Larry’s review of the CountyComm GP5/SSB

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Larry Thompson, who shares his review of the CountyComm GP5/SSB:


GP5SSB-Front

Been having a ton of fun with my new toy, the tiny survivalist radio, the CountyComm GP5/SSB receiver. $74.95 with free heavy duty cordura case with metal belt clip (normally $17.95). Also purchased 2 spare whip antennas @ $6.00 ea. The unit arrived promptly
in just 5 days from CA.

The radio is manufactured by Tecsun and is similar to the Tecsun PL-365, but re-engineer end to military standards for use in embassies and military installations around the world. The case is a heavy plastic that feels like anodized aluminum.

It’s about the size of a small TV remote control, taller than a cell phone, and about 1/2 the width of an iPhone.

Very, east intuitive menus. Incredibly sensitive to dx, relatively good selectivity. A great radio to throw in your travel bag or briefcase. So small that no one, especially customs, TSA, etc would even suspect it is a shortwave receiver with SSB capabilities.
I live in a very highly QRM and RFI interference zone.

I’m in the central city, in an old 1920’s hi-rise, with high power tension lines right next to the building.

Lots of QRM from the elevator motors, etc. Having a good antenna option is a challenge.
I’ve resorted to a stealth longwire antenna, strung out my 5th floor window. It’s 50′ of #16 black insulated copper stranded wire, weighted by a medium size galvanized carriage nut. It seems to work well.

I also use a Magic Wand shortwave antenna, a type of broomstick antenna with 23′ of lead-in, available from Lowbander on eBay.

My main receivers have been a Sony ICF-SW7600GR dual conversion receiver and the SRDPlay. In the past, I have listened to dx with some really outstanding receivers, including a Nordmende Globetrotter, a National NC-183D, a Japan Radio JRC-525′ and a Yaesu FT900AT transceiver. The later two were computer-controlled using TRX-Manager software.

In just 4 days, I can’t get over the sensitivity of the CountyComm GP-5/SSB and it’s ability to pull in stations. So far, it’s far superior to the Sony or SDRPlay.

Digging into the specs, it is a direct conversion receiver, using a DSP si47XX microchip from Silicon Labs to digitize the analog AM/FM broadcasting signal base on modern software technology and radio principles. The direct conversion circuitry can highly improve a radio’s sensitivity, selectivity, S/N ratio and anti-interference capabilities. Direct conversion using software is far superior to a double or triple conversion traditional IF circuitry. This must explain why the unit is so amazingly sensitive!

I can hear things on this unit that I can’t even begin to hear on the Sony or the SDRPlay. The FM reception and sound with earphones is amazing and LW and AM reception is equally sensitive. I can easily get WLW Cincinnati 700 kHz in the daytime here in St. Louis!

There are 550 preset memories: 100 for AM, 100 for FM, 100 for SSB, and 250 for SW. You can scan the memories or scan the bands in various ways. You can also use the Auto Tune Storage function to store memories.

Something I really enjoy is the Easy Tuning Mode function. The ETM function allows you to tune into stations easily and temporarily store them into the ETM storage. 100 stations for FM/MW and 250 for SW. Scanned stations will not be stored in the regular 550 memories, but will remain in the ETM temporary storage until the next time you do an ETM scan.

This is a great feature for travel. When you are in a different city, you can perform the ETS function and this will not delete any of the stations already in the memory.


Thanks for sharing your review, Larry. I use the GP5/SSB all of the time–it stays in one of my vehicles and I often use it for walks, picnics, camping and even a little parking lot DXing.

I suspect if your SDRplay RSP was hooked up to an antenna that could better mitigate your local QRM, you’d find it outperforms the GP5/SSB. The great thing about portables, though, is that you can simply take them to areas with low noise levels. It’s just a matter of finding the right location!

The CountyComm GP5/SSB is a very handy portable. Thanks again! 

The CountyComm GP5/SSB can be purchased from:

The Tecsun version, the PL-365, can be purchased on eBay (though be aware that some sellers have BuyItNow prices almost two times the price of CountyComm).

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15 thoughts on “Larry’s review of the CountyComm GP5/SSB

  1. Steven Crawford

    Received my GP-5/SSB last week and I was pleased yesterday afternoon after popping in a fresh set of batteries. On AM using the internal ferrite bar antenna Beaumont, Texas’ own powerhouse 5,000 watt KLVI 560 was there as was 1,000 watt Orange’s KOGT 1600, 23 miles away and my AM daytime benchmark 50 kW KTRH 740 70 or so miles away on the back side of their pattern. KTRH can be difficult during the day. The surprise was 50 kW WWL New Orleans 240 miles away was intelligible above the background noise. Extending the whip a quickie SW test showed WWV Fort Collins time signal was present at 15 MHz.

    On the AM side the real money lay after dark once the sun had set in Beaumont and San Antonio. Using only the internal ferrite bar antenna all of the aforementioned AM stations were present. Continuing the internal antenna’s test 50 kW WBAP 820 Dallas 244 miles away and 50kW WOAI 1200 San Antonio 266 miles away were present. I started grinning when 50 kW WLAC 1510 Nashville 598 miles away and 50kW KMOX 1120 St. Louis 632 miles away were just intelligible above the background noise. Keep in mind these stations were received using only the internal antenna.

    I popped the included external ferrite bar on and used it 9 -10 PM Saturday local, 0200 – 0300 March 20 UTC. Using the external antenna rotated for best reception WLAC and KMOX improved to the point they were easily listenable. 50 kW WSB 750 Atlanta 625 miles away was listenable above the noise and most surprising 50kW WBBM 780 Chicago 892 miles away(!!!) was intelligible above the background noise.

    All stations were identified by their announced call signs and keep in mind this was done while the radio was hand held. All distances are approximate straight line “as the crow flies” miles.

    Another quickie SW test was performed at 10 PM local, 0300 Sunday UTC by extending the built in whip and the WWV Fort Collins time signals were present at 5 and 10 MHz with 10MHz being particularly well received.

    Very pleased with this performance

    Reply
  2. Steven Crawford

    Just want y’all to know how hard y’all are on a fellow’s wallet. Just ordered the CountyComm GP-5/SSB and the next to last, of the current batch, high-gain ferrite bar antenna for the PL-360/PL-365 and CountyComm GP5 series from Ebay seller playloudfm that was the subject of post on January 6 and 19. It does appear playloudfm is accepting preorders for another batch.

    It will be interesting to compare the GP-5/SSB with the various antennas to my Sony SW7600GR with it’s built in antennas, windup 20 ft reel and AN-LP.

    I will be trying both with an AN-200 loop.

    Reply
  3. Francis Frankenne

    Hello,
    Thanks for your site. I am interested in listening LW stations in Belgium, which means only french stations and, more specifically, France Inter which is great ( and no commercials!) but will disappear on LW next year. Also, I recently acquired a tecsun PL-365 mainly for listening on SW while travelling. I also own a tecsun 660.

    – In the County com GP5, Larry mention good selectivity and sensitivity for LW. With the Tecsun 365 here I have a completely different experience: alsmost no sensitivity at all, Franc Inter seems to broadcast from Mars, at the very limit of detection ant totally un-listenable ! Though all the LW enabled radio I have used ( including 5$ chinese ones to 40 years small grundigs) so far were all able to catch FI rather properly. Ans yes, I have adapted the AM steps for EU. And MW is working properly
    Since the difference between the CC and the Tecsun is said to deal with ruggedness only, I do not understand this difference between two identical receiver. Maybe my copy has some defect, alghough it is the only issue I have spotted. Also, I have noted no difference on MW (or LW) with on without pluging the external antenna.

    – I am thinking of an externa l antenna and saw the post of Jackie LaVaque (KC0ODY) on Feb 15, with a mention to to a “cake form” antenna for LW. Would you or any reader have any details on that kind of antenna or on other LW antenna ( small and light as far as possible)?

    Thanks

    Francis

    Reply
  4. Ashok

    Hello All,
    I got GP-5/SSB as a prize, Virtual radio challenge -IV, organized by SWLINGPOST . (Lucky Me)
    I compared this one with one of my friends PL-660. Both perform similar in SSB reception. The FM reception is marvelous. AM(MediumWave) reception is great. But my primary interest is in dxing HAM stations.
    I would say My friends envy this little receiver. during afternoons and evenings I have received stations from as far as Siberia and Australia, More than 5000Km.
    My Observations:
    1) very small and cute form factor which is the most attractive feature.
    2) Very sensitive. If you are away from Electrical noises then there are too many SW stations.
    3) Selectivity is very good,
    4) Audio quality in FM is super. SSB Audio is as good as PL-660
    5) Power consumption is some what high. If I use ordinary Panasonic AA cells available in India then it runs only 3 to 4 days( 8-10 hours). So i switched to 2100mAH NIMH Cells. gives 1 week(20 hours approx) of listening.

    Reply
    1. Randy Walters

      That’s very helpful information about the batteries; I just ordered my GP-5/SSB this morning. I usually use Everyday Lithium cells, but will now try comparing them to the NIMH. 20 hours on one charge is great!

      Reply
    2. RB

      I have had the GP-5/SSB since January, and I find its reception is quite good. However, it drains a set of Eneloop 2000 MAh to empty within a week to 3 weeks of moderate to little usage. Either it’s the radio, or it’s the batteries which were bought in February.

      Reply
  5. Daniel

    I recently bought my GP5/SSB after reading about it on this website (thanks, Thomas!). Impressive performance and features for such a small and relatively inexpensive receiver. It’s a great bedside radio for when insomnia visits. I’ve easily memorized the buttons for listening without turning on the reading lamp and waking up that lady next to me (headphones recommended). A wire out the window attached to the rain gutter pulls in a world of great stations, plus some sleep-inducing ones. I also like and use the top-mounted rotatable MW antenna. And I like the SSB for listening to rag chewing at 2:00 am, brings back memories of my dad. I’ve taken it camping, to the porch, to the hammock. Right now I’m using it lots more than my only other radio, a Sony ICF 2010, although the Sony is definitely the better of the two. But the size and portability factors of the GP5/SSB is huge for me.

    Reply
    1. Troy

      Bill,

      The 2013 Model is the equivalent of the Tecsun PL-360.

      The new model is the equivalent of the PL-365 … the PL-365 equivalent model has SSB and the old model didn’t. I’m not sure if the DSP Processor is the same or not bc I don’t own the old model.

      Tecsun Australia is also worth checking out re: purchase. I rcvd the two I ordered in 12-days. However, 4.5 of those days the parcel was stuck in the NY Postal Customs Depot due to it being over & around the Holidays. When I purchased mine 2-months ago, the exchange rate was very favorable.

      Troy

      Reply
    2. karl keller

      Hi Bill. I don’t know what you saw in my post that would have indicated that I was in any way dissatisfied with the shortwave performance of this radio. True, the ETM function is better suited for high power stations but manually tuning reveals performance equal to or better than my older KA1103, at my QTH about 50 miles south of St Louis, MO. Anybody who’s read my previous posts knows that I’m very critical about performance and build quality (still stamping out flames re: C.Crane Skywave, lol). I also don’t know what you are referring to with regard to “menus”. All functions are accessed by button pushes that are laid out in the manual. The manual is produced by Tecsun, and does have a bit of “Chinglish” in it, but not as bad as many others I’ve had to struggle with. With regard to comparison with previous models, both this and the Tecsun PL-365 use the Si4735 chip, with advanced software to accommodate SSB/CW. If you go to Silicon Labs website, you’ll find they are a very open company, and you can download .pdfs AN332 and AN383, and others, that will give you an incredible amount of information. Any other questions? 🙂 Karl

      Reply
  6. karl keller

    I’ve owned the GP5/SSB since just after Christmas, when I purchased it as a gift to myself, to replace my aging KA1103. I’ve found the performance to be far superior to the 1103, even when it was new, and on it’s best days. MW reception, when used in conjunction with a Tecsun AN-200 loop antenna is absolutely stellar. At night, I regularly listen to (not just identify) stations from Boston to the Rockies and from Cuba to Canada. Likewise, FM reception is wonderful, though I really don’t spend much time FM DXing. The ETM makes SW reception a breeze for the “blowtorches”, but not so much for weaker stations. The BFO can be used for exalted carrier reception on all but the FM bands, and really helps with fading. On the ham bands, SSB and CW reception is very easy, much easier than with the 1103, though I wish there was a narrower bandwidth option for CW. My only concern with the radio is that since there is no direct entry keypad (after all, where would you put one on a radio this small?), cruising around the bands with the rotary encoder is slow and somewhat tedious, and with all the extra strain on the encoder, will it be prone to early failure. All things considered though, it’s a wonderful radio at a very reasonable price.

    Reply
  7. Paul

    Hi all,
    I Have to agree ? Larry. This radio is a very sensitive and selective radio. I live in a suburb in a 10 story condominium. I am on the fifth floor. The noise (QRM) level is very high. I use a katio loop by an external facing window with very good reception results. At 12 ? noon I can listen to WLW. I have a Sony 2010 and can do the same but only using the sync function. WGN 720 IS About 5 miles away from my location. Actually, there are 4 50KW station’s located near my location. I have 3 DSP receivers and they all perform stellar. The Gp5/SSB performs well. It is not perfect as my Pl 880 has better selectively on the ham bands. But for travel you cannot beat this little guy.

    Reply
  8. Roger Johanson

    I have had the GP5/SSB for 3 days. It significantly out performs my CC Pocket for inside day & night AM listening, for our location. It’s shape is better for one handed (right-side) thumb control of both volume and tuning wheels. And, its traditional dial tuner provides more selective control than the CC Pocket. Surprisingly, its AM reception is substantially improved without use of the AM antenna.

    Reply

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