Understanding and Using Shortwave Radio
Guide to Shortwave Radios
Understanding and Using
Comparing and Selecting
Shortwave Radios
Shortwave Accessories
Bands and Frequencies
Station List
Additional Resources
Abbreviations and Glossary
Frequently Asked Questions

 RadioShack Guide to Shortwave Radios

Understanding and Using Shortwave Radio

What is shortwave radio?

A shortwave radio is a radio receiver that can receive the frequencies between 3 and 30 MHz. These frequencies are used for long-distance, worldwide radio broadcasts because the short wavelength enables the signal to propagate for long distances. Shortwave works well for this purpose because of two characteristics:

  • Shortwave frequencies tend to follow the curvature of the earth, which allows them to bend around the horizon rather than going off into space.
  • Shortwave frequencies can be bounced off of the ionosphere, which also allows the signal to be sent past the horizon.

Longwave frequences tend to travel in a straight line and are more likely to pierce the ionosphere (and keep going) than they are to bounce off and return to earth.

Two communications types that use shortwave because of the distances allowed are international broadcasting and coordination of long-distance shipping.

Why would I want or need a shortwave radio?

The primary reasons people own and use shortwave radios are personal enjoyment and keeping up with local emergency channels. From a social point of view, shortwave radio is a method of enabling world-wide transmission of information and opinion, and a way to find out information and opinions from around the world. Many countries broadcast to the world in English, making it easy to find out what a given country's position is on those things that it finds important. Shortwave radio can also provide a way to eavesdrop on the everyday workings of international politics and commerce. You can hear news and other programs from a wide range of sources, and you can get emergency information by listening to amateur radio broadcasts including Single Side Band (SSB) transmissions. You also have Longwave (LW) band for Ship-to-Shore calls, FM and Medium Wave (MW) or AM.

How do I use a shortwave radio?

Shortwave listening is a hobby with thousands of participants worldwide, and all you need to know to begin is how to tune a radio. There are no special knowledge or skill requirements; however, as you gain experience and develop special listening techniques, your listening enjoyment increases accordingly. These skills include keeping up on local and non-local issues which affect the broadcast, knowing how to troubleshoot your radio and antenna installation and maintenance. The basic equipment you would need is a radio and a list of frequencies. In most cases, you can receive many stations using the antenna that comes with the radio; however, to receive more distant stations, you can use an external long-wire antenna.

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