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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Episode 21 – CFOR (2.7.2015)

cfor_thumb2On Episode 21 of CFOR, Chris talks about the New Nintendo 3DS, which releases a day before Valentine’s Day. Also, he gives details about a new Netflix series that is based on a video game. Enjoy the show!

Here’s the standard track list:

The Agrarians: “And In the Springtime”
The Rope River Blues Band: “Against the Sure”
Mirbeau “Cookin'”
Spinning Clocks: “Silver UFOs”
Dave Gabriel: “Whitchurch”
Sound Awakener: “Winter Holds Me Close”
Nora Keyes: “Tomb Song”
Singing Sadie: “If You Seek A Lady”
Plankton Wat: “Hash Smugglers Blues”
Horse Lords: “Wildcat Strike”
Steve Combs: “Get Out (Remix)”
Jared C. Balogh: “Funky Bliss”

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Episode 20 – CFOR (1.16.2015)

cfor_thumb2On Episode 20 of CFOR, Chris talks about the Nexus 9 a bit. However he won’t talk too much because he has just recovered from a sore throat. This show won’t have as many breaks, but it will still have a ton of tunes to listen to. Enjoy the 20th episode!

Here’s the standard track list:
Samuel Vas Y: Hurt
Chicano Batman: “El Frio”
Broke For Free: “Night Owl”
Mia Doi Todd: “Paraty”
Mr. Airplane Man: “Red Light”
Jahzzar: “Siesta”
The Kyoto Connection: “Hachiko (The Faithful Dog)”
Caballo: “Snake Charmer”
Mamá Burger: “Nublado”
Jason Shaw: “Running Waters”
The Freak Fandango Orchestra: “Requiem for a Fish”
The Underscore Orkestra: “Government Housing”

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This Is The Nexus 9, Google’s Answer To The iPad

Nearly three years ago, Google finally put its best step forward into tablet territory. In 2012, the first generation Nexus 7 released with positive reception. It was that praise that prompted several companies, including Amazon & Apple to come out with their small tablet products.

Meanwhile, smartphones increased their screen sizes. It is now 2015 and the de-facto size of most handsets is five inches. Even more, phablets like the Samsung Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus are larger and close enough to be considered a tablet in their own right. Surely, the small tablet market is shrinking, while consumers don’t necessarily want huge tablets.

Enter the Nexus 9. Released cooperatively by HTC and Google late 2014, it is in a sweet spot between small and large. It is good enough for portability while big enough for productivity and consuming media.

The Nexus 9 sports a 8.9 IPS display with a 4:3 display radio. Most Android tablets, including its predecessors, are usually widescreen 16:9. While this letterboxes video playback, it gives more screen real estate for productivity apps like Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Other apps also benefit from this, because most are ported from iOS which uses the same aspect ratio on the iPad.

Graphics are once-again powered by nVidia with its newest Tegra K1 processor. This allows fast performance, improved visuals, and development for 64-bit applications.

I’ve downloaded a few games from Google Play play very well and look great. With the faster processor and Chromecast, you can cast the Nexus 9 screen to a display and actually play games or display content with little to no lag. I’ve tried this on my HTC One and performance is totally different compared to the Nexus 9.

This is not supposed to be a comprehensive review, but I’ll say that I am enjoying this tablet. Unlike the Wi-Fi models, my LTE version from T-Mobile has not suffered from the same issues that others claimed to have when the device first launch last October. I don’t know if the problems have been fixed, but there’s no screen bleeding, sluggish speeds, and none of that back cover popping action.

So far, it’s so good! I am enjoying the Nexus 9 much like the original Nexus 7. For me, it is well-built, runs well,  and large enough to do some work and watch a bit of Netflix afterwards. Now I must finish reading the free book that came with the N9, Gone.

Chris Freitas On Radio Blog Had A Good Year: 2014 In Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,800 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Episode 19 – CFOR (1.8.2015)

cfor_thumb2Track List for this week’s episode of CFOR:

Vic Ruggiero & Jesse Wagner: “Pray”
RoccoW: “Lady Bad Luck”
The Underscore Orkestra: “Egyptian Ella”
U.S. Army Blues: “Main Stem”
Springtide: “Springtide”
Kai Engel: “Interlude – In Anxious Shadows”
Singing Sadie: “I Can’t Dance”
Mr. & Mrs. Smith: “Head Start”
Secret Jane: “Blackberrys Hedge”
Free Variety Theatre with Vasco Morais: “Your Personal Myth Is Knocking”
Krackatoa: “David and the Hyena”

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Episode 18 – CFOR (12.5.2014)

cfor_thumb2Here’s the post-Turkey Day edition of CFOR. Sorry for the wait.

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