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Having built my first HF receiver, I'd like to know if I'll need to search around for transmissions that happen to be occurring, or if there are reasonably strong signals I can count on being present regardless of the time or day? I just want a simple test that will tell me it's working or not without having to set up a sked with someone else, or having a transmitter handy.

My receiver is capable of receiving from 1.8MHz to 30MHz.

Hopefully there are several signals of interest in this range that are common in the US.

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    $\begingroup$ If you tune through the amateur bands and hear nothing, it's most likely your receiver is busted. There's always something, not by design, but simple popularity. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Jan 10 '14 at 20:00
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WWV and WWVH broadcast time and frequency reference information continuously, using AM on 2.5, 5, 10, 15 and 20 MHz, so you should be able to pick up all of them using your receiver, given an adequate antenna.

At my location (San Francisco Bay Area) with lousy equipment, these signals are only slightly stronger than shortwave broadcast stations, but more reliably present.

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    $\begingroup$ Worth noting, since this is an old question, that the 2019 NIST budget shows discontinuation of WWV, WWVH, and WWVB before the end of 2019. CHU, Ottawa, Ontario (Canada) may be the next best substitute. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Feb 6 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ @ZeissIkon Yes. See this more recent question and the answers. $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Feb 6 at 20:44
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Another great way to listen for signals, especially stronger ones, other than WWV and WWVH, is to find some active AM broadcast stations within the 1.8 to 30MHz range. Head over to this site http://www.short-wave.info/, and use the top most form, selecting any station, and preferred language, make sure NOW is checked, and hit GO! YOu can pretty much tune around to the listed frequencies, primarily those listed in red.

Canada has a time signal station as well that is fairly strong (as I can pick it up from California) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CHU_(radio_station), and pretty much is Canada's version of WWV and WWVH. It's frequencies are 3.330 MHz, 7.850 MHz, and 14.670 MHz

If you're outside of North America check this page out for other time stations around the world http://www.dxinfocentre.com/time.htm. It would also be cool to check these frequencies out too, just for fun, to see if you can hear around the world.

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Having built an HF receiver you should have little difficulty making a small crystal oscillator in a metal box. It is battery powered, oscillates at 1, 5 or 10 MHz and radiates only from a small stub antenna. Use it to test any HF receiver. The receiver will pick up the harmonics of the crystal frequency; thus you can both check both the receiver frequancy calibration and compare its sensitivity with another receiver+antenna combination. You will need to add an audio frequency modulator to the oscillator to obtain an audible buzz if the HF receiver has only AM detection. But please remember to turn your little transmitter OFF when not actually testing.

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