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Author Topic: Suggestions for Equipment  (Read 6644 times)

Offline The Insomniac

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Suggestions for Equipment
« on: October 09, 2013, 0359 UTC »
I am new to the world of shortwave and pirate radio. I have a Kaito KA321 world radio which works pretty well. I can hear some pirates (I had really great reception of Dr. Benway of Undercover Radio on Sunday). However, it's pretty impossible for me to clearly hear most pirates. I have explored most areas of my house with it and I have now scrolled between the 6.85-7.0 MHz range half a million times. I just hear about 5-7 stations at once. Does anyone have suggestions for equipment, preferably cheap? Alternatively, is there any way to solve this without new equipment? Thanks in advance.

Nella F.

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2013, 2124 UTC »
You don't indicate where you're located. I live in the N.W. corner of the U. S. My "catches" are rare & consistently predictable. As in a handful of "the usual suspects". The further East one lives the more one hears, as far as pirates go. Take a little time & look where the posters are located. East coast usually, & so. east,  & Chicago. (Did I cover ya'll?) Also, you don't mention your antenna system. Setting aside propagation conditions, outside & as high as possible will yield best results. I'm sure others will chime in. Welcome aboard. Oopps...! I Just googled your radio. You need a radio with ssb capabilities. Most pirates broadcast in usb. I'll let others fill in the details.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2013, 2128 UTC by Nella F. »

Offline The Insomniac

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2013, 2136 UTC »
In case anyone needs to know, I'm in Northern Alabama.

Offline jFarley

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2013, 0010 UTC »
Insomniac;

Being in N Alabama, your location should give you an opportunity to hear a good percentage of current pirate activity.  However, Nella is correct; the lack of SSB detection on the Kaito is going to seriously hamper your ability to understand many, if not most, of these shows.  The Kaito is a basic inexpensive receiver, and lacks many of the features which will help you to hear pirates in a very crowded and congested 43 meter band.

Hang in there.  Last night alone there were 3 to 4 pirates operating in AM mode which you had a shot at in your location.  Being in the right place at the right time is a must; it would be good to keep an eye on the postings in the Shortwave Pirates forum, and see if you can hear anything which is posted there.

Just give it some time, and with a log or two you will get a feel for what is being heard, and where in the USA it is being heard.

BTW, congrats on the Benway log!
Joe Farley, Near Chicago
SDR-IQ / R8 / R7
Remote Resonant Loops for HF and LF / ALA 1530
Active 60" Whip / PA0RDT
QSLS appreciated to:    jfarley44@att.net

Offline Mentholyptus

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2013, 0359 UTC »
Another thing about SSB is that it carries a lot farther & increases your odds of picking up even more pirates etc. Even if you alligator clip a long piece of wire to your whip antenna, it will make a big difference. If it's outside, better still. Listen after 0000 UTC between 6920-6975 kHz. There's several other SWLers here on HFU living in Alabama who post regularly, and they get great results.
The Kaito is nice for a portable to carry around, but there's tons of great used radios out there looking for a home, and you should be able to pick up a very nice base station shortwave with SSB for next to nothing, easily under $100. I recently picked up an old Kenwood R1000 in great shape for $159. One thing I've found out the hard way is that the radio you really want is not as expensive as you may think, and that's the radio you'll wind up with in the end... after you spend a load of money on other radios in the meantime! Also check the reviews on  www.eham.net  for any radios you're considering
« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 0428 UTC by Mentholyptus »
Location: Ligonier Pennsylvania area
Primary radio: Icom R75
Secondary radios: Kenwood R1000, Icom R9000
Thirdary radio: Tecsun 880 Portable
Antennas: Par EF-SWL -- 25 ft horizontal longwire
=====> Please eQSL to:  pm121152@gmail.com  <=====

Offline The Insomniac

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2013, 2358 UTC »
So I guess upgrading to a higher quality radio will pretty much solve my problem of interference. I have tried tuning into stations that were broadcasting in AM mode and had pretty much the same results, though I think I may have heard a bit of Radio Casablanca several minutes ago. Should I try and see if wrapping electrical wire around my antenna will do anything?

Offline RCCI

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2013, 0047 UTC »
I too echo with Mentholyptus. I also have a Kenwood 1000, and it is SIMPLE to operate. Ebay usualy have a few for sale at any given time. One you get it, (or any other good quality tabletop) get a simple 25" (minimum length) wire antenna (or just a wire), and try and qet it outside. If that's not possible, string it up along the ceiling, or near a window. Don't forget the ground wire! I use a simple, covered "bell wire" which goes from the radio to a COLD water pipe. (Note: NEVER attach a ground wire to a gas or hot water pipe)

Less effective, but usable, if a grounding rod or cold water pipe is not near you is to just run the wire on top of of the earth. It still makes a difference though.

The ground is very important. Without a ground, (from the radio) I had a S7 (high) constant noise floor. Once the ground was attached the noise floor dropped to a S3 to S4. It made quite a difference in spurious noise and you can pick put weaker stations, including pirates, out of the weeds.That's about it. Radio, antenna, ground wire. The whole process takes about 30 -40 minutes to set up, (depending on your surroundings) Add ons like a pre-selector, antenna tuner, etc., can come later. Aiming for simple right now is best.  Some receivers to consider: Kenwood R-1000, or R-2000, Yaesu 7700, 8800, Panasonic RF-4900, Radio Shack DX-302. All have SSB capabilities. The Radio Shack RS DX-394 while highly popular, is OK but it has to be modified for optimum performance due to it's plastic case and other problematic features, (the RS-DX-394 B is a bit better than the model A).

Check with eham (Mentholyptus has a link in her post), on the left it will have a link, Reviews, click and go to:  "General Receivers" (there's over 400 reviews) for an idea--try and get one with a higher rating. Read the reviews, there are no punches pulled here---the owners tell it like it is!  The above listed radios have digital readouts which you may like and may be easier for you to use.

Also.... Don't forget to get a good set of headphones. Then you're cooking!

Good Luck!  RCCI - ...Steve
« Last Edit: October 14, 2013, 0049 UTC by RCCI »
+ Equipment: Yaesu FRG 100B, Kenwood R-1000, Yaesu FRG7,
+ Antenna: 75' dipole, height 21', running north and south.  Chicagoland area.
 *** QSLs welcomed at: gangwise1997@yahoo.com   Thanks!   ...Steve

Offline Mentholyptus

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2013, 0308 UTC »
You probably picked up Radio Casablanca better than I did tonight on my Icom R75!! Propagation is pretty dismal here tonight... even WWV isn't coming in! I did manage to pick out enough for a QSL though.
As far as interference goes, it depends on what kind. Those new "curly" CFL bulbs, wall warts, plasma TV sets, computers, fluorescent lights etc etc can all be a problem. There's 2 streetlights within a few hundred feet of my house, and when the bulbs in them start going bad, they give off tons of blaring loud intermittent RFI! Luckily my local electric company has a Defective Streetlight Report section on their website, so I can report them, and they're fixed within a few days. There's also the type of interference from 2 stations broadcasting too near (or on top of!) each other. Not much can be done about that though. Radios with a metal case do help shield out a lot of noise.
If you live in a metal frame building instead of a wooden one, that can be a problem also. Radio waves will have a hard time getting indoors. That's the "Faraday Cage" effect. In that case, you'll almost certainly have to sneak a wire outdoors through the storm window, etc and run it along the outside somehow.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2013, 1014 UTC by Mentholyptus »
Location: Ligonier Pennsylvania area
Primary radio: Icom R75
Secondary radios: Kenwood R1000, Icom R9000
Thirdary radio: Tecsun 880 Portable
Antennas: Par EF-SWL -- 25 ft horizontal longwire
=====> Please eQSL to:  pm121152@gmail.com  <=====

Offline The Insomniac

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2013, 2156 UTC »
After looking through the eham review, I have been thinking about the Kaito KA1103. Would anyone here recommend it? Or any other brand of radio?

Offline RCCI

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2013, 0015 UTC »
I have the Kaito KA1103- great radio; Works even better with the 25" longwire it comes with. If you get a Powerful signal, switch from DX to Local in controls. especially for SSB. SSB tends to get a little tricky, using the clarifier (fine tune). The narrow / wide filter actually works well...  Rarely drifts. When using the AC adapter, there is a light switch you can leave ON, with no interference. Sweet... Also...the buttons are pretty close set together...more than once I i was unable to tune until I saw I had accidentially hit the KEYLOCK button. Press it for about 2-3 seconds to turn off.  ///  

Pricewise.... Shop Around... no need to pay the list price of $119.00 Important: get the Kaito new...comes w/ rechargable batteries, AC adapter, a carrying bag case- (think Royal Crown purple bag ;D) and 25" antenna. The instruction / operating manual while small and suitable for people like me with myopia, is well stated and layed out. As they say, "It really is a "must read".

BTW The controller for the volume is a bit maddening as it's a 2 step process, (it's preset level is #40 and you have to quickly drop it to #9 to #12 so you won't jump out of your skin. Also, don't forget earphones  or earbuds. It does make a difference!

Bought mine new from Ebay for I think $89.00 for the whole shebang! You will pay more from an online Ham / Shortwave business, i.e. Universal Shortwave, etc. Amazon also sells new. Wish I had one of these in my youth... It's tried and true. You'll enjoy it!

Good Luck!   ...Steve / RCCI
« Last Edit: November 01, 2013, 2355 UTC by RCCI »
+ Equipment: Yaesu FRG 100B, Kenwood R-1000, Yaesu FRG7,
+ Antenna: 75' dipole, height 21', running north and south.  Chicagoland area.
 *** QSLs welcomed at: gangwise1997@yahoo.com   Thanks!   ...Steve

Offline Mentholyptus

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2013, 0124 UTC »
I have a Tecsun 660 portable and I really like it a lot. Works great on SW, has a BFO. I pick up loads of pirates in the yard with it! FM sounds great too! (In stereo w headphones). AM MW broadcast band is OK though. Has 118-137 MHz aircraft band also. Digital tuning. Comes with everything you need... Rechargeable batteries, nice carrying pouch, 20' clippable longwire antenna on a spool, earbuds, wall charger. Got mine from eBay, from the Kaito distributor. I've had it for a year and it still works great, no problems.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2013, 0127 UTC by Mentholyptus »
Location: Ligonier Pennsylvania area
Primary radio: Icom R75
Secondary radios: Kenwood R1000, Icom R9000
Thirdary radio: Tecsun 880 Portable
Antennas: Par EF-SWL -- 25 ft horizontal longwire
=====> Please eQSL to:  pm121152@gmail.com  <=====

Offline RCCI

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2013, 0133 UTC »
I also agree with Mentholyptus the Tecsun 660 is also a a great portable as well! Also, if you can find a Sangean 803A or Radio Shack DX-440 (same model as Sangean) in good shape, (I have one that I used for years, but it's a bit burnt out now, just never had the heart to pitch it) might also be a way to go.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2013, 0142 UTC by RCCI »
+ Equipment: Yaesu FRG 100B, Kenwood R-1000, Yaesu FRG7,
+ Antenna: 75' dipole, height 21', running north and south.  Chicagoland area.
 *** QSLs welcomed at: gangwise1997@yahoo.com   Thanks!   ...Steve

Offline Mentholyptus

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2013, 0209 UTC »
Ultimately though, as good as some portables may be, and they have their place, you'll still be better off in the long term with a decent base station radio. A used one in nice shape isn't all that much more than a portable. Even something like a Kenwood R600 (see pic) can be had off of eBay or from the ham classifieds for less than the cost of a good new portable.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2013, 0259 UTC by Mentholyptus »
Location: Ligonier Pennsylvania area
Primary radio: Icom R75
Secondary radios: Kenwood R1000, Icom R9000
Thirdary radio: Tecsun 880 Portable
Antennas: Par EF-SWL -- 25 ft horizontal longwire
=====> Please eQSL to:  pm121152@gmail.com  <=====

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2013, 1048 UTC »
Ultimately though, as good as some portables may be, and they have their place, you'll still be better off in the long term with a decent base station radio. A used one in nice shape isn't all that much more than a portable. Even something like a Kenwood R600 (see pic) can be had off of eBay or from the ham classifieds for less than the cost of a good new portable.

I completely agree with this. A decent used communications receiver will likely outperform almost any portable. They also tend to behave better with outside antennas. And an outside antenna is almost mandatory if you want to be able to pick up anything but the strongest pirates.
Chris Smolinski
Westminster, MD
eQSLs appreciated! csmolinski@blackcatsystems.com
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Offline gps29070

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Re: Suggestions for Equipment
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2013, 0117 UTC »
I own both a DE1103 and Tescun 660.  If your main interest is listening to pirates, hams, and digital transmissions, I would go with the 660 because it has separate USB/LSB while the DE1103 has dual USB (meaning it picks up both LSB and USB at the same time). Thus the De1103 will introduce more noise and potential more interference then the 660 will.

However, if you also have a interest in AM dxing, the De1103 destroys the 660 in that category and you can use a build in mod to use a longwire for AM/Longwave reception. FM reception wise, the 660 is a beast, then throw in the included air band (which I don't use, I prefer a police scanner for that)

Another disadvantage of the 660 is the stand. Even if you are using the stand, the antenna of the 660 doesn't stick straight vertically in the air. This does matter if you are using the 660 near a wall.

Last note, the De1103 has some weird quirks, like adjusting the volume (no separate volume button).  De1103 is cheaper.

One other alternative if you want to use a brick and mortar store is the Radio Shack World Receiver which is on sale for 69 bucks now and does SSB. It is a new run of Sangean's ATS-505 receiver.