Shortwave Radio Bands 101

Understanding the concept of bands

If you are new to shortwave radio, then the first thing you need to understand is the concept of radio bands.

If you have ever listened to AM or FM radio, then you already know what a band is.

The AM band is the frequency range from 530 to 1710 kilohertz.
The FM band is 88 to 108 megahertz.

A band is simply a specified frequency range where stations are located.

Shortwave radio bands are very similar in concept except there are multiple shortwave bands with their own names like 25 meters, 31 meters, 49 meters, etc. (often abbreviated as 25m, 31m and 49m respectively).

The chart below is a list of the shortwave radio bands used for international shortwave broadcasts and their corresponding frequency ranges.

Source: Grundig

Because shortwave signal propagation depend on factors such as the sun, the ionosphere, and interaction with the earth itself, signals cannot be heard on all bands throughout the day. Some bands are best during the daylight hours, and some are best at night.

In general, the bands with frequencies below 13 MHz (13000 KHz) are better at night and the bands with frequencies above 13 MHz (13000 KHz) are best during the day.

Generally speaking, the best time for listening to shortwave (when signals are strongest and clearest) is the time around sunrise and sunset. Usually there’s a two-hour window for optimal listening, but it may extend up to three or four hours.

Shortwave Radio DAY bands

Source: Grundig

Shortwave Radio NIGHT bands

Source: Grundig

Tecsun PL880 Portable Shortwave Radio


  1. Great info, I purchased a Kaito KA1102 last year and I’m happy with it. It’s compact and has a external antenna jack to extend listening range, still getting use to the bands so your info was a lot of help..Thanks

    1. Thanks…
      The KA1102 looks to be a good receiver too. There are many good radios out there. Even if the radio doesn’t have an external jack, by simply clipping on (or wrapping wire around) to the main antenna is sufficient to add a ‘long wire’. It is amazing how a simple length of wire will greatly increase shortwave reception. Actually it is not amazing, it is basic antenna theory and expected behavior ;)

      Having said that, it is fun to experiment with varying antenna techniques for reception.

      Enjoy your shortwave listening!

  2. It is best to own a receiver that has SSB (single side band) tuning as well. Listening to Ham radio operators will require SSB tuning. Kaito makes neat little radios; but for a little more money, Grundig/Eton make excellent receivers to choose from. Sangean receivers are okay; just be careful using the whip antenna–since the inner connection is prone to require repair on those radios. Shortwave radio listening is definitely better than depending on the Government-controlled-Media (TV,FM radio and newspapers)for information!

  3. Currently we are at a sun spot minimum. That means that the 11, 13, and 16 meter bands are jusst about useless. Move all the comments three places up to lower frequencies / longer wavelength bands.

  4. Can, a old TV antenna that is connected by COAX be a useful external antenna?. I have one mounted on the high point of the house. It is not connected to any TV, it was there when I bought the house, and is still in good shape. Would like to use for DX reception.

    1. Renegade,
      won’t hurt to try. find a weak station and hook to it and see if reception is better. ya never know.
      good luck.

    2. Any antenna is better than none. Give it a try, you might be surprised.

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