24 February 2008

first canadian am station logged

I just logged my first Canadian AM station in this current mediumwave DX project: AM 690 CBU (CBC Radio One) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. CBU uses a 50 kW transmitter, and the station is approximately 800 miles from me. This station was received by my Eton E5 with no external antenna. I previously logged this station during my autumn 2006 mediumwave DX project.

The signal is strong and clear, and currently features a show with an eclectic music selection. For example, a Paul Anka song was followed by "Woman from Tokyo" by Deep Purple. According to www.cbc.ca, this show is "In the key of Charles", hosted by Gregory Charles. At times, he plays a piano and sings along. I like it! I don't think I've ever heard a radio show like this before.

23 February 2008

nimh batteries with reduced self-discharge

I used to be a big user of rechargeable NiMH batteries in my radios. My Eton E5 has more recently been living on alkaline batteries, and they seem to provide a much longer lifespan than the Energizer rechargeables I was using. Also, when traveling, I always packed a spare set of alkaline batteries instead of my battery charger.

Experiencing the poor lifespan of NiMH batteries in my radios led me to take action. First, I obtained a battery charger that was capable of fully charging the 2500 mAh Energizer NiMH batteries that I was using. Second, I researched the self-discharge property of NiMH batteries with the help of reader comments and some Internet searches.

While researching batteries, I learned about a new type of rechargeable NiMH battery that greatly reduced the self-discharge effect. Sanyo's eneloop batteries are one example of this new battery type, and in September 2006, I obtained a 4-pack of 2000 mAh NiMH eneloop batteries for $11.99 plus shipping.

When the batteries arrived, I immediately took them out of the packaging to measure their voltage levels with my volt meter. All of the batteries reported 1.31 volts. What happened next was not intended, but it happened. The batteries wandered around my apartment, unused, for 17 months. Well, they surfaced again, and the alkalines in my E5 just ran out. So I measured the eneloop batteries again (they all reported 1.30 volts today), then put them into my E5. So my Eton E5 is back on rechargeables, and these eneloop batteries only lost 0.01 volts after 17 months.

20 February 2008

wwvh transmitter antenna upgrade

Shortwave transmitter antennas have been upgraded at WWVH, a NIST radio station in Hawaii.
In a seven-year project to adopt a technology used on Navy ships, NIST has installed new antennas encased in fiberglass rather than traditional steel supports, to resist corrosion from the salty ocean air. ... NIST staff believe the project is the first demonstration of high-powered, high-frequency fiberglass antennas on land.
Have any of you heard any changes in WWVH service? I continue to get decent WWVH reception here during the day on 10 mhz and 15 mhz. I'll have to try for 2.5 mhz and 5 mhz at night.

16 February 2008

radio marti recording: 02 february 2008

This is a 30-minute recording of Radio Marti on 13820 khz. According to martinoticias.com's frequency list, this broadcast originated in Greenville, NC.

I heard this broadcast during a shortwave scan, and was surprised to hear a strong Radio Marti signal that was mostly free of a jamming signal. You might hear a faint trace of Cuba's bubble jammer in this recording.

I don't know Spanish, so I can't discuss the program contents. Top-of-the-hour identification can be heard starting at 6 minutes and 40 seconds into the recording. Another notable section is at 25 minutes and 48 seconds when there's an English recording. I'm always amused to hear English used as the backdrop over which a translation is spoken. That part is about Raul Castro's Cuban government.

If you understand Spanish, you're welcome to share your comments about the program contents. And let me know if you encounter any problems with the embedded media player.

12 February 2008

bbc discontinuing shortwave to europe

Bad news for fans of the BBC's shortwave transmissions in Europe, as well as in other locations where the European transmissions could be heard. Quoting bbc.co.uk:
The remaining BBC World Service shortwave transmissions to Europe will close on 18th February 2008.

This change is being made in line with listener trends in radio. Increasing numbers of people around the world are choosing to listen to radio on a range of other platforms including FM, satellite and online, with fewer listening on shortwave.
This news came to me via Google News. More information is provided on bbc.co.uk. I haven't followed this story too carefully, so I don't know whether there are shortwave transmitters that will be repurposed or shut down as a result.

09 February 2008

winter am dx is on

I'm in the early stages of a winter mediumwave (am) DX project. I just confirmed the identification of my 17th station, KOMO 1000 in Seattle, Washington, which is approximately 750 miles away. My Eton E5 is doing the heavy lifting.

07 February 2008

kaito ka11 first look

Gadget-lust caused me to purchase a Kaito KA11 sometime last year. It is redundant in my radio collection, but I wanted it anyway because it is tiny, attractive, and offers good functionality. And Kaito has a reputation for producing high-quality radios. Let's take a look at this little thing:

I paid US$50.90 for the radio, US$9.95 for shipping, and received it from Florida in about one week. Simply opening the product box was enough to elicit shock from me over how small this radio is. The KA11 is smaller but heavier than the WRX911, and features a numeric keypad.

Here are the positive aspects of the KA11:
  • solid, firm enclosure
  • the side-mounted antenna has a hinge all the way at the bottom, so you can pull the entire antenna out and rotate it
  • the orange backlight looks really nice and fills the whole screen
  • the battery door is permanently attached
  • a plastic prop on the end of the hand strap clips into the back of the radio
  • strong local AM and FM signals are received with ease, and FM signals come in fine while the telescopic antenna is stowed within the radio
  • stronger shortwave signals in the 49-meter and 31-meter bands were picked up with just the telescopic antenna

And here are some of my complaints regarding the KA11:
  • pressing a button does not always register
  • moving the telescopic antenna in and out of the radio doesn't feel right, as if it is getting stuck or is about to break. the antenna enclosure is presumably tiny and delicate. the antenna itself is relatively sturdy and quite long.
  • quite a wide filter on AM, which means that strong local stations can be heard on adjacent channels
  • shucks, no protective pouch included!
  • lack of bass response is apparent on FM stations
  • sibilance (whistling, chirping sounds)
  • poor language in the user manual
  • location of the volume dial makes it susceptible to accidental adjustment
  • shortwave reception is limited to 5800-18100 khz
  • the digital thermometer is nice but gratuitous

The speaker's limited frequency response seems well suited to talk radio, where the speaker can adequately handle the typical frequency range of the human voice. The speaker's limitations are very noticeable when used for music.

One of the shortwave signals I picked up with just the telescopic antenna was a weak WWVH signal on 10000 khz around 0150 UTC. If you're going to use this radio for shortwave reception, you're going to need to supplement the telescopic antenna.

A high level of hiss is audible when earphones are plugged in and the volume is all the way down. I wish I had a better understanding of the technical side of this issue. It seems like the space requirements and the cost for improved audio quality is within reach for this type of product.

Before plugging in earphones, turn the volume way down to avoid a surprise and preserve your hearing! The volume output of the heaphones and the tiny speaker do not relate very well.

On the topic of volume control, my personal preference would be to remove the miniscule volume dial and instead provide up/down volume buttons.

This is certainly no DX machine; it is best suited to background listening rather than active listening. This is an attractive, pocket-sized novelty radio with basic capabilities and a cheap internal speaker. Perhaps the small packaging is enough to entice your friends or family members who have radio curiosity or require an ultra-portable receiver.