Log: AM BCB, November 28th-December 6th, a distinct international flavor

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, best heard with headphones.

November 28th-29th, 2014

I set up right before midnight and didn’t get anything new on 600 khz over the top-of-the-hour break. I continued up the 600s and carefully mostly nulling out powerhouse KTNN from the Navajo Nation, I ended up with a webcast match for XEACB out of Chihuahua. But, as before, I couldn’t catch any identifying slogan or call letters over-the-air, so couldn’t log it.

For whatever reason, I went up to the high end of the band and worked until after 3am (10UT) from 1530 to 1460 kHz. Unfortunately, despite getting some interesting stuff, I was unable to log a new station. The re-logs included 1520 KKXA out of the Seattle area, and one that I really wanted but could only get a webcast match for was 1480 KRAE out of Cheyenne.

Three and a half hours and no new logs; it goes that way sometimes.

November 29th-30th, 2014

In contrast with last night, this turned out to be one of the most interesting nights of the fall. I started up a little before midnight and was getting decent sound from 530 out of Cuba, with Radio Rebelde being the dominant station based on checking them on shortwave at 5025 kHz. On 810, I caught part of a program on KGO out of San Francisco with a female host talking about women’s butts, which I wasn’t really expecting. The butts; KGO is a strong nighttime station here so that wasn’t a surprise.

I ended up on 840 kHz and was getting a fairly strong Spanish music station with the loop roughly oriented W-E. I ended up convincing myself that I was getting CMHW out of Cuba. I might have been getting that at times, but I suddenly got a domestic call:
840 KVJY, Pharr TX, weak at 12:55am (0755UT), 1000W, call (new), 1026 miles
It’s possible that they were on their daytime power of 5000 watts because even though I logged it as “weak” when I heard the call letters, the signal was strong at times. Not Cuba, but still a 1000+ mile station. Anyway, here is the call with another station in the mix:

I continued working up the dial, not getting anything new. I was about ready to quit a little after 3am and go to bed, but I decided to check Cuba again on 530 and it wasn’t very strong. Then I noticed something unusual, an apparent carrier at 774 kHz. I’ve had a possible carrier on this frequency before. This is well-known as usually the strongest signal from Japan.

I was fighting splatter from 770 KKOB out of Albuquerque, one of the strongest stations on the dial here at night. However, the carrier occasionally got strong enough to produce some faint audio! By 3:38am (1038UT), I thought I was hearing a woman speaking Japanese. I did various recordings of the audio and of the raw I/Q data from the SDR to look at later, but I was running out of disk space on my laptop! I was feverishly compressing files to make space while I was trying to record when the signal was best. At 4:14am (1114UT), I had myself pretty convinced that I was getting Japanese talking, this time a male. At 4:37am (1137UT), I was also getting a carrier on 747 kHz, often the second strongest Japanese signal and like 774, an NHK 2 affiliate. After another nice peak-up of the audio a little after 5am, I quit at 5:25am (1225UT) because I had plans later in the morning and needed some sleep!

I sought some guidance from the IRCA (International Radio Club of America) email list, and after posting the very best clips, had two people far more experienced than I am with trans-pacific (TP) reception verify that it was certainly Japanese. I was spurred to check the NHK 2 website using Google Translate because the speech pattern seemed rather odd for the station, but it turns out that I was hearing a 2-hour “culture” block that they run only on Sunday evenings Japan time. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear an identification at the top of either hour I was listening, I decided that this was good enough to log:
774 JOUB, Akita JP, weak at 4:14am (1114UT), 500000W, language + frequency + format (new), 5532 miles
Here is the best audio, recorded right around at this time:

This was a big deal! First, it’s certainly not unheard of to get Japan even away from the Pacific Ocean where reception is much easier, especially since they are on a 9 kHz frequency spacing. But, that often depends on getting some enhancement from sunrise, while I was getting the signal 4 hours before sunrise and it kept fading in and out without the carrier ever going away. Second, just my 5th country on the AM dial. Finally, this was obviously by far a new distance record on AM. Japan on shortwave is trivial, but Japan on the AM dial isn’t.

Finally, here’s a screenshot of the gqrx SDR software showing how strong the carrier was, when compared to nearby stations on 770 and 780:774JOUB_20141130

November 30th-December 1st, 2014

This ended up being another night with an interesting international catch. I started once again a little before midnight. I came close to getting a new station or two, but after the 1am top of the hour, I decided to check 1610 kHz. This is an odd frequency. In the US, this is generally reserved for very low power transmitters along highways to give road and tourist information. This is not a big deal around where I live, so I’ve never picked up one of them. In fact, sometimes there’s barely even a carrier on the frequency.

However, Canada does use this frequency for normal broadcasting. Although I might have been getting one of the Traveler’s Information Stations or Highway Advisory Radio stations (TIS/HAR) with my loop aligned NNW-SSE, I was getting music SW-NE. It was Spanish music, but there aren’t any licensed stations in Mexico on 1610. Sure enough, I got a webcast match for CHHA out of Toronto! Based on the webcast and the mediocre signal I was getting, I decided the best thing would be to listen for the singing slogan “Voces Latinas” that I could hear on the webcast. If I could hear that over-the-air, that would count. It wasn’t as clear as I would have liked, but I finally got it:
1610 CHHA, Toronto ON, weak at 1:30am (0830UT), 6250W, webcast and slogan (new province), 1871 miles
So, this was a new province and my second-longest overland AM reception behind KYW in Philadelphia. It’s not terribly surprising considering the frequency is so empty, but nice to get. Here is a recording containing the “Voces Latinas” slogan, which again is not very clear about 10 seconds into the clip:

December 2nd, 2014

Tuesday morning I was at it again, this time starting at 1:47am (0847UT). I’m not sure what possessed me to go out when I should have been going to bed, but DXing can be rather addicting. First, I checked 1610 again, and found no CHHA, but maybe faint female audio from a TIS/HAR which I couldn’t make out. I worked a bit on the “X-band” from 1620 to 1700 kHz, but I’ve mostly used up the few stations I should be able to get hear under most conditions.

I’m trying to work near 1490 after midnight on a regular basis because my local blowtorch on 1490 goes off the air at 12:10am. 1490 itself is a “graveyard” frequency that requires a special mindset to monitor given that there are so many stations that it usually just sounds like a low rumble. But, I had only logged on station on 1480 to this point, and there should be a good number available without being overwhelmed. I could hear a little something with the loop W-E, so I decided to sit there for a while. Luckily, it didn’t take long to get something interesting, especially after tweaking the loop more NW-SE. I heard “City of Merced” and then caught the call letters a few minutes later between an Al-Anon PSA and going back into Coast To Coast:
1480 KYOS, Merced CA, weak at 2:34am (0934UT), 5000W, call (new), 488 miles

December 5th-6th, 2014

I spent a bunch of time on the night of the 4th/5th, only getting several re-logs. I set up on the 5th just before 10pm (5UT) and had a little more luck. First, I was on 980 kHz for more than an hour. I’m pretty sure I had XEFQ out of Cananea, Sonora. I heard the name of the city, and it’s the only AM station in that city, but I was unable to get any other distinguishing slogan during the times the station was audible above KFWB out of Los Angeles off the other end of the loop.

I worked some other frequencies before decided to take a chance on one of the “graveyard” frequencies, 1230 kHz. I aligned the loop WSW-ENE in hopes of maybe getting KINO out of Winslow AZ, which I haven’t had any luck with day or night (I’ve picked up the other three Arizonans on this frequency and KINO is one of the nearest stations I haven’t logged). Instead, only 5 minutes after arriving on the frequency, I got a surprise call from the other end of the loop:
1230 KXO, El Centro CA, weak at 1:13am (0813UT), 1000W, call (new), 213 miles
“AM 1230, K-X-O” into Bread’s “Baby I’m-a Want You”. The “O” in the call is not very clear, but I’m confident about the identification. A rare 3-letter call from a station that dates to the time (1927) when that was more common. The odd thing is that it’s just a 1000-watt “local” station.

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