Tag Archives: TomL

Audio Plugins For Radios, Part 3 – VST Technical Setup

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, who shares the following guest post. Click here to check out all of the posts in this Audio Plugin series:

Audio Plugins For Radios, Part 3 – VST Technical Setup

by TomL

Processing legacy audio still has a place in an increasingly digital world for the time being.  The first article on this topic was strictly using the speaker jack output from an old Kenwood transceiver using a simple Behringer UCA-202 RCA-to-USB converter.  However, my main receive radio is the SDR based AirSpy HF+.  Either type of radio should work with the apps discussed below as long as the audio gets to your Windows computer unmolested.  There are VST apps for Mac and Linux, too.

VST apps: VST3/VST2/DLL files

Also mentioned was how to install VST Host and the VST apps run inside it.  A simple reminder is that VST Host does not really install.  It just resides in any one Directory/Folder you want and you create a shortcut to run VSTHOST.EXE.  All the .XML files and profiles will be stored there.

I like tinkering with many apps but you may prefer things a lot simpler.  I use 64-bit versions when possible, like VST3 and x64 DLL files.  Because of the myriad settings involved, I will just list the apps in order of processing with brief comments.  The second icon on the top of each app opens up its control panel and the bottom left icon will Bypass the app as if it is not in the audio chain.  The top-left icon Links to the Preceding app in the audio chain.  Most controls inside the apps let you double-click on that control to reset to a default.

The general functional order of these apps is:

  • Limiting/Compressing volume – dealing with shortwave signal volume spikes plus judiciously squeezing high & low volumes for a more even sound.
  • High Pass & Low Pass Filters – limit the frequency range apps will need to work on.
  • De-noising – the biggest challenge in shortwave is to reduce static and local noise without damaging the wanted audio.
  • EQ adjustments – frequency tweaks.
  • De-essing – getting rid of screechy “sss”, “shhh”, and “squeak” noises as well as fading distortion, perhaps the second hardest thing to do.
  • Then a final Drive/Gain control to feed into the Windows mixer.
  • Special Effects apps, like adding stereo, or reverb, etc.

I would suggest not to spend any money until you get to use apps from each of these broad categories to understand how they work.  It is very easy to destroy the audio with a couple of offending settings.  If you need help with understanding how plugins work, there are plenty of YouTube videos available.  One channel I like is “In The Mix” from a Scottish music production engineer, Michael Wynne (over 1 million subs!).  He gives simple to understand instruction videos (especially EQ and Compressors), among other topics.

Check out: YouTube – In The Mix

Welcome to the world of Audio Production.  Here are some plugins (most are FREE!):

Reaper ReaComp – A Compressor which I am using to limit volume spikes in the <300 Hz range.

Kotelnikov – A great dynamic Compressor that helps compress volume peaks in both Peak and RMS (average) levels.  Useful for highly variable signals and highly recommended.

Reaper ReaFir – A dynamic processor, the Subtract feature is a special “negative EQ” which only reduces specified frequency “Points”.  It is also used as a brick filter for low & high frequency limits.

Klevgrand Brusfri Denoiser –  In Swedish, “brusfri” means “noise free”, and is a Denoiser app that functions similarly to Audacity’s Noise Reduction feature but works in real time.  I move to a blank frequency on the same shortwave band, have Brusfri “Learn” for about 5 seconds, and it starts working.

Bertom Denoiser Pro –  A good Denoiser app but on noisy shortwave it can have digital artifacts that get very loud.  I use it sparingly immediately after Brusfri.

Bitsonic Sound Recovery –  This app beings midrange more forward and can brighten up dull audio.  However, it can lead to increased sibilances, accentuated fading distortion, and “boxy” sounding voices.

TDR Nova – A clean sounding parametric EQ; my settings are a work-in-progress for best settings.  I am experimenting with having the Wideband setting do most of the work with a slight expansion of the audio coming from the SDR.  Also used as a better Gain control for Bitsonic.

Modern Exciter – Set to MIN for shortwave, this app can enhance the extreme low and extreme high frequencies without increasing noise.

LOADES – A DeEsser from Analog Obsession, controls sibilance and squeaks  (beware of wonky controls!).

Klevgrand Brusfri Denoiser & Bertom Denoiser Pro run a second time.  More Denoising is needed after the processing done by Bitsound, TDR Nova, and Modern Exciter.

Klevgrand FreeAmp – A simple Drive and Gain control that was free when I purchased Brusfri.  It makes sure audio is driven correctly into Voicemeeter AUX Input.

Voxengo Stereo Touch – Allows adding “stereo” to a mono signal.  Various Presets are available, from narrow (Voice or Guitar) to wide soundspaces (Stage, Surround, and Wide).  Very interesting!

Here are three VST Host processed .MP3 files from an IQ recording of Radio Amazonia using 5.3 kHz & 7kHz filters in SDR Console 3.2 (Noise Reduction 4 was used but only 1dB Reduction).  The third one is using the Stereo Touch app using just the lowest setting (Voice).  I like it!  🙂 :

VST processed 5.3k:

VST processed 7 kHz:

VST processed 7 kHz with Stereo Touch:

Click here to download all VST processed 5.3k & 7k .MP3 files

Happy Listening & 73’s,


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TomL’s Guide to Audio Plugins For Radios: Part 2 – SDR Recording

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, who shares the following guest post. Click here to check out all of the posts in this Audio Plugin series:

Audio Plugins For Radios, Part 2 – SDR Recording

by TomL

I started investigating using the old Kenwood transceiver to send audio to my laptop and process the receive audio using VST Host for a number of functions: Noise reduction, Equalization, reduce Sibilances and fading distortion, increase presence of vocals without sounding boxy, etc.  It was a qualified success depending on what VST apps I used, in what order they were used, and what settings each of them were set to.  In this episode of ongoing discovery, I will attempt to show how easy it is to OVER-process the shortwave broadcast audio plus comparisons to my regular Audacity post-recording treatment.

Audio Examples

I noticed for the first time that the SDR creates a somewhat compressed file which can be seen when comparing the Waveforms of SDR vs. VST Host output files.  This means that the unprocessed SDR file will always appear to sound louder because of this compression.  This loss of Dynamic Range makes it harder to do the comparison.  Therefore, the Audacity-only examples below are reduced 3dB or 5dB to maintain apparent loudness.

Example 1:  KBS Weekend Playlist – S6-S9 signal, somewhat severe fading and moderate polar flutter.

SDR Console 3.2 using my usual NR4 set to 2dB Reduction, 30% Smoothing, and 3dB Rescale plus a Blackman-Harris-7, 5.3 kHz filter.

AUDACITY file is using my usual Audacity noise reduction:

VST version 2: Used my first set of VST apps.  Sounds harsh with hash-noise and overdriven:

VST version 3: Used way too much bass, too much grunge, attenuated highs, still overdriven:

VST version 4: Using a different order to the Denoiser apps, added in Modern Exciter app, cut back on some bass but still too much, and overly forward sounding midrange:

VST version 5: My current Baseline setup.  Adjusted the Denoiser apps, less extreme bass & treble, adjusted the De-Esser app, set the midrange to be less forward with just a single setting:

To my ears, Audacity processing is nice but as discovered before, sounds compressed and does not reduce some of the other problems inherent in shortwave signal fading and loss of musicality.  It sounds utilitarian.  Also, the noise is a bit more gnarly.

Versions 2-5 go through iterations of listening to the exact same segment over and over (and over) and trying different VST apps and settings.  I think my comments are mostly accurate next to each version.  However, you may think differently and perhaps prefer the sound of one of the other versions?

Example 2: Encore Classical Music, WRMI (fading S9 signal) – Audacity vs. Version 5 VST settings.  VST is quieter and sounds less harsh than the Audacity version.  A generally more smooth sound.


Example 3: RCI in Russian, S7-S9 with moderate polar flutter – 7kHz filter in SDR Console but VST Host is using BritPre, an analog preamp using a 6 kHz low pass filter to try to reduce DSP filter “ringing”.  It shows some interesting possibilities.

Example 4: RCI in Russian – Music from the same broadcast and VST Host setup in Example 3.  The screeching flute is under more control and strings more defined in the VST version.


I like the results of the audio processing that eventually ended up with “version 5” (plus the possibilities at 7kHz, too).  It is not Earth-shattering but is an incremental improvement in my opinion (there is always room for improvement).  I can use it in a simple Workflow anytime I want to record something off of the SDR.  Also, I had already been using Voicemeeter Pro, a software audio mixer.  It is setup with different profiles to do SDR, Ham, FM Broadcast, and now, VST Host audio routing.  This process took a long time but seems satisfactory to use as a Baseline setup, which then can be tweaked slightly depending on various types of audio coming from the SDR.  These changes in VST Host can be stored as their own unique profiles for audio processing.

However, a word of warning!  Messing with Windows audio Sound settings and mixer software is potentially a confusing process and one can easily end up with a spaghetti-pile of conflicting connections, no audio output, doubled echo output, distortion, way too loud, way too soft, etc.  If you start this experimentation, make sure to write down your current Windows Sound settings, both the Playback and the Recording settings for each item listed.

Having an SDR radio + Voicemeeter + VST Host is a very flexible setup.  I can now safely say that the only thing I need Audacity for is to Normalize the peak audio to the -1 dB broadcast standard volume, which is a HUGE time saver.  The SDR Console IQ files can be scheduled and processed from there at a later time.  Also, the use of Voicemeeter Pro allows me to switch when to use VST Host anytime I feel like it, and Voicemeeter Pro comes with its own (manually engaged) Recorder.

Part 3 of this series will discuss Technical details for my setup.  Your setup may need different settings or you may find a better way than I did.  This will take some dedicated time.

Happy Listening and 73’s,


Click here to follow all of the articles in TomL’s audio plugin series.

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TomL’s Guide to Using Computer Audio PlugIns with Older Radios

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

Using Computer Audio PlugIns with Older Radios

by TomL

Older radios have a way to get audio out to speakers or another audio input device, usually just a headphone jack.  Software for processing audio are plentiful and very useful tools, called VST’s.  Furthermore, most Plugins were made for Musicians needing full frequency spectrum capability.  I will use my Kenwood TS-590S amateur radio as a test case.  I have used its speaker output to a cheap Behringer UCA-202 RCA to USB converter (it has its own volume control to keep it from overloading).

Amazon Link: Behringer UCA202

My Windows 10 Sounds Properties sees this audio as “3-USB Audio CODEC” which I have enabled on a physical USB hub with individual power switches for each port.  Thanks to Steve (K1GMM) and his YouTube channel (K1GMM Green Mountain Maniac) for describing how to use Windows plugins for processing either Receive or Transmit audio.  This article only focuses on Receive audio.

For my simpler needs, I have chosen to use VST Host.  It will run the small “apps” that usually have a file extension of .VST or .DLL.  I downloaded it right from Steve’s website:


I then downloaded a number of plugins suggested by Steve on his web site (“More” Menu pulldown, DAW’s/VST DOWNLOADS).  Each VST file can be copied to a central directory/folder on your computer and all read from the same place inside the VST Host.  Most of these are Windows types but there are some for Linux if that is something you use.  I found that VST Host does NOT like a write- protected directory, so it and the VST’s reside in my top-level Documents directory.

My resulting “chain” of VST’s process the audio from my 3-USB Audio CODEC in a sequential manner, which are:

  • ModernAmplifier (a Limiter to keep strong signals from overloading the processing)
  • ReaFir (an interesting “Subtract” feature where I cut down on the “roar” around 800-1200 Hz)
  • Bertom Denoiser Pro (EXCELLENT static & background noise reducer)
  • TDR Nova (a powerful, well-made Compessor & DynamicEQ combo)
  • Sennheiser-AMBEO-Orbit (a Binaural soundscape).

Once VST Host is installed, create a separate folder for the VST files.  Now just copy the VST3 or DLL file for each of the apps downloaded like the ones I list above.  If you have a 32-bit version of Windows, you will have to use the VST’s that are 32-bit, not 64-bit.

In VST Host, set the Wave Input and Output and sampling rate (Menu: Devices—Wave).  In my case it is the aforementioned 3-USB Audio CODEC for (Microphone) Input Port and VoiceMeeter Aux-Input for the Output Port.  The sampling rate is set to 48000  (You can choose Output to your “Default Speakers” which should be in the list if you do not use an extra mixer software like I do).

Now, go to Menu: File, Plugins and load each plugin that you want to use.  The VST3 or DLL files should all be in the same directory that you made earlier.  You may have to tell VST Host where to find them by setting the Plugin Path (Menu: File, Set Plugin Path…).

Now, once you have all the VST apps opened, you will notice that all of their individual outputs go directly to the VST Host Output.  Not good, since your computer will not have enough cores to parallel-process all of these apps at the same time.  So, Unchain them all by right-clicking on each app and choosing “Unchain”.

Now you will see all of the yellow connecting lines gone.  Arrange (click/drag) each app in sequential order on the screen.  Starting from the bottom up, right click on the app just above VST Output and choose Chain After…

Repeat up the chain, choosing the one above it to Chain After until you are left with a Daisy-Chain of apps, each output going to the Input of the next app in your desired order of processing:

Now turn on the radio to get audio going through the chain of apps.  Tweaking each app is part of the tedious process of learning if an app will help or not.  Just replace and Chain After in the order you want with other VST apps that you find more helpful.  Tinkering with this should yield some satisfactory results if you do not overdo applying features in each app.  To save the layout and VST settings, go to Menu: Performance, Save As and give it a name to store in the data file shown (just a name since it will put it into the default line 000 for you).  You can choose this in future sessions from the main pulldown Menu below File. (Note: It is called “Performance” because this stuff was written for Musicians to save their home studio music along with the settings for shaping the music tracks; 99% of planet earth calls this a “Layout”, a la, Microsoft Office)

Here are two examples of sound from the radio without processing and then adding in each app over a few seconds.

LZ1AA from Bulgaria. Processing 10 secs., off 15 secs., on again 8 secs.


CHU Canada. Processing on, space, processing off. Notice a little “water” effect since AM Broadcast needs quite different settings compared to SSB Ham Radio.

You can check out Steve’s “Green Mountain Maniac” YouTube channel and see for yourself what can be done with sound processing for Radio.  Some of his techniques can be used with old shortwave radio receivers as long as it has a working headphone jack or AUX Out jack:


Cheers and Happy Listening,


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Cycle 25 may peak sooner than expected

This split image shows the difference between an active Sun during [a previous] solar maximum (on the left, captured in April 2014) and a quiet Sun during solar minimum (on the right, captured in December 2019). Credits: NASA/SDO

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, who shares the following news item:

Solar Cycle 25 May Peak Much Sooner Than Expected

“In April 2019, the Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel, which is made up of dozens of scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), released its forecast for Solar Cycle 25, suggesting that the solar maximum would likely begin sometime in 2025 and would be comparable in size to the maximum of Solar Cycle 24, which peaked unusually late between mid-2014 and early 2016 and was quite weak compared with past solar maximums.

But from the beginning, the forecast seemed off. For instance, the number of observed sunspots has been much higher than predicted.”

TomL notes:

To read the rest of the article go to web site link here:

Not mentioned in the article are implications for a sooner-than-expected Peak may mean that the Peak will be about the same strength as Cycle 24 but with a shorter duration. It may also mean that the future Cycle 26 may be weaker than both 24 or 25, but that remains to be seen.

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Reach Beyond Australia: Tom notes excellent reception and Jeff White interview

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

Propagation is very good. Reach Beyond Australia is now picked up with regularity from my noisy Northern Illinois Condominium. I find it fascinating to hear the different 15-minute language programs, including indigenous music, in Hindi, Tamil, different Burmese dialects, etc. Of course, since it is a Christian broadcaster, the music and teachings are about Jesus as Lord. However, all of the programs are authentically created inside the target country and uploaded to the Western Australian computer server in order to be broadcast. Here is a link on archive.org where I spliced 2 mornings of (mostly) music:

Also, it just so happens this week that Jeff White, hosting the popular WaveScan radio program, interviewed the CEO of Reach Beyond Australia, Dale Stagg, who explains the origins and continued mission of Reach Beyond Global as a continuation of HCJB’s shortwave radio vision established in 1931.


Thank you for sharing this, Tom!

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Guest Post: Listening to LRA 36

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

Listening to LRA 36

by TomL

I finally had time to go outdoors to listen to LRA 36, Antarctica.  People were gushing about how well it is being received.  My location was a park across the street from the Forest Preserve I usually go to (the Forest Preserves are shutdown and gates locked after sundown).  Even though it was after sunset, this Park has no gate or chain to prevent people from parking there.  In the dark, I setup the trusty amplified Loop-on-Ground antenna, SDR, and laptop.  Solar Flux Index about 179, K index 2.

Started recording and, NOTHING! ARRGH.  But I had just heard it at home in the noise!?!?  Waited about two minutes and all of a sudden music started playing in the middle of a song.  S6 – S7 strength with lots of fading.  Very cool.  20 minutes later, went off the air.  Then 10 minutes later, came back on again in the middle of another song.  They must be tweaking the transmitter.  This feels like the 10 kW transmitter; no way could a 1.5 kW be this loud over 12000 kilometers!  Also, an advantage with IQ recording of a spectrum is I could tune into it later.  Good thing because between their tweaking the transmitter, my SDR, and the crazy propagation, I had to tune to 15475.983 kHz in order to get the USB signal perfectly in pitch.

For your listening enjoyment if you have not had a chance to hear it clearly, I have uploaded both recordings to archive.org where you can listen as long as you want.  Worth listening to, playing music of Argentina music bands.  Happy Listening!  Here is the link to Archive.org and the audio files are also embedded below:

LRA 36 at 00:30 UTC on 05 March 2023:

LRA 36 at 01:00 UTC on 05 March 2023:

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Loop-On-Ground Antenna Part 3: Tom’s low-noise, low-profile, portable antenna evolves

Loop on Ground Antenna Part 3

(using multiconductor wire)

by TomL

It dawned on me recently, perhaps due to sloppy thinking or unintended distractions, that I never wrote about my modified Loop on Ground (LoG) receive antenna that I use at parks and such.  For over a year now, I have been using 3-conductor rotor wire bought cheap at the local hardware store and have wired the conductors in series.  Grayhat (Andrew) was the inspiration when he decided to create a folded dipole along the side of his house.

The usual construction of a LoG antenna for shortwave is a single wire of about 60 feet in circumference in order to not go above one wavelength for 20 meter band usage.  If you recall, going above one wavelength will start creating weird lobes in the reception pattern.  See – Loop-On-Ground Antenna Part 2.

However, I did not like this 19 foot diameter wire on the ground in public parks just waiting to be tripped over.  Like, the time when a horse got loose from its owners and almost tripped over my 60 foot wire.  I don’t think I would have liked the resulting lawsuit!

So out of fearful necessity I took some leftover RCA 3-conductor rotor wire, about 29 feet of it, and wired a loop with the conductors in series.  This gives about 81 feet of total conductive length.  But since it is folded onto itself, there is an undetermined loss of resonant length.  Callum (M0MCX) of DXCommander fame has experimented and found folded dipoles need three times more length in the folded section to reach resonance, so my loop is probably around 69 feet (electrically).  See – Fold the end of a Dipole Back – What’s Happening?.

In the picture below, the black wire with Ring Terminal at the bottom goes all the way around to the other side, soldered to the green wire, which goes around and is soldered to the red wire, which goes around to the Ring Terminal at the top, plus tie-wraps to hold the wires together.

The next picture is how the Wellbrook Medium Aperture preamplifier is connected to the loop with BNC cable that goes to the 12V power injector.  I have had this Wellbrook unit for maybe 6+years with no signs of problems.  WARNING – do NOT use the Wellbrook preamplifier in the presence of high powered RF energy like your Amateur Radio antenna pumped with 1000 watts from a  linear amplifier; the Wellbrook premap might just overload and get damaged!  I did use this loop and preamplifier at last year’s 2022 ARRL Field Day and was able to get away with it because we were only using 100 watts per station.  Listening to the 9pm 3916-net trivia group was fun but I still needed to keep it away from the transmitting antennas. Continue reading

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