Tag Archives: Jock Elliott (KB2GOM)

Jock satisfies his inner radio nerd with a deeper dive into NOAA weather radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:


Perhaps the ultimate radio nerd story . . .

by Jock Elliott (KB2GOM)

Perhaps I am the only guy on planet earth with a “kinda” interest in DXing NOAA weather radio, but there you have it, and this led me down an interesting rabbit hole in the world of radio.

Earlier this year, I found myself in Sodus, NY, in the western part of the state, near the shores of Lake Ontario. I had with me the following: an Icom V80 2-meter handy-talkie with a sharply tuned commercial antenna that works great on my home repeater (146.94) in Troy, NY; a Uniden BC125AT scanner with a Diamond 77 antenna, and a CCrane Skywave SSB. All receive the NOAA weather channels.

In the early morning, I checked www.wunderground.com for weather in the Sodus area. Snow was expected overnight. So I grab the Uniden 125AT, activate the weather scan function, and found that it received NOAA weather radio channels 1, 2, and 3, and the audio sounded great through my headphones. I tried stepping through the weather radio channels on my Icom V80 and found that it received channels 1, 2, and 3, but with just a wee bit of static in the background. I tried switching the antennas between the 125AT and the V80, and there was no appreciable difference.

Now, here’s the interesting part: I tried the same trick on the CCrane Skywave SSB with its telescoping whip fully extended, and it received weather channel 1 just fine with excellent audio through the headphones. But channel 2 was way down in the soup, a hair above “barely audible.” I tried waving the Skywave around, point the whip antenna in different directions and orientations to see if I could improve the signal. I succeeded only in nulling it out. Weather radio channel 3 was not audible at all, but channel 4 was coming in well, and so was channel 7 . . . and the other two radios were not receiving channels 4 and 7 at all.

Frankly, I didn’t know what to make of this. To be clear, I was able to hear that forecast that I needed to hear — for Wayne County, NY — on all three radios. But why would there be such a stark difference between the CCrane Skywave SSB and the other two radios?

At this point, I was really curious what the answer might be.

The V80 and the 125AT “agreed” with each; both were receiving NOAA weather radio channels 1, 2, 3. The CCrane Skywave SSB appeared to be the anomaly, receiving channels 1, 2 (barely), and 4 and 7, which the V80 and 125AT did not receive.

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C.Crane CC Skywave SSB: Jock adds a correction/addendum to his guest post about ATS tuning

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott (KB2GOM), who shares the following guest post:


I made a mistake, but it’s good news for CCrane Skywave SSB owners.

Recently, I published a guest post for the SWLing Post in which I wrote enthusiastically about the ATS feature on the CCrane Skywave SSB. Everything I wrote was true, except for one small detail. And that, it turns out, is a nice bonus for Skywave SSB owners.

We’ll get to that in just a moment, but first, let’s take a look at what the Skywave SSB manual says about memory:

“Memory Preset Buttons 0-9. Save your favorite stations to memory buttons. To save a station, press and hold any memory button for 2 seconds while the station is playing. To play a saved station, press the same button once quickly. Note: The CC Skywave SSB is a ‘smart’ radio and will remember current settings when a station is preset into memory. The current settings that will be saved with your stations are: 1. Stereo or Mono selection on FM. 2. Bandwidth selection on AM, Shortwave, or Air Bands. 3. Tone settings.”

Further, the manual says this about the Page Button:

“Each memory page allows you to save 10 additional stations per band. To change to a different page, press the PAGE button once quickly, then press any memory button 0-9 to select the Page you desire.”

So, do the math: there are 10 pages. Each page can store 10 memories. 10 x 10 = 100, right?

So imagine my surprise when I visited the C.Crane website early this AM, and the first thing that pops up is the Skywave SSB, and, prominently displayed, it says: “400 memories.”

Whaaaat?!

I check; the manual says nothing about 400 memories, no hint that by pressing some secret combination of buttons you can access memories beyond the 100 obvious ones.

Then it begins to dawn on me: what if each band – SW, AM, FM, AIR – has its own bank of 100 memories? That would account for C.Crane’s claim of 400 memories. Hmmm. Further, what if the ATS (Automatic Tuning System) function – which “programs all receivable stations in the AM, FM, Air and Shortwave bands to memory buttons” – automatically stores the frequencies in the appropriate memory bank for that band? That would be pretty neat.

So I grab the Skywave SSB and run a quick ATS search on the SW band. Sure enough, it stores some SW stations, starting at Page 1, Memory 1, overwriting whatever had been stored there. Then I select the AIR band and access memories, starting at Page 1, Memory 1. There are only AIR frequencies stored there. I select the FM band and access the memories; nothing but FM stations stored there. Same thing with AM. Clearly, there are separate memory banks for each band.

So here’s the good news: the Skywave SSB does, indeed, have 400 memories, a 100-memory bank for each band: SW, AM, FM, AIR. Further, when you do an ATS search, the frequency “hits” are stored, starting at page 1 for that band. Therefore, if you do an ATS search on the SW band, the hits are stored in the memories for SW, and the memories that are stored for, say, AIR, are not overwritten. (And that is where I got it wrong.)

So, if you are traveling, you can do a search on local AM stations, local FM stations, SW stations, and local AIR stations, each will be stored in its own memory bank, starting at page 1, memory 1, for that band. Pretty neat.

In addition, I need to offer a clarification. I wrote:

“if you put the Skywave SSB in single sideband mode, it will scan the ham bands, automatically changing sidebands appropriately as it hops from ham band to ham band. Note: when you check the memories stored during an ATS ham band search, you may not find anything there, simply because ham transmissions come and go much more often than international broadcasters.”

All of that is true, but the Skywave does not store whether the frequency is USB or LSB. My bad; I should have noticed that.

Cheers, Jock

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Jock discovers the joys of ATS tuning with the C.Crane CC Skywave SSB

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott (KB2GOM), who shares the following guest post:


Really cool trick the CCrane Skywave SSB will do — the “radio butler”?

To paraphrase Ratty from Wind in the Willows: ” “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing–absolutely nothing–half so much worth doing as simply messing about with radios.”

That is precisely what I was doing . . . messing, simply messing about with the CCrane Skywave SSB.

Then I observed something. Just above the LIGHT button is some lettering: “ATS.” Not having taken notice of it before, I looked it up in the manual. It stands of Automatic Tuning System, and the manual says this about it:

“This feature programs all receivable stations in the AM, FM, Air and Shortwave bands to memory buttons. To use ATS, select your desired band: AM, FM, Air or Shortwave, and press and hold the ATS button for two seconds. The CCrane Skywave SSB will scan the entire band and automatically set all available stations in sequence 1-20. If more than stations are available, then the remaining stations will be preset to the next memory page, and so on.”

So I tried it; I punched in a shortwave frequency — 9250 — and pressed and held the ATS button for two seconds. The Skywave then muted itself and went to the bottom of the shortwave bands — 2300 — and started silently scanning through all of the international shortwave bands, hopping from one shortwave band to the next. Occasionally it would stop and silently store a frequency. After a while it stopped, unmuted, and began playing the very first memory that it stored. I checked the other memories that were stored and — sonofagun! — there were stations stored in each memory. Some of them were really faint, and I had to mess with single sideband and bandwidths to make them fully copyable, but they were there, automatically scanned and stored by the CCrane Skywave SSB. Obviously, you might want to repeat the ATS scan as shortwave propagation changes, say, from day to night.

Well, I thought, would it do it also for Air frequencies? Short answer: it certainly will. And it will do the same for AM, FM, and — get this — if you put the Skywave SSB in single sideband mode, it will scan the ham bands, automatically changing sidebands appropriately as it hops from ham band to ham band. Note: when you check the memories stored during an ATS ham band search, you may not find anything there, simply because ham transmissions come and go much more often than international broadcasters.

There is one downside to the ATS function. When the Skywave scans and stores stations, it does so starting at Page 1, Memory 1 of the memory system . . . always. So, if you scan the Shortwave frequencies and store frequencies they will be stored starting at Page 1, Memory 1, wiping out anything that you have already stored there. If you then use ATS on the Air band, it will then write over whatever you stored from the Shortwave frequencies. I wish there were a way for the user to designate at which page in the memory system ATS will begin storing frequencies so that the information stored starting at Page 1, Memory 1 is not constantly overwritten.

However, there is another trick the Skywave will do: if you have used ATS to scan and store Air frequencies in Page 1 of the memory system (which it does automatically), you can then press and hold the UP and DOWN buttons at the same time, the Skywave will then scan through the Air frequencies that are stored there. Further, there is a squelch function on the Skywave that works only on the Air frequencies. So, with a little persuasion (very little), the CCrane Skywave turns itself into a civilian air scanner.

The ATS function on the CCrane Skywave SSB is a bit like having a radio butler: “I say, Jeeves, find me what’s on the air this evening.” A short while later, Jeeves reports back: “Here you are, sir, I found 10 shortwave stations you might like to listen to.”

Frankly, I don’t know if other modern shortwave portable radios offer a similar function, but if you have a CCrane Skywave SSB, give the ATS function a try; it’s pretty slick.

— Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

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Jock designs a Horizontal Room Loop to cope with reception issues

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:


There’s a 50-foot antenna in this room. Can you spot it?

Got reception issues? An idea worth considering: the “Horizontal Room Loop.”

by Jock Elliott (KB2GOM)

When my radio room was in the front of the house (on the east side), it was easy to run a feedline to a large RF-hungry SWL dipole with various stubs and feeders.

Now, however, with my “shack” moved to the SW corner of the house, any attempt to mount an outdoor antenna of any significant length raised potential safety issues because of nearby electrical lines.

Monitoring VHF/UHF is no big deal because of high-performance scanner antennas. HF, however, presents challenges.

My main SWL receiver is a Satellit 800, which has the guts of a Drake R8 and also has a large telescoping vertical antenna. It works okay, but I wanted more signal. I had been looking at small loops and got some great recommendations on Radio Reference, but then I had a thought: what if I turned the 8′ x 12′ room into a giant horizontal passive loop?

Here’s a hint.

So I called a ham friend and ran the idea by him. “Sure,” he said, “give it a try.” He gave me 25 feet of 4-conductor phone wire. Before I could use it, I had to strip off the outer insulation so I could get at the four separate insulated wires inside. The better half helped. Once I had the four wires, I connected two of them together and ran the resultant 50-foot strand around the perimeter of the room by taping the wire to the top of window frames and hiding the wire on the top shelves of book cases. As a result, the horizontal room loop is near the ceiling, about 7 feet in the air, and the room itself is on the first floor.

With the loop in place, I hooked the ends to the clip-in terminals on the back of the Satellit 800.

There’s a switch on the back of the 800 that allows me to quickly compare the loop with the radio’s built-in vertical antenna. And . . . it works! It pulls in more signal than the vertical (as measured on the signal strength meter), but I have not noticed a dramatic reduction in noise. On some stations, the horizontal room loop brings the signal up to full scale, and then the sound is very agreeable indeed.

In all, I am pleased with the results.

For anyone who wants squeeze more performance out of their shortwave receiver, I can recommend giving the horizontal room loop a try. It’s not expensive; it’s relatively easy to do (and undo if you don’t like the results), and just might improve your shortwave reception.

If you are not blessed with a bunch of window frames on which you could tape the wire for your room loop, you’ll have to get creative, but with lightweight wire, you don’t need a massive support structure. Tape, map tacks, or even self-adhesive Velcro segments might work for putting your room loop in place.

I don’t claim that this is the “ultimate” SWL DX antenna, but it certainly improved my situation. Perhaps others have suggestions for improving it.

— Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

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