Matt’s Marathon MediumWave Matchup

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Matt Blaze (WB2SRI), who shares the following guest post:


Matt’s Marathon MediumWave Matchup

by Matt Blaze

Here’s another simultaneous receiver comparison, this time of ten portable medium wave receivers plus the Icom IC-R9500 (as a “reference receiver”). Previously, I used the same antenna for all the comparisons, but since these are portable receivers, I wanted to compare their performance using their built-in antennas. I did two comparisons, both of moderate to weak signals, one in the evening of a DX signal and the other in the daytime of a regional station.

The receivers were the Potomac Instruments FIM-41 (a “field intensity meter”), the Panasonic RF-2200, the Nordmende GlobeTraveler Exec (a beautiful German SW portable from 1968), the Sony ICF-EX5MK2, the CCrane Radio 2E, the Sangean ATS-909X, the Sangean D4W, the new Tecsun PL-990X, the XHDATA D-808, and finally the CountyComm GP5-SSB, plus the Icom IC-R9500.

All the receivers were recorded simultaneously. The radios (except the Icom R9500) were on the roof of my building and oriented for best reception (signal/noise) and kept sufficiently away from each other and other metal objects to avoid interference, The R9500 was in the shack and used a Wellbrook loop on the roof, also oriented for best signal/noise. I took the audio from the Line Out if one was available and from the headphone jack (via a “direct box” level converter) if not. I tried to match the audio levels reasonably closely, but different ACG characteristics made it difficult to be completely consistent across all the receivers throughout the sessions.

As in previous comparisons, for each session I’ve got a narrated stereo mix with the R9500 on the left channel and each receiver, for a minute or so one after the other on the right channel. You definitely want to use headphones to listen to these so you easily tell the left from the right radio. I’ve also provided mono “solo” recordings of each receiver for the full 15 minute-ish sessions so you can hear a receiver you’re interested in in detail.

Sound Devices 688 Multitrack Recorder

The recordings were made with a Sound Devices 688 recorder/mixer (which can record 12 simultaneous channels of audio). The portable radios were hardwired to the recorder, and the 9500 (which was downstairs) was connected via a Lectrosonics digital radio link. (Everything except the R9500 was on battery power to avoid mutual interference and ground loops, etc). The narration used a Coles noise canceling ribbon mic. Everything was done in a single take per session – there was NO postproduction editing – so I apologize for a few glitches and awkward moments.

You can see a “class photo” of the setup below, although the position and orientation of the radios was different during the actual recordings.

KCJJ

The first recording was at night, where we tuned to 1630 KCJJ in Iowa City, IA. This is effectively a 1KW clear channel; other than a few TIS stations, there’s not much else there on the east coast, and the signal is reliably weak to moderate but readable here on the east coast.

Narrated L/R stereo comparison:

Individual solo tracks:

CCrane Radio 2E

Sangean D4W

XHDATA D-808

Sony ICF-EX5MK2

Potomac Instruments FIM-41

CountyComm GP5-SSB

Nordmende GlobeTraveler Exec

Tecsun PL-990X

Icom IC-R9500

Panasonic RF-2200

Sangean ATS-909X


WSVA

The next recording was made during the day, of WSVA, a regional station in Harrisonburg, VA running 5KW in the daytime. Their signal is also reliably weak-moderate but readable here.

Narrated L/R stereo comparison:

Individual solo tracks (receiver should be obvious from the file name):

CCrane Radio 2E

Sangean D4W

XHDATA D-808

Sony ICF-EX5MK2

Potomac Instruments FIM-41

CountyComm GP5-SSB

Nordmende GlobeTraveler Exec

Tecsun PL-990X

Icom IC-R9500

Panasonic RF-2200

Sangean ATS-909X

Hope your readers find it useful!

-matt


An absolutely amazing job again, Matt! Thank you so much for taking the time to put this comparison together and sharing it here on the SWLing Post.  

Click here to check out all of Matt’s receiver audio comparisons.

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12 thoughts on “Matt’s Marathon MediumWave Matchup

  1. Pingback: Matt’s Monster Mediumwave Radio Selectivity Shootout! | The SWLing Post

  2. TomL

    And the real winner is – the Wellbrook antenna! Too bad the radios could not all be hooked up to the same antenna at the same time. But a very useful test based on each radio’s internal ferrite antenna. Can really hear the difference between all these portables. Helps me know I had made a good decision when I bought the Sangean PR-4DW. Thanks for taking all the time to do this!

    Reply
  3. Ward

    Having listened to the left/right comparison and then the individual tracks. I have to say that the Sangean PR-D4 seems to have the best sound and less interference than any of the other portable radios, accept the Panasonic 22000 and the fim-41. I find this comparison very helpful and great fun, thank you Mr. Blaze.

    Reply
  4. North*Star

    Interesting report.
    I have long been interested in having a high performing (sensitivity and selectivity wise) portable MW receiver.
    And I have a couple of the tested models — the RF-2200 (fully restored), a Crane , and an Icom 8500 (predecessor of the 9500). But each seems to be lacking in one aspect or another.

    Do you plan to set up an overall rating exhibit to show which unit was the “winner”
    For someone in the market to purchase a high performance MW receiver, that would be very helpful — especially since most of the tested receivers go for $200 or more (delivered, inc tax)..

    Thank you

    Reply
  5. Mike bennett

    …hello! …..Mr. Matt, I purchased a Nordmende Galaxy 7000 in 1972, and its reception was not very pleasing, but the audio was OK! From Detroit, I could pick up 1010 CFRB ( Toronto), WLS, WBBM ( night time), but overall it’s sensitivity/selectivity was not fantastic! How would this radio fare against those in your tests and against modern radios!?

    Reply
  6. Pete

    Thanks for the thorough comparison, Matt! I own a couple of these radios (C Crane 2E, Sangean D4W) and is nice to see how they compare to others. Listening to the results, it amazes me how similar reception is for many of these radios. The ICOM really shines here on the loop, but the rest are really split. Surprisingly, the difference between the top performers is quite negligible, while a few are clearly disappointing.

    I’m sure testing was a painstaking process. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  7. Mangosman

    Matt,
    A great idea. For those who are unfamiliar with your area, it would be great if you could add the average field strength as measured by Protomac field strength meter.
    There is a free program called “Hey Whats my path” which can calculate the shortest distance between two points on the earth which will give you the distance in km and mi. It will also give an elevation as well so you can see if there is any blocking terrain.

    Reply
    1. Matt Blaze

      WSVA 550 is about 170 microvolts/meter here, fluctuating +/- 10, with a daytime noise floor of about 30 microvolts/meter.

      KCJJ 1630 (at night) fluctuated between about 70 and 190 or so.

      Reply
  8. Matt Blaze

    The biggest disappointment was the PL990X, which does very poorly on the ferrite antenna, particularly with respect to off-axis noise. It is a much better performer on MW (and SW) with an external antenna (as I found in a previous comparison), so the weakness appears to be limited to that part of the circuit (although it’s also susceptible to intermod).

    Reply
    1. Lennart Benschop

      So this is a really interesting post. On the topmost picture, right behind the multitrack recorder, I see another radio that did not take part in the test. Which one is this? Many of the older analog sets won’t cover all the way up to 1700, but I guess 1630 is still within reach for all of them.

      Reply

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