Tag Archives: Recordings

Matt’s Rooftop Receiver Shootout: Round Two!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Matt Blaze, for the following guest post:


Matt’s Rooftop Receiver Shootout, Round Two.

by Matt Blaze

You may recall that back in April, I dragged eight of my favorite receivers up to the roof, hooked them up to a portable antenna, and compared their abilities to demodulate various signals at the same time. For the most part, the similarities between radios were more striking than their differences. I hinted that there’d be a second installment to come, including more receivers and more challenging signals, to further expose and highlight the practical real-world performance differences between the radios we use.

So, as promised, here we are with Round Two of my Rooftop Receiver Shootout.

This time around, I used approximately the same setup, but with a total of fifteen different radios. And once again, I took advantage of nice weather and brought a multitude of receivers, recording gear, cables, and an antenna up to my roof to listen to and record shortwave signals under the open sky.

Our fifteen receivers included everything from “dream radios” from the 1980’s to current-production desktop models to less expensive modern portables to high-performance bench-top lab measurement gear. I tried to curate samples of a wide range of radios you may be familiar with as well as some you probably aren’t.

The lineup consisted of:

  • Icom R-8600, a current production “DC to Daylight” (or up to 3 GHz, at least) general coverage communications receiver, with highly regarded shortwave performance.
  • AOR AR-ONE, another DC to 3 GHz general coverage radio, less well known due to the high price and limited US availability. Excellent performer, but a counterintuitive and awkward (menu-driven) user interface is less than ideal for shortwave, in my opinion.
  • Reuter RDR Pocket, a very cute, if virtually impossible to get in the US, small production, high performance SDR-based shortwave portable receiver. It’s got an excellent spectrum display and packs near desktop performance into a surprisingly small package.
  • AOR 7030Plus, an extremely well regarded mobile/desktop HF receiver from the late 90’s. Digital but retaining some important analog-era features like mechanical filters. Designed and (mostly) built in the UK, it’s got a quirky menu-driven user interface but is a lot of fun once you get used to it.
  • Drake R8B, the last of the much-beloved Drake receivers. Probably the chief competitor to the 7030+.
  • Drake R7A, an excellent analog communications receiver (but with a digital VFO) from the early 80’s. It still outperforms even many current radios.
  • Sony ICF-6800W, a top of the line “boom box”-style consumer receiver from the early 80’s. Great radio, but hard to use on SSB, as we saw in Round One.
  • Panasonic RF-4900, the main competition for the Sony. Boat-anchor form factor, but (improbably) can run on internal D-cell batteries. Generally impressive performer on AM, but, like the Sony 6800, difficult to tune on SSB.

You may remember the above radios from Round One back in April. The new radios this time were:

  • Tecsun 501x, a larger-format LW/MW/HF/FM portable released last year. As noted below, it’s a generally good performer, but regrettably susceptible to intermod when connected to a wideband external antenna (as we’ll see in Part One).
  • Tecsun PL-990x, a small-format portable (updating the PL880), with many of the same features as the 501x. Like the H501x, good performance as a stand-alone radio, but disappointing susceptibility to intermod when fed with an external antenna.
  • Sangean ATS-909x, a recent LW/MW/HF/FM portable with a good reputation as well as a few quirks, such as only relatively narrow IF bandwidth choices on HF. Excellent performance on an external antenna.
  • Sangean ATS-909×2, an updated, current production version of the ATS-909x that adds air band and a few performance improvements. Overall excellent, though I would prefer an addition wider IF bandwidth choice. My go-to travel receiver if I don’t want to take the Reuter Pocket.
  • Sony ICF-7600GR, a small-format digital LW/MW/SW/FM portable introduced in 2001 and the last of the Sony shortwave receivers. Showing its age, but still competitive in performance.
  • Belka DX, the smallest radio in our lineup, made in Belarus. You’ll either love or hate the minimalist interface (one knob and four buttons). If you’re going to secretly copy numbers stations in your covert spy lair, this is a good radio to use. Can be difficult to obtain right now due to sanctions.
  • Finally, a bit of a ringer: the Narda Signal Shark 3310, a high performance SDR-based 8.5 GHz RF spectrum and signal analyzer. As with most test equipment like this, demodulation (especially of HF modes) is a bit of an afterthought. But it has an excellent front end and dynamic range, intended for identifying, extracting, and analyzing weak signals even in the presence of strong interference. Not cheap, but it’s intended as measurement-grade lab equipment, not consumer gear. Demodulated audio is noticeably delayed (several hundred ms) compared with other receivers due to the multi-stage DSP signal path.


The antenna was my portable “signal sweeper” Wellbrook FLX-1530 on a rotatable tripod, using a power splitter and a pair of Stridsberg Engineering 8-port HF distribution amplifiers to feed the fifteen radios. So every radio was getting pretty close to exactly the same signal at its RF input. Continue reading

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Carlos’ Shortwave Art and Recording of the BBC World Service

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and noted political cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, who shares his radio log art of a BBC World Service broadcast to Ukraine and Russia in English.


Carlos notes:

BBC, 5875 kHz, listened in Porto Alegre, Brazil, March 19, 2022, 21h32 (UTC).

Part of news bulletin: Russian missiles hit military base in Ukraine, killing soldiers.

BBC announced it’s broadcasting news to war-ravaged Ukraine and parts of Russia…in English!

Click here to listen via YouTube.

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Carlos’ Shortwave Art and Recordings of the Voice of Korea (January 28, 2022)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and noted political cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, who shares two shortwave reception illustrations and recordings of The Voice of Korea:


VOK: January 28, 2022 at 22:17 UTC

Carlos notes:

Voice of Korea, 9650 kHz, broadcasting in Spanish from Kujang, North Korea.
From the news bulletin, the North Korean government announces two more missile tests, which took place on January 25 and 27.

Click here to view on YouTube.

VOK: January 28, 2022 at 22:22 UTC

Carlos notes:

Voice of Korea, 9650 kHz, broadcasting in Spanish from Kujang, North Korea.
At the end of the news bulletin, the North Korean government accuses Japan of promoting a policy of aggression and territorial expansionism by sending a combat ship to the Gulf of Aden to fight Somali pirates.
Signal captured in Porto Alegre, 01/28/2022, 19:22, local time.

Click here to view on YouTube.

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Carlos’ Shortwave Art and Recordings of the Voice of Korea (January 15 & 18, 2022)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and political cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, who shares two shortwave reception illustrations and recordings of The Voice of Korea:


VOK: January 15, 2022

Carlos notes:

Voice of Korea, 11910 kHz, broadcasting in English from Kujang, North Korea.
Final part of the news bulletin, January 14, 2022 saw the launch of another North Korean ballistic missile, this time transported by rail.

Click here to listen on YouTube.

VOK: January 18, 2022

Carlos notes:

Voice of Korea, 9650 kHz, broadcasting in Japanese from Kujang, North Korea.

Final excerpt of the newsletter, January 17 saw another North Korean ballistic missile launch.

Signal captured in Rio de Janeiro, 01/18/2022, 05:08, local time.

Click here to view on YouTube.

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1933 Aluminum disc recordings from a DXer in England

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark (AE2EA) with the AWA, who writes:

Your loyal followers might be interested in this video of airchecks
recorded on aluminum discs in England of US broadcast stations in late
1933, from the Antique Wireless Museum.

From the AWA description:

These audio clips were recorded on aluminum discs using more of an embossing than cutting action. Reading an AWA Facebook post that the AWA doesn’t have the equipment or experience to digitize the very fragile audio information on these discs, radiodave78@aol.com volunteered to do so. He did a great job is highly recommended for your consideration as a service for archival digitization and restoration.

The discs were in Peter R. Testan’s collection because they included recordings of station WBBC in Brooklyn, NY that his dad, Peter J, started. As well as being a broadcast owner and engineer, Peter J. Testan was also a ham operator. Pictures of his ham shack were featured in a recent issue of the AWA Journal.

While the calls are identifiable, the other programming in these recordings is difficult to listen to. The Creative Director of a New York City radio station remarked after listening: “”It’s so funny because I have DXers sending me EXACTLY the same quality audio as on these discs. Nothing has changed in nearly 100 years!!!”

The audio quality in this video has been enhanced from the original aluminum disc recordings through the use of bandpass filtering, noise reduction and compression, with the goal of removing some of the artifacts of the recording process.

The Wikipedia entry for aluminum discs is pretty succinct: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminum_disc

If you enjoyed this video, consider becoming a member of the Antique Wireless Association at https://antiquewireless.org/homepage/membership/

Absolutely mazing! Thank you so much for sharing this, Mark!

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“Alfons and the Magic Christmas Tree” read by Clayton Howard on HCJB DX Patry Line in December 1974

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Rawdon, who shares the following:

[This is] a recording of a story featured on HCJB’s DX Party Line hosted by Clayton Howard. As far as I remember it was recorded in December 1974. It’s a short story from SPEEDX about the reception of Tristan Da Cunha and St Helena.

SPEEDX ran from 1971 until a declining membership forced its closure in 1995 archived copies of its monthly bulletin can be found here: https://worldradiohistory.com/Speedx.htm
Happy Christmas.

Wow! What a timely contribution! Thank you, Paul and Merry Christmas!

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Studio Recording of the KMTS Winter Test Transmission on December 17, 2020

If you missed the KMTS (or is that KTMS?) test broadcast on the 17th of December 2020, you’re in luck. I’ve just discovered a studio recording of the entire broadcast on Soundcloud, via a Post reader tip.

I’ve embedded a Soundcloud audio player below, but you can also listen via Soundcloud:

I’ll admit that this broadcast had a lot of listeners scratching their heads–a bit of a mystery. Reminded me, to some degree, of the Boards Of Canada pirate radio broadcasts some years ago, and the mystery surrounding a BoC album release. Also reminded me on one of my all-time favorite pirate radio stations: Radio Strange Outpost. But, of course, this wasn’t a pirate station.

I know this: I absolutely LOVE the KMTS test broadcast! What fun! Kudos to the producer (or producers)! I’ll add this to the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive. If anyone was able to make a full off-air recording of the broadcast, please contact me and I’ll add that along with the studio recording.

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