It is the (a few weeks) younger brother to the RX-666, a brainchild of Oscar Steila, IK1XPV. And it is one of the first palm-sized SDRs in the price class of 200 US-$ which covers the whole HF band for receiving, recording and playing with 16Bit resolution, resulting in a competitive dynamic range of about 100dB. I got one from China via eBay (there are numerous sellers) within a few days. Overnight, Simon, G4ELI, made his SDRC V3 software to match also to the RX-888 with excellence. You need a PC, an i5 should do it, with USB3.0 for data streaming, controlling and power supply. Yes, there is no need for a separate 5 or 12VDC!
Much had been speculated about one obvious fact: the price of the A/D chip is, if only a medium order is placed, the same or even higher than the price tag at the RX-888. How comes? One rumor with some substantial background results in this story: the chips had been desoldered from boards of other projects which didn’t pass the quality control. These boards had been sold at a low price as a bonanza to smart people who can use all the parts which on their own will have passed the quality control, most notably the pivotal A/D chip.
This blog should give you a first impression. The biggest difference between RX-666 and RX-888 seems to be that the latter is equipped with a permanent low-noise amplifier of +20dB which perfectly balances sensitivity and dynamic range for 90% of us DXers. Sensitivity on HF is nearly on par with FDM-S2.
I tested the RX-888 from 10kHz to 32MHz and had a look above 32MHz – see the two following screenshots.
The RX-888 also worky nicely together with decoders like DRM or (other) data, see the two following screenshots.
PC power: Nowadays, a “receiver” is a system, consisting of an SDR (the box), software and the PC. While world-class software SDRC V3 is for free, and an top SDR costs just about 200 US-$, you should not forget an able PC. It must be an i5 and up if you want to digest bigger bandwidth like 8 MHz, 16 MHz or even 32MHz. Even for recording 32 MHz, there is no need for internal SSDs, a fast iron disk will do the job. Furthermore: 32MHz recording for 24 hours do expect a bit more than 11TB disk space. This calls for an external HD, and a second USB3.0 card (not: hub!) is a must. As external HD, I use the WD MyBook Duo, delivering 28TB at under 750 US-$. The combination of an desktop i7 and this HD ensures stutter-free recording and playing up to bandwidth of at least 32MHz. Here simply more is more …
Last, but not least, please find below a few audio examples of broadcast as well as utility stations. They proof that the RX-888 is a serious receiver at a ridiculous low price.
Recently, I came across the different sign-on ceremonies of different transmitters. The idea is to understand this workflow in which obviously several stages of the transmitter are switched on consecutively. See at the top one example, where Voice of Turkey is swithcing on their transmitter on 9880kHz in five steps within about three seconds.
The diagram was made with Simon Brown’s unique software SDRC V3. I used the Signals Analyser module, providing a (needed!) time resolution of down to just one millisecond, or 1000 values of level vs. frequency in just one second! These data (CSV) had been exported and visualized in QtiPlot software.
I would like to encourage other people to join these observations. One goal can be toi fingerprint no only a transmitter, but also the workflow of the people at the transmitter. Please refer to this website for a database of broadcasters and their transmitters plus galore of associated data.
In the meantime, I already observed a couple of different workflows/transmitters. Please keep in mind that all these measurements (better: estimations), of course, are prone to fading. You may also see some effects during sign-on in the spectrogram, see below.
Since Marco Polo, combinations of Italian and Chinese had proven fruitful. The Dragonfly RX-666 is such a combination or, at least, a very special “kind of”. It is a 16bit SDR, ranging 1 kHz to 30 MHz in a row with 16 bit resolution – plus some extra above 32MHz (1.5/1.7GHz) by the help of an R820T2-chip of RTL-SDR fame, but 8 bit only. Priced not much over US-$ 200 (if that) at some ebay sellers, it is a real gamechanger, offering for the first time 32 MHz streaming via USB3.0 at 16 bit resolution to ensure a competitive dynamic range.
It has been built around LTC2208 chip and seems a clone, a twin or a pirate piece of a concept, literally layed/laid out by Oscar Steila, IK1XPV, an electronics engineer from Turin. Über-DXer Bjarne Mjelde has diven deep into the story and the receiver itself. I don’t want to repeat what he found out in only my own words. You simply must read his story here, and I can stress each and every word of it.
In this blog, I may add only some audio clips to give an impression of the reception quality in Northern Germany on the evening of August 11 and the morning of August 12, 2020. Antenna, as always, is the professional active dipole MD300DX, vertical with 2 x 5 m legs. Recordings were made with HDSDR software, but replay done with SDRC V3. Both, Bjarne and Oscar, helped me to get the SDR flying at all. Without their friendly hand, it would have been only another heavy paperweight on my desk …
Now for some twelve audio clips:
The range above 32 MHz is covered by an R820T2-chip at maximum streaming bandwidth of 8MHz only. Please see below a screenshot of a part of the FM broadcast band:
In the last weeks, I had used Sporadic-E conditions to stroll a bit in the FM broadcast band in search for DX. Elad’s FDM-S3 covers the whole 20 MHz wide band, and Simon Brown’s SDRC V3 software again provides an unique and most valuable tool to dig out DX. Antenna is an active Dressler ARA-200 (R.I.P.).
This blog entry shows how to make use of short openings of only some (ten) seconds.
First step is to record the whole FM broadcast band for hours on external HD. Then you make up so-called “spectrograms” by V3’s Analyser module. This provides you with a picture of activity (signal strengths color-coded) over time and frequency – see screenshot at top of this blog.
Scrolling through this spectrogram, you can make out even the shortest openings. Just click onto one of them, and the software instantaneously tunes into it. The sensitive RDS decoder of V3 is doing the last step – showing its RDS identification.
The short video below gives one example from a recording of June 26, 2020. On 91.8 MHz, I received semi-local transmitter NDR 1 NDS at Visselhövede (5kW@67 km distance), with “Stand by me”. From the spectrogram, I saw a “blob” (see screenshot at the top of this blog), stretching over around 40 seconds. It turned out to be Algerian’s Akfadou transmitter with Chaine 2 programme, 70 kW ERP@1’810km distance! RDS did tell me. Just have a look at the short video below which was made with V3’s video recorder …
V3 software provides also an a-symmetrical tuning of bandwidth, even at wide FM/BFM. This is important to identify some stations “in the clear” – if they are prone to some spillover from a local/regional station right on an adjacent channel. The following example spots Radio Marca/Mallorca from Spain on 91.6 MHz, suffering not only from a a strong local just 100 kHz below, but also from a very short appearance “out of the blue”, to where it disappeared again after less than 30 seconds. The latter is shown in the spectrogram, made by the Analyser, where I magnified the small/short signal of Radio Marca over 1’541 km. The video at the bottom shows how to evade the interference from the channel below to get the RDS code “B002 R.MARCA” correct.
Sometimes propagtion is too short for any identifcation, neither RDS, nor by announcement. Take the next screenshots as example: The spectrogram shows some very short openings revealing similar pattern which cropping the recording (Crop – > Apply) confirms. It turns out to be an English-speaking stations for a maximum of ten seconds. Parallel listening reveals the same programme on the following eight frequencies: 88.3MHz, 88.4MHz, 88.5MHz, 88,7MHz, 88.9MHz, 89.1MHz, 89.7MHz and 89.8MHz. The only intersection turns out to be Raidió Teilifís Éireann from different locations with their Radio 1 programme.
RTE transmitter usually do have RDS onboard, but here the time with a modest signal was too short to raise the alarm. On the other hand, there are stations with RDS, but not programmed or even without RDS at all. Take Radio Tisnath/Algeria in Tamazight, a Berber language, as an example for the first and Radio Blagovestiye/Russia as an example for the latter:
When HF collects new power for the autumn season, it’s time to thrown an ear onto VHF. I did so in May 2020, and the spectrogram at the top should give you an impression of the power and glory with with Sporadic-E fills the ORT band and the FM broadcast band. Having published some audio examples from both bands in the two recent posts, I now want to make some comments on this exciting propagation mode.
One signature of Sporadic-E is a highly selective propagation in respect to geographical regions – resembling a laser pointer. Please find below an example of just 90 seconds on 93.9 MHz on 29May2020, around 18:00 UTC (the vertical interruption at the last quarter of the audio spectrogram. It starts with a powerful-modulated, yet unidentified, Italien station with pop music. Then, Radio Constanine from Kef El Akhal (per RDS 2425) takes over with a distinctive (lower) sound, gevoerning the channel for a time, until the Italian comes through again. If play the audio clip and following its spectrogram in parallel, you surely will see what I mean.
Parallel listening on two channels is an essential tool to identify the same station on different channels. Place one (e.g. the left) audio channel on one frequency, and the other audio channel with a 2nd RX on the other (in this case: right channel). This can be done easily with SDRC V3 software. There will always be a time lag between both channels for at least two reasons: the main reason is that two frequencies are usually coming from two different locations, fed over different lines from the studio which causes a slight time difference. The other reason: different RXs in SDRC V3 software ore not phase-synchronized, so there is a small difference. Another difference might occur from different propagation time from two locations (300 km = 1ms!).
The screenshot below shows a typical setup: on 87.7 MHz a station in Arabic was heard. It was set onto RX1/left audio channel. To identify this station, RX2 was set to the right audio channel. Leaving RX1 on its frequency as the reference channel, RX2 was tuned to other channels with Arabic programme. The first hit was made on 87,6 MHz, second on 90,8 MHz, third on 92.5 MHz – all carrying the same programme. Hence, it was very likely SNRT Al Idaa Al-Watania from Morocco from four different locations at distances from 2312 to 2613 km.
The Radio Data System RDS provides an identifcation and often some additional information. First, you see the “Programm Identification Code – RDS-PI”. This is used to support an automatically scan of the receiver to tune always the best channel of this programme. Hence, it designates a programme which is used throughout a chaine of programmes. The “Programme Service Code – PDS-PS” needs a bit longer and gives, if programmed, additional information. As the RDS signal sits on edge of the channel and is quite slow, it is a bit delicate to receive from weak stations under interference. The first example below gives a full-blown RDS signal from a local broadcaster, followed by some RDS signals from DX stations.
Fading can be nerve-wrecking. Stations come and go. And they reliably go at top of the hour when the listener expects a station identification … Below I compared the signal from a still near-regional transmitter at a distance of 83 km with that of Radio Constatine/Algeria, 1802 km away. The grey block marks the limit, whre Radio Constanine can be demodulated.
Again, Sporadic-E reception. Now some examples from the FM Broadcast Band (87.5 to 108.0 MHz), as received in spring 2020 at my location in Northern Germany. See my former post for examples from the OIRT FM Band.
Non-official radio stations always attracted shortwave listeners who call them “clandestines”, follwing a mixture of mis-understanding and romanticism. The range of this class of stations is remarkably wide. Nowadays, the majority of them is renting time from major transmission centres like Nauen/Germany, Issoudun/France or Toshkent/Uzbekistan.
As all media, they are put into service to influence people and to sell something by propaganda. The difference between an official broadcaster, like Voice of America, and a “clandestine” like North Korea Reform Radio is not palpable – both are financed by the U.S. Congress.
With most broadcasters transmitting on a scale between facts (“white” – nearly only the BBC) and sheer disinformation (“black”), clandestines are placed on the darker third of this range. The separation between “clandestine” and “official” is rather artificial. There simply is no difference between e.g. the official World Harvest Radio and the clandestine Voice of Wilderness, both religious brodcasters, funded by Cornerstone Ministries International/USA – to take just two religious stations.
Today’s activity of clandestines is concentrated on Africa and Asia with especially taking countries like North Korea, China, Eritrea and Sudan into focus.
Some clandestines are jammed, mostly by official broadcasters of the target countries with more or less their usual broadcast; rarely by transmitters just carrying noise.
All known clandestines are official in the sense that the government of the transmitting country knows about their activity and, tacitly at least, is endorsing it. More often than not, clandestines are simply the grey/black arm of their governmental propaganda, like the South Korean “Echo of Hope”, presumably maintained by a (however, non-existing) “General Union of Overseas Compatriots” which in fact turned out to be the South Korean National Intelligence Service NIS.
If you want to look behind the veil, just “follow the money”. In most cases you will land at the U.S. Congress (see illustration below) or some other governmental entities of a third country. Yes, also take care of NGOs, as some (not all) of these “Non-governmental Organizations” are funded by – nothing more but governments of a third country; a system much reminding to money laundering or the game “three shells and a pea”.
The overwhelming number of clandestines orignates from “the West”. You can play bullshit bingo with their names or the names of their funding organizations containing: “freedom”, “democracy” and “independence” at the least. That they are running under false flags, gives the right impression of how some kind of journalism works in “the West”.
The authoritative World Radio TV Handbook has an own section of “Clandestine and other target broadcasts”. Please find below some examples out of their 2020’s edition (pp. 509) plus some examples following my a bit wider definition of a clandestine station: each station, which intentionally disguises their source. So you will find Azadradio, but not “Voice of America/VoA Deewa Radio”, although both are financed by the U.S. government.
All stations had been received between December 2019 and April 2020 in Northern Germany. Their reception quality, of course, is very different; for some of them you should put your headphones over.
The following 27 audio clips, appearing in their target countries’ order (or, the country to/against which people/government their transmissions are targeted), were made from wide-band HF recordings with Winradio’s Über-SDR Excalibur Sigma, connected to MD300DX antenna, an active dipole, hung vertical, with 2 x 5m legs; software: SDRC V3.
P.S.: I know, you must not scroll. But please allow me for an expcetion in this case.
AFGHANISTAN Azadradiowith their headquarters in Kabul is a branch of RFE/RL, a mouthpiece of the U.S. government. Transmitting towards Afghanistan in Pashtu and Dari.
AZERBAIJAN Voice of Free Talyshistan is transmitted by the Modus Vivendi Center, based in Yerevan/Armenia. Chairman of this non-governmental organization is Armenian lawyer, historian and diplomat Ara Papian. In an interview with TERT [an Armenian media] he supports Armenia’s president that “[land-locked] Armenia must divide [oil-rich] Azerbaijan [at Caspian Sea] as a political unit, cooperating with stateless nations”. One of this “stateless nation” are the Taliysh people, representing 1,4% of the people of Azerbaijan. Hence, Voice of Free Talyshtan is an instrument to separate a future and Armenia-friendly “Talyshistan” from Azerbaijan.
CHAD Radio Ndarason Internationale is based in N’djamena, the Chad’s capital. It is aimed to the people in the Northern Nigeria and Chad region and is directed against the islamic Boko Haram network. The programme is produced by Johannesburg-based Okapi Consulting, a “media consulting agency”, maintaining no less than five radio stations. Radio Ndarason is aired by BBC transmitters from Wofferton/UK and Ascension.
CHINA  [among others] Radio Free Asia was founded by the US Congress and is financed by the USA as part of their foreign policy. Part of its task is to encourage separating movements – e.g. in China with transmissions in Tibetian and Uyghur; the common pattern of this kind of stations, see also the Azerbaijan entry above.
Sound of Hope with headquarters in San Francisco/USA, is the broadcasting arm of Falun Gong. This organization covers a wide spectrum of religious, economical and political fields. It is controversly debated over in the West as in the East. In China, it is forbidden. SoH uses a couple of more or less low-power and frequency-agile transmitters from said locations in Taiwan; also Thailand is rumored. By errors in switching the audio onto a transmitter, I heard also the sound of Radio Free Asia’s Mandarin channel on some of their 100+ frequencies. China performs cat-and-mouse games to place one of their much more powerful transmitters on some of SoH’s active and ever-changing channels. Sound of Hope usually transmits some ±100Hz off nominal channels and also often outside the brodcasting bands to evade jamming. Funding is done by Falun Gong plus, presumably, also by the U.S. government via their USAGM.
CHINA  Voice of Tibet is producing from Dharamsala/India and promotes Tenzin Gyatso (Dalai Lama), living in exile in just this city. He himself considers the radiostation, as it “… allows us Tibetans to comment on events of Tibetan interest from our own perspective”. Voice of Tibet is funded by a Norwegian charitable foundation (Stiftelsen Tibetprojekt). It is mostly transmitting ±1 kHz off an designated channel.
Radio Televisión Martí is produced by the Miami-based Office of Cuba Broadcasting, a branch of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, USAGM. This, in turn, is part of the U.S. federal entity “Broadcasting Board of Governors” – the usual matryoshka concept of a puppet in a puppet in a puppet, all firmly hanging on the strings of their government. They mention “democracy”, “independant”? Bingo!
ERITREA Radio Erena is produced by Eritrean journalists in Paris and is supported by by Reporters without Borders.
Radio Fardawith their headquarters in Prague/Czech Republic is a branch of RFE/RL, a mouthpiece of the U.S. government. Transmitting towards Iran in Farsi.
KOREA [North]  Furusato no Kaze/Ilbon-ui Baram is officially brodcasted by the Japanese Government “to Japanese people who have abducted by North Korea and are still trapped in North Korea”. They are the same stations with Furusato no Kaze (Wind from the Homeland) is broadcasting in Japanese, whereas Ilbon-ui Baram (Wind from Japan) transmits in Korean. Both IDs are presented by each an audio clip.
Korea [North]  Voice of Wilderness is produced in Seoul/Korea by the religious organisation Voice of Wilderness Ministries, based in “Tamil Nadu/South India”. As far as I understood their sermon, they believe in “a second coming of Jesus” – excactly the problem, that mankind and especially the targeted people in North Korea are interested in most. They seem to be affiliated to Cornerstone Ministries/USA and Korean Reconciliation Initiatice and Network, wanting to “restore the church” in North Korea.
Korea [North]  Echo of Hope claims to be produced by the otherwise non-existing “General Union of Oversea’s Compatriots” which is an echo of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service NIS, in turn being an echo of the South Korean Government.
Korea [North]  North Korea Reform Radio maintained by the so-called NGO North Korea Development Institute which in financed by the U.S. foundation “National Endwonment for Democracy”, funded by grants from the U.S. Congress.
Korea [North]  Voice of the People, operated by the South Korean National Intelligence Service by another yet unknown organization, dubbed “Korean Workers Union”.
NIGERIA Dandal Kura Radio International, funded by USAID, an organization under the US Department of State. It is aimed to the people in the Northern Nigeria and Chad region and is directed against the islamic Boko Haram network.
PAKISTAN Mashaalradio with their headquarters in Prague/Czech Republic is a branch of RFE/RL, a mouthpiece of the U.S. government. Transmitting towards Pakistan in Urdu.
RUSSIA [among others] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, now only a shadow of itself, was in nearly all aspects a role model of this kind of propaganda radio. Founded in 1949/1953 by an organization fully funded by the CIA (until 1972), it played a major role in Cold War’s “War with Waves”. It remains an United States Government-funded media agency until today with still a few outlets on medium wave and HF, covering East Europe as well as Russia, Iran, Central Asia, Caucasus, Southeast Asia and the Balkans.
SOUTH SUDAN  Eye Radio is operated by Eye Media Ltd. and was/is supported by USAID, an organization under the US Department of State.
SOUTH SUDAN 
Radio Tamazuj is produced by the organization “Free Press Unlimited”, which is largely (89%) funded by the government of the Netherlands. Additional 8% of the budget comes from the Dutch Postcode Lottery. Targetting the people on both sides of the border between South Sudan and Sudan.
SUDAN Radio Dabanga is produced by the organization “Free Press Unlimited”, which is largely (89%) funded by the government of the Netherlands. Additional 8% of the budget comes from the Dutch Postcode Lottery. Targetting the people on both sides of the border between South Sudan and Sudan.
TURKEY [among others] Radio Dengê Welat is the third metamorphosis of what started in 2012 as Radio Dengê Mezopotamya, to be changed fived years later into Radio Dengê Kurdistanê. It transmits in four Kurdish dialects to Kurdish people. Their headquarters are said to be in Belgium in Denderleeuw near Brussels. It is backed by Uppsala-based Stiftelsen Kurdisk Media.
YEMEN [and others] Radio Al-Azm is a branch of the Saudi Arab Broadcasting Authority with their programme aimed to Saudi military personnel in southern Saudi Arabia and Yemen
Okay, the birthday flowers are already letting hang their heads – but better late than never: Happy birthday, Radio Xinjiang, XJBS!
It was founded in the same year as the People’s Republic of China itself. Only the 1957 edition of the authorative World Radio Handbook took a first notice of their shortwave transmitters at Ürümqi. One of these frequencies, namely 4500 kHz, is still active today.
Among DXers, Radio Xinjiang is a welcomed signal from their transmitters at Ürümqi-Hutubi and at Ürümqi-Changii, some ten kilometeres northwest of Xinjiang’s capital Ürümqi, all in the north-west corner of China.
XJBS’ shortwave transmits in Uighur, Kazakh, Mongolian and Mandarin (“Chinese”) to serve the majority of listeners in each their mother tongue. Please find below their station’s announcement in each of those language. I especially like the “Nĭ hăo, Xinjiang” of the Mandarin recording at second 20. The announcer must have seen Good Morning, Vietnam, undoubtedly echoing Adrian Cronauer [the late Robin Williams]. Just for conaisseurs: in the YouTube clip, Adrian mentioned “Hanoi Hannah”, or Trịnh Thị Ngọ, a popular radio announcer at Radio Hanoi from 1965 airing three shows per day in English, directed towards US GIs. She left microphone only in 1973, after the USA fled from her country.
The following audio clips from my 25MHz/24h recording of December 16, 2019, received with Winradio’s Über-SDR Excalibur Sigma, connected to MD300DX antenna, an active dipole, hung vertical, with 2 x 5m legs.
I will come back to this interesting station with an analysis of their alltogether 24 HF frequencies between 3950kHz and 13670kHz here in Northern Germany in December 2019, as well as in early April 2020.
P.S. Below a QSL of this station, from 1984 on 4735kHz.
The news about the death of HF Broadcast are greatly exaggerated. The map on the top presents 574 active stations, scattered all over the world. This interactive map has been made with free Tableau Public software: simply click onto the map, an in another tab of your browser it pops up. Now you can point your mouse to a mark and see some data.
There even is more: as some transmitting sites are used by several broadcasters, this fact is shown by different colors. Your mouse will tell.
The best thing of this map is the fact that it is strictly geo-referenced. If you zoom into a station, you should directly see the transmitting site form above – depending, of course, from the resolution of the underlying OSM satellite map.
After having scrutinzed all sources (HFCC, WRTH …) available, I finally decided for ILGRadio. Only these data are concise, complete and precise – a great achievement of Bernd Friedewald since decades! [To keep things simple, only one transmitter’s power is noted for each site]
This map, together with ILGRadio (see below), works as a promising starting point of future work, e.g. band scans in the light of the 21st century …