30 July 2005

my office radio

A couple weeks ago, I wandered into the Palo Alto Frys store to look at their selection of shortwave radios. My expectations of a poor selection and high prices were met. But I saw a nice-looking AM/FM radio, the Sangean WR-1. After researching the features, and taking into consideration that Sangean has a good reputation in the realm of shortwave radios, I ordered it from Universal Radio (the product link in the previous sentence goes to their site). After a few sessions of use, here is my review.

The minimal design and retro-style tuner display caught my eye. When turning on the radio, the selected band and frequency scale look cool lit up. The volume and tuner dials have a nice grip and smooth action.



The volume control is too coarse. In the office, I want to select a low volume, but the volume level changes dramatically with small turns of the dial. This seems like a common issue with music devices, as both the iPod and my factory car stereo have the same problem.

A minor design nit-pick is that the two smaller dials (off/AM/FM, and volume) are too close together. This makes it hard to access the inner portion of the volume control. This is a minor issue because the volume control can be more easily accessed from the top and bottom, and will generally be infrequently used.

Regarding the sound quality, the radio produces too much bass in my opinion, and there are no tone controls to correct this.

FM reception seems very good using the internal antenna. When a station is tuned in, a green LED near the tuning dial will light up. I was able to get very clear signals for nearby broadcasts. I can't comment on AM reception because I've been unable to get AM reception in my office. The radio is indoors and other buildings are in the way, so I am not surprised. Other reviews of this radio point out that the tuning scale is compressed at the low end of the FM spectrum and the high end of the AM spectrum, so take that into consideration if you're considering this product.

Overall, I'm happy with the radio. It has a great look, usable sound, good FM reception, and will be fine for occasional music and news listening. I may bring it home because it would get more use and better AM reception there.

23 July 2005

broadcasts i've received

Using my shortwave radio, I have heard broadcasts from these stations during the past week:

* EWTN (5850 khz @ 0912 UTC) (originating in Alabama)
* Radio China International (13680 khz @ 2326 UTC) (originating in Beijing; relayed from Sackville, NB, Canada)
* Radio Havana Cuba (6000 khz @ 0510 UTC) (originating in Havana)
* Radio Netherlands (6165 khz @ 0400 UTC) (relay from Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles)
* Radio Taiwan (5950 khz @ 0355 UTC) (originating in Taipei; relayed from WYFR, unknown location)
* Radio Thailand (5890 khz @ 0302 UTC) (originating in Bangkok; relayed from Delano, California)
* World Harvest Radio (7465 khz @ 0600 UTC) (originating in Cypress Creek, South Carolina)

The times shown are when I first picked up the broadcast. These broadcasts aren't without problems due to static, fading, and interference.

The Radio Netherlands session was very brief because of poor signal quality. Once I identified the station, I tuned to something else. Curiously, the CIA World Factbook claims that as of 2004, Netherlands Antilles had 0 shortwave stations.

My latest wire antenna placement strategy is to hang the top of the antenna from a clothespin that I scotch-taped to the side of my building (as high up as I can reach).

20 July 2005

shortwave update

I've picked up around 7 - 10 different shortwave signals, but they've all been mostly static. I have only been able to identify a few phrases, and I don't have a clue as to the origin of the broadcasts. In terms of languages, I believe I've heard English, Spanish, and Chinese. My next goal is to learn how to properly hang my wire antenna to improve reception as much as possible. I would also like to determine how much interference might be generated by all of the technology around me.

I've found a few more frequency listings/schedules, so I will refer to that to increase my chances of picking up something useful. The web searches I did tonight suggest that shortwave broadcasting to North America is not a top priority for major broadcasters. This is understandable, due to the proliferation of more convenient and reliable information sources. I'm curious enough to ask some shortwave radio resellers how their North American sales are doing.

Regarding the Kaito 1102 ease-of-use comments I made in an earlier post: I read web pages about using this radio before it arrived, and I also read parts of the manual. Since then, I have not needed the manual as much as others have suggested.

Here is my updated list of annoyances:
* frequencies can change when switching memory pages (which is primarily necessary for switching single sideband tuning on and off)
* automatic scanning isn't available in single sideband mode
* the "on" button is really an "on for 60 minutes" button. the manual explains how to disable this, so i guess i better learn
* i forget what position the dx/local switch is in, and i accidentally scan in local mode. i wish the dx/local state was displayed on the LCD

16 July 2005

shortwave

I ordered a shortwave radio, the Kaito KA1102. It hasn't arrived yet. I've wanted a shortwave receiver for a few years, and initially planned to buy a Grundig Satellit 800. However, I put it off due to the large size of the radio and the high price - $500 seemed like a lot to spend for a new hobby. So I started looking around on Amazon at shortwave radios that were recommended to me by someone, and I read the customer reviews. I found it funny that many of the reviewers wrote comments like, "Compared with the several other shortwave radios I own in this price range, this radio can do blah blah but it lacks blah." Using the Amazon reviews to guide me, I product-jumped among radios around $100, until I settled on the 1102.

Based on google queries I've done, the shortcomings of this radio are:
* inability to receive longwave (although I am fine with ignoring that for now)
* the controls are reportedly confusing, requiring frequent use of the manual

I'm looking forward to hearing what's out there. A way to easily store and retrieve my findings with my computer will hopefully come together shortly. I'd be interested in comments from anyone who has experience or interest in using shortwave receivers.