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From the Isle of Music and Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot, Jan 14-27


From the Isle of Music, January 14-20 and January 21-27:
January 14-20, our special guest is the award-winning Cuban jazzista Alejandro Falcón, who will talk to us about his new release Mi Monte Espiritual, and we will listen to a few selections from that album
January 21-27, in honor of Jazz Plaza, we will listen to a potpuorri of excellent Cuban Jazz from the 1970s until today
Four opportunities to listen on shortwave:
1. For Eastern Europe but audible well beyond the target area in most of the Eastern Hemisphere (including parts of East Asia and Oceania) with 100Kw, Sunday 1500-1600 UTC on SpaceLine, 9400 KHz, from Kostinbrod, Bulgaria (1800-1900 MSK)
2. For the Americas and parts of Europe, Tuesday 0100-0200 UTC on WBCQ, 7490 KHz from Monticello, ME, USA (Monday 8-9PM EST in the US). This is running on a backup transmitter due to a recent fire.
3 & 4. For Europe and sometimes beyond, Tuesday 1900-2000 UTC and Saturday 1200-1300 UTC on Channel 292, 6070 KHz from Rohrbach, Germany.

Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot, January 14 and 21, 2018
Episode 45 of Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot, January 14, will be a bag of surprises, a little of this and that.
Episode 46 of Uncle BIll’s, Melting Pot, January 21, will focus on Albanian folk music. We promise it will be fun. 
Sundays,
2300-2330 UTC (6:00PM -6:30PM Eastern US) on
WBCQ The Planet 7490 KHz shortwave from the US to the Americas and parts of Europe

Addendum: More Notes on the HF+ SDR on Medium Wave & Long Wave

In my recent post on the AirSpy HF+ vs Elad FDM-S2, I commented on medium wave reception only.

This past weekend I swapped out the Wellbrook ALA1530S+ for another Wellbrook loop, the ALA1530LN Pro. This LN Pro model is less likely to overload receivers at my suburban Tacoma, WA location. Both AirSpy and Elad radios performed admirably with the LN Pro and it was nearly impossible to find any reception differences on medium wave.

Before the antenna swap though I experimented with inline attenuation modules (“bullets”), typically used in cable TV installations. I used the same sample rates on the SDRs as described in the previous article. After some tests with different attenuation levels, I came to the following conclusions during daytime comparisons:

FDM-S2 with ALA1530S+ loop, medium wave: needs a minimum of 6 dB attenuation to avoid overloading. Anything less causes saturation of the spectrum & waterfall, “crunching” overload noises, and minimal or no received signal.

HF+ with ALA1530S+ loop, medium wave: I had to search diligently to find any signs of false signals or overloading, but finally noticed a weak image or spur of a S-9+60 dB (-13.5 dBm) local station on 1560 that was appearing very weakly on 1270 kHz, mixing with the station on that frequency. Sometimes it was there, other times the spur or image would drop down and disappear, leaving the 1270 signal alone. If I added just 3 dB of attenuation in the antenna’s feed line, the interference from the 1560 station was gone for good. The S-9+60 dB station is a very strong signal; it’s impressive that the AirSpy HF+ deals with this and similar powerhouse signals so well.

Long wave: Below are two screen captures from my local long wave reception in the evening, made moments apart with each receiver.

FDM-S2

HF+

As you can tell, there are a half dozen or so additional signals seen on the HF+ below 200 kHz that do not appear on the FDM-S2. These extra spikes are images or spurs from medium wave signals that were missing from the FDM-S2’s reception–bravo Elad! However, the remaining spikes on both radios below 200 kHz seemed to be noise or interference.

Each receiver had roughly equal performance in the bulk of the long wave spectrum, when I did A-B comparisons on the same beacon signals. I’m not a LW or NDB DXer however, so I can’t claim any expertise on these frequencies. In short, though, both radios seem neck-and-neck from about 200 to 500 kHz.

The DXer of LW frequencies may want to look elsewhere for a better performing radio than either the FDM-S2 or HF+. SWLing Post reader Tudor Vedeanu has commented that the SDRPlay RSP1A  and the Eton E1 work very well at long wave.

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

From the Isle of Music & Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot, Jan 7-13


From the Isle of Music
, January 7-13:
This week our special guest is rumbero/percussionist extraordinaire Jesús María Abreu Hernández of Los Papines, who will share some of their exciting new release Rumbeando a mi manera. We will also converse about the history of the group. Plus, a taste of Los Hermanos Arango, one of the most interesting Rumba/Jazz/Fusion groups in Cuba today
Four opportunities to listen on shortwave:
1. For Eastern Europe but audible well beyond the target area in most of the Eastern Hemisphere (including parts of East Asia and Oceania) with 100Kw, Sunday 1500-1600 UTC on SpaceLine, 9400 KHz, from Kostinbrod, Bulgaria (1800-1900 MSK)
2. For the Americas and parts of Europe, Tuesday 0100-0200 UTC on WBCQ, 7490 KHz from Monticello, ME, USA (Monday 8-9PM EST in the US). This is running on a backup transmitter due to a recent fire.
3 & 4. For Europe and sometimes beyond, Tuesday 1900-2000 UTC and Saturday 1200-1300 UTC on Channel 292, 6070 KHz from Rohrbach, Germany.

Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot, January 7, 2018
Hot and Cold
Episode 44 of Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot will include some music to warm us up in this cold winter.
Sunday, January 7, 2018
2300-2330 UTC (6:00PM -6:30PM Eastern US) on
WBCQ The Planet 7490 KHz shortwave from the US to the Americas and parts of Europe
Reception reports are especially welcome right now due to WBCQ’s recent transmitter fire.

Brief Medium Wave Tests of the HF+ and FDM-S2 SDRs in a Suburban Location

The AirSpy HF+ is the new SDR on the block, but how does it compare to the Elad FDM-S2 which is more than 2-1/2 times its $199 price? My main interest is finding out how they compare in a very RF-quiet DXpedition setting, but today I compared the two briefly from my home in Puyallup, Washington (near Seattle).

The receivers were connected via a two-way antenna splitter to the output of a Wellbrook ALA1530S+ loop antenna. I monitored during mid-afternoon local time to ensure that all my MW locals in my suburban location would be at full power, for the best test of the radios’ overload performance. The Wellbrook active antenna is rather “hot” and sometimes overloads receivers during the daytime unless attenuation is added to the signal chain.

I noted there were no truly weak medium wave signals available during the session so comparing sensitivity wasn’t appropriate. However, the band was full of strong daytime MW signals.

It became apparent quickly that the upstart HF+ provides strong competition to the Elad SDR. Clearly, the AirSpy’s trade-off is bandwidth for raw performance at lower cost–approx. 660 kHz alias-free coverage versus about 6 MHz maximum for the Elad.

Using the same center L.O. (local oscillator) frequency, short recordings were made with both receivers on the same receive frequency, same bandwidth, AGC setting, etc.  To approximate the 660 kHz coverage of the HF+, I set the FDM-S2 to its 768 kHz sampling rate, the closest available setting to 660 kHz wide coverage.

Here are the results on 1540 kHz, just 10 kHz away from a strong signal on 1550:

AirSpy HF+ – 1540 kHz


Elad FDM-S2 – 1540 kHz

What’s wrong with the above audio picture? The FDM-S2 is clearly overwhelmed by the strong RF on the upper end of the MW band. Visually, the spectrum looked like this with the Elad:

Elad FDM-S2 waterfall/spectrum (1540 kHz)

The noise floor rose by approximately 20 dB due to the overloading. The HF+ showed a normal waterfall and spectrum display while tuning 1540 kHz:

AirSpy HF+ waterfall/spectrum (1540 kHz)

Let’s listen to two more audio clips, this time from 720 kHz which is adjacent to very strong 710 KIRO, the ESPN affiliate in Seattle:

AirSpy HF+ – 720 kHz


Elad FDM-S2 – 720 kHz

This time the difference is subtle, but I think you’ll agree there is a greater amount of “crunchy” background distortion noise on the FDM-S2 recording. I found this to be the case in each instance where I compared receivers on frequencies adjacent to strong locals.

I no longer own a Perseus SDR, but that receiver handles the entire MW band at this location without overload using the same Wellbrook ALA1530S+ loop.

I’d like to emphasize that these were brief, somewhat casual AirSpy HF+ vs. Elad FDM-S2 tests. I expect that in a more forgiving RF environment, both receivers will be equally adept and digging out weak weak and challenging DX signals. I plan to investigate this very scenario in a few weeks at a quiet location on the Oregon coast.

Side note: I have two HF+ units and they can operate concurrently without problems for full medium wave band coverage with HSDSR software, even when both are recording IQ WAV files.

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

From The Isle of Music & Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot, December 31-January 6


Happy New Year!
From the Isle of Music, December 31–January 6:
Happy New Year! We welcome the new year with a Cuban Dance Party with some of our favorite dance tunes from recent decades.
Four opportunities to listen on shortwave:
1. For Eastern Europe but audible well beyond the target area in most of the Eastern Hemisphere (including parts of East Asia and Oceania) with 100Kw, Sunday 1500-1600 UTC on SpaceLine, 9400 KHz, from Kostinbrod, Bulgaria (1800-1900 MSK)
2. For the Americas and parts of Europe, Tuesday 0100-0200 UTC on WBCQ, 7490 KHz from Monticello, ME, USA (Monday 8-9PM EST in the US). This is running on a backup transmitter due to a recent fire.
3 & 4. For Europe and sometimes beyond, Tuesday 1900-2000 UTC and Saturday 1200-1300 UTC on Channel 292, 6070 KHz from Rohrbach, Germany.

Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot, December 31
Global New Years Party
Episode 43 of Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot will include some new year’s music from several different countries.
Sunday, December 31
2300-2330 UTC (6:00PM -6:30PM Eastern US) on
WBCQ The Planet 7490 KHz shortwave from the US to the Americas and parts of Europe
Reception reports are especially welcome right now due to WBCQ’s recent transmitter fire.