Charlie's Blog: Shortwave Radio Is Dead


Shortwave Radio Is Dead

If something is too hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your shortwave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV.

In the nineties, I loved reading Paul Theroux travel books. Those books were the only way for me to experience the wider world back then. Because of those books, I had a desire to buy a folding kayak and a shortwave radio. I couldn't afford the kayak, but I was able to buy a cheap shortwave radio from RadioShack for about $30. You can buy one today from Tecsun that is almost the same as that RadioShack radio for less than $20. Despite the low cost of these radios, they are a waste of your money. This is because shortwave radio is dead.

People who listen to shortwave radio as a hobby will beg to differ with me. There are stations all over the world broadcasting on the shortwave bands. What they neglect to tell you is that those stations are worthless. The bulk of them are propaganda stations run by various governments. The rest of them are religious stations run by various Protestant groups. Finally, many of these stations broadcast in foreign languages you don't understand. The only thing you can get from listening to shortwave radio is a momentary thrill of hearing a broadcast from a far off place which is what shortwave hobbyists seem to like. Beyond that, these stations provide nothing practical or useful. Buying one of the $300 shortwave receivers is not going to change this.

I realized this all the way back in the nineties with that first shortwave radio I bought. I satisfied my curiosity over a couple of weekends until I grew bored with the thing and packed it away. That radio has since been lost, and I have never missed it. What I listened to instead was my local AM and FM stations that actually delivered things worth my listening. With a more expensive shortwave radio, I could tune in some ham radio geeks, numbers stations, and pirate radio stations. But none of this was worth the price tag of the more expensive unit.

You do not have to take my word on this. You can listen for yourself on any of the online SDRs that cover those bands. You will find most of the action on the Medium Wave band which we know better as AM radio. I am grateful for the SDRs because it allows me to listen for free. If you find things on shortwave that you like, then go ahead and get a shortwave radio. I have yet to find anything worth the price of even a cheap radio. I do not expect this to change.

Preppers feel the need to buy radios to prepare for various scenarios. Naturally, there are outfits willing to sell them radios for these needs. These radios are usually some form of shortwave radio they do not need. Shortwave radios are not readily available on the shelves of your local Walmart, so this forces preppers to buy from prepper suppliers. They buy the radio and end up listening to the same stations they could have used a Walmart AM/FM radio to get. The shortwave bands end up being a useless feature.

The best radio that I recommend is an AM/FM/WX radio. Those are the only bands you need. I listen regularly to the weather radio and stations on the AM and FM dials. At night, the AM band is alive with stations from across the country. These are stations you actually enjoy. There is music, news, sports, talk, and on and on. AM radio is still very much alive in the USA. As for FM, you are limited to local stations, but I enjoy them as well. The two FM stations in my town provide more value to me than the entire shortwave spectrum.

I post this as a warning to people to not waste their money on equipment that they will not enjoy and do not need. People who listen to shortwave radio as a hobby like to waste their money on radios. This is why shortwave listening is a hobby and not a useful activity. For the rest of us who have better things to do and buy, an AM/FM/WX radio is all you will ever need. Save your money for food and ammo.