Archive for June, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 21

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

Porch_bright_1 This the final installment of the 31 meter band scan I began two weeks ago, recorded June 2, 2006. As I said before, it was a rewarding romp thorough one of the dozen or so allotted shortwave bands and seems to portend that there will be lots of eventful DXing to come with my new little shortwave portable (the Degen 1103).

People who know I blog about DXing think I must have a lot of radios at home. And I do, I suppose, compared to most people. Just looking about my room here, I  see over a dozen or so. And there’s certainly more than that tucked away as well. I’d guess that two thirds of them have shortwave, as well as AM and FM. To me, a radio isn’t all that special if I can’t turn in on and hear more than just local stations. Any radio does that.

But I’m not a big collector. I don’t have the space, money or time for that. In fact, it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve gotten some decent receivers. I’ve almost always had at least a couple of radios that received shortwave around, but they were typically Radio Shack portables, or boomboxes with shortwave bands. You can certainly whet your appetite for shortwave and DXing with any number of nominal receivers, but without spending a lotta dough you can graduate up to a more sensitive set or two and be assured you’ll find some interesting signals from far over the horizon now and then. And I’ve had a lot of fun doing just that working on these blog posts over the last few months.

It’s time for me to take a little summer hiatus, but while I’m away I’ll be DXing out in the midwest, recording some reception to be posted here. I’m bringing a few radios and lots of batteries. And I’ll hope you can join me here again at that time. Meanwhile here’s most of the rest of that dial scan. It’s the high end of the 31 meter band, recorded the evening of June 2, starting where we left off last week. Here’s the first link… 

Segment 4-31 Meter Band (9805 to 9885 kHz)  32:07

(download)

9805 – VOA (relay from Morocco)

Unknown language. Arabic?

Rhc_logo 9820 – Radio Habana Cuba

In English, not nearly as clear as their broadcasts on 6000 kHz. News, like the Bush Administration bullying Chile to vote against Venezuela at the U.N.

9830 – Hrvatska Radio (Croatia)

Croation, I suppose.

9835 – BBC World Service?

I believe this is a from a relay in South Africa, broadcasting in Swahili. Something about Bird Flu (the H5N1 virus).

9845 – BBC World Service?

If I’m right, this is BBC broadcasting from Cyprus this time, in Arabic. Nice place for a relay to the Middle East. The sun never sets on those BBC relays.

9855 – The Voice of America? (from Morocco)

In Arabic? It’s a male announcer, and another station with a female announcer (which I believe is a bleed over from the Voice of Russia just 5kHz up the dial) stomping on this signal, as well as an obnoxious buzz washing over the whole mess.

9860 – The Voice of Russia

Russia_piano This is Russia’s English service. Old fashioned radio, Eastern European style. Some former Soviet bloc countries, Russia in particular, are very TRADITIONAL with their English language international service. Many of the announcers I hear now, were on the air a couple of decades ago, including the narrator of the historic tale included here.

He’s talking about OLD Russian history, Ivan the Terrible and the 13th century, all embellished with rich and historic musical interludes.

9865 – The Voice of America (from Morocco again)

Arabic pop music, I guess. Nice. Although it’s not easy to hear VOA broadcasts in the U.S., it’s obvious they’re out there, broadcasting in languages like Arabic.

9880 – The Voice of Russia (From Armenia)

In English. Now it’s a narrative on the 4th century Russia with another announcer. Not sure if this is the same thing as we just heard on 9865.

9885 – VOA (From Botswana)

In English this time. In a “Today in History” moment Tony Collins brags about U.S. space walking. Funny isn’t it. The Russians dig many centuries deep into history to position themselves on international radio. The U.S. brags about their 1960′s scientific prowess.

And here’s the second MP3 for this post:

Segment 5-31 Meter Band (9905 to 9970kHz) 06-03-06  24:59

(download)

9905 – Radio Nile

Sudan Wow. A clandestine broadcast from Madagascar, in English! Not rock solid clear, but solid reception from the other side of the globe. This is actually a morning show in East Africa, specifically aimed at Sudan.

How to they have such a whopping signal? Funding. Formerly “Radio Voice of Hope” , Radio Nile is a broadcast service largely (if not entirely) funded by the Dutch government and a couple of Christian groups who actually seem to be interested in helping the underdogs, and promoting peace and democracy (unlike some of their U.S. counterparts). It’s run by the “New Sudan Council of Churches” in support of the southern rebels (mostly black), opposed to the official Sudanese government in the north (where the population is largely Arabic and Muslim).

The accents are thick, some of it is not in English and the reception throbs a bit, but it’s interesting listening if you give it some attention. In between reggae and African music the male and female hosts (passionately) discuss the ongoing civil war, religion and African and global politics.

I don’t know enough about the political situation in and around Sudan to say all that much about it, but with shortwave you can hear directly from concerned parties who are directly affected by the suffering and injustice. In Africa, shortwave is alive and well. And the ability to pick up a broadcast in English, from a third world country over eight thousand miles away via the radio is still damn compelling to me. It’s the kind of thing that makes me power up my shortwave radios again and again. And that’s why there’s well over twenty minutes of Radio Nile on this recording.

Unity, equality, progress…

9915 – Radio Sultanate of Oman

Female announcer. Arabic, I think. Again, a strong signal from far away.

Rtrf_logo 9925 – Radio Television Belgium French

Unknown language. Male announcer.

9970 – Radio Television Belgium French

Same service. French this time. A whimsical whistling pop number, a female announcer, then a bad pop song.    

                  

That’s it. The end of a three week exploration into a couple of hours of traversing just one of the shortwave bands. I thought there was a lot there.

And thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 20

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

Porch_hill This post returns to a band scan I started to post last week from a listening session I recorded June 2, 2006 near Albany, New York. It’s a slow cruise through the 31 meter band (9400 to 10000kHz). And each frequency is listed (or my best guess), along with a brief description of each broadcast.

This was the first chance I had to play with a new shortwave portable (a Degen 1103) away from the radio interference of city life. And in this one long sweep of this band (in just a few hundred kilohertz) I picked up nearly fifty stations. I was impressed.

A good shortwave radio is truly a world receiver, and the Degen is just that. Although the fidelity of signals coming from thousands of miles away is never quite as crisp and steady as a local AM or FM station, many are quite listenable. And certainly some are difficult to hear or understand, but just knowing that they are coming through the air from so far away can make you curious to linger and try to figure out where they’re coming from, and perhaps what they’re saying as well. This is DXing.

Early_1103 So, here’s some casual DXing from the East Coast. I’m not using as extra external antenna, and I haven’t researched any particular station or country to hunt out. However, I do plan to print out some pages from websites like this one and try to track down some far-flung English language broadcasts when I get a chance.

As far this scan recording, I skipped a few weak and relatively insignificant signals I happened across, and the first MP3 (or two in this post) picks up where the 31 meter band started to get interesting again.

Shortwave radio is unlike standard U.S. AM and FM listening in so many ways. At one hour you can hear one particular station, and in the next hour or two another one might take it’s place on the dial. Stations often broadcast on several frequencies at once, or change the frequencies they use through the year. Add to that the fact that reception is directly affected (both negatively or positively) by changes in the atmosphere, conditions in outer space around the Earth, and what’s happening on the sun itself, it adds so many variables that makes listening to shortwave both a challenge and (if you don’t mind some strange audio artifacts and a bit of noise) as rewarding as radio gets.

 So, here’ s the scan, starting in Romania…

Segment  2-31 Meter Band (9645 to 9700 kHz) 06-02-06  22:09

(download)

9645 – Radio Romania International

Solar_filamentSpanish programming. Nice old-fashioned bumper music. It sounds like news.

9650 – Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting?

I believe this is Iran broadcasting in Russian. Quite faint. A male and then female announcer followed by some Classical music, which sounds like moody and dark Russian classical music actually. I think there might be an ID in here as well….somewhere.

This is an atrocious copy of this signal, but hard core DXers listen to this kind of noise soup all the time, but if you have some fancy equipment you could clean this up a bit. But it still wouldn’t sound clear.

9660 – Voice of China Reborn

It’s a clandestine broadcast from Taiwan, which is often jammed by China. Lucky to catch this one. They only broadcast for ten minutes twice a day! It’s an announcer (speaking a Chinese language) with moody music in the background. Another station is eating away at the signal (which seems to be the Voice of Russia 5kHz up), but it’s fairly strong. I believe I hear a word that sounds like “democrat” or “democracy” in all this. Would be very interested in the subject matter, if any readers speak the language.

9665 – The Voice of Russia

 It’s the new version of Moscow Mailbag (I wrote about the late Joe Adamov– the host of Moscow Mailbag for almost fifty years– in this post). I believe the new host is Yuri Reshetnikov.

Radio_moscow_logoAnyway, I miss old Joe. Still, this does remind me of the old days of Moscow Mailbag a bit, as the so-called “war on terror” has replaced the cold war as the major vector of international disharmony. A listener writes to ask if Iran has been helping the Chechen rebels, who of course are the biggest (Islamic) terrorist threat within modern Russia. Iran is Russia’s friend the host insists, and seems to insinuate that the idea of Iran helping out the Chechnyans is U.S. propaganda, and then he remarks about how Turkey (a U.S. ally) HAS been offering the rebels a hand. He also mentions how insane it would be for the U.S. to use military force against Iran. Maybe Bush oughtta take a deeper gander into Putin’s eyeballs next time.

Then again, the listener question about cable and satellite TV in Russia today speaks to what a different world we live in since the cold war. Instead of clunky old Soviet TV, they now get most of the same glossy cable crap that we love here in America. Moscow Mailbag started out as English language propaganda tool, offering western listeners insight into the dark and secretive Soviet Union. Now it’s a bit of an artifact, offering the same service at a time when the U.S. might be a bit more dark and secretive than even Russia.

9860 – WYFR – Family Radio

Bible stuff, in Spanish.

9690 – China Radio International

Chinese_announcer English service from a relay in Spain. It’s a male/female team, also answering mail (or email) from listeners. But what a difference between this superficial happy-talk and Moscow Mailbag. No controversy here, just chipper hosts reading gushing fan mail from international listeners. It kind of reminds me of the perky proceedings of Radio Disney, only with Chinese accents. The hosts are like leaping puppies attempting to please everyone, especially the Chinese government.

Even one note of bad news is all hope and sunshine. At one point the male host remarks: “We are very sorry for the latest earthquake that struck part of Indonesia. And we hope that everything is going fine with the people in the quake stricken area, and that life will come back to normal for them.” Deep, eh?

In general, I find all this blank cheerfulness rather disturbing. While I’m quite accustomed to (and expect) propaganda from international state broadcasts, this kind of absurdly carefree banter smells of something really dark and twisted lurking under the surface– kind of like some shortwave evangelists out there.

9700 – Radio Romania International

Poor reception with deep phasing effects. In Spanish.

And here’s part 2 of the audio for this post–

Segment  3-31 Meter Band (9715 to 9790 kHz) 06-02-06  18:48

(download)

9715 – WYFR – Family Radio

In Spanish. De Cristo, all that jazz.

Tunesia_2 9720 – Radio Tunis (Tunisia)

Arabic pop music. I love this stuff, and let the tape roll for a few minutes on this station. A female announcer speaks a bit before I turn the knob.

9715 – The Gene Scott Network (from Costa Rica)

Some hokey musical interlude on the Gene Scott show, which never seems to end. Kind of a fake country rave-up. As I’ve said before, Gene remains as worldwide as he is dead.

9745 – HCJB (Ecuador)

In Spanish. HCJB has been a huge shortwave presence for decades. They seem to be one of the biggest Christian outlets in the Western Hemisphere, outside of U.S. of course. And they’re very friendly.

9750 – BBC World Service

In English, a poor signal coming in from an island in the Indian Ocean. A discussion of global warming. Alot of U.S. shortwave listeners were pissed off when BBC Yemen_radio_tv_logoquit providing English language shortwave service to North America a few years back. A damn shame.

 9780 – Republic of Yemen Radio

A male announcer and then some more Arab pop. The acoustic guitar here is beautiful and intricate. The signal is weak, but there’s no interference getting in the way. The reception you hear is probably a good example of the advantages of DXing outside of a major urban area.

According to this site, Yemen is only broadcasting with 50 kilowatts at this frequency. If that’s true, it furthers the positive ruminations on the Degen 1103 that I’ve offered here.

9790 – China Radio International

Sw_kit

A relay from Cuba this time, in English. “Moments in Love” by the Art of Noise is often used as bumper music on CRI. It’s perfect– a phoney and profound sounding theme for a government broadcast faking emotive and empathetic content. Yuk.

That’s it for this week. Appreciate hearing feedback, suggestions and corrections. Or if you’ve got something to add to the conversation, please leave a comment.

Meanwhile, I’m blocking out some days this summer away from the megalopolis here to have some more fun with this new portable. And I hope to pass along some of the high points here.

Thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 19

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

The_porch It was a brief foray into upstate New York, but a week ago I was able to spend a weekend away from the radio noise of the big city with my new Degen 1103. Sitting on my friend’s porch overlooking the Hudson as the rain fell, I was quite impressed with the lively shortwave reception (with very little buzzing and static). I wasn’t able to spend as much time scanning as I would have liked, but even late at night there were plenty of voices to pluck out of the ether.

In fact, the first band scan I recorded (a meander through the 31 meter band on Friday night June 2, 2006) was full of broadcast. So the recording I’ll offer in this post will kick off at the first readable signal on this band and continue on for a half an hour in real time. I’ll follow up with more of this scan in the next post (and perhaps beyond that post as well).

A few readers have expressed continued curiosity about my hands-on experience with the DE1103, and I have to report that I’m really happy with this gadget. It is a very sensitive little receiver, and once you get used to the odd interface it’s quite easy to maneuver the controls. Besides shortwave, the medium wave reception is quite good as well, and FM reception seems to be better than any radio I have at the house. 

Although the only bands easily accessible via the main controls are AM, FM and ten of the major shortwave bands, via direct entry of the frequency (on the keypad) the DE1103 picks up all frequencies between 100 and 29999 kHz. Long wave (below 540 kHz) in the U.S. isn’t really a broadcast band in the U.S., but I was digging around down there here in Brooklyn and all I was able to fish out were images of powerful New York City stations at predictable mathematical intervals. The same thing happened when I ventured about just above the U.S. AM broadcast band (1720 kHz and up a few hundred kHz). I have yet to identify images like this on the standard AM and shortwave bands.

Besides these anomalies, there’s those audible blips when cruising through busy bands and the digital edge the radio adds to some standard shortwave noise. (Though I have to admit I’m starting to become fond of how coming out of a strong frequency occasionlly sounds like you’re drowning the signal or the announcer.) Other than these minor annoyances (for an analog radio fan) I have very few complaints so far. And considering I gave up less than seventy bucks (via ebay) for the DE1103, I really have nothing to grumble about at all.

31_meter_band_antennaSo, after a rainy, splashy, traffic-tangled drive out of the city and up the New York Thruway I set up camp on my friend’s porch by 10:30 Friday night and powered up the Degen. After noodling around a bit, I decided the 31 meter band sounded promising. So I switched on the recorder and started up from the bottom of the band. And there was PLENTY to hear. Although I scanned and recorded through the night and Saturday late as well, this was the best stretch of reception I ran into the whole weekend. Have a listen…

 This recording starts at 10:34 pm EDT (0234 UTC)

Segment 1-31 Meter Band (9345 to 9610 kHz) 06-02-06  31:19

(download)

9345 – KOL Israel

It seemed like a good omen hearing soulful old Albert King at the onset of this scan. A solid (though phasey) signal from Jerusalem. After Mr. King plays the blues, and then there’s a brief announcement in Hebrew (mentioning John Lee Hooker) which leads into a 70′s groove rock number.

9365 – (Not sure)

Very faint, and not in English. Sounds Chinese perhaps, certainly not English. China does broadcast on this frequency, but not at this time as far as I can tell. Another suspect might be a VOA in Kuwait, and other Middle Eastern countries have supposedly been found on at 9365 kHz as well. Any readers have a clue on this one?

This is difficult listening. Turn it up and drive somebody out of the room. As the announcer drones on, a distorted adjacent station is all over the signal. As I turn the dial, you hear the distortion become clear American hyperbole, just 5kHz up…

9370 – WTJC – Fundamental Broadcasting Network
(North Carolina, USA)

Fbn_logo Wow. This is some heavily stylized preachin’ here. While it saddens me that shortwave in the U.S. is overrun with evangelical claptrap and Bible content, there is certainly some compelling content (like that Adam & Eve soap opera in my last post).

The first thought in my head when I hear this character’s bizarre phrasing and hyperbolic delivery is it sounds like some over-the-top parody or cartoon (and what a muscular larynx!). But it’s for real. It’s easy to miss the authenticity in this kind of thing when you’ve just heard the reverberations as dramitic and comedic cliches over the years. Like an auctioneer or carnival barker, this guy is practicing a long standing oral craft. But to be fair, the purpose is to scare the shit out of you and drive you to succumb to an alleged higher power (and not to lure you into taking a peek at the pig-boy in the booth).

Glykeria_1 9420 – Voice of Greece

Greek pop, I guess. Folky and funky. A nice signal beaming in from almost 5000 miles away. Then there’s an announcer for a minute or two, and I turn to…

9440 – Radio Slovakia

Sounds like a male and female team giving schedule information in an Eastern European language.

9505 – WFYR Family Radio

It’s Harold Camping, a co-founder of Family Radio, and the leader of the Christian radio network for nearly fifty years. Along with Gene Scott and Brother Stair, Mr. Camping’s voice is instantly familiar to anyone who spends a little time listening to shortwave radio in North America (and perhaps the Western Hemishpere). Without the histrionics of fire and brimstone  provided by the old coot we heard a few minutes before this, he’s still offering the same choice to the listener– you want Jesus or this lake of fire?

Anticamping_1 Although once popular with many Christian broadcasters and assorted church leaders and their flocks, Camping’s Family Radio doesn’t have so many friends in the broader Jesus community these days. Seems it all started when he started prognosticating the end of the world. When one particular predicted apocalypse didn’t occur (September 15, 1994), Camping put his own significance on the date anyway, claiming the “church age” was over, and right-thinking believers should get their preachin’ and prayin’ via the radio from now on (and now the internet as well). Well, this pissed off a LOT of believers. And since Camping has gotten progressively more goofy, Family Radio seems be suffering from a bit of financial trouble and has lost a few stations. Churches who used to broadcast on Family Radio are long gone now, and the stern lectures and reprisals of Harold Camping have filled the gaps. A few times I’ve heard at least two separate Camping broadcasts on simultaneous shortwave frequencies at the same time.

And he never sounds very happy.

9515 – WHRI (World Harvest Radio)

A loud clear boring contemporary Christian pop song (in English). The Jesus rock stuff tries hard to sound so MOVING. Barf, I say.

Voa 9520 – VOA (Voice of Ameica)

From a relay site in Hungary. Some European language.

9535 – Radio Exterior de Espana (Spain)

Classical music, then the ID in Spanish. Quite clear and snappy from across the Atlantic.

9550 – Radio Habana Cuba

A lousy signal here in upstate New York. In Spanish.

9560 – (Not sure, CRI?)

Cute music box.. an interval sound perhaps, but for what station? As you hear, it suddenly died. Probably the end of a broadcast. I suspect this was China, or some other country relaying their signal from Sackville, Canada. While it lasted, it was VERY clear.

9570 – China Radio International

From Albania, or Cuba this time, in a Chinese language.

9590 – Radio Netherlands

In Spanish.

Rnv 9600 – RNV (Radio Nacional de Venezuela)?

Either that or Radio Rebelde, either way it’s Spanish, and probably originating from Cuba.

9610 – (Not sure)

Don’t know what this is, and it’s an English language broadcast with narrative content and a station in another language is munching on the signal. From what I can ascertain, it may be the BBC coming from the Republic of Seychelles, an island Nation in the Indian Ocean. Or maybe something else. Anyone have a clue?

There you go, that was one side of a sixty minute cassette. This scan goes much longer, and I’ll continue it next week.

Thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)