Sunday, October 31, 2010

DXing From The Road, Fall 2010

I am currently in southwestern Arizona after crossing the country from Rochester, New York in the last few days of September and the first part of October. Of course I did some mediumwave DXing along the way. The general route was I-90 to Cleveland, I-71 to Columbus, then I-70 all the way into Denver, cutting through St. Louis and Kansas City. From Denver I drove again via I-70 on to Moab, Utah, then south on US 191/163 through red rock canyon country across the Navajo reservation to Flagstaff, AZ, then on from there. Pictured is graveyarder KCPX-1490 (1KW) in Spanish Valley, Utah, ten miles south of Moab.

Here are some DXing highlights from the trip. Note that I did day-to-day checking on some regulars like KOA-850, Denver, and R. Enciclopedia-530, Havana, Cuba. Some may find this redundant; I find it is interesting to see how propagation changes in reception of these stations as you cross the country. Mileages are from the reception point indicated. Times are local (L). The Tecsun PL-380 was barefoot.

Monday, September 27.

First day out. Rain all day, and lots of highway construction, typical. On the truck radio, all across I-90 in northern Pennsylvania and Ohio, boomer KDKA-1020, Pittsburgh, PA (50KW) comes in quite nicely (about 100 miles distant). Best listening station in this area is WKTX-830 (1KW), Cortland, OH, daytime only. It is locally owned, proud of it, and plays a nice variety of old music, mostly 1950s. I wish there were more of these locally owned stations.

Stressed from the rain, I moteled it in Mansfield, Ohio, about 50 miles south of Cleveland. I found myself only one-half mile from Mansfield's own graveyarder WMAN-1400 (1KW). The PL-380 desensed a little on the nearby adjacent channels due to the big signal, but reception was not affected out past +/-30 KHz or so.

Tuesday, September 28. Mansfield, Ohio.

Same night, Monday night after midnight actually. I woke up just after midnight and decided to do a little motel DXing with the PL-380.

0015L WHLO-640, Akron, OH (500W). 51 miles.
0028L R. Rebelde-600, Cuba. Latest location info I have shows Holguin, Cuba, 1424 miles. Good signal.
0033L CIAO-530, Brampton, ON. 237 miles. East Indian music.
0043L WMOB-1360, Mobile, AL (212W). 760 miles. Good catch for low power.

Up again at 0515L, getting ready to hit the road. Raining hard. PL-380.

0531L R. Enciclopedia-530, Havana, Cuba. 1223 miles. Great signal.
0540L KVNS-1700, Brownsville, TX (880W). 1337 miles. Another good catch for low power.
0605L KOA-850, Denver, CO (50KW). 1173 miles.
0645L WTRU-830, Kernersville, NC (10KW). 340 miles. "The Truth", over WCCO-830, Minneapolis, MN.
0642L WGY-810, Schenectady, NY (50KW). 461 miles.

It is interesting to note that Cuba seems to always boom into Ohio (and Indiana). I have found this to be the case on all my trips through the midwest. Cuba is much weaker in Rochester, and seasonally sporatic when casually listening without the help of loops, etc.

By Tuesday night I make it all the way to High Hill, Missouri, a quiet exit off of I-70 with two motels and not much else, about 70 miles west of St. Louis. Noise level is low.

Wednesday, September 29. From the motel using the PL-380.

0402L CKDO-1580, Oshawa, ON (10KW). 737 miles.
0404L WZRX-1590, Jackson, MS (1KW). 456 miles.
0408L R. Enciclopedia-530, Havana, Cuba. About 1400 miles. Fair signal, not nearly as good a Ohio-Indiana.
0420L WCBS-880, New York, NY (50KW). 940 miles. Good signal.
0422L KOA-850, Denver, CO (50KW). 717 miles. Strong signal.
0429L WABC-770, New York, NY (50KW). 925 miles.

Wednesday afternoon, using the truck radio. I-70 mile marker 220, central Kansas. It is early afternoon and the sun is high in the sky. Denver is a still long way off, but I find Denver is making a strong daytime DX appearance already. I should have checked these stations 50 or 100 miles ago when I was closer to Kansas City.

KHOW-630 (5KW). 367.5 miles.
KKZN-760 (50KW). 370.0 miles.
KOA-850 (50KW). 356.1 miles.

The surprise here is little KHOW-630 with only 5 kilowatts, received at 367.5 miles. Its signal was better than KKZN-760's 50KW signal! This distance would be impossible during daytime hours on the east coast.

Wednesday night puts me into Hays, Kansas. From the motel using the PL-380.

2059L CBW-900 (CBC), Winnipeg, MB. 761 miles. Interesting interview with Ingrid Betancourt.
2106L WSM-650, Nashville, TN (50KW). 717 miles. Fair signal.
2110L KRSL-990 (30 watts), Russell, Kansas. 27 miles. Weak. Flea power. Much competition from a couple of other unknown stations. Interesting that 30 watts struggles over a distance of only 27 miles at night.

Thursday, September 30. Hays, Kansas. Still at the motel. PL-380.

0420L R. Enciclopedia-530, Havana, Cuba. 1480 miles. Weak.

No more DXing was noted until I hit Utah.

Thursday, October 7. From a desert campsite ten miles north of Moab, Utah. Reception approximately one hour before local sunset time. PL-380.

KKOH-780, Reno, NV (50KW). 541 miles.
WBBM-780, Chicago, IL (50KW). 1161 miles. Weak, under KKOH.
WSM-650, Nashville, TN (50KW). 1271 miles. Mixed with KMTI-650, Manti, UT.

Sunday, October 10. Three miles north of Mexican Hat, Utah. Mexican Hat is about as remote and far away as you can get from mediumwave outlets in this part of the southwest. The closest station is KVFC-740 in Cortez, CO, 73 miles distant, a little 1KW outlet. Big gun KTNN-660 (50KW), The Voice Of The Navajo Nation, is 96 miles, and its not-overpowering -95dBm strength is still heads and shoulders above any other station.

A mid-afternoon low bandscan (530 KHz - 1000 KHz) was done, using the PL-380.

1437L KLLV-550, Breen, CO (1.8KW). 97 miles.
1439L KTNN-660, Window Rock, AZ (50KW). 96 miles. The powerhouse.
1441L KOAL-750, Price, UT (10KW). 173 miles. Weak.
1441L KVFC-740, Cortez, CO (1KW). 73 miles.
1442L KHAC-880, Tse Bonito, NM (10KW). 115 miles. Weak.
1444L KNDN-960, Farmington, NM (5KW). 94 miles. "K-Indian" Navajo station with great country music.

That's it! Only a half a dozen stations could be heard between 530 and 1000 KHz. And about half of them were weak. Talk about a quiet band. Coupled to the 24-inch loop, many more stations were received. It is amazing how much extra signal even a 24-inch loop provides, making a dead band come to life.

It is interesting to bandscan with the PL-380 in such an extremely quiet location. The PL-380 has more whistles, strange whoops and heterodynes than I thought.


Stephen said...

Enjoyed reading this, as always. :)

So how much was your PL-380 desensing near WMAN-1400? A few weeks ago when I was at a place about 1.75 miles away from KFSD-1450, my PL-380 was desensing fairly badly, indicating about 45/00. The G8 I had at the time was even worse, showing 49/00. (KFSD was 81,25 on the G8 and pegged the PL-380's meter at 63/25.)
In my opinion, the radio is already into desense when it indicates 16,00 or higher on any channel with no audible signal. As far as I'm concerned, being able to get a few dB higher SNR than RSSI (for example 15/18 or 16/20, both of which I've seen) is a step in the right direction. At home if I position the Select-A-Tenna properly (tuned to 1170), I can get a 15/25 signal on 2340kHz, KCBQ-1170's 2nd harmonic.
I'm quite surprised that reception wasn't affected past +/-30kHz. Usually when my radio is desensing as bad as above, it affects almost the entire band to varying degrees. Even at home, my two strongest signals, KCBQ-1170 (77/25 on the G8) and KSDO-1130 (72/25 on the G8) desense to about 45/00 on 1150, dip down to around 30/00 across much of the rest of the band once you're +/-100-150kHz from 1130 and 1170, and it basically never gets down to 15/00.

As for KHOW-630 outperforming KKZN-760, I suspect their directional patterns could have something to do with it. I looked them up on the FCC (after finding approximate coordinates for the location) and the polar plots show a deep null on KKZN almost in that direction. However, the field strengths at 100° at 1 km are 1193.82mV/m standard for KKZN-760 and 612.03mV/m augmented for KHOW-630.

KKZN Data (FCC):
KKZN Plot (FCC):
KKZN Map (R-L):

KHOW Data (FCC):
KHOW Plot (FCC):
KHOW Map (R-L):

Do you remember how close you had to get to any of the Denver stations before they were full quieting? By that I mean basically no audible static or noise at all (except what's introduced by the receiver's audio system), even during periods of non-modulation (for example between sentences/phrases on a talk show). Also, how far west or southwest of Denver were the stations still being heard without assistance from a loop?
Also what was KTNN-660 indicating near Mexican Hat, Utah? And do you recall the signal readings on any of the weaker signals? I'm a bit surprised that KALL-700 didn't show there on the barefoot PL-380, though - was it there with the loop and if so how strong was it?

I noticed something with my PL-380 when I had it inside a car recently (attenuating the signals from outside), while tuned to a spot near the top or bottom of the band. (This didn't happen near the middle of the band where I have the two aforementioned blowtorches.) If I tune to a blank channel, I can actually hear a little blip or something in the static every couple seconds or so, which I've figured out to be the Si4734 chip refresing the RSSI/SNR display. Do you hear that on your PL-380?

Stephen said...

Any chance you could post a barefoot PL-380 midday bandscan from Quartzsite, AZ, including RSSI/SNR levels (preferably in 1kHz BW)? I'd be especially interested in seeing the RSSI/SNR levels of signals for which the SNR dB exceeds the RSSI dBu. Also I'd like to figure out how far past the 0.15mV/m Radio-Locator contour that stations can still be heard on the PL-380. (I'll look up the maps myself - I just need the callsign and I guess I could use central Quartzsite as an approximate location.)
A few months ago when I went to a fairly remote location (Cameron Corners, CA), I got detectable 15/00 signals on KIXW-960, KKDD-1290 and KHPY-1670, for which I was about 1.5 to 1.75 times past the 0.15mV/m predicted contour. I also got a 15/06 reading on XEQIN-1160, for which I was about 2.25x past their 0.15mV/m contour, but I suspect that Radio-Locator vastly underestimates Baja California's ground conductivity, as evidenced by this daytime 1kW omnidirecitonal coverage map of KBLU-560.
I'm just inside KBLU's 0.15mV/m contour, approximately near the "corner" in the R-L pattern east of San Diego / Chula Vista. KBLU is barely audible on my barefoot PL-380 in 1kHz mode, indicating about 22/00 (and inaudible) in the house, but can be faintly heard outside. I suspect KLAC (30/20)'s IBOC is preventing me from hearing them any better.

I'm thinking that the 2 1/2 hour skywave guard band may not be enough to ensure groundwave-only reception, especially as we approach winter. For example, right now at 11:15am local time as I type this, I'm getting a signal fading in and out on KHPY-1670, with at least one peak registering 27/17. Yesterday within a half hour after noon I had a similar signal on KHPY, as well. Normally in summertime KHPY is barely readable at best, or more likely nonexistent in the summer daytime. Right now KMIK-1580 and KFBK-1530 aren't showing, though, which would otherwise be indicators that daytime skywave is definitely in play.


Hi Stephen,

Glad you liked the DXing recap.

In Mansfield, Ohio the PL-380 was desensing out to about 30-40 KHz on either side of WMAN-1400. I felt this was not too bad being only one-half mile from a 1KW station. It was about the same desense I get with WYSL-1040 (20KW) at home. I am 4.9 miles from it.

I agree with your 16/00 comment. Once the RSSI rises much above 15, with the SNR at 0 you are probably desensing.

Thanks for the KHOW/KZZN pattern info. Looks like signals pattern was the cause for greater signal. The Denver stations were just basically full quieting even at the point described in the blog text - about 367 miles. Except for maybe KKZN-760. Amazing to me.

During daylight hours, Denver fades pretty rapidly as you travel west due to the high mountains (the continental divide) sheer rise in elevation just west of Denver, though is still receivable at Grand Junction (about 250 miles). It is weak to non-existent in Moab, Utah, another 80 miles to the southwest of GJT.

At some time I'll try to get a bandscan from here in Arizona with the PL-380.

Best DX,

Radio-Timetraveller (Bill)

Dave Ryan said...

I just got WSM 650 out of Nashville here in Rochester on a basic AM/FM radio that I tore apart to screw with. There's 6 screw capacitors (not sure what they're called) that I adjust and have been getting all sorts of stuff that this thing definitely did NOT get before.

Somehow or another WWCR (which is shortwave right?) also came in, pretty clear even.

Any idea how this is possible?

I have no idea what the screws I'm adjusting are but have been able to get stuff from Boston through Ohio pretty clear... but the Nashville stuff blows my mind.

Let me know if you've ever heard of this happening before with a standard AM radio (no loop or anything just built in)


Hi Dave,

Sounds like you have changed the tuning characteristics of your radio.

Some tuning capacitors have a high and low trimmer screw that is used for band tracking. Not sure what the others are that you are adjusting.

WSM should normally be receivable during nighttime hours in Rochester on many radios if you tune and orient the radio carefully and are in a fairly noise-free environment. I often hear it while lying in bed about two hours or more after sundown, using my PL-600. If you are receiving WSM in the daylight hours, with the sun high in the sky, that is quite an accomplishment from Rochester.

Yes, WWCR is a shortwave station. I have not kept up with it in recent years. They used to transmit in to 5.8 and 7.3 MHz bands, and others. They may also now be transmitting in the 3.2 and 5.0 MHz bands. You may have bumped the tuning up on your radio to hear one of these.

Good luck and best DX,

Radio-Timetraveller (Bill)

Stephen said...

Did the screw terminals look anything like in this radio?

Stephen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen said...

I was just reading your comment that the Denver stations are still full-quieting even 300+ miles out. Either the truck radio or PL-600 is EXTREMELY sensitive, or the ground conductivity is absolutely amazing, even beating the path between me and 1070-KNX (50kW at 111 miles, partially over saltwater).

A barefoot recording of KNX follows, which I wouldn't quite call full-quieting:
According to my notes, RSSI was 54dBu, although I think it may have more likely been 50-52dBu or so at the location I recorded it. (At other places in the house or yard, it can range from about 43dBu to about 48dBu or so, although there's a couple places it will exceed 50dBu.)

Even my reception aided by the Select-A-Tenna still has a little residual static, I think:
According to my notes, RSSI was pegged at 63dBu.

I think I should clarify a little what I mean by "full quieting". Basically, let's say you have the volume set at a moderate level on a station to which you are listening. Now, if the station begins broadcasting an unmodulated carrier, then if you turn the radio off, the difference in audible noise shouldn't be much - maybe 6dB or so.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading about your West bound trip as you were keeping track of the AM stations heard on your route.

I was doing some MW AM Dx'ing off and on for a while when I was living in the Denver area since 2003 using my GE Superadio III and kept a log, but my apartment there in Denver was noisy although the Select-A-Tenna loop I have did help to null out the noise a bit. The last place I lived at in the Denver area was down in Englewood, Colorado in 2011 was much more RF quiet, but, I was not far from the 50,000 watt KOA transmitter site which I believe caused some desense.

I am now in Provo, Utah temporarily staying at a extended stay motel since April looking for work and have had some extra time late at night to do some AM DX'ing either with my GE Superadio III, An old digital readout AM tuner on an Lenoxx Micro CD Home Stereo Model-326 or my Sony Walkman WM-FX281 with digital AM tuner used in conjunction with my external Select-A-Tenna AM Loop antenna, but, the horrible RF noise pollution and RF shielding effect of my first floor motel unit creates a handicap. I also have to turn off all of my computer equipment to reduce the noise as well.

I cannot hear KBOI on 670 Khz on the day time ground wave signal inside the motel at all due to too much building attenuation, but, When I take the Sony Walkman outside across the parking lot away from the noise radiating from the motel building with the Select-A-Tenna loop, KBOI peaks right up with a fairly good signal. KBOI in Boise, Idaho is about 325 miles NW of Provo. I am also less than a mile East of the 5000 Watt day/1000 watt night KOVO AM 960 Khz transmitter site which is across the I-15 freeway from me and they could be causing some desense as well.

You can see the AM stations I have been hearing and logging here from the Provo, Utah area at my radio blogging page at

The latest station I just logged was KHAC AM 880 Khz in Tse Bonito, New Mexico late last night. Their night time power was 430 watts. They are 348 miles S of Provo, Utah and they were fading in and out with KRVN from Lexington, Nebraska.

I need to better organize my blog page one of these days!

I am also an extra class amateur radio operator, call sign KI7F. Been a ham since 1967, but first became interested in AM Dx'ing and SWL'ing as a kid prior to becoming a ham.

73 and the best of DX!

Bill, KI7F


Hi Bill,

Thanks for the nice note. Glad you enjoyed the article on DXing while traveling. I think some of most memorable DXing times for me have been while traveling. I am just as much at home using the vehicle radio as any other. They are usually more sensitive as well.

I head out west usually every fall and stay in Arizona in the winter, usually stopping through Denver for a few days. Sometimes get over through the Moab area. Haven't been to Salt Lake in a few years, lovely area though. Good luck in your job search there.

Had a look at your blog - nice! Good work on the DX.

Best to you Bill.