An Evening With a Couple of Broadcast Band Heavyweights

 

IMG_20160705_200347991

Over the past couple of weeks, my humble patio has also become my radio room, giving me a chance to spend my evenings outside under the stars with a portable radio or two. I’ve really enjoyed these sessions, but last night was memorable in that I brought along two of the most highly regarded portables out there: the C. Crane CCRadio 2E and the venerable Panasonic rf-2200. Jay Allen rates both of these radios as the upper end of the five star scale, while Gerry Thomas over at Radio Plus Electronics lists them both in the top three of the best portables for MW DX.

With that in mind, I decided to take them out and see how they compared during a night of listening. Now please remember that this isn’t a true head to head review, but more like a few observations from a single night of listening. A head to head review would take a lot longer, and probably wouldn’t be all that revealing in the end anyway. Think of this as more of a friendly jam session between to equally competent musicians. They’re both very good at what they do, but they both do it with their own sense of style.

The CCRadio 2E

IMG_20160705_200409168C Crane’s CCRadio 2E reminds me a lot of the old Realistic DX-390, and for good reason. Like that old Radio Shack offering from the early 90s, the CCRadio is made by Sangean, which might explain the similar feel these radios share. The size, control placement, and sound are all similar to the old DX-390. Unfortunately, the CCRadio 2E (aka CCR2E) also tunes like that old radio, with the same muted audio and “chugging” sound whenever you change frequencies. I would think they could’ve done something about this over the last twenty plus years, but I would be wrong.

Aside from this quirk though, the radio is laid out in an easy to use arrangement, with the tuning knob and volume control on the side, and the presets, power, and band selection on top. The front panel features a separate bass and treble control, up and down tuning buttons (10 kHz at a time on AM), and a variety of clock and alarm controls I will probably never use. Unlike most of my other portables, the CCR2E  features a digital frequency display, with an optional backlight. While it isn’t a requirement, a digital readout can certainly make your life a lot easier. Last night, for example, I turned the CCrane to 610 to compare it to what I was hearing on the old Panasonic only to find I was really listening to 590 kHz. Oops!

While I realize that the audio of this radio was designed for human speech and not music, it still sounds kind of narrow and compressed to my ears. Even with the separate bass and treble controls, it still doesn’t seem to have the full sound one would expect from a radio of this size (another trait it shares with its DX-390 ancestor). It does work as advertised though, with speech being clear and quite understandable from even distant stations.

And it is in hunting out distant radio stations where this radio shines. I could hear everything on the CCrane that I could hear on the Panasonic and vice versa. In fact, in sheer sensitivity, I couldn’t really tell them apart. The CCrane also impressed me with its selectivity as well, passing my “1030 test” with flying colors. It was a little harder to get a good null on WHO with the CCR2E than it was the rf-2200 and its rotating antenna, but it is still doable.

Don’t put any stock into the fact that there’s no audio on 1030 during this test video. It’s AM radio you know, and things come and go. It just so happens that, when I had the video running, there was nothing to receive. What is important is that you’re not hearing WHO.

A rotating cake decorating plate from WalMart or Amazon will make finding nulls a lot easier, but a real signal strength meter would be even better. When you’re trying to find that perfect sweet spot that will give you the maximum null, a real signal meter is a huge help. The uncalibrated signal meter along the right side of the CCrane display is too slow to respond to be of any use with this. Its probably more a factor of the radio’s automatic gain control than it is the meter, but there’s no user controlled AGC setting. What you have is what you have.

IMG_20160705_205148324Unlike the Panasonic, the CCrane allows you to use a tuned loop, like a Select-a-Tenna or Q-Stick, to further enhance your listening. I took advantage of this to couple my Quantum Loop antenna to the radio using nothing but magnetic coupling. I had to ride the gain control pretty hard on the antenna to keep the radio’s AGC from overloading, but it made a big difference in what I could hear. I found i could get deeper nulls much easier with the loop than I could with the radio alone, which shouldn’t be a surprise.

Expect more about this antenna in a future post.

The rf-2200

IMG_20160705_200356370You don’t have to sit in front of this radio for long before you can see why its still the gold standard in broadcast band portables. Even after 40 years, this radio is still a very hot performer.

As you may know, I have spent a lot of time this summer listening in with the Sony EX5 MkII, which is a very nice portable in its own right. When I tune that radio to 1030 AM, engage in some careful nulling of nearby WHO on 1040 and activate the lower sideband synch detector, I can squeeze out some signal, but not without some adjacent channel splatter. When I performed this test on the rf-2200, I made WHO radio disappear entirely, and found WBZ Boston in the clear. While i could tell it was Dan Rey’s Nightside show with the Sony, the Panasonic let me listen to the show, and follow the discussion about whether or not callers would attend the Olympics in Brazil. That’s very impressive to say the least.

This isn’t my best video, but you get the idea. By the way, that weak station that’s barely audible in the video is WCTS out of Maplewood, MN.

A lot of that impressive performance comes from the rotating antenna mounted on top of the radio. The ball bearing action gives you smooth, precise control of the nulls without having to rotate the actual radio. That means your eyes never have to leave the signal meter, and lets you get the deepest null possible.

Unfortunately, that rotating antenna is also part of the reason why I cannot use Q-Stick or Select-a-Tenna with this radio. According to Gerry Thomas, there’s something in the circuitry of this radio and other Panasonics that won’t allow you to magnetically couple. Both it and the CCrane do have external antenna terminals though, so can still connect directly to the Quantum Loop or any other antenna.

Unlike the CCrane, the rf-2200 has a big, full audio that’s common to a lot of radios in the Panasonic line. Even with the narrow bandwidth selected, the audio still has a nice, rich sound to it. I don’t feel as though that richness gets in the way of intelligibility either. In spite of the rf-2200 not having audio tailored to human speech like the CCR2E, I found each radio to have equally intelligible audio.

While it’s hard to tell with the less than stellar audio pickup of a cell phone camera, you can definitely hear a difference in the audio of the two radios. Notice that both are set to neutral tone, with the bass and treble controls all pointing straight up.

Unlike the CCrane, with its different controls spread out across the front, side, and top of the radio, all of the Panasonic’s controls are on the front. In other words, you’re going to need a flashlight to make your way around all of those controls in the dark, especially if you decide to switch over to shortwave. I’m sure in time you’ll figure it out in time, but a flashlight will make things a lot easier.  The good news is that the radio has a dial light, something that’s painfully missing from the Sony EX5. Unfortunately its nestled in between two identical switches that control the BFO and the power. If you’re in the dark, and your radio begins to squeal or goes silent when you’re reaching for the dial light, you hit the wrong switch.

As I mentioned earlier, the rf-2200 does have shortwave capabilities, and it seems to be a fairly decent performer. I checked for New Zealand, Australia, and Brazil a couple of times this last week and found them all. I even listened to the pirate station X-FM the other night as well. No SDR, SAL loop, or DSP needed either. Just me, the rf-2200, and a couple of tiki torches. Life is good, people. Life is good!

So Which One is Better?

I will be the first to admit that I have a crush on the Panasonic rf-2200.  It’s not small or light, but it hears things that other portables don’t. Not only does it hear them, it hears them well. Its a big beast of a radio that is sensitive, selective, and capable of deep, precise nulls with its rotatable antenna. Simply put, the rf-2200 kicks the doors off of just about every other portable I’ve ever had the pleasure of using.

But it doesn’t kick the doors off of the CCR2E.

In fact, I couldn’t find any real difference in their ability to hear things at all. I certainly like the audio on the Panasonic better than I do the CCrane, and the rotatable antenna on the rf-2200 is fantastic, but I can use the Q-Stick or other magnetically coupled antennas with the CCrane too. It also has the advantage of a digital readout, so I don’t have to guess where I am on the dial.

I really wanted this “showdown” to be a slam dunk for the Panasonic, but it is not. If the Panasonic could hear a station, the CCrane could hear it too. In fact, no matter what I threw at both of these radios, their performance was virtually neck and neck. It’s even a wash when you look to other features each radio has. The Panasonic is a decent performer (for a portable) on shortwave, but the CCrane can pick up the 2M band and the NOAA weather radio frequencies. It can can even alert you to when there’s a storm warning issued. It also has a built in clock with alarm. Not a feature I’d use, but it is there nonetheless.

In the end, I’ll probably stick to the Panasonic, but I won’t be putting the CCrane up for sale anytime soon either. Both are outstanding radios, and well worth having in your collection.

 

 

Confessions of an eBay Addict

With all due respect to the original artist, Sarah Andersen

radios

I hate eBay the same way a drug addict hates his pusher. Every time you think you’ve kicked the habit, another temptation makes its way to your search list. Before you know it, another box is showing up at the office, and another radio finds its way to the collection.

I suppose there are worse habits , like a heroin addiction, or being a serial killer or something, so I guess I should count my blessings. Still, one has to set limits on these sorts of things before they get out of control. In my case, I usually leave that whole “limits” thing up to my credit card company. So far, they’ve been pretty understanding.

Recently, my addiction has taken me into uncharted territory: the portable. The EX5MkII has reminded me how much fun a portable radio could be, and its opened up a whole new world of radio hoarding.

Just what I needed.

Case in point: The Panasonic rf-1115.

1115

While looking up the new Sony, I happened to stumble across a blog that said the rf-1115 out performed it on the AM broadcast band, and then went on to say that it was about 85% as good as the venerable rf-2200, the holy grail of portable broadcast band receivers.  Well, needless to say I immediately went on the hunt for one, and wouldn’t you know it? One just happened to jump into my eBay shopping cart, with delivery expected for sometime Monday afternoon.

See? I told you I had a problem.

My watch list is now full of portables that I’m itching to put through their paces, but I’m always on the lookout for others that need a home as well. The good news is that they’re usually cheaper than the big comm receivers in the radio room, which means I can buy more without running into those “limits” I mentioned earlier. The bad news is that I’ll go broke putting batteries into all of them.

#RadioLifeProblems

A Review of the Sony ICF-EX5MkII

I find that a lot of things I buy today have their roots deep in my past. Whether it be pocket knives, watches, or yes, radios, they can all be traced back to either a childhood desire or some other want that went unfulfilled at the time. This radio is no exception.

The Sony EX5 is a radio that’s intrigued me ever since I heard about it on Radio Netherlands Media Network. This radio, featuring an analog, linear AM dial and a synch detector, was reported to be a very hot performer on mediumwave, but it was also available only in the Japanese market. After toying with the idea of trying to get a friend of mine in Japan to pick one up, I resigned myself to the fact I would never get my paws on one.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago,  when I am looking at the many different  eBay options available for obtaining this radio, all promising to deliver withing 10 to 21 days. Before hitting the buy now though, I decide to do a quick check of Amazon to see if there are any available there. Not only do they carry them, they’re cheaper than eBay and are eligible for two day delivery! I quickly add the radio to the cart, and within a few days, I had a brand new Sony ICF-EX5 MkII sitting on my desk. Thank you, internet!

First Impressions

IMG_20160524_105623029 (1)
The Sony ICF-EX5MkII, right after unboxing.

The radio comes ready to use, with a carrying strap, four C size batteries, and a manual and warranty card, both of which are written in Japanese. It should be noted that the radio does not come with an AC adapter, which is fine, as it wouldn’t fit an American outlet anyway. If if you want to use this radio with AC power though, you’ll need a 6v adapter to make it happen. FYI.

I did notice that my particular unit at least is that the tuning knob seemed to ‘catch’ as it turned. I do not know if this is common with all units or not (who knows, maybe it’s a feature that’s addressed in the manual?), but I solved the problem by gently pulling the tuning knob out about an 8th of an inch, which solved the problem with no other issues.

IMG_20160524_114640934 (1)
The EX5MkII next to the SupeRadio II

One of the first things that grabbed me about this radio is that it is fairly compact, especially compared to some of the portables I’m used to. Measuring in about 10.5 inches long, 5.5 inches tall, and maybe 2.5 inches wide, I’d guess it’s a little smaller than a Sony 2010, quite a bit smaller than any of the SupeRadios, and downright minuscule when compared to the behemoth that is the Satellit 800. The C batteries, while not as common as their bigger D sized brothers, help to keep the size and weight down, making this radio a great choice for a quick DXpedition to the beach, your local park, or anywhere else that’s away from electrical interference.

IMG_20160604_170635271
Cubs win! sounds good on any radio.  Note the small turntable the radio is on. 

Since the radio arrived, I’ve spent a lot of enjoyable evenings out on the patio with this radio exploring the AM dial, and putting it through its paces. Like most Sonys, this radio has very nice audio, with an upper and lower tone adjustment switch to tailor your listening preferences. Not as handy as separate bass and treble controls, but still a nice feature for a radio this compact.

The Linear Dial

IMG_20160524_105644361 (3)
A close up of the linear dial on the Sony EX5 MkII.

Maybe my analog radio skills are rusty, but I am surprised at how long it’s taken me to get used to the linear dial on this radio. Unlike most analog dials, which stretch out the lower frequencies while crunching the higher ones closer together, this radio has uniform spacing from the left hand of the dial to the right. While it seems like an easy adjustment(it’s really no different than the Hammarlund or Collins in the shack), I’ve struggled with it. I continually find myself going back to known stations to get a bearing on where I’m really at, and then feeling my way up or down to my target station. This is something that one goes through with every new analog portable though regardless of how the dial is configured, it just seems like more of an adjustment with this radio than others. Your mileage may vary.

That Synch Detector!

My location is about fifty miles away from WHO radio and their 50 KW transmitters on 1040 kHz.  This makes 1030 AM a great test for any radio or antenna system, and it’s where I started with the EX5. Finding WHO on the dial, I slowly made my way down to 1030. I could hear a couple of different stations with the radio turned to null out the WHO transmitters, but I was still getting a fair amount of splatter from WHO’s lower sideband. It’s here where the synch detector on this radio shines! A flip of a switch, and 90% of the splatter disappears, revealing a couple of weak stations someone so fittingly described as “in the soup.” I recognized one of the voices in that jumbled up mess as that of Dan Rea, the host of WBZ’s Nightside program out of Boston. I performed a similar test on 650 AM, where I managed to hear Eddie Stubbs’ music program on WSM in spite of the local WOI on 640. Neither of these tests were much of a challenge for the Sony and it’s synch detector.

Unlike a lot of synch detectors I’ve experienced, which take a moment or two to lock and may have to reacquire the carrier from time to time, this one seems to lock on instantaneously and never lets go. That’s a great thing to have when you’re trying to get an ID on a weak, fluttery station coming in from who knows where. In these cases, the synch detector minimizes the flutter and washing of the signal, and gets you the clearest reception possible. Nicely done, Sony.

What else?

Did you notice the red light in the tuning indicator? That little light not only makes the indicator easier to see, but it also doubles as a tuning indicator. The brighter the light, the more in tune you are with the station, sort of reminiscent of the old Sony Earth Orbiter. It can also double as a signal strength meter of sorts as well, which comes in handy when you’re using a tuned loop, or some other external antenna that couples with the radio via the internal ferrite rod.  One thing that I do find missing though is a dial light. Yes, I know, that’s what they make flashlights for, but it would still be a nice addition to what is already a very fine radio.

I have no idea how this radio performs on FM as I’ve never bothered to give it a try. I have heard reports of the dial being off a few MHz on FM though, so if this is a concern to you, keep it in mind. I haven’t tried the Radio Nikkei reception just yet either, but that will definitely happen sooner or later. Once i get bored enough to hook this thing up to the SAL,  I’m sure I’ll hear both Nikkei 1 and 2 on 3925 and 3945 with no problem. And yes, I will definitely make a YouTube video of the occasion.

Final Thoughts

IMG_20160524_105644361 (2)I think it’s safe to say that this radio lives up to the hype. Its sensitive enough to hear KKDA out of Dallas on 730 kHz, but has a strong enough front end that I’m not swamped by a couple of strong, local stations. The synch detector is nothing short of remarkable, and it all comes in a relatively compact package. While the linear dial takes some getting used to, the tuning light is pretty handy, and you can pack your own flashlight to see where you’re tuning. Is it going to replace the perseus and the SAL-30? Of course not! But the SAL won’t fit in a small book bag either.

I’ve had a lot of fun with this radio the last few weeks, and I highly recommend picking one up.

Summer Nights and My Radio

r-donaldLike a lot of people from my generation, my first exposure to radio came through the AM broadcast band. In fact, my first radio was a Donald Duck AM only radio that I got from Disneyland. At night, I would fall asleep listening to far off cities like Chicago, or Cincinnati. Later, I found an old transistor radio (a Viscount 12 transistor model) that viscountI used to carry around with me in my coat pocket. I taped a piece of paper to the back of it, and would write down what station I heard and where it was on that tiny dial.

Lately, I’ve been taking advantage of the cool, late spring evenings to get out of the radio room and away from all its technology (‘Take the night off, SAL. We’re good’), and get back to the basics; just a flashlight, radio, the AM Radio Log from the National Radio Club, and myself hanging out, and seeing what I can hear.

One of the nice things about the AM broadcast band is that you don’t need a lot of advanced technology to hear a surprising number of stations from all across the country. Of course that technology helps mind you, but its not critical. All you really need is a decent AM radio (see Jay Allen’s awesome blog for a great shootout review of AM portables, both past and present. and a quiet location to hear stations from all over the country. Atlanta, St. Louis, and Denver pop up here just about every night, but you never know what will pop up. While Atlanta may be the usual station on 750 kHz, sometimes Radio Caracas out of Venezuela will be there instead. Other times, all it takes is a turn of the radio to bring in a completely different station. here at my location, 1430 is usually dominated by KASI out of Ames. If I turn the radio so that it faces to the Southeast though, I hear the oldies station KZQZ out of St. Louis.

IMG_20160524_105644361 (1)My radio of choice for these adventures has been my new toy, the Sony ICF-EX5MkII. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know this little marvel of technology, and so far I’ve been very impressed. Its been more difficult than I imagined getting used to an analog dial again, let alone one that is linear like the one on the EX5, but I’m starting to get the hang of it.  Expect a review somewhere down the road. For now though, I’m just happy to enjoy the weather, the stars, and whatever happens to make its way to Central Iowa on the Am dial.

Summertime, and the living is easy.

 

Consumer Alert: A Rare Sony Portable Available on Amazon.

icf-ex5mk2For those who are into mediumwave DX, you are probably aware of the Japanese only Sony portable called the ICF-EX5MkII. This radio, available online from sellers in Japan, is reported to offer outstanding performance and one of the best synchronous detectors you will find in any radio. While it does have some shortwave capabilities, they are extremely limited. In fact, the radio is designed so that you can only hear a handful of pre-programmed Radio Nikkei frequencies.

I’ve been intrigued by this radio and its prececessor for many years now, ever since I heard about them on Radio Netherlands’ Media Network. Of course, back when that show aired in the early 90s, any radio intended for the Japanese market only might as well been made of unobtanium here in the US. Later, when I read about this radio on Jay Allen’s excellent blog, I was impressed by his review, but now I had another problem: the price.$160 seems pretty steep for an AM/FM portable, not to mention the two week delivery period that it will take to arrive at your door. The itch remained unscratched.

Needless to say I was more than pleased to discover this radio is available on Amazon for $115.99, over $40 cheaper than the lowest priced model on eBay. Best of all, its eligible for free shipping through Amazon Prime. In other words, it was time to scratch this old itch and hit the add to cart button. If the shipping gods comply with their end of the bargain, it should be arriving sometime this week, probably Wednesday. I’ll give you my impressions of this radio here soon.

And yes, I will be hooking it up the SAL-30 just to put those Radio Nikkei frequencies to good use.

Some Odds and Ends

Some Loggings

The SAL-30 in all its glory.
The SAL-30 in all its glory.

Here’s a few loggings I made this morning between 1030 and 1140 UTC. I apologize for a lack of exact times for each log entry, but I tend to bounce around a lot from frequency to frequency in the mornings. A lack of coffee might have had something to do with it as well.

VL8A and VL8K were both stronger than earlier this week on 2325 and 2485 respectfully, with VL8K coming up to listenable levels.

RRI Makassar was audible on 4750, but with lots of OTH radar interference. Music and an OM announcer.

NBC Bougainville is strong on 3325, with music and OM announcer.

Some audio from Pyongyang Broadcasting on 3320 around local sunrise (1051 UTC)  but it sank back down into the mud pretty quickly

The Solomon Islands on 5020 are weaker than earlier this week at an S6, with interference from R. Rebelde on 5025. I can see a signal on 5006, possibly JG2XA,  but never managed to hear a Morse code ID.

No trace of The Cross on 4755*, and maybe a hint of a carrier from T8WH Palau on 9930. I could see a fairly strong carrier on 4750, but no audio managed to pop out of the noise.

*Since I wrote this, I have learned that PMA The Cross has been off the air since last May’s typhoon. While they have restored power to the FM transmitter, they are not currently operating on shortwave.

Dayton

dayton
Me on the couch, giving the Perseus its first ‘kick the tires’ test. Note the SX-62a on the table that was later used in the pinup photo shoot.

Unfortunately, Dayton wasn’t in the cards for this year, but my friend and I are already making plans to attend next year. I can’t wait to burn myself to a crisp out in the tailgating parking lot, getting lost in the maze that is the Hara Arena, and spending entirely more money than I should. Until then though I’ll just have to sit tight and see what big announcements will be made at this year’s Hamvention. We’ve already seen Elecraft announce the KX2, will any of the big three follow suit?

DX News

While it may not be news to some of you, I just heard about a new DX target out of Australia. The station, known as RadioDX for the time being, should be ready to test on 5045 kHz within the next month and a half. They’ll only be transmitting with a kilowatt of power, so it will be quite the challenge to hear them in North America. Not quite on the level of the now defunct Radio Symban, but close. Keep your ears open.

Contest?

While your ears are busy listening for RadioDX, keep your eyes on hfradioreview. We’ll be having our first ever radio contest in the next few months, so be sure to watch for that. All I will say about it right now is that it involves baseball.

Stay tuned.

Fresh Catches from this Morning

The SAL-30 has been up and operational for about ten days now, but I haven’t really had a chance to put it through its paces. Not so much out of laziness, but more out of timing. Summer is not DX season in North America, expecially for the frequencies where this antenna excels. Aside from distant static crashes, there’s usually just not a lot to hear. Or is there?

Over the last week or so, I’ve managed to get some S9 signals out of Sonder Grense on 3320, as well as a couple of appearances by Radio Candip on 5066.4. Sure the bands were noisy, but Sonder Grense was a strong S9+, while Radio Candip was an S7 to 8. While SG is a pretty consistent catch here, its not usually that strong. Radio Candip, on the other hand, isn’t a station I hear very often at all. If I could hear both of these stations at decent levels with the new SAL, I wondered what else I could hear? I made a mental note to check the bands the next morning I happened to wake up early, and went about the rest of my evening.

SIFTW

I found myself awake this morning at around 5 AM local, or 10 hours UTC. In my half asleep state, I reached over to the Palstar r30cc radio that sits next to the bed and made my way through some of the programmed frequencies. The Australian domestics were sort of audible, but weak. No need to get out of bed for them. A quick spin of the dial later and I’m hearing English on 3325. Wait, English on 3325? Am I dreaming?  I’m still not sure about that, but it did convince me to get out of bed and in front of the radios to see what was going on.

Here’s some clips of what I heard this morning.

3325 Khz, NBC Bougainville, Papua, New Guinea. i always have trouble telling NBC and RRI apart, I’m leaning towards New Guinea on this one. I did hear a few English phrases thrown into the conversation (see the second video), as well as what I think was a discussion of Christianity, two things I don’t associate with Indonesia. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong. By the way, I expect YouTube to drop the copyright hammer on the first video shortly, so catch it while you can.

3905 KHz, RRI Marauke, indonesia. Again, another chance for me to brush up on my lacking ability to tell the difference between NBC and RRI. I’m going with RRI on this one though. While it doesn’t appear in this video, Shazam was able to identify a pop an Indonesian pop song from a band called Cokelat. Thank you, Shazam!

Of course, the HAM QRM picked up right before I recorded this, but you get the idea.

SIBC, 5020 KHz, Solomon Islands. I don’t hear the Solomon Islands very often, so its always good to catch them at a nice level like this. What really has me intrigued though is that little carrier wave on 5006 KHz. The schedules show that it could be H3A out of Tokyo, but it was well past local sunrise by now, so it never got any stronger. This one is definitely on my target list of stations to check for.

All in all, this was a morning worth losing sleep over. While the Aussies never did materialize on 2325 and 2485, VL8A was pretty loud on 4835, even with WWCR blasting away on 4840. Japan’s Nikkei 1 and 2 were both strong on 3925 and 3945 as well. Even Voice of the People was audible over the North Korean jammers on 3912. there were so many targets this morning that I forgot to check for TW8H, and the cross. I guess I’ll be getting up early again tomorrow.

As Steve McCroskey would’ve said in the movie Airplane!, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to cut out caffeine.”

Getting Ready for the SAL-30

After coming home Friday to find a box of antenna parts from Array Solutions on my front porch, the heavens opened up, and rained out any antenna construction plans I may have had. The good news is that I’ll be ready to go on Saturday, armed with everything I’ll need to get the new and improved SAL-30 up in the air by sunset.*

500 foot spool of 12 gauge wire: CHECK! The standard kit comes with 24 gauge, but I used 12 gauge when I put it up originally, so I’m sticking with it. unlike the loops on the SAL-20, which were constructed with 65 feet of wire each, the SAL-30 will be using a whopping 95 feet for each loop. That’s a lot of wire!

Replacement mast poles: CHECK! Since the SAL series of antennas requires a fiberglass mast, and will not work with aluminum, I bought replacements for the ones Fido destroyed. I should have an extra section when I’m done.

Guy rope and tensioners: CHECK! The SAL-30 kit came with enough guy rope for two levels of guys for the mast, as well as enough to support the loops itself. they also included eight tensioners, which is handy as well. Let’s hope I don’t screw up with the cuts.

New support stakes: CHECK! I decided to beef up the stakes I was using with more heavy duty supports.

Cable ties: CHECK! Cable ties are the duct tape of amateur radio. They’ll come in handy during the initial construction phase.

Heatshrink tubing, and insulators: CHECK! Heatshrink tubing is a Godsend to HAMs, almost as useful as cable ties for antenna projects. I actually have dogbone insulators for this job, although the makeshift PVC pipe sections I used for the SAL-20 worked just fine.

Soldering gun and solder: CHECK! Actually, I better double check this when I get home. i might need to get another tip for the Weller.

Nice weather: CHECK? If the forecasters are to be believed, we are supposed to be in the seventies this Saturday, with a 40% chance of afternoon thunderstorms. I’m not crazy about the 19 mph wind, but well, welcome to Iowa.

IMG_20160417_110059676
Dude, you go ahead and get the antenna up. I’ll stay here and guard the couch. could you hand me the TV remote before you go please?

So the stage is set, and I am very anxious to see if this new antenna can hear. If I don’t screw anything up, and the thunderstorms stay away until Saturday night, I should be ready to put this new antenna through its paces early next week.

Now if my helper was as enthused about this project as I am.

*I say this knowing full well that it is not true. As with all of my projects, I am certain there will be at least one trip to the hardware store for things I didn’t anticipate, I just don’t know what those things are yet. It would also be a good idea to mow the lawn before getting this beast up, as it will make my life easier in the long run. Hopefully I can get that done before Saturday.

Radio Silence

Testing, testing. Is this thing on?

In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t my best decision to start airing commercials for HF Radio Review on The Mighty KBC the same week I tried to switch to a new web hosting company. In fact it was a terrible idea, but it just sort of happened that way anyways. I should know very well that these things are never quick and painless, but it would be different with my own website right? Right?? Wrong!

The good news is that, after a lot of hard work, HF Radio Review is back up, and open for business once again.

Now if I could only say the same for my SAL-20.

About two weeks ago, the unthinkable happened when my neighbor’s dog (who would make a fine rug by the way) took off after a squirrel and brought down the SAL-20 antenna. While that is annoying in itself, he also managed to crack several sections of mast AND ripped one of the loops completely out of the guy ring. This wasn’t going to be a simple put it back up kind of operation, this was going to need a complete rebuild.

And since I was going to have to rebuild it, I decided to take this opportunity to upgrade it as well. Ten days after making the call to Array Solutions, the Big Brown Truck delivered all of the parts I will need to rebuild the SAL-20 as its big brother, the SAL-30. I was very eager to get this beast up and running this weekend, but the weatherman has other ideas, as we can expect a soaking rain to move in tonight and stay all weekend. Should I have expected anything different? Expect a blog about hilarity that is sure to ensue.

By the way, if you have the recources, I’d like to encourage you to give what you can to the Mighty KBC. Dave Mason and Uncle Eric Van Willegen are truly trying to keep music on shortwave alive, and I hope you’ll help them in the fight. Every Euro counts, so please, give what you can to keep the farts blasting into the stratosphere.

It’s good to be back.

#WEFAXWednesday

As you all should know by now, I have a,  *AHEM*, thing for weather faxes. I decided to celebrate this little obsession of mine by creating Weather Fax Wednesday, also known as #WEFAXWednesday on Twitter. If you decode a cool looking weather fax, post it to Twitter using this tag so others can check it out. While it would help if you post them on a Wednesday, I’m sure no one will mind if you post them on another day of the week.

Here’s a few I posted to the @hfradio1 Twitter feed today. All decodes were done using fldigi and a Microtelecom Perseus.

wefax_20160120_152337_0_gui
Port Reyes, CA shows a storm rolling in from the Pacific. 
wefax_20160120_141119_0_ok
Another infrared satellite photo. This one is from New Orleans. 
wefax_20160120_153647_0_ok
A composite of the Eastern and Western Pacific charts as transmitted out of Point Reyes, CA
wefax_20160120_160142_0_gui
Another IR satellite (I like those) photo as transmitted out of Boston. 
wefax_20160120_171910_0_nocorr
A weather chart from Valparaiso Playa Ancha, Chile.
wefax_20160120_173809_0_gui
An IR sat photo from Chile, and probably the best decode I’ve ever gotten from there. 

Happy #WEFAXWednesday everyone!