Tag Archives: CC Skywave SSB

Video Demonstration of Gary DeBock’s 3″ Baby FSL Antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary DeBock, who shares a video of his latest Ferrite Sleeve Loop (FSL) antenna: the 3″ Baby FSL.

Gary Notes:

The new design 3 Inch (76mm) Baby FSL antenna is the smallest, most compact and lightweight of the “airport friendly” FSL’s developed here recently, but it provides a very potent inductive coupling boost for weak AM-DX signals.

This demonstration video shows its huge boost to a weak daytime DX signal from 1070-CFAX (10 kW in Victoria, BC, Canada) here in Puyallup, WA, USA:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Most impressive, Gary! You’re right: that design is compact enough that it should even fit the bill for my one-bag travel philosophy. I think I might have to build one of these!

Check out more of Gary’s adventures in Ultralight DXing, by browsing our archive.

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Radios: What are your daily drivers?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John C., who writes:

“Hi Thomas, I love [the SWLing Post] and have been meaning to thank you for all of the amazing reviews. Truly a treasure trove. But as I contemplate my next radio purchase I would like to know what radio you use more than any other. In other words…what’s your daily driver??? Enquiring minds want to know! Thank you. – JC”

Thanks for your question and the kind compliment, John.

Your inquiry is one I get quite a bit, so I hope you don’t mind if I share my response here publicly.

First of all, I should state that I don’t have a single “daily driver.”

Since I evaluate, test, and review radios I spend a lot of time with a variety of new receivers and transceivers.

I’m currently evaluating the Radiwow R-108, so it goes with me pretty much everywhere since I like to test receivers in a variety of settings. I’m also packing the Tecsun PL-310ET and the CC Skywave so I have units to compare with the R-108.

My Daily Drivers

Still, there are a number of radios in my life that get heavy use. Here’s my current list based on activity:

For Travel

When I travel, I reach for my favorite multi-function ultra-compact shortwave portable. In the past, I would have reached for the Grundig G6, the Sony ICF-SW100, the Tecsun PL-310ET, the Digitech AR-1780, or the C. Crane CC Skywave, Currently, I reach for the C. Crane CC Skywave SSB.

When I travel, I try to pack as lightly as I can–perhaps some would even call me a borderline travel minimalist. For example, when I fly to Philadelphia later this month for the Winter SWL Fest, I will take only one piece of luggage, a “personal carry-on” item: the Tom Bihn Stowaway, a pack the size of a small laptop bag. The Stowaway will contain my iPad, cords/accessories, and all of my clothes and toiletries for about 5 days of travel. As you can imagine, there’s not a lot of spare room in there for radio gear (quite the understatement).

I’ll still have room in my bag for the CC Skywave SSB, though, because the receiver is so compact. In addition, it’s a little “Swiss Army Knife” of a radio which covers the AM/MW, Shortwave, WX, and AIR bands.  It also has SSB mode and uses common AA batteries. The Skywave SSB is a welcome travel companion.

For Portable Shortwave DX

When I head to a park or go on a camping trip with the goal of doing a little weak signal DXing, I reach for a full-featured portable. In the past, I’ve relied heavily on the Tecsun PL-660 or PL-680, the Sony ICF-SW7600GR, and the Tecsun PL-880.

After acquiring the amazing Panasonic RF-B65 last year, it has become my choice full-featured portable. Of course, the RF-65B hasn’t been in production for ages, but thanks to a number of friends/enablers (including Dan Robinson and Troy Riedel) I finally found one for an acceptable price on eBay.

I’ve been incredibly pleased with the RF-B65’s performance and feel like I got a decent deal snagging one in great shape for less than $200. Only a few months prior to my purchase, it was hard to find good units under $300. Click here to check current prices, if interested.

For Morning News and Music

Since my staple morning news source, Radio Australia, went off the air, I spend a lot more time in the mornings listening to Internet radio mainly because I like listening to news sources that no longer, or never have, broadcast on the shortwaves.

Without a doubt, my favorite WiFi radio is the Como Audio Solo. I use it to listen to the CBC in St. John’s Newfoundland, The UK 1940s Radio Station, RFI MusiqueABC Radio Sydney, and a number of other news and music outlets.

The Como Audio Solo also serves as an audio feed for my SSTran AM Transmitter which then allows me to listen to all of this excellent content on 1570 kHz with vintage tube radios such as my Scott Marine SLR-M, my BC-348-Q, and my Minerva Tropicmaster.

For Mediumwave DXing

Without a doubt, my favorite radio for mediumwave/AM broadcast band DXing is the Panasonic RF-2200.

I mentioned in a previous post that my buddy Vlado (N3CZ) recently repaired, cleaned, and calibrated one of my RF-2200s.

Let’s just say that Vlado worked his magic and my RF-2200 now operates and performs like a brand new unit. Seriously. It’s simply unbelievable.

Not only does the Panny ‘2200 provide benchmark MW performance, it’s simply a pleasure to operate. It also produces some of the richest AM audio you’ll ever hear from a portable radio.

Of course, the ‘2200 hasn’t been produced in decades, so you’ll have to search for used ones on eBay, at hamfests, or through your favorite radio classifieds.

And, yes, I still need to finish a Part 2 blog-post about the ‘2200 repair–once I get a few details and photos from Vlado, I’ll post it!

Your Daily Drivers? Please comment!

Keep in mind that my “daily drivers” change quite a bit–the ones listed above are my current favorites and have been for a year or more.

So now that I’ve shared my daily drivers, I hope you will, too!

Is there a particular radio you reach for more than any other?  Please comment and tell us why it’s your favorite!


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Gary DeBock’s November 2018 Poipu, Hawaii Ultralight DXpedition

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary DeBock, for sharing the following guest post:


November 2018 Poipu, Hawaii Ultralight DXpedition

A Thrilling Sample of Forward Pacific Propagation

By Gary DeBock, Puyallup, WA, USA   January 2019

In late September my wife and I stumbled across an outstanding 6-day Costco Travel package to the Aston at Poipu Kai on Hawaii’s Kauai island, the westernmost of the main Hawaiian islands (and closest to Asia). Included in the $2.3K cost was roundtrip airfare for two on Alaska Air (nonstop from Seattle both ways, with no “red-eye” flights), 5 nights at a gorgeous, beachside 2-BR condo with a patio area ideal for TP-DXing (and within easy walking distance to the island’s best snorkeling beach), a full sized new rental car and a $50 Costco cash card to use for a little spending $$. This was far and away the best travel bargain we have ever had to the Hawaiian Islands– and right in the middle of the DX season!

The location at Poipu Kai was at the extreme southeastern tip of Kauai Island, which offered a clear, unobstructed salt water path to Asia, ANZ, the Pacific islands and both North and South America. Unfortunately, it also offered a clear salt water path to the RF Zoo of Honolulu (more about that later).

Of course, before you can chase DX in Hawaii you will need to bring along some kind of radio and antenna– whether it is a hot-performing portable, an SDR along with a small broadband antenna or an Ultralight with a “Frequent Flyer” miniature FSL. Whatever you bring will need to go through TSA inspections both ways– so try not to get too complicated or extravagant. Fragile items can be taken in hand-carry luggage, so use this for radios, FSL antennas, digital recorders and anything else that could be smashed. Also keep in mind that many large motels and condos do not allow external antennas to be set up on their property– and most of them generate enough indoor RFI to make DXing indoors a lost cause. Before leaving for the Islands, be ready with a DXing plan that you know will work!

For me, TP-DXing with a modified CC Skywave SSB portable and TSA-friendly 5 inch (127mm) diameter FSL antenna in the large open patio area right outside our condo meant chasing enhanced DX right in the middle of a gorgeous beach side garden (click here to view on YouTube).

These 2-BR condo complexes were overbuilt somewhat, and the mainland owners of these condos badly need the tourist rental income to pay their mortgages. The competition for this rental income is high. As such, the cost per night for a stay at one of these newer 2-BR condos on Kauai is about the same as for a well-worn 1-BR motel room in Kona (on the Big Island).

So, what can a TP-DXer expect from the transoceanic propagation at Poipu Kai? First of all, there is so much enhanced DX coming from so many different areas of the world that you will need to carefully choose your priorities. What is your main DXing thrill? For me, it was chasing exotic Asian DX that was unlikely or unavailable at home in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, when I tried to do this during the evening hours on Kauai (0700-1000 UTC) there was so much enhanced transoceanic DX coming from North and South America that the frequencies became a snarling maze of languages and heterodynes. During a check of 801 for kHz Pyongyang BS at 0922 UTC the frequency was completely hijacked by 800-Radio Transmundial in the Caribbean (near South America). The same thing was going on all over the band, with North and South American stations on the 10 kHz band plan fighting it out with Asians and Pacific Islanders using the 9 kHz frequency system. Honolulu QRM added its own distinctive touch to this jumbled fiasco, and eventually I was forced to concentrate on sunrise DXing sessions in order to track down any really exotic Asian DX. The bands were so much quieter during the sunrise sessions starting around 1500 UTC. Of course, if a DXer was mainly interested in North or South American DX in Kauai he could have made out like a bandit around local sunset, when the Asian and Pacific Island stations would not yet have faded in.

The Asian propagation to Kauai Island during the sunrise sessions was like having constant exposure to the best possible TP-DXing signals that ever show up on west coast ocean beaches– except that far more of Asia was in play. Big gun Middle East stations like 702-BBC (in Oman) can show up at decent strength, and not too many TP-DXers have familiarity with Arabic. Stations like 918-Cambodia which are rare DX on the west coast often thunder in at S9, and by necessity a DXer quickly learns the Vietnam parallel frequencies for its various networks. The Chinese propaganda blasters on 666, 783 and 909 pound in like locals, and a DXer needs to wait out their sign off times in order to receive anything exotic on their frequencies. The entire situation is a crash course in surviving and thriving in the middle of nonstop exceptional propagation, which can easily overload your abilities to sort out languages, stations and programming. Depending on your TP-DXing experience, you will either find this situation thrilling or bewildering.

If you have extensive TP-DXing experience on west coast ocean beaches you will probably feel like you are on Cloud Nine, but without this experience you will probably wonder where to start. The usual Asian big guns on 594, 747, 774 and 972 are either buried in Honolulu splatter or have trouble holding down their frequencies. Language recognition of Chinese, Korean and Japanese becomes essential in sorting out unfamiliar stations, and at least basic recognition of Vietnamese, Thai and Taiwanese is helpful. In addition, knowledge of exotic station frequencies is necessary before a DXer can hope to track these exotic stations down. Many exotic station frequencies (like 576, 594, 657, 693 and others) are jumbled with Honolulu splatter, and you need to know which ones are not (702, 729, 918, 954 etc.).The amount of TP-DXing experience that you can bring to the island is directly related to the results that you can expect from DXing on the island. Fortunately, because of two previous Hawaii trips and an April visit to the Cook Islands, I was able to track down some thrilling TP-DX on Kauai– 693-Bangladesh, 702-BBC (Oman), 729-Myanmar, 918-Cambodia, 927-AIR, 954-AIR plus Vietnam stations on 675, 702, 711 and 729. An S9-level 800-Radio Transmundial in Bonaire (next to South America) jumped over to 801 during an evening session. As an example of the outstanding ocean-enhanced propagation, for the first time ever in any DXpedition I was able to receive 7 transoceanic DX stations on one frequency alone (702 kHz).

Hawaiian station splatter is a major issue in Kauai, but depending upon the location of these pests, their signals may taper off just before TP propagation collapses (around 1705 in November). On my last session I was able to finally track down the 1000 kW Asian big gun 693-Bangladesh through wicked 690-KHNR (Honolulu) spatter, probably because the pest was farther into daylight than my more westerly Kauai location. The Hawaii pests on Maui and the Big Island also display the same behavior.

Propagation slowdowns on the west coast seem to be fairly irrelevant in Hawaii, with the only difference being S9 Australian and NZ signals showing up in the null of the S9 Asians. During regular sessions the big gun ANZ stations are usually around at S5 levels in the null of the Asians, but I didn’t really go after the DU’s during the Kauai trip. The Pacific island exotic stations on 621, 1017, 1098 and 1440 were usually at S9 levels about 2 hours after local sunset, but once again the North and South American transoceanic DX stations were turning their frequencies into a pretty wild fiasco. Originally it seemed like a great idea to have a straight salt water shot to all these areas, but be careful what you wish for– you just might get it 🙂

Finally, In consideration of the exceptional value of the Costco travel package and the superb transoceanic DX propagation prevalent on the Kauai beach, this 6 day Hawaii vacation proved to be as much of a lifetime hobby thrill as visiting the exotic Cook islands in April– at less than half the cost. My strong advice to anyone who is feeling bored with his AM-DXing hobby is to step out of your comfort zone, and try something really new. You can certainly chase DX at home or at the same flat ocean beach for decades, but you are unlikely to experience anything radically different from what you have already experienced. Breakthrough results require breakthrough innovation, exploration and experimentation, and the commitment to overcome all challenges until you get the results you desire.

DXing on Kauai Island makes it easy for you. All the comforts of home are within a 20-minute drive. A Walmart, Safeway, Costco and Home Depot are all in the local area, close to your gorgeous 2-BR beach side condo. You don’t even need to change currency or bring a passport (well, at least if you live south of the border). An outstanding snorkeling beach is a 5 minute walk away, and the “Garden Island” is one of the most beautiful in the entire Hawaiian chain, waiting for you to explore it in your new, full-sized rental car. What more could you ask for? So go ahead and take the plunge… and discover the exceptional thrill of forward Pacific TP-DXing!

Listed below are 94 transoceanic DX receptions made in Kauai with the related recording links, including stations in Oman, Egypt, Iran, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and many others. Sincere thanks is given to all who helped identify mystery stations, especially the Finnish DXers like Mauno, Mika, Jari L. and Jari S. with their awesome language identification skills. You guys really rock!

531  JOQG   Morioka, Japan, 10 kW   Male-female Japanese conversation at good level // 729 at 1542 on 11-8; weak co-channel underneath https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/n4jmmtcrfz27ndi3pj479uzt6dx5zzyi

531  UnID-Chinese   Female speech in apparent Mandarin mixing with NHK1’s male speech at 1543 on 11-8, but no indication whether this was the Mainland or Taiwan https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/mh8iq0j49wx9hxbg0xrp8bhk0ugkopl8

540  CNR1 Synchros   China   Chinese speech with serious echo effect (poorly coordinated network) at very good level at 1510 on 11-4 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/gb5j3a6jlbt2natz372q4jnoer69hft9

540  UnID-Spanish   During a search for Samoa at 0738 on 11-6 this strong mystery Spanish station monopolized the frequency; both North and South America had a clear salt water path to my DXing site, making it tough to chase the Pacific islands after sunset https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/vm0datfx40j4ie2mxyioby62in9v81wl

549  UnID-TP   This was a rough frequency because of 550-Maui, but there is a 1200 kW CNR5 station on the frequency, and some female speech with apparent Chinese intonation was getting through Maui’s male speech at 1515 on 11-4 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/jrbdmp4mb3cd9935dze9v5l2st4ig5ed

603  2RN   Nowra, Australia, 10 kW   Male-female DU English conversation not // 612 at 1541 on 11-7 over UnID music station during auroral conditions https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/6vwkk6f197qg33q2hgmqnoocz2jstviu

603  CRI   Dongfang, China, 300 kW   Vietnamese service with Chinese lessons very strong at 1456 on 11-6  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/sv0u58fu062eblcno5xdnztwdaralsoe

Chinese ID and TOH fanfare at good level at 1500 on 11-6 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/kj9891ur1fkzfks3yycf78uqbdmn51xb

603  HLSA   Namyang, S. Korea, 500 kW   Presumed the station with Korean intonation under strong Chinese music from CRI during its Vietnamese service at 1512 on 11-3 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/0uruseu0ejdxa587llns1gkgd34gr0ey

603  UnID   Music station mixing with 2RN during auroral conditions at 1541 on 11-7; most likely NZ’s Radio Waatea  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/6vwkk6f197qg33q2hgmqnoocz2jstviu

612  4QR   Brisbane, Australia, 50 kW   Overwhelming signal with call-in quiz program during auroral conditions at 1536 on 11-7; this was the strongest Oz signal during the trip https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/xlx5s7acnqxilehj4yfdartp6yda1b4l

612  JOLK   Fukuoka, Japan, 100 kW   Good signal with Japanese male conversation // 729 at 1516 on 11-4  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/491nyli0zpiyoomht2mydrbl6zd66ysr

621  China   (Heilongjiang?)   Chinese music at good level but suffering from the throbbing Pyongyang BS transmitter on the same frequency at 1503 on 11-4 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/d95t13b9vhd8ib01p09gtd68j2ag7j2u

5+1 pips mixing with the awful-sounding 3+1 pips from Pyongyang BS at 1500 on 11-4 (at 39 seconds into the recording) https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/612kbk25hqqlxh1r4qfzaxzeuuwktbeo

621  Pyongyang BS/ VOK   Chongjin, N. Korea, 500 kW   The sickest sounding transmitter on the band, with a throbbing off-frequency drift. This was the wacky audio during the VoK Japanese program at 0943 on 11-3 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/7d6eggmr9ntnfjej3zf22dh1s5p32wyd

621  Radio Tuvalu   Funafuti, Tuvalu, 5 kW   The usual S9+ signal with female speech in the island dialect at 0928 on 11-3, with drums pounding for emphasis https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/5089jtrmpi5eajk330uwukvz4brqfoyk

Clear signal and 1 kHz heterodyne from Tuvalu (for the first 7 seconds) degenerates into a throbbing heterodyne and degraded signal when the FSL is re-directed at North Korea at 0942 on 11-3  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/po98lqzzfn1s1vmu6ul6r0tplex85mld

630  4QN   Townsville, Australia, 50 kW   Call-in talk program // 612 over DU English co-channel during auroral conditions at 1542 on 11-7 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/03ubp9so6jtjnywhbt3v2sehs69fzsay

630  CNR2 Synchros   China   Female Chinese speech fairly strong (but with slight muffled effect) over Asian co-channel at 1526 on 11-4 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/to3qzxbb5oofj447q9f4z47y4s1crqap

630  VoV?   Animated male-female speech in apparent Southeast Asian dialect dominant over CNR synchros at 1523 on 11-4; Jari S. guesses this is Vietnamese, but there was no chance at the time to check the 675-711 parallels https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/k0ttlujgsp2p11817uhakkgrqwrzdlvj

630  UnID-DU   DU English co-channel mixing with 4QN during auroral conditions at 1542 on 11-7; experience in the Cook Islands indicates this is most likely RNZ in Hawkes Bay (but no parallels available at the time) https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/03ubp9so6jtjnywhbt3v2sehs69fzsay

639  2HC   Coff’s Harbour, Australia, 5 kW   Australian marine weather forecast at 1504 on 11-5; despite lack of any place names, Tony Magon says that ABC stations don’t run such detailed marine weather forecasts  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/bjwhwkeh3ss3d0tmm6sl977pm7mftrd9

639  CNR1 Synchros   China   Male Chinese speech and music strong at 1617 on 11-7 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/fj8tbboshrlvpx0l9m1qcovr69zqhn1j

639  JOIP   Oita, Japan, 5 kW   Japanese female speech mixing with CNR1 at 1457 on 11-8; the Japanese DXers say that this is the NHK1 format https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/9pkoxpg045t2y0mmuz5c2b74p2oq15wy

640  KFI   Los Angeles, CA, 50 kW   The North American stations were not targeted during this trip, but this particular one monopolized the 639 split frequency every evening, such as at 0924 on 11-3  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/f2mfmvymwykmbkaylmbhewvjkb25nc0k

657  China   (Henan?)   All alone with good signal (through 650 splatter) with Chinese male speech at 1609 on 11-4  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/pv00eqjyg64vxwltg7cjvsa0bwzaacs8

657  Pyongyang BS   Kangnam, N. Korea, 1,500 kW   The strongest N. Korean signal on the band (and one of few with a clean signal) was at overwhelming strength with music at 1533 on 11-3, with minor 650 splatter https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/lbpugjif1lnf5cwn5vghmmb3qwhrofpy

657  Star   Wellington/ Tauranga, NZ, 50/ 10 kW   Presumed the one with Christian music at a strong level (through some 650 splatter) during auroral conditions at 1509 on 11-5 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/trhq06ghg71chu030263xjngun2vokf0

666  JOBK   Osaka, Japan, 100 kW   Japanese male speech // 729 at temporary good level at 1535 on 11-5  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/sybm328qsshfn4xvscmxxl0k1en2edy8

666  Voice of the Strait   Fuzhou, China, 600 kW   A major propaganda blaster to Taiwan, this station (along with 783) almost always had potent signals during sunrise sessions. This female pop music was at typical strength at 1550 on 11-7 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/3df1thw74spjesqmvuvt3mjq0dlg4jhj

675  Cheng Sheng BC   Peikang, Taiwan, 5 kW   Male-female call in talk program in Chinese dialect at 1655 on 11-7; Hiroyuki Okamura says this is Taiwanese https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/aqd2vjmbcvofpsygksaqx4cqhc0nfbjf

Taiwanese pop music and male speech at good level at 1658 on 11-7 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/n98qe46dyd1vclchaz2b36s6mxc3la0w

675  NHK1 Synchros   Hakodate/ Yamaguchi, Japan, 5/ 5 kW   Male Japanese conversation at modest strength // 729 at 1557 on 11-8 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/2yeze49zxpo1jhyly1ap3xqqhc3l7oek

675  VoV   My Hao, Vietnam, 500 kW   Female speech at very good level // 711 at 1637 on 11-7 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/9sg4yp7lgfob6e5hw1wphlklnljbvwyq

693  Bangladesh Betar   Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1000 kW   The super power exotic station finally broke through wicked 690-KHNR Honolulu splatter (10 kW at 113 miles) at 1639 on 11-8 with an apparent Islamic sermon (having mentions of “Allah” at 27 and 31 seconds) https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/haye98bfrypbt1cdb1wgma2mx01wskpx

693  JOAB   Tokyo, Japan, 500 kW   NHK2 Music box sign off chimes getting through rough 690-Honolulu splatter quite well at 1533 on 11-4 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/7938apvd3x8lb0tt99ytvr09kvksug8k

702  2BL   Sydney, Australia, 50 kW   Male DU English speech at good level // 612 at 1454 on 11-5  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/ld9wlkvmd3wkdx82ga2udkcauxivtakq

702  BBC Arabic Service   A’Seela, Oman, 800 kW   One of the big surprises of the DXpedition, this station was amazingly strong for the 8,586 mile (13,818 km) distance at 1604 on 11-6. Thanks to Mauno and Mika for the language and station investigation https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/cwgqhpm3hy0thmthw4o018i7c70y0b8i

702  China   Jiangsu, China, 200 kW   Beijing time and fair-level ID after KCBS time pips at 1500 on 11-8; thanks to Chuck and Jari S. for ID assessment https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/6alut7afzdg06a5ll06p54hnuc7s1j8w

702  KCBS   Chongjin, N. Korea, 50 kW   Another North Korean with transmitter issues, this station was somewhat off frequency, with degraded audio (although not as bad as 621). Its Korean ID and 3+1 pips were dominant over China at 1500 on 11-8 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/6alut7afzdg06a5ll06p54hnuc7s1j8w

702  NHK2 Synchros   Kitami/ Hiroshima, Japan, 10/ 10 kW   Japanese female speech at equal level with Korean speech from KCBS (along with its throbbing hum) at 1457 on 11-8 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/9cds03s0hq94kzo87stua4qi6orymree

702  VoV   Danang, Vietnam,  50 kW   Male and female speech at 1612 on 11-4 with announcers and format sounding very much like those on 675 and 711 (although not parallel); Jari L. says this is Vietnamese https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/idw17ybpwsblr8evf440xnlr13z4l5c9

702  UnID-DU   Music station looping toward South Pacific mixing with 2BL during auroral conditions at 1452 on 11-5; most likely NZ’s Magic https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/3al6uof4yobmjopsyo98nohvw1k8wuer

711  HLKA   Sorae, S. Korea, 500 kW   One of the strongest Koreans on the band, but it had co-channel issues with V.O. Kuanghua and VoV. This very strong male-female Korean speech was at 1537 on 11-3  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/m4ybyndsuy6ivg6jvyp1xm79ra76cqgs

711  V.O. Kuanghua   Hsinfeng, Taiwan, 250 kW   Trumpet and Kuanghua ID mixing with the 3+1 pips from HLKA at 1500 on 11-7 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/pvg2fdt6hq122dki4vgrtdk5imwyg21a

Chinese conversation at a good level at 1503 on 11-6 (Thanks to Tony Magon for assessment)  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/1xegn3xe67cm2p167bihjfdum9lf11pm

711  VoV   Thoi Long, Vietnam, 500 kW   Female speech at good level // 675 at 1529 on 11-6; this station often had co-channel issues with Korea and Taiwan https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/j2vsyc02skttocssv3dxpxc6hknivx0s

720  China   The “Chinese opera station” was dominant on the frequency on most mornings, such as at 1553 on 11-5 with this strong signal, but its location in China is unknown https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/tr03jtqk4qhxscdjn8erazo4944v9tlc

720  UnID-TP   Mystery Asian station (apparently not in any east Asian language) mixing with the Chinese opera station at 1536 on 11-4; Mauno and Jari S. mentioned VOIRI (Iran) as a possibility, but the Tajik and Uzbek languages being broadcast around that time are tough to identify  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/8l5utr5yxvybjzb2wrmaxvkoazuqmdf9

729  China   Chinese male speech mixing with JOCK’s female Japanese speech at a good level at 1456 on 11-8  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/4mbe26337s5j0cdsopwzxolv280je7z0

729  JOCK   Nagoya, Japan, 50 kW   Oddly enough, this was the strongest NHK1 frequency. Female Japanese speech was at a good level mixing with China at 1456 on 11-8 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/4mbe26337s5j0cdsopwzxolv280je7z0

729  Myanma Radio   Yangon, Myanmar, 100 kW  Male-female speech in unique Asian language with clear mention of “Myanmar” at the 46 second point at 1541 on 11-4 (thanks to Chuck for deciphering). Unfortunately 576 and 594 were wiped out by Hawaii splatter https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/yq7uqray3bq93a6zu76kb92enk46wvq6

729  Myanma Radio?   Fading up all alone at 1625 on 11-4, this male speaker’s language and voice sound a lot like the ones in the previous recording (thanks to Bruce for language suggestion, and to Ken Alexander, a Canadian retiring in Thailand, for the improved audio file)  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/24c46lrjjm2329x4e1h634u3m7swn3f5

729  VoV   Dong Hoi, Vietnam, 200 kW   Male speaker in Viet-sounding language at 1615 on 11-4 with apparent mentions of “Vietnam” at the 1 second and 32 second points; Jari L. says it sounds like Vietnamese  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/9va1h709ki2cqyaz0z7eg380w2k8xmcr

738  BEL2   Penghu, Taiwan, 100 kW   This frequency had serious splatter from 740-Maui, but there was enough of the Chinese news format at 1517 on 11-3 spoken by the female announcer to make reasonably certain of the identity https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/55slnp79bhb7sqjpubmnnab9j4g14804

747  JOIB   Sapporo, Japan, 500 kW   The NHK2 big gun was barely able to get by 740-Maui splatter at 0933 on 11-3, but that was better than 594-JOAK, which was totally wiped out by 590-Honolulu  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/zqkpa4892mi9ccdzz7qojocq8bm9lmmq

774  3LO   Melbourne, Australia, 50 kW   LR Network big gun at typical powerful strength with call-in talk at 1558 on 11-7 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/8094b97u3qmi3nzwb15z6bcl500zwmww

783  Voice of the Strait   Zhangpu, China, 600 kW   A major propaganda blaster to Taiwan, this was the strongest Asian station during the trip. All kinds of carefully selected music were broadcast– pop, opera and even rap (which, as Chris Kadlec says, is banned in China but is fair game to broadcast to Taiwan, where it is popular). This big gun was totally immune to any propagation downturns, as demonstrated in this local-like sign off message at 1600 on 11-7, which was actually a DU-slanted morning https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/6cbton9gqiqvqiwe6ewfc8u0aoztv4dm

Female vocal music at an excellent level at 1551 on 11-4 (typical strength) https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/rkfzjnew44pm1n35j815sf3zlu9x1ejq

More S9 female vocal music and 5+1 pips prior to the 1600 sign off message on 11-5 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/4qryk7xdtvhih5bche2iixoswcso2sl1

“Banned” Chinese rap music by Allen Su at 1502 on 11-3; a link to the YouTube video of the same song (“Beijing City”) follows (thanks to Chris Kadlec for the link) https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/ucf9y8awzw0e3ip5ppke4abwzt22t9ts

Click here to view on YouTube.

783  UnID-China   Weak male Chinese speech continuing on the frequency after the Voice of Strait sign off at 1600 on 11-5 (from 1:10 to 1:20 in the following recording) https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/4qryk7xdtvhih5bche2iixoswcso2sl1

792  4RN   Brisbane, Australia, 25 kW   S9 level female conversation during RN network program at 1618 on 11-6  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/2oe10pcuin6qvrrxtsyw5gpzy4wgjrk4

800  PJB   Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles, 440 kW   Hijacking the 801 frequency at 0921 on 11-3 with an S9 signal and “Transmundial” ID at 6 seconds, this signal was typical of powerful North and South American stations that would mix with the Asian and Pacific island stations each evening in a wild competition. Received at 5.981 miles/ 9,627 km https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/wiotqzpyghyinwl4o1f0c3vw2s1brtbw

810  RNZ   Dunedin, NZ, 10 kW   Frigid weather report at 1604 on 11-5 during DU slanted conditions  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/b171bq8mute3scndqna3ej0re65vb4r6

810  UnID-TP   Weak Asian showing up at 1553 on 11-4, but not enough signal for language recognition  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/3luto1kh3qamg706b9ax9uqn9vawer6h

819  KCBS   Pyongyang, N. Korea, 500 kW   This Asian big gun wasn’t quite as strong as it was in Kona, Hawaii a year earlier, and suffered some minor 830-Honolulu splatter. There was no sign of the Seoul area jammer, though. Its orchestral music was at good strength at 1606 on 11-3  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/zmtr8yqln8lqg9419a842u802w86pryx

837  CNR5   Quanzhou, China, 1000 kW   Presumed the one with male speech in a Chinese dialect fighting it out with 830-Honolulu splatter at 1526 on 11-3 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/828hx6cpc0dhtsxwau7bz3uyd0x4o7um

855  Pyongyang BS   Sangwon, N. Korea, 500 kW   The usual female choral group shows up at a modest level at 1511 on 11-3. Like on 819, there was no sign of the Seoul-area jammer that showed up in Kona a year ago https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/f4p1wfgy1qank63q9wdh8hjnyiyajrzm

864  HLKR   Gangneung, S. Korea, 100 kW   The Korean big gun is in a wild S9 snarl with a mystery Filipino station at 1539 on 11-3; this was a typical snarling Asian mix very common in the salt-water-boosted Kauai propagation https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/edbmedfei6kjn85jvs9k21lwe8d89cxn

864  UnID-Philippines   Apparent Tagalog male speech mixing with HLKR at a strong level at 1539 on 11-3, but no indication which one of the five stations it was https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/edbmedfei6kjn85jvs9k21lwe8d89cxn

909   CNR6   Quanzhou, China, 300 kW   Another of the Taiwan-directed propaganda blasters, this one tended to play classical or choral music, and (like 783-Voice of the Strait) it was usually at overwhelming strength. This sign off message at 1602 on 11-7 has it all– S9+ strength, a “Shenzhou zhi Sheng” female-voiced ID at 35 seconds, and even a suggestive-voiced female from 49 to 58 seconds. Current sign off is at 1604 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/urhk66t4mqunezupi99r0red0pt4u7ub

Typical classical music (at typical S9 strength) at 1532 on 11-4 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/ctsmjss2s8ly6qnzwint5yidigne44ho

Another sample of CNR6 classical music at 1510 on 11-3 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/0saadxt9qphazr951dfdpk51hftpm95h

909  Xinjiang RGD   Tacheng, China, 10 kW   One of the surprise receptions of the trip. The Mongolian language was unusually strong, and dominant over CNR6’s classical music at 1548 on 11-3; thanks to Mauno and Jari S. for the language identification https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/9z54ibieboealz78p0n4zygelv41ghcf

909  JOVX   Abashiri, Japan, 5 kW   Presumed the one with Japanese female speech at 1608 on 11-7 (after the CNR6 sign off), and about 20 minutes after the usual NHK2 sign off that week (the only other Japanese station on the freq.) https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/mnd4zqnvx5d6u35ihj7997no2r4hbz4v

918  ERTU   Bawiti, Egypt, 10 kW   Some awesome investigative work by Mauno determined that this modest signal at 1628 on 11-6 was Egyptian Arabic– one of the biggest surprises of the trip (otherwise it would have remained an UnID). Thanks for the extra effort! (8,921 miles/ 14,357 km)  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/hhdwsw42ok5pcevh41amx9i7ln3cxmag

918  RNK   Phnom Penh, Kampuchea, 600 kW   One of the biggest stars of the DXpedition, with S9-level Kampuchean pop music almost every morning around 1630, burying Shandong completely. Apparently there is some special propagation between Hawaii and Southeast Asia around this time in early November. This music was at 1637 on 11-3 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/6ohs2orw3o1w5oiqyfyfxcczsrvykazq

Booming pop music at 1653 on 11-8 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/yimn4viqpff60d85ek5cvt1yxe6d5orb

Burying Shandong at 1635 on 11-8 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/geenpiko5i7rkohvdxwhfnbkavb928fe

Full National Anthem at 1700 sign off on 11-8 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/wfcfv169exidtnlflx3g0ikag1xdg7ql

918  Shandong RGD Synchros   Shandong, China   This Chinese network was mostly cannon fodder for RNK during the trip, but it did manage a very brief moment at equal strength with RNK’s high-voiced female speaker at 1553 on 11-4 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/pq6pl57x1j9qepa8he4lj43x48vggr6j

918  UnID-Philippines   Tagalog-sounding speech at 1602 on 11-3, but no further indication of the identity  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/pjot56bu42rzfhju80c7v9yoo2e386xn

927  AIR-South   Visakhapatnam, India, 100 kW   India news in English by female announcer at 1531 on 11-8 (mixing with China); with mentions of “also approved Indian…” at 9 seconds and “for India to express” at 25 seconds. Thanks very much to C.K. Raman of India for matching the recording to the AIR archives https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/ozrw09zrlayks7nt3dxt95zeaibqmwd7

927  China   Male Chinese speech dominant over AIR’s female English speech at 1533 on 11-8, but no indication which one of the multiple Chinese stations is showing up https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/3pvkcyypj3qzpo3b1hyxtcubghlkf6vh

927  UnID-Chinese   Male and female Chinese speech at 1600 on 11-8 with multiple mentions of the Taoist deity Wong Tai Sin, which would seem highly unlikely in the officially atheist Mainland. Maybe BCC in Taiwan? https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/uvogxslwmgkqympbb041efmn6wp96uig

954  AIR-North   Najibabad, India, 200 kW   Female-voiced English news // 927 dominant over UnID Philippine station at 1534 on 11-8, with mention of “India” at 28 seconds https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/htco3tjnefuoakh8xaauiuhnwav22gzc

Female-voiced English news // 927 temporarily at equal strength with JOKR at 1533 on 11-8, but slowly fading under the Japanese male speaker https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/mllosolyokn18qmpyozv4y6gt1f3sbaj

954  China   Female Chinese dominant over JOKR at 1534 on 11-8, but no indication which of the Chinese stations is showing up https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/35kia9v9t1w352nksqvx2pj5z2wxetx8

954  JOKR  Tokyo, Japan, 100 kW  Japanese male conversation temporarily dominant over a wild mix of AIR’s female English speech, UnID Philippine music and Chinese female speech at 1534 on 11-8  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/6otqthqxgkrgybxe4cn03j5rd5eo25mz

954  UnID-Philippines  Persistently strong Tagalog-speaking lady dominant over co-channels at 1512 on 11-8, but there were no definite identity clues despite the signal strength (thanks to Vlad T. and Jari S. for the language identification) https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/wsfgz5aysxey1dw1ecd3jnq0r3v96loz

The same female Tagalog speaker came back to dominate the frequency at 1552 on 11-8 in a conversation with someone, but with three Philippine stations on the frequency the identity remains a mystery  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/gfwl7oisg9cdrsfxqp7t6vuqu1lc05gi

972  China   Henan Economic Service?   Persistent co-channel under HLCA during the week with Chinese speech format, such as at 1633 on 11-8. Rarely dominant https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/guydly45vysak1dxbkkt178p07wfqpyy

972  HLCA   Dangjin, S. Korea, 1500 kW   The Korean big gun played the part during most sessions, although the Chinese co-channel rarely left it alone. Here was a typical S9 signal at 1532 on 11-3, over the Chinese and accented English news co-channels https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/v3ojq208x2pmrajzgrv5uqjh1cxu2xa7

972  UnID– AIR (East)?   Accented English news from 10 seconds to 25 seconds in the following recording under HLCA at 1532 on 11-3, but there was no chance at the time to check the other AIR frequencies for a parallel. Unless Henan Economic was broadcasting in English this was most likely the 300 kW Cuttack transmitter in eastern India, with no other accented English possibilities on the frequency at the time https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/v3ojq208x2pmrajzgrv5uqjh1cxu2xa7

981  CNR1   China Synchros   Not quite as strong as in Kona, with minor splatter from 990-Honolulu. A typically strong signal was at 1505 on 11-8 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/1z0bdvj98dmhq9p8mhmp37xg5q5bgkcw

1008  JONR   Osaka, Japan, 50 kW  Japanese female pop music at modest strength all alone at 1610 on 11-8  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/3k82pa3pb541uje83jq3kof0j3irhq43

1017  A3Z   Nuku’alofa, Tonga, 10 kW   Island music with reverb-enhanced male speaker at strong level at 1617 on 11-8; the recent transmitter rejuvenation made this South Pacific station a reliable powerhouse each morning https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/m7cvf5e2sidwi845lh4jg8c684vz8y03

1044  CRI   Changzhou, China, 300 kW   Japanese service at excellent strength with female speech at 1523 on 11-6, but suffering from some 1040-Honolulu splatter https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/a89delbal9dtjau5klrsetbww9wleeyh

1323  CRI  Huadian, China, 600 kW   Russian service at good strength all alone at 1520 on 11-6 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/jaj942zuj6efhoux4nu8retd2jzg3bge

1440 JOWF   Sapporo, Japan, 50 kW   Always in a mix with Radio Kiribati every evening, the pop-oriented station with its female announcer could occasionally reach a strong level like at 0935 on 11-3  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/3fyr4auint1mpjvxu4tz8tm02knd5x6g

1440  Radio Kiribati   Bairiki, Tarawa, 10 kW   The usual female announcer speaking the island language got a boost from semi-auroral conditions at 0845 on 11-6 to thunder over JOWF’s Japanese female announcer https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/cpgfb9jg414gez35y94k0aaghhh6ffcy

Kiribati could pound in at great strength over JOWF during auroral conditions, such as with this Christian worship music in the island language at 0745 on 11-6 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/qbq68kkr78nri0xbghi7d9q24x43zwny

1557  UnID-TP   Weak music from unknown source at 1622 on 11-8 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/ct5468xgnxmwgq3jqobks9fjcr3ak8f3

1566  HLAZ   Jeju, S. Korea, 250 kW   The Korean big gun with its Christian programming was seriously chopped up by 1570-Maui splatter, such as during its Chinese service at 1526 on 11-3. As such, the frequency was too noisy to chase exotic targets https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/dpy8dlyerl0z55rdy3vuo0qv7avmu0hx

1575  Iranian Jammer   Causing severe interference to VOA-Thailand’s Bengali program at 1620 on 11-8, the “official” target of this prolific Jammer is Radio Farda in the U.A.E. The transmitter location is unknown, but likely distance to Kauai is around 8,000 miles/ 12,875 km  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/pn1iwgnxq3vzgf5tj9b2ek0pb6p14qg3

1575  VOA   Ban Phachi, Thailand, 1000 kW   The big gun generally got its programs through prior to 1600, but the Iranian Jammer wreaked havoc on the Bengali program by 1630. This Burmese program at 1507 on 11-7 had no problem, though https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/zww2i6bb7yc344dh2a7qo50wq9twmhvu

1593  CNR1   Changzhou, China, 400 kW   Male Chinese speech at modest level at 1455 on 11-7  https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/imlagv2gf4u2p1uwp28diifz7xxwqclj

1593  NHK2 Synchros   Matsue/ Niigata, Japan, 10 kW/ 10 kW   Presumed the one with Japanese-intonated female speech under CNR1’s male Chinese speech at 1454 on 11-7 https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/1pspxzrtvefmxo4j7r65aqpn212t26ya

Broadband SDR-DXing in Hawaii—A Scouting Report

As most transoceanic DXers are aware, the Hawaiian Islands offer an exceptional opportunity for AM-DXing hobbyists to chase enhanced, salt water-boosted signals from around the world. A recent Ultralight + FSL antenna trip provided all the DXing excitement anyone could hope for, with potent signals received from Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, and both North and South America. But this was all live DXing– one frequency at a time. Is a similar trip possible using a broadband loop antenna, and an SDR to record spectrum in one of the world’s most enhanced environments?

Normally such a challenge would be unthinkable, due to external antenna restrictions and the impossibility of carrying large loop antenna components on major airlines. But the unique situation at Poipu Beach on Kauai Island is definitely worth mentioning.

First of all, there is a fully stocked Home Depot store about 15 minutes away by car, offering PVC pipes, concrete bases and antenna wire– along with any tools necessary for antenna assembly. The 2-BR condos on the Poipu Kai beach are not part of a motel, but are individually owned and rented out by a management company for owners on the mainland. I never saw a single management company official on the property during the entire 6 days, except for the night when we checked into the complex management office (and he seemed to stay right there). Each morning I set up my FSL antenna on a 5′ PVC base in the large open patio area behind our condo from 0400-0700 local time (1400-1700 UTC), and never was questioned by anybody– let alone anybody from the management company. I’m pretty sure that small, breakdown versions of broadband antennas (such as the type that both Chuck and Tom have become skillful in setting up at the Rockwork cliff every August) would be fully acceptable during these sunrise enhancement sessions in Hawaii. There is excellent, free Wi-Fi available at the site for checking parallels and web streams, and fragile items like the SDR receivers and Wellbrook amps could be carried in hand carry luggage, similar to how I carry the Ultralights and FSL antennas. After such a broadband DXpedition the antenna parts could be probably be returned to the local Home Depot store, possibly with a chance of refunds.

Of course with a such a pioneering effort there will always be challenges and surprising discoveries, and a sense of optimism and adventure will prove to be most useful. But the opportunity certainly is there– as well as the chance to conduct a breakthrough DXpedition that could be of legendary success.


What an amazing report, Gary! I’ll admit, I’m just a wee bit envious of your Ultralight DXpedition locations! Thanks for sharing the details an, especially, your recordings! Inspiring!

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Golan’s take on the Digitech AR-1780, XHDATA D-808 and CC Skywave SSB

Digitech AR-1780 (left) and XHDATA D-808 (right)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Golan Klinger, who leaves the following comment regarding the Digitech AR-1780:

I bought my AR1780 from Jaycar when they were first announced because I was too impatient to wait for the Skywave SSB.

It looked good on paper and I was really pleased when I finally tried it out. It turned out to be one of the best travel-sized radios I’ve ever owned.

Being a radio junkie, I did buy the CC Skywave SSB when it was finally released and an XHDATA D-808 when they first offered them at a huge discount. Both are capable radios, the latter being almost identical to the AR1780, but if I had to choose one, I’d take the Digitech. I just love it.

And that’s the thing isn’t it, Golan?  Sometimes our favorite radios just “feel” good.

Like you, I’m a bit of a radio junkie and own all three of these radios. My preference is the CC Skywave SSB closely followed by the AR-1780. I also love the D-808, but although it’s superior to the other two radios in terms of audio and is slightly more sensitive than the AR-1780, I still tend to reach for the other two radios first.

Note that all three of these radios were featured in my “Best of the best” portable radio reviews.

Thanks for sharing, Golan!

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Best of the best: Reviews of some of my favorite portable shortwave radios

The following article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine:


Shortwave Portables: Some of my favorites

Being a radio writer and blogger, I’m often asked, “Isn’t radio dying?” or “How long are you going to keep listening to radio when there are so many other options out there?”

My answer? It’s simple:

Radio is about the journey.  And radios are the vehicles with which I explore our planet, albeit sonically.  I’ll stop listening to radio when it stops transporting me to far-flung, fascinating places across our planet.

I’ll stop listening to radio when when it can no longer provide the kind of direct information and understated entertainment that is, for me (and a few others like me), a welcome relief from the overwhelming demands and distractions of the Internet.

And I’m perhaps a bit anachronistic in that I prefer radio’s subtler theatre of the mind over the mindless image consumption that television demands; thus, I’ll stop listening to radio when it too, tells me what I must think, what I must imagine, and what I must feel.

In short, radio is my tool for exploration, and I continue to enjoy tuning, listening, logging and learning from it.  Very fortunately, I have the great pleasure of being in the middle of the world of radio technology in my reviews, evaluations, and alpha/beta testing.

This is why, over the years, I’ve made an effort to share some of my picks of the litter with others.  So when TSM editor Ken Rietz asked if I would be interested in writing a feature about this, how could I resist?

What follows is a series of mini-reviews which focus primarily on the portable radio market. This is, by definition, a curated list, but I’ve done my best to include a variety of receivers I regularly recommend. The radios are listed roughly from least expensive ($25) to most expensive ($270), and I’ve only included models that are in production at the time of this publication.

Ever-popular portables

Portables are truly the most popular category of radio among shortwave radio enthusiasts, and it’s no wonder why! Among their other virtues, modern portables can pack a lot of performance into an affordable package, they’re great for travelling, and their all-in-one nature makes shortwave listening accessible to virtually everyone.

Since I’m in the constant stream of correspondence and comments from radio enthusiasts, I know another reason some listeners consider portables simply invaluable: portables give us refuge from noise. Since many of us live in, and/or travel to, busy urban areas filled with radio interference, portables give us a means to head to the park, beach, or the countryside to escape the noise and increase our odds of working DX.

Fortunately for us, modern portables pack features of which, in former radio-listening days, we could have only dreamed.

What follows is a list of my favorite portables, listed by price in US dollars, with the least expensive first. Please note that retailer links include Amazon and eBay affiliate links that support the SWLing Post with your purchase.

Best Portable Shortwave Radios

$25 – $50 Range

Tivdio V-115 / Retekess V115 / Audiomax SRW-710S

Listening to the BBC Midwinter Broadcast on June 21, 2017 in Québec.

Pros: Affordability, sensitivity, built-in recording and audio playback features, compact size, impressive audio from internal speaker

Cons: Mutes between frequencies, front panel buttons feel rather cheap, no SSB mode, sluggish response from controls, small telescoping whip

Summary: For about $25, it’s hard to complain about the V-115. Its performance and list of features exceeds expectations for radios in this price range, which are generally a disappointment. As for myself, I mainly use the V-115 as receiver to make off-air recordings and as an occasional backup radio. Unless your budget is very tight, don’t buy the V-115 as your main receiver; rather, buy it to keep in the glove compartment of your car or in your go-bag. Note that this radio carries a number of brand names and has been rebadged many times. Click here to read more reviews of the V-115 on the SWLing Post.

Retailers:

Grundig Mini

Pros: Compact, simple, adequate sensitivity and selectivity, clear backlight display, surprisingly decent audio from internal speaker

Cons: No direct frequency entry, no SSB mode, limited features compared with pricier receivers

Summary: The Grundig/Eton Mini is the latest in the lineage of the Mini series from Eton.  The Mini has remained a popular radio because it delivers decent performance, with above average audio and makes for a nice broadcast listening companion. I recommend the Mini as a gift for those who want a simple pocket radio to operate with an easy-to-read display––great for the traveler or for elderly parents or grandparents who don’t like too many fussy buttons. Certainly a great value for the money.

Retailers:

Tecsun PL-380

Pros: Excellent sensitivity and selectivity, excellent audio via headphones, multiple AM bandwidths, ETM auto-tuning, excellent ergonomics, responsive controls, direct frequency entry, excellent bang-for-buck

Cons: No SSB mode, slight muting between frequency changes

Summary: The venerable PL-380 was my first ultralight Tecsun radio. It’s been on the market for many years, no doubt due to its solid performance. The PL-380 has an excellent receiver with impressive sensitivity and selectivity. The ETM auto-tuning feature is ideal for those of us who like to travel. The PL-380 is durable, affordable, and in terms of performance, is very similar to the PL-310ET (below). The PL-310ET might have a slight edge in terms of sensitivity. But for just $45, you simply can’t go wrong with the PL-380.

Retailers:

Tecsun PL-310ET

Pros: Excellent sensitivity and selectivity (perhaps slightly more sensitive than similarly-priced PL-380), excellent audio via headphones, multiple AM bandwidths, ETM auto-tuning, excellent ergonomics, responsive controls, direct frequency entry, excellent bang-for-buck

Cons: No SSB mode, slight muting between frequency changes

Summary: The PL-310ET, like its cousin the PL-380, is a classic ultralight radio and performs brilliantly for the price. The PL-310ET has long been the backup radio I’ve taken along on mini DXpeditions and field-listening sessions. The ETM auto-tuning feature is ideal for those of us who like to travel. The PL-310ET is reliable, and you’re hard-pressed to find a better performer under $50––indeed, it rivals some receivers twice its price. A solid choice for the budget-minded radio enthusiast and Ultralight DXer.

Retailers:

$50 – $100 Range

XHDATA D-808

Pros: Impressive overall performance, SSB mode, multiple AM and SSB filter widths, above-average audio from internal speaker, RDS, dedicated fine-tuning control, decent battery life from four standard AA cells, includes AIR band

Cons: Mutes between frequency changes, sluggish response from controls

Summary: The XHDATA D-808 was, no doubt, the most surprising receiver to hit the market in 2017. It’s an impressively sensitive radio across the bands, and can be snagged for an affordable price (generally $75-80 US). I was very skeptical of the D-808, but when I put it on the air, I discovered it gave some of my full-featured portables a run for their money. It is, indeed, a budget workhorse. If you live in New Zealand or Australia, you might find the very similar Digitech AR-1780 a more accessible option. Internally, the D-808 and Digitech AR-1780 (see below) are very similar. Click here to read more D-808 reviews on the SWLing Post.

Retailers:

Eton Field BT

The Grundig Field BT

Pros: Impressive sensitivity, excellent audio fidelity, can be used as a Bluetooth speaker, intuitive display, dedicated RF gain, simple tactile controls, overall quality feel

Cons: Clunky/quirky tuning is painfully slow, no direct frequency keying, no SSB mode

Summary: Last year, my friend Troy Riedel and I met at Mount Mitchell State Park to compare the Eton Field BT with the benchmark ($270) Tecsun S-8800. We were impressed that the Field BT did an admirable job competing with the S-8800 (see below). Indeed, due to the Field BT’s excellent audio, some broadcasts were slightly more intelligible than on the S-8800 (noting the S-8800 also has excellent audio). The only negative that was quite obvious at the time was how cumbersome it was to tune the Field BT compared with the S-8800. One year ago, the Field BT was widely available for $129––lately I’ve seen the price as low as $80 shipped. If you’re looking for a lunchbox radio that packs serious performance, room-filling robust audio, and you don’t mind slow tuning, the Eton Field BT is an excellent choice.

Retailers:

CountyComm GP5-SSB (a.k.a. Tecsun PL-365)

Pros: Excellent sensitivity, audio fidelity quite good via headphones, effective SSB mode, multiple AM and SSB bandwidths, very good medium-wave reception with supplied external bar antenna, unique form factor for one-handed operation, uses three standard AA batteries

Cons: No direct frequency entry, audio tinny via internal speaker, AGC doesn’t cope with fading as well as other comparable portables, no back stand nor rotatable whip antenna; thus this radio is not ideal for tabletop listening, supplied belt clip feels flimsy––if you plan to use this in the field, consider purchasing the excellent CountyComm GP5 series rugged case.

Summary: The GP5-SSB was one of the first sub-$100 DSP portables with SSB mode. Since its release others have entered the market (see XHDATA D-808 above for example). The GP5-SSB has a unique form factor tailored for handheld operation, much like a handie talkie. I keep a GP5-SSB in my backpack to use while on hikes, and am always very pleased with its performance. If you’re looking for a bedside or tabletop portable, I would recommend other similarly-priced receivers like the XHDATA D-808 or Digitech AR-1780. Note that if you live outside North America, you might find it easier to purchase the Tecsun PL-365 which is identical to the GP5-SSB. Click here to read our full review of the CountyComm GP5-SSB.

Retailers:

C. Crane CC Skywave

Listening to the 2016 BBC Midwinter Broadcast to Antarctica while traveling in Canada with the CC Skywave.

Pros: Overall great sensitivity and selectivity for a portable in this price class, considerate design, well-tailored for the traveler, AIR band is truly functional, NOAA Weather radio reception excellent, includes soft silicone earphones (in-ear type) actually worthy of AM/SW listening, auto scanning with the up/down buttons is very rapid, uses common micro USB port for power/charging

Cons: No SSB mode, internal speaker audio is somewhat tinny (use of the voice audio filter helps), no external antenna jack, mutes between frequency changes

Summary: I think the original CC Skywave is a brilliant little radio. Although it lacks SSB mode, it’s a fine broadcast receiver and one of the most sensitive travel portables on the market. For those of us living and traveling in North America, the CC Skywave is a veritable “Swiss Army Knife” receiver, as it not only covers AM, FM and shortwave, but is a capable AIR band and incredibly adept NOAA/Environment Canada weather radio receiver. At $90, I believe it’s the best radio value in the C. Crane product line. If the lack of SSB mode is a deal-breaker for you, consider the Skywave’s pricier brother, the CC Skywave SSB (below), also an excellent performer. Click here to read our full review of the CC Skywave.

Retailers:

$100 – 200 Range

Digitech AR-1780

Pros: Impressive overall performance, SSB mode, multiple AM and SSB filter widths, above-average audio from internal speaker, RDS, dedicated fine-tuning control, decent on-air battery life from four standard AA cells, includes AIR band

Cons: Mutes between frequency changes, sluggish response from controls. Note that at least one user has reported quick battery discharge when the radio is turned off. This has not been the case with my unit–in fact, it’s often turned off for a couple months at a time and maintains a steady, healthy charge.

Summary: Digitech is not a brand known for delivering enthusiast-grade receivers to the Australian/New Zealand markets through retailer Jaycar.. While they’ve a number of portables on the market, so many are plagued with internal noise and quirky controls. The AR-1780 is an exception. For $129.00 AUD (roughly $103 USD), you’re getting a full-featured radio that is, by and large, a pleasure to operate. The AR-1780 has its quirks, but so do so many ultra-compact portables in this price bracket. As mentioned in the cons above, there have been reports of some units draining batteries rather quickly when turned off (essentially in standby)––I have not experienced this, but this issue has been reported by a number of AR-1780 owners. The AR-1780 is certainly worth considering if you live in Australia or New Zealand. Note that the Digitech AR1780 and previously mentioned XHDATA D-808 share a nearly identical receiver design although their outer dimensions are slightly different. Click here to read our full review of the Digitech AR-1780.

Retailers:

Tecsun PL-660

Pros: Smooth digital tuning with no muting between frequencies, excellent synchronous detector, functional SSB mode, direct frequency entry via keypad, brilliant ergonomics, excellent sensitivity and selectivity (a best-in-class!), excellent price point and value for benchmark portable performance

Cons: BFO knob instead instead of push-button SSB, only two filters (wide/narrow), lacks a line-out jack

Summary: I’ve owned a PL-660 since 2011 and still take it on DXpeditions and to use as a benchmark when evaluating new receivers. It has rock-solid performance all around with pleasant audio from the built-in speaker, and one of the best synchronous detectors on the portables market. The PL-660 is the radio I’ve recommended more than any other for newcomers to the hobby: it’s a very capable DX machine with an ergonomic, intuitive interface. Click here to read other SWLing Post reviews that include the PL-660.

Retailers:

Tecsun PL-680

The Tecsun PL-680

Pros: Excellent sensitivity and selectivity on the shortwave bands, improved weak signal stability over the PL-660, stable sync lock, proven form factor with good overall ergonomics, great internal speaker––an improvement over the PL-660, but not as good as the PL-880––in short, other than medium-wave performance (see con), a worthy replacement for the PL-660; also sports excellent audio from the PL-680 internal speaker: improved over the PL-660, but not matching the fidelity of the PL-880

Cons: Medium-wave performance is lackluster, marginal noise floor increase on the shortwave bands (compared with the PL-660), lacks a line-out jack, SSB frequency display on my unit is + 1 kHz, so slight BFO adjustment is needed

Summary: If you’re a shortwave radio listener, you’ll be pleased with the Tecsun PL-680. In all of my comparison tests between the Tecsun PL-660 and Tecsun PL-680, the PL-680 tends to edge out the PL-660 performance-wise. This coincides with blind user surveys I conducted on the SWLing Post. If you’re a medium-wave DXer, you might skip over the PL-680; the PL-660 is likely a better choice for you. If you’re a casual medium-wave listener on the other hand, you’ll probably be pleased with the PL-680. Click here to read our full review of the PL-680.

Retailers:

CC Skywave SSB

Pros: Considerate design and ergonomics, well-tailored for the traveler, excellent sensitivity and selectivity for a compact radio, faster AIR scanning compared with the original CC Skywave, better HF frequency coverage than the original Skywave (1.711-29.999 MHz, compared to 2.300-26.100 MHz), pleasant SSB audio, multiple bandwidths in both AM and SSB modes, no overloading noted, well-written operation manual, excellent weather band reception, nice red LED indication lamps for SSB and Fine Tune engagement, NOAA Weather radio reception excellent, includes soft silicone earphones (in-ear type) actually worthy of AM/SW listening, uses common micro USB port for power/charging, excellent battery life from two AA cells

Cons: At $169, US the CC Skywave SSB is certainly the priciest compact portable on the market, yet mutes between frequencies, engaging SSB mode requires 2-3 seconds of delay (common for this DSP chip), no RDS, no audio-out jack, no sync detector (a “con” in this price class), no long-wave reception, first production run had some quirks which have now been addressed by C. Crane (in case you shop for a used unit).

Summary: I love the CC Skywave SSB. Sure, I wish it had RDS, an audio-out jack, didn’t mute between frequencies, and was less expensive (the current price of $169 seems excessive). But overall, it’s a fantastic package. I’m impressed with the amount of performance the Skywave SSB provides with such a short telescoping antenna. Since first being introduced to the Skywave SSB last year, it has become my choice travel portable. Check out our initial review of the CC Skywave SSB and the important updated second production run review.

Retailers:

Tecsun PL-880

Pros: Excellent ergonomics, excellent sensitivity and selectivity, superb audio from internal speaker, wide array of filter options in both AM/SSB more than on any sub-$200 portable on the market!), absolutely no muting between frequencies even while using a .5 kHz filter in SSB, sturdy carrying case has dedicated pocket for English operation manual, single supplied rechargeable battery delivers a very long life

Cons: Two-second delay when changing modes (AM/SSB/AM sync), some audio splatter on peaks in weak signal DX, sync detector (hidden feature) delivers mediocre performance and substantially reduced audio fidelity, AM (medium wave) prone to imaging if strong AM broadcasters are nearby, supplied rechargeable battery is not as common as AA batteries

Summary: I’ve owned the Tecsun PL-880 for five years and it continues to impress. Tecsun has made iterative changes to the firmware over time, and now this radio is one of the best performers in the sub-$200 price bracket. The audio from the PL-880 internal speaker is simply unsurpassed in this size of radio. The PL-880 isn’t perfect, but it does an amazing job, pleasing DXers from every angle and even ham radio operators who appreciate the narrow filter settings in SSB mode. All in all, you can’t go wrong with the PL-880––it’s certainly a quality piece of radio kit! Click here to read our full review of the PL-880. Click here to read our list of PL-880 hidden features.

Retailers:

Eton (Grundig Edition) Executive Satellit

Pros: Excellent sensitivity, excellent audio from built-in speaker, ergonomic and intuitive interface, uses common AA batteries, multi-joint swivel antenna is best in class, excellent build quality, display is easy to read, effective station memory management

Cons: Mutes between frequencies, executive Satellit model typically costs more than previous non-executive model

Summary: The Satellit has a dedicated following among hard-core DXers, both the audio and superb sensitivity placing it well within the realm of benchmark receivers. It’s a fantastic field radio and feels like one that should serve you over the long haul. It’s not a perfect radio; I especially wish it didn’t mute between frequency changes, although Eton seem to have minimized this in the latest production runs. If you’re seeking a super-sensitive portable to sniff out weak DX, then the Satellit is worth serious consideration. Check out some of Oxford Shortwave’s previous posts which include the Executive Satellit.

Retailers:

$200+ Range

Tecsun S-8800

Pros: Brilliant audio fidelity from built-in speaker, dedicated AM bandwidth and fine tuning controls, excellent bespoke IR remote control, capable SSB mode, excellent shortwave sensitivity, excellent shortwave selectivity, excellent FM performance, easy-to-read backlit LCD digital display, remote control beautifully equipped for full radio functionality, included 18650 rechargeable lithium batteries power this radio for hours, BNC connection for external antennas, does not overload even when connected to large external antennas

Cons: Lackluster mediumwave performance, no synchronous detector, no direct keypad entry (pro: remote control, however, has excellent keypad entry), can’t charge and listen at the same time as is not designed for AC operation, no backstand, when in narrowest SSB filters AGC can’t reliably handle audio/signal changes, slight “warbling” sound while using fine-tuning control in SSB mode, no RDS display on the FM band

Summary: If your primary use of the S-8800 is for medium-wave or long-wave DXing, you should look elsewhere. While the S-8800 will serve you well with local AM stations, it will not dig signals out of the noise like other better-equipped AM receivers. But: if you’re primarily a shortwave radio listener, you’ll certainly be pleased with the S-8800! The S-8800 consistently outperforms my beloved Sony ICF-SW7600GR and my Tecsun PL-880. Indeed, it is the most sensitive and selective shortwave portable I own. On the flip side, it’s also the most expensive: $268 at time of publication. If you want top-class HF performance from a portable radio and you expect superb audio, I think you’ll find the S-8800 well worth your investment. Click the following links to read our full review of the S-8800, 13dka’s review which compares the S-8800 with the PL-660 and D-808 and Dan Robinson’s most recent S-8800 comparative review.

Retailers:

There’s a portable for everyone

You might have noticed that there’s a portable receiver on this list for everyone:

  • The listener who wants turn-on-and-play functionality
  • The casual listener
  • The hiker
  • The traveler
  • The DXer
  • The ham radio operator

Keep in mind that this is a curated list of some of my favorites that are widely available on the market new. There are a number of receivers on the market––the Degen DE1103 comes to mind––which would have made it to this list had they not been “updated” with a DSP chip. Manufacturers add DSP to reliable models in order to increase profit margin, since DSP chips cost a fraction of traditional receiver design. DSP chips have revolutionized the portable market in many positive ways, but if they’re not properly implemented in a set, they can produce higher noise floors, audio anomalies, shaky AGC, and other undesirable traits.  The DSP receivers in the list above have properly implemented DSP technology and, save the cheapest models, are all what I would consider “enthusiast grade” radios.

What about other types of radios?

Of course, if you’ve become addicted to radio, you shouldn’t stop at portables! I would encourage you to check out the three-part Software Defined Radio Primer published in September (Part 1), October (Part 2), and November (Part 3). The SDRs I mention in the primer are essentially what I consider the best of the best.

Of course, there are still a handful of tabletop shortwave receivers like the Alinco DX-R8T HF receiver, the Elad FDM-DUOr SDR receiver, and the Icom IC-R8600 wideband receiver. All are top-notch performers and, when paired with an effective antenna, can pull out weak signals much better than a portable radio ever could.

If you’re a ham radio operator, take advantage of modern general-coverage transceivers. Only a couple decades ago, most transceivers were “ham band only” and the ones that were not compromised performance if they included the broadcast bands.  This is no longer the case. Modern general coverage HF transceivers can rival dedicated tabletop receivers in many cases. I’m particularly fond of the Icom IC-7300, IC-7200, and Kenwood TS-590SG as home stations, and the Yaesu FT-818, Elecraft KX3, and the Elecraft KX2. This is a mere sampling of some of the excellent general-coverage transceivers on the market. Before you purchase a general-coverage transceiver, simply make sure it has AM mode and that the bandwidth is wide enough for pleasant audio. Ask current owners how their transceiver sounds on the broadcast bands.

In summary

As you select your next radio, take into consideration how and where you plan to use it, as well as what you’re willing to spend. The good news is, we live in an era with an extraordinary number of options covering all price ranges and uses. So, be assured: there’s a radio out there just waiting to sonically transport you to far-flung and fascinating regions, too.

Vive la radio! Long live radio!

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