Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Rob Gray, who writes:
I recently returned back from a three-month trip in Africa (Namibia, South Africa, and Morocco) and had a couple of shortwave-related items that you might be interested in.
The rental car in Namibia had shortwave capabilities in the in-dash radio! The rental company was oblivious to the option when I mentioned it as a huge perk, I really don’t think they understood or cared. The radio was a Sony CDX-G1200U, and while I find this radio for sale in North America, I don’t see any mention of shortwave. I suspect shortwave is either an option for foreign markets (at least Namibia in this case), or possibly activated via a modification or firmware upgrade. Perhaps any shortwave enthusiasts travelling to other regions of the world might keep an eye out for this model.
There were two ‘bands’, low (SW1) included some of the tropical bands up to 41 meters, and high (SW2) covered 31 meters through about 19 MHz or so. Decent coverage for casual mobile listening.
I found the performance of the radio quite satisfactory in Namibia, the BBC came in very well in the mornings and evenings. There was a little more on shortwave during the day in English, Channel Africa, etc., but the BBC was by far the best offering for listening.
Another equipment data point from around the world, this time in Morocco.
Several vendors in the Medina’s sold various radios (of questionable quality). The photo [above] was taken in Tetouan (which isn’t a touristy area) in March, but I did note similar for sale in Fez.
Brilliant, Rob! It sounds like you’ve visited some gorgeous parts of the world in your travels. I imagine on the long stretches of rural roads in Namibia, you could enjoy a proper low-noise environment for shortwave listening as long as the car itself didn’t produce RFI!
Post readers: Have you driven a car recently that sported a shortwave radio capabilities? Please comment!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Cap Tux, who writes:
The Zastone ZT-D9000 radio has actually been out for a while and is a Dual Band Mobile (Triband with option), nothing fancy there and bears a striking resemblance to the Icom IC-2820H (clone?). Options include GPS, Bluetooth, 220Mhz and LW (The latter is really weird!).
What caught my eye is the 2.3-30 MHz Shortwave coverage, a quick search on YouTube turns up a video showing Shortwave working!
Yes, probably as wide as a barn door with no filtering except the 12kHz default but an extremely useful feature if you did need a dual band mobile in your jeep/car.
Two other noteworthy features are a dedicated RX BNC antenna socket and a built in FM Transmitter so you can listen to it on the FM Radio in your car/jeep, very cool. A bit like a pimped IC-2820H. Also has all the bells and whistles a Dual Bander should have,
A/B Band RX:
B Band RX:
153-279kHz (AM) (OPTION)
113-137MHz (Airband – AM)
222-225MHz (Type USA 200-260MHz) (OPTION)
Channel Steps: 1.5, 6, 6.25, 10, 12.5, 15, 20, 25, 50, 100kHz Frequency Stability: +-2.5ppm Repeater Shift: +-600kHz(144MHz), +-5MHz (430MHz) Emission Type: F1D, F2D, F3E Antenna Impedance: 50 ohms Supply Voltage: Nominal: 13.8VDC, Neg Gnd, Operating: 12-24V Neg Gnd Operating Temp: -40F to +-1400F(-20C to +-60C) RF power Output: UHF: 40W/25W/5W VHF:50W/25W/5W Case Size: (WxHxD) 6″ x 2.3″ x 1.3″ (Panel w/o knobs and connectors)
6″x6″x 1.8″ (Rear chassis w/o connectors) Weight: 3.7 lbs
RF Power Output: UHF: 40W/25W/5W, VHF: 50W/25W/5W
Modulation Type: Variable Reactance F1 D, F2D, F3E
Maximum Deviation: +- 5KHz
Spurious Emission: at least 60 dB below
Microphone Impedance: 2 k ohms
Sensitivity Radio Band:
5uV TYP for 10db SN (153-279 KHz, AM)
5UV TYP for 10 db SN (0.5-1.7 MHz, AM)
2uV TYP for 10db SN (203-30 MHz, AM)
2Uv TYP for 12db SINAD (64-108 MHz, WFM)
0.8 uV TYP for 10 db SN 9113-134 MHz, AM)
0.2 uV for 12db SINAD (136-174 MHz, FM)
0.2 uV TYP for 12db SINAD (200-260 MHz, FM)
0.2 uV for 12 db SINAD (400-470 MHz, FM)
0.2 uV TYP for 12 db SINAD (470-520 MHz, FM)
Squelch Sensitivity: 0.16 uV (144/430 MHz Band)
Selectivity: NFM, AM 12 KHz/30KHz(-6dB/-60dB)
6W@4 ohm for 10% THD (@13.8V) EXP SP
3W@ 8 ohm for 10% THD (@13.8V) Normal EXP SP/CH
AF Output Impedance: 4-16 ohm
Included in Purchase:
– Power Cables
– Remote Install Kit
– Software CD
– Programming Cable
– All Mounting Hardware
– 1 Year Warranty
– Barometric altimeter and thermometer
– LW Band
Very interesting, Cap! Thank you for sharing. Honestly, I have a very difficult time keeping up with the radio equipment being produced and sold out of China.
And you’re right: what a surprise to find HF coverage on a dual-band mobile radio and especially longwave coverage! Like you, I wouldn’t anticipate stellar performance. The price is certainly “bargain basement” at $210 US shipped.
SWLing Post readers: Has anyone purchased and tested the ZT-D9000? Please comment!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, for the following guest post:
“Car Shack” radio listening
My car is an unusual place to listen to shortwave radio but has interesting possibilities. Due to the obscene noise at my home QTH, I decided that I must try something away from this unfortunate situation. So I took my homemade 14-inch loop antenna and outfitted the appropriate ancillary equipment with DC power packs. My trusty Sony ICF-2010 is the radio “vehicle” to “drive” this experiment (LOL). And, seriously, this is a way to show the public that it is not that hard to have a portable radio listening setup. Believe me, if I can do this, anyone can!
The basic ingredients are pictured here with some variations (see text):
Wellbrook amplifier powered by DC power pack of 10 eneloop AA batteries
KIWA Broadcast band (mediumwave) inline filter
Palstar preselector (active antenna) plugged into car cigarette lighter
Sony 2010 connected to a second DC power pack
Sony ICD PX333 digital recorder
7 inch Samsung tablet and 4G MiFi device to do internet schedule lookups
Illustration SEQ “Illustration” 1: Car Shack in operation.
An important finding was that anything that has a cheap IC circuit to regulate and/or convert DC power can be extremely noisy! The pictured 16000 maH lithium brick would initially be quiet but after a while it would start spewing noise all over the bands. Power cycling it sometimes helped but I decided that it is too unpredictable. Also, converter cables that convert 5V to 12V for devices needing 12V also produce overwhelming amounts of noise. Even a small 5V USB converter plugged into the cigarette lighter makes a modest amount of ubiquitous noise. I am ditching the lithium power pack and converter cables and any cigarette lighter adapters!
So, the main radio power pack will use the internal Sony battery comparment consisting of nine 2700 maH NiMH AA’s inside three D-cell battery holders that can each hold 3 AA batteries in parallel. This boosts the capacity to around 8100 maH for a modest cost (I already have NiMH chargers and the 4.5V requirement is not too high for the batteries in question). Pictured are examples of a single D-cell AA holder of which I bought 12 and the silver-top Powerex 2700 maH AA’s from fleaBay. The total voltage is slightly low (3.6V) but the Sony 2010 still works at a slightly lower performance (received signals are slightly weaker). I run the Sony on Local sensitivity and crank up the Palstar active antenna to compensate.
In a further quest for clean, portable DC power without noisy IC chips, I have been researching lithium batteries and it is quite a large amount of work to sift through all the variables. The Palstar active antenna and the Wellbrook amplifier both use external connections of 12V, 2.1mm (+ tip) plugs. NiMH is not going to cut it, too many needed and getting too heavy. Amongst the variables are things like:
Using a proper charger and not leaving it unattended or it could burn down your house
Chinese fakes being sold by the zillions that look exactly like the real thing
Initial cost being higher than current NiMH
Avoiding 1.5V step down batteries with noisy step down converter built-in
Learning the new terminology for sizes: AA = 14500 = 14mm diameter & 50mm length
Learning the differences between type of lithium: Lithium, Li-ion, LiFePo4, IMR, etc.
The difference between protected vs. non-protected batteries
How to avoid discharging the batteries too much which could render them completely useless (not just usage but also NON-usage as well)
How to physically handle Lithium batteries to avoid shock and temperature extremes
Learning how to compare maH’s of lithium to NiMH batteries
Finding out that most top rated 14500 Li-ion batteries are too long to fit into AA battery holders without risking damage to the protection PCB mounted at the bottom of the battery
and the list goes on and on…..
Here are some of the web pages I read to try to understand this technology:
So, to cut to the chase, I have decided to order this one from XTARDirect because:
I can order from a USA distributor who orders from the factory in Shenzen China
The price is very reasonable for “protected” lithium ion batteries
They actually should fit into typical AA battery holders without damaging it
Illustration SEQ “Illustration” 2 XTAR 14500 800 maH Li-ion
They are not the highest rated in terms of capacity, load drain, amp surge ability, etc., but they seem to have enough positive statements from users that indicate it gets the job done. Since I don’t have the lithiums yet, I am using some temporary 10-cell AA holders with good old Eneloops – good enough for now. And I am buying this discontinued charger at a discount to recharge lithiums:
Illustration SEQ “Illustration” 3: Nitecore i4 original version
I will make two power packs made from these items pictured. The wire is fragile so I super glue the insulation directly to the DC power plug housing (avoiding getting any glue onto the bare wire inserted at the back). I will use three sets of lithiums (9 batteries) plus one set of Eneloop Pro’s (3 batteries) per power pack in the aforementioned parallel AA holders.
Illustration SEQ “Illustration” 6: 2.1mm x 5.5mm DC power plug.
Other items of note: The umbrella stand is optional since I found I like to move the antenna around and even tilt it to get slightly better directional signal. More importantly, I found that if I cut the Sony 2010 sensitivity from DX to Local, and then crank the Palstar preselector’s amplifier, I get a cleaner sound with less background noise. Also, the KIWA mediumwave filter is essential due to overloading.
One of my favorite stations is Radio Educacion (XEPPM) on 6185 kHz. A 1 kW station near the foot of Vulcan de Guadalupe in Mexico City, it is so weak that I almost never hear it and their wonderful selection of music representative of regional & cultural heritage. It is also 1675 miles distant according to Google Earth. Now, if I want to bother, I can go out and listen in my car at locations less noisy than home. So far, the safest places have been the parking deck at work (only two stories high) and the local grocery store parking lot. What I would really like is a very tall parking deck whose owners let me stay up on top long into the evening without harrassment (not sure I want to risk security personnel questioning me about the strange contraption and equipment – paranoia reigns these days)!
Sample of XEPPM, moderately good propagation from the work location:
Unexpected reception happens with this experiment. I mounted the antenna in the back, away from the engine and against the rear side window. Was traversing the local restaurant drive-through lane to get a hot dog, and turning the corner next to the long empty brick wall, the reception became dramatically stronger and clearer! Apparently, the brick wall blocked some interference as well as enhanced the signal coming from the Northeast. You can hear the effect starting at 25 seconds into the recording of RRI:
Also, not recorded from a previous evening at the grocery store location, 6135 kHz Radio Santa Cruz in central Bolivia, a 10 kW station playing Spanish rock music and a clear ID near the top of the hour.
More experiments to do, like
Mount the antenna as high I as dare with PVC pipe (too cold out now and I would rather not open any windows but I am itching to mount the umbrella stand and antenna on a 3 foot PVC pipe on the roof of the car, the increase in received signal strength is significant)
A bigger backpack to carry all this equipment away from the car
If Elon Musk has his way and builds the Gigafactory (and competitors follow suit), there could be many more experiments with lithium type batteries in the future
Perhaps get an SDR and cheap laptop computer to replace the Sony radio
PS: I found out that the three-AA battery holders do not make contact at the (+) tip of the XTAR lithium batteries I purchased. I just gently lifted up the contact inside the battery holder to allow it to reach the battery tip, that’s all that is needed. Whatever you do, do not put an extra piece of metal inside the battery holders! I accidentally damaged the outside skin of two of the batteries with a common piece of copper metal and the batteries immediately started to get HOT. I took them out as soon as I could and the batteries cooled down. So, don’t use any extra metal surface inside the battery holders; lithium batteries do not tolerate any kind of short circuit!
Cheers from Noizey Illinoiz,
Thank so much, Tom, for sharing your experiences and your ongoing experiments! Lately, I’ve been doing NPOTA activations with a portable loop antenna on top of my vehicle. I completely understand what you mean about getting strange looks from passers-by! We look forward to hearing about your future experiments fighting RFI.
I must admit: it’s mighty fun to be able to listen to shortwave broadcasters through my vehicle’s audio system.
Last week, the BST-1 saved my sanity, too. You see, I was in a rush to get to a morning appointment in town when Murphy’s Law stopped me dead in my tracks!
A construction crew began resurfacing a two mile (unavoidable) stretch of asphalt road on my route. As the road crew set up their gear, I was forced to wait a full 20 minutes (!!!!) before being allowed to pass.
Fortunately, I remembered that I had the BST-1 hooked up in the car. I tuned to 9580 kHz and there was Radio Australia. Somehow, hearing my staple broadcaster soothed my nerves. I accepted that I would be late for my appointment and simply enjoyed the moment. In your face, Murphy–!!!!
On the topic of shortwave radios in automobiles, SWLing Post reader, Chris, writes:
“Seven years ago, I purchased a Sony Car Stereo with a Shortwave receiver from the Shortwave Store in Canada. It works remarkably well especially on those summer trips to Northern Wisconsin and Michigan when I can get away from the city noise. Last summer while driving from Chicago to Copper Harbor Michigan (a 10 hour drive) I listened to Radio Australia, Radio New Zealand, Radio Havana Cuba, Radio Exterior Espana and the BBC (Ascension). It certainly made a long drive more enjoyable.
Below is a video I took last night of a relatively weak signal of Radio Exterior Espana (due to local electrical noise and weather) then followed by a nice strong signal of Radio Romania. The signals were recorded next to Lake Michigan in Chicago.
If you can’t afford a BMW with a Shortwave receiver or you don’t have an appetite for a Smart Car you can always install a receiver easily found for sale on Ebay.”
Of course, the receiver is only as good as its antenna. Chris admits that, “the [radio] installation was a hassle and I had to install an aerial whip antenna (which required drilling).” Obviously, your investment in the whip antenna is paying off, Chris. I’m impressed.
SWLing Post reader, Bob, has a relative who works for BMW in the United States. Recently, Bob learned that some models of BMWs shipped to South Africa have a shortwave radio option. He followed up with this photo of the radio display [see above].
Wow, what a fab idea! Not only would I love to have a factory-installed shortwave radio in my car, but I must admit that I love the simple design of this digital radio dial: elegant, clean, and just a tad retro and sci-fi, all at once.
Now if I could simply afford the BMW…Sigh!
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