Monday, December 30, 2013

Low band Excitement, High Band Treasures

This weekend combined two of my favorite activities on the ham bands and led to some good overall DX on the low frequencies and some pleasant surprises on the higher bands, too. This was the weekend for the Canadian RAC contest and also the Stew Perry 160 Meter Challenge. The Canadian contest started Friday and the Stew Perry Challenge ran from Saturday morning through Sunday morning, Texas time.

I particularly like to look for the Canadians on the low bands during the RAC Test , given that the distance isn't that great, but the low band challenge is there. So Friday night, I started trolling 160 meters for Canadians and soon found a group of them. Most were quite strong, with the main object of the contest being for everyone else to work Canadians.

From an SWL strategy standpoint, I usually find a good strong VE and listen as he gets a run started, logging those who call him, hoping for some good DX to be in the pile. When it appeared that there were not many Europeans showing up on 160 calling them, I began rolling through the band logging all the VE's I could find.

One of the fun things about contests is hearing the old familiar calls. That was certainly the case this past Friday night with regulars like VE5UF and VE3EJ having signals well above S-9 on the R-75. While on 160, I found some others, too. Those in the log included VE3BW, VE3CX, VE2ZJ and VA2EU.

After a while of not finding any new stations, it was time to try 80 meters. There the strategy of parking on a VE calling CQ and hoping for some Europeans turning up worked quickly about 0300 GMT when I found VE3TA on 3521.1 coming in at S-9 + 10db. It wasn't long before a string of Europeans were calling him along with a big pile of US stations. The Europeans were not real strong, but were led off with OM3ZWA and SM2LIY. Many more followed along with the US and Canadian stations.

The 80 meter band was chock full of VE's with monster signals. Among those heard in less than an hour were VE1LD, VE3FZ, VE3GFN, VE3VSM, VE7RAC,VE4RAC,VE3SWA,VE6AO( with an S-9 + 20 db signal!) VE4YU, VE6RAC,VE5GC and VE6JL. One nice surprise was hearing another old familiar signal, WL7E from Alaska on 3527.5 at 0310 GMT.

Saturday night Texas time ( December 29 GMT) I slid back behind the lighted dials again as the Stew Perry 160 Meter Challenge was well under way. I was hopeful for Europeans because many of the close in Stateside stations were relatively weak and some of the VE's were quite strong. It was not to be, however. The only sniff of a European station was an S51 from Slovenia, and he was not fully copyable.

The exchange in this contest was just grid square numbers and to count a station in my SWL log, I required myself to actually copy the grid square of the station being heard. Not a lot of DX was heard during the evening. XE2S was heard at 0045 GMT on 1812 with an S-7 signal. Among the Caribbean stations heard were regular KV4FZ from the Virgin islands at 0044 GMT on 1811.7, NP2X from the Virgin Islands heard at 0106 GMT, and FM5CD from Martinique heard on 1835.4 at 0113 GMT. The European's still had not appeared at my station by 0400 and I called it a night.

The next morning ( Sunday morning Dec 29 local)was also disappointing with regard to the JA's and other Pacific stations. While DX Summit showed several JA's being worked, the only one I managed to hear was JA3YBK on 1812 at 1151 GMT. Even Hawaii was not present in large numbers. I did hear one broken call that ended with a /KH6 tacked onto a Stateside call at 1204 GMT on 1835.9, but never was able to get the entire call. A little later at 1215 GMT I did hear DX contest regular KH6LC on 1811.5, but only about S-4. I heard him making long strings of CQ calls with few takers.

At this point, it was obvious the real low band DX was not going to be found on 160 meters. The morning before ( Saturday Dec 28 local) I had found a few interesting broadcast stations in a quick sweep through the 60 and 49 meter bands, so I decided to take a look on slightly higher frequencies than I had been trolling for amateur CW signals.

Slipping up to the 120 meter broadcast band, it was obvious the hunting would be better here. My usual bellweathers for band openings were there strong enough for audio to be heard...these were Australian stations VL8T on 2325 and VL8K on 2485, Tennant Creek and Katherine respectively. They were actually being heard before a hint of sunrise at 1231 and 1233 GMT respectively. WWV on 2500 was boiling in at S-9 + 30 db. I was a little disappointed in not hearing WWVH from Hawaii behind it.

Things did start looking up as I tuned up from there in the Upper Sideband mode, the idea being to stop and ID anything that showed up with a carrier strong enough to recover audio from. At 1238, found Pyongyang coming in at about S-5 with good audio on 2850 kHz. Going on up did not hear anything more until WWRB on 3185 blasting in at S-9+20 db and CHU with time signals from Dominion Observatory Canada on 3330 kHz at S-9+ 10db.

The really good news came when I got up to 3480 and another North Korean was coming in at S-9 + with great audio. Maybe the morning would not be a total waste! It was to be a mixed morning. Radio Nikkei was coming in well on 3925 at 1305 GMT and China radio easily heard amongst the ham traffic on 3985 moments later. Rolling on up, it was to be China and India through the next half hour...with Xinig, China on 4220 at 1310 GMT. This was a good catch because of its relatively low power. From India,Bhopal was heard on 4810, Mumbai on 4840, Lucknow on 4880, Jaipur on 4910.

The disappointment was the total lack of Papua New Guinea stations. I guess they are all disappearing. I will miss Radio New Britain and her band mates in the future.

At 1319, I noticed that Alice Springs VL8A was still on its daytime frequency of 4835 while Tennant Creek and Katherine were still on 120 meters. In one way, its a disappointment not hearing them on the lower frequency, but at this time of the morning ( 1319 GMT) in Central Texas, it is much stronger on the higher frequency: a good S-6 with easily listenable audio.

The 5000 khz WWV frequency had WWVH at about the same strength as its Colorado frequency mate. Radio Rebelde on 5025 was present with its usual strength of S-9+20db, but this morning the audio sounded rough and there was a low rumbling sound beneath the program audio.

Swinging up into the 49 meter band, the BBC World Service from transmitters in Thailand was quite strong on 5845 and a bit stronger on 5875. The Voice of American from the Saipan/Tinian site was coming in about S-5 with flutter on 5890. One surprise was hearing Iran on 5920 kHz at 1346 and Vietnam with a good signal on 5925 at 1346 GMT.

One of the things I like the most about listening on the low bands around sunrise is how these frequencies sound so much different at this time of day. They seem to behave more like their higher frequency cousins and not like what one would expect from frequencies usually associated with the idea of them being used for local service. The signals sound like they are just sailing in and there is the exotic sound to them.

I have noticed over the years that these bands are highly under-estimated for their potential for DX. It is easy to get to thinking of them just as “ night time” bands. It appears to me that one must think about what is going on over the entire path. For example, if one wants to hear Japan or Australia here in the U.S. on the low bands, one must be aware of when the sun sets there. That is where the signal begins its journey and if there is no way to make the first hop, even if the rest of the path is in darkness there will be no signal.

That may mean that the window for hearing those signals is rather narrow. The time that the sun is setting there may be about the same time as the sun is rising here. By the same token, if the sun is rising in the east here and light is spilling over the horizon, the last place where the low band signal is hitting the ionosphere to the West is still in darkness and the brave little signal is already on its way down toward the receiver.

By observation, it has appeared that the lower frequency signals will disappear first, but that some amazing things can happen. I have heard 160 meter signals from Japan and Hawaii with dawn breaking here. The Australian and Papua New Guinea 120 meter and 90 meter broadcast signals have popped in with the sun well above the horizon at times. Signals on 60 meters and 40 meters have been audible from Australia, Indonesia, China and sometimes even India with the sun well up. I have heard amateur signals on 40 meters from Australia, Japan and Indonesia as late as two and three hours after sunrise!

Sometimes this has seemed to work in the other direction, too, with low band signals propping in from Europe and beyond before sunset, though the effects I have noticed for this have been mostly on 60 meters and above. I have heard and worked 40 meter amateurs in Europe as early as three o'clock in the afternoon here in Central Texas.

Getting a little higher in frequency gets into some truly interesting things. The 31 meter shortwave broadcast band and the 30 meter amateur band have been truly surprising at times. At the time of equinoxes, several years running I was able to hear and often work a VK6 amateur station on the far West coast of Australia on 30 meter long path before sunset here.

Sometimes to find the DX, one must take a chance. After all, all you are gambling is time. I usually tune around on the AM standard broadcast band on the way home after work. There are times I notice early skip occurring on a few frequencies, particularly high in the band. If it is still daylight and I hear Cincinnati coming in on 1530 or Minneapolis starting to show up on 1500 or Nashville on 1510, I know to get behind the receiver early and start fishing on the low bands for something unusual.

No matter where in the world you may be, you can develop bellweathers for early low band skip. You might start looking on the medium wave band early in the evenings for signs of co channel interference on some of the channels not occupied by local stations. By being familiar with what is out there on a “normal” day, you can easily notice something that is out of the ordinary and use that as a hint to go looking for some good stuff on the low HF bands.

The same goes for the higher bands, too. It is easy to think there will be nothing there and not take the time to scour the higher bands, particularly if there are those who are already saying this sunspot cycle is a poor one and the DX is not what it could be ( I think hams have been saying that every cycle since Noah was maritime mobile!). Often times the bands are open and no one is home.

Ten meters offers some interesting ways to check, even if no one is out there calling CQ. There are literally hundreds of beacon transmitters on the air between about 28190 and 28300 khz. Sunday afternoon ( Dec 29) initial tuning across the bands did not show much, but a run through the “ beacon band” showed several of them coming in quite well just before noon. These small, automatic transmitters transmit their callsign and sometimes location information over and over and over as a means of telling what is going on with the band. These stations showing up led me to scouring through the bands again and some real jewels turned up, including a new country for one band.

The first treasure showed up on ten meters at 1738 GMT in the form of 9J2BO all alone on the entire CW portion of the band, not wading through a pileup of stations, but involved in a casual conversation with a Stateside station with quite a good signal.

This led me to running back and forth between 10,12,15 and 17 meters tuning slowly back and forth across the seemingly unoccupied bands. Another clue that something might be lurking there was the atmospheric noise that was there even in the absence of regular signals. I look for this noise, easily distinguished from power line noise or storm static to tell when a band might be open.

Down on 12 meters, all by themselves I found VE6CMV talking with CT3EZ on Madeira on 24935 at 1802 GMT on SSB. Nice signals, too. Not overwhelmingly strong, but easily readable. When I did not find more, I slipped back up to 10 meters for another sweep and found a real treasure in the form of A25WO from Botswana on SSB on 28490.13 at 1811 GMT. Then down the band just a bit was CU1EZ in the Azores at 1815 GMT on 38474.2.

After not hearing much else for a few minutes, slipping back to 12 meters what did I find on 24970 on SSB but ZS6BAF at 1823 coming in about S-6 all by himself on the band. It was open but few were taking advantage!

An excursion down to 17 meters found a little more activity with more of the usual semi local activity ( i.e. Stateside stations working Stateside stations) but a bit of a pileup on 18072 led to the discovery of SU1HZ from Egypt at 1832 GMT, a new one for that band. So much for poor prop for the day!

Looking in unexpected places can indeed lead to discovering unexpected treasures!
This weekends work was with the R-75 receiver and 90 foot sloper up 45 feet at one end and sloping to the Northeast.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Trip to the Beach

While visiting with the family for Christmas, the conversation at one point turned to trips to the beach.  That got me to thinking about a trip taken this past summer to Galveston.

For many years I have enjoyed listening for stations at locations other than the home base. Particularly for the medium wave band, this gives a chance to hear stations that would normally be masked by local or semi local stations. Its also fun for those interested in DX-ing non-directional beacons on the low frequencies for the same reason.

This past summer my wife and I were going to take a trip to the coast. Immediately the thought went to what I would take in the way of radios. On a family trip, taking radios is always a sort of side-issue as that is not the main point of the trip, so the thought was keeping it really simple.

I considered taking the R-75 but was a little concerned about leaving it either in a parked car or unattended in a hotel room. After a search through what I had on the workbench or in the closet, I decided on an older Sony solid state radio. I am not sure of the age of this radio. I bought it about 18 years ago at a garage sale for five dollars! The owners had lost the AC power cord and thought it was useless. Of course, internal batteries would take care of that and an old electric razor cord replaced the missing one, so that was a really great deal!

The radio is a Sony TFM8000W. It tunes the standard broadcast band, FM, the Hi Band VHF public service band and has two short wave bands tuning a total of 4-22 mHz. It has an analog dial. The internal loop antenna has a good, sharp null and there is a telescoping whip for short wave, FM and PSB. It also has a signal strength meter!

I am always interested in playing with the radios at the coast because of the great possibilities of salt water paths, both for night time and daytime DX. This trip, there would be no external antennas, just the internal antennas on the radio. I was not certain where we would end up staying and whether it would even be possible to use anything at the hotel and the beach is always an iffy deal anyway.

So off we go, taking only the usual family stuff, some beach towels and our folding beach chairs and the Sony. We did not even have a hotel booked...would just search one out. That turned out not be be such a good idea, but after a few false starts we ended up with a room on the fifth floor of the Holiday Inn on Seawall Boulevard in Galveston, right across the road from the beach.

I can admit this now: When we pulled into the parking lot I “accidentally” pushed a button on the car radio to a low, locally blank dial position to check for power line noise. It was fairly quiet!

The fifth floor room was a good spot not only for DX-ing, but also for looking out over the Gulf. The view was really nice with a good view of ships entering and leaving the nearby ship channel and the intracoastal canal. I have always had a soft spot for things maritime, both on the radio and for sea stories in general. The high spot offered something other than a good view. It offered a good chance to hear ships on VHF a good ways out ( though this trip there would not be that much listening on those frequencies).

On previous DX trips to the coast with “ the guys” and not a family trip, a good load of gear was often taken, along with a log periodic antenna mounted on a tripod for pointing out over the water.

It was used for looking for long haul ship and aircraft DX with a variety of scanners and analog receivers. But not this trip. Dxing would be limited to the time the XYL would be relaxing with her mystery novel or just relaxing in the sun. (Just a hint to those wanting to do this sort of thing on a family trip: sensitivity is a must!!)

Another thing that is a must is a pair of headphones. The sound of static, heterodynes, fading signals and other hash is not conducive to the relaxation of the better half. A watch, extra pens and a sturdy notebook to serve as a log are also necessary. I don't take my main log with me on these trips lest it get misplaced or soiled with sea water, sand or mustard from hot dogs. A clipboard or kneeboard is good, as well. Writing log entries in less than optimal conditions often leads to legibility being a little variable, too-another reason for using a “temporary” log, even if it means some copying over or computer entering later.

I was amazed to find that noise in the hotel room was not too bad. There are times that wireless computer connections, or the computers themselves can generate a lot of hash, but the newer and higher quality ones seem to be better.

The first bandscan began at 0130 GMT with just the little Sony's internal loop antenna. On June 17, this meant just about sunset, meaning that some of the stations heard were still on daytime power and directional pattern. The location was the fifth floor of the Holiday Inn on Seawall Blvd in Galveston. In “Comments” column, GW indicates groundwave or local signal.

The stations heard are listed below.

Time GMT Call Letters Frequency Locations or comments

0135 KEYH 850 Houston, Tx GW
0136 KKOW 860 Pittsburg,Ks
0137 WWL 870 New Orleans
0139 XENL 860 Monterrey, Mexico
0143 KJOZ 880 Conroe, Tx GW
0145 KRVN 880 Lexington, Ne
0146 CMBZ 890 Havana, Cuba
0148 XEW 900 Mexico City
0150 KYST 920 Texas City, Tx GW very strong!
0151 WKY 930 Oklahoma City, Ok
0152 XEQ 940 Mexico City
0153 KPRC 950 Houston, Tx GW
0154 KRTX 980 Rosenberg, Tx GW
0157 XET 990 Monterrey, Mexico
0158 KLAT 1010 Houston, Tx GW
0200 XEQR 1030 Mexico City, Mexico
0201 WHO 1040 Des Moines, Iowa
0202 XEG 1050 Monterrey, Mexico
0203 XEEP 1060 Mexico City
0204 KNTH 1070 Houston, Tx GW
0205 KRLD 1080 Dallas, Tx
0207 KFAB 1110 Omaha, Ne
0209 KMOX 1120 St.. Louis, Mo
0210 KWKH 1130 Shreveport, La
0211 Unidentified EE 1140 Unknown
0213 WJBO 1150 Baton Rouge, La
0214 KFAQ 1170 Tulsa, Ok Hvy QSB
0215 R.Rebelde 1180 Cuba
0216 XEWK 1190 Guadalajara, Mexico
0217 WOAI 1200 San Antonio, Tx QSB
0218 KGYN 1210 Guymon, Ok
0219 KDEI 1250 Port Arthur, Tx GW
0220 KXYZ 1320 Houston, Tx GW
0221 KLVI 560 Beaumont, Tx GW Vry Strong!
0223 KLIF 570 Dallas, Tx

Then came dinner time. DX-ing cannot compete with fresh sea food dinner in a coastal city! Note that many of the stations are so familiar that they can be “identified on sight” so to speak!

The next morning took us to the beach itself. We went out to East Beach, an area known as Apfel Park on Galveston Island. We set up within feet of the water in our folding beach chairs with my wife reading her mystery, myself either playing with the radio or taking a dip in the water and looking for shells. As you can see this was not a full blown DX-pedition, but just casual looking around while on a relaxing few days away from work, home and the demands of dogs and cats ( that duty being taken up by a helpful neighbor...another whole story there!)

The times are not logged because I forgot to take my watch out to the beach with us and in the glare might not have been readable anyway. The bandscan began about 10 AM local daylight savings time ( 1500 GMT) and ran up to about 1700 GMT with breaks for dashes into the water and being washed over by the waves!

The time was late enough in the morning when night effect should not have been in play. I was interested in seeing what might be receivable over the water path. I did note signal strengths during this session, which I apparently did not do during the night before. WP = “over water path” (at least part of the way) ;RL = “rotated loop”

Call Frequency Signal Location/Comments

KLVI 560 5-9+++ Beaumont, Texas WP
KLIF 570 5-6 Dallas, Tx
KJMJ 580 4-5 Alexandria, La
KLBJ 590 5-7 Austin, Tx
XEFD 590 5-7 Reynosa, Mexico WP, RL
KILT 610 5-9++ Houston, Tx
XEGH 620 5-4 Reynosa, Mexico WP
KSLR 630 5-5 San Antonio, Tx RL
XEFB 630 5-5 Monterrey, Mexico RL,WP
KIKK 650 5-9 Pasadena (Houston), Tx
KSKY 660 5-6 Dallas, Tx RL
XEFZ 660 5-5 Monterrey, Mexico RL
Un-id 670 5-5 Spanish Looped NE/SW
KKYX 680 5-8 San Antonio, Tx
WIST 690 3-3 New Orleans WP
KSEV 700 5-9 Houston, Tx
Weak Tangle 710 3-3 Unknown mix
KSAH 720 5-7 San Antonio, Tx
KTRH 740 5-9++++ Houston, Tx
XEACH 770 5-6 Monterrey, Mexico
KBME 790 5-9+++ Houston, Tx
XEFW 810 5-6 Tampico, Mexico WP
WBAP 820 5-5 Ft Worth, Tx
Un-id Sp 830 3-3 RL
WQIH-489 830 4-4 Pasadena, Tx ( TIS station)
KEYH 850 5-9++ Houston, Tx
WWL 870 5-7 New Orleans, La WP
KJOZ 880 4-4 Conroe, Tx
KREH 900 5-7 Pecan Grove ( Houston) Tx(Asian)
KYST 920 5-9++++ Texas City, Tx(very close)
KPRC 950 5-7 Houston, Tx
XED 970 4-4 Matamoros, Mexico WP
KRTX 980 5-9+++ Rosenberg ( Houston) Tx
KLAT 1010 5-9+ Houston, Tx
KCTA 1030 5-8 Corpus Christi, Tx WP
KCHN 1050 5-5 Brookshire, Tx (Asian)
KNTH 1070 5-7 Houston, Tx
KULF 1090 5-6 Bellville, Tx
KTEK 1110 5-6 Alvin ( Houston) Tx
KYOK 1140 5-5 Conroe, Tx
KGOL 1180 5-7 Humble ( Houston) Tx
KNUZ 1230 5-6 Houston, Tx
KDEI 1250 5-7 Port Arthur, Tx WP
KSET 1300 5-7 Sillsbee, Tx WP
XEAM 1310 5-5 Matamoros, Mexico
KXYZ 1320 5-8 Houston, Tx
KVNN 1340 4-4 Victoria, Tx RL
KWWJ 1360 5-9++ Baytown, Tx WP
KHCB 1400 5-9++++ League City, Tx( close!)
KMIC 1590 5-6 Houston, Tx
KOGT 1600 5-5 Orange, Tx WP
KLOU 1580 5-7 Lake Charles, La WP
KGOW 1560 5-6 Houston, Tx
KYND 1520 5-9+++ Cypress, Tx

About this time, the burning rays of the sun got to be a bit much and the call of Benno's on Sea Wall Blvd with its shrimp and scallops was getting a bit too strong!

The DX-ing done on this trip was done with an analog dial receiver with frequencies kept up with by counting “carrier bumps” from known frequency stations.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Late Night/Early Morning

While waiting for out of town family to arrive for the holidays I found a few minutes to sit in front of the radio. The time was after 9 PM Central in the US on December 22 ( I am in Texas) but early morning in Africa. There was not a plan for this listening session, just burning a little time before the arrival of grandchildren! There was no idea of how much time I would have, so I just started at 3000 kHz on a total whim, tuning in the LSB mode planning to stop on carriers, then try to identify them.

It did not take long until I ran into a really strong one.  It was one of the SABC transmissions on 3320 kHz. Very nice signal, playing an American pop song from the late sixties that I had not heard since playing it myself on the radio in my own early disk jockey days! The signal was about S-7 and fairly steady.

It was a reminder that DX-ing must sometimes take into account time differences, not just for propagation, but for whether a station will even be on the air.  While prop would have been present for some African stations as early as just before dark in Central Texas,  some of the stations might not have been on the air.  East Africa being GMT plus 3, their sign on time might be just about 9 PM my time.  In the case of the SABC, they might have been on all night, but such was not the case in the other good catch of my "night".

After moving up the band and hearing the Canadian time signal station CHU on 3330 at a booming S-9 plus 20 db,  I did not run across anything else in the 90 meter band.

Skipping through the 80/75 meter amateur band rather quickly, I did not find any carriers to indicate broadcast stations lurking there, though I must admit it was a quick trip. Just above the band at 4055 I ran into one my regulars,  Radio Verdad from Guatemala on 4055 at 0338 GMT.  Of course this was evening there and probably single hop prop and they were booming in as always.  They are listed as running only 700 watts, but they really get out well at this distance.  This time they were S-9 plus 20 DB with well processed audio. ( that helps a lot...many short wave broadcast stations seem to scrimp on the one thing that can really help a lower powered station stand out in the crowd: a good peak limiter to hold modulation up high and constant)

Continuing to tune up rather quickly, ran past another regular on 4765 with Cuban jazz at S-9 plus 30
DB at 0344 GMT. Great signal! Then Tarma Peru on 4775, not great but listenable at S-5. Another station that was doing well with low power...listed as 500 watts.

The prize of the night however came at 0348. Good signal with good audio on 4780 with unmistakeable East African music.  It was Djibouti coming in between S-5 and S-7 all by itself on the frequency with great processed audio.  This was during their sign on hour as well. There have been times that this station has been heard in the U-S longpath early in the morning US time, but with nothing like this signal.  I am not sure what kind of antenna they are using,  but as a guess, I would assume something that sends signals out at a relatively high angle to provide close in coverage on the first hop.  These stations are usually more difficult DX targets even when running fairly high power ( I think this one is supposed to be 50 kw). This is because they are not sending out much signal at the lower angles needed for long haul traveling.

It was especially pleasurable to log this one because I have not had Djibouti in my broadcast logs at all previously here at this location.  I have logged utility stations from there, but no broadcast stations. I did hear their stations many years ago during a two year stint in Asmara, Ethiopia ( now Eritrea) back in 1972-73.  Its always good to get a " new one", especially when it drops in your lap without a plan to search it out, like this one.  Maybe that's a lesson that DX-ing can be successful in short bursts taken even when one only has a few minutes before the receiver.  One never knows what one might find!

Tonight's listening was again on the R-75 with sloper antenna.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Strange Conditions December 22, 2013

This was another one of those days when time in front of the radio was limited by family obligations and holiday preparations. One must remember that those things come first and this is “only a hobby!”

It was already 9 PM local time ( 0300 GMT the next day) when the lights of the R-75 came up.

I did my usual sweep of the higher bands first, working my way down and heard----NOTHING!

My first thought was that the wind of earlier in the day had torn the feedline off the antenna. That however did not seem right because my ever-present background power line noise was there. But there were no signals on 10 meters...not even any beacons. There was nothing on 12 or 15, nothing in the 16 meter shortwave broadcast band, very weak signals in the 19 meter band, nothing at all in the 20 meter CW band.

This was supposed to be the weekend for the Croatian DX contest and I had thought I would hear a few stations participating, but NOTHING.

I did my WWV sweep and found:

0300 WWV 20000 kHz Nothing. No WWVH either.
0301 WWV 15000 kHz Nothing. No WWVH
0302 WWV 10000 kHz About S-4 No WWVH
0303 WWV 5000 kHz Whoa! S-9+30 db!
0304 WWV 2500 kHz S-9 +40 db!!

Well, well. Let's check 40 meter CW. full of signals! Quick sweep up from the bottom and there is a very strong signal calling “ CQ Test”. 9A4M from Croatia ( they were out there!) He was coming in well, almost S-9 and steady almost like a one-hop signal. Listening for a moment, I heard a few stateside stations calling and working him. They were all weak and “watery” sounding, while he was strong and steady.

Going to the bottom of the band and coming up, I came across a strong signal obviously in a QSO with a stateside station that I could not hear. They were wrapping up on 7002.5 about 0317 GMT and he Id'ed as SM2EKM without the usual auroral zone flutter signals from Sweden usually have here on 40 meters that time of night. In quick order heard the following:

0320 UR7QC 7012 kHz RST 569 with QSB Ukraine
0323 UA9NN 7017 kHz RST 549 with flutter QSB Asiatic Russia
0326 UA3RF 7018.8 kHz RST 559 Flutter QSB Russia
0328 9A6M 7021 kHz RST 589 Croatia
0329 9A28EU 7025.7 kHz RST 599 Croatia
0330 S54W 7027 kHz RST 579 QSB Slovenia
0331 OF9X 7030.4 kHz RST 599 with some flutter ( Santa Claus Station Lapland!)
0333 AA4MC 7030.55 kHz RST 539 Rapid QSB and echo

Obviously Southern Europe was doing well into the US, semi local stations were not doing too well and Northern European stations were somewhat mixed.

Lets check 80 meters just for fun. Lot of stations here.A quick tune found two calling “ CQ test” so I stopped to ID them.

0340 YT4A 3522.7 kHz RST 579 steady Serbia
0341 YU3AAA 3524.58 kHz RST 589, very good signal, Serbia

Also looks like Southern Europe doing well on 80.

While there were other stations to pick out, it was just too much in the trend to not take a quick run down to 160 meters to find out if anything was happening there.

Whoa! For a non major contest weekend, there were a lot of signals in the CW portion. I stumbled across a strong station calling CQ on 1817 at 0347 GMT and just assumed it was a nearby station. It was XE1FAA and he was getting a few takers.

Working up the band, I found the following:

0348 XE2EJ 1820 kHz RST 579 Mexico
0349 9A5W (!!) 1821.48 kHz RST 559 Croatia!!! on 160!!
0352 XE2S 1825 kHz RST 599+ calling CQ Mexico
0352 LU8DPM 1825 kHz RST 569 calling XE2S ( and working him) Argentina

Not bad for a few minutes of listening. Not having much time, I decided to make a quick tune through the medium wave broadcast band and see if there were any split channel European carriers coming through. On the way down I found XEARZ from Mexico City on 1650 strong enough to be heard through the splash of our local 1660 KRZI. The Caribbean Beacon on 1610 from Anguilla was S-9 plus 10 db and very steady. And XERF on 1570, always strong here, was even stronger, steady at S-9 plus 40 db with all preamps off.

I ran out of time at this point and did not do much of a scan for European split channels, but it might have been a good night for it. This session was done with the R-75 receiver with 250 Hz filters for CW connected to a 90 foot sloper with the high end up 45 feet.

I don't know for sure what was working in the band conditions this particular night. Perhaps the maximum usable frequency was just very low on what might have been the shortest night of the year in North America.

I always find it interesting to try to do some listening on the longest and shortest days and on the equinoxes. I don't know if there is anything magical about them, but its fun to think so!

73 and Good DX!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fun on Ten Meters Dec 15, 2013

This weekend spent a little time listening to the ARRL Ten Meter Contest. I often hear both hams and SWL's saying the upper bands are not very good because of the sunspot cycle, but I have not noticed it so much. I tune across the ten meter band almost every time I sit down in front of the radio and it is very seldom I don't hear something. Even when there are no stations communicating, the beacon stations between 28.200 and 28.300 are audible.

I was not able to transmit during the contest this year, only listen. During the period of time between 0000 and 0117 GMT I was able to hear and log seventy stations, including numerous Japanese stations, plus Vietnam, South Korea, several Asiatic Russians, a couple Chinese stations and Hawaii and Alaska. The much nearer stateside stations were all very weak or very fluttery sounding, like I was probably hearing them on backscatter.

A sample of the loggings are listed below. Loggings were done with an Icom R-75 receiver with 250 Hz filter and sloper antenna at 45 feet high on one end and sloping down to the ground toward the northeast.

Time-GMT Station Frequency Signal Report Location

0000 JH3AIU 28001.25 579 Japan
0009 3W1T 28011.56 569 Vietnam
0010 K4RO 28002.83 449 Tn, USA
0011 R0DX 28005.57 579 Asiatic Russia
0011 KY7M 28005.57 449 USA
0015 RM0F 28011.87 579 Asiatic Russia
0025 JN4HTR 28019.34 539 Japan
0034 RA0FF 28023.60 579 Asiatic Russia
0035 JA1CP 28022.74 549 Japan
0036 KH7Y 28024.9 579 Hawaii
0036 UA0DM 28.024.9 579 Asiatic Russia
0038 V85TL 28024.30 559 Brunei
0045 JA7IC 28027.53 589 Japan
0048 BG2AUE 28030.90 579 China
0053 N5PO 28035.00 559 Flutter USA
0055 WH7W 28037.20 549 Hawaii
0059 BV1EK 28045.10 569 China
0101 KL7SB 28009.80 559 Alaska
0108 DS5DNO 28060.00 579 S. Korea
0113 UA0CNX 28082.53 549 QSB Asiatic Russia

Again, this is just a sample of what was heard in a very exciting hour and 17 minutes. Don't ever sell the higher frequencies short.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

160 Meter Test, Dec 8 Observtions

Band conditions were again not nearly as good as during CQWW. Stateside stations were strong but many had some deep fades.  I did hear VE2OJ  as early as 0112 GMT and VE6WZ at 0119. The short skip stations from North Texas, South Texas and Arkansas were very strong. AB5K was S-9 + 30 DB at 0129 on 1839.5. I did hear the Virgin Islands stations: KP2/K3TEJ at 0146 but only with a 339 signal. KP2M had only a slightly better signal at 449 at 0323.

Best Western Hemisphere DX was CE1/K7CA at 0329 on 1830.45 with a 559 signal.  He must have a fine station because I noted several stations reporting him on DX Summit.  If I remember correctly,  I have heard him before on this band. The only European station heard was G4AMT heard at 0343 on 1832.82.  There were no Alaskan or Hawaiian stations logged.

Sunday morning was not much better. Many of the stateside signals by 1200 GMT were fading up and down quite a bit. No Hawaiians heard. Two JA's were logged at 1232 and 1245 but both were very faint.  If the noise had not been particularly low, I probably would not have heard them at all. The only other quasi-DX heard was XE2S holding forth on 1819.7 with a good 589 signal at 1229 GMT.  Once again, the short hop stations were very strong.

I did not check the 120 and 90 meter shortwave broadcast bands. Maybe someone else had observations.  This time around, I was in the SWL mode only during this contest and did not transmit.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dec 6-7, 2013 Observations

During the afternoon Friday Dec 6 before the 160 meter test began, while driving home from work I noticed the standard broadcast band was already showing signs of skip.  This was a harbinger of good conditions early in the contest.

As early as 2200 GMT ( 1600 local CST in Texas) already there was interference showing up on some of the local stations.  Already WLAC from Nashville was coming in over the semi local daytime only stations on 1510.  The 1530 from Cincinnati was coming in over the Austin area station and the 1500 from Minneapolis was even propping in. The 1540 from Waterloo, Iowa was audible in the background of the Ft Worth Spanish Language ESPN station and Havana was  audible behind WTAW on 1620 even though WTAW was still on 10 kw daytime power only 90 miles away.

I knew the first night of the test would have limited listening time because of a visiting grandson and my own fatigue from going in to work at 5 AM. ( I work in a television station newsroom and icy weather was forecast for today and the early time was necessary because of the rash of calls expected for school closings or late openings and event cancellations that would have to be posted).

As things turned out it was almost 0100 GMT before I even got to sit down in front of the receiver and even at that it was education time for the 5 year old on what was going on.  He seemed to enjoy putting on the headphones and hearing the signals from all around the country.  He even seemed interested in the CW concept and listened intently, at one point saying " that one is really, really fast!" Who knows,  maybe a budding DX-er here!

The WWV check showed the following:( R-75, 80 meter sloper)

Time(GMT)     Call                 Frequency            Signal Strength
0050               WWV                 2500 kHz              S-9+ 20 DB
0051               WWV                 5000 kHz              S-9+ 20 DB
0052               WWV               10000 kHz              S-9+30  DB
0053               WWV/WWVH 15000 kHz              S-8 ( WWVH Dominant)
0054               WWV/WWVH 20000 kHz              Neither audible

Early on at 0100 GMT, stations from the Midwest were all very strong, with stations from the Northeast solid, as well.  The first VE3 station was heard at 0101 with a 559 signal. A W1 from Maine was logged at 589 at 0105.

Interestingly, some of the stations from the Southeast were relatively weak, though the band was very full of signals. Even though it was still partially daylight on the West Coast, stations from California, Oregon and Washington were coming in and gaining in strength rapidly. Before 0130, more VE3's were logged along with VE1ZAC and VY2ZM from the Maritime district. C6AKQ from the Bahamas was logged a bit earlier at 0112. Though I heard stations working a Virgin Islands station about that time, it was inaudible at my location.

The real surprise of the evening was when I tuned across a bit of a pileup on 1820.35 with stations spread out about 200Hz above and below calling and calling. It took a few minutes of careful listening to realize that under the pile was OK2W from the Czech Republic.

After a short break getting the grandbaby in bed, back in front of the radio at 0240 saw the Northeast stations much, much stronger and many more West Coast stations coming in. Ever present contest station W0AIH was S-9 plus 10 db and many W6's and W7's were at or above S-9.  FM5CD  from Martinique was holding forth on 1822 working  a steady stream of stations with a good 589 signal into Central Texas.

By this time, the early morning start was beginning to pull my eyelids shut. It was going to be an early stop, and by 0300 it was getting  very hard to stay awake.  I remember in years gone by I could have just plowed on all night after an early start like this. ( Its a bear getting old!!) There was still enough wakefulness to copy VA5DX with a 589 signal.

There was one more prize of the night.  Another pileup appeared around 1831 kHz.  It took about 15 minutes of intense listening, but then the signal seemed to float up out of the background noise and there was S59A from Slovenia written down as a 549 signal.

There was just no getting up for  the pre sunrise Pacific opening this morning,  but tonight I will be more rested and will be able to dig later for the Europeans and Sunday morning local for the Pacific and hopefully Asian opening.  I noticed checking DX Summit that several stations reported hearing many, many JA's and at least one Korean station along with several Asiatic Russians.  Maybe I will get lucky even with the small antenna.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

160 Meter Amateur Radio Contest

One of the more challenging amateur radio contests takes place this weekend ( Dec 6-Dec 8) and for the SWL who can copy CW it can be a fun way to pick up some new countries on a low band.
It is the annual ARRL 160-Meter Contest and runs from 2200 GMT Friday Dec 6 through 1600 GMT Dec 8.  The object of the contest for hams is to work as many stations as possible. US and Canadian hams work each other and the rest of the world, while other stations work US and Canadian Hams.The W/VE stations give a signal report and their ARRL or RAC section while DX stations give just a signal report.

To give you and idea of the difficulty of this contest,  it would be the equivalent of trying to log a broadcast band station running a kilowatt or less across the ocean.  Of course copying a CW signal is much easier than an AM signal, but its still not easy!

For stations in the US, working Europe can be possible during the evening hours and through about midnight local time.  For listeners in Europe to hear US stations, the best times will be between 2300 and 0700 GMT.

For stations in the US, working the Pacific and Asia is best from a couple hours before sunrise on. In this contest it will be difficult for European listeners to hear much activity during this time period because they will be in full sun.  So the window for hearing much for European listeners will be somewhat shorter than for those in North America.  That will be because while there are times that prop into Asia and the Pacific would be possible from Europe, it does not overlap with times that those stations would be able to work US stations and there would be no reason for them to be on. That window is mostly between 0900-1300 GMT.

Beverage antennas used for BCB DX would be useful for those wanting to log some DX in this contest as would loops that cover that frequency range ( 1800-2000) or if your local noise will allow hearing weak signals on that range, inverted L's and longwires.  Of course anything that you have can be tried.

I will be using a sloper antenna fed at the top and two receivers: An Icom R-75 with 250 Hz cw filters in both IF's and an old boatanchor,  a Hammurland HQ-170.  The old tube type receivers really shine on this band as they tend to be more immune to intermodulation interference from strong nearby broadcast stations. They also tend to handle noise better, modern DSP notwithstanding.  At least they appear to to me.  Who knows, that may be psychological or wishful thinking,  but again, at the end of the day, its whatever works!

In any event,  it will be something to have fun with.  During the end-of-November CQ World Wide DX Contest, conditions on 160 meters were fabulous, with stations from Japan and Asiatic Russia logged here in Central Texas.  While a cold front will be moving in late this week, we have no thunderstorms forecast, so perhaps the noise will be low.  And what better way to spend a cold weekend that in front of a good, warm receiver!

Good DX!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Morning Ride

Sometimes we get our daily “ DX Fix” where we can. For me, one guaranteed bit of time fishing the airwaves is my morning drive to work. Its not a long drive. Depending on traffic between fifteen and twenty minutes. I am sure others have much longer drives, though having more time for DX-ing is probably not a reason to wish for one with gas prices what they are!.

My morning drive occurs about 6:40 AM local time ( Central US ) and depending on the time of year ranges from being in full daylight to full darkness. This time of the year-early December-it is right about sunrise. Our local stations are still on night time powers and patterns and stations to the east are blasting away with full daytime power. To the west, things are in the night mode.

Tuning the stations from day to day over long periods of time, it is easy to see that band conditions can vary widely even at these frequencies. One gets a good feeling of what will be heard where and will notice anything “out of place.”

Some mornings I will target certain frequencies to see if something new is coming in. Often I will do sweeps of parts of the band. One soon gets to know the “usuals”. Starting at the top of the band at 1700 I can be assured of hearing Brownsville, Texas with ESPN. On 1690, there can be a bit of a variance...most days its Radio Disney from Denver, occasionally it will be WVON from Chicago. The 1680 spot will be held down by Monroe, Louisiana, formerly with news now with classic country. You get the picture.

I almost always check 1620 to see if Cuba is propping in. Right now they are in full sun and have not shown up much. The semi-local WTAW holds the spot pretty well. Sometimes in the months where power change to the east occurs close to sunrise there...usually early in the month, a station that carries sports programming will show up. A check of 1610 will sometimes show Anguilla in winter months, but lately not often.

Some mornings I will check my “ old friends “ to see if they are there. WIBW on 580 often comes in through the clutter. I will look at 700 to see if the old WLW ( what callsign do they use now?) comes in or if the former true clear channel ( small “c”) is covered. Does XEW on 900 come in..apparently not as strong as it used to...What about XEQ on 940? If I check quickly before I get too far from the house Radio Mil on 1000 will show up. I have to check early because the directional antenna for our local station on 1010 has a null that I drive through and the side splash is minimized.

Will KCTA from Corpus Christi show up with its lower pre sunrise power or will it be XEQR that we hear this morning? Will it be Mexico City or New Orleans heard on 1060? Will Kansas City be strong enough on 1070 to make it through the side splash from KRLD this morning?

Some mornings in months where the sun is up here, stations from the east will disappear and stations to the west will drop in for a visit as their first hop via the ionosphere is still in darkness. During this transition period it is interesting to note how much different the prop is at the lower end of the dial than at the top. The lower end signals drop away quickly with the slightest sun, while the higher in signals make it much longer.

And occasionally, there will be great enhancements. There have been times when I have heard signals from great distances even in full sun. This usually happens in the winter.

The same kind of bandscan can be great fun in the evenings on the way back from work. The winter time is of course more interesting because the sun is going down and that transition is already underway. It is easy to see why the FCC requires some stations to have different directional patterns or even lower powers during what they term “ critical hours” when some night effect is already showing up. That is the time I will hear Waterloo, Iowa on 1540 coming from beneath ( or sometimes over) the 1540 station from Ft Worth, or Brownsville's 1700 coming in over the Dallas area 1700.

It can be a great study of prop. And occasionally an opportunity to log a new one. Sometimes at the beginning of the month, stations may have operators who “ forget” the new time for power or pattern change and remain on day power until the time required for change the previous month. Or sometimes Mother Nature will just deliver a surprise.

Its difficult to actually write stations down or fill in a log while driving, but I have been amazed at what I can remember to enter into the log when I get home or to my work place. Often on a notepad in the truck I can just write down the frequencies and my memory will take care of the rest. Otherwise, its just play back the memory tape and get them down.

Looking back over old loggings of such things can be very educational, too. That is why I log everything, even stations I have heard many times. During thunderstorms where lightning precludes playing with the radios, time can be spent pouring over old loggings and finding interesting patterns.

In any event, spending the morning ride tuning the band allows for a little DX-ing where it might not otherwise occur and it can often be more entertaining than what might be found listening to some morning “personalities”!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Observations Nov 30-Dec 1, 2013

    Saturday, November 30, 2013 with the help of another local ham we made some changes to one of the antennas. The 80 meter sloper that had been mounted on a 27 foot mast was taken down and a taller mast was put up. There were a couple of objectives in the work. The mast being used was old and rusty and somewhat rickety. The replacement mast was not only in better condition, but was a Rohn extra heavy duty push up pole that was also 40 feet tall. With the small extension on the top, the feed point of the sloper would be increased to about 43 feet.

    I have carted this particular mast around for almost forty years. It has been used as a stand alone vertical, to support two meter beams, FM broadcast band yagis, television antennas and an 80 meter Windom antenna in its storied life. The past ten years or so it has lain in the back yard waiting for its next assignment.
The sloper itself is rather simple. It is a 90 foot length of wire fed at the top with RG-8X coaxial cable and tilting down to about 8 feet above the ground. It had been tilting down to the east because that was the only direction it could go and fit in the yard. With the increased height, the end could be moved around to a more northeasterly direction.

In its previous incarnation, the antenna had been pretty good for general reception, not showing too much noticeable directionality, though theoretically it would be expected to have a null somewhat to the north. The antenna was used for general coverage reception for everything from low frequencies through six meters. I know this is not what such an antenna would be used for, but I guess it falls in the category of whatever works.

Of course as soon as the tools were put away and the much needed shower taken, it would not do but that the antenna be tested right away “just to make sure I had not ruined it” by making the changes. It was just before dark when I sat down in front of the R-75, the receiver chosen for the “test ride”.

I was particularly interested in how the antenna would behave on the lower frequencies, most particularly to see if the change in position would have affected my on-again-off-again power line noise problem. I was hoping the raising of the height would not make it worse, as part of the antenna was now nearer to power line height.

The first stop was to make a sweep of the WWV frequencies. This is something I often do to get some idea of what is happening prop wise. The table below shows how it went. Each entry has the time, callsign of the NBS site, frequency, signal strength and location.

Observations are all of course in Waco, Texas

2346 GMT WWV 15000 kHz S-9 + 10 db/WWVH well audible beneath
2348 GMT WWV 20000 kHz S-7 with fairly deep QSB ( fading)-No WWVH
2349 GMT WWV 10000 kHz S9 + 10 db No WWVH
2350 GMT WWV 5000 kHz S-9+ 20 db
2356 GMT WWV 2500 kHz S-9 + 10 db

Next stop was the 160 meter band. Noise was low and tuning up past 1825 immediately ran into a pileup-a cluster of stations calling some DX station in a real fur ball of signals. Thinking the DX station would be working split as they often do, listening up frequency from their transmit spot, I tuned down to 1825 even and there was J88HL on St Vincent with a very good signal, 579 on cw working stations as fast as he could. This was a bit of a surprise since it was not even fully dark yet. Tuning back up through the pileup I was copying signals form the northeast, midwest and even far northwest where it was not even dark yet. This meant really good band conditions in any event.

Going up to 80 meters, I immediately ran into a strong signal from HI3A in the Dominican Republic calling CQ. Unlike the station on 160 meters, this fellow was working stations simplex, that is, stations calling right on his frequency. After working a couple stateside stations with very strong signals both for him and in my shack, he took awhile answering the fifth or sixth calling station and pulled out a DL4 in Germany. Almost as surprising as what had happened on 160 meters was the fact that I could hear the DL4! Right there on 3503 kHz! This was at 0018. In quick succession I also heard an ON7 and an F8, along with a big pile of Stateside stations.

Usually I would have spent time mining the pileup for many DX stations for the log. This is always a good source of great loggings...digging through a pileup on a relatively nearby station. But this was antenna checking time, so it was on up to 40 meters, where surprisingly not much in the way of DX was found, mostly midwest stations rag chewing at high speed.

So up it was to 30 meters where the first station heard was a Russian, an RV3...the the world fell in. A huge pileup, and at the bottom of it a station in Somalia who was himself a good 559 signal. After that it was a jumble of stations calling...another good gold mine of DX ( as if the Somali station was not enough of a mine itself!)..several more Russians, Germans, French, even a JH3 apparently long path from Japan.

The DX session ended at 0100 GMT with other planned family activities. But early the next morning when the dogs and cats woke me up at 1130 GMT, I figured I could head to the radio and find some good Asian DX on the low bands.

Nay, not so! While I slept the bands took a drastic change. No stations heard on 160, only stateside ragchews on 80 and 40 meters, not much at all on 30. A run through the WWV frequencies gave the following:

1312 WWV 15000 kHz S-5 QSB with some flutter No WWVH
1313 WWV 20000 kHz S-3 with flutter...No WWVH
1314 WWV 10000 kHz S-9 + 40 db, steady, No WWVH
1315 WWV 5000 kHz S-9 + 30 db, steady, WWVH just audible
1316 WWV 2500 kHz S-9 + 20 db steady, WWVH just audible

Hmm. Appeared relatively short skip on the low bands even right at sunrise. What brought about the big change from last night?

Lets check 15 meters, even though its just becoming light and probably way too early. Wow! A band full of signals. First heard was PR7RC calling CQ on 21005 at 599. Great signal. Just up frequency is CO6LP in Cuba calling CQ with a weak, fluttery signal. Not unusual if 15 meters is open long. Here comes G3PLE answering him about S-5, then a W4 with a weak, watery sounding signal.

Tuning up frequency a bit, I run into a small pile..a weak W4 signing with someone, an S-5 signal with some fading. Whoa! Its a 7X4...Algeria with a fair signal with a little chirp on the cw keying. Then the PR7 from down the band is calling him, then other stations from the Northeastern US.

Lets check 12 meters. A number of moderate to weak signals. But what have we here: An EA9 from Ceuta or Melilla working a Germany station...then up at 24908 a 5R8 from Madagascar. Going back down the band, there appears to be a pile at 24902..a weak station from the Bahamas working a string of Europeans, with a Russian and a very strong familiar Belgian call ON5NT in the mix, a W6 that he works OK but which is very weak here in Texas...then he spends some time asking for a repeat, repeat, repeat and there he is, the distance record for the morning, a ZS3 from South Africa with a 549 signal, then a very strong F4 from France.

No doubt very good band conditions for an upper band after a very good low band night the night before, but not much on the low bands this morning. The question is: what brought about the change? Solar activity? Will have to check and see.

But that's one thing that makes this hobby interesting. It is often totally unpredictable...sort of like fishing sometimes.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Receivers I Have Known

       The following are receivers I have used for DX-ing over the past fifty-plus years.  The entries are not meant to be reviews of the receivers, but more of a record of what has been used to put over 300 countries in my logbook over that period of time.

1. Remco Crystal Set—totally passive receiver, no power supply, received standard broadcast only. Used with 175 foot long wire antenna on Orchard Lane in Waco, Texas. Best DX, WOAI in San Antonio, Texas. Used from 1956 to 1958.

2. Knight Kit regenerative receiver, part of the Knight Kit 12-in-one lab kit. Single tube ( 12K5) regenerative receiver of breadboard design with no dial calibration. Used to log standard broadcast stations with 15 foot wire antenna on West First Street in Coleman, Texas and 70 foot longwire at 20 feet on Harrison Street in Waco, Texas. Best DX-KTWO in Casper, Wyoming. Used from 1958 to 1960.

3.. Watterson table top radio—five-tube standard broadcast with coverage up through the old medium wave police band—approximately 540-1900 kHz with modifications. Used with 150 foot long wire under eaves of house and 70 foot longwire at 20 feet on Harrison Street in Waco, Texas. Logged broadcast stations from U-S, Mexico, Canada, Belize and Cuba,mostly the larger clear channel stations and a few smaller regional stations, plus police dispatch from several states, 160 meter amateur stations from the US Midwest on AM phone and several mediumwave air beacons between 1600-1800 kHz. Receiver had one IF stage and no RF stage, All American Five design. Best DX-Cuba on several frequencies and Radio Belize. Used from 1956 to 1963.

4. Silvertone Console radio- six-tube AM receiver with phonograph and internal loop antenna used for medium wave reception only on Harrison Street in Waco, Texas. Logged broadcast stations from U-s, Mexico, Canada and Cuba, mostly the larger clear-channel type stations. Receiver had one RF and one IF stage. Best DX-CBK, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, KNX Los Angeles, and several Cubans. Used from 1954-1971.

5. Homebuilt/ training course kit receiver. Seven-tube dual conversion receiver. Superhet for the broadcast band with one RF and one IF stage, plus single tube converter for tuning HF frequencies from approximately 6.5 to 15.1 mHz. The HF converter had no RF stage. Used IF regeneration to copy cw and tighten selectivity. Logged major standard broadcast band stations, shortwave stations in 31, 25 and 19 meter bands, some utility stations and amateur stations in the 40 and 20 meter band. Very broad selectivity, poor stability, poor image rejection Logged about thirty countries. Best DX-amateur stations in Argentina, Radio Australia 10 kw outlet, various utility stations in South America and Europe. Used from 1959 to 1963.

5. National SW-54 five tube, single conversion receiver tuning from 540 kHz to 30 mHz in four bands. It had one IF and no RF stage. Used IF regeneration for cw reception. Had moderate selectivity and fair sensitivity up through about 15 mHz. Fair stability on the two lower bands, poor stability and poor image rejection on the upper two bands. It was my first general coverage receiver and its shortcomings were not immediately recognized because it was such a step up from what I had been using. It was used on 175 foot long wire under the eaves of the house and 70 foot longwire at twenty feet on Harrison Street in Waco, Texas. Best DX Radio Peking on SWBC ( not easy in 1961!) amateur stations in Rhodesia, Ghana, South Africa and Tanganyika, Utility stations in Greece, South Africa and Macao. No S-meter. Used from 1961 to 1962.

7. National NC-88 nine tube single conversion receiver tuning 540 kHz to 40 mHz in four bands. No crystal selectivity or S-meter. Fairly stable on all but the upper end of the fourth band. Selectivity pretty fair on AM ( about 10 kHz on strong signals-not always adequate on standard broadcast or among strong signals on 49 meters), fair on SSB and cw. Very basic noise limiter and the receiver was vulnerable to power line and other noise interference. Some image response on the highest band. Sensitivity good on lower three bands, fair on the fourth band up to 15 mHz, dropping to poor on ten meters. Somewhat sensitive to strong signal overload and audio microphonics when using the internal speaker. This was such a vast improvement over what I had been using that I was very pleased with it from 1962-1967. It was not too good on SSB which is mainly what led to its replacement. It did not have a product detector. Best DX Australia on 40 meter amateur band, Japan on 80 meter amateur band, Pitcairn Island on 10 meter amateur band, Tahiti and Solomon Islands on shortwave broadcast, Mauritius, China, Indonesia,and Timor on cw utility bands. All of the “common” SWBC stations logged previously easily received. A large number of tropical band stations logged on 60, 90 and 120 meters along with a large number of utility cw marine shore stations logged.  Used from 1962 to 1967.

8. Drake 2B- triple conversion amateur band receiver with auxillary crystal positions for receiving 500 kHz wide bands between 3.5 and 30 mHz, initially crystaled for 80-10 meter amateur bands and the 49, 31, 25 and 19 meter shortwave bands. Also had crystals for 6, 8, 12,16, 18, and 22 mHz utility bands that could be manually plugged in for use. Used at Harrison Street in Waco, Texas with various antennas including 250 foot long wire peaking 30 feet high, also used on Forest Drive in Port Arthur, Texas, and on Lark Drive in Waco, Texas on inverted L's, verticals and ground planes. Later added 2BQ Q-multiplier. Very sensitive and selective. Logged just under 300 countries on amateur bands, over 100 countries on utility bands and shortwave broadcast. My first really high grade receiver. Used at Harrison Street from 1967-1971, Port Arthur from 1975-1980 and Waco from 1991 to present. Excellant receiver for narrow band cw work on amateur and utility bands and on ssb amateur and utility work. Very stable. Very selective for use on AM signals in shortwave broadcast bands with the Q-multiplier giving variable selectivity. Allows use in SSB mode for enhanced AM reception. Can be left for days on a utility SSB frequency without need for retuning. Hissing sound on cw with use of the Q-multiplier can be fatiguing after long hours of amateur contest work. Also crystalled for 17 and 30 meter amateur bands. Sensitivity not great on ten meters. Had S-meter, product detector and selectable AVC speeds. Lowest IF is 50 kHz. Tuneable IF from 3.5-4.1 mHz with crystal controlled conversion for other bands. Tuneable pre selector. Have never heard and image signal or spurious product with this receiver. Best DX is hard to choose because the receiver is regularly used and consistently pulls out great stuff. The first truly good DX was Qatar on the 20 meter amateur band in 1967. Other than the Q-multiplier hiss, this receiver still can compete with the best of the new gear after fifty years. With the crystal calibrator and excellent dial calibration, frequency read out to 1 kHz is easy. I have used it on the amateur bands alongside stand alone transmitters and it has been a great performer in DX contests, outperforming receivers in the Icom 701 and 720 transceivers and the Kenwood TS-130 and Yaesu FT-757 transceivers it has been used with. I only wish it would tune the bands below 3.5 mHz! Used from 1967 to date. It is still in use!

9. Hallicrafters SX-99, single conversion 9 tube receiver with one RF and two IF stages and s-meter. Tuned from 540 to 30 mHz and had an IF crystal filter with phasing control. Used from 1971 to 1973 at the University of Houston, barracks at Arlington Hall Station in Virginia and barracks at Kagnew Station in Asmara, Ethiopia. I sold it while overseas when I got access to a better receiver, but wish I had kept it. I used it for Broadcast Band DX while at U of H with a 2-1/2 foot loop antenna and for general DX work at Arlington Hall with a 100 foot long wire and at Asmara with a 150 foot longwire fifteen feet above the roof of a three story barracks building. Selectivity was pretty good on AM with the crystal filter and very useable on cw and SSB when the crystal phasing was properly adjusted ( a bit of an art to setting up for single signal cw reception) With the 10 kHz crystal calibrator, frequency could be determined very well with the calibrated bandspread on the amateur bands. By careful counting of carriers, frequency determination can be pretty good on the shortwave broadcast bands. Best DX, on the loop from Houston on standard broadcast, several Canadians, YSS from El Salvador on 655, Belize, many Cubans, Guatemala and Nicaragua. From Arlington, on standard broadcast many Canadians, the usual high powered Mexicans, Cubans, the Bahamas, Bonaire ( PJB) plus many European and African amateurs on 40 and 20 meters. From Asmara, standard broadcast stations from all over Europe including some lower powered BBC stations, stations from all over Africa and Middle East, and China. Also WBAP and WBT from the US. Daylight BCB stations from Kuwait, Muscat ( big BBC relay), Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Djibouti and Omdurman in the Sudan. SWBC DX from world wide. This was an excellent DX location in an area of very low noise and on top of a 7200 foot mountain. Utility DX included stateside stations like WCC, WLO, KPH, KLB, KLC and WPA. Amateur stations were logged from over 150 countries, including several from the US on 40 meters.  Used from 1971-1973.

10. Collins R-390. I list this one because I had the chance to use several of these to use while off duty at work in Asmara , Ethiopia. This was an amazing receiver for shortwave broadcast and standard broadcast work. This was a massive (literally!) receiver that tuned 500 kHz to 32 mhz with over thirty tubes. It generated a large amount of heat. I think it had a crystal heater in it. It also had a mechanical digital readout with indications down to 1 Khz. It had a separate knob for selecting mHz bands, meaning when you changed bands, you remained on the same frequency except for the mHz prefix.The receiver was bullet proof in more ways than one. The case was unbelievable heavy duty. The front end could withstand huge amounts of RF without overload or spurious responses. The radio was designed to operate with a transmitter operating full time right next to it. There were three that I could use during limited hours that were connected to a 100 foot longwire that was one hundred feet high. There were two R-390's and one R-390A in the receiver rack at the American Forces Radio and TV station newsroom in Asmara. The “A” model I believe had Collins filters and was noticeably better than the other two. Stations heard on these receivers were all really good DX, but they were not readily useable for more than an hour or so at a time and often not at optimum DX times. The receivers were used at time to receive feeds from AFRTS transmitters in the U-S to supply news broadcasts and occasional ball game broadcasts for retransmission over the local AFRTS station. Best DX heard from Asmara on one of the R-390's in the AFRTS newsroom was a group of Novices on 40 meter cw and several stations from Texas involved in what they thought was a semi-local QSO on 80 meters. Used 1972 through 1973.

11. Collins R-388. I had the opportunity to use one of these fine receivers for a time in Asmara. It was on loan from a friend who had bought it through a property disposal sale not working and somehow got it fixed. The plan was that I was going to buy it from him and ship it home, and that led to the sale of my SX-99. But he changed his mind about selling it after a couple of months, leaving me in a bit of a DX lurch for a time. This receiver is a real boat anchor. It does not weigh as much as the R-390, but not by much! It tunes from 500 kHz to 30 mHz in 500 kHz bands. The calibration is quite good for an analog receiver, and with use of the crystal calibrator, read out to 1 kHz can be reliably made. In the time I had this receiver, I literally filled a logbook with stations on the standard broadcast band. It was used on a 150 foot longwire on the roof of the three story barracks building. Stations from all over Africa, including some 1 and 5 kw stations were logged on the standard broadcast band, along with many in Europe and Asia. Using this receiver in this location was a DX-er's dream. Even a few US broadcast stations were received ( WBAP, WBT, WABC, WNBC, WBZ). It would be impossible to pick out the best DX with this receiver and location. The R-388 used there was excellent with regard to stability, frequency readout, selectivity and sensitivity up through 25 mHz. The total time I had available for DX-ing was somewhat limited because of military duties and that was divided among time spent SWL-ing and operating the amateur radio club station ET3USA, and some socialization at the time. Looking back, I am sure I could have spent more time wringing signals out of the ether in that prime DX location! Used 1972 to mid 1973.

12. Zenith Transoceanic—solid state version. When the R-388 went back to its owner, I found myself with several months left in Asmara before going back to the States or my next assignment without a radio. A visit to the on post hobby shop that also sold stereo equipment revealed they had a solid state version of the Zenith Transoceanic for sale. It had apparently been there a long time as a display item and they no longer had the box or the paperwork that went with it and it was marked down for quick sale. After a little haggling, that quick sale price came down a little more and I walked away with it for only $75.00 ! Of course I had already fired it up and made sure it was working properly. This was the earliest model of the “new” Transoceanic design with plug in transistors. The radio was pretty good for its time and while nothing like the R-388 or even the SX-99, it was certainly useable for DX-ing. It had reasonable selectivity, a beat frequency oscillator for copying cw and SSB signals and several bands with reasonable bandspread. It was not a full, general coverage receiver, but had several ranges including the major shortwave broadcast bands, as well as FM broadcast and a VHF range that included the “new” VHF weather frequencies. When tied to the 150 foot longwire on the roof of the barracks building, I found that in all but the toughest, low power stations I had logged with the other receivers, I could find most on the Zenith. It also had something the other receivers had lacked: a Longwave band. Without a broadcast band full of strong local signals ( our local AFRTS outlet was 1 kilowatt with the transmitter about six miles away and the local Ethiopian Broadcasting Service station while 50 kilowatts, had their transmitter 35 km away and did not operate all night) the radio did not have the overload problems that make use of that band all but impossible here. This allowed logging of Nondirectional Beacons from several locations throughout Africa and the Middle East and Longwave broadcast stations from throughout Europe and Asia, include many hours of enjoyable listening to Radio Luxemburg. Reception of Radio Lux was not possible on medium wave except in the small hours of the morning because of co channel interference from a Russian station.The radio also has rather pleasant audio and allowed casual listening to a number of European stations with good quality, including the Top 40 programming from pirate station Radio Nordsea, which was readily audible in Asmara on 6210 kHz in 1973. Best DX was probably the longwave stations of the BBC local stations. When used as my initial primary receiver when reassigned to Fort Polk, Lousiana in 1974, it performed well for medium wave DX-ing with the internal loop antenna and later with a 125 foot long wire between the barracks buildings. Using the long wire on FM also allowed pretty good long distance reception, though once again with no strong local FM signals ( the closest 3 kw FM station was over 25 miles away) In a metro area it does not do so well handling strong local signals. Back in areas with strong local broadcast stations, the radio's performance on the low frequency or long wave band is very poor with many artifacts from the medium wave stations and seemingly poor sensitivity. I still have the radio forty years later and it still works, though it suffers the same problem as the old tube type Transoceanics—the bandswitch has become very noisy and somewhat intermittent, requiring frequent spraying and sometimes a bit of “ working” back and forth to get it seated properly. It has been used mostly just for listening to local AM and FM stations for the past several years. Used  mid 1973 to date. Still in use.

13.National NC-190. While at Ft Polk, my qualification for proficiency pay finally caught up with me and I got seven months back additional pay at one time. With that money burning a serious hole in my pocket, I made a weekend trip to Houston to visit friends and make a foray through two radio stores that in the seventies still carried used equipment. I was looking for a good general coverage receiver to replace the SX-99 I had let get away in Asmara. In Long's Electronics I found a real treasure: a near mint condition National NC-190. This was a dual conversion receiver that tuned from 540 kHz to 30 mHz with ferrite filters that claimed 0.5 kHz selectivity ( though probably at 6 db down and with broad skirts) and had something rather unique. It had calibrated bandspread not only for the amateur bands, but also for several of the regular shortwave broadcast bands. By turning a dial between detents, the operator could choose which bandspread one wanted to use. The receiver also had a S-meter and with a 1650 kHz first IF, relative freedom from image response. When used both at Ft Polk and at my first civilian shack in Port Arthur a year later, the receiver proved a solid performer, probably superior to the SX-99. With a little alignment touch up with a signal generator the calibration of both the main and bandspread dials were very close to right. While it did not offer the 1 kHz readout of the R-388, it was certainly close enough to provide a lot of help in identifying stations. The selectivity was very good, easily allowing separation of 5 kHz stations on both shortwave and standard broadcast bands. This allowed reception of numerous Caribbean, Central, and South American broadcast stations on “split “ frequencies. When used with a two foot diameter loop antenna wound on a cardboard box, the receiver easily pulled in medium wave stations from South America. It also worked very well on the amateur bands, though not with the selectivity of my Drake 2B. Best DX with the NC-190 would be the Ethiopian Broadcast Service received in Port Arthur along with numerous utility stations from Israel, Greece, Indonesia, Australia, East Timor, Shanghai and Macao, many on a day to day, very regular basis. The receiver did all of this in Port Arthur while within two miles of a 1 kw broadcast station and about four miles away from Coast Station WPA operating with 10 kw on several HF frequencies. The receiver ended up being given to a neighbor in Port Arthur who had developed an interest in shortwave listening back in 1980. I do miss it from time to time, but know that it went to a good home. Used mid 1973-1980.

14. Collins 75A1. This receiver was given to me by a long time local ham who also owned the Motorola MSS operation where I worked for a time in 1979. He was “cleaning out” and needed to find a new home for it and a National HRO-7 that I will tell about separately. The 75A1 was the predecessor to the truly legendary 75A4. It contained pretty good crystal filters and was a great performer on 80, 40 and 20 meters, though on higher frequencies suffered a lower sensitivity than the newer designs. I did not use it very long, but did find it an excellent cw receiver particularly among strong crowded conditions on 80 and 40 meters. Using this receiver, it became a regular thing to hear the Russian amateur stations almost at will every night. This receiver went to a young man in one of my ham radio classes being taught at the time who could not afford to buy a rig, though he had great interest in operating cw. I passed along this receiver knowing it would be several steps above what might otherwise have been his first receiver. It was paired with a Viking I transmitter for his first rig.
Used 1978-1980.

15. National HRO-7. This receiver was also a pass along from Art Kay, W5APX. This receiver had two RF and two IF stages along with crystal phasing and used plug in coil drawers for band changing. It, like the other National receivers in the HRO series, used the National “BN” dial that had small windows around the periphery of a large tuning dial that changed as the dial was rotated, giving an effective twelve feet of band spread. By changing jumpers on the coil drawer, you could select whether the coil would cover a wide range of frequencies ( for example 3-10 mHz) or bandspread to spread the 40 meter band over almost the entire range of the dial. There was no direct frequency calibration for the dial, but a graph/chart on the front of the plug in assembly that would allow interpolation of frequencies amazingly closely. The receiver only came with two coil assemblies...ones for forty and twenty meters, though the eighty meter band could be covered in the general coverage mode of the forty meter coil. The receiver was amazingly stable and sensitive on the bands for which I had the coils and was excellent for AM and CW reception. In the narrowest position, CW reception was amazing, slicing signals out of heavy interference quite nicely. The BN dial gave great bandspreading action.The receiver came with the matching speaker and when set in the widest bandwidth position would give great quality sound on broadcast stations. Over a period of time, I created my own frequency conversion charts with enough reference points that allowed very good frequency determination. The receiver was particularly good in pulling out weak signals in the 60 and 90 meter tropical bands and the crowded 49 meter shortwave broadcast band. It was with this receiver than I was able to log a great number of African stations and stations from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia in the 60 and 90 meter bands for the first time. It was most often used in Port Arthur on a 200 foot flat top long wire fifty feet high that ran across two city lots. Later, during a period of time when I found myself living in apartments with rather limited antenna possibilities, the HRO-7 continued to be a great asset in pulling out signals that were weak or buried in the noise. Used 1978 though 1999.

16. Hallicrafters SX-62. This is one my all time favorite receivers, not just because it was a great DX machine, but because it is just, plain classy. I was given this receiver not working. It was another deal from an older ham radio friend who was cleaning out and downsizing. The radio was deaf to RF. It made noise that indicated at least the IF's and audio were working, but it was not picking anything up. Troubleshooting indicated the 7F8 mixer/converter tube was not working. This is a very rare tube and I was having trouble finding it. I carted the receiver around through a move out to Kerrville in West Texas ( not an easy thing, since the radio is BIG and weighs about fifty pounds!) but I did not want to turn it loose. Its a classic Hallicrafters design with a huge slide rule dial. It covers 540 kHz to 108 mHz with both AM and FM detectors. The huge dial has markings on it for individual stations...a good bit of it covered with dots with country names next them. It has two RF and two IF stages and a crystal filter but the phasing control is not on the front panel, but beneath the chassis and must be just preset during alignment. I was lucky enough that one of the students in the ham class I taught out at Kerrville had 2 (!) 7F8's in his junk box and both worked! The radio came alive. After a careful alignment, it worked great with the exception of the upper VHF band...never figured out what was going on with it. It took a little spraying of contact cleaner on the band switch and on the wiper contacts on the variable capacitors to get rid of the “crackles” but the radio worked very well. On a good external speaker, the audio is superb. With selectable bandwidths, the audio is great for casual listening or it can tighten down for digging out weak stuff or stations on a crowded band. For an older receiver it is reasonably stable for copying cw and SSB though it does not have a product detector. This quickly became my “living room” radio for listening to BBC news broadcasts, music from Croatia when during their wars the HF stations relayed the local FM networks and the Voice of Greece, again for great music. There is no bandspread, but the long dial and geared down tuning make it tuneable without it. It is also a great performer for medium wave DX. This was the radio I used to look at in the Wards catalog and drool over as a kid back when Wards and Sears still sold such things in the fifties! One really neat thing about the receiver is that when the bandswitch is turned, dial lights switch to light up the specific row that is selected on the huge slide rule dial. Used 1980 though 1999.

17. BC-342 ( military surplus) I came upon this radio in a trade with another ham who needed a high voltage transformer I had. I had just moved to Kerrville and did not have the SX-62 fixed yet and did not have another general coverage receiver with me. The BC-342 I have tunes from 1500 kHz to 18 mHz. It has two RF stages and two IF stages and a crystal filter with front panel phasing control. It also has an interesting noise fighting feature. There is a second “ Noise Antenna” input which I believe is fed into the input coupling circuit in such a way as to be out of phase with the main input. You put an antenna connection there that has a wire in the noise source area but not necessarily out where it can receive the signals you really want. It is somewhat effective. This idea has been put into these noise cancelling devices that are being sold these days for a lot of money, probably with the concept developed to a higher level. This idea was apparently conceived back in the 1930's! There were several versions of the BC-342 and BC-348 which were similar except for frequency ranges and whether an internal AC power supply was included. The receiver does not have bandspread, but the tuning rate is quite slow and the calibration is good. The tuning across each band is pretty linear also. The oscillator is enclosed in a shielded box, including the section of the variable capacitor that tunes that stage. The idea behind this was to reduce the radiation of the local oscillator to avoid detection by the enemy! The other unusual aspect of the design is that the volume control controls the gain of both the audio stage and the RF stages. The AGC is defeatable, which helps in copying cw with this receiver. It is actually quite good for short wave listening, other than the frequency readout. But for those of us who entered the hobby well before the digital age, this is not a problem because there are all kinds of peripheral ways to telling where in the band you are if you know your way around! I have also used this receiver as a backup, for amateur use on the 160 meter and 30 meter bands and as a WWV monitor. The selectivity is more than adequate for dealing with the crowded 49 meter band and sensitivity is excellent up through 18 mHz. Stability is good after a half hour warmup. It will stay properly tuned onto WWV at 10 mHz for days and days without touchup. With an external speaker, the audio quality is pleasant. And while the controls have gotten a little scratchy in recent years, it still works amazingly well for an almost 75 year old radio! Strong signals will never overload it!! Used 1980 to date. Still in use.

18. Collins 75S-3.I obtained this receiver from a fellow ham in Kerrville in 1980. It was an amateur bands only receiver, but by putting crystals in the various amateur band slots in place of the originals, it could be made to tune virtually any 200 kHz wide frequency range between about 3 and 30 mHz. It had a tuneable preselector and a 200 Hz cw filter with very steep skirts. The filters in the radio were not really appropriate for AM reception, though it was possible to do so by disabling the Beat Frequency Oscillator. AM was best received in the SSB mode. This receiver was the absolute state of the art when it was built and to this day is excellent for CW and SSB. It is very quiet, almost frequency monitor stable and extremely selective. I found very few birdies even when using odd crystals at the edges of the ranges, usually only in the segments near its tuneable IF. I used this receiver mostly in the amateur bands where it was a star performer in digging out weak cw signals in very crowded pileups on DX stations or in contests. It was also the absolute best in tuning utility stations on SSB and CW. Even when used in an apartment with indoor antennas or short window antennas, it would pull in great DX. There was absolutely no overload or spurious responses and frequency readout on the analog dial was easily accomplished down to 1 kHz. The only negative was the limited tuning range and availability of crystals for all of the ranges I wanted to tune. It was possible to set this receiver up on aviation route frequencies or Coast Guard frequencies on SSB and leave it there for weeks at a time with no noticeable drift. This was the best receiver I ever had for such listening, after all, this is what it was designed to do: tune and hold SSB signals in the best possible way! On the ham bands, I often used this receiver paired with an HT-37 transmitter or Icom 701 and Icom 720 transceivers. It would totally outperform the receivers in any of the Icoms or in a Kenwood TS-130 or Yaesu FT-757 transceivers I was to use while I had it. It was the only receiver I have had that would give the Drake 2B a run for its money. Used 1981-2007.

19. Icom 701. I hesitated at first to list this among my receivers, because in actuality, it is an amateur band transceiver. But, since some my DX listening does involve logging amateur stations, and such loggings often accompany making ham contacts, I guess it fits. It did put many stations in my “heard” logs that did not make it into my “ worked” logs anyway. It also allowed tuning the 41 meter shortwave broadcast band and part of the 19 meter band above the 15 mHz WWV. In fact, it did a pretty good job of pulling out some serious broadcast DX on those bands. It also pulled a few stations out that resided in the 75/80 meter band. It was a first generation fully solid state radio and as such, did have some overload issues. It did not have really narrow cw filters, but did OK. It was certainly sensitive. When operating mobile during my traveling engineer days it would do a great job with small antennas. I did not always work all that I heard, but there were many JA's and VK's heard on 40 meters with the Hustler whip on the back of my Chevy S-10 pickup. There was even one morning early when it pulled in an Indonesian ( YB) station on 40 on the mobile whip. Pulling out Russians on 20 meter SSB on the mobile antenna was also a common event. On 80 and 160 meters, the front end shortcomings became more noticeable, with noise and intermod showing up. While using it as a ham rig, I would often use a second, separate receiver with it. It held up amazingly well. I believe it was built in the early seventies. I know a fellow ham had one in Port Arthur in 1975. I used it as a working rig until it started failing in 2012. That's at least 37 years that particular radio worked well. About ten years much of that time was running mobile in a pickup truck. I think I got my money's worth out of it. Best DX on it would include Pitcairn Island on several bands, Hong Kong, China, Willis Island, Chatham Island, Christmas Island, and hearing Israel on 80 meters. Oh and lest I forget, several Hawaiians and the Galapagos on 160 meters.  Used 1981-2012.

20. Icom 720. After putting the '701 on this list, I simply could not leave off the Icom 720 that joined its older brother in the mid 90's. It not only had the WARC amateur bands on it, but also included a general coverage receiver. I picked it up for only $250 at a hamfest and think I got a great deal for the use I got out of it. With the 500 Hz cw filter it had, it did really well on the amateur bands, though it had the same shortcomings on 160 meters as did the '701. It was plenty sensitive and I heard plenty of DX even on that band ( including some Europeans and Japanese on 160 meter cw) but it was susceptible to noise and overload, and I often found myself using another receiver ( usually the BC-342 or a Hammurland HQ-170, but I get ahead of myself). It was pretty good for utility DX, and while not as good as the 75S-3, was much more convenient to use because there was no need to open the case and change crystals to change bands. When used with some tall verticals and an 80 meter Windom a bit over 40 feet high it did a great job on the higher utility bands, snagging some great CW signals in the 18 and 22 mHz bands. It was also handy for utility SSB work with really good filters. Some of the better things logged included Coast Guard stations in Alaska working vessels up there in the 6 and 4 mHz bands. There were many evenings when I was working on repairing a piece of gear or working on a building project that I would just leave it on, tuned to one of the USCG frequencies and listen to the search and rescue work. While the receiver did cover all frequencies from 500 kHz to 30 mHz, it was not so good for broadcast stations. Even listening in the SSB mode zero beat with the AM carriers, the audio quality was not so good and the bandwidth a little too narrow. That was a bit of a disappointment because that was one of the reasons I wanted the rig in the first place. I had wanted a good general coverage receiver with direct frequency readout ever since using the R-390's and the R-388 in Asmara. The '720 would pull out weak stations and they could be identified, but it was not really pleasant listening. The audio quality even on an external speaker or headphones was not nearly as good as the older '701. I am not sure what year the '720 was made, but it did not survive much past the demise of the '701. It also faded away in a cloud of instability, low transmitter output, and general noisy controls and bandswitch malaise in 2012. It was probably at least 30 years old, maybe more. The thing about the “newer” generation of gear is that it is just not as repairable as the older tube boat anchors. There reaches a time when its just time to let them go. I did pull the IF filters out to save for possible future projects. Used 1996-2013

21. Radio Shack/Sangean DX-440. This receiver appears a bit out of order simply because for some reason I wanted to put the Icoms together. I bought this little radio new during a period of time when I was living in apartments and could not have big antennas or transmit at all except mobile. I actually bought it on impulse. I had been using the SX-62, my BC-342 and Icom 701 to listen in my apartment in San Marcos with indoor wire antennas and one short wire dropping from a second story window down to a fence enclosing my ( ha!) back yard : a ten foot by ten foot area of concrete pad and grass. I saw it in the store when I went to buy more wire to try to extend my antenna. At first I was not impressed, but I tuned around a bit and even with the whip pulled in WWV on several frequencies inside the noisy store. I noticed it had a “bandwidth” switch marked “wide” and “narrow” and remember thinking, “ this can't be much”. But when I tried it on the local broadcast station where I worked that was only a mile from the store ( I was really giving the radio a break!) I noticed that in the “narrow” position it cut quite a bit of the high frequencies off the audio. Hmmm. That would mean at least 5kHz selectivity since I knew our station had pretty good high frequency capability. On a whim, I bought the little radio on the spot, digging deep into my social life money ( most of it was spent at a place called The Green Parrott on the square in San Marcos on nachos and cold beers anyway so spending it on the radio was probably an improvement). I was not to be disappointed in my investment. The little radio proved a great performer, not just for the money but overall. It was very sensitive and did well on the short apartment antennas and did not overload when I did get a decent longer and higher wire up. The performance on the long wave band was much better than the Transoceanic had been. In fact, it lit the fire under my desire to start logging non directional beacons. Even with the internal loop it did well, with at least one station logged on every possible NDB frequency within six months. The directionality of the internal loop allowed as many as three to be picked out on some frequencies. It also did pretty well on the broadcast band. On the shortwave bands, it did have some spurious response issues on the wire antennas, but the use of an MFJ antenna tuner used at times for tuning the mobile antenna for ham use seemed to take care of that. I am not sure if it was the increased selectivity or the impedance matching or just the isolation of any detuning effects of the external antenna, but it took care of almost all the problems on the HF bands. Later when my dad and I built a large tuned loop antenna for use on the broadcast band and low frequencies, the radio really came alive. The three foot diameter loop had a really high Q and had very deep nulls, but the sensitivity of the DX-440 was good enough even with the smaller aperture of the loop compared to the longer wires did well in pulling in good DX, especially after a little MFJ tuneable preamp was added to the mix. Best NDB DX on the '440 on long wave included ZBB from Bimini in the Bahamas, several Cubans, Venezuela and a few Canadians. The best overall DX was Algeria on long wave broadcast using the 50 foot high windom and a home made tuned antenna coupler later in Waco. Oddly, I was never able to hear the French or Luxembourg high power long wave stations. The little radio also did very well logging cw signals in the maritime bands. All of the “regulars” were easy, and there were many loggings of Shanghai, Macao, Indonesia, Israel and others. Among the broadcast stations, the best DX included VL8A, VL8T, and VL8K from Australia in the 120 meter band, logged on several occasions, along with a huge list of Chinese, Indonesian and Papua New Guinea tropical band stations. It survived twenty years of daily hard use not only as a DX machine but as an alarm clock and met its end when the “ lock” switch on the front got broken in a fall from a night stand. Of course it failed in the “locked” position and since the radio was off, it cannot be turned on. I've kept it in hopes that perhaps I will run into someone with younger, steadier hands that might be able to fix it. Used 1988-2009.

22. Potomac FIM-21. This is another non-receiver used as a receiver. The FIM-21 is actually a piece of test equipment. It is a portable, calibrated Field Intensity Meter used to measure signal strength for setting up and maintaining AM directional broadcast stations. It is very sensitive, selective and has a highly directional loop antenna. This made it a very desirable AM DX receiver as well. It was designed to detect and measure signals down to a fraction of a millivolt in strength, and with its extremely directional loop having particularly deep nulls, its great for eliminating even local strength signals to allow distant signals from another direction to be heard. Its other attribute is being able to do this within very high RF fields. This device actually belonged to the radio stations I maintained and built and was used primarily for DX-ing while on transmitter watch inside a transmitter building. There were many times I found myself on such duty with the job of watching meters to make sure the transmitter and directional system was operating withing tolerance and logging meter readings. There were times in Laredo, Texas where the FIM-21 allowed me to log some really good DX while in the same room with an operating 10 kw transmitter!  Used 1988-1991.

23. Yaesu FT-757-GX. This is another amateur transceiver that also features a general coverage receiver. It tunes from 500 kHz to 30 mHz with fairly sharp SSB filters and a 300 Hz cw filter. It offers AM detection, but the audio quality is not really that great. Like with the Icoms, listening for DX on the broadcast bands is often best done in the SSB mode by zero beating the carrier of the stations listened to. The 2.8 kHz SSB filters allow easy split frequency reception in the Medium Wave bands though its noise limiter is not the greatest. Sensitivity seems to drop below about 1000 kHz for some reason. Perhaps the RF amplifier stage does not work below that point. While used primarily on the amateur bands, this has been a really good backup receiver for shortwave and medium wave DX-ing and an excellent receiver for utility DX work. The one interesting feature is the squelch control which also operates in the SSB mode. I have often set the receiver up on one of the aircraft enroute frequencies on HF and set the squelch up to block the general background noise, thus not being disturbed while doing something else unless an aircraft or ground station was actually transmitting. Admittedly this does not work nearly as well as on a VHF scanner because signal strengths vary so wildly and noise bursts can tend to open the receiver at time, but at times it would allow monitoring one of the aircraft frequencies while using another receiver to tune other bands. Used 1998 to date.  Still in use.

24. Hallicrafters SX-96. This is a dual conversion receiver that tunes from 540 khZ through 30 mHz. I have had this receiver almost twenty years and actually have used it very little. I obtained it in a trade for some equipment an elderly other ham wanted for parts and used it mostly in an apartment as a casual listening receiver. It is really quite good. Its very similar to the SX-100 in that it is dual conversion and has selectable sideband reception along with a crystal filter. I have used it for general listening on indoor antennas and found it very selective and more stable than the SX-99 I had owned years before. I had planned to take it out of semi retirement and use it for more serious DX-ing when I obtained an Icom R-75 and it still sits on the shelf. It is very stable on SSB and CW signals and has excellent audio quality when used on an external speaker. It also has the classic Hallicrafters look to it that is pleasant with a large S-meter between the two half moon dials.  Used 1992 to date. Still in use.

25. Mackay 3001. This is a shipboard receiver that is actually a highly developed regenerative design with an RF stage that tunes from about 15 kHz to 600 kHz It was designed and used aboard ship for long wave reception. I found it at a hamfest in Dallas in the outdoor flea market. Someone had fully restored it and it was in excellent condition, but the person selling it was probably not the person who did the work because he let it go for $40.00!! I am guessing he probably got it as part of an estate sale deal and since it was not for use on the amateur bands did not see its real value. This radio even had on it the identification plate for the ship that it served on with the ships call letters ( KCNX ) still on it! It was also obvious what its actual duty had been aboard ship because the dial face had a “shadow “ burned into it all across the dial except in one spot: right across 500 kHz. You can actually see the shape of the dial pointer across that frequency. In those days, shipboard operators were required to maintain a watch on 500 kHz which was the international distress frequency. There was to be a silent period once an hour to allow weak signals to be heard there. The little radio has a history! It also is a great performer on these bands. It appears to have double tuned RF stages and the renerative detector. At least it has a four gang variable capacitor. I have used this receiver for a great deal of DX-ing of non-directional beacons and it has been excellent for that. Also in the days before the end of the use of cw by ships, it was used to log much cw activity in the long wave band between 400 and 500 kHz. It was probably the final state of the art design for regenerative receivers and is useful today for such things. It has also allowed reception of some pretty good DX on the small slice of the standard broadcast band that it covers! Used 1994 to date.  Still in use