Numbers stations radios

Status
Not open for further replies.

echo123

Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2012
Messages
2
OK, I am looking for a good, bang for your buck, shortwave radio that has SSB. I am looking to receive numbers stations, so any other perks would be helpful.

The mos helpful information would be: a low priced (up to 150 US) radio, again, preferably SSB, with the most bang for your buck as well as locations or websites where I can get it.

Side info that would be helpful to a lesser extent would be higher priced radios that you would recommend. Anything that you feel just does the job the best.
 

Kdogg150

Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2004
Messages
9
Location
Tampa Bay, FL
I use the Grundig G5 and have heard numerous numbers stations. The G5 is now discontinued and the replacement is the G3 which sell for $130 at Radio Shack.
 

Token

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 18, 2010
Messages
2,143
Location
Mojave Desert, California, USA
OK, I am looking for a good, bang for your buck, shortwave radio that has SSB. I am looking to receive numbers stations, so any other perks would be helpful.

The mos helpful information would be: a low priced (up to 150 US) radio, again, preferably SSB, with the most bang for your buck as well as locations or websites where I can get it.

Side info that would be helpful to a lesser extent would be higher priced radios that you would recommend. Anything that you feel just does the job the best.
This is a pretty tall order. Up to $150 USD for a radio with the goal of listening specifically to numbers stations. One thing you may want to change, you said “preferably SSB”, but to do numbers stations you really do need to have SSB. Many numbers stations transmit only in SSB. Sure, some are AM, such as Spanish language V02, and in the past most were AM, but the trend has been towards SSB for the past 10+ years.

Since you specified US money I assume you are located in the US. This means that every numbers station is DX and from outside the country. And this DX is not as “regular” and often not as powerful as SW BC stations are, the types of stations that portables are really meant to receive. A portable with a basic whip antenna in the US is really only going to hear a couple of number stations with any regularity, and those are all probably going to be out of Cuba except when the user gets very lucky. V02, M08, and SK01 are the traditional Cuban stations. In Europe a listener can get away with a portable and hear much more.

Now, a good portable with an external antenna can indeed listen to numbers stations, but don’t be surprised if you end up being frustrated by the overload many listeners have with portables and external antennas.

Not to hammer on portables, they have their applications, but you are presenting a challenge that is much better taken on if you consider other types of radios. A good desktop with a good external antenna, for example. Of course, that is not going to fit in your $150 USD cap unless you get VERY lucky on a used deal. About the lowest end new is going to be in the $500 range. Another option would be one of the low end sound card SDRs, like the SoftRock Ensemble II. Yeah, they have their issues also, but they generally perform far better than a portable in the same price range.

Personally, if I was trying to set up a numbers station oriented listening location and my cap was $150 I would spend $85 on an assembled SoftRock and the rest on an antenna. For sure, it is going to present its own frustrations (imaging, setup issues, etc) but once it is working it will outperform just about any portable in any price bracket. Just be warned, although they will perform better than a portable they can be a pain in the butt to get everything functioning correctly. I consider them “tenkerers” items, fun to play with but half the fun is getting them working right. If you don’t have that kind of mindset then soundcard SDRs may not be for you.

T!
 

echo123

Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2012
Messages
2
What would you recommend as far as desktop radios are concerned, assuming price was upped to around 500 USD?
 

Token

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 18, 2010
Messages
2,143
Location
Mojave Desert, California, USA
What would you recommend as far as desktop radios are concerned, assuming price was upped to around 500 USD?
Notice that I said at the lowest end new they start at about $500. The selection at this price point is pretty slim. The Alinco DX-R8T is right at $500, and the Icom R-75 is right about $600 or just over. They are really the only desktops in that price area.

If you do not mind having to use a computer in association with the radio the Ten-Tec RX-320D is at about $370 and the RFSpace SDR-IQ is right at $500. As I said, for both of these radios you must use a computer because the radio has no front face, all controls are via the PC. The RX-320D is a traditional superheterodyne radio that is PC controlled, and the SDR-IQ is an SDR, but not a sound card based SDR as I mentioned in my previous post. The SDR-IQ is very trouble free to use.

Of these I would say the two front runners, in my opinion and having used them all, would be either the Icom R-75 (if you want a traditional radio) or the RFSpace SDR-IQ (if you want to go the SDR route).

SDRs are probably the future of the hobby, probably of radios in general, but some people prefer to have a radio with a front panel and a tuning knob to turn. I have 2 each of the R-75’s and the SDR-IQ’s, and I know I use the SDR-IQ’s more often than the R-75’s. However, before I got my first SDR I would have said I fell in the “a radio has to have a tuning knob” camp. The R-75 is more sensitive than the SDR-IQ, but the other features of the SDR-IQ make up for that one small short-coming.

Antenna, antenna, antenna. The best radio in the world will not perform well if the antenna is junk. So, think about antennas also. You can build a very good wire antenna for a very modest price, $50 or less is very doable for a decent performing antenna. Free if you have a good scrap box. But do you have the space for an antenna outside the house? I am talking 50 or 60 feet (more is better) of space to string a wire antenna. There are answers for apartment dwellers and people who have limited outdoor space, but they tend to be more costly or complex.

T!
 

modrachlan

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 6, 2012
Messages
130
Location
Jefferson City, MO USA
Also interested in numbers stations

This is my first post here.

I have an RX-320 (I have performed the 12khz mod myself, making it the D model technically, I guess). Right now for an antenna I'm using a Wellbrook ALA-1530 on a rotator. I have gotten surprised a few times and was able to pluck something rare out of the murk- and for general broadcast listening it's really nice. But generally I feel like it doesn't have quite enough gain to pull in numbers stations and other utilities I find myself more interested in lately. I had more luck with just the old Sony 2010 off the whip, which I foolishly sold many years ago.

Would I have better luck with a different antenna? My main problem is the house and the yard are not exactly right next to the other, so I would have to make considerable effort to get something very long going. Also it would have to be somewhat stealthy as I have picky neighbors. I want to tell them to take a hike, but they are nice in most ways, so I don't want to burn any bridges.

Would a tuner or preselector help, or are they a waste of money? Any other outboard item that would give it a boost?
 

k8krh

Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2009
Messages
371
Try a PL 600 TESCUN, THEY ARE PORTABLE AM/FM/SWL and have ssb also with a plug in for a long wire or whatever you use, ssb is very stable...they go for $70 give or take a dollar, I hear plenty of swl/number on ssb..
DOCTOR795
 

SCPD

QRT
Joined
Feb 24, 2001
Messages
0
Location
Virginia
This is my first post here.

I have an RX-320 (I have performed the 12khz mod myself, making it the D model technically, I guess). Right now for an antenna I'm using a Wellbrook ALA-1530 on a rotator. I have gotten surprised a few times and was able to pluck something rare out of the murk- and for general broadcast listening it's really nice. But generally I feel like it doesn't have quite enough gain to pull in numbers stations and other utilities I find myself more interested in lately. I had more luck with just the old Sony 2010 off the whip, which I foolishly sold many years ago.

Would I have better luck with a different antenna? My main problem is the house and the yard are not exactly right next to the other, so I would have to make considerable effort to get something very long going. Also it would have to be somewhat stealthy as I have picky neighbors. I want to tell them to take a hike, but they are nice in most ways, so I don't want to burn any bridges.

Would a tuner or preselector help, or are they a waste of money? Any other outboard item that would give it a boost?
Is the Wellbrook outside away from the house? Something doesn't sound right there... I don't have any experience with the 320 but the 1530 is a damn good Rx antenna... I would suspect the 320 before the antenna.
 
Last edited:

ka3jjz

Wiki Admin Emeritus
Joined
Jul 22, 2002
Messages
23,124
Location
Bowie, Md.
This is my first post here.

I have an RX-320 (I have performed the 12khz mod myself, making it the D model technically, I guess). Right now for an antenna I'm using a Wellbrook ALA-1530 on a rotator. I have gotten surprised a few times and was able to pluck something rare out of the murk- and for general broadcast listening it's really nice. But generally I feel like it doesn't have quite enough gain to pull in numbers stations and other utilities I find myself more interested in lately. I had more luck with just the old Sony 2010 off the whip, which I foolishly sold many years ago.

Would I have better luck with a different antenna? My main problem is the house and the yard are not exactly right next to the other, so I would have to make considerable effort to get something very long going. Also it would have to be somewhat stealthy as I have picky neighbors. I want to tell them to take a hike, but they are nice in most ways, so I don't want to burn any bridges.

Would a tuner or preselector help, or are they a waste of money? Any other outboard item that would give it a boost?
Neither would help, really - you need an understanding of how numbers and utilities are different from broadcast stations. While there are utilities (such as USCG SITOR broadcasts) on specific schedules, generally speaking numbers stations don't publish them - you need to be something of a detective and learn when to anticipate when a numbers station is likely to be around. You then learn they *sometimes* have a schedule of sorts. And then they change...

The single best place for learning about numbers stations, and the detective work that gets done, would be the Numbers and Oddities website, along with the mailing list (Spooks? - I've forgotten about it, frankly) - and they do show up on occasion on the UDXF Yahoo group.

Sometimes you need to check numerous freqs fast - I don't know if Scan320 works on Win7 (it works quite well on Win XP) but it allows for 'sampling' of a sort - unfortunately I'm pretty sure the 320 doesn't provide for stopping when a signal is heard - you have to stop it yourself. But it's slick software, and if you get on the RX320 mailing list, someone is likely to have a copy (I had the 320 for a long time)...Mike

[edit] I almost forgot something very important - the antenna connection on the 320 is a little flaky - the plug you use MUST have a long shaft, otherwise it might not be long enough to disconnect the internal amplifier for the little whip that the 320 comes with. It's possible that you simply aren't making a real good connection here - making it sound like you aren't quite getting 'enough gain'.
 
Last edited:

modrachlan

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 6, 2012
Messages
130
Location
Jefferson City, MO USA
Is the Wellbrook outside away from the house? Something doesn't sound right there... I don't have any experience with the 320 but the 1530 is a damn good Rx antenna... I would suspect the 320 before the antenna.
Well.. I know where it is is not ideal. It's about 5 ft off the ground, maybe 3 ft from our house in the side yard.

Roof mounting would be difficult with our house, but... could that make a great deal of difference? I assume yes, but I would appreciate opinions before trying to execute such a maneuver. What about 10 or 15 feet, might that be sufficient?

Can anyone else chime in regarding the RX-320? Would I be quite a bit better off with a real receiver? I have considered getting an Icom R-71 instead.
 

ka3jjz

Wiki Admin Emeritus
Joined
Jul 22, 2002
Messages
23,124
Location
Bowie, Md.
The most commonly accepted explanation (and it can't be independently verified, of course) is that a numbers station is sending codes via a one time pad to agents in the field.

Mike
 

modrachlan

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 6, 2012
Messages
130
Location
Jefferson City, MO USA
Is the Wellbrook outside away from the house? Something doesn't sound right there... I don't have any experience with the 320 but the 1530 is a damn good Rx antenna... I would suspect the 320 before the antenna.
I think the weak link in the chain is me. I dug into the log posts around here and was able to hear Spanish-language air traffic, Spanish language Hams, Deutsche Welle broadcasting from Tigali and BBC in Meyerton last night. I think all is well with the gear. I just need to learn patience.
 

modrachlan

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 6, 2012
Messages
130
Location
Jefferson City, MO USA
I suspected as much. Well, I'm only now getting used to using a loop for swl, and I am more encouraged now than I was only a few days ago. So if I can manage to get it on the roof somehow, I expect to be quite pleased. :)
 

ka3jjz

Wiki Admin Emeritus
Joined
Jul 22, 2002
Messages
23,124
Location
Bowie, Md.
I think the weak link in the chain is me. I dug into the log posts around here and was able to hear Spanish-language air traffic, Spanish language Hams, Deutsche Welle broadcasting from Tigali and BBC in Meyerton last night. I think all is well with the gear. I just need to learn patience.
Patience is certainly a virtue when trying to hear numbers stations - that, and information - and the site (with its associated mailing list) is a good place to start. Without information, you really don't know what to expect

Mike
 

ff-medic

Completely Banned for the Greater Good
Banned
Joined
Oct 12, 2007
Messages
728
Location
The Appalachians - Next to the tent and campfire.
So what's the purpose of numbers stations? Wikipedia has some ominous definitions of a number station.

Numbers stations transmit information to agents in the field. Basically, it is a transmitter transmitting one way ( to the agents ) information and orders. The last one that made public notoriety was In 2006 Carlos Alvarez and his wife Elsa Alvarez were charged with espionage and acting as illegal agents for Cuba.

Soviet Bloc, Cuba, and a host of others use "Numbers Stations" ( one way communciations ) to communicate with agents in the field....Where ever they may be.

Foreign agents using Numbers Stations is nothing new. However crude, old and limited...It is still an effective means to communicate with agents in the field, to pass out orders, information and intelligence.

Numbers stations may, or may not be passing out information. Just because a numbers station is transmitting ( In code ) does not necessarily mean it is information at all. The transmitter could be transmitting "Bogus" information for others to try to intepret and decode, or it could be passing out accurate and reliable information. Between the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and a host of other intelligence agencys that employ mathmeticians to make reason of numerical codes...I would say that the "Numbers" thing is well on top of.

"Enemy" agents all over the world, receiving orders from their home base / country, so they will not get caught. Enemy agents receiving messages only, instead of performing two-way communications and taking a chance of getting arrested and incarcerated, opening them up to questioning and interrogation. Agents receiving only, not getting caught in a two way broadcast through signal triangulation..and other means of decyphering radio communicattion locations.

Spy craft involves one important thing, and that is not drawing attention to ones self. Being the "Grey Person". A spy could be 25 years of age, or they could be 70 years of age. Spys come in all "forms".

Men and women ( Enemy agents - receiving "Numbers stations" ) who perform the tedius task of espionage, including by not limited to - Target analysis, surveillance, signal intelligence, financial information gathering - tracking important people ( VIP's - CEOs - Government Officials - Financial leaders..ect ). Men and women, whom on a short notice, can act on intelligence they have quite possbly collected over years. Acting on intelligence - such as bombings and assassinations, creating dismay and spreading false information. Do not think that the FBI does not stay on top of this. Enemy agents, camoflaged in the U.S population performing " Spy Craft" does get the U.S Federal Governments attention. Islamic, Russian, Cuban, Mexican, even European spys wondering about America...and other countrys, collecting intelligence and and quite possibly choosing targets ( property and people ) for an attack, should they ever receive the "Order".

Numbers stations transmit usually in AM band at high wattage. Simple computer research can give you pics of transmitter sites, antennas, FBI investigations, and a slew of other valuable intelligence.

You can get numbers station recordings, numbers station frequencys and times...with internet research

Just think. Your next door neighbor could be on the receiving end of a "Numbers Station" , and you do not even know it.

FF - Medic !!
 
Last edited:

Token

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 18, 2010
Messages
2,143
Location
Mojave Desert, California, USA
Numbers stations transmit information to agents in the field. Basically, it is a transmitter transmitting one way ( to the agents ) information and orders. The last one that made public notoriety was In 2006 Carlos Alvarez and his wife Elsa Alvarez were charged with espionage and acting as illegal agents for Cuba.
The 2009 case against Kendall Myers also included years of receiving direction via short wave spy numbers stations. Since he was working for the Cubans it is a pretty safe assumption this was V02/M08/SK01.

I have heard that there might have been some SW reception and possible numbers station stuff in the 2010 Russian spy ring case (the “Anna Chapman” case, although few remember the other 9 people involved).


Numbers stations may, or may not be passing out information. Just because a numbers station is transmitting ( In code ) does not necessarily mean it is information at all. The transmitter could be transmitting "Bogus" information for others to try to intepret and decode, or it could be passing out accurate and reliable information. Between the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and a host of other intelligence agencys that employ mathmeticians to make reason of numerical codes...I would say that the "Numbers" thing is well on top of.
Some numbers stations never send a “null” message. This means you can not know which transmissions contain good data and which are “padding” just sent so that operational tempo can not be derived from message traffic. Other stations send regular and clearly defined “null” messages when they have no traffic for their specific assets.

A properly used OTP is going to be completely secure. All the math in the world thrown at it will not crack it. Or rather, it will crack it and an almost unlimited number of possible solutions, and you will never know which “decoded” message is the correct one.

However, it is important to record and store all such transmissions, even if you can not read them today. A future case might include seizure of the ability to decode past transmissions.

"Enemy" agents all over the world, receiving orders from their home base / country, so they will not get caught. Enemy agents receiving messages only, instead of performing two-way communications and taking a chance of getting arrested and incarcerated, opening them up to questioning and interrogation. Agents receiving only, not getting caught in a two way broadcast through signal triangulation..and other means of decyphering radio communicattion locations.
Assets using a OWVL (One Way Voice Link, this is what a Numbers Station is) are not undetectable. Certainly it is much safer than using a transmitter. But, the asset must have the ability to decode the transmission, and this means he/she must make contact at some time, and probably periodically, to receive the latest decryption information. If this is distributed electronically it becomes very trackable. Probably the most safe would be using dead drops and multiple cut-outs. But once one link in the chain is compromised this endangers every other link.

Also, the act of reception of the signals itself can be tracked or confirmed to incriminate the asset.

A traditional superheterodyne receiver uses an LO, Local Oscillator. And LO leakage can be tracked to determine what frequency a person is monitoring at any given time. It can also be used to locate/track whoever is using it within a limited range. This range might be much larger than many people think, during World War II German U-boats used LO leakage to track and target Allied merchant shipping. Today it is used in certain auto parking structures to sample what radio station each car entering is tuned to, so that advertising budgets can be most efficiently used to reach the intended market.

Also, research “Operation Rafter”, a British effort.


Numbers stations transmit usually in AM band at high wattage. Simple computer research can give you pics of transmitter sites, antennas, FBI investigations, and a slew of other valuable intelligence.
AM is a modulation technique, not specifically a band. In the US we have what is called the “AM broadcast band”, but this frequency range is seldom used by numbers stations.

The use of AM (DSB with full carrier) by numbers stations is older information. Today many, maybe even most, numbers stations do not use AM modulation. Many of the old school established numbers stations still use AM, but most “new” numbers stations use SSB, with USB being the most popular. The use of USB with carrier is also seen, and could be called an AM mode, and has replaced full AM in some older stations.

Many numbers stations use Morse code. Again, many of the older ones use “MCW”, or Modulated CW, and this is an AM technique. But, many also use true CW and pretty much all of the newer ones use CW.

Some numbers stations are known to have converted or started to use to digital modes, others are suspected of having done so. Example, Cuban V02/M08 is associated with digital mode SK01. And the Chinese language numbers station V26, and its CW sister station M97, are often seen following a digital mode referred to as the “Chinese 4+4 modem”. XPA and XPA2 are assumed to be digital modes for Russian intel, and are sometimes seen on frequencies known to be used by Russian based numbers stations.

As for high power, in the past many numbers stations used broadcast facilities. While still a fact with some stations this habit is in decline, particularly with Oriental stations. With that said, it does apear the recently re-activated V16 might be using BC facilities.

You can get numbers station recordings, numbers station frequencys and times...with internet research
Numbers station schedules, the frequencies and times they use, change often. If you do find information on the net look at the age of the information. The older it is the less likely it is to still be usable.

For example, in February of this year South Korean numbers station V24 had a major change and stopped using several frequencies. They did not add new frequencies but rather condense their operations form 8 to 4 frequencies. This means the schedule on the remaining 4 frequencies changed. At the same time they also changed the voice used in their numbers.

Another example, Chinese numbers station V16 recently appears to have been re-activated, it had not been reported since before 2000. So any past schedules you find for it, pre-2000, would not apply.

And some stations just have seasonal changes, they may have one schedule for winter, and another for summer.

Some good sources of numbers station data/schedules:
The Enigma 2000 web site: ENIGMA2000
The Numbers and Oddities web site: Numbers stations home page
The Spynumbers web site : Spy Numbers Stations Shortwave Radio
The Priyom.org web site: Priyom.org - Priyom.org

T!
 

ff-medic

Completely Banned for the Greater Good
Banned
Joined
Oct 12, 2007
Messages
728
Location
The Appalachians - Next to the tent and campfire.
Some numbers stations never send a “null” message. This means you can not know which transmissions contain good data and which are “padding” just sent so that operational tempo can not be derived from message traffic. Other stations send regular and clearly defined “null” messages when they have no traffic for their specific assets.!
Yes.."Some" numbers stations



AM is a modulation technique, not specifically a band. In the US we have what is called the “AM broadcast band”, but this frequency range is seldom used by numbers stations..!
Yes. AM an FM is specific modulations, I agree. Not going to get in a long drawn out argument, but frequencys...such as Citizens band ( 27 Mhz ), Uses AM..Or as I and others descibe.."The AM band"

The use of AM (DSB with full carrier) by numbers stations is older information. Today many, maybe even most, numbers stations do not use AM modulation. Many of the old school established numbers stations still use AM, but most “new” numbers stations use SSB, with USB being the most popular. The use of USB with carrier is also seen, and could be called an AM mode, and has replaced full AM in some older stations...!
I was replying to the question of what is a numbers station. I did not want to get all "Technical" with jargon, various bands and modes.

Some numbers stations are known to have converted or started to use to digital modes, others are suspected of having done so. Example, Cuban V02/M08 is associated with digital mode SK01. And the Chinese language numbers station V26, and its CW sister station M97, are often seen following a digital mode referred to as the “Chinese 4+4 modem”. XPA and XPA2 are assumed to be digital modes for Russian intel, and are sometimes seen on frequencies known to be used by Russian based numbers stations....!
That is news to me. Why "digital mode" is beyond me. I always new of highpowered "AM" broadcast, but nothing more than that. Seems to me digital comms would be making it more complicated. A simple AM receiver and code pad seems sufficient to me.


Numbers station schedules, the frequencies and times they use, change often. If you do find information on the net look at the age of the information. The older it is the less likely it is to still be usable.....!
I disagree. "Some" numbers stations use the same frequency, or same set of frequencys

For example, in February of this year South Korean numbers station V24 had a major change and stopped using several frequencies. They did not add new frequencies but rather condense their operations form 8 to 4 frequencies. This means the schedule on the remaining 4 frequencies changed. At the same time they also changed the voice used in their numbers......!
South Korea had a change. Not to many do this. Annnnd, what does changing the voice in the numbers have to do with anything? They are still transmitting the information.


Another example, Chinese numbers station V16 recently appears to have been re-activated, it had not been reported since before 2000. So any past schedules you find for it, pre-2000, would not apply.......!
Stations deactivate and activate all the time. No big deal.

FF - Medic !!!
 

ridgescan

Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2008
Messages
4,688
Location
San Francisco, Ca.
FF-Medic-Token wasn't looking to argue with you nor was he even flaming you he was just adding stuff he knows a lot about to things you posted. Your post was very informative. I just learned a lot about this subject thanks to you and Token:)
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top