2 new FM logs on 98.1 FM: one legal, one not

A seemingly uneventful rainy April day turned out to be anything but that when I logged two new signals on 98.1 FM within one hour of each other.  At 2:45 PM on April 22, while in my car in Oxon Hill, MD, I picked up a fairly strong signal on 98.1, airing classic hits and identifying themselves as “Classic Hits 98-1 The Fox.”  A quick internet search netted zero results, and I confirmed via webcasts from the closest 98.1s (98.1 WOGL Philadelphia, PA, 98.1 WTVR Richmond, VA, and 98.1 WOCM Selbyville, DE) that they haven’t changed their format and/or name to “The Fox.”  The station sounded like a regular FM signal, but it didn’t have any commercials, legal IDs, and barely any liners–most songs dry segued into the next.  The strong signal also steeply faded away once I drove out of the shopping center I was parked in, succumbing quickly to regional 98.1 WTVR and IBOC interference from nearby 97.9 WIYY Baltimore, MD.  Until I get other confirmation, I am logging this mystery signal as a pirate.   I’ll update my logs and this post accordingly if I become aware that this is a licensed FM station or translator.

98.1 PIRATE “98-1 The Fox” – classic rock, car radio in Oxon Hill, MD

Less than an hour later, while driving near my home in Woodbridge, VA, I heard a second new station on 98.1 FM, mixing in with 98.1 WTVR: W264BJ Manassas, VA.  This translator, rebroadcasting Spanish-formatted 920 WURA Quantico, VA, has been expected to debut for months now, and now apparently has.  Thankfully, its very weak in the car and cannot be received at home, leaving 98.1 as an open frequency.  I’ve found a trend of new translators’ signals increasing in strength after debut, so I’m not out of the woods yet.

I am confident that the “98-1 The Fox” signal and the Manassas translator aren’t the same station.  The translator is 9 miles away from my home; 17 miles away from Oxon Hill.  Given its signal was weak at 9 miles, I’d conclude it is weaker located further away in Oxon Hill, not almost local grade stereo as “The Fox” was.  Plus, since I am familiar with WURA-AM, I am certain that it wouldn’t air classic hits in English, and then switch to Spanish music within the same hour.  WURA/W264BJ also had DJs on-air, while “The Fox” didn’t.

Both stations have been added to my FM DX Log, and the audio file from the pirate signal has been added to my Audio page.

HD Radio finally decoded from 102.7 WQSR Baltimore, MD

Baltimore is a fairly close city to my home–just over 50 miles away.  Their FM stations boom into my Northern Virginia home and are considered semi-locals.  At any given time, I can receive HD Radio reception from their 95.1 WRBS.  Other FM signals from the city, such as 91.5 WBJC, 92.3 WERQ, 101.9 WLIF, and 105.7 WJZ, have HD Radio signals that decode very often year-round as reception conditions warrant.  Two Baltimore FM stations, however, never decoded IBOC reception at my house until recently: 102.7 WQSR and 104.3 WZFT.  WZFT decoded for the first time last week.  WQSR finally did too in the early morning hours of April 16.

WQSR is usually strong enough at my home to decode RDS.  I knew it broadcasted HD Radio since it decoded on recent trips to the city, but it rarely did here since its IBOC sidebands on 102.5 and 102.9 are occupied by other signals locally.  The stars aligned and WQSR’s IBOC decoded for about 15 minutes before disappearing.  The screenshots below were added to my HD Radio and RDS Screenshots page.

102.7 WQSR Baltimore, MD, 57 miles

Tropo opening 4/10/17. 1 new FM log and new HD Radio screenshots

Minor tropo in the early morning hours of April 10 brought in a new signal that is apparently a recent sign-on, given I had no idea it existed.  94.9 WAMS from the Ocean City, MD area popped in around 2:41 AM.  This is the first new log I’ve received since moving to my new home last month.  My FM DX Log and Audio pages were updated with the new log and audio clip below.

94.9 WAMS Newark, MD, 111 miles

Additionally, I got an HD Radio decode from Baltimore’s 104.3 WZFT for the first time in about a decade after the station debuted the service.  Up until now, I received several subdecodes from WZFT, but not a full decode like last night.  104.3 is a difficult frequency to decode HD on locally due to a strong HD-broadcasting local on 104.1 FM, and a semi-local station on 104.5 FM. WZFT’s 104.5 IBOC sideband came in over the semi-local signal, allowing it to decode.  The screenshots below were added to my HD Radio & RDS Screenshots page.

104.3 WZFT Baltimore, MD, 56 miles

I’ve moved! New DXing location and conditions

exclamationI have moved to a new permanent location, 1 mile SW of my previous home, still in Woodbridge, VA.  Ironically, my new home is in the same neighborhood that I lived in from 1997-2002, where I experienced phenomenal tropo that I have not seen the likes of in years.

With this move comes several changes to my site, as most of the positioning of this blog is relative to my current location and my ability to DX white at it.  The radio dial has several key changes that will affect how I DX, all of which is further explained below.

First and foremost, I am no longer DXing with a roof antenna, something I have enjoyed from 2002-2017.  At my old home, a townhouse, a roof antenna was an absolute must for any DX, since I lived at the bottom of a steep hill only 50 feet above sea level.  I am now limited to using indoor antennas.  However, this is not a bad thing.  My new home, a top floor condominium, is about 250 feet above sea level near the top of a steep hill that overlooks miles of lower land.  In terms of DX, my reception with an unamplified dipole antenna is Continue reading

Tropo fade-ins: 2 new FM logs

Local 95.5 WPGC Morningside, MD’s HD Radio broadcast has been off-air most of March 11 and 12, freeing 95.7 FM for normal DXing.  In the past 11 years since IBOC debuted locally, I can’t recall a time where WPGC-HD was turned off.  In its absence, the usual visitors on 95.7 pre-IBOC days came in frequently: 95.7 WVKL Norfolk, VA and 95.7 WBEN Philadelphia, PA.  But at 7:23 AM, a new station came in and stayed for most of the 7, 8, and 9 AM hours: 95.7 WPIG.  This station was unexpected, given its signal in SW New York had to cross the Appalachian Mountains completely to be received in Virginia.

95.7 WPIG Olean, NY, 241 miles

I also logged a new translator on 93.5 FM on March 12, 93.5 W283CD.  Local 93.3 WFLS Fredericksburg, VA’s IBOC signal has been off-air for several weeks.  W283CD seems to be a new signal, relaying a DC-area AM signal.  It is very weak at my house under normal reception and seems easily overcome by moderate Tr or Es, however, this now means I can’t utilize 93.5 FM for unattended recordings when WFLS-HD is off, unfortunately.

93.5 W283CD Silver Spring, MD, 28 miles

My DX Log and Audio Files pages have been updated with the above loggings and recordings.

FM modulator DX: You never know what you’ll hear

gpsLocal 93.3 WFLS’ HD Radio signal has been off for the past day or two, and in its absence, I have been monitoring 93.5 FM, a frequency that is usually occupied by WFLS’ IBOC interference.  As I live close to a major interstate and several main roads, I often get bits and pieces of audio from motorist-based FM modulators.  These are usually easy to spot, given the audio is often much quieter than a normal FM broadcast.

At 4:37 PM, I picked up something quite intriguing: a turn-by-turn navigation, presumably from a nearby motorists’ cell phone hooked up to an FM modulator on 93.5 FM.

Based on the mileage noted in the clip, the car must’ve been up to 2 miles away from my radios.  Pretty impressive.

Tropo fade-in: 1 new FM log across the mountains

2016-post-trI’ve written a lot about local 96.3 WHUR’s IBOC signal off-air this past week.  The unexpected absence of an HD Radio signal is a blessing for DXers since it allows signals otherwise permanently blocked away from reception to possibly be heard.  WHUR’s IBOC has since resumed broadcasting, but while it was off-air on February 5, I logged one new station, 96.1 WMAX.  On February 6, I logged another new signal, 96.5 WPEL.

At 232 miles away under deadband reception conditions, logging WPEL was a total surprise, much like it was when I logged 92.9 WEGX Dillon, SC at 318 miles in 2013 without any type of atmospheric enhancement.  96.5 FM, when not affected by WHUR’s HD Radio sideband, is usually always occupied by either WKLR Ft. Lee, VA (92 mi away) or WTDY Philadelphia, PA (144 mi away) and absolutely no other signals.  But at 7:59 PM, WPEL faded in just long enough for a generous slam-dunk station ID.  Listen:

96.5 WPEL Montrose, PA, 232 miles

wpelIn the image to the left, you can see my location (Woodbridge, VA) and WPEL in Northeastern PA.  The light green is my usual tropo range, while the dark green area is where usual signals from the once-every-few-years tropo duct into the northeast comes from.  WPEL’s signal made it through the Appalachian Mountains down an uncommon signal path into Virginia.

The above audio file has been added to my Audio Files page.  I’m in the process of reformatting my DX logs, so although the stats are updated, WPEL will be added to my FM log very soon.

The effect of HD Radio interference on an analog FM signal

For the past few days, local 96.3 WHUR Washington, DC’s HD Radio signal, which airs on 96.1 and 96.5, has been off-air.  Usually, 96.1 and 96.5 are extremely difficult to DX since WHUR’s digital sidebands are strong at my Northern Virginia home.  However, with WHUR-HD turned off, both of its adjacent frequencies were open to distant reception like they were prior to 2006 when HD Radio debuted on WHUR.  At 8:50 PM February 8, WHUR’s IBOC sidebands resumed its broadcast.

The above chart shows a waveform of 96.5 FM from 8:49-8:50 PM February 8.  In the beginning, you can see a fairly strong analog signal from 96.5 WKLR Ft. Lee, VA, 92 miles away.  At the 0:05:00 mark, WKLR’s signal decreases as WHUR’s HD revs back up.  at 0:09:50, WHUR’s 96.5 digital sideband is at full-power, and WKLR abruptly disappears without a trace.

Listen to the corresponding audio file to the graphic above.

House hunting and FM reception: An unlikely hurdle to finding the perfect home

pexels-photo-106399We’ve all seen the house hunting shows on TV.  Often, potential buyers balk at gaudy paint colors or dated shag carpeting.  While those can easily be changed to suit the new homeowner, there are many things in a new home that affect a DXer that are permanent, forcing the DXer to do their homework before signing an offer.

I am currently house hunting and in the process of moving out of the home that I have lived in since 2002.  I hope to do so within the next few months.  I plan on staying in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, and I do not foresee moving in closer to the local FM transmitters, which would adversely affect DXing capabilities.  However, since I have been in the house hunting process since late last year, I thought I’d share my findings as to what it is important to look for in a home as a DXer while moving.

Ideally, as a DXer, one would move into a home where they can erect a huge antenna array on par with the great one seen at DXFM.com.  Unfortunately, for most of us, having a roof antenna at all Continue reading