Shortwave And Ham Radio Bands

My grandfather’s old TRANS-OCEANIC shortwave radio (with tubes) still works great

‘Shortwave Radio’ (and HAM Radio) listening can be an enjoyable hobby – even while only listening to communications from near and afar over the airwaves. Not only is shortwave radio ‘listening’ a hobby for some, it can also provide information input during a time of disaster. While transmitting requires a license, listening is free.

The span of frequencies which are used for shortwave broadcasts and for HAM radio are split into ‘bands’. They’re sometimes referred to as ‘meter bands’, as in the 40 meter band, the 31 meter band, the 20 meter band, and so on…

The following is a list of the various ‘x’ meter bands, their associated frequencies, and a general description of what you might hear.

Depending on your specific shortwave radio, you will be able to receive local and international broadcasts as well as some (or all) of the amateur radio (Ham radio) bands. The allocated frequency bands generally have their own characteristics regarding the best time of day for reception (day or night).

Your shortwave radio might already list some of these bands on the front panel or listed in it’s manual. The information is also readily available on the internet from many sources.

By the way, the bands themselves (usually represented in meters) is the result of the width (crest to crest) of the signal’s wavelength. Picture a sine wave. For example the 31 meter band (filled with international broadcasts) is actually getting to your radio antenna by way of an ‘invisible’ wavelength of about 31 meters from one crest to another of its sinusoidal wave (that’s about 100 feet!).

31 meter band wavelength

Download and/or print your own copy:
Shortwave and Amateur (Ham) Radio METER BANDS


Condition Comments
120 2300 – 2495 Night Mainly used ‘locally’ in tropical regions
Also used by government in North America
90 3200 – 3400 Night Mainly used ‘locally’ in tropical regions
Used by various agencies of U.S. government
80 3500 – 4000 Night Amateur (Ham radio) band
LSB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
75 3900 – 4000 Night Mainly used in Eastern Hemisphere
Mainly Europe, Africa
60 4750 – 5060 Night Mainly used ‘locally’ in tropical regions
Best reception during Fall and Winter
49 5900 – 6200 Night Popular band for nighttime broadcastingThe best overall nighttime band for Int’l broadcasting
41 7100 – 7350 Night / Day Int’l Broadcast, except North-South America
which is reserved for Amateur radio
40 7000 – 7300 Night / Day Amateur (Ham radio) band
LSB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
31 9400 – 9990 Night / Day Most Popular Int’l broadcasting band
Best mid-afternoon to mid-morning
25 11600 – 12100 Mostly Day Popular Int’l band for daytime broadcasting
Good any time of day
22 13570 – 13870 Mostly Day Int’l broadcasting
Not heavily used
20 14000 – 14350 Mostly Day Amateur (Ham radio) band (Popular long-distance DX)
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
19 15030 – 15800 Mostly Day Int’l broadcasting
The best overall daytime band for Int’l broadcasting
17 18068 – 18168 Day Amateur (Ham radio) band
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
16 17480 – 17900 Day Int’l broadcasting
15 21000 – 21450 Day Amateur (Ham radio) band
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
13 21450 – 21850 Day Int’l broadcasting
Seldom used
12 24890 – 24990 Day Amateur (Ham radio) band
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode, Best during sunspots
11 25670 – 26100 Day Int’l broadcasting
Seldom used
10 28000 – 29700 Day Amateur (Ham radio) band
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode, Best during sunspots

Most popular portable shortwave radio, Sony ICF-SW7600GR
(I have one of these)

To add one thing… If you want to get a radio and listen to the amateur bands, mostly all of HAMs use USB (Upper Side Band) or LSB (Lower Side Band). Mostly all listening short wave commercial radios don’t have SSB (Single Side Band) capabilities and will only receive AM broadcast (Amplitude Modulation) on 160 to 10 meters. Listening to either USB or LSB on a receiver that only has AM will sound something like a muffled noise.

Mostly all short wave broadcast stations are high power and transmit AM. AM transmissions take 3X the power of either a LSB or USB transmission to reach the same distance, thus ham radio operators mostly use this mode.

So if you’re looking for a shortwave radio, it’s best if it also receives SSB (Single Side Band).

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  1. That’s one old radio there Ken. Do you have spare tubes for it? Can you even get tubes today?

      1. Well I guess if a tube blows and you can’t find any replacements, you can always sell the remaining good tubes for a premium :)

  2. interesting stuff……

    “Feds gather phone data from the sky with aircraft-mimicking cell towers

    Sources tell WSJ that police are watching cell phones from the sky.

    by Megan Geuss – Nov 13 2014, 6:28pm MST

    On Thursday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal published a report saying that the US Marshals Service (USMS) was using small, fixed-wing Cessnas equipped with so-called “dirtboxes”—receivers that act like cellphone towers—to gather data from citizens’ phones below. The purpose of such collection is to target and spy on criminal suspects, but the data from any citizen’s phone is collected by such devices.

    Sources told the WSJ that USMS operated these planes from five major airports in the US and that the program had a flying range “covering most of the US population.” The devices on the planes can capture unique identifying information from “tens of thousands” of cellphones on the ground. Using that information, federal authorities can pinpoint a cellphone user’s location from “within three meters or within a specific room in a building,” the WSJ said.

  3. Thanks, this is exactly the kind of SWL chart I was looking for, precisely. I already know the amateur stuff but got curious and started monitoring pirate AM and actually SSB on and around 6.925 MHz (down to about 6.7 sometimes) and so now I’m hooked on DX’ig period, and while serendipity is the fun of the dial, it’s nice to have this primer, thanks! 73, W4VEY gone “lurking key” (let’s not say “silent” yet, but I do like to listen more than call out). That’s why I like broadcast. Set something interesting to listen to for some time, enjoy, and work in the shop.

  4. ran across this, may interest some, if they are close enough..


    Ham radio fans putting on national field day event in Germantown
    By Jane Roberts of The Commercial Appeal

    Ham radio experts and emergency service providers from the region are putting on a 24-hour national Amateur Radio Field Day beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday in Germantown.

    The event concludes at 1 p.m. Sunday. Members from 1,500 ham radio clubs across the nation will hold similar events over the 24 hours.

    “What we are trying to do is show off our abilities to communicate when all else fails,” said Bill Stevens, chairman of the field day and a member of the Nashoba Amateur Radio Club. “That’s our main motto; when all else fails, ham radio will work.”

    Six other local ham radio clubs are participating in the event in C.O. Franklin Park, behind the Pickering Center, 7771 Poplar Pike.

    The Germantown program is sponsored by the city’s fire department. Firefighters will join personnel from Community Emergency Response Teams, Red Cross, U.S. Coast Guard, and tactical teams from Shelby and Fayette counties.

    “To our knowledge, this is the first time all these organizations have joined together on such a large scale to showcase ham radio and the capabilities that hams bring to the table when emergencies strike,” said Germantown Fire Chief John Selberg.

    Since 1933, ham radio operators across North America have conducted a field day to show the public the science and skill of amateur radio and help them make contacts.

  5. hi i have a cobra mobile radio as a home base station full features are am / fm / usb / lsb / cw kenneth lynch @ .i stay on ch 19 / 6 / 3 ^& lsb /usb. to contact me is ncpapabear thank you ken.

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