Introduction to DXing
DXing means listening to far-away
usually foreign radio stations.
Listening to your regular hometown station is not
DXing, but listening to a similar station thousands
of kilometers away, outside the normal coverage area,
"D" is said to mean
distance and "X" refers to the unknown.
DXers hobbyists who enjoy DXing try
to pick up radio stations, which normally would not
be audible at such a distance.
Most DXers concentrate on broadcasting
stations. This refers to stations that are meant to
be listened to by the general public. Radio waves
are also used by various utility
stations from cellphone companies to sea and air traffic
as well as the military, and some DXers enjoy hunting
these signals as well.
DXing was the way to learn about the world and connect
with the outside world in real time before satellite
television and the Internet. Even today, DXing offers
an intriguing and challenging way to get in touch
with remote corners of the world.
DXers should not be confused
with radio amateurs also known as ham operators.
Unlike a ham operator, a DXer doesn't transmit anything
himself and doesn't therefore need any license. DXers
don't need to know about electronics, radio technology
nor about telegraphy, but as a hobby DXing can be
Advanced hobbyists often
buy a communications receiver specifically designed
for the hobby, but these are fairly expensive.
A beginner can start with any receiver which
has shortwave bands (all or parts of the frequency
range 3-30 MHz) and a digital frequency display.
The challenge lies in picking up radio signals at
an incredible distance. In other parts of the world
there are still hundreds of radio stations, which
no one on your continent has ever heard, but which
could be picked up at your location under ideal conditions
by an experienced DXer, who knows what, where
and when to hunt.
time is the right time
If you only listen
to FM stations,
you know that the same stations can be heard day
after day. The FM radio signal radiates directly
from the transmitter antenna to all directions.
Because the earth is round, and the FM signal doesn't
bend, FM radio stations are normally not heard much
beyond the horizon. Under exceptional circumstances
even an FM signal can bounce back from the atmosphere,
and these kind of special reception conditions are
what FM DXers are after.
Most DXers however are interested
in AM (mediumwave)
stations. If you have listened to the AM band, you
know that more stations can be heard during the night
than during the day. This is because at night a certain
layer in the ionosphere
(which is part of the atmosphere) reflects signals
back to the earth.
Compare the mediumwave
(AM) band in daytime and in nighttime - you
will hear how the band if full of distant signals
Sunlight however creates a new different kind of layer
at a lower altitude that weakens radio signals, especially
on the AM band, so that you can no longer hear stations
from far away. Therefore long distance AM reception
is usually possible only when both the transmitter
and the receiver and the path
in between fall under darkness.
Radio propagation on most shortwave frequencies
is rather similar. Therefore, around sunset, DXers
are eagerly trying to hunt for signals coming from
the east. Likewise, sunrise is the best time to hear
stations from the west. At these times, interfering
stations from other directions are not quite as strong
as for example around midnight, when stations from
all possible directions are heard and when they can
cause interference to each other. Reception conditions
change constantly due to a variety of factors, some
of which are unpredictable. Therefore, scoring rare
catches requires constant monitoring of the stations
a reception report...
DXers use special
equipment to monitor the airwaves. The so-called
communications receivers are specifically designed
for semi-professional listeners. An expensive receiver
is however useless without a good antenna. Most
DXers use antennas made of copper wire, which is
hung on trees or poles outside. You can get started
in the hobby using simple and inexpensive equipment,
but you can easily spend enormous amounts of time
and money to improve your hardware.
After hearing an interesting station, DXers try
to identify the station in question. This is often
difficult because of poor reception quality. The
station may also be transmitting in a language that
the DXer doesn't understand. Over the years DXers
develop elementary skills in a wide range of languages
and at least learn to recognize different languages,
styles of music and identification patterns. Handbooks
(especially World Radio TV Handbook), DXers' magazines
and websites like DXing.info help in planning what
frequencies and when to listen to, and also help
in analyzing your catches.
For future reference, all interesting signals are
recorded. By reviewing notes and recordings made
at the time of listening, many DXers compile reception
reports, which they send to the station
by mail or nowadays mostly by e-mail. A reception
report includes all the details of what, where,
when and how the station was heard by the distant
listener. Written program details or a recording
should be enclosed as proof of having heard the
station. In the report, DXers request a confirmation
in return this can be in the form of a letter,
an e-mail or a "QSL"
card from the station verifying that the signal
was indeed theirs.
In the past reception reports used to be valuable
feedback for international broadcasters, but nowadays
when monitoring reception quality is in many causes
automated and more professional, many stations find
themselves inundated with reception reports that
are not much use, and reply just out of courtesy.
Domestic broadcast stations can however be positively
surprised that their small local station has been
picked up in a distant country, even though far-away
listeners are not part of their target audience.
and hope for a reply
DXers collect these verifications
known as QSLs as mementos of their discoveries
on the dial, and also to demonstrate how many stations
they have been able to pick up. Even though QSLs can't
be considered as definite evidence of hearing a station
as some stations routinely confirm even insufficient
reports and other stations hardly ever reply to any
reports collecting QSLs remains a major pursuit
for many DXers. Competitions between DXers are usually
based on the number of QSLs received. Increasingly,
also recordings of station identifications are collected,
counted and saved as evidence of hearing remote stations.
Traditionally QSLs have
been in the form of cards like the above from
the Mexican station XERED (1110 kHz), but nowadays
letters and emails are more common.
On DXing.info you can get a taste of many different
aspects of DXing; read inside accounts on hunting
elusive rarities on DX-expeditions
(DXpeditions), listen to audio
samples of distant radio stations, view images of
received and browse articles
on DXing or profiles
of radio stations. Enjoy the site but don't
forget to switch your radio on, and discover for yourself
what surprising signals the airwaves may bring your