Category Archives: Radios

Tecsun S-8800 update

If you’re considering purchasing the Tecsun S-8800, this is an important post.

I’ve had the S-8800 for about two weeks and had planned to have audio clip comparisons prepared and posted by now. My exceptionally busy schedule has made this difficult–and there a few other complicating factors.

First off, the good news: in terms of sensitivity, selectivity and audio fidelity, I’m very happy with the S-8800. I’ve compared it a number of times with the Tecsun PL-880 and the Sony ICF-SW7600GR and it either holds its own or even has a leg-up on both radios in terms of overall performance. I find that the S-8800’s AGC is more stable than my 1st generation PL-880.

Of course, what will be most telling is what you, dear reader, think of the performance when compared in a blind audio test.

As I mentioned, though, there are complicating factors–It’s not just my schedule which has made the S-8800 review come to a halt.

Birdies…

Yes, birdies. Lots of them.

At first, I thought the noises were due to the fact my mobile phone and Zoom H2N digital recorder were too close to the S-8800.  I dismissed this interference as it didn’t sound like the typical steady tone/carrier birdies I’ve come to loath over the years.

As my testing continued, though, I quickly realized these variable heterodyne and digital hash noises must be internally-generated.

Quite literally, as I was outdoors testing the S-8800 and making this discovery last week, I received a message from SWLing Post contributor, Bertrand Stehle (F6GYY). You might recall, Bertrand provided us with an initial review of his S-8800e (the European version of the S-8800). He also started noticing the birdies and, like me, initially assumed they were due to an external source of RFI.

Bertrand kindly mapped out the extensive list of birdies he found on his S-8800e–he noted a total of 81 birdie/carrier locations:

  • 14 birdies on longwave
  • 4 birdies on mediumwave
  • 63 birdies between 1859 – 29095 kHz

Comparing notes, there are some differences between Bertrand’s S-8800e and my S-8800:

  • Only 50-60% of the birdies on my S-8800 are in the same frequency locations as those mapped by Bertrand on his S-8800e
  • The total number of birdies, however, are likely identical–I find birdies where Bertrand hadn’t noted them

The appearance and intensity of the birdies can vary depending on listening location and the strength of any nearby broadcast signals. I’ve noticed four distinct birdie sounds: a variable carrier, a steady carrier, digital hash, and something I might describe as digital variable noises.

I’ve even noticed some change slightly as you move the radio around.

Here are a couple of examples:

Example on 610 kHz:

Click here to view/listen via YouTube.

Example on 2009.15 kHz:

Click here to view/listen on YouTube.

Moving forward

Obviously, this is a major issue for an enthusiast-grade portable.

I’m sharing all of this information with Anna at Anon-Co. No doubt, she’ll share this information with Tecsun engineering. The last I heard, projected availability of the S-8800 from Anon-Co is late March 2017. Perhaps there will be time for Tecsun to eliminate these birdies by improving internal grounding and/or shielding?

Until the birdie issue is sorted out, I’m not proceeding with audio comparisons or a full review. It goes without saying that, at present, I couldn’t recommend purchasing the S-8800. Sad, because this is otherwise a great radio.

I hope Tecsun can sort this out, though.

I will share any/all updates here on the SWLing Post.

Follow the tags S-8800 Birdies or S-8800.

Troy updates the Tecsun PL-880 hidden features reference sheet

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel, who has recently added the hidden bandwidth adjustment feature to Cap Tux’s excellent PL-880 reference sheet.

Here are links to download the updated sheet:

I will also add this to the Complete list of Tecsun PL-880 hidden features page: a place where you can comment if you note any previously unpublished PL-880 hidden features.

Thanks again, Troy!

eBay find: The IFR Aeoroflex T-1200SRA

The Aeoroflex T-1200SRA receiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who writes:

Every once in a while an IFR (Instrument Flight Research, a.k.a. Aeroflex) T-1200SRA comes up for auction, it is a sophisticated receiver covering LF-HF-VHF-UHF with built-in spectrum analyzer.

Click here to view on eBay.

Some claim these were used by the FCC for surveillance. I can believe that as IFR is a professional manufacturer of commercial radio test equipment. I have their 500A service monitor.

Beautiful receiver, but this one is way overpriced. They usually start around a grand or so with a “Make Offer” contingency. One was sold in December for $481.

Click here to search eBay for a T-1200SRA.

Thank you for sharing this, Mario! Knowing the IFR is essentially a piece of test equipment, I’m very curious how it  might compare with a similarly-priced tabletop (broadcast) radio.

Post readers: Anyone else own a IFR T-1200SRA?

Dan compares the Tecsun PL-365 and CountyComm GP5-SSB

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares the following review:


Comparing the CountyComm GP5-SSB and Tecsun PL-365

County Comm GP-5/SSB and Tecsun PL-365: a couple of years ago, I obtained a GP-5/SSB from Universal and have enjoyed using the radio. It’s extremely sensitive, often bringing in signals in the middle of my house here in Maryland, and is fun to use, provided the auto-tune is done to insert frequencies so you don’t have to use the thumb wheel too much.

I have often thought that the next logical upgrade for this radio would be to add a small keypad to allow direct frequency selection, but perhaps that is not in the cards. The County Comm is basically the Tecsun PL-365, but the actual Tecsun version has not been available for the most part from major sellers, even from Anon-Co in Hong Kong, or Universal. You can still find some PL-365’s from certain Ebay sellers. Last year I obtained two from a Hong Kong seller. Both were NIB, and arrived within about a week or so of purchase.

What I noticed immediately is that the PL-365 has a different kind of exterior surface, more rubberized than the County Comm. I was curious about any differences in performance that might be obvious. Recently, I took both outside for a very basic comparison — not scientific by any means, but I think it shows something that I have noticed.

Both share the characteristics of extreme directionality, and sensitivity to touch — sensitivity increases markedly when they are hand-held, decreases noticeably when they are left standing on their own, or angled. I have noticed this when using them at the beach. If I am recording a station, and leave the radio alone for a few minutes, I return to find reception degraded quite a bit, because they were not being held.

In my very basic comparison, I had both receivers next to each other on a backyard table, both antennas fully extended, full batteries on both. While on some frequencies, at least initially, it seems little difference can be heard, on others there is what seems to be greater clarity and signal separation on the PL-365.

I noticed this from the start on 13.710 where the County Comm appears to be noisier than the PL-365, and on the portions later in the video when both are tuned to 11.820 (de-tuned to 11,818) Saudi Arabia, and to 11.945 khz.

Apologies for the length of the video. It’s hard to draw any conclusions based on this comparison, and I intend to do some additional tests with both my PL-365s and will report back on any findings, but I thought this would be of interest to those of you out there with these fine little radios.

Click here to view on YouTube.


Thank you for this review and comparison, Dan. I’m often asked if there is any difference in performance to justify the extra costs typically associated with the PL-365. I can now share this video and your review–potential owners to draw their own conclusions. 

The Tecsun PL-365 can occasionally be purchased through sellers on eBay. The CountyComm GP5-SSB can be purchased from Universal Radio or CountyComm.

The versatile Kenwood TH-F6A

In reply to my recent post about the Yaesu VX-3R, SWLing Post reader Tha Dood comments:

[The Yaesu VX-3R] is a neat little HT, but the Kenwood TH-F6A is way more versatile.

How? Full 5W on 2m, 222MHz, and 440MHz, and will RX 150KHz to 1.3GHz in AM, FM, FM wide, NBFM, USB, LSB, and CW. All that in a size of a pack of cigs. Yes, it will overload easily, but something that wide banded and this small, I kind of expected that.

However, want to hear what your wireless FM innercom sounds like on 175KHz? You can do that. Want to hear what your 222.1MHz transverter sounds like on SSB? You can do that. Need to tune-in to local AM / FM radio when power goes out? You can do that. Want to listen to CB CH19 truckers gripe about traffic conditions? You can do that. Want to listen to aircraft traffic at an air show? You can do that. You want to monitor 6M 50.125MHz USB to hear when that band opens? You can do that.

No, it doesn’t have D-Star, DMR, Fusion, or even SW’s DRM, but analog-wise this HT is so versatile, what else is out there like it?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the TH-F6A!

A couple more things I like about the TH-F6A:

  • it meets MIL-STD 810 C/D/E standards for resistance to vibration, shock, humidity and light rain
  • It has a dedicated number keypad for direct frequency entry (something, sadly, the VX-3R lacks)

I’ll put the TH-F6A on my “wish list” this year and perhaps give it a thorough review. (Perhaps Santa Claus is listening!?)

Here’s a snapshot of TH-F6 pricing at time of posting: