SWL or Short Wave Listening
In the developed world, listening to short wave radio is seen as somewhat of a niche hobby, in many parts of the developing world it is the way in which people receive their daily news and for many, their only access to information and education. The equipment required to tune in to short wave broadcasts is very straightforward and inexpensive and is well within even the most meagre budget, though using more expensive equipment will enable you to hear a lot more, or to tune into broadcasts a lot more easily.
Radios and Receivers
Radios that receive short wave broadcasts are often sold as ‘world band’ or ‘world receivers’ and can be bought for as little as £20 or equivalent. Cheaper radios will tend to have analogue dials which can make it more difficult to find an exact frequency or station. Finding stronger broadcasts is easy but if you are trying to tune into a weaker signal, the only way to identify it might be to find two strong ones, look up what frequency they are on and then use them as pointers to help navigate to the frequency you are looking for. That being said, for such a small price and as an entry point to the hobby, even a cheap radio such as this will open your eyes to the world of broadcasts from around the globe that are freely available.
More expensive radios have digital displays and allow you to directly dial-up or key-in a particular frequency making tuning far more straightforward. In addition, they are more stable meaning that they remain ‘locked’ to a particular station for much longer without the need for any fiddly retuning. Their performance is also often better meaning that it is easier to receive weaker signals. They may also have additional features such as memories in which to store frequencies for easy recall. Some radios are also able to receive the single-side band (SSB) transmissions used by radio amateurs and many commercial services (maritime and aeronautical for example).
The only additional item which can help improve reception is an antenna. Almost any length of any kind of wire, attached to the antenna on the receiver itself, will improve reception. The higher up you you can get your wire the better it will perform. Also, generally speaking, the longer the wire, the better it works. Whilst antennas which are outdoors are more effective, even a few metres of wire strung across a window or inside a room will make a difference, though indoor antennas can often collect a lot of interference from electrical devices such as computers and televisions.