As stated many times before, I have been fascinated by all radio electronics since early childhood.
It wasn’t until my mid-teens that I began to allow these interests to flourish.
At the age of 15 going on 16 (late 2002), I began subscribing to the C. Crane Catalog. It was through reading that catalog that I learned of two subjects:
AM (Medium Wave) DXing
This piece will be about the former.
Some people AM DX because they are dissatisfied with the content produced by their local radio stations. I know there are a limited amount of frequency spaces in a given market and commercial radio doesn’t keep everyone in mind. I have been a fan of talk radio since the age of 16. I will admit that there isn’t much programming locally that catches my attention. I know I am not the only one and before the Internet, the way to catch a certain show in a distant city was by listening to AM at night.
Most do it because they are sports fans that live far away from the city in which their team is located, but still want coverage of that game. I think this is the main reason why most people who are into AM Dxing are indeed into AM DXing. Years ago, I had written in a piece I wrote about vintage electronics about how a middle-aged working-class man who enjoys nighttime sporting events and wants to hear a certain game. Maybe that game isn’t available on any local station and would cost extra on a pay television subscription. Maybe he doesn’t want to pay the extra amount of money to see it on his pay television service. Either he just cannot afford to or maybe he has that money set aside for things he deems more important. Whatever the case, he turns to AM radio as a means to still get the details of whatever game he desires to hear. This is because of the properties of anything broadcast on the frequencies at which AM (Medium Wave) radio is situated. These signals travel much further between sunset and sunrise, sometimes thousands of miles. So this is perfect for any sports fan who needs free coverage of a game that is not available on a local station. For this reason alone, I think that analog terrestrial radio needs to stay because it is a completely free source of information and entertainment.
Quite a few may do it because they live in one part of the country but are originally from another, so it is a means to keep up with what is going on in their hometown, though the Internet may have drastically reduced AM radio as the main means of accomplishing this task. Before free long distance and cheap, easy to use Internet devices, keeping tabs on what was going on in a distant city often meant listening to an AM station from that city at night. It seems to have made the distance a little shorter at times.
And finally others, like me, do it as a technological hobby. Although I am dissatisfied with the content produced by my local stations as well. However, I chalk the boring content on New Orleans radio stations up to a very wicked woman named Katrina. I just think there is something very neat how I can turn a radio on after dark and suddenly have access to dozens of extra stations from up to thousands of miles away and for free. I grew up with cable tv in the house and had Internet access since the age of 13. As an adult, I refuse to subscribe to cable, but I would be in trouble if I had no Internet. But the fact that I can get content from far away and for free is somehow empowering and I think is the main reason why I am into AM DXing.
In late 2002, I had found out from reading the C. Crane Catalog about AM DXing. However, I wouldn’t give it a try until a year later.
The two radios designed for AM DXing that were featured in the Fall 2002 C. Crane Catalog were the original CC Radio plus which was $159.95+shipping and the G. E. Superadio 3 which was $64.95+shipping. Both of these were well out of the price range for an unemployed fifteen-year-old. So I didn’t order them. In fact, to this day, the only product that I ever ordered from the C. Crane Catalog was a Sangean DT-200VX. I ordered it in the Summer of 2007 and it could do AM DXing fairly decently for a radio of its size. It was nothing to pull in WSM out of Nashville on any night while in Southeast Louisiana. My ex-wife wound up with that radio because she liked it more than I did and I guess I wanted her to have it. One day though I might order a CC Pocket Radio if I have some extra money, but that remains to be seen.
The first time I tried AM DXing was in October of 2003, but I ended up listening to a show on a local station because it had my undivided attention. The radio I was using was a Radio Shack 12-756, which I would come to find out is pretty decent for a budget radio. But that night, I would end up listening to that show until it was no longer available because the station carrying it slightly changed formats. However, when I would listen to that station at night, I noticed that other stations were trying to make it in on the same frequency. Many times those other stations were in Spanish which makes me think they were either in Central America or the Caribbean. That was the first time I observed AM stations traveling further at night.
In the early morning hours of February 15, 2004, I was up early and tried AM DXing for the first time. I was again using my Radio Shack 12-756. The first station I remember catching was KTRS on 550 kHz out of Saint Louis. I kept it in a log but unfortunately misplaced that log. However, after that, I kept on AM DXing, at least until I was done with high school. On my eighteenth birthday, I remember picking up WSM on 650 kHz on my LifeLong Baby BoomBox 2225. Later on, in 2005 I remember picking up KFGO on 790 kHz out of Fargo, North Dakota. On July 18, 2005, I passed the test to become a licensed amateur radio operator.
I met the girl who would become my wife and later ex-wife on January 7, 2007. After that I didn’t have much time for my radio hobbies because I was in a relationship, going to school, and later working. However, I would still do AM DXing every once in a while. I remember catching plenty of stations from The Midwest in those days.
After my divorce, another failed relationship, and being on disability, I find myself with a considerable amount of time to devote to the hobby. So much so, that I recently purchased a second-hand but in very good condition GE Superadio 3. I haven’t yet caught a station as far away as KFGO, but I did hear a station out of Charlotte, North Carolina. It is WBT on 1100 kHz. None of my other radios ever picked up a station from that area, so I must say I am impressed!
Unfortunately, AM DXing isn’t as easy as it once was. There aren’t as many AM stations to choose from and there is a lot more electrical noise because more people have WiFi and Bluetooth devices. However, during a power failure or on vacation in the middle of nowhere would be ideal times to try and engage in AM DXing. I plan to do just that the next time I travel. Of course, just traveling out in the country at night is the perfect time for AM DXing with a car radio. I’ve done it quite a few times.
I hope analog terrestrial radio even the AM band will be in place for decades to come and I hope there will be a revival of it and it will be better than it has been for some time.
Try it for yourself, after dark, turn your AM receiver on and see what stations are available. Likely, you will be pleasantly surprised!
This now concludes my piece on AM DXing.
I hope that you, the reader, have been informed, entertained, and enlightened.
May God richly bless you!
One thought on “About AM (Medium Wave) DXing”
I fall into the category: “…he just cannot afford to or maybe he has that money set aside for things he deems more important”.
I started “DX’ing” in the 1950’s with a small crystal radio my father helped me build. Since we had only two channels here ***anything New*** was a Godsend. Mostly from Detroit, Chicago and Boston high power stations. Later when I had a part-time job I splurged on a Panasonic 5 (?) band shortwave set but still mostly AM.
We still (60 years later have crap local radio… !?!