What is Shortwave Radio ?
We've all heard AM and FM radio stations on our car radio.
But what about shortwave?
A shortwave radio is specially designed receiver that receives shortwave radio stations from places and countries far away from where you live and are "hidden" in between the standard AM and FM band on frequencies from about 3Mhz to 30Mhz. Some are located within the U.S. but most are located in many other countries around the world. You can almost pick a country and find one or more shortwave broadcasters there.
This article will introduce you to some good basic information about shortwave radio listening and will recommend some excellent shortwave radio receivers to get you started in the exciting world of shortwave radio listening! Read on......
If you live in the U.S., you can easily listen to stations broadcasting from foreign countries like, Radio Australia, Radio Cuba, Swiss Radio International, Deutsche Welle (Germany), Radio Netherlands (see note below), Voice of Free China, Radio China International, Radio Japan and many other countries if you have a good shortwave receiver!
(Radio Netherlands English service will closes down at the end of June, 2012. According to the International broadcaster, the decision to curtail English language transmissions on June 29th is the result of steep budget cuts imposed by the Dutch government and a change in focus of the station. As such, providing the world with what it terms as a realistic image of the Netherlands, as it has done since 1947, will no longer be one of its statutory duties. Goodby old friend, you will be missed!)
These stations and many others broadcast in English at certain times, usually in the evenings here in the U.S. These stations broadcast to foreign countries, in the language of the people in the foreign countries. Yes, that's right, you don't need to know Japanese to listen to Radio Japan. Most people who have not actually listened to shortwave signals don't know this.
Shortwave broadcasts are in real time! You hear them instantly! They are not delayed like they would be on the internet! You hear them at the speed of radio waves over the air.
These international stations transmit on bands called World Band Radio or "shortwave".
Shortwave radio receivers can pick up other signals that are not considered World Band Radio, like Amateur (Ham radio) operators, maritime signals from ships, aircraft including military, coastal weather stations, news broadcasts and much, much more. There are different radio frequency ranges reserved for each type of use.
Shortwave radio signals are capable of traveling long distances, unlike AM and FM stations which usually can only be heard for about 50 - 75 miles from the broadcasting station, depending on your antenna. Some very powerful AM broadcast stations can be heard across the U.S. at night.
Shortwave radio signals are designed to skip around the world and bounce from the ionosphere, meaning they can be heard far away. However, this has always meant that the quality of signals reaching the listener has always been variable, depending how strong the signal is at your location, your receiver and your antenna. The sound might also be almost as good as an FM radio for a while and then be barely heard moments later caused by fading and changes to the ionosphere. International broadcast stations usually direct or "beam" their signals to the designated listening areas during the evening hours when most listeners are at home. So, if you live in New York for example, your best shortwave listening times are usually between 8:00 p.m. and midnight. The broadcast is designed to be best heard at the designated audience location. For example, a broadcast clearly heard in New York State probably can not be heard in Seattle. Most Shortwave broadcasters are on the air 24 hours a day and broadcast on various frequencies depending on the time of day so their signals can usually be heard round the clock in most locations simply by changing the dial settings (frequency) on your shortwave receiver. Much like changing radio stations on your regular radios.
Major shortwave broadcasters, like the Voice of America, (see their frequencies and times here), broadcast on many different frequencies every day to just about everywhere, in many languages. The BBC is listened to by millions of people every day in many countries. There is a sound sample below recorded directly from a shortwave radio in my ham radio station along with other samples. These major stations also have relay stations all over the world, helping to provide a strong signal. The BBC broadcast from London you are listening to in other countries may actually be re-transmitted from Canada, which pickup the broadcast from a satellite. As a result, the big stations are very easy to hear.
Note that the BBC World Service ceased transmitting on short wave to North America and Australia in 2001 and to South America in 2005. Short-wave transmissions for Central America, the Caribbean and Europe ended in February 2008. Even if you live in these countries, you may still be able to hear them faintly depending on times and radio conditions. Click here for their shortwave frequencies, times, etc for more information.
Many large stations use extreme high power for shortwave broadcasting. Your local AM station may use up to 50,000 watts of broadcasting power. A shortwave broadcasting station may use 1,000,000 watts for each of their stations and very directive antenna arrays! You hear it all in real time with no internet delays or shutdowns!
What can you hear? You can listen to news from around the world, propaganda, music, religious broadcasts, sporting events, etc. In short just about anything. Radio Cuba, for example, has probably the best jazz program on anywhere, on any type of broadcast medium, including television. Shortwave radio broadcasts have always been a big part in bringing the truth to oppressed people everywhere........and the not so truthful...... propaganda.
There's so much more on shortwave radio, including Transatlantic commercial and military aircraft, ships at sea, news wire services, coastal and marine weather broadcasts, research vessels and "pirate stations", (stations transmitting illegally), along with Amateur Radio stations from around the world plus lots more! You may even hear transmissions from the South Pole research stations!
All in real time as it happens!
Sample Ham Radio here! These ham radio operators were giving signal reports to another ham. Most were located in the U.S and some in Canada.
Sample news audio on 6.135mhz from the BBC recorded live at night off the air! (Long download) This recording was made before they stopped transmitting to my area.
Sample....Radio Netherlands from 9845khz Short simple station ID. (Station goes off the air with English broadcasts in late June, 2012.)
Finnish Article with related links above, @ http://www.hamuniverse.com/shortwave.html