Is there anything more fun than listening to E Skip? Or staying up all night logging long haul tropo, or going to bed at 4am and getting up for work at 8?
Winegard PR-5030 VHF and Winegard 8800 UHF.
February 27, 2014 - When Will Winter Ever End???
This has nothing to do with DXing. It does have something to do with DTV because I do watch DTV.
When I bought my first DTV I wasn't too impressed with the audio quality from the tiny speakers on the bottom of it, so I ran an audio cable from the audio-out jacks to the aux-in jacks of a Marantz amplifier with two decent sized speakers attached to it, and the system sounded pretty good, almost like in a movie theatre.
But then later I bought a new DTV. When I went to attach the audio cables, I couldn't find the audio-out jacks. They weren't there. So I opened the users manual and took a look. I found that this DTV only has a place for an optical cable to send out audio, and of course my Marantz tuner had no such thing. And then I began to look at home theatre systems that had an optical port, thinking that I had no other alternative.
One evening I was watching something on TV and the thought occurred to me that there might be some kind of digital/analog converter that would allow me to use my tuner without spending $100 or more on a home theatre system. A quick check of eBay confirmed that there was such a thing and it wasn't expensive.
This little box is fairly tiny, maybe 1.5" square or less. An optical cable runs from your DTV to the converter. A 5 volt wall wort connects to the back. Your audio cables connect to the jacks that you see on the front of the converter and your amplifier. Mine cost $14.95.
I'm happy I didn't have to dump a perfectly good amp and two good speakers, but I still wonder why LG couldn't have installed a couple of analog jacks in the back of the set in the first place. And they made the set with only two HDMI jacks instead of three, which forced me to spend $25 for an HDMI combiner. Isn't DTV wonderful.
December 4, 2013
Here's some news for anyone who wants to do some DTV DXing with a TV instead of a converter box. Up until recently we all assumed that the best way to DX the DTVs was with an Insignia or Zenith set-top-box. The reasons for DXing with the set-top-boxes being that they let you tune up/down the channels just like an analog television. Almost all DTVs just let you do channel scans.
But now we find that DTVs manufactured by LG let you tune manually up and down the channels just like the old converter boxes do. The process is pretty much the same as the Insignia/Zenith box. So, having just purchased an LG DTV, I took a couple of screenshots and wrote a little primer on the LG's manual tuning It's here. I would add that the tuner's sensitivity on the LGs is really good also. Life's Good! :-)
November 17, 2013
Some of you who wander over here may think I'm some kind of crazed Radio-TV enthusiast/DXer. I write about weird things like tropo, Es (whatever Es is), dongles, tuner mods and DX...things that might as well be Greek to most folk. Some probably think I spend all my waking hours with a TV on, or watching a waterfall (not the outside kind of waterfall...this has nothing to do with water at all) or trying to hear exotic signals on my dongle or tuner or TV card or whatever.
But the truth is that for three days every week my wife and I get up early, not to look for meteor scatter, but to take care of this little guy while his mommy and daddy work. I present our little grandson Aiden James. He's four months old and the cutest little guy alive. To put things in perspective, this little one is much more important than a nutty hobby like I have. But never fear, I am not going away. At least not for two more years.
November 17, 2013...MORE
Look down the page a little to September 17, 2012 and you'll see me talk about the E4000 dongle. I broke down this week and spent $15 USD on a RTL2832 R820T version. It's packaged just like the E4000 and it looks just like the E4000 dongle. However, if you unplug the E4000 and plug the 820T into the same USB port, the dongle won't work. I needed to get the newest Zadig driver for Windows XP and run it again. That took about 10 seconds and worked like a charm.
The R820T version receives down to 26mhz, maybe more. I've been using it (along with SDR Sharp) to monitor the CB band and 10 meters using my TV antenna. Actually reception with the TV antenna wasn't as bad as I had expected. CB was full and there was lots of 10m activity on 28mhz. 33mhz was empty, as was 35 and 42mhz. Obviously there was no F2 skip on the higher frequencies.
In certain sections of the spectrum (30-34mhz) I found lots of noise and garbage on the waterfall. After pondering a solution for some time, I remembered to unplug the network cable from the Uverse gateway running to the computer and the noise was gone. Damned computers.
Anyway, these little USB dongles are fun. Get one!
November 17, 2013...AND EVEN MORE
Let us go back in time to early October, specifically October 9th. Tropo was in again from the west, and after searching the UHF band looking for stations in that direction, I came across WATM 24 Altoona again around 9:25pm. Here is a screengrab:
Can you believe the second reception of the same station just a couple of weeks apart? This time I got the correct callsign. But wait, there's more. Around 11:20pm this decoded on channel 25.
KDKA is a new logging for me. It's out about 390 miles to the WSW. As luck would have it, this is the only Pittsburgh station on UHF I'm capable of ever receiving. The rest are on channels blocked by my Hartford locals. This reception gives me hope of someday seeing Buffalo, Toronto and Ohio DTV stations. At least the evening wasn't wasted.
September 26, 2013 - Tropo
A little bit of tropo appeared on the morning of Tuesday, September 24th. Nothing at all was noticed on the FM band so I concentrated on TV instead. At about 0930EDT one of my Insignia DTV boxes decoded the PSIP from WATM ch24 in Altoona, PA (320mi.) The signal decoded a few more times yielding some video but all I could get were some fair/poor shots with my digital camera. So instead of that, here's a screengrab from my other Insignia box that could only manage a PSIP ID. By the way, WATM carries WWCP on its HD-2 channel, which this picture shows.
September 26, 2013 - TV Sharp
Here's something that may be of use to somebody next year. I found it while wandering the internet. It's a program called TV Sharp and it's used with an RTL2832 E4000 or 820T dongle (See previous post on the dongle down the page). We all know that the dongles will let you view analog TV carriers and digital TV pilot carriers with a program called SDR # (Sharp). With the program called TV Sharp you can watch analog TV instead of just watching the carrier.
I've created a thread on TV Sharp over at the WTFDA Forums. Go there and you'll find a link to get TV Sharp plus you'll get help on how to set it up and use it.
I've been told that when it's used in free-run mode (AGC unchecked) that the sensitivity of the picture received is as good as the fabled D-100 tuner from Garry Smith. Just to put it in perspective, the D-100 can show video of a signal as weak as S4 on your Icom or Winradio receiver. Supposedly the dongle with TV Sharp can do the same. Perhaps I'll find out for sure next summer, if we have any Es season at all. After this summer, I'm not that sure.
July 10, 2013
The 2013 E-skip season is halfway gone and it has been so bad that there is almost nothing to show for it. Skip got into fm for a few minutes on the 27th of June, then two longer openings on July 3rd and 5th in the early evening. All in all, there were a total of about 3 hours of MUFs up to 108mhz. That is really terrible. I'm tempted to say, why even bother.
As far as digital TV, I've seen KHAS-5(NE), WMC-5(TN), WTVF-5(TN), WOI-5(IA) and WHBF-4(IL). These are regulars via skip in the summer and no big deal at all.
On the analog side, I've seen XEFB-2 in Monterrey, NL again (1850 miles), and on May 27th I got a minute of video that I researched a few days ago and after Ed Phelps thought he saw a Caracol bug on the lower right of the screen, I went to the Caracol (Colombia) website and came up with a match including the same presenter as in my video clip. Here are two photos; one from the website and a still from the video I saw. It's a match.
What this station turned out to be is HJBH-4 in Santa Marta, Colombia, about 2120 miles south of the state of Connecticut. At the time of reception the 6m maps were showing a contact or two to the Dominican Republic and maybe one or two into South America (I don't think Colombia was one of them.) I started out hearing a video carrier buzz on ch4 from due south on the scanner, which I stayed with. Eventually it was strong enough to show video on the computer's TV card. For a minute or two it was strong enough to show some decent video. I forgot about this video until early July when I decided to try to find out who the video belonged to.
The video, by the way, is over on my YouTube channel (Grump46). You can watch it there but it is not even near the quality of the video I recorded. But that's YouTube for you.
June 24, 2013 - Skip and OTA DTV
Skip season started off weak here in May with only one good skip opening and a few openings consisting of just a handful of stations on FM. We expect this in May. But June is turning out to be a disaster here in the Northeast. There has been almost no skip (TV or FM) at all since the first of June. None. On the 23rd, there was an afternoon opening of around 30-40 minutes duration on FM. Obviously the POS (providers of skip) must be on strike this summer.
What is "normal" for DTV reception? That depends quite a bit on terrain. Here in Connecticut you'll be doing well if you can get regular DTV reception at 60 miles from the transmitter. My view towards New Haven is fairly flat from here. I get WTNH (10) excellent but WCTX (39) hardly in the winter and perhaps 70% of the time in the warmer months. I need an inversion to get anything (12,13) from Providence, because the path is too hilly. If you are receiving DTV from, say, 70 miles or more, then you are receiving it either from an inversion or some tropospheric bending, which may last a few hours and disappear. It doesn't matter what antenna you use or what preamp you have. If your elevation is above average (400 feet or better) you may see more stations. Some might decode 24/7 and some may not. All bets are off for consistant DTV reception for distances over 60 miles, at least in this part of the country. If you can do better I'd love to see your antenna installation and a picture of your location. I may move there.
March 28, 2013
A week or so ago I picked up one of the very last Winegard HD-5030 VHF antennas available at Starke Electronics in Worcester, MA and yesterday I put it up. What the HD-5030 replaced was a Hi-Band ten-element Winegard YA-1713 yagi, which itself is a pretty good antenna for channels 7-13. But I wanted something that would do both low and high band, and this is it.
What sits on top of everything is a Winegard HD-8800 8-bay antenna for UHF. I've used this and the Channel Master 8-bay (original version) and, in my opinion, they both perform the same but the Winegard antenna is not nearly as heavy.
I needed to get the 8800 up higher, to put more distance between the two antennas for less interaction, so what I did was secure the 8800 to some standard 1.25" masting and use two vent clamps to secure the smaller diameter mast to the 1.75" pipe that goes into the rotor on the top (and also from the bottom to the tripod.) I think I have about 5 foot separation now, which should be enough. In the process I also changed an F connector or two that didn't look good plus two baluns.
The HD 5030 is one of the last VHF (Ch 2-13) antennas being sold today. Winegard has discontinued manufacture but it is still available online at a few places. If you are going to get one, do it now and be ready for the 2013 skip season. There's some great double hop TV from Central and South America that might make it to your house this summer.
March 11, 2013
March is not a month known for tropo but tropo happened anyway. I was hearing FM stations from the Norfolk, Va area and coastal North Carolina on the evening of the 10th out to 550 miles, and on the morning of the 11th I saw DTV from Philadelphia, Baltimore and Richmond, my most distant catch of the morning. Here's a screengrab of WTVR on digital r.f. channel 25. WTVR is about 400 miles down the coast.
March 2, 2013
These pictures are hanging on pegboard down in my work area. I still look at them and am amazed. It was the only time in my life I've ever seen F2 reach 55mhz, and it happened here in CT. I just thought I'd post them. This will never happen again.
January 29, 2013
For those of you who may be into building your own FM antennas, I've added five actual pictures of my Channel Master Stereo Probe 9 for you to use as guidance. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I just saved you 5,000 words by showing the pics. So click on CM 4408 Probe 9 Specs and take a look. I guarantee you there aren't very many of these in near-mint condition anymore.
And on the Onkyo T450 RDS page I noticed that the pictures of the board with the filters was missing. I managed to find two of them and they are back. Once again, 2,000 words saved.
November 4, 2012
Every once in a while, somebody wants to know of a radio that's really good for FM DXing. I recommend the radio on the left. It's a Grundig G8 and it's been around for a while but you can still buy it.
Maybe it appears large in the picture, but it's just about 3 1/2" by 6". It takes three AA batteries and has a whip antenna that's about 22" long,
It's not the perfect radio. It beeps at me when I turn it on and when I turn it off. That's annoying. Dials control the volume and the tuning and they both work backwards. For example you turn the dial CCW to tune up the band and you turn the dial clockwise to decrease the volume. That's also annoying. The speaker is tinny but you get stereo with the headphones plugged in.
But the FM selectivity of this thing is amazing! This thing is a DSP radio (digital signal processing) and the selectivity rivals the famous Sony XDR-F1HD. You can't get much better. And the sensitivity on FM is really good. Picking up FM stations at 200 miles (troposcatter or aircraft scatter) will happen with this radio.
The G8 also tunes shortwave and longwave. Medium wave reception is okay, I suppose, but nothing special. I can't comment on shortwave since I'm really not into SW at all.
This radio is small enough that you can get it through customs with no trouble. Take it to the Caribbean and DX with it. I have and have some nice receptions as a result.
It's a fun radio. If you like FM, you will like it. Read more about it here.
Beware of imitators! There's another radio out there that looks like the G8 called the Jwin JX-M122. The FM is pretty close to the G8 but the rest of it is not. I would not recommend it, especially for AM(medium wave) reception. I needed to max out the volume in order to hear my local AM stations. That's not good. Sensitivity on AM is just plain bad.
2012 DX Season At A Glance
Skip season was a bust. There were too few openings and what we got ended too soon. Sometimes I wonder why I bother with it. Trying to wean me off of this hobby must be like trying to quit smoking.
During the summer there were two really decent openings on TV. One brought in ch2 from Managua, Nicaragua and the other brought in ch4 in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Those are pushing 2,000 miles and viewing these is my main reason for still doing analog TV DXing. I'd like to see more South American TV before S.A. goes digital and I want to see how deep into South America I can get.
I caught some new DTV signals by tropo in September 2012. I'm up to 125 DTV stations seen from here in Enfield. Realistically I think I may top off at 150, maybe less, because too many channels being blocked by local TV stations. Most DTVs from Boston and NYC I will never see because of Hartford stations on the same channels.
Thank you to those UTC surfers who come here and stay for a while. Why are you on my site when you ought to be working ??? I'll tell your boss...unless, of course, you ARE the boss! And hello from surfers from the University of Hartford or the ARRL who may be here on their lunch breaks. Welcome!
Also thank all of you who come here from FMTunerinfo for the tuner mod info. What you see there is probably all you'll get since I don't see much reason to modify tuners anymore. Of course, I said that before and ended up with two NAD tuners which I modified, so who knows. I might just run into something cheap at a flea market. I still look.
Sept 17, 2012 Realtek RTL2832 E4000 USB TV Tuner
This is what I've been playing with lately. It's a dongle costing around $20USD. It's a DTV tuner made for the European DTV system and it doesn't work for DTV in North America.
Someone hacked into it and found that you could make a pretty good radio out of it by plugging it into a USB port in your computer and adding some software so you could turn it on and tune it. E4000 is the name of the tuner chip that's inside. This chip tunes from around 50mhz up into the gigzhertzes.
I bought one of these on eBay (sold on amazon.com also) and I use it for listening to FM, aircraft calls, NWS weather broadcasts and the local medical services and cops on the 460mhz band.
For many people this radio is as close to a Perseus that they'll ever get. No, it does not cover LW or the AM band (540-1700khz) or shortwave, but it covers everything above that. What else can do that for 20 bucks??
This radio is ideal for laptops or notebooks. Take your laptop, dongle and antenna to the mountaintop or rest area of your choice and do some FM Dxing or make a bandscan.
This radio will work with the HDSDR interface (with a little effort) but works easily with the newly developed SDR# (SDR Sharp) software, which has a spectrum analyzer and waterfall display. Really cool.
I've just ordered another dongle having the R280T tuner. This tuner is now supported by SDR# software and has a lower tuning limit (~45mhz) so will tune 6 meters and all of the old analog TV video frequencies.
At just $15 USD, how could I lose? I'll report on this one when it arrives.
For a good discussion of this tuner, go here.
For SDR# info, go here.
For RTL2832 info, go here.
And have fun!
May 5, 2012 E Skip to Cuba
It began around 3pm and lasted until around 5pm EDT with best signals around 3:30pm. The stations are channels 2 and 4 from Havana. Here are some pictures. These are some of the strongest signals I've seen up here from Cuba. Havana is just shy of 1,500 miles.
And here are two more. Looks like Fidel in one of them.
The test pattern was on ch2 around 4:30pm, so whatever was on before went off the air in the meantime. The lady and the Canal Educativo slide were on channel 4. Both are Havana.
The antenna used is a standard VHF antenna, 15 feet off the ground, used with an outboard analog TV tuner, the D100 from the U.K. The TV is a plain, old, ordinary CRT type Sylvania color set. Nothing special.
_______________________________OTHER INTERESTING STUFF_________________________________
Ray Dees RDS Converter (May 18 2012)
Now since the old Conrad RDS Managers are hard to find, FM Dxers need something to decode RDS PS and PI codes, either in stand-alone method or by connecting to their computer by USB cable. This will do the trick. READ MORE
Get PI Codes from Your XDR-F1HD
It's a little board you need to purchase and wire into your Sony XDR-F1HD. Takes a while and is not for one with a shaky hand, but if you're okay with soldering three leads, give it a try. READ MORE
New FM antennas (May 18 2012)
Try looking for a new FM antenna. The APS13 is discontinued and Antennaperformance is gone. The Magnum Dynalab MD-10 is history. Winegard still might have one model. Radio Shack might. So if you want a really good high gain, directional antenna you may be out of luck. However, there's a company in the UK called Innovantennas that has begun production of three versions: an 8 element, an 11 element and a huge 14 element FM yagi. They are NOT inexpensive. They will ship to the US. You can check them out at this website.
The manufacturer says they are well built. They say the specs are great. Perhaps k6ski might model one of these. If it's going to cost me over $300USD for one, it had better be good.
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