Tecsun PL-880 hidden feature/hack: 1 kHz bandwidth on shortwave

[Note: This procedure was updated and simplified by Guillermo on 22 December 2017]

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Guillermo, who writes:

I own the PL-880 and just discovered a new feature : a 1.0 kHz bandwidth mode on shortwave (SW only not in MW).

The procedure to get it is as follows:

  1. Turn on the radio and tune any frecuency on SW . There is no need to connect or disconnect an external antenna and turn on or off the radio during this procedure.
  2. Be sure that on SW the 4 button feature(press 4 for about 2 seconds) is ON and 9 button feature(press 9 for about 2 seconds) indicates a value of 13 or more and not less than 10.
  3. Then turn OFF 4 button feature and then ON again . Press BW button and see the 1.0khz new BW on the screen. Now you can use it permanently on SW and ALSO on MW , UNTIL you press BW button again .

Well, I hope you understand this description–if not please let me know, and tell me if it works on your unit, or it is just works on mine.

Thank you, Guillermo! I see where this is somewhat of a fragile adjustment in that a number of actions could change the bandwidth back to a previous setting, but nonetheless is quite a fascinating hack/hidden feature! Thank you and I’ll add this to our list of PL-880 hidden features.

Post readers: please comment if you can successfully enable the 1.0 kHz bandwidth on your unit.  Please comment with your radio’s manufacture or purchase date if possible.

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11 thoughts on “Tecsun PL-880 hidden feature/hack: 1 kHz bandwidth on shortwave

  1. StratMan

    Thank you for posting these tips, I originally found these tips on a different site but the instructions involved plugging and unplugging my external reel wire antenna.
    I have a PL-990 (not PL-990x, but I assume this hack will also work on the latter) that was manufactured in 2021 with the 9905 firmware and I was able listen to SW stations with the 1 kHz bandwidth. 🙂

    For the life of me I don’t understand why Tecsun didn’t include the 1 kHz option in the first place, instead of burying it in a secret sequence of keystrokes. Their PL-310ET pocket receiver already has a 1 kHz filter option and so does the XHDATA/Sihuadon D-808.

  2. Pascal

    Hi Guillermo !

    Thank you for sharing this hidden feature, but unfortunately I didn’t got it ?

    I don’t know if I did something wrong or if it’s firmware dependant, mine is the 8820. What is yours ?

    Thank you.
    Pascal from France

  3. Guillermo

    Hello Thomas ,
    It’s me again , Guillermo from Argentina, I write to you again because I recently found a new and easiest way to get the 1.0khz hidden feature of the Tecsun PL-880 and the addition to use it also on MW not only on SW.
    Here’s the new procedure which is an update of I mention before about it:

    1.Turn on the radio and tune any frecuency on SW . Disconnect any external antenna .

    2. Turn ON / OFF number 4 feature (press 4 for about 2 seconds) and be sure (previously if you turn it OFF) that the number 9 button feature (press 9 for about 2 seconds) indicates a value of 13 or more and not less than 10. Now you can see the addition of the 1.0khz BW.

    3.Then turn OFF (if ON previously) number 4 feature . Now you can connect any antenna and use it permanently on SW and ALSO on MW , UNTIL you press BW button again and change the value of the BW. ONCE you change the BW, the 1.0khz value desappear and you must do all over again(steps 1 to 3) to get back to the 1.0khz BW value.
    So , that’ s all for now , and I will be glad this can be apprecciated by somebody who wnted to listen to any SW or MW with a 1.0khz BW mode.
    Good bye , and happy Christmas for all of you !
    Guillermo from Argentina.

    1. Liam

      This seems like a bug. Function 4 works this way. Below a signal power threshold (set in dBu on function 9), it will cut the receive bandwidth down to 1kHz. When the signal is above the threshold, it will expand the bandwidth again. It appears if you turn off function 4 while in narrow-band mode, it will get stuck there.

  4. DanH

    Yes, my 2017 Eton Grundig Edition Satellit offers DSP filter options for 1,000 Hz and 500 Hz on SSB only. Like any DSP filter option offered on current SW portables these filter values should be taken with a grain of salt.

  5. DanH

    There is a difference between 1kHz tuning and 1 kHz bandwidth mode on SW although this probably isn’t well understood by SWLing Post readers . 1 kHz accuracy on tuning display is how close the SW receiver is supposed to get to the tuned frequency. That’s 1,000 Hz. A 1 kHz (1,000 Hz) filter is an extremely narrow IF filter for normal AM use on shortwave. This is how much of the SW band the receiver will allow to pass for selectivity purposes.

    On my mid-2015 Sangean ATS-909X and 2017 Eton Grundig Edition Satellit portables the digital tuning display is accurate to 1 kHz, although the 909X will tune to 40 Hz accuracy on SSB and the Satellit will tune to 10 Hz accuracy on SSB. Neither spec is shown on the digital frequency display of these radios which are accurate to only 1 kHz. The Satellit will show the approximate 10Hz SSB step tuning in a separate part of the digital display and the 909X won’t show it’s 40 Hz SSB step anywhere, but you can certainly hear this tuning difference on both radios.

    Now, when you talk about SW radio selectivity you are talking about how much of the SW band the receiver will allow to pass without interference from a nearby frequency. This is a very important parameter of SW receiver performance as narrow filters allow the user to enjoy more SW stations on crowded SW bands. Stations may be spaced only 5 kHz apart or much less on crowded bands. Variable selectivity allows users to enjoy better audio with wide IF filters on stations which are not challenged by nearby or strong competition.

    Better SW receivers will offer a variety of or variable SW band pass filtering. I call this IF filtering above. Wide or narrow filters are needed depending on the station and mode being used. For AM listening (normal voice or music) on SW (not SSB or CW) filters of 2 to 8 of more kHz are used depending on conditions. The wider the filter the better the audio. The more narrow the filter the worse the audio and the less interference from nearby frequencies. The quality of these filters are extremely variable depending on each radio. My 2015 Sangean ATS-909X features sharply defined ceramic filters at 6 and 4 kHz and 2 kHz for SSB. My 2017 Eton Grundig Edition Satellit features DSP filters at 6, 4, 3, 2.5 and 2.0 kHz for AM SW. However, these DSP filters are poorly defined and behave as if they were much wider filters. The Satellit (like some other portable DSP radios) will offer additional narrow (and very approximately defined) filter options for SSB and CW use.

    For a real mind-bender look at my well-maintained Hammarlund SP-600 JX-21 of 1957. This radio offers the same sensitivity (or better) as the current SW portables mentioned above but will not offer 1 kHz dial accuracy unless the interpolated logging scale is employed. It will offer selectivity much superior to either radio listed above thanks to very sharply defined filters for 13, 8, 3 and 1.3 kHz as well as 500 and 200 Hz.

    1. Guy Atkins

      Very well stated, DanH. Although I appreciate the good selection of bandwidths on these inexpensive DSP (SiLabs chip) portables, nominal bandwidth is only part of the equation. Shape factor and ultimate selectivity are top factors also. Perhaps future SiLabs chips will have the amount of processing power in the future to give us the proverbial “brick wall” shape factors that we enjoy in the software of SDRs like Perseus, FDM-S2, and so on.

  6. Adam

    Interesting. I’m eyeing purchasing a new portable and not having 1kHz tuning was a major bugger on this radio. Still looks like a PITA but better to have the option than not at all! Great find!


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