What to broadcast after a nuclear attack? The BBC had a plan.

Peter Donaldson (23 August 1945 – 2 November 2015) Image source: BBC

Peter Donaldson (23 August 1945 – 2 November 2015) Image source: BBC

If you live in the UK and listen to the radio, you’ve probably heard that long-time announcer/broadcaster Peter Donaldson died earlier this week. For years–decades actually–Donaldson was a prominent voice on Radio 4.

Donaldson was also well-loved by his listeners, and his colleagues at the BBC (read this touching tribute).

Donaldson had a familiar, calming voice; perhaps that’s why he was asked by the BBC to record a series of informational messages in the event of a nuclear war.

Yes, to be clear, the BBC had a plan.

This article in the BBC Magazine explains (thanks, Andrea):

“BBC newsreader Peter Donaldson, who has died aged 70, was to have been the voice of radio bulletins in the event of a nuclear attack. What would have gone out on the UK’s airwaves if the Cold War had turned hot?

“This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known.”

So began the script, read by Peter Donaldson, which was to go out on British airwaves in the event of nuclear war.”

Castle_Union-Mushroom-Cloud-Nuclear

Here’s an audio clip from Peter Donaldson’s pre-recorded announcement:

While I’m an avid radio listener, I should hope I never hear a similar message over the air (even though Donaldson’s voice is indeed quite calming).

If you’re curious, here is the full Wartime Broadcasting Service official post-attack statement, courtesy of Wikipedia:

This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.

Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your homes you could be exposing yourselves to greater danger. If you leave, you may find yourself without food, without water, without accommodation and without protection. Radioactive fall-out, which follows a nuclear explosion, is many times more dangerous if you are directly exposed to it in the open. Roofs and walls offer substantial protection. The safest place is indoors.

Make sure gas and other fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished. If mains water is available, this can be used for fire-fighting. You should also refill all your containers for drinking water after the fires have been put out, because the mains water supply may not be available for very long.

Water must not be used for flushing lavatories: until you are told that lavatories may be used again, other toilet arrangements must be made. Use your water only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. Water means life. Don’t waste it.

Make your food stocks last: ration your supply, because it may have to last for fourteen days or more. If you have fresh food in the house, use this first to avoid wasting it: food in tins will keep.

If you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given, stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out. When the immediate danger has passed the sirens will sound a steady note. The “all clear” message will also be given on this wavelength. If you leave the fall-out room to go to the lavatory or replenish food or water supplies, do not remain outside the room for a minute longer than is necessary.

Do not, in any circumstances, go outside the house. Radioactive fall-out can kill. You cannot see it or feel it, but it is there. If you go outside, you will bring danger to your family and you may die. Stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out or you hear the “all clear” on the sirens.

Here are the main points again:

Stay in your own homes, and if you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given stay in your fall-out room, until you are told it is safe to come out. The message that the immediate danger has passed will be given by the sirens and repeated on this wavelength. Make sure that the gas and all fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished.

Water must be rationed, and used only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. It must not be used for flushing lavatories. Ration your food supply: it may have to last for fourteen days or more.

We shall repeat this broadcast in two hours’ time. Stay tuned to this wavelength, but switch your radios off now to save your batteries until we come on the air again. That is the end of this broadcast.

PRI’s The World featured a story about Peter Donaldson as well, and it was mentioned that perhaps the US has a similar “official” post-attack statement. I’m willing to bet we do, but I’m not sure how it would be disseminated over radio. Unlike the UK, we don’t have local relays of a government broadcaster. We do have the Emergency Alert Service which is directly tied to local and national broadcasting outlets–assuming satellite feeds are still functioning, that is.

Enough apocalyptic thoughts today?

Back to your regularly scheduled program…

Disaster DX audio podcast

Cyclone_Pam_NOAA_March_14_2015

Many thanks to Mehmet Burk of ReliefAnalysis.com for sharing the following about his new podcast:

Disaster DX is a new audio series from ReliefAnalysis.com that looks at emerging disasters through the lens of humanitarian broadcasting.

Episode 1 focuses on the impacts of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, and how shortwave radio is a vital medium that will be here to stay.

Disaster DX pays special attention to situations where humanitarian crises create their own “digital divides” that radio helps to bridge. The podcast will be available on iTUNES shortly, but in the meantime listeners can sign up via e-mail on the site.

Link: http://www.reliefanalysis.com/2015/04/humanitarian-broadcasting-revives-in.html

This is great news, Mehmet. I’ll be listening!

The best general coverage transceivers for shortwave listening

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of The Spectrum Monitor Magazine.


Icom-IC7200

The Icom IC-7200 has an excellent general coverage receiver

Like many amateur radio operators, I became interested in HF radio because of my real passion for shortwave radio listening. During my first fifteen years as an SWL, I relied on portable receivers, in my case, the Zenith Transoceanic, Realistic DX-440, and Grundig YB 400. The Zenith was my home radio; I traveled with the DX-440 and YB400. I felt like I had the world at my fingertips.

In the mid 1990s, as an undergraduate, I decided that I would pursue my ham radio license–while on my student budget, I dreamed about upgrading to a proper tabletop receiver like a Kenwood, Icom, JRC or Drake. But when I found out the real cost of buying an HF transceiver (gasp!) I realized that all of my resources would go into a transceiver, and the receiver would just have to wait.

The Icom IC-735 general coverage transceiver

The Icom IC-735 general coverage transceiver

Then, as I was studying for my license in 1997, ham buddy Eric McFadden (WD8RIF) invited me over to his house to test drive his Icom IC-735 transceiver. Eric, along with another friend/elmer, Mike (K8RAT) encouraged me to look for a used IC-735 for an affordable first HF radio.

I recall very well tuning around the ham bands at Eric’s QTH and being most impressed with how the IC-735 seemed to pull signals out of the static. It was my first time ever tuning a tabletop rig, and I was instantly hooked. Later, I asked Eric if the ’735 could also tune in shortwave radio broadcasters? His energetic response: “Sure! The ‘735 is general coverage,” then demonstrated by tuning to the 31M band.

Needless to say, I was absolutely amazed by the number of stations one could hear on this ham radio transceiver. Of course, its sensitivity surpassed anything I had ever owned, especially considering that the rig was hooked up to a proper outdoor wire antenna. I realized then that a ham radio transceiver and receiver–in the same radio–were within my financial grasp.

So, what is “general coverage”––?

A ham transceiver with “general coverage” means that the receiver portion of the radio is not limited to the ham bands only; these receivers typically receive between 100 kHz and 30 MHz (i.e., the full medium and shortwave radio spectrum). Many transceivers, starting in the 1980s, employed a general coverage design as a feature of the radio. Some radios implemented general coverage receiving better than others. In most cases, there was a compromise to performance when the receiver was opened to general coverage reception, so many manufactures held to a ham-band-only platform to optimize performance where hams sought it most. Today, receiver architecture can better accommodate general coverage without compromising sensitivity and selectivity on the ham bands.

Still, in 1997, my Icom IC-735 met all of my ham radio and SWLing expectations. For years, in fact, it was my main SWLing rig. Was the IC-735 as good as a proper tabletop receiver? No. The truth is that its filters and performance were most favorable for the ham radio bands. But as I mentioned, this compromise is much less profound in current transceiver design, and general coverage is status quo.

Benefits of general coverage

Apps like Amateur Radio Exam Prep make exam practice easy and convenient

Apps like Amateur Radio Exam Prep make exam practice easy and convenient

While the benefit of having a transceiver that can tune the full broadcast band may seem obvious, there are two reasons I always have at least one general coverage transceiver in my radio arsenal:

  1. Since I like to travel and save space, a small general coverage transceiver (e.g., the Elecraft KX3) kills two birds with one (portable) stone;
  2. If an emergency, such as a dire weather event were to occur, general coverage will allow me the ability to monitor international broadcasters and local AM (mediumwave) stations while still performing any emcomm (emergency communications) duties.

Another advantage to owning a proper HF transceiver is that, if you currently do not hold an amateur radio license, this may just be the push you need to get your ticket! All you’ll need to do is take two multiple choice tests (Technician and General) to unlock the full potential of your HF transceiver, and you’ll soon enjoy hamming it up with the rest of us.

Cons of general coverage

As I mentioned, general coverage transceivers can present something of a compromise in performance; after all, the rig’s main duty is to perform on the ham bands. Here are a few compromises to be aware of:

  • With a few exceptions, purchasing a ham transceiver is pricier than purchasing a comparable dedicated broadcast receiver
  • AM filters are often much narrower than broadcast receiver filters
  • In many radios, you may be faced with a choice of optimizing filter selections for ham radio use (SSB or CW) or broadcast use (wide AM filters, etc.)
  • Older general coverage transceivers (circa 1980s and 90s) may have somewhat compromised ham band receive performance
  • Some general coverage transceivers may actually lack AM mode. All broadcast reception will basically be tuned via SSB (or better known as ECSS)
  • General coverage transceivers typically lack synchronous detection

Another consideration: while anyone can purchase a general coverage ham radio transceiver, until you hold an amateur radio license with HF privileges, you cannot legally transmit using your radio. I doubt that any readers would consider doing this intentionally, but again your radio is designed to transmit, so this could be done accidently especially if you’re not familiar with transceiver functions. Transmitting unintentionally can have more than legal repercussions: 1) if you transmit with a mis-match between your transmitter and antenna, you could harm the finals in your transceiver; 2) you could damage your radio and/or antenna if using a receive-only antenna (like a mag loop); and 3) you could even receive RF burn. To avoid this, and make it foolproof, search the web for modifications to temporarily disable “transmit” on your radio if indeed you never intend to transmit.

A note about power supplies

My trusty Astron Power Supply

My trusty Astron Power Supply

Unlike stand-alone receivers, most general coverage transceivers require an external DC power supply. If you do not have a power supply, you will need to fit this into your budget. Power supplies can be costly, but also an investment in longevity. With a little knowledge up front, you can be selective and save on your power supply purchase. As I have been using the same power supply (an Astron RS-35A) since 1997, I turned to my friend Fred Osterman, president and owner of Universal Radio, for suggestions on power supplies currently in production.

Fred pointed out that if your only goal is to power a transceiver for the receive function, there is no need to invest in an expensive power supply. He suggests a reliable, regulated power supply, such as their popular $35 (US) Pyramid PS-4KX: at 3.5 amps; indeed, the PS-4KX will be more than enough power for any transceiver in receive mode.

Of course, if you plan to transmit at full power–and unless you have a QRP radio–you will need a power supply that can handle the load. For this purpose, Fred suggests two excellent options:

Again, I’ve had my trusty Astron RS-35A since 1997, so once you’ve invested in a good power supply, you should be all set for many years–and radios–to come.

My old 1 amp regulated laptop power supply is more than adequate for SWLing on the Elecraft KX3

My old 1 amp regulated laptop power supply is more than adequate for SWLing on the Elecraft KX3

Transceivers: Good bets for $1,600 US or less

There are dozens of general coverage transceivers currently on the amateur radio market. Indeed, I don’t believe there are any rigs now in production that do not have a general coverage receiver, or at least the option to add it. Prices vary greatly, but I will assume that most SWLs that are considering the leap into amateur radio will want a radio that costs less than the price of a tabletop radio/transceiver combo. Just to keep things simple, we’ll limit our list to $1,600 US or less, beginning with the least expensive option.

Alinco DX-SR8T ($510 US)

The Alinco DX-SR8 has a detachable face plate

The Alinco DX-SR8 has a detachable face plate

The DX-SR8T ($510 US) is one of the most affordable general coverage transceivers on the market. To be clear, the DX-SR8T lacks many of the frills and features of pricier rigs, but it’s a surprisingly good transceiver and, of course, general coverage shortwave receiver. Indeed, Alinco actually markets a receive-only version of this radio (the DX-R8T, $450US); it is identical in every respect to the DX-SR8T, but simply has no transmit function.

While I have only used the DX-SR8T on a few occasions, I have spent a couple of years with the DX-R8T, and even reviewed it extensively in the SWLing Post. My DX-R8T began life as a review unit that I purchased––it was an early production unit, and even retained the transmit LED indicator found on its sibling, the DX-SR8T. Consider paying the extra $60 US for the DX-SR8T, and you’ll have a basic, full-featured transceiver.

You can purchase the IC-7200 from Universal Radio or other ham radio equipment retailers.

The Icom IC-7200 ($900 US)

The Icom IC-7200

The Icom IC-7200

The IC-7200 delivers a lot of performance for a sub-$1,000 price. Its general coverage receiver will rival that of the venerable R75, and its AM filter can be widened to 6 kHz. Ergonomics are better than average. Plus, it has Icom’s twin passband tuning: the IC-7200’s general coverage receiver actually tunes from 30 kHz all the way to 60 MHz. The IC-7200 is a fantastic value.

You can purchase the IC-7200 from Universal Radio or other ham radio equipment retailers.

The Elecraft KX3 ($900 kit; $1,000 factory pre-assembled)

The Elecraft KX3

The Elecraft KX3

The Elecraft KX3 is my general coverage transceiver of choice. There’s so much about this radio that I like: it’s nearly as compact as my portable shortwave radios, it’s a full-featured transceiver, it can operate on batteries, it has good ergonomics, and is made and supported by Elecraft, right here in the USA.

Its sensitivity and selectivity rival radios three times its price. The only negative I can point out about the KX3, in comparison with many other general coverage transceivers, is that its AM filter is limited to a width of 4.2 kHZ. When I first learned of this, I thought it would be a deal-killer for me. But I was wrong. The audio sounds much more robust and “wide” than I would ever have guessed. It’s excellent. Want more details? I made an extensive review of the Elecraft KX3 in the SWLing Post.

You can purchase the Elecraft KX3 directly from Elecraft.

Note: Elecraft tech support can instruct you in disabling “transmit” on the KX3, if you wish.

The Kenwood TS-590S ($1,500 US)

The Kenwood 590S

The Kenwood 590S

The TS-590S has an excellent general coverage receiver and brilliant audio fidelity. With one of the lowest noise floors in the business, the 590S is well respected amongst amateur radio operators and shortwave radio listeners. If you doubt this, see how the TS-590S compares on Rob Sherwood’s receiver test data page.

You can purchase the Kenwood TS-590S from Universal Radio or other ham radio equipment retailers.

Looking to spend a little more?

Icom-IC-7600

The Icom IC-7600

If you happen to be a ham looking to upgrade their transceiver for benchmark performance, you may be willing to dedicate more funds to your purchase. My buddy, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), a discriminating reviewer for the late great Passport To World Band Radio, is very pleased using his Icom IC-7600 for broadcast listening. He told me recently, “[The IC-7600 is] not perfect, of course, but does perform near excellent and also has a great display [with] a very useful spectrum scope.” Dave has a full review of the IC-7600 posted on his website.

The Ten-Tec OMNI VII

The Ten-Tec OMNI VII

I have also been impressed with the superb broadcast reception of the Ten-Tec OMNI VII ($2,800 US), Ten-Tec Eagle ($1,800 plus wide AM filter) and Orion series transceivers. While the OMNI VII and Orion II will set you back more than $2,000, used original Orions can be found for $1,800 and even less. Ten-Tec still services all of their radios at their headquarters in Sevierville, Tennessee.

Used transceivers

If you would like to save some money, consider searching the used market for one of the radios mentioned above. Alternatively, look for some of these select transceivers that are no longer in production, but are known to have capable general coverage receivers (do note that what follows is simply a selection, not a comprehensive list):

Keep in mind, when you purchase a quality used radio, you can get excellent value for the performance it will reward you. The flip side of this, though, is that if you purchase a radio that hasn’t been in production for over a decade, the chances of finding replacement parts become more difficult with each passing year.

For more hints on purchasing a used rig, check out our Marketplace page.

With the option wide AM filter installed, the Ten-Tec Eagle makes from an amazing broadcast receiver. They are available new from Ten-Tec, but can also be found used.

With the option wide AM filter installed, the Ten-Tec Eagle makes from an amazing broadcast receiver. They are available new from Ten-Tec, but can also be found used.

Summary

If you plan on investing in a fine communications radio, it may be best to economize by investing in a good general coverage transceiver. For the prospective ham, the leap from a tabletop receiver to a fine general coverage transceiver may be less than $300. To prove my point, if an SWL planning to get a ham ticket asks about buying the venerable Icom R75, I would encourage spending $250 to get the Icom IC-7200, instead.

Indeed, with modern receiver architecture, there is little reason not to invest in a good general coverage receiver that you can also use to communicate all over the world when you get your ham ticket. And, need I add, it’s fantastic fun for the money.

If you would like to learn how to become a ham radio operator, check out this great introduction at the ARRL website.

Do you have a radio suggestion that I did not mention?  Please comment!

AirChat: Long-distance digital communications via radio

AirChatLogo-001Last month, I was interviewed by NK News regarding the possibility of using inexpensive SDR dongles as a means for citizen journalists to receive and potentially send information across the North Korean border. Of course this is possible: digital communications over radio is becoming easier and more accessible all of the time.

While not yet as portable as an SDR dongle, Anonymous is developing a tool called AirChat which will allow long-distance communications via radio. AirChat borrows from Fldigi: a free application that decodes a variety of digital modes and has been used by amateur radio operators for years. Indeed, Fldigi is the same software you’ve used to decode broadcasts from VOA Radiogram and the new STF Radio.

Many thanks to the excellent  Southgate ARC news site for this article about AirChat:

(Source: Southgate ARC)

The International Business Times reports that the online hacktivist collective Anonymous has announced that it is working on a new tool called Airchat which could allow people to communicate without the need for a phone or an internet connection – it uses radio waves instead 

Initially the data mode software AirChat used code from ‘minimodem’ and then from ‘soundmodem’ sources but they say after suggestions from radio amateurs involved in the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), they decided to make it modular to use the Fldigi software, a broadly deployed solution for use with ham radios.

They say “So far we have played interactive chess games with people at 180 miles away. we have shared pictures and established encrypted low bandwidth digital voice chats. We have 3D printed over distances of 80 miles and transmitted medical orders at distances of over 100 miles.”

So far Yaesu FT-897D’s amateur transceivers have been used and the developers are also looking at using low-cost ($40) VHF/UHF handheld transceivers.

Read the International Business Times story 
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/anonymous-airchat-aims-allow-
communication-without-needing-phone-internet-access-1445888


LulzLabs AirChat
https://github.com/lulzlabs/AirChat/

You can read about the goals of AirChat on their Github site and follow AirChat on Twitter with the hash tags #lulzlabs and #AirChat.

Anonymous has also posted the following video–a demo of AirChat:

Airchat from #lulzlabs on Vimeo.

International SW Disaster Test: June 4-5, 2014

300px-Hurricane_Isabel_from_ISSSWLing Post reader, Mehmet Burk, has just published information about the upcoming international disaster test on shortwave radio, coordinated by the High Frequency Coordination Commission (HFCC) for the International Radio for Disaster Relief project.

Mehmet has details of this June 4 – 5 international radio event on his website: Relief Analysis Radio.

“Why The Humanitarian Community Should Shape The Future Of Shortwave”

300px-Hurricane_Isabel_from_ISSAs World Radio Day approaches, writer Mehmet Burk (founder of ReliefAnalysis.com) considers the importance of shortwave radio, especially in terms of disaster relief.

Burke posted the article, Why The Humanitarian Community Should Shape The Future Of Shortwave on Interaction.org. Here’s a quote:

“In the 1980s and 1990s, shortwave radio was an audio version of today’s internet. Almost every nation on earth broadcast a shortwave signal and vital humanitarian news and local depictions of current events could literally be heard half a world away. The Internet did to shortwave broadcasting market much like what it did to print newspapers.[…]

But radio remains the most wide-reaching media platform in the world today. In areas like Africa and the Pacific, it is the dominant form of communication. Like no other form of media, radio can bridge the digital divide and literacy divide in regions across the globe. Radio receivers can be made to be inexpensive, ruggedized, and indispensable in a disaster or humanitarian situation. In the future, shortwave receivers may even simply be stand-alone microchips we can activate using our smartphones and tablets.”

I’m honored that Burk reached out and even quoted me in this article.

Click here to read: Why The Humanitarian Community Should Shape The Future Of Shortwave.

Many thanks to Mehmet Burk for considering radio’s importance in the wake of disaster and honoring World Radio Day 2014!

SWLing.com’s 2013 Holiday Shortwave and Radio Gift Guide

gift-wrapOne of the most popular posts on the SWLing Post each year is the annual Holiday Radio Gift Guide. I started this annual post in 2010 when I realized that it would be easier than answering an in-box full of individual emails from people seeking the perfect shortwave radio for their friend or loved one.

In the following, you’ll find a handful of select radios I recommend for the 2013-2014 gift-giving season. I’ve arranged this selection by price, starting with the most affordable.

For the benefit of those with less radio experience, this quick guide is basic, non-technical, and to the point. For more comprehensive reviews, please consult our Radio Reviews page.

Updated for the 2013-14 holiday season on 08 December 2013.

Simple, affordable and portable

The Shouyu SY-X5 mechanically-tuned, DSP portable radio. (Click to enlarge)

The Shouyu SY-X5 mechanically-tuned, DSP portable radio. (Click to enlarge)

ShouYu SY-X5 ($29)

You can’t buy a lot for $30 US these days, but I’m here to tell you that you can buy a unique, portable AM/FM/shortwave radio with a built-in MP3 player called the ShouYu SY-X5.  I made a full review of the SY-X5 earlier this year; in short, it surprised me. While this little radio’s receiver can’t compare to the others on this page performance-wise, it is still very respectable. The MP3 capability is worth the price. You can load a microSD card full of your favorite music (or shortwave radio recordings) for days of listening!

Indeed, the audio from the built-in speaker is superb for a radio this size. Th SY-X5 can be powered from multiple sources (a rechargeable built-in battery pack, AA batteries, or via USB power cable).

Since the ShouYu SY-X5 is only available from eBay sellers in Hong Kong, you need to allow at least two or three weeks shipment time from the seller. You might ask if they offer an expedited option.

Click here to search eBay for the ShouYu SY-X5.

Other considerations include the Degen DE32 (review here) or Degen DE321 (review here). Note that the Degen DE321 lacks an MP3 player.

Self-Powered Shortwave Goodness

The Tecsun Green 88

The Tecsun Green 88

Tecsun Green 88

In each issue of the holiday guide, I like to feature at least one self-powered radio.  Why? Because if you’re ever been left in the dark due to a natural disaster or extended power outage, these radios become invaluable.

The Tecsun Green 88 is not only self-powered, but quite a capable little analog shortwave radio.  It has a nested fine tuning control on the tuning knob, an easy to read display and will give you about 40 minutes of listening time (at moderate volume levels) from two minutes of cranking. The LED lamp on the front makes an excellent flashlight and reading lamp. Again, to my knowledge, this radio is only available from sellers in Hong Kong on eBay, so allow extra shipping time.

Click here to search eBay for the Tecsun Green 88.

Some other self-powered radio options you might consider are the Eton Rover and the Eton FRX2, though note that they both have NOAA weather radio channels instead of shortwave. A very useful feature, though, for weathering winter storms.

Portable & powerful shortwave receivers

The Tecsun PL-660

The Tecsun PL-660

The Tecsun PL-660 ($100-110 US)

With the introduction of the new Tecsun PL-880 this year, retailers have dropped the price of the PL-660; you can now find them between $100-110 US.

The PL-660 is an all-around excellent receiver with great sensitivity, selectivity and all of the features to please a casual listener or the experienced DXer. For a full-featured radio, the operation is so simple an owner’s manual is barely needed. The PL-660 covers the entire shortwave radio spectrum, LW, AM (medium wave), FM and even has an AIR band (to monitor aircraft communications).

Purchase the Tecsun PL-660 from:

The new Tecsun PL-880

The new Tecsun PL-880

The Tecsun PL-880 ($150-170 US)

[Update: Unfortunately, after reviewing the PL-880 favorably, I have discovered that many units–especially those purchased through Amazon.com–have an older firmware version and lack some functionality I would consider very important. I now suggest buyers wait until Tecsun has corrected this–sometime well after the holiday season.]

At time of posting, the Tecsun PL-880 has only been on the market for about a week. It is the newest flagship portable radio from Tecsun. I have been reviewing this radio for several days and find it to be an excellent choice, if your budget allows. (Indeed, reviewing this radio had lead to a late delivery of the Annual Gift Guide!)

If you would like to see and hear the PL-880 in action, simply click on this link and explore the numerous posts and comments.

In short: it’s a great radio with superb audio from the built-in speaker. It’s also designed to make the amateur radio operator happy as it has an array of filter selections for the ham bands. In my experience, the selectivity and sensitivity are on par with the PL-660 (mentioned above).  Click here to read a full review of the PL-880.

The PL-880 is only available from a few retailers so far–most of whom are on eBay. Again, I purchase all Tecsun products from Anon-Co–I’m sure there are other qualified sellers on eBay, but Anon-Co provides excellent customer service. My PL-880 was shipped by Anon-Co and received in 3 days!:

Tabletop Performance

The CommRadio CR-1 is sure to please even the most discriminating radio listener in your life.

The CommRadio CR-1 is sure to please even the most discriminating radio listener in your life.

CommRadio CR-1 ($600 US)

The CommRadio CR-1 was introduced early this year and began shipping in the Spring. While you can read my full review of the CR-1 by clicking here, in a nutshell, it’s a brilliant little receiver! It wooed me from the moment I first saw it.

The CR-1 is made in Colorado, USA by CommRadio, a company well-versed in radio avionics. It’s thoughtfully engineered, relatively small (über portable), and meets all of my performance needs. It’s also a fun little radio and very easy to operate.  The CR-1 can be updated by the user via a USB cable and free PC software. Many of the updates include minor tweaks requested by users and even new features.

Only one catch: CommRadio has sold out of their stock for the holiday season. They’re offering a $25 coupon (see below) if you order and don’t mind an early January delivery time. However, call Universal Radio as they had radios in stock at time of this posting.

Purchase the CommRadio CR-1 from:

  • CommRadio (until December 31, 2013 use the coupon code CR12014 at check out to receive $25 off the price) or
  • Universal Radio who may have them in stock to ship

Other tabletop radios to consider are the Alinco DX-R8 and the Icom R-75.

Looking for an accessory?

UniversalRadioIn addition to the radios above, there are many antennas, accessories, books and used gear that you might consider. I would encourage you to contact Universal Radio and speak with one of their staff to seek suggestions. I mention Universal Radio frequently, because they are one of the only remaining true shortwave radio retailers in the US. If you live in Canada, you might also consider Durham Radio, in the UK, Waters & Stanton. (Readers: if you have suggestions of radio retailers in your country, please comment on this post.)

Want more gift options?  Try our 20122011 or 2010 gift guides, take a look through our shortwave radio reviews guide and/or our simplified reviews page.
Happy Holidays!