Many technically inclined people have discovered shortwave listening in their youth. Years later they continue to the fascinated by what can be heard on the shortwave bands.

This is my story….

As a teenager, I became interested in radio by reading the hobbyist magazines of the day. There were tantalising ads for army disposals stores in Sydney full of communications equipment but beyond my modest means.  In my case, I acquired several old valve radios thrown out at the local tip. Much to the disgust of my parents, I regularly carried such prizes home and commenced my new hobby of listening to the radio bands.

In those days most home entertainment units were made of wood and contained a radio receiver that covered the broadcast and shortwave bands.  I was lucky to find one that worked. Quickly discarding the bulky wooden cabinet, the receiver became a benchtop unit, exposed in all its glory. The speaker used an electromagnet (no permanent magnets in those days) and the signal strength meter was a green valve indicator poking through the front panel called a “magic eye”.

The next step was to install an antenna which comprised the longest piece of wire I could find. I recall that unraveling the enamel copper wire from a transformer became the most cost-effective solution.

Soon I was listening to overseas stations, many broadcasting in English, and occasionally I heard important events. I recall clearly listening to the Victoria Police on one of their HF frequencies when they announced the search for a prominent politician who had gone missing in December 1967.

I informed my parents of this important event and they were amazed to discover a few days later that I had been listening to the search for the then Australian Prime Minister, Harold Holt who disappeared in the surf at Portsea in Victoria.

I enjoyed listening to distant MW stations all over Australia, and collected quite a few QSL cards from broadcasters around the world.

Believe it or not, a Broadcast Listeners Licence was required in Australia until in 1974, at a cost of $26.50, so there was a degree of secrecy involved in all this listening activity.

Eventually, my shortwave listening led me to an interest in Amateur Radio. I knew a local lad who was fortunate enough to purchase the entire correspondence course for the amateur exam and who loaned it to me after he obtained his license.

So in August 1973, I obtained my amateur radio license. Somehow I managed to make the required 90% pass mark, much to my amazement.

My first amateur radio transceiver was a converted Pye reporter VHF AM taxi radio. I recall it had a huge valve in the output stage, requiring several hundred volts from the power supply to operate. The only semiconductors were in the 12 volt inverter powering the entire contraption. When the push to talk button on the microphone was pushed, it took a few seconds for the voltage to build up sufficiently to allow the transmitter to operate!

From that point, there seemed to be an endless succession of different two way radios being fiddled with to obtain the best on air performance. During subsequent years I became interested in amateur television and satellite communications.

I recall in about 1975 being able to eavesdrop on the US operators of the Applications Technology Satellite 1 (ATS-1), the world’s first weather satellite. At the time my interest was driven by the fact that antennas for the VHF and UHF bands where physically manageable and easy to make.

However, my interest in VHF and UHF waned as mobile phones replaced the two way radio as the preferred method of communication and I became re-energised with shortwave.

In much the same way as my earlier experience with VHF and UHF was driven by the availability of ex-commercial equipment, so was my entry into HF communications.

Second hand commercial transceivers designed for use by the Royal Flying Doctor Service became available and soon I was running 100 watts on the HF amateur bands, communicating with people around the world.

Someone once told me that shortwave listening is like fishing… you never know what you are going to get. That certainly described my experiences.

One incident worthy of mention was receiving the USAF Strategic Bomber Command broadcasts. These coded transmissions were part of the US military control of nuclear weapons and could control the launch of ground-based missiles should war be declared! These broadcasts weren’t public knowledge at the time.

I also heard the US military MIA recovery missions into Laos and Cambodia at the end of the Vietnam war, fascinating listening. Over the years I have heard several successful search and rescue missions involving aircraft being ferried from the USA to Australia. On one occasion I heard a commercial cargo jet traveling from Australia to the US, circling a downed pilot until the US Coastguard could reach him.

To be able to listen to these situations unfolding in real time is one of the aspects of shortwave listening that makes it an exciting hobby, contrary to common belief.

These days I mostly listen on HF. There is an amazing range of broadcasts available to shortwave listeners, ranging from utility stations like the Bureau of Meteorology, 4WD networks, HF aircraft networks and VOLMET, and secret numbers stations, as well as regular, scheduled shortwave broadcasts from all over the world.

Now, listening is even easier, as broadcasting schedules are freely available, and the worldwide network of internet accessible KiwiSDRs provide a fantastic resource for shortwave listeners.

Receivers are now more affordable than ever and the hobby is enjoying a huge resurgence, in part due to the worldwide pandemic of 2020.

There is no time like the present to immerse yourself in the world of shortwave listening!

 

Garry VK2YBX

Looking for a fantastic shortwave radio? Tecsun Radios Australia stocks a range of Tecsun radios like the newly arrived Tecsun PL330 $145 right through to the latest Tecsun radio to be released and considered to be a masterpiece, the Tecsun PL990

The Xiegu G90  is a powerful portable HF multimode transceiver that covers 0.5-30MHz (10-160 metres on TX) with 20 watts of RF output. The XIEGU G90 HF Transceiver utilises a software-defined (SDR) 24-bit architecture to provide superb transmit and receive performance.

Click here to shop our full range.

Click here to view a list of major ABC AM radio stations by area. All frequencies are in kilohertz (kHz) and all are on the medium wave band (MW).

PL600 review by troy from free range sailing australia

We were delighted to watch this review by Troy & Pascale from Free Range Sailing who are currently exploring our beautiful country in a 30-foot yacht called Mirrool.

Whilst sailing through northern Australia as well as the west coast of Tasmania there are limited coastal stations broadcasting on VHF.

Using a shortwave radio like the Tecsun PL600 was really beneficial for Troy & Pascale to receive up to date weather forecasts, crucial when sailing.

 

Most meteorological bureaus will publish the times and frequencies ( these change, day/night) that you will be able to pick up the weather schedule via your shortwave radio.

The radio Pascale used was the Tecsun PL600 Worldband radio. At just $129 The Tecsun PL600 World Band Radio is the perfect entry product to the world of shortwave listening and an essential when traveling to isolated areas.

To view the full video click here.

To learn more about the Tecsun PL600 a fantastic entry-level shortwave radio priced at just $129 click here

If you would like to follow Troy and Pascale’s intrepid adventures ( highly recommended) click here

 

Q codes were developed by Morse Code operators as a method of communicating quickly and accurately. Rather than send a complete phrase, Q codes were developed to cover most operational situations. Q codes can be used to ask or answer a question, and can be used by operators who speak different languages.

Q codes are approved by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for use on worldwide radio networks.

For instance if an operator wants to change to another frequency, he can simply advise the party he is speaking with “QSY 7050” meaning “I will change my operating frequency to 7050Khz”. Similarly he could ask “should I change to 7050Khz” by simply saying “QSY 7050”.

 

So the next time you hear an operator using a Q code, spare a thought for those old-time morse code operators and the time saved by using Q codes.

 

How is your reception? Here at Tecsun Radios Australia, we have a range of shortwave and digital radios and antennas to suit your needs.

The Tecsun Radios Australia HF amateur radio dipole covers the popular 5/7/10/14/18/21/24/28 and 50Mhz bands. The antenna is rated at 100Watts PEP power handling capability and is supplied in a convenient canvas carry bag.

The antenna comprises a 1:1 balun and 2 bobbins containing the appropriate amount of wire to cover the specified bands. Get yours HERE

tecsun dipole antenna australia

 

 

In 1843 the phenonema known as the Solar cycle was discovered by Samuel Schwabe a German astronomer who observed transitions of the Sun from periods of high activity to low activity every 11 years, over a period of nearly 20 years.

Put in simple terms, the Sun is composed of a huge ball of electrically charged hot gas. As this gas moves, it generates a powerful magnetic field. This magnetic field transitions through an 11 year cycle (known as the Solar Cycle) during which the magnetic poles of the Sun are transposed, ie the north and south poles change places.

This cycle affects activity on the surface of the Sun, such as sunspots and solar flares. The energy released by these events charges particles in the ionosphere, affecting radio propagation. More solar flares and sunspots occur at the peak of the cycle than at the bottom of the cycle. Typical values are 80-100 sunspots at the cycle peak and 15 or so at the cycle minimum.

When a strong flare occurs, the increased x-ray and extreme ultraviolet radiation produces ionisation in the lower, D (absorption) layer of the ionosphere, disrupting HF radio broadcasts by absorbing rather than reflecting signals. 

We are currently at the end of Solar Cycle 24 (calculated as mid 2020), and from this point we can expect an increase in solar activity and changed radio propagation as the maximum useable frequency (MUF) for shortwave communications increases with an increase in solar activity.

At the peak of the Solar Cycle, the higher frequencies of the shortwave spectrum are very good. Low power stations can be heard over remarkably long distances. 

At the bottom of the cycle, the current position, those higher frequency signals will not usually support normal propagation via the ionosphere. So propagation at lower frequencies will be better whilst higher frequencies will suffer. 

 

Article written by Tecsun Radios Australia

Image of sun via Nasa.

Shortwave radio, the original and most crucial form of radio communication in our history, and dropped by many countries 20 years ago, is set for a resurgence!

Used heavily during the Cold War, shortwave was vital for communications in isolated areas.

After the war, listenership dwindled and as the equipment aged and the energy bills continued to accrue, one of the first in line for budget cuts was shortwave, with no importance placed on replacing it.

 

Not unlike the song, “Video Killed the Radio Star”, many say that satellites and the internet killed shortwave radio.

 

Really it is a combination of technology and content delivered directly to the savvy FM listener and streamed to the cell phone obsessed user generally at a reduced cost compared to shortwave. 

 

As Shortwave dwindled, radio began being broadcast in FM and DAB modes to radios, devices, and laptops, with thousands of listening options. 

Many new broadcasters began piggybacking on the local popular informative radio stations.

 

This new technology, however, in many countries is not without its issues. At first, it might appear that these are cheaper and more modern options, but slow buffering times, multiplexed DAB+, excessive and expensive cost of data in many countries, as well as a listener’s preference for anonymity has seen a return to shortwave.

 

As mentioned in previous articles the emerging ability to transmit shortwave radio digitally using DRM ( Digital Radio Mondiale) has seen a resurgence in the use of shortwave due to its wide coverage and heavily reduced cost.

 

Specifically China has opted to use DRM Shortwave to provide full coverage to the areas between the large cities.

 

China National Radio broadcasts from five upgraded sites 80 hours a day with seven to eight transmitters sending shortwave DRM to most areas of North China, East China, South China and Southwest China. Russia is also airing DRM in shortwave over huge areas of Siberia.

India is now looking to increase its three DRM shortwave transmitters for further national and international reach. 

 

Several CRN transmitters beam enormous DRM signals into our part of the world daily.

 

Indonesia and Brazil are also said to have expressed interest in adapting their shortwave analog over to DRM for greater coverage. 

 

As mentioned previously Vanuatu, has recently opted for DRM shortwave to save lives in disaster situations by using its integrated emergency warning capability, and a site in the United States has recently started broadcasting in DRM the popular Radio Marti programs toward central and Latin America.

 

As many areas of the world are re-discovering the value of shortwave we may see the resurgence of shortwave being replaced by its new digital form.

 

Are you interested in listening to Shortwave radio? Imagine picking up and decoding radio stations from remote areas of the world? Re connect with the world during this time of isolation.

 

Tecsun Radios Australia has a great range of Shortwave and Digital radios available.

Shop the range here

Have you seen the latest edition of Silicon Chip magazine? Our latest product the Xiegu G90 has its own 2 page spread with a favourable review by ROSS TESTER.

 The most notable features are: transmit power of up to 20 watts adjustable in 1 watt increments so output power can be adjusted to suit band conditions, built in ATU, detachable control head for vehicle operations, and a superb general coverage receiver.

Operating frequencies can be directly-entered via the microphone keypad or “dialled up” using the 1.8 inch front panel with 25 push buttons for control.

ROSS TESTER noted that online reviews of the G90 world wide, rate the transceiver at least 4 stars, with many rating the radio 5 out of 5. The unit has been reviewed recently in QST magazine in the USA and Radcom, the monthly magazine of the Radio Society of Great Britain.

Here at Tecsun Radios Australia we heavily research and test new products and much consideration is put into what products we release to the market.

The Outstanding Features of the Xiegu G90 for us are the following.

** 20 watts output power

** Inbuilt ATU

** Detachable front panel

** Superb general coverage receiver

** Waterfall and spectrum display

In addition to these fantastic features the Xiegu G90 represents fantastic value retailing for around half the price of most transceivers on the market.

The Xiegu G90 transceiver is available for order in our webstore with same day shipping available for orders placed before 12pm Business days.

Are you looking to add the Xiegu G90 Transceiver to your collection? Get yours here.

See a preview of the article by clicking here.

The future of shortwave

 

The future of Shortwave is looking bright as the BBC Shortwave transmissions service of two decades ago is being revisited.

 

In a time where people are distancing themselves and experiencing isolation. Shortwave may just be what the world needs to unite all cultures!

 

People who enjoy shortwave and for those who are interested in shortwave radio something interesting has emerged from the  High Frequency Co-Ordination Conference (HFCC), a non-governmental association.  

 

Due to the fact that many of the old transmitters needed to be replaced or upgraded a decision to revisit the need for shortwave and consideration to re-launch the BBC shortwave broadcast  service (cut 20 years ago) has been undertaken. Modern technology allows greater coverage and lower operating costs, re-energising the enthusiasm for shortwave broadcasting.

 

Even in this high tech world, there are still so many developing and free world countries relying heavily on Shortwave radio. Not everybody in the world has smart phones, broadband, connected cars or enough disposable income.

 

Shortwave defies cultural, religious and geographical barriers, Shortwave is free and unlike most platforms available it can be consumed anonymously.

For some countries, much of their information and media is censored, so receiving updates through shortwave from neighboring countries can be the only source they can access.

 

Many, especially in North Korea which are rated as the second most censored country in the world, tune in to cross border broadcasts despite serious consequences if caught by the Kim Jong-Un regime.

The BBC Shortwave transmission services used to broadcast to most of the world, over time however, many were cut, limiting broadcasts  to larger audiences in Africa and part of Asia. 

Currently, the major shortwave broadcasters are BBC, Voice of America, All India Radio, China Radio International, Radio Japan, Radio Romania, Radio New Zealand, Radio France International, Radio Taiwan International, KBS Korea and Voice of Turkey and many more.

 

Reinstating the previous BBC Broadcasts would mean the world of shortwave could be enjoyed cross culturally again especially in a time where boarders are closed to each other and people are feeling isolated.

 

 “Shortwave is just short of a miracle, actually. When it is beamed at an angle, it hits the ionosphere. A mirror around the Earth and then it falls like a ball at great distances, beyond the horizon. Thus these transmissions reach listeners over large areas, continents and beyond. Two or three high-power transmitters can potentially cover the entire world.”

                                Ruxandra Obreja ( chairman of Digital Radio Mondiale.)

 

Are you looking for a radio whilst self isolating that is capable or shortwave listening?

Here are our picks.

Tecsun S-8800 High Performance AM/FM Radio.  A true Broadcast Listeners Receiver  designed to provide maximum performance on the AM (MW) bands, allowing listeners to receive fringe AM radio stations with unmatched audio clarity

Tecsun SL-880

Tecsun PL600 World Band Radio provides reception of the shortwave, medium wave, long wave, and FM broadcast bands. The Tecsun PL600 World Band Radio’s PLL synthesised design ensures excellent frequency stability.

Tecsun pl600

To shop the full range of our radios and antennas, click HERE

Easily identify shortwave stations

For those of you who have ever been scanning shortwave radio and happened across an interesting station but have no idea what it is or where it is coming from there are a couple of phone apps that can identify what you are listening to.

 

These 2 apps (depending on what type of phone you have) will help listeners identify who they are listening to.. All they need to do is lookup the frequency they are receiving  and these Apps will show what stations are on air at the time. This is an easy way to identify who you are listening to.

 

                                                                                                                                          For Android: Click here

shortwave station identifier.

                                                                                                                           For iphone, iPad;Click here   Shortwave station identifier

Try these two apps and let us know what you think. We would also love to hear what you have found recently on Shortwave. 

Send your feedback and listening reports to hello@tecsun.com.au

 

Radio licence applications soars.

Tecsun Radios Australia has set up a Software defined radio (receiver) in Araluen, a rural town in NSW, Australia. It’s a quiet location for radio “noise”, far away from high density population and the accompanying RF noise generated.

You can listen to the Tecsun Radios Australia SDR here.

The SDR itself is called a “KiwiSDR” and is a commercially available unit, costing around $500. The Kiwi SDR compared to others has 2 advantages: (1) it allows the user to observe the entire shortwave spectrum in one screen, and (2) it can easily be connected to the internet to allow remote operation.

Other SDRs only receive a narrow portion of the radio spectrum, and require extra equipment to connect to the internet.

With the Kiwi SDR, it is easy to remotely identify that a signal exists from the “waterfall” display and then accurately tune and receive it.

The SDR is connected to an onmidirectional wideband antenna, so that all signals across the shortwave band can be equally well received (however this is dependant on signal propagation at different times of the day). The antenna itself is a modified Tecsun Radios Australia discone, with some of the radials removed to give the antenna a higher angle of radiation. The central active element has been replaced with a 3 meter spiral wound helical element. This simulates a much longer piece of antenna wire needed for lower frequency reception.

The antenna has been located as far away from man made noise sources as possible, is fed with special double shielded coaxial cable and a variety of matching transformers and attenuators, to ensure local stations do not overload the sensitive “front end” of the SDR. Careful attention has also been paid to the grounding of the antenna.

Because the location is remote and in a bushfire affected area, mains power is supplemented by a diesel generator and UPS.

Connectivity to the www is achieved via a Ka band NBN satellite link.

The Kiwi SDR can be used to receive AM, AM Narrow, USB, LSB, weatherfax, CW (Morse Code) and DRM signals (when a suitable decoder is used).

The Tecsun Radios SDR ‘waterfall’

You can listen to the Tecsun Radios Australia SDR here.

Or, simply logon to the SDR (go to https://sdr.hu/ for a worldwide list), select an SDR located close to the transmission source you’d like to listen to, select AM mode and the desired frequency.

Have you tuned into the Tecsun Radios SDR?
Tell us in the comments below where you’re tuning in from and what you listened to!