There is only one signal on 1710 AM in the United States, a tiny 10-watt travelers information station in New Jersey. At 223 miles away, such a signal should be impossible to receive where I live in Virginia. But that is exactly what I heard on my radio on April 16.
1710 WQFG689 Jersey City, NJ
Reception of the signal was a complete surprise, given similarly-powered signals in my own area barely make it a few miles out, let alone hundreds of miles away.
In continuing the spectacular AM reception that I’ve received so far this month, I also logged 18 new signals via groundwave and skywave propagation in the past four days. The new logs below have been added to my DX Logs page.
April continues to be a phenomenal month in terms of AM DX. In the past few weeks, I have received 16 new AM logs. Since my last report, I managed to log 15 more new AM signals, all either during favorable sunset propagation conditions, or in my car on my way in to work in the morning. The new logs below have been added to my DX Logs page.
During minimal tropo enhancement on April 8, I received first-time RDS decodes from three previously-logged signals. My RDS/HD Radio Screenshots page has been updated with these new screenshots.
The first signal, 89.1 WCNV Heathesville, VA, is 67 miles away from my home and was first received on 5/5/07. Although my radio detected a strong RDS carrier from WCNV, the station did not broadcast any radiotext, PT, or PTY data.
89.7 WXMD California, MD, at 40 miles away, was first logged on 6/15/16 and has been received over local 89.7 W209BY multiple times without any trace of RDS. That changed on April 4.
Being first logged on 5/10/99, 105.5 WRAR-FM Tappahannock, VA was among the first signals I had ever received. They seemed to have turned on RDS sometime in late 2018 or early 2019, because I did not get RDS from them before.
April 2019 has started off right in terms of AM DX. I received 8 new logs in recent weeks, and in the past few days, I have added another 8 more, bringing my total AM log station count to 241.
April 4 was something else. AM signals from Cuba dominated much of the AM dial in the overnight hours, displacing some normally strong regional signals. It was obvious they were Cuban after I heard one signal give a network ID, and I found the other signals playing the same thing. What I found even more interesting was that even with the slew of Cuban AM signals coming in, nothing from nearby South Florida came in. Given how Cuban AM stations often have multiple signals on one frequency with no local legal IDs, I was unable to positively ID every single station listed below, but I am adding them to my DX Logs anyway as a placeholder (in the event I ever do get a positive ID) because it was definitely a Cuban signal that I received.
96.7 WCEI Easton, MD is an adult contemporary station on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. During the warmer months, WCEI is local-grade at my house at 64 miles away. For years, it was one of the few remaining signals in the region that did not run either RDS or HD Radio. I read various online reports in recent months that WCEI debuted HD Radio, so I knew it was only a matter of time that I would pick up the station’s digital broadcast. That happened for the first time during the early morning hours of April 5. My RDS/HD Radio Screenshots page has been updated with this new screenshot.
WCEI does not have their HD callsign programmed correctly. Instead of showing “WCEI” on the top left corner of the radio screen, it simply shows “HD.” This seems to be the default text identification when a station revs up their IBOC equipment. While almost every other station programs this text field with their callsign or station name, WCEI has apparently not. Ironically, at the time of publishing this post, my local 96.3 WHUR Washington, DC also shows “HD” as their callsign, after showing “WHUR-FM” for years in the same text field. You can see a very similar screenshot of WHUR’s current incorrect HD Radio callsign to the right.
HD Radio, also known as IBOC (In Band-On Channel), is the United States’ choice for digital radio broadcasting. It debuted locally in my area in 2006. One of the (few) benefits of HD Radio for listeners is the ability for capable stations to display their callsign on the screen of any HD Radio. For DXers, this is a major plus, because during an intense tropo or Sporadic E event, one could theoretically identify any received IBOC signal immediately without the need to listen to the station for several minutes for an audio ID, potentially during a time when the signal would fade out, never to be heard (or identified) again.
I purchased my first HD Radio, the Sony XDR-F1HD, in 2008. The first HD Radio signal I received via Sporadic E was in May of that year, 97.5 KMOD Tulsa, OK, at 1045 miles away. The distance didn’t matter–I knew it was KMOD the moment I tuned to 97.5 FM, since the station’s callsign flashed on my screen, as seen in the picture to the right.
Oops! Errors in the display
Occasionally, I would come across a station broadcasting an incorrect callsign in the early days of HD Radio, such as my local 93.9 WKYS identifying as “KHRS-FM” for the better part of one day in 2008.
Ironically, a friend of mine in the Houston, TX area found the same incorrect KHRS callsign on his local 97.5 FM, whose real callsign was KFNC, in 2011. Other stations occasionally displayed some variant of “HD-FM” or “HDHD-FM” at some point, too. Just like the appearance of the KHRS calls on multiple stations, the error was often quickly fixed to the correct callsign. Even still, it posed an issue for listeners wondering the true identity of what station they had tuned in.
The move to name-based callsign displays
For a few years it was a given–if your radio decoded an IBOC signal, you could positively identify it with minimal effort. Although the aforementioned errors were rare, things started to change in the first half of the 2010s. During a Sporadic E opening in 2010, I received a callsign from an HD Radio signal that said “RRR.” Knowing that “RRR” was not a valid United States callsign, I had to listen to the signal to see what it was and where it was coming from. I quickly learned that “RRR” stood for “Red River Radio,” a public radio network in Texas and Louisiana. The station itself was 88.9 KLDN Lufkin, TX. A year later, I picked up a station identifying on my radio screen as “TROY-FM,” which was later found to be 88.7 WRWA Dothan, AL, a signal broadcasting from Troy University.
By 2015, the sheer majority of HD Radio signals I encountered both via DX and while traveling in other cities largely still had their actual callsign displayed when tuned in. This slowly began to change. I noticed more and more stations showing their station name instead of their callsigns when tuned to HD Radio, most notably stations named “Kiss FM.” Instead of callsigns, the HD Radio displayed “KISS-FM” on many of these stations.
In the following years, many radio groups switched their entire portfolio of HD signals in certain markets from callsign displays to name displays. It isn’t happening in every city in America, but it is common enough that most major cities have at least two or three stations now with name displays.
The phenomenon was most obvious in Pittsburgh, PA. I first visited Pittsburgh in 2016 and established an extensive DX log during my stay. At the time, 10 of the city’s HD Radio signals had callsign displays, while two (96.1 WKST & 104.7 WPGH) had name displays, “KISS-FM” and “BIG -FM,” respectively.
When I returned to the market in 2019, four more of the same stations that previously had callsign displays switched to name displays, bringing the total of stations utilizing name displays in the market to six.
Washington: A rarity in HD Radio markets
My local market of Washington, DC is unique in that all 21 HD Radio signals currently broadcasting still display their callsigns in their HD displays as of 2019. None have name displays. Even so, there have been many changes in exactly what callsign appears on each signal.
Over the years, most of the signals in Washington flip-flopped between displaying their callsign with the “-FM” prefix at the end, to simply displaying the four-letter callsign itself. This had no bearing on if the station’s actual callsign legally had “-FM” as a part of it or not.
In 2018, three Washington signals had “-FM” at the end of their callsign display: 88.5 WAMU, 93.9 WKYS, and 102.3 WMMJ.
Less than a year later, these stations removed the “-FM.”
Interestingly enough, I also noticed local 96.3 WHUR’s usual HD Radio display was replaced with an errornous “HD” callsign on April 4, as seen on the right screenshot below. I predict this will be fixed in the coming days.
Personally, I prefer the actual station callsign to be always visible on HD Radio signals. Although it is always amusing to see how creative station owners can get with fitting a station name into a four-digit “spot” on stations that do have name displays, I think that it takes away from the intended purpose of HD Radio in terms of being able to identify which signal is being received. It also makes DXing much harder because there is the chance of a distant signal coming in and disappearing before it is identified–even if its IBOC signal is fully decoded.
My prediction: within the next few years, at least one Washington HD Radio signal will switch to a name-based digital screen ID. We will see how right I am in the coming years.
I have been DXing a lot of the AM radio band in recent weeks, given the FM band has been devoid of any signal enhancement or DX conditions. In the past week, I have received eight new AM stations. I was unable to find the callsign for the low power 1610 AM signal listed below, unfortunately. These new logs have been added to my AM DX Log.
New signals received:
570 WMCA New York, NY, 4/3/19 8:29 PM, skywave, 222 miles, “570 The Mission” – religious
During minor tropospheric enhancement on March 28, I received RDS for the first time from 106.3 WCEM, a country station on Maryland’s Eastern Shore at 64 miles away that often comes in over local LPFM 106.3 WJPN-LP Prince William, VA @ 6 miles. WCEM is one of my veteran FM logs, being first heard in my Virginia home on August 2, 1999. It was a very common signal on 106.3 FM until WJPN-LP signed on in 2016. WCEM must have turned on RDS in the past year, since I have received them multiple times over the years without RDS. My RDS/HD Radio Screenshots page has been updated with this new screenshot.
While tuning the AM radio dial on March 25, I received one new station: 1630 WRDW Augusta, GA. WRDW, an ESPN Radio station broadcasting a sports format, is 442 miles away from my home in Virginia. I have updated my AM DX Log with this new station.