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#1 Nicole Sharp

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 01:15 PM

I just got my first shortwave radio, a little Retekess V115 from Walmart.  I was hoping to use this to help with timing the ISS transit tomorrow morning (and the upcoming Mercury transit), but I am only getting static on the WWV frequencies (from Colorado, USA).  I was able to pick up CHU (from Ontario, Canada), but there is still a lot of static and it's mostly unusable.  I am in Appalachian Maryland.  Do I need to return this and get a radio with a longer antenna?  The antenna on this pocket radio is only 15 inches (38 cm).  I specifically wanted something cheap since I only need it for the audio time signal.  Any suggestions on how to get a better signal would be helpful.  I know the signal is not as strong in the daytime but I need it to work both day and night ideally.

 

I tried 5 MHz, 7.85 MHz, 10 MHz, 14.67 MHz, 15 MHz, and 20 MHz, but the only station I could get any signal at all on is 7.85 MHz (CHU).  I hear a regular beeping, but under a lot of noise.

 

https://www.retekess...tableAMFMRadio/


Edited by Nicole Sharp, 18 October 2019 - 01:34 PM.


#2 aa5te

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 01:41 PM

FYI, online servers can give you very accurate time as well. WWV also broadcasts on 2.5 MHz.

 

Having said that, a longer antenna will help, but you can just clip an alligator clip with a random piece of wire several feet long (or longer) onto the end of it for improved reception. Or purchase something like this:

https://www.amazon.c.../dp/B000023VW2/


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#3 Ed Holland

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 01:52 PM

Hi Nicole,

 

I happened to notice this thread in the recent topics list.

 

The little radio may be struggling because of a nearby noise source, or have it's own limitations. If you are trying to receive indoors, domestic electrical noise might be the problem - many items are potential culprits from lighting, computers, phone chargers, the TV. To test this, try the radio outside, as far away from any electrical wiring as practical, and listen again. You should get a decent WWV signal in the daytime on 5 MHz, and probably 10 MHz. Propagation for 15 and 20 MHz is often poor at the moment, since we're at a sunspot minimum (another subject entirely).

 

You can also try attaching a length of wire to the telscoping antenna - any thin insulated wire will do. Try around 6 ft, bare one end and attach it to the rod antenna just to try.

 

To test the radio more generally, try tuning in some other shortwave stations this website :    https://short-wave.info/   will help you find signals by frequency, location and broadcasting times, and give you an idea what the radio can do.

 

I hope that helps.

 

Ed


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#4 Ed Holland

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 01:59 PM

The radio gets favourable reviews from the SWLing Post contributiors, which is a good sign:
 

https://swling.com/b...iomax-srw-710s/


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#5 Nicole Sharp

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 01:59 PM

Hi Nicole,

 

I happened to notice this thread in the recent topics list.

 

The little radio may be struggling because of a nearby noise source, or have it's own limitations. If you are trying to receive indoors, domestic electrical noise might be the problem - many items are potential culprits from lighting, computers, phone chargers, the TV. To test this, try the radio outside, as far away from any electrical wiring as practical, and listen again. You should get a decent WWV signal in the daytime on 5 MHz, and probably 10 MHz. Propagation for 15 and 20 MHz is often poor at the moment, since we're at a sunspot minimum (another subject entirely).

 

You can also try attaching a length of wire to the telscoping antenna - any thin insulated wire will do. Try around 6 ft, bare one end and attach it to the rod antenna just to try.

 

To test the radio more generally, try tuning in some other shortwave stations this website :    https://short-wave.info/   will help you find signals by frequency, location and broadcasting times, and give you an idea what the radio can do.

 

I hope that helps.

 

Ed

 

I did try it outside but I am in a city with lots of tall buildings.  I can take it back for an in-store return to my local Walmart any time.  I was going to return it today since I only get static on it right now, but I can swing by the park to try it there as well first.  I mostly got it because it was the cheapest I could find with digital tuning.  I wouldn't want to pay too much more for a handheld radio since I might able to get better reception with a software-assisted radio on USB with a PC, but I don't have a laptop right now to do that.  I saw a similarly-priced GPX digital shortwave from Walmart that might have a longer antenna.  Does a longer antenna improve reception?

 

The radio only receives shortwave from 4.75 MHz to 21.85 MHz.

 

Is there a particular shortwave station that you would recommend that you think I should definitely be able to pick up in Western Maryland?  Ontario is closer to here than Colorado is.  But it is possible that the unit is defective.


Edited by Nicole Sharp, 18 October 2019 - 02:06 PM.


#6 Nicole Sharp

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 02:14 PM

FYI, online servers can give you very accurate time as well. WWV also broadcasts on 2.5 MHz.

 

Having said that, a longer antenna will help, but you can just clip an alligator clip with a random piece of wire several feet long (or longer) onto the end of it for improved reception. Or purchase something like this:

https://www.amazon.c.../dp/B000023VW2/

 

Alligator clip sounds interesting.  Not sure where I might get one, or where I could get wire either.  There are no electronics stores here but maybe a hardware store might have them.  So I just need a longer antenna then for better reception?  What material or thickness of wire would work best and should it be uninsulated?

 

This review seems to indicate it may be a problem with internal noise though:

 

http://n9ewo.angelfire.com/v115.html

 

If that's the case, then perhaps I just need a stronger signal to balance that.


Edited by Nicole Sharp, 18 October 2019 - 02:16 PM.


#7 Nicole Sharp

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 02:36 PM

Maybe it's defective.  According to Wikipedia, it looks like the closest shortwave stations to Maryland are WINB and WMLK in Pennsylvania (9.265 MHz and 9.275 MHz).  I can hear a little bit of signal, but it's mostly static.  CHU in Ontario had a stronger signal.

 

https://en.wikipedia...rtwave_stations

 

I guess I could try the alligator clip and a wire, or return it and try a different radio, maybe one with a longer antenna.


Edited by Nicole Sharp, 18 October 2019 - 02:39 PM.


#8 GalaxyPiper

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 02:37 PM

I did try it outside but I am in a city with lots of tall buildings.  I can take it back for an in-store return to my local Walmart any time.  I was going to return it today since I only get static on it right now, but I can swing by the park to try it there as well first.  I mostly got it because it was the cheapest I could find with digital tuning.  I wouldn't want to pay too much more for a handheld radio since I might able to get better reception with a software-assisted radio on USB with a PC, but I don't have a laptop right now to do that.  I saw a similarly-priced GPX digital shortwave from Walmart that might have a longer antenna.  Does a longer antenna improve reception?

 

The radio only receives shortwave from 4.75 MHz to 21.85 MHz.

 

Is there a particular shortwave station that you would recommend that you think I should definitely be able to pick up in Western Maryland?  Ontario is closer to here than Colorado is.  But it is possible that the unit is defective.

City with lots of tall buildings. I think that may be a strong contributor to your problems. Short wave does not like steel cages, and by living in a City with lots of tall buildings you are living effectively in a "Faraday" cage.

You need to get on the roof or out of the city.

There is a commercial "Wire" you can buy that attaches to the antenna:

 

https://www.amazon.c...a/dp/B000023VW2

 

This will help, but you are still in that "Faraday" cage with all sorts of transient static. 

Unless you can get the building manger to let you install a shortwave antenna on the roof, and you can't, and you also want to stay in the city, you might as well return the radio.

Sad to say, but it is what it is. Shortwave is basically AM and it does not like static at all, or metal cages. That's why they invented FM for American tanks in WWII, but it had it's limitations too, like line of sight.

 

Anyway, best of luck to you, and clear skies.


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#9 Nicole Sharp

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 02:41 PM

FYI, online servers can give you very accurate time as well. WWV also broadcasts on 2.5 MHz.

 

Having said that, a longer antenna will help, but you can just clip an alligator clip with a random piece of wire several feet long (or longer) onto the end of it for improved reception. Or purchase something like this:

https://www.amazon.c.../dp/B000023VW2/

 

Not sure if a website would work well on a cellular network, and it would use mobile data.  I can call the NIST phone number to get audio timestamps, but that looks to be slightly delayed from my PC time.  The NIST website says that the phone time is not as reliable as shortwave.


Edited by Nicole Sharp, 18 October 2019 - 02:42 PM.


#10 Nicole Sharp

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 02:46 PM

City with lots of tall buildings. I think that may be a strong contributor to your problems. Short wave does not like steel cages, and by living in a City with lots of tall buildings you are living effectively in a "Faraday" cage.

You need to get on the roof or out of the city.

There is a commercial "Wire" you can buy that attaches to the antenna:

 

https://www.amazon.c...a/dp/B000023VW2

 

This will help, but you are still in that "Faraday" cage with all sorts of transient static. 

Unless you can get the building manger to let you install a shortwave antenna on the roof, and you can't, and you also want to stay in the city, you might as well return the radio.

Sad to say, but it is what it is. Shortwave is basically AM and it does not like static at all, or metal cages. That's why they invented FM for American tanks in WWII, but it had it's limitations too, like line of sight.

 

Anyway, best of luck to you, and clear skies.

 

That may simply be the problem.  I have a couple of weeks to return it so I should probably try it in a few other spots first maybe.  I want this specifically for astronomical use, so I won't be using it in the city much.  I usually go to the park with the telescope, or sometimes the college campus.  I'll try it at the park and see if that improves the reception.



#11 GalaxyPiper

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 02:47 PM

Shortwave stations broadcast at different times of the day, depending on their target area. Remember, shortwave beams at the ionosphere, and then bounces back down.

Here is an app for your phone that can help with that.

 

"Shortwave Schedules" for the Android

 

and here is one for the iPhone.

 

https://swling.com/b...ave-radio-apps/


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#12 the Elf

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 03:07 PM

A short wave radio needs some sort of conducting ground. I used to listen to home news all over the world and just put the radio on a pot lid to have some conductiong ground. If you are in a dry area or put it on a wooden table, the sensitivity is low. Place it on a big metal thing and it will get much better. The antenna needs kind of a mirror below.



#13 Ed Holland

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 03:30 PM

Another solution... online receivers

 

Go to  https://sdr.hu/

 

This is a whole host of receivers, worldwide, which are on-line, and available to tune around at your command. Pick one in the USA, and play around with the settings. Although there will be some latency/delay, it might be useful for your needs. It is also a really good way to play with a well featured receiver.

 

 

Agreed that down-town, in the city is going to be a tough place to receive at all. The situation is analogous to light pollution.

 

/Ed



#14 Nicole Sharp

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 05:15 PM

I returned it to Walmart. I went to a park with a higher elevation than downtown and still got nothing but static on all the WWV frequencies. I tried walking around the park and getting on top of a hill but no change. I didn't try inside the car though.

Any suggestions on cheap (under US$40) alternatives would be appreciated. I'd like a digital tuner so I know I have the right frequency. I am interested in PC/software-assisted radio but I would have to get a laptop for that.

#15 kathyastro

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 05:28 PM

I understand that you have returned that unit.  But there are some generalities to consider if you buy a replacement.

 

Antenna length matters.  Generally, the longer, the better.  The gauge of wire does not matter.  Use thicker wire for longer antennas, but it's not critical.

 

The nearness of the transmitter doesn't matter, if you are more than a few miles from it.  Shortwave broadcasters are going for distance, so they aim the signal up into the sky.  It is not at all uncommon for a signal from thousands of miles away to come in stronger than one that is 100 miles away.

 

Being among tall buildings will make detecting a signal more difficult.  The radio waves bounce off the buildings and interfere with each other.  The best signal will be out in the open.



#16 GalaxyPiper

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 05:41 PM

You might try eBay

Here is a Sangean ATS 818CS derivative by Radio Shack DX-392. Same Shortwave radio, just branded by RS. Sangean came out with the ATS 818 which Radio Shack branded the DX 390...same radio, it just did not have the tape player. a little over $50.00 now.

 

https://www.ebay.com...~EAAOSw30JdoSwy

 

and here is the video review of it.

 

https://video.search...ac&action=click

 

Go to 20.45, he shows he can get WWV at 15000 khz with the Antenna.

 

Here is some reviews on the DX 390. This model came out in 1994 for $175.00 at that time. The DX 392 sold for $259.99 MSRP. These are considered world class radios.

 

https://www.eham.net...tail/878?page=4


Edited by GalaxyPiper, 18 October 2019 - 05:49 PM.

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#17 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 05:42 PM

Nicole:

 

Because of the internet, shortwave is on the way out, particularly in first world countries.  The best sources are for used radios. I have purchased a number of shortwaves via Craigslist.

 

This is good page discussing used modern shortwave models: 

 

https://www.dxing.com/rx/rxindex.htm

 

This a good source for online shortwave stuff: Universal Radio

 

https://www.universa...g/portdisc.html

 

If you like cats.. Universal Radio has over 300 pages with photos of customers cats and over 40 pages of store cat photos.

 

https://www.universa...g/portdisc.html

 

I might have an extra shortwave for you but I'm on the road until the end of the month.

 

Jon


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#18 Ed Holland

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 05:43 PM

Returning it was probably the right thing to do. 

 

There are trustworthy reviews of small inexpensive portables here: https://swling.com/R...#PortableRadios. (I am not connected with this site)

 

A bit of additional searching will provide price info. It might be hard to find anything within the $40 mark, and it would be important to judge reviews at the vendor sites carefully. With portable radio reviews, IMHO you have two problems. The first is reviewers who buy a radio on a whim, have little to no idea how or where to use it, and are either amazed by it, or consider it trash. Then there is the "of course I have much better radios in my collection but I just wanted to see what it could do" type who will make comparisons that are not much help to the intended users.

 

A good radio should have no problem catching WWV if the signal is present. If you are interested in looking on the used market, around $40 will buy a Grundig Yacht Boy 400, which is a good product from a well established manufacturer. I have one, which belonged to my Father in Law, and despite having seen some mis-treatment, still works well.


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#19 GalaxyPiper

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 05:55 PM

Back in the day, Radio Shack sold a Time cube that only had presets for WWV 5, 10, and 15 Khz.

They have become very rare items now and very hard to find.

 

https://forums.qrz.c...-15-mhz.581563/

 

If that's all you need, I'd keep my eye's peeled for one of these.

 

Several on eBay right at this moment!

 

https://www.ebay.com...mekube&_sacat=0

 

Clear skies and open eyes! belushi.gif


Edited by GalaxyPiper, 18 October 2019 - 06:30 PM.

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#20 noisejammer

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 07:50 PM

if you have a smart phone, there are plenty of apps that can grab the time straight off the GPS signal (and also from cellular towers.) GPS time is easily better that a tenth of a second (it has to be accurate to 10 ns to achieve the typical 3m accuracy.)

 

You can also take a look at www.time.gov - it's accessible through the web and if the NTS protocol was executed correctly, it should compensate for the path delay. Again, a smartphone could give you a connection in the field.

 

I tried looking for a GPS -> WWV emulator for a smartphone - I didn't find of for the iPhone but it could be interesting to write one.



#21 OldManTaco70

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Posted 19 October 2019 - 12:30 AM

Um? Shortwave radio for time signal? This is 2019? Right? You have a digital phone? Right? If I remember correctly, EVERY digital communications device, handheld, transmission, switching, etc.,  all need to know the EXACT same time or the signals get out of sync. 

 

Have a laptop or smartphone?

Try "time.is"

On my wife's old iPhone 6, I launch Google, type in  - time.is - and after setting up for my AZ time zone, I get the exact time.

Use it to verify the internal clock on my LX200 when I begin my observing setup.

 

Did I miss something? This just seems to easy to get? 



#22 Nicole Sharp

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Posted 19 October 2019 - 02:06 AM

I specifically want an audio timestamp for astrovideography. Not sure if there might be an Android App that could emulate from GPS the audio timestamp provided by WWV. For the Mercury transit, I want timestamps for the contact times to meet the Astronomical League award requirements.

The ISS transit is today at 9:30 AM EDT, but if there was an Android App to replace WWV, I could install it before I leave. I'd want it to run directly from GPS so it doesn't use mobile data or have network lag.

Edited by Nicole Sharp, 19 October 2019 - 02:09 AM.


#23 GalaxyPiper

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Posted 19 October 2019 - 01:10 PM

I specifically want an audio timestamp for astrovideography. Not sure if there might be an Android App that could emulate from GPS the audio timestamp provided by WWV. For the Mercury transit, I want timestamps for the contact times to meet the Astronomical League award requirements.

The ISS transit is today at 9:30 AM EDT, but if there was an Android App to replace WWV, I could install it before I leave. I'd want it to run directly from GPS so it doesn't use mobile data or have network lag.

You mean something like this?

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=JcuNTJYwLug

 

All though that is a nice video, I can't find that app.

And here is some bad news and maybe why you can't find WWV at the moment because of budget cuts in 2019.

 

https://yro.slashdot...slashed-in-2019

 

But those are repeater stations in the U.S.

 

Here is some good info for you!

 

https://www.nist.gov...e-and-broadcast

 

If I can find out more, I'll get back to you...


Edited by GalaxyPiper, 19 October 2019 - 02:20 PM.


#24 GalaxyPiper

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Posted 19 October 2019 - 03:39 PM

I just did a Wikipedia look.

 

Telephone service
WWV's time signal can also be accessed by telephone by calling +1 (303) 499-7111 (WWV) or +1 (808) 335-4363 for WWVH. An equivalent time service operated by the United States Naval Observatory can be accessed by calling +1 (202) 762-1401 (Washington, D.C.). Telephone calls are limited to 2 minutes and 35 seconds, and the signal is delayed by an average of 30 milliseconds due to telephone network propagation time.[13]

 

https://en.wikipedia...(radio_station)

 

The only problem with this is the calls hang up after 2 minutes and 35 seconds...so it is not continuous...

 

The only other App that I can recommend is the, "AtomicCloock -- NTP Time (with widget)" by T. Partl.

This app has the WWV ticks and the Greenwich time signal, but not the voice that denotes the time...I can't seem to find any that has that, even the WWVB emulator does not have the voice.


Edited by GalaxyPiper, 19 October 2019 - 03:40 PM.


#25 Eddgie

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Posted 19 October 2019 - 05:07 PM

Probably nothing wrong with the radio.

 

WWV Signal is very weak, and unless you have a good antenna, picking them up during the day is highly unreliable.

 

First and most important to know is that the 5, 10, and 15 frequencies are only transmitting with 10KW.

 

I have a Kaito KA1102, which was popular with HAM radio operators as a little backup or travel receiver, and with the built in stick antenna, only with great luck would I be able to pick up a station during the day using the stick.

 

I live in a semi-urban area 3.5 mi from down town Austin Tx, in one of the classic weird neighborhoods so no sources.

 

The radio came with a 3.5 meter wire antenna, and even with this antenna hung from a mast, while I can usually pick up a WWV station during the day, about the only thing I can hear is the seconds tone, and I can hear the pause that signals the time stamp, but I can almost never clearly understand (or even hear) the time stamp.

 

For reference, the WWV 15Mhz signal would require a 5 meter wire to have a 1/4th wave antenna, and this would not be directional and really would not have any gain. 

 

Now at night, things improve but it is typically after midnight before I can pick up WWV on the stick antenna.  If I want to hear it earlier than that, I have to use the external antenna.

 

10KW Is not a lot of power and during the day, these signals simply don't propagate that well.  Usually with a wire, you can pick up one of them some of the time due to propagation differences, but you have to try them all and even then, eh.  Sometimes you get lucky.

 

Now if you are running a big directional antenna on a big tower or a long wire, yeah, you would do much better, but for most small units running the stick or a short wire are simply not going to get these stations reliably during the day and as I said, It is super rare for me to be able to actually hear the time stamp during the day.

 

You can call (as someone mentioned) but I am not aware of any other way to get the WWV time stamp but that does not mean that another way does not exist. 

 

Fingers crossed that you can find a way to comply with the requirements. 

 

(Since many astrometric measurement is done at night, this is far less of a problem for most measurements, but yeah, for daytime, you probably need a good quarter wave antenna to have a chance.)

 

See if you have a HAM operator in your area that will let you set up near his shack. 

 


Edited by Eddgie, 19 October 2019 - 05:08 PM.

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