Short Wave radio reception problems

Short wave radio stations can be heard over great distances by ‘bouncing' signals off layers in the upper atmosphere.  Problems can occur due to the variability of the 'bouncing' process and the crowded nature of the short wave bands. Reception problems will be heard as:-

  • Pronounced fading and distortion
  • Sudden loss of reception
  • Interference from other stations
  • Whistles


What to do

  • Try a different frequency for the station you are listening to. If reception on the new frequency later deteriorates, try retuning again. More sophisticated types of radio use synchronous detection which reduces the distortion caused by fading and may also make the fade itself less apparent.
  • Better radios reduce splatter and whistles by enabling you to select different filtering options, sometimes in tandem with synchronous detection. Careful use of such filtering can dramatically reduce these types of interference and can render quite weak signals much clearer.
  • Serious short wave listeners often use directional aerials to help reduce interference. This is especially useful when two stations are both heard on the same frequency.
  • Broadcasters are now using other means to reach their listeners, such as satellite, online and digital short wave (DRM). If these options are available you may find reception better.

For other issues, see our section on AM/LW reception problems

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