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Crystal Radio Receiving Contest Rules


Birmingham Alabama Crystal Radio Group: Sponsors of the Eleventh Annual Elmer Memorial Crystal Radio DX Contest, and The Fifth Annual One-Active-Device Radio DX Contest, and The Fourth Annual Sprint Crystal Set Contest

General Rules for the 2009 Crystal Set DX Contest

1. Participants may compete during any time between 6 a.m. January 16 and 6 a.m. (your) local time January 26, 2009.

2. All contestants are restricted to a single geographic location. If you want to try a second location (nearest mountain top), you may submit a second entry for that location.

3. Multi-operator operation is permitted provided all work is conducted at the same geographic location. A single entry will be made for multi-operator stations. This rule is intended for you to involve your kids or their friends (particularly if you don't hear so well), and not to set up for a marathon event.


a. All reception must be strictly passive, i.e. no signal power amplification before, during or after signal detection in the receiver, to include active onboard or outboard devices, such as converters, oscillators, "free power" circuits, rebroadcasters, unity gain amps, audio amplifiers, and tuners. Such devices, however, may be used to search for and acquire stations, but in order for the station to count for score, the station must be clearly heard when these devices are not in use.

b. Detectors with more than one rectifying junction, such as transistors, JFETs or Mosfets may be used providing they are not used in a manner that will amplify the received signal. This does not prohibit the use of multiple detectors in any series/parallel/bridge arrangement, nor does it prohibit the simultaneous use of more than one receiver and/or antennas.

c. Bias batteries are permitted to overcome inherent detector threshold levels, subject to the restrictions on signal amplification of 4.b.

d. Recognizing that long distance propagation is subject to interference and fading, the use of a separate amplified receiver to confirm station identification, resolve frequency questions or even to "hunt" for new stations is both permitted and encouraged, providing positive reception of an intelligible signal by ear using the crystal set is obtained. Use of this separate receiver may not in any way enhance the performance of the crystal set (see 4.b.)

(1) BROADCAST BAND OPEN CLASS: (530 - 1710 kHz)
Any combination of receivers and antenna/ground configurations may be used. Included in the system may be any passive outboard antenna tuners, matching devices, filters and wave traps.

This competitive class is more restricted in both allowed equipment and operating techniques than is the Open Class. This class encourages the use of more traditional, hobbyist equipment built around a single tuned receiving circuit with limited selectivity enhancing features.

a. Each entry may use only a single antenna and receiver for the duration of the contest.

b. Receivers are to be constructed using only a single continuous coil for tuning. However, a separate untuned coil is permitted for connecting the tuned circuit to the detector circuit.

c. Separate aperiodic (untuned) antenna loading coils are permitted, but must not be tapped or work in conjunction with a variable capacitor or be of a variable inductance such that it constitutes or is part of a second tuned circuit.

d. Multiple variable capacitors are allowed, and may be used in not only the "tank" circuit of the set, but also in other locations such as the antenna and ground connections to the set (subject to the restrictions of 4.c. above).

e. The use of one separate tank circuit, to be operated only as a rejecter trap or QRM suppression circuit is permitted. Such circuit may not be used in a manner that otherwise increases the inherent selectivity of the basic set, i.e. as a band pass or acceptor circuit. This circuit may be coupled to the set in any desired manner.

f. If you want to try out a second antenna or receiver, put in another entry for them.

g. Hobby class entries which are judged to be using a double-tuned circuit will be bumped up to the open class.

Antenna may be indoors or outdoors. Maximum length of loop is 32 feet, measured around the perimeter. Examples are rectangles of 8 ft by 8 ft or 4’ by 12’. Multiple wires may be used, separated by no more than 6 inches. For a 3 turn loop, the outside dimensions of the loop are limited to 32 feet, but the total wire length will be longer and that is allowed (32 feet x 3 = 96 feet for this case).

(4) SHORT WAVE CLASS The equipment restrictions for this class are the same as for the Open Class. The objective is to hear and identify stations broadcasting in the international Short-wave bands AND THE HAM BANDS from 160 - 2 meters. Each station heard and identified will be counted as one point. WWV counts as a station. Those stations broadcasting in more than one band may be counted for each band in which they are heard. There are no equipment multipliers for scoring in this class. Location and distance to transmitting site and transmitter power will not be factors in this category, although any information you can determine along those lines will be useful in determining the capabilities of crystal sets on the higher frequencies. Along the same lines, a detailed description of your rig and operating techniques will add to the knowledge base.

The equipment restrictions for this class are the same as for the Short wave class, except a point is awarded for each two-way transmission. The crystal set is used as a receiver. Tube or transistor AM transmitters are allowed, with power and band usage per FCC regulations. A common Ham AM 75 meter frequency in the Southeast is 3.885 MHz.

(6) BELOW BCB CLASS (includes LF and VLF bands)
We have a new band for our contest: 529 kHz and below. For crystal sets, that means you might be able to copy some NDBs (non-directional aircraft beacons), or in Europe, long wave AM broadcasts. Each station ID'd will count as one point. The equipment restrictions for this class are the same as for the Short wave class.

1) BCB Open Class

a) One view with points based on distance/power.

b) Another new view based on total number of stations identified. If you submit your log based on the distance/power calculations, you will also be counted in the number of stations category.

2) BCB Hobby Class; two views as in the preceding for point calculation.

3) BCB Indoor Loop Antenna Class: two views as in the preceding for point calculation.

4) SW class based on number of commercial SW stations logged; included this year are WWV and ham AM stations (with IDs), one point each.

5) Two-way Short Wave class; receive on crystal set, and transmit on AM receiver; this is intended for Ham Operators. One point will be awarded for each contact.

6) BELOW BCB class is based on number of stations logged and ID'd, one point for each station ID'd. These include NDB (non-directional aircraft beacons) and Long Wave BCB stations in Europe. IDs).


a. Each entrant must submit a log with the points calculated. A log spreadsheet is provided in the LINKS that performs the calculations for you. Many stations are listed already, but you can add stations that are not listed. The FCC database is a good source for the needed info.

b. Points for each station received will be the higher of either 200 points each or the result of using the following formula:

10 x distance / log power

c. Distance will be nearest whole kilometer (conventional rounding).

d. Power will be in watts (minimum power = 10 watts)

e. Score for each station to the nearest whole point.

Example: station is 40 km from receiver and is using 5 kW power; score would be: 10 x 40/log 5000 = 108 points (note: the same station transmitting at 500 w reduced power at night would score 148 points - if the station is heard at both times, full and reduced power, you should use the reception that gives you the best score - (actually, in either example shown here, the default score of 200 points should be taken).

f. Transmitting station power used for scoring purposes may be either the actual power reported by the station or the power authorized (the FCC database is considered authoritative for any listed station in North or South America ).

Click on this web page: FCC AM Radio Database Query.

g. Distance between the receiver and the antenna may be calculated FOR THOSE STATIONS THAT HAVE BEEN ID'D using any competent method using the latitude/longitude of the transmitting antenna and the latitude/longitude of the receiver (you may use position rounded to the nearest whole minute of arc). For local transmitting sites which can be plotted on a map also showing the receiving station location, direct straight line distance using map scale references may be used, rounded to the nearest whole km.

Fo to this web page: FCC Distance Calculator.

h. Only signals transmitted within the frequency band of 530 kHz - 1700 kHz may be reported for the Open and Hobby classes. Simulcast signals may be counted once for each frequency heard. Simulcast broadcasts outside the specified frequency band may not be counted. Only signals transmitted from a fixed site and using legitimate, verifiable station identification may be counted. This does not exclude legitimate transmissions such as low power travel information stations. IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED A STATION BUT CANNOT ID IT, YOU CAN COUNT 200 POINTS FOR EACH STATION. IF YOU COPY MORE THAN ONE STATION ON THE SAME FREQUENCY AND YOU WANT TO COUNT 200 POINTS FOR EACH, BE SURE TO THAT THEY ARE IN FACT DIFFERENT STATIONS.


i. Stations received using an adjustable detector such as a crystal & cat whisker, Perikon type detector, razor blade & pencil lead "foxhole" detector or the like receive a point multiplier of 1.05. Detectors that only use an adjustable threshold bias do not qualify for this bonus.

j. Stations heard using a radio built by the entrant and which do not use commercially available radio parts, specifically capacitors, inductors, detectors, and resistors (wire is OK; powdered iron and ferrite cores are not) receive a multiplier of 1.1 (this multiplier includes the bonus for adjustable detectors in part f.

k. Stations heard using home built hearing devices, constructed by the entrant, receive a multiplier of 1.15 (this multiplier does not include the bonuses of parts f. and g.) Note: a station heard using a completely home built rig, including earphone, would get a 25 % bonus.

l. Entries submitted by anyone 18 years old or younger receive a total point multiplier of 1.5 (yes, a 16 year old using a completely home built set, including headphones, gets a total point kick of 75%, but please observe who has to build the rig).

m. Each station heard may be counted once for each frequency (in the event of multiple frequencies of transmission).

6. Entries containing required contest information must be forwarded to the appropriate address by any means within 3 weeks of the end of the contest to be considered for awards by February 16, 2009. Judges will be approved by the contest sponsor. Judges may enter the contest providing their entry is reviewed by a separate judge. Judges will examine entries for validity and verification of claimed scores based on the best judgment of the judge. Results will be forwarded to the sponsor for approval, promulgation, and assignment of any awards. Winners will be announced whenever we sort out the entries. Any prizes are awarded at the discretion of the judges.

7. Entry format and forwarding instructions are on this page.

8. This contest is open to anyone, anywhere. Multiple entries, such as an entry in both the Open and Hobby class are allowed and are encouraged. You may enter the same rig in all classes provided it meets the technical requirements.

9. Disclaimer:
The objectives of this contest are:

a. To stimulate interest in the design, construction, operation and testing of crystal radios.

b. To provide an opportunity for crystal radio enthusiasts to compare crystal radio design features and operating characteristics.

c. To further the technical development of no-power radio receivers.

d. To have fun.

This contest has no commercial sponsorship. We are planning to send a certificate to contest participants. No prizes are planned for this year.

10. Dedication: An "Elmer" is one who gives encouragement and assistance to newcomers to the hobby of radio. It may be the guy who showed you how to solder, helped you build your first radio, or the person who always had an extra receiver or a spare part they weren't using, and let you borrow it for 40 years. This contest is dedicated to the memory of the Elmers who helped each of us.