10 years later: A look back at the historic July 6, 2004 sporadic e-skip opening (audio and video)

Ten years ago today, DXing history was made with a colossal Sporadic E opening that blanketed most of the central and eastern portions of the United States.  This opening, which locally had a MUF of 195 MHz, came in with such a punch that it wiped out most local broadcasting signals here in the Northern Virginia/Washington, DC area.  Nothing like it has been seen since.

The skip rolled in shortly before 5 p.m., with FM and TV signals coming in concurrently from Alabama to Nebraska.   At 10:42 p.m. — almost six hours later — the opening was still going strong into FM.  It finally left the low TV band by 1 a.m.

I logged 49 new FM signals and 12 new TV signals that day.

7604es
A Google Maps plot of areas FM and TV signals were received from Woodbridge, VA (noted in the black circle) on 7/6/04.

Looking back, I know I was largely unprepared for the opening.  Although I had 5 years of DXing under my belt at the time, I had only experienced 3 garden-variety FM Es openings and a handful more fairly-weak TV-only openings.  Therefore, I had really no clue how Es affected the broadcast bands.  I sat in amazement watching station after station coming in on my

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An honest review of the RTL-SDR USB tuner

Local 103.5 WTOP and 104.1 WPRS tuned in via the RTL-SDR.  Note the HD Radio digital signals surrounding both signals.
Local 103.5 WTOP and 104.1 WPRS tuned in via the RTL-SDR in the HDSDR program. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

There have been a lot of recent buzz in the DXing community about software-defined radios, otherwise known as SDRs.  These radios, typically housed in a small USB thumbdrive-like units or small external hard drive-like enclosures without screens, can connect to your computer and can be used to DX multiple radio bands.

Recently Jim H., a DXer who lives in Stanardsville, VA, introduced me to the RTL-SDR USB dongle, which costs a whopping $9.95 on Amazon.com.  I’ll admit, I was highly skeptical of this device’s capabilities due to its price and relatively unknown manufacturer.  Coming from powerhouse DXing radios such as the Sony XDR-F1HD and Denon TU-1500RD, I was expected to be let down.

Unfortunately, I was kind of let down, although the novelty of having a computer-based tuner did amaze me.

SET UP

There was a slight learning curve with using the RTL-SDR dongle.  The device came with no software or instructions.  It also came with a

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DXing FM radio while on vacation

Credit: stock.xchng
Credit: stock.xchng

Many people seemingly want to forget their day-to-day lives while on vacation.

While Americans will be trading a cubicle and daily commute for beach chairs and scuba diving gear during the upcoming vacation season, some DXers may be looking at the same trips as a way to propel their interest in the DXing hobby.

Quite often, a short trip to another area is all that is needed to provide a completely different RF environment conducive to some serious DXing.

I’ve been on several vacations in the past 14 years where I’ve actively DXed.  In 2002 and 2003 I was in the Tampa, FL area visiting relatives and took advantage of 400+ mile gulf tropo.  A trip to Richmond, VA (77 miles S of my home) in 2012 provided the strange phenomenon of logging most of my home Washington, DC stations as strong, pesky tropo-enhanced signals–the opposite of how Richmond signals are often received at home.  Perhaps the best vacation DX I’ve experienced was 500+ mile tropo into Florida while in Myrtle Beach, SC in 2012.

When planning a trip as a DXer, a few things need to be put into consideration.  If you are going on a trip with family members or children, then DXing will obviously not be a high priority

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Coming soon: A review of the RTL-SDR software-defined radio

I have added a new radio to my shack, a RTL-SDR radio, which looks much like a USB flash drive.  This radio can record up to 15 FM frequencies at once, among many other neat features.  I am awaiting delivery of some related accessories before I write a full review of the device.  Look for the review in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, enjoy a YouTube video of me tuning in several local stations with the device:

What if analog FM radio ended in the United States?

hdradio_stockEver since IBOC, or HD Radio, debuted locally in 2006, I always wondered what would happen if the analog radio dial shut down and was replaced with full-power IBOC signals.

READ: MY RANT ON HD RADIO

Although I have expressed distaste with HD Radio in the past, I thought it’d be interesting to predict what would happen to the DXing hobby if the unthinkable happened and the United States had a ‘digital radio transition,’ much like the country did in 2009 for digital television.

IBOC technology, which according to various reports broadcasts a digital radio station on the ‘sidebands,’ or adjacent frequencies of participating FM radio stations, ruined (or at least curtailed) the hobby for many.  A station running IBOC on 95.5 FM would actually be broadcasting its analog signal on 95.5, while its digital signal would be broadcasted on 95.3 and 95.7 FM.  An HD Radio would pick up either sideband, where available, and decode it on 95.5 FM, allowing the listener to enjoy a digital signal.

But what if U.S. radio broadcasters flipped the switch one day and only broadcasted digital, full-power HD Radio signals?

Obviously, the initial reaction to a full analog FM shutdown would be that

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Rant: TV DXing vs. cable channel availability

credit: stock.xchng
credit: stock.xchng

Disclaimer: This article is a rant and is only the opinion of the webmaster.  I have nothing against any television station, cable or satellite company mentioned in this article.  I am simply ranting about the disappearance of distant television stations over time and reminiscing about the past.

Although this isn’t exactly DX, I’ve noticed most of the television signals I receive via DX are not included on my local cable TV system.

Personally, I believe if a station can be regularly received via antenna, then it should be included on cable.  This means a cable company should be legally allowed to carry all broadcast signals within, say, a 60 to 80-mile radius of any locale.

At my home 19 miles SW of Washington DC, on my local Comcast cable I get the following Washington, DC TV stations:

-WRC 4 Washington (NBC)
-WTTG 5 Washington (FOX)
-WJLA 7 Washington (ABC)
-WUSA 9 Washington (CBS)
-WETA 26 Washington (PBS)
-WHUT 32 Washington (PBS)

I also get a third out-of-market PBS affiliate, WMPT 22 Annapolis, MD, as well as the local Washington CW, MyTV, Telemundo, Univision and UniMas affiliates.

Cable companies used to carry out-of-market broadcast

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Dealing with family, friends and the public as a DXer

credit: stock.xchng
credit: stock.xchng

I’ll admit, I’m a fairly open book with my family and friends.  Although I have many hobbies outside of DXing that I share with others, I have found that I tend to keep DXing to myself.

Outside of the internet, only a few close friends and family members know that I DX.  Many others have seen me packing my radios or related gear while on vacation or when visiting their home, but they always assumed I was just listening to music on local radio stations, not that I was searching for distant signals.

READ MORE: WHAT IS DXING

I’m not ashamed of being a DXer.  In fact, I’m quite proud of what I’ve achieved in the past 14 years, given the limitations of both my location and equipment.  DXing is a true passion of mine, as I’m sure it is for those who also share this hobby.

I believe my decision to keep DXing to myself largely involves the expected reaction I’d receive if I told somebody about the hobby.  I don’t mind if people think I’m strange for

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Matching matters: Case study of 110 kHz narrow filters

Editor’s note:  This is a guest article written by fmdxing, an WTFDA member from Australia’s east coast who has a DX blog at http://fmdxing.wordpress.com/.  Additionally, the editor of this website has modified his Denon TU-1500RD radio with 110 KHz filters in the ‘narrow’ tuning mode in 2006 and saw a marked improvement in reception.

By fmdxing

DXers have modified the Intermediate Frequency (IF) ceramic filters in their radios for years.  Scroll down any DXing website (this one included) and it is likely there are notes about radios being modified. Why would DXers take apart their radios and replace small, seemingly unimportant components?  One damaging reason is bleedthrough or adjacent channel interference.

Bleedthrough is a radio condition where a strong, local radio signal can be heard on a neighboring frequency (i.e. a local 105.9 MHz signal booming in on 106.1 MHz).  Strong bleedthrough on any frequency can make it difficult to pick up other signals — something that can ultimately make DXing impossible.

Turning a stock radio (which can only satisfactorily receive local FM stations) into a DXing ‘powerhouse’ can often be achieved by simply swapping out the wide factory IF filters (i.e. 230 or 180 kHz) for narrower filters (i.e. 150, 110 or 80 kHz). The writer of this article suggests a common solution to the problem: 110 kHz filters.

Sony St-S707ES tuner © 2013 David Sanders

This writer prefers to use conventional component FM tuners rather

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FM radio relogs: Their place in your DX log (part 2 of 2)

dx logsEditor’s Note: This is part two in a two-part series I am writing about relogs.  Read part one, which deals with relogs in general, by clicking here.

Deciding how to deal with relogs in your DX log can be a burden many DXers face.  For the purposes of this article, I’ll refer to FM logs, but the same applies for TV, AM and other broadcast bands.

Throughout a DXer’s career, their radio band may not change much in terms of where FM signals are located, however what is heard on the local and regional frequencies could be vastly different even five years into the future.

Since I started DXing FM radio in 1999, 16 of my 34

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FM radio relogs: A joy and pain of DXing (part 1 of 2)

975Editor’s Note: This is a two-part series I am writing about relogs.  Expect part two, which will focus on dealing with relogs in your DX Log, to be published very soon.

Imagine you are a DXer working a phenomenal opening.  You write down a list of new stations and after adding them to your DX log, you realize that the station was already in your logbook under a different callsign, station name or format.  Yep, you just picked up a relog.

Part of DXing is dealing with relogs, which can be any station heard that you have already added to your DX log.  Relog can be very helpful to a DXer’s career.  Hearing a distant FM or TV relog may tip a DXer off to a building tropo duct or sporadic E opening. especially if the station is not commonly received.  On a relatively empty frequency, a common relog can help a DXer better monitor the frequency for new DX.  For example, if an urban signal is heard all the time on 103.5 FM in your home and you suddenly pick up an adult contemporary signal on the same frequency, it is likely a new log.

But at the same time, relogs can

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