Inernational Radio Listening

Edition 3

If you listen to our weekly communications magazine programme, "Media Network", you may hear references to the term "DXing". In addition reference is made to the "hobby of DXing" in many electronics publications including those in which you'll find advertisements for shortwave radios. Below is an explanation of what it is all about, and a look at some of the terms you may come across.

Getting Started

First of all you need a shortwave receiver, an antenna of some sort, and a guide as to where to tune your receiver and at what time. We have four main publications, available free of charge, which are designed to help you in this respect, and these are:

1) "The Receiver Shopping List" : This offers advice on what receivers are currently on the worldwide market in a variety of price ranges. Compiled in price order, and kept up-to-date, it is probably the most comprehensive free source of receiver information. An "At-a-glance" reference table was introduced in five years ago.

2) "Antenna Advice" : A free pamphlet explaining what type of antenna is best for your locality.

3) "The Booklist" : Advice on the various publications available in most parts of the world, produced with the shortwave listener in mind. Over 600 entries. Publications giving times and frequencies of SW broadcasts are also listed. This publication is currently being updated.

4) "The Listeners Services Catalogue": In addition to the above, we have some other pamphlets designed covering specific aspects of shortwave listening, plus some receiver reviews. These are all listed in the catalogue.

Our publications are sent free of charge. We do NOT ask for International Reply Coupons, otherwise known as IRCs. These are issued by larger post offices in many countries, and can be exchanged in most countries for stamps to the value of SEAMAIL postage of a standard letter. Many shortwave stations ask for a minimum of two, to offset postage costs.



At first, listening to the shortwave bands can be very confusing. Stations seem to be very close together on the dial, and broadcasts are in languages you can't understand. The publications in the "Booklist" will guide you as to what time to tune in and where on the dial. The majority of the transmissions that you'll find in English, come from so called "International Shortwave Broadcasting Stations".

These are set up with the aim of broadcasting programmes from one country to another, where the separation between the two may be many thousands of kilometres. Names like Radio Sweden, Voice of America, Swiss Radio International, BBC World Service, and, we hope, Radio Netherlands, will become familiar to you very quickly. You can write to all these types of stations (most announce an address in their broadcasts) and they will send a schedule of the times and places on the shortwave (SW) dial where you can find their broadcasts. Some, including Radio Netherlands, have a mailing list for a programme schedule. The BBC makes a charge for it's "BBC Worldwide" magazine.

International broadcasting stations are making programmes for you, and their prime source of feedback is listener mail. If you hear a programme that you like, or you want to suggest a topic for discussion, then most international stations receive such suggestions enthusiastically. Many stations also welcome reception reports from listeners, and this is acknowledged with a so called "QSL" card. The term QSL has been adopted from the field of amateur radio where the so called "Q" code was developed for use between morse code operators. Transmitting the letters QTH meant "What is your location?" whilst the answer "QTH Hilversum" would mean "My location is Hilversum". The advantage of this code is that it is internationally recognised amongst radio operators, thus language is no problem, though one is limited to standard phrases. The term QSL means "Can you verify reception of this transmission?" and the reply was usually in the form of a card containing the details of when and where the transmission took place, as a written confirmation.

This practice was soon adopted by international stations, who in the early days needed reports from listeners to find out what reception was like in the target area. The listener would send a report, and in return the station would confirm reception, usually on a specially prepared card. This practice is still adopted today, though single reports on one day on one frequency (which still form the bulk of reports sent in) are of limited value in the 90's. That is not to say that reception reports are useless, but if you want to make your report stand out from the rest, then various techniques are necessary. We have produced a pamphlet telling what to so do and this is available free of charge, under the title "Writing Useful Reception Reports".

For most non-technical listeners, the main interest on the SW bands is the international broadcaster. If you listen carefully to the programmes being put out, then you'll find that by writing in to a radio station, you can usually make your own contribution to their programmes, by commenting and making suggestions.


Most shortwave listeners are content to listen to the stronger stations on the bands, though there is also another equally interesting aspect of the hobby, which seems to suit those with more of a technical interest. This is termed "DXing". No dictionary defines the term, but if we let "D" stand for "distance, and "X", as in mathematics, stand for "unknown", then we see the term "DXing" as meaning "listening to radio stations from an unknown distance". For most people this means scanning the shortwave bands looking for new radio stations, though often they are so weak that it is very difficult to hear the station announce its name, let alone listen to the programme content. The attraction here is that if you listen on certain parts of the shortwave dial, e.g. on the 60 metre band, you will find SW domestic broadcasters. These stations are NOT broadcasting to a foreign audience, but use the SW Band in the same way that medium-wave or VHF-FM is used in other parts of the world by local stations. It can be extremely interesting listening to a domestic service of a country many thousands of kilometres away, especially in times of political or natural crisis. There have been plenty of recent examples.

In many cases, signals are audible from exotic parts of the world, but only if you listen at the right time of day, on the right frequency, and sometimes, at the right time of year. Part of the art of DX listening is to know when and where to listen. There are numerous books on the subject (see the "Booklist"), but it can also be good experience to find out yourself, by simply getting to know the bands and who broadcasts where. We also recommend that you join a DX club (see below) as most publish a regular bulletin giving other member's DX tips on when to tune in.

In addition, there are various programmes put out by international broadcasters designed for the shortwave hobbyist, and these often include listening tips e.g. "DX Party Line" on HCJB Quito, "Sweden Calling DXers" from Radio Sweden, or our own "Media Network" produced by the English section of Radio Netherlands. A full list can be found in the annual publication called the "World Radio TV Handbook". Details of the current edition are given in the "Booklist."

Other aspects of the hobby are again of a technical nature. Some people like to experiment with antennas, others look at parts of the radio spectrum outside the SW bands, whilst there are those who specialise in listening to stations from a chosen country, or in a specific language. The branches of interest are certainly varied and all equally enjoyable, whether you are listening to a strong international broadcaster for programming reasons, or looking for a weak DX signal on another part of the band. Most people have interests in more than one aspect of the hobby. We trust that you will enjoy listening to shortwave broadcasting, and we hope that we can help you with any problems that may arise.

What is ECSS?

This is a term introduced by World Radio TV Handbook. It stands for "Exalted Carrier Selectable Sideband". Suppose you are trying to pick out a weak station under heavy interference conditions. If you are using a more expensive "communications" style shortwave receiver, the set will probably be fitted with a "Beat Frequency Oscillator (BFO)". This may also be marked as "Upper Sideband (USB)", or "Lower Sideband (LSB)". If this is the case, switch this facility on. You may hear an audible whistle in the set's loudspeaker, and the speech or music you were listening to changes pitch. Carefully adjust the tuning knob so that the original music or speech sounds normal. You need a stable receiver to be able to do this successfully. The result is usually enhanced intelligibility of the signal, and less effects from ionospheric fading. In recent years, there appears to be a trend towards putting an automated version of this technique into shortwave radios. Sony's ICF2001D (known as the ICF2010 in North America) and the Grundig Satellit 500 were the first to incorporate such a feature. Both have now been replaced by the Sony ICF-SW-77 & Grundig Satellit 700 respectively. This can be useful when listening on the overcrowded bands.

DX Clubs

If you're serious about shortwave, joining a shortwave listener club is an excellent idea. Most have a monthly bulletin, and their magazines are a great source of listening tips and equipment news. There are several hundred around the world. There are three umbrella organisations from which you can find out current addresses and subscription information:

In Europe:

European DX Council, P.O. Box 4, St Ives, Huntingdon, CAMBS, PE17 4FE, England. Details of the council's activites cost 3 IRCs inside Europe, 4 IRCs outside Europe. The club list costs 75p or 3 IRCs. The council's main task is to organise an annual conference.

In North America:

The Association of North American Radio Clubs was founded in 1964. For US$1.00 in cash or mint stamps they will send you a detailed list of their members clubs and their activities. Write to ANARC, 2216 Burkey Drive, Wyomissing, PA 19610-1553, USA..

In the Pacific:

South Pacific Association of Radio Clubs (SPARC), P.O. Box 1313 Invercargill, New Zealand. The group publishes a newsletter, promotes the member clubs, and supports radio listening for the handicapped.

As yet there are no umbrella organisations in Asia and Africa. The following clubs are active in those regions at the time of going to press:

South Africa: South African DX Club, P.O. Box 7124, Dinwiddie 1405.

India: South Asia Radio Club, 63 K.D. Flats, Jamshedpur, 891 005.

India: Universal DX League, 408 Krishna Nagar, Ludhiana.

India: Indian DX Club International, G.P.O. Box 646, Calcutta 700 001.

Indonesia: Radio Listeners Club Indonesia, P.O. Box 15, Batang, 51201.

Japan: Asian Broadcasting Institute, C.P.O. Box 1334, Tokyo 100-91.

Japan: Japan BCL Federation, 4F, Matsuokadudan Building, 2-8 Kudanminami

2-chome, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. (Japanese language bulletin)

Japan: Radio Nuevo Mundo, 5-6-6 Nukuikita, Koganei-shi Tokyo 184.

Sri Lanka: Union of Asian Dxers, 298 Kolamunne, Piliyandala.

Final Notes

Due to budget and personnel restrictions we CANNOT trace circuit diagrams for obselete or current shortwave receivers. We also cannot enter into correspondance concerning components for electronics projects, or fields outside the scope of shortwave listening or broadcasting. Some addresses are suggested in the "Receiver Shopping List". Our primary function is to make radio programmes, and anything above this is regarded by our management as an "extra". We strongly believe in trying to help shortwave listeners in any way possible, but with anything up to 60,000 letters a year reaching the English Section alone, time is at a premium. Tracing a circuit diagram, for instance, takes anything up to 2 hours, time which we regrettably no longer have at our disposal. Please help us to help you.

©Radio Nederland Wereldomroep This edition released May 1995