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Shortwave Radio?

Discussion in 'Gadgets & Gear' started by timberweasel, Oct 15, 2020.

  1. timberweasel

    timberweasel Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Jan 5, 2011
    I still like listening to terrestrial radio; especially in the morning when getting ready for work. I'd like to get a dedicated radio for the kitchen and just wondering if I should spring for a shortwave--I'm kind of intrigued by the idea of news, music and other content from beyond the North American bubble. Any thoughts or recommendations would be appreciated!

    Thanks for reading,

  2. Ace Rimmer

    Ace Rimmer

    Jul 4, 2017
    I love shortwave, but I'm afraid it may be something whose time has passed. I started listening when I was in grade school on an old, used Hallicrafters receiver. Over the years I've had other, better receivers, both desktop and portable models. After being away from the hobby for quite a while I decided to dig out my old Sony ICFSW-7600 and see what was going on Well, those receivers (so I learned) are known for suffering capacitor failure after a few decades -- the receiver was pretty much dead. I replaced it with a C. Crane CC Skywave SSB, which is a very nice receiver. What I found was that most of the big international broadcasters are gone. (More on that in a bit.) The other thing that I discovered: I used to have great listening success sitting inside with a portable receiver using the built-in antenna. Well... how many little "wall-wart" switching power supplies do you have in your house? We're now surrounded by an array of devices that throw out broadband RF hash that fill the shortwave spectrum. I can sit out in the yard and get good reception, but in the house not much.

    The good news is that a lot of broadcasters have moved to the Internet. Now, instead of a shortwave receiver all you need is a phone, tablet, or computer.

    One app I've been checking out lately is Radio Garden. With it you can listen to thousands of stations all over the world, mostly FM and AM types. One advantage of shortwave was that all the big broadcasters had programming in English and many other languages. When you listen to domestic broadcasters around the world you're mostly going to find them in local languages. (But check out stations like 2GB in Sydney, NSW -- obviously in English -- fair dinkum, mate!)

    Actually, there are still a lot of broadcasters on the air -- check out https://www.short-wave.info/index.php . But the big broadcasters that I used to enjoy: Radio Nederland, Deutche Welle, Swiss Radio International, HCJB (Equador) BBC, Radio Canada International -- are online or gone.

    So... I'd suggest starting out by seeing what you can find online that might be of interest. Oh, I should also mention that I'm having fun with my C Crane receiver doing a bit of BCBDXing -- broadcast band DXing (distance listening). The receiver is pretty "hot," and by adding a tuned passive loop antenna I can pick up and identify AM stations all over the country. (But that's mostly listening to see what I can hear and identify, not for "content.")

    Also, take a look at:

    Good luck and good listening!
  3. JB in SC

    JB in SC Basic Member Basic Member

    May 19, 2001
    As @Ace Rimmer noted shortwave is a shadow of what it was in the 60’s and 70’s. Although many stations are available via the internet and there’s quite a few internet capable radios, it’s not as much fun as spinning the dial on a “real radio”. The apps like Radio Garden mentioned above are great for what they are.

    I’ve been a ham for over forty years and really miss the old shows on shortwave. Some on the air broadcasters still send out QSL cards and even mention signal reports on their listener shows.
  4. timberweasel

    timberweasel Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Jan 5, 2011
    @Ace Rimmer
    @JB in SC

    Thanks for the info; I appreciate it! :):thumbsup:

    Since posting, I've looked at some shortwave units available on the market and was surprised by how much they've come down in price. Apparently I can pick one up for not much more than a typical AM/FM radio; and here I was expecting to pay a couple hundred bucks for a receiver. Many have additional features such as a bluetooth speaker mode and USB charging ports. Not much to lose by trying one. I don't need anything fancy.

    I also considered satellite radio but most want a subscription fee. I just want something that works if the power goes out and takes my wi-fi with it.

    Thanks again!
  5. JB in SC

    JB in SC Basic Member Basic Member

    May 19, 2001

    They’re a few US based SW broadcasters, and the more popular international broadcasters run 250kw and more. Pretty easy to hear on a decent portable with a telescoping whip antenna.

    The weak signal stations require a better antenna and a more selective receiver. The discontinued Sony 7600G is a great portable but command big prices on the used market. Synchronous detection was a major feature of the Sony that many radios even today don’t offer.
    Ace Rimmer and timberweasel like this.
  6. Ace Rimmer

    Ace Rimmer

    Jul 4, 2017
    Yeah, I still miss my 7600. :(
  7. JB in SC

    JB in SC Basic Member Basic Member

    May 19, 2001
    I had one of the early versions, seems they were expensive for the time but had great front ends.

    My first RX was an FRG-7, then a R-71, probably a couple of others. I’m pretty sure I had a Kenwood of some type and my last desktop was a R-75. The Palstar R-30A is pretty nice, but the lack of synchronous detection in a $900 rig is not very appealing.
    Ace Rimmer likes this.
  8. Michael D'Auben

    Michael D'Auben

    Oct 16, 2020
    One thing to be aware of, is that SW reception is very dependent on the time of day. Propagation (signal travel) is generally much better at night, so a lot of sources don't broadcast 24hrs a day. So, SW might not fit with your morning listening schedule.

    Another thing to be aware of is that SW broadcasting in general, and particularly SW broadcasting aimed at the US, had been declining for years. Even twenty or thirty years ago there was a huge number of english language broadcasts from Europe, Asia and South America to chose from, now... not so much. The internet, satellite TV, and international cable news channels are killing SW broadcasting in most first world countries. SW broadcasting these days seems most commonly targeted at underdeveloped countries where everyone does not have broadband internet or cable TV.

    That all said, back when I was still listening to SW, Sangean and Sony were probably the most popular with the casual listeners and made some nice portable receivers. Not sure what the market looks like these days, though.
    timberweasel and Ace Rimmer like this.
  9. 000Robert

    000Robert Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 28, 2020
    I have a nice little Radio Shack DX-399 that I bought decades ago. It still works great.
    Ace Rimmer likes this.

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