Monthly Archives: June 2013

BBC World Service audience increase

BBC-World-Service-007Richard Cuff shares this information regarding the BBC World Service:

Shared link:

An article in the Daily Telegraph reflecting on the BBC’s recently-released audience figures, showing a year-over-year increase– attributed to Persian and Arabic TV.

Note the hopeful tone – the World Service budget is actually slated to increase as of 2014.

Of course, we have no idea if this would equate to the preservation of some shortwave radio services, but one can always hope.

Rich is an administrator for the SW Programs (Shortwave Programming Discussion) group. If you would like to join this email reflector, simply visit this page to register your email address.

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A review of the Tecsun R-2010D shortwave radio

The Tecsun R-2010D (click to enlarge)

The Tecsun R-2010D (click to enlarge)

SiLabs DSP chips are now in the bulk of the newest portable shortwave radios on the market. And it’s no wonder: these small chips offer more features and improved performance, when properly implemented. Manufacturers love them, of course, because these little chips allow them to produce radios at a much lower cost–some of which they pass on to the consumer–for widening their profit margins.

While there are a few other mechanically-tuned DSP portables on the market–the Degen DE321, DE32, Kchibo KK-9803, to name a few–the Tecsun R-2010D stands apart in that it has a digital frequency display. Tecsun was able to achieve this by building the R-2010D around the SiLabs Si484X chip set. The Degen and Kchibo models actually use the Silicon Labs Si4831/35-B30, which lack a provision for digital display.

Tecsun first announced this receiver three years ago with the model number R-2010. Since then, I have received a lot of questions about this particular radio, so when I first heard that the R-2010D was available for purchase, I ordered one immediately from Anon on eBay.


I received the R-2010D in less than two weeks via airmail from Hong Kong. It was packed in a padded envelope, and while the postal service wasn’t terribly gentle with the package (the R-2010D’s box had damaged corners) the radio inside was perfectly fine.

The Tecsun R-2010D compared with my Sony ICF-SW7600GR (click to enlarge)

The Tecsun R-2010D compared with my Sony ICF-SW7600GR (click to enlarge)

My first surprise after pulling the R-2010D from its box was the discovery that it was much bigger than I thought it would be. I had assumed it would only be marginally bigger than the Degen models listed above; instead, it’s almost identical in size to my Sony ICF-SW7600GR (one of my largest true portables).

Immediately, without even turning the radio on, I noticed that Tecsun had put more thought behind the R-2010D mechanics and ergonomics than either Degen and Kchibo had in their comparable models.

First of all, the larger size means that the analog display is relatively large. One of the problems with the smaller portables is the difficulty in reliably tuning in a station on a tiny analog dial. With the larger dial, I could tell the R-2010D would be easier to tune accurately.

The telescopic whip antenna is another strong point. Like pricier portables, it is fairly robust, long, and fully rotatable. This is a welcome departure from many portables I’ve seen lately that have puny, fixed-position telescoping antennas. I was even further shocked to notice a dedicated FM & shortwave antenna jack on the left side of the unit. Wow.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

My R-2010D also came with a nice carrying bag and a pair of headphones. While it lacked a set of Ni-MH rechargeable batteries (which can be charged internally), I was pleased with Tecsun’s choice of AA batteries instead of the thin Ni-MH proprietary battery pack the Degen models use. I’m one radio listener that is content having a slightly larger radio in exchange for powering my receiver with standard AA cells. Plus, I have a large collection of Ni-MH AA batteries and a charging station specifically for use in my portables (and you should, too–check out my previous post on the topic).


I’ve had the R-2010D on the air for a few days, and have formed some initial impressions. I may follow up in the near future with corrections or further observations [spoiler alert: especially since there are serious issues with this model] but I feel pretty confident about my assessment, even with only a few days on the air.

First, let’s talk about the positives…

What a difference a digital display makes

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

One commonality in all my previous reviews of mechanically-tuned DSP radios is the quirkiness of a precise 5 kHz stepped digital tuner with a vague mechanical analog display as interface. The combination, especially with a little muting between frequencies, makes for a band-scanning chore.

I’m willing to bet that Tecsun realized this weakness and this is the reason they redesigned the radio around the Silicon Labs Si484X (sources tell me when Tecsun first announced the R-2010, they had planned to use the Silicon Labs Si4831 chipset). The Si484X chip allows the R-2010D to offer a precise digital frequency display next to the analog dial. Nice touch; you can accurately confirm your frequency! Secondly, the R-2010D analog dial is large, making the space between tuning steps more broad and therefore easier to find.

In fact, the Tecsun excels in the tuning category. While there is some noticeable muting between frequency changes, it’s not as distracting as other models listed above. Additionally, the tuning wheel itself is silky-smooth to operate, much like higher-quality Sony and Grundig analog portables of the past. There is no lag time or “play” in my R-2010D’s dial. Another nice touch: the tuning needle is thin, making it much easier to precisely place the needle on your target frequency (you can then fine-tune with the digital display).


(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

Another strong point, of course, is audio fidelity. Being a larger portable means that the R-2010D has a larger front-facing speaker. Audio from the internal speaker is actually better than my Sony ICF-SW7600GR offers.

Even better, the R-2010D has a three position tone control switch (low, medium, high). I find that for AM listening, the low position seems to strike the right balance, especially during summer conditions when high-pitched static crashes and pops are ever-present. On the FM band, I find that I keep the tone control set to medium. The high position is rather high and I find that I personally don’t use this tone position.

FM performance

While still on the topic of clear positives, I can say that the FM performance of the R-2010D is above average. It can easily receive my benchmark distant NPR station with little static or fading. I can also hear all of my local FM stations with ease. Any distortion or noise seems to be very low on the FM band.

Shortwave performance

I’ve spent the bulk of my R-2010D listening time on the shortwave bands. The following are my observations:

Sensitivity: great

In terms of sensitivity, the R-2010D is great; very acceptable for a radio in the $40 US price group. I can hear stations with it that I cannot hear on my other mechanically-tuned DSP radios and, indeed, it seems to have sensitivity on par with my Tecsun PL-380. The PL-380 has a slight edge on the R-2010D, but only noticeable with the weakest stations. In fact, what probably gives the PL-380 an edge is its automatic gain control, which does a much better job of handling weak signal stations than that of the R-2010D. The R-2010D is not, however, as sensitive as my Sony ICF-SW7600GR (a radio three times the cost of the R-2010D).

Selectivity: unfortunately, terrible

In my opinion, the biggest failing of the Tecsun R-2010D is its very poor selectivity.

The second time I turned the R-2010D on, I tuned it to the morning broadcast of Radio Australia on 9,580 kHz. If you’re a regular here at the SWLing Post, you’ve probably heard one of the many recordings I’ve made of RA on 9,580; it has a blowtorch signal into eastern North America.

Here’s what happened: I tuned the R-2010D to 9,580 kHz, only to hear China Radio International (CRI)–with beautiful fidelity, I might add. At first, I thought that perhaps the Radio Australia signal had gone off the air. I checked my WinRadio Excalibur SDR, however, and saw that the Radio Australia signal was one of the strongest in my 30 MHz bandwidth display. It was being broadcast with its usual strength out of Shepparton. CRI, though, had a blowtorch signal as well on 9,700 kHz; only 10 kHz away. The CRI broadcast might have been ever so slightly stronger than the RA signal.

For some reason, the R-2010D could only detect the CRI signal; there was not even a trace of Radio Australia. I began to wonder if the R-2010D had poor alignment, so I tuned to other stations on the air, but found they were basically showing as broadcasting on frequency; alignment wasn’t the issue.

I grabbed a few other radios that were handy for comparison, and made quick recordings. Here is what I heard:

The Degen DE32 was being battered by the CRI signal, but I could still hear Radio Australia:

The Degen DE321 had better reception than the DE32:

The Sony ICF-SW7600GR could detect the Radio Australia signal with little problem (and without the antenna fully extended):

The Tecsun R-2010D, while tuned on 9,580, could only detect 9,570 kHz:

The Tecsun PL-380 (no recording) could hear RA almost as well as the Sony.

Upon further listening, I believe the selectivity may be poor in general, but it’s made worse by the fact that the only bandwidth setting is (obviously) rather wide. I came to this conclusion tuning through bands and locating another CRI blow-torch signal on 13,740 kHz. I could get a full tuning lock (indicated on the digital display) anywhere from 13,735 to 13,745 kHz. I could hear CRI, though, anywhere from 13,725 to 13, 755 kHz; a full 25 kHz spread! This explains why the R-2010D could not discern between two strong signals spaced only 10 kHz from each other.

This complete lack of selectivity means that I simply cannot recommend the R-2010D for purchase. It’s most unfortunate, as Tecsun is known for quality products and the best DSP-based shortwave radios.  

For what it’s worth, I am going to forward this review to both the eBay seller and a contact at Tecsun. I feel like if the default bandwidth were narrowed even somewhat, it could help the R-2010D cope with adjacent signals much better. This could be a simple firmware adjustment, or worse case, a flaw in the receiver design.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

Medium Wave

I find medium wave (AM broadcast band to us here in North America) to be mediocre; very similar to my experience with the Degen DE32 and DE321. I had no luck with weak MW stations at night. Probably a combination of poor selectivity and an over-active AGC circuit created a bumpy, wishy-washy experience on the air. While I could hear booming clear channel stations at night, the receiver had a hard time coping with adjacent signals–even strong stations sounded periodically garbled. During the daytime, however, I could easily receive my few local AM stations.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend the R-2010D for medium wave radio enthusiasts.


Below, I’ve tabulated the pros and cons from the moment I took the DR-2010D out of the box. Note that this list takes into account the $38 price level of this radio:


  • Smooth tuning mechanism
  • Adequately sized analog dial
  • Sturdy construction
  • Good audio from internal speaker
  • Tone controls
  • FM sensitivity good
  • Simple: you might only need to reference the owner’s manual to set alarm/clock features
  • Nice, wide flip-out back stand
  • Line-in ability
  • Antenna jack


  • Very poor selectivity on shortwave and on mediumwave
  • AGC circuit struggles with weak AM stations
  • Poor MW sensitivity
(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)


When I first pulled the R-2010D out of its box, I was most impressed. Tecsun had obviously thought through the mechanical engineering of this radio: smooth tuning mechanism, large accurate analog dial, small digital readout, beefy telescopic antenna, nice back stand, and overall quality “feel.” And audio, via the internal speaker, is brilliant: robust and room-filling.

What Tecsun engineers put into the mechanical engineering, they left out of the receiver design. When you tune the R-2010D to a strong, isolated shortwave signal, it sounds great.

However, the lack of selectivity is simply crippling on the shortwave and medium wave bands.

Note that this review is only based on the particular Tecsun R-2010D I received (ser# 41420130600006). Should I test another–just in case this is limited to my particular unit, which I regret is highly unlikely–I will instantly update this review. Tecsun, in my opinion, is a good company, so I trust they will take some notice. Until then, I would wait to purchase the Tecsun R-2010D.

I will also update this page with any response I receive from Tecsun. Meanwhile, if you purchased a Tecsun R-2010D as well, please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Shortwave Radio Recordings: BBC World Service to the British Antarctic Survey

View of Bird Island, South Georgia, where one of the British Antarctic research stations is located. (Source: British Antarctic Survey)

View of Bird Island, South Georgia, where one of the British Antarctic research stations is located. (Source: British Antarctic Survey)

Mentioned earlier today, here is the recording of the BBC World Service’s thirty minute broadcast to the British Antarctic Survey. I was able to receive a relatively strong signal at 21:30 UTC on 9,890 kHz from the World Service’s Wooferton transmission site.

Click here to download the full recording as an MP3, or simply listen via the embedded player below.  I will also post this on the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.

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Catch the BBC’s annual broadcast to the British Antarctic Survey Team

Halley VI: The British Antarctic Survey's new base (Source: BBC)

Halley VI: The British Antarctic Survey’s new base (Source: BBC)

Every year, the BBC broadcasts a special program to the 41 scientists and support staff in the British Antarctic Survey Team.

The BBC will play music requests and send special messages to the team of 41. It’s guaranteed to be quirky, nostalgic and certainly DX worth catching.

The British Antarctic Survey celebrates today (their longest, darkest winter day) with the same enthusiasm as Christmas. The BBC noted:

The base commanders rise early to cook breakfast for their staff, presents are exchanged, there are sports and even, weather permitting, a mad streak in the snow! Feasting continues before they gather round a shortwave set to listen to the traditional broadcast packed with greetings from their family and friends back home together with music requests and messages from the British Antarctic Survey and a few celebrities. Finally the Antarctic horror movie The Thing is screened. For those who know the plot, perhaps it is just as well there are no longer sledge dogs in Antarctica…

The great part? You too can catch the broadcast if you’re in the right part of the world to hear it.  I’ll attempt to record either the Ascension Island or Woofferton broadcast myself, if conditions make it possible.

The program will air today, June 21, 2013 at 21:30 UTC on the following frequencies:

  • 7,350 kHz; Ascension; 207°
  • 9,890 kHz; Woofferton; 182°
  • 5,965 kHz; Dhabayya; 203°

Many thanks to Sheldon Harvey for the reminder and for especially confirming the broadcast time.  Even though this event happens on the same day each year (ironically on my birthday) I often forget to catch it myself.

Please submit your recordings of this broadcast to the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.

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RNW’s “The State We’re In” wins honors at New York Festivals, albiet posthumously

The-State-Were-In-TeamI’m not at all surprised that one of my favorite radio radio programs, The State We’re In, won both a gold metal and a grand prize at the New York Festivals for “The Benghazi Blogger” and a silver metal for “The Oliver Twist of Kabul.”

Sadly, the State We’re In is no more.  It went out of production late last year after the RNW budget cuts.

The good news is that much of TSWI’s archives are still available on the RNW website.

As I’ve said before, TSWI is one of the best radio documentary programs I’ve ever heard. I held out hope that somehow they would procure funding to continue. I still hope that they’ll find a way to get back on the air (or online) someday.

Here’s the press release from RNW:

(Source: RNW)

Radio Netherlands Worldwide has won four major prizes at the 2013 New York Festivals: International Radio Awards. It won a gold medal and a Grand Prize Award for an interview entitled “The Benghazi Blogger”. 

In 2011, blogger and journalist with the pseudonym ‘Mohamed’ posted a picture of Gaddafi’s troops coming into Benghazi on his Facebook page. Soon after, he was arrested, detained, tortured and sexually assaulted. After his release, he was diagnosed as HIV+.  Yet he was too ashamed to tell his family or friends. He kept silent even after his family arranged for him to get engaged. He’s now receiving medical treatment, thanks to one of the story producers at Radio Netherlands. Yet the blogger who risked everything to tell the truth to power is still living with his secret. “The Benghazi Blogger” won the Grand Award for being the top-ranked piece out of approximately 300 entries from 30 countries.

RNW also won a silver medal for an interview called “The Oliver Twist of Kabul”. The piece then went on to win a special award, again a silver medal, in a competition adjudicated by the U.N. This second award is called the UNDPI (United Nations Department of Public Information). It features a thirteen-year old boy who sells maps on the streets of Kabul to support himself and his mother. His charming salesmanship inspired some clients to sponsor his education – his favourite book: Charles Dickens’s “Oliver Twist”.

Both interviews were originally produced for the RNW program, The State We’re In, which went out of production in November 2012.

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WYFR to close June 30, 2013

(Photo source:

(Photo source:

Shortwave Central has posted a message from Dan Elyea of WYFR announcing its closure on June 30, 2013:

(Source: Shortwave Central)

We regretfully inform you that the final day of operation for WYFR will be June 30, 2013.

This station descended from W1XAL (an experimental class license assigned in 1927). In 1939 the call letters were changed to WRUL, and then changed to WNYW in 1966.

Initially, broadcasts came from Boston. In 1936 the station moved to Scituate, Massachusetts.

On October 20, 1973 Family Stations, Inc. took ownership of the station using the call letters WYFR. (FSI had been buying airtime from WNYW starting in January of 1972.) At that time, the station sported four transmitters and nine reversible rhombic antennas.

Construction started in Florida in 1976. On November 23, 1977 the first transmission from Okeechobee went on the air.

For several years WYFR operated simultaneously from Scituate and from Okeechobee. The last broadcast from Scituate took place on November 16, 1979.

The Okeechobee site eventually grew to 14 transmitters and 23 antennas. And now we’ve gone full cycle.

Good listening to all, and 73,

Dan Elyea

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