As I’ve stated before, I am an Amateur Radio Operator as well as a Shortwave Radio Listener. In short…I’m a nerd! For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with the airwaves and what I could pick up on a radio.
You can still use traditional shortwave radios to listen to the bands or you can use software defined radios. SDR’s are basically black boxes with circuitry that are connected to a computer. The software on the computer is what demodulates the RF signals into audio. The graphical user interface simulates a radio. Pretty cool technology!
The RTL-SDR dongle and the Nooelec SDR SMArt dongle each cost $30.00 USD and are 8-bit ADC processors. Frequency coverage is 24MHz-1.8GHz. The Airspy HF+ Discovery is an 18bit ADC processor and run $169.00 USD. Frequency range is 0.5kHz-31Mhz and 60MHz-260Mhz. The SDRplay RSPduo ($249.00 USD) is a 14-bit ADC dual tuner SDR with a frequency range of 1kHz-2GHz.
Connecting these SDR’s to a laptop or desktop and running the software creates a much different radio listening experience. With this method, listening to radio signals is on a different level since it is visual as well as aural.
In amateur radio parlance, I can cover all frequencies from DC to daylight. An exaggeration to be sure, but frequency coverage is impressive. Much wider coverage than a standard amateur radio. Each of these SDR’s are useful for different purposes. Some are primarily focused on HF frequencies (0.5kHz-30MHz) where others are wideband and are useful for scanning VHF or UHF frequencies as well as the FM band.
Antennas are the most important part of this system. Currently I am using passive loop antennas (Airspy Youloop $35.00 USD) active antennas (mini whip and Bonito Meg Aktiv MA-305) a long wire antenna and a Loop on Ground antenna.
I built the Loop on Ground antenna as an experiment but have been very impressed with its performance. I wound a FairRite #2873000202 binocular core transformer with 28AWG Kinar wire to create a 9:1 transformer.
Since these are receive ONLY antennas, it is acceptable to use CATV RG-6 coax cable. My Loop on Ground antenna has 60 feet of wire to form a loop. Total cost for this antenna was $12.39 USD. Results were spectacular. My signal-to-noise ratio was greatly improved. Background noise was drastically reduced which makes listening much easier on the ears without a bunch of static.
When it is cold outside and I can’t go fishing, I tend to sit at my desk and surf the airwaves just to see what’s out there. There are still a lot of programs on the shortwave bands believe it or not. You can decode weather faxes as a way to get weather information without any network connections. Listen to AM and FM, NOAA weather radio etc etc.
All of the software I use is FREE. Zero cost. And there is software for Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android. In the main picture you can see my mini-Windows 10 desktop and 34″ monitor running both SDRuno software and the Airspy SDR# software at the same time. You have lots of options!
Anyway, I thought I would share a different hobby that I have besides fishing. Stay warm out there…