Dusting off old tech: Setting a daily unattended FM recording

Listeners may have a need for daily recordings of certain desirable FM broadcasts such as music programmes or sporting event calls. The use of online streaming to time shift broadcasts may offer an easy solution, but problems still exist:

  • Potential loss of audio quality, due to artifacts (audio distortion) associated with low bitrate streams
  • Anxiety over burning through the monthly internet data allowance, or the
  • Ever-increasing prevalence of ‘geoblocking’ due to music licensing restrictions.

Perhaps the radio recording app doesn’t permit recording of distant FM stations on the smart phone?

Radio Concierto "Concierto Enfoque" © 2005 Leo Prieto

Radio Concierto “Concierto Enfoque” © 2005 Leo Prieto

Enthusiasts who pursue long distance FM reception may need to monitor a specific vacant frequency every day to check the presence of signals propagated via Sporadic E or tropospheric ducting, especially during summer. This technique is often referred to as recording DX audio.

The ultimate solution to their specialist needs is to purchase a Software Defined Radio (SDR). An SDR probably represents the most efficient way to participate in long distance FM reception, without the often exhausting and time consuming burden of ‘live listening’ when propagation conditions happen to be favourable.

But many FM enthusiasts cannot justify the outlay of approximately $1,400 on a Micro Telecom Perseus Software Defined Receiver (SDR) with an FMplus down converter. And when one takes into account the minimum hardware requirements, their fellow Italian counterparts including the Elad FDM-S1/PDC-FM combination or FDM-S2 are not much cheaper either.

Recording FM broadcasts… on the smell of an oily rag!

By using simple but effective old technology, setting a daily unattended FM recording remains easily within reach for everybody.

There are likely to be numerous ways of achieving this, using an old computer. To implement this blogger’s preferred method, the following equipment is required:

  • Microsoft Windows XP operating system (or above)
  • Leadtek Winfast TV2000XP FM tuner card (or equivalent)
  • Rooftop FM/VHF/UHF antenna connection with ferrite chokes clipped onto cables.

The following equipment (as used in the final step) is desirable:

  • Desktop computer with a Bios that supports Auto Switch On.

The Leadtek Winfast TV2000XP is a sensitive FM tuner card which is readily available for $5 – $15 on the second hand market. The card has software available for Windows 7, Vista, XP and 2000. For simplicity, XP will be used in this guide since the TV2000XP software was optimized for this operating system.


Although the three mandatory steps below might initially look daunting, the beauty of this technique is that performing these steps is generally only required once. Furthermore, the technique is not restricted to unattended software recording tasks. To fully automate another task (such as a virus & malware scan) replace this task into steps one and two.

Old desktop computers © 2009 Brian Landis

Old desktop computers © 2009 Brian Landis

Virtually any old desktop PC (manufactured after 2002) should be a candidate for such ‘old school’ simplicity. It’s perhaps an opportune time to dust off disused Windows XP computers which may not be cost effectively upgraded to Windows 8 operating system after Microsoft’s cessation of support.

FIRST STEP – Setup Winfast FM in Windows Startup

Click on START
Search hard drive for WFFM.exe
Note which directory this application file resides in, for example: E:\Program Files\WinFast

Click on START
Search hard drive for Startup
In the list of results, there will be Startup next to a folder named something like:
E:\Documents and Settings\joebloggs\Start Menu\Programs
Click on Startup and leave window open.

Click on START
Click on RUN
Type in E:\Program Files\WinFast (or whatever directory it is, obtained from step A)
Locate WFFM.exe
Drag the newly created shortcut into the Startup folder left open from step B.

Restart the computer. Please ensure Winfast FM starts up automatically.

Hint: Tuber Guru Fuel has made a video if the author’s approach (above) looks too boring to even contemplate!

SECOND STEP – Setup the timer in Winfast FM

The desired channel, number of hours and recording quality must be chosen in this step. Specific days may be chosen. For example, every Monday between 7-10 pm, Monday night football may be recorded.

WinFast Daily Recording Schedule © 2014 FM DXing

WinFast Daily Recording Schedule © 2014 FM DXing

Obviously, please ensure that the chosen frequencies (radio stations or vacant channels) to be recorded have been added in. To do this, click on CONFIGURATION button in Winfast FM and navigate to the CHANNEL LIST on the top centre.

Ensure antenna is connected and enter the schedule as follows:

Click on CONFIGURATION button in Winfast FM
Click on SCHEDULE button on the top right

Click on ADD at the bottom left
Under CHANNEL pick the frequency
Under FORMAT choose a PCM or a compressed format if disk space is tight

Under DAILY tick the applicable days
Under FROM select the Start Time
Under TO select the End Time

Double check details and select OK. Please take note of End Time and Start Time chosen.

WinFast Daily Recording Schedule © 2014 FM DXing

WinFast Daily Recording Schedule © 2014 FM DXing

For additional information on setting an FM recording schedule please click on the ? button within the software.

Ideally run a test scheduled recording consisting of a few minutes duration. Once complete, please check the contents of the recorded file to ensure it contains the desired broadcast.

THIRD STEP – Setup shutdown in Windows Scheduled Tasks

The aim is to ensure the computer switches off after recording. Blogger the Spinning Donut has a step-by-step guide and video for guidance.

Windows Daily Shutdown Schedule © 2014 FM DXing

Windows Daily Shutdown Schedule © 2014 FM DXing

Ideally run a test scheduled shutdown for a few minutes into the future. Once the system is shut off, please restart it.

When setting the time for daily shutdown, please use the End Time specified in step two, but add an additional 5 minutes. For example, if the End Time of the radio recording in Winfast FM Schedule is 11:30 please ensure the Windows shutdown is set for 11:35.

This allowance will ensure that the end of the recording is written to the hard drive, meaning that a valid sound file will consequently be playable with all audio software.

Hint: Third party software that will schedule a daily Windows shut down may be used as an alternative.

FOURTH STEP – Setup daily startup in BIOS 

The aim is to ensure the computer switches on before recording, an optional but desirable process.

A PC World Wiki contains a step-by-step guide to Wake System settings with screen shots.

When performing this final (and the simplest) step, please take note of the Time and Date configured in the Bios. Ensure that the WAKE UP TIME / RTC ALARM TIME selected in the Bios is before the Start Time chosen in Step two. For example, if one sets the system to wake 10 minutes prior to the recording Start Time set in the FM recording scheduler, this ‘factors-in’ the starting up delay of Windows.

These screen shots show the settings to configure the computer to wake at 0730 hours every morning. Each Bios may be slightly different, if in doubt please refer to the printed instructions supplied with the motherboard.

BIOS Daily Wakeup Schedule © 2014 FM DXing

BIOS Daily Wakeup Schedule © 2014 FM DXing

If Daily is not listed in the Bios facility, ensure the WAKE UP DATE / RTC ALARM DATE is to be set to 0 for daily system wakes. Whilst it is very simple, as always a trial run is recommended to ensure familiarity with the date and time format. Finally, don’t forget to save WAKE SYSTEM / RTC ALARM settings to CMOS when exiting the Bios facility! With this Bios, F10 does the trick.

BIOS Daily Wakeup Schedule © 2014 FM DXing

BIOS Daily Wakeup Schedule © 2014 FM DXing

Hint: Obviously when there is no longer any ongoing requirement to automatically start the PC for daily recording etc. it may be convenient to DISABLE the above WAKE SYSTEM / RTC ALARM settings!

Practical considerations

Some computer Bios facilities may not offer a Wake or Alarm System setting where the computer will switch on without intervention, as described in step four. Nonetheless, under those circumstances one can still follow the instructions to schedule recordings to commence and then shutdown, as listed in steps one to three above. Of course, one must be home to physically start the computer or already be using the computer for other tasks. For this reason, the provision for WAKE SYSTEM FROM S5 or similar Auto On facility in the Bios is considered a prerequisite for implementing a fully unattended recording system as proposed in this guide.

Windows Password & Login Settings © 2014 FM DXing

Windows Password & Login Settings © 2014 FM DXing

Step four will not work if the User Accounts in Windows XP (above) are set to require users to enter passwords & / or press Control-Alt-Delete as a security measure on Windows startup to operate software. These logins require user intervention, which is incompatible with the goal of unattended recording. These Windows logins are easily disabled (reference video). Moreover, password protected logins are overkill for old desktop computers that are not connected to the internet, but dedicated to the task of recording!

Alternative Power Management features such as reduced power Hiberation or Standy By modes are beyond the scope of this guide. The method above allows for maximum power saving. Since the computer system is only operational when required, there is also no potentially annoying fan and hard drive mechanism noise; older desktops can indeed be noisy.

Once it has been established that settings are configured properly during a test run, daily recording settings can be implemented. Enjoy the automation and the maintenance of old tech!

Testing: the method has been tested numerous times with several disused single-core CPU (3 GHz) computers using ASRock K7VT6 & Asus P5GZ-MX motherboards. These of course, feature a Bios that supports Auto Switch On. 

Coolum’s hidden gem: Low’s Lookout

Low’s Lookout is a lookout and picnic shelter at the end of Grandview Drive at Coolum on Australia’s Sunshine Coast. Via road, the lookout is a one hour and 24 minute drive north of Brisbane’s Central Business District. Low’s Lookout is a 26 minute drive south of Noosa’s Hastings Street.

Coolum’s residential population was 7,175 in 2006, according to Queensland Places. The lookout is situated on the Point Arkwright (southern) side of Coolum. The name originates from Maroochy Shire chairman Edward (Ted) Low.

Grandview Drive leading to Low's Lookout © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

History plaque at Low's Lookout © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

The elevation is 73 metres above sea level (240 feet) but to the immediate south and south west there are blockages (NOT pictured) by Eurungunder hill, the Lutheran Youth camp at Luther Heights and surrounding ranges. Mount Coolum is only three kilometres (two miles) south and although it is only 207 m (679 ft) high, it is an exceedingly wide and prominent mountain.

The most obvious hill is pictured in the foreground of the photos. This is Emu Mountain (aka Mount Peregian) which is an easy half hour climb. Despite the modest 71 m (233 ft) elevation, a climb of Peregian provides spectacular views of the region.

Low's Lookout vista: Northerly aspect, including Emu Mtn © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

The nearest mountains of merit include Mount Cooroy, Bottle & Glass and Eerwah (near old friend Point Glorious) which range in height from 388-409 m (1,273-1,342 ft). Whilst NOT apparent in the photos, these can be found about 18 km (11 mi) away in the quadrant from the west to northwest.

Picnic table at Low's Lookout, Northerly aspect © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

Picnic table at Low's Lookout, Northerly aspect © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

Early photographs of the lookout show how development has profoundly changed Coolum’s landscape in the last 50 years. In the 1980s and 1990s, Coolum was reportedly an exceptional location for MW (AM) reception. (The reason this blogger knows this is that after publication, a reader kindly shared his experiences at Coolum with beverage antennas. Thanks James!)

In contemporary times, Low’s Lookout is useful for FM radio reception to the north, although parking spaces are extremely limited. During an instance of coastal tropospheric ducting, the Mackay FM broadcasts were receivable from roughly the NNW (azimuth: 325°) at Low’s Lookout. This was heard at 8:30 pm on the evening of Monday, December 16 in the car:

Although the broadcast site is a distance of 743 km (462 mi) away, the Mackay 100 kilowatt broadcasts have been observed regularly at the Sunshine Coast by this blogger during December. The signals usually last for at least two hours and occasionally persist until dawn.

Perhaps on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast these conditions are a fortnightly (or weekly) occurrence during December, providing rooftop FM directional antennas can be used? Even quality, Australian-made fibreglass AM/FM monopoles (e.g. GME, Mobile One or ZCG Scalar) may suffice on the rooftop, providing a signal preamplifier is used.

The 50 watt public broadcasts from Miriam Vale (distance: 288 km/179 mi, azimuth: 329°) were also audible at Low’s Lookout. Miriam Vale is situated between Gladstone & Bundaberg. Although these distant tropospheric signals were NOT audible at beaches (that is, sea level), around sunset the reception of transient jet reflected signals can be readily exploited with virtually any contemporary automotive receiver. Opportunities abound!

Coolum Beach including Emu Mtn © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

It must be emphasized that NOT all of the Sunshine Coast is ideally suited to tropo from the north; such generalizations are completely misleading! Mooloolaba and the northern regions up to Peregian Beach are preferable. Based on limited past experience, Caloundra & Bribie Island for example, seem to be located too far south on the coast; also the nearby Blackall Ranges (including Flaxton, Mapleton, Montville & Maleny) may block signals from the SW to the NNW. Multiple mountain ranges from Landsborough through to Eumundi (Point Glorious) are potential impediments. Reception in Noosa suffers from problematic terrain obstructions; it seems to be the most challenging region for FM/UHF reception from the north on the entire coast by a significant margin. There is good reason for all those translators!

Data was sourced from FM Scan, Google Maps, Hey What’s That & Where Is? The recording was undertaken with an Olin OVR-101 stereo voice recorder at 128 kbps MP3 resolution. An amplified, vertical, dual diversity automotive FM antenna system was used in this instance.

Creative Commons license - Click here for details

These photographs may be freely used for non-commercial activity provided attribution is given. Should readers choose to use those photos elsewhere, please link back to this page or attribute this blog as the copyright holder.

It’s all Mee

On the evening of April the 23rd, a spontaneous decision was made to travel to Mount Mee. This mountain is also part of the D’Aguilar range. Access was via Dayboro (below).

Tourist drive sign, Dayboro

Once at the destination (below), altitude and temperature measurements were taken.

Tourist drive sign, Ocean View

The photo (below) illustrates conditions. The weather was fine with a temperature of 27.8 degrees celsius. The altitude was approximately 580 metres above sea level. There was no fog present (one indicator of potential tropospheric ducting).

Altitude, Mount Mee

The altitude is no match for the mountains of Glorious and Nebo on the same range, but the location is probably easier to navigate. Whilst permanent FM reception suffers at Mount Mee, there are far fewer residential streets. That means more remote parking spots are available to choose from. There is also less risk of getting the car bogged in mud.

This video shows broadcasts from Rocky & Bundy, including:

  • 105.5 News Radio – Rocky (QLD) – 80 kW – 435 km
  • 103.1 Radio National – Rocky (QLD) – 80 kW – 435 km
  • 93.9 4RUM Hitz FM – Bundy (QLD) – 3 kW – 252 km

Prefer a longer recording of News Radio?

This video shows broadcasts from the Kingaroy CBD and an unknown Christian station. If readers have any clues regarding 100.5 MHz, please don’t be shy! None of the stations filmed have been heard in the city:

  • 93.1 Radio TAB – Kingaroy (QLD) – 25 watts – 108 km
  • 96.3 K FM – Kingaroy (QLD) – 50 watts – 108 km
  • 100.5 Was ist diese Station?

K FM logo © 2012 Radio K FM

With the car facing north, co-channel interference from Lismore was alleviated. As a result, RDS (below) was possible from this 5 kilowatt station, 101 kilometres away.

Zinc 96.1 FM RDS

RDS (below) was taken from this 200 watt translator, 79 kilometres north.

Hot 97.9 FM translator RDS

The aforementioned Mount Mee highlights were made with a ‘marginal’ Hepburn tropospheric index of 1.4.

As good as it gets

Last year, memorable mountain top reception was heard at the same spot. On those occasions, moderate tropo ducting prevailed; so weather conditions were optimal for some planned mobile FM madness.

1 May

98.3 2NOW Now FM Mt Dowe – Narrabri – 100 kW – 435 km

10 May

107.9 Hot FM Mt Archer (pictured below) – Rocky – 10 kW – 471 km

Mt Archer, Rocky © 2011 Sophie Benjamin

The following bloggers have photographed D’Aguilar NP. Their travels and observations are definitely worth reading:

Mt Mee Wedding
Relocation to Mt Mee
Sunday drive to Mt Glorious
Day trip to Mt Nebo
Camping at Archer Creek

A previous trip to Dayboro can be found here. Coming up: the final entry from Mt Glorious.

Station logos are solely provided for the purposes of research & education under the Fair Use provisions of the Copyright Act in this jurisdiction.

A glorious vista part two

Mount Glorious is an ‘urban mountain’ that is a well known destination for hiking, bird watching and televison/radio projects, situated in the D’Aguilar National Park. Briefly, FM radio reception was observed in a street with an altitude of 767 metres above sea level. This may be indicative of permanent reception possible.

Steps, Mt Glorious © 2006 Sherwin Huang

By using specialized car receivers & antennas, high altitude ‘mountain topping’ may offer better long distance FM reception compared to multi-element, rooftop yagi antennas in built-up areas. For the uninitiated, beware that there is a catch! Mountains rarely provide unobstructed paths to all towns. No matter how high the receiving location is, nearby mountains in this region tend to kill any opportunity of reception from one or more particular directions, even if the surrounding mountains have lower altitude. At Mount Glorious (for example) serious impediments affect line of sight to the north.

The on-line path profiler Hey What’s That suggested the mountains of O’Reilly (503 m), Lawson (473 m) and Samson (689 m) may obstruct reception towards the north. This proved accurate with no Bundaberg FM stations receivable under baseline conditions. Towards the north-east was another impediment, Mount Tenison Woods (757 m).

Sunrise, Mt Coot-tha © 2009 Angus Veitch

The 100 kilo Watt stations on Mount Coot-tha (above) are sited 22 kilometres east of Mount Glorious. Images of Nova & ABC Classic FM from there appeared on 102.3 & 103.1 MHz, respectively. These ghost signals were noticeable only when the automotive antenna was orientated towards the east.

The average portable may ‘shit its pants’ here in Brisbane Forest Park, which is why using a car radio is likely a better choice! Back in the 2000s, this sensitive portable (which is still functional) was taken to a vegie BBQ at Jolly’s Lookout, Mount Nebo. Regarding FM reception, no wonder there was disappointment!

Sony WM-FX77 © 2010 amormusicyjh (blogger)

Highlights from a predominantly unobstructed SSW-S-SSE coastal path (based on Hey What’s That terrain analysis) included:

91.3 2ABCRR ABC Central West Bonalbo (NSW) – 50 watt translator – 160km
(never heard in the city)

98.7 2ABCFM Classic FM Taree (NSW) – 100kW – 486km &

99.1 2NWR ABC New England Mt Dowe, Narrabri (NSW) – 200kW – 415km

*102.5 The Breeze Mt Mackenzie, Tenterfield (NSW) – 4kW – 211km (corrected)
(never heard in the city)

This video shows broadcasts on 98.7 & 99.1 MHz from Taree & Narrabri, respectively. Note the ‘spew’ audible on 102.3 MHz.

RDS was receivable on 88.9 MHz from the Breeze translator, 88 km south-south-east. 92.1 MHz also has RDS.
(88.9 MHz never decoded in the city)


RDS RT, The Breeze FM 88.9

On 99.1 MHz, a Toowoomba narrowcast operation was heard mixing with Narrabri. The music programming was ‘old time stuff’. According to the website, this is Kids FM. Without hearing an ID this is a guess but it fits, being 85 km west-south-west.

Kids FM © 2013 Southern Cross Austereo

These Mount Glorious highlights were based on half an hour of listening during the early evening on 18 March (recording denoted with an asterisk) & 15 April. Fine weather prevailed. The Hepburn tropospheric index was marginal / 1.4.

These two recent trips suggest it is likely that tropospheric scatter varies noticeably at this altitude on a daily basis. Permanent residents would be better qualified to judge whether this observation is accurate.

Thank you to the companions on the trips for assistance with compass direction-finding, photography, three point turns in bogged mud, car washing & night navigation. Not quite as bad as this!

Bogged car © 2006 mundoo

This is a three part entry. The rationale was to split this into parts rather than bombard ‘time-poor’ readers with too much information at once. Next week, the final section will be published with four more clips from Mt Glorious & Mt Mee. There will also be some photos of the beautiful scenery… so ideally it’s not too dull!

Southern Cross Austereo is owner of the copyright in the logo for Kids FM. Station logos are solely provided for the purposes of research & education under the Fair Use provisions of the Copyright Act in this jurisdiction.

The copyright holders of photography included on this blog have licensed their works under the Creative Commons for non-commercial use (such as this not-for-profit blog) with attribution. To view more of their work, type the photographer’s name into Flickr.

Altitudes specified are approximate, based on GPS mapping. Distances are from FMscan.

Melbourne radio screenshots

The stills below illustrate a substantial skip opening to the regions of Melbourne, Ballarat & Bendigo heard on Sunday during unpleasant humid weather conditions.

Light FM - Melbourne's Positive Alternative

Light FM - A Hell of a mundane playlist

Melbourne's Smooth FM - Your Euthanasia station

Melbourne's Smooth FM - Music to slit your wrists to

Bendigo's 3BO FM 93.5 - Your Perspiration Station

Permalogue television in the shire

Analogue television is fun, but the fun won’t last forever. With this in mind, this blogger dedicated a few hours observing 26 permanent & fringe analogue television broadcasts receivable at a three-storey dwelling in Russell Street, Noosaville between July 13-15, 2012.

Turning up to a ‘well-stocked fridge’

The receiving equipment supplied in the apartment was an AWA 37″ Full High Definition LCD television & a horizonally-polarized rooftop VHF/UHF antenna system, facing south-west. The rooftop antenna signals were amplified & split to supply seven apartments, as per the usual practice. It is noteworthy to mention that the master antenna system was substantially free of impurities – no Austar cable television stations were re-modulated onto vacant UHF channels. Nonetheless, Figure 7 illustrates the limitations of such systems.

Don’t argue with the ref (although tribunal sanctions are worse say Carlton fans!)

For reference purposes, a balcony-mounted, vertically-polarized 5-element NAS FM yagi antenna facing west (above) was used to compare signal strengths, including television receiver overloading, detailed in Figure 7. Figures 4 & 6 illustrate the obvious limitations of using a FM antenna for television signals, especially VHF high-band broadcasts 120 kilometres away.

How to read the tables without dozing off

The column marked ‘Receiving Antennas’ shows the performance of different signals with the two antennas. The column marked ‘Frequency’ merely contains the frequency provided on the television display, rather than the official nominal frequency of the vision carrier. As per convention, manual tuning was used to find very weak signals that the automatic scan feature of the television passed over.

Incomplete, because regional QLD has flicked off analogue

Please note that the Biggenden (Bundaberg/Hervey Bay/Tin Can Bay), Bunya (Kingaroy/Dalby/Crows Nest) & Briz 31 Mount Coot-tha analogue broadcasts closed in 2011. One can only speculate whether tropospheric scatter reception from these high-powered sites was possible. In any event, chances are good that these frequencies were blocked by local signals! For a history of analogue television broadcasting on the Sunshine Coast, please read this document.

Digital dalliances

Reception of digital television broadcasts (DVB) was possible from Bald Knob & the local Tewantin translator site only. Signal strength was good with 80% mean signal levels. The suite of digital frequencies and coverage areas are covered in this document. Reception of digital radio broadcasts (DAB) from Mount Coot-tha was not possible at this location, using either the rooftop VHF antenna or the balcony-mounted FM antenna (above). Tests of digital radio reception were not exhaustive. Probably only five minutes was spent on DAB using the automatic scan feature of the Bush DAB+ CD Micro System, model BMS-06DABIP. This blogger has previously established that the eastern beaches such as Sunshine Beach do indeed permit intermittent reception of digital radio, but a significant height above sea level seems mandatory. Fellow radio eccentrics report reception at relatively high altitude tourist vistas such as Noosa Hill & Laguna Lookout.

Frequency Station Picture
534.25 SBS Excellent Both
555.25 ABC Good-Excellent Both
576.25 7 SC Excellent Rooftop
618.25 SC
Perfect Both
639.25 WIN Perfect Both

Figure 1:Tewantin-Noosa translator site, situated 8 km away at an azimuth of 249°. The coverage area is towards the NW. This is the local broadcast site for the shire with an ERP of 2 kW.

Frequency Station Picture
625.25 SBS Poor Both
646.25 ABC Poor Both
667.25 SC
Poor Both
688.25 WIN Poor Both
751.25 7 SC Good-Poor Rooftop

Figure 2: Black Mtn broadcast site, situated 22 km away at an azimuth of 261°. The coverage area is towards the NW. This is the local broadcast site for Gympie with an ERP of 6 kW for the commercial stations & 20 kW for the public stations.

Frequency Station Picture
569.25 SBS Poor Both
611.25 ABC Poor Both
632.25 7 SC Poor Both
653.25 SC
Good-Poor Both
674.35 WIN Poor Both

Figure 3: Bald Knob broadcast site, situated 47 km away at an azimuth of 199°. The coverage area is towards the NE. This is the broadcast site for the Northern Sunshine Coast with an ERP of 60 kW.

Frequency Station Picture
695.25 BTQ
730.25 TVQ Ten Very

Figure 4: Bald Knob broadcast site. The coverage area is towards the S. This is the broadcast site for the Southern Sunshine Coast with an ERP of 30 kW.

Frequency Station Picture
716.25 SBS Poor Both
737.25 ABC Good-Poor Both
758.25 7 SC Poor Rooftop
779.25 SC
Poor Rooftop
800.25 WIN Poor Both

Figure 5: Dulong Lookout translator site, situated 31 km away at an azimuth of 211°. The coverage area is towards the E. This is the local broadcast site for Nambour with an ERP of 20 kW.

Frequency Callsign Picture
Receiving Antennas
64.25 ABQ
182.25 BTQ
Poor Rooftop
196.25 QTQ
Poor Rooftop
209.31 TVQ Ten Poor Rooftop

Figure 6: Mt Coot-tha broadcast site, situated 120 km away at an azimuth of 186°. The coverage area is omni-directional. This is the high powered broadcast site for the city with an ERP of 200 kW.

Frequency Image
of Station
Picture Quality Receiving Antennas
391.75 WIN Very
546.25 SBS Very
666.75 SC
778.75 SC

Figure 7: Images caused by distribution amplifier overload to rooftop

Congratulations for making it this far! The reward is the final photograph, captured in glorious low resolution on a Nokia E51 cellular phone.

Next stop… is the FM band from the same receiving location featuring video footage.

Quick & dirty troposcatter TV reception: pt 1

Without spending a cent, one can receive fortuitous distant television broadcasts with existing equipment. Obviously more sophisticated equipment makes the task easier but that shouldn’t be a limiting factor.

This blogger has heard the excuse so many times, ‘I would love to put up a dedicated antenna but I cannot’. Get passionate and creative. Get inspired and achievements come easy. One enthusiast has even home brewed a highly effective antenna from disused antenna pieces.

WIN Sunshine Coast

ABC Sunshine Coast

Southern Cross 10 Sunshine Coast

SBS Sunshine Coast

BTQ7 Translator Sunshine Coast

Any old antenna. The one used to receive the above footage was for the wrong frequencies (i.e. a rooftop 15 element FM yagi). Being able to pointing it roughly towards the direction of the broadcast site is mandatory. Even better there might be a UHF antenna lying in the shed. Ask neighbours and relatives for assistance. If an existing or borrowed antenna is not an option, as a last resort, buy one delivered from $50.

Who needs a recorder? These videos were recorded on a Nokia E71 mobile phone.

Any non-muting television. A Sharp television manufactured in Malaysia in the 1990s was used above. These Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) sets will probably last forever! Being able to receive weak signals on a television without the TV tuner automatic muting (‘the blue screen’) is mandatory.

Bob Copeman of Melbourne, a long distance television enthusiast explains:

Always use televisions and radios with manual tuning, automatic search tuning usually misses the good signals… Never use equipment containing a mute. This will block most DX signals. Mutes are used on most expensive televisions, videos and hifi equipment, so the cheaper the better, unless one can obtain a good piece of equipment and have the mute switched off. A mute appears on television as a silent screen, either black or blue, when on a blank channel.

In theory, a high quality in-line signal preamplifier may offset or minimize the muting effect of a television receiver as the threshold level of a signal is lifted. Because a preamplifier might cost approximately $80 it may be simpler to spend that money on a secondhand television without muting.

This post has been divided into two entries to improve loading speed on slower connections, because embedded Flash video hogs resources like Clive & Gina do.

Log & love analogue before she blows

Because we are on borrowed time before the UHF switchoff, let’s enjoy some permanent analogue television broadcasting from Bald Knob at Maleny on the Sunshine Coast.

Signals were received at a distance of 62 kilometres from the broadcast site. Conditions were poor with wind gusts of 45 km/h and a minimum ambient temperature of 10 degrees inside the dwelling! Tropo TV comprehensively illustrates long distance tropospheric reception of the region. Clinton, please stop surfing (it’s winter) and come back into the hobby!

The antenna for the video reception below is cut for the wrong frequencies (i.e. a rooftop eight element FM yagi). Accordingly, DVB-T reception is not possible under normal circumstances.

Note the Sunshine Coast television broadcasts use directional antenna arrays facing the license area. There is a null towards the adjoining and overlapping capital city license area.

RTQ49 WIN Television

On 674.224 MHz, this analogue broadcast is pumping 60 kW towards the opposite direction! WIN Television Sunshine Coast has always been the 120 pound weakling of ”her co-sited peers’ due to co-channel interference, say local hard core enthusiasts.



Please view both the video and the snapshots as the content differs. Thanks!

TNQ46 Southern Cross Ten

On 653.224 MHz, Southern Cross is hammering 60 kW into the opposite direction!



As the name suggests, Southern Cross Austereo operates the station which enables cross promotion between the television station and the commercial radio operations.



The signal quality of this troposcatter is impressive. Sure, perhaps undesirable for watching football or other action sports. But one surmises (as a mere radio enthusiast) that the thrill is in the hunt of weak television signals, rather than consumption of the programming or entertainment.

ABQ2 Mt Coot-tha ABC1 Television

Now partake in a crystal clear local 200 kW signal on 64.25 MHz. Such wondrous beauty is provided merely for reference & benchmarking purposes!

BTQ52 Retransmission of Mt Coot-tha BTQ7

On 695.224 MHz, BTQ52 is actually simmering 30 kW of raw St Anger towards this direction. Notice the difference?

This is another fringe signal for reference & benchmarking purposes. Channel Seven has always been the strongest of the Sunshine Coast translators. The Bald Knob translators relay the Brisbane stations for Sunshine Coast viewers.

Effectively, viewers in this region get more programming choice than the city folk due to an extra three commercial channels. This is because of the aforementioned peculiarities in the license areas assigned by the regulator. Or it could be because of the notoriously stagnant nightlife in this region. More channels are required to provide a facade of an adequate quality of life to residents. But the unforgettable house parties make up for this!

Useless information

This section is for those who are obsessed with minutiae, which frankly is a spectacularly fun word that should be used more often.  No?

Footage recorded during:
The Voice, CSI: New York, Breakfast (featuring Weather Report) & Late News.

Tuner & recorder: LG 386D (Davros reviews this below)
Computer software: WinFF version 1.4.2 & Virtual Dub Mod version



Recorded in MPEG2 format
Video size 720 x 576
Average bitrate 7,750 Kbps (XP mode)

Transcoded to MPEG4 format
Video size 320 x 240
Average bitrate 1,800 Kbps (Default mode)

Only the Strong

The title has been borrowed from a wonderful ‘Oils track. Inspired by Jamie, who found significant differences in sensitivity between DVB-T receivers, a sensitivity test was conducted with two Strong High Definition DVB-T receivers. This amateur test focussed on the two weakest multiplexes (226.5 MHz and 599.5 MHz) at this location. F-type attenuators were progressively added in-line to kill the signal. To maintain accuracy, the same antenna was used and no splitter was used. Surprisingly, the winner was the Strong SRT-5430.

Let’s start with ABC News 24, which many consider to be a taxpayer funded disappointment. Apparently the channel was going to be called ABC Reruns from earlier but this name was too cumbersome.

Piss easy on both receivers.

A decode of 31 Digital was not possible using the SRT-5405 set top box, as the still below illustrates.

A faithful decode of 31 Digital was possible using the SRT-5430 set top box. Hot dog, we have a winner.

This blogger was aghast to find that no two DVB-T tuners offered equivalent sensitivity, in a small sample of four receivers under ownership! A LG DR-386D DVB-T recorder also significantly outperforms the Strong SRT-5405 DVB-T receiver. The DVB-T tuner with the weakest sensitivity was integrated into a Tevion AC-19LHC2 High Definition LCD television. Quality consumer-grade signal preamplifiers (costing between $50 and $100) may improve the sensitivity of lacklustre DVB-T receivers.

Now if only the broadcast of the Lions home game last weekend on 7mate was not full of digital artifacts (perfect reception but poor quality broadcast feed) these devices could be useful for actually watching television as opposed to trying to obtain long distance VHF/UHF reception. Hey, channel seven, note no artifacts were evident on One which was airing the netball at the same time! 🙂

The video was recorded using a Pioneer DVR-540H. The snap shots were created using Virtual Dub Mod

RN modulation levels compared

Whilst the press secretary at FM DXing Incorporated was waiting for the stir fry on the wok to shrivel to form a delicious plastic texture, a sample was undertaken tonight of three permanent ABC Radio National FM broadcasts. The tuner was manually switched to narrow mode to exaggerate the differences between modulation levels set at different broadcast sites.

Readers will be salivating at the prospect of hearing these recordings. Please exercise patience, the server can only handle a certain volume of traffic at any one time. Beware of the competition, One Direction fans.

ABC Radio National FM 103.1

99.5 MHz Coffs Harbour New South Wales (south east over the ocean, approximately 335 km)

100.9 MHz Biggenden Queensland (north west, approx. 225 km)

90.1 MHz Southport Queensland (south along the coastline, approx. 90 km)

The inclusion of the 96.9 MHz Mullumbimby RN broadcast would have been preferable. Unfortunately, tonight this signal exhibited significant co-channel interference from 96.9 MHz Gympie and no-one wants to listen to that! In addition, a surprise Radio Metro signal was ‘dancing all over’ the 105.7 MHz Bell (Bunya Mountains) RN broadcast.

No signal amplification was used in-line because doing so introduces significant changes to signal levels which, in turn, affects the audio quality.

Disclaimer: Sarcasm is under-rated. The benefits of obtaining at least five hours of sleep per night is under-rated, the effects are clear. 🙂