More AM broadcast band DXing with my 6-foot diagonal wooden-frame “loopzilla”, RTL-SDR dongle, Ham It Up combo from the back patio. Includes audio of several station identifications, and a couple of long cross-country catches of stations towards the end.
November 1st (AM):
Technically, I set up my equipment out on the patio just before midnight on Halloween. So, I thought it would be appropriate to go after some “graveyard” stations. There are 6 AM frequencies (1230, 1240, 1340, 1400, 1450, and 1490 kHz) that are set aside for short-range “local” stations. They are limited to 1000 watts of power and there are hundreds of stations on each frequency in the U.S.
At night, with a good antenna, you mostly hear a noisy rumble of dozens of stations all coming in at once. However, with continuously varying propagation, occasionally a signal will pop up out of the noise and if it is at the right time, you can get enough information to log the station. Even a 1000 watt station can get out pretty far at night, so a person might have access to 100+ stations on each frequency – if they are extremely patient. Many people set up automated recordings on a particular frequency and just check at the top of the hour (TOH) for call letters popping out of the murk.
As a “live” pursuit, it will drive you nuts doing it for very long. I have a local 24-hour transmitter 1.8 miles away on 1450, and an 19-hour-a-day transmitter 1.2 miles away on 1490. But, the other frequencies are more wide open. Anyway, I got very lucky at the beginning. Almost literally right after tuning to 1230, I got a new station:
1230 KYVA, Gallup NM, weak at 12:21am (0721UT) in GY soup, 1000W, call (new), 224 miles
What I heard was “KYVA is the fun place to be”, and it was so soon that I hadn’t started recording yet. Less than 15 minutes later, I got my second new station:
1230 KOTS, Deming NM, weak at 12:34am (0734UT) in GY soup, 1000W, call (new), 315 miles
“AM 1230 KOTS”:
This is a country music station, and the ident led into a country song. Great! Two new stations in 15 minutes, this is going to be easy. Unfortunately, despite getting intelligible audio on three more stations at various orientation of my loop antenna, I couldn’t get any identifications in the next 1.5 hours. That’s more like it…
I tried 1340 for an hour, and again had about three stations with audio and couldn’t get any solid idents. Okay, that’s more than enough of that for one night.
Off to 1360, with merely dozens of stations across the U.S. I was only here for a half-hour, and picked up two new stations:
1360 KWDJ, Ridgecrest CA, weak at 3:20am (1020UT), 31W, call (new), 302 miles
Notice how this just suddenly pops up at the right time:
1360 KBUY, Ruidoso NM, weak at 3:24am (1024UT), 201W, call (new), 399 miles
I had been getting bits of information on this one throughout the period, including the frequency of its FM translator (105.9). You can hear the end of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and then right after the words “right here, right now” a very faint “KBUY 1360 AM, 105.9 FM” call into Queen’s “We Will Rock You”; I’m not even sure if that’s all the same station!
Probably the best new station of the night was Mexican station XEHF. XE stations can be irregular about giving call letters, and I’m usually content if I can get their slogan and a webcast match. But, for this one, I got the whole smack with Spanish call letters, network, and city (“Escucha eckes-eh-ahchey-effay, Radio Fórmula, Nogales, Sonora”):
1370 XEHF, Nogales SO, weak at 3:50am (1050UT), 5000W, call (new), 240 miles
It’s rare to hear all of that at a weird time like 50 minutes past the hour, so I was glad to get it. I worked another hour-plus 1370 and 1380 and almost got a couple more logs, but not quite. Still, 5 new stations in 5 hours it pretty good, if you ignore the fact that being able to spend 5 hours on this means I have no life. (When I’m doing this stuff, I’m usually reading various things and/or surfing the internet during songs or other periods when I don’t expect to get a call for a while.)
November 2nd (AM)
I set up again around midnight and worked mightily on 1380 to get something beyond already logged KLPZ. I heard their call letters numerous times, and I’m 99% sure I was getting KTKZ at times, but couldn’t get a solid confirmation. I literally spent 2 hours on that with no payoff. I worked for an hour on 1420 and did finally get a home logging on a very nearby one that I did pick up on the car once much closer to the transmitter:
1420 KMOG, Payson AZ, weak at 2:35am (0935UT), 500W, call (new), 69 miles
That was actually the closest station I hadn’t heard since I started this whole thing in August. Of course, there are only AM 11 stations closer than this, which gives some idea of how remote this area is. (At 100 miles, this number climbs to 31 stations due to including pretty much all of the Phoenix metro area.)
November 2nd (PM)
This ended up being the big night for long-distance DX. It had a good start with something closer. I decided to work graveyard some more on 1230 and 1240. I kept hearing slogans for KJAA, which I’ve logged, but wanted to get an actual recording of call letters. But, they weren’t very forthcoming and had some fading at the wrong time. But, on 1240, I did get a new one:
1240 KFBC, Cheyenne WY, weak at 6:26pm (0126UT), 700W, call (new), 617 miles
I used to live in that area, so this was certainly not the first time I’ve heard the station, but first official logging. They were in a Denver Broncos Network football game and caught a weak call with The King trying to fade over:
I had a computer problem around 7:30pm. The USB connection for the RTL-SDR dongle can be a little dodgy, and the software I use crashes anytime it doesn’t see a connection. If it crashes badly enough, it forgets the previous settings, including important things like the frequency offset required for the upconverter, the oscillator offset in parts-per-million, and especially the location where to store recordings.
I got back on the air, so to speak, and was on 1060. With the loop oriented N-S, I immediately got “Comedy 1060” out of Alberta, and even heard their call letters, CKMX. This station is a frequent guest on a fairly open frequency in that direction, but this was the first time I logged their call letters. Great!
After a few minutes, I rotated WNW-ESE. As usual, I was hearing an unknown Spanish music station, but with apparent English news talk fading in. The latter went into a weather report and forecast. I was pretty sure I was going to get a new station if it held out due to the direction and language. However, I was shocked by what I got:
1060 KYW, Philadelpha PA, weak at 7:45pm, 50000W, call (new), 2067 miles
Wow!! That shatters my record for overland reception (WLW at 1584 miles was the old record holder), with only a Cuban station having a longer total distance. That was definitely a fist-pump moment! And, I had it recorded! Shit, no I didn’t. I forgot to reset the recording directory and so the current “recording” was not being saved anywhere. Much more profanity followed in my real-time log. But, I stuck with it and after about 20 minutes, I was finally able to get an intelligible call again. One decent call is at the beginning, then a story about the PA governor, then another call at the end:
I had sort of given up on being able to get stations all the way to the East coast, so after collecting my wits, I scrambled around for more stations to try that wouldn’t have certain interference. I ended up on 1020 to attempt KDKA; not quite the coast, but Pittsburgh is obviously in the same direction as Philly. Incredibly, after 30 minutes on the frequency, fighting through KNTQ off the back end of the loop, and KCKN off one of the sides, and hearing bits and pieces of the Christian program listed on the website as being on during that hour, I was able to get it!
1020 KDKA, Pittsburgh PA, weak at 8:33pm, 50000W, call (new), 1820 miles
Listen for “NewsRadio 1020 KDKA” at the end of the weather forecast:
What a great night! I wish I had had more time to try more Eastern stations, but there are a lot of those frequencies that are washed out here by Western stations. I checked out a couple, but nothing doing. Still, this is a nice boost knowing that my setup can get what are objectively some pretty good catches. I’m up to 273 stations officially logged here, with one more only logged in the car that I just need to do at home in the daytime sometime. When I get up to 300, I’m going to start looking at options for a dual-antenna setup and a phaser so I can null out stronger stations to look for weaker ones, and also to get more of a cardioid patten rather than bipolar.