Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, who shares the following guest post:
Stupid Radio Trick – DSP “Hi-Fi”
If you can remember the 1960’s, there was an audiophile rage going on called Hi-Fi. The base unit consisted of a ponderous piece of furniture consisting of a rectangular cabinet and equally large mellow sounding speaker of fairly smooth frequency response, say in the range of around 40 – 15000 Hz. They would have a built-in radio (using vacuum tubes) with large analog scale. Most would also have a “record player” embedded on the top to spin some vinyl discs (78 or 33 rpm).
For pedestrian consumers, it became a decision of how to keep up with the Joneses, so-to-speak. And that meant a trip to Sears to look at the latest offerings. When the decision finally came to purchase, of course no one could buy it outright. So, to add to the suspense, one had to put money down on “Lay-A-Way” plan that did not allow you to take possession of your prized choice until the last monthly payment! One had to visit or mail in a check every month.
So where am I going with all this? Well, as you can see from the photo [above], I have purchased three portable radios for three very different purposes. All three were painstakingly studied and reviewed and weighed against all other possible choices. All are highly rated by the usual reviewers like RadioJayallen, SWLing Blog readers and other internet personalities. The Sangean is for home use and listening to baseball games when I did not want to fire up the stereo hooked up to the Grundig Satellit 800. The small Sony ICF-19 is a phenomenal knock around radio for the car and listening while out to lunch or a walk in the park. The large Tecsun S-8800 is a possible replacement for my ailing 20+ year old Sony ICF-2010 for shortwave use.
Well, I was tired of listening to any one of them in terms of sound quality. The Sangean has too much upper bass/lower mid range, the small Sony is very carefully maximized for total speech clarity, and the Tecsun seems to lack a little in the mid range frequencies (compared to highs and lows). Staring at them, I thought to self, “What if I turn on the Sangean and Sony together???” What ensued was a revelatory sonic experience (it sounded pretty good)! One seemed to fill in the other in certain ways. But it was not perfect.
Duh, I had the new Tecsun in a carry case while trying to decide if I send it back for a tuning quirk and dug it out and plopped it on top. Turning it on, I heard more lows and highs, just like a Field Radio should have but with the mid range filled in! After very careful volume adjustment, I now have something that could rightly be called DSP Hi-Fi. At least, that is what I am calling it for now. ?
Violin and piano pop-out of an orchestra but not too harsh sounding. Rock & Roll sounds loud and punchy without that boombox effect. Bass lows are there (could be better, now all I need is a small subwoofer connected to the Tecsun line-out ???). Highs are there too but well controlled. Mid range voice clarity is stunning, as if someone is in the room with me but not sounding too forward! It is not room-filling but acts more like a near-field monitor. I like that I can line-up the speakers over each other.
The really fortunate thing is that all three radios have complete DSP for FM and receive my favorite over-the-horizon station with very similar reception quality. Also, they process DSP with a similar delay before output to its respective speaker. The sound is fairly coherent and even though it is still mono output, the full range of musical fidelity can be appreciated better. It is not audiophile quality but it is very satisfying and I can actually hear more details in the music than with any one of the radios by themselves. Just goes to show you that you CAN teach a new Radio dog old Tricks (LOL)!
I love it, Tom! Thanks for pointing out that sometimes it takes a “stupid radio trick” to really produce some amazing audio fidelity! This reminds me that in the early 90s, I used to have a Zenith Transoceanic and RadioShack DX-440 on my radio table in my room. If I recall correctly, the Zenith was on my left and the DX-440 on the right. I used to tune to shortwave, MW and FM stations and produce a makeshift “stereo” effect by playing both at the same time. Sometimes, on shortwave, it actually helped me discern voices in weak signal work!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, who shares the following guest post as a his Backpack Shack 3 continues to evolve:
Backpack Shack 3.0 – Part 3
I have now gone overboard since I think bigger must be better. The temptation was just too great and now there is an MFJ-1979 17-foot telescoping whip antenna in my car (with consequences).
I have a love/hate relationship with MFJ products because of what I think are useful ideas that are made somewhat poorly. But I went ahead and bought the large whip since I figured they could not possibly screw up something so simple, right?
Wrong. As I excitedly tried to screw the supposed 3/8”-24 threaded end into the nice standard Firestik K-11 magnet mount, I realized I was turning and turning it but it was not going in!!! I even had a small steel sliver of metal sticking into my flesh to prove I was not dreaming. The previous day, it had screwed in very tightly, but it did screw in. So, there I was after a long day of work, ready to listen to some SWL-Nirvana and I could not get the blasted antenna into the mount–? That Firestik mount is a VERY standard 3/8”-24 female thread and the other third-party antenna shafts fit perfectly and easily EVERY time I use them. I hate $60 of poor workmanship and MFJ seems to be the poster child of overpromising and underdelivering.
I was determined to make this work, by force if needed. One of the Trucker antenna shafts by necessity had an extra coupling nut on it to allow the extra 18 inch shaft to connect, so I took it off there and tried to thread it onto the MFJ-1979. It barely moved. Not to be thwarted, I dug out an adjustable wrench and 3/8” socket wrench with ½” socket and grunted and twisted and tightened until the coupling nut was threaded all the way “up its shaft”. That is what I feel like telling MFJ! That coupling nut is never coming off and now that I truly have bought it and cannot return it, I might as well use it.
The stainless steel telescoping rod is extremely thin and feels like it can bend and dent with any kind of mishandling. So it resides collapsed in a 27 inch PVC pipe with plumbing pipe foam inside to baby it when it is not being used. It remains to be seen if I can remember to “Handle With Care” when extending/collapsing it. We’ll see.
OK, so using the 18 inch antenna shaft attached to the magnet mount, then the coupling nut on the MFJ antenna, I extended it to a total of about 13 feet. With the DX Engineering Pre-amp turned on, and using the SDR Play RSP2, I was getting many signals booming in. All the usual names we are familiar with – RMI, CRI, Turkey, Cuba, etc. But also the noise level was very high. I know it is summer but I may have been overloading the Pre-amp a little bit. Here is an example, Radio Progresso from Cuba with some very nice acapella music but also a noisy background (plus, a noisy laptop computer pulse!):
So I decided to come back in the morning before my workday started and see if the static crashes would have died down.
The next morning I had everything hooked up again in the same spot at the Forest Preserve (located in a suburb of Northern Illinois). I moved the Cross Country Preselector to be directly connected from the roof, then to the antenna switch on the “Breadboard” (see part 2) to better prevent overloading. I turned on the Verizon battery pack and nothing. No Pre-amp light. Switched it on, off, on, off – nothing. So, I thought I must have burnt it out the previous session?
Later on, I found it was some sort of short in the switch and I will have to move the D-cell batteries to a backup battery pack. In the meantime, I had to do without the Pre-amp and was forced to extend the MFJ antenna all the way. With the 18 inch extension attached to the magnet mount, that was a total of 18.5 feet from antenna tip to the top of my car roof.
This was actually fortuitous since I was already concerned about overloading the Pre-amp or perhaps amplifying background noise. This forced me to test it in a more “barefoot” manner, hearing what it would natively hear without any Pre-amp. It was also lucky there was no wind to blow it over! It seems that if one is in an RFI-quiet area with decent view of horizons, the 20+dB Pre-amp may not be needed, depending on frequency band involved.
I have read that “Norton” style 10 dB Pre-amps and custom handmade transformer baluns are used by Dr. Dallas Lankford in his Low Noise Vertical antennas. I don’t want to get into winding baluns so I am using one Palomar Longwire Balun to simulate the “magnetic” transfer. His design uses two, one 10:1 at the antenna and a 1:1 balun at the feedline into the house. For more reading on LNV antennas, see these references:
I purposely monitored Voice of Korea for their news statement on the De-Nuke talks on the 25 meter band and found it came in great, just as many others have heard it. This was encouraging. Examining carefully the Data file from the SDR, here is what I pulled from it. I am pleasantly surprised and happy with the results; some stations I had never heard before and the language and music are very exotic. All of it was a little more than one half hour of recording time (14 June 2018, 1300 UTC). You may have to crank up the volume on the weaker recordings to hear those properly.
Taiwan International, 11640 kHz, Chinese, Kouhu Taiwan (blasting in strongly plus strong echo of broadcast at top of the hour – is a second transmitter signal going around the earth the other way and getting to me??)
Eighteen feet of whippy rod can sway in the gentlest breeze (consequences of “bigger must be better”). The described setup has fallen over in as little as a 12 mph sustained wind when fully extended because I had the base in a plastic box. I want plastic under the magnet(s) in order to get it off easily and put away out of sight! Now installed is a larger QUAD magnet mount for better stability:
I am using the flat plastic lid from a 20 gallon tote container under the quad mount and a mover’s tie down strap to the main bar of the quad (I have room for multiple straps if needed). Ten foot fits just fine:
Because the backpack and quad mount can fit inside the 20 gallon tote container, this setup can be attached to a picnic table in a state park or campsite if I choose. The Firestik single magnet mount will be recycled as a VHF antenna mount. I can go virtually anywhere now.
Instead of the 20+dB DX Engineering Pre-amp, perhaps one of those “Norton” 10 dB Pre-amps might be optimal (Kiwaelectronics.com broadband-preamp). And I need to figure out why my Verizon battery pack failed as each Tenergy D cell measured fine. Oh yeah, I have to buy an extra coupling nut, too……
Thanks so much for sharing this latest iteration of the BackPack Shack 3.0, Tom! It seems to me, as you imply, your current setup could be installed pretty much anywhere.
I’m sorry to hear about your troubles with MFJ. I’ve only had good experiences with them in the past, but I suspect the specs on the 3/8”-24 thread were simply incorrect or perhaps metric and mislabeled.
Wanting MOAR options for my recent amplified whip antenna experiment, I decided to add a second antenna input to the kitchen cutting board (can I call it a “Breadboard”? – Ha, that’s an electronics joke!). The idea behind it came from realizing that I might not want to spend all my time outside at a picnic table or on the beach, especially if it is drizzly and windy. And I still wanted a better ground for the antenna. So, I thought I could use more Trucker Parts and put an antenna on top of the roof of my vehicle so I could listen in the relative comfort and safety of my small SUV (or even a friend’s car).
Here is the crowded “Breadboard” with some extra items added.
I thought of the vertical antenna as a short longwire and had an old, original RF Systems Magnetic Longwire Balun. That device allows for an improvement in signal/noise ratio (in theory) if used on a longwire. Perhaps it works on this, too?? You can see the gray cylinder connected right beneath the trucker mirror mount on the left (this will not be tested at this time, see External Antenna below). The output goes to a greenish Daiwa switch on the right.
A large amplified antenna has the real possibility of overloading the amplifier. With the Magnetic Balun, I am hoping the VHF band is attenuated enough to preclude any problems because its response naturally tapers off past 40MHz. But Mediumwave is well within its bandpass. I remembered an old Kiwa Electronics Broadcast Band Rejection filter not being used for a long, long time, so I connected that right after the Daiwa switch (the metal box with red plate).
This output then goes to an RF choke just before entering the pre-amp. I figure I will be using my SDRPlay RSP2 and noisy laptop and wanted to try to reduce any interference traveling on the outside coax braid before it gets amplified.
OK, now for the other Daiwa switch selection. The external antenna will be connected and disconnected as often as I use it. I attached two right-angle coax adapters to be the connection point for the antenna. This is so that the physical switch threads do not have to handle that wear-and-tear. You can see it as the fuzzy out of focus thing sticking up out of the left side switch position.
The wire going out the top of the Breadboard goes to a Firestik K-11 magnetic mount placed on top of the roof of the SUV. I also wanted this to be connected to a magnetic balun. I just happened to have a nearly unused Palomar Engineers Magnetic Longwire Balun. It has its own ground lug for use with a counterpoise. Temporarily, I left the 18 feet of wire that came attached to the K-11 Mount and attached an adapter and BNC test lead; on the other end is connected the spade lugs to the Balun (red wire to the lanyard nut, black wire to the ground lug). It all fits neatly inside a Sistema 3 liter container.
The magnet and box self-clamp easily onto the roof of the vehicle. I added a new 18 inch section to the Trucker Antenna Shafts creating a full 72 inch antenna, complete with mag mount, ground plane (car body), and magnetic balun. It is very easy to put up and take down and the box helps keep everything contained.
I am pushing things a bit here. Magnetic Baluns are not really meant to be used on vertical antennas. It probably breaks some sort of Cosmic Electrical Law somewhere that causes electromagnetic waves to get very confused and die a horrible, twisted, circular death. But I figure that it is an unbalanced “line” similar to a longwire antenna; it’s just a little short and goes straight up instead of horizontal! I like the idea, so I am going to run with it.
It goes without saying that the Antenna Shafts, magnet mount, and magnetic balun are weatherproof (but NOT lightning proof!). Take proper lightning precautions and take it down. Even so, I might add a small drainage hole to the box since it did rain a tiny bit during testing.
Secondly, this setup is ONLY FOR STATIONARY VEHICLES!!!! DO NOT TRY TO DRIVE DOWN THE ROAD OR HIGHWAY!!!! The magnetic mount will NOT stay on the car and will damage your vehicle and maybe a vehicle travelling next to you!
As you can see from the picture, my new Tecsun S-8800 is getting a workout while connected to the Cross Country preselector (not shown behind it) and to the backpack next to the back seat window. The Tecsun S-8800 is a nice radio. My copy has a couple of quirks that I might have to send it back (the AM band tunes incorrectly 2 kHz lower than it should and the SW SSB tunes 140 Hz higher than indicated and I have to compensate using the fine-tuning dial for these modes–FM seems correctly tuned).
Other than this, the actual performance is really quite good! DSP does have sharp cutoffs to the IF bandwidth (especially resolving strong station interference when selecting 3 kHz vs. 4 kHz). With all my filters/balun/choke, I did not notice any MW or FM breakthroughs and signals on those bands were nicely contained and “normal”. Interference from my cell phone while looking up internet frequency listings was minimal – seems like the cable shielding, choke, and car roof are doing a good job.
The audio output jacks have very thin clearance between the jacks and the housing of the radio. So for the second time, I will not have recordings since the cable I wanted to use has home theater style construction with very thick plug outer connectors and will not fit!
From an RF-quiet “Forest Preserve” (County park), there were a variety of stations received from the 25 through 19 meter bands (Local time 11am-1:30pm). A few stations I have never heard before until now:
Radio Free Asia in Korean on 11985 KHz (Tinian Island)
Radio China International in Esperanto on 11650 KHz (Xian China)
Radio Farda in Persian on 12005 KHz (Wooferton England) – broadcast opposite my direction
Radio Bible BCI in Somali on 15310 KHz (Nauen Germany) – Strange sounding but interesting Christian Somali music
Radio Free Asia in Chinese on 13675 KHz (Dushanbe Tajikistan)
Voice of Hope Africa in English on 13680 KHz (Lusaka Zambia) – had to use ECSS USB to get away from strong interference from RFA on 13675, fairly good intelligibility (including music)! I wish there was a 6 KHz option for SSB mode since the audio was slightly muffled and could not compensate much with the tone controls. That kind of feature usually comes with radios costing 3X more, however.
Voice of Korea in French (Kujang North Korea) being squashed by Radio China International (Kashi China) in English on 13760 KHz
It was so nice not to be on a beach and have people walk by STARING at me with my weird radio/antenna setup. And I was dry and comfy sipping a cool drink while there was a drizzle of rain pelting the windshield. Downside might be that the car setup cannot always be located optimally if I want to be next to that Very Large Body of Water (Lake Michigan) to help enhance reception but this is not a bad alternative. The next test will have to be during early evening when signals are booming into my location and see if performance holds up under those conditions!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, who shares the following guest post:
Backpack Shack 3 – Amplified Whip Antenna
So, having enjoyed using the Ferrite Sleeve Loop I created last year, I have wanted something a little more sensitive and less bulky. I will eventually create a much BIGGER FSL antenna on the order of 2 feet long and perhaps 18 or 24 inches in diameter for indoor/attic use. But that is not a priority at the moment.
Since I already have the DX Engineering Pre-Amplifier and the very nice Cross Country Preselector from the loop project, I thought it might be useful to create an active whip antenna for it. And the cool looking Solar Red backpack needed something to do!
Now that the bulky loop was not taking up the main compartment of the backpack, I could think about what else to put in there, like a larger power pack. I scoured FleaBay for ideas and stumbled upon this contraption for backup power to network systems, the CyberPower CyberShield for Verizon.
This has 12 spaces for D-cell batteries and was mounted inside the demarcation terminal to provide backup power for things like cable systems and Copper-to-Ethernet networks. It is not waterproof, so would be inside the premises of the customer getting the internet/cable service. But my Pre-Amp needs 12-18Volts and would love to have nearly unlimited power. So, I bought a used one, cut the end off of the power lead and put on my own 2.1×5.5mm plug (carefully glued down and tie-wrapped). Then I filled it with 1.2Volt Tenergy D-cells.
Everything was just fine until I forgot to double check the polarity of the plug that I had wired onto the end. Plugged it into the DX Engineering Pre-Amp, flipped the power switch and fitzzz…. The Pre-Amp light went on, then off (permanently!).
So, my expensive mistake is that I start using the FREE multimeter I got from Harbor Freight and check the polarity before I connect homemade battery packs to anything!!
DX Engineering charged me $60 to fix my mistake and it is working fine now after I swapped the wires on the plug. Yes, their Pre-Amp is NOT reverse-polarity protected! Disappointing, since the price tag for that device is $148!!! The CyberShield now sits comfortably inside the bottom of the backpack.
Now that the drama was over regarding the Power pack, I could think about the whip. I did not want a wimpy whip! (No one should rightly aspire to this, in my opinion). More FleaBay searches found me looking at Trucker parts. Loaded whips, magnetic mounts, 10 foot tall MFJ telescoping whips, etc was looking a bit expensive.
Besides that, I cannot fit a 10 foot tall telescoping whip into the backpack, I am limited to at most 18 inches (and that is at an angle to fit it in there). But I found an old-fashioned mirror mount that looked promising since it had a nice SO-239 connector at the bottom and standard CB antenna fitting on top of 3/8”-24.
Then I found the 44 inch SuperAntenna with the same threads; then found the replacement Stainless Steel Shafts for a Wilson antenna in different lengths (I ordered the 10 inch version to test). With a couple of rod coupling nuts and I was ready for testing!
I had already scheduled a short vacation to Sleeping Bear Dunes on the thumb of Northwestern Michigan, so I took this test setup with my Sony ICF-2010. This area is a very nice remote National Lakeshore with minimal noise. I tried a beach setting and a couple of hilltop picnic areas (including meeting a local Porcupine) and had very nice reception at all locations. The hilltop locations are approximately 400 – 600 feet above the Lake (yes, the Dunes are THAT big there!).
Meeting a local Porcupine
Later on, I went to Grand Haven, MI on the way home and stopped at their very lovely beach.
Reception was just as good as the hilltop locations at Sleeping Bear! In both areas, I was next to a large body of water (in this case, Lake Michigan) and makes for an advantageous place for DXing! I had also stopped at a Rest Area off the highway and that was a terrible place even though it was electrically quiet but nowhere near the big Lake. I guess the rumors are true about being near a large body of water somehow enhances reception of weak signals–?
I will submit recordings later since I lost the mini-B cable for the Sony digital recorder and had to order a replacement. However, this was a nice project that freed up some space inside the backpack. I will add an 18 inch extension to the whip that will give me a total length of 72 inches. Plus, it is mounted 12 inches up on the poly cutting board and I place the backpack on a small hunters folding chair that is about 24 inches tall. So, the tip will be about 9 feet off the ground.
Not pictured but I was also able to easily fit inside a used CCrane Twin Coil Ferrite antenna for mediumwave use that also performed very well. I noticed that the picnic benches at some locations are made of metal, so that gives me a future idea of trying to leverage that to use as a ground plane somehow. The battery pack is heavy but also gives great ballast to the backpack and will not tip over. Cannot wait for the Tecsun S-8800 to arrive so I can try leaving the radio inside the bag and just use the remote control to tune!
As always, I’m so impressed with your spirit of radio adventure, Tom! I love the fact that your goal is to make a field-deployable DX kit that isn’t cumbersome or time-consuming to set up on site. I imagine you only need a couple of minutes to open the pack and have it on the air.
Those DXing spots are stunning! I had no idea one could find 400-600′ dunes in NW Michigan–! With that said, I’ve heard that part of the state is one of exceptional natural beauty. If you could somehow turn the lake into a body of salt water–thus increasing ground conductivity–you’d really enhance that already impressive reception! I’m guessing that sort of project would be a bit outside your budget! Ha ha! That and the freshwater fish might protest!
To me, there is no better way to enjoy radio than finding a nice RF quiet spot in the great outdoors…no matter where you live in the world. On top of that, Tom, you’re constantly building, experimenting, documenting and sharing your findings–you’re a true radio zealot! Huzzah!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, The Professor, who shares the following guest post:
A 1960s Signal Sniffer
by The Professor
I just recently purchased a radio that on eBay that looks very intriguing, especially if you happen to DX AM Radio. It’s a mid-60s portable made in Japan – a Nova Tech Pilot II . However, wasn’t just a grab ën go to the beach kind of transistor set. This radio has a serious side. It’s actually an RDF – a “radio direction finder.”
I have seen these kinds of radios before, somewhere. Only the ones I’ve noticed were older and had more of a military look. Although I’ve never actually attended a hamfest, I’m sure these types of receivers might be found at a gathering like that.
But this is a smaller and frankly more stylish version of RDF. Not to go into too much detail about something I know little about, but before GPS became ubiquitous, devices like this would commonly assist in the navigation of ships and aircraft by pinpointing “beacon” transmitters at specific known locations.
As you might imagine, this type of technology was (and probably still is) a strategic tool for military purposes. In fact, one of more “infamous” incidents of using radio direction finders was when they were utilized by the Japanese in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Their bombers just honed in on the signal of a Honolulu AM station (KGU at 760kHz) as their beacon.
So, this radio has three bands which were traditionally used by beacon transmitters. Besides the medium wave band, it also has a section of the longwave spectrum, and the VHF airband. Other models included the old marine band (around 3 to 5MHz). A later model also included the CB frequencies, and another included a VHF police band (called the Nova Tech Action!!).
So, no shortwave on this one. No FM either, but I have plenty of radios with those bands (like almost all of them). Of course, there’s not much to find on this side of the world on longwave these days, and listening to aircraft communications has its fans but it’s not something I’ve done much. But this thing has a unique toolset for medium wave DXing. And after doing a little research online I’ve discovered that the big rotating double ferrite on top is only one of the attributes it offers for AM DXing purposes.
For one, it has an RF amplifier in the front end to help pull those weak signals up out of the noise floor. For another, it has a pure RF gain function called “DF” (direction finder), which when turned on shuts down the AGC (automatic gain control) and allows you to tweak the RF gain any way you like. And it also has a very accurate tuning meter. That all sounds good to me.
So, I haven’t actually seen my Nova Tech in the flesh yet, and it will be probably a couple of weeks before I get a chance to give it a test drive. But I’m pretty confident in my purchase at this point. More than a few people have spoken glowingly of the AM DXing capabilities of this set. But one of the reasons I decided to go ahead and bid on this device was that not only did the dealer have an excellent eBay rating, but he says he also fully serviced the radio electronically and physically restored most of its original beauty. Apparently, it was cleaned up, recapped, and even a transistor was replaced. And he also aligned the AM band IF and re-peaked the antenna trim for AM and the airband.
Although this radio is still a twinkle in my eye at this point, I thought I’d mention it here in hopes some of the fine readers of this blog might have something to say about DXing with direction finding radios. And I was especially hoping that a few people might have personal experience with these 60s era Nova Tech receivers. I also noticed online that there are U.K. versions of these RDFs that were branded as “Bendix” radios.
All insights offered as comments are appreciated, and once I spend some time with this radio I’ll be sure to offer some of my own.
I always find it so much fun to await the arrival of an interesting old radio I’ve purchased on eBay, especially one that I’d never heard of before.
Thanks for sharing your find, Professor! I was not at all familiar with the Nova Tech Pilot II. I love the Transoceanicesque design! No doubt, it’ll be a handsome addition to your collection, and I’m willing to bet a MW DX machine as well!
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.
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.
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.
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!