Some comments on radio hardware. I do not endorse products or stores. Red marks the newer stuff. 12/28/01

12/28/01 - Radio recording. Mike on my new message board posted "aiwa xrm-150 - Recently I purchased an AIWA XR-M150 table top radio. This radio has two important features, an auto-reverse record cassette and a timer. It will come on and record a radio show on both sides of a cassette. Another radio that does this is the Panasonic SC-PM11. It is a bit more expensive but also works very well." Thanks for the tips. I searched for both models and found several links and reviews, but my quick look didn't spot a timed-recording feature.

12/22/01 - My me-to-me Christmas present. My pocket-sized radio/cassette player was stolen 9/12/01, and I've been using my larger shortwave portable - in a belt pack. I wanted something smaller to fit in my pocket, without a tape player, and I must have digital tuning with memories. I ended up with a Sony WM FX281 with AM/FM/weather/TV/cassette and a descriptive page at

Review - I've used it for a week, have dropped it about three times, and it still works. The AM and FM work ok but AM has only five memories; not enough for me. It has a crude scan feature and will step through the presets. FM has a distant/local switch but AM doesn't; not that they do much. An FM mono switch could help. TV, only with channels 2-13 [I'd rather receive PBS], and weather work but are weak. You'll need to pick prime reception areas. I don't often run cassettes on batteries and haven't tried it. A DC-power input socket would be a smart addition. Overall, it's a good AM/FM receiver for stronger signals and has a radio-control lock for pocket use. It's lighter and a tad smaller than my last unit. It was harder to find on the Sony site today so it may be go toward discontinued - but still available in local stores. It may be worth $30, but look for discounts.

12/5/01 - Better AM reception & radio recording. richleebruce? mentioned two of his pages: for better AM reception and for radio recording.

11/16/00 - Looking for a radio? Check I know nothing about it, except I heard an ad for it. Used equipment also?

Flash - Did you see Fry's ad in the 6/25/99 LAT? It's a new Sylvania four-head VCR with auto head cleaner for $79.

Question: Someone asked - there are several good radio shows at the same time. How do I hear them all?

Answer: Record them. See below about recording while you're away. But, while I'm home I use a cheap AM/FM Cassette Boombox which is ok for recording voice on the strong, local AM and FM stations. You'll still need at least one good AM/FM digital tuner to find the station; more on that below. My main AM/FM recorder is reserved for weaker stations or to record a third station.

I bought a cheap boombox last year, and it works ok, and will *record, play, and rewind tapes rather than use the good machine. (P.S. The first thing to fail on my AM/FM cassette recorder boomboxes has been the tape transport.) It's available at Rite Aid till 3/2/99 for $16.99, and it's the Newteck model #PS202. They do give rain checks when they're out, or may be able to find a store that has it in stock. I only use 120-minutes tapes and this works ok, but on this model the drive is above the tape and, in the past, I've had trouble trying to remove a jammed tape without breaking it. Last year this was $14.99, and I should have bought several.

Record while you're away. Want to record four hours or more of audio from your radio while you're away? Mr Gadget at says he has the answer using your VCR and $10.00. I've done something like this, and it works, but it's only practical if you can dedicate a spare radio and VCR to the task. Do verify it works before the big day. Or, try Reel Talk at [now site doesn't work]. This sells for about $150 and I haven't seen it cheaper. Of the two, the VCR offers more program options, more record time, other VCR-type search features like real-time search, and the tape is cheaper. And, I don't remember a VCR eating the tape. Both will only record one station without a human, and both must be played back on the same type of equipment. How about a real VCR-type machine that will also tune in radio? I don't endorse any products.
Note on 120-minute tapes. -- Get a flash light. Most recorders don't recommend the 120-minutes tapes cause they jam. To avoid this problem, use the flash light to insure the take-up reel is turning, at least for the first minute after starting the tape. If I can gently clear the jam in the first few seconds, I can reuse the tape. Very important: keep the pinch roller and capstan very clean.
Cleaning. I use a clean, thin, cotton handkerchief over my finger and isopropyl alcohol (doesn't hurt plastic) to clean the pinch roller and capstan. This also works to clean VCR heads. Some people recommend cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol, but this can leave cotton fibers in the machine. It's easier to clean every week or two, rather than clear a jam.

If you can't get your finger or a swab into the machine, Radio Shack has two wet-cleaner cassetts that you just play in your machine. Item 44-1116 at $4.99 uses felt pads to wipe the pinch roller and capstan and the scrub the center head. I bought some of these years ago when they cost less and they last a long time. Item 44-1202 at $9.99 uses five brushes to scrub the whole area and includes a demagnetizer. I haven't tried this one. Both come with some wet-cleaning solution which is quickly used up, and I replaced it with isopropyl alcohol. There is also another type of cleaner cassette loaded with a strip of wet or dry cleaning media. You also play these in your machine, and they might clean the heads and tape guides, but I don't see how they could clean the pinch roller and capstan which are the most important parts.
Antenna. Need a directional antenna for your AM radio? Check Richard Wagoner's new web site at Or see it a [which doesn't work].
Digital tuner. Most of the newer car radios and most of the newer, more expensive home radios have digital tuning. Digital tuning allows you to select a station by its frequency, for example 1530 AM. The other option is analog tuning, where you spin the dial and pray you can find a station. In fact, some people with analog tuning won't change the station for fear of not being able to return to their favorite. Remember, your mom did this. Well, save your money for at least one digital tuner. With one digital tuner at home, you could use it to help tune analog tuners. This takes some pratice, but put your digital tuner on a station, and then tune your analog tuner till you don't hear it - then they're on the same station. If I didn't have a radio with digital tuning, my first would be a portable "walkman type" but without the tape player. This could be used anywhere, except *when you drive. More details on how to pick equipment may follow, or check the comsumer or short-wave listener magazines or web sites. *Or, checkout Affordable Portables at, but I think their prices are too high.* *Or try*

3/12/99 - Fries Electronics has a 4-page ad in the L.A. Times almost every Friday. From 3/12/99 to 3/16/99, they will have these: Sony portable digital AM/FM, 10+10 memory, CD player, cassette recorder, with remote for $89.99. Also, 2-head, 7-program VCR for $79 and 4-head, hi-fi stero, and auto head cleaner VCR for $97. I keep thinking about picking up a used or cheap VCR to record from the radio. The tape is much cheaper and the machine doesn't usually eat it.

3/23/99 - Other good Deals. At Best Buy: Philips AM/FM digital, CD, cassette, boombox for $69.99 Best Price. Also, another for $89.99 and Sony walkman digital for $29.99. At Circuit City: digital boombox $89.99, analog boombox $14.99, & 4-head VCR for $89.99. All till 3/27/99. Both of these stores and more place ads in the Sunday L.A. Times newspaper.

3/25/99 - For some hints on what to look for in a radio, try Check the "Selecting a Shortwave Radio" part. Just remember they discuss a more expensive radio, with more features then the average listener wants.

5/27/99 - check the prices in the local papers this holiday. For example Best Buy has a new VCR for $69.99 and a new AM/FM cassette for $9.99 from today thru Monday.

Some web sites are: . . Radio Shack . . Circuit City . . Best Buy . . good radio info.

Radio Propagation

Ever wonder how radio signals get from the transmitter to your radio? What are radio waves? How does the atmosphere, the sun and sun spots, and antennas effect radio waves? Four web sites and the 5/1998 (May) Popular Electronics give some answers. . . Popular Electronics. . . Solar Terrestial Dispatch in Canada. . . DX Listeners Club of Norway. . . National Geophysical Data Center. . . Space Environmental Center.

Thanks to Karl T. Thurber, W8FX, and the May 1998 Popular Electronics magazine for the details and links.

More as time allows. The * marks the more recent changes.