Working Conditions

Location

qth_mapI live in Woodbridge, VA, a suburb of Washington, DC.  Most of my local and semi-local FM signals come from Washington (17 miles away), Fredericksburg, VA (27 miles), and Baltimore, MD (56 miles).  Most tropo-enhanced signals come from Richmond, VA (78 miles), Salisbury, MD (90 mi), Norfolk, VA (139 miles), and Philadelphia, PA (144 miles).  Tropo ducts to the south bring signals in from Raleigh, NC (214 miles) and coastal North Carolina a handful of times each year.  Signals to the northeast can be received once every so often from New York, NY (225 miles) and into Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the easternmost parts of Massachusetts, upward to 400 miles away in that direction.

Mountains 60 miles to the west, and ocean 116 miles to the east, greatly limit my effective tropo range to the point where I only get tropo-enhanced signals from the east and south beyond these distances; the sheer majority coming from the south and southeast.  Sporadic E reception, thankfully, easily bounces over the mountains and I can get westward signals that way.

Shacks and Equipment

As of March 2017, I am situated in a two-story condominium unit on the 3rd and 4th floors of my building, near the top of a steep hill which overlooks lower land with visibility up to 6 miles away to the north, northeast, and east.  Due to differing reception conditions on both floors of my condo, I now actively DX out of two shacks.  My main shack is located upstairs in a spare room in the 4th (top) floor of my building, while my secondary shack is downstairs in my 3rd floor office.  I decided to make the main shack upstairs since I get more signals from all directions due to being under the roof, while the downstairs shack gets enhanced reception to the north, since my building blocks all southward signals at that altitude.

shack_7517
Above is a picture of my shacks as of 7/5/17.  My upstairs (main) shack has the Sony XDR-S3HD (top right), the Denon TU-1500RD (middle right), and the Panasonic DMR-HS2 DVD recorder (bottom right), which is used with the Zenith DTT-901 DTV converter box (sideways in the middle).  Not seen under the desk is the Airspy R2 SDR radio.  All radios are connected to the Britta Products V-30-H Yagi antenna (seen further below).  I use a cheap refurbished computer to utilize 24/7 recording from the Sony and Denon radios.

My downstairs (secondary) shack is also pictured above, with the Sony XDR-S10HDiP, Insignia NS-HDRAD, and another Airspy R2 (not pictured).  Although not seen in the picture, this shack is immediately to the right of my main office desk and a TV set.  The S10HDiP and Airspy are connected to a pair of rabbit ears, seen in the picture.

Current radios used:


Airspy R2
(2017-present).  Read my review of this radioThe Airspy R2 is a software-defined radio that can record up to 10 MHz of FM at once.  It also is highly sensitive and selective, rivaling the three Sony radios I own.  It is quick to decode RDS and displays the PI code immediately upon an RDS lock.  I actually own two of these radios–one located in each shack.

airspy_mini
Airspy Mini
(2017-present). Identical to the Airspy R2 in terms of sensitivity and selectivity, the Airspy Mini is used on trips due to its even smaller size compared to the Airspy R2.

s10hdip
Sony XDR-S10HDiP (2015-present).  Read my review of this radio Identical internally to the Sony XDR-F1HD, this radio is a little more rugged than the F1HD and has built-in speakers.  This radio is used in my downstairs shack.

s3hd
Sony XDR-S3HD (2017-present).  One of my latest additions, the S3HD is identical to both the S10HDiP and XDR-F1HD in terms of its selectivity and sensitivity.  The only difference from the other two radios, instead of appearance, is that the S3HD has a headphone output, which makes it easy to hook up to my computer for unattended recording.  This radio is used in my upstairs shack.

denon
Denon TU-1500RD
(2006-present).  This is a superb radio on par with the Sony XDR radios I possess in both selectivity and sensitivity.  A friend modified this radio in 2006 to have 110 kHz filters in narrow mode, which greatly improves on reception.  I replaced the tiny stock knob with a much larger knob from another stereo in 2007 to improve functionality.  This radio is in my upstairs shack.

nshdrad2-1
Insignia NS-HDRAD2
(2017-present).  This radio is a portable HD Radio and RDS-capable tuner that, like its sister NS-HD01 below, is used on trips accessible by car or train.  It isn’t as selective and sensitive as the Sony and Denon radios I possess, but it is a solid radio worthy of inclusion into my shack.  Click here to read my review of this radio.

insignia1
Insignia NS-HD01
(2013-present).  Read my review of this radio.  The NS-HD01 is a portable HD Radio and RDS-capable tuner that I often take with me on trips accessible by plane, car, or train.

Previous radios used:

sony
Sony XDR-F1HD
(2008-2017).  Read my review of this radioArguably one of the best DXing radios ever produced in terms of sheer performance, this powerhouse radio served me well until early 2017, when it developed a deep hum and other issues with its audio output, rendering it useless.  I plan on getting it fixed in the future, but for now this radio is shelved.  Thankfully, the radio is identical under the hood to two other radios I use: Sony XDR-S10HDiP and the Sony XDR-S3HD.

Mitsubishi DA-F76 (2004-2006).  I borrowed a family member’s DA-F76 tuner, unmodified, to use in the early 2000s.  The radio experienced severe bleedthrough on many frequencies from local stations, which prompted my quest to find better radios.

philipsaz1518
Philips/Magnavox AZ151817
(1999-2003).  My first radio was a simple stereo boombox with its supplied whip antenna.  The AZ151817 had phenomenal selectivity and sensitivity akin to the XDR-F1HD.

Antennas:

antenna_new

Click to enlarge. My new antenna array as of July 2017.

Given the fact I live in a condo building, I cannot mount any antennas on the roof of my building.  To counteract this major disadvantage, I decided to install my own antenna “array” inside the large room that houses my main DX shack.  Located immediately behind the shack is a large table that I almost never use.  I decided it was the perfect spot to put an antenna.

I used an old solid wood IKEA lazy Susan meant to turn heavy tube TVs and, with a second piece of wood for stability, attached a pole and mounted my two main antennas, the Britta Products V-30-H FM antenna, and the 1byone OUS00-0551 UHF antenna.  Both antennas are amplified to maximize reception.

The setup works well.  I can easily turn my antenna to zero in on weak signals simply by reaching behind me and turning the lazy Susan.

Wiring Diagram:

wiring_diagram_2017
The diagram above shows how everything is wired in my upstairs shack.  Refer to the legend to see which type of wires correspond to the colors seen in the chart.

Car radios used:

car1 wltf
I use the radio in my 2012 Honda CR-V, with RDS capabilities, for logging stations while out and about within 30 miles of my home.

wwwt-hd
My parents own a Toyota Scion vehicle, whose HD Radio-capable tuner is often utilized for DXing purposes when I’m in their car.

DX Philosophy

I consider myself to be a serious and ethical DXer.  This is a personal hobby of mine that I partake in solely for my own satisfaction.  In other words, everything you see on this website, and in my personal practice of the hobby, is accurate and true to the best of my abilities.  I have no reason to do otherwise–I’m not trying to impress anyone here.

I utilize the Worldwide TV-FM DX Association’s list of criteria for positively IDing FM and TV stations when practicing DX.  I feel these rules are a good benchmark of what constitutes a positive log–the bedrock of DXing.

I strongly believe that the DX community should be inclusive and welcoming to all, regardless of if the individual DXer is brand new, or well-established with a lifetime of experience.  I feel that we all, equally, have something to offer to the hobby, as our experiences are all different.  The human mind is always learning, and if we give everyone a chance, then we will all benefit.