Using the new Xiegu GSOC and G90 transceiver combo for shortwave broadcast listening–?

Listening to Radio Prague via WRMI with the Xiegu GSOC

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Tim R, who writes:

Dear Thomas,

First of all thank you so much for the all of the energy you put into the SWLing Post. When crazy things are happening in the world it’s a very welcome sanctuary! Sending you some coffee money.

I plan to become a ham radio operator next year. Bought the book last week and once I finish a large project for work, I’m on it. Of course, the Tech license will only give me limited exposure to HF, but I’m already plotting an HF radio purchase because I can’t WAIT do do some SWLing with it. Up to this point, I’ve only owned portable radios and never really have used external antennas other than some cheap wire.

My question…

I’ve been considering grabbing a Xiegu G90 because it seems to be a nice comprehensive beginner’s HF rig and is very affordable. I read your review and understand your caveat that there’s no way to completely disengage the transmit so that it can’t be accidently hit if connected to an RX only antenna. I’m not worried about that because I’m going to hang a G5RV wire antenna and use it both for TX and RX. No problem if RF is accidently sent through it.

Of course, there’s a lot of buzz in the Xiegu community about the new GSOC controller. I had not planned to exceed $600 for my radio purchase, but I love the idea of the controller. But when I add $550 for the controller and $450 for the radio, all the sudden I’m at $1,000.

After some deep soul-searching (and let’s be frank here, a blessing from my wife and CFO) I’ve decided to raise my budget to $1,000.

All of this to ask, if you had $1,000, would you buy the G90 and GSOC controller, or would you get something else keeping in mind I want to use this as much for shortwave listening as for future ham radio work?

Any advice would be appreciated.

-Tim

Thanks for your question, Tim! And thanks for giving me a complete picture of your budget/radio requirements and the antenna you plan to use.

I’ll try to answer your question here, but understand this is more what I would do if I were in your shoes. This is a pretty simple question, but not simple to answer because there are so many options on the market.

Xiegu GSOC and G90 combo option

Keeping in mind, I feel like the GSOC is a work in progress at the moment and not fully developed–check out my initial review. Once the next firmware update is available it could certainly solve a number of small issues I found with the unit. It works, but it’s not a refined product yet.

It’s ironic, actually. When I received your message this morning, Tim, I was SWLing with the GSOC and G90–listening to Radio Prague on WRMI. In the end, though, the GSOC is primarily an enhanced interface for the G90. While it does add some extra functionality (and should, over time, add much more) it doesn’t really change the performance characteristics of the G90. I’d check out my G90 review for more info about performance.

Would I purchase the G90/GSOC combo if I were in your shoes? Again, it’s early days, so I don’t feel comfortable making a recommendation call yet. The G90 is, without question, a great value at $450 (often even less) investment. I like it primarily as a field radio, though, and once you add the GSOC to the mix, it’s a little less portable because it’s two units with quite a few interconnect cables. Of course, you can swap the GSOC unit for the G90 control head at any time, but that involves attaching and re-attaching the control head each time (there’s no accessible serial port on the back of the G90, for example)

If you’re a huge fan of the G90, the GSOC should eventually be a worthy addition. At present, for your use as a new ham and for SWLing, I’d perhaps consider other options too.

The Icom IC-7300

The Icom IC-7300 SDR transceiver

Since you’ve raised your budget to $1,000, I’d consider adding the Icom IC-7300 to your list. At present, via Universal Radio you can buy a new IC-7300 for a net price of $1039.95 after rebates. Sometimes, the price will go even lower although during the C-19 pandemic, I think that’s less likely to happen since supplies are lower than normal for many items.

The IC-7300 has better performance specs than the G90 and can output a full 100 watts if you like. The display is touch sensitive rather than capacitive like the GSOC. The display is also much smaller than that of the GSOC. The IC-7300 has a lower noise floor than the G90.

I think the IC-7300 is a great radio for SWLing, but the audio for broadcasts is sort of “flat.” You might check out this post where we did some audio comparisons. It does have native broadcast recording to an SD card, which I love. The GSOC should be adding this soon, too.

I would include the new Icom IC-705 as a recommendation here, too, but it’s $300 over your budget.

A PC-connected SDR and separate transceiver

 

This might be the option I’d take if I were in your shoes.

Get the 20 watt Xiegu G90 ($450) as planned or consider a radio like the 100 watt  Yaesu FT-891 ($640), Both of these radios are general coverage and would serve you well for SWLing and ham radio activities. I’d personally invest the bit extra and get the FT-891 since it would also give you 100 watts output and even has advanced features like memory keying.

We actually mentioned both radios in a similar post this year.

If you buy the pricier Yaesu FT-891, you’d still have $360 to invest in your shack!

I’d then buy an Airspy HF+ Discovery ($170–my review here) or SDRplay RSPdx ($200–my review here) and get all of the benefits of a PC-connected SDR.

These SDRs would take your SWLing to the next level. They have uncompromised performance for the price.

Both companies continuously improve their products/applications based on customer feedback. Indeed, check out some of our recent posts about SDR# free upgrades. Mind blowing stuff–!!!

You could even use the SDR as a panadapter for your transceiver which would give you the ability to have a full-screen spectrum display on an external monitor at home.

More options?

Of course, these answers only scratch the surface. I haven’t even included used, late model gear in these recommendations.

I’d like to give you a firm recommendation about the GSOC and G90 combo, but I’m waiting to see how this next firmware upgrade goes–early days still.

Post readers: Please comment if you have even more options/suggestions for Tim. What works for you within a $1,000 budget.

Spread the radio love

7 thoughts on “Using the new Xiegu GSOC and G90 transceiver combo for shortwave broadcast listening–?

  1. CW

    I concur with most of what has been said above. With a budget of 1500USD, I would not buy a G90.
    If portability is not a priority, then I’d consider the following:

    1) Kenwood TS590S or SG
    2) Icom IC-7300
    3) Yaesu FTdx3000
    4) Perhaps the new Yaesu FTdx10

    If portability is a consideration:
    1) Elecraft KX3
    2) Lab599 TX500
    3) Yaesu FT-891

    Lower budget
    1) Xiegu G90 – portability
    2) Yaesu FT450D – proven
    3) ICOM IC-718 – proven

    Shack-in-a-box
    1) Icom IC-7100
    2) Yaesu FT991a

    Save money for antenni, top quality coax, remote ATU, travel etc
    Most transmitters are more or less the same (for the same power output), the main differentiator is receive capability, noise reduction, selectivity, user interface, build quality etc

    Reply
  2. Mark O'Byrnes

    Advise to a new ham, get a 100 watt radio, it makes all the difference, the FT-891 has a better receiver than the 7300 and G90 and doesn’t overload and suffer from bleed over say on a busy 80M band at night as much as the G90 and 7300.

    The 891 deals with QRM better.

    Via headphones the 891 has great analogue sound that is a pleasure to listen to which makes great to listen to LW/MW/SW the G90 and especially the 7300 has a harshness to the audio that’s fatiguing needing NR where I can get away with no NR on the 891. The 7300 also cuts a lot of the lower frequencies and playing with the RX EQ makes the audio worse.

    891 and 7300 have TX EQ G90 doesn’t, the 7300 has the best on air sound with stock mic, the 891 next and the G90 TX audio is poor with stock mic. The G90 also has no form of NR. Many People have said my audio isn’t great with the G90 and I believe them It’s a known issue. No one ever complained about the 891 and 7300, the 891 has 2 Mic EQ settings, setting 1 and 2 are on the mic, very convenient.

    With the FT-891 For Digital I use the XGGCOMMS interface but this needs to be added to the cost, the 7300 has built in sound card, the G90 also has no sound card.

    Icom cut the lower frequencies from the audio as a result you have to play with the EQ to listen to LW/MW/SW but it still can’t match the 891 audio.

    Best would be get cheapest radio you can get and save up for the Expert Electronics SUN SDR 2 DX 100 Watt sdr, has great remote capability and it even works on linux 🙂 Once you have the large waterfall on a big screen it would be hard to go back to a small ic-7300 screen. I installed the PTRX-7300 panadapter in the 7300 and use the Airspy HF+ and listen to the audio only through the Airspy now, it’s a lot better but it’s an expensive setup I already had the Airspy though.

    The TS-590 SG is another option but this has a built in panadapter and really great receiver, great filters, good audio etc and built in panadapter so you can add your own sdr and have a proper waterfall on a big screen and you also have the benefits of a traditional transceiver design that’s really nice to use.

    I regret not knowing about the TS-590 SG panadapter when I got the 7300 but I got the 7300 for remote operation when I was working night shifts, great when it worked but the software is poor and never updated, this is where the SUN sdr would really be sweet, even just to log into remotely for listening around the bands.

    I use the myantennas.com EFHW 8010 and it works on all bands 80/40/30/20/17/15/12/10m without a tuner and no radials needed with the 49:1 UNUN. I get great DX and good NVIS on this antenna very very impressed with it.

    Ham radio is so much fun, so much to do, I love it since I got my license in May 2019.

    Reply
  3. Chris

    I would think hard before dropping all your funds into just the radio.
    Where will you put your antenna?
    What kind of antenna?
    What do you want in your radio?
    Do you want an all mode rig? Meaning HF/VHF/UHF
    Will that radio have meters?
    What will you use to talk into the radio?
    Will that radio have an auto-tuner?

    When you think about all that , you probably won’ t want to sink all your money into a paperweight .
    That’s what you will have without an antenna, a feedline, a meter or tuner. to actually use the radio.
    I would look at a used radio as a first investment.If your interest drops off , you didn’t lose a thousand bucks on a radio you can’t sell for that price.
    You can’t receive , let alone transmit without an antenna.
    You have to attach it to the radio by some sort of feedline.
    Coax can be expensive .Open wire ladderline not so much but will require an external tuner and a meter.
    You can buy new cheap gear or you could buy quality used gear.
    Same for the radio.
    If you have a tech license and want to use the radio right now, you’re limited to 10m ssb phone and cw on other bands.
    You can find a used Icom706 that gives you at least 2m along with HF. Yaesu FT 897 gives you all three HF, 2m,70cm plus 6 m.The Yaesu FT 818 gives you the same but at reduced rf output

    If you just go HF only , a lot of radios are out there. Lots if them to choose from from reputable dealers across the country
    I chose my radios carefully with my situation going with a used Kenwood TS430 and a new on sale Alinco dualband HT.
    Since then I expanded but that first radio sure did get me a lot of countries.

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      Hi, Chris,

      Good points here. I actually trimmed some of his message per his request so it probably wasn’t clear. The $1,000 is set aside for the transceiver. I think he said he has an additional $400 or $450 for other items like feed line, power supply, etc.

      -Thomas

      Reply
  4. Andrew

    Tim, I believe that the suggestion of the IC-7300 is a good one (I wonder why nobody considered the Kenwood TS-590) and I think that you won’t be wrong with it and it will serve you well, then, at a later time, you may always expand your shack adding an SDR or a separate receiver (the latter may even be a used one, like an IC-R-75 or an FRG-7 :D), what I’d like to focus on, instead, is the antenna

    You wrote you’re planning to setup a G5RV, now it’s a good antenna if properly set up, and that’s a BIG IF, while it’s true for most antennas, when it comes to the G5RV a correct installation is critical, so I sugggest you to read this writing https://www.w8ji.com/g5rv_facts.htm which explains the DO’s and DON’Ts related to the G5RV

    That said, I don’t know your QTH conditions/location, the available space and the RF environment, but I’d suggest you to also evaluate the OCF dipole and the SkyLoop antennas, both of them will give you multiband operations and will be less “picky” about installation, so they may be worth considering; if you’ll go for an OCF and you’re going to buy it instead of building it, have a look at the “Aerial-51 Model 807-HD”

    http://www.spiderbeam.us/product_info.php?info=p276_Aerial-51%20Model%20807-HD%20%20%20***%20NEW%20***.html&XTCsid=4d58c36848839fa597a7c11eed896596

    the antenna and balun design are from DJ0IP (see https://www.dj0ip.de/) and he invested quite a lot of time in researching and optimizing OCF antennas 😉

    Also, I don’t know how quiet (from the RF standpoint) your location is, but another thing you may consider, whatever antenna you’ll set up, is putting up a receive only antenna; the latter could be a passive loop or an active one, in the first case, KK5JY (http://www.kk5jy.net/) has some good passive loop designs, alternatively LZ1AQ (http://www.lz1aq.signacor.com/) both offers schematics or complete and assembled preamplifiers which work very well with loop antennas and will serve you well on both the Ham bands and for SWLing

    Last, but not least important, ensure to properly ground your antennas and shack, for a quick “drive through”, have a look here https://www.w8ji.com/station_ground.htm and also ensure you properly deal with the NASTY common mode currents, read this https://www.dj0ip.de/rf-cmc-chokes/ for informations

    I was probably too verbose, forgive me, but I believe that the 80% of a good station is the antenna, and that’s often overlooked, so I wanted help you avoiding such a pitfall; all in all, pushing 1KW onto a screwdriver won’t give you the same results as pushing 10W onto a good antenna 😀 and also remember that, when it comes to antennas the “reciprocity law” doesn’t work, that is, a good transmitting antenna isn’t necessarily a good receiving one and vice-versa ;-D

    Reply
  5. GARY

    If you really would prefer to keep your spending under $500, then the G90 is a good choice without the GSOC. Instead of a GSOC use the G90 with a PC, which I assume that you have. Add a stereo input $30 USB sound card to your PC and connect the sound card’s input to the G90’s IQ output. Then run the free PC app ‘HDSDR’ to have a full screen panorama display of the full 50 or 100 KHZ spectrum that your G90 is tuned to. Then you can either tune around via the G90 tuning control or tune any where in the HDSDR displayed spectrum using your PC’s mouse. HDSDR can be fully synchronized with the G90 for tuning and a few other settings. I find the HDSDR app has many features to enhance the reception beyond what the G90 offers. This also offers a form of dual receivers .. in that the G90 is tuning to one signal and you can use HDSDR to tune any other signal on the PC’s spectrum display within plus or minus about 50 KHZ of where the G90 is tuned. its a very nice and useful set up.

    But if the $1000 is burning a hole in your pocket (!) .. you can’t go wrong with the ICOM IC7300.

    I’ve had a G90 for a year as my secondary rig. My primary rig is my Yaesu FT450D. THe G90 gets the most usage!

    Good Luck

    KE8WO

    Reply
  6. Rick KK2DX

    For a $1,000 budget, RUN to your favorite dealer and get the IC-7300.

    This is a no-brainer IMHO. I have both the G90 and the 7300 and they are worlds apart quality-wise. The 7300 is a high quality finished product and the G90 is a really cool toy that might leave you with nothing for a bit when you find out that the “QC” person was rushing to get another pallet into the shipping container. As for the GSOC….there’s a LOT of folks trying to get their $ back right now. I didn’t pull the trigger on that one so you’ll have to do a quick search to get the first-person details. The GSOC group https://XieguG90.groups.io/g/GSOC is pretty informative right now. Ham Radio Crash Course has been on the case as well.

    Thomas’ other options are quite valid and I’d add a low cost one as well…My old ICOM IC-718 (not for sale) is probably worth $350…max. I’ use it happily with Ham Radio Deluxe, $80 (They send you a discount code 3 days before the 30 day trial runs out so wait for that before buying). Get a used antenna tuner, you’ll need one with the G5RV for $100-125 and you’re out for a few dollars more than the G90 with something that will work forever and be a great backup/SWL rig long into the future.

    If you don’t already have a G5RV, consider Kerry WA2NAN’s product. I have one and it’s stout, works well and the seller is a pleasure to work with.

    I’ve got no financial interest in any of the above, just a bit of experience with the stuff I mentioned.
    73 and Good DX
    Rick KK2DX

    Reply

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