Et Cetera

August 2nd,2011:
Over the Air TV Broadcasting Under Threat

Over the air broadcast of television signals is a great free service that Americans have enjoyed for over 60 years. A huge improvement was made recently with the roll out of digital television (DTV) which offers the best quality HD picture available. Broadcasting a DTV signal also allows a television station to broadcast more than one program service on the same signal which means there are more programming choices available over the air than ever before. All this is free and requires no recurring monthly bill or having to deal with unfortunate companies like Time Warner. In our current horrible economy free over the air television service is available to those who can no longer afford cable or satellite TV services. This great free television service is currently under threat!!
When our over the air TV service was analog we had channels 2-83 at one time. Channels 70-83 were taken away for other services. That was fine because there was still more than plenty of spectrum available for television broadcasts. When the transition to digital television occurred on June 12, 2009, more channels were taken away leaving 2-51. Currently there is just barely enough spectrum for digital television broadcast. Everything barely fits on channels 2-51 without there being too much interference between stations on the same channels. Parts of the existing spectrum channels 2-6 (54-88 MHz) and 7-13 (174-216 MHz) are VHF channels that suffer from interference from electronic devices and lightning strikes. Something simple like flicking a light switch can cause pixelation and drop outs in audio. When a storm is close enough every lightning strike causes interruption. Channels 14-51 (470-698 MHz) are UHF and are ideal for DTV broadcast. Unfortunately these frequencies are also highly desired for other wireless and broadband service. Wireless and broadband companies have been sold one part of the TV broadcast spectrum and are now hungry for more even if it means killing over the air TV broadcasting completely. Now they want channels 32-51 (578-698 MHz). Many TV stations would be once again forced to change channels due to the ever changing whims of the FCC. Changing channels may require new expensive transmitters and antennas. FCC approval will also be needed to ensure that the moving TV signals do not interfere with others currently existing on the same channels. In some instances the only channels available may be on VHF which is not ideal for DTV broadcast. Some stations may stop broadcasting completely because they will not be able to find any open channels to move to or they will not be able to afford the cost of moving to another channel. In the large TV market of Detroit, Michigan, there are DTV signals on channels 39, 41 (ABC), 43 (PBS), 44 (CBS), and 45 (NBC). Three major networks and PBS!! All these may be in jeopardy if channels 32-51 are reallocated to non DTV broadcast services.
The current available TV broadcast spectrum (channels 2-51) must be protected and be for TV broadcast only. Changing the TV broadcast spectrum to channels 2-31 will be a travesty. Only 14-31 will be truly good for DTV service. If this theft of public airwaves is allowed to occur then it will only confirm what I have thought for years. The FCC and the US Congress do not give a damn about the citizens they serve and only listen to the demands of greedy corporations. Michael Procop

June 17,2011:
AM-FM:Gulf Coast

The family and I spent a week in Orange Beach, AL (same barrier island as Gulf Shores) and I spent a little (very little) time DX'ing but I thought that I would share my findings. My radios were an Eton E-100 ULR and my Ford car radio.
In the condo there was only ONE reliable MW signal. Was it the 1310 from Foley? How about WMOB 1360? The Pensacola stations? Or the 10 Kw Bay Minette station on 1110? Nope it was good ol' WWL from NOLA @ 157 miles. The only reliable one INSIDE the unit. Going out on the balcony, the others popped in but none as good as WWL.
I have always been mesmerized by the effect of Salt water paths on MW signals. 30 years ago, I visited a cousin in Panama City, FL and could not believe how well WWL got out at midday and that was another 100 miles east of Orange Beach!
At night, here were the key standouts
1700 Brownsville TX. L&C. Never heard from Indianapolis - good 'ol salt water.
1620//1550 - SS music. Cuba?
1180 - Rebelde
1120 - KMOX - one of the strongest stations @ night
950 - Reloj VERY loud 870 and 570 not so much (870 fighting with NOLA)
900//890//880 - SS Mexico?
750 Tropicale music - who is this one???
710 - Cuba very weak. From Ocean Isle Beach, NC (2009) this was the strongest Cuban - and there were two signals there (echo) but only one faint one in Alabama with no echo.
530 Cuba - MONSTER signal
NO MW IBOC noise noted! I need to move to LA (Lower Alabama). :)
I only spent an hour or so on AM and considerably less on FM. Bryce Foster sent an article to the WTFDA list on how Gulf Tropo plays havoc on stations' coverage and although enhancement was very weak during my stay, every channel had something, at night. I used Radio-Locator.com's vacant frequency finder (1) to check out truly open channels and most of them were actually occupied.
William Hepburn's tropo forecast map (2) showed a down week for Gulf Tropo. Even then @ night, WWNO (NOLA) 89.9 still popped in @ 149 miles. When it was not in, it was WJTF @ 113 miles. 89.9 is, according to the "vacant" website, one of the most open channels in the area. I guess that a directional antenna is a requirement for the Gulf coast FM DX'er.
Early June normally features a lull in Sporadic E and as such I did not notice any while I was out of town and none so far this year.
My timing stinks, too. The week before my trip, there was monster gulf tropo which might have brought me Texas and South Florida and the week that I was gone, Indiana had monster FM tropo to central Alabama. Go figure!
All in all, we had a good restful vacation. We noticed lots of damage still visible in the Northern half of AL from the 4/27 tornadoes. The most telling was a fenced lot in Cullman, where every car had the windows blown out and twisted roofs. A stark reminder of nature's fury.
Dave in Indy
(1): http://www.radio-locator.com/cgi-bin/vacant (2): http://www.dxinfocentre.com/tropo.html

April 10,2011:

A Review of the Sony XDR-F1HD Tuner and So Called "HD" Radio.
I recently purchased a Sony XDR-F1HD AM/FM/HD tuner. I had read about how good this tuner was for the last few years and finally decided to get one. I did not buy it for its "HD" capabilities. This radio has great selectivity and decodes RDS better than my Onkyo T-4310R tuner. It also rejects overload as good as the Yamaha T-80 tuner does. One thing I do not like is when signals are weak the Sony XDR-F1HD tuner has muffled sound at a lower volume. This may be the result of some kind of automatic filtering.
The AM side of the Sony XDR-F1HD is not bad either. On AM there are only two stations in the Cleveland/Akron area still broadcasting in the IBOC digital radio format, 1260 WWMK and 1350 WARF. WWMK goes into digital and stays digital if my loop is pointed in the right direction and adjusted properly. WARF though switches between AM and digital modes repeatedly.
On FM there are numerous stations in the Cleveland/Akron area broadcasting in digital. (This DXer thinks there are too many!) Many of these stations multicast different programs. The first program "HD1" is the same programming as the analog signal. For years I have heard that these "HD" FM signals have CD quality sound. The HD1 portion of some of the FM stations sounds good but not really much better than the analog audio does. Some of the HD1 these FM stations broadcast sound worse than the analog audio with an odd compressed sound and tinny highs. The HD2 broadcasts sound even worse with even more compression. Although for voice broadcast it sounds OK. My father's old vinyl records and 1970's Ampex and Scotch reel to reel tapes sound much better than "HD" radio. Of course the tapes were recorded on an Akai X-1800SD tape recorder which had fantastic sound reproduction. The receiver used was a Sansui 5000-A which still works and sounds great. The tapes were recorded from top 40 stations like 107.9 WELW-FM, 96.5 WCUE-FM, 96.3 WJR-FM, 98.5 WGCL "G-98", and 106.5 WZZP "Zip 106". These stations had good audio quality in the analog days of the 1970's and had better audio quality than many of today's FM stations. Some FM stations today sound like they are compressing their analog audio as well. 105.7 WMJI is one example. The highs of their audio sound watery. This is a shame because WMJI had fantastic audio quality in the 1980's and 1990's.
"HD" radio really isn't high definition at all. Ibiquity may be perpetrators of one of the greatest consumer frauds of all time. IBOC on AM seems to be a huge failure. Will it succeed on FM? If every one had ears like mine I do not see how it could. Of course many people these days do not appreciate good stereo audio. They are happy with the horrible quality that comes out of their little idiot devices they carry around with them.
I think HD radio could be fantastic if done properly but it can not be done within the current congested FM band. Some other frequency spectrum (perhaps portions of 54-88 MHz or some other little used frequencies) should be considered. This way stations could be given enough space to broadcast a full CD quality HD1 and a decent sounding talk/voice HD2 on the same signal. FM stations should drop digital broadcasting and focus on making their analog signal sound as great as it should sound.
Michael Procop

April 18,2005:

WOWO's breaks mention new HD signal and their nite IBOC is a big nuisance here in the Chicago suburbs.
Bothering a strong WHAM on the car rx ND antenna and making it next to impossible to here my Chicago SS local on 1200 thru WOAI QRM.
The end of this hobby as we know it is near if something isn't done about nighttime IBOC.

No, the end of the hobby is coming if they don't ever sell IBOC radios. So far no one wants to sell IBOC radios. The destruction from this and the failure of IBAC will dwarf the debacle of AM Stereo if no radios are sold soon.
IBOC will make XM and Sirius rich. You can have digital radio now but it will come from a satellite.

We're in for a period of significant change. If nighttime IBOC persists, and radios are sold, then many many stations will go silent. But I think IBOC is a fad idea, and I think consumers will resist buying new radios unless the car manufacturers make the switch, and my bet there is with satellite ... really, some kind of Internet/computer-based wireless/satellite technology. I see this as the general, ultimate direction.
I see in the future of DXing an eventual opening of the AM band, with some temporary aberations and barriers such as IBOC, followed by the ultimate demise of the band. Once the dust settles this way, FM will go the same route. My hunch...

Terrestrial radio is for the most part dead. I believe that the figures that people use are incorrect. I believe they are vastly inflated. Once people step out of the car, they watch TV and videos or go on the internet.
Were it not for sports on TV, I would not watch TV. If I want music, I listen to CDs or turn on XM. The radio has become a DX appliance and losing ground there in a hurry. The problem with DXing, at least in Phoenix is that there are no open frequencies. Rimshots are popping up everywhere on FM here in the last month and AM is plagued with noise because, here in the USA, the LAWYER led FCC, who have NO CONCEPT of engineering practice, has allowed every noise making device on earth to be sold under the guise of being a part 15 radiator.
IBOC will get the people in cars to turn off the radio because of all the noise and they will play CDs or turn on the XM / Sirius.
If I owned a terrestrial radio station, I would be selling it about now. There is not much of a future in it.

September 8, 2002:

IBOC is a way to piggy back a digital audio signal onto an existing analog signal. The problem is that it requires a lot more bandwidth. In what I've seen of it in local tests, it almost triples the bandwidth of the station using it. Picture this....the FM band is allocated every 10 mHz....but with IBOC, all the signals are now roughly 25 mHz wide. Get the point?

Awful! Checked Aug 15 at 0457 UT and there was equal noise on 690 and 710 wreaking havoc upon KGGF and KCMO. It would slowly rise and fade, and sometimes apparently go off; since WLW is rock solid here on 700, I doubt the IBOC (obviously really meaning in-band, OFF channel) hash fading was due to propagation. If this is what we have to look forward to, goodbye mediumwave.

IBOC does the same thing on FM. This is why I have said repeatedly that you can kiss this hobby good-bye if it ever gets adopted. You might also make a case that outside of major metro areas, you might also kiss most radio listening good-bye. If most stations ever go IBOC, you would probably only get a listenable signal from nearby transmitters....everything less than a local signal would get killed by IBOC from adjacent channels...

Give IBOC a listen to on WLW....note the sidebands and how they interfere with the adjacents on both sides. With IBOC, you won't have an AM signal 10 kHz wide...it will be 30 kHz wide for all practical purposes. On FM, it will be 3 channels wide. How many weaker but listenable signals will this take out if it's adopted on a widespread basis????

The digital hash is well under WLW's analog audio, but it takes enough bandwidth to make adjacent frequencies unusable. Sounds a lot like the hash that my computer generates. Wouldn't it be easier to use an FM sub-carrier for this? Or even the empty space between FM channels- 88.2, 88.4, 88.6, etc? Methinks that would work a lot better than current idea they're testing.

Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I expect IBOC to die the same death as AM Stereo. The only people that stand to gain are the those pushing the broadcast equipment and possibly the receiving equipment. I really don't expect the public to buy into it. There is too much existing equipment out there and the buying public won't throw away what they have for a boatload of new stuff. Historically, the only way to get the public to buy a new radio technology is to do it on a new band. FM needed a new band instead of displacing AM, AM stered(the other IBOC-died), the DTV debacle(ongoing, but struggling). DBS-new band-successful, Sirius-XM, new band(ongoing, we'll see).

They intend to use the space between FM channels for the FM version of IBOC. In any case, putting this on FM would tend towards equalizing the coverage of AM and FM stations, and giving AM stations equal day and night coverage. That's not acceptable to the owners of large FM stations.

As I see it, the adoption of IBOC as currently proposed would indeed equalize the coverages of AM & FM: at about 10 miles or so interference-free, or, maybe 20 if neither is low power. I'm thinking that there's probably nobody who would want that outcome.

Based on what I heard on IBOC tests, yes, it would decrease coverage of most FMs to the of an AM. But their logic leaves me speechless..... They want to do it by generating so much interference on the band as to cut the coverage area of an FM to maybe 15-25 miles??? (What would a 3 kw. have.....10 miles?) And in doing so, areas that might have, for sake of arguement, 50 listenable signals (a few locals but most stations at distances of 25 to 60 miles) might end up with only a half dozen usable signals....... As a for instance, there's an area of Central N.J. around South Brunswick/Princeton that's about 45 miles from both NYC and Philly and stations from both markets are quite listenable (with the exception of those cases where NYC and Philly are both on the same frequency like 100.3 and 101.1). These stations are also on adjacent channels to each other (like 102.7 and 102.9). If everyone adopts IBOC, they should destroy each other totally. Wonder how the population in that area would feel about that....but the FCC doesn't seem to care what the public thinks anyway.

Send e-mail, stink bombs, brickbats, whatever to these addresses but make sure you send something telling them what you think! wlwam@clearchannel.com http://www.700wlw.com/contact.html This is the addresses. Make sure you let them know. This is the one and only chance we have to derail this mess.

All the people said they didn't want it. They didn't like that they would have to buy new radios. All the corporations said its wonderful. We are gonna screw the hell out of the people and take their money and they won't have any say. IBOC is great and the people will love it because they will have no choice and we can take their money. Think about how nice your digital cell phone is and how that drops out. IBOC's gonna be something else. IF they do that hybrid crap, its gonna be PATHETIC. We will all be DXing HF stations. That WLW IBOC test was an utter and complete failure for all the interference. What a friggin joke. Thats about the way it went.

March 11, 2001:
LOOP Question

"The following was taken from the National Radio Club list."
OK, here's a dumb question: from which direction do loop antennas receive, along the axis of the loop or perpendicular to the axis? I've heard them described as receiving in a "broadside" direction but I'm unclear on what that actually means in real terms. How about ferrite loops? Same orientation as well?
***First remember that the conductor in the loop is what matters, even though with a box-type air core loop, we tend to think of the idea of broadside as respects the physical frame. A ferrite core loop nulls off the ends. A spiral-wound air core loop, where the wire is wound in a spiral creating a flat surface, peaks 'broadside because the windings and frame are uniformly broadside. A box-type air-core loop nulls when the loop frame is broadside to the station. But, before you start to think that this is an inconsistency, remember that the wire on a box air core loop is arrayed in such a way that the windings are around the outside of the frame, and thus are wound in a perpendicular manner with respect to the frame. Consider this as really being the broadside of the winding ( which it is ) and it is consistent after all.

August 21, 2000:

[[View:A]] I've been actively soliciting FM station verifications for over 50 years, and lately I have seen the percentage of stations replying increase. And this is from a person who generally does not include return postage with my letters (reception reports).
What I have always done is not just ask for a "verification," but ask specific questions. I think being downright nosy helps. I always ask, even of a station within 100 km of me, "is this report of reception from northeast Minnesota the greatest distance you know of this FM station of yours being heard?"
I go on to ask what other FM stations they may own locally, and I may ask if they are on 24 hours. I never ask anything technical, and I invite anybody reading the letter at the station to reply. Sometimes I ask about their profitability--almost anything that will elicit a reply. I say very little about myself. Letters should be short, and why brag to a station?
Since we have free long-distance on Friday, I will often call stations that have not verified to try to get them to promise to reply. This will be followed by a FAX of my original reception report if they do not remember hearing from me. My failings include a lack of time to do many calls, and not know how long to wait before "bugging" a station for a reply. I have copies of reception reports from the mid-'60s I have not followed up on! I also encourage verifications by e-mail and FAX, so I've tried to keep up with modern technologies and to adapt.

[[View B]] There have been some excellent points made regarding verification of reception (QSL cards), etc.
As some of you know, I have been in charge of verification reports for WSM AM and FM and WWTN-FM for quite a few years, and have always been more than willing to respond appropriately to anyone who sent a report. I continue to handle that task even after retirement.
On occasion there were obvious attempts at deceit; sometimes people copying dated information from various sources in attempts to convince us that they did indeed hear one of those three stations. Their requests were denied and they were notified of the status and why.
Many other times there is insufficient information (and I'll go a long way to give someone the benefit of the doubt). In such instances we have send a form letter stating that we cannot confirm their report; another form showing a sample log which would be acceptable; and a request for them to try again with ample information. In at least 50% of those cases a second try nets a QSL card.
I am preparing to suggest to WSM management that the station(s) discontinue the practice of reception confirmation for the reasons Bill Hepburn cited. With on-line streaming audio 24/7, it is simply too easy to fake a reception report. They are indeed meaningless.
How many of us ever dreamed we would see the day that such a dilemma would evolve?

[[View:C]] The editor of this page believes there are several factors responsible for the decline in verification of FM broadcast station reception reports. There are:
Increased competition in the broadcast market, thus resulting in less staff doing more, hence less time for unimportant tasks such as QSLing.
Networks; with increased competion less local staff are employed (especially local announcers) & many broadcast stations run a very tight ship. Many staff are multi-functional. E.g. The station technician might also wear the announcer & promotions cap & the Station Manager also serving as sales rep, news reader & weekend announcer. Some staff take several months to write back to a listener due to the hectic scheduling. Many foreign media companies have entered the Australian & New Zealand markets & dominated them, buying up local stations by the bucket load, retrenching staff & stream-lining programming with networked programs with less staff with sole broadcast emphasis on wheel-barrowing maximum dollars off shore. What chance does a reception report have?
New stations. New stations most often mean new staff. Many of these staff will obviously be young or new to the broadcast industry & most wouldn't be aware of what a reception report is & what a radio verification or QSL is! So what chance have you with a report in their possession? Very little, unless you ring a person at the station & explain what the hobby is all about & kindly ask if they could comply with your QSL request. Many station staff don't have any idea about VHF propagation & thus don't appreciation the fantastic catch you made on your radio or the enthusiasm you have for your hobby. Many will be left confused still wondering what you want or why would you bother us writing. It's just exasperating isn't it dear dxer!
New licencing. In Australia we have seen the recent introduction of a new radio broadcast licencing catagory called a 'Narrowcast Licence'. Most of these station operate with only 2 watts of power. Many people from all walks of life have started a radio station on one of these licences. "What's this letter in my mail". "What's all this about". "Arrh...too hard, not important, don't have time, where's the garbage bin, ah over there...............bugger.. missed it". The same kind of thing applies to community FM radio in Australia except it is often difficult for the vuluntary staff to take responsibility in replying to such letters. Often I receive a response of the like "we don't have a process for handling such letters" or "I gave it to him to reply, oh... he must not have replied".
Less DXers today, thus less reports to stations, thus less familiarity with reception reports. Simple.

September 27, 1999: add:

[[Does anyone have any suggestions for outstanding DXing FM tuners? I'm looking for something extremely good with regard to selectivity and sensitivity.]]

I sold audio products for almost twenty years in high-end salons in the Midwest and South Florida. Manufacturers routinely submitted products for audition in hopes that we would represent them. This afforded an opportunity to evaluate many great tuners over the course of my career. Although today's musical offerings have left me listening to mostly AM talk, FM DX was my passion between 1970 and 1992.

Generally speaking, any tuner produced by a reputable company between 1975 and 1985 that incorporates two or more IF bandwidth settings is a candidate for your consideration. The manufacturers usually included this feature in only their top-line performers, so this is a very good yard stick for evaluation. Also, with one or two rare exceptions, you want to stay away from digital tuners altogether. These generally have tuning steps that are too large for the slight de-tuning we sometimes use to separate weak adjacent signals from strong locals. Here, in no particular order, are a few proven classics from memory:
Tandberg TPT 3001(A)
Pioneer TX 9500II
Pioneer TX 9800
Sansui TU 9900
Kenwood KT 917
Kenwood KT 815
Kenwood KT 8300
Kenwood 600T
McIntosh MR78
Yamaha CT 7000
A search of pawn shops and yard sales can still occasionally turn up one of these old wonders. There are also specialty shops across the country that still traffic in these whenever sources can be found. The older high-end tuners are much coveted by users who understand their performance advantages over what is generally produced today. They are usually in reasonable operating order when you find one, although the electrolytic power supply capacitors might need freshening after so many years. I find the RF performance to be generally still intact, but a thorough checkout is mandatory before purchasing.

[[My current DX rig is a rack-mounted Sony XRC-520 ES with a 57" stainless whip. Changing out the antenna isn't really an option, as I live in an apartment building and I'm lucky no one has spotted the whip sitting on the end of my balcony.]]

If you have any flexibility in decor, here is an old trick I used to share with customers in your predicament. Get a directional FM YAGI antenna, and mount it on a pole lamp placed adjacent to your stereo. You need the directionality to peak those weak DX signals while reducing multipath from the locals. The pole can easily be turned by hand to replicate the function of a rotor. These installations often work surprisingly well. I have seen this trick used to routinely tune stations one hundred miles away. And visitors will usually offer interesting comments on your unusual taste in lamps!

August 19, 1999 adds:

((i have a g.e. superadio III, i also use a select-a-tenna for dxing. is there any way to modify the sr3 so you can install a recording jack? does anyone or any company do this? i'm not far enough into my electronics degree pursuit to risk this myself. i would like to catch recordings off this radio instead of just slapping a microphone in front of the speaker and pressing "record" if an input jack is not possible, what type of microphone would work that won't make me file for bankruptcy? (read: inexpensive) ))
Easiest way would be to go through the earphone jack of the SR-III with an attenuating patch cable connected directly to the microphone input of the recorder. I have used one of these, and it does work... I think that there's something like 10K ohms of internal resistance built into the cable, and it helps to lower the speaker output level as well as to match impedance between the two devices.
I'm not sure if Radio Shack still sells one of these, but a good specialty electronics shop ought to have them in stock (or you might want to look into mail order). You just need to make certain that you specifically ask for an *attenuating* patch cable. They should have them with 3.5mm plugs on both ends, which will fit both the tape recorder's microphone input and the radio's earphone jack without any problems. The only disadvantage to this setup is that you will not be able to hear the radio while the cable is plugged in, unless your recorder is something like a hi-fi tape deck, and your receiver has a "tape monitor" function. I just thought of that as I was typing this. I guess that, if it were me, and all that I had was the SR-III and a "cheapie" monaural portable tape recorder, in addition to the attenuating patch cable, I'd get a 3.5mm male to two 3.5mm female "Y" adapter, and would plug mono headphones into the one side of the "Y" and the attenuating patch cable into the other. That should not have any really significant impact on operation, and you'd be able to listen to the radio as you were recording. Or you could plug a speaker wired to a mono 3.5mm plug if you did not want to wear headphones (though headphones are better for serious DXing anyway).

Radio Shack DX-375
Best way to improve your FM DX reception is to use a directional outdoor antenna. Should be an easy beginner mod to add an antenna jack to the DX-375, grab yourself an FM antenna or even a TV antenna and hook it all up. Not sure of the characteristics of the FM section of the DX-375, you may need to attenuate the signal to prevent overload from strong stations.

Tilt Stand for Portables FYI
I have 3 portables and have always hated the built-in tilt stands. I guess they're ok if you are sitting at attention at your desk. But me, I have to be slouched in my easy chair (beverage in hand) with the radio beside me sitting on a wooden snack table. Anyway...I was in office depot when I stumbled upon the answer for me...a bookstand! It's the Fellows Booklift (#21100, cost $10). This thing adjusts to 9 different angles and is strong enough to hold my Sat 500. It's roughly 9"X12" and the ledge is flat and almost 2" deep . It sure works for me!!! Just thought some of you might want to know.