My Disappointing Longwave DXing

Every shortwave radio I have ever owned has offered four bands: FM, AM (or mediumwave), shortwave, and longwave. The FM, AM, and shortwave bands are always filled with stations (although shortwave less so these days) but the longwave band for me has always been empty. In all my years of attempts at longwave DXing, I have only ever picked up two stations. These same two stations are beacons that endlessly repeat two or three characters in Morse code. I can only occasionally receive their faint signals and they are overpowered by normal electrical interference.

Beacons, specifically non-directional beacons used by pilots and sailors for navigation, are about the only longwave signals I could hope to receive in the United States. Longwave was once widely used for broadcasting in Europe, Asia, and the former Soviet Union. There are still some longwave broadcasters in those regions. For example, the BBC broadcasts BBC Radio 4 on 198 kHz from their transmitter site in Droitwich, England (although the days of that transmission are numbered). But those types of signals are too far away to receive here under normal conditions.

During a six-hour long power outage, I was finally able to make out the Morse code call letters broadcast by those beacons. One of the few good things about a power outage is that it eliminates nearly all of the electrical interference that normally plagues radio reception. By using the call letters and the frequencies, I was able to find both beacons in this list of North American longwave beacons. To my surprise, both beacons are at nearby airports. So it turns out that in all my attempts at longwave DXing, I have never received any station more than ten miles away!

19 comments on “My Disappointing Longwave DXing

  • Ron Hermann wrote:

    Join the club! I can hear exactly one morse code beacon from a small airport north of here. A friend from Boston was able to pick up European longwave stations at dusk but I’ve never gotten more than that beacon.

  • Ryder Upton wrote:

    The nearest I got to a broadcast on longwave was an automated voice weather report from a local airport. I always wanted to hear a real longwave broadcast but it not likely now.

  • Evan Parry wrote:

    I’ve found that the secret to distant longwave reception is a good antenna. You can still hear European longwave stations at night on the US East Coast during fall and winter. I use a 75-foot long Beverage antenna but other people prefer a vertical loop. For more antenna information, you might want to check out the DX Information Centre and the Longwave Home Page. There are still quite a few longwave enthusists who are willing to answer questions.

  • Thanks for the links. I didn’t realize people could still hear European longwave on the East Coast. I may have to string an antenna and give it a try.

  • Evan Parry wrote:

    Glad to help. BTW, the best time to try longwave DXing is when both transmitter and receiver are in darkness.

  • j birkett wrote:

    On the south coast of England (UK) there are several long wave stations which come in clearly-
    162 France, 187 Saar/Germany, 198 UK, 216 Monaco*,234 Luxemburg.
    the 252khz frequency is odd as both Ireland and Algeria use it and both stations clash here!
    *the Monaco tx is actually in France.
    After dark I can hear the Czech replulic on 270 and Morocco on 153.

    Some higher power AM stations have unintentional breakthrough on the long wave,
    particularly the network on 1215khz.

  • j birkett,

    It sounds as though you have some good longwave stations to listen to. Recently, I have tried using internet connected radios to listen to the longwave band in Europe. It’s pretty interesting but I’m afraid it’s as close as I will get to actual longwave reception.

  • I’ve done pretty well logging some non-directional beacons in the longwave band while listening from both northern California and upstate NY, identifying a few signals in excess of 1000 miles away. Typically I use an Eton E5 or a Sony ICF SW7600GR on batteries. Noise avoidance is key, and I often use SSB with the BFO dial to shift the frequency of the morse code into an easier audible range. Images of broadcasts on other frequencies are a regular problem that’s hard to solve. Good luck!

  • rtc wrote:

    Hello,

    I had the same problem.
    This worked big-time for me (European B/C):

    https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ng9d+youtube+longwave+loop&view=detail&mid=19754959942898A294A919754959942898A294A9&FORM=VIRE

    For some good general info and how to put in a one-turn pickup loop
    so you can plug it into the rx antenna jack:

    http://www.mds975.co.uk/Content/aerials1.html

    The tuning capacitor is available from:

    https://www.tubesandmore.com/products/capacitors?filters=Type%3DVariable

    Get the C-V365.

    Yes it is a bit of trouble and fuss but worth it,you can’t
    buy these things.
    The hula-hoop is big enough to do the job,too.

    If you prefer to buy rather than build,try this:

    http://amradioantennas.com/longwave_antennas.htm

    Expect around $110 delivered from Melbourne but you’re only going to ever need one….get the 155-500 khz model.

    Also:

    http://dxtools.com/QStick.htm

    Expect around $67 delivered.

    Neither of these ready-made units will do as well as a hula-hoop (size counts);the Q-Stick less so than the PK Loop.
    I have and use both and they work.
    Both Paul (PK Loops) and Gerry (Q-Stick) are nice guys,too.

    Good LW DX…ron

  • rtc wrote:

    I suggested some things you can do for longwave in an earlier post to your website.If you prefer to buy rather than build,here is something that works well. Last spring it was discovered that the PK Loop and Q-Stick mentioned in the earlier post “co-couple” when used together with your receiver.This greatly enhances reception,producing better signal strengths into your receiver’s antenna.I had a 20 inch PK Loop at the time and found this combo equalled or perhaps exceeded it using the less expensive 14 inch standard loop.
    If you wish to “have a go” with this,you’ll have much greater success on longwave.
    Regards…ron

  • w4vey wrote:

    0135 UTC Nov. 6, 2016 (here 9:35PM Eastern) I am picking up on some music I can only describe as possibly African, on 279 kHz. Exciting, as I always heard I’d probably never pick anything up. To boot, I am listening on a ground-mounted vertical 1/4 wave cut for 40 meter (about 32 feet tall), with 16 ground radials. There is no linear antenna tuner or base loading or anything, and the radio is a little Radio Shack clone of a Sangean travel radio. Very sensitive (to a fault sometimes, overloaded by powerful signals) so I’m sure this helps. This definitely has convinced me to make a longwave antenna device. Either a base coil, or one of those tuned loop antennas, or both to compare. Seems no one bothers with this like it’s useless here, but I always thought the waves are so long… oh, I’m in Central Florida

  • w4vey wrote:

    oh my gosh, this is wild, I am hearing him echo in short and long paths around the Earth, delayed — I am hearing him circle the Earth in both directions, one origin closer than the other. I could not understand the language or station ID. I thought it was two signals until I realized it was the same one heavily delayed! Hard to detect with the fast music, but with the loud voice it was unmistakable! Briefly, there was a short delay and a long lone,m as I heard 3 total. Short path, long path, and one making it back around! Just one of those fleeting conditions you don’t get on tape but will remember forever, knowing what it was….the speed of light and size of the planet! Happy DX! 73 w4vey

  • rtc wrote:

    Hula Hoop LW Loop Build Info…

    Hello again,
    Just dug out the info on the number of turns,etc. for this kind of
    loop for those who are interested.Please note that these figures are
    approximate-your mileage will vary a little:

    Here is something the guys can whip up using their junkbox and the
    local Lowe’s or Home Depot.
    It’s based on NG9D’s Hula Hoop Longwave Loop.
    This version features a modified “plug” to close the loop and a one
    turn pickup loop; a parallel switched cap is used to extend the
    range.

    Loop #1:
    21 turns 345 pf cap Freq: 150-190 and 190-320 (cap switched out)
    Loop #2:
    13 turns 300 pf cap;
    Freq. 250-325 and 325-530 (cap switched out)

    All use standard 365 pf variables from firms like Antique Radio
    Supply.
    Wire is 22AWG solid (not too critical).
    Expect your results to vary some but a little tinkering will correct that.
    I have several pix that help all this make sense but can’t send them here.
    If you are not set up for soldering perhaps you can find someone to build
    these for a fee,etc.
    You will need some heat-shrink tubing for insulating the joints for the wire turns-Loop 1 uses about 180 feet (C=pi X d ) where C
    is multiplied by the number of turns.
    Note the difference in these and the air-spaced loops shown in the links…air spaced loop turns have much wider bandwidth than these quick-and-dirty loops do.
    ron

  • rtc wrote:

    One last comment…

    Your success in getting LWBC depends in large part-but not totally – (witness the guy in Penn.)
    on your location.
    If you are too far inland from the Atlantic Ocean or too far south in latitude it will be way difficult
    or impossible.
    Which is why I was amazed at how well it went here at 33.5 degrees north and 4-500 miles inland.
    Nevertheless, at least consider a PK Loop on general principles while you can still get one.
    And “that’s all folks”…ron

  • rtc wrote:

    One last-last update:

    PK Loops cost $ 103.70 delivered to the USA at the current
    USD-AusD exchange rate,just ordered a spare one:

    http://amradioantennas.com/longwave_antennas.htm

    Get the A-LOOP-LWT155-500 since it will cover the entire band and
    work with any receiver with a ferrite bar antenna that covers LW.

    This is the standard 14 inch and will provide very acceptable results
    depending on your receiver and location,etc…see the pdf…not to
    say it will do LWBC (your location,rx etc.) but everything else.

    (The reason for 155 not 150 is the variable tuning capacitor Paul
    is using now,they’re getting harder to find.Doesn’t matter,there
    aren’t any LWBC stations on 153 khz anywhere anymore anyway.
    If you must have 150,put in a SPDT center-off switch to switch in
    a 51pf cap on the low side.)

  • rtc wrote:

    Hello all,
    if you want to give Longwave another try now is the time to
    do it (11-25-16).The band has been red-hot since Wednesday
    and mostly still is but a solar storm is probably going to put
    an end to that this weekend.
    Friend in Texas went out Wednesday evening at sunset with
    his Sony 7600GR and new 14 inch PK Loop and logged-
    recorded France Inter on 162 khz.
    That’s over 5,000 miles;anything like this west of the
    Mississippi is rare to say the least.
    So if you can,have a go….soon.

  • Roy n wrote:

    Hey rtc good to see your post…de ROY

  • Tim Bayless wrote:

    I may be late to this post but I will chime in. About 17 years ago I was able to easily log over 80 non directional beacons from my home in Minnesota. Some of them close to 500 miles away. I used a home built regenerative set using two transistors and the old LM 386 audio amplifier. My antenna was 136ft of wire strung between two 80 foot tall cottonwood trees. Simple but effective. I connected my audio output to the sound card of my Pentium 2 PC loaded with Spectran and was able to copy a LOWFER signal as well. My point is that you do not need a hot radio to get DX, but the antenna that feeds it is very important. Catching European DX would have been awesome, but I was quiet happy with my $20 homebrew rig as is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *