Tag Archives: MFJ-1886

Saturday morning fun: “fat” MW DXing with the MFJ-1886

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

It was a reader, Mario Filippi, who set me on this path. He posted a comment that said, in part: “An interesting place to DX would be the segment between 1500 – 1590 kc’s where there are a number of news stations, one being federal news on 1500.”

Huh, I thought, federal news? I wonder if I can hear that. So I hooked up the MFJ 1886 Receive Loop Antenna to my Grundig Satellit 800 receiver and tuned to 1500. With the 800’s whip antenna, I heard mostly static; switching to the 50-foot indoor room loop, pretty much the same; same thing with the 1886 with the amplifier turned off. But turn the 1886’s amplifier on, and it was like getting slammed against the wall by the schoolyard bully: LISTEN TO ME! A big, fat, S9 signal, sounding like WGY 810 just a few miles from me. Wow, I thought, this loop can really pull out a signal.

A little research revealed, as nearly as I can tell, that Federal News 1500 is in Washington, DC, over 300 miles from me. Over the next few days I would occasionally check on Federal News 1500 using the 1886 loop, and typically it was loud and clear here in Troy, NY.

Hidden behind a curtain, the 3-foot aluminum loop of the MFJ 1886 works well for MW DXing.

Early this morning, Jan. 28, 2023, a thought crept into my brain: how many big, fat, MW signals could I detect with the combo of the Satellite 800 and the MFJ 1886 loop antenna? (Bear in mind that my 1886 rests flat against a window and is NOT rotatable in its current configuration.) Here’s the log, with station IDs when I could get them.

Time                Frequency                   Station

1100Z              1520                            WWKB Buffalo

1102Z              1530                            Milwaukee? Sports, Australian open

1106Z              1540                            CHIN Toronto, old time radio programs

1112Z              1560                            religious music

1115Z              1660                            orchestral music, Strauss waltzes

1118Z              540                              middle eastern music

1121Z              660                              WFAN, NYC

1124Z              700                              WLW, Cincinnati

1127Z              710                              WOR, the Voice of New York

1129Z              730                              French language, Canada mentioned

1132Z              750                              WSB, Atlanta

1134Z              770                              WABC, NYC

1135Z              790                              ortho doctor show

1138Z              860                              French language, Canada mentioned

1140Z              880                              WCBS, NYC

1142Z              1010                            WINS, NYC

1144Z              1020                            Talk

1146Z              1030                            WBZ, Boston

1148Z              1050                            WEPN, ESPN radio, New York

1149Z              1060                            KYW, Philadelphia, PA

1153Z              1090                            WBAL, Baltimore

1154Z              1110                            WBT Charlotte, NC

Bottom line: it was immense fun, tuning around for “fat” MW stations in the early AM. Periodically I checked the other antennas as I traversed the band, but universally the MFJ 1886 was better at pulling them in.

Fat station DX? You bet! Try it; you’ll like it!

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A little daytime Medium Wave DXing . . .

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Let’s get one thing clear from the start: it’s all Ken Reitz’s fault. When the search for the guilty begins, the finger should point squarely at Mr. Reitz.

Who is Ken Reitz? He is the Managing Editor and Publisher of The Spectrum Monitor.  

The Spectrum Monitor is a radio hobbyist magazine available only in PDF format and can be read on any device capable of opening a PDF file. It covers virtually aspect of the radio hobby, and you can find it here: https://www.thespectrummonitor.com/ I am a subscriber, and I can heartily recommend it without reservation.

So what is it that Mr. Reitz did that set me off? Short answer: he wrote a really good article entitled “AM DX Antennas: Long Wires and Loops Big and Small.” In it, he mentioned that he could hear, from his location in Virginia, WCBS on 880 in New York City, some 300 miles away. He also mentioned that he could hear, during daylight hours, WGY in Schenectady, NY, about 400 miles distant.

WGY is a local station for me in Troy, NY, but I wondered: Could I hear WCBS in New York City? That’s nearly 150 miles from me. Hmmm.

So I started firing up various radios and radio/antenna combinations on 880 kHz. I tried my Icom IC706 MkIIIG ham transceiver, hooked to the 45-foot indoor end-fed antenna. Nothing heard.

Next, my Grundig Satellit 800 connected to its 4-foot whip antenna. I could hear WCBS barely, but with a horrible buzzing noise. Switching the Satellit 800 to the horizontal room loop antenna I could hear WCBS better, but the noise was really, really nasty.

One way to preserve domestic tranquility is to hide the MFJ Loop behind a curtain!

Then I connected the MFJ 1886 Receive Loop Antenna. Tah-dah! I could hear WCBS just fine, with some noise in the background, but “armchair copy.” The MFJ loop made a huge difference in the quality and strength of the signal. I also tried the MFJ loop with another radio I have under test (its identity to be revealed in the future) and found, while I couldn’t hear WCBS at all with the radio’s internal antenna, the 1886 made an enormous difference, pulling out a fully copyable signal with noise in the background.

Finally, I tried a couple of my portables. My Tecsun 880 could hear WCBS, but the noise level was high enough to be annoying. Finally, I tried my CCrane Skywave SSB. The Skywave did a better job of pulling the signal out of the noise. I got the same result with the CCrane Skywave SSB2. Both Skywaves were using their internal ferrite antennas. Impressive.

Bottom line, for this very small foray into daytime medium wave DXing, the MFJ-1886 Receive Loop Antenna was a powerful and useful tool, one I can easily recommend. Second, when it comes to portables, the CCrane Skywave SSB (either model) continues to show that it is “The Little Radio That Could.”

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Sometimes the right tools lead to agreeable results

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Listening to the HF ham bands can be a lot of fun. All you need is a shortwave receiver capable of receiving single sideband (SSB) transmissions and a chart of the amateur bands. You can find downloadable PDF charts of the United States Amateur Radio Band Plan here or a detailed explanation of the band plan here.

Tuning around to hear what people are talking about can be enlightening.  You might hear hams chatting about ham radio equipment, house repair projects, religious discussions, news and views or the state of the country, disaster response communications, or almost anything.

Recently I was tuning through the 80 meter ham band when, at 3605 LSB, I encountered a group having a conversation. I couldn’t tell if this group had a formal “Net” name, but I did get the impression that they met regularly in the early morning on that frequency, so I made a note to revisit the frequency.

Yesterday, I did so. With the horizontal room loop hooked to my Grundig Satellit 800, all I could hear was noise. The same with the whip antenna on the Satellit 800.

But when I engaged the MFJ 1886 loop antenna I could clearly hear the group talking above the noise . . . but the noise was still pretty bad. So I tried bringing the MFJ 1045C active preselector online, to no avail. The 1045C did not make the conversation easier to hear.

The noise was like a hum, not a nice gentle hum like a bumble bee flying by; no this was a nasty, raspy hum, like a circular saw trying to get purchase on a particularly tough piece of wood. Listening to the chat group on 80 meters with that noise under it would be tiring on the ears.

Soooo, what to do? Then I plugged in the BHI Compact In-line Noise Eliminating Module into the headphone socket of the Satellit 800 and then plug headphones into the BHI device.

Turning on the BHI module, I adjusted the level of noise reduction, and – tah dah! – the noise just melted away. I could hear the conversation clearly, and all that was left of the noise was the trickling water sound that is an artifact of the noise reduction algorithm.

Sometimes, the right gear just works.

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Testing the MFJ-1886 Receive Loop Antenna

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Hang out any place online where shortwave listeners gather, and you won’t have to wait long before you hear something like this: “I recently moved to a condo, apartment, or house where there is a home-owners association. Listening conditions are pretty rotten, and I cannot string up outdoor antennas because of physical constraints or HOA rules . . . help!”

Ever since I got back into SWLing nearly two years ago, I have faced similar issues, as I explained here. During that time, I have frequently read that amplified small loop antennas work pretty darn well, and that has piqued my curiosity.

A couple of days ago, the good folks at MFJ (an SWLing.com sponsor) sent me their MFJ-1886 receiving loop antenna. Weighing just 2.5 pounds, the 1886 is a 36-inch-diameter loop of aircraft-grade with an amplifier attached in a weatherproof enclosure. Designed for receiving only, it covers .5 to 30 MHz.

The fit and finish of the 1886 is, in my opinion, great. Looking at the seamless loop and the molded enclosure for the amplifier, I have no reason to doubt what MFJ has to say about it: the MFJ-1886 is weather-sealed, very ruggedly constructed, and mechanically stable under all weather conditions. In fact, you can mount it permanently on any inexpensive TV rotor and direct it from the comfort of your shack . . . it also installs easily on a tripod or handheld mast for portable use.

From MFJ’s manual for the 1886 loop.

Important: the 1886 loop is a directional antenna. If you are looking through the open area in the middle of the loop (the flat side, if you will), you are looking in the direction in which the antenna tends to null out signals . . . in both directions. If you are sighting along the edge of the loop (at right angles to the flat side), that is the direction in which the antenna produces the most gain. As a result, you will get the most utility out of the 1886 if you can mount it in such a way that you can rotate it to maximize gain and/or null out noise or interfering signals as needed.

Since my mission was to test the 1886 indoors, I wrapped some parachute cord around the loop and hung it from a screw attached to the top of a window frame. Obviously, I am not getting the most from the 1886 by keeping it in a fixed position (in fact, I was getting maximum gain to the northeast and the southwest), but I did experiment with the antenna hanging from the ceiling so that it could rotate, and I did, indeed, find that signal strength rose and fell as the antenna changed position.

To see how the 1886 performed, I used my Grundig Satellit 800 as a test bed. The Satellit 800 has three different antenna inputs: a wire input, to which I attached the 50-foot horizontal room loop (an indoor antenna which runs around the perimeter of my radio room at about seven feet in the air); a coax input, to which I attached the MFJ 1886 loop, and the four-foot whip antenna that is built into the Satellit 800. By reaching around the back of the radio and sliding the antenna selection switch, I could easily change from one antenna to another and compare the 1886 loop with the whip and the horizontal room loop at various frequencies and settings.

Setting up the 1886 loop is super easy. First, attach a length of coax to bottom of the amplifier box. (The 1886 uses SO-239 connectors.) Attach that coax to the top of the Bias Tee. The Bias Tee supplies power to the amplifier mounted on the loop using the coax and without introducing noise. Run another piece of coax from the bottom of the Bias Tee to the receiver, and, finally, plug the power supply into the Bias Tee and the house power where you are using the antenna.

Operating the 1886 is even easier. To hear the signal from the loop without amplification, leave the Bias Tee switch in the OFF position. To hear the signal with amplification, just slide the switch to the ON position. That’s all there is to it. There are no fussy adjustments to make.

So how did the 1886 loop perform? Very well, thank you. In all cases, it clearly outperformed the Satellit 800’s whip antenna, providing more signal with less noise. When pitted against the 50-foot horizontal room loop wire antenna, the 1886 typically delivered more signal and less noise. In a few instances, the horizontal room loop was equal to the 1886 loop in terms of signal strength and low noise. In no cases, did the horizontal room loop outperform the 1886 loop.

Tuning around a bit, I found myself listening to a ham from Spain working DX on the 15 meter band. A little further up the band, a ham from central Bulgaria was dealing with a pile-up of U.S. hams trying to reach him. Of the three antennas options I had on the Satellit 800, the 1886 loop offered the most pleasant listening with more signal, less noise.

Then I tried the 1886 with a couple of my portable shortwave receivers. The Bulgarian ham was still on the air and was marginal on one portable and not hearable at all on the other on their native whip antennas.  With the 1886 loop connected, however, the Bulgarian was clear and easy to hear. And – thanks to a ham friend who whipped up an additional coax “jumper” with amazing speed – I tried the 1886 loop with the MFJ 1045C active preselector and found the two made a very potent combo for pulling signals out of the mud.

So, would I recommend the MFJ 1886 Receiving Loop for a would-be HF listener who lives in a condo, apartment, or house with antenna woes? Absolutely . . . even if you have to hang it flat in front of a window. And if you can find a way to mount it so that it can be rotated, even better. (Someday, I hope to try the 1886 outside mounted on an inexpensive TV rotator. For now, there simply isn’t room in my cramped radio space.)

Of course, the performance at your location will depend on the conditions where you live. Nevertheless, I found the MFJ 1886 Receiving Loop to be easy to set up, easy to use, and effective.

Click here to check out the MFJ-1886 Receiving Magnet Loop Antenna at MFJ.

Suggestions for MFJ: offer a kit or accessory that would be make it easy to set the 1886 on a desk or table. Likewise a kit or accessory that would facilitate using the 1886 on a camera tripod seems like a good idea.

Additional note: The SWLing forum is a great place for discussing all things related to shortwave listening.

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Frank recommends the MFJ-1886 magnetic loop antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Frank M. Howell, who left the following comment on our indoor antenna post yesterday:

You omitted the MFJ Receive Loop….it outperforms my Wellbrook ALS-1530+. Very competitive price point!

See http://www.mfjenterprises.com/Product.php?productid=MFJ-1886.

Thanks for pointing this out, Frank.  You’re right in that I had forgotten about the MFJ receive only loop antenna. It’s a fairly new product in their (massive!) catalog of radio products.

I’m very curious if any other SWLing Post readers have experience with the MFJ-1886 antenna.  I’d love a review.

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