WYFR shortwave signing off

Family Radio’s WYFR shortwave service will be ending on June 30, 2013.

WYFR 50 years
WYFR 50 years

Shortwave transmitting is very expensive, and no doubt, competing IP distribution technology and diminishing returns on such investment must play a factor in this decision.  Family radio has been struggling ever since the world did not end as predicted in 2011.

I believe that site has fourteen 100KW HF transmitters and eighteen antennas of various type.  There is a complete photo album here: https://picasaweb.google.com/115519153277489147905/WYFR?noredirect=1#5149450014785168130 courtesy of Kent.

Kind of sad to see them go, I don’t know what their plans are after June 30.

HF VHF receiver diplexer

This is one of those posts that I started long ago and never finished. No time like the present to do the final revision and get it out there.

I have acquired one of those broad banded software defined radios, an Icom PCR-1000 to be precise, and all is well.  I am enjoying listening to various MF, HF and VHF radio stations.  However, there is a slight problem.  Very slight, almost too small to even mention, more of an inconvenience than a problem.  Still, if I am being inconvenienced, than others are too.  This issue is with the antennas.  My K9AY antenna works wonderfully from 500 KHz to 25 MHz or so.  My discone antenna works wonderfully from about 30 MHz all the way up to about 1 GHz.  In order to enjoy the full range of the receiver, I need to switch antennas.  I have a small switch on my desktop, but it seems inconvenient to reach over and switch it when going from the AM band to the FM band or something similar.  Therefore, I have decided that I need an HF/VHF receiver diplexer.  One would think that such hardware is ready made for such instances.   However, nothing I could find commercially would do the trick.

Thus, since I could not buy one, I decided to build one to add to my collection of receiver doo-dads and nick knacks.  The design is relatively easy, a back to back low pass/high pass filer system with a 50 ohm impedance throughout.  Something with a sharp cut off around 30 MHz or so:

Diplexor plot
Diplexor plot

Looks pretty good, 5th order Chebyshev filter, perhaps .1 dB ripple in the pass bands if well made.  Schematically:

HF VHF diplexor schematic diagram
HF VHF diplexor schematic diagram

Then it comes down to the building. Since this is going to be used in the UHF range, care and attention needs to be paid to the layout of the components and the design of the circuit board.  Some of those capacitance values are not standard, however, by using two capacitors in parallel, one can get pretty close.  Since this is going to be used for receiving only, I may be splitting hairs, however, I have found that well designed and built equipment is worth the extra effort.

The board layout looks like this:

HF VHF receiver diplexer board
HF VHF receiver diplexer board

I tried to keep the traces as close to 50 Ohm impedance as possible.

As one may be able to discern, C2 and C3 are in parallel to make 192 PF, C5 and C6 are in parallel to make 60 PF, and C7 and C8 are in parallel to make 163 PF.

The input and output RF connectors are whatever the builder wants to use, however, I would recommend at least BNC or type N for the VHF/UHF side.  My unit has all type BNC female connectors.   Parts list:

Nomenclature Value Mouser number Cost (USD)
C1 150 PF SMT 581-12065A151FAT2A 0.60
C2 12 PF SMT 581-12061A120JAT2A 0.25
C3 180 PF SMT 810-CGA5C4C0G2J181J 0.37
C4 68 PF SMT 77-VJ1206A680FXACBC 0.40
C5 50 PF SMT 80-C1206C500J2G 0.45
C6 10 PF SMT 80-C1206C100J2G 0.27
C7 3 PF SMT 581-12061A3R0CAT2A 0.22
C8 160 PF SMT 581-12063A161JAT2A 0.11
Case Diecast, 4.3 x 2.3” 546-1590WB 9.50

I chose a smallish, diecast aluminum case, which matches my other receiver gear.  The circuit board noted above is 2.9 x 1.7 inches, which is a little bit small.  I used 18 gauge wire between the input/output connectors and the board.

The inductors were made by hand.  I used a small screwdriver as a winding form, making the turns tightly then spreading them out to the proper distance.

Inductor chart:

Inductor Value (nH) Diameter (mm) Turns Length (mm)
L1 173 8 6 9.5
L2 468 8 10 9.8
L3 414 8 9 8.7
L4 146 8 5 7.2
L5 186 8 6 8.6

The most expensive part was the circuit board, which cost about $16.00.  The rest parts were about $18.00 including shipping.

As built photos:

HF VHF diplexor with components installed
HF VHF diplexer with components installed
HF VHF diplexer input side
HF VHF diplexer input side
HF VHF diplexer completed.
HF VHF diplexer completed.

I have installed this already and it works great. I will need to get the spectrum analyzer out and run some signals through the various ports to see the attenuation and 3 db roll off points.

Goodbye, RCI 1945-2012

RCI logo
RCI logo

In yet another example of government sponsored international broadcasting ending, Radio Canada International calls it quits after 67 years.  Effective June 24, all broadcasts from RCI’s Sackville shortwave relay site will cease.  All satellite distribution will end and seventy five percent of the RCI workforce will be laid off.  This means the end of almost all RCI original content.  The good news, according to the press release, is that RCI will continue on webcasting.

This is due to budget cuts to the CBC, which administers RCI.  The Canadian Parliament cut the RCI budget from $12.3 million CAD to $2.3 million CAD for 2012.  This cut in expenditures is saving each Canadian resident approximately $0.35 CAD per year.

Thus, this weekend is the last chance to hear RCI or CBCNord Quebec on any HF frequency.

I listened to RCI for many years, until they drastically reduced their English language shortwave broadcasts to North America in 2006.  Simply put, HF broadcasters are folding up shop and moving toward web based distribution networks.  Those HF transmitters are expensive and they do not maintain themselves.

One drawback of this scheme is government censorship.  It is very easy to the government to block access to sites via internet firewalls.  It is very difficult to completely jam a radio station.

And perhaps those considerations are not important.

RCI transmitter site, Sackville, NB
RCI transmitter site, Sackville, NB, courtesy of Wikipedia

I wonder what will happen to their transmitters after sign off?  According to the wikipedia article there are nine HF transmitters in use, with power levels ranging from 100-300 KW.  They are likely to be hauled away and scrapped, the building torn down.

 

Shortwave Radio picks

Winradio G303i software defined radio, 7490 KHz WBCQ
Winradio G303i software defined radio, 7490 KHz WBCQ

I enjoy listening to radio, however, there seems to be a dearth of good programming on the conventional frequencies.  Somehow, personality-less robo programmed hit music and right wing talk radio just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.  Thus, I have taken to listening to the shortwaves.  Truth be told, the availability of good programming is dwindling there as well, but good things can still be found.  Here is my list of interesting and or entertaining programs found on the shortwave:

  1. Radio Australia International – 9580 KHz mornings from 6-9am EST (11-1400 UTC).  There are a variety of good programs on this station including Asia-Pacific, Saturday Night Country and others.  Good to listen to with my morning cup of coffee.
  2. WBCQ – Several good selections here including Alan Weiner World Wide (Fridays 8-9pm), World of Radio (Glen Hauser, Thursdays 5:30-6pm), Marion’s Attic (Sunday 5-6pm), Le Show (Harry Shearer, Sundays 7-8pm) Amos n’ Andy (Tuesdays 5-5:30pm).  New 41 Meter Frequency 7490 KHz is clearer than previous frequency.  5110 KHz is hit or miss in this location, however Area 51 is worth a listen (Saturdays and Sundays 7-11pm) if reception is good.  Check their schedule on line as program time change.
  3. WWCR – 12160 KHz 12-3pm EST (17-2000 UTC) Alex Jones, entertaining if not a bit over the top, tends to rant, makes some good points when calm.  Other programs like World Wide Country Radio, The Pat Boone Show, etc are available at various times on various frequencies.
  4. CBC North – 9625 KHz Continuous Sackville feed of CBC Radio One, mostly in English, occasionally in Inuktitut or French.  Good for news from the Great White up.
  5. CFRX – 6070 KHz shortwave feed of News/Talk CFRB Toronto.  Conservative news talk programming Canadian style, some good trivia games and whatnot.
  6. WEWN – 15610 KHz Catholic Mass (8-9am Sundays) although lately they have been re-runs, which is goddamned annoying.

There are others from overseas, but many of the English broadcasting services are being scaled back or eliminated.  A few broadcasts that one is sure to come across when tuning around; The Voice of Russia (bland, predicable, promos sound like they are recorded in the bathroom), Radio Romania (meh), China Radio International (100% propaganda), Radio Havana, Cuba (campy, mildly entertaining in an absurd way), etc.

Pirate Shortwave broadcasters roam around in the 6890-6970 KHz range.  They are irregular in schedule, low power and often contain an obscure dialog or some selection of 80’s hair band music.  Still, if one has some time, they can be entertaining too.

A good source of information on shortwave broadcasts is Short-wave.info which has a pretty accurate searchable database and a great feature called “Find out what stations are broadcasting on a frequency of (fill in frequency) Now.”  That is very helpful for figuring out what a station is without waiting for station ID or if broadcasting in another language.

With winter coming and the sun spot cycle on the upswing, the HF bands should be open for business.