Forcing the Tecsun PL-880 to use an external antenna on MW/LW

For those of you who aren’t satisfied with the PL-880’s internal ferrite antenna for mediumwave and longwave reception, here is a video explaining a work-around that will force the PL-880 to use an external antenna on those bands:

Many thanks to YouTube user pesnyaozemle for posting this video and to SWLing Post reader Jon for sharing.

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42 thoughts on “Forcing the Tecsun PL-880 to use an external antenna on MW/LW

  1. Jan Erik

    This website has a private video and a PDF file to download.
    Both seem to no more be there…
    I would much appreciate if someone helps me to find them.

  2. Bruce Lagergren

    What are you diong in this Video, We can’t hear you, Can you talk, would you talk, come out, come out, wherever you are !

    1. Thomas Post author

      Sounds to me like you’ve gotten a faulty unit. If you can’t pick up local FM stations, you need to send it back. The PL-880 has a superb FM receiver.

    2. Poot

      Yeah, they sell radios that don’t operate, it’s a great way to make money. Did you consider the problem is your radio, and not the product? Nahhh… couldn’t be that. Duh.

    3. Mike

      I purchased my Tecsun PL-880 in 2015. FM, AM SW, SSB Ham reception are all superb. Tinker with it some more and watch pertinent videos and perhaps you can beef up the reception on your unit.

  3. Peter Quinn

    well I just purchased my 880 partly to do mw dx and as there is so much noise in the house I NEED external antenna.. so sadly returning the radio with dissapointment as otherwise a great set

  4. Bob Steele

    Hi Thomas,
    I recently purchased a PL-880 and have been very disappointed. AM and FM works fine. But I get NODDA/zip on Ham bands other than CW-like unmodulated tones every couple of KHz. No legitimate RF signals. I turned off my computer gear and lights to no avail. I’m returning the unit and asking for a working unit or a full refund.

    I decided to purchase the PL-880 after reading your review and listening to your CW pile-up tuning audio file. That’s exactly what I want to hear.

    I’m a retired systems engineering geek (NASA, NOAA, DOD) turned aspiring writer. My wife and I sold our home and live in a ground floor (no steps) apartment. I can’t have an external antenna and am reconciled with being limited to receive only operations. I am still excited at the prospect of being an SWL operator. In addition to being a Ham Radio Operator, I was also a Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves (Cryptologic Technician Technical) 40+ years ago, and loved using the Collins R-390-A receivers. They were incredible receivers. If we ever hit a lottery, I will be acquiring one of those.

    I was an active Ham from 1965 – 1983, primarily CW on 80 – 10 meters. I lived in Fairfax, VA and was using an Icon 735 transceiver barefoot into an R-7 vertical antenna and had good DX results including India , Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and even Easter Island in the Pacific, most Central and South American countries, all Western Europe, most Eastern Europe, multiple USSR republics, 5 African countries, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

    I quit operating when one of my teenagers (in 2003) played around with my station and did something that took out my Icon rig and automated tuner. I intended on getting them repaired, but somehow never got around to it. I was a die-hard workaholic.

    So, enough jabbering. I’m glad to meet you and have already started enjoying your blog pieces and articles.
    Best regards,

  5. Ted Bouten

    Mw users an-200 loop mw ext pluges into ext antenna, put close too back near am inside coupler, very good improvement if mw stations Russia china ect
    My filmware mfg 4-24-2019
    Most bugs are fixed,I have a tripalconvertion pl-880,
    Most filmware are burnt into ic programmer,
    Can not be changed or modifications

    1. Brian porter

      Use a am coupler/rf amp and the radio is great.there are several on the internet.crane twin coil ferrite is what I use.havent tried anything other than the loop antenna which is not worth the money.

  6. Ted Bouten

    Mw users an-200 loop mw ext pluges into ext antenna, put close too back near am inside coupler, very good improvement if mw stations Russia china ect

  7. Rob

    Simply put, this does not work on later versions of 8820 (yes, they apparently released more than one firmware version with the 8820 build number; not good firmware revisioning practice).
    This is not a feature, but a bug, that has been eliminated with later versions(s) of 8820.

  8. Rob

    Hidden Feature? The method in the video and the method described here:
    for forcing the MW/LW bands to use the external antenna are described as a ‘hidden feature’.
    It’s NOT really a hidden feature like any of the other listed hidden features, in that it is not designed by Tecsun as a feature. Rather, it seems to be an exploit of a BUG. My assertion that this is not a feature, but a bug, is evidenced by a few factors: the display still shows SW mode when tuning MW or LW; as soon as you tune, this exploit resumes normal operation; the exploit cannot be repeated unless you reset (as a firmware designer, I can imagine how this puts the radio into an unintended state). Also, SOME LATER VERSIONS OF 8820 HAVE ‘FIXED’ THE BUG! (Mine has)

    Yes, there seems to be multiple versions of the 8820 firmware. I have a Tecsun PL-880 I purchased in November 2015, which seems to be a long time after this video and subsequent users have reported success. This exploit does NOT work on my 8820 version. I have tried many times and in many ways, with reset in between each attempt. It simply doesn’t work. What happens on my device is that the last step just takes the device back to a normal SW frequency–not back to a MW or LW frequency. ALSO, my 8820 version does not allow the feature to show the firmware build (or flash) date when pressing and holding the ‘AM BW” button three times while the radio is off–it only shows the entire LCD on the first press/hold, firmware version on the second press/hold but the third press/hold reverts the unit back to normal operation. This is a clear indicator that there must be multiple versions of 8820 firmware, and my version has that hidden feature design eliminated.

    This is all unfortunate that Tecsun doesn’t intend this to be a feature, and that Tecsun has actually FIXED THIS BUG, such that my 8820 firmware won’t allow me to use an external antenna for MW/LW, since my AM band reception is terrible with the internal ferrite rod. It’s also too bad that all there seems to be no information about a later 8820 firmware version that explains any changes of the ‘hidden features’ over previous 8820 firmwares. …… this is partly why I am writing this now. Hopefully more folks will do some investigating of later 8820 firmware versions.

  9. Joe S

    I received this radio a few days ago. I tried this over and over, and it doesn’t switch to “SW” and shows no leading zero. My firmware version is 8820. All of the other hidden features work. I have also rest the radio several times. Also, in the downloadable document for the hidden features on this site the instructions seem to differ a bit. I’ve tried those as well several times, both with the hidden features turned on (#4 button) as well as off. I was REALLY hoping out of all of the hidden features that this one would work. I wouldn’t think there would be subtle changes in a firmware version over the years. 8820 a year ago should be the same 8820 now. I’m baffled. Could someone please write out Specific instructions how you got this to work? Thanks!

  10. Adam Ebel

    To whomever made this video. I think you opened your radio and made a modification to make this work. I tried everything to get this work, no cigar. There is no way you can get to work unless you made a hard ware modification. I am be resetting it and doing it over and over again, and still no cigar. I hope you understand this hidden feature is more like a hidden modification.

  11. Adam Ebel


    But it does not work. I have firmware 8820 of the PL-880 receiver, and the LW-MW external antenna feature does not work. What Tecsun needs to do is make another model or a new firmware update that does this and has a toggle key or put a switch on the side of the radio that you can press that changes from external antenna to internal antenna, same for FM as well since the external SW jack is just for SW at this time. Also they need to work on something with RDS decoding.

  12. Mark

    Can’t quite work out what your doing. I would like to set mine up for the best reception for 490 – 518 kHz for navtex reception. Any advise would be helpful i.e external aerial , I’m a complete novice

  13. TOM

    Tecsun PL-880 version 8820/09.2015-radio excellent! -and I need help!
    What can you recommend for receiving stations antenu on SW zone including radioamatér bandwidth!
    Universal does not exist?!
    Affordable interest-to 100 EUROS? Hii
    It is possible to apply to the entry of 50 Ohm and antenu more?!?!?!
    There is nothing stated in the operating manual!
    I’m listening in Europe-CZ-HO.
    Thank you for your advice and help!

  14. Crow

    Seconded, that call for concise, precise instructions to make this happen, in plain text.

    On a PL-390 I wound 100 turns of enamelled wire onto the ferrite rod, and used the unused ‘ring’ connection on the antenna jack, other end of winding to local ground in the radio. This works wonders for NDB hunting with a longwire input, but if the PL-880 really does allow such tricks without me opening up and making modifications, so much the better. (It’s still worth doing if you have a PL-380 or PL-390 because its 1KHz AM bandwidth setting makes it extremely good at this, and may also be useful on a PL-880 for those willing to risk it. To disable the added coil for normal use, just leave the input end open circuit, meaning, use a stereo mini jack with the ring unconnected for normal input.).

  15. Matt

    For the love of all that is holy, would someone please type out/describe the sequence necessary to accomplish this. Tried over and over to follow the video, reset the thing many times and re-tried… and nothing. If in fact my google box isn’t picking up a text description of how to do this and it does in fact exist on the interwebs somewhere, please forgive my rant and please provide a link. Pretty please.

    I’ve got version 8820 purchased May of 2015 by the way.

    Thank you all!

  16. Bertrand

    Hi, on version 8820 it works… But sometimes it does not….anymore….!
    In this special case… take a little screwdriver and do a reset on the front …there is a little whole called reset, on the right side of the set…

    Switch the set on again …. it works again….

    A little bit complicated, the sofware switching, but permits the use of an ALA-100HG Loop on LW and MW…with superb results… but put the attenuator in the middle position…so the rx will not overload….!!!!!


  17. Andrew

    I received my Tecsun PL 880 thus past week. This feature does work. If you view the video at YouTube with a Computer or tablet.The instructions are embedded in the video. But you won’t be able to see to see these instructions if you view the video with your smart phone ??? Any way just follow each step and it wiil work. I also seem to have a problem with the direct keypad entry. On the SW only.I’m able to enter 3000 kHz to 299999 kHz on the keypad, but can not enter 1711 kHz to 29999 kHz? I don’t know if this is is a defect in the radio. Does anyone else have an issue with this? I’m directing this question (problem) toward Thomas. Thanks for any response.

    1. Andrew

      Sorry typo. I meant that on SW I can not enter 1711 kHz to 2999 kHz using the direct keypad entry. But I am able to enter 3000 kHz to 29999 kHz using the direct keypad entry.

      1. Sergio Daher

        Digite a frequência de 1711 a 2999 em seguida um toque rápido na tecla “enter” ou “del”. Abraço.

          1. Thomas Post author

            Hi, Andrew,

            Here’s Google Translate: “Enter the fast frequency from 1711 to 2999 and then a tap on the “enter” or “del” key.”

  18. Furoido

    Realized you might have follow-up notification on. Check out my clearer instructions lower in the thread – a reset is required and (as far as I can tell so far) touching the tuning knob once while in the special mode will prevent you from doing it again until another reset.

    1. Furoido

      ^ Sorry, that was my attempt to try to flag down the unlucky folks at the top of the thread. Too many awful reCAPTCHAs and I somehow fell out of ‘reply’ mode and wound up down here. Oh well, hope y’all find it!

  19. Furoido

    Well now – it works immediately after you’ve pressed the reset button on mine (and reset was required), but “blows out” as soon as you make the mistake of touching the tuning dial – necessitating another reset to recover the ability. That’s mean, Tecsun!

    You also have to cycle in and out of sideband on the LW frequency you want before toggling back to FM or it’ll recover the “old” frequency rather than the one you wanted. But with “don’t touch that dial” in mind, I can now get it to give it to me reliably (skipping that cycle through the shortwave band on subsequent tuning, just [LW], [sideband on], [sideband off], [FM], [sideband]).

    Good luck, folks! Mine is someone’s used off eBay (if this was yours, how’d you scuff up the bottom of a $150 radio so badly?), firmware 8820.

    Now what was the trick for doing this on the DE1103?

  20. R W

    FYI, vids that have “0” narration are on no use to a lot of us out there, wish you tube would ban that waist of time. An explanation is needed as button pushes in the dark are hard to follow. but thanks for the efferet

  21. russ bunyas

    I have tried many times to do this and have not been able to replicate the same behavior as shown in the video. I never get a leading zero showing on the frequency which is supposedly the indication that the external antenna is in use. I have reset my radio many different times. My unit has 8820 firmware. It would be helpful if firmware version in this video was mentioned. Assuming the radio in the video has same firmware level as mine, then something is different in the radio’s setup or my radio has a defect. I’ve tried with and without an external antenna plugged in.

    1. Thomas Post author

      Russ, I’m going to try this myself when I’m back home. Just need to remember. Honestly, I’ve read enough comments of discrepancies between 880 owners that have the “same” firmware, that I wonder if there are even minor changes within firmware versions on different manufacturing dates. Curious what date of manufacture yours has. There’s a hidden feature to find this:


      1. Ted

        Try using ,the a
        Mw loop ant an-200
        It works out loop next too back of radio plug in too ext ant close loops have been around for ever

    1. Dirk Piorr

      mine 880 (8820) refused to use an external antenna on MW/LW untill I pressed the reset button about a week ago.


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