BECAUSE WE'RE ALL ABOUT RADIO
FM DX BASICS
WHERE TO START
First, you need a radio. Any FM radio will work but you will have most success with a radio that has strong rejection of adjacent channel splatter. A car radio or home stereo should be enough to get you started but if you want to upgrade, check out the FM DX Gear page for recommendations of radios to get you started for just about any budget!
While you can FM DX from a built-in telescopic whip or some other indoor antenna, you will achieve better results with some sort of outdoor antenna. Our FM DX Gear page has some tips and guidance.
Once you have a radio and some sort of antenna (either built-in or not) you are ready to start DXing FM radio! The article linked to the right, FM/TV DX 101, is a great primer to get you started. For more information on FM propagation, check out our FM DX Propagation page!
WHAT TO LISTEN FOR
US FM stations, mostly those in the 'commercial' portion of the band (from 92.1 to the upper-end of the band) self-identify much more regularly than AM radio stations do. So, while legal IDs are still the best time to identify a station at the top-of-the-hour, you are likely to hear some sort of identifier at any commercial break and often between songs.
Here is a good example of a full legal ID from an FM station received from a Tropo opening in Charleston, SC
Once you have observed details of reception, and positively identified the station received (see the DXing Criteria at the WTFDA site) you can enter them in your logbook. While many DXers still use a paper log, computerized logs are more and more common. We have provided a very basic Excel spreadsheet you can use as a log to get you started. If you do not have Excel access, you can open this document in Google Sheets
In addition to branding slogans such as "Chuck FM," "Kiss FM," and "Sunny 102.9" which may be used by other stations on the same frequency, try to also pull any details about the station location. Local advertisements contain great information such as business names, phone numbers. addresses, Web addresses, etc. that you can use to narrow down an ID.
The below example does a little bit of that, as the only identifiers were "Hits 97.3" and then a "Hits973.com" Web site address. If you pull up that Web address, you will come to WFLC in Miami, FL, which is the area where this particular Tropo opening was favoring on that night.
Finally, you can also try to "parallel" a station to their online stream to see if programming details match. Be careful, though, syndicated programming is not a good indicator of station identification. Keep in mind, also, that many stations will run special 'online-only' commercial breaks so advertising may be different online compared to over-the-air.
WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR DX
Once you have logged those stations, now what? Most DXers will try to gain some sort of verification of the reception through either a QSL received from the station or a recording of the reception.
For the first method, you will just need to provide a report of reception to the station outlining very specific details of what you heard during your listening session. You can then mail or email that to the station in hopes they send you back a verification. They are not required to, remember. To assist, DX Central has put together some pre-prepared documents that you can use for your own station reach outs. You can download those from the folder: here.
Recording station identifications is also a way to claim verification of station reception. The easiest method to use is to utilize a Software-Defined Radio (SDR) that includes a recording feature. You can either schedule these recordings in advance for later review or you can record on the fly during your listening session. Where you store and how you organize these is up to you. You can find a collection of our own DX Central recordings under our Airchecks page. Check back often as we add new recordings on a regular basis!
JOINING A COMMUNITY!
While for many DXIng can be a solitary experience, it doesn't have to be! There are DX clubs out there that specialize in FM DX (many also cover TV DX as there is an overlap conceptually).
One of the largest is the Worldwide TV-FM DX Association. For a small, annual fee, you can join the WTFDA and receive their regular e-digest that contains news and updates on FM DX information, logs reported by other DXers and other vital information for the avid FM DXer. They also have a Facebook group where members post logs, announcements of openings, queries around equipment and general discussions related to FM DX!
There are also a large number of FM DXers from around the world on Twitter. Be sure to follow @DXCentral as we also will retweet posts from these DXers, post logs and opening announcements as well.
Also be sure to check out our FM DX links page for more sites that provide information, education, resources or tools specific to FM DX