DX 6/8/19: Tropo enhancement into DE, MD, NJ; 1 new FM log and first-time HD Radio receptions

Tropospheric enhancement into southern New Jersey, Delaware, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland was better than average during the early morning hours of June 8.  Signals up to 140 miles away came in, some with first-time HD Radio reception.

The highlight of the night was new logging of a translator on 100.5, W263CW.  This was the first new station received on 100.5 in 10 years.  The lack of new signals on 100.5 is largely due to it being succumbed by HD Radio interference from local 100.3 WBIG.  Even so, tiny 250-watt W263CW came in easily with a listenable signal for a short time.  I updated my DX Log with W263CW’s logging.

100.5 W263CW Denton, MD, 78 miles

I first received 97.3 WENJ Milville, NJ in 2000 as WXKW when they were a repeater of “New Jersey 101.5” WKXW.  The station, which is 141 miles away from my Virginia home, has come in numerous times over the past 19 years, often with RDS.  June 8 was the first tine WENJ came in with HD Radio.

90.7 WSDL Ocean City, MD, at 113 miles away, was first logged on 12/30/06.  The station is rarely heard at my Virginia home due to strong HD Radio interference on 90.7 from local 90.9 WETA.  Even with that huge hurdle to overcome for positive reception, WSDL came in with RDS for the first time on June 6.

103.9 WOCQ Berlin, MD, at 107 miles away, is a tough catch due to HD Radio interference from very strong 104.1 WPRS blocking 103.9.  I only received HD Radio from WOCQ once before, in 2018.  Although the call letters didn’t decode on-screen, I received a subdecode of WOCQ’s IBOC signal on June 6, and I also received a full RDS decode.

I also added new screenshots to my RDS/HD Radio Screenshots page from the following previously-logged stations:

88.3 WRAU Ocean City, MD, 108 miles

90.3 WNJZ Cape May Court House, NJ, 135 miles

90.5 WKHS Worton, MD, 76 miles over local 90.5 WPER

92.1 WVLT Vineland, NJ, 130 miles

97.7 WAFL Milford, DE, 97 miles

97.9 WBEY-FM Crisfield, MD, 91 miles

99 9 WWFG Ocean City, MD, 116 miles

100.1 WJRZ-FM Manahawkin, NJ, 181 miles

100.7 WZXL Wildwood, NJ, 138 miles

101.7 WZEB Ocean View, DE, 106 miles

104.9 WSJO Egg Harbor City, NJ, 153 miles

107.7 WGBG Fruitland, MD, 101 miles over local 107.7 WWWT

First FM Sporadic E-Skip opening of 2019

During the evening hours of June 8, Sporadic E-enhanced signals were heard at my Northern Virginia home — the first Sporadic E reception observed by me in 2019.  About 45 seconds total of FM Es came into my Airspy R2 radio on June 8 between 8:34 PM and 8:52 PM.  It is unclear what stations were coming in and from where, since the signals were so brief.  Here’s a rundown of what I heard:

  •  88.9 – fade-up of Christian contemporary music a few times over the span of a few minutes on top of weak semi-local 88.9 WEAA Baltimore, MD (59 miles)
  •  93.5 – strong classic rock fade-up for a few seconds over weak regional tropo from 93.5 WZBH Georgetown, DE (106 miles)
  •  95.1 – a second of country music heard over a listenable regional tropo signal from 95.1 WAYV Atlantic City, NJ (158 miles) (strangely, normally-heard semi-local 95.1 WRBS Baltimore, MD was missing)

All in all, nothing to write home about, but it is good to see that Sporadic E is still alive and well.  This is also the first FM Es opening in two years received at my home that occurred into the 8PM hour.

WLVW callsign now on Washington, DC’s 107.3 FM

For the second time in a week, a Washington, DC radio station has new call letters.

107.3 WSOM Washington is now WLVW.  The new call letters, which were made official in FCC records June 6, were the final step in the sale of the station from Cumulus to Educational Media Foundation.  The station flipped to EMF’s “K-Love” Christian Contemporary network May 31.

Before May 31, the signal was “Mix 107-3” WRQX.  Cumulus swapped the WRQX callsign with an AM station that they own in Ohio.  That station’s calls, WSOM, went to DC’s 107.3.  EMF, not wanting to keep the WSOM calls on their new station, applied to have the WLVW callsign moved from another signal they own.  That was finalized on June 6.

Although DC’s 107.3 was officially WSOM between May 31 and June 6, the station incorrectly identified on-air as their soon-to-be new callsign, WLVW.  To make things even more confusing, the station’s HD Radio callsign remained “WRQX” until June 3, when it was updated to WLVW.  So for a few days, the station was legally WSOM, appeared on HD Radios as WRQX, and identified on-air as WLVW.  The WLVW callsign appeared on HD Radios on June 3, although the artist/title field still reads “mix107.3” as of June 6, as seen in the screenshot below.

The station turned off its RDS on May 31 when it flipped to K-Love.  On June 3, RDS returned with the then-incorrect WLVW calls.  Unlike many other K-Love stations I’ve seen in my travels, WLVW’s RDS is static and does not display the title of the current song playing.  Also interesting, WLVW is 37 seconds behind nearby K-Love 94.3 WLZV Warrenton, VA.

I have updated my RDS/HD Radio Screenshots page with the new screenshots below from my various radios reflecting the new callsign.  I also updated my Local FM Stations page with the station’s new callsign.

 

DX 6/2/19: Minor tropo enhancement to Philadelphia, Trenton, and Wilmington

During the early morning hours of June 2, minor tropo enhancement brought in several signals from Philadelphia (98.1, 102.9, 104.5), Wilmington, DE (93.7, 94.7, 99.5) and Trenton, NJ (101.5) between 120-150 miles away from my Northern Virginia home.  These signals are common in my area and are not spectacular DX, but Wilmington’s 94.7 and 99.5, Trenton’s 101.5, and Philadelphia, PA’s 102.9 did come in strong over local signals WIAD, WIHT, WBQB, and WKIK, respectively.  All screenshots in this post were added to my RDS/HD Radio Screenshots page.

Although I have received HD Radio and RDS from the following stations before on other radios, June 2 marks the first time that I received them with the Sangean HDR-14 radio:

93.7 WSTW Wilmington, DE, 122 miles

99.5 WJBR-FM Wilmington, DE, 123 miles over local WIHT

96.7 WCEI-FM Easton, MD, at 64 miles away, is a daily signal received at my home.  The station debuted their HD Radio signal earlier this year.  Up until now, the only radio in my shack that I picked up the station’s HD broadcast on was the Sangean HDR-14.  On June 2, I received their digital signal for the first time on the Sony XDR-S10HDiP, Insignia NS-HD01, and Insignia NS-HDRAD2.

107.3 WRQX Washington, DC flips to “K-Love,” callsign now WSOM, to be WLVW soon (audio)

A popular nationwide Christian contemporary radio network has debuted in Washington, DC, leaving the nation’s sixth-largest radio market without a hot adult contemporary-formatted station.

107.3 WRQX Washington, DC, known for years as hot adult contemporary “Mix 107-3”, flipped to “K-Love” at 7:00 PM May 31, following a live farewell show hosted by longtime morning show host Jack Diamond.  WRQX, along with radio stations in New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, Savannah, and Syracuse, were recently purchased by Educational Media Foundation as part of a major multi-market station deal announced in March, making them the newest members of the 440+ station K-Love network.

At 7PM, listeners watching a live video simulcast of Diamond’s last show on the program’s Facebook page watched Diamond send off the station with their legal ID, followed by a fancy song about the morning show.  Those listening on 107.3 FM at the same time, however, only got to hear a second or so of the song before dead air cut in.  The audio feed was then abruptly switched over to the national K-Love broadcast, which was already in the middle of a song.  After a few songs, DJs acknowledged the addition of WRQX and other stations to the K-Love umbrella.

Click here to hear the format flip:

The intellectual property of WRQX, including its call letters, station name, and logo, still belong to Cumulus.  The former signal owners temporarily parked the WRQX calls on one of their co-owned AM radio stations in Ohio and put that station’s calls, WSOM, on DC’s 107.3, according to RadioInsight.com.

wsom_ID
FCC records indicate the callsign of DC’s 107.3 is now WSOM.  The callsign will change again to WLVW in the coming weeks.

EMF, however, is not referencing WSOM in their new K-Love legal ID. Instead, they are identifying DC’s 107.3 as WLVW, a call sign that will become official in the coming weeks.  Until that happens, however, EMF is technically airing an incorrect legal ID for their new signal.  WSOM is the first new callsign for DC’s 107.3 since 1979.  The WLVW calls used to be on 105.5 FM in Salisbury, MD.  That station is now WLSW.

Click here to hear the new WLVW legal ID:

Making things even more complicated, as of midnight June 1, the call letters seen on HD Radios tuning in the station’s digital signal still display the old WRQX calls, even though the signal is identifying as WLVW and its real callsign is WSOM.

wqrx_HD_callsign
Mistaken identity: 107.3 WSOM Washington, DC is identified on-air as WLVW, and its HD Radio callsign is WRQX.

News of impending sale was not actively mentioned on WRQX until May 28, when Diamond announced it on his morning show.  Afterward, farewells poured into the station, both on-air and on their social media accounts.  Although no specifics were given at the time, Diamond allued to his show being resurrected on another area radio station after the flip.

wrqx_facebook_farewell
WRQX morning host Jack Diamond can be seen here telling listeners about the format flip in a video recorded during his morning show broadcast on May 28.

The current incarnation of 107.3, WSOM, does not air RDS anymore, although it did hours earlier in the same day as WRQX.  I expect this to change soon, given that RDS is in heavy use with other K-Love signals that I have received in other locations.

The former Mix 107.3 website now redirects to the website of cross-town iHeart-owned 99.5 WIHT.  A message on the station’s website welcomes former Mix 107.3 listeners to their station.  WRQX’s former Facebook and Twitter pages were still operational an hour after the format flip, but were taken down as of 9:15 PM May 31.

The format change leaves a gaping format hole in the Nation’s Capitol.  As of June 1, there are no signals within 40 miles of Washington broadcasting an hot AC format.  None of the few hot AC signals located 40-60 miles away from DC provide a reliable signal into office buildings in the city.  The closest Washington has to the format is local adult contemporary 97.1 WASH, which airs more 80s music and softer tunes than what was heard on WRQX.

This farewell graphic was seen on WRQX’s website during its last week as a hot AC station. Credit: WRQX/Cumulus.

Since Cumulus still owns the WRQX callsign and intellectual property, they can debut it on any other signal they own.  In Washington, Cumulus owns 105.9 WMAL Woodbridge, VA and they lease 99.1 WDCH Bowie, MD to Bloomberg Radio.  It is unclear if the company plans to flip one of those stations to “Mix” as WRQX, or if they would do so on a completely unrelated station they own outside of Washington.

Today’s format flip presents a huge opportunity for another station group in the Washington market to flip one of their own signals to hot AC to undermine Cumulus and derail any chances of WRQX returning to the airwaves on a different frequency.  Ironically, this is the second time within a year that Washington has lost a hot AC-formatted signal.  94.7 WIAD Bethesda, MD, which was hot AC for nine years, flipped to 80s-leaning classic hits in October 2018.

The K-Love network has been absent from the Washington region up until now, save for a random translator here and there.  In 2017, EMF purchased rimshot 94.3 WWXX Buckland, VA and turned it into a K-Love signal as WLZV.  This, however, didn’t result in much exposure to the Washington market, since DC has a low power FM signal on the same frequency in the city that blocks WLZV’s signal.  It is unclear if WLZV will remain with K-Love or switch to sister network Air 1 now, given how strong WRQX’s signal is in the region and WLZV’s broadcast area.

WRQX has aired an hot AC format as “Mix 107.3” since 1990, save for when it was CHR between 2013 and 2015.  In the late 70s and throughout the 80s, it was CHR as “Q107.”

My Local FM Stations page has been updated with the new station information.

DX 5/24/19: First-time RDS decode from 100.9 WAAI Hurlock, MD, and more

During the early morning hours of May 24, signals from the Delmarva Eastern Shore (70-100 miles away) were heard at my home in Northern Virginia.  Signals from this area are an almost everyday occurance at my location during the warmer months.  Although the reception was nowhere as strong as the night before, I managed to get RDS for the first time from 100.9 WAAI Hurlock, MD, a station that I first received on 4/22/01.  All screenshots in this post were added to my RDS/HD Radio Screenshots page.

100.9 WAAI Hurlock, MD, 74 miles

 

The tropo enhancement also brought in a regional signal with a new format change since the last time I heard them.  100.5 WLRB Goochland, VA, a “K-Love” signal at 79 miles away, was heard on May 24 with new callsign WJFN and name “FM 100.5 News Talk.”  WJFN now airs a conservative talk format.

103.7 WURV from Richmond, VA, 82 miles away, is a frequent catch at my home.  I noticed on May 24 that their HD Radio callsign has changed.  It currently reads “WURV.”  Prior to today, it had the “-FM” suffix added to the end, as seen in the two screenshots below.

 

After getting a screenshot from relog 98.5 WUSX Seaford, DE, 90 miles away the previous night, I received them again and got an even better screenshot with the PI code-generated callsign visible:

 

On April 9, I received RDS for the first time from 89.1 WCNV Heathesville, VA, at 67 miles away.  At the time, I noticed on my Sangean HDR-14 radio that the station was broadcasting RDS, but no text was displayed.  The existence of the signal’s blank RDS was confirmed with the new screenshot below that I received using the Airspy R2 radio on May 24.  Note the blank “0000” PI code and lack of text.

 

The following screenshots from various previously-logged signals were also added to my gallery:

87.7 WNDC-LP Salisbury, MD, 83 miles

 

106.3 WCEM-FM Cambridge, MD, 64 miles

 

DX 5/23/19: 1 new FM log; new HD Radio/RDS screenshots added

The first great overnight tropo opening of 2019 occurred on May 23 and with it is my first new FM log of the year.  Signals were strong from the usual areas: Salisbury, MD (90 miles), Norfolk, VA (130 miles), and a few coastal North Carolina signals up to 200 miles away.

87.7 FM in my area is home to a local signal, WDCN-LP Alexandria, VA at 10 miles.  The frequency occasionally gets taken over by WNDC-LP in Salisbury, MD.  Both WDCN-LP and WNDC-LP run a Spanish format.  When I heard urban music on 87.7 on May 23, I knew it was something else.

New log:

87.7 WMTO-LP Moyock, NC, “Streetz 87-7” – urban, 134 miles over local WDCN-LP

My logging of WMTO-LP has been added to my FM DX Log.

New screenshots added:

May 23 was also a great opportunity for me to get new screenshots from my recently-purchased Sangean HDR-14 radio.  I added the following HD Radio and RDS screenshots to my RDS/HD Radio Screenshots page from previously-received stations:

89.5 WHRV Norfolk, VA, 135 miles

90.1 WHRX Nassawadox, VA, 108 miles over local WCSP

91.9 WHRE Eastville, VA, 115 miles over local WGTS

92.9 WVBW Suffolk, VA, 132 miles

93.7 WNOB Chesapeake, VA, 158 miles

94.9 WPTE Virginia Beach, VA, 188 miles

95.7 WVKL Norfolk, VA, 135 miles

95.9 WKZP West Ocean City, MD, 116 miles

96.7 WKJX Elizabeth City, NC, 186 miles

97.7 WGTI Winfall, NC, 180 miles

98.1 WOCM Selbyville, DE, 116 miles

98.3 WHRF Belle Haven, VA, 108 miles over local WSMD

98.5 WUSX Seatown, DE, 90 miles

98.7 WNOR Norfolk, VA, 138 miles over local WMZQ

98.9 WSBY-FM Salisbury, MD, 92 miles

99.3 WOWZ-FM Accomac, VA, 108 miles

100.5 WVHT Norfolk, VA, 139 miles

101.3 WWDE-FM Hampton, VA, 138 miles

101.7 WKWI Kilmarnock, VA, 80 miles

102.5 WERX-FM Columbia, NC, 196 miles

102.9 WOWI Norfolk, VA, 140 miles over local WKIK

104.9 WIGO-FM White Stone, VA, 82 miles

Apparent new HD Radio callsign IDs appear; incompatible with Sony XDR-F1HD

One benefit of owning an HD Radio in the United States is that all HD signals display a digital ID. Most stations broadcast their callsign assigned to them by the FCC, i.e. “WKYS,” while others broadcast their name, such as “STAR-FM.” Regardless of if a station chooses to show their callsign or name, they are limited to four characters and an optional suffix of “-FM” at the end (the latter having no bearing on if the actual station’s callsign legally has “-FM” in it, or not).  Now it seems there is a new type of digital callsign appearing on stations that cannot be displayed on older HD radios, such as the Sony XDR-F1HD.

The Sony XDR-F1HD and its sister radios (the XDR-S10HDiP and XDR-S3HD) are among the first generation of HD Radios that debuted in 2008.  The radios would always quickly identify all HD Radio callsigns once an IBOC signal was found, regardless of if it was “WKYS” or “STAR-FM.”

Local 96.3 WHUR Washington, DC’s HD Radio signal was on and off-air sporadically in the first few months of 2019.  Their analog signal was also off-air at times, too.  Because of this, I assumed the station was upgrading their equipment. Before 2019, the station had a digital callsign of “WHUR-FM” on all HD Radios, as seen in the screenshot to the left below. For a brief period in April 2019, the broadcasted callsign was simply “HD,” as seen to the right below. Both callsigns were easily read and displayed by the Sony XDR radios.

Much to my surprise, during a dial scan on the Sony XDR-S10HDiP on May 18, I found the station was not broadcasting any digital callsign at all. The XDR-S3HD and XDR-F1HD radios also didn’t show any callsign on WHUR.

In my 20 years of DXing (11 of them having HD Radio capabilities), I have never seen a station simply not have a callsign displayed when their digital signal was tuned in.  Puzzled, I got out my other HD Radios (the Insignia NS-HD01 and Insignia NS-HDRAD2) and found that they were, indeed, displaying a digital callsign from WHUR, albeit with a new suffix at the end I had never seen before: “WHUR HD.”

The next day, I tuned in WHUR on my parent’s 2016-model car that has HD Radio, and found it could also “see” the updated “WHUR HD” callsign.

Another HD-capable radio I own, the Sangean HDR-14, can only display four characters in its digital callsign area and it doesn’t display the “-FM” suffix on participating stations.  This is a limitation of the radio itself, and the “HD1+!” seen on the screen below is not part of the callsign and is instead a function of the radio–it appears on all HD Radio signals, regardless if they have the “-FM” in their displayed callsign or not.  Even with the built-in limitations, the radio still displays the first four characters of WHUR’s updated “WHUR HD” callsign, as seen below. It doesn’t show a blank callsign like the Sony XDR radios do.

I think one of two scenarios are likely, given the developments with WHUR’s new callsign:

  1. HD Radio technology now allows a third “HD” suffix at the end of callsigns. A station can pick “WKYS,” “WKYS-FM,” or “WKYS HD.”
  2. Instead of being limited to four characters with an optional suffix at the end, HD Radio stations can now utilize the full seven characters to display any text of their liking.  This means a station could theoretically display “Hot1025” or “Country” as their HD callsign. In this scenario, WHUR simply chose “HD” at the end of a fully-customized seven character string.

As for why the Sony XDR-series radios cannot see the new WHUR callsign, I am leaning toward option #2 being what is in play at the moment. Since there are differences in suffixes already between HD Radio signals and all radios simply display whatever the station chose, I would assume that any HD radio would be able to show “HD” as a suffix if that was the case.  The technology is already there to account for differences in suffixes. In that instance, the Sony XDR radios should display “WHUR HD” without a problem.

Option #2, which affords changing the HD Radio data standard to allow for seven character callsigns, however, may cause a problem with older first-generation HD radios like the Sony XDRs.  My other HD Radios were manufactured 2012-2018, so they likely have newer technology under the hood that would be compatible with future upgrades in the HD Radio standard, such as allowing for longer digital callsigns.  Under this theory, since the Sony XDR radios are too old, they don’t “understand” the longer callsign being broadcast and, therefore, can’t display them, resulting in a blank on-screen display.

If my suspicions regarding option #2 are correct, then this would be a blow to the DXing community, since it means that if a station upgrades to the latest HD Radio technology, then there’s a chance that those with older HD Radios won’t be able to see any callsign upon a successful decode.  The potential of any digital radio simply not displaying a callsign due to an incompatibility in technology when other equipment could is a disappointment and it may mean a DXer could miss an otherwise slam dunk ID.

Hopefully, this is just an isolated issue with WHUR’s HD Radio signal, and not a sign of things to come nationwide.

New travel logs added from AR, KY, MS, and TN

In connection with my quest of visiting all 50 U.S. states, I visited Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee earlier this month.  I added the following new logs to my DX Logs page, and updated my existing Nashville log from 2016.  Click on the links below to see what I received while on my trip:

Only U.S. AM signal on 1710 AM received in Virginia

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.

  • 640 WWJZ Mt. Holly, NJ, 4/15/19 8:33 AM, groundwave, 165 miles, “Relevant Radio” – religious
  • 690 WELD Fisher, WV, 4/13/19 3:45 PM, groundwave, 97 miles, “WELD Radio” – classic hits
  • 730 CKAC Montreal, QC, 4/15/19 1:07 AM, skywave, 502 miles, french talk, over local WTNT
  • 840 WKTR Earlysville, VA, 4/16/19 8:31 AM, groundwave, 67 miles, “CSN Radio” – religious
  • 910 WRNL Richmond, VA, 4/15/19 8:44 AM, groundwave, 73 miles, “910 The Fan” – sports
  • 1000 WIOO Carlisle, PA, 4/12/19 8:53 AM, groundwave, 103 miles, “Country Legends WIOO” – classic country
  • 1010 WOLB Baltimore, MD, 4/13/19 3:44 PM, groundwave, 58 miles, “WOLB Talk 1010” – talk
  • 1040 WCHR Flemington, NJ, 4/14/19 7:05 PM, skywave, 176 miles, religious
  • 1080 WKJK Louisville, KY, 4/14/19 2:48 AM, skywave, 464 miles, “Talk Radio 1080” – talk radio
  • 1150 WDEL Wilmington, DE, 4/15/19 12:58 AM, skywave, 123 miles, “WDEL” – news
  • 1210 WJNL Kingsley, MI, 4/15/19 1:00 AM, skywave, 592 miles, “WJNL News Radio” – news
  • 1240 WCEM Cambridge, MD, 4/13/19 4:04 PM, groundwave, 64 miles, Baltimore Orioles sports programming
  • 1330 WESR Onley, VA, 4/13/19 4:16 PM, groundwave, 108 miles, “105-7 Coastal Country” – country
  • 1360 WNJC Washington Township, NJ, 4/15/19 1:29 AM, skywave, 140 miles, “WNJC Radio” – classic hits
  • 1550 WMRE Charles Town, WV, 4/13/19 3:47 PM, groundwave, 53 miles, “Fox Sports Radio” – sports
  • 1590 WHGT Maugansville, MD, 4/14/19 7:00 PM, skywave, 83 miles, “1590 WHGT” – religious
  • 1610 W??? 4/13/19 3:48 PM, groundwave, Sentara Potomac Hospital information
  • 1710 WQFG689 Jersey City, NJ, groundwave, 4/16/19 8:12 PM, 223 miles, travel information