What On Earth Is DXing?

An Introduction to Long Distance Radio Listening


Maybe you've stumbled across this website, and you're wonderingjust what the letters "DX" stand for. Or maybe you have actuallybeen DXing for a little while without knowing it, interested tofind out if anyone else actually shares your interest in picking upLong Distance Radio Stations. Whatever, please read on!

DX is an old radio term for "distance." The radio enthusiastuses it in connection with the reception of long-distance radiosignals as they fly through the ether.

In the very early years of telecommunications, messages by wireor radio were sent in what is known as "Morse Code" as speechtransmission had not yet been invented. Morse is made up of aseries of dots and dashes which are used to represent the lettersof the alphabet. The speed at which a whole sentence of text couldbe sent was considerably slower than normal voice communication. Byreducing some of the common words to short "code words," themessage could be sent more quickly. "DX" is one suchabbreviation.

So in answering the question, "What on earth is DXing?", as suchradio signals travel through the Ether it could actually be said tohave as much to do with the heavens as with the earth!

Gone Fishing…

So, what is a "DXer"? A DXer is possibly the radio equivalent ofan angler. When he goes "fishing", he uses his "rod" (radio) and"tackle" (antenna) to catch his "fish" (radio stations) from an"ethereal stream or river." Depending on location, equipment,skill, time of day, the season, and so on, DXers have thousands ofradio catches just waiting to be fished out of the Ether.

For some time now radio has been a common feature of modernlife. DXers listen beyond the local and national radio stationsthat most of us can expect to hear, searching between them to pickup signals from further afield. For the average radio listener,interested in one or two favourite stations, the other noises thatwe tune through on our way through the radio wavebands are justinterference. The DXer, on the other hand, loves to trawl throughthe "interference" in the hope of picking up something new,something different, something that they have not heard before.

The Wonderful World Of Radio

Radio signals are transmitted on what are known as"frequencies." These are the "house numbers" of the radio stations,and groups of these frequencies — "bands" — are thestreets that these frequencies live on. To make sensible use of thevarious frequencies available for radio, these wavebands tend to begrouped for use for particular purposes. There are wavebands fortelevision, for police radio, for aircraft and so on. Large rangesof frequencies are often also known as just "bands."

DXers may be interested in all sorts of radio signals, but onlyone kind are sanctioned officially for listening to by the generalpublic in UK law. These are the normal public licenced radiostations - what we call the "Broadcast Band" stations. Everythingelse in theory requires a special reception licence.

Broadcast Bands

The different broadcast bands all have differing receptioncharacteristics, and the challenge of long-distance radio receptiondiffers according to which waveband is being tuned. Receiving astation from New Zealand on short-wave in the British Isles isprobably as long-distance as "DX" gets, but the reception of alocal FM radio station a couple of hundred miles away from thetransmitter - relatively local in distance - would equally beregarded as "DX."

The wavebands that broadcast DXers listen in are as follows -from the lowest to the highest:

(* Mediumwave is known as the "Broadcast Band" or "AM" in NorthAmerica and generally extends to around 1700kHz)

A relatively new dxing possibility open to the DXer is DigitalRadio. The most common digital radio transmissions in the UK usethe DAB transmission system which broadcasts on what is known asBand III (around 225MHz).

What Do You Need?

While it is true that the better the equipment used the betterthe chances of DX reception, amazing results can often be obtainedby DX'ers with the simplest of equipment. Many DXers began withjust a portable radio. Short-wave offers the best chance for thebeginner to try the hobby out and to pick up long-distance radiostations with very little effort.

What do people see in it? Some enjoy long-distance radioreception for the chance to travel - in a radio sense of course -and to get a taste of different cultures and music, or perhaps tohear news from another viewpoint. Others like the challenge ofhearing something new, and collect confirmation cards ("QSL" cards)from the radio stations they have heard, just as some collectstamps.

DXers often take up the hobby thinking that they are the onlyone with this interest, and the opportunities to share theexcitement of a radio catch with someone are denied them - until,that is, they discover that - actually - they are not alone!

Find out more about the BDXC by reading our Introduction page

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Updated: 17 June 2006