Author Topic: Any Shortwave Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?  (Read 5804 times)

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Offline fourfathom

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #50 on: December 12, 2019, 11:27:49 pm »
What is "amateur maritime communication" ?

It's used for communicating between private ocean going boats mostly. My dad's sailboat came with a SSB transceiver and an old packet modem installed. Previously it was owned by a couple who sailed it all over the world. They used the SSB radio to communicate longer distances than the marine VHF.

Yes, but I wouldn't call it "amateur".  On my sailboat I have an Icom SSB rig, which is designed to operate on the channelized maritime frequencies roughly between 1 and 30 MHz.  The mode is upper sideband (but I think the radio can be switched to lower as well -- not sure though).  I use a PACTOR modem with it to send and receive email using the private "Sailmail" service.  I also use the good old microphone to communicate with other similarly-equipped boats, and occasionally the Coast Guard.  You need two licenses to operate the radio, one for the boat, and one for yourself.  In the USA there is no test required, just some paperwork and filing fees.  I can also legally use this marine radio on the ham bands.  Ham radios are not type-approved for use on the marine bands, although many people do so. The technical requirements for stability and signal purity are slightly tougher for marine service radios than for ham, although most modern ham rigs can meet these specs.
 

Offline james_s

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #51 on: December 13, 2019, 01:22:08 am »
It fits the definition of amateur radio that I'm familiar with, ie it's not a commercial broadcast station or government entity. It's not a topic I'm all that familiar with though, and my dad is not a ham so I helped him remove the transceiver to sell it as he had other uses in mind for the space it occupied.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2019, 01:33:31 am by james_s »
 

Offline fourfathom

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #52 on: December 13, 2019, 03:16:04 am »
It fits the definition of amateur radio that I'm familiar with, ie it's not a commercial broadcast station or government entity. It's not a topic I'm all that familiar with though, and my dad is not a ham so I helped him remove the transceiver to sell it as he had other uses in mine for the space it occupied.

No big deal, but the FCC classifies this a different thing than the amateur radio service.  For example, with marine radio it is perfectly legal to carry out business and other activities that carry a "pecuniary interest".  Not so on the ham bands.  In fact, this is probably the most common use of the marine service, where it is used by commercial shipping.  At least it was common until satellite comms became so easy.
 

Online edy

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #53 on: December 14, 2019, 11:55:44 pm »
I received my Tecsun and have just played around a little bit with it. Of course the AM/FM reception is phenomenal, but I am trying to now improve my LW/SW reception. I've extended the built-in "whip" antenna and pressed ETM (automatic searching throughout entire range) and it found a few stations but not much. I want to make a simple antenna for it and wondering about the construction, if anyone has some ideas that would be great.

First, there is a port that says FM & SW antenna on the outside of the unit, next to headphone jack. It is a 1/8" jack, similar to the headphone. I assume it is a MONO-type connection. I can find a 1/8" jack in my parts bin and connect a wire to it. I have lots of long thin wires. But I am not sure what goes to the 2 (or 3 if I use a stereo jack) terminals. I found this diagram:



According to that picture, if I have a 2-contact plug, the tip goes to the long length of wire that I am going to extend along the ceiling of my room or hang out of my window? And the second contact (along the side of the jack) goes where? For example, a jack like this:



And then I've seen stuff like this, which seems to suggest a 3-contact connection for the antenna jack?



And this one clearly shows on a 2-contact 3.5mm jack:



Then there are loop antennas that look like this:



... and this ...



 :scared:   :-//

Any suggestions what I should be doing? Experiment and see what happens?
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Offline fourfathom

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #54 on: December 15, 2019, 12:41:30 am »
I believe that the antenna jack uses the tip for the antenna hot wire (center conductor of the coax if you use coax between the radio and the antenna) and the sleeve is for the antenna ground (or shield of the coax, if used).  The plug "ring" contact can be ignored.

I wouldn't bother with tuned / loop antennas just yet.  Just a length of wire connected to the jack tip (say 10 feet or more, string it up as best you can, or throw most of it out a window.  Even tacked up across the ceiling is worthwhile.  Connect the jack sleeve to another wire going in more or less the opposite direction, or if you gave an actual earth ground (say a copper water pipe) clamp the ground wire to that.  Or just ignore the sleeve connection.  Then see what you get.

Later you can try a better outside antenna, perhaps with a balun and coax to the radio.  But for now, start simple.  Don't let people bully you into thinking it has to be perfect -- it doesn't.
 

Offline james_s

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #55 on: December 15, 2019, 01:37:15 am »
In my somewhat limited experience with shortwave antennas, I've found that a long wire works as well as anything, and the longer the better. You'll get better reception if you ground the radio to a solid earth ground which you can do via the ground contact on the antenna jack, coax is not necessary unless you have the radio indoors in an electrically noisy environment and the antenna outside.

Don't expect to find a whole lot on the shortwave band in general, there is still some activity but about 95% of what was there 20-30 years ago is all gone now.
 

Online edy

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #56 on: December 15, 2019, 03:16:45 am »
I found some telephone wire composed of 4 different wire strands (the type with single-core copper red, yellow, green, black) and pulled out about 20 feet of one of the strands. I connected it to the tip of a 3.5mm phone jack (I only had stereo jacks), and hung it out my upstairs window and tied it down in the backyard to a garden hose-holder (plastic). So it is vertically oriented and fairly "taught" because it is snugly wedged into my window and tied to something in the backyard. I can close the window no problem, the wire is thin enough to pass through. I also connected the "ground" part of the 3.5mm phone jack (the sleeve) to ground earth of a mains plug to see if it will make a difference. I seem to be picking up a few more stations but not a huge number. As before, AM/FM reception is excellent but I'm waiting to see what happens with LW/SW. Perhaps later at night there will be better reception.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2019, 04:07:14 am by edy »
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Offline james_s

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #57 on: December 15, 2019, 04:32:08 am »
You'll probably need a wire 50-100' or longer for best results, and generally they're horizontal, I don't know off hand how much that matters.
 

Offline rdl

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #58 on: December 15, 2019, 06:16:59 am »
If you don't already have one, get a copy of the ARRL Handbook. It's full of info about radio and electronics in general. It doesn't need to be the latest edition, even one 20 years old is still useful. You should be able to find a copy for under $10.
 

Online bd139

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #59 on: December 15, 2019, 11:53:59 am »
Yeah my newest copy of that is 20 years old  :-DD
 

Online edy

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #60 on: December 15, 2019, 05:17:31 pm »
I have no space in my backyard. The depth is about 30 feet max as is the width. I could theoretically put in a diagonal but then have to put up post extensions on the fence and house...that won't happen until the summer (I'm in Toronto). So instead I got about 45-50 foot single piece of solid core copper wire borrowed from a 4-wire telephone line and attached alligator clips to either end. One end I clipped to a curtain on the north end of the house window. Then I pulled it taught almost to the south end of the house and clipped it to my radio antenna. I pressed the ETM button and waited... it pulled in the following this morning 11am:

I used https://www.short-wave.info to try and guess the source...
(note I will come back later and edit this list... I am in a kid playground in a strip plaza at the moment... read below... this kids playground has no reception and even my cell phone is one bar... probably enclosed by sheet metal and corrugated roof... terrible)...


7400 - China Radio Intl? Kunming-Anning (can't make out anything)
9330 - Monticello (eastern tip of Maine)
9395/9455 - WRMI Okeechobee (Florida)
9505 - WHRI Cypress Creek (South Carolina)
9565 - Spanish (Radio y TV Marti - Greenville, North Carolina)
9690 - Spanish (R. Exterior De Espana - Spain) ? Huh?  :-+
9830 - CNR 1 Voice of China (Beijing) *could be interference with 9840*
9840 -  WHRI Cypress Creek (South Carolina)  <-- this one loud and clear
10000 - WWV Colorado Denver (can't make out anything)
11540 - Either France or Moldova (can't make out anything)
11610 - ??? (can't make out anything)
11775 - Caribbean Beacon (Anguilla)
11995 - ???
12030 - R. Exterior De Espana SPAIN again (like 9690) - fairly good reception
15770 - WRMI Okeechobee (Florida) - like 9395/9455

Of the above a few were religious, a couple Spanish. I think they are from southern states (Bible Belt) and some Spanish ones from Florida. Now many of these channels were "staticky" but I could move around the radio and get some slight changes. I didn't have anything grounded and I may try using a 3.5mm jack with this wire rather than clipped to the whip antenna. I expect at night I may get some better reception. Interestingly I drove a bit away from my neighbourhood and now inside some indoor kids playground with only my whip antenna and got different stations?!?! None of them are clear but the ETM decided they were signals worth presetting. And FM reception is pretty bad inside here... only 5 or 6 stations come in clearly whereas at home and outside  I get almost every station (dozens).

Will keep experimenting. I don't want to shell out money for a fancy antenna or some powered gizmo unless I know it will make a difference.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2019, 09:29:00 pm by edy »
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Offline james_s

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #61 on: December 15, 2019, 05:58:03 pm »
You shouldn't have to spend money on gizmos, half the fun of shortwave is experimenting with antennas. Due to propagation your reception is likely to vary widely depending on atmospheric conditions and location. Even under the best of circumstances it will usually be a bit staticky, that's just the nature of shortwave AM radio.
 

Online edy

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #62 on: December 17, 2019, 09:18:43 pm »
Thanks, yes I have seen how some of the fun with the shortwave DXing hobby is playing around with antenna "voodoo" and trying different things!  :-+  I just have to make sure I don't upset the wife too much with wires and coils all over the house, she will not like that.  :-DD

I strung up a 35 foot wire from my upstairs window to the backyard fence. It clips on to my radio. It is oriented at a bit of an angle because the fence is not as high as my upstairs window and I can't put up a pole (fence shared with a number of houses). The previously used vertical wire is still out my window and about 20 feet straight down. I'm trying to compare both my angled 35 foot to the fence and 20 foot vertical.

Still, I'm getting about 20 finds using the auto-scan tune, mostly a few religious stations out of Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida.  I've got one out of Maine, and I believe I also picked up Cuba, and Spain (as mentioned in my previous post). One interesting find is 9570 which I've attached the audio file for. I can't figure out what this is but according to my search is could be coming out of Korea. How is this possible? (Does anyone understand the language in the attached mp3)? :-//

I wish to build a magnetic loop receiver antenna as outlined here:



I will use some refrigeration coil copper tubing (10 feet) bent in a circle for the large loop and the smaller coil (1/5th size) out of thick gauge copper wire (like the grounding wire in electrical cabling). I noticed that most people use a capacitor across the larger loop and it is an AIR DIELECTRIC 2 GANG type. Are other options going to work? For example, what about this:

https://secure.sayal.com/STORE2/View_SHOP.php?SKU=217693

It is CAP TRIM 15-160PF 13MM PCST PL. If I connect 2 of them up in parallel, I can adjust to have 30-320pF range. Why is the air type so popular, or is it because it can handle more voltage for transmitting. If I am only receiving, are there any other cheap variable capacitor options?
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Offline Sal Ammoniac

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #63 on: December 17, 2019, 09:49:25 pm »
Thanks, yes I have seen how some of the fun with the shortwave DXing hobby is playing around with antenna "voodoo" and trying different things!

Just about anything works to some extent. In college I wrapped about five turns of wire around my room up near the ceiling and that picked up lots of SW and MW DX.

Loops are great for MW DXing because you can turn them to null out stations on the same frequency. I've found that this also works on SW, but the effect isn't as pronounced and the nulls are not as deep as they are on MW.

I hate to say this, but you're getting into SWL in its twilight years. Things today are a mere shadow of what they used to be several decades ago. Most of the big powerhouses are gone and what's left is mainly religious crap and second-rate propaganda. It's still fun, though.

Have you tried listening for utility stations on SW? Like SW broadcasting, much of this has gone the way of the dodo, but there's still some interesting stuff around, like commercial air traffic, maritime traffic, military stuff, etc.
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Online bd139

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #64 on: December 17, 2019, 10:52:17 pm »
Air traffic is fun to listen to. I live under Heathrow approach. Also at air shows.

Please listen to China Radio International dramas though. I am in tears of laughter at how bad they are :)
 

Offline Sal Ammoniac

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #65 on: December 17, 2019, 11:22:58 pm »
Air traffic is fun to listen to. I live under Heathrow approach. Also at air shows.

You're probably listening to air traffic on the VHF bands, which is quite different from the air traffic on the HF bands. HF air traffic happens when aircraft are outside the line-of-sight range of VHF comms (like over the middle of the Atlantic or Pacific oceans) and consist mostly of position and altitude reports at infrequent intervals.
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Online edy

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #66 on: December 17, 2019, 11:36:00 pm »
I hate to say this, but you're getting into SWL in its twilight years. Things today are a mere shadow of what they used to be several decades ago. Most of the big powerhouses are gone and what's left is mainly religious crap and second-rate propaganda. It's still fun, though.

Yes, it's unfortunate that there isn't more stuff out there. This is my first SW-capable radio and it was relatively inexpensive so it was a light-weight method to join the hobby without breaking the bank. The wire antennas cost me nothing, and if I can build a magnetic loop antenna for $20-30 in parts from the local hardware store that would still be well under $100 for the entire setup that I hope I'll be able to play around with for years, maybe pick up a few more sources. Not a bad investment. I am still fascinated that I was indeed able to pick up Cuba, Spain and even Korea (mp3 file I uploaded earlier)... although I have my doubts still that I could get a signal from Korea. Cuba I believe, maybe Spain, but Korea? Also I figure during different times of the year (summer/winter) and solar cycles may prove to be interesting differences as well in reception.

I did not want to pay too much and therefore decided not to get something with SSB, but in the future that may provide me with more listening options. Ultimately if I decide to continue venturing on the path to amateur radio licensing, I would eventually equip myself with better gear that would allow many more decoding options. There is also the cheap RTL-SDR dongle to experiment with over the next few years and I can use that with software that will do morse decoding from CW signal, SSB, and more, plug an upconverter like Spyverter or Ham-It-Up that will let me do lower than 24 Mhz frequencies (the limit of the RTL-SDR). That will hopefully also keep me occupied for some time.  The Tecsun SW radio is ultra-portable and fun to take anywhere, so it serves a niche. But if I want to get a little crazier I can start ordering RTL-SDR stuff with the laptop.

I trust that would keep me challenged to learn and interested enough that it would overcome the lack of SW sources out there. Now when it comes to LW, I have had *no luck* finding anything from about 153 – 513 kHz which is the LW range the Tecsun scans through. I don't know why, but there is nothing on LW in my area!!! Why? Same goes with aircraft and boating signals... the radio tops out in the FM frequency range (108 Mhz) and doesn't give me options for anything above that (Google says aircraft start at 118 and higher). Unless there is a "down-converter" of some type, I don't believe I can tune in to any aircraft with this Tecsun radio. I think I'd better pick up the RTL-SDR dongle if I want to pick up any of the other bands, the Tecsun isn't going to do it.
« Last Edit: December 17, 2019, 11:45:28 pm by edy »
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Offline fourfathom

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #67 on: December 18, 2019, 01:13:42 am »
Cuba?  Sure, it all depends on the propagation.  Here is a good website for propagation analysis and prediction: https://www.voacap.com/hf/
 

Offline bob91343

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #68 on: December 18, 2019, 02:05:14 am »
You won't hear much but you can find a lot of signals by using a spectrum analyzer.  They are very sensitive and cover a wide frequency range.

Of course you will just see a display of signals but still it's fun to look around and see what's out there.  A small antenna and I can see the entire AM and FM broadcast bands, for instance.  The WWV signals and the weather channels around 162 MHz are visible.  Repeaters on 2 meters, too.

I can analyze the broadcast signals and see the subcarriers, pilot tones, and other interesting stuff.

And there is no place on earth where a signal couldn't originate and propagate, so Korea isn't a big deal.   With my ham radio, I think the farthest I have contacted is Portugal, long path, perhaps 20,000 miles.
 

Online Bud

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #69 on: December 18, 2019, 02:58:46 am »
I worked the globe FROM MY CAR, the radio was Icom 706 mk iig into a top loaded whip antenna mounted on the trunk.
(@edy: you do not want to get into mobile ham radio  ::) )
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Offline fourfathom

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #70 on: December 18, 2019, 05:21:40 am »
You won't hear much but you can find a lot of signals by using a spectrum analyzer.  They are very sensitive and cover a wide frequency range.
This is one of the nice things about the SDRs like the ones from SDRplay and Funcube.  Most of the programs you use with the SDR will display a spectrum and usually a "waterfall" spectrum plot, over a 2 MHz or wider frequency span.  This makes finding signals easy, and to listen in you just have to click on the display.
 

Online bd139

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #71 on: December 18, 2019, 07:57:36 am »
Air traffic is fun to listen to. I live under Heathrow approach. Also at air shows.

You're probably listening to air traffic on the VHF bands, which is quite different from the air traffic on the HF bands. HF air traffic happens when aircraft are outside the line-of-sight range of VHF comms (like over the middle of the Atlantic or Pacific oceans) and consist mostly of position and altitude reports at infrequent intervals.

Yep that’s exactly it.
 

Online edy

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #72 on: December 18, 2019, 11:21:15 pm »
I am having fun with the radio, every day I scan at different times and make notes of what I can pick up with my wire. Sometimes the wire makes no difference... I clip it on or take it off, I still hear the station! Sometimes I get better reception by grabbing on to the antenna with my hand! When I remove my hand the signal goes to fuzz! Sometimes it will skip a station when it is doing the autoscan memory (ETM), but I will manually go to that frequency and behold I have a signal there (weak but still audible)!!!! I guess now I know the ETM is *not* perfect in finding everything, but it would be a long process of going through every frequency from 2300 to 21950 in 1 khz steps to find stuff!!!

Also I noticed some broadcasts in the high 3000's occasionally at night where people are talking about HAM radio stuff... sometimes I can hear it. And sometimes it sounds like people talking (not a radio show or religious stuff) but I can't make it out. It sounds muffled, like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons. Is that because it is on a side-band?

I want to make a magnetic loop antenna and found this excellent video (further down below). I was going to go out and spend money on copper tubing and air dielectric capacitor, which is beautiful and all, but I think I will start with something much simpler with stuff I have laying around at home! I only need to buy a couple of variable trim caps but the cheaper type which I can hook up in parallel for fine-tuning, like these:

CAP TRIM 15-160PF 13MM PCST PL and CAP TRIM 13-44PF 8MM GRN PCMT. Remember these are for receiving, not transmitting. I know they can't handle high voltages but if I'm using this to receive only then should be ok?





I figure if I hook up a couple of the 15-160pF and the 13-44pF in parallel, at the minimum setting for all 3 I could get down to maybe 13+15+15=43pF. If I add a switch on the parallel branch to the 2 larger trim caps (which I would connect below the 1 smaller one), I could take out the larger caps from circuit and then be left with only my 13-44pF trim in circuit. So I could trim 13-44pF, and then to go higher in range I would flip the switch and have all 3 caps and maximum be 44+160+160=364 pF. So I would be able to range from 13 - 44pF with switch one way, and then continue with 43p - 364pF with switch other way. I hope that is a good enough to cover my 2300-21950 kHz range of the radio. Otherwise I'd have to add another large trim cap and then push the max up to 44+160+160+160=524pF. I can buy the trim caps for about $2-2.50 each so all together about $10 in trim caps unless I can salvage something at home. Something like this? What about the coax? Do I use outer mesh only? See photo below and also video:



As far as loops go, it sounds like most people are using about 10 feet length of wire/tubing so approximate diameter is 10 foot/pi = 3.2 feet or approximately 1 meter wide. Then they make the smaller loop 20 cm diameter (about 1/5 ratio) which hooks up to the mesh and inner conductor of your coax. The video below actually shows them using a coax. I believe they are shorting the mesh/conductor together at different points so it becomes one. This method allows the antenna to be flexible for portability and then you just rig it up to a mount that supports it in a circle when needed. I may build something like that because it is easy to store away.

Any suggestions? The video starts showing these about 16 minute mark... using coax cabling. And then at about 20:30 mark he shows it made of coax for both outer and inner loops, simple, he called it "Cheap as Chips".  :-+



« Last Edit: December 18, 2019, 11:40:24 pm by edy »
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Offline james_s

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #73 on: December 19, 2019, 12:21:56 am »
Does your radio go down into the 200-400kHz range? One of the things I enjoy doing is receiving NDBs, not too interesting to listen to honestly, all they do is broadcast the callsign over and over but fun none the less. The best explanation I've ever seen is that it's a bit like bird watching.
 

Offline velomane

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Re: Any Shortware Radio Tips for a Noob Considering the Hobby?
« Reply #74 on: December 19, 2019, 01:09:08 am »
The days of ATC on HF are pretty much done, especially when you’re as far south as YYZ. Communication and surveillance technology has undergone big changes over the last decade.

To the OP, I have a winradio that I’m willing to part with.
Tellin' pilots where to go since 1994
 


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