Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mad Radio DXer, who writes:
I want to let you & your readers know of a Tecsun PL-330 trick that I saw mentioned in the comments section of your blog some time ago which does not seem to have a lot of awareness. This is for using the telescopic antenna for the LW & MW bands, & it works for the 3305 version of the PL-330 which I understand is the export version. The original comment I saw said this also works for the Chinese version of the PL-330, before firmware 3305.
It is very easy to do & instructions are the following…
1. Turn on the radio.
2. Select either the MW or LW band.
3. Press the number 3 key down for a few seconds, until the display shows “CH-S”.
This means the MW & LW bands can now be received with the telescopic antenna.
4. To use the ferrite bar again, press the number 3 key until “CH-A” appears on screen.
This reminds me of the trick used for the Degen DE1103 PLL version which allows reception of the telescopic antenna for the MW band. However, in my opinion this is much easier to use on the PL-330 than the DE1103 PLL which could be very fiddly. Also this trick is most effective on the LW band, as I find Chinese portables are usually very weak on this part of the band which is good news for LW DXers. I hope you & everyone reading find this trick very useful & that it works.
The Mission RGO One transceiver is one model being evaluated for a review in The Spectrum Monitor.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Pete, who writes:
Thomas, I’m curious what radios you have in the shack now. I see lots of posts about various radios, but I wonder what’s in your personal collection and what’s being evaluated. You know what they say…”inquiring minds” and all that! If you don’t mind I for one would love to see even a basic list of your rigs.
Thanks for your question, Pete. Your’re right–I don’t really have an inventory listed here on the SWLing Post. In truth, my radio collection is pretty dynamic–radios come in and go out a lot due to testing, evaluations and reviews.
Here’s what’s in the shack at present. I’ll start with ones currently in my personal collection:
There are too many to list! (Ha ha!) In general, I keep any portable radio I believe represents the best in its price class. I rotate using and travelling with each radio as best I can, but honestly keep them in the shack for any new reviews as I’m always in need of comparison radios. Here are some of the portables I believe I reach for most often (in no particular order):
C.Crane CC Skywave
C.Crane CC Skywave SSB
I also have a number of Handie Talkies, vintage solid-state portables, mobile radios and kit/homebrew radios and accessories like many radio enthusiasts.
This may seem like a lot of radios, but I have friends with collections that outnumber mine by orders of magnitude. In truth, if I didn’t evaluate and review radios, I’d have a much, much smaller collection because there’d be no need to keep reference radios on hand. I rely on comp models, however, to accurately gauge a radios performance when matched against a similar or “benchmark” model.
In terms of shortwave (ESD) services, here’s the relevant section from the Memorandum:
B) NON-ESSENTIAL RADIO SERVICES
The following non-essential radio services may be suspended with immediate effect during the lock-down
5) All ESD services
6) All transmitters dedicated to ESD
7) Pure DRM mode operations
a. DRM transmitters may be operated on analogue / simulcast mode to relay the National News Service subject to local circumstances and conditions
8) Stations with a 3rd FM channel may relay audio of DD News or DD India subject to feasibility
On the WRTH Facebook group, Sanjay Sutradhar, did note one shortwave broadcast still in service:
It appears 9380 kHz from Aligarh is radiating AIR Vividh Bharti services, may be on a truncated wattage. 8am & 8.30pm news is extended to one hour dedicated to Covid-19 news in-country and world-wide and developments but it is the common broadcast carried out in-country on all bands, at 1.45 UTC
Mark Fahey asks:
“I wonder if they will ever bring AIR’s External Service back–?”
If AIR’s shortwave service is closed for an extended period of time–recognizing they deem it “non-essential”–I wouldn’t be surprised if they made deep cuts or keep it closed. Let’s hope for the best outcome, though.
If you use the internet to listen to streaming audio and podcasts, you could be forgiven for assuming there’s no need for shortwave radio any more. It seems many broadcasters appear to agree, with stations dropping their shortwave services year after year.
But not so fast. Shortwave’s not dead, say its proponents. Rather, it’s in a state of transformation. Not only does it still provide a vital service for the many millions of individuals worldwide who don’t have access to the internet, but this medium also has a certain ‘magic’ which, we discovered, is very hard for its fans to explain.
In this entertaining, full-length feature, Gavin Shoebridge asked shortwave listeners from across the globe to explain why they still use the service, why they don’t ‘go digital’, and where they think shortwave will be in the coming years.
I’m always tinkering, experimenting…trying different antennas and set ups and what not. But, the downside is, I don’t have the patience or a lot of technical skills to hand build stuff, so I have to buy it pre-made.
Like most, I don’t like throwing my money at a crap product. I have found two different folks who make some quality stuff that I wanted to share with the rest of you. I make ABSOLUTELY ZERO $$ from referring anyone to these two folks, but since quality products, good customer service and sometimes, customization are hard to come by, I wanted to share these.
User “lowbander” on eBay makes longwires and dipoles. They come in stock 80 feet lengths with a 9:1 balun and a way to shunt common mode noise to ground. And unlike many longwires/dipoles, lowbanders products come with quality belden coax as well. So you order from him. you’re all set to plug and play
His dipoles and longwires range from $49 to $59, I do believe. Do you need a custom length? Want something shorter or longer then 80 feet? Send him an Ebay message and he’ll take care of you.
Do you need something other then the stock PL259 connector on your cable HE an likely help with that, let him know!
My next find is Craig at K1CRA.COM. It’s mainly a store geared towards ham operators, but he also has a service useful to DX’ers.
He sells RG58 cable for 25 cents a foot, that’s right. 25 cents a foot. It’s the cheapest I’ve found anywhere. For those of us needing cable for our antennas going to our radios, this is a good option. For $8, he can put pl259 connectors on each end. Need something other then PL259’s? Put an order through and add comments on what connections you need and he can do that…I’ve had him do PL259s, 1/8th” (3.5mm) headphone jack types and BNC male connectors on cable for me
Select how many feet you want by changing the quantity.. say you want 25 feet? Make the quantity 25. The option to add the connectors is a bit down the page, with a checkbox.
Both lowbander on eBay and Craig at K1CRA ship via USPS priority mail. I had lowbander send me a package from Kansas City on a Friday and I had it here in Alaska on a Tuesday!
I have probably close to $500 worth of Lowbanders antennas and Around $150 worth of product from K1CRA.com stuff
I live in an area far from most of anything now, so finding good quality products at an affordable price from people you can trust is hard, and I just wanted to share these two.
Paul Walker is located in Galena, Alaska and is a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Be sure to check out Paul’s YouTube channel and SoundCloud channel where everything he logs is recorded and posted. Click here to read his other contributions on the SWLing Post.
John Mosman’s radio story is the latest in a new series called Listener Posts, where I will place all of your personal radio histories. If you would like to add your story to the mix, simply send your story by email!
In the meantime, many thanks to John for sharing his personal radio history:
My first QSL was from Radio Havana Cuba in 1962. I never was and not now a technical person around radios. The mysterious signals that came from all over the world just drew me in, all the different languages, music and the cold war rhetoric was simply fascinating.
National NC-60 (Source: DXing.com)
My first receiver was a National NC-60 which with a simple wire antenna out to a tree worked very well. In those days the international broadcast bands were crowded and full of exotic stations.
Popular Electronics gave me a SWL call signs and mine is WPE9GIZ. I do not have the certificate anymore but the call sign is burnt into my memory.
As the years went on I upgraded receivers, first a Drake SW-4A then a Yaesu FRG-7 (Frog 7). To the Frog was added a digital frequency readout. I remember the controversy over Radio America and if the transmitter was actually located on Swan Island. The QSL card sure indicates it was.
The Yaesu FRG-7 “Frog 7”
Over the years I owned a Kenwood R-2000 and an ICOM 71A. For several years now I have a ICOM R75 which does not get much use. As is the case for many, the house is full electronic noise from computers and cable boxes. Not being technical enough I am not sure how to stop it or erect an antenna in our small yard that would reduce the interference.
I wince each time I learn of another SW broadcaster leaving the air and many third world country stations going to FM. However I still have all the QSL cards, all the great memories and you know, the National NC-60, now refurbished, is still in the “shack”.
Many thanks, John, for sharing your story! It makes me happy to know your National NC-60 has been refurbished. We need to keep our antique radios in good working order. Those vacuum tubes will keep your radio room warm on cold nights!
Regarding the electronic noise your R75 hears in the house, you might consider investing in a mag loop antenna like those in the Wellbrook product line. It’s pricey, but certainly works to eliminate QRM.
I love hearing stories about how shortwave radio listeners and ham radio operators got interested in the hobby. I’ll tell you about my experience, but I would enjoy hearing yours either in the comments section or by sending me an email. In the coming months, I will select stories to feature on The SWLing Post––especially if you have photos!
As I started to write a little of my personal history in radio, I felt a sense of déjà vu. That’s because in May 2011, Monitoring Times Magazine asked if I would write a piece describing how I became an SWLer and ham radio operator; of course this made for a nice segue into how I started the charity, Ears To Our World. After a little digging, I have discovered the unedited piece and added/updated where necessary.
So here’s my story–(now please share yours)! [Update: Click here to read our growing collection.]
A Love of Listening: How I Relate to Radio
Growing up, listening…
I’ve never been a fan of television. Ironic, considering that I grew up in the seventies and eighties when most kids were glued to the tube, addicted to Nickelodeon. Perhaps one of the reasons why is that I find the visual often distracts from what I want to hear. Maybe it says something about my reluctance (or inability?) to multitask, but I’m much better at simply listening, rather than listening while also being asked to watch. I prefer to close my eyes, to just listen––and allow my mind to construct images from sound.
My father’s RCA 6K3 console radio.
When people ask how I became so interested in radio, the answer comes clear: I just love to listen. My father still has, in his living room, the vintage RCA 6K3 wooden console radio which emitted, like an aging, crackly-voiced Siren with her own kind of coarse charm, the various scintillating sounds that first caught my ear and captured my young imagination.
One of my earliest memories is of my father, tuning in WWV in Fort Collins, Colorado, on the RCA to set his watch to the atomic pulse coming through the aether, a practice he followed each Sunday morning. Sometimes he would allow me to tune around afterwards––on these occasions, I would catch broadcasts out of Europe, Australia, South America, as well as places I could not readily identify.
Not long after, my great aunt unearthed in her basement a classic Zenith Transoceanic, which she offered me; I took the dusty unit into my room and promptly set up a listening post. Little did I know at the time that I was joining a fraternity of radio listeners around the world who also logged and listened to stations, as I began to do, far into the night. I often fell fast asleep listening to my Zenith; no doubt, some of those mysterious DX stations I heard over shortwave and medium-wave infiltrated my dreams with languages and cultures altogether unlike my white-bread American one.
My trusty Zenith Trans Oceanic will always be a part of my radio collection (Click to enlarge)
Then when I was in my teens––again, in an ironic twist––a TV repair man who came to work on my parents’ set mentioned that he was a ham, and I was suddenly introduced to the intriguing world of ham radio. Though it took several years before I pursued my ticket, as I was busy with school, music, and other typical teen pursuits, my interest in the medium deepened.
While doing my undergraduate degree, I spent a year living and studying in France. At the time, the world wide web was still in its infancy, and my portable shortwave radio, which had helped teach me French back home, now became my English-speaking companion, bringing news from home courtesy of Voice of America. Unlike satellite television, cable TV, or an internet connection, radio was also inexpensive, vital for a poor student like me struggling to pay my own way in Europe. Through just listening, a virtual sonic flight home was free and nearly instant, arriving at the speed of light.
Mike Hansgen (K8RAT) teaching me the ropes at my first QRP Field Day in 1997. William McFadden was also there and was photographer for this photo. (Source: William McFadden WD8RIF)
After graduation, once more stateside, I encountered two hams who were to become lasting friends and elmers: Mike Hansgen (K8RAT) and Eric McFadden (WD8RIF). These two talented hams nourished my keen interest in the hobby, and in their company, I soon found myself in the field experiencing the scrappy fun of hands-on radio contests. I loved how my resourceful guides worked so many stations with the lowest-powered QRP equipment and only the simplest, cheapest wire antennas, and moreover, that they often derived their station power from the sun. I appreciated the remarkable skill with which they milked such modest equipment, initiating contacts all over the globe. With their steady encouragement, I finally got my ticket.
I’ve been a ham since 1997. Radio, no doubt, has influenced my decisions to travel, to live and work abroad, to pursue a graduate degree in Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics. Whatever I did, I did while listening to radio. I even changed my call not long ago to reflect my passion as a shortwave radio listener; my new handle is K4SWL.
Recently I found myself charmed and inspired by a BBC audio piece on Gerry Wells, the British radio repairman who in his eighties continues to do what he has always done, and is still sought for his skill. The story’s subject is truly enjoyable, if a bit of an anachronism: most remarkable is its relevance in the new millennium due to the simple fact that old mid-century (and earlier) radios continue to function today, and are still relied upon by listeners. As I listened to this report, I couldn’t help but wonder, as I have so often before: why does radio have such powerful nostalgic appeal? I reckon that, at least in part, it’s because radio has always been the voice of reassurance, of comfort, during darker times, reminding us that we are human, yet reminding us of our ability to survive. Radio is a friend––or, perhaps, a “great-uncle, in cords and a cardigan,” as Jeremy Paxman characterizes the BBC in his recent defense of this valuable institution in The Guardian––whose warm, familiar voice is there even when other media sources, or the internet, are down.
Shortwave, meanwhile, is much like the world’s pulse––we check in, we listen, and we confirm: all’s well, we’re still okay.
In this photo from Belize, I’m working with David (blue shirt), who is visually impaired–radio opens a world for him.
Listening as mission
One could say that listening to radio has shaped my life. I suppose that’s why radio has recently become a mission for me. Today, I’m the founder and director of Ears To Our World (ETOW), a charitable organization with a simple objective: distributing self-powered world band radios and other appropriate technologies to schools and communities in the developing world, so that kids like I once was, not to mention those who teach them, can learn about their world, too, through the simple act of listening. I want others––children and young people, especially––who lack reliable access to information, to have the world of radio within their reach.
Teacher in rural South Sudan with an ETOW radio. (Project Education Sudan Journey of Hope 2010)
Specifically, Ears to Our World works in rural, impoverished, and sometimes war-torn or disaster-ravaged parts of the world, places that lack reliable access to electricity (let alone the internet) and where radio is often the only link to the world outside. The heart of our mission is to allow radio to be used as a tool for education, so we give radios to teachers, who, in turn, use the radios in the classroom and at home to provide real-life, up-to-date feedback about the world around them.
Through the encouragement of our good friends at Universal Radio and the extraordinary magnanimity of Eton corporation, who donate our wind-up world band radios, in our first two years and on a budget of less than $3500, ETOW managed to distribute radios to schools and communities in nine countries on three continents––in Africa, Eastern Europe, Central and South America, and the Caribbean––as well as to both Haiti and Chile, where the dissemination of information through radio was life-saving when earthquakes struck.
Post-earthquake, ETOW radios continue to be a vital link for those in need in Haiti. Here, Erlande, who suffered a stroke in her early 30s and can barely walk, listens to one of our self-powered Etón radios, given to her by ETOW through their partner, the Haitian Health Foundation.
We’ve done all this through partnerships––with other reputable established non-profit agencies like us––that already help struggling schools throughout the world, and who believe, as we do, in freedom of and access to information. Creating these partnerships is an important move: due to the very nature of the remote regions we serve, extending our assistance demands persistence, financial resources, and logistical support, times ten. And often a great deal of patience. Just shipping radios to other countries usually involves detailed arrangements with national and regional governmental authorities (for example, to waive duties or taxes); once the radios arrive, safely distributing them to these remote areas can also be very costly and complex. We listen attentively to our existing partner organizations, who have often laid the groundwork in these regions, and have established reliable connections with communities in them. Their need is for resources—like radios.
By listening closely to and working cooperatively with other established organizations, we find we’re able to distribute radios much more cost-effectively, too. In other words, we can operate on a shoestring budget so that donations to ETOW are used wisely and to their fullest extent. For example, because of our strong partnerships, money otherwise spent on travel can be put into shipping costs instead, thus getting more radios to more of the world with less donated funds.
So far, our scope has been limited only by our financial resources. Meanwhile, we are looking to place radios in other countries farther off the beaten path; Mongolia recently received our radios. Yet we’re not simply focusing on expansion: ETOW is establishing strong, lasting bonds with our schools and teachers so as to better serve their needs long term. We endeavor to replace their equipment and batteries as needed. We would also like to develop on-air teacher training programs; a new partnership with Oklahoma State University seeks to develop and disseminate content on important subjects, among them literacy and health education, so there is new and valuable content to listen to.
June 2013: This map shows the world adjusted for each country’s Internet population. Click to expand (Source: Information Geographies project at the Oxford Internet Institute)
MT readers [and especially SWLing Post readers] will have already guessed why we prefer radio to, say, computers, for information access. It is because much of the world does not have the communications infrastructure to support access to the world wide web and other dynamic media sources such as digital television, wireless networks or even electric power or phone. [Simply take a quick glance at the map above which shows the world adjusted for each country’s Internet population; notice how central Africa is all but missing?] Political instability, meanwhile, can undermine even the written word [for examples, check out our tag category: why shortwave radio?].
Radio, however, is simplicity itself: all one needs is a modest yet capable receiver, and one has instant––speed of light––access to local and world media. So far, every teacher we’ve worked with already knows something about radio; indeed, many of them have an intricate knowledge of broadcast schedules. But in these places it can take up to an entire week’s wages to pay for a set of batteries. Thus ETOW’s wind-up radios become vital–we effectively eliminate this cost, giving them steady access to information.
And the reports we’re hearing from the field have been overwhelmingly encouraging: Teachers in rural Mongolia, Tanzania, and Kenya are able to teach current events. Visually impaired children in rural Belize can listen to the outside world and hear music and languages they’ve never heard. Children in Haiti and families in Chile learned where to go to get food and medical care and information about loved ones affected by the quakes. A remote community in southern Sudan was able to listen to reports of their burgeoning country’s first democratic election. Being able to listen is making a difference.
Listening and learning work together
Radio captured my imagination as TV never could, it travelled with me and taught me early on that everyone has a story. Listening to radio taught me, too, that each voice is different in the consideration of what’s meaningful or newsworthy. I learned to understand––or at least appreciate––the diverse perspectives I heard in my vicarious radio journeys, and from these sprang my own opinions, hopes, beliefs. Radio became my teacher, one who gave me, in my formative years, a global perspective.
Students in South Sudan listen to their favorite shortwave radio program, VOA Special English.
Just as radio taught me, and opened my young mind, I’m convinced that it can teach and open the minds of others. In some parts of our world, futures are still written on the airwaves. But it’s never just a one-way street–willingness to listen to those with whom we work helps us better serve them, but also to make the leaps of mind required to cross cultures, to become aware of those outside our Western sphere, to understand and grow and learn, ourselves.
Listen and learn. That’s ETOW’s tag line, but to some young people––and to me––it still means the world.