Val compares his Sony SRF-59 with the SRF-39FP

Sony-SRF-59-and-Sony-SRF-39FPMy buddy, Jeff MacMahon, over the Herculodge, forwarded the following message from his reader, Val:

[P]robably some people who are still interested in AM radio will be surprised to see pictures of the Sony SRF-59.

[The] Sony SRF-39FR is an excellent receiver made special for Federal Prison in US.

It is an incredibly sensitive and selective receiver able to pick up every AM frequency.

Somewhere on the Internet, I found a picture of the SRF-59 [which implied that it had the] same circuitry as the Sony SRF-39FR.

I bought SRF-59 from Source Electronic to compare two radios. I was so disappointed after testing the SRF-59.modern-sony-srf-59

It is absolutely a different receiver compared with the SRF-39FP. It doesn’t stay close for performance. I opened it (see photo above) and (surprise!) it was missing a few capacitors…What a shame….

Thanks for sharing this, Val.

My advice? Don’t throw the SRF-59 away yet, Val! While it isn’t quite on par with the SRF-39FP, it is still quite an amazing MW DX ultralight.

I would suggest that you check out Dave Richard’s blog where he details how to tweak the SRF-59 for top performace. Dave’s article includes excellent detail and great photos. Click here to view.

A few radio deals worth consideration

Sony-SRF-18This morning, I checked a few retailers for “Cyber Monday” deals and took notes along the way. Some of the best finds came from Blinq, a retailer I’ve purchased from a number of times.

Note that Blinq products are often open box, used or refurbished–please check the product description before purchasing. On the plus side, Blinq makes the return process hassle-free if you’re not happy with the purchase.

Important: Today only, use the coupon code SUPERCYBER and Blinq will take an additional 15% off the listed price at checkout.

  • Tecsun PL-390 DSP Digital AM/FM/LW Shortwave Radio with Dual Speakers: $55.09
  • Sony SRF-18 Portable AM/ FM Radio: $25.99
  • Sony SRF-59 with Over the Head Stereo Headphones & Passive Portable Speakers – Plus Sony Rechargeable Batteries with Recharger: $37.99
  • Sony SRF-S84 SRF-S84/S Portable AM/FM Walkman Radio $34.59
  • Sangean LB-100 Compact AM/FM Ultra Rugged Radio Receiver $73.69

There are many more radio listings on Blinq.com–use this search to help locate them. I also noted a number of Baofeng handheld transceivers and accessories.

After Peter’s assessment of the Sony SRF-18, I’m very tempted to purchase one.

Sony

The Sony SRF-59 package (above) is also very nice–especially since finding the recently discontinued ’59 for a good price is becoming more difficult.

Please comment if you note any other good radio deals today!  At time of posting, most radio retailers haven’t updated their sites since Black Friday.

Updates

Ron notes that “CountyComm has extended their ‘buy a GP5, get the 17 buck custom
carry case for free’ offer through today, November 30th.”

Bill’s simple Sony SRF-59 passive loop antenna modification

Sony-SRF-59-AM-Loop-Antenna

In reference to our previous posts about the Sony SRF-59 ultralight receiver, SWLing Post reader, Bill Mead, writes:

“As someone who doesn’t normally open the backs of radios, this is my mod on my ultralight. All it takes is a bit of electrical tape to hold the belt clip on the loop.”

That is, indeed, a brilliant and simple mod. The SRF-59 inductively couples to the loop antenna, so no soldering is needed; simply tape the belt clip to the loop, making sure the position is convenient for tuning the SRF-59 and the loop’s capacitor.

You can find passive loop antennas ranging from $19 to $50 US. The Grundig AN-200 and the Terk AM Advantage are two models currently on the market. Here are a few places you can check prices:

Grundig AN-200:

Terk AM Advantage:

Pocket DX: Finding the Sony SRF-59 and SRF-39FP

Sony-SRF-59-and-Sony-SRF-39FP

I have two of the Sony SRF series pocket AM/FM radios: the grey SRF-59 and the clear SRF-39FP.

The venerable SRF-59 has long been one of the least expensive, quality analog AM/FM receivers on the market. I originally purchased one new for $14.95 US including shipping. Here’s a short review I made of the ’59 several years ago.

Sony_SRF-39FP-front

The Sony SRF-39FP (click to enlarge)

The SRF-39FP–the model with the clear case–was specifically designed by Sony radio for the prison market.

A couple years ago, someone on eBay had a lot of Sony SRF-39FP units on sale–I jumped at the opportunity to buy one new-in-box for $20 US. The entire lot of SRF-39FPs sold in a matter of hours. Indeed, the ’39FPs were so popular, by the time I prepared a post for the SWLing Post, the seller had already sold out. (I’m kicking myself for not buying at least one extra–!)

While most ultralight radio enthusiasts would give the SRF-39FP a performance edge over the SRF-59, they’re essentially the same radio–especially if you tweak the SRF-59 like my buddy Dave Richards did.

Click to enlarge

The Sony SRF-59 (click to enlarge)

Several weeks ago, while Steve researched the reason he was hearing shortwave broadcasters on his SRF-59, he also discovered that the SRF-59 had been discontinued and selling in many places for three or four times the original price.

He found one vendor still selling the SRF-59 for $14.99 plus shipping. I placed an order with this vendor over a month ago, but still haven’t received the product because the vendor hasn’t taken delivery of the final batch of units from Sony. I’m in contact with this vendor and when/if the units are received in stock next week, I’ll post an update here on the SWLing Post (if interested, follow this tag).

If you’re in the market for a Sony SRF-59, here are a few places you may find one new or used:

(If you know of other good suppliers, please comment!)

Sony_SRF-39FP-back

The SRF-39FP has a clear housing which is meant to prevent prison inmates from using it to smuggle contraband.

If you would prefer the Sony SRF-39FP, the only source I know of is eBay. When one becomes available, it typically sells for $45-50 US.

Click here to search eBay.

To be clear: while the SRF-59 is an exceptional ultralight receiver, $45-50 US would certainly place it in a price class with other excellent ultralights.

Hearing shortwave on the Sony SRF-59 AM/FM walkman

The Sony SRF-59

The Sony SRF-59

SWLing Post reader, Steve, writes:

I check in on your blog frequently. I’ve been a casual SW and AM dxer since my childhood. I’m a mechanical engineer, and have some basic electronics knowledge, but I’m no RF expert, and half forgot most of what I used to know.

On 9-13-15, around 11am eastern time, I was playing with a Sony SRF-59 down low on the AM band. The lowest station I can hear at my location near Valley Forge PA is a Spanish language station on 540–WLIE, on Long Island I think. My dial is badly calibrated but I know I was below that station on 540, maybe even below 530 or 520, and heard some noise. It took some really careful back and forth tuning, but I could hear a voice. I put the radio against my AN200 passive loop and heard the clear unmistakable voice of “Brother Scare”, (Overcomer Ministry). I scanned the shortwave and found a simulcast on 9840, WHRI Cypress Creek SC. The info I have says it’s a 250 kW broadcast.

Grundig AN200 Loop Antenna

Grundig AN200 Loop Antenna

I scratched my head and thought there must be a pirate rebroadcasting it on the bottom of the AM band, but I couldn’t hear it on my CC 2E, or my Grundig G3 which tunes continuously from LW into MW. It is really touchy to tune on the SRF-59, but with work, I could hear him barefoot, and very cleanly with the loop. I checked in several times the next few hours and it was there until WHRI went off the air at 3pm I think. Unfortunately, I never got a station ID.

On the morning of Monday Sept 14, at 9pm local time, with the same radio and loop, I got a station ID for China Radio International, and then found the same broadcast on 9570 from Quivican Cuba–also a 250 kW signal. I could not hear it clearly barefoot, as with WHRI, (it is quite a bit more distant) but with the loop is was incredibly clear. Also it doesn’t seem to matter where the tuning dial on the loop is, or how it’s oriented (I was aimed east/west). The radio and loop both function normally higher up the AM band (you need to tune the loop, and the reception is amazing with it).

I know I was below 540, because I passed local stations on the way down–610(WIP), and 560 (WFIL)–and could hear Spanish voice just below that, which had to be 540. The shortwave was just below that. The only thing i get below that on any other AM radio is Cuba and Canada on 530, both of which I can obviously only get at night time. I don’t know how the tuning circuits could jump 9mHz so suddenly.

Call me mystified. I thought I could find something about this on the net; I can’t be the only one with this experience; but no. Have you ever heard of this?

Steve followed up later noting that he is actually able to tune in the whole 31 meter band, as long as a signal is strong enough to overload the SRF-59.

I’ve done a lot of MW DXing with the SRF-59 and had never noticed harmonics, but I’m not surprised they can be heard either. I might try to replicate what Steve did using my AN200 loop coupled to the SRF-59.

Has anyone else as heard 31 meter band signals on their SRF-59?

A review of the Sony SRF-59 — cheap, fun Mediumwave DX thrills

The Sony SRF-59

A few years ago, I heard a lot of buzz in AM/Mediumwave radio circles about a small, inexpensive radio called the Sony SRF-59. Discussions were focused on the incredible performance of this diminutive low-cost radio and how it held it own against some real benchmark receivers. Out of curiosity, I did a search on the radio to see what it looked like–I expected some Tecsun PL-like unit–and found that, much to my surprise, it’s a simple, analog, totally unassuming AM/FM walkman.  Say, what?

The far biggest surprise came with my price search, however. The SRF-59 is easy to find at $14.95 US. Really, you ask? Oh, yes–and it’s readily available at many online and big box stores.

So–carefully counting my pocket change–I took the plunge, and bought one.

The radio came in a basic plastic blister pack, and it also included headphones. I can’t comment on the headphones as I didn’t even bother unpacking them; instead, I plugged my new SRF-59 into my favorite Sony earbuds.

I have to admit, the AM band on this little radio does indeed shine. Not only is the receiver sensitive and relatively selective (meaning, I don’t hear adjacent signals when tuned in), but it also has excellent audio.  Amazingly, it lives up to all of the praise I had heard about it. I’m quite amazed, in fact, at how well this little unit can null out stations by rotating the radio body a few degrees. Most impressive.

Though I’m no major FM radio listener, I can also vouch for its FM performance, which is quite good.

Pros:

  • lightweight–indeed, one can safely say, “ultralight”
  • very inexpensive, by comparision
  • operates almost indefinitely on one AA cell
  • simple design, durable construction
  • AM (Mediumwave) sensitivity and selectivity comparable to $100 shortwave portables
  • because tuning is analog, it works in North America just as well as in Japan (see cons)
Cons:
  • tuning is analog, thus no stations can be saved to memory and there is a noticeable amount of receiver drift if listening over long periods of time
  • no fine-tuning mechanism means that tuning in weak stations takes precision skill on the SRF-59’s very small dial
  • no built-in speaker (this is a Walkman, after all)
In summary, you will regret not purchasing this radio should Sony pull it from the market without warning. While it is a walkman with the above listed limitations, it’s nonetheless a first-rate AM/MW receiver and might be a great avenue into the fun hobby of ultralight DXing.
In short, the Sony SRF-59 is a real gem. But don’t take my word for it, either–go check one out for yourself!
Where to buy:

  • B&H photo
  • Amazon