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aostling
05-24-2009, 04:39 PM
In the 1980s, before the internet, I wanted to listen to shortwave broadcasts from New Zealand and Europe. I went through three or four radios, always those that were recommended by Passport Guide to World Band Radio.

But living in western North America I rarely succeeded in getting good reception. The further north I was, the harder it was to get European stations.

Although the internet has largely rendered SWL obsolete, I still sometimes get the urge to have a portable which I can just switch on, to search for some clear voice or music from far, far away. I don't want to listen to drunken hams.

What's the best shortwave portable for less than $300? Has there been any major improvement in active antenna design?

Evan
05-24-2009, 04:53 PM
There is a problem with modern radio designs. They used synthesized oscillators and microprocessor control along with "radio on a chip" digital circuitry. While this makes them very agile and provides a lot of nice features it also makes them a lot less sensitive than the old superheterodyne double conversion receivers using discrete components.

The problem is all the spurious noise from the unavoidable RF generated by the digital logic. This produces "quieting" of the first stage preamp agc. It just isn't possible with any of the designs I have used and own to match the performance of the old designs. I currently have four wide band radios, two portable and two fixed base. The oldest is a Hallicrafters S-40A vacuum tube set circa 1955 that still works. While it has terrible image rejection it is also by far the most sensitive of the lot even compared to my Yaesu FRG 7700 which is an entirely digital radio.

I haven't looked to see what is on the market in recent years but if there is anybody still making a non-digital set that is what I would recommend.

dp
05-24-2009, 05:01 PM
I agree completely with Evan - the digital and synthesized systems are noisey and require an excellent external antenna. After all these years it's still pretty hard to beat the old Collins 51S-1 receivers. It's also hard to overcome the sticker shock on 40 year old technology.

topct
05-24-2009, 05:30 PM
http://www.ccrane.com/

Lots of portable radios. And antennas.

Quetico Bob
05-24-2009, 06:05 PM
I agree with the above as well, there are many older SW sets at very reasonable prices. As for the antenna and for what you need, stick with a home brew dipole. Heres a good start.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dipole_antenna

And by the way, a majority of us are not that way. :)

Cheers, VA3 BBY

aostling
05-24-2009, 06:09 PM
And by the way, a majority of us are not that way. :)
Cheers, VA3 BBY

No offense intended. Perhaps I should have just said that SSB is not a priority.

Quetico Bob
05-24-2009, 06:26 PM
None taken Buddy, I have very big shoulders. And it is always the way, a few spoil it for the many. Although not neccesary, I take my hat off to you for the reply.
It's Sunday, go fishing!!!
Cheers, Bob

PTSideshow
05-24-2009, 06:38 PM
http://www.ccrane.com/

Lots of portable radios. And antennas.

Wife was told to buy a Crane(overpriced)(CCRadio plus DX AM FM TV WX alert) for at work was supposed to cure all the problems with getting a strong clear signal by the Building iron work IT wiring and lighting.
It didn't work as good than a 20 year old portable I had at home.
The radio for all it hype sucs even at home outside with the antenna fully extended. Its hard to get the weather channel to work all the time.

I have to agree with what has been said about old radios as I have had three SW of the radio shack brand that the passport book recommended. Each one with more fancy chips was worse than the one it was supposed to replace.
And now with the above explanations Now I know why, thanks.
:D

Evan
05-24-2009, 08:01 PM
Perhaps building one would be the most satisfactory solution. There are plenty of plans online for very simple radios with excellent performance. You say all you want to do is listen to some distant stations. Then a simple regenerative set with incredible sensitivity might be the answer and can be built for perhaps $30 if you must buy all the parts.

Here are a couple of links:

http://www.electronics-tutorials.com/receivers/regen-radio-receiver.htm

http://www.mtmscientific.com/swradio.html

Your Old Dog
05-24-2009, 08:10 PM
For quite awhile what Evan said was true. The present state of digital art where hot receivers are concerned is mine boggleing. Because of the super hot front ends they are now able to rearrange the stages in todays radios such as the Icom Pro III that I have. Believe it or not to loearn to play this radio you have to un-learn the analogue rigs. On mine I have to actually work the radio and not just tune up and down the dial. Example, I go to second stage attenuator and punch up the pre-amp to 1st stage. I then turn on the ANL (automatic noise limiter) and the signal I want to hear drops dramatically BUT the noise disappears completely.


If you bought a new Pro III and just turned it on you would be very dissappointed if you tried to operate as the older style radios.

Good Luck NV2A

BTW, don't expect much out of the 40 inch or so telescopic antenna the radio comes with. These days the Solar Flux has been in the toilet, many days with absolutly no sunspots whats so ever. You will need an outside antenna. Then,keep in mind that a lot of the stations you want to hear are no longer on the air as they have recently made all of the commercial frequencys available to Ham Operators, many of which are sober like myself :D

ligito
05-24-2009, 08:19 PM
The first digital tuner that I bought was disappointing (Onkyo).
It didn't have the vernier tuning capabilities of the older analog systems.
You could quickly get to the frequency but it may, or not be correct and listenable (my word).:(

Quetico Bob
05-24-2009, 08:22 PM
Your Old Dog,
Nothing like dating yourself with a 4 digit call sign. :D
Cheers, bob

dp
05-24-2009, 08:24 PM
Perhaps building one would be the most satisfactory solution. There are plenty of plans online for very simple radios with excellent performance. You say all you want to do is listen to some distant stations. Then a simple regenerative set with incredible sensitivity might be the answer and can be built for perhaps $30 if you must buy all the parts.

Here are a couple of links:

http://www.electronics-tutorials.com/receivers/regen-radio-receiver.htm

http://www.mtmscientific.com/swradio.html

Regen sets are among the very most sensitive but lack selectivity. For that you need a decent tuneable front and and a proper antenna. Here's a nice page on simple antennas a guy could put up over a weekend.

http://www.hamuniverse.com/shortwaveantenna.html

More homebrew fun: http://www.hobbytech.com/crystalradio/crystalradio.htm

Still have my original Advance call: WA6ZGL

h12721
05-24-2009, 08:24 PM
Look for a Drake 2B, Drake r4c, or
Colins .$ from low to high.
W2bnc

h12721
05-24-2009, 08:29 PM
Nothing like dating yourself with a 4 digit call sign.

Yea but with out the" N" better with W or K
Wb2nec

Quetico Bob
05-24-2009, 08:35 PM
Thinking Wyoming but not sure. None the less the better question would be,
"what was it like when radio was first invented" :D
Cheers, Bob

ligito
05-24-2009, 08:43 PM
In the 50's, my neighbor's call sign was W7GNJ.
His name was Carl Austin, at the time, he was the head of the Oregon Emergency Network, if I recall correctly.
Having 4 digits is something newer, or are they recycling call signs?

hoof
05-24-2009, 09:14 PM
The tube sets are hard to beat as previously mentioned. You may want to look at a Sont ICF-2010. I have spent a lot of time with mine. It is a bit pricey since they stopped manufacturing these a year ago. There are retailers still selling them as they stocked-up when they heared they were not making them anymore. But I have seen them in good shape for less than half the price on C/L and flea-bay. Here's a link you may want to check out. http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/479

Hoof, KB1NPU

aostling
05-24-2009, 10:43 PM
a simple regenerative set with incredible sensitivity might be the answer and can be built for perhaps $30 if you must buy all the parts.

http://www.electronics-tutorials.com/receivers/regen-radio-receiver.htm

http://www.mtmscientific.com/swradio.html

The schematic in your first link took me back, to the 1950s and the plans in the Radio Amateurs Handbook. As a boy I wanted to understand how everything worked, and that was the bible for radios.

The second link, describing a simple kit, is more my speed these days. Too bad it is sold out!

Marc M
05-25-2009, 08:29 AM
Having 4 digits is something newer, or are they recycling call signs?
In the US, calls are now recycled through the FCC's 'Vanity' Callsign program. For a few bucks you can change your call to any available call sign that your license permits. In addition, you can pick any region number you wish, independent of your primary station's location. For further info:
http://www.arrl.org/arrlvec/vanity.html

Marc - W9OM

dp
05-25-2009, 11:01 AM
I got my license while at Berkeley High School in California in 1962. It originally was WV6ZGL while I was a novice and then changed to WA6ZGL when I got the general. I left California forever in 1978 and still have the WA6 prefix. Used to be I'd offer "WA6ZGL portable 7" on the air to indicate I was operating in zone 7 (Washington State) but haven't done that in years.

Sadly, my 14AVQ antenna is laying on the ground following a hellacious wind storm and I haven't had the time/interest to put it back up.

Lew Hartswick
05-25-2009, 11:29 AM
With all the hams on here I'd better give youall a heads up on mine.
W3SLX from 1951 PA. Let it laps when I moved into a deep
valley and was only on 6M at the time. Since, too many other
interests to ever get back.
Does bring back memories of the KW linear using a pair of 100THs
for the 6M transciever. A Heathkit something or other I built.
...lew...

Smokedaddy
05-26-2009, 10:26 AM
You might want to try and find one of these Lowe HF-150.

http://www.pbase.com/smokedaddy/image/86381604

Here is my super clean Hallicrafters S-40 that Evan mentioned (or something close to what he mentioned).

http://www.pbase.com/smokedaddy/image/103741562

Lastly my restored Hallicrafters SX-28.

http://www.pbase.com/smokedaddy/image/103741563

-SD:

Evan
05-26-2009, 10:49 AM
That is a really nice S-40. Mine is good but yours is even better. I didn't have custody of this one since I was a child so it suffered some minor front panel scratches and a few rust spots until I got hold of it.

Not a very good image but it takes too long to find the original.

http://ixian.ca/pics6/halli.jpg

aostling
05-26-2009, 11:26 AM
Smokedaddy, and Evan, I'm tempted to look for a Hallicrafters S-40 after seeing your images. Is there any problem finding replacement tubes, if needed?

ahs437
05-26-2009, 11:38 AM
I have a Hammarlund HQ-180 AX - 17 tube boat anchor.... Original Owner.. Enough knobs to make a mad scientist envious... you could keep a cup of coffee warm on top of it. Dual bandspread and vernier with 100 khtz marker. Old school, but UNBELIEVEABLE RECEPTION.... better than my cigarbox size Pioneer... but I do think that digital tuning is nice.

dp
05-26-2009, 11:43 AM
My first commercial receiver was a Hallicrafters S38-B. I'd have another in a heartbeat. Nice general coverage receiver with a very good band switch, tuning dial, and band spread dial in a compact arrangement. And it had BFO for CW and the emerging SSB modes. It lacked an RF gain control found on the S-40 nor an S-meter. There was a lot of ham activity in Berkeley then so the RF gain control would have been quite handy. http://hug-a-bug.com/S-38B.html. My uncle bought it for me for my 16th birthday and paid $35.00 for it.

All my previous receivers were single band ARC-5 surplus aircraft receivers - also extremely good receivers. I ran mine with a battery charger and the dynamotors that were built in to them. My first transmitter was a 40 meter ARC-5 as well. http://aafradio.org/flightdeck/arc5-1.htm.


Ebay has several excellent examples of Hallicrafters receivers on a regular basis. Parts such as tubes and electrolytic capacitors are available from on-line sources.

madman
05-26-2009, 12:29 PM
What do you radio pros think of this Model>>??Thanx Mike

Evan
05-26-2009, 12:53 PM
If you find a S40 be prepared to replace the paper capacitors throughout if it hasn't been done already. The tubes it uses are very standard ones so they should be easy to find. The rectifier is a type 80 and can be replaced with silicon diodes although that will raise the B+ enough that it might make some weaker parts fail, like those capacitors I mentioned. I did it on mine and swapped out the caps at the same time and it didn't have any problems.

You need a some place to string up a good long dipole or even just an inverted L long wire or two for best reception. If you have a tall flagpole an inverted V works well too. It's a lot of fun playing with the various antenna configurations to find out what works best. I always wanted to build a Yagi for broadcast band and a little higher but that would take a row of telephone poles or topped trees and I never got around to it. I never got my Ham ticket because I discovered that I didn't really want to talk to anybody, I just wanted to play with the technology.

dp
05-26-2009, 01:15 PM
What do you radio pros think of this Model>>??Thanx Mike

It's a single conversion receiver with pretty wide bandwidth for serious SWL. The plastic case and digital tuning are minuses for keeping noise out of the set. All those square waves show up as hash between stations, and the various clocks have harmonics all the way to the light spectrum :)

The issue with single conversion is image reception. There are two frequencies that heterodyne to the IF frequency and with lo-freq IF's such as 455 kHz, they're not separated by much at shortwave frequencies. Hence the preference for dual conversion. With broad band preselectors (no RF stage tuning) they are vulnerable to intermod products cause by saturation of the first stage amp. Haven't yet seen what the IF frequency is but it is from a time when ceramic IF filters became standard. 455 kHz was the norm for broadcast frequencies, and 10 mHz was the norm for shortwave freqs but introduced other problems not the least of which is it's a WWV freq and right in the middle of the international broadcast range owing to good overall propagation characteristics. That re-introduces the problem of image frequency reception.

The tuning is in 5 kHz steps which for SSB or CW listening is a big step. It may have a "slider" to tweak that - can't tell from the page I saw.

Your Old Dog
05-26-2009, 03:07 PM
Your Old Dog,
Nothing like dating yourself with a 4 digit call sign. :D
Cheers, bob

Nah! My other calls would have dated me more like WV6ZXU, WN8JIH, N2FTG, KD2PF and the present NV2A :D

dp
05-26-2009, 08:33 PM
You need a some place to string up a good long dipole or even just an inverted L long wire or two for best reception. If you have a tall flagpole an inverted V works well too. It's a lot of fun playing with the various antenna configurations to find out what works best.

Speaking of fun antenna configurations, just saw this on Ebay:

http://cgi.ebay.com/150-BRASS-2-SLINKY-AM-FM-Shortwave-Long-Wire-Antenna_W0QQitemZ270291673315QQihZ017QQcategoryZ15 051QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

I've build a lot of antenna over the years - used to earn a living at it, in fact, but this I've not seen before :)

Optics Curmudgeon
05-26-2009, 09:33 PM
Of course, if you want olde tyme plus portable, you could go with a Zenith Trans-Oceanic, not great sensitivity or selectivity, but what a classic design. They even added a BFO in 1968. Here's a 1996 comparison with a (then) contemporary digital receiver: http://www.antiqueradio.com/TransOcean_10-96.html

Joe

h12721
05-26-2009, 09:56 PM
Old Dog
What is with the "WV6" that is a new one to me. Is it WV or WN?
Hilmar

J Tiers
05-26-2009, 10:06 PM
Of course, if you want olde tyme plus portable, you could go with a Zenith Trans-Oceanic, not great sensitivity or selectivity, but what a classic design. They even added a BFO in 1968. Here's a 1996 comparison with a (then) contemporary digital receiver: http://www.antiqueradio.com/TransOcean_10-96.html

Joe

I've had two of tthe T/O, one that worked, with the "loctal" tubes, and one that does not, with (IIRC) smaller tubes in it. All I have now is the non-working one....(but I console myself with the very good E.H. Scott postwar 800BT unit I have, unfortunately w/o oribinal cabinet.)

The bandswitch of the T/O is a total zoo, and I never have had a schematic for any of them.....

The T/O worked OK ........ when the switch setup made good contact..... I should fix this one and whale it off to someone who will appreciate it.

aostling
05-26-2009, 11:20 PM
Of course, if you want olde tyme plus portable, you could go with a Zenith Trans-Oceanic[/url]

Joe

A friend here in Phoenix collects Trans-Oceanics. He has every model, over two dozen I think. He doesn't have a den so most are stored in his crawl space attic, a real shame.

I had a Grundig Satellit 210, but sold it on eBay three years ago. I started this thread because I started wondering about the latest Satellit 750. It is reasonably priced but some reviews are negative (although many are glowing, too). Anybody have experience with Satellit?

Jeffw5555
05-26-2009, 11:36 PM
I've been an electronic hobbyist since the 60's, dabbled a bit in SW with my father's old set, but always thought that hamming was complete waste of time.

Now we have the internet, which is a perfectly good waste of time! :D

dp
05-27-2009, 12:01 AM
I'm kind of surprised at the reviews I've just read on it. Nobody is talking about microvolts sensitivity, SNR, ANL, AGC, fm quieting, notch filters, tunable front end, intermod, image rejection, birdies, hash - it's like they're talking about the family station wagon. No beef!

That said, based on the brochures and being representative of what is out there today, it seems like it's a contender. Think I'd rather have your 210 back :)