of distortion.  Most likely one of the reasons they sound so clear on Shortwave, which has many LOUD audio spikes.

I had not wanted to get Bluetooth earbuds.  However, I had recently upgraded my cell phone and NO headphone jacks anymore!  So, while I do not use Bluetooth yet for radios, I can see a time in the future to get a Bluetooth transmitter to plug into a radio with a headphone jack.  I am reluctant since I do not like having to recharge my earbuds and I put in a lot of radio listening time.  Am I supposed to buy two Bluetooth earbuds and swap while charging?  Maybe in the future.  And also, am I supposed to buy a Bluetooth transmitter for every non-Bluetooth radio I own?  Not likely gonna happen.

In the meantime, I ordered cheap wired earbuds from Amazon.  I had a $5 credit for trying Prime, so when I saw these Panasonic ErgoFit wired earbuds (RP-HJE120-K) for slightly over $10, I said to myself, “why not?”.   Supposedly wildly popular, they are one of the most rated products on all of Amazon with 133,821 ratings/opinions (perhaps Russian bots?!?!?).

Here is a frequency response chart from ThePhonograph.com for these Panasonic earbuds:

You can see comparatively that the bass response in the very good Sennheiser MM50’s is much stronger, being good music earbuds.  But for voice articulation, not as much, even though they have no distortion.  The Panasonic ErgoFit’s have more modest bass, less of a dip in the lower midrange audio frequencies, and more importantly, has a peak near 2500 Hz and its harmonic 5000 Hz.  The highest highs are also modest compared to the Sennheiser model.  This general frequency response to “recess” the bass and treble frequencies and peak the 2500 Hz is very useful for voice intelligibility.

As described by the famous speaker-microphone-sound-system maker, Bob Heil relates what he learned from the scientists at Bell Labs many years ago.  Speech intelligibility is enhanced when audio is compensated for our natural human hearing.  Equalizing below 160 Hz, reducing the 600-900 Hz region, and peaking the 2000-3000 region centered at 2500 Hz will increase intelligibility dramatically.  The story goes that Bell Labs was tasked by parent AT&T with finding out why the earliest phones in the 1920’s sounded so muffled and hard to understand.  After many experiments, the scientists found the most important frequencies for our ears + brain to comprehend speech.  In other words, our ears are not “EQ-flat” like a scientific instrument is. Continue reading

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Radio Waves: 83 years of ABC Broadcasting, AM to New Zealand Northland, and Taliban blocks RFE/VOA/Radio Liberty

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


ABC Radio Australia’s 83 years of broadcasting to the world (ABC)

This is the story of one of the ABC’s best kept secrets.

ABC Radio Australia was never intended to be a great secret. It was just the nature of the service that few Australians knew about it. When I hosted its breakfast program for nine years, I could count on one hand the number of people who knew what I was talking about when I told them I worked for RA.

Most people mistakenly thought it was the same thing as Radio National. I would have to explain, yet again, that this was our version of the BBC World Service, a worldwide broadcaster.

RA was founded at the start of the World War II by prime minister Robert Menzies as an antidote to the disinformation being broadcast by Australia’s new enemies, Germany and Russia. The idea of Australia Calling, as the service was initially named, was to provide an antidote to this propaganda, to counter that aerial bilge with factual, balanced and fair reportage.

So with a small team of English, Spanish, Dutch and French broadcasters, a minuscule budget and some tiny transmitters in antiquated shacks in Victoria and New South Wales, Australia joined the short-wave age in December 1939. [Continue reading…]

Boost for AM Broadcasting in NZ’s Northland Region (Content Technology)

Situated on the northwest tip of New Zealand’s north island, and home to the historically significant Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the Northland region is to receive a funding boost to strengthen its AM broadcasting infrastructure.

New Zealand’s Minister of Broadcasting and Media, Willie Jackson, and Minister for Emergency Management, Kieran McAnulty, have announced a NZD$1.48 million package to fund the repair and replacement of three transmission masts in Northland to ensure AM radio can stay on air in the region.

“This funding will secure the reinstatement of the Waipapakauri mast, which services Far North communities, and replace the masts at ?taika and ?haeawai which are on their last legs,” Willie Jackson said. “This will ensure that Northland communities retain their access to AM transmission in areas that are not serviced by FM frequencies.

“RNZ has already completed work to reinstate the Waipapakauri mast, which went back on air today.”

Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty said radio is a critical information channel to help reach New Zealanders in an emergency.

“When emergencies happen, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and local Civil Defence Groups work with the media to issue warnings and other critical information. We rely on radio as our number one emergency info channel as it is the most resilient and widely available form of public communication.

“Northland is especially reliant on AM radio due to its remote and rugged terrain, its exposure to hazards like tsunamis, and limited access to cellular service and other information sources,” Kieran McAnulty said. [Continue reading…]

Taliban Blocks Afghan Broadcasts By VOA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (All Access)

The TALIBAN has shut down several VOICE OF AMERICA RADIO ASHNA FM repeaters and has blocked RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY’s Afghan service RADIO AZADI, alleging that the U.S.-backed outlets are violating Afghani press laws and journalistic principles.

A statement from the VOA said that the move, which it noted broke a multiyear contract between the stations and the Afghan government, “is a blow to the large audience that turns to RADIO ASHNA for uncensored news and information. VOA broadcasts provided the people of AFGHANISTAN uncensored perspectives and hope. They gave ordinary Afghans a voice through call-in programs and discussion shows about subjects censored by domestic media. On VOA programs, topics ranged from the increasing isolation of AFGHANISTAN’s current government and the second-class status of women and girls as a result of the TALIBAN’s policies to the persistent economic failures that have diminished the quality of life in AFGHANISTAN since the TALIBAN takeover.”

“Many programs were anchored by women,” said Acting VOA Director YOLANDA LÓPEZ. “Removing VOA from the domestic airwaves will not silence us. It will only increase the importance of serving the captive audience inside AFGHANISTAN.”

The statement noted that the VOA reaches 7.3 million adults per week in the country, with almost half of those listening on broadcast radio; the service can also be heard via satellite TV, shortwave, AM, streaming, and social media and is “actively exploring additional ways to provide our content and fulfill our mission of serving our audience in AFGHANISTAN.” [Continue reading…]

Taliban hit Voice of America with broadcast ban (DW)

US-funded Voice of America said Taliban authorities pointed to “complaints” about their programing. Radio Free Europe was also banned by the Islamist regime.

Voice of America (VOA) and the AP press agency reported that Taliban authorities banned radio broadcasting from VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in Afghanistan from Thursday.

According to VOA, the Taliban authorities cited “complaints they have received about programming content” as reason for the ban.

However, there were no further details provided about the alleged complaints, VOA shared in a press statement.

Both VOA and RFE are funded by the US government, but “operate with journalistic independence and aim to provide comprehensive, balanced coverage,” the statement continued.

Whether or not the ban will be extended to other international broadcasters in Afghanistan remains unclear at this point.

In March, some parts of DW’s Afghan programing were stopped from being rebroadcast by Afghan partners, and BBC news bulletins in Pashto, Persian and Uzbek also taken off air.

Taliban say VOA and RFE ‘failed to show professionalism’
Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi told AP his country had laws regulating the media and any network that was “repeatedly contravening” them would be banned.

“VOA and Azadi Radio (Radio Liberty) failed to adhere to these laws, were found as repeat offenders, failed to show professionalism and were therefore shut down,” he said.

The Taliban regime has been cracking down on press freedom in the country by imposing restrictions on media and journalists since seizing power last year. [Continue reading…]


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Attention KMRT shoppers (again)

Hi SWLing post community, it’s bargain time again! This weekend your one stop shortwave shopping experience KMRT will be live from an imaginary supermarket near you. We will be broadcasting from the Manager’s office via an instore microwave link up and the show will go out on Sunday 4th December 2022 via WRMI on 9395 kHz at 2300 hrs UTC.

There will be a host of blue light specials, a trolley dash and a special appearance from a 1970’s TV star who will be choosing the winning numbers for the seasonal raffle. Tune in and join in the fun! Fastradioburst23.

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Giuseppe upcycles and improves a homebrew MW antenna

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

Dear Thomas and Friends of SWLing Post …

This is Giuseppe Morlè. As always, I try recycling what I have and improving upon antennas I’ve built in the past. This is one way we radio lovers can experiment. Many years ago, I made an antenna only for medium waves; by adding a circuit, I can now listen to short waves.

I took advantage of a small frame that I recovered from an old commercial FM / AM stereo receiver by removing its coils for medium waves and I wound around it only two coils sufficient to have a frequency range from 3.5 to 18 MHz.

I remember that the antenna in question also receives medium waves as it was born.

I chose this small frame because I wanted everything to be small in order to carry this compact antenna everywhere.

Unlike my other projects for SW and MW, which have a cable that carries the SW signal to the receiver, this time I used the induction that is created around one end of the loop, which I spiraled to get inside the stylus of my Tecsun PL-660 and which then transfers the signal to the receiver.

I did some tests on my balcony the day after a strong storm and I noticed that the propagation was absent but I still wanted to make sure that everything was working.

[Note that you can translate this video into your language via YouTube’s automatic subtitles. Click here to learn how to do this.]

I will keep you updated on other tests on more favorable days of propagation … I still invite you to follow me on my Youtube channel.

I wish everyone a good listening …
73. Giuseppe Morlè iz0gzw.

Many thanks, Giuseppe. I, for one, love all of your homebrewed and recycled antennas. This one is no exception! What a fun project. I love how you use what you have and aren’t afraid to experiment! Thank you for sharing.

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Top 10 DX of the Year SWL Contest 2022

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Istvan Biliczky, who shares the following announcement:

COMING SOON!

The TOP DX Radioclub invites you to the annual TOP 10 DX OF THE YEAR contest.
From 1 December 2022, 00:00 UTC to 31 December 2022, 24:00 UTC.

GOOD NEWS: Now you can get higher score! We’ve changed some of the rules from this year. The changes are highlighted in orange.

All details can be found on our website.

Thanks for sharing, Istvan! A number of SWLs here in the SWLing Post community truly enjoyed participating in the past! Click here for all contest details.

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Checking out the new C.Crane CC Skywave SSB 2

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Folks who are regular readers of my posts here have already figured out that I am a big fan of the CCrane Skywave SSB. It is easily the most versatile radio I own, receiving AM (medium wave), FM, shortwave, HF single sideband, NOAA weather stations with alert, and scannable civilian VHF frequencies, and I have written enthusiastically about it here on multiple occasions.

I think of the Skywave SSB as my “anti-boredom machine.” It’s small enough to slide into a shirt or jacket pocket pocket or tuck into any pack. Get stuck waiting in line, whip out the Skywave SSB, plug in a pair of ear buds, and listen to whatever is available.

So when I noticed that a new version of the Skywave SSB – the Skywave SSB 2 – appeared on the first page of the C.Crane 2023 catalog, I was delighted that the folks at C.Crane decided to send one to me. The SSB 2 includes all the goodies of the original, plus a handful of incremental improvements; upgrades include a micro-USB port for external power or charging NiMH batteries, a slightly better speaker, and longer feet on the bottom for better stability.

But the improvement that really makes me grin is a two-fer: first, the inclusion of an external antenna socket on the side of the SSB 2, and, second, the CC Wire Terminal Antenna Adaptor for shortwave, which is a 2-wire to mono plug adaptor that plugs right into the external antenna socket. This allows a long wire antenna to be easily hooked up to the SSB 2, and it works like crazy.

Attaching a long wire to the SSB 2 is now really easy. Attach your long wire to the CC Wire Terminal Antenna Adaptor (you’ll need a small gauge screwdriver; the screws are really small). Next, plug the adaptor into the external antenna socket. You’re done!

I attached a 45-foot end-fed antenna to the CC Wire Terminal Antenna Adaptor while listening to some hams chatting on 80-meters and found that it delivered an impressive improvement to the signal-to-noise ratio. And when I wanting to hit the road, it was a simple of unplugging the adaptor so the adaptor and wire antenna combo would be waiting when I came back.

The SSB 2 includes a number of useful accessories: the CC Wire Terminal Antenna Adaptor, a portable 23-foot CC Shortwave Reel antenna, CC Ear Buds (very comfortable), and a faux leather carrying case (if packing the SSB 2 in your luggage,  be sure to press the LOCK button, otherwise you find yourself with a singing suitcase or backpack.).

Bottom line: with the introduction of the Skywave SSB 2, CCrane has taken an excellent, versatile radio and make it even better. Highly recommended for all-round use, but especially as a travel and/or emergency radio.

Note: Jessica from CCrane sent me the following note regarding the SSB 2.

Please note:  When using headphones or earbuds there is an easily discernable, but not loud “pop” when switching bands and on memory presets on airband. There is no pop when using the speakers. It will take time to find the hardware and software remedy. It will not be corrected on this first shipment but we are working it and expect it to be reduced on future shipments. The new Skywave SSB-2 was up for a price rise October 2022 but we’re keeping it at $169.99 for now.

For more of my musing regarding the CCrane Skywave SSB, please consult:

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