Last night I stumbled across some Short Wave Hardware Porn on eBay last night. A big old Harris HF receiver that was used in a whole lot of listening posts and embassies and it got me to thinking about short wave and governments and politics (and shit). The “and shit” is a nod to one of my favorite shows “The Trailer Park Boys” and the part of Mr. Leahy who uses the word “shit” to hilarious effect.
Short wave is such a fascinating medium to me and I’m surprised that I didn’t listen for so many years. As with a lot of hobbies you can get wrapped up in the hardware and it’s capabilities. “I received a transmission from Atlantis with my Sync Detector and BFO and my radio limits D and E adsorption 10% more than other brands”.
Okay that is a totally wild and made up statement but I hope someone got a chuckle out of it. People will totally split hairs about what radio is better than the other one in fact it seems to be the norm. But I ask you this……..“Are you listening, really listening, to the content out there…..?”
With the exception of just a long hunk of wire (which can be darned effective for SW and MW listening) a dipole antenna can be made on the cheap for some great SW listening. Probably the hardest part of making the antenna is deciding how long to cut the wires. Just google up “Dipole Calculator” and type in the approximate frequency you want to receive. In my case I decided I wanted one tuned to about 9 MHz.
I used this site, typed 9 in the frequency block and it told me the overall length was 52 feet and each hunk of wire is 26 feet long. In this installation I used 12 ga. copper wire that I had laying around.
Got my new Tecsun S2000 in the mail today and we’re going to lay out our first impressions. Probably won’t find one of these guys on Amazon and I picked mine up from eBay but it really came from anon-co.
It’s just a little bit scary to order stuff from eBay that you know comes from Hong Kong however after doing the requisite research the consensus in the Ham community was this:
“You should not hesitate for one second to order from anon-co”.
So I ordered one. Almost immediately I began getting emails from them telling me exactly what to expect, how they were shipping (Fed Ex) and then cordially reminded me to ensure my phone number was up to date so Fed Ex could communicate delivery instructions to me and all other manner of useful information. These are clearly people who gave a darn I bought something from them and helped me to make it as smooth as possible. The emails i got clearly were NOT form mails either. It was a pleasure to do business with people like that.
This is a quick and dirty mini review of the new C Crane Skywave SSB radio. Right to it then.
What’s the first thing I noticed? It’s small. Very compact. Also after a few minutes of use I have to say that THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST INTUITIVE RADIOS THAT IS CURRENTLY ON THE MARKET. It’s not too terrible to figure out how to navigate around and yeah, okay, there are a few crazy things that make no sense like figuring out how to apply squelch to the Air Band.
I just took a little inventory of my short wave radios. It shakes out like this:
- Tecsun PL-660
- Tecsun PL-880
- Sangean ATS-909X
- Kaito KA1103
- Majestic El Cheapo Italian Radio
- Tivdio V-115
- C Crane SSB
- Tecsun PL-365
- Tecsun PL-380
- Tecsun S2000
- Tecsun PL-310ET
- XHDATA D-808
- Grundig Eton Satellit
Okay, you’re probably not reading this unless you are a Ham or an ShortWave Listener (SWL). I probably seem like a rank amateur compared to many guys you’ve seen who have possibly dozens of more radios than I have.
I have the shortwave radio bug. It seems that it isn’t enough to own a shortwave radio and enjoy Short Wave Listening (SWL). It seems one must own MANY radios to enjoy SWL.
One of my acquisitions was the Kaito KA1103. I purchased mine from eBay from kaito-electronics for $60 as a used radio which I assume to mean “a returned radio” or a “refurbished radio”.
As I find myself getting into Short Wave Radio again I find myself picking up more radios to play around with and assess. The latest acquisition is a Sangean ATS-909X. $205! OUCH! But lets see what we have before we pass judgement.
First of all in the batch of current model short wave portable radios this is by far the most attractive of the bunch (in my opinion). Attractive is good but sound, sensitivity, and selectivity are really what matters with a radio of this caliber.
Here’s something you haven’t heard about in a while. Short Wave Radio. Heck, walk around Walmart, Best Buy, Target, wherever and you CAN’T EVEN FIND A SHORTWAVE RADIO IN THE STORES ANYMORE. It seems like a dead medium. And yet it isn’t.
When I was a young boy I had a great big tube Short Wave receiver that a friend of my fathers gave to me, and that’s the way it worked back then. The old hams would happily teach the up and coming hams. Anyway I spent untold hours listening to that thing and was always stunned and amazed at how much content and how varying it was. And of course back then the prize was listening to a station as far away as possible.
Well, Short Wave sure has changed. There aren’t nearly as many stations, even less high power stations and most of Short Wave seems to be mostly Christian content, and political propaganda. Also you’ll find a healthy dose of Patriot and Prepper community folks and alternative news sources. And when I mean alternative, I mean alternative. Out there stuff. Also you’ll hear hams talking, morse code (CW) and various types of data, some of it critical such as NOAA Weather Fax (WEFAX), Radio Teletype (RTTY), and real life spies transmit coded messages called “Numbers Stations” on Short Wave as well. Short Wave is very much still alive and well but clearly not as active as when I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s.
The Tecsun PL-880 is one of the finer Short Wave table top radios being made today. One of the best features of it is that it has a Line Out feature which means you can plug it into a computer and record. Well………..sorta. If you plug it into a computer it is full blast line out which overloads and distorts awfully. There are no instructions in the manual for turning down the Line Out volume however there is a super top-secret page of firmware hidden features that tells you how to turn down every band EXCEPT short wave. Here’s the entry: