Chinese Robot, sounds funny/weird

5436 kHz 3/10/16 1411 UTC (6:11am my time, sun is just up)

Now I just had to share this one. It was just higher in frequency than some radar stuff.


5436 kHz USB 3/28/2016 1449utc. I’ve got better reception today. Its either better propagation, or its because I’m not using my beverage this time which was aimed away from the Pacific.

Addendum: Shortwave Pirate Radio 2015 – A Year In Review

Richard Blaine, operator of Radio Casablanca, wrote and asked why the station didn’t appear in the table of ratio’s of listener posts vs message threads (broadcasts) in the Shortwave Pirate Radio 2015 – A Year In Review post. This ratio can be considered a proxy for the average number of listeners reporting hearing each broadcast for a station. Perhaps a sort of popularity rating.

I looked into calculations, and saw that table was limited to stations with 10 or more logging threads, while there were only 7 for Radio Casablanca. This resulted in some stations being cut off. So I re-ran the numbers, this time with no cutoff:

30,Drunken DJ Radio
21,Pumpkin Patch Radio
21,Radio Trump
20,Native Radio
19,Girl Scout Radio
17,Germany Calling
17,Generation Wild 100
16.8333,Wolverine Radio
16.4286,Radio Casablanca
15.5,Hard Tack Radio
15.5,Radio Halloween
15,Radio Cinco De Mayo
15,Crazy Wave Radio
14.5,Up Against The Wall Radio
14,Sousa Station
13.5,New Horizons Radio
13,Mushroom Radio
12.5,Free Thinker Radio
12.5,Nordic Wind Radio
12.234,Radio Free Whatever
12,Edmund Fitzgerald Radio
11,Radio Enterhaken
10.8571,Random Radio
10.8,Radio Gallifrey Intergalactic
10.75,Pirate Clip Radio
10.6842,Burn It Down Radio
10.6667,Twangy Radio
10.2456,The Crystal Ship
10,Big Boobs Radio
10,Rcok and Roll Radio
9.5,Northwoods Radio
9.5,Appalachia Radio
9.33333,Radio Clandestine
9,Radio Marlene
9,D.B. Cooper Memorial
9,Hummingbird Radio
8.85714,X Minus One
8.75,Peskie Party Radio
8.5122,Ghost Shortwave
8.29412,Insane Radio
8.28571,Undercover Radio
8,Frederick Chopin Radio
8,Pirate Nation Radio
7.55556,Channel Z
7.5,Radio Azteca
7.4,Brockett 99
7.25,Renegade Radio
7.2,Radio Broadcaster
7.07692,Radio True North
7,Channel X
7,Big Johnson Radio
7,Radio Mirror Park
6.95,CKUT Relay
6.9375,Rave On Radio
6.85714,Canadian Radio After Dark
6.85714,Radio Fusion Radio
6.80556,Amphetamine Radio
6.75,Javelina Radio
6.50746,Liquid Radio
6.5,Captain Morgan
6.33333,Cool AM
6.33333,Boombox Radio
6.25806,Moonlight Radio
6.25806,PeeWee Radio
6.07143,BBC Pirate Radio
6,Radio Free Mars Radio
6,Halloween Radio
6,Kid From Brooklyn
6,Muffin Man
6,Evil Elvis Radio
6,Friday Night Radio
5.88889,Blue Ocean Radio
5.85714,Happy Hanukkah Radio
5.75,Radio Ga Ga
5.66667,The Bangalore Poacher
5.66667,Weather Control Radio
5.58108,Cold Country Canada
5.4,Partial India Radio
5.33333,Pirate Radio Boston
5.33333,Network 51
5.2,Radio Illuminati
5,Solar Centric Radio
5,Hobart Radio
5,Christmas Radio
4.66667,Radio Caroline
4.57143,Radio Ronin
4.5,Stars And Stripes
4.33333,Radio Paisano
4,Turtlehead Radio
4,Southern Relay Service
4,Satan Radio
4,Radio Bingo
4,Rainin Tacos
3.57143,Radio Dr Tim
3.5,Toynbee Radio
3.5,Black Cat Radio
3.5,Radio Free ADD
3.39286,Old Time Radio
3,Laser Hot Hits
3,Chairman Of The Board Radio
3,Radio Ritalin
3,KITE SDR Radio
3,Tiger Radio
2.6,Vivian Girls Radio
2.5,Chamber Pot Radio
2,Fruitcake Station
2,Barn Radio
2,Pirate Pixie
1,Radio Morania
1,Radio Garbonzo
1,Progressive Radio
Avg Ratio 8.08803

Some very different results at the top of the chart! This version does not leave out stations that only had a few transmissions in 2015, such as some of the seasonal stations.

Thanks for pointing this out, Richard. And thanks for the tip about betting on number 22!

Here’s the raw data (station name, number of posts, number of threads, ratio):
Liquid Radio 872 134 6.50746
Amphetamine Radio 735 108 6.80556
XLR8 683 75 9.10667
The Crystal Ship 584 57 10.2456
Radio Free Whatever 575 47 12.234
Wolverine Radio 505 30 16.8333
Cold Country Canada 413 74 5.58108
Old Time Radio 380 112 3.39286
Ghost Shortwave 349 41 8.5122
Captain Morgan 247 38 6.5
Burn It Down Radio 203 19 10.6842
XFM 196 13 15.0769
Moonlight Radio 194 31 6.25806
PeeWee Radio 194 31 6.25806
Radio True North 184 26 7.07692
Radio Ga Ga 184 32 5.75
Insane Radio 141 17 8.29412
CKUT Relay 139 20 6.95
Channel Z 136 18 7.55556
Radio Casablanca 115 7 16.4286
Rave On Radio 111 16 6.9375
WMID 101 11 9.18182
WREC 99 12 8.25
Northwoods Radio 95 10 9.5
Boombox Radio 95 15 6.33333
Drunken DJ Radio 90 3 30
BBC Pirate Radio 85 14 6.07143
Random Radio 76 7 10.8571
Free Thinker Radio 75 6 12.5
THX1138 62 7 8.85714
X Minus One 62 7 8.85714
Undercover Radio 58 7 8.28571
Appalachia Radio 57 6 9.5
WPIG 56 8 7
KCPR 55 7 7.85714
Radio Gallifrey Intergalactic 54 5 10.8
Blue Ocean Radio 53 9 5.88889
WRR 53 6 8.83333
Toynbee Radio 49 14 3.5
Pirate Radio Boston 48 9 5.33333
Canadian Radio After Dark 48 7 6.85714
Radio Fusion Radio 48 7 6.85714
Pirate Clip Radio 43 4 10.75
Happy Hanukkah Radio 41 7 5.85714
Mushroom Radio 39 3 13
Girl Scout Radio 38 2 19
KHAT 38 5 7.6
Brockett 99 37 5 7.4
WPOD 36 2 18
Radio Broadcaster 36 5 7.2
Peskie Party Radio 35 4 8.75
Germany Calling 34 2 17
Generation Wild 100 34 2 17
CPRRS 34 6 5.66667
Radio Ronin 32 7 4.57143
Twangy Radio 32 3 10.6667
WHYP 31 5 6.2
Hard Tack Radio 31 2 15.5
Radio Halloween 31 2 15.5
WAHR 30 3 10
Solar Centric Radio 30 6 5
Renegade Radio 29 4 7.25
KVR 29 10 2.9
Up Against The Wall Radio 29 2 14.5
KIPM 28 4 7
Radio Clandestine 28 3 9.33333
WJD 28 5 5.6
KOTH 28 6 4.66667
Partial India Radio 27 5 5.4
WEAK 27 1 27
New Horizons Radio 27 2 13.5
Javelina Radio 27 4 6.75
Radio Illuminati 26 5 5.2
Radio Dr Tim 25 7 3.57143
Nordic Wind Radio 25 2 12.5
CYOT 23 3 7.66667
WLIS 22 4 5.5
Pumpkin Patch Radio 21 1 21
WEZY 21 4 5.25
Big Johnson Radio 21 3 7
Radio Trump 21 1 21
WBOG 20 3 6.66667
WOLF 20 3 6.66667
Native Radio 20 1 20
Cool AM 19 3 6.33333
WAZU 18 4 4.5
The Bangalore Poacher 17 3 5.66667
Weather Control Radio 17 3 5.66667
XEROX 16 2 8
Frederick Chopin Radio 16 2 8
W807 16 1 16
Network 51 16 3 5.33333
Radio Azteca 15 2 7.5
Radio Cinco De Mayo 15 1 15
Crazy Wave Radio 15 1 15
KAOS 14 1 14
Radio Caroline 14 3 4.66667
Sousa Station 14 1 14
Radio Paisano 13 3 4.33333
Vivian Girls Radio 13 5 2.6
Radio Free Mars Radio 12 2 6
Edmund Fitzgerald Radio 12 1 12
KBOX 12 2 6
Kid From Brooklyn 12 2 6
NRUI 11 1 11
Radio Enterhaken 11 1 11
Big Boobs Radio 10 1 10
Rcok and Roll Radio 10 1 10
WKND 9 1 9
Radio Marlene 9 1 9
COOLAM 9 1 9
D.B. Cooper Memorial 9 1 9
Stars And Stripes 9 2 4.5
Hummingbird Radio 9 1 9
Turtlehead Radio 8 2 4
Satan Radio 8 2 4
YHWH 8 2 4
WPDR 8 1 8
Ringo 8 1 8
Pirate Nation Radio 8 1 8
WGWR 7 1 7
WHJR 7 1 7
Black Cat Radio 7 2 3.5
Radio Free ADD 7 2 3.5
Channel X 7 1 7
Radio Mirror Park 7 1 7
Halloween Radio 6 1 6
Muffin Man 6 1 6
Evil Elvis Radio 6 1 6
SIRIUS XM Relay 6 1 6
Friday Night Radio 6 1 6
Chamber Pot Radio 5 2 2.5
NOEL 5 1 5
Hobart Radio 5 1 5
Christmas Radio 5 1 5
Southern Relay Service 4 1 4
KAMP 4 2 2
Fruitcake Station 4 2 2
Radio Bingo 4 1 4
Rainin Tacos 4 1 4
Laser Hot Hits 3 1 3
Chairman Of The Board Radio 3 1 3
Radio Ritalin 3 1 3
KITE SDR Radio 3 1 3
Tiger Radio 3 1 3
WRRI 2 1 2
Barn Radio 2 1 2
Pirate Pixie 2 1 2
Radio Morania 1 1 1
Radio Garbonzo 1 1 1
Progressive Radio 1 1 1

One risk here is that the same transmission could be logged in two, or even more, threads, which would reduce this ratio.

Shortwave Pirate Radio 2015 – A Year In Review

To gauge shortwave pirate radio activity in 2015, I analyzed the loggings to the HF Underground ( message board. A computer script parsed the message thread titles, as well as the timestamps of the messages. This information was used to produce some statistics about the level of pirate radio activity. Of course, as Mark Twain has written: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Still, let’s see what we can learn.

There were 13,944 messages posted to 2,183 unique threads, that’s a 10% increase in the number of messages over 2014. Ideally, each thread represents an individual pirate station transmission. Also ideally, each message posted to a thread represents one logging. In reality, there is some error involved.

First, we can look at the transmission mode used:
AM 996
USB 954
LSB 39
CW 17
FM 11
sum: 2183

AM barely beat out USB this year, last year there were 944 AM transmissions vs 776 USB. If we assume (as likely) that the cases where no mode was reported were one of these, AM and USB account for virtually all of the transmissions. Cold Country Canada is the major user of LSB, along with Peskie Party Radio.

SSTV was broken out just to show about how many SSTV transmissions there are, these of course are almost all transmitted in USB mode. Also, these are cases where SSTV is in the logging title, which means that the transmission was probably just SSTV, vs a station that also happened to transmit SSTV as part of the program, such as Wolverine Radio commonly does.

Next, we can see how much activity there is for each day of the week:

Sunday 449 (21%)
Monday 167 (8%)
Tuesday 172 (8%)
Wednesday 187 (9%)
Thursday 249 (11%)
Friday 366 (17%)
Saturday 593 (27%)

As one might expect, Saturday and Sunday are the big winners, with Friday in third place. But don’t give up on weekday listening! Over a third of all transmissions are on a Monday through Thursday.

We can also look at the number of logging threads per month, to gauge activity:

After a relatively flat trend during the first half of the year, activity really took off during the second half.

Here’s a graph showing the number of broadcasts per day of the year that were logged, please click on the image to see it full sized:

Holidays are, as usual, a great opportunity to hear pirate stations.

We might be interested in knowing the best time of the day to try for a station. Here’s a plot of the start times of the logged broadcasts, binned
by UTC hour of the day:

As you might expect, evening Eastern Time is the best, roughly 2300-0200 UTC, with a broader peak of lower activity from roughly 2000-0500 UTC. There is some activity in the morning to afternoon time period, and very little during the wee hours.

The next question is where to tune. As one might expect, 6925 kHz was the clear winner:

3440 kHz: 8
6150 kHz: 14
6770 kHz: 110
6850 kHz: 30
6873 kHz: 23
6874 kHz: 9
6875 kHz: 15
6876 kHz: 33
6880 kHz: 8
6900 kHz: 6
6919 kHz: 7
6920 kHz: 9
6922 kHz: 4
6923 kHz: 8
6924 kHz: 78
6925 kHz: 782
6926 kHz: 16
6927 kHz: 6
6928 kHz: 5
6929 kHz: 13
6930 kHz: 109
6932 kHz: 12
6933 kHz: 5
6934 kHz: 9
6935 kHz: 76
6939 kHz: 10
6940 kHz: 38
6945 kHz: 23
6948 kHz: 4
6949 kHz: 21
6950 kHz: 274
6951 kHz: 14
6952 kHz: 10
6954 kHz: 9
6955 kHz: 121
6956 kHz: 7
6960 kHz: 23
6962 kHz: 12
6964 kHz: 6
6965 kHz: 18
6969 kHz: 75
6970 kHz: 4
6974 kHz: 4
6975 kHz: 9
7540 kHz: 4
7590 kHz: 7

6925, along with 6924 and 6926 kHz, account for about 40% of logged transmissions. Last year they accounted for 50%, so there has been some movement to other frequencies. Also worth considering is that Old Time Radio’s use of 6770 kHz accounts for about 9% of the broadcast threads.

Just a few weeks ago, 3440 kHz started to get some use, due to 43 meters “going long” and being unusable for short distance reception at night. Whether or not this trend will continue remains to be seen. It’s a great frequency for nighttime use, but not as many listeners check it out, or have decent antennas for 90 meters.

The most popular station logged is of course “UNID”, short for unidentified. In the world of shortwave pirate radio, there’s a number of transmissions where no ID is given. There’s also cases where no ID could be heard, due to poor conditions. This year, 801 out of 2,183 threads were UNID, or about 37 percent. For 2014, there were 651 threads with 2,788 loggings where no station ID was given – that’s almost 33 percent of the threads.

Here’s the complete list of all stations with two or more logging threads:
UNID (801)
Liquid Radio (134)
Old Time Radio (112)
Amphetamine Radio (108)
XLR8 (75)
Cold Country Canada (74)
The Crystal Ship (57)
Radio Free Whatever (47)
Ghost Shortwave (41)
Captain Morgan (38)
Radio Ga Ga (32)
Moonlight Radio (31)
PeeWee Radio (31)
Wolverine Radio (30)
Radio True North (26)
CKUT Relay (20)
Burn It Down Radio (19)
Channel Z (18)
Insane Radio (17)
Rave On Radio (16)
Boombox Radio (15)
Toynbee Radio (14)
BBC Pirate Radio (14)
XFM (13)
WREC (12)
WMID (11)
Northwoods Radio (10)
KVR (10)
Blue Ocean Radio (9)
Pirate Radio Boston (9)
WPIG (8)
Radio Ronin (7)
Undercover Radio (7)
Radio Casablanca (7)
Random Radio (7)
Happy Hanukkah Radio (7)
Radio Dr Tim (7)
KCPR (7)
Canadian Radio After Dark (7)
Radio Fusion Radio (7)
THX1138 (7)
X Minus One (7)
Appalachia Radio (6)
WRR (6)
Free Thinker Radio (6)
Solar Centric Radio (6)
KOTH (6)
WHYP (5)
Radio Gallifrey Intergalactic (5)
Partial India Radio (5)
Vivian Girls Radio (5)
WJD (5)
Radio Illuminati (5)
Brockett 99 (5)
Radio Broadcaster (5)
KHAT (5)
KIPM (4)
WAZU (4)
Renegade Radio (4)
WLIS (4)
Peskie Party Radio (4)
WEZY (4)
Javelina Radio (4)
Pirate Clip Radio (4)
CYOT (3)
WBOG (3)
Cool AM (3)
Mushroom Radio (3)
Radio Clandestine (3)
Radio Paisano (3)
WOLF (3)
Twangy Radio (3)
WAHR (3)
Drunken DJ Radio (3)
The Bangalore Poacher (3)
Weather Control Radio (3)
Radio Caroline (3)
Network 51 (3)
Big Johnson Radio (3)
WPOD (2)
Chamber Pot Radio (2)
Turtlehead Radio (2)
Radio Free Mars Radio (2)
Hard Tack Radio (2)
Germany Calling (2)
Radio Azteca (2)
Frederick Chopin Radio (2)
Black Cat Radio (2)
KAMP (2)
Fruitcake Station (2)
Satan Radio (2)
Radio Halloween (2)
YHWH (2)
KBOX (2)
Generation Wild 100 (2)
Radio Free ADD (2)
Girl Scout Radio (2)
New Horizons Radio (2)
Nordic Wind Radio (2)
Stars And Stripes (2)
Up Against The Wall Radio (2)
Kid From Brooklyn (2)

Another thing we can look at are the total number of posts in all logging threads for each station, as a rough guide to how many listeners heard a particular station. There’s duplication of course, as the same listener likely reported several broadcasts for each station:
Liquid Radio (872)
Amphetamine Radio (735)
XLR8 (683)
The Crystal Ship (584)
Radio Free Whatever (575)
Wolverine Radio (505)
Cold Country Canada (413)
Old Time Radio (380)
Ghost Shortwave (349)
Captain Morgan (247)
Burn It Down Radio (203)
XFM (196)
Moonlight Radio (194)
PeeWee Radio (194)
Radio True North (184)
Radio Ga Ga (184)
Insane Radio (141)
CKUT Relay (139)
Channel Z (136)
Radio Casablanca (115)
Rave On Radio (111)
WMID (101)
WREC (99)
Northwoods Radio (95)
Boombox Radio (95)
Drunken DJ Radio (90)
BBC Pirate Radio (85)
Random Radio (76)
Free Thinker Radio (75)
THX1138 (62)
X Minus One (62)
Undercover Radio (58)
Appalachia Radio (57)
WPIG (56)
KCPR (55)
Radio Gallifrey Intergalactic (54)
Blue Ocean Radio (53)
WRR (53)
Toynbee Radio (49)
Pirate Radio Boston (48)
Canadian Radio After Dark (48)
Radio Fusion Radio (48)
Pirate Clip Radio (43)
Happy Hanukkah Radio (41)
Mushroom Radio (39)
Girl Scout Radio (38)
KHAT (38)
Brockett 99 (37)
WPOD (36)
Radio Broadcaster (36)
Peskie Party Radio (35)
Germany Calling (34)
Generation Wild 100 (34)
CPRRS (34)
Radio Ronin (32)
Twangy Radio (32)
WHYP (31)
Hard Tack Radio (31)
Radio Halloween (31)
WAHR (30)
Solar Centric Radio (30)
Renegade Radio (29)
KVR (29)
Up Against The Wall Radio (29)
KIPM (28)
Radio Clandestine (28)
WJD (28)
KOTH (28)
Partial India Radio (27)
New Horizons Radio (27)
Javelina Radio (27)
Radio Illuminati (26)
Radio Dr Tim (25)
Nordic Wind Radio (25)
CYOT (23)
WLIS (22)
WEZY (21)
Big Johnson Radio (21)
WBOG (20)
WOLF (20)
Cool AM (19)
WAZU (18)
The Bangalore Poacher (17)
Weather Control Radio (17)
XEROX (16)
Frederick Chopin Radio (16)
Network 51 (16)
Radio Azteca (15)
Radio Caroline (14)
Radio Paisano (13)
Vivian Girls Radio (13)
Radio Free Mars Radio (12)
KBOX (12)
Kid From Brooklyn (12)
Stars And Stripes (9)
Turtlehead Radio (8)
Satan Radio (8)
YHWH (8)
Black Cat Radio (7)
Radio Free ADD (7)
Chamber Pot Radio (5)
KAMP (4)
Fruitcake Station (4)

Next we can calculate the ratio of logging messages per thread, to gauge, in general, how many people reported hearing each station:
Liquid Radio 872 134 6.50746
Amphetamine Radio 735 108 6.80556
XLR8 683 75 9.10667
The Crystal Ship 584 57 10.2456
Radio Free Whatever 575 47 12.234
Wolverine Radio 505 30 16.8333
Cold Country Canada 413 74 5.58108
Old Time Radio 380 112 3.39286
Ghost Shortwave 349 41 8.5122
Captain Morgan 247 38 6.5
Burn It Down Radio 203 19 10.6842
XFM 196 13 15.0769
Moonlight Radio 194 31 6.25806
PeeWee Radio 194 31 6.25806
Radio True North 184 26 7.07692
Radio Ga Ga 184 32 5.75
Insane Radio 141 17 8.29412
CKUT Relay 139 20 6.95
Channel Z 136 18 7.55556
Rave On Radio 111 16 6.9375
WMID 101 11 9.18182
WREC 99 12 8.25
Boombox Radio 95 15 6.33333
BBC Pirate Radio 85 14 6.07143
Toynbee Radio 49 14 3.5

For each station, the first number is the total number of reports, the second is the number of threads, the third is the ratio. One risk here is that the same transmission could be logged in two, or even more, threads, which would reduce this ratio.

We can then sort these by ratio:
16.8333,Wolverine Radio
12.234,Radio Free Whatever
10.6842,Burn It Down Radio
10.2456,The Crystal Ship
8.5122,Ghost Shortwave
8.29412,Insane Radio
7.55556,Channel Z
7.07692,Radio True North
6.95,CKUT Relay
6.9375,Rave On Radio
6.80556,Amphetamine Radio
6.50746,Liquid Radio
6.5,Captain Morgan
6.33333,Boombox Radio
6.25806,Moonlight Radio
6.25806,PeeWee Radio
6.07143,BBC Pirate Radio
5.75,Radio Ga Ga
5.58108,Cold Country Canada
3.5,Toynbee Radio
3.39286,Old Time Radio

Avg Ratio 7.99587

Note: The above table only includes stations with 11 or more logging threads. I have posted an addendum that includes all stations, even down to those with just one thread.

This year’s results are somewhat less straightforward, due to a station nicknamed “Old Time Radio”. It has transmitted almost 24/7 (with some breaks for a few days) since around April, usually on 6770 kHz. Sometimes the same logging thread was used for several days worth of loggings. How many transmissions has it made? Sometimes it has been on for weeks at a time. Certainly in terms of the number of hours transmitted, it is the most active pirate radio station by far for 2015, as it was in 2014. No other station comes close.

Old Time Radio received on Westmoast Coast

Hi, the other night I heard Old Time Radio fade in and I could actually understand a few phrases!  This is the best I’ve heard it. However, I’ve only been listening for a few months over the Summer. It sounded like a Colgate ad for “tooth cream.”  Cream sounds better than paste. Anyway, here’s a clip of my joy. You might need to turn up the volume and the patience because the fading is long. I captured it on my beverage aimed in the other coast’s general direction.

Old Time Radio 6770kHz, 0334utc 10/6/15


6914 Oddity

For the past several years, I have been hearing odd transmissions on 6914 kHz in AM mode. For lack of a better name, I’ve referred to this as the 6914 Oddity. I’ve heard a mix of cryptic voice transmissions, as well as MCW (morse code transmitted with an AM carrier) as well as RTTY and some MFSK digital mode, all transmitted in AM, not SSB as is typical with these modes.

The station will have a burst of activity, lasting for several days, then go silent for a period of time, weeks or even months.

Based on the times I can hear the station, and signal strengths, it seems to be something on the order of 500 to perhaps 1,000 miles from my location (Maryland). That could place it somewhere in the northern and eastern USA, or perhaps southern and eastern Canada.

I regularly run overnight and weekend SDR recordings from 6800 to 7000 kHz to catch any pirate stations that may be on, so these transmissions routinely show up in the recordings.

I observed the following voice transmissions last night (UTC 13 September 2015) on my regular overnight SDR recording:

0232 UTC

0259 UTC

0315 UTC

0331 UTC

0345 UTC

0401 UTC

0417 UTC

0429 UTC

0445 UTC

0500 UTC

0515 UTC

0529 UTC

At 1206 a transmission was made in an MFSK mode:
1206 UTC

This was followed at 1215 with an RTTY transmission. The signal was too weak to decode, but previously 50 baud and 1000 Hz shift was used, with a center frequency of 1700 Hz:
1215 UTC

There has been some speculation about the purpose of these transmissions. One thought is that they are SIGINT (signal intelligence) training exercises. But for now, the true purpose remains a mystery.

A Ferrite Rod Loop for NDB DX: Generation 3

Resonant Loops (RLs) are an often overlooked form of receiving antenna, but remain my favorite, both from a performance viewpoint and also from a viewpoint of passion: I love the things! Although they are not by any means as popular as their remote cousins, the Shielded Magnetic Loop (SML), RLs can in some environments offer performance which an SML simply cannot match. With careful design and construction, RLs can exhibit a very high loaded Q which can give the loop:

1) A very high degree of frequency selectivity right in the antenna, often to the point where additional front end filtering is not necessary to protect the receiver from spurious responses. Case in point: in my area, there are a number of 50 kW MW stations, and to use my Wellbrook SML for NDB DXing, I MUST use a 9th order lowpass filter. Such a filter is not needed when DXing NDBs with a Ferrite Rod RL.

2) A very low Minimum Discernible Signal; RLs can have a sensitivity which belies their size.

3) RLs tend to be amplified loops, but a high Q in the antenna can drastically reduce the gain requirements of the following amplifier.

4) A well balanced RL will generally exhibit strong directionality. In some loops at some frequencies, an RL can discriminate reception based on the arrival azimuth. Peaks and nulls may be observed. At the very least, an RL can discriminate against local noise, and I have observed noise depression of up to 30 dB when I have had an RL mounted on a rotator.

5) An RL tends to be small, and can generally be sited in a quiet area on one’s lot to keep it away from power or utility lines, houses, etc.

As well as their advantages, RLs as a receiving antenna have a number of disadvantages.

1) Without band switching (and this is not always feasible), RLs have a finite tuning range (Fmax over Fmin), and this is generally within the range of 3:1 to 5:1. This tends to make an RL an “Application Specific” antenna.

2) The lack of commercial offerings means that you are most likely going to have to roll your own; RLs tend to be a construction project by the user.

3) There are countless gripes on the internet by users who dislike the fact that they must be re-tuned constantly as the receiver frequency is changed. They have missed the point by a country mile; the magic in a RL is in its narrowband nature and mo’ narrow mo’ better. Generally.

4) Although physically small (we are talking about small receiving loops here), to fully realize the sensitivity which a small RL can offer, the RL MUST be sited outdoors. This complicates the tuning of the loop, as the capacitance used to tune the loop MUST be located physically close to the loop winding. Using varactors to tune a loop remotely is pretty easy, but if the target Q of the loop requires the use of a mechanical variable capacitor (as this LF Ferrite Loop does), then it becomes a substantially more complicated process to tune the loop remotely.

5) RLs are generally considered to be unshielded and thus prone to signal corruption from local RFI. This is not true, and most resonant loops can be built with an effectice electrostatic shield.

Over the past winter and spring, I have been working on a prototype of a Ferrite Rod RL which would be suitable for DXing LF NDBs. Some of the progress and logs have been posted here:,19471.0.html,19868.0.html,20896.0.html

I have been extremely encouraged by the performance of the prototypes, and have been working on a “Generation 3″ version of the loop which should be deployed by this fall. I cannot do much about the first 2 “disadvantages” listed above, but the G3 loop and its control system are being designed to attack problems 3 and 4 head on, and offer some functionality which will greatly aid in the DXing of LF NDBs. Some of the key points are:

1) Design of a Stepping Motor Gear Train which will allow precise tuning of a mechanical variable capacitor located out near the loop site (about 160 ft away). In the current design, there are approximately 4800 motor steps per full 180 degree traverse of the tuning capacitor, which is just about the minimum required for the loaded Q of this Ferrite Rod RL.

2) Utilization of an Arduino SBC in the loop head. The Arduino firmware implements a Server (a simple command interpreter) which will control the Geared Stepping Motor used in the gear train via a standard off the shelf Stepper Shield for the Arduino. It will also allow control of additional loop parameters from within the shack.

3) The system will be controlled (tuned) via a Client application which will run on the same computer as the SDR control app (at this point I am using SDR Console V 1.5). At this point, RC is coded against a small subset of the SDR Console CAT Command vocabulary, but more is possible in the future.

n.b. There have been a large number of design decisions to make in this project. The choice of the SDR control program to code against (at least initially) was kinda critical. I have 2 favorites: SdrDx and SDR Console, and I have been able to programmatically control both via apps I have written. As good as SdrDx is (and it is very very good), I prefer using the older version of SDR Console (the version with the infinite license) for NDB DXing. Its ability to present full screen views of the waterfall and spectrum without control clutter is a huge aid in DXing, and its ability to simultaneously display a Zoom window with a span of 2 or 5 kHz really aids in fine tuning a loop. Additionally, I really love the palette control in SDR Console; quick very fine adjustments in the palette allow the app to function as its own QRSS viewer, and the ability to visually DX piled up NDBs really lessens the fatigue you encounter when trying to hear a particular NDB in a pileup. The fact that communication with SDR Console is easy via a free Virtual Serial Port Manager (such as VSPE) is a big plus.

4) The Client app (at this point boringly named Remote Controller or RC) will encapsulate a number of functional blocks in individual Tab Pages in a TabControl in the following categories:

A) Server Connection/Transactions: This page contains the controls to open, maintain, and handle a network connection to the Loop Server out in the yard.

B) Tuning/Memory Lists: RC will implement a set of tuning controls, some of which are programmable, to accomplish Loop and Receiver tuning. RC will enable the user to create Memory Lists which are displayed in a ListView Control, and which can act as a tuning source by double clicking an item in the list. I consider this to be a very powerful feature which might help in DXing NDBs this fall. I imagine loading in a general list of NDBs at the start of a session to gauge what cards the Great Gods of Propagation has dealt out. From these “prop beacon beacons”, I might determine, for example, that commonly heard stations in Nunavut are in well, and I could then prepare (­­or load in a previously prepared) Memory List of Nunavutian NDBs to see if I can hear anything new without having to navigate through the online RNA list.

C) Station Database: In NDB DXing, I find the RNA NDB list to be absolutely indispensable. RC has the ability to import a prepared copy of the RNA Excel download file, and this list is displayed in toto on a tab page in RC. RC displays the list in a CheckedListView Control. Double-clicking an item will execute it (tune the Loop and also the Receiver to the NDB frequency). Individually selected items can be checked and exported to a Memory List. The list is searchable (by call with wildcards, by ITU country, by State/Province, etc.). Search results can be exported to a Memory List. This means that it is a very simple process to generate a custom Memory List for all NDBs in Alaska, for example.

D) Receiver: RC can open and maintain a connection via a Virtual Serial Port to the SDR Console app running on the same Windows box. Tuning the loop can simultaneously tune the SDR to the RL resonant frequency (right now the accuracy is about +/- 2 kHz), but fine tuning of the loop is easy. In fact, in NDB DXing, the RL is more often than not tuned to one of the sideband frequencies, and not the carrier referenced in frequency lists.

E) Calibration/Testing: Since a calibration curve of the antenna response (motor steps versus resonant frequency) is required, RC contains Antenna Calibration functionality which allows a semi-automated approach to antenna calibration. Calibration Curve data can be viewed graphically. RC also implements a number of built-in test suites which can be used to test the loop, receiver, and rotator performance, and can help the app to function as a tool for further development.

F) Rotator/Amplifier: Since RNA logs also contain a Maidenhead Locator field, from this Longitude and Latitude can be easily computed; this allows further computation of both Bearing to the NDB and also Range. I am adding control of a modified Antenna Rotator to the client app RC so that selecting an item in either a Memory or RNA list would (with one double-click) tune the Loop, tune the SDR, and rotate the Loop to the proper Azimuth. Rotation can then be manually controlled once it is at the proper az.

G) Profile/Settings: RC supports a Profile file, and uses it to store settings between sessions. The user can generate a profile which can be used to control various types of loops.

H) Normally, a Memory List item will contain all RNA fields, and when double clicked, the antenna and SDR will be tuned, and the rotator will be spun to the azimuth which can be computed from the RNA Maidenhead locator field. This azimuth will be the bearing of peak rod reception, but more often than not, this will not be the desired antenna bearing; one would in theory like to rotate the antenna to the bearing which will possibly give the best reception considering all of the co-channel NDBs which would interfere with the desired NDB. The loop generally has a broad reception peak and a narrow null (or depression) minima, and we would like to have these in the proper orientation with respect to co-channel interference.

RC incorporates a Scenario Visualization tool. Right clicking an item in the RNA list will open the Visualization dialog. This will present a polar plot of Bearing vs Range on which all potentially interfering NDBs will be plotted, as well as the target NDB. The plot will also render markers representing the Peak and Null beams of the antenna, and these will be rendered with variable width beam widths. The antenna patterns can be rotated with respect to the plotted NDBs, and the user can select a best guess antenna rotation for the target NDB. This target RNA entry can then be exported to a Memory List, and any time the item is double clicked in the Memory List, the rotator will be rotated to the preferred (and not the Maidenhead) azimuth. This will enable me to create Memory List of highly desired high value targets, and will allow me to efficiently check these targets in any DX session.

A Block Diagram of the system is:

Block Diagram

Well, that is an overview of what is going on here. This post will be followed up by at least 3 more posts. The first will discuss some of the technology in the Ferrite Rod RL (the wound rod, the capacitor, and the amplifier) and its tuning mechanism. That is pictured below in a weatherproof enclosure.  The rod per se is not visible, but is located within the aluminum shield above the enclosure.


The second will discuss the Client app to a greater degree, and a screencap of a typical presentation (along with the typical SDR Console window) is:

Screen Shot

The third will most likely discuss interfacing strategies, as this loop is sited a fur piece from the house, and requires and RF coax, power cabling, and also some form of digital network over which the client and server communicate

I am getting lazy in my old age, but we will most likely throw up a post detailing Rack Shack Rotator modification (converting from the ghastly and slow synchronous motor to a PM DC gearmotor, adding a position feedback pot, and a simple closed loop controller based on an Arduino Pro Mini controller which may be hosted by the Loop Server).

Additionally, the Scenario Visualization tool will most likely merit its own post. This has been one of the funnest parts of this project, and I foresee this tool being a great aid this next season.

There is also a long laundry lists of enhancements on the back burner, and we might get around to posting some of these ideas in the future.

Further on down the line we can post some results with regards to performance; there is a lot to evaluate.

This has been – and continues to be – a ton of fun, and also hard work. This antenna represents “where I always wanted to be” with regards to Resonant Loop antennas. This is a big step up from what I used last season, and there is still enormous potential, and lots of new functionality to imagine and implement.

If only the freakin’ thing works…

Liquid Radio 5/2/2015 received on Westmoast Coast

Yup, Liquid Radio’s little carrier wave usually fades in and out at my locale. Sometimes I’ll hear thumps but I’ve had to use USB demodulation in order to hear it.  But last night I could hear music using AM demodulation and I wanted to share!

It helps to use big speakers when listening.

Liquid Radio, 6925AM, 0327utc, 5/2/2015