Saturday, 23 June 2012

MANX Radio on Medium Wave from Devon

This morning in my favourite dawn hours I heard Manx Radio, Foxdale, Isle of Man on 1368khz AM. Nice signal with an advert for the Isle of Man Steampacket Company. This is the first time in allmy years of SWLing that I have received a signal from this Island in the North Sea and started my day very positively.

I also heard some nice Asian stations in London on the MW band: Kismat Radio on 1035khz and Buzz Asia on 972khz.

I became a member of the BDXC - British DX Club a few years ago. It is only £15 per year and for this remarkable price you receive a monthly magazine called "Communication", a twice-yearly guide to HF broadcasts in English, and a terrific discount on the World Radio and TV Handbook. I try to send one or two of my more interesting logs each month into them for inclusion in the magazine.

That's it for today. But before I go, I spoke to a nice chap in the Mare & Foul Sanctuary shop where I work who down here on holiday from Stockport near Manchester airport. He bought a pair of binoculars for plane-spotting and had been lucky enough to see the Emirates Airbus A340 coming in to land on so many occasions it had now become commonplace for him. I have never seen one before, but would dearly love to as I understand it's a splendid site.

Here she is:

Friday, 22 June 2012

Transport Radio, The Netherlands on HF

I was listening on 6095 khz yesterday at 0945 UTC to a Dutch language broadcast on AM. I thought it might be Radio Netherlands broadcasting to South America as the music had a Latin flavour, but nope, it was Transport Radio from The Netherlands, a 24-hours internet station focused on road transport, inland waterways and rail. The music was great and I enjoyed listening.
I have also been enjoying VOA's broadcasts to Africa on the tropical bands on 4930 (Botswana tx) and 4940 (Sao Tome tx), and on Wednesday night they had a programme called "Explorations" about Buddhism and Christian monastic orders in the USA. They spoke to some young nuns of the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia who had rejected the more westernized lives of their friends in exchange for a more peaceful life of the spirit. With that and some lovely plaintive Asian music from Radio XL in Birmingham on medium wave 1286 this morning, I realized it was this transporting of my mind to different places that I listen to radio and enjoy it so much.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

RF Systems DX10 Antenna - update

Well I am the first to admit when I am wrong, and in the case of the DX10 antenna I think I was a little unfair as since my last post I decided to give it a fairer test. In the sales blurb about it 12 years ago I read it can be used indoors. This is just not true. It is a useless antenna indoors on all its operating range of LF to HF. It simply picks up all the noise, amplifies it and throws it at your receiver. It was misleading to advertise it in this way and at £200 I disagree with the comment RF Systems make in the leaflet about it being low cost. If you want an indoor antenna, make a small loop for a fiver. That is low cost and will null out, to varying degrees, much of the noise.

But mounted about 3m above ground and outside the noise field of the house, it is rather good and although I have only had it up for 24 hours I don't think it will be coming down again in a hurry.

On medium wave (both broadcast and maritime sections) it is superb and outperforms my indoor loops for those bands. And an the 15 and 17mhz broadcast bands it is smashing as well.

I have updated this paragraph as I realise this antenna is also extremely good all the way through the LF beacon band and down into the VLF portion of the spectrum. I have tuned my DX394 with it all the way down to 1khz and it is a superb performer an all the eerie and unusual VLF utility stations. I think the excellent performance in this area only became apparent once I had securely clamped the metal base of the DX10 onto the aluminum washing line pole. Whilst simply hanging from the washing line the LF performance was mediocre at best.

On HF on all the lower bands, broadcast and utility, it is just as good as my tuned indoor loop but of course I don't need to do any tuning or rotating to nul out the noise from inside the house, so it is a pleasure to use, and I can hop around from frequency to frequency checking for the best one quickly and effortlessly.

The only area where the indoor loop seems better is on 6mhz where, for instance, Gander Volmet has a lower noise floor and is thus more readable on the indoor loop. But that's when indoor noise is low. I haven't tested it when the indoor noise floor is S9 with plasma TVs and pcs from next door all emitting their dreadful din.

So there you have it.

Here is a photo of it on a wet June afternoon here in England, with Bradley, my Jack Russell watching the proceedings!

Friday, 8 June 2012

NDBs so far

I heard a new NDB last night via a recording on 356khz. It was SGO (Sagunto) in Southern Spain at a dsitance of 763 miles from my location in Torquay. I though it would be cool to post a google earth map showing the beacons received so far. Yellow markers are from my main QTH in Torquay, those in blue from Redruth in Cornwall whilst on holiday last month.

Pula in Croatia is the best distance record at 891 miles, however I understand it transmits using 2kw! Sagunto is 300 watts according to the same source. These are relatively high power and many of the other ones logged nearer home are only 15-30 watts, making catching them a real treat, given their operational range is only some tens of miles.

I have ordered a narrow 250hz filter for my Yaesu FRG-100. It cost me almost as much as the radio but as I am enjoying the NDBing so much I decided it was a worthwhile purchase.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Homemade vs Commercial Antennas

Over my 20+ years of short wave listening I have mostly bought everything I require. But this is not always the best thing to do, and it certainly is not the most satisfying. About 12 years ago I bought a hugely expensive antenna: the RF Systems DX10. What great things I expected from this £200 100khz to 30mhz amplified vertical of about 3 foot long, and how very disappointed I was when it performed no better than a few meters of wire strung around my window frame.

Since passing my amateur radio basic licence I have joined a local amateur radio club and made some super friends who have helped and inspired me to make my own antennas. My LF loop antenna outperforms that RF Systems vertical beyond anything I would have believed 12 years ago. And my HF loop of less than 50cm diameter is indescribably better. What's more, both homemade loops cost less than a fiver (£5.00) and when I hear a station on them it is accompanied by a joy and contentment that commercial equipment never delivers.

I have just received a parcel from the USA containing a varactor diode. With the help of an M0 friend I hope to be able to keep an LF Beacon loop outside and tune it remotely from the comfort of my shack. So keep your eyes out for my updates on this project!

Over the last few nights I have received PIA (Piacenza), PLA (Pula) and ILM (Illesheim) on the LF beacon front. I am now using the Roberts C9950 to make several short recordings during the night of the same beacon.