All-time radio signal distance record achieved: 600 CJWW logged at 1690 miles

While sitting in my car in a parking lot in Springfield, VA on November 26, I heard country music on 600 AM.  It was unusual, as the frequency is usually either gospel WCAO from nearby Baltimore, MD, or Radio Rebelde from Cuba.  The country signal was very weak, but it faded in right at the right moment.  I heard an ID: “Country 600,” and mentions of “CIWW Radio.com.”  I thought it was, at first, CIWW from Ottawa and that it moved from its previously-logged frequency of 1310.  Upon researching the signal after I got home, I realized I heard “CJWW” instead of CIWW and that the station was, in fact, broadcasting from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan of all places–1690 miles away from my location in Northern Virginia.

CJWW is my new my all-time radio reception signal distance record, unseating 94.1 KZOR Hobbs, NM, which I logged on 7/7/2006 at 1505 miles.  Unfortunately, I was not recording audio during my reception of CJWW.  A similar phenomenon happened during KZOR’s reception–I was recording directly to audio CD at the time, but the CD failed to burn properly, rendering my recording of KZOR permanently ruined, resulting with me having no proof of its reception.  Murphy’s Law strikes again.

Long-range AM reception is rare, from my experience.  The AM stations I usually receive at my home are 600 miles away or closer, with a few outliers such as 1200 WOAI San Antonio, TX, an occasional visitor to Virginia at 1346 miles away.  I think that the time zone difference had something to do with my reception of CJWW, as it was only 5:26 PM local time when I picked them up.  CJWW was likely still on its daytime signal pattern of 25 KW, versus its 8 KW nighttime array.

My AM DX Log has been updated with my logging of CJWW.

FM Es opening 7/20/19 with signals heard from AL, FL, KS, LA, MN, ND, NE, and SD. 2 new FM logs

The first respectable Sporadic E opening of the 2019 season was heard on July 20 in Northern Virginia.

With about an hour total of skip heard between 12:25 PM and 5:12 PM, the opening started with signals from South Florida with a MUF of 94.1. The skip disappeared at 3:30 PM. A half hour later, it returned with signals from the upper Midwest and Louisiana with a higher MUF of 106.1. Most of the signals were weak and had deep fades.

The highlight of the opening was the logging of my third translator in 20 years via FM Es, 94.1 W231CN from Florida.  W231CN is the first translator via Es that I have received which decoded RDS.  Local 93.9 WKYS seemed to be on low power during the opening, as their HD Radio signal was off-air and they weren’t running RDS.  This was likely how I was able to log W231CN, as 94.1 is usually covered up by WKYS’ digital IBOC sideband.

New stations below have a icon next to the frequency.  All new logs, as well as all RDS and HD Radio screenshots seen below, have been added to my DX Logs page.

  • 89.1 WUFT-FM Gainesville, FL, e-skip, 683 miles, 100 KW, public radio

 

  • 89.5 WAYJ Naples, FL, e-skip, 904 miles, 100 KW, “89.5 & 100.5 Way FM” – ccm

 

  • 92.1 WCTQ Venice, FL, e-skip, 850 miles, 11.5 KW, “92-1 CTQ” – country
  • 92.1 WZEW Destin, FL, e-skip, 768 miles, 25 KW, “92 Zew” – AAA
  • 92.9 KTGL Beatrice, NE, e-skip, 1044 miles, 100 KW, “92-9 The Eagle” – classic rock
  • 92.9 WBLX-FM Mobile, AL, e-skip, 810 miles, 100 KW, “93 BLX” – urban
  • 93.1 KQID-FM Alexandria, LA, e-skip, 972 miles, 100 KW, “Q93”- CHR
  • 93.5 WFDZ Perry, FL, e-skip, 690 miles, 25 KW, “Froggy 93” – country
  • 93.5 KKOT Columbus, NE, e-skip, 1094 miles, 100 KW, “Classic Hits 93.5 The Hawk” – classic hits
  • 93.7 KYEZ Salina, KS, e-skip, 1082 miles, 100 KW, “Y93.7” – country
  • 93.7 WOGK Ocala, FL, e-skip, 705 miles, 100 KW, “93.7 K-Country” – country
  • 93.7 KYWR-FM Winner, SD, e-skip, 1217 miles, 100 KW, “Magic 93” – classic rock
  • 94.1 WLLD Lakeland, FL, e-skip, 809 miles, 100 KW, “Wild 94.1” – urban
  • 94.1 KSDN-FM Aberdeen, SD, e-skip, 1181 miles, 100 KW, “94-1 The Rock” – rock
  • 95.1 KBVB Barnesville, MN, e-skip, 1106 miles, 98 KW, “95 Bob FM” – country
  • 97.9 KFNW-FM Fargo, ND, e-skip, 1157 miles, 100 KW, “Life 97.9” – religious
  • 99.9 KTDY Lafayette, LA, e-skip, 1011 miles, 100 KW, “99.9 KTDY” – AC
  • 103.3 KUSB Hazleton, ND, e-skip, 1308 miles (car radio in Woodbridge, VA), 100 KW, “103-3 US Country” – country
  • 106.1 KQLX-FM Lisbon, ND, e-skip, 1163 miles (car radio in Woodbridge, VA), 50 KW, “Thunder 106-1 & 98-3” – country

Tropo 7/13/19: 4 new FM logs and new HD Radio/RDS screenshots

Herndon, VA is 22 miles NW of my home in Woodbridge, VA.  While the strongest FM stations received in Herndon are the same as what I get at home, some signals are different.  Instead of getting the nearby southern Maryland and Fredericksburg, VA signals I get at home, Herndon gets strong signals from Frederick and Hagerstown in central and northwestern Maryland.  While in Herndon on July 13, I experienced minor tropospheric enhancement, which brought in several translator signals that cannot be heard at home due to strong IBOC interference from co-channel local Washington, DC signals or other semi-local signals.

New logs:

  • 93.5 W228AM Frederick, MD, 7/13/19 9:09 PM, tropo, 32 miles, .15 KW, “Max Country” – country
  • 94.3 W232DE Potomac, MD, 7/13/19 11:32 PM, tropo, 11 miles, .25 KW, “Authentica 950 y 94.3” – spanish
  • 95.7 W239BV Winchester, VA, 7/13/19 9:16 PM, tropo, 49 miles, .04 KW, “Mix 95-7” – hot AC
  • 97.7 W249DX Reston, VA, 7/14/19 1:17 AM, tropo, 1 mile, .05 KW, “La Ley 106.3, 1460” – spanish

The new logs above, as well as the screenshots below from previously-logged stations, were added to my DX Logs:

88.9 WVEP Martinsburg, WV, 57 miles from Herndon

99.9 WFRE Frederick, MD, 37 miles from Herndon

102.5 WUSQ-FM Winchester, VA, 49 miles from Herndon

106.9 WWEG Myersville, MD, 38 miles from Herndon

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 the 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 time 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 DX Logs 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.

Three first-time RDS decodes from regional FM stations

During minimal tropo enhancement on April 8, I received first-time RDS decodes from three previously-logged signals.  My RDS/HD Radio Screenshots page has been updated with these new screenshots.

The first signal, 89.1 WCNV Heathesville, VA, is 67 miles away from my home and was first received on 5/5/07.  Although my radio detected a strong RDS carrier from WCNV, the station did not broadcast any radiotext, PT, or PTY data.

4/8/19, RDS (no text)

89.7 WXMD California, MD, at 40 miles away, was first logged on 6/15/16 and has been received over local 89.7 W209BY multiple times without any trace of RDS.  That changed on April 4.

4/8/19, RDS

Being first logged on 5/10/99, 105.5 WRAR-FM Tappahannock, VA was among the first signals I had ever received.  They seemed to have turned on RDS sometime in late 2018 or early 2019, because I did not get RDS from them before.

4/8/19, RDS

Celebrating 20 years of FM DXing, 1999-2019

On an unsuspecting early morning in my teenage years, I tuned up and down on my radio, trying to find something to listen to. A song on a very clear radio station caught my ear, so I left my radio there and went back to what I was doing. The station identified as “Z104,” but something wasn’t right. The frequency was wrong: 104.5 FM. My local “Z104” with a similar format broadcasted on 104.1 FM. Was my radio broken?

I kept on listening to the station, not understanding why the DJ was giving a weather forecast for the “oceanfront.” I didn’t live near an ocean. A short time later, I heard the following legal ID blast out of my speakers:

I received my first DX signal, 104.5 WNVZ, on this Philips-Magnavox boombox in 1999.

I sat in my desk chair, eyeing the bright “104.5 MHz” on my radio’s screen as local commercials for the Virginia Beach area played one after another. Were my ears playing tricks on me? How could I be listening to something over 120 miles away, when it sounded just as clear as any typical local station? Intrigued, I tuned up and down the dial, finding more unfamiliar stations from Richmond, VA (75 miles away) and even more from the Norfolk area. I had an old portable TV in my closet, so on a hunch I pulled that out, and was even more surprised to find a chorus of strange TV stations coming in on all channels from central and southeastern Virginia. All of them aired the same things that I saw on my local TV stations, until the morning news came on.

Richmond’s channel 12, WWBT, was received for the first time as seen above in 1999 shortly after I heard WNVZ.

20 years ago today, my unexpected exposure to the hobby of DXing started all with my reception of WNVZ near Washington, DC. I found each night that reception was different–some nights Norfolk FM & TV would blare in, while at other nights, Ocean City, MD or Philadelphia, PA came in instead. It became second nature to write down all I was receiving so I’d remember what city everything was from, in the process creating a thoroughly-detailed DX log, which I keep updated to this day.

I wanted to look back at how DXing has changed since 1999. The basic principles of DXing have never changed (i.e. the need to identify unfamiliar signals), but the tools available now in 2019 to do so are much more advanced than what I had that morning when I first logged WNVZ.

Although the internet was operational in 1999, the resources needed to adequately identify signals for DXing purposes weren’t always there. Some great websites like Radio Locator and (now defunct) DXFM.com were invaluable resources for station data in the late 90s. Even so, many radio stations at the time had little to no web presence online.  Those that did often had outdated or incomplete information, such as no mention of the station’s slogan on their website.

WNVZ received again at my home with HD Radio in 2017.

The 2000s brought great change to the hobby.  RDS became commonplace by mid-decade, allowing many stations to be IDed by on-screen text.  HD Radio debuted locally in 2006, shuttering most open and usable frequencies immediately next to local FM stations, replacing the once empty frequencies with digital “sidebands” that blocked out all but the most strongest DX.  Sites like Yes.com provided lists of current songs playing, which was extremely helpful during Sporadic E openings, and DXers came in droves to online propagation loggers like the TV/FM Skip Log, which helped spread the word for signal propagation events.  The technological innovations stagnated in the 2010s, with the only major change in FM DXing being an almost annual downturn in occurrence of Sporadic E openings, new stations turning on HD Radio broadcasts (and many more discontinuing the service), and the few open frequencies being taken up by new translators seemingly popping up every day.

Even with all of these changes that were both a benefit and a detriment the hobby over the years, I still somehow managed to garner 1910 unique FM logs and 222 TV station logs.

Hopefully we’ll be all around for me to announce my 40th FM DXing anniversary in 2039.  Stay tuned!  The dial is always changing.

 

Review of the Sangean HDR-14 Portable HD Radio

The Sangean HDR-14 portable HD Radio with box.

Having been an HD Radio-capable DXer for over a decade now, I’ve seen many radios come and go, including the legendary Sony XDR-F1HD, as well as others, like the ultra-portable Insignia NS-HD01 and its cousin, the tabletop Insignia NS-HDRAD2.  I’ve heard about Sangean’s lineup of radios, but none seemed that interesting to me until I came across the Sangean HDR-14.

The HDR-14, a new release for 2018, is a portable radio that can handle both FM and AM HD Radio with ease.  The HDR-14, which is $77.58 at time of publication on Amazon, is tiny, at 5″ x 3.02″ x 1.28″, smaller overall than a typical iPhone but a little thicker.  It fits easily in the palm of one’s hand and is powered with the included AC adapter or three AA batteries.

Analog FM radio performance

The Sangean radio was quick to tune in all of the typical analog FM signals within 70 miles that usually come in during deadband December conditions.  Reception seemed on par with other portable radios I own, including both Insignias.  I’m sure when DX conditions are present that this radio will excel in getting stations further away.  RDS was decoded on almost all of my regional signals that utilize it.  Most surprisingly, the HDR-14 decoded RDS from two very weak Washington, DC FM translators, something that even the Airspy has difficulty doing at my home.  Although the radio only affords one line for RDS, you can cycle through the screen to see the PT, PTY, and other RDS fields.

The Sangean HDR-14 decoding RDS from 101.5 WBQB Fredericksburg, VA at 24 miles away on 12/22/18.

Perhaps the best feature with RDS on this radio is the ability for it to show radio station callsigns derived from its RDS PI code.  In the screenshot above, the “WBQB” calls were derived from the station’s broadcasted PI code, 58ED.  For reasons unknown to me, I’ve noticed this feature doesn’t work on all stations broadcasting RDS, and unlike the Airspy, this is not the first RDS data point decoded.

As with any radio that displays PI codes or callsigns derived from PIs, if the radio station itself broadcasts the wrong PI code (i.e. most iHeart stations), the wrong callsign will appear on-screen.  This is a problem rooted with the broadcaster and not the radio itself, but it is important to point out.

FM HD Radio performance

The Sangean HDR-14 radio decoding HD Radio from 100.3 WBIG Washington, DC at 24 miles away on 12/22/18.

This radio is very sensitive detecting HD signals.  My local FMs, at 15-20 miles, decode fully in HD even with the antenna all the way down, which is not possible with the Sony or Insignia radios.  The radio displays HD callsigns in the top left corner at all times but it does not show the “-FM” extension that some stations broadcast.  The frequency disappears on-screen when HD is decoded, but you can toggle it back on through the menu, like I did in the picture above.  You can also view HD radiotext on the second line of the screen if you cycle through the menu.  The radio allows you to tune to HD2 and HD3 signals, where available.

AM analog and AM HD Radio performance

The Sangean HDR-14 decoding 880 WCBS New York, NY at 238 miles away on 12/23/18.

Although I’m sure there are better AM radios out there, I was blown away with how good the AM section is on the HDR-14.  It sounds just as good as the XDR-F1HD’s AM radio.  It picked up the usual regional AM powerhouses from Boston, Chicago, and New York at night, and at the same time I heard some of the more rarer signals that even the XDR-F1HD can’t get, such as a tiny 10-watt AM station at a community college 5 miles away from me.  Simply put, the HDR-14 is a respectable AM radio and it is probably going to be my primary AM radio now, given how easy it is to move room to room with it in my home.

AM HD Radio on the Sangean radio was comparable to the Sony XDR-F1HD, with the same stations decoding their HD signals.  Much like on FM, you can toggle between HD radiotext and the frequency on the screen’s second line when an HD Radio signal is decoded.

Traveling abroad

Although I haven’t had a chance to take this radio outside of the United States, it appears to be the best-suited radio out of the many that I have in my shack to handle international radio conditions.  Beyond being small enough to throw in a bag, it can be programmed to tune in 50, 100, and 200 KHz steps for FM as well as different tuning steps for AM in foreign countries.  The radio also can be reprogrammed to tune down to 76.1 FM, the beginning of the FM dial in Japan.  These features are very rare to find in radios sold in the USA.  I know that regardless of wherever I go, this radio will work.  Of course, HD Radio will only be available in the USA and some areas in Mexico and Canada, but RDS should work just fine abroad.

The HDR-14 has this handy little kickstand on the back that swivels out to keep it upright on a table.

Downsides

Even though I love this little radio, it is not perfect.  The HDR-14 is not a clone of the Sony or Airspy radios and it should not be considered to be a primary DXing radio.  The radio’s selectivity leaves a little to be desired, as I noticed some bleedthrough on frequencies adjacent to local FM stations as if the radio’s IF filters were set a little too wide.  With that said, however, the radio is very sensitive and it will tune in a very weak signal on an adjacent-to-local frequency right over the minor bleedthrough, so I don’t think this is a dealbreaker for me with this being a secondary radio.

The backlight of the Sangean HDR-14 only stays on for a few seconds at a time.

As seen in the above picture, the backlight of the HDR-14 only stays on for a few seconds after a button is pressed, which is a disappointment.  The reflective screen sometimes makes it difficult to read without the backlight on.  The radio itself is also fairly shiny, which shows fingerprints.  For its price, the plastic on the radio could’ve been a little more robust and/or texturized.  The radio also only has one speaker and isn’t the best of quality, but it is loud and suffices for its intended use.  The included headphone jack is an improvement over the speaker’s sound but it does not have good stereo separation, even when an HD Radio station is tuned in.

The Sangean HDR-14’s long and fragile extendable whip antenna.

The radio has a generously long antenna, but the thinner “sections” close to the tip are fragile and seem prone to bending if one isn’t careful while using it.

The radio will actively decode HD Radio whenever available and you can’t disable this, which is a downside if any given station’s HD broadcast sounds worse than its analog counterpart.  This seems to be a limitation in most HD Radios on the market, so although I don’t fault Sangean for not including this feature with the HDR-14, it would’ve been nice if they did.

Final verdict

If one buys this radio understanding that it won’t be a powerhouse DXing radio, then they will love it.  It’s a perfect travel radio to throw in a bag and take to the beach or the park.  It can quickly pick up HD signals and it performs well in the AM band, too.

Screenshots from the Sangean HDR-14 are clear and easily readable, such as this one from 101.1 WWDC Washington, DC.

For DXers who like to screenshot RDS and HD Radio decodes, this radio provides a perfect screen with robust information, even if you have to scroll through to see it all.  Even with its several downsides, this radio has replaced the Insignia NS-HDRAD2 as my secondary travel radio and I do recommend it to all.  I will still travel with my Airspy R2 as a primary radio, however, due to its reputation as one of the best FM radios out there, but the Sangean HDR-14 has earned its place in my ever-growing collection of radios.

My RDS and HD Radio Screenshots pages have been updated with new RDS and HD Radio screenshots from the Sangean HDR-14.

Format flip: 94.7 WIAD Bethesda, MD now classic hits

94.7 FM in Washington, DC, a local station at my home, has a new format.  Hot AC WIAD Bethesda, MD, known on-air as “94-7 Fresh FM,” flipped to classic hits as “94-7 The Drive” on October 3.  The call letters are still WIAD, and I assume that won’t change, given the call letters sort of relate to the word “Drive,” and because “IAD” is an IATA code for Washington Dulles International Airport.  WIAD seems to be focusing on 70s and 80s classic hits with no newer songs in rotation.

The station’s flip to classic hits makes sense.  There’s no other station in the Washington market currently with the same format.  Adult contemporary 97.1 WASH plays 80s music, but they tend to play more of the pop-based hits, and of course they play newer music.  100.3 WBIG was greatest hits at one point, but they are now playing more classic rock and early 90s rock.

The “Fresh FM” format lasted nine years on WIAD.  My Local FM Stations page was updated with the new station information.