Receivers that cover the short-wave bands of 1.6 to 30 mHz, or any grouping of the popular bands in between, vary in size and quality. Portables with frequencies displayed numerically are becoming popular and are handy for general listening, especially while traveling. Home sets, especially those approaching industrial quality, are better for DX listening, but are more expensive. Receivers can be priced into thousands of US dollars, but most serious DXing is done on receivers in the less than 500 US dollars category.
When choosing a receiver right for your pocketbook, be sure to check the coverage first. It should cover the range of frequencies you want. Some sets are made for ham bands only. Some older portables try to crowd all the international broadcast frequencies into 3 or 4 bands on the set. After that, the two features to look for on a short-wave receiver are sensitivity and selectivity. Sensitivity is the ability of the receiver to pick up a weak signal, and is measured in a signal over noise ratio. The selectivity is the ability of the receiver to separate stations that are close together. Without good selectivity, nearby stations will create a high pitched tone, and weaker ones will be buried altogether. Some sets have wide and narrow selectivity positions, because the narrow listening doesn’t allow the full sound of the station to be enjoyed. Those are the basic requirements. You’ll find some good receivers on the market at reasonable prices, but the price goes up as more features are added to the set. So you must determine if you really want some of the additional gadgets and it it is worth it to your pocketbook.
Some features are standard with the set. A good feature is the single sideband mode, abbreviated SSB on the set. This allows you to listen to single sideband transmissions, and can add even more selectivity when used under difficult listening conditions.
Also standard on sets is an RF attenuator, which allows you to reduce the sensitivity of the set while listening to a strong station that would otherwise overload the receiver. Another feature, if you can afford it, is a numerical display of the frequency, called digital frequency readout. It has much more precision over analog dials, where you must determine the frequency with a pointer on a scale.
Beyond this, you get into optional features, and your needs and budget will determine your choice. Features to consider include audio tone control, an audio output jack for a tape recorder, keypad frequency selection, built-in timers, even computer control. But these won’t necessarily increase the basic sensitivity and selectivity of the receiver. When selecting a receiver, the watch-word is patience. Try out as many radios as you can, make notes, compare the performance and prices. Once purchased, a good set will give you years of enjoyment.
Important Cheek List for Receivers»
Does it receive all the bands you want to listen to?
Measured as signal to noise ratio.
Ability to separate stations on adjacent frequencies.
For listening to single side-band transmissions.
To reduce the power of especially strong stations.
A digital frequency display for greater tuning accuracy