When you’re looking for a new shortwave receiver you’re going to be confronted by a ton of information – and unless you’re a radio enthusiast it may be difficult to tell what you should be looking at. If you feel that wading through all that information is getting to be a bit much then you should be aware that there’s really two main factors that you should be looking at very closely:
The sensitivity of a receiver is an indication of its ability to pick up weak signals and a lower figure means that it is better able to do so. When dealing with DX, the sensitivity of your receiver is important seeing as you’re going to be trying to pick up weak signals that come from a long way off.
It is worth noting that as much as sensitivity affects the ability of your receiver to pick up weak signals, it is not the only factor at play. Needless to say your antenna, other competing signals, and interference all will have a role to play as well.
That being said, a receiver with better sensitivity will be able to handle these things better without ‘overloading’. Generally speaking, you’ll see a big difference in sensitivity between high performance receivers and cheaper alternatives.
Alongside sensitivity is another factor known as selectivity. It is basically the ability of your receiver to deal with situations where stations are broadcasting on frequencies that are close together so that their signals are filtered and separated rather than playing simultaneously.
The way in which receivers boost their selectivity is by using filters – either of a physical or digital variety. Digital filters tend to be more expensive but offer the best results, while physical filters come in numerous different types – some of which are cheaper than others but are less effective at the same time.
At the end of the day it boils down to a question of what you need in terms of selectivity. In some areas there are a lot of strong signals that are close together in frequencies, and as such selectivity becomes fairly important. On the other hand in other areas there aren’t that many strong frequencies close together and so it is not.
Now that you know the two big factors to look at when picking your receiver, you should be able to choose one that is going to fit your requirements. Of course there are other factors that you may want to look into as well – such as the frequency coverage, modes, displays, and built-in antenna (if applicable).
It may also be worth looking at recommendations by other DXers regarding receivers that they’ve used in the past. Knowing how fellow DXers have found the performance of particular receivers to be could help you to finalize your choices with direct input based on the same sort of usage that you would expect to put it through when you get it.