What in the World is SSB - Part 1

Single Sideband is a very different source of live audio and it is not on any radio you probably own, or your smartphone!

SSB (Single Sideband) is an obscure but very important way to communicate via radio. It is used primarily for two-way voice communication by ham radio operators, aircraft and air traffic control (ATC), ships at sea, military and spy networks. Occasionally some shortwave broadcast stations use this format. A lot of interesting and sometimes exciting talk goes on every day on these bands. Here is what you need to know to get started listening to this special method of radio communication.

A Radio Receiver is Only As Good as the Antenna Attached to It

While the Skywave SSB receiver is very sensitive and works quite well on the attached whip antenna, more signals can be received and signal strengths boosted by attaching a longer wire such as the included CC SW Reel Antenna or an outdoor antenna. The one drawback with attaching a wire to the Skywave SSB is that noise from things such as computers, fluorescent lights, fish tanks, etc., may actually make listening more challenging because the noise can block signals or make it very hard to receive them.

You will have to experiment to find the best location for both the radio and any external antenna. Generally speaking, the higher and further away from noise generating electrical devices you can place the external antenna, the better. Obviously, you also want to keep any external antenna far away from power lines both for noise and safety reasons.

If you are in a brick or concrete and steel building, the best reception will almost always be near a window. That goes for receiving signals on AM, FM, Weather Band, and AIR band, too.

Additional Tips for SSB Listening

Single sideband can be either UPPER (USB) or LOWER (LSB). You need to know which sideband is used by a given service to be able to listen properly, so make sure your Skywave SSB is set to the correct sideband.

Daytime Listening: During the daytime most activity will normally be on the higher frequencies like 10-30MHz (30, 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10 meter ham bands). The exception is that you will often hear stations within 600 miles or so on 40 meters (7-7.300MHz) in the daytime, especially on weekends and holidays when more hams are on the air.

Nighttime Listening: At nighttime, the 80 meter (3.500-4.000MHz) and 40 meter (7000-7300 KHz) ham bands are normally full of activity in North America. 20 meters (14000-14350 KHz) may also be in use, depending on the radio conditions that day.

For Ham radio listening (Amateur Radio Operators), tune in the LSB on the 160, 80 and 40 meter ham shortwave frequency bands and USB on the 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10 meter bands. Please see the Ham Radio frequency chart on the last page.

For aviation listening use USB. See the link in the last page for high frequency aviation frequencies to try.

The University of Alabama has a great website on what ham bands are currently active at

Use the scanning feature of the Skywave SSB and scan the SSB Band and tune around to see what you can hear.

After tuning in a frequency, use the fine tuning adjustment on your Skywave SSB to help fine tune the frequency you are trying to listen to and achieve the most natural sounding voice.

Keep log notes of frequency, time, call sign and USB/LSB format for future reference.

Signal levels can change (and often do) from day to day on SSB/shortwave. A station you can hear loudly one day, might be weak or unreadable the next day. So, don't be surprised or disappointed if you can't hear your favorite frequency on a given day. They may be loud and clear tomorrow.

Applying the tips and information we have shared here will help you get the most out of your Skywave SSB radio. Beyond these, you can get more help by checking Google™, Bing™ or other search engines on the Internet.

Happy listening and 73s, (Ham jargon for Best Regards)!

Please see What in the world is SSB? Part 2 from the hams at C. Crane.