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How to Get Started in Mediumwave DXing

Getting started with MW DXing is easy. All you need is an AM radio that receives the broadcast band. Most of these radios receive the range of 530 to 1600 kHz. and can be found in almost every home. You can start with a Walkman, portable stereo system, or clock radio. Even the AM receiver in your home stereo system will do for starters. Eventually as the hobby of MW DX becomes more than a curiosity you might want to spring for a more effective receiver such as the GE Superadio or even a communications receiver. But don't spend your hard earned money just yet. You may be surprised at what you can hear on an inexpensive home radio.

Getting Started

To begin you need to know about the local stations that you receive on a regular basis. Start listening during the daylight hours and identify the frequencies occupied by the locally strong stations. Write these frequencies down and, if you can, identify the stations by call sign and location. Now you have a list of stations that are not DX and you can avoid these when looking for the real DX stations. By the way, some of the daytime stations within the local radius may be replaced by DX stations at night when station power is reduced and propagation conditions change.

When to Listen for DX

The phenomenon of Medium Wave DX will begin to occur around local sunset. Conditions are always better in the fall and winter and gradually tail off in the spring and are at their worse in the summer. But you can DX all year round although beginning from early fall things start to improve.

DX conditions begin as the sun starts to set. Without going into a long explanation, darkness hours are best for DXing as band noise declines and the ionosphere begins to reflect radio signals back to earth. It is primarily this change in the ionosphere that causes MW DX to occur. As a signal is sent out from a station during daylight hours it passes through the ionosphere and escapes the planet. (So maybe the Alpha Centaurians like to listen to the FAN when we can't hear it.) After dark the ionosphere reflects the signal back to earth so it can be received at a further distance. A signal can bounce off the earth and be reflected again from the ionosphere for even greater DX. So under the right conditions you can even receive MW signals from outside of North America.

Where to Listen for DX

If you are just a novice at MW DXing then you'll want to start with the clear channel frequencies. Refer to the section The Medium Wave Band Plan for an explanation of how MW frequencies are allocated in North America.

Here in Southern Ontario are some of the clear channel frequencies where you can catch DX:

    kHz Call City, State
    650 WSM Nashville, TN
    660 WFAN New York, NY,
    670 WMAQ Chicago, IL,
    700 WLW Cincinnati, OH,
    720 WGN Chicago, IL,
    770 WABC New York, NY,
    1110 WBT Charlotte, NC,
    1140 WRVA Richmond, VA,
    1170 WWVA Wheeling, WV,
    1190 WOWO Fort Wayne, IN,
    1540 KXEL Waterloo, IA.

Toronto stations 1010 CFRB and 1050 CHUM are also clear channel stations but logging them is not DXing, especially if you are in the Toronto area. You may not receive all of these clear channel stations as it depends on your location and possible interference from local stations. And even though these are so called clear channels you will not always hear these stations because receiving their signal depends on the reception conditions at the time you are listening.

What to Listen For

Of course everyone has different interests in program content. But what you are doing when listening for DX is a way to identify the stations that you have just heard. This can be relatively easy or next to impossible depending on how clear the signal is and how often the station identifies itself. Some stations identify (ID) themselves frequently with their call sign such as "Radio 720 WGN" while another may ID as "AM 1440 Sports" leaving you wondering who and where they are located. But most stations will give a clear identification at the top of the hour and often on the half-hour also. Some of the references located in the section Medium Wave Resources can help you to identify stations that you hear.

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

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