DX'ing...How To Up Your Totals!

by John J. Rieger

DX'ing, the more you get into it, it gets on you! I mean after you've logged number 100, 500, 1000, New York, Los Angeles, Mexico and Canada, what is left? Remember how it felt to log number 500? How about number 1000? How about the first night you heard Canada, and now you knew you were in "the big leagues!" KFI! Gosh, I remember how it was and when someone new to the hobby will say "I got number 100!" I will say "congratulations!", or when someone hears KFI for the first time say "great!" I remember how it was! I've seen those same people shot down for reporting "common" dx to clubs! We all had to start somewhere! Enough editorializing, hi!

One thing that will happen after a few years in the hobby is "burnout." Look at the totals of these people! I'll never hit 2000! All 50 states? These are some of the things that people might say. So then you might put the radio away and say forget it! I did this back in 1972. I shot out some 200-250 verifications, and put the logbook in a bottom drawer of my dresser. That was smart, hi!

Well every once in while, I'd have to tune in some far away station and "dx!" I guess it is really some type of bug or something. You like it but nobody else quite understands it. But you like it. I mean, what the heck? The guy down the block loves fishing, and the lady across the street likes knitting! So, I like snap, crackle and pop...in my ears!

The bug hits! It is cold with 17" of snow outside and everyone has "cabin fever!" And I guess I did too! I went into the dresser and whipped out my old Panasonic. The cabin fever was gone and I was enjoying winter again! And I've been dx'ing ever since!

So the question is, how does one increase their totals? I have a 5 part answer to that and that's what this article in about.

First, join a club. There are several nationwide, dealing with AM dx. Also, if you can find a local or regional tipsheet, you might add to what the national clubs are doing. The tips might be fresher and you could have phone contact. Or if you have a few local people, why not combine everyones tips, and run off some tip sheets? God, look what happened to me, hi! A WRTH is nice to have for foriegn dx. Several clubs have reprints and other guidebooks to help out. Quench your mind!

Secondly, is to get a reputable log. The NRC log or M Street Radio Directory come to mind. Go through the logbook and look at all the stations within, let's say, a 3 state area. I did this and was able to come up with a whopping list of 87 stations that I do not have! That list was typed September 1st, and as of this writing on October 26th, I've knocked 7 stations off the list. While that doesn't sound like a lot, it is smart to know of some targets! How often have we sat on some frequency hearing nothing, when the stations we truly need are somewhere else? in 1984 in example, it was common to sit on 1570 and 1580 and listen to the sign-offs ever 15 minutes across the USA. You could start out on 1580-WPGC in Maryland and a couple of hours later hear 1580-KZIA New Mexico. The 7 new stations I knocked off were on 1100, 1180, 1190, 1480, 1500, 1520 and 1590. Certainly, I wouldn't have sat on these frequencies if I didnt think I had anything to look for. Plus, as new stations come to the airwaves, you can add these to your "target list!" This way you can always have some dx goal. Also, there are side benefits. I'll site an example: I have two nearby targets on 1480, but in looking for these two I logged THREE others in the process! Other examples are too numerous to mention! But I think you get the drift. So, the second thing is take a logbook and make a target list!

Third would be to check out the Sunrise-Sunset maps and your target stations. These maps are available from both major radio clubs (IRCA & NRC.) The SRS-SSS Target Lists in DX mid-AMerica are an invaluable tool in getting dx at these times. You look up a certain time and station and go to town! While not much has been written on this, it is a great dx aid to have the SRS-SSS maps. It's simple. You look up a certain state or area and see when the station signs on, off, or powers up/down, and hope conditions are right.

Number four is not really necessary, but I've found it has helped me. I dx with one radio and a tape recorder going. If you have the luxury of two radios, have that second radio hooked up and taping from :59 to about :07. Many stations on AM are satellite fed and run news on the hour. While dx'ing on radio number one, you can tape on radio number two and maybe hear something new! Quite often I dx hunting out something, but always put the number two receiver on a graveyard or the like. Roughly at :08, I'll listen to the dx on my second tape recorder to see if I got anything new! The station will id before the news, and after the news, another id, or weather, with calls is given.

Number five is a biggie! A timer! I have a Miconta timer from Radio Shack. $24 new. This was the best $24 I have ever spent! Unlike conventional timers which are set in 15 minute increments and highly unreliable, this thing can be set to the MINUTE. So, now you set your imer for a certain time and catch the dx while your sleeping! Being a second shift person, I wouldn't wake up to dx. Much less not logging anything new. This eliminates all of that. I wake up and can roll the tapes from the previous night or this mornings dx! Stuck in traffic on the way home? Set the timer, and you won't miss that sunset skip coming in. You can set the timer for any length of time. A few minutes or an hour. In my case, I'll listen to last nights' dx while typing in your tips to dx-midAMerica!

Since I bought the timer, I have bagged over 100 new stations I might never have heard otherwise! I wonder how many I have missed over the years-hi! But this is a help. With 2000+ stations heard, the bands being what they are, every little edge can help. A timer is a great tool. DX is nice, but there are other things too. Family, friends, and work come to mind, hi!

Now that Ive mentioned 5 ways to enhance your totals, one good look will indicate one thing was skipped over. The receiver!

At the time of this writing in 1984, I had 3 receivers. 21 of my 40 new catches for 1984 were ona Panasonic RF2900, the cheapest of the bunch. The timer was hooked up to this and an RF 2200. So while everyone might look through bulletins and now web sites and look at those wonderful receivers "everyone" seems to have, please remember one thing. DX'ing like a lot of things, involves luck and being in the right place at the right time. You don't need the best radio. Does a fisherman come back with a bunch of fish or a record Musky in an hour? No. It takes time and patience. The update to this article is being typed in December 1997. I have heard every radio station in Wisconsin except one. 1240-WJMC Rice Lake has eluded me for over 30 years! Yet I've heard some excellent dx on 1240 trying!

So there are some ways to up YOUR totals! If you have others, let me know and it will be incorporated into this article with your byline! You get credit around here! If there is one thing I enjoy about this hobby,it is the enormous amount of reading material. I have a love of radio and a quest for knowledge. This is a fasciating hobby. If you are just starting out in this hobby, it is a super hobby. If a person has been in the hobby a few years and think they know it all they are foolish! In my time, I've seen some good people scared off by some self appointed "god" who deems the other person less than he is! I'll stop learning the day I die. Making mistakes? You learn. If you fall, pick yourself up. There are less dx "gods" than in years past. The people I have met have been for the most part, kind. They are "kinder and gentler", hi! Though I can remember an area dx'er who heard a station years ago, and was told up & down from an editor that he never heard that station! The dx'er told me "John, I know what I heard" and proceeded to play me a tape. He heard what he said he heard. He never reported to any club again! This is sad and it it OUR loss! I've had a few folks look at my logs and say "you couldn't have heard that" only to have an area dx'er say that he too, heard it, and it was almost common years ago. For my own part, I remember the one station I played on a tape for two dx'ers. I played the tape over & over & over. I couldn't get the id. They both did. Only then did I log it. I am sure of what I've heard. There is dx'ing and there is LIFE!

So quickly, in review: 1) join a club or several, 2) make a target list and go after these stations. In time, you'll not only get these, plus a few others in trying! 3) Check SRS-SSS maps, and bulletins. Check the web site for latest loggings. 4) Tape two at a time! 5) Buy a timer for SRS, SSS or the DX test!

The bulk of this article was written in November 1984. With a few changes, I believe it still holds up today (12-97). If you have any ideas or comments, let the world know! Thank you! By the way, don't ever toss your QSLs!-hi.
John J. Rieger

ADDENDUM: Some discussion was held on the DXMW newsgroup in December 2001. Other comments came to me and I believe must be shared! Enjoy! Learn! TIM NOONAN: Too good a question not to respond! I have a few thoughts to add. 1) Know the dial well, so you can recognize an unusual station when you encounter it. 2) Stay informed. Know when new stations sign on, when familiar stations change format, when scheduled silent periods are to happen. Radio clubs and the Internet provide all this information. 3) Make friends in the hobby, and exchange tips by phone. 4) Own an NRC Log and keep it updated. 5) Check the dial as often as you can. Odd conditions bring in odd stations, and you never know when there will suddenly be a number of new stations to hear in a sitting. 6) Try for all DX tests, if you need the station. And support them, by sending money or stamps (or at least a thank you) to the people who arrange the tests. When you write to a station that tested, be courteous and appreciative. 7) A good receiver and antenna don't hurt, but lots of people hear great DX with simple, inexpensive equipment. Perhaps more important is your location, away from shielding and noise sources, and without nearby local stations. The better selectivity of a fine receiver is a big advantage in hearing stations on frequencies adjacent to ones near your home. 8) DX during the couple hours prior to, and soon after, local sunrise. This seems to be the best time of the day for DX, and the local sources of interference are at their minimum. If others have more "keys to success" to add, and I'm sure they do, I'll look forward to reading them.

ERIC BERGER: I would probably suggest a good antenna, good receiver, and lots of time and patience. This hobby is so full of "I thought I heard" and "I could have sworn he said..." It can be frustrating sometimes, but if you hang in there, you'll make it eventually. Here's something else which just popped into my mind: Whenever I DX, I take a cursory scan of the dial first to see what the conditions look like. I use that scan to pick a frequency to target for the night. Then, throughout the session, I will refer back to that frequency and spend a little more time there than anywhere else. That has more often than not nabbed me a new log or two.

JEFF BALL: Well I started putting together a taping system last night and boy did it pay off. I heard some spanish on 910 so I kicked the tape player on. I thought I heard an id at some point but could not quite make it out. After a couple of reviews of the tape, I was able to log a new Venezuelan. Needless to say the tape player is my new best friend. I am going to get a timer today and see what happens.

JOHN J. RIEGER: I look on the net sometimes before dx'ing. I'll read the radio bulletins (IRCA,NRC), look at SRS/SSS maps and read a ton while dx'ing. The headphones are on and I'm taping always. The recorder is my third ear! Scan the dial when you first turn the radio on. You can usually tell if it's a good or bad session within minutes. If there's nothing at SSS, this might indicate an Auroral (Southern) evening, so check later on or te next morning, if possible. Know your formats if possible. If something sounds "out of place" it probably is. Spanish on 1430 where you might usually hear WNXT or WRTH? Check it out! C&W on 890 and you know it's not talk formatted WLS. Check it out! Sunday mornings mean REL on some stations, so you might have talk vs. music, or a lower-different modulation. Not as much splatter. Good time to go for frequencies right next door to the local! Go around the strong station and listen for the weak one. Pull that one out if you can and hope/pray for some form of id. Satellites misfire! On occasion, you'll hear 2-4 minutes of dead air/open carrier when the local station is supposed to fill this time with local ads, psa's, content. Sometimes, this doesn't happen! When you have one person programming 2 am and 4 fm stations, they might be overwhelmed! Mistakes happen. Take advantage of this when it happens! Also synchronize your watch/clock to WWV. Satellite fed formats generally break at 10 seconds to the hour, so before the news comes you might get an id! Never be jealous! Be better than you were yesterday! I used to, in 1967, look at these guys with 2000 stations and say "wow!" We are the next generation of "those guys" and we get where we're going with patience! Lots of patience! Good luck!

Home Page!

Email: info@DX-midAMerica.com