Tag Archives: Guest Posts

The Sony ICF-M780SL: Peter catches some serious MW DX on Gran Canaria

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Peter Wilson, for sharing the following guest post and DXpedition report:


Sony ICF-M780SL MWDX on Gran Canaria

by Peter Wilson

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain

I have spent the last two months in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.
I travelled light and didn’t bring my radio/SDR collection with me.

A portable I saw in a local department store caught ny eye, and I ended up buying one from a local electronics retailer which had it on special at €55. It is a Sony ICF-M780SL which as turned out, is something rather special. It is a four band (LW, MW, SW,FM) DSP receiver, with an AM IF (LW, MW,SW) of 45 kHz and an FM IF of 128 kHz.

There’s too much hash in my apartment block to use it at home, but as I am a couple of streets away from the Ocean I intended to use it there.

Problem is there almost as much RF hash at the oceanside as at home. Also the Atlantic breakers crash loudly on the shore, and the wind can howl quite loudly. I did have some limited success and have included a couple of clips.

I discovered a better DX location at a small Plaza a short distance inland from the Ocean. There is an early morning peak for MW TA leading up to about 07:30 UTC (= local time)

The radio is used barefoot in each clip. There is some camera hash.

Here are the highlights:

USA Transatlantic

1500 WFED booming with ID 5736 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

790 WAXY with ESPN Radio ID 6369 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1540 KXEL 6935 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1530 WCKY 6373 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

770 WABC 5459 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1520 WWKB

ESPN Radio with sports talk. 5841 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

Ocean front around dusk

1350 TWR Armenia 5377 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1521 Duba Saudi Arabia 5004 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1458 Lyca Radio, Brookmans Park UK 2914 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

The Sony ICF-M780SL is a great MW/LW/FM performer. SW propagation has been mediocre and suffers from the RF hash QRN, so difficult to test.


Amazing, Peter! It’s hard for me to believe the reception you had of WFED (Federal News Radio). I listen to that station every time I go through the DC/Baltimore area and I think your reception is just as good. A TA crossing of almost 5,000 km with armchair copy! Quite an accomplishment!

Thank you for sharing your Gran Canaria DX with us. I’m pretty impressed with the Sony ICF-M780SL as well.

Post Readers: make sure you check out Peter’s YouTube channel by clicking here.

Click here to search Amazon.co.uk and click here to search eBay for the Sony ICF-M780SL.

Guest Post: Listening To Pirate Radio Stations from South America

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Chris Smolinski, who shares the following guest post. Note that this post has also been published on Chris’ excellent blog, Radiohobbyist.org:


 

Listening To Pirate Radio Stations from South America

by Chris Smolinski

Looking for a new DX challenge? In addition to shortwave pirate stations in the USA, and Europe (Europirates as we call them), there’s a relatively new group of pirate radio stations being heard in North America, those from South America.

It’s really only been the previous year that we’ve confirmed that there’s a significant number of pirate radio stations in South America that can be received here. Radio Pirana has been known for some time, and I believe thee were a few reports of it, and at least one other station that I cannot remember the name of, but that’s about it. For years there have been logs of very weak UNID stations heard on the 43 meter band (6800-7000 kHz), presumed to be pirates of some sort, and it is possible some of these were South American pirates.

Most of these stations use homemade transmitters, often of the “Lulu” design, with a IRF510 or similar MOSET RF final stage. That means they are generally in the 15 or 20 watt carrier range, although some are higher power. That also means that unless otherwise noted, all of these stations use AM mode, and in general the frequency is highly variable, easily varying 100 Hz or more from night to night, or even during transmissions.

One important caveat: Since most of these stations use relatively low power, and due to the long distances involved, signal levels are generally weak, although occasionally when conditions are excellent (especially if there’s grayline propagation), they can put in stronger signals. I am fortunate to live in a rural area with relatively low noise/RFI levels, and have several high end receivers and large antennas. My primary setup for catching these stations is a netSDR receiver and a 670 foot Sky Loop antenna. You’re going to want to use the best receiver and antenna you can for catching these stations, you’re not likely to have good (or any) results with a portable SW radio, RTL dongle, or small/indoor antenna. Also, I record the entire 43 meter band nightly on my netSDR, and then go through the recordings each morning. This lets me catch stations that may only appear for a brief period of time. That said, you can still hear them with a reasonable HF setup, although it may take persistence, checking each night, until conditions permit reception.

It’s well worth checking the Latin American Pirate logging forum on the HF Undergroundwebsite, to see what is presently being heard. The HF Underground is the best way to keep up to date with the hobbyist radio scene in general, with dedicated forums for North American PiratesEuropirates, and of course radio in general.

And for those of you into collecting QSLs – many of these stations are reliable QSLers!

In general, the easiest station to hear is Lupo Radio from Argentina. It is on the air most evenings on 6973 kHz in AM mode. At least at my location, it puts in the strongest and most reliable signal. Usually in the SIO 222 to 333 range, sometimes stronger. There are frequent IDs. I use Lupo Radio as a “beacon” to gauge how good conditions are to South America on 43 meters.

Another station that is often on the air is RCW – Radio Compañía Worldwide from Chile. They use 6925.13 kHz, and their carrier is more stable and usually on this offset frequency, which makes it easier to determine that it’s likely you’re hearing them vs a US pirate station.

New to the scene is Radio Marcopolo on 6991 kHz.

Also new to the scene is an as yet UNID pirate from South America on 6934.9 kHz. I have received them for several weeks now in the local evenings, usually starting around the 2300-0300 UTC window. They put in a respectable signal (relatively speaking), strong enough for Shazam to ID songs. They have frequent breaks in their transmission, with the carrier often going off and on many times during a broadcast. They also occasionally transmit audio test tones, and sometimes seem to relay audio from licensed stations in Argentina such as Radio El Mundo. This could be someone testing a new transmitter? A new mystery to solve!

Radio Dontri is somewhat unique in that they use USB mode, on 6955 kHz. They also send SSTV, which is sometimes easier to receive than music, and helps to verify that you’re actually hearing them, vs a US pirate on 6955. They tend to drift a lot, however, which can make decoding the SSTV transmissions challenging.

Outside the 43 meter band, there is Rádio Casa 8000 kHz. I have only received weak carriers from this station, although partly that may be because I do not frequently check for it, and it does not turn up on my overnight SDR recordings.

Radio Triunfal Evangélica is other station outside of the 43 meter band, they use the nominal frequency of 5825 kHz, often closer to 5824.9 kHz. Again I have only received a carrier from them. As the name implies, they are a religious station, affiliated with a church.

Now that we’ve talked about the pirate stations from South America, we should probably mention things you are likely to hear that are not pirates. Specifically, what we call Peskies (or Pesky as the singular), short for pescadores, the Spanish word for fishermen. Peskies generally use LSB mode, and can be heard on many frequencies in the 43 meter band, engaging in QSOs. Years ago, pirate listeners started to call these stations pescadores, since some of them were indeed fishermen, and could be heard discussing related matters. It might be better to think of most of them as freebanders/outbanders, much in the tradition of those transmitting on 11 meters. There’s a logging forum on the HFU dedicated to Peskies, if you’re interesting in learning more about them.

Occasionally they use AM mode. We’ve logged several on 6965 kHz (+/- of course), that at first were thought to be pirates. But they never transmitted music, and after some discussions with DXers in South America, it was determined that they were more properly considered peskies.


Many thanks, Chris, for sharing this excellent guest post with us! Until the Winter SWL Fest last week, I had no idea South American pirates were on the rise–what a great opportunity to catch interesting DX!

Readers, check out this and other posts on Chris’ website Radiohobbyist.org.

Guest Post: Battery Testers–Don’t Get Caught Without One!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who shares the following guest post:


Battery Testers; Don’t Get Caught Without One!

by Mario Filippi, N2HUN

(All photos by author)

Ever consider what life today would be like without the humble dry cell battery? Old timers know the term “dry cell” as opposed to “wet cell.” The dry cell is your garden variety battery for sale composed of a semi-dry composite or paste of chemicals designed to make electrons flow when the circuit is complete, such as in flashlights, radios, remotes, watches, etc. “Wet cells” on the other hand have fluids, such as sulfuric acid that work in conjunction with lead plates. But let’s stay with dry cells for now. Walk into any house and you’ll find some form of battery powering a plethora of devices that contribute to the quality of daily life. In short, life without the humble battery would be unfathomable.

Electronic Menagerie: Radios, Timepieces, Flashlights, Remotes, Test equipment, Mouse.

Batteries, like humans, unfortunately expire due to age or use. True, they toil tirelessly while out of sight and mind, hidden behind plastic compartment panels somewhere in the bowels of a device and for the most part are ignored or taken for granted. That is until the device they are powering ceases to function. We’ve all been there and done that countless times in our lives with an array of consumer products. Most instances of battery failure tend to occur at the most inconvenient times, that is when the device they are powering is needed most (a corollary of Murphy’s Law hi hi). A good example is the toolbox flashlight. It can sit amongst the tools quietly and ready to go (at least in our minds) until we switch it on while working in some dark, cramped location. Or late at night when under the covers and the bedside shortwave radio starts spewing out distorted audio. To boot, the radio’s convenient dial light is too weak to determine where you are in the shortwave spectrum.

Motley Crew of Cells in Author’s Armamentarium Awaiting Call to Duty.

Well, all is not lost my fellow hobbyists; it is time to do some cell (dry cell that is) soul searching and plan for future failures. I propose a useful acquisition for the home, shack, Go-Bag (or what have you) that won’t break the bank; a simple battery tester that’ll be the end to your power problems.

At this QTH an AMPROBE BAT-200 was purchased a few years back from Amazon and has proved its worth and utility many times over. This simple tool, which ironically needs no batteries, will test many of the common batteries around the shack and home such as AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, and button batteries.

Pocket-size BAT-200. A Snap to Use.

Since purchasing the BAT-200, life in the battery cosmos has become a lot less complicated. Armed with one of these, you can immediately rule out battery failure when troubleshooting myriad devices. You can also test outdated batteries to determine their status.

Flashlight, Magnifying Light, and Head Lamp…

…Test meter…

…And Various Remotes Use A, AA or Button Batteries.

AA Battery from Remote Tests “Good.”

An item such as the BAT-200 can be found for less than five dollars if you shop around, and will pay for itself by taking the guesswork out of the bad battery scenarios. You’ll wonder how you ever did without one!


Thank you very much for sharing this post, Mario!  

At the SWLing Post HQ, we keep all of our loose batteries in a “battery box.” All new cells stay in the packaging where we mark the date purchased (although many alkaline cells now have a “best by” date). We recently pulled all of the loose/orphan batteries out of the box–there must have been 40+–and tested the voltage of each one. I used the test meter from my toolbox to do this, but I’ve just ordered one of the BAT-200 chargers from Amazon and will now keep this in the battery box permanently.

Thanks for enabling me, Mario! Ha ha!

Click here to check out the BAT-200 in Amazon.com (affiliate link).

C. Crane’s latest deal: Free Shipping on the CC Pocket Radio

Though not a shortwave radio (the SWLing Post loves ALL radios!), C. Crane’s latest special involves free Priority Mail shipping to U.S. customers for their CC Pocket Radio.  Just use the Promo Code: CCPKTSHIP.  This special ends at midnight PST on 17 December.  The CC Pocket Radio comes standard with the CC Buds earphones – a quality set of earbuds.

Crane’s Amazon Canada store offers free shipping with a number of C. Crane products through Amazon Canada Prime.

Post author: Troy Riedel

 

Tom’s AM broadcast band recordings during eclipse totality

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


August 21, 2017: Individual Recordings of MW During Totality

by TomL

I setup flimsy “Backpack Shack” loop antenna and preselector to my Sony ICF-2010 to listen to any propagation of MW signals as each transmitter experienced Totality. My location was a picnic area facing southwest with only a small hill to the east at Ferne Clyffe State Park near Goreville, IL.

I did not bring a DSP radio and computer which would have been better in hindsight. My observations were generally as follows:

Anything west of my location, except for local St. Louis stations were not identifiable.
Noise levels were somewhat elevated because of thunderstorms that had just moved through the area during the evening.

Anything east of my location experienced dramatic increases in signal along the path of totality.
Since large signal increases were seen with the Umbra moving AWAY from me, it would be more beneficial to use a DSP receiver with good outdoor antenna than a single frequency radio and preselector like my setup. The loop antenna sitting on a picnic table acted great and was usable to get strongest signal for each station.

It is still unknown why I could not identify any stations west of me with the Umbra moving TOWARDS my location and needs further study. I thought I heard KTWO in Casper WY, but upon listening to the recording, it was a male announcer buried in the noise and unintelligible.
A transmitter being IN the path of Totality has a better chance of lasting longer with a strong signal than one that is just outside of Totality. Compare behavior of WSB vs. WBT.

If this happens again, make sure to make multiple hotel reservations and cancel the ones not needed. Traffic was horrible and had to stay in a hotel half way from home and I aggravated an achillies heel problem in the stop and go traffic (YUK).

So, it was quite disappointing to not hear anything special west of my location. As Totality neared my site, I just left the radio tuned to KNOX for the people around me to hear. Its signal did become about 25% stronger and near the end of the recording you can hear other weaker stations trying to break in.

Click here to download 1120 KMOX recording.

As soon as totality was over, and my picture taking was done, I returned to the radio and found 1510 khz WLAC Nashville, TN was moderately strong! And this was seconds after their Totality had already ended. A baseline reading beforehand showed this station coming in very very faintly. Subjective SINPO rating beforehand=15452, just after Totality=34433.

Click here to download 1510 WLAC recording.

The next surprise was tuning to 750 WSB Atlanta GA was BOOMING in! They were very clever and had no announcers. Instead they were playing snippets of songs about sun, moon, dark themes. Very entertaining! Baseline beforehand was just moderate noise, no signals. During recording, SINPO=55444 with propagation getting slightly worse near the end of the recording.

Click here to download 750 WSB recording.

Final surprise was 1110 WBT Charlotte, NC, which was not in the path of Totality but just north of it also booming in but not as strongly. Also, near the end of the recording, the signal dropped off very sharply, unlike the WSB signal which stayed strong throughout the 5+ minute recording. Baseline beforehand was low noise and no signals. During recording, SINPO=43434 at 14:40 ET, then approximately 1½ minutes after their maximum eclipse (14:43 ET), SINPO=33423, then at 14:46 ET a SINPO=22422 with another unidentified station breaking through playing a Johnny Cash song.

Click here to download 1110 WBT recording.


Tom, thank you for taking the time to share your recordings and listening experiences with us! Snagging a daytime MW broadcast from the Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC regions is most impressive. I reckon they were about 400-500 miles (as the crow flies) from your Ferne Clyffe, IL location.

Sounds like you had an amazing experience, despite the stop-and-go traffic!