Important note about Tecsun PL-880 firmware versions

Click here to learn how to display your PL-880's firmware version.

Click here to learn how to display your PL-880′s firmware version.

It seems that there are some important differences emerging between PL-880 firmware versions.

You may have noted that the PL-880 I reviewed yesterday has a firmware version of 8820. I purchased my PL-880 through eBay seller, Anon-Co. As far as I can tell, most, if not all of the units Anon-Co has sold have the same (i.e. latest) firmware version: 8820.

Several readers have contacted me with concern about units they’ve purchased from Kaito Electronics and from their vendor account Electronnix which have firmware version 8819. (Not sure what firmware version you have? Click here to discover.)

It seems that firmware version 8819 lacks a few features that I mentioned in the review I posted yesterday:

  • The muting threshold cannot be properly adjusted as I describe in this post. To be clear, this would lead to a very annoying and constant shift in audio level while listening to all but the strongest of AM/SW signals. I would recommend returning your PL-880 if the muting threshold cannot be adjusted.
  • Bandwidth cannot be adjusted using the tuning or fine tuning controls. You can only cycle through filters by continuously press the AM BW button.

It also seems that Kaito’s PL-880s are not shipping with the same carrying case Anon-Co ships.

On a side note, I don’t think Kaito is to blame for this as they probably had no idea there were different versions of the PL-880 firmware. I’m sure they will work with their customers to correct this.

If we found that the PL-880 firmware could be updated by users it would eliminate this problem.  So far, I have not heard that this is the case.

Please comment if you notice other differences in firmware versions and I will amend the list above.

You can follow all Tecsun PL-880 updates by bookmarking/checking this link.

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24 Responses to Important note about Tecsun PL-880 firmware versions

  1. Barry says:

    Great job with the review Thomas. I really appreciate your information. My firmware version is 8820 also. However setting the muting to 00 has made little overall difference to the problem. However due to the fact that it some times has the sound problem on FM as well I think my PL-880 has other issues. I accidently found if I gently press the volume control knob sideways on any band the volume dramatically increases. Then gently press again the volume drops right down. I wondered if anyone else had experienced this with their radio.

    • tw says:

      I second that, Thomas thanks again for your clear concise info–
      Barry, if you are having this same muting problem with 8820 then that’s really bad news, because there’s little point in returning version 8819 and/or waiting for 8820. Mine is 8819 and I’ve also noticed it on FM as well as SW/AM, so I don’t think yours is ‘defective’. Though there’s no way to adjust it on FM, but the threshold seems set lower than SW/AM so it’s only a problem on stations that are really down in the noise. But here’s a good example of why this muting thing can be such a huge mess–I tried listening to it in the car while driving down the freeway–even a slightly weak local FM was constantly muting like a switch being turned on and off. With a normal radio you would just get higher static levels where the 880 is denying you the ability to hear anything.

      • tw says:

        BTW, I do think your volume knob problem is a defect (maybe bad soldering or dust on the contacts), as mine is solid as can be. However I have noticed already some small hairs inside the LCD window, this after only a day of use. I don’t think the radio is sealed very well.

        • Barry says:

          Hi tw thanks for your comments. I will be in touch with Anon-co when they return to work on the 18th December to see what they recommend . They are very approachable and told me to adjust the muting levels as Thomas suggested and get back to them with the results. I will give you all a progress report on how everything turns out. I believe other people have had more success with turning off the muting so I may be just a one off. I think you need the later version with access to the muting.
          Will let you know what happen. Thanks.
          Yours Barry

          • tw says:

            I hope I haven’t confused matters too much, but I should have been clear that my 8819 does have a muting adjustment, and it definitely works. But my impression is there are actually two types of muting/squelching operating simultaneously, the first (the one that you adjust by holding down number 9) is providing an effect similar to narrowing of bandwidth/softening of harsh static, fades, etc. (the one that is adjustable). Then there’s a second one that just lowers the volume greatly when it detects a signal at 00 dBu, and it cannot be shut off. Unfortunately there is still a lot of audio information in a 00 dBu signal on this radio!

  2. Barry says:

    Thanks for making that clear tw. Sorry I did wrongly assumed your model did not have muting control. I understand exactly what you are saying. Looks like we may all need a firmware upgrade as soon as possible.

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  5. john f. victor says:

    Thank s to everyone for all of the reviews and comments regarding the Tecsun pl880. I have one on order from Amazon and am considering refusing delivery of it ,and waiting a while until these issues have been thoroughly resolved. My question is why haven’t these issues and adjustments needed been listed in the owner’s manual?

  6. Barry says:

    Very good point John. The lesson I have learnt is I will never purchase a radio again when it is first released. Better to wait until all the problems have been resolved.

    • Thomas says:

      Hi, Barry,

      I have a friend who has been in the ham radio business for years. He once told me that he cringes when he sells the first and final batches of a radio. In both cases, the likelihood of problems and returns increase dramatically.

      In the case of Tecsun, they simply rushed this product out the door without properly testing it and (now) will pay for it in terms of returns and disappointed customers.

      Yes, if you can wait…I would wait. I’m removing the PL-880 from my holiday gift guide after knowing the problems with older firmware versions, etc.


  7. Henry says:

    Absolutely agreed, Barry. It was my fault to believe the numerous reviews that were made after appearance of the rig which claimed, that it was an excellent receiver. Here in Europe there are already even books about SW listening wich call the PL-880 “Probably the best SW portable that was ever made” (Now I am getting a stomache ache reading this). Then I decided to purchase it. And my disappointment came close to a shock. I could not believe that the rig was performing so bad on SSB.
    BTW: I have the 8820, but the stories about deactivating the soft mute are only half true. The rig is pretty dead on SSB as soon as second station is about 10 kHz away. Not good SSB receiver at all.

    • Thomas says:

      Hi, Henry,

      Thanks for the comments. I’m more than annoyed with Tecsun for releasing a product that is half-baked engineering-wise. It’s made my job of posting a review a rather difficult one–with every statement, a contingency. On top of that finding that there were two versions of the firmware floating out there.

      The past two days, I have had my PL-880 on SSB listening to ham radio and a little pirate activity. I have had no soft muting issues, that I’ve heard. I’ haven’t noticed adjacent signals killing the rx either–though it’s possible, I haven’t been listening with an adjacent signal dead on 10 kHz to the side. In fact, the audio from the Ascension Island DXpedition was split 6 kHz above the listening frequency, but those calling were spread over nearly 2 kHz.

      I hate that you’re experiencing these problems. It sounds like you should simply send your PL-880 back. I don’t think the PL-880 is the best receiver ever made. That belongs in the realm of the 2010. :)


    • owl says:

      Hi! Henry:

      You said “The rig is pretty dead on SSB as soon as second station is about 10 kHz away”. Could you please clarify: did the radio actually cease functioning due to a second signal appeared 10k away and a reset was required, or did the second signal make your radio rather “deaf”?

  8. Karl says:

    I had to practically tie my wrists together to keep from pre-ordering a PL880, and now I’m glad I did. I guess my experiences as a Mazda RX2 and a Chromebook early adopter have had lasting effect. For now I’ll stick with my Kaito 1103, and wait for the dust to settle with regard to this potentially wonderful radio.

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  10. john f. victor says:

    I just received the Tecsun PL880 thru Amazon, and it indeed has the 8819 firmware. It is going back tomorrow, and I will try to order thru Anon-co. The question that I have is does Anon-co have a contact phone number. I would like to check to see if they could guarantee I would get the Tecsumpl880 with the later firmware.

    • Thomas says:

      Hi, John,

      I don’t have a phone number for Anon-Co, but if you simply message them through eBay, they will respond (keeping in mind the time difference). This is how I’ve communicated with them.


  11. Tom Stiles says:

    This may have been posted before but here is some videos where this person did some great captures on video of the soft muting problem.

    Another Tom (Thomas)

  12. Tom Stiles says:

    Thanks Thomas. I have been working on getting a full refund for nearly a week now with no luck. They want me to pay full return shipping and no guarantee that I will get any refund. Still working with them and Amazon.

    Another Thomas

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