Shortwave radio has a reputation of being a good source of squelches, static, snippets of audio from all over the world, and other sorts of real-world, long-distance radio wave sound effects. Radio wave phenomena such as whistlers, tweaks, and swishes can also purportedly be picked up via shortwave. There are many kinds of shortwave radio, from HAM/Amateur radios that costs hundreds of dollars (minus antennae!), to hand-cranked emergency radios.

Does anyone have experience using shortwave radio as a sound source, and if so, what kinds of hardware did you use to record interesting effects from the real airwaves?

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    Afraid I don't have much to contribute as an answer, although I've always been fascinated by shortwave radios and their mysterious utterings. I am the proud owner of my grandfather's ham radio from his days in WWII. Oct 17, 2010 at 19:38
  • I'm trying to learn more about electronics, for various audio projects, and a short wave radio is something I eventually want to be able to build in order to get those types of sounds. Oct 17, 2010 at 20:40
  • Oh, and BTW: The Conet Project is fascinating. I bought the four-disc set when it came out, but it's on Archive.org now - check it! archive.org/details/ird059 (Wilco got sued over using samples without permission on one of their albums.) Oct 17, 2010 at 21:47
  • A blog post from 5 minutes ago shows some of the sonic possibilities rather wonderfully: audiofieldrecordings.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/… Oct 17, 2010 at 22:14
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    I just recorded about 30 minutes of shortwave tuning and squelching etc. for a series of Cold War effects I'm creating. I did 2 passes: one with a Sennheiser 416 pointed at the speaker, and another taking the headphone out of the radio into the instrument-level input of the mic pre. I got some really fantastic sounds. The radio itself is a tube Hallicrafters radio I've had since junior high, and I think belonged to my dad. I didn't hook up the antenna, so I got pretty exclusively noise. I plan to try again soon with an antenna to see what else happens. Aug 26, 2011 at 1:23

6 Answers 6


Theres been recurring discussion in the modular synth world of a voltage controlled SW radio module, whihc would be fascinating although probably need a serious aerial well away form all the other circuits..... similar effect achieved using a stepper motor here: http://www.dienststelle.de/2009/08/19/vhf-uhf-phasenverschiebung/


that reminds of of an interesting idea i had last night to get a real radio tuning and sound quality feeling.

A few years ago i bought a pair of wireless computer headphones. The transmitter for it has a EP jack to be plugged in to an mp3 player or pc to hear music wirelessly. But its mono transmitter (which is bad for stereo headphones as it plays in left far only) and transmits on a rare 84.5mhz FM freq which coincidently only my mom's old radio which is mono too, catches (other than those headphones)

So i connected the transmitter to the cd/cassette player in the living room so that my mom can listen to her music on her radio anywhere in the house discreetly without disturbing others. Now the idea is to play any music on a mp3/cd player using the transmitter, tune the radio and actually hear and record the 'music on radio' and tunning effect WITHOUT any eqing or processing.

Plan to use it in a song i wrote and composed as a prelude to show radio tuning and song play.


If you are interested in SW as sound source you should check the websdr radios available online like this:


These you listen to an incredibly wide range of frequencies using a software configurable radio receiver streaming to your PC.


I used a cheap, borrowed battery powered shortwave radio once to record some random english speech I needed for a project.

I simply connected the headphone output to a Line In on my audio interface. Worked perfectly, and the gritty voices instantly gave the project the vintage atmosphere I was looking for.

I recorded interesting in-between-stations noises as well, but ended up never using them.

Thinking about it makes me want to go out and buy one of those radios and record more stuff..

  • Thanks, @EMV - I was especially interested if the small battery-powered jobbies were indeed capable of pulling in decent signal...decent enough to record interesting sounds, anyway. Oct 17, 2010 at 21:44
  • @NoiseJockey Yeah the signal was fine so I got enough output. It probably helped that I was not in a city though, reception seems to be much worse when there's lots of buildings around.
    – EMV
    Oct 18, 2010 at 6:26

One of my jobs is a personality at night on a rock radio station. While not shortwave, it's FM, and I'm also in charge of one of the AM stations in the building.

I've run a bunch of raw material through both stations in the middle of the night (when listenership is down), while playing with a tuner and recording the results. I've gotten some cool sounds! Especially on pitched down sounds that I then pitched back up (after recording through the airchain) later.

If anyone wants me to do this with some of your sounds, let me know. It'd be fun. :)


  • That's an awesome offer! Aug 26, 2011 at 3:16
  • Indeed! I don't think anyone has ever crowdsourced worldizing before! :-) Aug 26, 2011 at 19:50

Does anyone know what the copyright situation would be for using program material recorded off the air like that? Obviously, if I catch a transmission of a Beatles song I know I can't use it, but a news announcer? Or in-flight communications like I heard on the blog post NoiseJockey linked to?

  • Legally, officially, it seems like you'd need a release from whomever's being recorded. News is definitely a no-no without written authorization. I think in reality it's going to be a balance of how clear the sound is, what that content is, and the context of how it's used. (For example, I'm primarily looking for sounds for the basis of effects as opposed to actual intelligible content.) Oct 22, 2010 at 16:34

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