This week back to shortwave radio-- a backwater of broadcasting in the U.S., but still a dynamic medium around the world. Although it's a relatively antique technology, shortwave still offers unique programming from distant locations on the globe with a little effort. In this post I've included the audio from the beginning of a scan of another popular shortwave band– 31 meters (9250-9995 kHz). This recording is from a week ago Sunday. Easter for some.
Again, I’m using the BCL-2000 at my kitchen table. It’s not the best receiver I have, but it suits the purposes of this series. I have a number of other analog radios I’d like to use to record these shortwave band scans, but the work of deducing the origination of foreign language broadcasts without being able to discern the exact frequency would make it even more problematic to tell you with any confidence where these broadcasts are coming from. Which leads to a bit of a confession. I’ve succumbed to a bit of gadget lust and purchased a new radio which may offer a digital band-scanning alternative to the analog BCL.
I’ve mentioned my interest in the Degen (or Kaito) 1103 in a couple of comments I’ve added to posts in this series. Along with the BCL radios, the DE1103 is a 21st century shortwave receiver that has generated a respectable positive buzz in the shortwave community over the last few years. The 1103 in general gets higher marks than the BCL series across the board (although a number of people gripe about the odd control layout). Look at some of the reviews of the radio here, here and here. Just as the BCL melds digital readout with analog tuning, the DE1103 has digital AND analog readout with digital tuning. It also has a quiet noise floor and no “chuffing” or “chugging” when traversing shortwave in 1 kHz steps. In reviews, owners say turning the tuning knob (or jog wheel) is as close you can get to manual analog scanning you can get in a digital receiver without spending the big bucks.
So, I ordered one from the commie-capitalist kingdom across the sea. When it shows here up I’ll crank the gadget up and see if it really is the band scanning tool it’s made out to be. No doubt, it seems to be a solid digital shortwave receiver, and I’ve never really owned one I actually liked. I look forward to punching in presets for favorite frequencies and fooling around with contemporary radio technology. And if this little unit lives up to half the hype I’ve read on the net, it should be a lot of fun DXing with this it out in the sticks.
While the 1103 seems to be both a groundbreaking and relatively inexpensive (less than $100) SW portable, Degen has a higher end receiver in the pipeline that’s got a lot of radio geeks twitching in anticipation. It’s the Degen 1108, a larger and more substantial portable offering SW/AM/FM/LW (and air band) with two four inch speakers AND the ability to record radio as MP3 files! (Now THAT sounds like a good idea.) And, of course it plays MP3's as well. There’s plenty more bells and whistles being integrated into this thing, and it seems like the designers are actively considering the desires of shortwave radio listeners. It sounds like it could be quite a rig. You can read more details here. The Degen 1108 (Chinese model) is supposed to be available by the end of this year, and an International/American (probably branded as “Kaito”) version should follow shortly. I have not been able to find any pictures of a DE1108 prototype online yet. If you're really interested in this radio, there's already a Yahoo group established with ongoing discussions about the possibilities and potentials of this new receiver.
In the meantime, here’s an early evening band scan from Easter Sunday 2006 traversing the dial with my BCL-2000. I had jumped around on different bands trying to figure out where to listen, balancing out trying to find a busy spread as well as figuring out where I had the best chance of getting over the inherent RF noise of my Brooklyn apartment. 31 meters seemed to offer a decent scan and not as much noise, so at around 6:43 EDT (or 2243 UTC) I hit record and jumped in around 9200 kHz and started up the dial. And here’s what happened.
In Spanish. Sounds rather holy, but it's Easter for Christ's sake.
9400 - KOL Israel
In Hebrew, I believe. Two men, one interviewing another on the phone. Sounds like serious business. Probably a political discussion.
9420 - Voice of Greece
Lots of loose RF stepping on this signal, with a gentleman speaking at a rapid pace, all which makes this broadcast sound even more Greek to my ears.
All the noise at this frequency is just awful. What's broadcasting this mess? My refrigerator? The fuse box? Some power tools down the street? Whatever it is it's got me looking forward to sitting on the porch of my friend's house upstate listening to low volume signals like this accompanied by silence.
9505 - RDP Internacional Portugal
Quite a bit of noise here too, however the man and woman speaking here sound much more relaxed than the announcers on the last two frequencies.
9545 - Deutsche Welle
A steady stream of German speech. It doesn’t sound like news.
9550 - Radio Habana Cuba or Radio Rebelde, Cuba (?)
A fairly clear signal, male and female tag team announcers. At first I thought that this might be China or Vietnam broadcasting in Spanish. But it’s just a little too late for the Spanish broadcast from Vietnam and the Chinese transmissions on this frequency emanate from China and would be unlikely to come in this strong on my setup in Brooklyn. It sounds to me like the announcers may be giving out program schedule information. And from the clarity, I’m betting it’s Cuba. Both of these networks are said to broadcast at this frequency. Any enlightenment on this one would be appreciated.
A half million watts from all way from the Arabian Peninsula. I’ve never heard any English broadcasts from Saudi Arabia on shortwave. As I was writing this I started listening to this webstream-- their European service broadcasting in English. I heard an editorial about how Western style “democracy” doesn't work in Islamic countries and how it sets free the “animal appetites.” Unfortunately, once I realized it was pretty interesting stuff I wasn’t able to get a recording setup together before his calm and deliberate diatribe gave way to some rather pedestrian techno rock.
Listening to this anti-Western editorial make me think of two things. For one, there really are still a lot of interesting radio broadcasts to be found on the internet (IF you're willing to suffer through some dodgy sounding digital compression). This site has been a good portal for “scanning” international radio on the internet for ten years now.
Secondly, the editorial I heard further illuminates the paradoxical relationship between the Bush Regime and their good friends in the Saudi government. The state-sponsored broadcast I heard was the antithesis of support for the supposed “democracy” that Bush seems to think we’re fostering in Iraq. Anyway, back to the band-scan.
Here in phase-ridden (and occasionally fading) lo-fi is an extended 12 and a half minutes of vintage Egyptian pop music. I took the tape to a couple of my Yemeni friends down at the local bodega and they recognized one of the songs immediately. And they were both quite effusive about the greatness and beauty of the number. And I had to agree. I understand I’ll now be getting a dub of the guy’s greatest hits next weekend. Nice.
As you can hear, the broadcast from Saudi Arabia ends abruptly without notice right at the top of the hour. It’s seven p.m. local (EDT) time here, 2300 UTC
In the next chapter– either more of this recording, or I’ll jump to a band scan of the 25 meter band from the same evening which might have been more interesting. Or maybe that little Degen will arrive from China, and I’ll hop on that little horsey and go for a ride. We’ll see..
Thanks for listening.