Short-wave Radios

I’ve got a few questions about short-wave radios. First, can you recommend a good brand? How about the portable Sangean 909? What advantages does a larger, console model offer?

Are the airwaves filled with interesting programs, or lots of mindless drivel–most in languages other than English? (Please be as objective as possible, so that this doesn’t get kicked over to IMHO.)

Please give me a description of what I would find if I tuned in and sampled the airwaves.


Back in the '70s I was given an old Zenith Tran-Oceanic tube type radio. It was fun to listen to news brodcasts from many diffrent countrys. I hope you have the space for a good antenna array. As for todays radios I have no information, sorry.

I’d start by getting a copy of a magazine titled “Popular Communications” The center section carries listings of programs and times for the coming month. Mindless drivel? Sure, just like on AM and FM broadcast in the U.S. It’s your task to pick the good stuff!

Several years ago I bought a Sony ICF-2010 radio and it works very well. Not too bad with the telescoping antenna, but much better with a outdoor wire antenna or an “active antenna”. An active antenna usually uses a vertical whip and an amplifier to make up for the relativly short antenna. Don’t forget, “short wave” is in relation to the AM broadcast band. AM broadcast wavelengths are 160 meters and longer. The wavelengths involved in shortwave are 40 to 15 meter and nothing beats a good antenna.

The Sanagan’s have a pretty good reputation from what I hear, but I don’t know anybody who owns one. Don’t buy a non-digital tuned radio. They work O.K. but it’s almost impossible to find the same spot twice with any accuracy. You also want to have “syncronous detector tuning”. This is a method of injecting a carrier locally and can reduce the fading that’s often encountered.

The C. Crane site has a lot of information and is IMHO a reputable dealer.

I’m a Ham and now use those radios for my shortwave listening, so the Sony is not used too much anymore.

Hope that helps. As I said get a copy of the magazine and see what’s on the schedule.

I had fun back in the mid 80’s listening to Radio Kiev and Radio Moscow. They had an, um, interesting slant on world news.

I wonder if Iraq has a news broadcast?


I have a Sangean 909 (well, actually it’s a Radio Shack DX 398 .the exact same radio with a different name on the chassis and $50 less expensive) and a smaller Sangean 808A. Sangean makes very good shortwaves.

Shortwave is full of interesting stuff if your willing to hunt for it. Local news from Indonesia (if you want to keep up on the ongoing onion shortage), Cricket scores, live soccer games from Brazil (Goooooal!!!), messages from fishermen at sea broadcast for their families (Nothing much happening this week, not counting Carl losing his pinky finger to a marlin).

It also has drivel, mostly Christian evangelism (feh!).

A nice thing about the 909 is it’s DXing ability, which allow you to fine tune the stations between stations. Things like baby monitors and fast food drive-thru headsets, which can be really funny to listen to (“oooh, baby! lookit the tits on this one” “Shit! Tammy just dropped her retainer into the fryer!”) and pirate stations (I love one really crazy black nationalism station. Did you know the white-man created malt liquer just to keep the black-man down?).

I orginaly got mine to listen to the really, really weird “Church of the Subgenius” pirate broadcasts (6.955 MHz, weekend nights).

I got into shortwave listening while in high school, mid-'80s to be exact. Dad gave me a Heathkit model he built some 15 years prior; after attatching it to a long wire antenna, I had to find some creative ways to keep it going. I remember listening to Armed Forces Radio before they went satellite, and found some other interesting stations. One had Spanish-language DJs broadcasting American rock. That antenna could pick up half the US on AM.

Nearly a decade ago, I picked up a Radio Shack DX 440. I started listening to BBC radio and found what I can only describe as a radio version of Jeopardy. Nice radio, used it as my alarm clock until one day I got home from work and discovered it was on, and not even on a station. Near as I can figure, it was the victim of a power surge. When I decide it’s time for another shortwave, I’ll give that DX 398 a look.

According to the UK “Radio Listener’s Guide”,which reviews and tests a whole load of radios every year, the range of Sony models comes out tops for short-wave. The best seems to be the ICF-SW 7600G.Other models recommended ,although they may not be avaliable in the US, are models from Grudig and the British firm of Roberts.
As I have mentioned on another posting there is new technology coming along for short wave.This is the advent of digital AM radio which will be available on short,medium and long wave-bands. This will greatly improve the reception and quality of broadcasts ,cut out fading and static and provide such features as stereo. Expected startup for this is about 2 years away.

Another good magazine to get is “Monitoring Times.”

If you want to listen to the major stations, remember that many have live Web feeds and schedules.

I’ve used a Sony ICF-2010 for over 10 years and it works well, although these days I only use it to get the time from WWV. One thing I do wish it had is a cassette tape controller to make it easier to record things at odd hours or when I’m not at home. I bought an add-on controller, but it had the annoying habit of turning on by itself. If I bought another SW radio, I’d spend the extra bucks and get one with an integrated controller. Grundig models should be available in the US.

“Brain of Britain”, perhaps? But that is to Jeopardy as Jeopardy is to “Do You Want To Be A Millionaire”. The BBC has a lot of light panel/game shows.