Category Archives: Radios

Video: Five shortwave stations in two minutes

danh-sangean-ats-909xMany thanks to SWLing Post contributor, DanH, who shares the following feedback.

Note that he sent this to me about two weeks ago, but my life has been so busy the past few weeks, I’m still catching up on email. Thanks to everyone for understanding!

DanH writes:

We all know how hard it is to get good SW reception without a decent antenna at this point in the 11-year solar cycle. But, the past couple of days have offered good propagation conditions for reception here in Northern California. Here is a video I made this evening during the 8:00 p.m. hour, 10-11-2016 PDT (0300 hour, 10-12-2016 UTC). It isn’t all that bad. Here are five stations in under two minutes (but really, WWV doesn’t count). There is plenty to listen to. Voice of Greece is in the Greek language with great music. The other stations are broadcast in the English language.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you for sharing, Dan! Wow–RNZI is quite a strong catch at your location! It’s so nice when conditions improve and that elusive DX pops out of the niose. At this point in the solar cycle, we just take what we can get!

Only last night, I was amazed with the Voice of Greece here on the east coast. Even as propagation conditions deteriorated, VOG held on at S9 +20db via my Elecraft KX3.

eBay find: Panasonic RF-8000


Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Armin Sander, who writes:

Here is a link to a very interesting auction on eBay Germany:

Click here to view on eBay.

Only the price speaks for itself! (And now I need a good whisky!) 😉

No kidding, Armin!  That is a hefty price–8,9999 EUR–even though this particular unit seems to be in excellent shape.

Still, I love looking looking at the photos of this classy receiver.



Thanks for sharing, Armin!

Post readers: Anyone own a Panasonic RF-8000?  Please comment!

A review of the Como Audio Solo


Regular SWLing Post readers might remember that this past summer, I made an impulse purchase–and in doing so, backed a Kickstarter campaign for the new Como Audio Solo.

But exactly why did I buy this small, self-contained digital music device–? Having just completed an in-depth review of several WiFi radios, I certainly didn’t need another.  But the good-looking Solo, with its clean design and walnut casing really caught my attention…I couldn’t resist checking it out.  Plus, in backing the radio via Kickstarter, I was able to purchase it for $100 less than the predicted future retail of $299 US.

The Kickstarter campaign funding Como Audio was prompt in communicating updates with backers and providing even more product options during the wait for production and delivery. Although several other snazzy finishes for the Solo were brandished before me, I stuck firmly by the walnut veneer I’d originally chosen.

Fast forward to the present. I finally received my Como Audio Solo a few weeks ago, and have had time to play with it. While I haven’t had time to explore every nuance of this radio, of course, I have had an opportunity to form some opinions.


I don’t often comment on the design of radios I review, but in this case it’s worth noting.

The Como Audio Solo, in wood, is elegant and simple. Love it:


The only element of the design I’m not typically keen on?  I’m not the biggest fan of devices that sport colored backlit displays; to me they appear a bit flash and faddish, undermining a radio’s overall aesthetic.

But I must say, the Solo pulls it off.  The color display in this case is somehow not too distracting–it’s soft yet crisp, and easy to read even at a distance.

In short, the Solo is a stunning piece of kit, especially with that warm walnut casing, and looks right at home in any setting–office, living area, kitchen, or at the bedside.

I’ve only one gripe with the Solo’s ergonomics: the front control knobs are a little too close to the bottom of the recessed controls area. When I try to turn a knob–for example, attempt to tune the FM band–I find my fingertips won’t fit between the knob and lower edge of the recessed panel, making the knobs a little hard to turn in one fluid motion. (Of course,this is also due to the fact that I have big fingers; my wife doesn’t seem to have this problem).

But this isn’t a dealbreaker as I’m finding I don’t often need to reach for the front controls, anyway.  Why? Because the rig’s IR remote–or better yet, its smartphone app–control the radio effectively at any convenient distance from the radio.  Sweet.



I’m a sucker for quality audio fidelity, and I must admit that this was one of the biggest deciding factors in purchasing the Solo: it touted extraordinary audio in a modest package, being designed around an acoustic chamber/chassis containing a 3″ woofer and 3/4″ dome tweeter fueled by a 2 X 30 watt RMS amplifier. I was very curious whether it could live up to its initial claim.

After turning on the Solo for the first time, I immediately wanted to hear audio, so I put it in Bluetooth mode and played a few songs, ranging from Jazz to Electronica.

In a nutshell:  Wow.

The audio is strikingly reminiscent of my Tivoli Audio Model One…which is to say, it’s excellent. It packs more audio punch than any of the radios I reviewed in my WiFi radio comparison.

Out of the box, the audio is fairly well-balanced, too. But you can tweak the equalizer, and I did, drawing in a little more bass and treble.  My wife (also a bit of an audiophile) was impressed. And yes, the sound is all the more remarkable considering the radio’s relatively small form-factor:  little box, big voice.

FM Reception


The Como Audio Solo is one of the few Wifi radios on the market that has a built-in analog FM and DAB receiver (save the $120 Sangean WFR-28, which has analog FM reviewed here).

Since I live in the US, I can’t comment on DAB reception.  I have, however, had an opportunity to test the FM analog reception.  Keep in mind, I live in a rural area and require a decent FM receiver with telescopic antenna fully extended just to listen to my favorite regional programming.

When I tune the Solo to my benchmark FM stations, it can receive them–but not as effectively as many of my other radios, including the WFR-28. Even when forced to use the Mono setting only, the stations it receives carry too much static for good listening.  So obviously the Solo isn’t as sensitive as some of my other radios, at least in this setting. Indeed, few stations it receives in this area are able to lock in to the point that there’s no static in the received audio. For out-of-towners, this is a bit of a disappointment.

With this said, I imagine if you live in an urban area, the FM receiver should more than please you. I’ve no doubt it can faithfully reproduce beautiful audio from local FM outlets.

I should add that, while FM reception isn’t stellar for distant stations, the RDS information does convey even when the audio isn’t full fidelity.

WiFi radio


Of course, the main reason I purchased the Como Audio Solo was to use and review it as a WiFi radio…nothing at all to do with that sharp walnut chassis, or audio power.

As I outlined in my WiFi Radio primer, WiFi radios rely on station aggregators–extensive curated databases of radio stations–to surf and serve up the tens of thousands of streaming stations around the globe.

Based on feedback from Como Audio shortly after the Kickstarter launch, I was under the impression that the station aggregator of choice was vTuner. This concerned me, as vTuner’s reputation as an aggregator is somewhat maligned due to a series of documented faults and weaknesses.  Fortunately, this turned out not to be the case: after the initial confusion, I soon discovered Como had adopted the more robust Frontier Silicon aggregator, instead–a better choice.

Click here to read our primer on setting up your Como Audio product on the Frontier Silicon radio portal.

Since I’m a pretty big fan of Frontier Silicon and since I’ve already been using their service with my Sangean WFR-28, once I connected my radio to my user account, the WiFi portion of the radio felt identical to that of my WFR-28. Simply brilliant, as the Frontier Silicon radio portal gives the user flexibility to create station lists and folders with ease–all of which readily convey to the radio itself.

The Solo also features six dedicated memory buttons on the front panel for quick access to favorites.

Turns out, there’s also a comprehensive manual available online for download (click here).




And am I please with the Solo so far?

I’ll reply with a resounding “Yes!”

I love the Solo’s design–this certainly is a handsome product. Moreover, I love the audio, and am pleased that it delivers the fidelity promised by its Kickstarter campaign. The Solo and Duet are loaded with features, connections, Aux In and Aux Out audio and digital ports–more, in fact, than any similar device with which I’m familiar. I regret that the rig’s FM isn’t suited for country life, but the audio coupled with its stylish exterior do make up for this somewhat.


I do wish the Solo had an internal rechargeable battery option. Being able to move the receiver to different locations within a home or building could be a major plus for rural FM reception. As my friend John pointed out, however, the audio amplifier is robust enough, it might have been a challenge to implement an affordable-but-effective internal battery without compromising the audio amplifier’s needs.

In truth, I favor audio fidelity over portability for a tabletop radio.


In conclusion…do I have any backer’s remorse?  Absolutely not–!

In short, the Como Audio Solo is a keeper.  I’m still marvelling at this classy and dynamic radio that fills our home with rich beautiful audio. A few weeks in, the Solo has already become a permanent feature in our abode. It’s one of the few radios I have that meets my artist wife’s approval in terms of both design and audio.comoaudiosolo-fm

Great job, Como Audio!  If the Solo is any indication of radios to come, I’ll certainly be looking for your future innovations.

Click here to order the Como Audio Solo and Como Audio Duetto.

Guest Post: Troy takes us on a tour of his listening post

DoxyTronics 8020CA Antenna

DoxyTronics 8020CA Antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel, who writes:

I don’t have a “shack”, but I wanted to take the time to share with you my “listening post”. But first, let me start from the beginning.  

I’d call myself an amateur astronomer first – and a Shortwave Listener (SWL’er) second (I have never been a Ham Operator).  

I started my astronomy hobby as a young kid who was enthralled by the Apollo Missions.  I was also fascinated by weather & I learned how to make short-term 12-36 hour forecasts by making cloud observations, following the barometric pressure trend & noting changes in wind direction.  I am still an amateur astronomer (a very expensive endeavor).  I was able to pursue my childhood interest in weather and I became an Aviation Weather Forecaster in the military (I also instructed synoptic meteorology in the military at the schoolhouse).  I promoted myself out of meteorological jobs in my Service but I was able to transition to a deployable job that allowed me to visit 50 countries.  I retired with slightly over 30-years served.

When I was a kid, a buddy had a shortwave radio but we could never hear anything (we had no clue).  I had an Electro-Brand EB2100 5-band radio that had AM/FM, Police, Fire, Aviation & NOAA (if I recall).  We heard transmissions on that EB2100!  I didn’t truly discover shortwave until the early 1990s.  My first shortwave radio was a Panda 2006 (I challenge readers to look-up that model in the 1994 Passport to World Band Radio).  I liked shortwave so much, I sold the Panda to help finance my next radio.  I pre-ordered & subsequently received one of the first Gru?ndig Yacht Boy 400s released in the U.S. (I still have the radio & the receipt).

I think, for a SWL’er, I have a decent collection of shortwave radios & antennae:

  • Grundig Yacht Boy 400
  • Grundig  G6 Aviator Buzz Aldrin Ed.
  • Grundig G3 Globe Traveler
  • Tecsun PL-390
  • Sony ICF-7600GR
  • Tecsun PL-365
  • Grundig Satellit 750
  • Grundig G2000A Porsche
  • RadioShack 140-214 Digital Recorder
  • AMECO TPA Active Antenna
  • Crane Twin-Coil Ferrite Antenna
  • DoxyTronics 8020A Passive Antenna
  • Kaito KA35 Active Loop Proximate Antenna
  • NASA PA30 Wideband Passive Antenna
  • A Helical/Slinky Antenna
  • RadioShack 20-280 Active Antenna
  • Sony AN-LP1 Active Magnetic Loop Antenna
  • Tecsun AN-200 AM Passive Antenna
  • Terk Advantage AM-1000 Passive Antenna
  • TG34 Active Magnetic LoopAntenna
  • Yo-Yo Antennas & various Longwires
  • Extended AM Ferrite Rod for PL-365/360
Slinky, ST3 Scanner Antenna (EB2100 on top of the wall unit library)

Slinky, ST3 Scanner Antenna (EB2100 on top of the wall unit library)

Okay, so what is my “listening post”?  It’s a sitting room attached to my master bedroom.  I have a roll-top desk.  A slinky antenna stretched across one side of the room above the window.  And an ST3 “Sputnik” Scanner Antenna hung in front of the window (for my RadioShack Pro-651).  I use an old-school iPad 1st Gen next to my radios because I found that it emits virtually no RF compared to my iMac, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pros.  Besides using the iPad Gen 1 as an Internet reference, it’s also loaded with every one of my radio & antennae manuals, nearly every copy of Passport to World Band Radio, and many Spectrum Monitor issues.  If I cannot find a pdf version of a manual, I use my document scanner to create my own pdf’s.

Typical set-up (the metal basket bin is completely filled with radios, antennae, adapters, etc., all in their own cases)

Typical set-up (the metal basket bin is completely filled with radios, antennae, adapters, etc., all in their own cases)

Having my listening post essentially in the master bedroom causes conflict because my wife must get up early & drive 60-miles to work thus I am kicked-out and banished downstairs fairly early each night … while carrying a radio or two with me if I wish to continue listening.  Nearly all of my shortwave listening occurs before 8:30 P.M.


I have all of my radios and antennae neatly organized in padded bags & cases within an arms reach of my roll-top.  Since everything is organized in its own case, I can easily grab whatever combination I want if I were to travel (or go outside, or go downstairs when my wife kicks-me-out of my listening post).

My radios in their padded cases (remember my GPS & Tablet case recommendations many months ago?)

My radios in their padded cases (remember my GPS & Tablet case recommendations many months ago?)

What are my favorites?  I typically use the Grundig Satellit 750 the most – mainly because of its size & large intuitive buttons.  The direct BNC connections make it quick & easy to transition from one antenna to another.  My favorite SW radio feature is Tecsun’s ETM (I wish every radio had it) thus I find myself using the PL-390 & PL-365 especially when out of my listening post.  My favorite antenna is the TG34.  I find that it greatly enhances the signal with a minimal increase in noise.  The Slinky is great in that I can add it to another antenna that I’m using to make a more effective combination (e.g., AMECO TPA with the Slinky & the NASA PA30 with the Slinky on the radio whip work well for me).

The bins and black cases with my gear (those are two Plano Gun Cases … a 2-gun case and a 4-gun case; I have 8 more filled with my astronomy gear but that’s another story).

The bins and black cases with my gear (those are two Plano Gun Cases … a 2-gun case and a 4-gun case; I have 8 more filled with my astronomy gear but that’s another story).

I think shortwave listening is a great hobby that compliments my amateur astronomy.  Why?  No matter the clouds, extreme temperatures, etc., I always have something interesting to do.  But I do miss the days when the wave bands were crowded with international broadcasters.  At least I know that Jupiter, Saturn & the thousands of deep sky objects within grasp of my many telescopes & binoculars will NOT be leaving the sky until long after I leave this planet!

You’ve set up an excellent listening post, Troy! As you well know, I’m a bit of a pack junkie, so I love the fact you have so many padded cases and protective gear for your equipment–no doubt, this is championed by your amateur astronomer half!

SWLing Post readers might recall that, last year, Troy actually put together a shortwave broadcast dedicated to amateur astronomy. We published a full recording of the show on the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.

Thanks, again, for sharing a tour of your listening post, Troy!


Tecsun PL-680 Beats Expectations


I have been procrastinating over investing in another portable shortwave radio to replace my ageing (but still going strong) Sangean ATS909. Also known in the U.S. as the rebadged Radio Shack DX–398, the Sangean has been a most reliable rig for in-the-field DXpeditions. My unit is one of the early first generation versions that I purchased on the second-hand market, so I’m guessing it has to be at least 16 years old now. It continues to provide a full rich tone quality on AM/FM and is very sensitive on shortwave providing you use an external antenna of 5 metres (16 feet) or more. The radio received some bad press because of its poor SW reception using just the telescopic rod antenna, which frankly was justified. The in-built whip is useless! But all of my work has been with an external antenna, and the results have been most successful over the years.

But the old ATS909 has lived a hard life, having been bounced around in the car on rough dirt tracks, dropped a few times, and thanks to a recent home renovation project it now has paint splattered all over it. On one occasion, I’d even left it outside on the ground after a spot of gardening, subjecting it to half an hour of heavy rain, before realising my forgetfulness. The radio was soaked but still going strong when I picked it up. However, the digital readout was all messed up. After 24 hours of drying, and it fired up beautifully again, and has been fine ever since! That’s some impressive build quality there! Thanks Sangean!

Anyway, a few months ago I decided to “pull the trigger” and purchased a new Tecsun PL-680 AM/FM/SSB/Air Band radio. This rig has been on the market since around February 2015. So far, it has performed very well for me.

Interestingly, on the built-in telescopic antenna reception is only marginally better than the Sangean, but the Tecsun is really quite sensitive with an external long wire antenna. In fact, I’ve had it hooked up to my three double bazooka (coax) dipoles for 80, 40 and 20 meters, and the performance has been excellent. The tone quality is not quite a good as the Sangean, lacking richness and depth on MW, FM and SW. But for DXing, the audio appears just right for digging out clear audio from the noisy shortwave bands.


Recently, I hooked up both portables for a side-by-side comparison using four different external antennas outside the shack with switches between the two radios. I was eager to check how they measured up in terms of sensitivity and selectivity. The results for the Tecsun were impressive, picking up all of the weaker signals that the Sangean could hear.

Indeed, on several shortwave broadcast bands, the Tecsun appeared to be just a touch more sensitive at digging out some of the weakest signals. The audio also appeared a little clearer for those weak signals, perhaps because it has a narrower audio response than the Sangean. And selectivity for the PL-680 was about the same as the ATS909, generally very good.

On the ham bands, however, the SSB audio quality of the ATS909 sounds more pleasant to my ears than the PL680. But the Sangean’s tuning process in SSB is somewhat more cumbersome than for the Tecsun.

The PL-680’s synchronous detector effectively reduces adjacent signal interference. It’s easy to use and is a strong feature in its favor. However, occasionally it can fail to lock on to a weaker signal or when the signal is subject to deep fading. One other characteristic of the Tecsun is that it has a rather overly generous S-meter, hitting S4 or 5 for all but the weakest signals. This is a meter not to be taken too seriously!

But the PL-680 is not without its faults!

Click here to continue reading the full story.

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.