Listening to shortwave radio is just one mouse click or tap away with a service called WEBSDR.
You can use over 100 different receivers all over the world via the Internet. Just click on WEBSDR. This will provide you with a list of shared software defined radios available for you to use remotely. Each station is a bit different in its set-up. Some are quite sophisticated, others quite simple. But they all use the same interface. So once you learn one, you know how to use them all.
The picture above shows me listening to China Radio International as received on a radio at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. I was one of 167 different people using this remote station at the same time. The radio frequency is tuned by sliding that little yellow marker under the spectrum display. There are also options to enter a frequency directly, select different modes and bandwidths. The receiver audio is delivered to your speakers automatically.
Many different radio clubs and individuals have connected their software defined radios to the Internet. The nice thing about SDR is that they are designed to be controlled by a computer. And that control can come from anywhere in the world. An SDR can capture an entire band of frequencies, and share an entire chunk of radio signals to multiple users at the same time. While most of the gear connected to WEBSDR offers small chunks of spectrum (such as a specific ham bands) the University of Twente set up is special in that it serves the entire LF, MF and HF radio spectrum.
When you connect to a WEBSDR web page, your browser installs a small Java application. You then use your web browser to tune the receiver and listen to the signals. Also, most WEBSDR sites will work with smartphones and tables. See more information on their FAQ.
The provider of the radio service uses a PC server using Linux and the standardized WEBSDR server software. Most of the sites are located in Europe, United States and Russia. There are also a few locations in South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Experimenting with WEBSDR
Typically, there will be 500 or more people using a WEBSDR receiver at any given time. I imagine that there are three main reasons for using WEBSDR. First is to hear what radio reception is like in another part of the world. Second is to hear signals that are not available locally. For example, many of the WEBSDR stations cover VHF and microwave bands that are local or regional at best. Third is simply that WEBSDR is a way to do shortwave radio listening without investing in your own receiving station.
One of the neat things that ham radio operators can do is listen to themselves transmitting. For example I can aim my antenna at Europe and transmit, and then listen to my signal from a remote location in Europe. I can check out the quality of my signal as it would be heard by others.
As for you, give WEBSDR a try. It’s free and easy.