The brilliant little Tecsun PL-310ET: serious DXing on a budget – part 1

tecsun-pl-310etHi there, a good friend of mine Mr Thomas Brogan mentioned to me recently that his little Tecsun PL-310ET was proving to be an excellent receiver and that it would suit my DXpedition activities. Now, as someone who likes to push the envelope of performance with sophisticated portables, usually coupled to very large antennas, a cheap little Tecsun might not have been an abvious choice for my next purchase. However, Mr Brogan (who has an excellent Youtube channel by the same name – check out his wonderful collection of vintage and modern receivers) previously suggested I buy, for similar reasons, the Sony ICF-SW100. That little masterpiece of electronics turned out to be one of the best receivers I’ve ever owned. I felt compelled to take notice because Tom never gets this stuff wrong! A few days later I found myself in Maplins – again – and there it was on the shelf at just under £40, so I bought one.

I got back into shortwave listening about 18 months ago, after many years of inactivity whilst my poor Sangean ATS-803A rotted away in the garden shed and Sony ICF-7600G long-gone via eBay. To start all over again, I bought a Tecsun PL-360.  What a great little portable that turned out to be – there are over 100 reception videos on my YouTube channel demonstrating how it continually performed above and beyond the very modest price tag. I even managed to hear ABC Northern Territories 4835 kHz on it once –  simply amazing for a receiver under £30. Given my extensive experience with the PL-360 and having learned the PL-310ET shared the same DSP chip, I was expecting the same, or at least very similar performance and the only real benefit to upgrading to the PL-310ET was the direct frequency access.  However, I was wrong about that!

pl-360

The brilliant Tecsun PL-360 got me back into shortwave radio for less than £30

About a week after buying the PL-310ET,  I managed to get out on a DXpedition and with 30 metres of wire attached to it via the external antenna socket, I started tuning around the SW bands. Quite simply, I was amazed at the sensitivity and selectivity of this diminutive little portable. With the proven DSP receiver chip and a number of audio bandwidth filter options  from 1 to 6 kHz, coupled with direct frequency access via the keypad, it was a joy to use and listen to. In just over an hour I had  copied signals from North Korea, including their internal service KCBS Pyongyang, Zanzibar BC, ABC Northern Territories (at the first attempt!), Zambia NBC Radio 1, Radio Oromiya and Radio Amhara from Ethiopia, amongst others. Brilliant stuff and clearly demonstrating that the overall hardware/software package with the PL-310ET is a step up in performance over the PL-360 and capable of proper DX for a very modest outlay. Interestingly, in a conversation with Thomas Witherspoon regarding the PL-310ET, he reminded me that it was one of his go-to radios for travelling and confirmed it’s excellent performance.  I would definitely recommend this radio to novices and experts alike.

Reception videos follow below, with more to come in part 2; I hope you enjoy them. Thanks for watching/listening and I wish you all excellent DX!

 

 

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.

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18 thoughts on “The brilliant little Tecsun PL-310ET: serious DXing on a budget – part 1

  1. Mick Holland

    Does anyone have experience of using the external antenna jack for FM? It’s labelled ‘FM & SW ANTENNA’ on the radio, but I find the telescopic antenna is more sensitive than using the external wire antenna I got with my PL880. 40 vs 18 FM stations captured using ETM at the last attempt.

    Cheers.

    Reply
  2. Cap

    I have 2 x PL-310, one being the ET version, one black the other silver. You also have to appreciate that there is an external antenna socket for Shortwave, something the PL-380 does not have. I found the PL-310 a superb performer on my homebrew mag loop, not sure about long wires et al. but seemed to handle strong signals very well.
    If only Tecsun made the PL-365 in the same form factor as the PL-310ET, adding SSB would be the ultimate on my PL-310ET, this would be my dream radio.

    Reply
  3. Harald Kuhl

    I always wondered why the Tecsun PL-310ET is kind of rare on the European market. On Ebay I found just one source in Europe for it. Still can order directly from China, no problem. But it´s still a bit strange.

    Reply
  4. Pere

    I use radios for SW, but also for FM listening.

    I have a PL-360, which is very nice for SW, but the sound quality of my unit for FM, even with headphones, is really bad.

    Does the PL310ET have better sound quality in FM, with speaker and with headphones?

    Reply
  5. Roy

    Absolutely agree – the 310ET is probably the best radio value for the money I’ve bought in the past several years. I use it nearly daily – it’s sensitivity is a class above others of this size and its build is excellent. I’m considering buying a couple more to just to ensure I have them on hand in the years ahead if production ceases.

    Reply
  6. Chuck Lovett W7ACI

    I would like to echo the comments made by the other posters. My PL 310ET has been an excellent value for the money. I use the ETM tuning mode a lot and the rechargeable batteries seem to last almost a month with moderate use. Great travel radio!

    Reply
  7. Cap

    The PL-310ET is a superb little set and if it was not for my PL-660 I would be using it more often. I also have a PL-365 which is great for portable SSB reception and take it with me on business trips for CW reception in hotel rooms etc. but is a bit unwieldy without the direct frequency entry that the 310 has.
    The PL-310ET is still my favorite and have two of the them (silver and black). Selectivity is awesome using the Si4734 DSP chip with decent audio for the size of the unit. It’s amazing what you can hear on this radio and makes you think you have a huge antenna hooked up to it. Couple it to a loop and bingo, DX machine on MW. I also had a PL-380 but the lack of SW external antenna socket made me get shot of it.
    As a grab and go radio you will be hard pushed to find anything else that comes close to a PL-310ET.

    Reply
  8. Bill the Cat

    The Tecsun R9012 just blew me away for under $20. I’m going to buy one of these just because. CountyComm has a PL-360 knockoff that does SSB where the 360 doesn’t.

    Reply

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