Superb tropo opening into New York City; Long Island 5/21/17. 3 new FM stations and HD/RDS records made

May 21 was a phenomenal day for tropo in Northern Virginia–the likes of which I haven’t seen in a while.  It marks the first true tropo duct in my new home since moving here in March.  Throughout the day, the band was open to Ocean City, MD and Delaware, which isn’t unusual at all, just not during the day.  RDS from relog 95.3 WKDB Laurel, DE, at 87 miles, was constant at all hours, and through the IBOC hash from my local DC stations, I picked up two new stations, one of them a translator from Delaware.

The main event didn’t happen until about 10:30 PM, when 97.9 WSKQ from New York, NY came in strongly over Baltimore’s WIYY.  This happens maybe once every 2-3 years, almost always in the fall, never in the spring like now.  WSKQ, at 226 miles away, is the usual “beacon” that alerts me to a tropo duct forming northward.  Shortly afterward, New York’s 101.9 WFAN and 107.5 WBLS came in.  WBLS, with its HD Radio subdecode, is the furthest northward signal I’ve ever received IBOC from, and WFAN is the furthest northward FM station to decode RDS on my radio via tropo.  But like many New York tropo ducts, they don’t last long.  The band abruptly dropped back to deadband conditions by 11:45 PM, with a lone HD Radio decode for the first time from Lancaster, PA’s 94.5 WDAC serving as the opening’s goodbye wave.

@ = new

@ 88.7 WKNZ Harrington, DE, 93 miles

94.5 WDAC Lancaster, PA, 101 miles

@ 97.5 WALK Patchogue, NY, 271 miles

97.9 WSKQ New York, NY, 226 miles

101.9 WFAN New York, NY, 225 miles

@ 102.1 W271CX Milford, DE, 97 miles

102.5 WRFY Reading, PA, 135 miles

103.9 WRCN Riverhead, NY, 282 miles

107.5 WBLS New York, NY, 225 miles

Tr opening 5/19/17. 1 new FM log.

Weak signal enhancement to central Virginia on May 19 brought in a new signal, 95.3 W237BA.  The station, which simulcasts nearby 105.5 WOJL Louisa, VA, airs a classic rock format.  The station was received in my car during my commute, less than a mile from my home.  Its signal was difficult to get at 178 watts, mixing in with Richmond’s 95.3 WKHK.  This marks the first new FM station received in two years on the 95.3 frequency–something mainly due to the frequency normally being cluttered by HD Radio interference from local 95.5 WPGC.  Thankfully, WPGC’s IBOC has been off-air for most of this year, opening up 95.3 to regular DX signals in my area.

95.3 W237BA Culpeper, VA, 39 miles

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

Review of the Insignia NS-HDRAD2 radio

Insignia NS-HDRAD2. Click to enlarge.

My beloved Sony XDR-F1HD radio recently developed a problem where its audio output became garbled with a hum, rendering it useless for DX.  As I often used the F1HD on airplane trips where bringing my larger radios were impractical, I have been on the search for a replacement radio with HD Radio capabilities.  I found the Insignia NS-HDRAD2, which at the time of writing, is $49.99 at Best Buy, but is cheaper on eBay.

I’ve been eyeing this radio for some time, but shied away from purchasing it due to a less-than-stellar review from a friend who bought it and returned it to Best Buy last year.  Given its cheap price, I thought I would give it a chance.  I’m glad I did.

This isn’t the first Insignia HD Radio I’ve used–I’ve owned the Continue reading

My 18th DXing Anniversary



1999.  Bill Clinton was president, boy bands dominated CHR radio, and looming fears of Y2K caused many to wonder what the new century would bring in.  One night in May that year, I stumbled across an unfamiliar signal from Norfolk, VA booming in on my radio.  I turned on my portable TV and found signals from Norfolk, to Ocean City, and Philadelphia coming in like locals.  The DX bug bit me, and the rest was history.  Here’s to an unforgettable 18 years of DXing!

RDS received from DC-area pirate on 98.1

I recently wrote about a pirate FM station that can be heard in the Washington, DC suburbs of Oxon Hill, MD.  It airs a classic hits format and is called “98-1 The Fox.” I’ve finally confirmed that the station runs RDS.

98.1 PIRATE 5/5/17, car radio in Springfield, VA.

Since my initial logging of the station last month, I’ve noticed that “The Fox” airs only in the late afternoon/evening hours and not in the morning, save for one day in the past week where it was heard during both my morning and evening commute.  As the pirate station’s signal is very weak, it is of no concern in terms of DXing.  Even though the station has minimal imaging, it is amusing to listen to, as the station sounds much like a legal FM signal, save for the lack of local positioning, DJs, and a lot of dry segues between songs.  Before one song, the station randomly inserted a pre-recorded liner that said the current temperature.

The screenshot above from this station has been added to my RDS and HD Radio Screenshots page.

Format change: 92.7 WWXT Prince Frederick, MD becomes simulcast of DC’s 102.3 WMMJ

102.3 WMMJ’s new logo

As of May 1, suburban DC-area 92.7 WWXT Prince Frederick, MD has flipped from sports to a simulcast of 102.3 WMMJ Bethesda, MD.  WMMJ tweaked its name to reflect the change: “Majic 102.3 and 92.7.”  Both frequencies are local grade at my home.

Strategically, the addition of WWXT makes sense, as WMMJ’s signal is fairly weak in the south and southeast suburbs of DC, where WWXT is strong.

The 92.7 frequency has been home of several simulcasts over the years.  From before I started DXing in 1999 until 2001, it was WMJS “Easy 92.7,” airing an easy listening format.  From 2001-2006 it was WBZS “La Mega 92.7, 94.3” with a Spanish format, simulcasting with nearby 94.3 WBPS Warrenton, VA.  The 92.7/94.3 pairing continued, under the WWXT and WWXX calls, when both frequencies began simulcasting 980 WTEM, DC’s ESPN Radio affiliate.  With WWXT now rebroadcasting WMMJ, 94.3 WWXX retains its sports simulcast with WTEM by itself for now.

WWXT previously aired monaural audio as ESPN Radio.  It is now stereo to better reflect its new music format.  Unlike WMMJ, WWXT does not broadcast RDS or HD Radio.

My Local FM Stations page has been updated with this format flip.

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