Monday, May 16, 2016

Communication Receivers

When you are in the "want to know" state of mind how do you find your information? Do you go to the AM/FM portable radio that you have on the shelf? That is a good way to get the local news but what if the disaster or emergency situation has taken local radio off the air? What if people decide they need to be with their families rather than manning a radio station? In a major disaster, these are great possibilities. Television may suffer from the same problems.

The greatest source of information is usually from other people. This is what has made the social media service known as Twitter valuable for real-time information. Twitter's active feed explodes with information on any major newsworthy event. You can see what is happening just by typing in a search term or hashtag of the location or event. Twitter suffers from a major problem though. It operates from a cellphone or web based service. In a major disaster Twitter, like radio and television, may not be available. 

So how do you get the information if all commercial services are not available? You rely on amateur or distant sources. Amateur (Ham) radio has always had the ability to communicate over long distances using a modest radio and antenna on HF frequencies. Contacts around the world happen everyday. In a disaster information is passed from the affected areas to the surrounding regions effectively and efficiently. This information is usually first hand and fairly accurate. Actually I would say that in most cases it is more accurate than the salted versions you see on the nightly news. 

For ham radio operators this gear can be quite expensive with top end transceivers exceeding $7000. Another option to "hear" what is happening is a Communications Receiver. This gear does not have the ability to transmit and therefore is receive only. The fact that they do not have the transmitter as part of the package makes them considerably cheaper. Many of these receivers run $800 and higher. There is still a cost involved but you usually end up with a great piece of gear.
The ones you need to be looking for should be classified as all-band (or multi-band) and multi-mode. All-band or multi-band means that it will cover multiple band designations. A band designation is one dedicated to a particular radio service. For example, Citizens Band (CB) covers between 26.965 MHz and 27.405 MHz. Ham Radio has band allocations throughout the RF spectrum. Shortwave has band allocations. Therefore having a receiver that encompasses various bands across a large frequency range is ideal. My preference for frequency range is 100kHz - 60Mhz at a minimum.  If I can find a great deal on a Communications receiver that goes into the 3Ghz top end that would be perfect.

A multi-mode receiver is one that can listen on different modes. A mode would be considered a type of signal or method of modulation. FM (Frequency Modulation) is a mode. USB (Upper Sideband) is a mode. LSB (Lower Sideband) is a mode. AM (Amplitude Modulation) is a mode. You want to make sure to have at least AM, and SSB (which includes both USB and LSB). If your receiver can listen to above 87Mhz then you certainly want it to have FM. If you are an advocate for Morse Code then CW is your mode.  

Older Communications Receivers are still in high demand. The older Kenwood and Icom radios are usually found in very good shape with many years still left in them. Most major companies have left the "receiver only" market to invest their resources in commercial and amateur transceiver products. However one still stands strong in this area. They are AOR Communications

If you decide to invest in a Communications Receiver then make sure you learn all you can about the radio. These are not as easy as pulling the one off of the shelf, turning it on, and listening to the news. They require a little skill and understanding of the bands to achieve satisfaction. However, in a disaster, they are handy pieces of equipment. 

Do you own a Communications Receiver? Tell us your experience.

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