I’m grateful to SWLing Post contributor, Ron, who has persistently reminded me that these are some of the last days to catch France Inter as LW DX here in North America. Indeed, he shared a bit of interesting and encouraging news a couple weeks ago:
On the Radiodiscussions DX forum, Jim Farmer over in San Antonio got and recorded France Inter on 162 khz using a PK loop and Sony 7600GR.
While I’d love to try to grab France Inter with my Sony, my schedule makes it very difficult to arrange. Fortunately, I have SDRs which allow me to record spectrum throughout the night, then review the recordings in the morning.
Throughout the month of December, I’ve been recording a small chunk of longwave spectrum–with my WinRadio Excalibur–during the night and reviewing it in the morning in hopes that I could grab an opening from France Inter.
I was rewarded on December 19, 2016 around 0300 UTC. Though there was atmospheric noise that night in the form of static crashes, I snagged France Inter on 162 kHz.
My spectrum display from the Excalibur.
The 162 kHz carrier was barely above the noise floor (see above), so it was certainly weak signal DX. Here’s an audio sample:
Actually, the power of France Inter and Medi1 is 2000 kW and 1600 kW respectively. So the power of most SW broadcasters should be called a “flea power” in comparison to what is used on longwave. The smallest output on LW band in Europe is 50 kW, it’s used by Denmark and Czech Rep. The 162 kHz transmitter is closing on Dec 26th, according to the latest news.
Again, if you’d like to grab longwave stations before they disappear, now is the time! Our LW broadcasters are disappearing rapidly. Fortunately, winter (here in the northern hemisphere) is the best time to chase LW DX.
Thanks, again, Ron for your encouragement! I’ll keep listening and recording!
In the past, receiver shoot-outs in which I’ve provided sample audio for “blind” comparison––meaning, the listener does not know which audio sample is associated with which radio––have produced particularly positive feedback from Post readers.
I have a number of SDRs (software defined radios) in the shack at the moment, but I picked the Excalibur because it’s the closest in price ($900 US) to the IC-7300 ($1500) as compared to my Elad FDM-S2 ($520) or the TitanSDR Pro ($2500).
Recording notes and disclaimers
Both the WinRadio Excalibur and the Icom IC-7300 offer native digital audio recording (nice touch, Icom!). The Excalibur simply records the AF to a file on my PC’s hard drive, while the IC-7300 records the audio to an SD card which I can later transfer to my PC.
I’ve been using the Excalibur since 2012, so I’m very familiar with its recording feature. I was not, however, familiar with the IC-7300’s digital recorder, so prior to making recordings, I checked to make sure its recorded audio was a fair representation of its live audio. To my ear, the IC-7300 recorded audio was nearly identical to that of the live audio, so I used the 7300’s internal recorder rather than one of my external recorders.
Both receivers shared my large outdoor omni-directional horizontal delta loop antenna for each test.
The Elad ASA15 Antenna Splitter Amplifier
To keep the comparison on as equal footing as possible, the receivers shared the same antenna through my Elad ASA15 antenna splitter amplifier. Though the ASA15 has both 12dB amplification and –15dB attenuation, I employed neither.
The ASA15 allowed me to make the following recordings simultaneously.
In each case, I tried to set up both radios using the same filter widths, gain, AGC settings, and (as much as possible), audio level. I didn’t engage a noise-reduction feature on either rig.
Note: the only exception to the radios’ equal treatment was in the AM mode recordings, in which I used the WinRadio’s AM Sync (AMS) mode. Why? Frankly speaking, 99% of the time during which I use the Excalibur, I do employ its AMS mode as its AM mode often sounds “hot” and over-driven when band conditions are as noisy, as they were last night.
The IC-7300 does not have AM synchronous detection (AMS mode), but I felt it compared very favorably to the Excalibur in AMS mode. The IC-7300 would have easily beat the Excalibur in this test had I only used the Excalibur’s AM mode. In the end, as a shortwave listener, the goal is to compare the total capabilities of broadcast performance between the two receivers (thus using sync mode if available, to maximize broadcast listening performance).
At the end of this post, I have an embedded a survey in which you can vote for the sample recordings you like best. Each recording is clearly labeled to denote that it’s either from “Radio A” or “Radio B” (I had my wife draw names from a hat to determine which radio would be labeled as A or B).
Since there are quite a few recordings, I’d suggest jotting down your notes separately before completing the survey.
Note that the following mediumwave recordings were made during the morning hours (grayline). The strong station is the closest AM broadcaster to my home; it’s not a blow-torch “Class A” type station, merely the closest local broadcaster.
In the “weak” sample, I tuned to 630 kHz, where multiple broadcasters could be heard on frequency––but one was dominant.
This morning, at 6:00 am, I had to take a friend to the hospital for a scheduled (minor) operation.
The hospital waiting room is spartan for a projected three hour wait, but the complimentary wi-fi Internet is quite speedy. I had planned to catch up on a movie or two via Netflix, but the hospital blocks video streaming.
I just logged into my home PC and launched both the Elad FDM-S2 and WinRadio Excabur SDR applications–fortunately, I discovered that the Excalibur was hooked up to an external antenna.
Not only does TeamViewer allow me to control a software defined radio, but it actually streams the receiver audio from my PC. With my inexpensive in-ear Sony headphones, the sound isolation and audio fidelity are quite good for a compressed audio stream. Indeed, other than a one second delay in response, the user experience is nearly as good as being home.
I should note that I could also use the TeamViewer app on my iPhone, but 4G reception in the hospital is very poor and controlling an SDR from a small touch screen is less than desirable (though works in a pinch–no pun intended).
I’m currently tuned and listening to Radio Australia, Radio Mali and the Voice of Korea.
The 31 meter band seems to be wide open at this morning. At this point, I don’t think I care if my friend’s out-patient procedure takes a while longer!