Today is the NFL’s Superbowl, but there’s another Superbowl on 11 meters – CB Channel 6 today. The Skip shooters and wave riders are out pushing the limits of their rigs and lighting up the airways with lots of ….. well let’s just call it chatter. It’s a lot of different conversations all mixed into one big wall of sound that’s not always easy to sort out, and there’s strong signals tonight on channel 11. There’s even more long range talk if your interested on Single-side-band up above channel 28. (the chatter is a little more low key here – at least It’s not as repetitive as the Superbowl channels) This is where I think the skip shooters are more interested in testing their equipment’s range and may not in some cases be using the biggest available amplifiers to boost their signals. Of course to the untrained ear it all sounds like the same operators talking over and over again repeating the same chatter.
There are actual legal limits on broadcasting power, all those transmissions probably don’t make it all the way up here to the frozen north with a mere 4 watts. I doubt much intentional skip gets the long haul even when the ionospheric conditions are perfect.
So you might decide you’d like to boost your signal above the legal power limit with an linear amplifier – not something I would recommend, but you might alternatively try to improve your local distance range with a good antenna design and placement – provided you don’t place it too high and keep it within legal limits.
Single-side-band can measure 12 watts peak envelope power and can get you a little more distance, but it’s usually quiet most of the time around my area. I stick to the regular AM mode most of the time but occasionally check to see if anyone is out there using the SSB channels. If you can use skip to get a long distance call back, than that’s interesting, but not really efficient. It’s something I can listen to on my shortwave receiver – with which I can automate the search and try the USB and LSB on the higher channels. The audio quality is not great, but I can sometimes hear something far off in the distance. Is it useful ? – probably not. Is it interesting ? – sometimes enough to break the boredom on quiet nights where local conversation is sparse.
The CB Superbowl channels and chatter is fun to dial in and listen to, but I mostly listen to Channel 19 if there is a storm in the area. I can have multiple radios running low in the background when I’m out in the shop working. I’ve spent a few late nights listening to shortwave and CB radio when there’s nothing interesting on local AM or FM stations. I’ve gotten a lot of use out of my ICOM PCR-1000 receiver, There’s newer options available now – most notably low cost SDR radios that I will start playing around with more. I like the ability to use a pc to control a receiver, but a good dedicated short wave radio with ssb is not a bad option. I don’t hear as much from the Superbowl channels as I do via my CB radio. This is because of my antenna I use for the ICOM vs the dedicated antenna I use for my CB.
I expect to spend more time listening to terrestrial radio as opposed to other forms of media. It’s less annoying and not what everyone else is listening to. In that regard I think it’s a refreshing alternative. So if you have a CB radio or a shortwave receiver you might want to check out more than your local radio stations. If storm clouds start to gather – try the emergency and weather channels. You might find something interesting going on out among the airwaves that you might have never heard about any other way.