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Author Topic: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations  (Read 12898 times)

Offline cyberflexx

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Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« on: December 27, 2012, 2121 UTC »
First post here.. Admins, thanks approving my account.

I have been listening off and on to shortwave since about the mid 80s when I was a teenager when my friend showed me his dads radios.  Ever since then, the fascination with CBs, Scanners and Shortwave has hit me and to this day, I still am fascinated in this stuff.  I should just study and get my HAM license to I can actually DX talk to people instead of just listening.

Back in the 90s, my 1st pirate was the Voice of the Purple Pumpkin, I think it was on 7415 and picked it up with my DX392, then during the Y2K scare, I heard Voice of the Pigs Ear and thought those were interesting.  Every year at halloween, i would tune in to try to hear some broadcasts and have failed.  I dont know what I am doing wrong.

I am having trouble with listening to pirates.  I rarely ever hear one and discouraged me from using my radio.  I started trying again with the doomsday garbage, thinking pirates would be really active on that night of the ending of the Myan calendar.  I did not hear anything but maybe some CW in SSB.  I didnt even write that log down as it was just garbage to me.

I know this has probably been asked a blue million times.   But can someone help me with suggestions to my equipment?

Location:  Huntington, WV and yes there are hills in my area and my home is on a slope of one of the hills in a quiet neighborhood.
Radio: Radio Shack DX-392 with BFO
Antenna: Telescopic and also the Radio Shack amplified antenna, and random wire
Time Listening: I normally listen in the evening hours around 10pm until midnight and hours of static is just driving me nuts.
Frequencies: 6.925, 6.955, 6.930, 6.935 SSB

I have been experimenting with random wires off my radio antenna and off the amplified antenna and also from the external jack.  I am not able to run a wire outside the house and normally just run the speakerwire across my room and attach it to the curtain rod.  Still I dont pick up anything at all.  Last night i took 2 dow rods and made a cross and ran wire around it like a squared loop and hung it out on my back deck off of a plant pot holder hook.  the wire attached to it was about 50 or 60 feet long through my dining room and into the living room to the recliner.  The loop was about 7 feet off my deck vertically.  This did prove to give me some gain on my meter of static and when i was tuning other channels, i noticed that my antenna tuner on the external antenna was off by a frequency, i am guessing due to the antenna being in a loop.  I have also tried a slinky and clipping my wire to it when it was stretched out across the room and I still come up blank.  I also check the pirate logs, and there are logs for when I am listening.  For example, the undercover radio log for 12-26-12.  Sometimes when I am listening to hour of static, i think i hear some music but i think its all in my head..

I am wondering if my radio is the problem, but it seems to pick up ham bands and radio cuba havanna just fine.

Would running electric fence wire in my attic and putting a wall jack in that i can just plug into at my recliner location help?  I have 2 spools of that wire available from a friend if you think that would work.

Any help for this old newbie would be great!

Thinking the issue is my radio, I'd be interested in a used R71 if someone had one for sale at a low budget man's price.

Thanks

Offline redhat

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2012, 2146 UTC »
First thing first, check and see if you can hear any of the WWV channels, 2.5, 5, 10, and 15 MHz.  This is a general check of both propagation and receiver/antenna condition.  Even though my inverted V is cut for 40M, I can hear all these signals quite well.  I also go poking around 40 meters, just over 7 MHz. You should hear lots of code, most LSB traffic starts above 7125.  There are also a few broadcasters in the evening that can be heard around 6885-6890.  Good luck.

+-RH

++PS, I ran an attic dipole for a couple of years with good results.  A little noisy perhaps.  It also couldn't hurt to pick up a cheap portable receiver.  That would allow you to go outside and listen for a while.

+++ Welcome aboard!
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Offline Beerus Maximus

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2012, 2209 UTC »
I will make a few bullet points that could be helpful.

* You are in a very good geographic location with regards to hearing pirates at night below 10 MHz. So you do have an advantage, there.

* Park your receiver on 6925 KHz. There is where most activity pops up. Be in the IRC chatroom, or watch the logs here on HFU, to see what other people are hearing in real time. Sometimes there will be other frequencies, but 6925 is where you should start. Activity could be in AM or SSB, so be prepared for both.

* Find and eliminate any egregious sources of RFI in your home. Plasma screen TVs, flourescent lamps, MRI machines, arc welding equipment left on... reducing your noise level will help.

* Antennas... keep it simple. I second Redhat's suggestion that a simple dipole, the largest you can fit (inside our outside) is a really good basic antenna. I only have dipoles here at the Beershack, and they work well! Mine are outside.

* Consider a radio upgrade. The DX-392 is not a bad radio, but is designed for pulling in blockbuster signals. I know that money can be tight, but an upgraded radio could offer you superior sensitivity, selectivity and maybe a useful noise blanker. Current modern ham transceivers (and their related receive-only versions) can have very good noise blankers. If you have a decent computer, consider one of the number of software defined radios (SDR) that have appeared on the market lately. You can get one for $200-$500.

Good luck!
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Offline jFarley

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2012, 2222 UTC »
The advice offered above is solid, and will help you determine if you have a hardware problem which an upgrade might help.

The other piece of advice I would offer would be to read the posted logs religiously.  Chance favors the prepared DXer, and getting a solid feel for what has recently been heard and when and by whom is a powerful tool which can tilt the odds in your favor.

Hang in there and persist!
Joe Farley, Near Chicago
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Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2012, 2233 UTC »
Some very excellent advice has been offered. Checking your setup by listening to SWBC stations will let you know how well things are working. Two stations I frequently use are CFRX 6070 from Toronto, and CHU 7850 from Ottawa. These are around the 43 meter pirate band, and provide a good reference as to how good propagation is. If you cannot receive them well during the daytime (they should be quite strong at your location) then you may want to see if you can improve your setup. They will get weaker once it gets to be dark, and 7850 in particular can fade out overnight when the band goes very long. There is also WBCQ from Maine on 7490 in the evenings.

I'll also second what Beerus said, and suggest either logging onto the IRC chat (see the link at the top of the HFU site pages) or at least following the loggings, as they are posted. With numerous listeners on IRC, most pirates are spotted within minutes, if not seconds, of their going on the air. So you'll immediately know when to listen.
Chris Smolinski
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Offline moof

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2012, 0032 UTC »
What has been said already-you must hunt your house for sources of electronic noise.  Go on the hunt with your handheld unplugging each electronic device.  Try the main breaker box as well shutting everything off one at a time until everything is off if needed.  Find the noise.
Dipole is recommended even if you have to bend each arm around the attic.  Other than that just go longest wire you can comfortably fit.  Bigger tabletop radios usually far outperform handhelds.  You can get a used Drake R8 for 400 tops.
If you get your license, the Icom 718 is hard to beat in price.  600 tops new.  400-500 used.  AM filter is a little wide compared to plain receivers.  If you are lucky you will get one with expanded 40meter band with broadcast down to 6900.  But to do so would be wrong.

Offline thechoat

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2012, 0059 UTC »
Run the longest wire you can fit all the way around your yard in a loop as high as possible and be amazed
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Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2012, 0104 UTC »
Run the longest wire you can fit all the way around your yard in a loop as high as possible and be amazed

Yes, this is often called a sky loop antenna, and they work extremely well. It's what I use. No need to measure and be exact. As TheChoat said, as long and high as you can. Optionally feed with a balun (probably 4:1).

Chris Smolinski
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Offline Pigmeat

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2012, 1331 UTC »
Ask Al Fansome. He was known as "Beeper" in his salad day's in that burg.


Offline cyberflexx

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2012, 1523 UTC »
Last night i pulled in jamba international but it was in alot of static.  I tried the WWV stations the strongest was 5mhz and had alot of static, maybe 2 on the meter. static was up in the 5 range.  I didnt use a long wire this time, just the stock telescopic antenna on the radio and on the little portable antenna tuner.  At some times it was a solid signal and other times it was barely audible.

I didnt hunt for noisy electronics, but i did turn off my lamp and my LCD TV.  I am wondering if the neighbors heatpump is the problem as I had both of mine off.   Almost all the lights were off in the house except a couple downstairs and one in the kitchen.  The washer or dryer wasnt running nor was the dishwasher or bathroom vents.  There is a florescent light in the garage that i leave on, so i'll turn it off tonight.  I can't kick off my main breaker box as the wife would really throw a fit then.. LOL..

I think i will do the attic dipole and feed the coax through the wall to a plate outlet so I can just patch into from there.  I will also make a seperate ground away from the electrical box.  Can anyone suggest a nice kit to buy?  want to make sure I do it right.  seems like all the diy stuff i do lately, doesnt work out for the best. 

oh!  forgot to mention, that I got permission to get that R75 receiver but have to wait until middle of January, when my wife gets her sales bonus.   :)

I am going to do more experimenting, this weekend, around 11pm or later.  Hopefully I can hear more pirate programming..

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2012, 1534 UTC »
I didnt hunt for noisy electronics, but i did turn off my lamp and my LCD TV.  I am wondering if the neighbors heatpump is the problem as I had both of mine off.   Almost all the lights were off in the house except a couple downstairs and one in the kitchen.  The washer or dryer wasnt running nor was the dishwasher or bathroom vents.  There is a florescent light in the garage that i leave on, so i'll turn it off tonight.  I can't kick off my main breaker box as the wife would really throw a fit then.. LOL..

Take a portable SW radio around the house, and hunt for your noise sources. Interference will get stronger as you get closer to the offending device.
Chris Smolinski
Westminster, MD
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Offline Jhkayakr

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2012, 1537 UTC »
The "hours of static" are part of the deal. The ic-r75 will help though. I love mine. Put that antenna as high above the house as possible.
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Offline cyberflexx

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2012, 1556 UTC »
Take a portable SW radio around the house, and hunt for your noise sources. Interference will get stronger as you get closer to the offending device.

OK, thanks.. I'll do that.. does it matter what freq?  or just use 6.925?

I do know there was no static from my lamp, on or off, until i touched it or moved the antenna over top of it.  I would also get alot of static when i would touch the antenna with my hand, I guess I dont make a good antenna. LOL!  ::)

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2012, 1610 UTC »
Take a portable SW radio around the house, and hunt for your noise sources. Interference will get stronger as you get closer to the offending device.

OK, thanks.. I'll do that.. does it matter what freq?  or just use 6.925?

I do know there was no static from my lamp, on or off, until i touched it or moved the antenna over top of it.  I would also get alot of static when i would touch the antenna with my hand, I guess I dont make a good antenna. LOL!  ::)

You can start off by checking for interference on 6925, or other frequencies you listen to.

What type of lamp is it? (Or type of bulb in the lamp?) Incandescent bulbs and other resistive loads are not going to cause interference. The most likely suspects are plug in power supplies that are switchers, as well as electronic devices such as TVs, computers, monitors, etc.
Chris Smolinski
Westminster, MD
eQSLs appreciated! csmolinski@blackcatsystems.com
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Offline cyberflexx

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Re: Help pulling in Pirate radio stations
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2012, 1624 UTC »
You can start off by checking for interference on 6925, or other frequencies you listen to.
What type of lamp is it? (Or type of bulb in the lamp?) Incandescent bulbs and other resistive loads are not going to cause interference. The most likely suspects are plug in power supplies that are switchers, as well as electronic devices such as TVs, computers, monitors, etc.

Its a 60 watt , I think the bulb is one of those energy savers that looks like a coil.  I don't remember.  I'll look when I get home.  I do remember the PC being on, but it was 30 feet away.  All of my arcade machines in the game room were off, those all have switchers in them.  I'll go on the hunt for RFI tonight..