Shortwave Frustration #socs

The radio in question, the CCrane Skywave SSB radio.

When you hear an odd-sounding duck-like voice, use the main tuning dial to tune the signal until it sounds as good as possible, then press the FINE button and tune the main dial in the fine-tuning mode until the voice sounds normal. Well, that what it says to do in the manual, anyway. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten much out of the shortwave band on this radio, duck-like or not.

I had a fairly nice multiband radio that I bought at Radio Shack on New Year’s Day 1993, and was getting pretty good at finding stations with it, with the help of the World Radio & TV Handbook and a whole lot more patience than I seem to have now. Unfortunately, said radio bit the dust later in the decade (apparently the radio didn’t take well to being packed in a suitcase and riding in the bellies of airplanes), and I sort of abandoned world radio listening after that. A couple of years ago, I learned about CCrane, manufacturers of quality radio equipment, and they had a radio that sparked my interest. Unlike my radio from 1993, this one had the ability to tune in single-sideband broadcasts (SSB), which was pretty helpful, not only in picking up stations that broadcast in SSB mode, but in picking up stations with weak signals.

A lot has changed in the world since I first got into world radio, most notably the Internet, and many of the more popular shortwave stations (BBC, Deutsche Welle, the CBC, to name but a few) have abandoned broadcasting over the air and have moved their operations to the World Wide Web. Which is probably just as well, since I haven’t been able to receive anything resembling a radio broadcast, in either AM or SSB mode, on the shortwave band. Even stations like WWV, a time station operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) which broadcasts out of Fort Collins, Colorado, have eluded me.

Still, it’s a nice radio, and I can pick up regular broadcast AM and FM signals with no trouble whatsoever. It’s kind of nostalgic to be listening to a ballgame on the radio with it, that is when there’s a ballgame to listen to. Maybe one night I’ll do some broadcast DX-ing with it and see how far I can pull in stations from. Summer is fast approaching, the prime season for that hobby…


Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you by Linda Hill and this station. Now a word about Lego System building blocks, now made in America by Samsonite for longer-lasting fun!

21 thoughts on “Shortwave Frustration #socs

  1. It’s fun to think back to shopping at Radio Shack! We have several old radios that we use to listen to the local radio stations. It’ll be fun to hear a future post from you on what you discover with your new summer hobby!

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    1. I’ll be sure to blog about any success I get. I had a couple of friends in high school who were into electronics (both of whom eventually became electrical engineers) and they would go there when they needed various electronic doodads (circuit boards, capacitors, resistors etc.). That stuff gradually gave way to more consumer-oriented things like cellphones, particularly after the rise of the Internet as a place to do commerce in things like electronic doodads…

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  2. When I was in high school I became interested in listening to shortwave radio broadcasts. There were certain stations like the propaganda voices coming from Havana and Moscow that I’d tune into a a regular basis. There was only a brief window where I could pick these up in East Tennessee–maybe an hour or so–but they appeared regularly so I could find them easily. It was fun exploring the bands to see what I could find.

    It was a fairly large transistor affair–made by RCA or some major company like that–that picked up AM/FM as well as long wave and short wave. I actually still had that radio up until a few years ago. Even though I couldn’t get it to work anymore I figured that someone with know-how could get it back into working order so I offered it at one of my yard sales for $5. Someone snapped it up pretty quickly. I got another unused thing out of my garage and hopefully someone found good use for it.

    Now I’m thinking that someday I might get another SW radio. I’m betting that a similar radio to what my parents bought me will either cost close to the same amount they paid or maybe even less.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. My grandfather had a tabletop radio like your parents had. Built by Zenith, It must have been made in the ’50’s because it had the Civil Defense marks at 640 and 1240. Anyway it had AM, FM, and 5 or 6 shortwave bands. Gorgeous radio, with a wood case.

      Anyway, the CCranes are pretty good. I have two, one with SSB and one without. Both have air and weather bands in addition to AM, FM, and SW. Ed left a comment with a few ideas on picking up signals better, but like I said, I haven’t had much luck picking up shortwave signals–yet…

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  3. Radio propagation is strongly affected by the sunspot cycle, and we’re literally at the minimum between Cycle 24 and Cycle 25, so shortwave reception is at its worst. Not that there’s nearly as much to hear as there used to be, unless you really like wacky old Brother Stair. 🙂

    I think C.Crane sells a clip-on wire antenna that might help your shortwave reception a bit. Where you are, I would expect Radio Havana to boom in; maybe hunt around between 5-8 MHz. A Chinese station (maybe it’s more than one) is a real powerhouse in that range as well.

    I have fond memories of vacation evenings in the Upper Peninsula, where radio noise is low, listening to all the SW broadcasts in the ’70s. I’ll never forget CBC’s coverage of the annual Canadian cow-chip-throwing contest.

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    1. I’ve managed to get Brother Stair as well as Radio Havana, but haven’t found the Chinese station. I have the clip-on antenna, two in fact; wonder if using both at once might help…

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      1. If you use both, you can configure them to point in a specific direction (make a horizontal V and point it where you want), or attach them in opposite directions as a dipole, which will receive stations broadside to the antenna and null out stations off the ends. Or a vertical V with the radio’s antenna as the high point, for omnidirectional coverage. I can go on and on. 🙂

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  4. I loved my transistor radio and trying to get stations from foreign places. I carried it everywhere I went. I still like listening to the radio and tune to the classic rock stations available in my area.

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  5. I love radio! From my old transistor in the leather case, to my grandmother’s radio that sat atop her refrigerator, to my Dad’s huge world band radio. Always fascinating. I think that’s where I learned the word ‘squelch’.

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  6. There’s something timeless about baseball, especially on the radio. It feels like it’s the same game for Yogi Berra and Nolan Arenado. Having had radios in my youth, it’s sad to drive around in Charlotte and not even be able to pick up local AM stations on my car’s radio dial.

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    1. Baseball has changed a lot since I started listening to it, but you’re right, I put a ballgame on the radio and I’m right back to my childhood, at least as far as that goes. I don’t have to see the game to enjoy it.

      I have trouble picking up AM stations myself. I can find them, but there’s a lot of static. A lot of stations are simulcasting on FM for that reason. A lot of them have cut their AM power to 5000 watts or below to save money.

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      1. I still have memories of how green the grass at my first MLB game, John – and I grew up watching baseball on TV. There’s a magic of being in the stands and listening on the radio.

        Makes sense about the cost-cutting for AM radio. I prefer it, though, in a lot of cases. I love driving at night and picking up random stations from as far away as Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Chicago.

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        1. There’s nothing quite like being at the ballpark. Major or minor league, they take care of the field and it looks absolutely gorgeous wherever you go. One thing you get from being at the game is the sheer size of the field. TV makes everything look pretty small, and even though you see it’s 420 feet to straightaway center field you don’t really get the sense of how that really is…

          It’s pretty easy to get the “clear channel” radio stations at night. WLW (700) in Cincinnati is legendary: you can pick it up about anywhere east of the Rockies. WLS (890), WGN (720), and WBBM (780) are the three major stations out of Chicago. There’s a whole list here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clear-channel_station#List_of_all_clear-channel_stations. It’s fun to see how far you can get…

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  7. I remembering listening to the radio for more than just music. My mom had an old German radio that had AM/ FM but also 2 other channels. The one my brother and I loved was this channel that we could pick up stations in South America, many in The States and even China!

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