Tag Archives: Tecsun

Charlie reviews the Tecsun PL-365

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Charlie Wardale, who shares the following guest post:


Tecsun PL-365 Review

by Charlie Wardale

I have had this receiver for over 6 months now, and whilst not using it every day, I have used it enough to have an informed opinion of it’s pro’s and con’s.

Overview

A quick description of the receiver for those who have not heard of it.

The receiver is of an unusual design, more like a hand-held transceiver, measuring 53(W) X 159(H) X 26(D) mm. It naturally fits in the hand, with the thumb resting easily on the thumb-wheel tuning. The buttons on the front are for a number of alarm and display functions, SSB selection, and ETM, along with band selection and up/down keys. The inclusion of SSB makes this quite a unique radio, and certainly interesting to use when out and about.

It is supplied with ear buds, faux leather carrying case, the plug-in MW bar, and instruction booklet. A manual is also available to download.

As can be seen from the picture, the receiver sports a telescopic antenna for FM/SW, and a unique plug-in MW ferrite rod antenna, which is rotatable in its socket.

Band coverage is as follows:

  • FM 87~108 MHz
  • MW 522~1620
  • SW 1711~29999 kHz

Long Wave is also available and on mine was factory set to be included, but if not, it can be made available by the menu options.

Like many of Tecsun’s latest receivers, the PL-365 includes the ETM function, which stands for Easy Tuning Mode. With this, you select the band (MW,FM,SW), press ETM, and it loads into a local memory, all the stations that it detects. These do not over-ride any of the main memory that may have been already used to store stations. It is specific ‘ETM’ memory. Once the detection process is completed, the tuning wheel is then used to select each of the stations detected. This is an extremely useful feature on this receiver, as it doesn’t have keypad entry for frequencies. And band scanning using the thumb wheel in 5 Khz steps can get tedious! Of course, ETM will have to be repeated a number of times during an extended listening period as stations come and go.

Initial Listening Tests

My first port of call on starting the listening tests was FM, to judge how it received the local and national broadcasters, and to see how stereo broadcasts are received. Incidentally, I changed the supplied ear buds for some in-ear types which I find stay in place better. All national broadcasters (BBC) and local radio stations (BBC and independent) were detected well. Received audio on the built in speaker is pleasant, but as can imagined from such a small speaker, not of great range. However, stereo broadcasts from BBC Radio 3 (classical music) and Classic FM, sounded excellent using the ear buds. At night time, some further afield stations are detected, so the FM sensitivity is good.

When I conducted these initial tests, it was evening so I decided to give the MW band a whirl as well. I fitted the MW bar antenna into it’s socket atop the receiver, selected MW and hit the ETM button. After a couple of minutes, the detection process stopped and a great number of stations had been detected. Going through them, not only were there the local (and not so local) UK MW stations, but some from much further afield such as Bretagne 5, SBC in Riyadh, and RNE Radio 5 in Madrid. By turning the ferrite antenna, it was possible to peak these stations nicely.

So now to SW. As can be seen, SW coverage is full range from 1711 – 29999, excellent for a receiver of this price range. For this initial test, listening was carried out in the early evening, in the garden, during the summer, so the higher bands were where most of the action was. Following a similar pattern to the FM and MW test, the telescopic whip was extended and the ETM button pressed. On stopping detection, a total of 65 stations were noted. One or two of these, it later proved, were images, but for the most part they were all receivable signals. The treshold for detection is quite low, so some stations are barely audible under the noise, a testament to the sensitivity of the 365. All the major stations were received well, such as VOA on 15580, Saudia Arabia on a number of frequencies, CRI of course, over numerous frequencies. And in between, stations such as CNR1 (China National Radio), the regional Chinese service, and R Australia on 12065, BBC from Singapore.

After this, I did some listening on the 20 and 40m ham bands. To do this is slightly tricky, as it entails coming out of ETM mode by pressing the VF/VM button. This puts the radio into frequency mode and the thumb wheel is then used to get to the correct frequency. The USB/LSB button is then pressed and once a station is found, press the BFO button. The tuning thumb then becomes a BFO fine tune, and the amateur radio station can be tuned in accurately. It is tricky to start with but you do get used to it and amateur stations can be tuned in well. I received a number of European stations on 40m and European/Asian ones on 20m. So again, sensitivity is good, even though this is just using the whip antenna.

Long Term Listening Impressions

Over the months between those initial tests and now, I have done a number of hours listening using this radio, on both the MW and SW bands. I especially like it if I am out for a walk in the country near us as its handy to carry in the pocket. One Sunday I listened to the whole hour of a VOA broadcast on 15580, whilst wandering along the Lincolnshire foot paths. And it is also a nice radio to do a bit of casual listening from the armchair of an evening, when the TV is on but of no interest. This way I have enjoyed many a broadcast from VOA, RRI and the BBC using the ear buds. It’s also nice to tune into the Celtic music of Bretagne 5 during the evening on MW as a change from the fair on BBC Radio 2 or 3.

Conclusion

Would I recommend this radio? Yes I would, whole heartedly. For what it is designed to do, it does very well. Could it be better? Of course. A keypad would be nice, an external antenna port would be great and so on. But it was designed to be a general coverage receiver, in a small, hand-held package, and for that it receives top marks.


Many thanks for your review, Charlie! I agree with you that the PL-365 is ideal, in terms of form factor, for radio listening while on long walks and hikes! It is certainly an excellent portable.

The Tecsun PL-365 can be purchased from Tecsun Radios Australia and occasionally on eBay (click here to search).

Tecsun S-8800 update

If you’re considering purchasing the Tecsun S-8800, this is an important post.

I’ve had the S-8800 for about two weeks and had planned to have audio clip comparisons prepared and posted by now. My exceptionally busy schedule has made this difficult–and there a few other complicating factors.

First off, the good news: in terms of sensitivity, selectivity and audio fidelity, I’m very happy with the S-8800. I’ve compared it a number of times with the Tecsun PL-880 and the Sony ICF-SW7600GR and it either holds its own or even has a leg-up on both radios in terms of overall performance. I find that the S-8800’s AGC is more stable than my 1st generation PL-880.

Of course, what will be most telling is what you, dear reader, think of the performance when compared in a blind audio test.

As I mentioned, though, there are complicating factors–It’s not just my schedule which has made the S-8800 review come to a halt.

Birdies…

Yes, birdies. Lots of them.

At first, I thought the noises were due to the fact my mobile phone and Zoom H2N digital recorder were too close to the S-8800.  I dismissed this interference as it didn’t sound like the typical steady tone/carrier birdies I’ve come to loath over the years.

As my testing continued, though, I quickly realized these variable heterodyne and digital hash noises must be internally-generated.

Quite literally, as I was outdoors testing the S-8800 and making this discovery last week, I received a message from SWLing Post contributor, Bertrand Stehle (F6GYY). You might recall, Bertrand provided us with an initial review of his S-8800e (the European version of the S-8800). He also started noticing the birdies and, like me, initially assumed they were due to an external source of RFI.

Bertrand kindly mapped out the extensive list of birdies he found on his S-8800e–he noted a total of 81 birdie/carrier locations:

  • 14 birdies on longwave
  • 4 birdies on mediumwave
  • 63 birdies between 1859 – 29095 kHz

Comparing notes, there are some differences between Bertrand’s S-8800e and my S-8800:

  • Only 50-60% of the birdies on my S-8800 are in the same frequency locations as those mapped by Bertrand on his S-8800e
  • The total number of birdies, however, are likely identical–I find birdies where Bertrand hadn’t noted them

The appearance and intensity of the birdies can vary depending on listening location and the strength of any nearby broadcast signals. I’ve noticed four distinct birdie sounds: a variable carrier, a steady carrier, digital hash, and something I might describe as digital variable noises.

I’ve even noticed some change slightly as you move the radio around.

Here are a couple of examples:

Example on 610 kHz:

Click here to view/listen via YouTube.

Example on 2009.15 kHz:

Click here to view/listen on YouTube.

Moving forward

Obviously, this is a major issue for an enthusiast-grade portable.

I’m sharing all of this information with Anna at Anon-Co. No doubt, she’ll share this information with Tecsun engineering. The last I heard, projected availability of the S-8800 from Anon-Co is late March 2017. Perhaps there will be time for Tecsun to eliminate these birdies by improving internal grounding and/or shielding?

Until the birdie issue is sorted out, I’m not proceeding with audio comparisons or a full review. It goes without saying that, at present, I couldn’t recommend purchasing the S-8800. Sad, because this is otherwise a great radio.

I hope Tecsun can sort this out, though.

I will share any/all updates here on the SWLing Post.

Follow the tags S-8800 Birdies or S-8800.

Dan compares the Tecsun PL-365 and CountyComm GP5-SSB

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares the following review:


Comparing the CountyComm GP5-SSB and Tecsun PL-365

County Comm GP-5/SSB and Tecsun PL-365: a couple of years ago, I obtained a GP-5/SSB from Universal and have enjoyed using the radio. It’s extremely sensitive, often bringing in signals in the middle of my house here in Maryland, and is fun to use, provided the auto-tune is done to insert frequencies so you don’t have to use the thumb wheel too much.

I have often thought that the next logical upgrade for this radio would be to add a small keypad to allow direct frequency selection, but perhaps that is not in the cards. The County Comm is basically the Tecsun PL-365, but the actual Tecsun version has not been available for the most part from major sellers, even from Anon-Co in Hong Kong, or Universal. You can still find some PL-365’s from certain Ebay sellers. Last year I obtained two from a Hong Kong seller. Both were NIB, and arrived within about a week or so of purchase.

What I noticed immediately is that the PL-365 has a different kind of exterior surface, more rubberized than the County Comm. I was curious about any differences in performance that might be obvious. Recently, I took both outside for a very basic comparison — not scientific by any means, but I think it shows something that I have noticed.

Both share the characteristics of extreme directionality, and sensitivity to touch — sensitivity increases markedly when they are hand-held, decreases noticeably when they are left standing on their own, or angled. I have noticed this when using them at the beach. If I am recording a station, and leave the radio alone for a few minutes, I return to find reception degraded quite a bit, because they were not being held.

In my very basic comparison, I had both receivers next to each other on a backyard table, both antennas fully extended, full batteries on both. While on some frequencies, at least initially, it seems little difference can be heard, on others there is what seems to be greater clarity and signal separation on the PL-365.

I noticed this from the start on 13.710 where the County Comm appears to be noisier than the PL-365, and on the portions later in the video when both are tuned to 11.820 (de-tuned to 11,818) Saudi Arabia, and to 11.945 khz.

Apologies for the length of the video. It’s hard to draw any conclusions based on this comparison, and I intend to do some additional tests with both my PL-365s and will report back on any findings, but I thought this would be of interest to those of you out there with these fine little radios.

Click here to view on YouTube.


Thank you for this review and comparison, Dan. I’m often asked if there is any difference in performance to justify the extra costs typically associated with the PL-365. I can now share this video and your review–potential owners to draw their own conclusions. 

The Tecsun PL-365 can occasionally be purchased through sellers on eBay. The CountyComm GP5-SSB can be purchased from Universal Radio or CountyComm.

Tecsun S-8800: Unboxing, photos, and initial impressions

Yesterday, I received a Tecsun S-8800 from Anon-Co in Hong Kong.

I like opening radio boxes to find a cardboard insert like this one. It protects the radio and has so much less waste and individual cardboard bits inside.

As I always do when a new radio comes on the scene, I requested to purchase an early release of the Tecsun S-8800 radio for review months ago.  But this time, my contact at the Chinese distributor Anon-Co, Anna, insisted on sending us one “as a gift for the Chinese New Year of the Rooster.”

Because I’ve worked with Anna at Anon-Co for at least a decade, having purchased numerous radios for review and as gifts for family and friends, this was difficult to refuse.  I decided there was no need to do so. Each time I do an in-depth review and note shortcomings or deficiencies in the radios I’ve purchased from Anon-Co, Anna immediately passes my feedback and criticisms directly to the manufacturer’s engineers. I believe this feedback loop between customers, reviewers and manufacturers leads to improved product iterations. Of course, sometimes the negatives can be so problematic, manufacturers simply drop the product line and move on (remember the Tecsun R-2010D?  Case in point). So, while there are a number of other eBay retailers in China that distribute Tecsun radios, I prefer Anon-Co for these reasons.

Thank you, Anna!

The S-8800 is packed face-down to protect the front panel.

Manufacturers and retailers who send me products for review know that we radio geeks have fairly high expectations of our gear, and will therefore hold them to exacting standards. I’m not the least among these.  While I endeavor to be realistic, understanding producers’ limitations and the need for product growth, I also try to keep my reviews as objective as I can, and accommodate my own and others’ particular requirements and preferences.

So In the spirit of full disclosure, I must note that I’m not as avid a user of large portables like the S-8800 (or the Grundig GS350DL, S450DLX, or the C.Crane CCRadio-SW).

Personally I prefer smaller, full-featured travel-friendly portables, or else larger tabletop models.  Radios with a form factor like the Tecsun S-8800 are an “in-between” product in my world, thus I rarely use them.

That said, every month I receive questions from readers looking for this very “large portable” form factor. Some hobbyists enjoy a radio that’s easy to operate, featuring simple controls, robust audio, and dedicated external antenna connections.  For these listeners, a large tuning knob and generous display are more important than things like SSB and synchronous detection.In other words, they want a broadcast receiver. Some have literally asked for a modern version of the venerable Panasonic RF-2200 (which I admittedly love, an exception to the rule of my avoidance of large portables). In terms of aesthetics, it’s impossible to live up the legendary solid-state RF-2200, in my opinion…kind of like comparing a modern muscle car with the 1960s original from which it copies its design.

The S-8800, and its many predecessors, were certainly influenced by the RF-2200’s popular design & form factor: large speaker on the left, large tuning knob, wide-spaced knobs, and a generous display. Like the RF-2200, it has a durable, adjustable woven carry strap.  

The S-8800 ships with the accessories in the photo below: an IR remote control, two rechargeable cells, an RF adapter, and a USB charging cable.

Note the charging cable is only a cable; the S-8800 doesn’t ship with a wall-wart type charger. If you’re like me, you probably have a handful of USB chargers scattered around your home that you could use for the purpose of charging this radio.  And if you don’t, you can also use any free USB port on your PC to charge it.

USB chargers are cheap and well-known to spew RFI. I doubt you’ll enjoy listening to shortwave or mediumwave/AM while charging the S-8800’s internal cells. It doesn’t appear the S-8800 was designed for listening while plugged in; Tecsun clearly wants you to charge it and then listen, off battery power. The latter is my preference for listening anyway, but it may put off some potential S-8800 owners.

The display is easy to read from any angle, and it’s also easy to view in bright sunlight. In low light, you’ll be pleased with the backlight function.

On the right side of the S-8800, you’ll find an internal/external antenna switch, a DX/local switch, RCA type stereo line-out ports (covered in the photo above) and a stereo headphone jack.

On the back, you’ll find a mini USB port for charging, an antenna port for a radiator and ground wire, as well as an FM antenna port. 

The battery cover is predictably located at the bottom of the back panel and––a first for any shortwave radio I’ve reviewed––accommodates two (supplied) 3.7V Li-Ion (internally) rechargeable cells.

The right side panel has no connections or controls.

I must admit…the Tecsun S-8800 has some front panel controls I really appreciate. Most notably, it has a dedicated AM bandwidth selector and fine tuning control. I also like the dedicated treble and bass controls which can also be found on its predecessors’ front panels.

Over the next week, I’ll be evaluating the performance of the S-8800. I plan to post blind audio samples as I’ve done in the past, comparing the S-8800 to other portables: likely the PL-880 and the ICF-7600GR, PL-660 or PL-680.  Please be patient, however, as making these recordings takes time as I like to make sure each radio has a true representative sample and fair shot at showcasing performance.

What about those initial impressions? Yes, I must say I do like the package of the S-8800 better than its predecessors. I like the dedicated IR remote control, the many antenna connections, and, so far, the audio fidelity from the built-in speaker. Makes for a nice package.

But, ultimately, the proof is in the pudding:  let’s put the S-8800 on the air and compare it with some benchmarks!

Follow Tecsun S-8800 posts by bookmarking the tag: S-8800

Used Tecsun PL-880 only $119.95 at Universal Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Walker, who notes that Universal Radio has a used Tecsun PL-880 with box, manual and accessories for $119.95 + shipping. This radio is listed as being in “good” condition.

Universal Radio backs their used equipment with a 60 day limited warranty, so you can buy with confidence.

You’ll need to call Universal Radio (800-431-3939) to purchase items from their used list.

Thanks for the tip, Paul!