The Best Tips for using a Shortwave Radio


While using a shortwave radio doesn’t look like rocket science, it may not be as easy as you might have imagined it. Don’t be baffled by the amount of information you’ll find online. You can become a shortwave radio user in a timely fashion provided you use a set of tips and tricks.

To make matters easier, we’ve decided to give you a helping hand. That’s why we have put together a short list of the best pieces of advice we’ve found to be the most helpful when it comes to operating a shortwave radio as efficiently as possible.


shortwave radio



The right unit

If you already are the owner of a shortwave radio but find that you’re a bit disappointed by the features and quality it comes with, you might want to purchase a new one. Choosing from a plethora of models that now exist on the market can look like a daunting task, but you need to know that most radios can be split into three main categories.

There are analog shortwave radios, of which the price point is somewhere between thirty and seventy dollars. Then, there are SSB radios that are capable of getting both AM and single side band modes, whereas radios capable of receiving just AM. Digital tuners are the last type that can be bought nowadays, but they’re somewhat less affordable compared to the previously mentioned two kinds. They’re easier to manage as users may find it less difficult to find the right frequency.



Understand the shortwave bands

The simplest way to understand shortwave bands is to associate them with a particular frequency range. While some models display the frequency using megahertz, others do the same in kilohertz. If you’re feeling puzzled about what your unit does, just consult the instructions provided by the manufacturer to find out.

Some broadcasters and websites can announce their frequencies in megahertz or kilohertz, depending on their preferences. Just three decimal places make the difference between the two. For instance, a frequency of 15.5 MHz is the same as a frequency of 15500 kHz. If you’re trying to convert kHz into MHz, all you have to do is move the decimal place three digits to the left instead of to the right.

Why is frequency so important? Let’s say you’re talking to a friend and he or she forgets to say whether he or she is giving the frequency in MHz or kHz. As a general rule, it’s far easier to use megahertz than kilohertz, as they’re significantly easier to pronounce and won’t require you to jot down tens of zeros on end. However, if you’re an amateur who knows little to nothing in regards to the right way to give the frequency, it would be easier for you to use kilohertz. This way, switching to megahertz would be less complicated.



Can the reception be improved?

You can improve the reception by using an SWL antenna. The simplest way to get one is to look for it online, as you’ll find units you can buy and units you can make on your own if you’re into DIY. Unfortunately, most telescopic rod type antennas that come with the shortwave radios aren’t the best ones in the world, so improving the reception is something you’re likely to want to do.


Shortwave radio with antenna


How to find the shortwave bands and broadcasting schedules

If you’re willing to invest in a publication filled with the frequencies and schedules, you may want to consider the Passport to World Band Radio or the World Radio TV Handbook. These two come out every year and are filled with new and updated schedules.

Another way of finding the bands is by simply scanning them. Regardless of how efficient this method is, it does little to nothing when it comes to finding out about the schedules. If you don’t want to purchase an annual publication, just look for the schedules online, as there are several websites that offer them for free.

Various websites have even grouped the content according to what users are searching, and thus provide data regarding foreign station, specialized shortwave transmissions and the actual number of channels of which the purpose may or may not be espionage.



Get a QSL card

Receiving a QSL card can be done by sending feedback to the broadcaster. While most broadcasters will ask for specific feedback, the classic way would be to create an SWL Reception Report, based on the SINPO code. You’ll have to analyze the signal, the interference, the noise, the propagation and the overall quality of the broadcast you’re receiving.