Radio book reviews

Klingenfuss Publications

I’m going to review two Klingenfuss books that I’ve purchased recently, firstly 2013/2014 Guide to Utility Radio Stations followed by Radio Data Code manual.

These are two books I’ve been contemplating on getting for over a year now and I finally decided to take the plunge at a cost of around £85 for the two, including delivery

2013/2014 Guide to Utility Radio Stations

This is the twenty-seventh edition of this book and Klingenfuss claim to be the best in this field when it comes to compiling data for HF frequency usage by Utility Stations. This book doesn’t cover any Broadcast Stations, this is in the companion book 2014 Shortwave Frequency guide which I’d decided not to purchase, mainly because there are free on-line providers of this data that is updated regularly, daily in some cases – my favourite (and the best) being SWBC Shortwave Broadcast Schedules

I wish I’d used that logic when it came to the Utility book too. To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. My decision to buy the book was because it seemed to give quite a bit of information on Digital data systems that I may find in the HF spectrum, and something I wanted to learn about. I’ll admit it does do this and it is as shown in the screenshot on the Klingenfuss website. What is disappointing though, is the huge amount of frequencies that aren’t included

There’s hardly any of the Russian Navy CW frequencies listed for instance, in particular 8345kHz and 12464kHz, the two primary frequencies used by Russina Navy ships to contact Moscow and various other bases. These have been used for years now, yet Klingenfuss quote themselves as being the most up to date publication around. They even go as far to slag off the internet and comment on out of date or incorrect frequencies online as quoted here:
……there is no comprehensive real radio monitoring executed out there at all! While these people offer gigantic frequency lists covering tenthousands of entries, these concoctions are perfectly useless to serious radio listeners since they merely represent dull data compilations copied – of all things! – from the Internet and not based on real radio monitoring. The internet, however, is not only just a too convenient source for copying and plagiarizing information, but above all constitutes a worldwide promotion platform for incompetent and stupid people, idiots and out right maniacs…… As a result, you will find on the Internet an incredible amount of intentional disinformation, misleading interpretations, pure speculation and wrong conclusions; and such “quality” of “data” is today the mainstay of cheap frequency lists offered by other publishers!

I think Klingenfuss need to revisit this statement, and the other statements that follow it in the book (too long to copy here), as they appear to be the publishers with out of date information

One of the other reasons for buying the Utility Guide was that at least if new frequencies did crop up over the year I could pencil them in with relevant data. Well, as it is, there’s a couple of hundred known Russian Navy frequencies missing. I’d be updating for hours – something I wouldn’t expect to do for a book costing £40; and this is just on one area of HF monitoring.

Searching through the HF Spectrum I came across various transmissions which when searching in the book drew a negative. It took around 10 frequencies before it came up with something, although the information provided was incorrect. In all reality, it is worse than a 1 in 10 success rate – the vast majority of frequencies I have searched are not there, yet they were all correctly listed on the Internet

The method for listing Major World Air Route Area (MWARA) and Regional and Domestic Air Routes Area (RDARA) frequencies is also slightly bizarre. In the general frequency section, when you search a frequency it doesn’t list the common users such as Shanwick or Gander. Instead it lists the regions “code”, for example:
6622kHz – AMS=NAT 6G 7F 9B 12C 13D

They then expect you to go to the back of the book where there’s a fold out map and you have to find the general area the frequency may cover. This still doesn’t tell you who it may be that you are hearing as frequencies are shared by different agencies. Later on in the book there is a chapter that lists each region and what frequencies they could possibly use, but again no callsigns. This I find strange as it’s probably easier to list the callsigns in the general frequency section in the first place – they’ve managed to do this repeatedly for other frequencies such as those used by the USAF HF-GCS network. Again, the internet beats Klingenfuss hands down with information such as this

Probably the biggest waste of space are the “screenshots” or should I call it WaveCom software advertising

Out of the 560 pages, 140 or more are of black and white screenshots. I honestly thought the screenshots may be useful in showing what different things may look like on an SDR Spectrum waterfall for instance. But no, it is just page after page of what WaveCom software has decoded. The example to the right here is from their website and is at least in colour, but it is all pretty meaningless when black and white in a small book.

There are countless more pages of advertising throughout the book for other Klingenfuss products and WaveCom, which is understandable to a point – who doesn’t advertise their own products in their own books? But with a fifth of the book being adverts, that’s a bit extreme and I’d much rather have seen more dedicated to frequencies and callsigns; or a smaller book at a cheaper price

It’s only when you read the first few pages that you find out the possible reason for the poor content. All the information in the book is from their “24/7” monitoring from 2012. Yes, the information is in fact over one and a half years old. I wondered why there was a 2013/2014 supplement with the book. So despite claiming they are the most accurate and up to date HF database providers, they aren’t – and really your £40 is in fact purchasing this 10 page supplement of also inaccurate information as there’s still frequencies missing

The continual mentions of “professional Customers” and Government agencies that use this book only makes me wonder just what these agencies think they are getting here – it’s certainly not accurate

I’d say that everything and more is available online on the subjects covered in this book. It almost hurts me to say this as I’m a book lover when it comes to this type of subject, and I think that books are always better than the internet, but in this case that just isn’t so.

Recently I have discovered what looks like a great frequency database which I’m hoping I can get my hands on and review in the future – it certainly looks far superior to anything Klingenfuss has to offer

At a cost of £40 this book is totally overpriced, I’d put it more in the £20 region, probably less. I won’t be buying it again – 5/10

Radio Data Code Manual

I hoped that this book may be a bit better than the Utility one and it is, but there are still some huge shortfallings.

To start with, Klingenfuss have failed again to show screenshots of each type of digital data transmissions. For the main, there are no screenshots of an actual signal, again it’s just a WaveCom advert of decoded messages. Screenshots of each type of transmission is a must I would say, it helps to quickly show what to look for when using an SDR or the other way round, when you’ve found something and want to quickly scan through the book to see if it matches. OK, this would be no good to someone with a standard receiver, but if you’re going to provide screenshots make them useful – I don’t care what WaveCom decoded off someone elses radio two years ago.

Instead, I’ve had to look online for examples of what each transmission may look like (and as a bonus, normally you can hear what they sound like too) – and of course, there’s normally a description of the transmission along with it, how to decode it etc. In other words, the internet has beaten a book again

The text does make up for the lack of screenshots. There are good descriptions of the different types of data transmissions, their uses and how to decode it (if you can). The only thing I would say is this – if you know what it is you’re listening to then why would you need the manual in the first place? You actually need to know all about what it is you’ve found to then look in the right chapter in the book. This is why I think that screenshots of spectrum waterfalls should be included. Instead, there’s just 4 pages of how to identify transmissions and this isn’t enough

There are various callsign chapters, on Aeronautical ICAO designators for instance, but then because of this it seems strange that there aren’t other callsigns from other Utilities. And then you think, why aren’t these in the Utility book anyway? because they’re not but really they should be (the Maritime IMO callsigns for instance)

And this is where I think the problem lies

The data and information is spread between two books, with numerous sentences saying “For reverse list…… please refer to chapter(4) in our GUIDE TO UTILITY RADIO STATIONS”. Half of one thing is in one book, and the other half is in the other book. I’ve basically had to use both books to look some things up so I’m lucky(!?) that I bought them both. Had I only purchased one of them I’d have been even more disappointed than I already am

Given that though, the Radio Data Code Manual is an interesting book and does contain some very useful technical information. Out of the two books here it is the best value for money, it would be better if it had good technical screenshots

The Radio Data Code manual costs £40, I’d pay £30 max for it. I doubt I’ll need to purchase one again in the near too distant future as there’s not that much changing out there at the moment. I’d have to seriously consider whether I would actually part with any cash though – 7/10

***EDIT***
I have received quite a few emails regarding the Klingenfuss books which have all been negative towards them.

I have also had some recommendations for books by Roland Proesch. These can be found at his website. I haven’t read the books myself so can’t vouch for them but the PDF demonstration pages are very good and show the books in a good light, particularly the images

Advertisements