Category Archives: Shortwave Radio Reviews

Steven is pleased with the Tecsun PL-360 and Anon-Co


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steven Crawford, who shares the following:

I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for posting my inquiry on the Sony 7600GR. The post comments answered my question.

I also wanted to let you know your confidence in Ebay seller Anna and Anon-co continue to be well founded. Remembering your recommendation and wishing to pick up a Tecsun PL-360 as a spare to my CountyComm GP-5 SSB (Tecsun PL-365), I placed the order for it and a couple of other bits of Tecsun kit with Anon-co.

The order arrived in 6 working days to my Gulf coast Texas home, taking longer to travel from Chicago to my home than it took to move from Anon-co in Hong Kong to Chicago and clear customs.

I then had a question about the connecting cable included with the Tecsun badged, Tecsun / Kato / Grundig / Eaton, AN200 Loop Antenna. Posed through Ebay Anna promptly answered the question and added a photo of the cable to Anon-co’s Ebay listing for the AN200. It just doesn’t get better than that. You can continue to recommend Anon-co with full confidence from my perspective.

I picked up the PL-360 as a lower cost AM/FM/SW backup to the GP-5 SSB that would allow me to accept the risk of using the larger and heavier extended ferrite rod loop stick aftermarket antenna that garnered so much interest on your blog a year ago, before CountyComm warned of accelerated wear on the antenna jack. Happily the antenna works just as well on the PL-360 as it did on the GP-5 SSB.

Overall I am pleased with the PL-360.

The performance on AM and SW appears to match that of the GP-5 SSB (Tecsun PL-365) albeit with a slightly higher noise floor. Whether this is due to something akin to sample to sample variation or a direct result of inherent design differences between the PL-360’s Silicon Labs Si4734 DSP chipset versus the GP-5 SSB’s Silicon Labs Si4735 DSP chipset I can’t say. I can say the PL-360 with the included High Gain loop stick external tee antenna received my list of news gathering AM clear channel stations out to 900 miles during the night hours matching the GP-5 SSB. This list includes WGN, WBBM, WLS and KOA at the furtherest extreme. It also includes Mexico City’s XEEP 20kW at night at 800 or so miles. Switching to SW broadcast using the whip antenna and Tecsun’s / CountyCom EZTune system day or night the PL-360 and GP-5 SSB select and load the same stations within the PL-360’s slightly shorter SW tuning range.

Dittio on FM on the whip. Both radios snag my list of FM stations out to 60 miles.

For my purposes both are extremely close in performance to my Sony SW7600GR when using their supplied external loop stick. On AM if you combine one with the larger and heaver aftermarket loopsticks they will slightly outperform the 7600GR combined with a Tecsun / Kato / Grundig / Eaton, AN200 Loop Antenna. The Sony’s speaker gives it the edge in listening pleasure, but on earphones or plugs all three are close.

None of forgoing addresses the SSB performance as the PL-360’s chipset doesn’t offer that option.

I am pleased with the PL-360, Anna and Anon-co and I do thank you for posting my 7600GR inquiry.

I look forward to your blog.

Steve

Thank you, Steve! I’m happy to hear the 7600GR posting helped you–that’s what this community is all about…helping each other. Thanks to everyone who commented on that post.

And, yes, I think what surprises so many SWLs is the fact that Anna at Anon-Co actually knows Tecsun radios as well, if not better, than the manufacturer. I’ve only had good experiences working with Anon-Co and that’s why I recommend them so readily. Anna provides excellent customer service. (Click here to check out Anon-Co on eBay.)

I’m also happy to hear you’re enjoying the PL-360 and that you understand the risk of using the large ferrite bar on this radio series (PL-360, 365 and GP5 DSP and SSB). I use my antenna as well, though like you, very carefully.

I only use the large ferrite bar when I’m stationary and I’m careful not to put a strain on the antenna in any way; keeping it balanced and steady. In other words, you must handle it with kid gloves. If you take these precautions, I think your radio will enjoy expected longevity.

Thanks, again, Steven for sharing your review! I’m very pleased to hear you’re enjoying the SWLing Post!

The Panasonic RF-B65: the legendary portable with a cult following amongst DXers

Hi there, back in 1990 I was given a Panasonic RF-B40 for my birthday (I think it was my birthday…1990 was a long time ago!). I found that radio to be very sensitive on shortwave, more so perhaps than my Sangean ATS-803A, but ultimately it didn’t really add much value to any serious DXing because it would only tune on shortwave in 5 kHz steps. This rather course tuning arrangement was very limiting in terms of tuning out adjacent noise and copying tropical band – and other signals that weren’t quite on-frequency etc. Frustrated, I  lent my RF-B40 to my brother a few years ago and serves me right; following a house move, he managed to lose it! Quite a shame really because almost three decades later, I would have been very interested to put the RF-B40 through it’s paces on a DXpedition or two. You really don’t see them in action very often at all these days.

 Above: the Panasonic RF-B40 (not mine – unfortunately) and the RF-B60, mid-DXpedition!

At that time, which was around the beginning of the 1990s, I read a review somewhere and it became clear that the better receiver was quite obviously the RF-B65. Upon it’s introduction into the market, the RF-B65 was immediately recognised as an excellent receiver, however, in the intervening years it’s reputation has continued to grow to the point today where it enjoys legendary status amongst DXers and bit of a cult following. There’s a lot of information on the RF-B65 to be found on the internet, so I won’t go into huge detail, but the obvious question is: what makes thsi receiver so special? Well, it’s a quite compact PPL double conversion receiver, covering 153 kHz to 29,999 kHz AM and 87.5 to 108 MHz, FM. It has a keypad for direct frequency input, although you have to press either the ‘FREQ’ or ‘METER’ buttons prior to punching in the numbers to define whether you wish to access a particular frequency, or band. I actually find that slightly annoying, but you easily learn to live with such trivial matters when using a radio of this quality and performance.

Furthermore, there’s an electronic signal strength meter, a DX/local attenuation switch, external antenna jack, SSB reception mode, 1 kHz tuning steps on shortwave (unlike it’s little brother the RF-B40) and fine tuning. The single bandwidth filter is 6 kHz wide and thus limits selectivity a little, although the SSB option and fine tune helps offset that somewhat.  It would have been nice to have a couple more filtering options, particularly narrower for serious DXing in crowded bands, to combat adjacent channel QRM. Build quality is generally excellent as you would have expected from a high-end Panasonic portable and with a very compact form-factor – roughly the size of a paperback book and weighing in at just 1.4 Ibs, it is eminently more portable than a Sony ICF-SW77 or the iconic ICF-2001D/2010.

 

Ultimately, the RF-B65 continues to enjoy an excellent reputation today, nearly 30 years after it was introduced because it is a wonderfully sensitive receiver and arguably the best-ever performing shortwave portable in the paperback book size category – often touted as ‘travel portables’. I managed to acquire an example in as-new condition from eBay, although mind you, I paid through the nose for it lol – that cult following ensures prices remain very robust! I have tested my example against the equally legendary Sony ICF-2001D, still considered by many to be the benchmark for shortwave portables, and in my experience the Panasonic is right up there with it. There’s virtually no difference whatsoever in sensitivity. Where the Panasonic comes a little unstuck is the lack of bandwidth filtering and SYNC, leading to lower selectivity. However, clever use of SSB and fine tuning does provide quite good compensation for these shortcomings. Overall though, given it’s size, sensitivity, build quality and audio, as a complete package, in my opinion, the RF-B65 is equal to the ICF-2001D, and this is why today, it remains so highly sought after.

Below are embedded reception videos and text links to the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel, with various DX catches on the RF-B65. Some of these are considered quite rare in Europe, for example EXPPM Radio Educación’s 1 kW signal from Mexico City, the now defunct ABC Northern Territories on 120 metres and Radio Bandeirantes from Sao Paolo, Brazil, amongst others. Please note; right at the bottom of this post is a link to some very recent comparisons with the brilliant Eton Satellit – one of the very best portables currently on the market today. The vintage Panasonic holds its own, despite 30 years of supposed technical innovation in electronics. Thanks for reading/watching/listening and I wish you all great DX.


Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view on Oxford Shortwave Log

Click here to view some comparison videos of the RF-B65 and Eton Satellit

 

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.

Yet another favorable review of the Grundig Executive Satellit

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors, Troy, Ron and Steve, who note that Jay Allen has just posted a review of the Grundig Executive Satellit on his website.

The upshot? Jay found the performance identical to the previous (non-Executive) version of the Satellit which is to say that it has excellent AM performance and built-in audio.

In February, Clint Gouveia wrote up a review of the Satellit based on three weeks of DXing in the field. He found it to be an exceptional performer on the shortwave bands and stated:

“Ultimately, I have to strongly recommend this portable to anyone interested in DXing and in particular those that embark on DXpeditions.”

He embedded a number of videos from the field in his review (click here to view).

And, of course, our buddy Tom Stiles also reviewed the Executive Satellit on his YouTube Channel.

The original Eton Satellit

Like Clint, I own the original non-Executive version of the Satellit–since performance is identical, I’m not going to “upgrade” to the Executive version (though I do really like the executive case).

After Clint’s review in February, I stated taking the Satellit with me on travels more often and have been most pleased with its performance. While it took me a while to get used to its amber display at night, I must say it is a fantastic performer, has superb built-in audio and is overall a wonderful full-featured radio travel companion.

I often forget to mention the Satellit when readers ask for portable radio recommendations–perhaps this is because the Tecsun PL-880 simply overshadowed it in my mind.  Not anymore.

Executive on sale

As we mentioned yesterday, the Executive Satellit also happens to be on sale at Amazon right now for $156.92 shipped. Click here to view on Amazon.com.

Eton Satellit vs. Tecsun PL-880

Speaking of the Tecun PL-880SWLing Post contributor Charles Rippel recently ordered the Executive Satellit–he plans to compare it with the Tecsun PL-880 and share his findings with us. Stay tuned!

Edward reviews this unmarked thrift store radio find

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Edward Ganshirt, who writes:

I spotted this “keychain” radio [pictured above] at a Savers thrift shop. Savers is a chain of thrift stores in the Northeast that is an outlet for Goodwill and possibly others. What caught my eye is (in addition to price) an 11 band radio: AM, FM and 4.75 to 21.85 Mhz in 9 short-wave bands. It has no brand markings (or FCC id) and of course made in China. I purchased it for less than a latte at Starbucks and brought it home.

It uses 2 AA penlight batteries and has a 14″ telescoping antenna. Turning it on demonstrates its low performance.

It has ample sensitivity on FM but difficult to tune clearly. AM band is better. Shortwave is a different story.

At night I get several shortwave stations, difficult to tune in. Connecting an external antenna demonstrated its weakness. I picked up the entire AM band and every other station below 30 MHz no matter what setting the tuning knob was set to, with varying signal strength , depending what short-wave band setting selected. I live less than 4 miles from a powerhouse radio station on 680 KHz that bleeds through the IF filter. Deconstructing the radio reveals its design shortcomings

It contains 2 chips: A CSC2822 stereo audio 8 pin dip and a 16 pin CSC2003P “jungle” chip. Comparing app notes to the receiver reveals short cuts in the design. Just absolute minimalist component count–only one 455KHz IF filter.

Fortunately, it has a ferrite loopstick antenna. (That explains why it works on AM. There is less IF bleed-through on AM).

Using a signal generator, on shortwave reveals non existent image rejection, beat notes on harmonics of the local oscillator (yes it is a superheterodyne).

This is a radio to take to the beach. If the tide grabs it and washes it into the ocean or a sea gull snatches it, you would not be disappointed.

In my opinion it was a bit steeply priced. You don’t win them all but I will still go to Savers in the future for other buys as they present themselves.

Thank you for your report, Edward. I think what is highlighted here are the shortcomings of inexpensive–truly “cheap”–radios. They have only the most basic components, regardless if they resemble a quality radio aesthetically. Edward listed the hallmarks of a cheap analog receivers: overloading, stiff inaccurate tuning controls, mediocre sensitivity/selectivity, poor audio, and poor shielding.

Thanks for pulling this one apart and taking a look inside, Edward.

Taking it to the beach, Ed? Let us know if it floats or–better yet–if a seagull decides to grab it–! Who knows, they may tune through the FM and find one of their favorite 1980s songs:

(Sorry, couldn’t help the reference–it is Friday after all.)

The Bonito Boni whip: proving to be excellent portable antenna for DXing

Hi there, if you’re a subscriber to the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel, you will be aware that I have been using a Wellbrook ALA1530 H field antenna, for 15 months or so, with (at times) excellent results. A while back I was on the lookout for a second antenna, however at more than £250, I couldn’t justify purchasing a second Wellbrook. Ultimately I splashed out on the Bonito Boni whip E-field wideband active antenna (20 kHz to 300 MHz) and with a very compact form-factor suitable for DXpeditions/portable operation in general, the Boni whip definitely ticked all the boxes. Furthermore, with reasonable second and third order intercept points of +55 and +32.5 dBm respectively, the Boni whip, on paper at least, looked like a pretty good buy at around £100.

 

Initial testing at home confirmed, perhaps not surprisingly that the Boni whip could not match the SNR provided by the Wellbrook ALA1530 in a noisy, urban environment. However, less predictably, the Boni whip has proven to be a truly excellent antenna away from the ubiquitous blanket of ‘electrosmog’ at my QTH. Furthermore, it really is so compact, I simply leave it in the car in a small flight case, with a portable and connectors etc. for ad-hoc listening sessions. Since returning from my most recent trip to Brazil, I have had a chance to review my most recent catches with the Boni whip, some of which are realy pleasing and most definitely underline the excellent performance of this diminutive antenna. In particular, signals from Radio RB2  on 11935 kHz and Radio Aparecida on 11855 kHz, both low power Brazilian stations, are testament to how sensitive the Boni whip is in an electrically quiet environment. Check out also the quality of longwave signals from Poland and the  Czech Republic – simply amazing for such a physically short antenna. Finally, there’s a personal first from Lusaka, Zambia, Voice of Hope Africa on 13680 kHz. All the more rewarding that this was actually copied in my work office!

I hope you found this article interesting. There are embedded reception videos below and text links for all, which will take you directly to the relevant video on the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel. Thank you for reading/watching/listening and I wish you all excellent DX!


 

Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to watch on YouTube

 

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.