Tag Archives: DXing

Bill’s first DX contest using a Panasonic RF-2200 and a hombrew diode/loop radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Hemphill (WD9EQD), who shares the following guest post:


My First DX Contest

by Bill Hemphill, WD9EQD

Being a recent new member of NJARC, this is my first time competing in this contest.  I have always been a big fan of BCB DXing and have recently got back into it – especially with the amateur radio bands being in such poor conditions.  The acquisition of a couple of Loop antennas plus two Panasonic RF-2200 radios have just enhanced my enjoyment.

For the contest, I used two completely different radios.  First was the RF-2200 and second was a spur of the moment creation.

The RF-2200 was its usual good performer. While the RF-2200 has a beautiful built-in rotating bar antenna, I enhanced it with the 27” Torus-Tuner Loop Antenna as made by K3FDY, Edmund Wawzinski.  I think I had picked this antenna up at one of NJARC’s swap meets.  So I wish to thank whoever it was that was nice enough to bring it and sell it at the meet.  I have really enjoyed using it.  With this setup, I was hoping that I might be able to pull in Denver, Salt Lake City and maybe even a Mexican station, but it was a complete bust on them.  But I did have a nice surprise in receiving the Cuban station Radio Enciclopedia on 530 in addition to the usual Radio Reloj time signal station.  Following is photo of it in operation:

Originally, I had thought that my second contest entry would be done with a 1962 Sony TR-910T three-band transistor radio.  This radio has a fairly wide dial along with a second fine-tuning knob which would be a big help.  I would have again used the 27” hula-hoop antenna.

But I made the nice mistake of running across Dave Schmarder’s Makearadio website:

http://makearadio.com/

Dave’s site is a wonderful resource for creating your own Crystal, Tube, and Solid State radios as well as Audio Amplifiers and Loop Antennas.  While going down the rabbit hole of his site, I ran across his Loop Crystal Set, #19 Crystal Radio:

http://makearadio.com/crystal/19.php

What grabbed my attention was the wood frame loop antenna which is similar to one I had acquired a couple of years ago at a ham fest:


It was a really nicely constructed, nice swivel base.

I replaced the tuning capacitor with one that has a 6:1 ratio.

At this point I started thinking that I could create something similar with my loop.

I randomly grabbed a diode from my parts box.  Not sure what the exact model is.  (I later found out that it was an IN-34 which is what I was hoping it was.)  Then quickly soldered the diode, a resistor and capacitor to a RCA plug:

I then proceeded to use some jumper cables and just clip it to the tuning capacitor on the antenna base:

The RCA plug was then the audio out (I hope) from the radio.

I quickly realized that I did not have a crystal headset or any headset that would reproduce any audio.  So I used an old Marantz cassette recorder to act as an amplifier.  Fed it into the mic jack and then tried to listen to the monitor out.  Bingo – I could pick up or local station on 1340 really weak.

So I then fed the audio from the Marantz into a Edirol digital recorder.  Now I was getting enough audio for the headphones plus could make  a recording of the audio.

At last I was receiving some signals.  To boost the audio some more I removed the resistor from the circuit.

I found out the I could only tune from about 530 to 1350.  I probably needed to clip the lead on one of the loop turns, but I really wanted to see how it would do at night.  I spent several hours and was just totally amazed at how well it performed and how good the audio was.  The hardest part was when there were very strong signals on the adjacent frequency.  What I found really interesting was that it was not linear in its tuning.  At the low end of the band the stations were more spread out than at the higher end.  This made tuning fairy easy at the low end and very touchy at the high end.  I was able to hear a couple of Chicago stations along with Atlanta and St. Louis.

Here’s photo of it in action:

I have created an audio file of the station ID’s heard with the diode/loop radio.  The audio file is on the Internet Archive at:

https://archive.org/details/bcbstationidsondioderadio

I had a lot of fun in the contest and especially enjoyed trying something really different with the diode/loop radio.  Now I have a whole year to try to think up something really creative for next year’s contest.


Absolutely brilliant, Bill! I’m so happy to see that your ham fest homebrew loop has served you so very well in a contest. I love how you pulled audio from your homebrew, make-shift diode radio as well–using your audio gear in a chain for amplification obviously worked very well.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Bill!

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Adam’s Andes DXers International certificate

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Adam Smith, who shares the following certificate and writes:

I was going to share a piece of history I just came across going through some of my shortwave radio boxes. Lots of QSLs but this its a membership in ANDES DX Club!

Good times!

Thank you for sharing this bit of shortwave radio nostalgia, Adam! Any others in the SWLing Post community belong to the Andes DXers International? Do you still have your certificate? Please comment!

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Guest Post: Brazil’s newly-formed “15.61 Crew”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Martin Butera, who shares the following announcement for a new radio enthusiast group in Brazil:


The new 15 point 61 Crew

São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, the Americas, and the seventh largest in the world, with a population of 11,300,000.

 

This was the stage for the meeting between Ivan Dias da Silva Junior (a recognized Brazilian radio listener with more than 27 years of experience and founder of the Regional DX) and his colleague, Martin Butera (a renowned amateur radio operator (LU9EFO – PT2ZDX), with 29 years of experience and currently a correspondent journalist for the British Dx Club, covering information from South America for the radio newsletter “Communication”).

The place of the meeting was not an accidental: we met in a noted coffee bar in the Republic Square–an iconic meeting point in São Paulo. Republic Square is located in the city center and is one of the most visited places in Brazil.

We founded the 15 point  61 Crew in São Paulo, on September 3, 2019.

The 15 point  61 Crew is not a DX club, nor a formal registered organization. We are just an informal group who like DXing.

What is the meaning behind our name? The number 15 is the dialing code of Sorocaba and  61 is the Brasília code, joining the two cities where the Crew founders are based–a distance of more than 900 km (Brazil is a huge country!).

The 15.61 Crew doesn’t have political or religious objectives. Our main objective is DXing, with an emphasis on organizing related activities: mainly DXcamps to be held in distant and exotic places, and bringing a new panorama of what is shared about DXing in our country.

We don’t have any kind of administration positions. The 15.61 Crew members are and always will be in equals.

To be a member of 15.61 Crew you just need to be active in our hobby, share information, write items, go with us to DXcamps, develop technical projects, etc.

As we aren’t a DXing club or organization, we will not have a website nor social media. We will share micro-books, especially about our activities through existing media, like the SWLing Post by our friend, Thomas Witherspoon, and by ourselves, because at the moment we are members of other radio related bulletin boards.

Our communication will be through an email address and a Paypal account for those who want to help us to continue developing our activities and also provide feedback on other projects (such as sharing content with other websites, thus creating a virtual collaboration for all).

For this purpose, we are currently developing several projects, such as a 15.61 Crew certificate program and different materials, such as caps, shirts, mugs, etc.

The 15.61 Crew members believe that there are so much things to be heard in the ether and we are prepared for it.

Ivan Dias da Silva Junior & Martin Butera

(15.61 Crew founders)

São Paulo, September 3, 2019


Thank you for sharing this Martin! I hope the 15.61 Crew enjoys some great success and champions a dynamic DX community! If you’re interested in joining this South American crew, contact Martin Butera.

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AirSpy HF+ Discovery: First Impressions on Medium Wave vs. Elad FDM-DUOr

The highly anticipated AirSpy HF+ Discovery SDR has been in the hands of early adopters for about two weeks–and I’ve seen nothing but positive comments!

After a long run (2007-2013) with a Microtelecom Perseus, my SDR of choice became the Elad FDM-S2, and more recently an Elad FDM-DUOr “hybrid” SDR receiver. The two Elads have the same core processing components and identical performance when the DUOr is connected via SDR software.

This week I’ve compared the HF+ Discovery ($169) against the FDM-DUOr ($899) using Studio 1 software and identical modes & settings. The following video features the radios’ performance on a crowded daytime medium wave band from suburban Seattle-Tacoma USA.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Notes:

  • Software used is two “instances” of Studio 1, version 1.06e
  • Antenna is an east-west oriented Wellbrook ALA1530LNP Imperium loop
  • Mode, filter bandwidth, AGC, etc. are the same for each radio
  • 768 kHz sampling bandwidth used for both receivers

Stations tuned are:

  • 1320 KXRO Aberdeen WA, 74 miles @ 5 kW (in-line with antenna)
  • 1110 Oak Harbor WA, 78 miles @ 500 watts (in antenna’s null)
  • 1040 CKST Vancouver BC, 147 miles @ 50 kW (in antenna’s null)
  • 1430 KBRC Mt. Vernon WA, 85 miles @ 5 kW (in antenna’s null)
  • 750 KXTG Portland OR, 118 miles @ 50 kW (in antenna’s null)

I purposely sought out signals difficult to hear in the presence of powerhouse stations. Only 1320 kXRO (in-line with my antenna) and 750 KXTG are what you might consider average or fair quality signals. Headphones are recommended for most of these, particularly 1040 kHz.

You’ll note that the pass band has been “pulled” over the edge of the carrier frequency by a few hundred Hertz. This is an excellent trick that can often reduce noise and/or improve intelligibility. It’s a feature unique to Perseus, Studio 1, and SDRuno software; it works in sideband modes and in selectable sideband Sync AM (SAM) mode.

After listening to the signal comparisons, what are your thoughts on the HF+ Discovery? Please leave your comments below.

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

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Free Advice: Stop worrying about solar minimums and just play radio!

Lately we’ve been getting some pretty dismal news about the upcoming solar cycles and the potential for a pretty dismal trend according to some researchers.

We report this news on the SWLing Post because the sun and space weather play an important role in radio signal propagation and one’s ability to snag elusive DX.

After publishing news items like this, though, I always receive a number of emails and comments stating that these trends surely marks the end of all radio fun. After all, if there are no sun spots whatsoever, why bother!?!

Truth is, it’s sort of like saying, “the weather looks lousy, I don’t think I’ll be able to have fun.”

I lived in the UK for several years. If I let the potential for lousy weather stop me from having fun, I’d have never gotten anything done!

The same goes for space weather in our radio world.

A couple weeks ago, I made a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation running 15 watts with the Elecraft KX3 into a simple 20 meter vertical in SSB mode.  Even though propagation was poor, I logged a new contact, on average, once per minute over the course of 30 minutes! It was non-stop!

The GE 7-2990A (left) and Panasonic RF-B65 (right)

I also listened to the Midwinter Broadcast to Antarctica with two portable radios. Propagation was poor and I didn’t even use an external antenna…but I caught the broadcast and had a load of fun hanging out on the Blue Ridge Parkway!

My advice?

As I said in a post last year, use the sunspot low as an excuse to explore frequencies and modes you’ve never used before. Use this as an opportunity to improve your listening skills and the most important part of your listening post or ham station–your antenna system!

I often receive email from people who’ve found the SWLing Post and take the time to write a message to me complaining about the death of shortwave radio: the lack of broadcasters, the prevalence of radio interference and the crummy propagation. They wonder, “is it all worth it?”

My reply?

“Hey…sounds like radio’s not your thing!”

While this same person is moaning and complaining, I’ll be on the radio logging South American, Asian and African broadcast stations.

I’ll be working DX with QRP power, even though everyone tells me that’s not possible right now.

I’ll be improving my skill set and trying new aspects of our vast radio world.

You see: I’ve learned that the complainers aren’t actually on the air. They gave up many moons ago because someone told them it wasn’t worth it, or they simply lost interest. That’s okay…seriously…but why waste time complaining? Go find something else that lights your fire!

While these folks are complaining, I’ll be on the air doing all of the things they tell me I can’t do.

In the words of Admiral David Farragut: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Go out there and play radio!

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Guest Post: Indian DXer enters into Limca Book of Records

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Sandipan Basu Mallick (VU3JXD), for sharing the following guest post:


Indian DXer enters into Limca Book of Records

Jose Jacob from Hyderabad, India has collected QSL from 132 different stations of All India Radio over a period of 42 years. Radio stations ranging from Shot wave, Medium wave, FM to the latest DRM mode. In the process he has achieved the feat of creating an Indian Record of collecting maximum number of QSL of different stations of a radio broadcaster in India.

As a teenager Jose started listening to radio and started to write to stations way back in 1973, when in his school days. Few years later in 1976 he first wrote to All India Radio, when his reception report was first verified with a QSL. Over next 42 years, he has used various mediums, ranging from inland letters, post cards to emails, for sending reception reporting. Currently he has over 2500 QSL from 130 different countries, many of which left the airwaves.

Over the years, with his special interest in All India Radio, he is one of key country contributors, from India, of World Radio TV Handbook updating about All India Radio to the directory of global broadcasting.

Jose Jacob, is also a licensed amateur radio operator with call sign VU2JOS currently serving as Asst. Director at the National Institute of Amateur Radio (NIAR) www.niar.org

Jose Jacob (VU2JOS) with Certificate from Limca Book of Records

Limca Book of Records is an annual reference book published in India documenting human and natural world records. The world records achieved by humans are further categorised in education, literature, agriculture, medical science, business, sports, nature, adventure, radio, and cinema with Limca book of Records rules. (https://www.coca-colaindia.com/limca-book-of-records)

Limca Book of Records has recognized the feat as one of the Indian records in the radio category and awarded the certificate acknowledging the achievement.

QSL received in 1997 from All India Radio, Nagpur

QSL received in 1988 from All India Radio, Nagpur

QSL received in 1987 from All India Radio, Nagpur


Congratulations to Jose Jacob VU2JOS for an amazing accomplishment!  Thank you for sharing this news, Sandipan!

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Ultra-Rare DX: Logging Radio Kahuzi in the DRC

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


In these days of declining activity on the shortwave bands, we don’t often enjoy the experience of hearing what we might still call “rare” stations.  The new year brought an exception.

On January 1st, 2019 I was tuning around the 48 meter band, which is largely populated by European pirate stations, utilities, and weather stations, when I heard a station on 6,210.20 khz.  It was very distinct in that it sounded like an African station — music, with a male DJ/MC and religious songs.

What immediately came to mind was the religious station calling itself Radio Kahuzi, which is in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo.

The station has been heard by DX’ers in a number of countries since the mid-2000’s and because it’s management is based in the U.S. it is possible to obtain a QSL verification.

Radio Kahuzi also has Twitter and Facebook channels, making it easier to communicate with station managers and staff, and has this blog site: http://radiokahuzi.blogspot.com/

As a You Tube video shows the station has been on the air since the early 1990s:

Click here to view on YouTube.

On January 1st, RK was heard from about 1730 to 1747 UTC when it shut down, playing what Richard McDonald, one of the station’s founders, says were musical pieces that are specific to RK.

On January 2nd, 2019 the station was heard again via Europe-based SDRs, signing off at approximately 1811 UTC.

Here is McDonald’s response to my report (which included an mp3) from January 1st, in which he notes that he even went so far as to give the main station announcer, Gregoire, my name and asked him to mention me in the station’s broadcast:

“I just shared with Gregoire that you had sent a recording of the last minutes of his closing musical sign-off if Radio Kahuzi and he agreed to greet you by name this evening and several days in several languages including English.

You got him saying his name at 5:54 into your recording yesterday,and the ID sign off Mountain Blue-Grass Music was unique to Best Radio Kahuzi in Bukavu!

Barbara Smith will be happy to send the QSL Card and info about us and our National Director and his family situation in case you have any suggestions

Powering off here!  Our power cuts off with SNEL often — I just lost a longer reply to you !
But Keep Looking UP !    And Keep On Keeping ON !

Richard & Kathy McDonald”

By the way, according to Wikipedia, SNEL stands for Société nationale d’électricité “the national electricity company of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its head office building is located in the district of La Gombe in the capital city, Kinshasa. SNEL operates the Inga Dam facility on the Congo River, and also operates thermal power plants.”

A very interesting page containing the history of Radio Kahuzi, with information about the McDonalds, is at: http://www.besi.org/

As of the time of this writing, it’s unclear to me whether the extended broadcast times of Radio Kahuzi will be continued or if this was a one shot deal linked to the new year — we may have some clarification on this in coming days.

Here’s a video of my January 1st, 2019 reception of Radio Kahuzi:

Click here to view on YouTube.

For now, I am quite pleased to join the group of about 63 DX’ers around the world (that number comes from a link on the RK website called “Shortwave Listeners” that lists SWLs who have heard and contacted the station).

Though it is highly unlikely that Radio Kahuzi will be heard anytime soon in the United States (the station’s schedules shows it being active from 8 AM to 8 PM Bukavu time) at least using U.S.-based radios, whether SDR or traditional receivers, it’s nice to know that there is still a station out there (with 800 watts!) that is a real DX target!


Wow! What a fantastic catch, Dan! Thank you for sharing your catch and, especially, shedding light on this rare DX. 

Post Readers: Please comment if you’ve logged and/or confirmed Radio Kahuzi.

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