Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don Moore–noted author, traveler, and DXer–for the following guest post:
A DXpedition to East Sandy
By Don Moore
When I was in college over forty years ago, seven of us had a small DX club in central Pennsylvania. A couple of times a year we would gather at the house of one of our parents for an all-night DX session. We shared tips and ideas, had fun, and always heard some new DX. Good DX can happen anywhere if conditions are right and most of mine over the past fifty years took place at wherever home happened to be at the time. But most of my best experiences and best memories of DXing were not made at home. They were made by getting together to DX with other hobbyists such as we did back in college.
Nowadays when I get together to DX with other hobbyists it’s to go on a DXpedition, which is nothing more than taking your receiver to a place where DXing will be better than at home because there’s less noise and you can erect better antennas. Simple DXpeditions can be done from cars. My old friend Dave Valko used to go on what he called micro-DXpeditions. He drove to a remote spot in the mountains not far from town, laid out a few hundred feet of wire, and then DXed from his car for a couple hours. He frequently did this around dawn and around sunset and got some great DX. I know several other DXers that do this today, either at countryside locations or in large parks.
I’ve done micro-DXpeditions a few times. It’s fun but it always lacks an important element: other DXers. For me, the best DXpeditions aren’t just about hearing interesting stuff (although that is very important). They are also about sharing the hobby with other interested friends. And the best way to do that is to go on a real DXpedition with them.
For three years in a row prior to the pandemic a group of eight of us had rented a lodge in rural central Ohio for an annual DXpedition. Covid shelved our plans for 2020 but by the summer of 2021 we were all looking forward to a fourth DXpedition in September. Then another wave of covid swept across the country and we canceled a few weeks before the event. Fortunately, the worst of those days are behind us and we finally had our fourth DXpedition the first week of October of this year. Unfortunately, only five of us could make it – Ralph Brandi, Mike Nikolich, Andy Robins, Mark Taylor and I.
For four nights our DXpedition home was the same place in western Pennsylvania that we had canceled at in 2021. The location was a rural house on the bluffs overlooking the Allegheny River near the old East Sandy railroad bridge (now a hiking trail). It’s always a gamble going to a new place chosen solely based on the AirBnB listing and other information found online. But this site had all the appearances of being a good place to DX from. The pictures and Google satellite view showed that there were trees around the house and large nearby open fields surrounded by woodland. The terrain was relatively flat when viewed on 3D satellite view. We would have plenty of space for a variety of antennas. Furthermore, it didn’t look to be a noisy location. The nearest neighbor was over a quarter mile to the south and because the house was the last one on the road that powerlines stopped at the driveway. I couldn’t have done much better if I had designed the location myself.
Good antennas are the most important part of any DXpedition and erecting them is usually the most time-consuming part of set-up. Still, you never really know what’s going to fit until you’re there. I arrived at 2 p.m. and Mark pulled in a few minutes later. We immediately walked the grounds and were pleased with what we saw. Ralph arrived while we were laying out the first antenna. Mike and Andy arrived later in the afternoon in time to help finish up.
Our DXpedition antenna farm consisted of two delta loops, a DKaz, and two BOGs. The delta loops used Wellbrook ALA-100LN units and are as I described a few years ago in my article on radio travel. These are easy to erect and are good all-around antennas for anything below 30 MegaHertz. The DKaz (instructions here) is a rather complex-to-build antenna designed for medium wave. Ralph uses one at home which he had taken down for the summer to make yard work easier. He brought the pieces and put it up by himself. The two BOGs (Beverage-on-the-ground) were a 300-meter wire to the northeast and a 220-meter wire to the north. Beverages are good for long wave, medium wave, and the lower shortwave frequencies. Continue reading →
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Walter Salmaniw, who shares the following guest post:
10 Meter Beacon DXing
by Walter Salmaniw, Masset, BC
My hobby of radio listening has evolved over the years. Beginning with crystal radios as a child in the 60s, I’ve migrated through SWLing with numerous rigs including the kings of valve technology, like the Collins R390A and Racal RA17, and then on to high end mil-spec solid state rigs: Racals, Harris, Ten-Tec, and my all-time favourite, the Rockwell-Collins HF-2050 receiver. Unfortunately, broadcast band stations, especially transmitting to North America, have dwindled over the years, and my favourite Pacific stations also disappeared: 120 and 90 meter Indonesians, the 60 meter AIR network, and the numerous PNG stations. Well, what’s one to do?
About 10 years ago, I switched over to MW DXing, and especially trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic DX. My cottage near Masset, BC is the ideal location for such DXing, as I have an ocean beach location, the room for some great antennas, and very low noise in the area. This has produced some incredible DX, and I’ve been honoured with visits by some pretty eminent DXers, including Victor Goonetilleke from Sri Lanka, Mauno Ritola from Norway, Vlad Titarev from Ukraine, as well as our own experts in DXing from Victoria and the Pacific North-West of the US.
MW DXing is great, but that involves DXing primarily during the night time and early morning hours. What to do with the rest of the day? Well, with the rising sunspot counts and heading toward the peak of the next solar cycle, why not look at 10 meters? About 2 years ago, with a lot of help from the local DX geniuses, I was able to remote my set-up in Masset, and DX even when at home in Victoria, BC. 10 meters has consistently remained open almost every afternoon. Now, I’m not a ham, and at this point, have no interest in obtaining my ham license. However, I noted a lot of beacon activity on 10 meters.
I’ve dabbled in LW NDB DX, which can be a lot of fun. Why not do something similar on the higher frequencies? Not being a ham, I needed some help with decoding the beacons. Thankfully, one can often see the CW and it’s slow enough to read in many cases. Being a bit too lazy for that exercise, though, I’ve tried several software solutions to use with my KiwiSDR and Perseus SDR in Masset. Fldigi is probably best known, and works fairly well. Another program I use is MixW, which I’ve always liked for SSTV reception. Another is CW Decoder. None, however, get anywhere close to how well CW Skimmer works. It’s an awesome program, albeit a pricey one. I’m still in the test phase, but will likely go ahead and fork over the $75 to purchase this. It will even take control of my Perseus receiver and decode 192 kHz worth of spectrum. Wow!
Here’s an example of what the band looked like last weekend:
There happened to have been a world-wide CW DX competition, but nonetheless, there were literally hundreds of CW signals to be decoded! Now, for me, however, I was more interested in the Beacon region of 10 M which is roughly between 28150 and 28300 kHz. I’ve found CW Skimmer to be a perfect tool to decode the beacons. Not only is it very accurate, but one can also easily see the CW signal with the dahs and dits on the screen and a continual readout of the messages. Most of these beacons run 5 or 10 W, and all are run by amateurs. Where to find information about who they belong to? That’s easy as well. WI5V.net has a great 10 M beacon list at https://wi5v.net/beacon-list-table-version/ . That’s my go to, but I also have DL8WX.de’s beacon list on my laptop, giving even more information, like contact e-mails, etc. He’s found at: http://www.dl8wx.de/BAKE_KW.HTM
What type of antenna do I use? Well, none of mine are 10 M antennas at all. Most are, in fact, for DXing trans-oceanic MW DX! Still, they seem to work quite well. My go-to has been a DKAZ antenna aimed 290 degrees. Now, that’s 180 deg to where most of my Beacon activity comes from. How come? Well, Nick Hall-Patch, MW DXer extraordinaire, used his ENZEC antenna prediction program to see how the DKAZ works on 28 MHz, and sure enough, it’s opposite to MW DX. On the lower band, it’s best aimed 290 deg, but 180 deg opposite on 28 MHz! Who would have guessed that one? In any case, the next time I’m in Masset, I plan on putting up a simple vertical for 10 meters, seeing that solar max is still a year or two away, so there’s plenty of time for some fun DX!
Here’s what I’ve heard with a few afternoons of listening. My best catch has been Darwin, Australia!
28207 N4XRO 1924 CW 5 watt beacon heard with a bit of a buzzy signal best deciphered on my 110 deg DKAZ…. 17/Oct/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28236.5 W0KIZ 1933 CW Another well heard beacon this morning giving ID in CW along with location. Also very strong at 23:11 recheck. Almost a barn burner! Not bad for 5 watts! 17/Oct/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28244 WA6APQ 1934 CW Much stronger, and it shows with their 30 watts output, with slow CW giving callsign, then location. Very strong when rechecking at 23:05 UTC. Frequency is actually a little lower than listed. Actually measuring 28243.942 kHz. 17/Oct/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28287 WI6J 1949 CW Poor reception, but with same format giving ID and location. 17/Oct/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28250 K0HTF 2248 CW Fairly good copy of this beacon away from the coast now in Iowa. Only giving callsign/B. Tom ‘Doc’ Gruis
replyed to my email confirming he’s feeding 20 Watts from an Old President radio and feeding an AR-10 antenna. Thanks, Doc! 17/Oct/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28248.3 NJ5T 2258 CW A relatively difficult catch, but I decoded the J5 part of his call, as well as ‘dipole’. 17/Oct/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28215 KA9SZX 1954 CW Beacon quite well heard from Masset. Most of my 10 meter beacon loggings have been a more N/S axis, but this one is coming in nicely in our early afternoon. Callsign and power listed as 3 W, along with his email address. 5/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28218 AC0KC 2035 CW Despite being listed as on 28218.5, he’s actually on the even channel at fair level into Masset. Solar powered and only 3W, into a Bazooka antenna (what’s that?). Call sign repeated. 5/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28220 AA8HS 2123 CW Despite listed as 30 Hz higher, I’m hearing them on the even channel with repeated IDs. Fair level. Antenna listed is a vertical J-Pole. 5/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28230.3 W2MQO 2125 CW Strong reception with call sign as W2MQ0/B repeated twice, then tones, and cycle repeats. Into a Bazooka Antenna. 5/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28203 KG8C0 2132 CW Another strong beacon with call sign, and prolonged tone, and repeat. 5/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28203.5 K6LL 2134 CW Strong signal also from California, ID’ing as K6LLL/BCN, and giving location and QSL info. 5/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28193 VE4ARM 1827 CW Excellent reception of my first 10 meter Canadian Beacon. Run by the Austin, MD Amateur Radio Museum, as outlined in their beacon text. 6/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28284.8 N9TNY 2226 CW Another new one for me from Illinois. Not a particularly great afternoon, but nonetheless, a number of CW Beacons on 10 meters are visible/audible. Callsign is given, then PSE RST. Not sure what that means? Wiki tells me that this is like SIO or SINPO code. Stands for Readability-Signal Strength-Tone. Hmm. 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28297 NS9RC 2237 CW Another Illinois Beacon audible. This one is weak, but fiddling with the KiwiSDR AGC settings, makes for a much better decode (mostly raising the CW Threshold (marked Thresh CW in the AGC section). Near 100% correct decode now. Chicago is sent along with call sign. 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28287 WI6J 2240 CW Strong signal from this Californian, and heard before. VVV VI6J/B Bakersfield CA DM 5 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28254.5 K4JEE 2243 CW Good copy with VVV DE K4JEE/B K4JEE/B K4JEE/B LOUISVILLE, KY 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28236.5 W0KIZ 2300 CW Always one of the strongest beacons on 10 meters, and not disappointing this afternoon. VVV W0KIZ/B DENVER, COLORADO . 5 WATTS, So does he mean 5 or 0.5 Watts? Presumably 5 Watts. 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28206.5 KA7TXS/B 2303 CW Nice reception with VVV DE KA7TXS/B DM22 Listed in dl8wx.de website, but not the primary one I use (wi5v.net Beacon Website). 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28209 N5TIT/B 2315 CW Fair reception with VVV DE N5TIT/B EM1UPX, or something similar. 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28211.8 AC7GZ 2321 CW Good reception for only 3 W with VVV DE AC7GZ AC7GZ AC7GZ DM3BI. The latter is the ham grid square, near Mesa, AZ. 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28232.3 W7SWL 2323 CW I like the callsign! Fair reception with VV DE W7SWL TUCSON AZ DM42 The band is fading fast. Fascinating that the best antenna for 10 m Beacon reception today is my 290 deg DKAZ (and not the 110 deg DKAZ). Not sure why! 28/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28206.5 N4SO 2231 CW Very weak, but really picked up just now. DE N4SO/B repeated. A fine catch! 30/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28212.8 AC7GZ 2253 CW Very strong reception with VVV DE AC7GZ AC7GZ AC7GZ DM43BI 30/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28209.5 N2UHC 2300 CW Tough copy, but bits of STPAUL decoded. as well as N2UHC/B. 30/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28254.5 K4JEE 2308 CW Strong reception with ID and location. Deep fades, as well, though. 30/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28255.8 WI5V 2310 CW Fair reception with occasional good fade-ups with WI5V/B repeated. 30/Nov/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28175.5 VE3BKM 2034 CW Hearing an unlisted beacon. VE3BKM/BCN repeated, often at strong level. A new one for me! 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28168 VA3KAH 2040 CW I have no idea where this island is located, so had to look it up. Fair reception with VV DE VA3DAH/B It’s located to the north of Lake Simcoe in southern Ontario. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28145 DL2WB 2048 CW A highly tentative logging. All I hear is the occasional tone for several seconds, then off. Nothing else listed on this frequency, so no idea! 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28203 KG8CO 2055 CW Very strong signal with repeated KG8CO/BT 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28203.5 K6LLL 2058 CW Weak reception with VVV K6LLL/BC Grid Square coordinates, and PSE QSL TNX DE K6LL/BCN. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28206.3 KA7TXS 2100 CW Strong reception, although a bit of a congested part of the band making decodes a tad difficult. Not listed on my main source (WI5V Beacon website), but it is on the dl8wx.de website. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28208 WD5GLO 2126 CW Fair copy with WD5GLO/B repeated 3 times and OK OK 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28209.1 N5TIT 2130 CW Poor reception this afternoon, but making out the call-sign. VVV DE N5TIT/B. 100 Hz higher than listed. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28209.5 N2UHC 2133 CW Poor reception, but seeing his callsign. Fades up to quite good at times. N2UHC/B EM27JM N2UHC/B ST PAUL KS. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28212.1 AC7GZ 2140 CW A regular visitor to Masset. Fair to good this afternoon with VVV DE AC7GZ DM43BI 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28215 KA9SZX 2142 CW A slower rate beacon at good reception: VVVV KA9SZX KA9SZX KA9SZX BCN MACOMB IL PWR 3W GRID EN40PK EMAIL KA9SZXWAYAHOO.COM Now that’s a full information beacon! 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28217.7 K4PAR 2152 CW Very weak, but fully decodable with VV DE K4PAR/B. Listed as from the Piedmont ARC and 25 W. Just barely audible. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28220.15 AA8HS 2155 CW Measuring below their listed 28.2203 frequency. Weak but in the clear. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28232.3 W7SWL 2206 CW Now that’s a call-sign! He wasn’t there a few minutes ago, but noticed a very powerful beacon. VVV DE W7SWL W7SWL TUCSON AZ DM42 and repeated. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28254.5 K4JEE 2220 CW Another beacon I recognize from previous sessions. Fair to good reception this afternoon with VVV DE K4JEE/B K4JEE/B K4JEE/B LOUISVILLE, KU EM78. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28255.8 WI5V 2226 CW Weak reception, with some AM QRM. VVV DE WI5V/B 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28278.5 WA4OTD 2228 CW Weak, but in the clear with callsign and location. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28280 K5AB 2231 CW Strong reception with DE K5AB EM01BEACON, repeated, then CENTRAL TEXAS 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28281.1 W8EH 2234 CW 100 Hz above their listed frequency at fair level with callsign and grid square reference. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28284.8 N9TNY 2237 CW Strong reception with callsign and grid square reference. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28236.5 W0KIZ 2243 CW Again, a beacon not there a few minutes ago, but really burning up the receiver with repeated VVV DE W0KIZ/B DENVER COLORADO 5 WATTS. 5/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28240 W8EDU/B 2223 CW Weak, but readable. For only a watt, I’m impressed! Giving callsign and grid square location. Found them on the dl8wx.de beacon website. Location and operator is the Case Western Reserve University amateur radio club. 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28252.5 WD8INF 2227 CW Good reception with callsign and grid square locatioon (EM79). 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28258.5 AC5JM 2229 CW Good copy with callsign and OK repeated. 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28277.56 WA4OTD 2232 CW Fair copy. Listed in the WI5V beacon website on 28.2788, so a bit lower in reality. Giving callsign, grid square, and CARMEL 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28281.1 W8EH 2235 CW Good reception with callsign and grid square (EM79). Clearly, Ohio is coming in well this afternoon. Normally I’m hearing AC7AV on or near this channel (Green Acres, WA). 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28284.8 N9TNY 2237 CW Strong signal with VVV DE N9TNY/B EN51 PSE RST. 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28271 W4ZZK 2245 CW A very weak signal heard while monitoring another very adjacent signal. , giving the callsign/B. CW Skimmer comes through again! 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28290.8 K5TLJ 2302 CW Weak reception, but able to copy AR AR AR DE K5TLJ/B K5TLJ/B K5TLJ/B AR Band is quickly fading, so looks like this is the top frequency beacon I can hear now. 8/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28250 K5AB 2341 CW A this late hour, very little propagating in the 10M Beacon band. Nonetheless, good reception from this high power beacon with DE D5AB EM01BEACON DE D5AB CENTRAL TEXAS. 14/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28268.334 VK8VF 2344 CW My first Australian beacon! Very weak, but the call sign is being decoded by CW Skimmer. Not even visible on the waterfall. 334 Hz high compared to the listed 28.268 on the WI5V Beacon website. 14/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28189 VE4TEN 2100 CW Great reception this afternoon. The band had many 10 M beacons, but unfortunately, I had other family matters today. Still, nabbed this one, with an interesting call, and flea powered as well. 18/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
28193 LU2DT 2355 CW My surprise for the afternoon, and my first Argentinian beacon. Fair reception. Long, somewhat garbled tone, followed by VV DE LU2DT LU2DT GF12FA. Distance approximately 12,432 kM with bearing 125 degrees! 19/Dec/2022 (Salmaniw, Masset, BC)
I hope that I’ve wetted your appetite into trying something, “completely different” in our radio monitoring hobby. Who knows next what I’ll want to try!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, who shares the following guest post:
Earbuds for Shortwave Listening
A few years ago I had bought the discontinued Sennheiser MM 50 earbuds for a cheap price on Amazon to use in my various radios. The portable radios in particular can use more fidelity because of their small, raspy speakers. I also like to listen without bothering others around me who might not want to listen. And earbuds are a LOT more comfortable for my ear lobes than any over-the-ear headphones I have ever used. Furthermore, the old Apple iPhone 4 earbuds were very harsh to listen to. However, a trade-off is that, generally, earbuds are somewhat fragile; one of the two pairs of MM50’s died through mishandling.
I was generally happy with them while listening to Shortwave broadcasters with a mix of news/talk and music. I especially liked them on Mediumwave listening; stations can sound surprisingly good when playing music. Then I tried using these earbuds on my Amateur Radio transceiver, a Kenwood TS-590S. I was impressed how clear they sounded with a lack of distortion, although there was too much bass. Fortunately, Kenwood supplies USB connected software with an TX & RX 18 band EQ (300 Hz spacing, not octaves).
Here is a frequency response chart I found from Reviewed.com for this model:
One of the notable things about these earbuds is the total lack of distortion. Most likely one of the reasons they sound so clear on Shortwave, which has many LOUD audio spikes.
I had not wanted to get Bluetooth earbuds. However, I had recently upgraded my cell phone and NO headphone jacks anymore! So, while I do not use Bluetooth yet for radios, I can see a time in the future to get a Bluetooth transmitter to plug into a radio with a headphone jack. I am reluctant since I do not like having to recharge my earbuds and I put in a lot of radio listening time. Am I supposed to buy two Bluetooth earbuds and swap while charging? Maybe in the future. And also, am I supposed to buy a Bluetooth transmitter for every non-Bluetooth radio I own? Not likely gonna happen.
In the meantime, I ordered cheap wired earbuds from Amazon. I had a $5 credit for trying Prime, so when I saw these Panasonic ErgoFit wired earbuds (RP-HJE120-K) for slightly over $10, I said to myself, “why not?”. Supposedly wildly popular, they are one of the most rated products on all of Amazon with 133,821 ratings/opinions (perhaps Russian bots?!?!?).
Here is a frequency response chart from ThePhonograph.com for these Panasonic earbuds:
You can see comparatively that the bass response in the very good Sennheiser MM50’s is much stronger, being good music earbuds. But for voice articulation, not as much, even though they have no distortion. The Panasonic ErgoFit’s have more modest bass, less of a dip in the lower midrange audio frequencies, and more importantly, has a peak near 2500 Hz and its harmonic 5000 Hz. The highest highs are also modest compared to the Sennheiser model. This general frequency response to “recess” the bass and treble frequencies and peak the 2500 Hz is very useful for voice intelligibility.
As described by the famous speaker-microphone-sound-system maker, Bob Heil relates what he learned from the scientists at Bell Labs many years ago. Speech intelligibility is enhanced when audio is compensated for our natural human hearing. Equalizing below 160 Hz, reducing the 600-900 Hz region, and peaking the 2000-3000 region centered at 2500 Hz will increase intelligibility dramatically. The story goes that Bell Labs was tasked by parent AT&T with finding out why the earliest phones in the 1920’s sounded so muffled and hard to understand. After many experiments, the scientists found the most important frequencies for our ears + brain to comprehend speech. In other words, our ears are not “EQ-flat” like a scientific instrument is. Continue reading →
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don Moore–noted author, traveler, and DXer–for the following guest post:
Monitoring DSC with YADD
By Don Moore
(The following article was originally published in the April/May 2022 edition of the Great Lakes Monitor, bulletin of the Michigan Association of Radio Enthusiasts. An all-band listening club, MARE publishes a bi-monthly print bulletin and a weekly e-mail loggings tip-sheet. The club also holds regular get-togethers, picnics, and DXpeditions, generally in southeastern Michigan.)
There are dozens if not hundreds of different digital modes used for communication on the MF and HF bands. These aren’t broadcasts you want to listen to unless you like to hear weird tones, beeps, warbles, and grinding noises interspersed with static. Digital modes are for monitoring, not listening. And monitoring them requires having software that does the listening for you and converts the noises into something meaningful – like the ID of the station you’re tuned to. The learning curve to DXing digital utilities can be steep. There are lots of modes to identify and the software can be complicated to learn. Some broadcasts are encrypted so you can’t decode them no matter how hard you try. But the reward is lots of new stations and even new countries that you wouldn’t be able to add to your logbook otherwise.
One of the easiest digital modes to DX is DSC, or Digital Selective Calling. DSC is a defined as “a standard for transmitting pre-defined digital messages.” Look online if you want to understand the technical specifications that specify the values, placement, and spacing of the tones. The result of those specifications is a string of three-digit numbers like this:
Each three-digit value represents either a digit or a key word and the positions of the values map to the various fields contained in the message. This message, which was received on 8414.5 kHz, is a test call from the tanker Brook Trout to the coastal station Coruña Radio in Spain. The sender and destination are not identified by name but rather by their nine-digit MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) numbers – 538006217 for the vessel and 002241022 for the coastal station.
GETTING STARTED WITH DSC
Logging DSC stations requires three pieces of software. First you need a decoder program that turns the noises into numbers and the numbers into meaning. There are several free and commercial options but the most popular one for beginners is YADD – Yet Another DSC Decoder. YADD is free and easy to set up and while YADD can be used by feeding the audio from a traditional radio into your computer, the most common use is with an SDR. That’s what I use and what I will describe here.
Second you need an SDR application and an SDR. I prefer HDSDR for most of my SDR use but I like SDR-Console for digital work. But any SDR program will work if you can feed the audio to a virtual audio cable. And that’s the final thing you need – a virtual audio cable to create a direct audio connection between your SDR application and YADD. There are several different ones available but I recommend VB-Cable. Your first VB-Cable is free and that is all you need to run a single instance of YADD. If you want to expand you can buy up to four more cables from them later. Continue reading →
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Julian S, who shares the following guest post and review:
Panasonic RF-B45 – A Comparative Review
by Julian S
18 and 19 October, 2022
I was raised on valve / tube radios. From my pre-teens in the 1960s, I enjoyed tuning through the frequencies as a form of exploration. In the 1970s I experimented with antennae to improve reception. And later, starting in the 1980s, I began to use travel radios, always looking for that perfect radio.
Today the perfect radio for us SWL’ers might need to include a time machine to take us back to the halcyon days of SW, say in the 1980s or 1990s, before so many Western broadcasters axed their Short Wave services.
Looking at the BBC World Service’s latest round of cuts, I am filled with horror. Is whoever decided those cuts deeply cynical or deeply ignorant?
Switching BBC World Service content from radio to the internet for countries that block or restrict internet access is not the way to reach people living there. In places where every person’s internet access is monitored, where access to websites and web-content is censored or blocked, BBC news internet content will not be widely available. Today and for the foreseeable future the way to reach perhaps half or more of the world’s population is radio, especially Short Wave radio broadcasts.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) and other like-minded countries, eg the DPRK (North Korea) fully understand the importance of radio, especially Short Wave and they vigorously maintain multiple Short Wave broadcast programmes as a way to project soft power and influence people.
I heard that in an earlier round of cuts China acquired frequencies dropped by the BBC World Service.
By the time the West wakes up again to the importance of Short Wave radio broadcasting as a means to communicate to the world, they will find the SW airwaves are full of PRC, North Korean, Vietnamese, Cuban and other broadcasters who never forgot how important SW broadcasts to the world are. I’m reminded of a line from the Sean Connery film, Rising Sun, “If you don’t want us to buy it, don’t sell it.”
Aside from the broadcasters mentioned above, there are still many others broadcasting on SW and there are plenty of Hams too. Short Wave radio listening and Ham radio are widespread and popular in Asia and Africa and are a major source of news. In some countries SW is also used as a means of business and social communication. So much so that there are home-grown radio and transceiver manufacturers in a number of African and Asian nations.
SW listening is big in China. So it’s no surprise that probably the best manufacturer of consumer grade short wave radio receivers is a China based company, Tecsun, who need no introduction. Tecsun seems to have taken over the role that was once held by Grundig, Sony, Panasonic and others. Indeed many of the later Grundig models are made by Tecsun.
If you’ve guessed that I like short wave radio, you’ve guessed right. And I suppose like many other fans, I usually have my eye open for something special.
Since hearing of the Panasonic RF B65 some years ago, I’ve been on the look-out for one at a reasonable price… this search led me to the RF B45…. But I’m a man of modest means so I need them to be priced accordingly.
Usually these two 30+ year old radios are priced on North American eBay like holy grail radios. More expensive than a 2nd hand Sony ICF 2010 / 2001D. Go figure. But the other day I found a Panasonic RF B45 for what I considered a reasonable price. It arrived yesterday, well packed, clean and in good condition. After dinner and this morning before breakfast I put it through some of its paces
What follows are some initial impressions of the Panasonic RF B45:
I’ve read a few reviews of it on eham, shortwave.ch etc. The controls are pretty easy to figure out. It has a similar form factor to the Sony ICF7600 series and is probably comparable in performance to the digital iterations of the Sony 7600 series… though the only 7600 series radio I have at present is the analogue 7601 which is comparable to the Tecsun R9700DX, except in price. New the Tecsun R9700DX is likely to be cheaper than a used Sony 7601 on eBay, and the Tecsun has a wider range of features, eg external antenna socket, comes with a long wire antenna, has better audio… but I digress…
…back to the Panasonic RF B45. This is a fine compact travel radio about the size of a paperback book or two DVD stacked boxes. Continue reading →
Ten meter beacon band spans 28.100 – 28.300 MHz (photo by author)
Recent 10 Meter CW Beacon Activity
Mario Filippi, N2HUN
The 10m band has been coming alive lately and it’s time for all hams and SWLs to take advantage of it. For several years I’ve been listening to 10m beacons with mediocre results but this has all changed over the past few days with loggings of European beacons running as low as seven watts.
These amateur radio beacons can be found from 28.1 – 28.3 MHz, sending out their callsigns in CW along with other information such as power output, grid square, antenna type and other tidbits of interesting information. Most USA beacons are heard from 28.1 – 28.2 MHz while international ones inhabit 28.2 – 28.3 MHz. Some beacon ops will request QSL card reports the old school way via mail. I’ve written out a few already, bringing back fond memories of my early days as a ham and SWL.
Over the past few days at my central NJ QTH, using an Airspy HF+ Discovery and a ground mounted 31 foot vertical, here are some of the DX beacons logged:
IZ8RVA, 28.239 MHz, 1230 UTC
OH9TEN, 28.265 MHz, 1253 UTC
LA5TEN, 28.237 MHZ, 1300 UTC
OK1AR, 28.249 MHz, 1214 UTC
DA5TEN, 28.237 MHz, 1219 UTC (7 watts, vertical antenna!)
DL0IGI, 28.204 MHz, 1251 GMT (50watts)
Note that most signals were 449 with QSB so a quiet room, a good pair of headphones, many cups of good hot coffee/tea and a heap of patience are needed. Beacons will send a continuous CW tone as a preamble while others will transmit a series of V’s (…-). So, spin that VFO dial up to 10 meters, a band which comes alive as sunspots rise. If you are a QRP’er, this comes as good news since this band is great for those who love to run peanut whistles.
Author’s Airspy HF+ Discovery (small black box to the left of the laptop)
A Short Review of the Airspy HF+ Discovery SDR
by Mario Filippi (N2HUN)
I recently purchased an AirSpy HF+ Discovery. As a SWL for over 60 years who’s owned many shortwave radios by manufacturers such as Drake, Yaesu, Icom, Zenith, Kenwood, Panasonic, Sony, Radio Shack, Grundig, CountyComm, MFJ, Sears, AOR and have used a number of different SDRs such as the RTL-SDR.com, HackRF, NooElec and many other rudimentary inexpensive first generation SDR dongles, I feel the AirSpy was an excellent choice. It cost $169 plus shipping.
For LW/MW/HF reception, I use a 30’ ground mounted vertical with about 50 buried radials in different stages of decomposition hihi. For VHF, a roof mounted 2m/70cm SlimJim antenna is used, but I haven’t done much listening in that portion of the spectrum yet except for occasional foray into the aero, 2m ham, NOAA satellite and public service bands. Note that the AirSpy also covers 60 – 260MHz.
An older Dell Inspiron laptop and SDR# are used in conjunction with the AirSpy. For decoding, MultiPSK, FLDigi, MTTY, Yand (for NAVTEX), along with VB cable are the accompanying software to make the digital modes intelligible.
So far I’ve logged a few local LF aeronautical beacons and some DGPS beacons on longwave but will be in a better position to judge its performance when winter sets in. As for the medium (520 – 1710 kHz) wave AM broadcast band, the AirSpy easily brings in both local stations during daytime and distant stations at night with no adjacent channel interference whatsoever. Even low powered community Emergency Alert Stations in the 1600 – 1710 kHz portion of the band can be heard daily from this QTH. A rotatable loop would certainly improve reception though.
As for shortwave listening the AirSpy HF+Discovery is, in my opinion, great for listening to both shortwave broadcasts and utility stations though I tend to concentrate on UTES mostly such as VOLMET, WEFAX, RTTY (the few that remain unencrypted), CW marker stations (e.g. XSG and XSQ from China) NAVTEX (519 kHz), aero/maritime SSB, time signal stations (WWV, CHU) and many of the other esoteric digital utility signals populating the band. As for SW broadcast stations, WRMI, Radio Exterior, RFI, R. Marti, BBC, WWCR and Radio Algerienne, to mention a few have been received. The Frequency Manager (memory storage) in SDR# has quickly filled up with intercepts using the AirSpy.
As a ham and CB operator (yes, the two can mutually coexist in the same human body), I’ve found the AirSpy HF+ Discovery to be a trouper on all the HF ham and CB bands. One of my favorite hangouts is the 28.100 – 28.300 MHz slice of 10m where domestic and international low power CW beacons transmit their callsigns (and at times their grid squares and power output) into the ionosphere and achieve great distances. Recently, beacons from 5, 6 and 7 land in the US along with DX prefixes ED4, PY4 and XE1 were logged. If you’re into 10m FM operation you can also tune the AirSpy to hear local and distant repeaters on 29.62 – 29.68 MHz. When the band is open, .62 and .64 seem to be the most active here in Central NJ.
If you’re a CB (aptly named the Citizen’s Band) op, the AirSpy HF+ Discovery does a stellar job on Channels 1 – 40 which is especially exciting when the band’s open. While domestic (USA) CB’ers are limited to frequencies from 26.965 – 27.405 MHz you’ll nonetheless hear DX ops below our (USA) channel 1 and above channel 40 conversing in French, Spanish and German in LSB/USB. Add to this mix the fact that the FCC dropped the 150 mile limit for US ops a few years back and now the advent of the FM mode operation in the US, you’ll find the AirSpy won’t disappoint. In my opinion the AirSpy HF+Discovery was an excellent choice and I’m more than satisfied with its performance.
In the matter of honesty and full disclosure, I purchased the AirSpy HF+ Discovery completely on my own in an effort to upgrade my station. My choice was based on information gathered from the Internet and YouTube video reviews. The performance of this receiver was based on my experience using the vertical antenna described earlier, the hours spent at my QTH (location) listening to stations of interest to me and my six decades experience as a SWL. No test equipment to assess sensitivity, selectivity or other empirical methods to measure performance was used. That information can be found on the Airspy website. The main purpose of this article was to craft a rudimentary review for those interested with the caveat that reception will vary depending on many factors such as location, antenna, ionospheric conditions, feedline quality, computer/software variations, QRN, QRM, and operator experience. The results presented in this article are typical for my location; others may experience different results. Thanks very much.
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