The Listener's Guide - How We Came To Be

This site started out as The Lowe Listeners Guide, a publication to dump a lifetime of radio thoughts and experiences.

We should have got out more. In its original form, it covered two sides of a single sheet of A4 paper, all a photo-copier could take in those days.

John Wilson, Technical Director for Lowe Electronics, allowed a young ARSE (Amateur Radio Service Engineer, sorry) time out to bulk this up to an A5 booklet. Perhaps he realised that somebody's shining new hobby actually had quite a pedigree.

Anyway, The Listener's Guide was his idea and his support to this day never fades. His contribution was the classic Six Band Sagger, an antenna system that finally acknowledged the fact that most of us have average houses with average gardens, not the rolling acres that allow a Beverage to each point of the compass.

He also typed out the entire Guide from my dithering hand-written notes. Among the reviews was this one from the Fine Tuning Group in the USA:

Packed along with each Lowe receiver is a little gem of a book called The Lowe Listeners Guide, which serves as an introduction to DXing without attempting to provide one of those frequency lists that's invariably outdated. This little book covers an awful lot in its 60 odd pages and does it with a dry, refreshing wit. I've been DX'ing for more than 40 years, yet I found things in the little Lowe book that I'd never tried.

It begins with some pointers on antennas, then moves on to a guide tour of the spectrum from ELF through 30 MHz. Here's a sample of what you'll find off the beaten track:

If you really want to frighten yourself, a couple of transistors and a few large coils can be cobbled into an ELF receiver. Around 10 kHz or so the action of static discharges anywhere in the atmosphere, coupled with hanges in the earth's magnetic field, create whistlers, not unlike the cry of a rough whale. Very eerie all this. All worthy of John Carpenter...

While it's written from a European perspective with a distinctly British accent, the information contained in Lowe's wonderful little Listeners' Guide is perfectly valid anywhere on earth. Like the receivers it accompanies, The Lowe Listeners' Guide is for short-wave connoisseurs. Priced at only $3.50, it would make an ideal stocking stuffer for any short wave aficionado.

The cover of the original Listeners Guide

The style of The Guide was laughed at by Bill Lowe between golf games - was he laughing at me or with me? - while Alan Whitford wondered if this was sending the right message to their customers. Any RAOTA Member will remember the spirit of Ham Radio back then. Alan need not have worried...

The Rare Unsigned Editions

The first edition with a yellow cover, now very collectible, was then updated with a technical supplement by John Thorpe under grey covers, made a print-run of over 15,000 copies. It got a tremendous response and is still used today. If you still have and, heaven forfend, still read that original version, do let me know via Contact Us.

And now you are reading it here for nothing. My corporate chums call it value adding.

The cover picture shows erection of long-wire aerials as an extreme sport. John Wilson says it came from an ancient book on Better Reception. Good to know this at last as The Guide still seems to find an audience today. And note how dated the LOWE logo has become...

The late Gordon Bennett, a true SWL and mentor to all concerned with real RF performance, saw it as:

Forty-four pages of very useful and comprehensive information presented in a light-hearted fashion

He also admits he never made it to the end of the book. Thanks, Gordon. The likes of you kept us on our toes. More indifferent praise came from BBC Radio 2's early morning host Alex Lester when he said:

You have awakened my inner nerd. Good site. Best Wishes, Alex

And we'd like to think he meant it, too. The Listener's Guide is out of print now but after that kind of comment plus a steady stream of feedback received since I set up shop online, here's the latest version. Have a look around. You might even enjoy yourself...

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