Last updated on May 9th, 2012
For those of you who have purchased a portable shortwave radio for either your own interests or for the sake of survival preparedness (gaining information about the disaster, after the disaster), you may be interested in getting the longest range reception as possible. The best way to achieve that is to use an external antenna.
Some portable radios have pretty good built in antennas and ‘front-end’ circuitry that enables good long distance reception (conditions permitting), but adding an external antenna can improve reception dramatically.
Most all portable shortwave radios will have a telescoping antenna as well as one built inside (mainly for AM radio band reception). Some radios (usually the higher priced models) will have an external antenna jack, usually a 3.5mm (1/8″), where you can plug in your own external antenna.
Even simpler, you can simply clip on an external antenna to the telescoping antenna, or wrap bare wire around it.
Although there are varying antenna models, do-it-yourself designs, configurations and formulas to use while calculating exact lengths, etc., when it comes to simply listening to shortwave radio… generally speaking just use a LONG WIRE. It’s simple, and it works quite well!
As some of you know, we have recently moved to another state and we’re currently living in a home rental while on the hunt for our own place that suits our criteria. Once established, I will definitely be building some outdoor antenna configurations (because I enjoy it, and it will help my shortwave radio reception). But in the mean time, while here living in this smallish A-frame, I decided to experiment with a simple long-wire antenna installed inside, up above the rafters. For most homes, you could easily do this in your attic (provided you have a way to get one end of the wire down to wherever you listen to your radio) or use your creativity and string the wire wherever your wife will allow you to – translation… out of sight, out of mind 😉
All I did was string some bare copper wire nearly all the way around the rectangular perimeter of the ceiling trusses. The total length of the wire antenna happens to be 88 feet, and let me tell you that it made a whopping difference – even though the radio that I’ve connected it to is a very good radio to begin with (with very good reception without an external antenna).
I used solid copper wire instead of regular old jacketed stranded wire, because I felt that the solid copper would make for a better conductor (thus, better reception). Plus I didn’t have to worry about the need for an outer insulation around the wire to protect from shorting against any metal since it was all up in the rafters. I used a 22 gauge thickness similar to this wire, 22AWG Solid Insulated Magnet Wire, because it did not to be very strong to support itself since I was stretching it along wooden trusses (or in your attic along the floor edges).
On each corner of the perimeter, on the corresponding wooden trusses, I fastened a screw into the wood, which I used to wrap the copper wire around a few times as I strung it around so as to stretch it fairly tight so it looked ‘clean’. In fact, from the floor level you can’t even notice the wire, which is 20 feet up!
Since my radio has an antenna jack, I used a Radio Shack male plug (1/8″) and secured one end of the antenna wire to the center (tip) connection. If connecting this way, be sure to tape or isolate the outer (ring) of the plug’s connection tab so that the wire connecting to the tip does not accidentally touch it and short out the circuit. It’s better to use a male plug with a plastic outer screw-on sleeve instead of the metal kind, so that you don’t short out the copper wire to the sleeve. If you are using insulated jacketed wire rather than solid copper wire, it won’t short out – so there will be no concerns here.
Even easier though, is simply connect one end of the long wire to an alligator clip (solder, or use a clip with a screw to fasten the wire to). Then just clip on to the tip of the radio’s telescoping antenna (without pulling out the antenna all the way).
Anyway, the simple message is that for better shortwave radio reception, get yourself a spool of wire and make yourself a long wire antenna. Makes a big difference…
Incidentally, if you happen to be an InfoWars.com reader, and are interested in listening to Alex Jones during the afternoon on shortwave frequency 12,160 kHz (simulcast on WWCR transmitting from Nashville, TN), the perfect theoretical length of a matching full-wave long wire antenna for that frequency would be 81 feet. Again, the overall length is not critical for general listening… I’m just sayin… 😉