Tag Archives: Chris Freitas

Indoor shortwave antenna options to pair with a new SDR

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Chris Freitas, who writes:

“I am thinking of the new RSP1A SDR. Would you know of a good indoor antenna that would work well with it?”

Your antenna question is simple, but the answer is complex!

First off, I think the RSP1A is a great choice as it’ll give you proper exposure to the world of SDR (1 kHz to 2 GHz!)  at a modest price.

Unlike a portable radio of course, your SDR must be connected to a PC, laptop, tablet or some sort of mini computer like Raspberry Pi. This limits your ability to easily try different antenna locations within your home compared to, say, a battery-powered portable radio. It might take some dedicated experimentation and patience.

Indoor antennas are so vulnerable to the radio noise within your home.

If you live in an off-grid cabin with no radio interference nearby, even a simple $1 random wire antenna hooked up to RSP1A’s SMA connector would yield results. I occasionally spend my summers in an off-grid cabin and it’s simply amazing what you can do with a modest setup when there are no man-made radio noises around.

Listening to the final broadcast of Radio Netherlands in an off-grid cabin on Prince Edward Island in 2012.

But how many radio enthusiasts live in an off-grid cabin? Answer: very, very few! Most of us only get to experience off-grid life during natural disasters when the electrical grid has been damaged in our neighborhoods.

The reality of indoor antennas

You’ve told me previously that you live in an apartment in an urban setting, hence you probably cope with a lot of RFI.

When an antenna is indoors, it is forced to function within this RFI-dense environment. Your telescoping whip or wire antenna doesn’t discern between radio noise and your target broadcast signal. Thus, noise can overwhelm your receiver, essentially deafening it to all but the strongest shortwave broadcasters.

And simple, inexpensive portable amplified shortwave antennas? I’ve expressed my opinions about them before. They amplify the RFI as effectively as they do broadcasters.

This is why if you had a means to put a small random wire antenna outside–even if it was simply draped outside a window–it would likely perform better than an indoor antenna. I’m guessing this isn’t an option for you, Chris.

Think loops

A broadband loop antenna (image courtesy of wellbrook.uk.com)

Magnetic loop antennas are a popular topic here on the SWLing Post for a reason: they’re one of the best frontline tools for fighting urban noise. (Here’s a great tutorial/presentation [PDF] describing how mag loop antennas work.)

The compact Bonito Mega Loop FX

While you can build an amplified mag loop antenna (like our buddy, TomL) it’s not a simple project.  Passive single turn loop antennas, on the other hand, are quite easy to build but are narrow in bandwidth (here’s a very cheap, simple passive loop project). You would likely design a single passive loop to serve you on a specific brodcast band and would have to retune it as you make frequency changes. You could build a passive loop antenna for less than ten dollars if you can find a good variable capacitor. Here’s another tutorial.

Commercially produced amplified wideband magnetic loop antennas are not cheap, but they are effective. If you’re a serious SWL, a good mag loop antenna is worth the investment.

Here are a few of my favorites starting with the most portable:

PK Loops

The PK Loop

The most affordable and portable mag loop antenna I own is the PK Loop.  I have the more compact PK Loop C-LOOP-HDSW6-18 (6 – 8 MHz), but Guy Atkins also touts the slightly larger Ham Loop which he finds tunes beyond the advertised 3.5 – 14.5 MHz range.

PK Loops are not as broad in bandwidth as the other antennas I mention below. You will have to retune the loop with any band changes and sometimes even within a specific meter band.

Click here to check out PK Loop offerings on eBay.

W6LVP Loops

The W6LVP Loop Antenna

To my knowledge, the W6LVP is one of the most affordable larger diameter amplified wideband mag loop antennas. We’ve published positive reviews of this antenna in the past.

W6LVP sells two versions of the antenna–since you’re not operating a transmitter, this $250 model would be all you need. indeed, if I were in your shoes, this would likely be the loop I purchase–very cost effective.

Wellbrook Loops

Wellbrook antennas are the staple magnetic loop antenna for many DXers.

Wellbrook loops are manufactured in the UK and have been on the market for a very long time. Their re-engineered Active Inoor Loop Antenna LA5030 would serve you well. At £240.00 (roughly $330 US) plus shipping, it’s one of the most affordable in the Wellbrook line, but over a $250 budget.

Wellbrook makes a number of loops, but since you have no plans to mount this outside, I believe their indoor model would suffice.

Other loop options

There’s no shortage of magnetic loop antennas on the market, but most are pricer than the models I mention above and I know you have a tight budget. Here’s are some models we’ve mentioned on the SWLing Post in the past:

I have the RF Pro-1B and am very impressed, but it’s overkiil for your application (and twice the price of the W6LVP loop).

Fighting urban noise

Even if you build or purchase a magnetic loop antenna, you still need to eliminate as much RFI as you can on your own.

A couple years ago, our friend London Shortwave wrote a brilliant guest post about fighting urban noise. Read through his piece and try to implement as much of his advice as you can.

I hope this helps, Chris! This post is by no means comprehensive, so I hope others will chime in and comment with their experiences. Good luck fighting urban noise and I hope you enjoy your journey into the world of the SDR!

Radio Deals: Eton Satellit and Orphan CC Skywave


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Chris Frietas, who writes:

Hey Thomas, if anyone is looking for a new Eton Satellit radio…RadioWorld.ca is having a huge sale on new ones. They’re roughly $112-115 US:

Click here to view on eBay.

Thanks for the tip, Chris!  Happy to see RadioWorld still have this sale available! At time of posting, eBay claims they’re 74% sold.

Original CC Skywave

Additionally, I just received an e-flyer from C. Crane.  They’re having an inventory reduction sale which includes some “Orphaned” CC Skywave units.

C. Crane orphaned radios are typically open box units that have been checked over carefully by C. Crane technicians and carry a full warranty. I’ve purchased their orphaned products in the past and would hesitate to jump on this deal if I didn’t already have the original CC Skywave.

Click here to view at C. Crane.

Chris reviews the Eton Field BT and an important note about the discontinued Grundig S350DL

The Eton Field BT

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Chris Freitas, who notes that’s he’s published a favorable review of the Eton Field BT on his blog: Chris Freitas on Radio

The Field BT shares the same basic chassis as the Tecsun S-8800 (check out the review published yesterday) and several other receivers including the Grundig S350DLS450DLX, and the C.Crane CCRadio-SW.

Chris and I both agree that one benefit to this type of large portable is the excellent audio fidelity they can provide.

Read Chris’ full review here.

Not all large portables are created equally

The S350DL may look like a digital radio, but it’s actually analog inside and tuning is prone to drift.

Important clarification: The Field BT–just like the S-8800 and S450DLX–does not have the flaky analog tuning of the discontinued Grundig S350DL series.

Since I started publishing videos of the Tecsun S-8800 in action, I’ve received feedback indicating that many assume the S-8800 will drift off frequency like the 2008 era GS350DL.

It’s true that both radios share a common form factor, but that’s where the similarities end.

The S350DL is actually an analog single conversion receiver with a digital frequency display. The S350DL tuning knob has an inner ring for fine tuning and an outer ring for speedy tuning. The big disadvantage of the S350DL is that it drifts off frequency every time the wind blows. At least, that’s how it seems. It’s a little frustrating, and that’s why mine pretty much stays tuned to one station on my kitchen shelf. Even then, it manages to drift off frequency every few days.

The Eton Field BT, Eton Field, Grundig S450DLX, C. Crane CCRadio-SW and Tecsun S-8800, on the other hand, all have a pure digital tuning experience with no drift at all. Most of these are at least double conversion and the S-8800 is even triple conversion.

Chris, thanks again for sharing your review of the Field BT! It sounds like a major improvement over its predecessor, the S450DLX. I understand you’re also evaluating the excellent Grundig Traveller III–we look forward to that review when published!

eBay sighting: Eton E1

E1

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Chris Freitas, who writes:

I came across this find on eBay. I was tempted to buy one myself, but I am content with the PL-680 I have right now. However, some SWLing Post readers may want to check it out:

Click here to view on eBay.

Thanks for the tip, Chris! It appears this seller has a long and very positive history–certainly a plus on eBay!

PL-680 and ATS-405 radio reviews now online

PL-680-BBC-Click-FrequencyThis week, both Jay Allen and Chris Freitas have reviewed the Tecsun PL-680. If you’re considering purchasing a PL-680, you should check out both reviews and also our PL-680 review and radio comparison from February.

Jay has also reviewed the Sangean ATS-405 on his website and Keith Perron tells me he will include a review of the ATS-405 on today’s episode of Media Network Plus. Keith has informed me he was very disappointed with the ATS-405, but Jay’s review is mostly positive, focusing on its great AM (medium wave) performance and new tuning/muting functions.

This is certainly the week for reviews!

On that note, Universal Radio is kindly sending me a loaner Sangean ATS-405 for review. I hope to compare it with some other benchmark portables in the next few weeks. Follow the tag ATS-405 for updates.

Click on the following links to check pricing for both the PL-680 and ATS-405:

Tecsun PL-680

Sangean ATS-405