Best portable radio for LW and NDB reception?

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Ian Harling (G7HFS), who writes:

I have been a SWL for about 50 yrs and also hold an amateur radio license, but here is where I need some advice.

Can you recommend a portable radio that performs well longwave and also NDB reception? I do have a Datong VLF converter that I can use but I’m looking for a dedicated portable set that works well on frequencies between 100 and 500 kHz. Any suggestions?

Good question, Ian. While I always do a basic check of longwave performance on shortwave portables–checking regional NDBs–I have never done a proper comparison test or used them for longwave listening or DXing sessions.

I know there are some dedicated LW DXers and listeners in the SWLing Post community, so my hope is someone can chime in with their radio suggestion in the comments section. Thank you in advance!

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11 thoughts on “Best portable radio for LW and NDB reception?

  1. Jose Macias Macias

    The best cheap portable radio for tuning long wave is the FIRSLINE FPR 510. The bandwidth is from 144 Khz to 281 Khz. Simply with its internal ferrite antenna I have been able to listen in Huelva (Spain) to Radio Medi 1 at 171 Khz located in Nador and Radio Argel at 252 Khz located in Tipaza Placing the radio next to a corner in the most favorable point of the house they sound
    almost like local stations. To improve reception considerably, I recommend building a long wave loop antenna following the instructions contained in this link:

  2. Ian Harling

    Thanks to everyone who has replied to my question regarding the VLF/LF reception.I have finally got round to using the Datong converter with my Eton E5 and it’s still nice and portable.
    73 to all who commented.
    Ian Harling G7HFS.

    1. Ian Harling

      Today I also connected a wire fence to the external aerial socket with out using the VLF converter and the Longwave band just came alive! Obviously the Longwave coil on the internal ferrite bar is the issue here. Off to purchase an active PK Loop for the Longwave bands now.
      Thanks again to everyone on here that commented.
      73.Ian G7HFS/PA3IKH.

  3. pu3hag

    Based in the a number of receivers I had chance to use in the last 15 years, PLL based radios like Sony ICF-7600G and GR, Sangean ATS-909, ATS-909X, Tecsun PL6xx series, Degen 1103 (the original) and Eton E5 all suffer from bad intermodulation issues in LW if you live in a major city with powerful AM stations… It’s so bad that’s unuseable. This happens because these receivers use an untuned ferrite antenna in the 100-1710KHz range followed by a broadband amplifier. However, there’s a notable exception: the Grundig G4000A; a friend of mine noted the 4000A had an LW session superior to others and I agree with him.

    SiLabs SI4xx radios like Tecsun 3xx series and XHData D808 are always tuning the ferrite antenna for it’s peak performance by changing the capacitance until it founds the best signal. However, there’s not enough windings in the coil to reach good performance in LW band.

    A possible alternative would be use a radio that with an external antenna like the Ferrite Sleeve Loop (FSL), RGP3, PK’ loop or just on Google for “box loop antenna”.

  4. Rod

    I’ve used the SONY ICF-SW7600 with great success for NDBs, heard beacons as far away as British Columbia and the Caribbean with this receiver. I live in Michigan by the way! Most of the SONYs do well as does the Degen 1103, older non-DSP. For the newer receivers my Tecsun PL880 does ok where the PL660 did almost as good as the SONYs.

  5. Frank

    Just any 1990ies Sony portable (including the SW 7600GR) does a fine job on longwave.

    (Better than nowaday´s Tecsun portables and the – otherwise nearly impeccable – XHDATA pictured.)

  6. rtc

    Two ways to think about this:
    If you intend fixed operation then go with your converter.
    Just about any portable will work well since LW will be converted
    up to HF.
    If you prefer portable operation then the best way forward imo
    is to get a PK Loop.
    It will greatly improve reception on any portable you use whether
    fixed or portable,you can null out the noise too.

    Please make sure you order the A-Loop 155-500 khz full coverage model,not the one
    that stops at 450 khz or so.

    1. rtc

      Regarding reception below 150 khz you will have to use your converter.
      No portables I am aware of (excluding SDR “portables” if such exist)
      tune below 150 khz.
      You will find the stuff below 150 khz to be of the “if you’ve heard it once,
      you’ve heard it forever” type anyway.
      (I reflected on this fact the last time I heard the WWWB time station on 60 khz.?)
      But a PK Loop will be a fine addition to your antenna collection.

    2. Ian Harling

      All sorted now thanks.PK loop is the way to go as the external antenna socket connected to a wire fence made the Longwave band on the Eton E5 “come alive”.
      73.Ian G7HFS /PA3IKH


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