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Author Topic: How can I get into this hobby?  (Read 880 times)

Offline tovarishPanda

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How can I get into this hobby?
« on: August 15, 2018, 2001 UTC »
Hi, I've recently discovered the existance of "short wave pirates" but I wouldn't really know where to start, what equipment to buy in the specific.

Offline KaySeeks

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Re: How can I get into this hobby?
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2018, 2322 UTC »
Your question is somewhat broad in scope. Perhaps it would help if you were more specific. Exactly what are seeking to do?
Just somebody with a radio, a computer and a pair of headphones...

Offline flexoman61

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Re: How can I get into this hobby?
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2018, 2333 UTC »
SDR receiver and build a folded Dipole antenna.

..or just mess around with the online kiwi SDRs.  Have Fun!
« Last Edit: August 15, 2018, 2341 UTC by flexoman61 »
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Offline ThaDood

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Re: How can I get into this hobby?
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2018, 0329 UTC »
Not knowing how basic you actually are into the shortwave listening hobby, I would start off the way most folks, myself included, started out, with a portable. I didn't have Single Side Band for over 8 years, but heard much on AM mode with a simple $50.00 Radio Shack Realistic DX-40. That covered from 3MHz - 22MHz, so pirates that were broadcasting in AM mode were actually heard on such a simple radio. (Try to find one of those portables today.) That was Around 1981. In 1989, I stepped up to a Sangean ATS-803A portable. That was an earlier digital tuning portable that covers 150kHz to 30MHz, as well as FM band. (I still have that radio!) That radio receives Single Side Band (SSB), mode with what's called a BFO (Beat Frequency Oscillator.) With SSB, the AM's carrier is taken away at the transmitter and you are left with a side band single, either Lower Side Band (LSB), or Upper Side Band (USB). An SSB signal on a regular AM radio sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher, with a male voice garbled. What an SSB receiver does is inject a carrier back into that SSB signal, then you can hear what the station is. I went this basic with you, not knowing where you are at with shortwave at this point. Are you an apartment dweller? Can you put up an outside antenna, like a 60ft longwire antenna? What do you have for equipment, or don't you? Anyway, a decent portable radio is a good place to start and get your feet wet. I did, and so did many others.
From DC to light, I take a huge spectrum bite!

Offline Josh

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Re: How can I get into this hobby?
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2018, 0655 UTC »
If you've a pc/phone thingy and innernets connection you don't really need to buy anything else as many online sdr rigs are made available by kindhearted souls. This means all you have to do is jump in and enjoy. If you were so foolish as to buy a radio and antenna.... you'll shortly find it sucks your soul out of your pocketbook.
Conveniently located near Vincennes Indiana.

Offline Stretchyman

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Re: How can I get into this hobby?
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2018, 0933 UTC »
In short...

Get a receiver to start with and put up a decent antenna.

Then if you want to broadcast, you can get a kit to build or built unit from myself or others!

Receiver wise, get an SDR, cheap one is fine. RSP2PRO is fine from SDRPLAY.

Or as suggested in a previous post, just use online SDR's

Check WEBSDR.org for a start....

Str.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2018, 1124 UTC by Stretchyman »
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Offline tovarishPanda

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Re: How can I get into this hobby?
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2018, 1405 UTC »
Thanks everyone, to answer at your questions, I live in an apartment with access to the roof, and don't have anything apart from some old radios my parents had. Oh and my main goal would be listening.

Offline moof

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Re: How can I get into this hobby?
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2018, 2255 UTC »
So probably you would want a portable you can take up on the roof----like a Tecsun 600-800s series.  If you don't care about it being portable, for close to the same price you can get a PC controlled SDR like one of the SDRPlay boxes.  It would be significantly better.  Then you could hook up a larger chunk of wire or dipole on the roof.  And you have to be prepared for a learning curve.  I swear I would have had some issues figuring everything out on the SDR radio if I didn't have a portable and a big radio sitting there to compare and tweak it.  It would have REALLY pissed me off rather than just irritating me because you do really have to muck around with settings, and if you screw up just a little bit you may hear nothing on HF.
Oh and if those 'old radios' still pick up shit, try running a long chunk of wire up to the roof or around the top of the room.  If it is old like Hallicrafters tube radio old, well you probably will not hear much.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2018, 2258 UTC by moof »

Offline Pigmeat

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Re: How can I get into this hobby?
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2018, 1556 UTC »
My 1935 Philco Art Deco tabletop is probably my best radio for MW DX and isn't a bad performer on the segment of SW it covers. (The thing had just been restored when I picked it up for 25 bucks.) A young couple bought a house down the street from me, the wife decided it, "Didn't fit the decor." she was looking for, so he had to get rid of it. It's a room rattler, nothing like the audio tubes can provide.

However, I wouldn't want to lug it up on any roof. For listening to pirates, one of the portables Moof mentioned will do the job nicely and not put you in the poorhouse.  Get yourself about 60-70 ft. of wire to roll out as an antenna and you're in business. You can decide if you want to spend more money on better radios later on if you decide you like the hobby.

Old radios are for old farts like myself that know how to finesse them and when to bang on them.

Offline Strange Beacons

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Re: How can I get into this hobby?
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2018, 1444 UTC »
As others have already pointed out, you can use your computer to listen to shortwave via a whole slew of Web SDR radios. Here is a handy list of receivers that are located all over the world: http://rx.linkfanel.net/

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: How can I get into this hobby?
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2018, 1502 UTC »
There's a lot of options, driven by your funds and potential antenna situation:

As others noted, you can get started right away by listening to online radios, mostly SDRs. There's dozens (hundreds) of these all around the world.  You can listen without spending any money.

If you want to buy a radio, you have many choices.  You can get a portable radio with a whip antenna. This is the cheapest option, and you don't need to put up an outside antenna. Unfortunately, you will be limited to hearing only a few of the pirates, most of which use relatively low power levels. Depending on your location, you might not even hear any.  You can connect an outside antenna to many portable radios, but you'll possibly suffer from overloading and other problems.

Next up, you can get a tabletop receiver and put up an outside antenna. This is the "best" option in terms of performance. If you live in a rural area and have some land, you're all set. If you live in an apartment, this is likely not even an option. If you live on a small town/city lot, it might be tough to put up an antenna, and you may get a lot of interference from neighbors.

OK, reading down, I see you are in an apartment with "access to the roof". Since you're in an apartment, I suspect it is an urban area. RF noise pollution is likely to be high. You could take a portable up to the roof, but good luck hearing all but the strongest of pirates. If you're in Europe, you might have a fighting chance, as they tend to run much more power than US pirates.
Chris Smolinski
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Offline ThaDood

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Re: How can I get into this hobby?
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2018, 1607 UTC »
Well, here's my argument on why I believe a portable would be a decent 1st choice to start out. It is so versatile, since you can use a portable as a base, mobile, or take it along as a portable. For me? I have table top SW and HF transceivers here, but still use portables. Some portables that I have also feature nice AM / FM specs, as well as shortwave. I would be in a motel falling asleep listening to local stations of where I've traveled too, or listening to the HAM AM'ers talking on 3885kHz. And yes, I've DX'ed pirates in SW, AM, and FM, that way too. Portables are a useful tool to me as well. When I had a spectrum wide BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ driving me crazy here, I used an Eton E10 portable to DF (Direction Find.), where it was coming from. In this case, it was the UV light power supply from the Clear Stream septic system. I cured that with a .1uF capacitor across the DC power terminals and shorted out the noise from radiating. (That's one example here.) One thing about portables, they are fun! Also quick. Another useful feature, when you loose power and wi-fi, can you stream an on-line SDR then? A portable, kick it on and use battery power. Like I said, versatile. That's just my take.   
From DC to light, I take a huge spectrum bite!