Posts

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).

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

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!

At Tecsun Radios Australia, we’re a bunch of amateur radio enthusiasts ourselves, and AMSAT’s satellite launch on December 4 (Australian time) “Fox1 Cliff” has inspired us to join forces with the volunteers at AMSAT who build and launch Amateur Radio Satellites.

Read more

This morning’s launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A of Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre, carried a payload designed to boost communications for the amateur radio operators among us!

Read more

Tecsun S-8800

The Tecsun S-8800 has been a long time coming to the Australian market so we’re very excited that Silicon Chip Magazine has featured this great new addition to our range of radios in their most recent July 2017 magazine!

S-8800 review

The Tecsun S-8800 review is on Page 57 of the July 2017 issue of Silicon Chip Magazine!

Here are some of the great things they had to say about the P-8800.

“If you live in, or go “bush” and want a radio that will let you keep listening where other radios have given up, or if you’re a city resident who wants to give DX listening a go, try the Tecsun S-8800.”

– Silicon Chip Magazine

“The S-8800 is right up there, even exceeding many higher-priced sets in its ability to not only resolve distant stations but to maintain them at an enjoyable level.”

– Silicon Chip Magazine

“The shortwave section covers just above the broadcast band (1.711MHz) through to almost 30MHz (actually 29.999MHz and with its single sideband plus AM reception, along with fine tuning, you’ll be pulling in stations that you didn’t know existed!”

– Silicon Chip Magazine

And the Silicon Chip team aren’t the only ones excited about this great new addition to the Tecsun family of radios. Here you can read Garry Cratt’s full review here, and watch the video demonstration!

 “Although the frequency range is stated as 520-1620kHz (when the receiver is set to 9kHz spacing), it can be extended by setting the receiver to 10kHz spacing and then it will be possible to tune 520-1710kHz. By using slow tuning steps (1kHz), and station can be tuned.”

– Radio expert Garry Cratt (VK2YBX)

The S-8800 was featured and reviewed in Silicon Chip Magazine alongside the new Tecsun D-008 DAB+ Digital Radio!

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

The Tecsun S-8800 is the only radio in the Tecsun range to provide an infrared remote control in the kit. An absolute luxury for the user as all functions are able to be controlled by the remote. The remote uses standard AAA batteries to make using the remote hassle-free and cheap when it needs recharging.

The Tecsun S-8800 is available and in stock now, right in time for Father’s Day! Find out what else is new for Father’s Day! 

And check our Father’s Day Shipping Schedule to make sure you get what he really wants for Father’s Day on time!

You can click here to subscribe to Silicon Chip Magazine to read the review and find out more about our exclusive Father’s Day 2017 offers, and stay up to date on all things

Subscribe to Silicon Chip Magazine today to keep up to date with all of our new product announcements and reviews!

The Tecsun PL680 has been a long time coming to the Australian market so we’re very excited that Silicon Chip Magazine has featured this great new addition to our range of radios in their most recent December 2015 magazine’s Product Showcase.

The Tecsun PL680 is featured in Silicon Chip Magazine December 2015

The Tecsun PL680 is featured in Silicon Chip Magazine December 2015

“For keen shortwave listeners, you’ll notice the difference in the PL680.”

– Silicon Chip Magazine

And the Silicon Chip team aren’t the only ones excited about the upgrades. Here are just a few other reviews the PL680 has received:

“Worth the upgrade.”

swling.com

“Tecsun certainly gives you a lot of bang for your buck.”

Chris Freitas, On Radio Blog

The PL680 was featured and reviewed in Silicon Chip Magazine alongside the new Tecsun PL365 giving two of our most popular portable receivers a major makeover, making them even better value for money.

The PL680 radio with VHF Air Band is a great radio for communications enthusiasts with the radio providing excellent reception to all of the major frequency bands including AM/MW, FM, Shortwave with SSB, Longwave, and VHF Air Band.

The Tecsun PL365 is the only radio in the Tecsun range (apart from the Tecsun S2000 Desktop Radio) to provide an external antenna connection for the AM/MW band. The Tecsun PL365 Radio is an ideal radio to use for AM/MW EMI surveys because of its external AM antenna, ability to accept customised antennas and display showing signal strength in dBuV.

Both radios are available and in stock now, right in time for Christmas.

The PL365 connected to the AN100 Loop Antenna

The Tecsun PL365 is the only pocket-sized radio in the Tecsun range that offers an external antenna connection. It’s easy to use, portable and comes with a great list of features to make this pocket-radio perfect for the outdoors and for use as an emergency radio.

Extended AM coverage

The PL365 is configured so that when the user selects 9Khz channel spacing on the AM broadcast band (as used in Australia) the frequency coverage is set to 522 -1620 Khz. This means that when a user tunes across the AM broadcast band in Australia, the receiver increments in 9Khz steps, which conforms to the ACMA MW bandplan.

However, it is possible to select 10Khz channel spacing (used in the USA and Japan), and this changes the frequency range  to 520-1720Khz. By setting the receiver to 10Khz spacing ( With the radio off, press and hold the 9/10Khz button until 10Khz is displayed), it will be possible to tune the extra 1620-1710Khz segment. Those stations broadcasting in this band segment are known as Medium Frequency Narrowband Area Service (MF NAS) stations

Extended FM coverage

With the PL365 OFF, press and hold the FM button to select either 76-108Mhz or 88-108Mhz.

External antenna connection for the PL365

An external shortwave or AM broadcast antenna (including our AN 100 loop antenna) can be connected directly into the “MW antenna socket” to refine the tuning

The PL365 connected to the AN100 Loop Antenna

The PL365 connected to the AN100 Loop Antenna

Rechargeable batteries

Whist the PL365 is not supplied with rechargeable batteries, it is possible to fit rechargeable Ni MH batteries and utilise the USB changing socket. The recommended Tecsun batteries are 1000mAh capacity. The PL365 has internal charging circuitry to cater for this. Tecsun Radios Australia can supply batteries, USB lead and charger, shown in the Tecsun website and catalogue under “accessories”.

 

Get your own PL365 here and find out what all the fuss is about!

Thanks to Garry VK2YBX for these great tips and tricks.

pl880

Radio reviewer Gary Ryan VK2ZKT has put together this great list of top tips for using the Tecsun AN100 Loop Antenna to help get the best AM reception with your radio.

AN100 Loop Antenna being tuned with the PL880 Radio

AN100 Loop Antenna being tuned with the PL880 Radio

Tecsun AN100 Loop Antenna Top Tips by Gary Ryan:

  • Place the radio and loop outside the house if possible on your veranda or outdoor entertaining area.
  • If used inside always switch off all light dimmers.
  • Switch off energy saving lamps; these produce all kinds of noise.
  • Keep the loop as far as possible away from home entertainment systems like DVD players, LCD and Plasma TVs, set top boxes and the like, as the majority all use switch mode power supplies.
  • Start by keeping the loop as close as possible to the radio, within 30mm. The distance will vary, depending upon the size of the ferrite rod antenna inside your receiver, so determine the optimum distance by observing the signal strength.
  • Keep mobile phones away from the loop.
  • Place the radio for optimum signal by rotating it on a flat surface. Best reception should be obtained when the radio is facing 90 degrees from the direction of the transmitter.
  • First tune the receiver to the  frequency of interest, then tune the loop for best reception.
  • Try different locations in your home; remember you may have insulation that is backed with foil in your walls and or ceiling. This greatly attenuates the signals on the AM broadcast band.
  • Always rotate both the radio and loop to gain the best-received signal strength along with the best noise reduction.
  • Keep iPods and other MP3 players away from your radio and loop, the RF hash they generate even when switched off is huge.
AN100 Loop Antenna being tuned with the PL880 Radio

AN100 Loop Antenna being tuned with the PL880 Radio

Thanks to Gary Ryan VK2ZKT for this excellent list of top tips. Gary has also written a review of the AN100 Loop Antenna. Read his review here: AN100 Loop Antenna Review

amateur radio clubs

CQ VK Amateur radio clubs!

With over 15,000 members of the Australian amateur radio clubs and societies, we believe that it’s important to support these amateur radio clubs and societies which bring welcome and together hobbyists, amateurs and licensed amateurs. Best of all, these amateur radio clubs introduce the interest to new members of the community creating great friendships and sharing knowledge.

amateur radio clubs

We regularly offer group-buy discounts and inform clubs and their members first of any upcoming sales before the general public.

If you or your club would like to find out more about how Tecsun Radios Australia can support your amateur radio club and its members, please contact us using the form below. Our friendly team will get in contact with you shortly after.