Monday, January 27, 2020

New QSL: Radio Universidad Nacional del Sur, Bahia Blanca, BA 1240

Quite surprisingly, this station was heard off the back lobe of my Asia/Pacific beverage just after I had erected it in late August last year. It took a while to receive a response, but this evening one of the journalists at the station contacted me via Facebook and confirmed my reception. It turned out he has a lot of interest in our hobby since his father is a radio amateur and he used to listen to shortwave radio when he was a kid.

I introduced him to the wonderful world of KiwiSDRs so who knows, maybe we have another DX-er from Argentina!

Bahía Blanca is located in the southern part of Provincia de Buenos Aires, a city of 300.000 inhabitants 14,000 km away from my radios.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Some Reflections on The New Fad – YouTube SDR Comparisons

It looks like everyone wants to be on YouTube these days. Nowadays it’s being used to compare SDRs, and videos are published on SDR related Facebook groups. I’m doubtful if any of what I see really helps the reader/viewer to choose the right SDR. And most often they are using signal levels I would call “armchair listening”.

Worse yet, there is often little or no attempt to describe how they set up the “test”. Are all parameters identical or are they comparing apples and oranges? And very often there are no comments from the authors themselves. One would at least expect a conclusion: Is one better than the other? I suspect the reason is that usually, there is no audible difference.

I have made loads of A-B audio comparisons for my own use, and two things are certain: 
1. Results will vary. There are so many variables at play. SDR A can be better than SDR B on frequency X, but worse on frequency Y. 
2. Audio is subjective. It’s because ears are different and the decoding brains are different. If you ask 10 people which is better, A or B, they will split. And one tends to favour the audio flavour from the SDR software one uses the most. My opinion is that Jaguar for Perseus in most (but not all) cases has better readability than SDRUno, HDSDR and SDR Console. But a long-time SDRUno user may  not agree. And when DX signals are 100 % readable it really doesn’t matter which software you use, because what the DX-er is after is the ID. It may be different for a program listener (aka SWL).

If one really wants to try to measure the difference between SDRs, why not set up a test using digital modes, like DRM, WSPR or FT-8? Then you would at least have objective criteria to judge from.

I am sure they are having great fun when they set up these tests and do so with good intentions. Alas, they bring nothing new into the equation. Let the lab tests rule.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The SDRPlay RSPdx: Usable for MW DX-ing?

I have had the opportunity to play with the new RSPdx from SDRPlay for a few weeks now. It seems to have been well received among SDRPlay customers. They have introduced "HDR" mode, a specially designed mode for operations below 2 MHz. So, how does it perform? I have tested it with weak signals in the Arctic, and with high signal levels further south. My impressions can be read here.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

QSL: SBS PopDesi, Launceston TAS 1611

When I heard Indian pop music on 1611 last September I really didn't know what to believe. The announcement "This is SBS Pop Desi" also let me bewildered, but at least I understood that it was very likely an Australian narrowband station. There was no reference to any MW frequency on their home page. And knowing how confusing and changing (and apparently poorly regulated) the Australian x-band is, I decided to let it rest.

Until a few weeks ago when I saw information that SBS PopDesi was transmitting over one of the former Rete Italia stations in Tasmania. As it were, the station was listed both in MWList and as using the Launceston transmitter. The other TAS stations from Rete Italia on 1611, Hobart and Devonport, were closed. Since I was lacking Tasmania in my Aussie log and QSL listing, I decided to send off a report to the station. After a few days, I received a confirmation via Facebook.

"The Outback" is a term defining the remote interior of Australia, and quite possibly one might associate the term with being lax in regulation, laid-back and easy to get lost. I'd call the x-band, or narrowband, the Outback of Australian radio. Stations are apparently changing hands, changing names, closing and opening at a rapid pace. Stations have several transmitters on each frequency (so, which one did you hear?). And the transmitters are offset to their nominal frequencies to an extent I'd assume no in-band station would ever be allowed to be. The band seems to live a life on its own. So, I have more or less given up that segment of the MW band.

But come on! It's Tasmania! A new state for me! And 400 watts travelling 15318 km isn't bad.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

QSL: CFBV Smithers BC 870 - The Moose

Friday the 13th was my lucky radio day, when 1000-watt CFBV had a stable, although weak, signal for a few hours. A decent "The Moose" liner was heard and recorded. The same morning, CFLD Burns Lake 760 was heard with the same programming, though a bit more noised-down.

A friendly response with the request to test my online SDRs came today.

CFLD and CFBV is kind of a special couple for me, and the reason I sent off a report. In 1985, I heard CFLD, then on 1400. As today, they were running together with CFBV, then on 1230, as "BV-LD Radio". I got a QSL from CFLD at the time. So, with today's response I have them both. Thanks Ole Forr for v/s info.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

QSL: Voice of Maldives / Dhivehiraajjeyge adu, Thilafushi 1449

This station was not quite uncommon in the beginning of the century. I heard it a few times at their sign-on which I believe was at 00:25Z. The past couple of years however, they haven't had a MW service for their total area of 90,000 km². Thanks to funding from Japan, a 25-kW transmitter was recently put in service from the island of Thilafushi.

I noted the news about the new transmitter, so I decided to try to catch it. Last night at 01:00 with the 80-degrees beverage I didn't need more than one try. Although interference from BBC and Saudi Arabia, the National Anthem  came out very well, together with a rather weak announcement. The distance is 8031 km.

A Facebook message with a recording of the station ended up with a long chat with one of the producers at the station. Part of the antenna mast is seen below. Thilafushi, 7 km from Male is an artificial island built on coral reefs to dump municipal waste.  Thilafushi is rapidly developing as an industrial island and a new location for warehouses.

(Sources: MediumWave.Info, Sarath Weerakoon, Raazy Ali)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

QSL: KGMI Bellingham WA 790

KGMI is a station I wanted to catch, literally for decades. In mid-November, for once the dominant KCAM-AK was weak, and KGMI had a fair signal along with stronger KGHL-MT. Friendly email response last night.
The reception was just after KJRB Spokane's new very low night power (30 watts) had come into effect. This surely helped too, since KJRB used to be quite dominant during conditions like this.

Friday, November 15, 2019

More Options for the Arctic Norway KiwiSDRs

A KiwiSDR, first named KongSDR, later ArcticSDR, has been operative for the past few years using a variety of antennas. In anticipation of a new fiber connection, to replace the very expensive 4G connection, I bought another Kiwi a few months ago. From early autumn, the ArcticSDR has been connected to an antenna pointing towards Far East Asia and the Pacific. The back lobe should work well towards western Europe and South America. Another one, the KongSDR (reborn!) has been connected to a North America beverage, but not announced publicly to avoid too much usage of the 4G line.

Last week however, fiber was installed, and today I finally got time to reconfigure my KiwiSDRs so that both are public. See links to the right. So! I hope that I can wave goodbye to the somewhat flimsy 4G.

The new connection not only helps the Kiwis, but the main gear too, comprising PCs, SDRs and other equipment for three DX-ers in Kongsfjord. A total of 14 devices are connected to the fiber via ethernet. And although I haven't chosen top speed (yet), the current 50/50 connection seems to work well.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

KONG39 Day Nine (October 26)

Note to self: Never underestimate the power of the ionosphere, even during stormy conditions!

The 340-degrees beverage performs admirably, it is extremely quiet and sensitive, and is able to pick up exceptionally weak signals. During the night, we had a couple of spot openings towards California/Arizona/Nevada, with some excellent stations noted, such as: KWWN Las Vegas NV 1100, KINO Winslow AZ 1230, KVMI Tulare CA 1270, KFIV Modesto CA 1360 and KNIM Maryville MO 1580. Most of them during a five-minute opening. Carriers were barely visible on the waterfall.

Later in the day we went to Mount Loran to dismantle the 1000-metre beverage and the rest of the equipment there. Sweaty, we spent an hour in the Guesthouse sauna before we had fried saithe fillets for dinner, and assorted cheese + chocolate cake with custard for dessert.

Sunday morning is departure day for Ole and OJ. I will spend a few more hours, to empty the summer water supply and prepare the house for the coming winter.

A bit windy on Mount Loran, otherwise quite nice weather, hovering around the 0 Celsius mark.

We hope you have enjoyed our reports! Next year, same place! "Thanks for listening" from Ole Forr, OJ Sagdahl and Bjarne Mjelde.

KONG39 Day Eight (October 25)

Not much to report!

Varying, but mostly weak signals from North America overnight, and Asian signals were weak even into the evening. Recordings from previous days kept us busy! Lots of interesting stations to find. The overnight waterfall says it all. 

So! Dinner time! For starters we had Västerbotten pie with Kalix löyrom (roe from a small fish, lagesild) and a Schwedhelm white wine. The main course was a leg of lamb, baked for 8 hours at 75 degrees Celsius. Served with a paste of root vegetables and sauce. A Californian Vine Starr Zinfandel from 2017 went very well with the lamb. We were going to have assorted cheese for dessert, but it was just too much!

Today is the last full KONG39 day, and we will dismantle the Mount Loran site before it gets dark. Maybe some pictures coming up.

Windy in the evening. Temperatures just above freezing and not much snow but icy roads. We're hoping for decent weather (and better prepared roads) when we collect our Mount Loran gear.