What do I need to listen?

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ka3jjz

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Utilities require a bit more than just a couple of handhelds. Since you evidently have your license, most every near-modern ham transceiver these days has a built in general coverage receiver - and that's a dandy fact, since it can do double duty. If you get your General (or have it already), you've got a good start. The reviews on EHam are a great place to start.

Next is an antenna. This is greatly influenced by whether you can get something outdoors (best) or put something in an attic (not quite so good, but useable - particularly if there's snow on the ground - soldering connections in 6 inches of snow is NOT recommended - been there, done that...) and how much space you have to work with. A couple of questions in our antennas forum is in order - and looking at our HF antennas wiki will give you a very wide sampling of the sort of things out there. Some you can build, some you purchase it pre-assembled and you supply the coax...

Finally, information. Again our wiki is a good place to start, but even better is being informed about exactly is out there, and where you interests lie. Let's get that established before we go any further.

73 Mike
 

ka3jjz

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As a follow up - here are 2 links you can use to get started...

HF Antennas - The RadioReference Wiki

HF - The RadioReference Wiki

In the second link, see the utilities section. This just skims the surface of what is available - be more specific about what you want to be able to hear. One thing - anything in blue, either here or in the wiki, is a link of some kind

It is also absolutely critical to understand the basics of HF propagation to be successful in this game. You should have gotten a basic look if you have your tech license - if not, follow the link in the HF article and read up on it.

73 Mike
 

scannerrail

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I've had my tech for about 2 years now and haven't tried general yet I will say I do more listening then talking.. out of those 2 years I've maybe only talked 10 times.. most of all is because I don't have a mobile in the car and using my HT I can't get very far but my upgraded antenna helped me get about 20 miles out which is not bad given where I was driving at (dense trees)

I never picked up a radio that did HF because of the cost however I'm looking at a few handhelds but is SSB really a must?

I was looking at this one here

Yaesu VR-500, Yaesu vr500 Receiver
 

ka3jjz

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Absolutely, if you want to get into the Utilities game! In addition, the more flexible in the selectivity department, the better off you will be.

Little handhelds are fine for stronger stations that are in the clear, but fall way short if you're trying to dig something out of the mess. Too, generally these little toys can't handle a good sized antenna - they'll overload like crazy.

Hamfest season is almost upon us 73 Mike
 

ka3jjz

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The question is pretty much moot - most transceivers can receive both. The amateur service is, by a wide margin, the largest users of LSB, although there are some ALE networks that have been noted using it in the past. Most all voice type utilities can be heard in USB, with a smattering of AM here and there (some VOLMETs use it). 73 Mike
 

scannerrail

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Ah I see.. when I used to DX with my shortwave I know I missed out on a bunch of stuff because it never could pick up SSB it sucks where I live now because it's useless trying to pick up something.

And now that I live in a apartment on the first floor my back window is about 11ft from the ground which makes it tricky..
 

ka3jjz

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It's off topic to discuss antennas here - we have an antennas forum for this - but most will tell you that just throwing a bunch of wire on the floor you will hear something. True enough, but in an indoor environment, noise is your worst enemy. If you can't get some thin wire outside, loops are the answer here - they reject certain kinds of noise, and you get to use more of the available space you have for stringing an antenna.

There are many kinds - Coax loops, wire loops (where you string wire around the perimeter of a room - all of it - and connect it through a 9:1 transformer - also known as a Magnetic Longwire Balun), or if you're comfortable doing a little wiring and constructing - the Carpet Loop. If you use a wire loop, you can make the wire very thin and if it's colored white, almost invisible.

Several possibilities here....73 Mike
 

scannerrail

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the thing about it is I would have to do the outside wire.. heck that's what I had to do with my scanner since this building is from the 50's it has a lot of metal and thick brick I'm sure I can think of something.
 

iMONITOR

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Look for a used ICOM IC-R75. One of the best utilities receivers available to the hobbyist today.
 

SCPD

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Take a look at the Sony 7600GR. It's portable and runs from 4AA batteries. It has SSB support and will give you an idea of what shortwave radio is like. Also, it's doesn't require a huge investment.

An apartment isn't the easiest of locations to work shortwave. You'll have to settle for some compromises - with respect to an antenna. If you search on EBay you can purchase a slinky antenna. Play around with its location (near a window or ceiling) and you may get acceptable performance. The whip antenna will work but it's probably best outdoors (at a park for example.)

FYI, Amazon seems to have the best price on the Sony right now.

Amazon.com: Sony ICF-SW7600GR AM/FM Shortwave World Band Receiver with Single Side Band Reception: Electronics
 
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DPD1

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I would also look at the Grundig G5, which you can get refurbished in a few places pretty cheap right now.
 

ka3jjz

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Not my first choice; Panasonics are generally horrible with SSB due to stability issues (they drift all over the place), and they're image prone - I had a RF2900 for many years until the bandswitch gave out.

73 Mike
 

a29zuk

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Soldering outside

Next is an antenna. This is greatly influenced by whether you can get something outdoors (best) or put something in an attic (not quite so good, but useable - particularly if there's snow on the ground - soldering connections in 6 inches of snow is NOT recommended - been there, done that...) and how much space you have to work with.


Those little butane soldering irons are great for soldering outside in the winter time. I've used them a few times the past few winters. Picked it up at Home Depot, Lowe's may also carry them, too.
 
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ratboy

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I had a couple of my desktop radios in my car with a wire hung out the window. It's not bad, just plop it on the front seat and away you go. A word of advice: Don't even think about going the handheld route, they just don't work all that well. I've owned most of them and even a crappy portable will be better, but portables aren't too good until you get up there in price. I've owned quite a few portables over the last 30 years and in general, I've never been all that happy with them. They seem to have stability issues, durability issues, or just plain bad performance. Some of them have all three problems. Those got sold off, quick. I've owned a couple of my desktop radios for over 20 years.

And if you do the wire in the car thing, make sure you put a banana plug or similar connector in the wire outside the car, as sooner or later, you will forget it's connected to the radio, and drive off. If you put the other end of the wire to a tree or pole, it could be expensive when the radio hits the door panel, not to mention embarrasing.
 
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