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Finding Distant Stations

If you haven't already begun your DX listening now is the time to start. In this section we will look at some techniques that can help you to find your first DX station or maybe some new ones. Usually the first ones are fairly easy to catch but as you have logged more and more stations new ones become more challenging. But that's the fun of MW DXing so let's get on with the show.

When to Start Listening

These guidelines apply to AM mediumwave DXers in the Toronto area. But MW being what it is, listeners almost anywhere in Southern Ontario can follow these ideas with good success. Of course the principles apply no matter where you are located.

The hours between sunset and sunrise are the best times for MW DX listening. But you can begin up to 2 hours before sunset and continue to 2 hours after sunrise, especially in the fall and winter months. This 2 hour period represents the grey path because during sunset geographical areas to the east of this path are in darkness while areas to the west are still in sunlight. The opposite pattern occurs at sunrise.

As the sun begins to set stations with certain classes of licenses will be required to either go off the air, reduce their power, or change their transmission pattern. Stations to the west will still have daytime power and pattern thus increasing the likelihood of hearing them. You will often hear stations along the grey path to the north or south of you at the time of sunset. In Southern Ontario you are more likely to hear stations to the south because of the larger number of U.S. stations.

After sunset the noise level on the medium wave band begins to decline and weaker stations can be heard more easily. Other stations may go off the air reducing interference on the band, although more and more stations are operating 24 hours a day. Now let's look at where to listen for those DX stations.

Where to Listen

In the section How to Get Started a table of clear channel stations was provided. Here are some of these stations and a few others that you should be able to receive in this area. Remember, that you may not always be able to hear them all at any time but most nights you should catch a few.

    kHz Call City, Province/State
    670 WMAQ Chicago, IL,
    700 WLW Cincinnati, OH,
    770 WABC New York, NY,
    880 WCBS New York, NY
    940 CBM Montreal, PQ
    1140 WRVA Richmond, VA,
    1170 WWVA Wheeling, WV,
    1190 WOWO Fort Wayne, IN,
    1510 WLAC Nashville, TN

So you're ready to start. The sun has set and you've just turned on the AM rig. You've decided to try for 770 kHz. WABC the 50,000 watt station in The Big Apple, New York. If your radio has a digital readout you simply dial in 770. With an analog radio dial it is a little bit more difficult to be sure you have the right frequency. That's why it helps to know your local stations. In this area you should hear CBL on 740 and as you tune up the dial you might hear 760 WJR Detroit. So 10 kHz. more and you have 770 and WABC.

Hints for Listening

How can you be sure that you have actually received WABC or one of the stations you are trying to DX? The best way is to wait for them to identify the station. Another method is to listen for the program content. WABC is a News/Talk station while WJR is Sports Talk and adult contemporary music. The section Medium Wave Resources provides some sources of information that can help guide your DXing.

Your location will also be a factor in how easy certain stations are to hear. If you are located in Western Ontario, near Windsor, then WJR is so strong that it may very well block your reception of WABC. Even though WJR is on 760 its strong signal can interfere with WABC on 770. In the Toronto area CFRB on 1010 makes it difficult to hear WMVP on 1020 from Chicago. A better receiver and antenna can help to overcome these problems.

Another problem with hearing even a strong station is due to what may be perceived as a weak signal. So you can hear WABC on 770 but it is hard to copy. Maybe conditions are just poor at the time but it can also be something as simple as the orientation of your radio. Most household AM radios have a loop antenna built into the radio case. Loop antennas are directional in nature so by rotating the radio you may be able to improve the reception. AM signals are generally strongest when received broadside to the radio. So turn the radio until you get the strongest signal. Sometimes this simple act can make a huge difference in signal quality.

Now that you have found a few DX stations you might want to take the next step and send in a reception report to ask for their QSL card. In the section Sending Reception Reports we will look at what information stations need from you and how to maximize the possibility of getting a successful response from them.

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

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