Sunday 24 October 2021

The Crystal Radio DX Contest


I first became intrigued with Crystal Radio DXing several years ago when I happened across the above image showing the Crystal Radio DX Contest setup of Al Klase, N3FRQ. I was immediately surprised to learn that 'DX' could actually be heard on a crystal radio ... I could never hear anything but two strong locals on my own crystal set as a kid. I also knew immediately that I wanted to learn more and hopefully get into the next Crystal Radio DX Contest!

Back then, the contest was organized by the Yahoo Crystal Radio Group and then later, by the Alabama Crystal Radio Group. These contests were exceptionally popular and always sparked a huge amount of discussion, spurred new construction and seemed to create a lot of ‘crystal radio’ excitement in the months leading up to the contest.

Crystal radios can be as simple as a 'single-tuned' set like this, built by Mike Simpson from plans shown in Alfred P. Morgan's "The Boys' Third Book of Radio and Electronics". Read the nice back-story from Mike about this project! In the right location and with a good antenna, even simple sets like this are capable of hearing skywave signals.

(courtesy Mike Simpson

At the other end of the spectrum are elaborate DX sets like this one, built by Mike Tuggle in Hawaii.

Mike Tuggle's 'Lyonodyne' DX set  


Mike regularly hears AM broadcast band stations in Canada and the USA on his crystal radio from his location in Hawaii ... he explains the details here.

Recently, along with Doug (K4LY) and Dave (N1DAY), I discussed how we might be able to again  resurrect this popular contest activity and after countless e-mail exchanges, we’ve now put together just such an event!

Accordingly, we invite any and all crystal radio builders and users to participate in the upcoming Crystal Radio DX Contest to be held from January 1 through January 8th, 2022!

This date period should provide ample time for new construction to take place or to make improvements to present radios, while hopefully finding some nice mid-winter propagation on the broadcast band … half the battle when it comes to DXing with crystal radios.

Some ideas have been gleaned from previous contests to provide a minimum set of simple rules that will hopefully accommodate crystal radios of all types.

There are two entry classes, ‘OPEN’ and ‘HOBBY’ with guidelines for each. You will only be competing against others in the same category or maybe only against yourself if trying to reach a set goal.

In the true spirit of previous contests, it’s more about having fun, optimizing your passive receiving system and creating some great discussions, both before and after the contest … this really makes every participant a winner in the end.

As an anchor point for discussions regarding this and future such events, the Facebook ‘Crystal Radio DX Contest Group’ has been created and anyone that might be curious or interested in possible contest participation is encouraged to join.

In no way is this group intended to usurp activity from any present groups and it should not. It will be a focal point where members can find and discuss activities generated by the upcoming event. What are you building or improving for the contest? What are your plans? Share your crystal radio DXing strategies. Any thoughts or comments related to the upcoming event are fair game!

The Crystal Radio DX Contest Group can be found here where you can find discussion as well as the rules.

As well, the rules in pdf form, may be found here if you are not on Facebook.

Hopefully you will consider entering the contest ... it was always an enjoyable event.

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Hunting For NDBs In CLE273


BK-224 Baker Lake, NU (

It's CLE time! 'CLE's are 'Co-ordinated  Listening Events, and NDB DXers around the world focus their listening time on one small slice of  the NDB spectrum.
This time it's a two-parter with a wider window -- the first hunting ground is 190.0 - 239.9kHz. 
The second part is hunting for NDBs whose carrier frequencies are 'half-way' ex. 267.5, 333.5, 375.5 etc.

A 'challenge target' for listeners in North America is BK - 224kHz in Baker Lake, Nunavut. Listen for BK's upper sideband on 224.402kHz. BK is widely heard in Europe and throughout North America.

BK has gobs of power and a big antenna ... see if you hear it!

When tuning for NDBs, put your receiver in the CW mode and listen for the NDB's CW identifier, repeated every few seconds. Listen for U.S. NDB identifiers approximately 1 kHz higher or lower than the published transmitted frequency since these beacons are modulated with a 1020 Hz tone approximately.

For example, 'AA' near Fargo, ND, transmitted on 365 kHz and its upper sideband CW identifier was tuned at 366.025 kHz while its lower sideband CW ident could be tuned at 363.946 kHz. Its USB tone was actually 1025 Hz while its LSB tone was 1054 Hz.

Often, one sideband will be much stronger than the other so if you don't hear the first one, try listening on the other sideband.

Canadian NDBs normally have an USB tone only, usually very close to 400 Hz. They also have a long dash (keydown) following the CW identifier.

All NDBs heard in North America will be listed in the RNA database (updated daily) while those heard in Europe may be found in the REU database. Beacons heard outside of these regions will be found in the RWW database. These databases have recently been re-vamped and are slicker than ever before!

From CLE organizers comes the following CLE info:

Hello all,

Here are brief details of our 273rd co-ordinated listening event, less than a week away.  Ideal to try out a CLE for the first time?

Days:  Friday 22nd - Monday 25th Oct., Midday-Midday, your local time    

  1. NDBs from 190 - 239.9 kHz
  2. PLUS:  Normal NDBs with carriers on the 'half-way' frequencies nnn.5 kHz from 190.5 - 999.5 kHz

So, unusually, it is a CLE in two parts.  The first part is hunting for the NDBs whose published frequencies are lower than 240 kHz.

The second part is hunting for the NDBs whose carrier frequencies are 'half-way'.  E.g. 267.5 OPW, 333.5 VOG, 370.5 LB, 381.5 SJX (in Ml), 390.5 ITR, 427.5 OB (in AFS), 433.5 HEN and 514.5 LA

Most Europe listeners will hear few or none from part 1, while listeners away from Europe will hear few or none from part 2.

The last time we covered these frequencies was for CLE257 in June 2020.

Please log all the NDBs (within the frequency ranges specified) that you can identify plus any UNIDs that you come across there.

 Send your final log to the List (not in an attachment, please) with 'CLE273’ and ‘FINAL' in its title (important).

 Show on each line:

    #   The Date (e.g.  '2021-10-23', etc.,  or just '24' )

    #   The Time in UTC (the day changes at 00:00 UTC).

    #   kHz  - the nominal published frequency, if known.

    #   The Call Ident.

Please show those main items FIRST.  Other optional details such as Location and Distance go LATER in the same line.

As always, of course, tell us your own location and give brief details of the equipment that you were using during the Event.

We will send the usual 'Any More Logs?' email at about 19:00 UTC on Tuesday so you can check that your log has been found OK.

Do make sure that your log has arrived on the List by 08:00 UTC on Wednesday 27 October at the very latest.

We hope to complete making the combined results within a day or two.

You can soon find full details about current and past CLEs from the CLE page    It includes access to the CLE273 seeklists for your part of the World, prepared from all the previous loggings in Rxx.

Good listening

- enjoy the CLE.

     Brian and Joachim


From:      Brian Keyte G3SIA      ndbcle'at'

Location:  Surrey,  SE England     (CLE coordinator)


  (If you would like to listen remotely you could use any one remote

  receiver for your loggings, stating its location and owner and with

  their permission if required.  A remote listener may NOT also use

  another receiver, local or remote, to make further loggings for the

  same CLE)


These listening events serve several purposes. They

• determine, worldwide, which beacons are actually in service and on-the-air so the newly-re-vamped Rxx online database can be kept up-to-date

• determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range

• will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations

• will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working

• give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed

Final details can be found at the NDB List website, and worldwide results, for every participant, will be posted there a few days after the event.

The NDB List Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other DXers in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome. As well, you can follow the results of other CLE participants from night to night as propagation is always an active topic of discussion.

You need not be an NDB List member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers.

Remember - 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the NDB List Group or e-mailed to CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. If you are a member of the group, all final results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

Please ... give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.

Have fun and good hunting!

Wednesday 6 October 2021

My Summer QSL Mailbox


Most of my blog readers know how much I love QSLs ... real paper ones that is. In fact the lure of collecting cards was one of the main things that hooked me on radio as a pre-teen SWL!

All of the important QSLs from last winter’s 160m DX season have finally arrived along with cards for the new ones worked during this summer’s Sporadic E season on 6m … plus some other cards of interest.

Both seasons provided some good DX opportunities and several new DXCC entities were added to my totals. In fact the new countries worked this summer on the magic band finally gave me 100 confirmed for DXCC after being on the band since Cycle 20! This summer was probably the best I’ve ever seen in terms of long haul propagation to Europe and Japan. Sadly almost all of the activity is on FT8 even though signals were usually more than strong enough for CW (and sometimes SSB) modes. Hopefully the band will once again see more of these traditional modes as the solar cycle progresses. 



The Top Band season was highlighted with a nice three-week period of exceptionally good propagation to many parts of Europe and regions beyond. Four new DXCC countries were added to my total bringing my 160m DXCC  to 163 confirmed


Some additional 630m band wallpaper also arrived over the summer from Arliss, W7XU. In mid-April, well-past the prime DX season, he ventured from his normal QTH in South Dakota to become W7XU/5 in Louisiana. I never in the world expected to even hear his small portable campground station let alone work him, but his signal was truly outstanding and we worked very quickly. Arliss gave me state #38 on 630m. We worked each other a few months later but this time on 2m during the August Perseids meteor shower when he was back at home in South Dakota.


The evening of July 15th produced a rarity for VE7 land … a short Sporadic E opening to California on 2m.

Four stations in and around the San Francisco region were worked with several of the signals being exceptionally strong, often the case on 2m Es.


And lastly, all 50 cards for last winter’s 40m Worked All States project were gathered over the summer months. All contacts were made using my homebrewed 1-tube Neophyte regen along with its matching 1-tube crystal oscillator.

Neophyte Twins with outboard bandspread on the regen

I’ve now parked the pair on 3560 for the winter while I attempt to repeat the challenge of working and confirming all 50 states. With 7 so far, I’m looking for 43 more! If you can help out with a listen (I’m on most evenings) or with a sked, I’d love to work you on 80m with the 1-tubers.

Did I mention that I really love QSLs?