Tag Archives: Radio Comparison

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.

Sony ICF-SW77: recent DX & comparing performance with the ICF-SW55 & Tecsun PL-310ET

Some of you might remember the extensive tests I conducted last August, comparing this great portable receiver against the model it was introduced to replace – and arguably one of the best-ever portables – the Sony ICF-2001D/ICF-2010. I conducted a back-to-back series of comparison tests at the very quiet wood in Oxfordshire I use for my DX’peditions, using the same antenna for both recievers – the excellent Wellbrook ALA1530 active loop. In total, I made fourteen reception videos comparing the ICF-2001D and ICF-SW77 and posted them to my Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel. Both receivers performed very well, delivering excellent reception on the Tropical Band and elsewhere on the shortwave spectrum, however, the ICF-2001D proved to be the clear winner, with what proved to be far superior synchronous detection.

But that wasn’t the end of the road for my ICF-SW77. It remains a very capable receiver (one of my all-time favourite portables) and one which I continue to use regularly. However, every now and then, it surprises me with something exceptional. Since conducting the tests against the ICF-2001D, the SW77 has brought in my best-ever indoor reception of Radio Verdad, Guatemala on 4054.8 kHz….and when I say best-ever, I really do mean it; the audio was significantly clearer than anything I had copied previously at home with the Elad. More recently, I copied Zambia NBC Radio 1 on 5915 kHz on a DX’pedition with a far superior signal to anything I’d previously heard, with any other reciever, including the ICF-2001D and the Elad FDM DUO. Some of this of course is down to short-term conditions of propagation, however, the SW77 continues to prove why it has such a loyal following and continues to command premium prices on eBay. Text links and embedded videos to both reception videos on Oxford Shortwave Log follow below:


Further to these recent catches, I promised some of my YouTube subscribers that I would conduct another, similar test with the ICF-SW77, but against it’s cheaper ‘sibling’ the ICF-SW55. A review at the time of the ICF-SW55’s introduction concluded that the price premium of the ICF-SW77 may not be justified since the performance of the two receivers was very similar, despite the SW55 lacking synchronous detection. As someone who has extensive experience with the SW55 out in the field – it was my mainstay DXpedition receiver for more than a year – I was just as interested as my subscribers in how these two vintage Sonys would measure up against each other. The lineage is all very obvious from their respective industrial designs, but the lack of Synchronous detection on the SW55 might have been the one element of functionality resulting in poorer performance, particularly in challenging band conditions and in the presence of adjacent channel QRM etc. To mix things up a little, I have also thrown the brilliant Tecsun PL-310ET into this test. Such a sensitive and selective receiver for less than £40, it has provided more surprises with regard to it’s performance than just about any other radio I’ve owned. How would the Tecsun compare to these two vintage, but high-end Sony portables? Stay tuned to find out! Two reception videos follow, using signals from ABC Northern Territories (4835 kHz) and Radio Mali (9350 kHz), with more to follow on Oxford Shortwave Log and a further posting on swling.com/blog. Thanks for watching/reading/listening.

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.

Sony ICF-2001D/2010 vs ICF-SW77: The final result & next contender ~ The Eton E1

Hi there, after conducting a total of 14 reception tests comparing these two vintage – but excellent portable shortwave radios, there was a clear winner – the ICF-2001D. Interestingly, the second half of the testing identified yet another example of synchronous detection lock dropping out on the ICF-SW77 (during reception of Radio CANDIP, Democratic Republic of the Congo on 5066.4 kHz). Generally, however, and despite a fairly narrow performance margin, the ICF-2001D managed to deliver clearer audio across 5 of the remaining 6 reception tests, giving a final score of 9 to 3 in it’s favour. However, despite the clear win, there is no doubt in my mind at all that the ICF-SW77 is still a great portable receiver and in my humble opinion, remains one of the best ever made.

I believe this comparison test reveals the only likely remaining contender to the top-spot in portable shortwave receivers to be the Eton E1/E1XM. Originally to be marketed as the ‘Satellit 900’ (that never happened) and following a decade of development, involving RL Drake, it was finally introduced in 1995 – and then out of production within a few years. Fortunately, a couple of months ago, I managed to snag one in excellent condition on eBay, for a reasonable price. Now, these radios are not without issues, including, but not limited to; sticky rubber exterior casing, malfunctioning display, failing function keys and general all-round fragility. Not exactly what I would be looking for in a rugged, well-performing portable for my DXpeditions. However, as someone who is always exploring ways to ‘push the performance envelope’ and the obvious potential benefits of passband tuning, an allegedly superior synchronous detection circuit, 4 audio bandwidth filters and tuning resolution down to 10 Hz, the E1 was impossible for me to ignore. Thus, at some point in the near future, I will perform a similar comparison test with the Sony ICF-2001D and the Eton E1. Whichever camp you might be in, I hope you’ll enjoy the reception videos and find the results/conclusions informative.

For now, wishing you all excellent DX.

eton-e1l

The Eton E1; possibly the best portable shortwave receiver of all time?

 

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.

Which is the best? Sony ICF-2001D/2010 or ICF-SW77? Part two

sony-test

Hi there, after the first set of recordings were analysed, the score was 4-3 to the ICF-2001D, demonstrating how similar these two great receivers are in overall performance. There were a copule of notable differences however. The synchronous detection circuit on the ICF-2001D allows the user to effectively tune through a signal in 01. kHz steps, whilst the receiver automatically locks onto either the upper or lower sideband, depending on the frequency offset. The ICF-SW77 synchronous detection system differs in that the user must tune the signal and select the sideband. The results of this test confirmed that whilst the ICF-2001D almost always retained SYNC lock, the ICF-SW77 was very prone to losing lock, which of course affected the audio quality in many cases. The other issue was with the ICF-SW77 in that the narrow audio bandwidth filter often seemed to deliver ‘muddy’ audio. Whilst this feature proved to be excellent in terms of mitigating adjacent channel QRM, it also reduced signal clarity/ audio discernibility a little too much in my opinion. However, overall, sensitivity and selectivity was very similar between both radios – in fact, one recording had to be judged a draw (Radio Bandeirantes, Sao Paolo on 9645.4 kHz) – I simply couldn’t split them. Part two of the reception testing follows, using signals from Canda, DR Congo, Brazil, Cuba and Peru.

I hope you enjoy the recordings – text links and embedded videos follow below:


 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Which is the best? Sony ICF-2001D/2010 or ICF-SW77? The halfway score

Hi there, here is a summary of the first half of tests comparing the Sony ICF-2001D against it’s replacement the ICF-SW77. Both receivers are widely acknowledged as being amongst the best shortwave portables ever made, but how close are they in performance? Is there a clear winner after the first 8 reception tests? I hope you enjoy the summary video. Links to the first half of reception tests follow again, below, whilst the second half will follow in a separate post. Thanks and good DX to all.


 

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.