Tag Archives: Fred Osterman

Off-the-shelf affordable SWL antennas

The Par EF-SWL antenna.

One of our SWLing Post contributors recently sent the following message with a request:

I have a suggestion/challenge for a post: what’s out there for low cost, off-the-shelf HF antennas?

I simply can’t drop $500 on a Wellbrook. The AirSpy HF+ and the new $100 RSP1A SDR are super enticing, but then I look at the antenna connectors and think, “What do I have to connect to that…!?!”

Googling takes you down the rabbit hole of home brew antennas. I’ll admit that I don’t have the skill or patience to dig through hundreds of DIY posts of antenna construction. For my first proper outdoor antenna, I’d like to purchase one that’s rugged, well-tested and optimized for HF and MW listening. Something easy to install.

You know? I get it.

Many listeners simply don’t have the free time or enthusiasm to explore home brew antenna options especially if they’re seeking one optimized antenna for their location and listening habits.

Like it or not, antennas can become a barrier of entry to proper, low-noise radio listening and DXing.

I have built almost all of the antennas I use so I’m not an expert in this area, therefore I asked Fred Osterman at Universal Radio for a couple of suggestions. He and I have talked about antennas in the past and he’s the most knowledgeable person I know on the topic. I’m willing to bet Universal Radio stocks more SWL antennas than any other radio retailer. Fred also has the added benefit of hearing customer feedback daily.

I asked Fred specifically for wire antennas that are easy to install, require no soldering or tuning/cutting and work well right out of the box. Something under $200.

Fred replied with two recommendations–I include his comments in quotes:

Alpha-Delta DX-SWL Sloper $129.95

“[The Alpha-Delta DX-SWL Sloper] is very well built. Actually, over-built for listening. Easy to erect with the feed point being up high. And really works well on the SW bands (including Tropical) and MW too. Fully preassembled. Down-side is it is kinda obtrusive with the heavy wire and large coils.”

Click here to check it out at Universal Radio.

Par EF-SWL $72.95

“[The EF-SWL is very popular] these days. It does work best with a ground, but still usable without. It is interesting, as it can be configured many different ways. I suspect it is popular because it is very easy to erect, and very, very stealthy. (Increasingly important these days). And the wire is flexible, not too thick and not obtrusive. Seems more immune to noise than others. Priced right.”

Click here to check it out at Universal Radio.

Thank you, Fred!

I have some experience with the Par EF-SWL antenna. It offers excellent performance and the antenna line has a durable black coating that makes it nearly impossible to spot from a distance. I’ve even taken the EF-SWL on travels and posted a review a few years ago. I agree that it performs very well.

I have a friend that’s relied on the Alpha-Delta DX-SWL Sloper as his main SWL antenna for years. He lives in an urban area and I’ve been favorably impressed with its performance. I agree with Fred–it’s incredibly durable and beefy! Built like a tank.

Of course, there are also incredibly low-profile antennas like the Bonito Mini Whip (check out some of Oxford Shortwave’s posts) but note that some versions don’t handle a noise-rich environment very well.

Post readers: Please comment if you know of other off-the-shelf antenna options–especially those you have personal experience using and installing.

eBay: Dan discovers a Furuno RV-103SR marine receiver

The Furuno RV-103SR

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares the following regarding a Furuno RV-103SR marine receiver he discovered on eBay:

Recently, I came upon two great rarities in the world of receivers.

Furuno is a Japanese company known for maritime equipment, and is featured on one or two pages of the Osterman receiver directory. Two of these rare receivers came up on eBay, both located in an Asian location.

The Furuno RV-103SR and RV-128 are beautiful animals, and both receivers appear(ed) to be in good condition, obviously taken from ships, likely as part of tear downs in a shipyard.

There is very little information online about Furuno. One Japanese blogger did a review of the RV-128. And a guy in Republic of Srpska got to use the RV-128 which was installed on a giant oil tanker, during a trip he made as a navigator way back in 2002 (see the story at http://www.qsl.net/e78cb/mmstory.htm).

Here’s the link for the Japanese blogger (use Google translation to read it) http://blog.livedoor.jp/kerokeronyororo/archives/60986163.html).

In my correspondence with him, Fred Osterman notes that the RV-103SR variant was not known to him, and likely stands for rack mount. And Fred says he never saw these receivers in the flesh, and never saw one offered on the used market, “a rare bird” indeed. For those interested, Furuno equipment is on page 216 of Fred’s massive and excellent receiver book.

The appearance of these beautiful radios, and similar ones, again demonstrates the kind of equipment that is popping up in Ebay and other locations. We have seen numerous JRC marine receivers become available, many of them also former ship receivers. Anyone interested in these should ask the usual questions about condition, ask for photos and videos, to try to ensure that what eventually arrives is not DOA or suffering from various issues.

Click here to view on eBay.

More about Furuno

Furuno, it turns out, and as noted in the Osterman book, was behind the first fish finder ever produced. And the company had a range of transceivers for maritime use.

See the following links on YouTube:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Post Readers: this is what I love about Dan Robinson’s discoveries on eBay: he finds these rare treasures, then provides a little history about their origins, use and current availability. Thank you so much, Dan, for sharing!

Winners of the SWLing Post “Dream Radio” Contest


Many thanks to the 86 responses we received from the SWLing Post dream radio contest!

Also huge thanks to Universal Radio who sponsored this contest and made it possible!

This morning, I entered the numbered contest entries into a tool on Random.org. The following two winners were selected at random–one from the US, and one from Australia:

Thomas in Florida, USA:


Icom IC-R75

“I’ve been interested in all aspects of radio since I was a small child. My grandfather got me interested in the radio hobby . As a teen I acquired an old Hallicrafters S-40B. I would listen across the SW bands for hours each evening. This was back in the day when the Russians were running various jammers across the SW bands and OTH radar other wise known as the famous Wood Pecker.

I always wanted to upgrade to a more modern receiver that would have special filters to help reduce the interference caused from those types of man made devices. However, as the years went on, and I got married and raised a family my hobby fell to the wayside. It’s taken me almost 30 years, but I recently purchased an Icom R-75 and have gotten back into active SWLing again.

It is an enjoyable hobby and looking to one day spark an interest in radio in my own grandchildren.”

Adam Ellis in Melbourne, Australia:

The Yaesu FRG-7700 (Photo: Universal Radio)

The Yaesu FRG-7700 (Photo: Universal Radio)

“As a school kid, growing up in the 80’s, I had a friend who’s father owned (a then) brand new Yaesu FRG-7700 with matching FRT-7700 tuner. Every time I visited at my friends house, I would look at the Yaesu in awe and ask to have a listen.

His father was a VERY strict man and forbid any of the children from touching his radio or HiFi equipment. The combination of parentally installed fear and the mystique of such a military looking and expensive piece of kit meant that my curiosity grew and grew. One day, with his father safely away at work, we powered it up and had a tune around. After a few minutes, I was instantly hooked, having now heard SSB properly for the first time. My friend quickly got concerned that his younger siblings would tell their father that we had dared to use the Yaesu so it was quickly turned off.

Well! My friend still got into trouble because we had left it tuned to an obscure frequency, along with several controls in the wrong position and his father realized it had been fiddled with! The feel of the controls and the glow of the dial lighting made that radio seem like the best thing I had ever seen and just had to own one. Of course, as a 12 year old, owning one meant selling many hundreds of newspapers! A feat all but impossible on my limited paper round.

Fast forward 30 years and I came across a used example at a Hamfest, complete with FRT-7700 tuner in near mint condition. I made an offer which was accepted (AUD$150) and it came back to the shack with me, in it’s original box! Upon testing it out, it works flawlessly with no fading of the display or noise from any of the control pots.

My only real disappointment with the radio is the minimum 1Khz tuning steps. It makes SSB a bit painful to tune. You need to save a frequency into to memory to use the memory fine tune control. It sounds very nice on AM and is mostly used for broadcast reception with a Wellbrook ALA1530 loop.

Even today, looking at the Yaesu brings back the fear laden excitement of tuning around as a kid, with a petrified friend begging me to turn it off! I never did find out what his punishment was. The Yaesu FRG-7700 is now a part of a large collection of receivers, but is one I will not part with because it has taken me so long to finally get one! 73’s, Adam.”

Thanks to the generosity of Universal Radio, Thomas will receive a new copy of Shortwave Receivers Past and Present by Fred Osterman. As our international winner, Adam will be given a choice of  Joe Carr’s Loop Antenna Book or Buying A Used Shortwave Receiver: A Market Guide To Modern Shortwave Radios.

I’ve truly enjoyed reading each listener’s account about their dream radio–these stories bring back so many memories of my own!

Once I discover a way to display the results here on the SWLing Post, I will publish them. To keep the post from being too long, I’m trying to investigate a way that the results can be embedded, much like an image slideshow. Stay tuned!

Ends Today: “Dream Radio” Contest


Think back to your first days in radio…What was your “dream” receiver?  And why?

Or–if you’re new to shortwave radio–what is your “dream” receiver currently, and why?

Many of us had a radio they dreamed of in their youth, or when they first began to hanker after the radio experience. What was yours?  For newer hobbyists, what is yours? And just what made–or makes–this radio so special? Did you ever obtain one?  And if so, did it live up to your expectations?

Share your experiences with the Post for a chance to win a prize from Universal Radio!

The winners of this contest will be chosen at random, using a randomizer application; an independent non-entrant will make these selections.

Thanks to Universal Radio and Fred Osterman’s generosity, there will be two winners of this simple contest–a US winner and an international winner.

The US prize will be a copy of Shortwave Receivers Past and Present by none other than Fred Osterman. I reviewed this book a couple years ago: it is an invaluable reference tool and also a fun “dream” book.  With sincere apologies to my international friends, this prize must be limited to the US simply because shipping this weighty volume internationally would cost more than the book itself.


The international winner may select between the following (less weighty!) books, also very good references: Joe Carr’s Loop Antenna Book or Buying A Used Shortwave Receiver: A Market Guide To Modern Shortwave Radios.

Entering the contest is easy. Simply go to our entry form (below or click here) and fill in the required fields.  Be descriptive! This will make the contest fun. Let us know in detail why that radio was (or is) so significant to you.

Your entry will be recorded, and the winners chosen at random. We will close the contest entry form by the end of the day today (October 16, 2016)We’ll publish the responses once the contest concludes, sharing only the name you provide.