Tecsun PL-680: Just How Sensitive is This Radio?

More than two months ago, in the Mount Evelyn DX Report I posted a review of the Tecsun PL-680 portable receiver, entitled Tecsun PL-680 Beats Expectations. In that article, I pointed out many of the positives and a few of the flaws surrounding the unit. At the end of the review, I promised I would do some sensitivity tests on the radio.

Well, I finally got around to completing the tests, and the results are in. Below is a YouTube video showing a practical demonstration of the receiver’s capabilities in this area of performance.

The portable Tecsun PL-680 receiver is a hot little radio! As these tests show, it appears to be very sensitive to weak signals. Here, we put the little 680 up against one the best HF transceivers on the market today – the Yaesu FTDX3000 transceiver. The receiver in the 3000 is quite brilliant! And it has all the “bells-and-whistles” to make it even better at digging out weak signals and reducing adjacent channel interference.

However, in these tests we turn off all the fancy facilities on the FTDX3000 and just run the two receivers side by side to see how the 680 compares. We use the same antenna and we plug both radios into the same external speaker, adjusting as close as we can to equal volume and tone quality. We select a variety of shortwave broadcast stations over a range of frequencies from the 60 through to the 16 meter bands. I think you’ll discover that the Tecsun is really a very good performer when it comes to sensitivity!

My Tecsun PL-680 Beats Expectations review in MEDXR is an updated version of a column I wrote for the August issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine.

As always, your feedback is much appreciated.

73 and good DX to you all,

Rob Wagner VK3BVW

Rob Wagner, VK3BVW, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. He also blogs at the Mount Evelyn DX Report.

17 thoughts on “Tecsun PL-680: Just How Sensitive is This Radio?

  1. Edward

    I would be interested in how the radios compare with an adjacent strong signal just outside the passband and how well intermod is handled. The 680 is hard to beat in other aspects

    Reply
    1. Rob Wagner

      I could possibly do that test, Edward. But probably not fair on the little 680 and the FTDX3000 employs multiple means of signal rejection. But perhaps I could rig up something for you. 🙂

      Reply
      1. Edward

        Well that would be a true test. I am inclined to believe the FTDX3000 is superior in this respect (signal rejection). My radio shack DX380 picks up signals that are not there like second harmonics of broadcast stations (inter-mod byproducts) that my Heath GR-78 does not pick up. The 680 is a direct conversion radio that MIGHT be susceptible to this. I live in eyesight of the WRKO towers and the newer radios tend to suffer from overload all over the band, I am looking at the 680 but prefer the PL 880 because of its BFO This will help me decide

        Reply
        1. Rob Wagner

          The 680 does have the occasional image on MW and SW. Also susceptible to occasional overloading on very strong signals causing wide splatter across the band, when connected to an external antenna. But for the money, it’s very good.

          Reply
  2. David Jay

    It doesn’t appear that you can buy the 680 in the United States, am I wrong? I will be taking delivery of the 660 tomorrow. I hope it’s as good.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel

      David,

      I have not seen it for sale in the USA … but I know it is fro sale from Anon-Co. (their web site & eBay) plus another Hong Kong-based seller on eBay. Anna from Anon-Co. is great and they ship FedEx. Their radios arrive very quickly (and Anon-Co. is far less expensive than the other Hong Kong eBay seller who seems to favor the European market).

      Troy

      Reply
  3. James Patterson

    Thanks very much Rob.I watched and listened to your U Tube test of the two radios.There is really no difference at all. Ive been the very proud owner of the PL 660 for a year now and it’s performance is outstanding,orthough I must admitt a little over sensitive when it comes to outside electrical interferance and any weak SSB stations come across quite distorted,But over all it is a fine portable compared with my other portable receivers.One question please from anyone who owns the 680 and the 660.How do the two compare side by side in a simular test? I acturly had to check out four of the PL 660s befor I settled on buying a Silver one.Every black one I tried,had a very loud internal harmonic noise that would drown out any station,it would acturly climb up or down the HF bands.Very strange,I nearly gave up on buying the 660 untill I tried this Silver one and it indeed had no harmonic problems at all.So I would be most interested to know if this 680 is infact a better receiver than the 660. I look forward to all replies.

    Reply
      1. James Patterson

        Thanks Thomas.Ive just posted a request asking about the Tecsun S-2000.How does it compare with the other Tecsun’s and perhapes other HF/SSB portable receivers. Is it over priced, is it good quality for the money,and how good is the HF,MW,FM,Air and SSB receiption.

        Reply
  4. Tha Dood

    Wow!!!! I did this same type of test of sensitivity between my Kenwood TS-2000X transceiver (Bought in early 2010.), and the ‘ol Sangean ATS-803A portable (Bought in Dec. 1989.). I had to pick a night where the electrical noise level was really low. Here’s some tuff DX’s from where I am in West Virginia. 3787KHz LSB at 05:00UTC, pulling out the Brits talking to the USA and Canadian HAM’s on East Coast. I used the same 60ft longwire antenna for both. The TS-2000X, keep it in wide-band, 5KHz SSB mode, but turned off Preamp, DSP’s (Where I could.), and Noise Blanker’s, RF Gain wide open. It heard two G0??? stations, but nothing to deflect the meter, while the domestic stations were anywhere from S4 to S9. The ATS-803A in it’s wide-band in BFO mode, the background noise pegged the 5 segment LED meter. I had to back down the RF Gain 3/4 back to match the level on the TS-2000X. The Brits were in there peaking 1 LED segment, while domestic stations pegged the meter. I aways thought those meters, although useful, were just way too giving in portables. Where the TS-2000X kicked butt? Deep, natural, audio quality, in LSB while the ATS-803A just sounded like a a typical monotoned communications RX in BFO mode. Next test, AM CB’ers. Listening on a local AM CB channel. Both radios heard every station talking to each other. TS-2000X had little noise background and stations came in from S0 (Not moving the meter.), to S+10/9 for the closet station. The ATS-803A, with RF Gain wide open, gave 4 LED’s of background noise, so I backed its RF Gain down to below meter reading. Just about every CB’er, local and miles away, pegged the meter. The closest stations would give that radio’s AGC “PING” sound when they keyed in. Audio quality? More robust on the TS-2000X. If they had good, crisp, audio from a D-104 mic, the Kenwood would let you hear it all. While the ATS-803A was much more limiting in AM audio quality. Not bad, but not the full potentials that some stations transmitted. Last year, I did a Medium Wave test between the two radio off the longwire. Here’s where things were different. Both radios sensitivities were specified lower here. The ATS-803A sensitivity change-over FREQ was 1620KHz (Before the expanded MW band in the USA to 1710KHz.). It also has a manual switch to go from internal bar antenna to the RCA phono plug for EXT Antenna. The TS-2000X has an internal jumper for LOW / HIGH MW sensitivity. Its FREQ sensitivity switchover point was 1710KHz. I switched that over to HIGH years ago. Again, this was for night, mainly so that I can listen to various stations carrying Coast To Coast AM. MW stations on the TS-2000X varied from S1 to S+10/9 in wideband. Audio being robust, but anything over 5KHz in audio FREQ was brick-walled attenuated by the radio’s DPS bandwidths. On the ATS-803A, I again had to turn the RF Gain better than 3/4 back since the whole band pegged the radio’s meter. This radio has a very limiting AM band width, even in its wideband mode. However, I seemed to dig out those tough catches like TIS Stations and Cuban Stations, that I couldn’t seem to dig out with the Kenwood. The Sangean the clear winner in sensitivity here. Now, where does the Sangean, and most portable, fault? No ability to deal with RX’ed noise. Any electrical noise RX’ed by the the ATS-803A, and it’s game over with meter pegging BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. The TS-2000X, that rig has one of the most effective Noise Blankers that I’ve come across and is indeed very effective. Even better than many CB’s I’ve come across. I may in the future try and built a Noise Blanker circuit for the Sangean portable, and there are DIY plans for that out there. But, as long as you did your side by side comparison on the new Tecson and a top notched Yaesu rig, I’d thought I’d ring in with mine. 73’s!!!!!

    Reply
  5. Rob Wagner

    Hi Tha Dood! Thank you for taking the time to describe your tests on the ATS803 and the TS2000. Comparisons are fun to do! Keep up the great work. 73, Rob VK3BVW

    Reply
  6. Mike from Toronto

    …can SOMEONE please tell me something….? The Sony icf -59 & 39 (prison edition), the Sony T 515 am fm dx pocket radio, were reviewed on this site, some time ago!…..ok, good, but why can Sony (or other radio manufacturers), make these kind of dx’ing radio and with a speaker, in this day and age? If the Panasonic RF-2200 is the cat’s meow of portable radios, why not make it TODAY (but maybe add DSP), as this radio was built in the 1970’s and we live in the 21st century! ….rsvp!

    Reply
  7. James Patterson

    I have a test for you guys who own a Tecsun S-2000,same as the Grundig and other lable names that are put on for marketing purposes etc made by Tecsun.Some of us are the proud owners of the PL 660 and 680 etc portables,but how does the S-2000 perform against any of these?Maybe the test has already been done and published?I saw on U Tube that when the turnable ferite rod antenna is turned it makes static,well that is understandable because there probably are many small “finger type” contacts under it,rather than a loom of wire that may stretch while turning.Also,how does the S-2000 preform against any portable receiver not only Tecsuns. I have read,the S-2000 is well over priced for what it is.Is the curcuitry the same as the smaller PL 660? What are the benefits of useing the S-2000 and is the SSB and HF receiption better or the same as the others?I see from looking at the face of the S-2000 that it has fast and slow tuning.Would this be for tuning in the SSB signals rather than useing a BFO control?I would like someone to do a real good check,and perhapes put it on U Tube,or publish it here.I saw one on U Tube,infortunitly it wasnt in english and the guy kept turning the knobs too fast and did not have it on frequency properly.I dont know why he put it on U Tube.So if any good experianced operators out there would like to put the S-2000 to a real good test,that would be great thanks,all the pros and cons please,befor I may buy one or not !!.

    Reply

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