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I'm learning about shortwave listening. I want to listen to amateur/ham radio on a portable radio (eg a XHDATA d-808) with ssb, I hear ssb is the main place hams would be on. I know it's hard to give an exact figure on range as conditions vary. But how far in Kilometers am I likely to hear hams from with my portable radio? I live in Southern England, in the UK, in an urban area. Thanks

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  • $\begingroup$ Hello and welcome to ham.stackexchange.com! $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Apr 21 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ Would you please edit your question to mention what country you live in, and whether you live in an urban, suburban, or rural area? $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Apr 21 at 19:18
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The range of amateur radio SSB over HF "shortwave" can be between a few meters to over 20000 kilometers, depending on frequency band, transmit power, antenna type/height/polarization/aim, solar weather (including sunspot cycle, solar flares, etc.), other ionospheric conditions, time of day, local RF noise floor (including your household electronics), and etc.

Some major sources of likely distance limitations for urban area shortwave listening are, first, not being able to put up a large enough high enough antenna with respect to the wavelength of interest, and second, local RF noise from poorly shielded or malfunctioning electronics (power transformers, USB chargers, LED lights, solar panels, etc.) within your neighborhood or building. This RF noise can drown out distant signals of interest.

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  • $\begingroup$ I can occasionally pick up shortwave SSB signals from halfway around the world (or possibly farther via long path), and at other times can't receive a signal from a local QRPp station a few blocks away (just over a small hill). $\endgroup$ – hotpaw2 Apr 21 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ OK, thanks hotpaw, when you say pick up ham radio over a range of a few meters to 2000 kilometers, do you mean using a portable radio receiver something like XHDATA d-808 I mention? Or are you using some more powerful receiving equipment? I particulary want to know what range of amateur ham radio i'm likely to receive on a portable radio receiver as that's what I'm thinking of buying, thanks. $\endgroup$ – Emma32 Apr 21 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ Random reviews on eham seem to suggest that it has decent sensitivity. Likely not as good as a larger more expensive communications receiver, but also not significantly worse for urban SWL. There may be other possible issues, so buyer beware. $\endgroup$ – hotpaw2 Apr 21 at 20:30
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The range of ham radio communications ranges from zero to unlimited. At the longer range of the scale, some hams direct there signal at the moon, where it's reflected back and received back on Earth. That's a round-trip distance of about 477,000 miles or 768,000 km. Communication over longer distances would be possible, but as far as I know there's nothing far enough away.

Unless you are using some very old, or very terrible equipment, range is limited not by your radio but by your antenna and the noise in your area, as well as the frequency and time you are listening on which will affect how well or not the signal can propagate over long distances.

It's likely if you are interested in hams far away, perhaps as far as the opposite side of the planet, you will be most interested in the frequencies that fall in the HF band. Even within that band, the effective range varies by time of day, time of year, and the particular frequency. The best way to discover which frequencies work over what areas at what times is to use a prediction tool like VOACAP.

Being in an urban environment, noise will probably be your biggest challenge. The best thing you could do would be to move (at least temporarily) to a very rural area. But if you can't do that, focus your efforts on getting an antenna outside and high up, and as far away from buildings and power lines as you can. If you have room for a directional antenna that will help a lot.

Knowing the best frequencies and times to listen, and with some attempt to get a good antenna up, you should be able to occasionally hear stations on the opposite side of the planet. There are periodic contests where hams try to get the most points for making the most contacts with the most stations that are the most far away, during one of these would be a good time to listen as many more hams with powerful stations will be transmitting.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Phil Frost. $\endgroup$ – Emma32 Apr 21 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ If you like an answer @Emma32, please consider upvoting it. $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Apr 21 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ Recently, was listening to W1AW code practice, when signal strength dramatically increased. A check on spaceweather.com showed that a solar flare had flashed, which energized our ionosphere. The sun's activity influences radio propagation greatly and makes even a mediocre receiver seem brilliant. Look forward to a more active sun over the next 5 years, peaking in 2025 (perhaps). $\endgroup$ – glen_geek Apr 23 at 12:36

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