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.

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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.

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Sangean PR-D8 recorder on AM: Crude review

The Sangean PR-D8 is a two band portable radio for Medium Wave (MW) and FM. The radio is designed to easily record radio broadcasts, wherever one may roam. The test unit was purchased from Amazon dot com. Carriage took two weeks via USPS First Class International postage.

How does recording work?

Press the ‘Rec’ button for five seconds on the unit and the tuned station is recorded to an SD card. The end product is a relatively high resolution 192 kbps MP3 file that can be immediately shared via the internet. Modern computers typically furnish SD card readers as a standard feature. For older computers, USB ‘all-in-one’ card readers can be purchased (for next to nothing) to access the recordings encoded to the SD card.

Recording screen including dual VU meters - Sangean PR-D8

ADVANTAGES

Excellent recording fidelity at 192 kbps bitrate. Digital artifacts may be audible if the 128 kbps encoding quality is chosen.
Accurate recording level meter suits both radio and line-in recordings.
Fully customizable timer recording and alarm functions. May be used as an alarm clock.
Tuning stations is user-friendly. Easy to navigate, review and delete clips.
Well designed instruction manual which is readable & written with satisfactory grammar.
Excellent build quality. Strong likelihood of maintaining value in the secondary market.
Compatible with modern SD cards, including smaller breeds via an adapter. A 32 gigabyte HC Class 10 card was used in test.
Satisfactory sensitivity on MW. The 20 kW broadcast Premiere (1ère) 666 kHz Noumea is received with this radio on a daily basis at 920 miles. As is the 50 kW broadcast Radio New Zealand National 567 kHz Wellington, at a distance of 1,565 miles. Antenna is a 11.5 x 100 mm ferrite bar inside the unit.
Satisfactory sensitivity on FM. 4JJJ 99.3 MHz Biggenden was received on a daily basis at 143 miles. Antenna is a telescoping antenna, sited directly above the MP3 recorder.
Tuning increments can be selected to suit the listener’s region.
Includes quality AC power supply for indoor use. Satisfactory battery life whilst recording (up to 10 hours).
Full suite of features. Twin (stereo) microphones suit outdoor recordings. Line level audio output is provided in addition to the standard Headphone output.
Reasonable FM sensitivity when connected to an external antenna.

 

DISADVANTAGES

NOT recommended for portable FM recordings. Please refer to the detailed discussion in the body of the article.
Wide filters are NOT suitable for separating all FM stations 200 kHz apart. The FM selectivity may be improved by a simple ceramic filter mod. Such a project voids the warranty & requires a conventional front end design.
Expensive purchase price relative to offerings made by the group that produces the Degen/Tecsun portable radios.
No provision for external antenna, but this can be circumvented with minimal effort.
No signal meter although a stereo indicator is included.
The inclusion of the 64 kbps bitrate recording option seems superfluous. Those recordings exhibit significant compression artifacts, to the point of the clips NOT being usable.

Love AM? This may be the radio for you

The author of this review has a bias towards FM. With that disclosure out of the way, the most fundamental flaw of the design is not catering for FM recording enthusiasts. Why make the MW section virtually immune to interference when encoding recordings, whilst not doing the same for FM? It seems bizarre for Sangean to pursue such a strategy. Did (former) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd or Opposition Leader Tony Abbott (now Prime Minister) help design this ill conceived recording radio? And why can’t Turnbull (Communications Minister) can fix it?

MW enthusiasts vastly outnumber FM enthusiasts. Effectively FM listeners ‘lose out’ since the manufacturer seems to have designed a recording radio to satisfy the largest segment of consumers.

Recording mode & Backlight - Sangean PR-D8

According to C. Crane:

Traditionally AM radio is very difficult to record into MP3 format because of unwanted noise generated by the digital components inside the radio. The PR-D8 overcomes this problem by using good circuit craftsmanship techniques.

This radio does cause some interference when recording weak MW signals from an external tuner, even in ‘Recording Pause’ mode. This symptom seems to be easily solved by moving the component’s passive indoor MW loop well away from the recording radio, using a higher gain loop (especially an amplified variety) or an outdoor antenna.

For those seeking to purchase this radio for the sole intention of MW recording, this receiver performs admirably and would be recommended primarily for this purpose.

Samples of MW recordings

873 kHz talk: interstate fringe signal

1242 kHz music: fringe signal

1368 KHz music: interstate fringe signal

Recording mode & Backlight - Sangean PR-D8

 

Further reading

Enthusiast Review – Herculodge blog

Customer Reviews – Amazon & C.Crane

The author acknowledges the assistance of David in the composition of this review. Photos of the Sangean PR-D8 may be reused under a Creative Commons license. Simply link to this blog or attribute the blog in a photograph mouse hover or caption. Medium Wave distance calculations calculated using coordinates from Asia Waves.