Danny’s Tecsun PL-660 still works after a serious mishap


In response to our Mega Review, Danny Bower comments:

Fantastic review and whilst I know the article is an older one people will still read it when looking at a portable SW radio.

With this in mind I would like to make the following comment about the PL660. You say it is bulletproof and boy is it! Mine has been dropped, kicked and overwise abused and it’s still going strong.

Most remarkably it was knocked into a bucket of water, plugged in and powered up and was there for a good couple of hours fully submerged before I realised.

It wasn’t long good for a week or two but after 3 or 4 weeks I have it one last try before binning it and hey presto it came back to life! Ok the volume pot is now a bit scratchy but other than that it’s working just fine.

Want a radio that will take the general abuse of travelling – this is it…

Wow!  Thanks for your comment, Danny! Most impressive that your PL-660 went diving that long and lived to tell the tale. Thanks for sharing!

Posted in News, Radios, Shortwave Radio, Travel | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Jeff’s solution to increasing FM performance on the Sangean U3

Sangean U3

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jeff McMahon (at the Herculodge), who writes:

I upgraded my Sangean U3 with a male to female iMBAPrice 6 foot stereo audio extension cable 3.5mm, which I plugged into the U3’s auxiliary port.

Sangean U3-1

The U3’s small stub of an FM antenna really needed some extra oomph. Now my U3 is picking up all my favorite stations, including the problematic KPCC 89.3 in Pasadena.

AM is as great as always. The sound is crystal clear on AM and FM. If this radio weren’t so big, I’d buy two more for the kitchen and my bedroom, but will have to be content to have one for my gym/office radio.

Sangean U3-2

Thanks, Jeff! I might have to consider the Sangean U3–I hope a reader will let me know if one goes on sale.

Like Jeff, having a radio that not only performs admirably, but that can also withstand the attention of my kids, may be a great investment over the long-term! I’m glad such a simple addition to the U3 means that you can now hear your favorite Fm station, Jeff!

Now if Sangean only made a shortwave version of the U3–!

Posted in AM, FM, News, Radio Modifications, Radios | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Simple hack: Changing the tuning knob on the PL-660

Tecsun PL660 modified Tuning knob 001

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, James Patterson, who writes:

Has anyone ever thought of changing the Tuning knob on the PL-660?

Putting a larger knob on it makes for much easier turning instead of the very small fiddly knob Tecsun supply.

Tecsun PL660 modified Tuning knob 002

Finding the right plastic knob maybe a problem, needing to insert it over the tuner cam. But modifying another knob off something else is what I did.

Tricks of the trade!!

Tecsun PL660 modified Tuning knob 003

That looks like a very simple and effective mod, making the 660 more tuner-friendly for you! Thank you for sharing, James!

Posted in News, Radio Modifications, Radios, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The New Degen DE1103 DSP: First impressions & review


When I discovered that Degen had recently refreshed the receiver design of the DE1103, I was intrigued, to say the least. The original DE1103 sported some serious performance for a sub-$100 receiver.


The 2015 model of the Degen DE1103 implements a DSP chip (the Silicon Labs Si4735-D60).

Yet I was on the fence about purchasing the new DE1103. Why? In truth, I never fell in love with the original DE1103. While I appreciated the 1103’s unique analog-style digital display, I never got used to its quirky ergonomics. Degen had quality control issues, too: I had to return two faulty units before getting one that worked as advertised (incidentally, I had a similar problem with the Kaito KA1102).

Then last week, SWLing Post reader, Ron, contacted me. He had purchased the new DE1103 from Hong Kong-based eBay vendor Bigbargainonline.


Ron kindly provided the SWLing Post with his impressions of the DE1103, as follows:

Performance is roughly on a par with the earlier dual conversion version. This one is just as hot, but no hotter.

If you were thinking a GP5 on a bigger ferrite bar, yes…and no.

There is one major gripe…[this unit] will not remember frequencies set with the BFO on, like the earlier dual-conversion version did. Instead you have to turn the BFO on for each memory frequency [for which you] need it.

One thing [I] noticed right off was the almost complete lack of AGC “pumping” on CW and SSB that all earlier versions had (yay!) but this plus comes at the cost of having the BFO “remembered” in memory.

Zero-beating (or centering) the BFO to null on WWV and local AM stations to check alignment was…strange. At null beat the BFO seems to quit for a second. It is fine
either side of zero beat, however.

This is doubtless due to Tecsun’s adapting the Silicon Labs IC to a full range BFO like this. Recall the same IC in the GP5 features Upper and Lower selection on CW/SSB.

This 1103 DSP version also has the GP5’s slight tuning mute, not a problem.

But for ease of operation in CW/SSB mode, the GP5 is [much] better IMO.

Ron also notes that he wasn’t pleased with the DE1103’s longwave performance and didn’t feel the mediumwave and shortwave reception was an improvement on the original DE1103.

He decided that he would sell this DE1103 and gave me first dibs, so I bit the bullet. I was eager to compare the new DE1103 with some of the other DSP-based portables in my collection. Ron dispatched the DE1103 immediately–it arrived a few days ago, but I didn’t have a chance to test it until yesterday.


I took the Degen DE1103 outside, sat it on the tailgate of my truck and put it on the air…

I tuned around the mediumwave band and picked up all of the local benchmark stations. Same with FM. So far, this tuning confirmed Ron’s assessment of the DE1103: it didn’t surpass the original.

But the shortwave bands were a different story.

As I tuned around the HF bands, the DE1103 seemed to receive quite a lot signals.  But in most instances, I could hear local AM broadcasters bleeding in, as well. Indeed, imaging was prevalent across the shortwave bands–the receiver was obviously being overwhelmed by a local broadcaster.  Unfortunate.

Could strong interference account for this? While there are local AM broadcasters around, they’re not exactly “blow-torch” stations. Indeed, I’ve never had overloading issues with other shortwave portables I’ve used in the same location–not even with my Kaito WRX911!

Imaging was prevalent on the DE1103 when it was tuned to pretty much any audible shortwave broadcaster.

Here’s a video of the Degen DE1103 tuned to the Voice of Greece on 9,420 kHz:

What you’re hearing in the audio is a local broadcaster bleeding in. Note that when I tune off-frequency, no imaging is heard.

Wondering if something had changed locally–and just to be fair–I pulled out my Sony ICF-SW100 and sat it next to the DE1103. The Sony had no issues.

This time, I tuned to WWV on the 19 meter band and compared the two receivers:

As Dan Robinson expresses it, the ICF-SW100 “wipes the floor” with the DE1103. There’s no hint of overloading in the SW100.

My buddy, Ron, is clearly a keen radio reviewer; obviously he didn’t hear overloading on the shortwave bands where he tested the rig, else he would certainly have mentioned it. The location where I tested the DE1103 does have some local broadcasters in the area, but no clear channel or high-power stations; in short, there’s no likely interference within a ten-mile radius to account for this debilitating performance problem.

Too bad…!

Obviously, the new DSP version of the Degen DE1103 is especially prone to imaging on the shortwave bands. In fact, it’s the only receiver I’ve ever tested that has overloading issues at this testing location (where I tested the original Degen DE1103, by the way).

My assessment? Avoid the new Degen DE1103.

A much better receiver with SSB for roughly the same price would be the venerable Tecsun PL-600 ($89.99 at Amazon and $89.95 at Universal Radio). If SSB reception isn’t necessary, you might also consider the CC Skywave or the very affordable Tecsun PL-310ET.

Posted in AM, Mediumwave, New Products, News, Radios, Reviews, Shortwave Radio, Shortwave Radio Reviews | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Thanksgiving, Microwaves and…Acorns?


It’s Thanksgiving here in the States–without a doubt, my favorite holiday.  What’s not to love about family, feasting, and, of course, friends? To that end:

I’d like to take a moment to offer my thanks to all of you who read, comment, and otherwise contribute to the SWLing Post community. You make this a terrific place for everything radio! Thank you.

And on the topic of radio–while anticipating a wonderful Thanksgiving meal–I’m reminded of this video I recently viewed.  Evidently, some form of native wildlife–and suspicion rests upon a number of industrious squirrels and woodpeckers–decided that a radio microwave antenna in Bear Creek would be an excellent place to stash a few acorns and other winter nuts.

So–just for fun–here’s what it looked like when the field engineers cleaned out the microwave antenna cover:

Sometimes it really is a challenge to count all your blessings.  At any rate, may your day, no matter where you live in this world, be just as abundant!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Posted in Funny, News | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

VOA Radiogram 128 on a cheap Tesco shortwave radio


SWLing Post reader, Christopher, lives on the north coast of Labrador, Canada. He recently contacted me regarding the purchase of a new receiver–he’s currently stuck with a very inexpensive analog portable he purchased at the UK grocery store, Tesco: the Tesco RAD-108.

While the RAD-108 has poor sensitivity and selectivity, it’s still (evidently) more than capable of receiving the VOA Radiogram. Many thanks to Christopher for sharing this video he found on YouTube:

Posted in Digital Modes, News, Shortwave Radio, What's On Shortwave | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Hackaday recounts an “An Unlikely Radio Story”


Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Michael Letterle, who shares this story from the excellent website Hackaday.

The following is an excerpt from Swans, Pigs, and the CIA: An Ulikey Radio Story:

Shortwave radio is boring, right? Maybe not. You never know what intrigue and excitement you might intercept. We recently covered secret number stations, and while no one knows for sure exactly what their purpose is, it is almost surely involving cloaks and daggers. However, there’s been some more obvious espionage radio, like Radio Swan.

The swan didn’t refer to the animal, but rather an island just off of Honduras that, until 1972, was disputed between Honduras and the United States. The island got its name–reportedly–because it was used as a base for a pirate named Swan in the 17th century. This island also had a long history of use by the United States government. The Department of Agriculture used it to quarantine imported beef and a variety of government departments had weather stations there.

…[T]he most famous occupant of Swan Island was Radio Swan which broadcast on the AM radio band and shortwave. The station was owned by the Gibraltar Steamship Company with offices on Fifth Avenue in New York. Oddly, though, the company didn’t actually have any steamships. What it did have was some radio transmitters that had been used by Radio Free Europe and brought to the island by the United States Navy. Did I mention that the Gibraltar Steamship Company was actually a front for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)?

Read the full story on HackADay…

Posted in News, Numbers Stations, Radio History, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment