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!
and general SWL techniques, observations and ramblings
you are new to shortwave, try reading these pages for a good introduction:
Grunberg's Home Page
Koshko's Intro To Shortwave
Introduction to Mediumwave and Shortwave DXing
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
World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH)
Passport To World Band
- DX BULLETINS -
usually have the most current information on a
broadcaster's new frequencies and schedules. Many
are available on the internet.
More bulletins are listed on RadioIntel's DX Press
- RADIO MAGAZINES AND
RADIO CLUB JOURNALS - often carry a detailed
listing of programming in English.
International DX Club
- BROADCAST FREQUENCY LISTS ON THE
Prime Time Shortwave
- STATION BROADCAST SCHEDULES - Can
be obtained directly from the
*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
- 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
- STEP 5 - Once you
have opened the file go to the bottom. Tap your
- STEP 6 - Look at
the top of your Word Processor and INSERT FILE.
Look for the next bulletin. (example:
- 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
Beacons can be an excellent way to check for propagation
in a targeted area of the globe.
Amateur Radio DX
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.
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).
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
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
- 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
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.
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
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
- 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
- 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
Accessories - the
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
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.
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
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)..
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
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