Episode 29 – CFOR (5.29.2015)

CFORIf Chris was still naming episodes of this podcast, then it would be called “The Hangover.” In this week’s CFOR, he talks about his first experience being drunk.

Chris also goes into details as to why being drunk or drinking alcohol is such an odd experience for him. Also note: he did drink responsibly.

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Episode 28 – CFOR (5.22.2015)

CFORSorry for the wait folks, but there is now a new episode of CFOR.

In this week’s podcast, Chris talks about the myth of blowing into NES cartridges to make them work and Radio Japan’s 80th anniversary. He also briefly reviews the Grundig Mini World 100 PE.

The tunes in Episode 28 are Nora Keyes’s “My Child,” The Underscore Orkestra’s “Hobbiton (Triplets of Hobbitville),” Even Twice’s “City Life.”

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Episode 27 – CFOR (4.24.2015)

CFORIn Episode 27 of CFOR, Chris talks about a European country eliminating FM radio while it is being pressured to be added on smartphones in the U.S. Also, he confirms that he is no longer a SWL and gives reasons behind it. Here are the tunes on this week’s podcast.

JO: “My Soul Is Sold”
Spartak: “Rail Star Mode”
Mutherpluckin’ B: “Cryin in the Delta Wind”

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Good Bye, Shortwave!

20140223_131624Last year, I posted two entries: one about my changing listening habits; the other on having a functional 4-year-old radio (then 3 years old). Readers will be happy to know the Tecsun PL-660 works just a well as it did when I bought it in March 2011.

This receiver, however, is no longer in my possession. I sold it last week to a radio colleague and friend. It was my only shortwave radio, so this means shortwave radio listening is no longer a hobby of mine.

In the past few years, radio has been undergoing a drastic shift. Many broadcasters have entered the online scene with a huge variety of audio content.

Just in the past year alone, I have listened to my favorite stations and shows all on the internet. It has become more accessible than ever before.

This is all thanks to new technology such as smartphones and tablets. The iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S and Note phones, HTC One, and countless others are like the transistor radios in the modern era. One can tune into many stations via apps like TuneIn Radio and iHeartRadio along with catching thousands of podcasts.

In addition, numerous international broadcasters that filled the airwaves are now streaming. Some of them have left radio completely or went completely online.

While I do not consider myself a SWL anymore, I still have an interest covering international radio on this website and podcast. Whatever happens to international broadcasters on shortwave ultimately affects other delivery platforms so it is important to note those changes.

Shortwave radio has been one of the longest hobbies I’ve ever been involved in, but this chapter has ended. Instead, internet radio and podcasts have replaced it.

tunein-300x246It is interesting because what initially drew me to shortwave has drew me to internet radio. There is a wealth of content that can be access anywhere and comes from all over. Like HF radio, there are millions of programs that tell exciting stories, provide news & info, and help keep the listener engaged.

It bugs me somewhat that some die hard radio fans do not consider internet radio as “real radio” and does not have the same excitement and thrill. If listening to static and noise is a definition of good radio, then more power to them but I don’t have the patience and time anymore.

Also, I do the majority of my internet radio listening via my smartphone or PC which accepts Wi-Fi and 4G LTE radio signals. It seems like radio…to me at least.

I will leave with this. Shortwave radio will still be a memorable part of my life. It helped me become interested in broadcasting (both as a hobby and career). I still have my QSLs and plan to keep them as well. What sparked my radio interests still exists today…it is just in another medium.

Episode 26 – CFOR (3.27.2015)

CFORIn this episode of CFOR, there is full of international radio news this week. There are some additional details about Global 24 Radio returning to the airwaves and a formal re-launch in May.

Plus, the Mighty KBC Radio is changing some frequencies and expanding into other radio formats. Finally on the show, Deutsche Welle will be closing down one of its remaining relay transmitters in Africa.

Chris explains these stories, and talks about a slight change to the podcast in Episode 26 of CFOR.

Here are the songs airing on this week’s podcast:

Jared C. Balogh: “Classical Groove”
Zs: “Corps”
Nat M. Wills: “The Traveling Man”
Victor Herbert Orchestra: “1909 – Spring Song”

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Episode 25 – CFOR (3.13.2015)

CFORIn Episode 25, Chris talks about Global 24 Radio going off-the-air while Radio Canada International celebrates its 70th anniversary. In addition, he gives a brief hands-on impression of the New Nintendo 3DS.

Here are the songs played on CFOR this week:
The Agrarians: “The Clean Burn of Morning”
Mr. & Mrs. Smith: “Take it in Stride”
Tarred Brigade: “We Looked Away”
John Collins McCormick: “Hallway Motor”
Cagey House: “Comrads”
Podington Bear: “Really Real”
Nora Keyes: “Old Pal”
Happy Six: “Siam Soo”
Lucille Hegamin And The Dixie Daisies: “Cold Winter Blues”
Cletus Got Shot: “El Diablo”
Snake Oil Salesmen: “Hotel Atlantico”
The Brought Low: “This Ain’t No Game”

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Episode 24 – CFOR (2.27.2015)

CFORIn this 24th episode of CFOR, Chris briefly talks about the end of winter weather and return of normal temps. Also he mentions of the upcoming Winter SWL Fest this weekend along with the airing of “Shortwave Shindig.”

In Part 2, the host warns Lenovo PC users of a potential security threats. Finally, Chris announces a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission on the controversial net neutrality.

The music on CFOR this week is brought to you by these talented men and women:

The Underscore Orkestra: “Americana Jam”
Ménage Quad: “Play Dat Soul”
U.S. Army Blues: “Walk That Dog”
She-Wolf: “Looking For You”
Krackatoa: “Ally Pally Happy Clappy”
The Agrarians: “You’re the Wave: Wander!”
Ami Dang: “Kissed By The Fire”
Slowdance: “Gold and Green”
Bliss Blood & Al Street: “Give Me Lots Of Sugar”
JO: “Save Me”
Johnny Weltraum: “Low On Charge”
Jim Keller: “Take Me For A Ride”

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Episode 23 – CFOR (2.20.2015)

CFORIn CFOR’s Episode 23, Chris talks about the aftermath of Winter Storm Octavia in addition to more icy weather. He also notes some new changes this month on A Prairie Home Companion, particularly a guest host. For shortwave listeners, this show has a retro review for the Radio Shack DX-397 and some details on the upcoming Tecsun PL-680. Download & enjoy the show.

Here is the track list for Episode 23.

Circus Marcus: “Le poids”
Ergo Phizmiz: “To Swap Heads By”
The Gateless Gate: “Light”
The Jerkon Five: “Hand Jive”
Tamara Laurel: “Sweet”
Mr. & Mrs. Smith: “Tiger of a Tale”
staRpauSe: “Hooky Hicky”
The Trumpeteers: “Little Wooden Church”
Lee Maddeford: “Be what you wanna be”
Lá Eles: “Ouro Bahia”
La Troba Kung-Fu: “Volant”
Jahzzar: “Roads that burned our boots”

P.S. Here’s a special shoutout to Thomas Witherspoon for sharing the retro review on The SWLing Post. Also, thanks to Gene Janas from Prana-Pindu for listening to the podcast and providing tunes like “A Heart That Devises Wicked Plots” on last week via Free Music Archive.

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Retro Review of Radio Shack DX-397 (Sangean SG-622)

My CFOR podcast has turned this site into an audio blog, but it’s refreshing to write some articles every now and then. As promised in a past episode, I am going to have retro reviews of radios and other gadgets.

While this specific review will get onto the podcast, readers of the blog will get a chance to know about it first and won’t miss any details.

In the first retro review, I talked about my first shortwave radio, the Worldstar MG-6100. However, nothing lasts forever and it ultimately broke.

This radio, the Radio Shack DX-397, was its replacement. It was around my birthday in 1999 that my dad bought it for me.

Specifications

For a run-down of the specs, here is a listing:

Power Supply: ……………………………………… 3 AA batteries
AC/DC adapter, 4.5V DC, 200 mA, center tip negative

Frequency Ranges:

FM: ………………………………………………. 88 – 108 MHz
MW (AM): ………………………………………… 530 – 1710 kHz
SW1 (60 m): …………………………………….. 4.39 – 5.18 MHz
SW2 (49 m): …………………………………….. 5.72 – 6.33 MHz
SW3 (41 m): …………………………………….. 7.00 – 8.05 MHz
SW4 (31 m): ……………………………………. 9.20 – 10.02 MHz
SW5 (25 m): …………………………………… 11.35 – 12.25 MHz
SW6 (21 m): …………………………………… 13.25 – 14.28 MHz
SW7 (19 m): …………………………………… 15.00 – 16.05 MHz
SW8 (16 m): …………………………………… 17.30 – 18.18 MHz
SW9 (15 m): …………………………………… 18.70 – 19.25 MHz
SW10 (13 m): ………………………………….. 21.20 – 22.30 MHz

Maximum Sensitivity (for 50 mW output 8 Ohm):

FM: ……………………………………….. 6.3 microV at 98 MHz
MW (AM): ………………………………… 631 microV at 1,000 kHz
SW1 (60 m): ………………………………… 10 microV at 4.9 MHz
SW2 (49 m): ……………………………….. 10 microV at 6.05 MHz
SW3 (41 m): ………………………………… 10 microV at 7.2 MHz
SW4 (31 m): ………………………………. 12.6 microV at 9.5 MHz
SW5 (25 m): ……………………………… 12.6 microV at 11.7 MHz
SW6 (21 m): ……………………………… 12.6 microV at 13.8 MHz
SW7 (19 m): ……………………………… 15.9 microV at 15.5 MHz
SW8 (16 m): ……………………………… 15.9 microV at 17.5 MHz
SW9 (15 m): ……………………………… 15.9 microV at 18.9 MHz
SW10 (13 m): …………………………….. 15.9 microV at 21.5 MHz

Usable Sensitivity (for 20 dB S/N):

FM (for 30 dB S/N): ………………………… 12.6 microV at 98 MHz
MW (AM): ………………………………. 1,000 microV at 1,000 kHz
SW1 (60 m): ………………………………. 12.6 microV at 4.9 MHz
SW2 (49 m): ……………………………… 12.6 microV at 6.05 MHz
SW3 (41 m): ………………………………. 12.6 microV at 7.2 MHz
SW4 (31 m): ………………………………. 12.6 microV at 9.5 MHz
SW5 (25 m): ……………………………… 12.6 microV at 11.7 MHz
SW6 (21 m): ……………………………… 12.6 microV at 11.8 MHz
SW7 (19 m): ……………………………… 15.9 microV at 15.5 MHz
SW8 (16 m): ……………………………… 15.9 microV at 17.5 MHz
SW9 (15 m): ……………………………… 15.9 microV at 18.9 MHz
SW10 (13 m): …………………………….. 15.9 microV at 21.5 MHz

Speaker: ………………………………… 2.5 Inch, 8 Ohm, 0.5 Watt

Output Power: ……………. 150 mW 8 Ohm (10% THD) for built in speaker
5 mW per channel for headphones

Headphone Jack: ………………………… 0.125 Inch (3.5 mm), 32 Ohm

Dimensions (HWD): ……….. 3.5 x 6.625 x 1.25 Inches (90 x 167 x 32 mm)

Weight – Without Batteries: ………………………… 9.87 oz (280 g)
With Batteries: ………………………….. 12 oz (340 g)

While it doesn’t provide full coverage of the HF band, for the price of this radio at the time it provided a lot frequency coverage essential for major broadcasters.

Sensitivity

For a beginner shortwave or casual local radio listener, the DX-397 does the job. However, I would not expect it outperform more expensive, digital sets.

Back when I used this radio, many stations could be tuned into with ease. Of course, these broadcasters like Radio Netherlands Worldwide, HCJB, Radio Canada International, and Radio Taiwan International could be pulled up well enough with the telescoping antenna.

Aside from the major players beaming their signal to North America, getting distant stations was nearly impossible. Even Radio Australia couldn’t come in at all on this thing.

While it was adequate for getting direct transmissions, sensitivity to fainter signals was quite deaf. For me in the late 90s to early 2000s, it was enough for me to stay hooked to shortwave.

Performance

The DX-397, also made by Sangean as the SG-622, handled decently for a sub $50 portable radio. AM & FM reception for local stations worked as well as any cheap clock radio.

As for SW, it picked up the loudest of stations well. However, it tended to drift now and then.

The tuning knob had to be fine adjusted for a few moments and it was something I was already familiar with. Analog shortwave receivers are notorious for drifting and the DX-397 did plenty of it.

Another performance annoyance was fading. All HF signals tend to fade, but reception on any signal (strong & weak) would mute out. Once it did, static took over.

Even my parents would cuss at me to “turn that damn radio down.” I would adjust to volume so loud at times because the signal would almost vanish from existence.

Some Fond Memories

With the problems out of the way, I did have fond, pleasant memories using the Radio Shack DX-397.

One of those was listening to radio dramas. The BBC World Service used to air “Play of the Week” on weekends and heard some excellent stories. It even got me to submit a couple of plays for their drama contest every November.

Another was sitting down and listening to The Chronicles of Narnia on HCJB.

Along with radio plays, I also heard events live as they unfolded in real-time. Two big events I heard on the DX-397 at the time were the 2000 Presidential Election and aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Voice of America.

Finally, it was always a pleasure hearing my letters read on the air from RCI, RTI, and HCJB during mailbag programs including “Musical Mailbag.”

Conclusion

Despite some flaws, the Radio Shack DX-397 has some solid reception. Even with some fading and noise, it was able to pick up the stations I wanted to hear.

For the price, the performance was what I expected it to be. It was just adequate and a decent primer for a beginning SWL.

I had fond memories with the model, but using a number of radios in my life…it was one of the worst ones.

The DX-397 wasn’t a bad radio, but it wasn’t good either. Just “meh.”

I would not recommend it, especially today to veteran hobbyists or even those searching for a quality radio on the cheap. Interestingly enough, Sangean still sells this model on Amazon and other online retailers.

However, if you are going for a cheap well-performing radio for yourself or your little SWL, then get a Tecsun model and go digital. One could spend about $10 more and get a Tecsun PL-380, which is bound to provide better performance and not break the bank.

Episode 22 – CFOR (2.13.2015)

CFOREpisode 22 of the podcast is a somber one. Not to be a “Debbie Downer” but there is some bad news.

Maybe it is the weather. Or perhaps it is Friday the 13th.

Chris talks about the death of Zeke Logan, a Memphis radio personality who lost his battle to cancer earlier this week. To donate for his family’s medical bills, you can go to http://www.gofundme.com/zekelogan.

In addition, there was another death but this one is of a failing electronics retailer. Also, Chris warns local residents about this weekend’s weather. “Winter is coming!”

Here are tracks for this 22nd episode of CFOR.

The Agrarians: “Our Holy Damage”
Mr. & Mrs. Smith: “Dark Country Road”
Tarred Brigade “King Louis”
Break The Bans: “Do You Believe In Love?”
HASH: “World is Going Down”
The Split Squad: “Hey Hey Baby”
Prana-Bindu: “A Heart That Devises Wicked Plots
Dave Gabriel: “Betty Bliss”
UncleBibby: “Catatronic”
The Phreezound Orchestra: “Battle of the Great Rhino Hornbill”
Silver Process: “Jazz Band With Jazz Hands”
Victor Herbert Orchestra: “1910 – Spanish”

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