Monday, 16 July 2012

Yaesu FRG-100 for SWLing

Up until now I have been listening to short wave broadcast stations on my Realistic DX394B. For utility stations this radio is superb for the low, second-hand price tag of around £75, but on AM the audio quality (perhaps due to low cost filters?) was rough, and during QSB it was tough-going on the poor old ears.

I have spent the last few weeks deciding how to upgrade the shack and, to cut a long story short, have had great success with a Yaesu FRG-100 I bought last winter from a G4 friend of mine initially for scanning airforce frequencies on USB from the European air forces.

In fact I now realise this radio was designed with the broadcast band listener in mind: superb audio, sensible choice of AM filters of 6khz and 4khz, and a handy option of being able to set the radio up to toggle through the international broadcast bands and select the steps to, well just about anything really. I have it hooked up to a 1930's Rola bakerlite speaker and the sound quality is quite simply exquisite. I am particularly fussy in this area of sound quality. I have what I suppose you would call a "musical" ear making me perhaps extra sensitive to poor sound quality. But if I tune now to All India Radio in the evening, instead of having to switch off after a few minutes of heavy "whooshing", "crashing" sound with  wildly varying dynamic range during even slight to moderate QSB, I can sit back and enjoy Hindustani classical music and popular light/film music. I have always loved classical Indian music and like nothing better than to listen to it on a humid, wet, summers day (getting a lot of those this year!) and imagine I am thousands of miles away in a tropical sub-continent monsoon.

And whilst the tabla drums on my other SW radios sounded just like any ordinary drum: rather dull and flat, on the FRG100 they sound beautiful: soft, vibrant, full of rich, deep sound. In fact all music is now very, very much more enjoyable. The combination of the better quality radio and the great speaker bring out, as if from nowhere, all these hitherto unheard instruments, and all with rich, tonal sound.

I had considered buying an AOR7030 and even got as far as ordering one last week. But I'm glad I quickly changed my mind in favour of giving my FRG-100 a run for its money as it is a great receiver.

The DX394 is especially good in the sensitivity department and is an excellent radio for weak station DXing in the SW and MW bands. But I have to say for the LW beacons it is sadly totally useless. It was its excellent SW and MW sensitivity that made me worried about changing to a different radio. But the Yaesu 100 seems just as good in this respect as the DX-394 with the added bonus that it is also exremely good for LW beacon DXing.

BTW before I go, I found a great youtube video that showed how, with a few simple button presses, you can extend the coverage of a Realsitic DX394 down to 1khz.


takes you into the strange and fascinating world of time signals, submarine communications and natural radio, all of which I know next to nothing about but am keen to learn. I have already heard MSF59 and DCF77 loud and clear with my DX10 vertical antenna on the washing line!

So I shall be keeping the DX394 in the shack as my main radio for utility listening.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Plymouth Air Safety 3924khz

Heard some activity on this frequency this morning with the military training near the Eddystone Lighthouse off Plymouth. I use the Yaesu FRG-100 to monitor local military HF activity and my Icom 703 to monitor European military HF voice frequencies, though I haven't heard any European traffic for weeks, so am wondering if they have moved to higher frequencies for the summer and higher point in the solar cycle (I am only monitoring 5mhz and 6mhz channels) or, worse, if they are perhaps no longer using HF radio.

5696khz is another frequency that has quite a lot of local military air traffic from RNAS Culdrose.

New Guests Arrive

Some new guests have arrived in our garden: a small colony of perhaps 400-500 bees!

The queen is in the process of being replaced as the old one was no longer laying. A process called supercedure. But the new queen has yet to mate so the colony is not currently growing. My main concern is that the colony will die out before the new queen can lay sufficient eggs to hatch in time. But they are our first attempt at bee-keeping so having a smaller starter colony is easier this year. They arrived this Monday and yesterday was the first dry day for them to get out and about and orient themselves to their new surroundings. Bees are now no longer able to be self-sufficient due to disease and erosion of their natural habitat (good old human beings - another thing to be proud of) so they are very much dependent upon bee-keepers for their survival. It is nice to be trying to do something positive for these little creatures whose planet we share.

I am fascinated by the way they live for the sake of something greater than themselves ie the colony.

A guard bee stood on duty for the first two nights: it was wet and cold and he would willingly have given his life to sting predators venturing too close in order to protect the hive. I was moved by this. By his silent watch. By seeing him there, in exactly the same spot, the following morning.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Tropical Bands and Radio Nacional in Brazil

Well, I have spent the last few evening and mornings monitoring the tropical bands and now that we are at the peak of the sunspot cycle and I finally have an outdoor antenna, I heard the Northern Territory Shortwave Service VL8A from Alice Springs in Australia on 4835khz at 2131UTC on July 01st. I remember seeing this station years ago as a teenager and wondering how anyone ever heard it when all I could get was noise! So this was a nice catch for the logbook.

Also, after an especially memorable trip to Brazil years ago, I have had a special interest in any SW stations from that country. This morning I heard Radio Nacional on 6180 at 0546UTC. The signal was really good with some nice Brazillian music and a full station ID on the hour.

Also from Brazil this morning was the Christian station Super Radio Deus e Amor from Curitiba, but I don't like this one so much as it's a bit fanatical-sounding with no nice music for the early hours to listen to as I drink my cup of tea! That's not to say I dislike religious stations. To the contrary I enjoy WWCR, Vatican Radio and especially Dr McGhee's morning "Thru The Bible" talks on TWR Europe. As someone very interested in life's spiritual journey I find many of these programmes offer inspiration for the path, though I prefer to take the seeds and essence of truths from the world's great spiritual traditions than get too involved in only one. I also find as I get older I am drawn back more and more to the Christian religion, and some of St Paul's writings blow me away with their depth of vision and love.