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[Last modified: June 22, 1996] By Ralph Brandi, email@example.com 128 Greenoak Blvd., Middletown, NJ 07748 U.S.A. This posting contains answers to the following questions: o What is shortwave radio? o Where can I find broadcasts by Radio Foobar? o Where can I find a list of broadcasts in the English language? o Where can I find an e-mail address/web site for Radio Foobar? o What kind of receiver should I get? o Where can I get a shortwave radio? o Could you explain the frequencies used? What's the 40 meter band? etc. o What is SINPO/SIO? o Why can't I receive all of the broadcasts listed in Monitoring Times/WRTH/Passport/etc.? o What are some books or other resources that can help me get started? o Where can I find further information? [Note from the author--This article is posted monthly on the USENET groups rec.radio.shortwave, rec.radio.info, rec.answers, and news.answers. It is also available electronically on CompuServe, America Online, the ANARC BBS, the WELL, from the rec.radio.shortwave ftp archive on ftp://ftp.funet.fi/pub/ , the official Usenet FAQ library ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet-by-group/ , and from the radio archive on ftp://ftp.cs.buffalo.edu/pub/ , and in print from the ARRL. A hypertext version with links to many of the items mentioned is available at the following URL: http://itre.uncecs.edu/radio/faqs/radio-faqs.html Thanks to Jay Novello and Pete Costello for making WWW service possible. If you find this article somewhere else and/or find it useful, I would appreciate if you could drop me a postcard or send me e-mail letting me know where you found it, what the Last modified date on the copy you have is, and if you have any suggestions to make the article more helpful. If you don't find it useful, I'd like to hear about that as well.] o What is shortwave radio? From a purely technical point of view, shortwave radio refers to those frequencies between 3 and 30 MHz. Their main characteristic is their ability to "propagate" for long distances, making possible such worldwide communications as international broadcasting and coordination of long-distance shipping. From a social point of view, shortwave radio is a way to find out what the rest of the world thinks is important. Many countries broadcast to the world in English, making it easy to find out what a given country's position is on those things it finds important. Shortwave radio can also provide a way to eavesdrop on the everyday workings of international politics and commerce. o Where can I find broadcasts by Radio Foobar? The World Radio TV Handbook is the standard reference for this sort of information. The WRTH provides SWLs (shortwave listeners) and DXers (listeners specializing in distant [DX] and weak stations) worldwide with virtually everything they need on frequencies, schedules and addresses. It comes out annually, right about the first of the year. It covers virtually every shortwave station in the world, and many of the medium wave (AM), FM, and television stations as well. The body of the book is a listing of stations by country, with a cross-reference in the back by frequency. It's available from any radio store dealing in shortwave. You can also contact the WRTH through their publishers, Billboard. World Radio TV Handbook 1995 ISBN 0-8230-5926-X The past several years have seen competition of a sort for the WRTH, in the form of Passport to World Band Radio. Passport's main section is a graph/table of what's on the air, by frequency. The beginning of the book is filled with articles of interest to the beginner. There is also a comprehensive review section of shortwave receivers currently available, one of the few places all this information can be found in one place. The book is more useful for identifying a station you've already tuned in than for searching out a particular transmission; the WRTH is useful at both, however, rendering the purchase of this book not essential. It can still be worthwhile, though, especially for beginners who won't be put off by the "gee whiz, look what we can listen to" tone of some of the articles. The book is unabashedly an advocate of making the hobby of "World Band Radio" accessible to people who wouldn't have participated before the advent of good, cheap portables. There also seem to be efforts being made to address some of the shortcomings of the book, such as a comprehensive address section (finally!) that also contains useful information on how stations respond to correspondence, based on the experience of other hobbyists. Much of this information has been difficult or impossible for hobbyists to obtain outside of a small elite group, and provides a useful addition to the hobby. It does tend to weaken the focus of the book, which has previously seemed aimed at mainly beginners. For utility band (non-broadcast transmissions) listeners, there are a few books that perform much the same function as the above two books, although due to the nature of such point-to-point communication, not with the same sense of definitiveness. Confidential Frequency List Published by Gilfer Shortwave The Shortwave Directory Published by Grove Enterprises Klingenfuss Guide to Utility Stations Published by Klingenfuss Publications o Where can I find a list of broadcasts in the English language? The World Radio TV Handbook has a list of English Language Broadcasts, starting on page 561 of the 1995 edition. Unfortunately, since the WRTH only comes out once a year the data tend to go out of date fairly quickly. There are a number of sources for current lists: -Monitoring Times magazine carries a listing every month. -The North American Shortwave Association (NASWA) publishes a complete listing twice a year in their bulletin, The Journal, sent to all members monthly; each month there are updates to the list. See the address at the end of this article. -Tom Sundstrom, W2XQ, offers custom IBM PC-compatible software and a subscription service with constantly updated electronic versions of his data files (which are also the source for the NASWA listings, as well as forming part of the listing in the WRTH). The data files are in the standard dBASE III format, capable of being imported into any software that reads DBF files, and are distributed in a compressed self-extracting file for IBM PC users and .ARC format for those using other operating systems. The data files are available on the Pics OnLine BBS in Atco, New Jersey, U.S.A. (+1 609 753-2540 US Robotics HST, +1 609 753 1549 V.32 9600 baud), or over the World Wide Web by arrangement with Tom. Readers with access to the World Wide Web can get more information about this software from Tom's web page at http://www.trsc.com/ . Gilfer Shortwave now is the official distributor for Tom's software. See the address for Gilfer at the end of this file. Gilfer also has a web page available at http://www.gilfer.com/ . -Jim Frimmel offers a HyperCard program for the Apple Macintosh that offers both frequency schedules and program schedules for international English language broadcasts. Jim also offers an quarterly update subscription The program, called Shortwave Navigator, which is up to version 3.3, also offers computer control of a number of radios. See the address for DX Computing at the end of this file, including e-mail. -Jan Nieuwenhuis of the Benelux DX Club periodically posts a list of broadcasts in English to Europe to rec.radio.shortwave. This list, as well as lists of broadcasts in German and French, are also available on the web at http://promet12.cineca.it/htdx/swls/bdxc.html . -Paul Dwerryhouse's shortWWWave page in Australia at http://www.cs.mu.oz.au/~thed/SW/index.html is another source on the web of English language broadcasts, among other treats. If you are interested in finding out what programs are on the air at a given time, there are a couple of recent publications that attempt to provide semi-comprehensive information: -Grove Enterprises publishes *The Guide to Shortwave Programs* edited by the Program Manager of its "Shortwave Guide" section of *Monitoring Times*, Kannon Shanmugam along with the programming staff. -One-man dynamo John Figliozzi produces *The Shortwave Radio Guide* each year, for sale through the Ontario DX Association (ODXA), who do the actual production on the book, and NASWA. o Where can I find an e-mail address/web site for Radio Foobar? The most up-to-date source of known e-mail addresses for radio broadcasters is Thorsten Koch's *Internet Guide to Shortwave Broadcasters*. It is posted to rec.radio.shortwave periodically, or is available on the WWW at the URL http://www.informatik.uni-oldenburg.de/~thkoch/ or at a mirror site in the U.S., http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~jblythe/short-wave.html . The publication also includes listings of web sites. The 1995 WRTH also includes a few e-mail addresses, and the 1996 edition promises to include many more as part of its regular listings. One of the best starting points for radio-related web sites, including those belonging to radio stations, is Pete Costello's Shortwave/Radio Catalog, available at http://itre.ncsu.edu/radio/. If it isn't linked to on these pages, it's linked to on one of the pages this links to. o What kind of receiver should I get? That depends largely on what kind of listening you expect to do. There are two or three basic kinds of radios. The first is the travel portable. These usually cost between US$30 and US$250. Their main characteristic is their extremely small size, making them most suitable for the person who spends a lot of time on airplanes. They do an adequate job of receiving the major broadcasters, such as the BBC, the Voice of America, Radio Netherlands, etc. They are generally not capable of receiving hams, or utility transmissions, and they do not do a good job on weak stations. They may, therefore, not be the best choice for expatriates wishing to listen to their home stations, for instance, especially the less expensive radios. Many of them also lack frequency coverage beyond the major international broadcasting bands. As such, they cannot receive the channels outside the defined bands that often provide clearer reception (due to lessened interference) of such stations as the BBC, Kol Israel, and the Voice of Iran. There are a number of very low cost (under US$50) SW receivers that are the subject of frequent inquiries in rec.radio.shortwave. In general, radios in this price range can be expected to perform poorly, but may provide an inexpensive introduction to the world of shortwave and acceptable reception of the strongest international stations. The radios offered in this price range tend to appear and disappear quickly and to be offered at different outlets under different names. The radios are pretty much interchangeable, and you probably shouldn't expend a lot of effort trying to distinguish between them. The second category of radios overlaps with the first, and consists of slightly larger portables. Common among this category are radios like the Sangean ATS-803A, (also sold around the world as the Emerson 803A, Siemens RK 651, and many other names), a fine starter radio with many capabilities for the inexpensive price of US$200, or the Sangean ATS-818. These radios often have digital readout, making it easier to know which frequency you are tuned to, and such features as dual conversion (which decreases the possibility of your radio receiving spurious signals from other frequencies), audio filters (which allow you to decrease interference from stations on adjacent frequencies) and beat frequency oscillators (which allow you to decode morse code and single sideband (SSB) transmissions on the ham and utility bands). Current inexpensive favorites in this range include the Grundig YachtBoy 400 and the Sony ICF-7600G, both of which provide outstanding value for the money (each about US$200 in the United States). The top range of this kind of radio includes technically sophisticated radios like the Sony ICF-2010, Sony ICF-SW77, and Grundig Satellit 700, which contain innovative circuitry to lock on to a given signal and allow you to choose the portion of the signal you want to listen to, depending on which part gets the least interference. If you follow the newsgroup for any amount of time, you're bound to notice some discussion of the relative merit of these features versus their cost (about double that of the Sangean radios.) The Sony ICF-7600G provides access to this feature at a previously unheard of price (make sure you get the radio with the "G" on it; Sony has made several radios with the "7600" designation, only one of which contains this feature). Many of these radios can be and have been used to receive distant and weak stations from a number of countries, and can provide a cost-effective way for expatriates to receive programs from their native countries; they're also suitable for listening to programs from the major broadcasters. Most people should never need to buy a more capable receiver than those in this category. The third category of receivers is the tabletop receiver. These receivers cost from US$600 upward, with a concentration of radios around US$1000. These radios naturally contain many more features than the portables, and are used by serious hobbyists who specialize in rare and weak stations. Current radios in this group include the ICOM R-71A, the Kenwood R-5000, the Japan Radio Corporation NRD-535 and NRD-535D, the Lowe HF-150 and HF-225, and the Drake R8A and SW8. These radios can be very complex to operate, and are generally not recommended for the beginner. Radios from the first two categories can give a beginner a very good idea of what's on the air and where their interests lie, at which point one of these radios may be an appropriate acquisition. Strangely enough, not all of these radios contain the kind of innovative circuitry that are part of less expensive portables like the Sony 2010 mentioned above. Newer radios, such as the NRD-535D, the Lowe radios, and the R8A are starting to include such capabilities. It must be mentioned that none of these radios, particularly the expensive ones, are "magic boxes" that will allow you to receive any station you wish. Many people find that the jump in performance between a high-end portable radio and a tabletop is more than offset by the increase in price. You should also understand that buying a tabletop radio will not likely allow you to hear many more stations than a high-end portable. The main difference between high-end portables and tabletop radios are in reduced susceptibility to internally-generated signals, the ability to modify the audio through the use of filters to reduce interference, the ability to tune more finely (for example, 10 Hz increments rather than 100 Hz or 1000 Hz increments), and the stability of the radio, or its tendency to drift from the desired frequency. People have often purchased an expensive communications receiver only to realize that a simpler-to-operate portable was better suited to their interests and style of listening. There are many sources for detailed information on specific radios, most of it provided by two groups. Larry Magne, who publishes the Passport to World Band Radio, includes a review of virtually all shortwave radios currently available in that publication. For more extensive reviews of selected receivers, he offers detailed "white papers", which run between ten and twenty pages or so. Magne also contributes a monthly review column to Monitoring Times. The other main source for equipment reviews is a group centered around Radio Netherlands and the WRTH in Holland. The WRTH, as mentioned above, has a review section covering mainly new receivers, but also contains a table with ratings of most currently available radios. Radio Netherlands also offers an excellent free booklet with receiver reviews, as well as occasional single-receiver review sheets. The WRTH has also released *The WRTH Equipment Buyers Guide*. The second edition of this book will be published someday. The book contains extended versions of the reports available in the previous five years of the WRTH, as well as new and updated reports. It also contains information on accessories and antennas, as well as a fairly technical tutorial on receivers. There are also two books published by Gilfer Shortwave in New Jersey that cover the subject of receivers, called *Radio Receivers, Chance or Choice*, and *More Radio Receivers, Chance or Choice*. These books are fairly out of date now. The Sony ICF-2010, Drake R8, Lowe HF-150, and older, "hollow state" radios (those using tubes rather than transistors) have Internet mailing lists devoted to discussions of their features among users. Joining these mailing lists can be a good way to keep up on modifications or workarounds for your radio. They tend to be quiet most of the time, with occasional bursts of activity. You can join the mailing lists with requests to the following addresses: Sony ICF-2010: firstname.lastname@example.org Drake R8: DrakeR8email@example.com Lowe HF-150 (or other Lowe radios): hf150-request@batcomfs.Eng.Sun.Com Tube Radios: firstname.lastname@example.org There is also a compliation of radio reviews from the net maintained by John Lloyd, posted every month to the newsgroup and available from the standard ftp sites or through the World Wide Web at http://vectorbd.vivanet.com/sw_review.html . o Where can I get a shortwave radio? Many stereo stores and discount chains carry the Sony and Panasonic lines of receivers; the people there, however, generally don't know much about shortwave, and you're not likely to find many accessories there. Mail order stereo sources like J&R Music or 47th Street Photo in New York generally give the cheapest prices, but have the same problem. There are lists available on the photography newsgroups that can indicate whether a given store of this type is reliable and provides acceptable service. More knowledgeable, and falling roughly between the two in price, are the mail order houses that specialize in ham and/or shortwave radio. Many of them offer catalogs that contain useful tips for the beginner. Addresses for some of the better-known and respected businesses in the U.S. can be found at the end of this article. The author of this article strongly supports these mail order houses, which can offer knowledgeable advice on which receiver is appropriate for your situation, how to set up the radio to best take advantage of it, and other useful personal service not available from the box pushers at the photo shops, stereo stores, and discount chains. Many of these businesses contribute to the hobby in ways not obvious to the casual observer. o Could you explain the frequencies used? What's the 49 meter band? etc. As you tune around, you'll notice certain kinds of signals tend to be concentrated together. Different services are allocated different frequency ranges. International broadcasters, for instance, are assigned to ten frequency bands up and down the dial. These are: 3900-4000 kHz (75 meter band) 13600-13800 kHz (22 meter band) 5950-6200 kHz (49 meter band) 15100-15600 kHz (19 meter band) 7100-7300 kHz (41 meter band) 17550-17900 kHz (16 meter band) 9500-9900 kHz (31 meter band) 21450-21850 kHz (13 meter band) 11650-12050 kHz (25 meter band) 25600-26100 kHz (11 meter band) In general, lower frequencies (below 9000 kHz) are better received at night and for a few hours surrounding dawn and dusk, and higher frequencies (13000 kHz and up) are better received during the day. The frequencies in between are transitional, with reception being possible at most times. In practice, these guidelines are not absolute, with reception on high frequencies being possible at night, and lower frequencies can provide decent medium-distance reception during the day. Additionally, these numbers can change slightly with the changing of the sunspot cycle, which affects the ionization of the upper atmosphere, and hence the propagation of shortwave signals. In times of lower sunspot activity, as is the case in 1995-96, higher frequencies are generally less useful than lower frequencies, and the range of frequencies used at any given time of day is generally shifted slightly downward. Hams (who have their own newsgroups, rec.radio.amateur.*) and point-to-point, or utility communications, fill most of the rest of the frequencies. The Confidential Frequency List and The Shortwave Guide mentioned above can provide more information on what can be heard in these areas, as can utility loggings in magazines like Monitoring Times and Popular Communications, and in club bulletins. o What is SINPO/SIO? The SINPO code is a way of quantifying reception conditions in a five-digit code, especially for use in reception reports to broadcasters. The code covers Signal strength, Interference (from other stations), Noise (from atmospheric conditions), Propagation disturbance (or Fading, in the SINFO code), and Overall. The code is as follows: (S)ignal (I)nterference (N)oise (P)ropagation (O)verall 5 excellent 5 none 5 none 5 none 5 excellent 4 good 4 slight 4 slight 4 slight 4 good 3 fair 3 moderate 3 moderate 3 moderate 3 fair 2 poor 2 severe 2 severe 2 severe 2 poor 1 barely aud. 1 extreme 1 extreme 1 extreme 1 unusable In recent years, many broadcasters have tried to steer listeners away from the SINPO code and toward the simpler SIO code. SIO deletes the extremes (1 and 5) and the noise and propagation categories, which were confusing to too many people to be useful. In sending reports to stations other than large international broadcasters who are likely to understand the codes, it is better to simply describe reception conditions in words. Radio Netherlands provides an excellent explanation of SINPO and SIO, as well as a broader explanation of reception reports, in their free booklet "Writing Useful Reception Reports", also available online from their web site at http://www.rnw.nl/rnw/. o Why can't I receive all of the broadcasts listed in Monitoring Times/WRTH/Passport/etc.? This is a fact of life on shortwave. Because of propagation, antenna headings, the kind of radio you have, your local environment, etc., you're never going to be able to hear all the things you find in a list. The lists in Monitoring Times, etc., aren't lists of what's being heard in a general location. They're lists of everything that you could possibly hear, from a daily powerhouse like the BBC to a once or twice a year rarity like Bhutan. They're listed because you *might* hear them, depending on where you are and the given circumstances, not because they're necessarily being heard outside of their immediate target area. If you want lists of what is actually being heard in something roughly analogous to "your area", the best source for these are the logging sections of the bulletins of the SWL/DX clubs. You might want to sample a few club bulletins to see if they'll help. The bulletins also offer articles from experts on many facets of the hobby. o What are some books or other resources that can help me get started? *The Shortwave Listening Guidebook* by Harry Helms is a book that covers many of the basics of shortwave listening in an easy-to-understand style. The book should be easily available from most shortwave specialty outlets and many larger chain bookstores in North America. It is also being published directly by Mr. Helms, and is therefore likely to stay in print for a while. Radio Netherlands offers a free Listener Services Catalog listing a number of free single-topic brochures that they send out upon request. The brochures range from simple introductions to shortwave listening and antennas to explanations of computers and solar forecasts. Many of these brochures are available online at Radio Netherlands' web site at http://www.rnw.nl/rnw/. o Where can I find further information? There are a number of hobby publications available. Two glossy magazines which cover the hobby are Monitoring Times and Popular Communications. They both cover a number of aspects of the hobby, including international broadcasts, scanning, pirate radio, QSLing, and Utility broadcasting. Monitoring Times also contains listings of broadcasts and programs in English, which gives it a slight edge. PopComm is the one you're more likely to find on your local newsstand, although Monitoring Times is starting to show up in some larger book stores such as Barnes & Noble. There are many clubs catering to the hobbyist, many of which publish bulletins. Many of these groups are part of an all-encompassing group known as ANARC, the Association of North American Radio Clubs. ANARC has a list available of its constituent clubs, listing addresses, what the focus of each club is, club publications, and current dues. You can contact them by writing to ANARC, 2216 Burkey Dr., Wyomissing, PA 19610, USA. You should include some form of return postage when asking for the club list. The WRTH contains contact addresses for the clubs that constitute ANARC. ANARC has counterpart organizations in Europe and the south Pacific. The European organization is the European DX Council (EDXC). More information on their constituent clubs is available for 2 International Reply Coupons from P.O. Box 4, St. Ives, Huntingdon, PE17 4FE, England. In the south Pacific, the organization is the South Pacific Association of Radio Clubs, or SPARC. They offer information from P.O. Box 1313, Invercargill, New Zealand. A couple of clubs "went under" in spectacular fashion in early 1995, but you shouldn't let this dissuade you from joining one. Any club member will tell you that the quality and timeliness of the information contained in many club bulletins is excellent. And despite the rapid expansion of resources like Usenet, the Internet, FIDONET, etc., the clubs provide a great deal of information not available online, including the knowledge of many experienced members without access to such electronic forums. One alternative to consider is joining a local or regional club, which can provide members with the opportunity to meet face-to-face periodically to swap tips, test or trade equipment, or meet visiting luminaries. One example of a club with a strong local presence would be the Michigan Association of Radio Enthusiasts (MARE) in southeastern Michigan. And, naturally, listening to the radio can provide you with excellent information on radio. There are a number of excellent "DX" programs on the air for the radio hobbyist. The WRTH contains a comprehensive list of such shows; Tom Sundstrom also has a list as part of his Shortwave Database subscription service. Different shows have different strengths. DX Party Line on Ecuador's HCJB is directed toward the beginner, although their "Quito Log Book" feature provides information of interest to the DXer specializing in Latin American stations. Sweden Calling DXers on Radio Sweden is a compendium of news about shortwave and satellites, increasingly focused on Scandinavia, including frequency changes, station reactivations and deactivations, and such. Radio Netherlands's Media Network is a slickly produced general-coverage program. Radio Havana Cuba's "DXers Unlimited" often offers construction tips for people who like to do things themselves, especially for antennas. And Glenn Hauser's World of Radio, which covers mostly DX tips, is available on an ever-shifting number of stations and times. o Addresses BPI Communications WRTH Editorial Office 1515 Broadway P.O. Box 9027 New York, NY 10036 1006 AA Amsterdam United States The Netherlands Radio Netherlands publications Passport to World Band Radio English Department International Broadcast Services, Ltd. Radio Netherlands Box 300 PO Box 222 Penn's Park, PA 18943 USA 1200 JG Hilversum The Netherlands Tel: +31 35 724242 Fax: +31 35 724239 E-mail: email@example.com WWW: http://www.rnw.nl/ Electronic Equipment Bank Gilfer Shortwave 137 Church St. N.W. 52 Park Ave Vienna, VA 22180 USA Park Ridge, NJ 07656 USA 800 368 3270 (orders) 800 GILFER-1 (445-3371) (orders) +1 703 938-3350 (local and +1 201 391-7887 (New Jersey, business technical information) and technical) +1 703 938-6911 (FAX) Free Catalog Free catalog E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org WWW: http://www.gilfer.com/ Grove Enterprises (also Monitoring Times) P.O. Box 98 Brasstown, NC 28902 USA 800 438-8155 (toll free N. America) +1 704 837-9200 E-mail: email@example.com WWW: http://www.grove.net/ Free Catalog Universal Radio Popular Communications 6830 Americana Pkwy. 76 North Broadway Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068 USA Hicksville, NY 11801 USA 800 431-3939 (toll free N. America) +1 614 866-4267 SWL Catalog: US$1.00 WWW: http://www.universal-radio.com/ NASWA TRS Consultants 45 Wildflower Road PO Box 2275 Levittown, PA 19057 Vincentown, NJ 08088-2275 Membership costs: US$26/yr; +1 609 859-2447 inquire outside of N. America +1 609 859-3226 (FAX) sample issue US$2 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org E-mail: NASWA1@aol.com GEnie E-mail: T.SUNDSTROM http://www.mcs.com/~ralph/html/naswa/ WWW: http://www.trsc.com/ MARE, Inc. Canadian International DX Club P.O. Box 530933 79 Kipps Street Livonia, MI 48153-0933 Greenfield Park, PQ (US$9.50/yr to USA and Canada CANADA J4V 3B1 others inquire) (C$26/yr to Canada, US$25/yr to USA E-mail: email@example.com others inquire) Klingenfuss Publications Ontario DX Association Hagenloher str. 14 P.O. Box 161, Station A D-72070 Tuebingen Willowdale, ON Germany CANADA M2N 5S8 +49 7071 62830 +1 416 853-3169 (phone and FAX) +49 7071 600849 (FAX) (C$30.76/yr to Canada, US$26/yr to USA E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/Klingenfuss/ DX Computing 232 Squaw Creek Road Willow Park, TX 76087 +1 817 441-9188 +1 817 441-5555 (FAX) America Online: DX Comp E-mail: email@example.com -- Ralph Brandi firstname.lastname@example.org att!mtunp!ralph Stay idiot-proof. --Log, "Idiot Proof"