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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