Longwave DXing: Radio Romania Antena Satelor

Saturday, August 01, 2015
In the early hours of Friday morning, just before going to bed, I inserted a fresh pair of AA batteries into my analogue Roberts R9962 portable radio and fired it up for some late night listening. Despite its simple looks and the lack of bells and whistles, R9962 is a fine radio. However, I was immediately reminded that my home is plagued by severe interference on HF from the adjacent apartments and that using this radio on its own on shortwave is simply not feasible in such conditions. The only relatively quiet frequencies were in the lower part of the long wave spectrum. I switched the band selector into the LW position, put the radio on the window sill and started slowly tuning the dial. I heard our BBC Radio 4 on 198 kHz, a few French stations further down the frequency range but none of this seemed particularly interesting for some reason. Just as I reached the very bottom of the dial I heard a very faint signal against the backdrop of constant static crashes and crackles. I rotated the radio so that its ferrite bar antenna would be maximally aligned with the incoming signal, and although it was still a bit weak, I immediately recognised it — what I was hearing was none other than Radio Romania's Antena Satelor on 153 kHz! Long wave signals usually do not travel very far, even at night when the ionosphere allows for some long distance opportunities in this part of the spectrum, so at 2000km this was certainly some impressive DX. I have certainly had many nights when I couldn't hear it with my Wellbrook loop antennas and all the additional anti-interference gear in place.

After listening for a few minutes I realised that I'd better record this — who knows when the bands will open up like that again! At night, Antena Satelor play traditional Romanian music, and at the start of the recording I caught what I think was the end of the program featuring some of their songs from the 1930s. Then, at the top of the hour the station switched gears and started playing Romanian folk music instead, something that is now quite familiar to me after a few years of listening to Radio Romania International on shortwave. However, one more surprise was in store: the signal started becoming stronger steadily and after about ten minutes the little red light on the radio came on — now we were definitely tuned in! Nonetheless, even while the signal was very faint, I was impressed by how reliably the R9962 was pulling it out from the static, something that can be heard by comparing the volume of the audio with the strength of the static crashes. I hope there will be more nights when I can hear Antena Satelor with such clarity!

Below is the full recording for your enjoyment (153 kHz on 31/07/2015 at 0055 UTC):

Click here to download the recording instead