Image of Voice of America transmitting towers and title: Jack's Radio Fundamentals Homepage

AM Broadcast Radio

I was in junior high school in the late 1960s when I discovered that I could hear far distant AM broadcast radio stations on my table radio. Normally I listened for my favorite groups like the Beatles, Herman's Hermits, Paul Revere and the Raiders, or the Byrds on the local rock'n'roll stations WSAI in Cincinnati and WING in Dayton. But if you turned on your AM radio at night you could hear stations from hundreds of miles away. I heard WABC New York City, WLS Chicago, WHO Des Moines, even XERF in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. This was really

On an AM radio during the daytime you can normally hear broadcast stations from 100 miles or more away, but at night that expands to thousands of miles. How the heck does this work? It is the miracle of radio, check it out. Here are several AM broadcast stations that you should be able to hear at great distances at night (mainly because they broadcast at high power).

WSM 650 Nashville,TN
KNBR 680 San Francisco,CA
WLW 700 Cincinnati,OH
WBAP 820 Dallas,TX
WWL 870 NewOrleans,LA
KDKA 1020 Pittsburgh,PA
WBZ 1030 Boston,MA
KSL 1160 Salt Lake City,UT

This list is optimized for the American Midwest, where I live. More stations, plus links.

Most radios produced today have digital frequency readout which really helps identify what frequency you are on and what radio station you have tuned in. An older analog style tuning dial works as well, it just requires more patience. There are books available, such as the World Radio TV Handbook and the Passport to World Band Radio, that identify stations by frequency, country, time of broadcast, program content. They are a valuable asset if you really get into radio listening. This is often called DXing, meaning listening for distant stations, the smaller and farther away the better.

Shortwave Radio

It was in my junior high metal shop class where we all built crystal AM radio detectors as a class project. Mine actually worked! Crystal radios are typically so simple that they only pick up very strong local AM radio stations. I heard two stations on mine, the local 50,000 watt powerhouse WLW in Cincinnati, and a Spanish speaking station. The Spanish station turned out to be the Voice of America broadcasting on shortwave radio. The US Government sponsored Voice of America operated, until they closed it three years ago, a 250,000 watt station just north of Cincinnati beside Interstate 75, to broadcast their programs to South America and Africa. That is the radio station pictured in my title graphic at the top of this page.

This led me to investigate shortwave radio, and shortwave is way cooler than AM broadcast radio.What is the difference between AM broadcast and shortwave radio? They both use radio waves, but at the higher frequencies used by shortwave (1.6 to 30 mHz) reception at MUCH longer distances is possible, all day long. Most countries maintain shortwave broadcasting services, so the variety of programs, music, and languages you can hear is mindboggling. Nations all over the world want the United States public to know what they think so they often broadcast their shortwave programs in English with antennas pointed right at us.

Here are some of the most popular and most easily pickupable shortwave stations (with times in Eastern Standard Time). If you listen much to shortwave broadcasts you will need to understand UTC, or Universal Coordinated Time.

Deutsche Welle,Germany 11805, 15130kHz 2pm(1900UTC)
Radio France International 12080, 15225 2:30pm(1930UTC)
Voice of America 13710, 15410, 9760 2:30pm
Radio China International 15110, 11715 3pm(2000UTC)
Radio Nederland 6020 7pm(0000UTC)
Radio Bulgaria 9485 7pm
Voice of Russia 7125 7pm
Radio Austria 7325 7:30pm
Radio Sweden 6050 7pm
HCJB, Ecuador 9745 8pm(0100UTC)

Making a list of listenable shortwave broadcast stations is an almost impossible task. Above are several that broadcast in English(except RFI) with strong dependable signals. But there are so many SW stations to choose from at any given hour. There are Internet sites that offer lists of shortwave broadcasters for any hour you submit.

Here are a few of my favorite shortwave stations. I like them because they are offbeat and unusual, located often in exotic spots on the earth, offering fascinating cultural insights, and playing incredible indigenious music. I enjoy classic and alternative rock, bluegrass and reggae, but I love African soukous music and Andean Quechua flute music. Too much shortwave listening I'm afraid!

Radio Quito, Ecuador 4920 kHz after 7pm(0000UTC)
RFO Tahiti 15168 24 hours
Voice of Greece 9420 3pm and on(2000UTC)
Radio-TV Togo 5046.5 12:30am(0530UTC)
Radio D.TV Benin 4870 midnight(0500UTC)
Radio Mauritania 4845 1:30am(0630UTC)
Radio DN Chad 4904.5 11:30pm(0430UTC)
Kol Israel 9365, 9435 3pm(2000UTC)

HCJB is one of the world's most popular shortwave broadcasters. My parents worked 10 years for HCJB and lived in Quito, Ecuador. I was lucky to have been able to visit them and HCJB in Quito. Here is the story of my month in Quito. I was in DX heaven.

Ham Radio

Listening to shortwave is fun, but transmitting on shortwave and talking with friends all over the world is much better. Ham radio allows you to do this. I have been a ham for over 27 years now, and honestly, spend more time talking on the ham radio bands than listening on the SW broadcast bands. And more time with ham radio than on my computer. I enjoy rag chewing on 40 and 80 meter CW, or Morse Code. I have just completed a major addition to my homepage, "A Beginner's Guide to Making CW Contacts". Ham radio is such an extensive subject, I could go on for many more pages describing ham radio, but instead I will provide a few ham radio links.

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