Tag Archives: Radio review

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.

The Eton Satellit: my thoughts after 3 weeks of DXing and some recent catches…

Hi there, it’s been about three weeks now since I started DXing with the Eton Satellit and I thought it time to post an updated review, based on my experiences thus far, along with some recent catches. Noting that other radio hobbyists with a strong presence online have been posting neutral to negative reviews on this receiver, I would just like to point out, perhaps rather obviously, that no receiver is perfect and just as importantly, the criteria on which a portable radio is judged will be different from user to user, based on their listening habits. I am almost exclusively engaged in DXing with the Satellit, whilst others will be listening on the broadcast bands on a more casual basis. I know that for some, the ultimate quality and finish of a product is as important as performance and they would make their physical assessment in a very detailed manner. I on the other hand focus mainly on performance and as regards quality, I’m reasonably satisfied if it doesn’t fall apart in my hands, straight out of the box! That actually happened – and it’s sort of where I draw the line 🙂 I guess the point is, I try to respect everyone’s opinion, irrespective as to whether we are in agreement or not and I believe that’s healthy for the future of our hobby.

Ok, back to the Satellit. Firstly, I am able to confirm that in terms of ultimate sensitivity, this portable is very close to my Sony ICF-2001D – one of the most highly regarded portables ever made. The delta in performance between the two is most perceptible on the weakest of fading signals that intermittently deliver audio with the Sony, but can’t be heard on the Eton. On stronger signals, my experience is that either radio might provide the strongest and or highest fidelity audio. I have a series of comparison videos already in the can, which will be uploaded to the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel soon.

In terms of selectivity, the digital bandwidth filters work very well, although I note that even on the narrowest setting (2 kHz) when operating in a crowded band, adjacent channel QRM can occasionally still sound quite pronounced, as compared to my Sony ICF-SW55 or ICF-2001D receivers. As regards synchronous detection, this is more of a hit-and-miss affair. Subscribers to my channel might notice that in nearly all of my reception videos featuring the Eton Satellit, I have not engaged the SYNC. That isn’t to say it doesn’t work, however, even with selectable sidebands, the SYNC mode often appears to increase the overall signal amplitude and noise floor, without positively influencing the SNR. However, it’s interesting to note that signals on the Satellit in AM mode often almost match the ICF-2001D in SYNC mode, in terms of overall SNR. More on that to come.

There are a number of ways to tune the radio; manually using the tuning knob (and this has a decent feel/ resistance to it), direct frequency input which requires pressing the ‘AM’ button to engage, automatic search and access to 700 memory locations, via 100 screen pages. In the real world – and by that I mean ‘my world’ which is most often in the middle of a field, or the woods, all of the above tuning options are as ergonomic as most of my other portables. With regard to SSB reception, there are fast, slow and fine tuning options with a maximum resolution of 10 Hz and this works very well to reproduce natural sounding speech in LSB and USB modes. The tuning speed/fine options are engaged by pressing the tuning knob inwards towards the set – quite a neat idea. With SSB and SYNC there’s always a little pause whilst the electronics engage – a set of chevrons appear on the screen to indicate the receiver is actually doing something. It’s similar to the Sony ICF-SW77 where you effectively toggle between SYNC USB and LSB and wait for lock. Not an issue for me, but it might annoy some, particularly those who have experience with the ICF-2001D, where SYNC engagement is instantaneous, if the signal is of sufficient strength. A small point, but worth making.

 

So, overall, a brilliant little radio that in my opinion is completely worthy of the ‘Satellit’ branding, at least in terms of ultimate performance. As I mentioned previously, one of the most experienced DXers I know, with more than 3 decades of listening to the HF bands and an owner of a number of vintage Satellit receivers noted that the Eton Satellit outperformed them – and by some margin. To further demonstrate this, I have included links to recent reception videos. In particular, I copied three of the regional AIR stations with signal strength and clarity that had never previously been obtained. I also copied HM01, the Cuban Numbers Station for the first time on the 11 metre broadcast band, Sudan and Guinea on the 31 metre broadcast band (a whopping signal from Guinea) and Polski Radio 1 on longwave. I hope you find them interesting. Since featuring the Satellit on my channel, one of two of my subscribers have purchased this radio and thus far have been very happy indeed with it’s performance.

Ultimately, I have to strongly recommend this portable to anyone interested in DXing and in particular those that embark on DXpeditions. I just hope that should you decide to buy one, you receive an example that performs was well as mine. Embedded reception videos and text links follow below, In the mean time and until my next post, I wish you all great DX!


Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view 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.

The Eton Satellit: a poignant recording of ABC Northern Territories & further DX…

Hi there, I’ve just returned from a business trip to Genoa, Italy and took the Eton Satellit with me. Now, I’m sure many of you know from your own experiences that DXing from a noisy hotel room can be just about impossible – and so it was in the main. I did however manage to copy a very nice signal from BBC Radio 5 Live on 693 kHz medium wave and Chaîne 3, from Tipaza, Algeria on 252 kHz – the latter is a much more difficult catch back in the UK. Reception videos for these two signals also follow below and I have to say that given the very noisy environment, this was a pleasing result using the Eton’s internal ferrite antenna. Prior to my trip this week, I recorded a really nice signal from Radio Nacional Brasilia on 11780 kHz and the best signal from North Korea (Voice of Korea KCBS) I’ve ever copied on the 41 metre broadcast band. Both are testament to the Eton Satellit’s performance as an excellent portable reciever per se and it’s hard-core DXing capabilities. Finally, what now feels a very poignant recording, I managed to catch – ABC Northern Territories on 2325, 2485 and 4835 kHz during the same session and on one reception video. Embedded videos and text links to these videos on Oxford Shortwave Log follow below, along with a brief video review of the main functions and features of the Satellit.

With regard to the closure of ABC on shortwave, my full support goes out Senator Nick Xeonophon and his quest to introduce new legislation to force the ABC to reinstate their shortwave transmissions. There, I’ve said it and that’s enough politics for now lol. In the meantime, my plans to test the Eton Satellit against more established DXing portables remain in place and work commitments allowing, this should happen soon. Thanks for reading/watching/listening and I wish you all great DX!


 

Click here to view on YouTube

 

Click here to view on YouTube

 

Click here to view on YouTube

 

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view 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.

Oxford Shortwave Log: Sony ICF-SW77 vs ICF-SW55 vs Tecsun PL-310ET

Hi there, I recently posted an article regarding a couple of recent DX catches with the Sony ICF-SW77 receiver and went on to explain the background to a multi-receiver test I had started conducting, comparing it with its stablemate of the time the ICF-SW55 and, just for the hell of it, a more modern, yet modest portable in the shape of the brilliant little Tecsun PL-310ET.                                                Sony ICF-SW77

The initial results confirmed the performance of the Sony receivers to be very similar and thus the justification for the original price delta of £100 in the UK to remain in question. The first target signals chosen and in the original post were ABC Northern Territories on 4835 kHz and Radio Mali on 9635 kHz.

Sony ICF-SW55                                                        Tecsun PL-310ET

The initial results reinforced my view that the PL-310ET is a great portable for relatively small money; it managed to copy both signals, something you might not expect from what is essentially a budget receiver.

Below are links to the next 6 reception videos on the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel and once again, featuring all three radios. I have used two different antennas during the testing – a 75 metre longwire and the Wellbrook ALA1530 active loop, running on batteries. The accompanying text description to the videos indicates which antenna was used.

Although the PL-310ET clearly struggled with the more ‘hard-core’ DX signals amongst those detailed below, the fact is, for less than £40 in the UK (and I’m certain even less elsewhere), Tecsun have delivered us a portable radio that really is capable of real DX. With DSP, a number of audio bandwidth filter options and great sensitivity, it’s a winner for beginners to DXing and to ‘old hands’ who want a radio in their pocket when they take the dog for a walk for example (something I do all the time – you never know when you’re going to come across the next barbed wire fence!). As for the Sonys, well I’m still not convinced one way or the other that the £100 price delta on the original price of the ICF-SW77 was worth the money – the ICF-SW55 is pretty close to it in terms of delivering discernible audio across all of the below reception videos. I’d be interested in your views and note there will be a final posting on this 3-way receiver comparison to wrap things up. In the meantime, thanks for reading/watching/listening and I wish you good DX!

Enbedded 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.

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.