DXing on the AM Band

David's picture

Thanks to our late Uncle Jim Van Alstein, I was introduced to the AM band of the radio. Although he never admitted or mentioned it, he was an AM DXer. Throughout the day, but mostly late at night and early in the morning he could be found sitting in the kitchen sipping his cup of coffee while listening to an old transistor radio which sat on the windowsill. He'd let me know of certain 'shows' that were coming on and on what station to find it. But at the time, I never really took too much interest in it all. Now, I wish I had.

So what is AM DXing, and why the interest? It's simply just tuning in on the AM band, finding and listening in on the different broadcasts. But, it's really a lot more than that. Unlike FM, you can pick up stations from far away places. During the right timing and conditions, you can listen on programs from thousands of miles away. It just takes a bit of patience and persistence to locate them. I've found the AM radio shows to be a lot more interesting than anything I can find on the FM, and I've only scratched the surface. FM is more geared towards music being how it does have a more crisp and clear sound than AM. But it seems you find a good station that plays the music that you like, and then leave it there. And then everyday you listen to the same songs over and over. And nowadays CD's and MP3's are the music platforms of choice.

AM on the other hand has some music, but mostly is filled with talk radio. Something, as of late, I've found myself listening more of. Most of the music I listen to is already on our laptop and I don't really listen to anything else. And without tv, this is where I get most of my news. Many of the programs are very interesting and cover an array of subjects. I can find anything from news, to gardening, to humor, to politics and anything in between.

I mentioned something about the right timing and conditions. Well, on a typical day their are only a few clear stations to listen to. When the sun sets, and up until the sun rises, is when the AM band really comes alive. I don't know the science behind it but this is the time when the MW (medium wavelength), which is what the AM uses, are better able to reflect off of the ionosphere enabling radio stations from across the globe to travel further. Up and down the dial you can pick up all sorts of stations. On top of that, Fall and Winter is said to be the best seasons for DXing on the AM. Some conditions can interfere with reception including overhead wires and other electrical interferences. Wet soil is great for receiving but a rocky ground is not.

Now, do you remember those two houses I rummaged through? The ones that were about to be demolished? Well, I just happened to run across a gem of a radio inside the basement of one of them. A Realistic 12-655! Initially I just figured it was a good replacement for my current radio (a cheap $8 pocket radio I picked up from Walgreens). But with a quick search on the internet I realized I stumbled onto a highly coveted radio. It's a radio made in the mid 70's valued for it's quality, price and adaptability for modification. I'm not a transistor radio guru, nor am I looking for the best AM receiver available, but I'm very pleased with my new radio. It is a definite improvement to my pocket radio. It has a better reception, I'm able to plug it in so I don't have to buy batteries, and has an external antenna jack. I saw a few home made loop antennas that I plan on building someday.

So, there you have it. This has been my major source of entertainment these past months. I listen to CBC Radio 1 during the day while I work outside. I'd like to listen to it some at night, but we usually have the laptop plugged in by then. Hopefully, when the cob studio gets built and winter comes along, I'll be able to delve into my little radio hobby and discover new and interesting things that's happening around the world. I'm sure it will be well used on our homestead and can be a possible learning tool for Phoenix as well. I just may even get into QSLing.

Here is a picture of my little unit.


Rick's picture

That's a lot of science in that post! Nice!

This sounds like something I would spend a lot of time doing.

By Rick