Shortwave Listening Primer : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Why2K?'s Shortwave Radio Listening Primer

Unbeknownst to most Americans, there are a multitude of shortwave radio programs emanating from private broadcasters within the United States. While the foreign broadcasts are interesting, keep in mind that in almost all instances they are state-run apparatus, with a corresponding bias. The U.S. also has its own government-run shortwave network known as "The Voice of America", which differs from the foreign broadcasters only in the slant of its propaganda.

Many U.S. shortwave broadcasters are classified as "religious broadcasters", but the programs to which they sell time are often quite secular in nature. Most of the weekday evening "prime-time" programs are devoted to the current state of the American situation, vis patriotic issues, survival preparations, and more recently, Y2K. The majority of these shows solicit callers at some time during the broadcast, making for some highly interesting conversations... much like what transpires here on this forum.

To hear these broadcasts, you'll need to obtain a radio capable of receiving these shortwave frequencies, which lie roughly between the AM broadcast band and the FM band (most shortwave sets will receive AM and FM also), on frequencies from 3 to 25 Megahertz (MHz). These radios are available from many sources (see appendix 1 below), at a wide range of price and quality. If you wish to listen only to the larger broadcast stations, a set that receives AM-only on the shortwave bands will suffice. If, however, you think you'd like to listen in on the few (but very interesting) broadcast stations that use a transmission method known as single sideband (SSB), you'll need a radio that is also capable of receiving these signals. This would be my recommendation, since SSB receive will also allow you to monitor the frequency bands used by Amateur (ham) radio operators (see appendix 2 below), who in any disaster situation are usually the first to get the word out.

What To Get, Where To Get It

For most folks, the easiest place to get one is your local Radio Shack, so I'll concentrate on them. They carry several models, all competitively priced, portable, and work on either alkaline or NiCad batteries as well as house current with an adapter. Here are my recommendations:

DX-375 - This is an AM-only shortwave radio with a digital display (a recommended feature) that performs very well, and is priced in the $90.00 to $100.00 range (I've seen it on sale for as low as $70.00). Includes AM and FM broadcast bands. A best buy in this price range.

DX-392 - This is the best shortwave radio RS sells, IMO. It's made for them by Sangean (it's virtually the same radio as their ATS-808C). Has digital display, AM and SSB shortwave reception, AM/FM broadcast, and a built-in cassette recorder/player with timer/clock. It lists for $249.00, but is sometimes on sale for as little as $220.00. The fact that it can receive amateur radio transmissions is a big plus.

DX-398 - This is a new addition, and is comparable to the DX-392 with some added features, but minus the cassette recorder/player. Sells for $259.00.

Baygen - These are available from several sources (see appendix 1), including Radio Shack in some areas. This spring-powered radio is sometimes difficult to locate, but the advantages of having a radio that need no batteries make it worth the search. Only a fair receiver, so don't expect too much from it on shortwave. Note: Baygen also makes a similar radio without shortwave - check before purchase.

Many other electronics manufacturers offer excellent portable shortwave radios in their lineups, but these are often difficult to see "in the flesh" if you live far from a store that sells them. That said, you can hardly go wrong with a shortwave manufactured by either Sony, Grundig or Sangean. One type of radio that you want to avoid are the very inexpensive, analog (dial) tuning radios sold by some mail-order and merchandise houses. These just don't work very well, in my experience, having low sensitivity (the ability to hear a station) and selectivity (the ability to differentiate between stations that are close in frequency). While very handy, the small radios that have a tiny solar panel and hand crank usually have a poor radio in them. Not bad as an extra, but not for constant listening.

There is a type of shortwave radio referred to as a "tabletop model"... these have many more features than a portable, and are usually better receivers, but usually need house current to work, as well as requiring an outside antenna. They also have price tags in the four figures, and are really not what most folks need.


Once you've obtained your radio, you'll need batteries for it (unless you've purchased a Baygen). Since Y2K will almost certainly result in a shortage of batteries, I recommend that you get at least two sets of NiCad rechargeable batteries for the radio. That way, one set can be charging (from either a small solar-type charger [best], or a charger powered by a generator) while the other set is used in the radio. Radio Shack's "Hi-Capacity Enercell" NiCads, while expensive, are much better made than the less-expensive variety, and will last for many years.

Domestic Shortwave Stations And Frequencies

There are three major domestic shortwave broadcasters that offer secular programming of interest to those preparing for Y2K. Here are their callsigns and main frequencies in Megahertz (MHz):

WWCR - Nashville, TN - 12.160 daytime, 5.070 & 3.215/3.210 evenings - All transmissions in AM mode.

WGTG - McCaysville, GA - 9.400 daytime, 6.890 evenings - Some AM mode, but mostly SSB.

WBCQ - Monticello, ME - 9.955 daytime, 7.415 evenings - All transmissions in AM mode.

I won't give programming specifics due to the wide variety and scope of programming. All these stations have websites with program guides, but just listening around at first will give you a feel for what's on. "Prime Time" is 7:00 P.M. to 1:00 A.M. Eastern Time, and this is when you'll hear most Y2K discussions.

Note: All of these transmissions are subject to the vagaries of shortwave radio "propagation", or the manner in which radio waves at shortwave frequencies bounce off ionized layers in the atmosphere. Some nights the stations will be loud and clear, other nights you may have to strain to hear anything at all. Low or no signals often indicate that the earth is experiencing a geomagnetic storm due to activity on the sun. Nothing you can do at the receiving end will help, except wait for conditions to gradually improve.

Good luck, and good listening. I'll be happy to try and answer any questions you may have.


Appendix 1 - Shortwave Radio Sources

Apart from Radio Shack, shortwave dealers are few and far between. Here are two that I've dealt with and found to be reputable. While they have showrooms, they are largely mail-order operations. Their catalogs are full of information, and either very inexpensive or free.

Grove Enterprises - The world's premier shortwave radio dealer. Carries everything for shortwave listening.

Amateur Electronic Supply - Primarily sells amateur radio equipment, but carries a full line of portable shortwave receivers.

Appendix 2 - Amateur Radio Bands

Amateur Radio operators are individuals licensed to use sections of the shortwave spectrum after passing tests on electronic and radio theory, as well as proficieny in Morse code. They are NOT to be confused with CB radio operators. In addition to their shortwave allocations, they have the use of frequencies above 30 MHz, used mostly for local communication, which can be listened to with any scanner (if anyone's interested, I'll write something about scanner use, including monitoring police, fire and emergency sevices, as well as amateur radio). Here are the major frequency 'bands' where you can hear voice communicatiions between amateur radio operators, on SSB, in MHz:

3.750 - 4.000 MHz 7.150 - 7.300 MHz 14.150 - 14.300 MHz

If you're in the U.S., these frequencies are where you're most likely to here U.S. amateurs. Their transmissions are subject to the same propagation vagaries as mentioned previously, but since they use much less transmitter power than commercial broadcast staions, they may fade out more readily.

Appendix 3 - Periodicals

Monitoring Times - Major shortwave listener/scanner enthusiast magazine, lists hundreds of shortwave equipment dealers. Available on most newstands.

Popular Communications - Another monitoring publication, also available at most newstands and bookstores.

-- Why2K? (, February 15, 1999


Thanks Why2K. This is EXCELLENT information, the kind that should be in every back-up plan. Keep the info flowing! And, no, I don't belong to any amature radio clubs, yet... <:)=

-- Sysman (, February 15, 1999.

I operate a website called Y2K Survive, one of the veteran y2k survival sites, in which I provide lots of free y2k survival information for the ordinary family. I'd like to include some good information about shortwave radio and what you have here would be perfect. Would you give me permission to add it to my site?

-- cody varian (, February 15, 1999.

Thanks Why2k. It sounds like I have a good radio. Now I need to spend some time becoming familiar with it.

-- Mike Lang (, February 15, 1999.

Cody, please go ahead, glad to see it get exposure. You have non-exclusive, fair-use permission to use it on your site... a very nice site, from what I saw. Keep up the good work.

-- Why2K? (, February 15, 1999.

Thanks, y2k. This is great!! You saved me a lot of time and that's something I have little of these days. I'll pass printed copies to our local group. Lobo

-- Lobo (, February 15, 1999.

Another resource is the Shortwave Listening Guide, at:

Covers all SW frequencies; user-friendly.


-- LP (, February 16, 1999.

I'm a shortwave novice, but I really like the Sony 7600. I checked the USENET for what people were saying, and the "best" radio in the $200 price range (portables) were the Radio Shack DX-398 (same as one of the Sangean models, except the Sangeans have hight quality-control - some of the DX-398s are lemons), Sony 7600 and Grundig YB400 (maybe 800 (can't remember model here).

The DX-398 (Sangean) has the most features, but the Radio Shack version is inconsistent quality. The Sony 7600 does the best a locking-in stations. The Grundig is popular too.

Suggest doing a deja-news search: ome_ps.shtml

if you want to buy a radio, and see what people who do this all the time have to say. In my own searching, the consensus was that all three of the models I listed above are winners!

I don't remember seeing anything on the DX-392 described in this thread. Maybe a new model...

-- Anonymous99 (, February 16, 1999.

Question: I listen to UBN radio talk shows (Paul Gonzales (sp?), Jim Hightower, Vincent & Company, etc.), and they advertise what they call the "PRN1000" shortwave radio.

Thought about buying one. Anyone here know about the PRN1000 ? Normally sell for $299 now on sale for $199.

-- PJ (, February 16, 1999.

Thanks Why2K - good stuff. I checked out Grove, and they currently had a special on the Sony 7600. $229.00 including shipping. I have one on the way. The UPS guy and I are on a first name basis these days.....

-- none (, February 16, 1999.

Excellent primer, and beautifully presented, thanks, Why2K. C. Crane Co. (somewhere on the Web) sells Baygens modified with an LED light. It costs about $40 more but I thought it was worth it for the convenience of having a good reading light. As you say, the reception on the shortwave part of the Baygen isn't top-class, but you don't have to worry about batteries. In addition, because the radio was originally meant for use in the African bush, where electricity wires don't reach, the radio is extremely sturdy--no fragile electronics or thin plastic bits. C. Crane Co. also sells their own brand of rechargeable batteries at a lower price than name brands.

-- Old Git (, February 16, 1999.

You can thank Suzzane from another thread for the link. <:)=

C. Crane Co.

-- Sysman (, February 16, 1999.

In checking USENET looking for the "perfect" radio for my needs, this suppliers was frequently mentioned (favorably):


I bought from them...

-- Anonymous99 (, February 16, 1999.


Thankx for the post. Real informative, and I will check it out at first chance. My father was a Ham for over 40 years, and I think I will move in that direction in his memory.


-- Merlin Emery (, February 16, 1999.

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