Antenna Site for Shortwave Station WRMI near Okeechobee, Florida.  This is the facility that airs “Your Weekend Show.”  

AM/FM & Shortwave Radio

Portable Radio with analog dial

Small hand held Shortwave radio

Typical SW Transmitter

WHAT IS SHORTWAVE RADIO?

By Bob Biermann

Most people in the Western World are not familiar with shortwave radio, its power, and its impact.  Shortwave is nothing new, it has been around for over 80 years.  It is nothing more than conventional AM radio on a higher frequency (HF band) instead of the medium wave (standard AM) band.  What makes shortwave unique is the ability of shortwave to cover vast distances and regions, which conventional AM and FM radio simply cannot do.  Powerful shortwave facilities can reach the entire world.  
 
We live in a world that is in a state of upheaval, and many tried and true institutions are suddenly being put into question. In the field of international broadcasting, one of the questions being asked is the viability of shortwave radio in the age of satellites and the Internet.
 
Perhaps the most important aspects of shortwave broadcasting is that radio broadcasts operated from shortwave transmitters antennas may reach areas that may be sealed from other media (paper, local radio & TV & Internet) and will overcome any permanent or temporary ban (i.e. in case of elections, wars, military occupation) of using local media to carry open news programs.
 
There are literally millions of shortwave receivers in use. They are compact, portable, easy to use, and above all, cheap. Technically speaking, there is no other sound broadcasting medium that can compete with shortwave in these respects.
 
Ever family should be prepared to be able to survive during times of emergencies. It is often recommended (and I fully concur) that you should own a portable radio that operates on batteries, solar, or even “wind-up” power.  A radio that can pick up local AM and FM stations, along with NOAA radio weather, is a must have item.  However, I would also strongly advise to add an inexpensive shortwave radio to the mix.  

Things to consider if you decide to purchase a Shortwave Radio

There are many different makes and models of shortwave radios, and they vary greatly in cost, features, size, complexity, and other factors. There is no one "right" shortwave radio for everyone. On our "How to Listen" page, there is a list of places you can find a shortwave radio. Inclusion in this list is not an endorsement or recommendation, but it does give you a point of reference to start. The best shortwave radio for you depends primarily on your listening interests. However, there are some features and specifications you should look for in any shortwave radio you consider. They are:
 
• Frequency coverage. Shortwave frequencies are usually considered those from the upper end of the AM broadcasting band, 1700 kHz, up to 30 MHz. The minimum frequency coverage you should look for is 540 kHz to 30 MHz. Most shortwave radios sold today also tune down to 150 kHz, covering the longwave band.
 
• Frequency readout. Most shortwave radios sold today have a digital display showing the frequency the radio is tuned to. A few radios, usually less expensive models, have an analog "slide rule" frequency readout that does not indicate the precise frequency the radio is receiving. It can be very difficult and frustrating to find a station on a specific frequency without a digital display, so a digital frequency display should be a "must" for any shortwave radio you’re considering. However, an analog readout shortwave radio can make a good, inexpensive "spare" radio for traveling, etc.
 
 
 
• Modes. Some shortwave radios tune only AM mode stations, and these can be satisfactory for listening to most shortwave broadcasting stations. However, SSB is used by a few broadcasting stations in addition to ham, aeronautical, military, and maritime communications. A shortwave radio that can receive SSB in addition to AM will greatly expand your listening options on shortwave.
 

• Selectivity Options.
 Selectivity is discussed in more detail below, but you need to consider how many selectivity bandwidths you can select. Some portable receivers allow you to choose between "wide" and "narrow" selectivity bandwidths, while some desktop shortwave radios have as many as five selectivity bandwidths. Narrow selectivity bandwidths let you reduce interference from stations on adjacent frequencies, although the audio quality of the desired station will be reduced as the selectivity is narrowed.
 
• Antenna Connections. Some portable radios come with a built-in telescoping antenna but have no provision for an external antenna. Other portable shortwave radios have a jack that let you connect an external antenna. Most tabletop shortwave radios have connectors for external antennas. These usually include connectors for antennas using 50 ohm coaxial cables and others for antennas using ordinary insulated "hook-up" wire. External antennas normally give better reception than built-in antennas, although built-in antennas are usually satisfactory for listening to major international broadcasting stations. However, built-in antennas give poor results inside buildings with steel frames, like a high-rise condominium or apartment buildings. In such cases, the ability to connect an external antenna (even it is only a few feet of wire outside a window) can make a significant improvement in reception.