Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, DanH, who shares the following guest post:
How two Sangean ATS-909Xs led me to news of an ATS-909X2
I decided to buy a second Sangean ATS-909X this summer. I operate shortwave portables on batteries and wanted the ability to switch radios if one ran low on power during a listening session. I received the new radio and used it for about a week before noticing slight differences between the two 909Xs. Then I noticed big differences with the power supplies and began to ask questions. The answers led me to the new Sangean ATS-909X2 mostly by accident. Rumors have circulated for years that the 909X would be the last shortwave portable made by Sangean. It now appears that the rumors are not accurate. Thanks to an anonymous source the true story begins to appear.
I purchased my first 909X in 2015. It was built in 2014 and has been used almost every day since it arrived. The firmware is v. 1.29, the color is black. My 909X is featured in SWL and DX videos I shoot for the YouTube channel Willow Slough DX.
The new 909X was purchased early in August. This radio was made late in 2019 and has firmware v. P01. Minor changes include the color of the magnetic metal piece on the radio’s kickstand and tightness of the volume control knob which has been loosened a little. Another small change affects the beeper that sounds with certain keyboard commands. The beeper is now relatively soft-spoken.
The newer 909X features major changes made to the power supply including the AC/AC wall wart adapter. I use the 2014 909X with battery power for shortwave listening because AC operation introduces noise at different frequencies across the shortwave bands. Incidentally, internally generated noise like this happens with all of my shortwave portables when operated from AC power. The 909X is no exception. Portable SW radios made during the last 30 years just seem to do this regardless of make or brand.
The 2020 909X generates significantly less interference than my five-year old 909X. These radios have different model wall warts. The older radio is a 120 VAC / 60 Hz unit as opposed to 100 – 240 VAC / 50 – 60 Hz. The new adapter sports a ferrite core RF choke on the power line which is now shielded wire instead of small gauge zip line. So far, subtle traces of signal mixing from the new adapter are heard only when using my Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones. The power connection for the newer 909X is now center pin positive instead of center pin negative. Not surprisingly, the newer adapter does not work with the 2015 909X.
The search for a technical explanation for the mysterious (to me) and incompatible AC adapters required talking to several contacts. I found someone who earnestly wanted to discuss the 909X including the new AC adapter. That person floored me by saying “It’s the same adapter that will be on the 909X2.” That was last week…
Introducing the Sangean ATS-909X2
My unnamed source was happy to answer questions about the 909X2 and sent me leaked documents. The first is a sheet issued last spring listing some changes for the new radio. The second is a treasure trove: a 40+ page draft copy of the English language operating instructions for the 909X2 including line drawings. I hit gold and wasn’t even looking for it. This draft was issued earlier in the summer. I did some fascinating reading that evening.
At this point I want to caution readers that the 909X2 is very much a radio in development. The prototypes have yet to be distributed for evaluation although that is expected to happen soon. None of the features or component choices are set in stone at this point. Indeed, the very name of this radio may not be a done deal. I have heard the new model called either ATS-909X2 or ATS-909X Mk. II. Still, the draft copy of a manual that lists and explains operation of all of the many new features confirms that development is well underway. Production is rumored to begin in 2021. That date makes perfect sense as the 909X will be ten years old next year and Sangean likes to celebrate company anniversaries.
What will Sangean’s new multi-band shortwave flagship look like? The 909X2 shown in the draft booklet retains the size and form factor of the 909X to an amazing degree. The number and placement of buttons, switches, knobs and jacks remain the same. The functions of some controls may change and the location of some buttons on the radio may be switched around. A display menu will be added to operate many of the new features. Without taking a close look at how the outboard controls are labeled the 909X and 909X2 will look like siblings. A larger and much busier LCD for the 909X2 will be the most visible difference.
Here are some of the main features of the 909X2. Again, there may be changes before the final version is decided upon.
- VHF AIR band in addition to LW / MW / SW / FM
- Automatic Tuning System (ATS) for FM / LW / MW / SW bands
- Total of 1674 radio station presets
- Three memory banks for preset stations: store presets for different users and/or different areas or categories
- Local/World Time with two customizable city names
- FM RDS with PS, PTY, RT and CT features
- Potentiometer-type RF Gain Control retained
- Six-digit frequency display
- SSB (Single Side Band): USB / LSB, 10/20 Hz tuning steps selectable
- Three alarm timers with snooze
- Larger display screen with more functions and improved backlight controls
- New NiMH charge controller charges each 4xAA cell individually
- Station presets/memory lock
- Auto or manual bandwidth control
- Selectable and band-specific bandwidth filtering for LW-MW / SW / FM / AIR
- Tuning dial detents removed
- 12-segment bar-graph S-meter plus signal strength and signal-to-noise displayed in dB
The new ATS-909X2 benefits from innovations that Sangean developed after the 909X was introduced in 2011. I’m looking forward to firing up this new radio as soon as I can get my hands on one.
Wow! Thank you for sharing your discovery, Dan! I, for one, welcome the new 909X version 2! Sangean is a solid radio manufacturer, so I would expect the new radio to perform at least as well as its predecessors. We’ll post updates as they become available.
1st: You don’t need over-rated Sync if you have SSB. Sangean 909 & 909x the best performance to price value available.
Apparently Sangean made it official:
The 909x sounds so good compared to the Tecsun PL-880, S-8800 and the new 990, the Tecsuns suffer from bad distortion and a warbled sound when trying to zero beat on SW while trying to weed out a weak signal close to a stronger one or one that’s close by.
After numerous videos I just ordered the 909x and will see what the new one offers in 2021 and hopefully won’t have that horrible SSB performance the tecsuns suffer from nor that harsh background noise.
The Sangean sounds really good and I hope they don’t ruin it with DSP or if they do that they use different DSP than Tecsun.
I sold the PL-880 and S-8800 they cost a lot of money for shocking bad sound quality and distorted audio on SSB, only on FM did the 880 sound any way acceptable, I bought the Tecsun PL-680 several months back and it’s much better sounding than the 880 ans the 8800.
This answer I got from Sangean Taiwan customer service:
The new ATS-909X will add the air band, and you selectable narrow FM filter.
Probably it will have similar narrow/wide FM selection as Sangean PRD-19 has.
I also asked for
-separate external antenna connectors for FM and AM.
But no comment for that.
The ATS-909X has a horrible front facing tuning dial that is a pain to use. Sensitivity is not that great and even the better sized display showed no more information than the old ATS-909. Curiously, the signal meter gives false signal level readings unlike the old 909.
The other problems include: No visible indication of SSB tuning, a volume control that falls off too easily and excesive noise when using the AC transformer.
If Sangean can fix these faults I might take a look at it.
> “Sensitivity is not that great …”
The 909x’s sensitivity is not that bad, though it’s not as great as some of the fanboys would have it. What it *does* have, though, is a weirdly non-linear sensitivity or AGC curve (never bothered to dig in and measure to find which). Upshot is it displays an odd ‘insensitivity threshold’ – almost a ‘soft mute’ effect – with weak signals; rather than fading in and out, they pop up and down *even though background noise stays similar*
> ” Curiously, the signal meter gives false signal level readings unlike the old 909.”
Which is one of the reasons why I suspect it’s AGC rather than sensitivity. I will admit that the 909x’s AGC circuit – or, at least, the bit of the schematic marked ‘VAGC’ which would seem to be AGC since it’s driven from the TA7640’s “Level Meter Out” pin – puzzles me greatly…
(Hmmm, on further thought – if it works the way the schematic suggests, it would explain the above-mentioned behaviour. Though I would think that way would play merry hell with SSB and it obviously *doesn’t*, so…
Next time I see one I should really dig into how tf that all works…)
…I recently sold my uncle’s (almost brand new …1991), Radio shack dx-440 radio …it came in a box with original receipt, shoulder strap, instruction manual, and original box! In a time of grief, you don’t think straight, and now I am very sorry for selling it! But how does it compare to other portables, and perhaps even the Sangean 909X..? …can someone please console this person? ..thanks!
…thank YOU for the VHF air band, AM/FM/long wave…but why NO sync..!
Running on batteries as you know,is the way to go.A/C adapters (Wall Warts) really do generate a lot of noise but it sounds like Sangean with their choke in line,is trying to eliminated some of it.Switching adapters make more noise than the non-switching type called linear,I have found ,with swapping out both on the same frequency and same radio,there definitely is a difference but can’t compare with battery operations.Enjoy your new radio !!!!!
I still have the 909 non x and is still going strong ,Also have the new pl-990 here in
Aust. be nice to know how SSD sounds like,the pl-990 in SSD mode is 10/10 and my old 909 non x 5/10 only because i have to turn down the Gain on super strong Hams ect it gets very messy,on 990 i leave Gain flat out and sounds EXELLENT 10/10.
SSB from the 909X is good but the audio volume is lower than for AM. This means turning up the volume a bit for SSB. The new 909X2 may process SSB by DSP and could be different. Here is an example of 909X SSB performance. This is HF aero from San Francisco. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xWNj5dBXY4
I am thrilled by this potential new radio – I have an older 909X which I dearly love – the look, the feel, the audio quality. Is it the best portable out there? Nope (I still think the Sony 7600GR is great – I have two in case one ever breaks!!) but the 909X is my favorite portable radio to use and listen to.
Thanks for sharing this great news with us! Cheers!
sangean was published a beautiful color screen ats-909x photo in Sangean Taiwan Facebook in end of June. That probably is new ATS-909x major modifications. I don’t know how to upload color screen ats-909x photo to this reply. you could search new ats-909x photo in Sangean Taiwan Facebook.
I have seen the pic on the Shortwave Radio Station Listening Facebook page. The top of the display reads “Internet Radio”. Not sure what to make of that.
Im the proud owner of the ATS 909 X of which I bought new back in 2015 from an importer.I live down under in New Zealand,under Australia and we have receiption problems here big time,too far away from the rest of the world. I find this model very good as long as I have a the supplied “reel” type long wire attached to the telescopic antenna.I mainly listen into SSB Utilites.I do have other SW portables in my small collection that do have UHF Air,so Im not concerned that this model does not have the local Air band.However this model of mine does have RDS,that I dont use,and Im also not concerned that it does not have the Signal SYNC because my old Sony,and PL 660 do. However if Im dirrectly on an offical station,I dont seem to have a problem with any drift. The SYNC is very handy though,I will say.Im pleased to hear Sangean will be bringing out a new model,because we dont get any more from Sony,and it seems other SW radio manufactures are not produceing any more either.Let us all hope our interest and hobby of True SW radio continues with newer radios made for this modern age.
Well,good to hear from someone on the other side of the globe,kind of like listening to S/W.Tecsun is coming out with a new model portable with SYNC better than the SYNC on their PL-880,so I have heard,The model is Tecsun PL-990x which is their preliminary/prototype radio. The X will be dropped,I believe when the final version will start to be sold to the public,hopefully with no bugs left,within.Enjoy !
Unfortunately, a number of reviews of the new Tecsun PL-990x show that the sync does not work any better than the 880. Also I think I read that the “x” is for the export version and the non-x models are for their domestic market.
Great to hear from a reader in New Zealand! Here in Northern California RNZI shortwave broadcasts can provide up to 16 hours of English language programming every day depending on season. Listening to programs from tomorrow takes some getting used to!
Don’t own an ATS-909Xs, it’s certainly a very attractive looking receiver!
One wonders whether Sangean recognizes finally the sensitivity issue when using the internal whip antenna.
Also, why no sync?
I saw no mention of SYNC in the leaked materials. Perhaps Sangean takes the same position on SYNC that they apparently took with the 909X: better no SYNC than a poor or useless SYNC which seems to be the case with some other radios currently on the market. I listen to shortwave from my suburban home most of the time using external antennas. I recommend using outdoor antennas for indoor listening whenever possible especially this close to the solar minimum. The best portable radio I have next to the 909Xs is an Eton Grundig Edition Satellit which is known to be a fine shortwave performer on the built-in whip. I haven’t been able to receive SW signals any stronger with the Eton or the 909X when using whips. I have made this comparison more than a few times. But, compare any two radios and one will find a band or a sweet spot where one radio does better than the another. On the whole I find the 909X to perform very well on the telescopic whip.
The power supply of the older 909x units outputs 9 V AC (not DC), so it’s only a simple AC transformer. The AC to DC converter is inside the radio.
From the description of the future 909x model, it looks like it’s going to be all DSP, like the Tecsun PL-880 and other similar Chinese radios. The current 909X model uses DSP only for the AM IF circuitry and for FM.
> “From the description of the future 909x model, it looks like it’s going to be all DSP, like the Tecsun PL-880 and other similar Chinese radios. The current 909X model uses DSP only for the AM IF circuitry and for FM..”
Not quite correct. The PL-880 and ATS-909X are actually very similar up to the point of the Si473x – both feed the FM RF to the DSP’s FM IN (pin 2); both have a traditional analogue MW/SW stage with mixer that feeds the IF to the AM IN (pin 4).
The main differences are the PL-880 does SSB in the DSP while the ATS-909X uses separate U/LSB BFOs (& uses a TA7640 IF processor solely for SSB carrier re-insertion), and the PL-880 does its bandwith filtering in the DSP while the ATS-909X uses traditional crystal filters in the IF stage.
If I had to guess though, if an ATS-909X Mk II was on the cards, it probably _would_ be closer to the PL-880 in design – the Murata filters the current 909X uses in its IF have been discontinued for at least a couple of years, and I haven’t seen the TA7640 or near-equivalents available for a few years.