Log: AM BCB, November 12th: The Early Bird and the Late Bird

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, which is best heard with headphones.

NooElec just came out with an RTL-SDR dongle using version 2 of the R820T tuner, oddly enough called the R820T2. It’s a bit over $20, but supposedly is more sensitive with better signal-to-noise. It definitely was more sensitive, but not sure if the S/N improvement was there. Still, worked quite well.

Unusual for me, this session started at 4:40am (1140UT). One of the things I was doing was checking to see if I could get any hints of trans-pacific (TP) stations. This is a big sub-hobby for DXers, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, and others farther inland with large sensitive antennas. North American is an oddity in that the AM broadcast band uses 10 kHz intervals, while most of the rest of the world is on 9 kHz spacing. These means that if you can tune more precisely than 10 kHz steps, these stations can sneak in between domestic frequencies and can even dominate for people on the coast with highly directional antennas point over the ocean.

Anyway, I don’t have a big antenna, and I’m several hundred miles inland. People do occasionally report TP reception “barefoot” with just the ferrite loop antennas in a portable radio, so my air-core loops have a chance under the right conditions. For the first time, I think I may have had a TP carrier. One of the very strongest ones is usually 774 kHz out of Japan, and I had a consistent carrier on the SDR display for quite a while. It had to fight through splatter from 740 KCBS at times, but considering it was right on frequency and my loop gave a null and peak consistent in direction with Japan, I think it was real. Here is a screen shot of Gqrx, the program I use on my MacBook, depicting the carrier at its strongest; based on experience this was just a few dB below the point where I would start getting audio. Note that the frequency scale on the bottom rounds to the nearest kHz and that the carrier itself really was at 774.0 kHz, while I was offset to 775.3 kHz to avoid splatter.Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 5.08.12 AM

I farted around nearby, in case the carrier got stronger, but it didn’t. I ended up all the way down at 1700 and found a strong open carrier. That is XEPE, the ESPN affiliate for San Diego, with transmitter in Tecate, Baja California. But, they were broadcasting dead air, a rare opportunity for me to catch another station on 1700! In fact, I believe I had two stations, Tejano stations KKLF out of Richardson TX, for which I got enough information to log at 917 miles, and KVNS out of Brownsville TX, for which I didn’t, so while I’m almost certain I had it, I couldn’t officially log it. Listening for stations under an open carrier is odd because the sound is super-quiet, but the noise level is super low. I was afraid to turn the volume up lest XEPE came back on!

I was back at it in the evening, already getting Cuba stations on 530 on the car radio shortly after sunset, as well at KKLF trying to sneak in under XEPE. Buy the time I got my loop set up outside at 6:53pm, both Cuban stations were audible on 530.

I decided to work in the 1300s, and after wasting some time on 1380, I picked up a new Mexican station, probably still on their higher day power, although this is pretty close to me:
1350 XELBL, San Luis Rio Colorado SO, medium at 7:28pm (0228UT), 8000W, call (new), 195 miles
Among other things, you can hear the full call letters (“eckes-eh-elay-bay-elay”), slogan (“Radio Centro”), and location.

I took a break from 8:17-8:57pm to take care of some other things, and decided to go back to the bottom of the dial. That was mostly frustrating because I spent 2.5 hours on various frequencies up through 660 kHz, and despite having many leads, I only picked up one new station, another Mexican. However, this was the first station I’ve been able to pick up under Los Angeles blowtorch KFI and it took more than an hour:
640 XEJUA, Cuidad Juarez CH, weak at 11:01pm (0601UT), 5000W, call (new), 397 miles
This one snuck in and I had to go back to the recording to make sure I got all five call letters. Listen below the KFI announcer right after he says “person or persons responsible”, to get “eckes-eh-hotah-oo-ah”:

I had a webcast match for XEACB out of the state of Chihuahua in the partial null of 660 KTNN from the Navajo Nation, but never could get an audio confirmation of their slogan or call letters, so I couldn’t log it.

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