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


1202300 – 2495NightMainly used ‘locally’ in tropical regions
Also used by government in North America
903200 – 3400NightMainly used ‘locally’ in tropical regions
Used by various agencies of U.S. government
803500 – 4000NightAmateur (Ham radio) band
LSB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
753900 – 4000NightMainly used in Eastern Hemisphere
Mainly Europe, Africa
604750 – 5060NightMainly used ‘locally’ in tropical regions
Best reception during Fall and Winter
495900 – 6200NightPopular band for nighttime broadcastingThe best overall nighttime band for Int’l broadcasting
417100 – 7350Night / DayInt’l Broadcast, except North-South America
which is reserved for Amateur radio
407000 – 7300Night / DayAmateur (Ham radio) band
LSB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
319400 – 9990Night / DayMost Popular Int’l broadcasting band
Best mid-afternoon to mid-morning
2511600 – 12100Mostly DayPopular Int’l band for daytime broadcasting
Good any time of day
2213570 – 13870Mostly DayInt’l broadcasting
Not heavily used
2014000 – 14350Mostly DayAmateur (Ham radio) band (Popular long-distance DX)
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
1915030 – 15800Mostly DayInt’l broadcasting
The best overall daytime band for Int’l broadcasting
1718068 – 18168DayAmateur (Ham radio) band
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
1617480 – 17900DayInt’l broadcasting
1521000 – 21450DayAmateur (Ham radio) band
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
1321450 – 21850DayInt’l broadcasting
Seldom used
1224890 – 24990DayAmateur (Ham radio) band
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode, Best during sunspots
1125670 – 26100DayInt’l broadcasting
Seldom used
1028000 – 29700DayAmateur (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).