It all started in 2007, when a friend (I won’t mention you again, but you know who you are!) came by and said something like: “shortwaves aren’t today the shade of what they were 20 years ago. The only band giving a meaning to the DX concept is currently MW”. At first, it puzzled me. I had to understand how the frequencies used to listen to a station I could see the antenna from my window were able to propagate a signal out of local boundaries. Then, a search on the net revealed about transatlantic receptions, and even more.
All those recordings of IDs from thousands miles far away made look these DXers like magicians to me. I started questioning the friend who put me on the MW track. That’s how I learnt that, as it happens with magicians, the trick wasn’t unlimited, but could happen only in particular conditions. “Greyline reception” was the key of it all. You had to be on the radio when the Terminator (that, until then, in my mind was no more that a Schwarzenegger movie) would pass on your area, switching from night to daylight, and exciting the ionosphere in a way that would made MW DX possible.
In a word, you had to be at controls at dawn. That as the main rule. The only objective one, as the others – that I learnt later – where much more aleatory. In fact, under the conditions allowing the trick, you weren’t sure of the stations you’d be able to receive. You had to choose a channel, sit there and listen for a signal to show up (I know SDR diehards will laugh at me now, but that’s how I had my training day!). First problem (and objection to my DX teacher): MW in the US have a 10 kHz step, while in Euro zone it’s at 9. “Well, at first pick up a frequency not close to any strong European station. Then, you’ll learn that greyline reception can also bring DX signals to wipe out local ones. Another chance is to try with the X band”.
That was for another lesson learned. Broadcasting, in the US, was allowed also from 1620 to 1700 kHz, while in my homeland, at best, there you could find Greek or former Yugoslavian pirates. I quite knew enough, I only had some work to do on the equipment side, before some first attempts. Clearly, you can’t play DX tricks with an internal ferrite. The magicians I was in touch were using K9AY, or Wellbrook. I had less money to spend, but more space, due to a grass in front of my house. So, I stretched a 300 inches long wire. That long should be working that low. I was ready to start.
Unforgettable, that’s the way you are
Due basically to a not-that-easy character of mine, after the first couple days of “nothing heard”, I was discouraged. I knew that I had some extra difficulties, given by the Alpine tough environment of my north-western Italy corner. I don’t think any DXpeditionner, free to choose a location for low band reception, would end in a land surrounded by four 4000 mt. roofs. Anyways, leaving aside mixed feelings, I kept trying. Dawn, in autumn-spring, here means from 4.30 to 5.10 UTC. One morning, in April 2007, the stars above decided it was my time, so some spoken words started to sparkle in the noise. My Icom R71 (duly modified by a ham friend, to remove MW attenuation) was parked in the X-band. Minutes passed, and the voice became readable. I started recording. The amazing thing is that I could notice the signal improve, as the sky -seen from my radio room window- became lighter. Then, when full daylight was on, it faded out. Twenty minutes, but among the most intense I ever lived. I thought of the night shift workers in those US cities, tuning to MW with portable radios, and I was listening to their same broadcast on the other side of the Pond! The first ID I properly recorded was WHKT, back then belonging to the Radio Disney network. Less strong, but readable were WMLB (“Voice of the Arts”), and WCNZ. Again, my DX teacher proved crucial in helping to identify what ended on mp3 files. An American station and an English overseas service use the same language, but they’re two really different cup of teas. And that’s an help I appreciated also in the following years, as you never stop to learn, and radio has a deep friendship content. However, hey, I had just became a magician…
Time pass, river roll
Soon, I understood that to hide a bigger rabbit, I needed a bigger top hat. Better reception means, especially in MW DXing, a better antenna. I still wasn’t allowed a big bucks budget, so I tried a compromise that proved succesfull: PA0RDT “Mini-Whip”. I won’t get in detail here, as it’s technically covered in detail by many other sites. However, you’ll know how it’s intended for low bands listenings. After installing it (and you’ve to be careful about minimum height and distance from metal elements), I noticed the difference at a glance. That allowed me to explore also the “Euro” portion of MW, and I realized my teacher was right: in the mornings of good openings, DX signals, in their twenty minutes of stardom, could prove stronger than local (continentally talking) outlets. Mainly, some constance was needed, as not every morning would provide something, but the neat side of the thing is that you’d never know what a same channel would disclose. US was main dish, but in these years I also received stations from central America and, once, Argentina. I also started to like, and this is very different from Europe, the vitality of the US MW scene. In just some months, the same station could pass from a network to another, mantaining its call, but completely changing style. The first time I heard KVNS, not only I was on cloud nine thanks to my first Texas reception ever, but a show made of “musica ranchera”, hosted by “El Genio” Lucas, was on. A year after, David Gilmour’ solo on “Another Brick In The Wall pt. II” greeted me to the station’s new “classic hits” format. Some other times you had sports, and then news, and then talk shows. Something that neither shortwaves, even if you could reach higher distances, could offer you. In a couple words, welcome to Wonderland!
Memories running away with me…
“DX catches” audio files started filling a folder in my hard drive. They’ve been properly labeled, thanks to the different ones who kindly helped (to name them, would mean to miss someone, so thanks to everyone who got in touch with me on this subject), and in the last week the idea to build a sort of “Sounds Museum” took shape. I think everyone enjoying this hobby should do something like that. Shortwaves are facing their bigger turn ever. Public broadcasting (and, consequently, public diplomacy) decided other paths will be used in future, so transmitters shut off, as well as many external services. Probably, now more than ever the thought of my elmer is real. Also, all people who love radio know how much we owe to memory, as for every historical event, radio was there. I don’t think I became a good MW DXer, partly for the place I live in (and basic equipment, also if some mornings I did score with my Tecsun ultralight), partly because I always missed committment. Anyways, something I heard, some fun I had, and some wonderful people I met. The following recordings are not only “exotic” stations heard in the heart of the Alps on Medium Waves, but also a live chronicle (that I promise to try to keep as updated as possible) of such a wonderful journey into spectrum lower end! A last note: the concept of “strong signal” for a DXer is basically different that for the usual listener. So, if you’re fallen on this page as a radio addicted you’ll already have headphones on. Otherwise, you’ve better stop reading and go get some. PC speakers won’t allow you to enjoy the feelings I had in the darkness of my room, at the gates of dawn!
1. 1200 kHz, WKOX, Newton, Massachussets, US – 21st Sep 2009, 04.58 UTC
“Rumba… Orgullo Latino” jingle, then into a Latin it. Not the strongest ever, but a nice memory of an era that isn’t anymore for this station (today WXKS, and with a news/talk format).
2. 1330 kHz, WRCA, Boston, Massachussets, US
21st Sep 2009 and 29th Mar 2011, 04.58/04.59 UTC
With one of the few exception by Sunrise Radio, in Europe we’re not so used to ethnic stations. In the US, due to the large communities presence, they’re pretty common. WRCA aims to Spanish and Haitian Creoles. The first recording witnesses a broadcasting in such language, while the second brings a top of the hour ID.
3. 1386 kHz, Carillon Radio, Loughborough Hospital, UK
25th Dec 2007, 04.50 UTC
Well, this isn’t transatlantic, but it remains a DXer wish. Low Power AM stations are licensed in the UK to serve neighboroods, with a community esprit. Due to their power (we’re talking less than 10 watts!) they’re basically a mirage. However, on Christmas Eve 2007, when the channel still wasn’t closed 24h by Euskadi Irratia, and after waking up early to see if Santa properly did his work, quite couldn’t believe my eyes when the ID towards the end of this recording was heard. Carillon Radio: the present I wasn’t waiting for!
4. 1390 kHz, WEGP, Presque Isle, Maine, US – 18th September 2009, 05.06 UTC
Thanks to being close to 1386 (that we just reviewed as a basically “free channel”), 1390 was a very good frequency for TA MW DXing. Listen how WEGP could be solid. This is the starting of the “Coast to Coast AM” show, networked on different stations, including this Maine one.
5. 1430 kHz, WENE, Endicott, New York, US – 19th September 2009, 05.15 UTC
19th Sep 2009 probably brought one of the strongest openings I witnessed in time. 1430 wasn’t a very easy channel, but WENE really came in strong. Given Murphy particularly enjoys DXer, the only fade out in minutes has been on the ID, but it can be heard, and the overall reception quality remains high for such a catch.
6. 1467 kHz, IRIB, Isfahan, Iran – 24th November 2007, 03.56 UTC
This ain’t “greyline reception”, but Iran-Aosta Valley still is a 5000 kilometers ride. I had to remain up ’til late, as Trans World Radio is on the channel for most of the day, but then I got awarded with this Iran State radio local outlet. Funny thing is that I then sent IRIB italian service a report for this reception. They even played the file on the air, but gave back with a “honorary” QSL for the italian shortwave broadcast. Probably, hoping in a MW QSL from Iran was just too much…
7. 1470 kHz, Unid station – 13th April 2010, 04.43 UTC
On this one, even “bionicle” ears friends gave up. Between two songs, a jingle in Spanish “La frecuencia de los exitos”, goes on. Once, Radio Vibracion, from Venezuela, was quite regular on this frequency. However, an Internet search for the jingle didn’t allow to tie this bit of recording to that particular station. So, it’s been quoted here also to witness how mystery is (a nice) part of MW DXing.
8. 1500 kHz, WFED, Washington D.C., US – 2nd April 2011, 04.30 UTC
The channel isn’t one of the most easy ones (France on 1494 hits hard!), but when signals do rise here, WFED, the all news from the US Capital, is usually the one to be heard. Here it’s featured with a full ID.
9. 1510 kHz, WWZN, Boston, Massachussets, US
8th Apr 2009, 9th Nov 2010, 05.01/06.19 UTC
Boston’s WWZN is what European MW DXers consider a propagation beacon. It can reach such a blasting signal that, if nothing is heard here in greyline time, probably there will be not much more will be heard. To be completely frank, it could be also true the opposite: Boston very strong, and nothing on other channels. However, on such mornings, you’ll always be able to enjoy WWZN, which offered a sports/news/religious mixed format (due to airtime brokering). Here we’ve got a couple examples of this “multi-skin”: Brother Stair in a recording, and n outro for the “Norman Goldman Show” in the other. Really strong, an impressive experience when you’re a MW DXer newbie!
9. 1512 kHz, IRIB, Ardabil, Iran – 11th August 2011, 22.30 UTC
This started with the “MW Springtime” that exploded quite one year ago in Italy. I was looking for a station from the Bologna/Emilia area, but ended finding Iran. My 2nd MW catch from there. I can’t really say I was disappointed.
10. 1520, WWKB, Buffalo, New York, US – 9th November 2010, 06.25 UTC
“Yes, it’s KB!“, and it’s also one of the strongest and clearest signals I’ve ever witnessed. Something like that, when the opening is over, keeps you smiling for the rest of the day!
11. 1550, Radio Nacional Saharaui, RASD – 14th September 2009, 21.01 UTC
The channel suits a 10 kHz step, but it’s not from the US. However, it’s a DX, because we’re talking the National Radio of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. A story that deserves to be read here. The transmitter is said to be in Rabuni. Once, a // with 6297 kHz was on.
12. 1566 kHz, TWR Benin, Benin – 7th September 2008, 03.58 UTC
This African MW outlet for Trans World Radio was freshly opened, when I did score reception of its religious content, in the languages of the area it was intended to serve (but also French was used for the broadcasts). Despite the distance, it achieved a really good strenght.
13. 1566 kHz, All India Radio, Nagpur, India – 31st January 2007, 23.14 UTC
One day, while reviewing the mighty EMWG, by Herman Boel, I’ve read that, on this channel, listeners in Europe were getting regular reception of AIR Nagpur. I did try with my Degen DE1103, along with a “ferrite superstick” with a good directional performance. It did the trick, altough just for some minutes. From an Ocean (Atlantic) to the other (Indian). Nice one!
14. 1590 kHz, WARV, Warwick, Rohde Island, US – 3rd Mar 2012, 06.00 UTC
After becoming an ham, I dedicated less time to MW DXing, even because I pulled down the “Mini-Whip”, and installed a “Fishing rod” homemade vertical, which has less performance, but still does its job. It’s the case of my first 2012 log: WARV, from Rohde Island, heard here with a “We are 15-90 AM, Life changing station” jingle on top of the hour.
15. 1620 kHz, 1620 AM, Mar del Plata, Argentina – 3rd Nov 2009, 03.29 UTC
Truth is that, to DX on MW, you have not only “greyline” opportunities. At late night, on some channels, openings can happen (sunset on the transmitter location, propagation wise, has an enhancement effect similar to sunrise on the receiver). This one will be unforgotten for a long time. I was exploring the band, when I stumbled upon a spoken signal, that however didn’t sound like an Euro pirate (even if unrecognizable). I parked there and, some thirthy minutes after, the only peak that this reception offered disclosed the above id. My first, and only so far, Argentinian reception. Usually, luck isn’t on a DXer side, but sometimes exception allow you great log entries!
16. 1620 kHz, WDHP, Frederiksted, US Virgin Islands
12th Sep & 9th Oct 2009, 05.00 UTC
After some MW DXing, you start understanding the kind of opening you’re witnessing. It’s not always only about US stations. Sometimes, central America comes to Europe. It’s the case of these two receptions, bringing to my ears a station in the US Virgin Islands: WDHP. At night, BBC transmissions are relayed, but on top of the hour a local ID is broadcasted (even if it had some loop problems, or something making it less readable).
17. 1630 kHz, Unid station – 15th April 2007, 04.50 UTC
This goes back to my very first days as an apprentice magician. So, you’ve to consider I wasn’t yet a recording champion (audio levels aren’t such an obvious concept). X-Band, free from Euro interference, can offer you clear signals, however without elements useful to identify the station. That’s what happened here, but also without ID, it’s always a pleasure to witness TA signals!
18. 1650 kHz, WHKT, Hampton Roads, Virginia, US
15th Apr 2007, 04.40-04.47 UTC
When I started looking for DX on MW, WHKT was belonging to the Radio Disney network (today is the conservative talk station “Freedom 1650″). What you can hear here are a station ID before a song (“16-50, Radio Disney”), and a commercial for a Radio Disney promotion. I also received the station in its following format, on 5th February 2011, at 01.46 UTC (ID at 03.25 in the clip).
19. 1660 kHz, WWRU, Jersey City, New Jersey, US – 2nd Apr 2011, 04.00 UTC
Another popular ethnic station is WWRU, also known as NY Radio Korea, serving asiatic communities in the New York Area. Here is the top of the hour ID, in English, followed by the broadcast in korean.
20. 1690 kHz, WMLB, Avondale Estates, Giorgia, US – 7th Apr 2007, 05.05 UTC
“Voice of the Arts” is one of the first stations you learn to identify, thanks to its classical music contents. Here’s an ID, before a track. WMLB has also been the first confirmation for a MW DX I ever received. Station manager heard this mp3, that I sent him via mail, and kindly acknowledged in hours.
21. 1700 kHz, KVNS, Brownsville, Texas, US
11th Apr 2007/7th Mar 2009, 4.50 & 6.19 UTC
US West coast in MW is a result I never achieved (altough some estimate colleagues did it!). However, Texas is the westernmost State I ever received. KVNS, in Brownsville, changed format between my two receptions. At first it carried musica “ranchera” and spanish programming (the id that can be heard in the recording is “esta es musica preciosa”), then it became a classic hits station (and the id is between Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton).
Last update: 18th June 2012.