Goodbye Neighbor, Hello Brazil!

I've talked about it many times in these pages– one of the great ironies of doing this radio blog has been the fact that where I live and where I write has always been afflicted by pathetic radio reception. OK, the reception itself hasn't always been that bad, but the noise floor on AM and shortwave (the HF bands I discuss here) is often so deep in RF pollution that hearing weaker signals has either been no fun or just impossible. And some more local broadcasting hasn't been immune from some headache inducing artifacts. Occasionally I've found the electronic culprit– typically a new cheaply made power supply or battery charger we've recently plugged in here at the house.

One night when I was the only one home, I went around and unplugged everything in the house, room by room. I was carrying a portable radio around in the dark, trying to pinpoint and identify some of the offending RF. It was hopeless. I made little headway and became convinced that I was stuck in a small flat in a big town where I might never escape so much ripping static on the 25, 41 and 49 meter band, and the phhht…phhht… phhht sound on medium wave, and all those buzzes and crackles distributed across the frequencies, most difficult or impossible to null. I eventually decided all that interference was just one the prices I had to pay for living in the middle of a throbbing megalopolis.

And then, what can I tell you. Our terminally unfriendly upstairs neighbor finally moved away. I'd be lyin' if I didn't admit I was more than happy to see her go. But now… I'm almost ecstatic!

I hadn't thought much about it. Then one afternoon I realized that the AM station I had tuned in sounded…good! Really good. After so many years, something had changed! I grabbed a shortwave out of a drawer and went to the old reliable 49 meter band, and the reception was almost as clean as I’d expect to hear at the picnic table while on a camping trip. And then I knew. Things had really changed. A lot. For the first time in a long time, I could feasibly DX right here at the house. Whoo-hoo.

At this point, I’m assuming my neighbor, who was never very friendly to us and constantly took advantage or our elderly landlady, was also despoiling the airwaves surrounding my apartment for the last dozen years. Although I never set foot up there, I now imagine she must have had dimmer switches, a couple dozen "always on" gadgets, and banks of power strips loaded with used and unused power supplies– all of it transmitting noise!. But no more.

So, I say "good riddance" to that grouchy old face on the staircase! It's a new day. And frankly, the new girl upstairs seems quite nice. And quiet. In so many ways. 

So, let’s celebrate. Here’s a recording I made the other night in my kitchen, utilizing a borrowed semi-portable bruiser of recent vintage– the last of the Grundig Satellit  line, the “800.” It’s not a particularly handsome set, especially compared some of its more romantic Satellit predecessors, But it’s a workhorse with plenty of features. And it's fun to use. Thanks David!

Rádio Nacional da Amazônia  11780kHz approx. 0400 UTC 08-06-2012

(download)

In my first venture into the HF bands in this new radio quiet era around here, I happened to come across Rádio Nacional da Amazônia, as I often do. However, I’ve never heard it like this. Not at my place. Have a listen.

It’s great music… dated stuff. The station itself is apparently a domestic outlet”– public radio for the greater Amazon area, a rather huge swath of a very large South American country. This station is one of a few regional shortwave outlets in Brazil; where they’re still willing to forgo some audio fidelity in return for the inexpensive reliability and impressive propagation of old-fashioned shortwave broadcasting. While so many of the western nations have abandoned shortwave for local by-nature FM broadcasting and assorted internet options, Brazil like the other BRIC nations, buck this trend, unwilling to completely give up on the old technology. In this over-networked era, there are still some forgotten (and neglected) shortwave listeners in the states (like me) who cherish the remaining islands of sane radio modulation we can find in between so many moronic U.S. Christian and conspiratorial programers who hog the shortwave bandspace in these parts. And when you come across some pleasant music programming like this, it doesn't matter so much what languages you speak or understand. (Unless you're a stickler about lyrical content…)

While I’m a big fan of Brazilian music, and I have spent many hours foraging flea market bins and music blogs in search of it (Oh Loronix, you are missed…), I am no expert, and sadly can't name one artist on this aircheck. (Although I have gotten smarter clicking through sites like this.) There are some nice songs here, and I'd guess most or all were recorded decades ago. I think the last one might actually be a “Bread” cover, and perhaps not surprisingly I'd describe it as an improvement over the original.

And while this is very good reception, by DX standards, it would surely sound a bit strange if you're not a shortwave listener, with many varying factors affecting the quality and volume of the audio. It’s full of the artifacts of the medium, sounds some hate and others (like me) love– the sound of electrical energy full of audio bouncing from ground to sky a few times before flying into the tuner on my table.

All of it happening without my former neighbor’s sloppy electronics ruining the messy but musical analog wonder of it all. And for me, here in Brooklyn, the 25 meter band hasn't sounded this good in a long, long time, or ever.

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5 Responses to “Goodbye Neighbor, Hello Brazil!”

  1. Vimal Oberoi Says:

    I have come to your blog via The SWLing Post.I am a radio lover, in paticular AM band listener.And I agree the RFI is spoil sport until detected.Much has been written on this topic by radio lovers.I like your writing style.Now I have bookmarked your blog and would follow you regularly:)

  2. prof Says:

    Hey thanks Vimal. While shortwave reception has greatly improved here at my place, the biggest improvement has been on the AM band, and as a listener it's a whole new world. I'm discovering stations I've never heard, and hearing familiar ones with clarity I've never really experienced.

    In the next few months I hope to post some samples of AM radio recorded in my newly "quiet" home. It's all kind of new to me. It's like all my radios have suddenly become more powerful. It's the first time I'm hearing the real potential of this Tecsun PL-390 I got for Christmas last year. It is impressive on AM.

  3. Keith Beesley Says:

    Welcome back, Professor, and congrats on your newly "quiet" environment! I look forward to reading more posts on what you're hearing at home, and elsewhere. 
     
    Keith

  4. Doug Says:

    Good to have you back, Professor.

  5. Roberto Says:

    Like you I love the way SW broadcasts sound. I hope your newfound peace and quiet lasts. I used to visit the Radio Kitchen long ago when I was searching for a SW receiver. A recent post in SWLing Post brought me back to your site. I was 'away' spending time on getting a ham license. That's done now so I have started re-acquainting myself with SW in between ham radio activities. 

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