Shortwave Listening DXing is an art and anyone who thinks they have mastered it or knows everything is a fool. The most experienced listener always keeps an open mind to learning something new. Please let us share with you some of the things we have learned over the years (most of it the hard way). Hopefully you will take away with you something that will make your listening time to shortwave radio more enjoyable. Also, we are very interested in learning from you! What do you do to make your listening time more enjoyable? What things do you do or use such as tuning techniques, reference guides, special equipment, or anything else that you would like to share with anyone else whom by chance may pass by here. We look forward to hearing from you and posting your suggestions!

Reinventing The Wheel
DXing and general SWL techniques, observations and ramblings

If you are new to shortwave, try reading these pages for a good introduction:
- Dan Grunberg's Home Page
- Rick Koshko's Intro To Shortwave
- ODXA's Introduction to Mediumwave and Shortwave DXing

Information Is The Key - Have plenty of station and frequency reference material at your finger tips while listening. Most of these resources are listed on DX Press & References.

  • BOOKS - Owning at least one of these books are a must. Though only published once a year, they contain a lot of the information that you will need to know such as the station's address, schedule, and of course frequencies. They can be ordered from many online sources.

    World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH)
    Passport To World Band Radio (PWBR)
  • DX BULLETINS - usually have the most current information on a broadcaster's new frequencies and schedules. Many are available on the internet.

    Cumbre DX
    More bulletins are listed on RadioIntel's
    DX Press
  • RADIO MAGAZINES AND RADIO CLUB JOURNALS - often carry a detailed listing of programming in English.

    NASWA Journal
    Canadian International DX Club
    Monitoring Times
  • BROADCAST FREQUENCY LISTS ON THE INTERNET
    - EiBi
    - HFCC.org
    - ILG

    - Prime Time Shortwave


  • STATION BROADCAST SCHEDULES - Can be obtained directly from the
    broadcaster by:

    *Writing to the station directly by mail asking for their
    latest program guide and schedule. Addresses can be found
    in WRTH or PWBR.

    *Contacting them directly on the Internet. Many broadcasters
    have Internet Web Sites or Email addresses. There are a lot
    of lists of broadcasters on the net but
    Tom Sundstrom does
    a fine job keeping track of them.

How To Use Cumbre DX's Bulletin As A Reference
Cumbre DX has archived most of their old bulletins on their Homepage. Follow these steps and you will have a wealth of information at your finger tips while you are listening to your shortwave radio. You can use this process as well with other e-mail shortwave bulletins as well.

NOTE: Some steps may be difficult for new computer users. If this sounds like you then ask someone who is familiar with downloading, PKZIP and making directories to help you.

  • STEP 1 - Download from Cumbre DX's Homepage the Cumbre DX Archive (located at the bottom of the Cumbre DX Homepage) into a temporary directory.
  • STEP 2 - Unzip the downloaded files with PKZIP. The bulletin files will end with *.txt. (text files)
  • STEP 3 - Start your word processor such as Microsoft Word or Word Perfect.
  • STEP 4 - FILE OPEN to the lowest numbered bulletin (example: Cumbre272.txt) You may have to tell your word processor to look for text files (.txt) in file types.
  • STEP 5 - Once you have opened the file go to the bottom. Tap your cursor.
  • STEP 6 - Look at the top of your Word Processor and INSERT FILE. Look for the next bulletin. (example: Cumbre273.txt)
  • STEP 7 - Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you have all the bulletins loaded into your word processor.
  • STEP 8 - Save your accumulative Cumbre DX Bulletins as one big file in a directory where you know you will be able to find it. I have my files named 01cumbre.txt, 97cumbre.txt for each year and they are saved in a directory called cumbre. (NOTE: Your files may be as big as 1 to 2 megs. But it's worth it!) Erase all the files in your temporary directory.
  • STEP 9 - Now comes the big pay off! While you are listening to your radio with your computer on, open the file that you saved with your word processor(example: 02Cumbre.txt - for 2002 year).
  • STEP 10 - When you hear something that you are not sure of or want to do a little background checking, go to FIND on your word processor and type in the frequency or whatever you would like the computer to search for. The computer searches for matches from what you typed in the FIND box. The results will amaze you on how quick you will find information.

WORD PROCESSOR NOTES AND THANKS!
Microsoft Word was the word processor used here so some variations on what boxes to open to do whatever may differ. Thanks to former Cumbre DX Editor Joe Buch for coming up with this great idea.

Target Listening
If you don't have much time to listen to your radio but would like to get a few good catches or hear a program that you are interested in hearing then Target Listening is the way to go. Make a Target List of programs or stations from your list of references such as DX bulletins, station program schedules, etc. Include on your list the time, frequency, station name and any other important details. A monthly calendar by the radio works nicely as some programs may only on during a certain day. Planing your time while listening can be very rewarding. You may might not be the first to hear a new station but you will be excited when you do hear them finally. Also you may wish to tape record the station or program while you are away from your radio. (See below on Accessories - Tape Recorders)

Be Aware of Global News and Current Events
Broadcasters often react to international and national crisis, holidays, natural disasters elections, conflicts and wars with extended broadcasts. New stations, sometimes clandestine broadcasters, also appear over night to respond to political situations.

Try Tuning in SSB (USB & LSB) Mode
If your radio has a SSB (single sideband) mode try tuning around the shortwave broadcast bands looking for carriers. Though Shortwave broadcasters typically transmit in the AM mode, tuning around in the SSB mode (either USB or LSB) will help you detect a station's carrier. Zero beat the carrier and you probably will hear audio coming from the station. This requires a lot of patience but this is how many serious SWL DXers catch the hard ones. Also tuning in SSB mode may cut down on splatter from other station near by hence acting as a filter. While the station may not sound as good as if you heard them in the AM mode, it does get the job done!

Using a Notch Filter
If you are using an amateur radio transceiver then you probably have a notch filter on your radio. This filter is primarily used to notch out another interfering station in CW mode. What I have found is that some radios will allow you to use it in USB and LSB mode. For broadcast band shortwave listening it can be used to knock out a whistling heterodyne.

Synchronous Detection
Many receivers such as the Sony 2010, Drake R8 series, Icom R75 have a neat little feature called synchronous detection. Using this feature will help cut down on fading or interference from near by stations in many instances.
Daniel Grunberg talks here about the advantages of having a Synchronous Detector in a radio.

Radio Propagation
Understanding and taking some of the mystery out of propagation will enhance your listening pleasure. Books, classes and careers have been spent on this science. Become familiar with such terms as Grayline, MUF and Solar Flux.

Amateur Radio Beacons
Beacons can be an excellent way to check for propagation in a targeted area of the globe.

Amateur Radio DX Clusters
These can also be used as a way to check for propagation. Amateur Radio DX Clusters, originally mostly through packet radio, is a network of Amateur Radio Operators who report what they are hearing and working. It is a way of letting their fellow hams know that there is a good DX station to be worked out there. Taking note of the person reporting location is very important. If the person reporting is not near you then there may not be propagation to the targeted area.


Listening to Pirates
Many shortwave listeners are only interested in hearing these stations. Currently the most active frequency in North America is 6955 kHz +/-. Be sure to listen in all 3 modes (AM, USB, LSB).

Listening to Clandestine Radio Stations
A Clandestine Radio Station are political broadcasts from a radio station or organization that opposes the current rule of the targeted country for which the transmissions are meant to be heard. Many clandestine stations hide their location and identities from the listeners. Clandestine broadcasters employ a form of radio psychological warfare, also known as propaganda. Psychological warfare objective is to influence the listener in such a way that it would make them more conscious to take political action toward the government. There are many clandestine stations on the air. For the latest list of stations on the air check out
Nick Grace's ClandestineRadio.com

The SWL Fraternity
Get to know some people who listen to shortwave. One of the best sources of information comes from people within the hobby. The great thing about the Internet is that finally Shortwave Listeners have a quick means of exchanging information and ideas about our hobby. Don't be shy and use the internet.

  • IRC, shortwave listeners can be found in the rooms #swl, #shortwave, #monitor and #wun (utility shortwave listeners). Read this FAQ if you are unfamiliar with IRC.
  • SWL WINTERFEST Each year at Kulpsville, PA there is the SWL WINTERFEST. This three day convention is not only loads of fun but very educational. Try to make it next year.
  • Join a shortwave radio club. A good place to look if you live in North America is the ANARC Homepage. Check also the WRTH and Monitoring Times as they carry a list of clubs throughout the world.
  • There are plenty of listserv or mailing lists ranging from beginners tips to highly technical antenna topics.

Be Happy With Your Receiver
Lets face it. No matter what type of radio you have you will either want a new and/or better receiver. Or perhaps you know someone who needs to stroke their own ego, since no one will stroke it for them, tell you "oh yes, your radio is very nice but mine is much better". (I wonder why?) The bottom line is that no matter what type of receiver you are using be content with it. The truth is that many well known or "successful" DXers are not using the latest and greatest radio. Many people have done wonderful things with very modest equipment. The key is knowledge and not how much you spend on the latest and greatest.

Time
Knowing the time in UTC (also known as GMT) is very important while listening to your shortwave receiver. Keep a 24 hour clock by your receiver set to UTC Time or a conversion chart. Knowing the time in UTC will aid you in any Target Listening and help you to writing accurate reception reports to shortwave broadcasters.

WWV - You may also set your clock by listening to WWV (WWVH) on 2500 kHz, 5000 kHz, 10000 kHz, 15000 kHz and 20000 kHz. The time is given in UTC at about 5 seconds prior to the top of the minute in English.

GEOCLOCK - An excellent computer program to have is Geoclock which can be download from the internet. This program is essential for Grayline DXing and knowing the local time in any country in the world. Give it a try!

Some Thoughts on collecting QSLs
from Ulis Fleming

I gave up seriously collecting QSLs a few years ago. Collecting these verifications can be very rewarding but very costly as well. Here are some things I have learned from QSLing over the years.

  • If you have a child then have them write your reception reports for you! It sure seemed like my return rate was much better when I was 12 years old than when I was 32 years old. Maybe the broadcaster feels sorry for a kid with no money who is requesting a QSL? But then again global economic times have changed for broadcaster funding. If this theory works let me know!
  • Knowing UTC time is essential when writing a reception report. (see above on Time) It is also useful to know the local time of the country which you are hearing. Many shortwave broadcasters are Domestic Service Broadcasters, hence their transmission are only meant for people with in their country. If you write a reception report to these broadcasters then it is a good idea to include both their local time and UTC time as the person who is reading your report may be unfamiliar with UTC time.
  • Protecting those QSLs! As a kid I unfortunately stuck my QSLs on the wall. Hey that's what I thought all the cool radio ops did. Later I pasted them in one of those sticky photo albums. What a mistake! It reminds me of my old baseball card collection. But some how QSLs didn't make that great clicking sound on your bicycle spokes that you get from baseball cards, thank goodness. I learned from my friend George Zeller that an excellent way to preserve your QSLs is in a three ring binder with plastic page protectors. They are great. They protect the QSLs and you are able to look at both sides of the card. These plastic page protectors are cheap too! A 100 page protectors cost about $10 and when you consider how much time and money is spent on collecting QSLs it is well worth the investment. Probably the only down side of the using the page protectors is that they slide around some. Give it a try

GEAR
Accessories - the add ons

  • Cassette Tape Player/Recorder
    Perhaps one of the most useful accessories you can get. Many experienced DXers have a cassette player recording all the time while they are hunting around. You never know what you many hear and you may not get a second time to hear that ever so important ID given by the station. If you like writing for QSLs, a recording of the broadcast will make the reception report writing task much easier. Some people go as far as to include a cassette recording of the broadcast with their reception report to the station. This does two things. It proves to the station for which you are writing the report that you actually heard their broadcast and it gives the station an idea what kind of signal is being heard in your area. One little trick you may consider is if you are using a stereo cassette deck and have two receivers is to connect the tape deck to both radios. Using one channel (left for example) for one receiver and visa versa. With one receiver you can pump audio in to one channel from WWV and the other from the receiver which you are listening. Doing this will give you a time stamp on your recordings and make it much easier for writing reception reports. Note that this may not work well with all stereo cassette decks. This method can also be applied to stereo video players.
  • Electric Timer
    Electric Timers are good for using in conjunction with your tape recorder. You can set up your radio and tape recorder to record your favorite program while you are away.
  • Video Recorder
    Instead of using a cassette tape recorder, try using a old VHS or Beta Recorder. Though I have not tried this it seems like a good idea. The are a few advantages. Video recorders can tape up to 6 hours on one tape when set at slow speeds. Also Video recorders have an timer already built into the machine so setting up to record your favorite program is a possibility. With the new HDTV craze coming to the USA, expect people to start ditching their old video recorders in a few years. There might be some good deals out there very soon. >>Click Here<< for a very good page on how to set up your VCR to record.
  • Speaker and Audio Equalizer
    All speakers don't sound alike. Try using different external speakers to get the sound you like. By my main receiver I have at least two different speakers I can switch and use depending on what kind of station I am tuning in. For casual and strong power house stations like the BBC, VOA or Radio Exterior de Espaņa, I prefer to use a small full fidelity stereo speaker with some bass response. It gives the audio a very warm and human sound like the old tube rigs used to do. Remember them? For DXing or listening to hard to hear stations I like to use a speaker with a limited frequency response. (Probably a very cheap speaker). For example I have an old speaker phone speaker which works great since it was made to reproduce and emphasize the frequency range of the human voice. When stations are weak then it is time to switch to the headphones. An Audio Equalizer is great for limiting the audio response of cracking and hissing. It also can enhance a stations sound. I learned this trick from Dave Valko. Don't spend a lot of money on this audio upgrade.. You can find these things at Hamfest or yard sales for a 10th of the original price or less. Be patient and the bargain will come! You may need a small audio amplifier. Radio Shack makes a small 10 watt amp or a cheap car amp with equalizer may work nicely (be sure to have a 12V DC power supply handy)..
  • Headphones
    The cheaper the better! The problem with stereo headphones is that they are made to hear a wide audio frequency range. The cheaper headphones are usually limited in their frequency response hence you will not hear every snap, crackle and pop. Headphones are essential if you want to listen to very weak stations. It is amazing what you can hear with headphones versus your radio's speaker.
  • FM Radio Transmitter ( Sound Feeder)
    If you are really nuts and would like to listen to shortwave radio through out the house or while you are in the garage then this is the way to go. Basically you connect the a small FM transmitter to the audio output of your receiver and whala... you are able to listen to shortwave with any portable FM receiver. I came across this little gem while trying to get decent audio out of a small shortwave receiver that I wanted to listen to in my car. My friend and fellow Cumbre DX Editor, Joe Buch, suggested the Sound Feeder which is sold at Walmart for about $20US. This little transmitter (runs off one AA battery) is intended to be used in your car with a portable CD player. It works like a charm and has fairly good audio.

 

   

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