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How to Improve Shortwave Reception
Get better Shortwave reception with your radio!

Shortwave radio signals travel from the transmitter site, located usually in a foreign country, to your radio by being bounced between layers of electrified gases in the upper ionosphere above the earth and the earth's surface. The gases in the ionosphere are often turbulent and this means that your reception quality can vary between day and night, summer and winter and even during the course of a few hours or several minutes.

The reception of shortwave signals can also be affected by electrical storms, mountainous terrain, by tall buildings, the type and cost of your receiver and the kind of antenna it uses.

Tips for best shortwave reception

If your shortwave radio is battery powered, you should ensure that the batteries are fully charged or use your radio on AC power.

The speakers in portable shortwave radios are often quite small, but sound quality can sometimes be improved by using a small ear phone, headphones or an external speaker as in pictures below.

Change the location
Try placing your radio in different locations.  Reception is usually better by a window, especially one facing the direction of the transmitter. Example: If you're on the East coast of the U.S. and you're trying to listen to a broadcast from Europe, place the radio on the East or Northeast side of your home or office near a window facing that direction. Researching a world map will help you to find the best location relative to the transmitter. Although placing the radio on a metal object (e.g. a filing cabinet) may help a bit, very large metal structures such as fire escapes and elevator shafts, metal walls and roofs, etc. can cause interference or severe weakening of the signals. Also some domestic appliances, for example, microwave ovens, televisions, vacuums, mixers, computers and dozens of other devices can produce severe interference. Get the shortwave radio as far away from them as possible.

Your shortwave aerial (antenna) and it's relation to Shortwave reception
You should also experiment with both the length and the direction of the aerial of your radio. You may experience poor shortwave reception if you are trying to listen inside a steel-framed or concrete building, but if your reception improves when you take your radio to a window or near inside telephone wires, an outside antenna could help because the building is shielding much of the signal.

Often all that is necessary is to wrap an insulated copper wire a few feet long around the base of the radio's existing telescoping antenna. See picture below:

Just wrap the wire near the case on the telescoping rod. You can experiment with either the bare uninsulated wire touching the rod or use it with the insulation if the signals tend to overload the receiver and become distorted. Hang the end of the wire out of a window, keeping it well away from metal objects and electricity cables. You can also try wrapping several turns of insulated wire around inside telephone wires and then wrapping the other end to the antenna rod on the shortwave receiver. Don't attach anything to the "inside" of telephone jacks! No direct connections to telephone lines! You can damage yourself, the radio or the telephone. Don't attach anything to electrical wires!

As most good-quality portable short wave radios are designed to be used without an external antenna, adding one can sometimes cause the radio to overload making the signals distorted, so making a permanent shortwave antenna  without experimenting first is not recommended. If you're using a better table top receiver, then it probably has circuitry that will compensate for the overload. Most table top type shortwave receivers have an antenna connection on the rear for an external antenna so just connect the wire to it by following the instructions that came with the radio.

If you decide to attach an optional wind up "reel" type shortwave antenna extention that is offered by various companies for your radio, then you might want to take a look at a simple modification to most of them for additional improvement of your shortwave reception. Click here for the modification.


It is important to remember about any outside antenna that high static voltages can build up on it in thunderstorms. During a thunderstorm, (actually when you first start hearing thunder), you should disconnect the aerial from the radio and either ground the disconnected aerial inside the building to a known good ground or better yet, throw it out of the window. Most ham (Amateur radio operators) do this even without thinking to help protect their equipment! When you have fair weather, don't get the antenna wire near any electrical hazards!
Be safe around electricity, both man made and natural!

How to make simple outdoor antennas for short-wave reception
If you want to try making a more permanent outdoor antenna extension for your radio that will perform well and increase your Shortwave listening experience, this can be done easily by
clicking here for some Shortwave antenna projects that you can build yourself very inexpensively. With a good receiver that does not overload, you'll be surprised at how much they will improve your reception compared to the built in antenna. Don't be afraid to experiment with different antennas, you'll find one that works best in your situation. Good luck and happy listening!

This short article of tips to improve your shortwave listening should help you get much more listening enjoyment from your shortwave receiver.

Recommended Excellent Reference books!

- Passport to World Band Radio -
Loaded with information for shorrtwave listening!

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