Shortwave DXing

Published: January 18, 2016
Tags: dx r9012 shortwave tecsun radio

Recently I decided I'd like to try my hand at shortwave DXing - receiving and, hopefully, identifying shortwave radio broadcasts from distant lands which have propagated very long distances by bouncing off the ionosphere. I have fond memories of listening to our shortwave radio as a child; I don't think I had any interest or even awareness of the geopolitical aspects of shortwave listening, I just really enjoyed all the weird and wonderful science-fictiony sounds that you could find in between stations.

To dip my toe in without risking a lot of wasted money if I quickly got bored of the hobby, I purchased the Tecsun R9012 off eBay. Tecsun seems to be the preferred brand of the "ultralight DXing" community (DXing using small, portable and affordable radios instead of big, heavy, professional grade desktop receivers), and the R9012 seems to be their current "top end of the bottom end" (Tecsun produce a baffling array of radios - I found this guide useful for getting my bearings). If I really get into this, my planned upgrade route is to first get the Tecsun PL-380 and then, if I'm still not sated, the PL-880, which as far as I can tell is their current top of the line.

Radio propagation is best at night, and I took the R9012 out on my deck both evenings this past weekend. Everything I've found so far has been quite faint and with quite a bit of static. Apparently this may be, at least in part, due to interference from household electronic appliances (I live in a block of four units, so I'm in close proximity to quite a lot of these). Fortunately, I happen to live right next door to an almost 200m high dormant volcanic cone with easy pedestrian access. Between the elevation and the fact that I'll be some distance from anybody's home I imagine the DXing prospects up there at night might be quite impressive, and I'm keen to try this out when I get a chance.

Despite the sub-par reception on my deck, I have already identified with confidence WWVH, a US NIST time signal broadcast from Hawaii (just over 7,000km away!), and I suspect but can't be completely sure that I've also picked up Radio France Internationale and the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I'm looking forward to seeing what else I can find as I get used to the radio and get more experience identifying stations. There's a lot of interesting SW content in Asia which I figure should be an easy catch for me, including a Japanese government broadcast aimed at abducted Japanese citizens held in North Korea, and China's "Firedrake" jamming signal, which drowns out Radio Free Asia and similar stations with an hour-long loop of folk music. And, of course, I'd just love to catch a numbers station.

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