AM Radio

AM DX'ing is a lot of fun for me. Late at night, listening to far-away stations fade in and out as the propagation varies is both haunting and nostalgic for me.

I like to listen to Art Bell (see light blue sidebar), usually on 1110, KFAB out of Omaha, Nebraska. It comes in very well in Glasgow beginning at 11 p.m. MST. I can also hear him on 1100 and 1500. I usually use a Kenwood R-5000 and an amplified loop antenna I have at the bedside.

Note that I have some links here you can follow to both the station and the show.

I like to listen because it amazes me so to hear people espouse this kind of nonsense. Try it - you'll be totally astonished at the number of complete idiots there are in the world.

Over in the far right column you can see the various radios I've collected over the years for SW and AM DX use - or at least, the ones I still have. There are a bunch that I've had and sold or traded off; I'm going to try and locate images of those, also.

The location I live in right now has a fair degree of interference, a lot of which comes from the three computers that are running in my home at all times (barring power failures, unfortunately common.) I've been looking at purchasing a noise reduction device which is inserted into the antenna line; it has it's own local antenna which picks up the local noise, and has phase and amplitude controls which you use to re-insert the noise into the incoming signal in inverted form, such that the noise is canceled out and only the signal remains. I have some doubts about the potential efficacy of this approach, but it sounds convincing in the ad (might be kind of like listening to Art Bell!) If I talk myself into buying one of these (they're about $200, I think) I'll provide a report of it's effectiveness here at that time. I sure could use a noise reduction device, lawd knows...

Shortwave Radio

I have SW radios in my car and in my pickup truck, as well as portables and fixed receivers here and there about my home. OK, Yes, I like listening to SW. :-)

So what do I listen to? Well, mostly the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) out of London, England, or ABC (Australian Broadcasting...) . Sometimes I listen to the other ham radio operators, but I very seldom talk back to them any longer - I find the subjects they talk about to be somewhat, shall we say, non-stimulating. I use the various time signals and so on as they were meant to be used... my watch is always right, and I kind of like that. And I snoop around in general, sometimes settling on a station that is speaking one of the languages I am interested in - Korean or Spanish.

Here is another shortwave radio I'm looking for:

As you can see by the right hand column here, I've got quite a few portable radios. But there's one I don't have that I've been wanting ever since I first saw it, sometime in the 1970's. Recently, I found one for sale, and the gentleman was kind enough to send me a photograph of the radio, which I present to you here:

rf8000

This is a Panasonic RF-8000. It has two dial regions, both of which are switched by a motorized drive system - the dial actually rotates into place beneath the faceplate. Tres' Cool!

As best I can remember, this radio was one (or more) thousands of dollars. Used, it seems to be under a thousand somewhere, and I'm trying to get one in the range I can talk myself into (which frankly I don't know exactly what is... DX'ing is a big hobby for me.)

Why listen to shortwave?

Here is the perfect quote on the topic from a newsgroup posting, July 18th, 1998

Author: Jim Tedford

Got another reminder today why, in this day and age of CNN and 150-channel cable TV I still fiddle with noisy, fading shortwave radio to keep informed.

The Paupa New Guinea tidal wave has gotten scant attention in the domestic U.S. media. Thanks to BBC, R. Australia, New Zealand, and others, we can begin to grasp what a tragedy this is. And a bit of a wake up call for those of us who live in earthquake zones or along the coast.

I'm totally disgusted with the lack of domestic U.S. coverage of this. It's barely being mentioned! One would think that a disaster killing upwards of a thousand people would rate more than this level of coverage.

But, I guess since it doesn't have anything to do with Ken Starr or Marv Albert (and since it's unlikely there are any Americans amongst the dead) I guess it's not important.

I guess I had forgotten just how useless 99% of the U.S. media really is.

jdt

Art Bell

Some more on Art Bell - this show is a pure "silly season" show. Tons of UFO nonsense, channeling, exorcisms, "remote viewing", you name it and if it's silly as heck, Art covers it with his tongue so far in his cheek he'd need surgery to remove it.

His style is to lead the guests along by the nose, inserting "oh wow", "oh my" and "incredible!" as required to keep them spewing nonsense.

There is the occasional credible "thing" covered, such as David John Oates "Reverse Speech" escapades. This fellow has gotten into recording various human speech and playing it backwards, and he shows repeatedly and (in my judgment) credibly that there are little snippets of sensibility buried in the reversals. He's got his own website; I recommend a visit there for some "oh wow's" of your own. :-)

On the other hand, the primary fare is purest drivel. Some for instances:

There's this absolute loony who babbles about the Cydonia region on mars, how the faces and the general plateau region are absolute proof of a Martian civilized presence at one point. He presents this in such a way that you can almost swallow it, but then he goes off on a rant about the elevation of 33 degrees over the horizon is some magic number and NASA is involved in a plot to suppress information and hide the orbiter data from us, etc., etc. By the time he's off the air my ribs hurt from laughing so much. What a clown. :-)

There's this "exorcist" fellow who gets on occasionally. He's soft-spoken, about as credible as you can be given the subject matter, and kind of spooky to listen to, no matter if you believe or not. I don't, but he certainly has that "scare the fecal matter out of you around the campfire" approach down pat.

While we're on the subject of religious kookery, Bell has had a woman on who claims she's a witch; I wasn't convinced (even a little bit) of that claim, but she certainly is one sick, clueless puppy. And someone I wouldn't want around my friends or family.

There's a native American Indian guy who has brewed up all manner of superstitious nonsense into a pot of new age blarney. He goes on and on about the spirits, the tribes, the land, until you want to take the fellow's scalp and hang it out to dry. I find this guy a little more obnoxious than the run of the mill Bell guest, because the way I see it, he's simply promoting ignorance in the guise of culture. Culture is best described to me by the continuing development of sophistication, grace and knowledge. Lack of culture is primitive activity, religion and superstition, or the maintainance thereof. IMHO. :-)

Then there are the "Remote Viewers." Here we have a group of people whom it would be hard to exceed for lack of credibility. Tales of canceled government programs for telepathic sensing of future events and locations of current objects are credible to me - I have great faith in our government's ability to make stupidity the norm. After all, aren't we the country based on superstition (In God We Trust), myth (All Men Are Created Equal) and lies (anyone can become president)? Why, sure. :-) But where the presentations get amazing is in the claims for effectiveness and reliability. Trust me, if this stuff was working, you wouldn't have a canceled Govt. program, you'd have an active program and laws to arrest people before they commit crimes, among other significant social changes. It's a lot of fun to listen to, though.

Bell plays sound clips from time to time - outragously bad fakes of (claimed) Yeti or Bigfoot creatures, puported screams of the damned alleged to have come from holes in the groud (and which any competent audio engineer will recognize as a non-professional running a reverb algorythm or resonator to it's limits with garbage sound input.)

He claims to have seen UFO's himself; with his wife as a second witness to the event. He receives claims of UFO sightings as a long lost brother would as a consequence - it's pretty hard to take. mind you, I'd be the first guy in line to say I wish we had some visitors - I think it's technically and scientifically plausable that interstellar distances can be crossed by beings with longer lifespans and more available resources than we presently have. I just think the odds of it being us visited are low, given what we know of the physics involved right now.

Art Bell has this, ah, "theory" he calls "The Quickening" in which he calls our attention to the fact that things are changing faster and faster (gee, really?) and that this (ready?) is a portent of (unspecified) things to come and for which we had better be ready. He points at the weather, pollution, population, wars, you name it, he points at it. It's fun to try and follow; sort of like trying to follow a celibate priest's arguments for abstinence - he has no flipping idea what he's talking about, but there's a heck of a lot of circular reasoning to dig through before you can prove that - and before you get there, the priest has left (and Art has hung up on the caller trying to make his or her point... :-)

You can't believe the fun I have listening to this. My sweetheart and I have a great time poking fun at the specious reasoning, clueless guests, synchophant callers and lunatic theories Art Bell's forum doses the airwaves with night after night.

It's worth a try. Think of it as shock therapy. :-)

Mckay-Dymeck DR33 Model C

Here's a big dog for you... this looks more like stereo gear than a SW radio, and it performs really well too. I've been wanting one of these for years, and finally located one for sale on EBay and snapped it up. This is one heck of a radio!

M-D DR33C

FM DX'ing

I sort of got into this by circumstance, rather than planning.

I had a problem. The kind of music I like just isn't available where I live. The local station plays top 40, alternative and country. It has such bad production problems that listening to it is an exercise in thinking "Man, if I were running that station...".

I have a DSS dish, and it has a classic rock channel, but it's pretty confused - for instance, they think Bob Dylan, a folk singer, is "classic rock". He's anything but. Anyway, it can be difficult to listen to.

One day, I was listening in my car, just sort of tuning around, and I heard KRKX, a station about 179 air miles from here. I was surprised, and delighted, because they're a classic rock station, my preferred class of music.

In the next few weeks, I heard them many more times, and I began to realize that it must not be all that difficult to hear them.

Eventually, I set up a small yagi antenna on my roof, and in time, it got pointed at Hardin (where the transmitter is) and there they were, not too bad at all, though not what you'd want to listen to all the time, what with fading and all that.

So I reached deep into my pocket and put out for a "big dog" FM antenna:

aps-14
APS-14 FM DX Antenna
Click Here to see how well the APS-14 really does!

Now I can hear them any time of day, no problem at all. They rarely fade below a listenable level, and most of the time, they are full quieting, and in stereo.

This is what I presently use for FM DX'ing and listening to KRKX:

Marantz 2285-B Receiver
Marantz 2285-B

So you could say that I listen to FM DX all the time. But I actually do some active DX'ing now - with that big an antenna, I can hear the most amazing things. I can also tell when DX is coming in, because my normally steady reception of KRKX gets funky. If I'm in the mood for DX, all I have to do is touch the Marantz's tuning dial, and there'll be some good stuff heard within minutes.

I'm hoping to have an even more sensitive Marantz before too much longer; I won an auction on EBay for a Marantz 2110 tuner, and if it arrives as promised and works properly, it will no doubt become the center of my FM DX/KRKX listening system.

DX'ing is fun. FM DX'ing is a lot of fun. I've heard FM stations from California come in for several hours at a time!

palomar

This is a Palomar active antenna. The loops are set for a particular frequency; this one is the AM loop, that's all I use it for with the R-5000 (below). If you are an AM radio fan and have a radio with an external AM antenna connection, then I must tell you that this item is the very thing you should own. I have never, ever, seen anything that can compare with it for long range AM listening and ability to null out interference. Go for it!
rf2200

This one is a Panasonic RF-2200 (actually, the image is a European Panasonic 222, but it's essentially the same thing). This radio has the best price/performance ratio of all the portables I've ever been able to try. It has a crystal marker generator and a dial that can be manually calibrated using the markers by mechanical re-tracking. It's got good sound and sensitivity, and for an AM dx'er, it's got a rotatable AM antenna, something that is far more rare than it should be; There's nothing more annoying than finding out that the best reception position for my very expensive Sony 2010 is facing away from where my ear is pointed...

r5000

This is a Kenwood R-5000. This one is in the office. This is an extremely good radio, almost as good a receiver as the Yaesu FT-980, below. Completely digitally synthesized, 10 Hz tuning, dual clocks, no tuning noise (stepping or otherwise), audio notch, IF shift, real S-meter, four preset bandwidths, RF gain, fast/slow AGC, 2 (pretty crummy) noise blankers, 100 memories (which are set to the 100 US AM channels from 540 KHz to 1530 KHz, so I can tune in 10 KHz steps across the AM band quite fast.)
ft980

This is a Yaesu FT-980. It's actually a HAM transceiver with general coverage capability, but one of my cats laid on its CW key for a couple of hours and blew out the transmitter most thoroughly, so it can only receive now. I tried repeatedly to get replacement transistors from Yaesu, but their service department never delivered, and now the radio is so old I think it unlikely they'd still have the parts. I'd like to find another one sometime. I use the receiver portion for SWL and AM DX'ing on my desk at the office. It's the most flexible and sensitive receiver I own at present. 10 Hz tuning, no noise, 5 KHz stepping, continuously variable bandwidth and IF shift controls, audio notch filter, tone, RF gain, fast/slow AGC, 1 really, really good adjustable noise blanker, attenuator, real S-meter.
2010

This is a SONY 2010. It's a pretty famous radio among SWL's and AM DX'ers, but I'm not all that impressed with it. First of all, I hate the little pops it makes as it steps from one frequency to the next. Secondly, the battery compartment is so poorly designed that the radio has a tendency to lose its memory. Third, if you take it thru an airport XRAY machine, it will lose it's marbles entirely. Fourth, it's quite prone to overload with an external antenna. And fifth, it doesn't tune in small enough steps to provide quality listening on SSB (it's 100 hz/step). The best use I have for it is AM DX'ing on occasion, and locating SW stations - you can't beat a digitally synthesized radio for station location.
pana1

This is a Panasonic RF-1350. This is a very good analog portable, the second best I own at present. An excellent AM DX rig. One annoying feature similar to the RF-2200: the S-Meter works backwards.
rf1150

This is a Panasonic RF-1150. This is a reasonably good analog portable. Note the rotatable AM antenna on the top; that alone makes it worth having - unfortunately, the sensitivity isn't nearly as good as the RF-2200, but you get what you pay for... Mostly when you listen to AM radio, you have to turn the radio, and it seems that you always have to turn it away from you; but not with this radio, or it's brother the RF-2200, you don't.
superr

This is the "GE SuperRadio", another fairly popular radio among Am DX'ers. It's very sensitive, selective, and it has great audio (as you might guess from that megillah speaker!) However, it's got an Achilles heel - it drifts most annoyingly, such that you have to readjust the tuning for about 15 minutes, perhaps 8 to 10 times before it settles down. Unfortunate. Others have not reported this problem, so perhaps it's just my unit.
bulova

This is an AM-only portable from the 60's. It works, and that's about all you can say about it.
emerson

This is an Emerson OEM SW/AM/FM radio. It works extremely well for it's small size. I take it on trips.
mitchell

This is a classic tube radio by Mitchell. It doesn't work very well, and I need to get into it and service it. I got it at an auction here in Montana, because it just looked cool. But it really does need service.
Zenith h600

Another classic tube radio, this one by Zenith. It works pretty well, considering its age. It still has its detachable AM antenna, and a mongo whip for shortwave. Even the retractable dial cord thing still works. I think it could use some electronic attention, but it suffices for now.
VOTW

This is a Radio Shack "Voice Of The World" portable, and it worked great until I opened it up to try and align the dial tuning... it's got a pretty flimsy antenna connection, and I never could get it to be reliable once I closed it up. Unfortunate.
trident

This is a Trident AM/FM/SW portable. It works O.K.; I bought it on a trip where I had forgotten to pack my little Emerson. Nothing to write home about.
xonex

This one is a tiny little replica of an old radio. It's AM/FM, and as for operations, it just plain sucks. But its cute as hell and that's why I bought it.

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Questions or comments? Email me: yudanja@blackbeltsystems.com