Dx'ing    on    a    string    and    a    prayer    :)

Hi there again This page is devoted to my favorite hobby: shortwave radio listening. Only this page is going to have a new twist. In here I am going to show you how you don't need $1000 receivers to hear anything. Yep this is called dx'ng on a very small budget .I think the most I have paid for one of my radios was about 250 bucks and that was the R-390 and some of that was also a delivery charge I threw in or else it would have been a bit less  "WHAAAAAAAATTTT?" You must be kidding me?" you say? How can I do that you ask? Well ,read on and I will show you how to find one, how much you can expect to pay ,and even some antenna information to hear those stations better.

Looking for that first radio
Well this is how you do it. Look in the local papers ,bargain for sale magazines, ham magazines such as QST,73,or Amateur Radio Trader( a bimonthly magazine with for sale\trade ad's) or monthlies in your area ,such as Bargain Mart or others that list  items for sale. Also a good place to ask is if you see a house with a huge antenna array in the backyard don't be scared to knock on the door and ask them if they are into ham radio as these guys probably know better than anyone where you can find a cheap radio to use.

Also there are several shortwave radio specialty shops in the United States and they usually have very knowledgeable staff on hand .But one drawback is their used radio prices are usually higher than those by an individual. Universal Radio in Ohio,Grove in North Carolina and Ham Radio Outlet stores in various regions all come to mind at the moment. Buying from there may mean you also get a limited time warranty on some used equipment and or service for it before you buy it as well.It just depends on the store and what the policies are on selling used equipment.

And of course everyone anywhere near civilization has a local Radio Shack but they may or may not have a complete stock. It's best to pop in and look at what they may have. Best of all is their liberal 30 day money back trial period. Since most of their portables are made by Sangean, and now they also offer radios made by Grundig,the performance can be quite surprising for them.Look in when they have a sale because radios sometimes may be cheaper than ,going elsewhere if that kind of radio is more your style.

Another place to look is if you have Internet access-well you do or you wouldn't be seeing this,, look up ads for shortwave radios for sale.Another spot on the web is the various newsgroups such as alt.hamradio.for sale or something similar to that. It doesn't HAVE to cost an arm and a leg to hear stations on shortwave only some ingenious finagling and experimentation.

Word to the wise

As the hobby has progressed, so have the means to  get into the hobby. One thing that has changed is the appearance over the past  few years of a large number of  Ebay listings for shortwave radios. This is both a good thing and a not so good thing. It's good because there is a market out there for  radios and a willing seller. It's  not good when the seller is selling some 19 dollar radio  from some Chinese manufacturer claiming it will hear the entire world and all you have to do  is  just plug and play.

Check out the  buyers as well as the sellers......if you see a buyer jacking up the price astronomically ,chances are he or she is  very stupid and doesn't know what the radio is worth, thereby artificially  inflating the price... or the seller is  bidding through proxy to increase the price. It can go either way. I myself have bid on a radio before  only to see the price  skyrocket from 40  dollars  to  over 80 dollars the last two minutes of the auction.

The best advice I can give you is to look up  on the listings other similiar radios and see the going price. Then  bid a maximum of what you are willing to pay and not go over that amount.

Now that we got that out of the way you say "Oh yeah? well Mr Know-it -All what radios would YOU recommend for those of us on a budget?" Easy to say . For less than $100 you can find a new radio on sale at Radio Shack called the Grundig S350.While it is limited in some ways in how well it receives it still for a brand new radio in the $100 class is about the best you will find at the moment. On sale for $69 often.


What is it gonna cost and what is out there?
Here is my list on what is good to start out with and these radio's are what we call portables.The list goes in preferential order as in first is what I would get. These are all used rates I have seen lately some may also be found new but will cost more. Not sure how to rate this one as it depends on which year it was made in .But the Sony ICF-SW77 is also a really good radio but hardly found used AT the new price rate it's more than the Sony ICF-2010.New expect to pay upwards of $375 maybe as much as $450 depending on yen vs dollar battles and dealer markup.

Larger sized portables
1.Sony ICF-2010-$250 used or less -350 new-this is commonly referred to as the Rolls Royce of laptop sized portables by various publications. However it doesn't tend to do to well with a large external antenna as the FET gets blown by static charges easily. If you find one new in box I'd be surprised. Used ones are decent  though.
2.Grundig Satellite 700- $400 or so used maybe less but hard to find on used market as these are extremely good radios and no one wants to sell them. :)No longer made.
3.Sangean ATS-803A\Realistic DX440- $100 or less-A very very good radio for the money .Not many memories but overall an outstanding value. I am not lying cause I have owned or do own one or  both of these .No longer made.Note as of March 2008, the prices on these radios has seemed to gone up. Now listed at 150 to 160 used from various retailers.

4.Panasonic RF-B65-seen as low as $120 when found- A bit smaller portable than the 3 above but extremely good performers.  No longer made I think.
5.Sangean ATS-818\818CS\Realistic DX390\DX392- $ 120 or less for 818cs\DX392 as low as $70 for the 818\DX390.The DX392\818CS have a cassette recorder built in. $169 on up new.
6.Sangean ATS-909\Realistic DX398-this is a bit smaller portable that the Sony or Grundig portables but larger than usual.-This radio just came out a couple of years ago so prices haven't dropped that much lately .You can expect to pay around $150 or more for one at the present time. Seen on sale for $199 new at Radio Shack regular price is $249 new


Smaller paperback book sized radios
1.Grundig Yachtboy 400-A small portable -$140 refurbished from dealers. $120 or less used from individuals.
2.Sony icf-7600g-A smaller portable same size as a large paperback book-$130 or so maybe higher used. $169 or so new.
3.Sangean ATS-808A-Note this radio does not have single sideband capability as the others mentioned above do but a very good starter radio.$80 used $129 new. Please note this radio was also available as the Realistic DX380 and is no longer at Radio Shack but can be found for $70 or less used.

4.Panasonic RF-B45- a fair to good radio although the bandwidth is a bit wide -usually under $100 used.
5.Sony ICF-SW33-A pretty good radio although doesn't have complete 150 Khz to 30 Mhz  coverage. Maybe $70 used
6.Grundig Yacht Boy305-Only a good deal if you live somewhere where signals aren't that strong as it overloads real easily-$100 bucks or so used maybe less-Still found new.
7.This one is a tiny radio and really expensive but it is an interesting radio to say the least .The Sony ICF-SW100.New $300 or so used I have no idea but it is in a clamshell design with a flipup display panel and has tons of goodies on it.


Some others to look for in used market but getting harder to find in reasonable shape are the following: Sony ICF-SW6800 series, Sony ICF7600(not the G model), Grundig Yachtboy 500,Grundig Satellite 400 and 500 series, Sony ICF-SW55( this is not such an old radio but no one ever sells them used ),Sony ICF-Sw30,Sangean ATS-606(this is a really tiny radio smaller than a paperback), Panasonic RF4900,Panasonic RF2200 and some other older Panasonic 2 thousand lines. There are tons more of portables out there but this is an idea of what can be found .I left out the junk radios that are more trouble than they are worth and have a high rate of turning people away from shortwave radio listening.


Inbetween tabletop radios and portables

This is an interesting class of radio here. These are larger than most portables and yet a bit smaller than some tabletops. They can also be used on batteries and are for the most part very portable. They are the Lowe HF-150 and the Drake SW-8.

I haven't ever got to play with one of these but they are by all reports a very fine compromise between the two other classes. The Lowe HF-150 is still made and has a ton of goodies available for it including computer control. New it costs upwards of $450 to 500.Used maybe around $300 on up if found which isn't often. The Drake SW-8 is also a fine radio which also has the added bonus of the aeronautical VHF band included and is a bit bigger that the Lowe HF-150.Also a bigger price tag of around $700 or so new -used depending on what year it was made in as there is an improvement after 1996 can be priced anywhere from $375 to 400 on up.

There is also another neat radio that fits in this category. The Phillips\Magnavox D2999 was the original portatop radio. I believe there are a few of these floating around from time to time. They had digital readout frequency display full coverage of shortwave bands as well am\fm.I think they also received Single Sideband signals. What made this interesting is that the front of it looked just like a tabletop radio but had a handle for toting around town. You could set this up on the desk with the handle lowered to make a stand.I also heard these are highly sought after as the sound was too good to be believed.No longer made in several years and the prices for them can range from around $150 to 200 if found at all.You find one snatch it up :)


Tabletop radios
These are a lot larger than all the portables you have seen me talk about so far. Also some of them won't run on batteries and use only 110 volts ac which makes a portable operation a bit hard to do. they are also a whole lot more expensive than those Grundig or Sony portables as well. Best radio in my opinion? Hmmmmmm well there aren't near as many as there are portables but two makers stand out to me as being consistently good manufacturers.

The first would be R. L. Drake The second would be Lowe. the current list of makers isn't all that large because demand for this type of radio isn't near as much as it is for portables. They also COST MORE for one thing. You will not be able to find a brand new Drake R-8b for less than around $1100 and don't even ask how much Japan Radio Company wants for their new JRC545 DSP. I might be able buy one of those in about 20 years.

Some models to look for in this size would be older Drakes, Yaesu's, JRC's, Kenwoods, Icom's,and Lowe's. Also the price of these radios can vary a lot depending on the accessories in or with the radio.With these radios you get a whole lot more operating features than any portable on the market as well as vastly improved performance. My ratings are somewhat skewed here but here goes.

1.Drake R-8\R-8A-$500 for R-8,$700 on up for R-8A model-No longer made but B version is still made and a whole lot more money :)
2.Drake R-7\R-7A-Someone may want to argue about this but performance ratings don't lie and this is what I consider a sleeper of a radio. Very well made and extremely good performance-$700 or so used-No longer made.
3.JRC 535D-$ 800 or so used-A nice radio but audio quality somewhat sucks. Bright side of this story is it will hear damn near anything-No longer made as far as I can tell.
4.Icom R-71A-$600 or so maybe less depending on what modifications it has. Supposedly a very good receiver, I've never seen one in the flesh.

5.Yaesu FRG100-$350 on up .Nice little radio but no keypad only tuning dial and I think a band button to switch between bands.

6.Lowe HF 225 Europa -Hard to find but from what I have heard a very fine radio. New was around $800-900 used I have no idea best guess is $600 on up depending on the accessories with the radio.
7.JRC NRD525- A solid performer but lacking in audio quality -$600 or less
8.Yaesu FRG8800-Not bad but needs some improvements in the receive section from what I have heard-$450 or so
9.Yaesu FRG-7-$200 or lower-Older analog radio also sold by Sears under a different name but this was a very good performer for what it was. wish I had one laying around to play with .

Also of interest is the Kenwood line of radios and these radios are a bit hard to rate or rank as I have never actually played with one in person. The Kenwood line consisted of several receivers starting with tube type rigs and progressing into the solid state type. The tube rigs I have no clue about how well they work or anything, but the solid state line consists of the R-600,R-1000,R-2000 and the still sought after R-5000.I believe based on my experience with a Kenwood TS440 ham transceiver that any of these would probably make a fine addition to the listening post. I didn't rate them due to my total lack of experience with them but I have heard they rank right up among the best.

Kenwood prices can really vary between the models and what came with them. Figure around $500 to 600 for the latest R-5000,with the R-2000 being a very popular radio .$325 or so for the R-2000 if you can find one :)
The older R-1000's and R-600's I have no idea what the going rate for them is

Also look for offerings from AOR such as the AOR 7030 and 3030 series radios. These are also very good radios. The 7030 is the newest radio and will be quite a bit of money but one complaint has been something in the rotary encoder which is what you tune with is all screwed up so look for that problem to maybe show up in a unit you find .

The AOR 3030 however is a radio I think has been very underrated by many .I think it is no longer made but if you can find one on the used market and want a really nice performer with a ton of goodies snag the thing :)This radio came out a few years ago and from what I have heard it has very good sound with an external speaker attached to it.

Some other tabletop radios to look for would be the following: Drake SSR1,Drake SPR4,Icom R-70,JRC's NRD505,Kenwood R300(I never have seen one of these though) Sony ICF6700,Yaesu FRG7000 as well .These are all older discontinued models from the early 80's and late 70's on back but may be found for a lot less money than they were new.

 


Various other Military\Government surplus radio equipment and late 60's early 70's Radios

Also of interest would be the older military\government type radios such as those made by Sunair, Collins, Harris, Racal and Watkins Johnson .These are really exotic radios in their own right and as such parts and manuals may or may not be found and you can bet the parts and service fees to fix will not be cheap. But hey if it was good enough for government work then it oughta be good enough to listen to the Voice of Russia :) Some specific models? Look for Collins 61S1,Harris 599,Racal GM6790 ,and the Sunair GSR900.Look for these at military surplus sales and various surplus outlets and maybe hamfests in the DC area. .There is one in Nebraska that I can't remember the name of,but the area around Washington DC and Northern Virginia is the best place by far to find these boys. Needless to say these radios are gonna cost some bucks in most cases so don't be surprised if they cost more than a Ford Pinto!But, what the hell I bet if you get one you never get rid of it .


TubeType Radios from way back when
You also have the choice of finding an old tube type radio laying around but in these cases you really need to know something about them or else you can lose your money real fast getting them fixed. Some of them may not be up to the standards of today's radios but in their day they were the king of the hill. I happen to like them because to me they sound really good and I like playing around with the old stuff. If nothing else I bet you can find some at a local Goodwill or Thrift shop for a tiny fraction of what they used to cost brand new.

Some models that come to mind are of course the older Drakes such as the R-4 series, and the Drake SW4A .Also of interest is the Hallicrafters S-38 and SX series, the Hammarlund HQ series-such as the HQ180's,the National brand, Heathkit SB series and the SW707 I think is another one of the Heathkits -not sure on model number-and last but not least the Zenith TransOceanic radios. The Zeniths are enjoying a comeback of sorts and so the prices on these radios has literally jumped through the roof lately. Some of these may also require crystals to receive the shortwave band, more so in the Drake R-4 series than any other radios I listed because they were meant as ham band only receivers but man they do the job extremely well for that old of a radio. .

If you find one of these radios you may want to look it over carefully before plugging the thing in as some parts may have aged so can become very dangerous .Especially the power supply capacitors. Since tube type equipment was designed to operate at much higher voltages this could be lethal if not taken care of!

If in doubt have someone experienced take a look at the radio before operating!


Radio Shack Tabletops
Contrary to popular belief I  don't recommend any of the Radio Shack tabletop receivers for one main reason

 

That reason is basically subpar performance. For reasons of quality control most of their tabletop lines have been total flops. They have had Sangean build most of their portable radios and in that department they have had some good ones. However in the tabletop rig department they have fallen in the gutter for the most part. For various reasons money I'm sure being the main one they scrimped on parts and overall circuit design.

The only one I would even suggest to someone would be the DX160 which is a very old mid 70's radio with analog dial. The last time they tried to make a tabletop receiver before now as in the DX302 it came out as a poor example of a shortwave radio. Complete with frequency instability, poor bandwidth quality and some other problems which needed a lot of modifying to finally work half decently.

The newest offering called the DX394 was designed by Imazeki,a company that builds UHF VHF police type scanners, and it shows in the huge filter bandwidth. As in you can hear bout 3 stations at once without trying ,not a good thing at all.What looks like two filters is actually really one filter since the difference between the two is so small . As in maybe an difference of 2 khz at best in some radios. You know it had to have serious flaws when even aftermarket firms such as Kiwa stopped making ssb filters for them. The factory differences in the center ssb frequency was unforgivable. Something about overall radio quality being different from radio to radio bothers me a lot.

The radio is a lot more stable than the previous offerings from RadioShack but the display can be off by quite a bit if you are interested in listening to morse code or digital signals. Add to that the fact that the radio has some serious circuit design problems involving the automatic gain control, dynamic range (how well it handles close strong signals on adjacent frequencies when you are trying to hear a weak station) and some other audio problems as well as a massive overloading problem then it is in real trouble. The DX394 I think has to be seriously modified before it even starts to work halfway right. But gotta admit one thing,It sure looks pretty sitting on the desk but in my opinion that is what it does best is sit . Best used as a paperweight if you can't modify it.

Please note there are numerous sites on how to do these modifications on this model on the Internet but I have no experience myself with the radio in an modified state.I can only go by what I found trying one out that was not modified :)

Bottom line is I think Drake has shortwave radio listening radio in the bag and most of all their radios are extremely well made and perform extremely well .My Drake R-4A is over 30 years old and can still keep up with the newer radios in most cases. I can personally testify on R. L. Drakes reputation. If you have the extra funds to purchase a tabletop radio I would highly recommend R. L. Drake first because even after 30 years they still service my R-4A and have parts available!

There are a bunch more but at the moment my hands and fingers need a break from typing,check back later for more info.


What the BBC World Service on 5975 khz does to the signal meter on my Drake R-4A with a paperclip as an antenna!
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask. I want you to enjoy this hobby as much if not more than I have these past 16 years For any questions please email me .I am on this rinky dink pc just about everyday and will return all emails on this topic without a major delay . Well barring catastrophic computer failure or death I will that is .



Now if you have figured out what kind of radio you want to get  go to this next page to see how to make an antenna to hear what I am hearing .
 http://members.tripod.com/~swlchris/antennapage.html