What is DXing

Basically, DXing is listening to the radio. Not switching to your local Home of the Hits, of course – what the hobby is all about is sifting the airwaves for distant and hard-to-hear signals. DX listeners (DXers) mostly listen out for regular radio (broadcast) stations, and should not to be confused with radio amateurs (hams). DX listeners do not posess any kind of transmitting equipment or talk to each other on the air.

There are probably as many ways of practising the hobby as there are DXers. Some are simply in it for the rich pickings of news, views, music, culture and languages availiable on the international bands, where a number of interesting services can be picked up with even the most basic of shortwave radios. Be it a news bulletin from Lithuania, this week’s West-African charts or commentary on the latest cricket test – it’s all there for your enlightenment, enjoyment and education.

But most DXers are even more fascinated by those stations which are anything but easy to hear. They will spend their income on expensive communications receivers, drain their ingenuity on elaborate antenna schemes and test the tolerance of their loved ones by staying glued to the radio in perpetual search for those elusive, distant signals – more often than not in the middle of the night.

Listening on long-, medium- and shortwave is not at all like surfing on the internet or receiving satellite broadcasts. Reception conditions vary from day to day, even from minute to minute. Skill, knowledge and endurance is required if the DXer is to catch his Penny Black, his own personal Mona Lisa. Which to most DXers is likely to be a low-powered local station in some faraway corner of the globe, successfully managing to propagate the distance involved only once every few years or so.

That’s what the «DX» in DXing actually means, by the way – the unknown distance, or «Distance X». It’s radio amateur code, originally, as is another term of some importance to most DXers: QSL, meaning «I confirm».

Having captured a faint signal, the ardent DXer will write the station concerned a so-called reception report, detailing reception conditions and listing sufficient programme details for the station to check on the authenticity of his report.. In return, the DXer requests a QSL from the station – usually a special card or letter specifying that reception has taken place. Such QSLs are collected and highly treasured by the DXer, and the number of stations or countries QSLed remains source of rivalry between fellow hobbyists.

Some radio stations find reception reports from DXers a useful source of technical information, others may appreciate the feedback on programme contents provided by some correspondents. But to an increasing number, the mail generated by the DX-community has little but novelty value. DXers, one suspects, are to radio stations what trainspotters are to railway companies…

Different DXers have different preferences and specialize in different fields of the hobby. In the Nordic countries, the dark winter months provide an ideal opportunity for catching transatlantic and other distant stations on medium wave. Central and South America, with its multitude of small stations, is another favoured field. Be it merengue or salsa from a Caribbean coast, or crisp kena flute from a cool Andean hillside – not forgetting those «goooooooooooooools» from some hotly contested copa – once smitten, you’re addicted for life.

There’s Africa, Asia and the Pacific, too – and plenty more besides. The world being rather a big place, there is everything to choose from. And in the wonderful world of radio, the DXer has it all at his fingertips.

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