Grundig G3 discontinued, Tecsun PL-880 on the way

The Grundig G3 shortwave radio.

The Grundig G3 shortwave radio.

Not really a surprise, but I’ve confirmed that the Grundig G3 has been discontinued. They are still available, for the moment, from Universal Radio and online sources like Amazon.com. I would not advise buying from Amazon as I’ve received numerous complaints that they’ve shipped faulty units. Universal Radio, on the other hand, is testing each an every G3 leaving their shop.

With the exit of the G3, this leaves Grundig with the following selection of shortwave portables:

TecsunPL-880Box

Tecsun PL-880

Tecsun, meanwhile, is adding to their extensive line of shortwave portables. Indeed, this morning, W4ASZ comments:

“I found this link courtesy of the manly men at Herculodge :

http://tecsunradio.com/2013/09/14/new-arrival-tecsun-pl880-fm-radio-dsp-stereo-speaker-coming-soon/9030

Looking pretty good !”

I agree and I do feel cautiously optimistic about the Tecsun PL-880. Could it be my new travel radio? Though I still happily travel with the Grundig G3, Sony ICF-SW7600GR and Tecsun PL-380, a guy can’t have too many radios to choose from!

I’ll plan to review the PL-880 once it’s available. I’m particularly interested in seeing how it stacks up against the venerable Tecsun PL-660.

Stay tuned!

The Spec-Ops Pack-Rat: A new go pack for my radio gear

The Spec-Ops Pack-Rat makes for an ideal radio gear bag and easily accommodates the Grundig G3

The Spec-Ops Pack-Rat makes for an ideal radio gear bag and easily accommodates the Grundig G3 (Click to enlarge)

As I’ve mentioned before, I love to travel with one bag and efficiently pack my radio gear.

This year at the Dayton Hamvention, my good friend Eric, retiree of the Air National Guard, took me onto the nearby Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Eric is a good buddy and fellow ham, and for several years now, we’ve made it a point to visit both the National Museum of the US Air Force and Wright Patterson AFB while at the Hamvention. This year he was in need of some gear, so we visited the store where those on active duty purchase Air Force-approved gear and clothing. Being a bit of a pack fanatic, I of course quickly found the backpack section. I was searching for the perfect small radio gear pack, and I think I found it: The Spec-Ops Pack-Rat Organizer.
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Pack-Rat2This little pack (roughly the size of a larger-format paperback book at 10″ high, 7.25″ wide x 3″ thick) is built very well–it seems nearly bullet-proof.  It immediately suggested several uses. Here are a few of its advertised features:

  • 14 separate storage compartments/ slots
  • A unique “inside-out” design which allows for instant open access while inside packs
  • 12″ gear-keeper leash for keys, lights, etc.
  • Clear business card/ID window
  • External mesh pocket
  • External accessory loops and carrying handle
  • “D”-ring attachment points for optional shoulder strap
  • Fully zippered perimeter allows for a 90° opening
  • Extremely tough Cordura® 1000D nylon exterior lined with heavy duty nylon pack cloth
  • Fully seam-taped interior
  • High-tensile nylon web attachment points and
  • Bar-tack reinforcements at critical stress points

One glance at the Pack-Rat, and I knew that one of its two largest interior pockets could hold my larger shortwave portables, the other could hold my Kindle Fire tablet, and there would still be plenty of room for wires, cables, accessories, and headphones.

PackRat3After bringing it home, I was simply amazed at exactly how much gear it could readily hold.  And indeed, this summer I’ve taken it on several trips; including my July trip to Belize for which I packed all of my gear into one small convertible carry-on pack (a small Timbuk2 Wingman).

Here’s the list of items I stashed in the Pack-Rat:

  • Grundig G3
  • Kindle Fire and power cord
  • Zoom H2n Handy Recorder with wind screen and mic stand holder
  • Eight AA batteries
  • Ear buds
  • Icom ID-51A HT and adaptor
  • 2 Cliff Bars (a guy’s gotta eat!)
  • 3′ stereo audio patch cable
  • two alligator clip leads
  • keys
  • pen, pencil, notepad
  • business cards

At this point, the little pack was full, but could close very easily and didn’t even bulge on the sides; even with all that (somewhat bulky) gear inside.

PackRat1Best yet, as I moved around in town, I could use the shoulder strap from my convertible backpack on the Pack-Rat, making it very easy to carry. Even though most of the internal pockets are open from the top, I never had anything fall out, even when the pack was upside down.  When the pack shuts, it seems to put enough pressure on the pockets to hold items securely. It’s bright yellow interior makes it very easy to see the contents even in dim conditions, such as on a night flight.

Spec-Ops packs are made with pride in the USA and obviously meet military standards for durability and construction. They also carry a lifetime warranty. You don’t have to visit a military base to purchase one, either: Spec-Ops has an online store where they carry their full product line. Spec-Ops Brand also has a store on Amazon.com. You’ll find the Pack-Rat on this page–note the number of positive reviews from customers.

SWLing in Belize City: comparing the Grundig G5 and G3

G3AndG5BelizeFor the past week, I’ve been traveling:  this time, in the inner-city section of Belize City on behalf of Ears To Our World, where we’ve been working with ETOW’s partner organization, The Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI).  I had the honor of working with a group of visually-impaired and blind children, giving each a self-powered shortwave radio, along with instruction on its use.

One of our talented advisory board members, David Korchin (KC2WNW)–also an avid SWLer–met me on this recent adventure. One afternoon, we found a moment to pull out our portable radios.  Turns out, he had brought his Grundig G5 while I had my Grundig G3. So we sat back to listen: to broadcast stations (including RRI and REE), to ham radio communications, and to some medium wave stations, including Radio Reloj on 790 kHz. Some great radio listening, by the way.

It was interesting to observe that in almost every case, the G3 had a slight edge on the G5. The G3 noise floor was slightly lower, and audio characteristics slightly better, than the G5’s. Where the G3 really had an edge, though, was on single-side band, where its selectivity was far superior to that of the G5.

With that said, if you purchase a G3, be sure to check out  your unit’s performance thoroughly–and keep your receipt. When Amazon last posted a sale on the G3, we had several reports of faulty units (check out the comment thread in this post). Though I cannot confirm this, I suspect these may be among the final units of the G3 production line.  Choose carefully, and you’ll enjoy a great radio.

By the way, I’ve always had good luck purchasing through Universal Radio.

Is Amazon.com selling used, defective Grundig G3’s?

Amazon GrundigG3-001After posting the Grundig G3 deal from Amazon.com last week, many of you sent a message saying that you had snatched one up at that excellent price. However, readers Gary and Dave will be sending theirs back.  Here are their comments:

From Gary:

I received my $52 Grundig G3 today. Unfortunately, it appears to have been a re-sold defective unit. The whip antenna is bent, MW AM sensitivity is far worse than my Sony 7600GR, there is lots of internal noise on MW AM, and sync locks only on the strongest stations (and 1 kHz low).

From Dave:

Well, when I got to it it was up to $59 but that’s still a great deal so I snagged one.  It arrived today.  I suspect like Gary (above) that it was a returned unit.  Lots of scuffs and signs of use.  So… I’ve sent it back to Amazon asking for a replacement.  We’ll see what shows up.  I see now that it’s selling for $96.    I would hate to think that Amazon would be selling off returned stuff at a discount and yet presenting it as new.

Gary and Dave, I certainly hope that Amazon replaces your G3s with new-in-box units; I expect they will. These G3s were certainly advertised as new and sold by Amazon.com (not anther vendor). Let us know if you get a proper replacement.

Any one else experience the same problem from this Amazon sale? Please comment.

[Update: Also check out this thread on the Herculodge. Thanks, Gary.]

Excellent price for Grundig G3 at Amazon

GrundigG3Thanks to both Mike and Gary for pointing out that the Grundig G3 is currently $47.21 with free shipping at Amazon.com.

That is the lowest price I’ve ever seen for this excellent shortwave portable. I’ve noticed that the price has actually fluctuated over the past 24 hours, but I haven’t seen it higher than $52.46.

Click here to view the Grundig G3 on Amazon.com.

Grundig G3 on sale at Universal Radio

The Grundig G3 shortwave radio.

The Grundig G3, one of my favorite full-featured portables, is now on sale at Universal Radio for $89.77.

The G3 would make an excellent gift for someone in your life who is interested in shortwave radio. I recently updated my review of this radio and even included it in our annual gift recommendations.

Not sure how long this sale will last.

SWLing.com’s 2012 Holiday Shortwave and Radio Gift Guide

One 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 this gift-giving season. I’ve arranged this selection by price, starting with the most affordable. I’ve included a few promising new radios that have recently been introduced to the market, along with models that have proven their reliability and are on their way to becoming classics.

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 2012-13 holiday season on 22 November 2012.

Simple, affordable and portable

The Kaito WRX911 is a classic, no-frills analog radio. Turn it on and tune. That’s its game.

Kaito WRX911 or Tecsun R-911 ($33)

I’ve owned this little radio for years. It has been on the market a long time and I know exactly why: it’s affordable and very simple to operate. While it has no tone control, bandwidth control or digital display, the WRX911 performs better than other radios in its stocking-stuffer price range. I find its medium wave (AM band) reception above par–especially its ability to null out interfering broadcasts by simply turning the radio body. The WRX911 is also a great radio to keep in the glove compartment of your car. (Another similarly-priced radio to consider is the DE321, which we recommended last year–also check out our review.)

You can purchase the Kaito WRX911 from Universal Radio.

Don’t live at home without it

No matter where you live,you should have a self-powered radio in your home. The Eton FR160 is like a Swiss Army Knife when power fails.

Eton FR160 ($34 US)

A good friend recently sent me a message: she had been without power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy for two full weeks. She also added that her little FR160 kept her family informed and provided comfort in the dark days following the hurricane.

The Eton FR160 is a sturdy and useful little radio.  This radio features AM/FM and the NOAA weather radio bands (at least, the North American versions do; international versions may have shortwave instead of weather frequencies). The FR160 also features a very bright white LED flashlight and even sports a small solar panel that can effectively charge the internal battery pack. The FR160 also features a USB port that you can plug your mobile phone, iPod or other USB device into for charging. (Note that it takes a lot of cranking to charge a typical cell phone, but I can confirm that it does work in a pinch.)

Over the past few years, these radios have become ubiquitous. I’ve seen them in sporting goods stores, RadioShack (Tandy in some countries), BestBuy, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond–indeed, they’re in practically every North American big-box store and in many mail order catalogs besides. Of course, Universal Radio sells them, too.

The CC Solar Observer has everything you need to weather a power outage

CC Solar Observer ($50 US)

Like the FR160, the CC Solar Observer is a wind-up/solar emergency radio with AM/FM and Weather Band, and an LED flashlight built into the side of the radio. It’s perhaps a nicer option for those who want bigger audio out of their emergency radio. The Solar Observer is rugged and well-designed, like many C.Crane products.

The CC Solar Observer is available at C.Crane.

Eton and C.Crane sell many other self-powered radio models.  If interested in exploring more models, check out our self-powered/emergency radio reviews.

A shortwave radio with Bluetooth

When coupled with another Bluetooth device, this radio doubles as wireless remote speakers

The Tecsun PL-398BT ($100)

The Tecsun PL-398BT is a very unique shortwave radio.  In fact, it may be the perfect gift for a radio enthusiast who is also very tied to their computer or smart phone. Besides being a very capable shortwave/AM/FM receiver in its own right, when put into Bluetooth mode and connected to a smart phone, PC, or other device, the PL-398BT’s speakers act as its wireless stereo speakers. I believe this may be an ideal way to listen to internet radio from your iPhone, for example. Of course, the PL-398BT comes from a legacy of great receivers, so the AM/FM and shortwave performance will not disappoint. It’s a little on the pricey side for a shortwave radio that lacks the SSB mode (for listening to utility and ham radio transmissions), but the Bluetooth function more than makes up for it, in my opinion.  Some people may definitely prefer this function.

You can purchase the PL-398BT from Universal Radio or you can click here to search eBay.

Best performance for price

The Grundig G3 has a solid reputation and at $100, great value for the performance.

The Grundig G3 ($100 US)

Simply put, the Grundig G3 offers the best bang for your buck in 2012. I have a lot of portable radios, but the one I probably reach for the most–for recreational shortwave radio listening–is the Grundig G3. I wrote this review three years ago and even recently posted this update. Read them and you’ll see why I like the G3.  At $100, the G3 will please both the shortwave radio newbie and the seasoned listener.

The Grundig G3 can be purchased from Universal Radio or Grove. Some local RadioShack stores also keep the G3 in stock (though unfortunately, less often than they used to).

Of course, two other excellent (though pricier) options are the Tecsun PL-660 and the Sony ICF-SW7600GR.

Small black box + PC = rich performance

The RFSpace IQ is small, but packs a big punch

The RFSpace SDR-IQ  ($500 US)

If $500 is within your budget, and you’re buying for someone who would love combining their radio hobby with computer technology, a software defined receiver (SDR), like the RFSpace SDR-IQ, will certainly exceed their expectations. There are many SDRs on the market, but the SDR-IQ offers the most bang-for-the-buck in the SDR line (though the WinRadio Excalibur ($900 US)–which we recently reviewed–and the Microtelecom Perseus ($1,000 US) are certainly pricier benchmarks worth considering).

The RFSpace SDR-IQ is available from Universal Radio and is manufactured in the USA.

The Bonito RadioJet

The Bonito RadioJet ($700 US)

The Bonito RadioJet is new to the North American market in 2012.  I reviewed the RadioJet this summer and even traveled with it extensively. I was thoroughly impressed with its portability, performance, and it did not task my PC as much as SDRs do.  Like the SDR-IQ, it’s a small black metal box that hooks up to your PC to unlock its impressive features. The RadioJet, though, represents cutting-edge IF receiver design, and comes with an amazingly versatile software package. If you’re buying for someone who likes versatility and raw performance–and likes being an early adopter–the Bonito RadioJet may well be the perfect fit.

The Bonito RadioJet can be purchased from Universal Radio and is manufactured in Germany.

Tabletop Performance

The Alinco DX-R8T

The Alinco DX-R8T ($450 US)

We featured the Alinco DX-R8T in last year’s holiday gift guide. We also gave it a full review–in short, this radio thoroughly impressed us. It’s full-featured, performs well, and comes at a very affordable price. If you’re buying this for a ham radio operator, they’ll understand the reason why the Alinco DX-R8T needs a 12 volt power supply and an external antenna. It’s a receiver version of a ham radio transceiver, and as such, does a fine job on SSB modes.

Want more gift options?  Try our 2011 or 2010 gift guides, take a look through our shortwave radio reviews guide and/or our simplified reviews page.
Happy Holidays!