This blog will cover the fascinating world of shortwave and medium wave listening. I’ve been listening to shortwave bands since the tender age of 7, nearly 50 years ago! While much of the content on the bands has changed, there is still an enormous amount of interesting and clandestine type stations to listen to.
Many of you may think the shortwave listening hobby is reminiscent of an old man’s hobby. Visions of an old man down in his basement tuning around on an old static filled radio may come to mind. However, there’s much more to it than that. The shortwave band is the home where licensed amateur radio operators communicate. Dedicated band segments are allocated solely for that purpose. International broadcast stations also have their allocated band segments. CB radio is also in a portion of the shortwave or HF spectrum, mainly in the 27 Mhz. range. Lower down still in the spectrum, AM broadcast exists between 530-1710Khz. Lower still is what’s known as the LW, or long wave band. Each band segment of the HF spectrum offers something unique and different to hear. At certain times during the day, a certain band may be open or begin to close. As a general rule, frequencies above 15 Mhz. are most active during the hours of daylight, while frequencies below 10 Mhz. are most active during the hours of darkness. However, it’s always in a good SWL’s interest to monitor the entire HF spectrum. You never know when those rare band openings occur. The Solar cycle has a great deal of control over the HF spectrum. During high sunspot counts, activity on the higher frequencies will become enhanced.
I recommend anyone getting started in this hobby to begin monitoring the AM, or broadcast band. During the daylight hours you will be able to hear your local stations. Many of them will already be familiar to you, as you probably listen to a few of these on a daily basis. As darkness approaches, try tuning in between your local stations to discover what else can be heard. You should easily be able to receive stations from well outside your listening area. Stations from Canada and Latin America will be easily heard. The nice thing is you do not need to have a special receiver to hear these stations. Use a radio you already own and use on a daily basis. The Winter months will provide the best listening time of the year due to the lower noise levels from lack of thunderstorm activity.
Keep a log and see how many stations you can receive. Try also listening at or around sunset, because many stations to your west will begin signing off during that time and allow new stations to be heard after they sign off.
Be careful- this can become an addictive hobby! As your listening experience grows, you will probably be hungry for even more types of stations.
Good luck and enjoy the hobby!