Monday, March 31, 2008

Oh cheap Sony!

Wow, a Sony pocket FM/AM radio, these days?

Yes, the Sony ICF-S10MK2.

--from the Sears Basics store, for $9.99
--a little under 3" by 5" by 1"
--mono speaker, earphone jack
--2 aa batteries, 40 hour estimate (yay! yay!)
--fit and finish are very good.

Trying it out:

--it was hifi/mono into headphones, 1 ear (aaah, shucks) I needed a mono->stereo plug to stay sane.
..very nice sound once that was done. Even the
bass was good.
Volume jumps too fast: headphones w/a volume
control are a good accesory.

--tuning, with fingernail-rolling: not bad! backlash
--sensitivity: super, like the little walkman am/fm units
--selectivity: basically good, but hammered by strong-channel

What to do?
---pushing the whip antenna down helped the overload,
at cost to weak campus stations
---HOWEVER: the whip, extended the other way from the
headphone cord, makes a wickedly directional antenna.
On a table or desk, I can pick apart the band and
quash the spurs quite well.
SO, FM, overall: good, with swamping, but with
easy tweaking, super.


The tuning mechanicals were very good (if you roll
your fingernail), as with the FM section.

The sensitivity was great, almost exceptional.
A tad better than the little walkman units,
which are great for their size.

The selectivity: well, this is something clever.
They have a wide-IF sound for fidelity,
but this unit was actually able to slice 1010 WNDS
from NYC away from local monster 1030 WBZ.
Very cool: a mid-width selectivity that works!

Overall, I'd say this is a great pocket radio and
a high performer, way past $10 worth.
And a mono/stereo adaptor still makes the deal great.

What I would fix if I were Sony:
---stereo headphone out would be sooo sweet,
like the little Grundigs.
---the jumpy volume is likely because they anticipate
old crappy earphones: please guys...don't do that!

How about a compromise? Just make the jack
mono that lights both sides of headphones
(w/o an adaptor), and nudge the output resistor
up a bit.

Still, a fantastic unit for $10. And the speaker and
batt-life are good enough to sell this at hardware
stores for the repairman set.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Radio Grove

Long overdue project..

I took my Grundig S350 down to a spot in
the woods where the slope faced Boston,
well away from house wires and power lines.

What's needed to set up a 'radio grove':

---an easy side-trail or woods tramp
to a wind-reduced place

---some light bush clippers
(to get in and make a nice sitting place)

---some closed-cell foam to sit on
(camping mat, yoga mat, or..I stacked a
few foam cafeteria trays)

---radio, and headphones (smart option)
---wire antenna if you like, but keep it simple


Anyway, how did it work?

--Lots of semi-local (daytime) AM stations came
in with that soft, smooth AM static!!!
...BTW, 50 feet out of your house, you lose most

--Great FM/low reception of the Boston-area
campus stations. Weirdly good FM fidelity
...I don't have an explanation. Maybe the ghosts
and reflections from your house wiring fuzz the
reception (?) somehow.

---Shortwave: hey, it was daytime. Not much,
except Evangelical preachers railing against other
Christian factions, "false prophets". It was creepy.
And on Easter? For shame.

Anyway, it was pretty good. I'd like to take a recording
rig for the old-time big band music from some local
AM sometime. I think a higher location would be
nice for FM. Still, I should look into the fidelity
improvement there in Radi-Grove #1.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Extreme Range?

I got the Radio Shack
"Extreme Range AM/FM/WX Radio"
(catalog #12-150)
and took it for a spin tonight...



The strap had flaws..the velcro pulled off
one side. I replaced that. Tsk.

The tuning action makes initial tuning very slow.

The D-cells should probably run long.


headphone: mono only. Scratchy treble, very thin bass.

tone controls: bass, treble, effective

via speaker: sounds clear and nice..hides flaws heard in 'phones.


Sensitivity: fair

Selectivity: good

Spurious products: pretty messy, near a strong station
.....this would be be a troubled radio in inner suburbs,
Cut antenna height by half when you experience this.


Sensitivity: Extreme-range? No.

--Just on par with the very small SRF-M37V Sony Walkman,
--Way behind the Sony ICF-S10MK2 ($10 pocket radio)
--way behind the AM on the Accurian HD radio.
---and well back from the Grundig S350.

The external wire antenna connection offers hope,
coupled with the narrow selectivity setting.

The wide setting was super-wide, for daytime fidelity.
The narrow was super-narrow. 1010 WNDS knew
nothing at all about 1030 WBZ. Even 1020 freq. was unbothered.

AGC: (Audio Gain Control)...seems to be almost entirely
missing. Stations were very loud/very quiet/very
varying. Ooopsie.


Weather band: Very easy to use...5 pre-fixed channels.
Sensitivity about like another other...scratchy but usable.


Usage: Having 10 channels each band, with single-button
recall, is very nice.
The backlight is good. Tuning knob thing clunky.
Direct-entry of frequencies: excellent!



This is a $50 radio, and it has issues.
It doesn't live up to the "extreme-range" moniker,
and the chaff whipped up in the FM by next-door
stations make it tough near a city or antenna

But it is very convenient and pleasant regular listening on table
or carried to the backyard or worksite. The AM selectivity
combined with the digital and the outside antenna terminals
would make it a nice DX tuner with more input.

The FM memories and good speaker make it a nice table
radio for that. Swinging the whip around, the selectivity
can work the campus band pretty well from the outer


Not really a big-distance rig, but good for some night AM,
outer suburban breakfast FM or AM, and very convenient if you
flick around the dial for a lot of regular stations.
Good sound speaker, fair sound headphones.
~OK for the money, better with a long wire or tuned loop.

Definitely not in the leauge with the GE Superadio-3 for
AM, AMDX, FM, or audio performance. Better for easy
station flicking in memory.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

More LPFM sprawl

On the FCC database,
88.1 MHz, new stuff, Mass:
--provincetown, to "athens christian radio"
--housatonic, to "calvary chapel of the berkeshires"
--great barrington, (1 KW!!) to "foothills public radio"
--edgartown, "foothills public radio"
No call letters for these yet.

As for the MITRE no-interference claims,
the filler music on 90.5, somewhere in NH,
has already ruined my most-Sundays jazz listening
on WICN. So much for that. Perhaps the standard
is reception on a pocket radio worse than a Sony

NOW: if you link these together via repeater,
you can achieve more complete (and less shadowed)
coverage than a high-power. It's simple Physics.
This is analogous to the use of bomblets in war.

I need to revive my efforts in antennas, maybe.
Rhombic, perhaps? Maybe I'll see how bad it gets
first. I love the campus stations. This could hurt.

more about 90.5 FM

For more information about the weird
phenomenon I found at 90.5 FM, these
search patterns are handy:

"LPFM" (FCC's new licensing area, low-power FM)
"godcasters" (major orgs. who filed thousands of applications)

"radio assist ministry"
"edgewater broadcasting" (corps. holding large # of licenses)

One problem is that a lot of content from thousands
of miles away (megachurches) would be on bandwidth
that is supposed to have local community content
(local churches, hobby DJs, local news, meetings, games, etc)
via the thousands of repeater licenses granted.

There has been a MITRE study saying interference
(with normal FM reception) is not a problem. I am
pretty sure people who enjoy visiting different communities
via FMDX was not considered.

Visiting local flavor is doubly ruined by thousands of relay
stations and replayed contents. Once by drowning out
local hobby and school stations (heard via FMDX during
an advancing warm front, for example), and once again
by favoring big nationally syndicated contents over
know community organizations and churches.

But this elevator music is the prelude.
What actually happens remains to be seen.

To examine some local frequencies, here is the FCC

Right now is the easiest time to spot the LPFM permits.
They show as NEW where the call letters should be.

In NH, at 90.5 and 90.7, I see:

90.5: auburn, n.londonderry, derry, hillsboro

90.7: barrington, northwood ridge, dover,
northwood, plymouth

Mass has fewer (likely because spaces are occupied),
but I see the well-known
Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls Idaho with a license
at 90.5 (WSMA Scituate), and I see news
in the web about their exotic beaming antennas.
I also see a link at the WICN (Worcester Jazz NPR)
station for all the complaints about interference at 90.5 there.

From out west, here is an example of potential usage.
KFMW appears on these repeaters, with more to come:

K230AS 93.9 FM Fergus Falls, MN (250 watts)
K233BN 94.5 FM Aberdeen, SD (5 watts)
K237CV 95.3 FM Grafton, ND (165 watts)
K240CJ 95.9 FM Oakes, ND (250 watts)
K246AM 97.1 FM Jamestown, ND (170 watts)
K248AZ 97.5 FM Devils Lake, ND (160 watts)
K255BP 98.9 FM Milbank, SD (160 watts)
K257DW 99.3 FM Lisbon, ND (130 watts)
K269FI 101.7 FM Cavalier, ND (225 watts)
K274BH 102.7 FM Valley City, ND (165 watts)
K290BI 105.9 FM Wahpeton, ND (10 watts)
K296FW 107.1 FM Aberdeen, SD (250 watts)
K300BG 107.9 FM Grand Forks, ND (140 watts)

Local concent? LPFM? You can't be serious.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

radio locator

A note: is a great way
to help find stations
(if you set the fringe range feature)
and it actually uses the power and distance
to tell you what the signal
strength should be where you are.

For example,

WERS 88.9 FM (HD, 4000W, Boston, 611ft)
shows a very strong signal gauge for Wilmington,
(15.4 mi)

WEVO 89.1 FM (Concord, NH)
shows a little gauge for a very low signal
(49.8 mi)

....yet 89.1 usually comes in great...
on the Accurian and the Grundig S350

mystery station

I'm getting this all-elevator-music
station at 90.5 FM, with only slogan
announcements, no station ID for hours
and hours.

Its' content doesn't match any schedule on the
web for 90.5 WICN / Worcester or
90.5 WSMA / Scituate. Not even for
WSPS/Concord-NH or WPEA/Exeter-NH
(low-power school stations, anyway)

I keep listening. I get on the Accurian, but
also on the Walkman, and on the car radio
faintly, sometimes walking over WICN/Worcester.

Most peculiar....nothing I can find online about it.



I found out the source of the weirdness:
according to the FCC database, about 6 new stations (!)
have been awarded licenses, most not assigned call letters yet.
They are all in the 70, 100, or 150 watt power range, and
are scattered about southern NH. This is just at 90.5 MHz, mind you.

And they all look like fundamentalist Christian stations.
Some sort of "Cellular-Jesus" service. A rather spectacular
feat of church-n-state, if it happens other frequencies and places.
It completely crushes the college FMDX fun, that's for sure.
By swamping the frequency with one content.
What's that you say? Freedom of speech? Um....
....I see no Jewish radio, no Hindu radio (a few
hours of cool Bollywood music on a local campus doesn't count),
no Islam, ..........
get the picture? Prepare to drown, parts of the campus radio band!


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

another test

I checked out 1030 AM interference
out in my car tonight.
1010 WNDS came in like a charm,
and 1050 was good too.
I'm wondering whether the vertical
polarization helped. Of course, a
car is in a great reception site
on a wide highway. Clear sight lines,
little wiring around outside, and
good selectivity. This was a plain
Ford factory radio.

Monday, March 3, 2008

OK, FM HD station

OK, on to an FM-HD station

104.1 WBCN came in w/HD, fine, w/2 channels

There were only 2 stations listed in within 80 miles near 104.1.

103.7 (Keene, NH) came in fair-poor, as expected for
that distance.

104.5 (Fitchburg) Came in excellent.


I'm noticing something: The FCC allocations for
adjacent/alternate frequency allocations handle this
well. They seem to have better design margin
than AM (which is already a problematic band).

Almost the same story around
102.5 WKLB, the highest fidelity country station I've
ever heard (it has HD, but you still need good gear and
avoiding too much compressor).
There are no adjacent freqs really. (there is 102.3, but I already
know the ridge on the way to Concord clobbers it here)
But the alternates come in fine.

another wbz report

march 3 10pm, wilmington, ma

I didn't receive much down low in the band,
so I revisited the WBZ1030 night-time HD area.

This is peculiar:

--At 1030KHz, the HD indicator turned on and off,
(even w/optimum coil aim) and I never actually
got the fidelity boost...ick. I'm wondering whether
HD gets scuttled as much as it scuttles at night.

--no trace at 1040KHz.

--however, the as-bought radio coil could be nulled
so I got KDKA//Pittsburgh...not bad.

--no trouble at all with WNDS//1010KHz NYNY,
or 1050KHz either..

So....Not much for interference tonight...heh, but
the HD did not work fairly close by.

...oh, wait a sec. I did just get HD on 1030. is weirdl sounding though..I want to
turn off the HD mode. There is a kazoo effect.
I'll have to use another radio.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

another FM HD report

Another HD interference test (loc: wilmington, ma)

HD station: 97.7 MHz FM, WKAF, Brockton, MA
reception: excellent
hd-mode: activated on my accurian, 2 channels
content: metal rock, a relay of WAAF
fidelity: hard to say on studio metal (heh)..
but the stereo imaging on live recordings was excellent
dynamics: good...normal CD live dynamics

There is an adjacent station:

97.5 MHz FM, WOKQ, Dover, NH
reception: excellent
mode: normal FM stereo
content: country music
fidelity: a few tunes weren't that great, but
Alabama's "Dixieland Delight" had OK highs
and excellent imaging. So the station's gear is OK.
...odd, cardboardy bass...I suspect the compression..
dynamics: top-flattened slightly

So I have:
----excellent FM HD reception at a range of 40 miles.
----no intereference with a normal FM station 50 miles away
(and only 0.2 MHz)
With an omni antenna.

Once again, I see good FM HDrange, and no interference.

On the downside, a price report:
I saw $199 at Radio Shack for the Accurian,
and $299 for the Boston Acoustics
(they are $149 and $249 online though)

HD is still pricey upfront.