MW DX Project

I don’t pay much attention to MW radio (typically called AM in the US) because FM sounds better and MW stations around here are typically full of political garbage, but perhaps I can find something of interest since I have a boatload of MW radios.

I live about 20 miles southeast of Charlottesville, VA, and I often say that it’s a weak MW signal area. My best radios get a maximum of 18 MW daytime stations on their internal loopstick antennas, some stations too weak to be intelligible.

Loopstick antenna

I looked up the 18 stations on those frequencies and the checked their coverage maps. Three stations considered my location “local,” three “distant,” five “fringe,” one on the border line between distant and fringe, and six beyond the fringe. There are only 55 daytime MW stations total within 80 miles of me according to the FCC.

The challenge is to receive all 55.

I already know that hooking up a 20 ft. piece of wire up a tree (WUT antenna) can improve MW reception dramatically; I made a video about that, showing how I could receive a beyond fringe station with a wire up a tree and ground that an already good radio couldn’t receive on its internal antenna.

Most radios, however, don’t provide connections for an external antenna on MW, and in fact my Panasonic RF-085, Tecsun R-9700DX and Tecsun PL-330 are the only three I have that do. The alternative is to wrap a few turns of wire around the radio to inductively couple the external antenna to the internal loopstick or to use what’s called a passive loop antenna that couples the same way.

Update: Testing found that several of my radios benefit on MW from clipping a long wire onto the telescopic antenna: They are:

  • jWIN MXM17
  • Kaide KK-MP903
  • Kaito WRX911
  • Degen DE28
  • Eton E1100 (aka Tecsun DR-920)
  • Panasonic RF-085 (antenna connector on back)
  • Prunus J-160
  • Tecsun PL-330 (antenna jack, hidden feature)
  • Tecsun R-9700DX (antenna jack)
  • XHDATA D-219

Phase one of the project is to use my current WUT antenna, and see what I can get. For that, I’ll need to pick a radio, and that process starts with determining which of my radios support external antennas on MW. Optimally, one of my good MW radios with a digital frequency display will work. The Panasonic and the Kaito are hot little MW radios with an external antenna, but it’s impossible to read the frequency accurately from their slide rule tuning display. I might not know what I’m listening to. The Tecsun PL-330 is digital, but not known for MW performance with its internal loopstick. The use of an MW/LW antenna on the PL-330 is a “hidden feature” activated by a “secret” long key press. For this and more hidden features, check out this article at SWLing Post

I thought I would try something else first, hooking up the Tecsun PL-330 to an outdoor MLA-30+ magnetic loop antenna. I did an ETM+ scan of MW and got 12 stations. That’s the same result that I get with the internal antenna. It was worth a try, but I can put that idea aside.

None of the rest of my of the digital radios listed improved with the connection of an antenna; however, I went outside at 2:45 PM local time and ran a band scan in ETM+ mode on the Tecsun PL-330 with my 20-foot WUT plugged into the antenna port, and got no fewer than 15 new stations on top of the 12 I had before. Then I scanned the frequencies by hand — what a surprise, I got 59 stations! That’s more than on the list I was going to try to find.

So what remains is verifying what those 59 stations are. I’ve started a Google sheet with the results, and will be updating that as I progress. What I know is that some of them are outside the 80-mile range I originally set up.

About Kevin

Just an old guy with opinions that I like to bounce off other people.
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