Okay, I'm back again with some shortwave reception. I made a number of bandscan recordings when I was in the Catskills around the beginning of this month and that's where this entry was recorded. And as usual, the audio (and the discussion of it) follows the jump.
While I had hoped to duplicate some of the luck I had upstate while perusing the 31 meter band last June (discussed here in these two posts), that wasn't possible this time around. One of the main reasons shortwave radio is both intriguing and frustrating is that propagation varies so damn much, depending on the weather of our solar system. One day or night a station (or a smorgasbord of stations) will be heard at a certain time, and on another date at the same time you've got radio silence, something else, or just RF noise. And on that weekend, two fairly dependable bands, the 31 and 41 meter band, were clear of many of the stations I hoped to find there in the evening.
The 49 meter band (the most dependable evening shortwave band) was chock full of broadcasts that weekend. However, this piece of spectrum typically offers fewer surprises, and lots of U.S. Christian garbage along the way. However, as far as shortwave listening the real action I found that weekend was on the 25 meter band during the late afternoon. Right when it's gotten dark across the sea, and much of what I found was coming from over there. And as Ralph mentioned in his guest post, most of the overseas broadcasting you hear on the 25 meter band at these hours isn't intended to be heard in the US. Programming meant to be heard in here (and there is sadly less of this all the time) typically starts up a little later.
This band is interesting because it swings both ways. Depending on atmospheric conditions the 25 meter band can provide better propagation during either the day or night. 25 meters roughly covers the 500kHz on each side of 12000kHz (or 12MHz). And as a rule of thumb, the bands with frequencies above 25 meters (which have lower meter numbers) are better for daytime broadcasting and listening (22, 19, 15 and 13 meter bands). The bands below 25 meters (with higher meter numbers) are generally used at night (31, 41, 49, 60, 75 and 90 meter bands). So, if you turn on a shortwave radio and wonder where all the stations are, try the bands that fit the time of day. In general, I've always had the best luck with the bands between 5000 and 15000kHz (60 to 19 meters).
Okay, enough of the geeky stuff. It just always seems like a good idea to give a little background for people who might one day dip their toes into the world of shortwave listening. I imagine many readers either will never turn on a shortwave readers and then again some of you know far more about these things than I do.
Speaking of that, tracking the stations in this particular listening expedition has more troublesome than usual. I have very few frequencies and times committed to memory and my logs are quite sloppy and temporary (kept primarily just to put these posts together). I've been depending on the internet as a source to lookup frequencies, and the best online database out there (hfradio.org) has been down this last weekend as I've worked on this post. While it isn't perfect, I've found that the lookup page at hfradio seems to be correct at least 85% of the time. No other site I've found provides the service of simply entering a frequency to generate a list of broadcasters and times. Another site, Prime Time Shortwave has very up to date lists of English language broadcasts, but other than that discovering the origin of a foreign language broadcast on shortwave can get much more difficult. Sure, the information is probably out there, but there's no organization to all that data that is simple or logical to navigate. It can involve quite an elaborated sequence of advanced Google searches., and occasionally still get almost nowhere. In other words, just trying identify some of the broadcasts featured in this post took me the better part of an hour (or more) to ID.
I know, I need to get those big guidebooks that come out every year (Passport to World Band Radio" and "The World Radio TV Handbook.") I've been thinking about buying these for a while, but they're not cheap and you really should buy a new one every year. Up until now, I haven't felt the need. Now I'm probably going to end up investing in these things. I still hope hfradio comes back online soon.
Now and then I've put out a request for other DXers to contribute their dial journeys to this series (both shortwave or nighttime AM). So far, only reader Ralph has come through with a viable scan (again, which you can read and listen to here). I discussed some of the kind of stuff I'm looking for in this post if you're interested. While Ralph has offered to do it again some time (and I hope he does, it was a nice post) I'm hoping others can offer up their radio adventures here as well. If you think you'd be interested, you can email me here.
That said, I did get a bit of a donation of another sort along these lines. Reader Dan in Kentucky and his friends have been messing with shortwave radios in a more loose and sonic fashion, including making music using radios as instruments. There is a tradition of using radio receivers to create music and audio art for quite a while, and analog shortwave radios make such a variety of sounds, tones and noises that a deft manipulator can turn one into an offbeat analog synth with a bit of tweaking and fooling. Dan favors the musical wonders of the Panasonic RF-2200.
Anyway, instead of sending me the audio to scratch my head over, Dan went ahead and created a four CD set (as MP3s with JPG covers) which you can download and savor on this webpage. Not very much of these recordings is actually music (there are a couple "songs" by his band "The Belgian Waffles"), and it's obvious by listening that he's as interested in the noises and anomalies of shortwave reception as he is the actual programming content. But I'm sure some readers of this series will find some entertainment (or what does Fabio call it, irritainment?) value in these recordings. Thanks Dan.
Okay, enough blather. Let's get to the gooey cream center, the audio itself. As a city guy, I love those inexpensive efficiency cabins you find in the mountains of Pennsylvania and upstate New York. It's like having your own cottage in the woods for a couple days. And that's the kind of place I was staying up in the Catskills, where I had turned the little kitchen table into a radio listening post. In this instance I stuck with the Degen 1103 (and as usual just using the built-in whip antenna). I did an extended co-scan with the Degen and the Tecsun BCL-2000 which was interesting. While the BCL is fun to use and much of the reception was comparable to the Degen, I did come across some strong and annoying images not heard on the 1103.
This scan starts out just after 4 in the afternoon, which is 2000 UTC shortwave time. Have a listen...
11625 - Vatican Radio
And then the (occasionally) musical sound of turning stations digitally at 1kHz intervals as I come to...
11640 - China Radio International
It's English, poor reception from a relay in Mali. Something about Argentina, and money from China I think. A bit of hissy static here with a very quiet signal.
11680 - BBC World Service
Broadcasting in Arabic I believe. Again sounding quite distant.
11695 - (unknown)
Here is a loud fairly clear read of a station broadcasting in what sounds like Farsi or Arabic to me, but it could be another language from that region. It sounds like serious stuff. Perhaps he's discussing the Koran. This is a good solid read from a station that is certainly coming from a distance. I would like to know what this is.
11720 - (unknown jazz program)
Again, I've spent way too long trying to figure this one out. It's a jazz program, and it sounds like it's part of a big national broadcast network. VOA? France? Russia? BBC? Israel? After looking through a couple dozen webpages I can't match this frequency to this time online. At least not easily. It is coming in quite well, however. I believe the announcer is speaking French. And it also sounds like he has an America accent. The host appears to be featuring the work of Ben Allison.
11735 - Radio Tanzania Zanzibar
Also covering the 25 meter band in the afternoon in his scan, Ralph talked about his station at length in his post as well. Apparently it's a regular stop for him when listening to shortwave around the house. They carry an eclectic stew of regional music. This song is sweet and cosmic. It's my bet this was a big hit somewhere. I let it play for a while here before moving the dial.
11740 - The Broadcasting Service of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia & Radio Farda
Again, this parallels with Ralph's reception from just an hour or two earlier in the day, with the world headquarters of Islam battling US propaganda to Iran on the same frequency. I believe Saudi Arabia is broadcasting the Koran. What you get is just a messy mix of the two stations.
11760 - Radio Habana Cuba
This is as good as reception gets from Cuba. It a LOUD clear signal, probably intended for Europe. We get the news with US ex-pat Ed Newman. The guy's got a great voice. He sounds more professional and personable than half the people I've heard on Air America.
And that's the thing too. Radio Habana Cuba, once a steadfast defender
of everything Communist and Soviet is now more like a viable
"alternative" news source for us in the states. It used to be that you
listened to Cuban shortwave to hear the other side during the cold war,
but now we have such a criminal and corrupt government here in the
states they seem to often just be just telling it like it is, instead of
pumping out purple anti-US propaganda like in the old days.
For example, the lead story in this review of the week's news is a report on a minor armada the US has sent to the Persian Gulf to cause trouble. And maybe I wasn't paying enough attention, but this was the first time I heard this story (which I've heard repeatedly since that time). And at the time of this writing, our forces are in the Gulf are all ready to start something. Maybe a big October boom boom surprise.
11775 - Caribbean Beacon
The eternal Dr. Gene Scott. Something about "living meat."
11780 - Radio Nacional da Amazonia?
Sounds like Portuguese to me. But I've been wrong before. If I'm right, it's a good catch from Northern Brazil.
That's it for this week. I would like to humbly request corrections and assistance in identifying a couple of these broadcasts. More than usual, I'm left putting this post out in a slightly less than informed fashion. While always appreciated the hfradio site, I didn't realize how much I depended on it to write these posts.So, I'll I'd like to amend this entry when I become a little smarter. And if you can help me out I'll gladly credit you for doing so.
And finally I have a question unrelated to shortwave, but relevant to this series. For my own edification, I'm wondering if any of you DXers out there know anything about these two Latin music stations that have popped on my AM dial (here in the NE of the US) at 840kHz and 890kHz? The music on one at 840 is much more contemporary and schmaltzy, but the station at 890 plays some wonderful old stuff and more authentic Latin jazz. They both dominate the clear channel stations at those frequencies now and then, and 890 comes in rather strong in the city, despite the power of WCBS at 880. If I have heard them before a few months ago, they didn't have the kind of power they do now. I always assume these Spanish DX intrusions into the American AM dial are coming from Cuba, but I am truly curious if anybody has more information on either of them.
All that said, I do appreciate your readership. I'll probably remain with shortwave reception for the next post or two. Any feedback, comments, and especially corrections will be greatly appreciated, either left below or through the WFMU email machine. And my other posts on shortwave and AM DXing can be found here.
Thanks for listening.