More AM broadcast band DXing with my 6-foot diagonal wooden-frame “loopzilla”, RTL-SDR dongle, Ham It Up upconverter combo from the back patio. Includes audio of several station identifications.
November 7th, 2014
I had been doing some work “hot-rodding” my Ham It Up upconverter by installing a
LNA4HF low-noise amplifier to hopefully beat down the noise level a bit relative to the built-in amp of the RTL-SDR dongle itself. I’m not really sure if it helped much, but it didn’t hurt. I still intend to write up detailed information about the loop antennas I’m using, but I keep being too lazy to go through all of the photos I took of the building process.
Anyway, I continued where I left off on Tuesday night, but skipping the “graveyard” frequencies of 1230 and 1240. Immediately on 1250, I heard something different. It identified as “Northwest Public Radio”. I hoped to get something better than that, but fairly nearby KNEU and an unidentified ESPN Radio affiliate, AND an unidentified Spanish-language station kept fading over. I poked around on-line and found that Northwest Public Radio only has this one AM affiliate, so I finally called it good enough.
1250 KWSU, Pullman WA, weak at 9:19pm, 5000W, slogan and freq (new), 877 miles
I had some promising leads on 1260 and 1270, but nothing new would come through that I could log. I took a quick break to dash over to McD for a midnight snack. Right after getting back (leaving the computer to record while I was gone), a got a call that I had to listen to later a few times to confirm.
1270 KFSQ, Thousand Palms CA, very weak at 11:59pm (0659), 750W, call (new), 229 miles
Not very far away, but not very powerful, either. You can just hear “K-F-S-Q, Thousand Palms” if you listen closely:
November 8th, 2014
I continued working my way up the dial after midnight, but not getting any good leads until the next graveyard frequency, 1340. I was getting various fading in and fading out of a Spanish music station, CBS Sports, oldies, and a country station.
I ended up getting two new stations out of this mess with about 1.5 hours of work.
1340 KPGE, Page AZ, medium at 12:59am (0759UT), 1000W, call (new), 173 miles
This is a country music station and not very far away, it’s just that at night this frequency is a mess, so I hadn’t confirmed it until now.
I continued to struggle, getting close to new logs, but not quite. Finally, I got one of those “miracle” calls after not being able to log anything at the previous two TOHs. And, this wasn’t the station I was chasing at that moment!
1340 KACH, Preston ID, very weak at 2:05am (0905UT), 1000W, call (new), 526 miles
I’m not even sure whether I had been getting this station very much in the previous 90 minutes, but there are a bunch of closer stations on this frequency (almost all of which are 1000 watts with non-directional transmitting antennas), so I’ll take it! Listen carefully to the male voice that comes in under Jean Knight’s 1971 hit “Mr. Big Stuff”:
I wanted to work at high frequencies, so I waited until about 11pm to start, since one of my two local pests (1490 KYCA) goes off the air just after midnight. I started working the 1500s, and at 1560 had what would probably be new English and Spanish stations if I could log them. I kept hearing “Radio Vida” or “Radio Viva” (it turned out to be the latter) on the Spanish one matching the slogan listed on Cantu’s Mexican AM list, matching one station, and got a webcast match for that station.
1560 XEJPV, Zaragosa CH, medium at 11:36pm but various splatter, 1000W according to mwlist.org, webcast and slogan (new), 409 miles
As best I can tell, Zaragosa is a neighborhood or suburb of Cuidad Juarez.
November 9th, 2014
I decided to go back down to the bottom of the dial for the after-midnight continuation of the session. I wasn’t having much luck with anything new until I hit 620. I set up the loop SW-NE to try to avoid KTAR and XEBU, the two strongest stations on the frequency. I immediately heard country music, implying that it could be the strong Canadian station on the freq. I quickly got a webcast match on the song “Tennessee River” by Alabama, and within 4 minutes of hitting the frequency I had a new Canadian station logged.
620 CKRM, Regina SK, weak at 12:46am (0746UT), 10000W, call (new), 1161 miles
Not only a nice catch from more than 1000 miles, but just my second official log from Saskatchewan. Canadian stations are only required to give a formal ID one a day, so it was nice to get an ID for CKRM at a semi-random point in the hour. Being a non-network station, they may ID frequently like many U.S. music stations. CBC affiliates are particularly bad at giving any indication about the local affiliate at night. (During the day, the locals often produce their own programming.)
The biggest surprise of the night occurred when I was trying to identify a Spanish station on 670 and based on a webcast match for distinctive music, it turned out to be Radio Rebelde out of Cuba! To be fair, I’ve picked them up on 530, which is an otherwise pretty much empty frequency because the U.S. doesn’t have commercial stations there. I’ve also picked them up on 1180, but they have numerous transmitters all around Cuba, which can produce a pretty fair combined signal. The same thing sort of applies to 670 although to a lesser extent. Although you can’t quite add powers that way, mwlist.org gives a total of 160 kW of power on the 670 kHz affiliates (including 2 50 kW blasters), and about 375 kW on 1180 kHz (including 4 50 kW blasters). It has been suggested that they have their own ideas about just how much operating power they should use, but even on spec, they cover much of the southeastern U.S. at night, and I have a Great Circle path to Cuba that is about half over water to aid propagation. Unfortunately, due to the many transmitters, I haven’t quite figured out how to log the Rebelde 670 and 1180 catches, so they don’t count in my totals. When I’ve DXing on shortwave, I frequently try to hit Rebelde on 5025 kHz because they often play good Latin/tropical music.
Anyway, Rebelde wasn’t coming in very strong, and I continued up the dial. At 690, I kept getting an oldies station, which would be a new catch if I could get it. I had to listen to the recording a few times, but finally convinced myself.
690 KWRP, Pueblo CO, very weak at 2:09am (0909UT), 24W, call (new), 506 miles
Getting a 24-watt station from 500 miles away is a little odd, but even if they were running at their daytime power of 250 watts, this is not an easy catch. An audible signal under other stuff did not last long, and propagation can be weird sometimes. Anyway, you can test yourself with the recording and see if you agree:
I ended up finishing the night with some semi-random stuff. On 800 kHz, XEROK out of Cuidad Juarez dominates; it’s a true “border blaster” and has allegedly operated at 150,000 watts, although most think that it generally sticks to the American allocation of 50,000 watts. At 2:48am (0948UT) the signal strength was at my highest AM rating, “very strong”, basically comparable to a “local” station even though XEROK is 400 miles away. I decided to stick around to the TOH to get a recording of the call letters, which I hadn’t logged yet. (I originally logged the station based on a webcast match and hearing the “Radio Cañon” slogan over the air.) So, here is the call from 3am:
I was hoping that tonight would be interesting because 1390 KSPO out of Charleston SC was going to be doing a “DX test”. Basically, they were going to broadcast various things over the course of an hour that would be easy to hear, like morse code, frequency sweeps, and distinctive music. In particular, morse code and frequency sweeps can get through very well, which is one of the reasons that there are ham radio bands that are morse-only. However, the station is 1864 miles away and I have a Mexican pest station XEKT that would also be picked up by my loop antenna when pointed towards SC. I did not hear anything from the test.
Not suprisingly, I did hear XEKT, as well as the “Radio Nueve Vida” slogan for KTLX, a sports station, and another English-language station coming through at times. An hour before the test, I recorded a call for XEKT to add to my collection, although the station was trying to fade out when they did the call. Note that they keep saying “Kah-Tay”, or “K-T”, which is part of their slogan. Also note that they call “XHKT” first, which is the FM translator. This is fairly typical in Mexico where there may be a long-term phasing out of AM stations.
After the test at 11pm, I went next door to 1380 and despite “local” KLPZ only 107 miles away, I managed to get a new station logged shortly after midnight.
1380 KTKZ, Sacramento CA, very weak at 12:07am (0707UT), 5000W, call (new), 557 miles
This was another toughie; listen carefully after the tones at the 3-second mark:
And finally, another new one on graveyard frequency 1400.
1400 KENT, Parowan UT, very weak at 12:11am (0711UT), 1000W, call (new), 227 miles
The call is very faint again, but I double-checked the webcast to make sure this was the right station. I also did a bit more signal processing on this one, including “Noise Removal” in Audacitiy, which uses a noise sample that you select and tries to remove that signal from the entire file segment.