Category Archives: New Products

Updated version of the Sangean ATS-909X?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Avo Ohanian, who writes:

I had read with interest a review on Amazon about a purchaser receiving a Sangean ATS-909X in black with the firmware listed as “P-01”. I can confirm that this is indeed the case and that I am curious as to whether there is more than just a simple firmware revision.

Brief history with my unit: I originally purchased one new (only available in white in Australia factory backed ) in August. The packaging was as I remembered from years ago and the firmware was 1.29. After a few happy months of use sans batteries I decided to slot in some Eneloops . First charge nearly cooked the batteries then the unit refused to charge at all. Back to the retailer.

A few days before Christmas I got a call that a replacement was sent from the distributor and promptly trained it over to pick it up.

First impression is the box is now all white with the new look Sangean logo. This unit is also set for extended FM (76-108 MHz) whereas the old unit started at 87.5MHz. Upon switching on, firmware check showed “P-01”.

Now, differences…

The biggest disappointment for me is the backlight. The old unit backlight had a beautiful even light blue colour across the LCD panel. The new one has a distinctly darker browny tinge on the left and bright bluish rings of light where the LEDs are on the right. I think whatever was behind the LCD display that gave it the uniform light has been removed or moved. I know I used to be able to see some sort of ribbon cable just behind the Page and mode region on the LCD which the new unit does not have. That or quality is an issue….

My partner can’t see any issue with the display but then she is well aware that I am picky.

Mediumwave reception appears to be much better on the new unit, however I do note one static hash frequency at 885 kHz. Seems very narrow and doesn’t affect reception for me. I note the bandwidth is very wide. Even 8/10 stations have a distinct hiss. Nothing major and music clarity is very good because of this but DXing in wide mode can get tiring.

[After] listening to MW for about an hour, the unit drifts about 1kHz down (in 30 deg C heat). During normal operation, you don’t notice it–however, when trying ECSS using SSB it will vary from cold at nearly dead on frequency to dropping to the top cusp of the next lowest kHz when hot. It may be that the old unit was the same but was calibrated slightly higher hence it never dropped a kHz on the display when hot.

LW is of no use in Australia however the new unit does have weak MW images, something I did not note on the old unit. Aircraft NDBs are all there.

SSB. Hmmm. There is a problem as others have noted. First there is quite prominent drift due to heat. The old unit was rock solid and had very, very good ECSS capabilities. The new does appear to be very picky but it is still usable. I think the techs forgot to set the DSP bandwidth to narrow in SSB mode. It seems extremely wide. There is no tune muting though (in any mode) when using the wheel but a careful–finger is needed to get close to zero beat.

Shortwave is hash for me as I live in units where people seem to buy cheap LED RF spewing globes. Ugh. It seems the same as the old unit. It needs AC to get maximum sensitivity. Go battery and there is a definite deafness.

FM is superb. Only difference to the old unit is the stereo decode threshold. The old unit would decode stereo well before RDS. This new unit requires at least 7/10 before decoding stereo. Some fringe stations will get RDS info without ever getting stereo decode. No biggie, [especially since] unit only has one speaker.

I am thinking that the DSP chip has changed on P-01 units as the slight differences in operation and look behind the LCD panel makes me think some re-engineering has been done to the circuit board perhaps to accommodate chip changes.

Happy New Year,
Avo

Thank you for your evaluation of the “P-01” version of the venerable Sangean ATS-909X, Avo.

Post readers: have you also noticed performance differences between legacy and current production ATS-909X models?

WRTH 2017: A look inside

I received my copy of the 2017 World Radio and TV Handbook (WRTH) directly from the publisher last week, just prior to Christmas holiday ravels. As I mention every year, I look forward to receiving this excellent staple radio reference guide–and this is their 71st edition!

WRTH’s team of noted DXers from around the world curate frequencies and broadcaster information by region; while I’m not sure how they orchestrate all of this, the end result is truly a symphony of radio information. In addition to broadcaster listings, WRTH’s radio reviews, feature articles, and annual HF report make for excellent reading.

But the WRTH isn’t just a frequency guide: the publication always devotes the first sixty or so pages to articles relating to various aspects of the radio hobby. Following, I offer a quick overview of these.

The first article always features a WRTH contributor:  this year, WRTH’s International Editor, Sean Gilbert, tells us what sparked his interested in the hobby and what lead to his career with WRTH which started in 2000.

The second set of articles is always my favorite: WRTH receiver reviews.

This year, WRTH begins with a review of the Icom IC-7300 general coverage transceiver.  They also review the Reuter Elektronik RDR55D, and re-visit the SDRplay RSP1. Following radio reviews, they evaluate the excellent Wellbrook ALA1530LNP magnetic loop antenna and the Bonito AAS300 3 way active RF splitter.

The following article focuses on one of my favorite shortwave broadcasters, The Mighty KBC. WRTH contributor, Max van Arnhem traces the broadcaster’s history and gives us a little insight about the people behind this music powerhouse. If you’re a KBC fan, you’re in for a treat!

I was very happy to find that the following feature article explores the world of Remote Reception. No doubt, remote listening is becoming one the most accessible ways many of us discover and enjoy our hobby today–especially as it can be difficult for some of us to fight urban radio interference.

Following this, WRTH writer, Hans Johnson, features an article on CKZN St. John’s Newfoundland.  In this short article, Johnson covers the history and mission of this shortwave relay, dating back to the days when Newfoundland was a British dominion. Looking forward, Johnson notes that the CBC intend to not only continue this service directed at Labrador’s most remote areas, but it intends to replace their 1 kW Elcom Bauer transmitter in the coming years. This pleases me to no end as I’ve always loved snagging this particular relay of CFGB from my home here in North Carolina.

Next, DXer Rob Shepard writes about his travels in South America and the Pacific. Being an avid traveller myself, I love reading about others’ adventures across the globe with radio. Shepard even notes some catches from the Queen Mary II. I’ve never had the chance to do DXing while maritime mobile, but I hope to someday.

The following article features Danish radio enthusiast, Vagn Fentz, who has collaborated with WRTH since one of its very first editions. His radio history starts back when he was a schoolboy in Denmark during WWII, listening to the radio in secret. His story gives us insight into both his own world and that of the WRTH over the years.

Next, Michael Pütz outlines the progress, so far, of setting up an HF disaster relief radio network: the IRDR Project. If you haven’t heard of the IRDR project, this article makes for a great primer and also speaks to the potential future of a radio network that could have major positive impact over vast regions in the wake of disaster.

The final article–a tradition–is the WRTH  HF propagation report/forecast by Ulf-Peter Hoppe. Always an informative read (despite the fact we’re heading into a solar minimum).

The 71st is another fantastic edition of the World Radio TV Handbook. I’ve never been disappointed with WRTH, in truth. Their publishing standards are such that the quality of their reviews, their writing, and (most importantly) their broadcast listings are simply unparalleled.

For DXers who collect QSL cards, you’ll find that broadcaster contact information in WRTH is often more up-to-date than a broadcaster’s own website. When readers contact me asking for QSL information from an obscure broadcaster, the first place I search is the current WRTH. Remember: their information is based on volunteer contributors who specialize in specific regions of the world–the most knowledgeable regional DXers keep this publication accurate.

Purchase your copy of WRTH 2017 directly from WRTH’s publishers, or from a distributor like Universal Radio (US) and Amazon.com (US), Radio HF (Canada), or BookDepository.com (International).

Updates to the Morse Pad app

Many thanks to Chris Smolinski, who shares the following update:

I have a new version of Morse Pad for the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch.

This update includes an improved decoder which better handles improper dot / dash / space timing by the sender (poor fist), automatic speed (WPM) algorithm, and adds AFC (Automatic Frequency Control), which auto tunes in the strongest signal present.

App Store Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/morse-pad/id385629886?mt=8

Mechanically Based Antenna: Underwater and underground radio

The Mechanically Based Antenna (AMEBA) (Source: DARPA)

(Source: Space Daily)

The Mechanically Based Antenna (AMEBA) program could enable radio communication through seawater and the ground. and directly between warfighters hundreds and ultimately thousands of kilometers apart.

Here’s something easy to forget when you are chatting on your cell phone or flipping channels on your smart TV: although wireless communication seems nothing short of magic, it is a brilliant, reality-anchored application of physics and engineering in which radio signals travel from a transmitter to a receiver in the form of electric and magnetic fields woven into fast-as-light electromagnetic waves.

That very same physics imposes some strict limits, including ones that frustrate the Department of Defense. Key among these is that radio frequency signals hit veritable and literal walls when they encounter materials like water, soil, and stone, which can block or otherwise ruin those radio signals. This is why scuba buddies rely on sign language and there are radio-dead zones inside tunnels and caves.

With his newly announced A Mechanically Based Antenna (AMEBA) effort, program manager Troy Olsson of DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office is betting on a little-exploited aspect of electromagnetic physics that could expand wireless communication and data transfer into undersea, underground, and other settings where such capabilities essentially have been absent.

The basis for these potential new abilities are ultra-low-frequency (ULF) electromagnetic waves, ones between hundreds of hertz and 3 kilohertz (KHz), which can penetrate some distance into media like water, soil, rock, metal, and building materials.

A nearby band of very-low-frequency (VLF) signals (3 KHz to 30 KHz) opens additional communications possibilities because for these wavelengths the atmospheric corridor between the Earth’s surface and the ionosphere-the highest and electric-charge-rich portion of the upper atmosphere-behaves like a radio waveguide in which the signals can propagate halfway around the planet.

“If we are successful, scuba divers would be able to use a ULF channel for low bit-rate communications, like text messages, to communicate with each other or with nearby submarines, ships, relay buoys, UAVs, and ground-based assets, Through-ground communication with people in deep bunkers, mines, or caves could also become possible,” Olsson said. And because of that atmospheric waveguide effect, VLF systems might ultimately enable direct soldier-to-soldier text and voice communication across continents and oceans.

Continue reading….

Reviews of the Elpa ER-C57WR shortwave portable?

I recently received an email from SWLing Post reader, Ibrahima Ditinn Diallo, regarding a receiver I had never heard of–the Elpa ER-C57WR. Ibrahima has been searching for a new receiver and is considering the Elpa.

I did a quick search and discovered that the Elpa ER-C57WR is available from a number of sellers on eBay–as both new and used for around $63 US shipped from China.

The form factor is very similar to the C.Crane CC Skywave, but it apparently lacks some of the Skywave’s functionality like weather radio and (perhaps?) multiple AM bandwidths. Here’s the ER-C57WR spec sheet:

Remembering a post from a couple years ago, I quickly realized the ER-C57WR is almost an identical match to the DigiTech AR-1733 available via Jaycar in Australia.

If the ER-C57WR is simply the same receiver as the AR-1733, I would be hesitant to recommend it. Many AR-1733 owners complained of lousy AGC performance.

Of course, it’s been a couple of years since the introduction of the AR-1733–perhaps this Elpa-badged version has been updgraded?

I’m curious if any SWLing Post readers have purchased the Elpa ER-C57WR and could comment about the receiver’s performance.

Click here to search eBay for the Elpa ER-C57WR.