BECAUSE WE'RE ALL ABOUT RADIO
Frequently Asked Questions
What is DX?
DX refers to the hobby of searching for distant radio transmissions. Any radio transmission can be DXed but one of the most fundamental forms of DX is AM and FM DX. This involves trying to hear stations on the AM or FM bands from as far away as possible (or to hear as many stations as possible).
What do I need to DX AM or FM radio?
A simple AM or FM radio is all you need to get started! A clock radio, home stereo, car radio or small portable should be sufficient. Additionally a notebook with which to write down
Does it cost a lot of money?
It doesn't have to! You can often use radios you already have on hand. That being said, if you want to upgrade to more advanced equipment, radios and antennas there can be significant investments. But it shouldn't be a barrier to entry for you, or be required for you to have a good time!
What is the best time to listen?
For AM radio, the period from 1-2 hours before local sunset to 1 hour after local sunrise will allow the furthest reception of signals. Likewise, fall/winter is when conditions are most favorable for AM radio DX. For FM radio, spring to early fall is the best period for propagation (time of day is not necessarily a big factor, though daytime during the summer does produce the most likely long distance FM reception.)
Are there any rules?
Besides having fun? Not really. There are certainly standards that most DXers tend to go by and they largely are governed by the 'honor code' (such as don't log a station you didn't actually hear and hear a positive identification for, etc.). This is where the radio clubs such as National Radio Club and International Radio Club of America (both AM clubs) and the Worldwide TV-FM DX Association (FM club) are helpful as their members can help provide guidance and normally set good examples for other DXers!
How did DX originate?
In the early days of radio, not much was known about the way that radio signals propagated. Stations didn't really know for sure how far or how well their signal could be received. So they would solicit listeners to send them reports of reception (we now commonly call them Reception Reports) that provided programming details of what they heard. In exchange, stations would send them written verification - often in the form of a postcard - that they had indeed heard their station (assuming the programming details checked out). These verifications (known as QSLs) became quite popular and sought after by listeners. Great pride was held by the DXer with a QSL of a distant and exotic station - the more remote and far away the better! From those early beginnings the entire DX hobby was born! The same concept was also applied to amateur radio operators, shortwave radio, FM radio, TV broadcasts...basically any time a radio signal was created, someone was DXIng it!
Are there any rewards, prizes or awards for DX?
Occasionally a radio club will hold a contest inviting members to submit logs/verifications for an award. Typically though, there are not any other rewards or awards for AM or FM DXers. The satisfaction of getting a new state, new country or even a new station is reward enough!
What is an SDR?
SDR stands for Software-Defined Radio and it is likely the future of our hobby! Traditional radios and communications receivers were devices that either were held in your hand or sat on a desktop, had knobs and buttons that you interacted with to control the radio. Today, SDRs come in small boxes, many with only hookups for at least one antenna and the cable back to your computer. All other controls are controlled through software that you download. While there are high-end SDRs such as those from ELAD, Perseus and others, newer players such as SDRPlay and Airspy have introduced high-performing and cost-effective SDRs - including some targeted for high performance on mediumwave frequencies.
What is the best radio for....[insert DX style/need/etc.]? What is the best antenna for....[insert style/need, etc.]?
This is an almost impossible question to answer, as it largely depends on your budget, your location and what kind of radio environment you are located in, how much noise is in your area, HOA restrictions and real estate limitations, spousal requirements (which are very real!), and ultimately personal preferences! There is no silver bullet radio or antenna that will solve all of your DX needs. There are many great ones out there including some that can serve multiple purposes. The best suggestion we can give is to do your research, read reviews (including our Equipment Reviews which are written with a DXer in mind), find videos on YouTube, ask other DXers that are using different equipment what they think, see what other people are using and having success with, etc. What you spend your hard-earned money on should be your decision!
Should I wait for a certain time of the year to get started?
Absolutely not, there are radio signals waiting for you right now! Even if it isn't the 'peak' DX season right now when you read this, it is still important to get your bearing and understand the 'deadband' characteristics of your local AM and FM bands. This will help you to prepare and have a more successful peak DX season!