Tag Archives: Tecsun PL-880

The Tecsun PL-880: triple conversion architecture

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Larry Thompson, who writes:

There’s been some confusion on my part whether the Tecsun PL-880 is a dual conversion or triple conversion receiver. Amazon and eBay list the receiver as double conversion, whereas Universal Radio doesn’t mention either.

After scouring the Instruction Manual, I was pleased to learn that the PL-880 uses the Silicon Labs si4735 DSP microchip and has 4 Intermediate Frequencies.

1st IF: 55.845 MHz
2nd IF: 10.7 MHz
3rd IF: 45 kHz
4th IF: 128 kHz (exclusively for FM)

To me, that looks like a triple conversion architecture. The combination of the DSP microchip, and the triple conversion would explain why my Tecsun PL-880 is so much more sensitive and selective than my Sony ICF-SW8600GR.

My CountyCom GP-5/SSB emergency portable also has the same Silicon Labs DSP chip and it is almost as sensitive as the Tecsun PL-880, far more sensitive than the Sony. I’ve owned a Japan Radio JRC-525 and a Yaesu FT-900AT transceiver for many years, and the PL-880 digs out weak signals better than both those tabletop receivers, both dual conversion.

To quell the speculation, yesterday I contacted Anna at Anon-Co, the worldwide distributor for Tecsun radios. Her quick reply confirms my suspicions that the Tecsun PL-880 is indeed a triple conversion receiver. That would explain why it blows my Sony ICF-SW7600GR out of the water in senitivity and its ability to pull out weak stations.

Among all the other great attributes, this is an welcome discovery and one never mentioned in the specs by the various retailers of this receiver!

Thank you Larry, for shedding light on this–Anna would certainly know.

Your note makes me realize that I really should order a second, current production model PL-880. My PL-880 is from one of the first batches produced. I imagine I could benefit from some of the firmware tweaks that have been made to this receiver over time.  Perhaps it would even be a good time to compare the 1st generation with the current generation?

I just checked and Anon-Co is selling the PL-880 on eBay for $153.99 US shipped.

Have any SWing Post readers compared early and late model PL-880 units? Please comment.

Review: Eton/Grundig Executive vs. Tecsun PL-880

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Chuck Rippel (K8HU) for the following guest post:


A Tale of Two Radios: Tecsun PL-880 vs Eton/Grundig Executive Satellit

By Chuck Rippel, K8HU

This proved to be a difficult comparison strictly when writing from the perspective of “which one is better.”

In my view, the two models compliment each other and both are worthy additions for any DX’er or listener. Each has its own set of useable and unique features. That said, 1970 is when I got my start in SWBC DX, either of these radios would have been among “the gold standards” at a time when Realistic DX-150s were $119.95 new, Hammarlund HQ-180s could be purchased new and Collins was still putting “winged emblems” on their amateur equipment.

There were few consumer grade receivers which had frequency accuracy until the introduction of the Allied SX-190 at the princely sum of $249 but when tuning the 49MB in the evening, one heard the entire band on one frequency due to overloading. Oh well, I digress….

The Executive Satellit will be the 3rd from the Eton Satellit family I purchased. The first two were initial releases of the standard, black version; and both suffered from build quality issues and had to be returned. Some months down the road, I noticed that my friend, Clint Gouveia on his “Oxford Shortwave,” YouTube channel was demonstrating great success with his own Eton Satellit and with that in mind, I made what would become the 3rd plunge with Clint’s appreciated encouragement.

My first operational impression of the Executive Satellit was that the overall build quality had been improved by an order of magnitude. The radio looks and feels good, responding well to control inputs although their placement on the PL-880 is superior to my way of thinking. On the Executive, I quickly found a feature different from the original Eton Satellit, the adjustable display backlight can be set to stay on indefinitely, even with the radio turned off and when the clamshell style leather case held in place by a number of magnets is folded over the front of the radio, the display is out of view and if left backlit, will result in a set of dead batteries over time.

While on the subject of the Eton’s display, it is a major selling feature. The yellow-orange characters convey all the information a user might need with excellent resolution and the display is overall, pleasant to look at. A welcome change from LCD type displays more commonly found in portables today including the Tecsun PL-880.

The Satellit uses 4 AA batteries (I recommend rechargeable, 2000ma Panasonic Eneloop batteries) while the Tecsun uses an included, single 16550 2000ma lithium ion battery. Both radios share the capability of being able to charge their internal batteries when connected to an included DC wall-wort power sources and additionally, in the case of the Tecsun, from a USB source. The Satellit uniquely allows the user to enter a charging time in minutes via the front panel keypad and the owners manual suggests charging times for batteries of various capacities. A nice feature.

Each manufacturer stresses memory capacity as a selling point. Is a radio sporting 3,000+ memories better than a model with “only” 700? I suggest such a feature is a viable selling point only if the user can remember what is stored in each memory location. Both models help the user organize memory usage by organizing them in “pages” or banks.

As an aside, I organize memory pages using a couple for local MW stations, and one for local FM. Pages 1-24 contain SWBC stations organized by time. Bank or page 1 contains SWBC stations that can be heard at 0100Z, page 2 at 0200Z and so on. A plus for the Eton, the user has the option of assigning an 8 character label to each page of seven memory channels which are accessible via a row of “F” keys, located just under the display.

What about reception; what’s “under the hood?” Both have variable bandwidth, SSB, an external antenna input and fine tuning options. Using only the stock, attached whip antenna I was able to pick up Radio Havana, Cuba on 15370.0 although the PL880 suffered from picking up its own electronic spurs, seemingly a Tecsun characteristic noted across several of their models. Both radios received the station adequately but I’ll give a slight edge to the Satellit due to its slightly better audio recovery. Uniquely, the Satellit offers sideband selectable, synchronous detection but the resulting audio is on the muddy side and that feature is less than stellar. On FM, both were able to provide stereo reception of a 250 watt translator on 96.5 mHz located approximately 10 miles away with excellent, nearly identical audio quality. In as much as audio quality is judged differently by each of us, I will refrain from favoriting one radio over another.

The ability to receive, decode and display RDS data is a plus for the Satellit. An aside, there is a well known MW-DX’pert who also chases FM DX. What does he use for a radio and antenna? How about a Sony 2010 and Tecsun PL-310? He puts each radio on an open frequency and waits for E-skip. No special, hi tech FM tuner or multi-element FM antennas. Point being, either of these radios have high performance FM tuners and are capable of delivering FM DX when there is E-Skip or Tropo-Ducting which speaks highly for both.

As an Ultra-light DX’er since its inception, MW reception is important. Here again, performance between the two is was nearly identical although with their small ferrite internal MW antennas, don’t compete with say… a GE Super Radio II. Both the Eton and Tecsun benefit from an external, tuned, close- coupled MW antenna such as a Crate Loop. Unfortunately, the external antenna input on both is not operable on MW.

Video: Comparison of Satellit and PL-880

Click here to view on YouTube.

Clearly, there is no “best” here, either choice is a good one; having both is perhaps the best option. The performance of the Satellit and PL880 excel well beyond their price and make convenient traveling companions. A third of the size and half the price of what many consider “THE” benchmark portable multiband receiver, the Sony ICF-2010 or in Europe, the ICF-2001, both the Pl-880 and Satellit offer increased portability and compete closely with the Sony on performance and features.

Video: How to use Satellit synchronous detector

Click here to view on YouTube.

These attributes combine to deliver a sometimes rare commodity: VALUE ! I would challenge anyone to identify a current manufacturer, consumer grade receiver that offers the performance, features and audio quality of either these two receivers for under $250. All kudos aside, neither of these fine receivers will deliver the kind of gold plated performance delivered by a WinRadio, Drake R8B or Perseus, etc.


Many thanks, Charles, for sharing your thoughts on these fine portables! 

FYI: I just checked and the Eton Executive Satellit is still $156.92 shipped via Amazon.  

The Tecsun PL-880 is $159.95 (plus shipping) via Universal Radio, $159.99 via Anon-Co on eBay and $169.98 via Amazon

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!

Garcia discovers two positives about Tecsun PL-880 sleep timer

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Garcia (PU3HAG), who writes:

Not sure if you noticed this before, for me it was a glad surprise how well the sleep timer works on Tecsun PL-880.

To use the sleep timer, you press the power button for a about 2s-3s until you see the timer, using the tuning knob you can choose several options between 1 and 120 minutes.

Neat finding #1: the timer settings is kept between power cycles. So, you only have to set it once (in some radios, you need to set the timer for each use).

Neat finding #2: when using the timer, you would expect – as every other radio – the radio to shut off immediately along with ‘pop’ on the headphones. This is not the case with PL-880. When the timer kicks in, the radio gently fades out the audio for 20s-30s and then shuts off. No pops to hear. Amazing.

That is brilliant! I never use the sleep timer on the PL-880, but perhaps I will now. As you state, most sleep timers simply turn off the radio without warning and include an audio pop–not great if you’re wearing headphones and trying to sleep. Very happy to hear the PL-880 slowly fades. Happy dreams!

Troy updates the Tecsun PL-880 hidden features reference sheet

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel, who has recently added the hidden bandwidth adjustment feature to Cap Tux’s excellent PL-880 reference sheet.

Here are links to download the updated sheet:

I will also add this to the Complete list of Tecsun PL-880 hidden features page: a place where you can comment if you note any previously unpublished PL-880 hidden features.

Thanks again, Troy!