New To Utility Listening

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ka3jjz

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Where to listen to a certain extent depends on what you are trying to hear. As a general rule, anything outside of the standard ham or SWBC bands is a potential range. It's a very broad subject, and you can get a small taste of that by reading what we have in the wiki...

HF - The RadioReference Wiki

Belonging to a group that exchanges logs is much better than using logs found in magazines since they have a 30-60 day lag time between when it's received and published. The UDXF (Utility DXers Forum) on Yahoo groups is a very active one, and there are several others. There are a few links for these in the utility monitoring article in our wiki

best regards..Mike
 

K9WG

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For HF utility listening you will need a receiver that can pick up sideband mode (USB - upper sideband, LSB - lower sideband). Most HF commercial and government use USB however some military are on LSB. Another aspect of utility monitoring is digital monitoring.
 

Romak3

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I, and many others are using Icom's R-75 with great results. I have a PAR EF-SWL that's cheap, works like a champ and so easy to set up a caveman can do it. :)

Others here can testify to one or both. 100ft of wire will work too, but I have not tried that...yet (to compare).

Around 5 Ben's ($500) will get you on your way to listening to things half way around the world. Cheaper if you go the wire route. That's with a used R-75.

Is there better? yep. But you need more "Ben's".

Where to start listening? Spill the dial and push the buttons, you will find your liking. I like it all. Beats watching Ophra or Ellen. ;)
 
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Fast1eddie

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Been into utility monitoring for years, always something neat. Also using a Par End Fed in a sloping configuration, it works extremely well with my Icom R71A and AOR 5000. Lots of very good late model equipment out there, save your $$$$ and get a vintage receiver.
 

ka3jjz

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I see it has the same propensity to blow a FET front end if you happen to hit it with static - so if you do put an external antenna on it, you might want to consider some static protection, like that shown here...

WD8DAS Spitfire Page

(go about 2/3 of the way down)

The portable will probably work OK for voice stuff, but not nearly so well for digital...

If you have a modern HF ham transceiver, they usually have a good general coverage receiver as well. All you need then is a better antenna (so what else is new?) and you're good to go. The PAR is quite well regarded, but if you can put up something better, go for it before the ground freezes....

best regards...Mike
 

Token

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Utility is kind of a broad stroke, there is so much in the way of variation that “a good starting point” is hard to define unless the target is known. Utility can be, among others, aviation, maritime, military, drug runners, clandestine communications, etc, etc. What most utility stations have in common are relatively low power (compared to BC stations), short duration transmissions, and unpredictable transmission times.

The low power means a decent antenna, something with some capture area, is a must for happy Utility monitoring. The built in whip or a 15 foot piece of wire might work for broadcasters that often run 100 kW or more, but will leave you wanting and discouraged with utility stations that are typically 1500 Watts or less, often much less. In general here the answer is the biggest antenna you can find space for. If you have room for a 75 foot wire put that up, if you have room for a half wave 160 M dipole put that up (my single feedpoint full sized three band 160/80/60 M inverted V is one of my favorite “general” receive antennas). However, remember that a really long wire antenna (in reference to wavelength, not measured size) does exhibit directionality. So if you have enough room for more than 100 feet of antenna you might want to give some thought as to how you lay it out, maybe point the possible lobes in an interesting area of the World. Some antennas are broader banded than others, and some are lower noise. I find that an 80 M full wave sky loop is a good utility antenna being low noise and roughly omni up to a pretty high freq, if you have the area for such an antenna and are willing to build it.

Radios for utility are an interesting discussion, and one that could take pages just to scratch the surface of. In my opinion the SDR, with its graphic representation of the spectrum, is custom made for Utility work. Utility transmissions tend to be short duration and sporadic in nature, easy to miss as you tune around with a traditional radio. A waterfall display that allows you to see a transmission even when you are not tuned directly to it is a great help in finding new or unlisted utility signals. Naturally if you are tuning to known voice networks the SDR will be no more useful than a traditional radio, other than the adjustability of the filters. For digital and odd modes (other than voice or CW) the waterfall of the SDR can greatly speed identification of the mode, and from mode often the service. Considering that SDRs can be had from $40 up I would say an SDR is a good starting place for the utility listener who is technicaly savvy.

The fact that many of the “interesting” utility signals, such as military exercises and drug operations, will quite likely not be on known networks is something to keep in mind. This sort of goes to the where, and when, to listen. Sure, for example you can tune to the known HF-GCS network and hear some phone patches, EAMs, and occasional sit rep from aircraft, but the really cool communications tend to be on discrete frequencies, unpublished and unknown until reported on a utility forum/web site/chat. These kinds of things often change fairly quickly also, so that a given frequency might only have interesting traffic for a day or so and then gone. Utility listening is much more dynamic than most other types of listening.

As has been said, generally listen outside the broadcast bands. List the BC and ham bands and go everyplace except to them. But select the freq based on the time of local day and what you are trying to hear. Want to hear Asian maritime operations? For example, if you are in the US it would not do for you to be trying frequencies below 10 MHz at your local mid day. Look at a map and determine were the daytime and nighttime is, plan your frequencies around that.

The UDXF group has been mentioned already, there are other similar groups on the web. If you are familiar with IRC there are a couple of utility oriented real time IRC chat rooms, such as #wunclub on the StarChat network (and a Google search can show you how to get there even if you are not IRC active). The advantage of Chat rooms are that you can ask questions and see what other people are listening too in near real time (assuming anyone else is active at that time). Remember what I said above, utility stations are often short duration and transient.

T!
 

Romak3

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Thanks guys. I'll look for some used equipment after I save some money. I'm looking at the Yaesu 160M-70CM transceivers. Anyone have any thoughts on these?

You want to TX too? That's a whole different ball game.
 
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ka3jjz

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For a short time, I had a Yaesu FT817 - that thing had a HOT front end on HF. Needs the extra SSB filtering, though...best regards...Mike
 

SCPD

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Thanks guys. I'll look for some used equipment after I save some money. I'm looking at the Yaesu 160M-70CM transceivers. Anyone have any thoughts on these?
Mike, I'm biased after owning the 817 and 857. I wasn't impressed with the audio quality of these units and both do require purchase of optional filters to make the audio that much better. As Mike said, the 817 is a sensitive unit but for the money you have to invest initially, I think it can be spent better elsewhere.

I'd recommend investing in a used desktop transceiver to get your feet wet. Right now, you can find some good deals on used transceivers from various sources. This will also let you explore HF without breaking the bank.

Tip: Search YouTube for various HF radio models and reviews and watch the videos. You'll get an idea of what they're like and how they sound.

PS. I'm personally waiting to see this radio in action: Elecraft KX3 Transceiver - Preliminary Information
 

mike_s104

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Thanks for all the advise. I was reading other posts and I think I will look more into the Icom models and some if the RFSpace SDR units.

I have plenty of space for antennas and anything else plus an understanding wife. I just need to figure out what I should get. I'll definitely look into some used equipment.

Sent from my ADR6400L using Tapatalk
 
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