A Winter afternoon on the deck with the radios

It was a beautiful day here today with a high way up around 60 degrees and sunshine and I had nothing planned so I grabbed an Americano from Starbucks, my notepad and pencils and my radios and spent about an hour and a half out on the deck tuning around the shortwave and medium wave (AM) bands.

Radios from left to right: Tecsun PL-660, Tecsun PL-606, Sangean PR-D4W.

I started off with an ETM scan of the shortwave bands on my Tecsun PL-606. If you're not familiar with ETM (Easy Tuning Method), ETM scans the selected band and puts decently strong signals into temporary memory so you can quickly tune through what it found.

Unfortunately, I forgot to attach the antenna extender that came with the PL-606 so it did not pick up a whole lot but that's ok. I normally scan the bands quickly with the PL-606 and then slowly tune up and down the bands with the PL-660 which is quite fantastic on shortwave.

Some of the interesting catches I found on shortwave on my Tecsun radios today included:
  • Radio Martí on 9565 and 11930 and both frequencies were being jammed quite effectively by Cuba, so much so that the jamming overpowered the signal much of the time and I'm quite a bit further away from Cuba than I am from the transmitter for Radio Martí which is in Greenville, South Carolina. I'm guessing all people in Cuba hear is the jammer which is why this station seems like a big waste of money to me especially with so many government employees out of work!
  • Radio Guinea was coming in quite strong on 9650. I didn't realize they stay on that frequency for about eighteen hours a day.
  • The Voice of Greece was also coming in quite nicely on 9420 with some music. It was the furthest away station of the day at about 5,600 miles.
  • WINB is a station featuring mostly religious programming. It broadcasts out of Red Lion, Pennsylvania and I only mention it here because it typically doesn't come in too great but today sounded like it was right next door. I guess conditions were just right via 9625 kHz today!
My newest radio is my Sangean PR-D4W. I bought it for medium wave (AM) listening after seeing multiple reviews stating how good it is. In fact, it seemed just about too good to be true because I thought the PL-660 I have was pretty decent on AM and that radio only got two stars on Jay Allen's AM Portables Mega Shootout while the Sangean PR-D4W gets four and a half stars, almost at the top of the rankings.

Let me tell you - in my opinion, this radio is well-deserving of the four and a half stars. I have never owned a radio that performs as good as the PR-D4W on AM and I've been buying/selling/listening to radios since the early 80's. It continually surprises me with stations I have never heard here and that the PL-660 cannot bring in at all when they are sitting side by side. The Sangean also sounds better. The PL-660 is quite noisy in comparison.

Here are some of the interesting stations I heard on AM using the Sangean PR-D4W today. I do keep the Sangean on a small turntable (lazy susan) I bought on Amazon so I can face the radio in the correct direction to maximize the signal:
  • WHMT in Tullahoma, TN - this station is about 70 miles away on 740 kHz. With the PL-660, there was no signal at all. With the Sangean, it sounded like a local station at times. If I've heard it here before, I don't remember it.
  • WLW in Cincinnati at 700 kHz is a strong station. It booms in at night. I'm not used to it booming in at 3PM and it does on the Sangean.
  • Same for WSB on 750 kHz in Atlanta. The Sangean pulls it in during the afternoon like a local station.
  • On 720 kHz, I could turn the radio one way and pick up WGN from Chicago and then turn the radio a different way and listen to WGCR in Pisgah Forest, NC which is about 300 miles away and has a daytime coverage area that typically reaches no closer than about 100 miles away from here.
  • On 780 kHz, the situation was similar. Facing the radio one way brought in WBBM from Chicago, a station that is strong at night but that usually does not come in during the day. Facing the radio the other way brought in WPTN from Cookeville, TN which is about 40 miles east.
  • On 790 kHz, WQXI from Atlanta was coming in very clear and the signal map shows it shouldn't reach far out of Georgia. Fun fact: WQXI was a top-40 station in the 70's and the famous WKRP Turkey Drop is based on a Thanksgiving promotion they did which involved live turkeys being tossed out into a crowd at a shopping mall!
  • On 800 kHz, another station I don't believe I have ever heard here in the daytime - CKLW from Windsor, Ontario - a historic Top 40 station from the late 60's and early 70's but now a talk station.
  • Finally, on 850 kHz, I was able to slightly move the radio and pick up both WKVL in Maryville, Tennessee with a sports talk format and WPTK in Raleigh, North Carolina with an oldies format. Barely moving the radio would bring in one of the stations completely clear with no interference from the other station. 
For me, radio is still a fun hobby. I enjoy hearing the voices from just across the mid-state to all the way across the world and more and more I like the fact that radio features one voice talking to me at a time vs. the tons of noise we have coming into our lives today via social media and the internet. Radio provides me with a nice break from all of that and it's nice to still be doing something I was doing many years ago.

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