Archive for the 'Clandestine Radio' Category

A Brooklyn Radio Triptych

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

It was easy to come home from the SWL Winterfest with a slight case of equipment envy. But times are tough and I don’t need another fancy shortwave radio right now. But it sure would be nice to have one to play with now and then. But suddenly, I do.

On loan from the most gracious David Goren, I have a big plastic Chinese monstrosity known as the Grundig Satellit 800 (made by Tecsun, and recently discontinued). If you wanna know the vintage, it’s also called “Millennium,” you know like that spooky TV show you probably never saw back in the late 1990′s (at least I didn’t). And until the incredible Eton E1 came along in 2004, it was a top of the line portable (but it’s really too big to be very “portable” outside the house). And while it’s not an especially cute radio, it is a damn fine receiver. And it has a feature I’ve never gotten to play with– an AM sync detector. And it also has three bandwidth settings. In other words, when you come across something weak and distant you have a few options to make the signal a little more palatable.

Nonetheless, the RF noise issues within my Brooklyn apartment still give the Satellit 800 a lot of grief. Having such an impressive radio set in the house put me into a more detailed hunt for stray RF around my little home. I would tune to particularly nasty blasts of RF and then start systematically shutting down just about every electrical device in the house (including “always on” things like TV’s and stereos). I did find one really awful (and LOUD) power supply on an external hard drive, which I’ll now always unplug if I plan to DX. Even with the extra quiet that may offer, there are still some roaring sheets of nasty RF mayhem coming into my apartment, no matter what I do.

Actually, David Goren came by recently (to visit his radio…) and experienced the RF hell here that I’ve discussed so often in these pages. From the sound, his guess it that it may be some issue with the power wires outside. A bad insulator or something. And you know, he might be right. But I’ve had enough problems over the years making sure that the telephone service, the internet bandwidth and hot water are all getting into my apartment in a timely manner over the years. I guess I just don’t have the courage to ask Con Ed to come by and do a bunch of work so I can get radio signals from Asia a bit better. 

Yet, the 800 is a better and stronger animal than the other receivers here and does drag some signals up out of the noise floor better than most. And last April the girls went away for a week to visit the in-laws down in the sub-tropics, and me and the 800 had the run of the place for a little while. I spend a few nights out on the kitchen table with the whip antenna flush up to the north facing window trying to see what kind of reception I could lure onto my tape recorder. And this post includes some of these adventures on the 31 meter band.

In my limited experience trolling shortwave bands, I’ve had some my most interesting DX journeys on 31 meters. And there’s less religious and paranoid garbage as well. In fact, there’s not one warped preacher or “new world order” freak in any of these clips. (At least not in English.)

All these bandscans were captured on two separate evenings in mid-April. I’ve opted to offer highlights rather than more complete scans, just because some of the ripping interference through some of the reception here in my Brooklyn radio setting can be rather obnoxious. But you can still get some of the raucous flavor of what I have to deal with when I try to DX at home.

Other than the lack of mental illness, these samples are rather representative of what you’re likely to find on shortwave these days. There’s some English language programming here, and some tasty music from other continents there. And not one second of Gene or Melissa Scott. Let’s begin.

This one starts out a little shady, but it gets better…

31 Meter Band – Segment 1 – 0041 UTC 04-15-09  24:29

(download)

9665 – Romania? Russia?

Unsure. But it is a song, and oooh it sounds crappy. Even after I lock on with the AM sync mode it’s still an unhappy little transmission knee deep in my noise floor.

9715 – RDP Portugal

It’s such an “ah…” moment turning the dial out of that racket into this Portuguese music. Fado, I believe. Nice and meaty signal from Western Europe and the songs are splendid. I leave the knob untouched for over ten minutes. Great bittersweet minor-key stuff. It might sound even better accompanied by a jug of wine and some stinky cheese.

And significantly, Spain and Portugal offer the only broadcasts from Western Europe in the batch of reception I’m offering here. There ain’t much left, and very little of it is in the English language. So, let’s get back to the noise

9820 – Hmmm

I don’t know what this is. I can’t get it to sync either. Here how awful the RF can be here when there’s no signal to hold the receiver’s attention?

9870 – All India Radio

And here’s a ragged signal from far far away. It’s not a pretty sound, at least not at first. However, I am able to work a little alchemy on the poor thing with the big Grundig beast. I pinch down the bandwidth, reducing the fidelity a bit (but mostly reducing the fidelity of the NOISE) and then turn on the sync. It locks nicely, although the signal is NOT a strong one. I fiddle with the SSB to get the best side of the frequency and well… It is listenable, in a forgiving DX kinda way. The cosmic Indian music comes through, up to a point. But the announcers, not so good. But after all these years I still marvel at the sound of exotic music falling out of the sky from the other side of the world.

31 Meter Band – Segment 2 – 2355 UTC 04-15-09  13:13

(download)

9535 Radio Exterior Espana

Care to dance? Some urgent pop music. Boy singer, electric guitar, loco-rhythmic keyboard funk, then silence– some top of the hour tones and a clear ID in Spanish. Good evening from Spain. As the news begins I pack up and head further up the dial.

9545 – Radio Republica
   
Ah… Radio Re-POOB-lee-ka!. Sounds like the interval signal (or an extended station ID) from this Florida clandestine operation run by the Cuban Democratic Directorate (a “pro-democracy” NGO, Republica that supports human rights causes in Cuba. And it often jammed by that country. I can’t tell if that whizzy audio interference is Castro’s jamming or just RF problems on my end.

However, I move on again to find something in my native tongue.
                                       
9570 – China Radio International

It’s the news– typical “statist” shortwave-style headlines in accented English. Mostly unadorned bullet points from Beijing. International stories, matter-of-fact national boasting as well as some reassurance that things are getting better all the time. Except for relations with North Korea.

However, the cross-straits complexities between Taiwan and “the mainland” don’t seem to be getting in the way of the “two Chinas” improving their political relationship. Did you know that China has become the world leader in "ultra high voltage power transmission and transformation technology"? Me neither. But it’s good news for the Chinese power grid. And their infrastructure in space just got a boost as well, with a new navigational satellite now in place in the Chinese sky.

9580 – Radio Romania International

News with female reader. Clipped Romanian monotone. Nice signal. She says Obama is doing a decent job with the American economic crisis so far. And how about that bumper music? Right out of the 1970′s.

Actually, this news broadcast and the previous one from China sound remarkably similar to what you might have heard from these “communist” countries so many decades ago. Sure, Romania is no longer a Soviet satellite nation and the flavor of communism in China is quite different than it was back then, but it’s more than just the production values that make these shortwave newscasts sound like vintage broadcasting, but all the talk of nuclear weapons and missile programs makes you wonder if the cold war didn’t actually end, but turned into something less distinct but just as dangerous.

And now I’m skipping over some rather uninteresting reception of Spain and Cuba in Spanish, which was accompanied by a loud and grating noise floor. And then on to another former Iron Curtain nation, once the heart of the Soviet empire…

Segment 3 – 31 Meter Band 0014 UTC 04-15-09  8:53

(download)

9665 – The Voice of Russia

I don’t know if Russia is spending more money on their shortwave service than CRI or VOA, but it always sounds better than they do. I think it’s those voices.

Like the male announcer at the beginning of this clip, talking about Russian sailors patrolling the Somali coast to defend international merchant traffic from piracy. I believe this fellow has been around since the “Radio Moscow” days. But what a voice. It’s from another era. The woman is good as well. But I’ve always that there was some odd magic in the processing of the audio over there in Moscow, or some extra sauce in the transmitter that just gave the sound of both Radio Moscow and now the Voice of Russia this extra texture, some richness I can’t describe because I’m not a tech guy that way. But it’s something I remember distinctly when I first began to really listen to Russia on the radio in the 1980s, that they had a “sound.” And that radio magic is still there. In fact, it sounds very 20th century to me.

And the woman who does the light news feature on the annual return of migrating cranes to Moscow is awesome as well. It’s just the kind of human interest non-news that RCI offers all the time, but it you would be in the hands of some chirpy radio amateur instead of this smoky and authoritative Russian woman discussing elegant birds in their nation’s capital. I guess there’s a bit of mystical grandeur to the way their English service presents Russian culture and history and natural resources on shortwave. And while it may be overblown and self-serving, they still have veteran radio professionals in house making it believable on the radio.

And anybody who listened with any regularity to Radio Moscow (and then the Voice of Russia) remember Joe Adamov of “Moscow Mailbag.” (who I wrote about here), another elegant radio voice from Russia, in English.

9675 – Radio Canção Nova?

Portuguese… is it? But instead of talking about the glories of the Pope, it sounds like she’s talking about some “final four” sporting event.

It seems rather clear and strong for such a low-power operation, otherwise I don’t know what I’m listening to. Please comment if you know what this is, or what she’s talking about. And you know, if you have something to add (or I made a mistake with my logging or guessing) please leave a comment below, or you can send an email.

Also, I’ve been doing some work on the blog behind the scenes (and have more to do if I find the time), and I’ve linked some of my past content to the categories in the sidebar. Like if you like these bandscan posts, you can find a bunch more by clicking that category. They all have audio as well.

Thanks for listening.

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.)