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Beyond the Basics

You have copied most of the clear channel stations available in your area. So now you have logged WMAQ, WLW, WSM, WABC, CBM, WBZ and other clears and maybe received a few QSL cards or letters in the process. Now what? The next step could be to start with the regional or local channels, upgrade your medium wave equipment, move over to shortwave listening (SWL) or all of the above.

Beyond The Clears

Logging medium wave stations on the regional or local frequencies can range from ridiculously easy to extremely challenging. See the section The Medium Wave Band Plan to review how these frequencies are allocated. Clear channel frequencies also have many lower power stations that you can log.

This is the time to review once again where your local stations are located. As listening conditions change, and stations switch to nighttime power and antenna patterns, a local station (within a radius of 100 Km.) can sound like distant DX. Even though this station might have been quite clear during the day, its signal may change considerably and even disappear at night.

Using one of the station guides becomes essential as you move to this level of medium wave DX. Knowing what to listen for can be a real help when trying to identify a DX station. Often you will hear two or three or more stations on a frequency and using a directional antenna or a least rotating your receiver may be necessary to receive one of these signals and null the others.

The process of nulling a signal can be important when you are trying to receive another. Say you are trying to receive 1270 WTSN Dove, NH which is generally to the east from the Toronto area. Also on 1270 is WHLD in Niagara Falls, NY which is to the south. A receiver with a built-in loop antenna can be rotated so that its maximum signal reception is to the east. While maximizing your signals to the east you are nulling or minimizing signals from the south. Signals to the west will also be maximized while signals to the north will be nulled.


Figure 1. Nulling a signal.

Coping with Fading

A common characteristic of DX listening is the fading in and out of a station's signal. This can be frustrating when trying to record program content for creating a reception report. Just keep in mind that when a signal fades out it will usually fade back in again. It's just a matter of waiting. Sometimes for a few minutes or less. Other times a fade can be deep and take much longer for the station to return.

One of the positive aspects of fade, is that when one station fades out another may fade in. This gives the opportunity to record two stations. There is of course the possibility of confusing the program content of one for the other. This is where you need to pay attention to the type of program: one may be a talk show and the other C&W music. Also local content, such as commercials for local businesses, the weather, it's unlikely to be 75 degrees in Winnipeg in December, can be helpful indicators of the station you are hearing.

So much of DX listening is technique. But having better equipment can also make a big difference in your listening success.

Upgrading the Equipment

A quality receiver can make a huge difference in separating out the DX stations that you are hearing. If your goal is to stay with medium wave DX then a receiver such as the GE Superadio III is an excellent AM receiver. For well under $100 new you will have a receiver with above average AM sensitivity and a high quality built-in loop antenna as well.

If you plan to also get into shortwave listening then communication receivers such as the Sony ICF 2001, Drake SW8 and R8A, Lowe HF150 are recommended. The author has used a Sony ICF SW-55 with good success for both medium wave and shortwave listening. There are many receivers available in this category with a wide price range to fit most budgets. If you are a budding Ham and plan to get your amateur license then you might consider an HF Ham transceiver. Most transceivers today include wideband receive which includes the medium wave AM band. The author uses his Yaesu FT-990 for really serious DXing, even for the AM broadcast band where international stations have been received.

Most of the communication receivers either require an external antenna or will exhibit improved reception with one. On medium wave an external antenna does not necessarily mean an outdoor antenna. However, an outdoor antenna made of a single wire 15m (50 feet) or longer run between the house and a tree or between trees can be a great help. Connect an insulated lead to one end of the antenna and run it indoors to your receiver. If your receiver doesn't have an external antenna connection just wrap a few loops of the lead in wire around the receiver itself and check the improved signals.

External air-core or ferrite loops can make a big difference in medium wave reception. This is partly due to the gain in signal strength they provide and also because of their directional properties. Commercial antennas from companies such as Kiwa Electronics, Palomar Engineers, or Radio West are in this category. You can also build your own with plans available from the National Radio Club. If you plan on serious DXing one of these antennas is virtually a must.

As a Web surfer you might also do some Web searches for additional articles on DXing. There are numerous sites that contain information that can enhance your listening so log onto some of the sites listed in the section Medium Wave Resources for additional addresses on the Internet to help you in your quest for those DX stations.

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Text 1999 Don Cassel VE3BUC
You can e-mail me at
ve3buc@rac.ca

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