Looking back at 2020: What radios were in heavy rotation at your home and in the field–?

This morning, I’m looking at the calendar and I see and end in sight for 2020. I think most of us can agree that 2020 will be one for the history books, in large part due to the Covid-19 global pandemic which has had a pretty dramatic affect on many of our lives. It certainly brough my planned travels to a halt. I think many of us are quite happy to show 2020 the door!

As each year comes to a conclusion, I often look back at my radio activities during that year and see how it played out. I especially note the radios I used most heavily throughout the year.

Since I evaluate and test radios, models that are new to the market obviously get a lot of air time. Still, I’m also known to pull radios from the closet and give them some serous air time.

I’m very curious what radios you gave the most air time in 2020?

Here’s my list based on type/application:

Portable shortwave receivers

Since they’re new to the market, both the Tecsun PL-990 (above) and Belka DX (below) got a lot of air time.

I do like both radios and even took the pair on vacation recently even though packing space was very limited. I see the Belka DX getting much more air time in the future because 1.) it’s a performer (golly–just check out 13dka’s review of the Belka DSP) and 2.) it’s incredibly compact. The Belka now lives in my EDC bag, so is with me for impromptu listening and DXing sessions.

A classic solid-state portable that also got a lot of air time this year was the Panasonic RF-B65. Not only is it a performer, but it has a “cool” factor that’s hard to describe. I love it.

Tabletop portables

In a sense, the C.Crane CCradio3 got more play time than any of my radios.  It sits in a corner of our living area where we tune to FM, AM and weather radio–90% of the time, though, it’s either in AUX mode playing audio piped from my SiriusXM receiver, or in Bluetooth mode playing from one of our phones, tables, or computers. In October, the prototype CCRadio Solar took over SiriusXM duty brilliantly. I’m guessing the CCRadio3 has easily logged 1,600 hours of play time this year.

Of course, the Panasonic RF-2200 is one of my all-time favorite vintage solid-state portables, so it got a significant amount of field time.

Software Defined Radios

While at home the WinRadio Excalibur still gets a large portion of my SDR time, both the AirSpy HF+ Discovery and SDRplay RSP DX dominated this space in 2020.

The HF+ Discovery was my choice receiver for portable SDR DXing and the RSPdx when I wanted make wide bandwidth recordings and venture above VHF frequencies.

Home transceivers

Without a doubt the new Mission RGO One 50 watt HF transceiver got the most air time at home and a great deal of field time as well. It’s such a pleasure to use and is a proper performer to boot!

My new-to-me Icom IC-756 Pro, however, has become my always-connected, always-ready-to-pounce home 100W HF transceiver. It now lives above my computer monitor, so within easy reach. Although it’s capable of 100+ watts out, I rarely take it above 10 watts. The 756 Pro has helped me log hundreds of POTA parks and with it, I snagged a “Clean Sweep” and both bonus stations during the annual 13 Colonies event.

Field transceivers

The new Icom IC-705 has become one of my favorite portable transceivers. Not only is it the most full-featured transceiver I’ve ever owned, but it’s also a brillant SWLing broadcast receiver. With built-in audio recording, it’s a fabulous field radio.

Still, the Elecraft KX2 remains my choice field radio for its portability, versatility and incredibly compact size. This year, in particular, I’ve had a blast pairing the KX2 with the super-portable Elecraft AX1 antenna for quick field activations. I’ve posted a few field reports on QRPer.com and also a real-time video of an impromptu POTA activation with this combo:

How about you?

What radios did use use the most this year and why? Did you purchase a new radio this year? Have you ventured into the closet, dusted off a vintage radio and put it on the air?

Please comment!

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39 thoughts on “Looking back at 2020: What radios were in heavy rotation at your home and in the field–?

  1. Tom

    R8600, KX3, CR1a, CCRadio EP Pro, Eton Executive, Skywave SSB, 7600GR. First four used daytime and evenings. Last three used bedside. Need to find the ICF 2010 and Grundig 700 to add to the mix.

    Reply
  2. Tom KI6ASP

    R8600, CR1a and KX3 in use for daytime and evening use. A CCRadio EP Pro for incomparable MW day and night.listening. Eton Executive in heavy use bedside, with a Skywave SSB and Sony 7600GR in rotation.

    Need to find my ICF 2010 and Satellit 700 to include them for daytime and evening dxing.

    Reply
  3. Gregory

    Long time LW NDB, MW DX’er and SWL here.

    My go to bed side radio is Eton E1- currently connected to a 10×20 foot ALA100 amplified loop antenna. I also can connect it to a 300 ft. dipole, I switch between these antenna’s every once in a while.

    I have many radios, however, the E1 (when connected to a external antenna) is perhaps the most sensitive\selective one I own.

    Periodically I switch out my bedside radio’s – so as to give some of my other radios airtime. I remember this year using the following:
    – Panasonic RF 2900, and a RF5000
    – Kenwood R5000
    – Grundig Satellit 650
    – Nordmende Globetraveler 3
    – IIT Schaub Lorenz Touring 103
    – CCRane CCRadio3
    – Hammarlund HQ129X

    2020 saw several purchases of new radio toys here, this, after a long time drought in purchases of new equipment. I expect spending most of my time at home was the reason. These new radios also got airplay as my bedside radio.
    – Radwow R108
    – Tecsun S2000
    – Tecsun H-501
    – AirSpy HF+Discovery & Airspy YouLoop

    The E1 is still my normal bedside radio – about the only one that competes with it in terms of selectivity\sensitivity is the AirSpy which, right now is not ideal (for me) to being a bedside radio. The Airspy has, however, become my always on radio in my office, connected to the YouLoop antenna or one of the better outside antenna’s. I’m still working on making a Airspy server for it. BTW – I’m a IT guy and pretty technical and I must SAY…. The online documentation I’ve come across on how to go about this, get one up and running well is NOT complete and mostly leaves one at a dead-end. I’m still working on it.

    And a very much appreciated THANKS to you folks at swling.com – I enjoy the posts and the knowledge sharing.

    Happy New Year

    Reply
  4. Dustin

    I bought a new eton 750 elite. Its been working out really well. I fixed up my old hro sixty while listening to it and now its going to be a tough decision for next year.

    Reply
  5. Mike S

    Rather unexpectedly my current bedside radio is the Nicetex HDTX2 AM-HD/FM-HD portable (once sold under the SPARC and Audiovox brands at different points). This is (was) the direct competitor to the Sangean HDR-14 but offers better useable sensitivity and MUCH better audio due to the passive radiator arrangement in the cabinet.

    Reply
  6. rob

    I’m mostly an FM listener, with some AM thrown in too. I started off the year with a Sangean PRD4W, but I got a CCrane EP PRO to replace it because it has much much better fm and the sound quality is fanastic! Thinking about ebaying the PRD4W. And, I have used a CCPocket at night for many years.

    I also got a Tecsun PL380, but I hated the sound quality so I replaced it with a PL-310ET. Much better. Love the scanning and memories. Again, mostly for FM/AM – the SW signals are not so strong in Oregon.

    Reply
  7. Andrew Hildreth

    Like others, I didn’t get out this year nearly as much as I like, so I cycled through a bunch in my collection. The Sangean HDR-16 gets lots of love, due to the amount of HD signals in my area. The ICF-2010 has been an excellent go-to around the house, along with the PL-880 and Eton Elite Executive. I’ve also overhauled both the old Realistic DX-360 and Astronaut-8 for some analog listening.

    Reply
  8. Jake Brodsky, AB3A

    My 20 year old YB-400 finally died. The PLL was losing lock and I didn’t think it was worth fixing. It has served its time well. Replacement radio is a Tecsun PL-680. It works nicely on MW (better than the YB-400 ever did) and very nicely on SW when I am outside. Inside, we have so many noisy switching supplies computing and other stuff, that I need to go away from the house to hear anything much. I am also impressed with the battery life. Of course, that’s not hard to do when comparing it with what I had before. I have notions of taking this radio with me on day hikes.

    I also acquired an HF+ Discovery and a YouLoop. When we start traveling again for work, that will be in my go-bag.

    I have also acquired a loop amplifier from N4CY. It is an improved version of LZ1AQ’s design. Instead of using 2N2222 transistors, it uses 2SC5551 transistors. I’m expecting this amplifier to be a strong performer using a Loop on Ground configuration. I had intentions of trying this out temporarily with a very large temporary loop on ground setup to see if I could hear SAQ. Unfortunately, the Christmas broadcast was canceled this year.

    More news to come in the new year.

    Reply
  9. Jason

    I was living in temporary accommodation through most of 2020, and the rented house has shocking RF noise, weak DAB reception and no digital TV reception either

    Tabletop:

    Sangean DPR-45 – exactly the same form factor and buttons as the ccrane radio 3, except with DAB+ added. Since the DAB/FM reception is weak it spent most time listening to locals but it didn’t do anywhere near as much listening as:

    Google home mini (bedroom), Sony LFS50 (home desk), Google home Max (treadmill)
    These Google assistant smart speakers did most my listening and 95%+ of online listening. The house has terrible terrestrial reception but good internet service. While working from home and sleeping at home these 2 receivers did a huge amount of listening work

    Portable receivers

    Sangean PR-D17 (bedroom)
    Sangean H201 (shower)
    Sangean PR-D19 (camping)
    Fortunately we were allowed to go camping in my state of Australia so I did this a number of times in 2020.
    The H201 is fantastic, I’ve had mine in the shower for years only taking it out to change the batteries. I am grateful that every station gets perfect reception in my new home though
    The D17 (yes, I’m vision impaired) did the listening in the mornings when I move from the shower to the bedroom so I didn’t face a huge delay between online and analogue on the same station

    Hand-held/pocket

    Retekess PR11
    Got this from Amazon. It’s so bad it’s good. It’s a terrible receiver even struggling to get powerful AM locals without interference, but there is just something about it, I love it. I used this most of the time walking to the supermarket to get groceries or to buy fast food. Terrible reception, just so bad

    This little red POS was the surprise hit of 2020 for me. I liked the challenge of getting reception everytime I turned it on and it’s shiny red colour looks great

    CCrane Skywave
    The original skywave. This was the radio I used to listen to sports channel SEN when walking to the shops as it has reliable reception in a hand-held, easy to carry form. Still has the same Duracell batteries it’s had for years too

    When going to the football, which only happened a few times in 2020, I tried various cheap receivers (testing for a cheapskate friend) with mixed results but the best was a no name $15 credit card thin radio from ebay. No speaker, headphones only but it got very good am reception in a RF noisy sports stadium with a low noise floor. Built in battery and recharges over usb. Another surprise hit. Ebay AU item number 253744775551

    Reply
    1. Mangosman

      Jason,
      Delays in sound
      The delay in delivery of AM/FM is 3.34 microseconds per km of travel only.
      DAB+ is stored for 550 ms to allow shuffling of data to stop impulse noise causing gaps in reception. The receiver also has to store the received signal for 550 ms to reassemble the data back into its original order. This also happens in DVB-T television but for a longer duration. This is in addition to the 3.34 microseconds/km delay.
      I find it hard to believe that there is no delay difference between analog radio and online and phone aps does not exist. The internet carries sound data as time stamped data blocks. These data blocks do not have to travel on the same path as each other. This varies the delay. When received using Apple Carplay and Android Auto in a moving car, the signal will switch from one mobile phone tower to another as you move from cell to cell. To overcome this the data must be delayed so that the data can be reassembled into the correct order.
      The ABC produces programs in studios all over Australia, this digital audio is fed back to Sydney for distribution in both analog and digital. This also produces delays except for programs originated in Sydney.

      Lastly, all but some local regional programs are sent to the Viewer Accessed Satellite Television (VAST) for distribution to remote receivers including community FM retransmitters and considering the satellites are 36,000 km above New Britain the typical delay is at least 2 x 120 ms plus delays caused by the use of digital encoding/Decoding of the digital signal to and from the satellite.

      The only way that analog radio and online radio can be time coincident, is for the radio station to delay only the analog signal to the average delay experienced by online listeners.

      Reply
  10. Mario

    My Panasonic RF 2200 was my main radio for this year and will always be for the future. Has a lot of nostalgic appeal and is excellent for AM broadcast band DX’ng.

    Reply
  11. Peat

    I’ve spent much time with my ICOM R-75 and MLA-30 loop. I recently moved the antenna from the roof to the attic, and oriented it to its most quiet position, which is N/S for me. It’s changed my listening habits considerably. I used to spend much of my time as a SWL, but I’m getting great nighttime MW reception up and down the east coast, Eastern Canada to Atlanta.

    As far as portables, I spent the summer listening to a lot of ballgames on FM, often with my C Crane 2e and my GE Superadio III. I know I the latter gets a bum rap, but aside from the inaccurate dial my particular GE Superadio III a great performer on FM. Excellent sound quality, great battery life.

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      I gave my father-in-law a Superadio III I found at a thrift store. It was a bit of a beater cosmetically, but mechanically and electrically top shelf. I gave it to him after discovering on FM, it could receive his favorite NPR station with ease from his mountain home. He had a few other radios and none had the sensitivity or stability.

      So I agree–it’s a stellar FM performer.

      Reply
  12. Don

    Looking back on 2020 , my old Yaesu FRG 7700 always still brings a smile to my face. Also about a week ago i found my old Grundig Traveler III that I misplaced a couple years ago.
    Merry Xmas to me !

    Reply
  13. Dennis Howard

    For me, it’s my Yaesu FRG-7, which keeps telling me it wants a better antenna, and my GE Superadio III paired with a Select-A-Tenna.

    A better indoor swling antenna is on my list of winter projects.

    Reply
  14. Chris Mackerell

    None of the above.

    During lockdown here in New Zealand I discovered the wonders of KiwiSDRs. There are some fantastic sites out there – blantant plug for the NZ Radio DX League’s units which you can access for a very reasonable membership fee 🙂 I now run 3 Kiwi’s of my own, but most listening is done using remote units.

    My main receivers used at home base are my Elad DUOr – combines the best of a standalone receiver & SDR, my trusty old Yaesu FRG-100 for computer assisted DRM decoding, and my bedside Sony ICF-6800W. A Grace Digital internet has had fair use connected to the living room hi-fi too.

    Cheers, Chris

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      KiwiSDRs are amazing. I get a thrill out of trying out other listening posts around the world. If I had the Internet connectivity at home, I’d host a KiwiSDr for sure.

      Cheers,
      Thomas

      Reply
  15. Darren

    Out of the few radios I have probley used my XHDATA D-808 the most this year, until I got me a Tecsun PL-880 a couple months ago. Been using that mainly since I got it

    Reply
  16. Peter Wilson

    I have a few portables here in Botswana with me, Tecsun PL-398MP, Tecsun PL-360, XHDATA D-808, Eton Elite Traveler and Eton E5. I also have an old tabletop, Realistic DX-394. All of which have little use as my Airspy HF+ Discovery is so good.

    Peter

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      At home? My SDRs win every time. Well–with the exception of my general coverage transceivers (for SWLing), the BC-348Q and the FRG7! I primarily use portables in the field and while I travel.

      Reply
  17. TomL

    In this difficult year, I have taken my brand new Tecsun PL-660 bought from Anon Co and would sometimes eat the take out dinner in my car while listening to the shortwave portable with the wire out the window. My car radio also works surprisingly well on mediumwave and would tune around to various favorite stations. At home, the Sangean PR-D4W is impressive on AM and FM. Not sure why Sangean has not implemented the AM Auto-Tune feature in any of their other portables, that feature can really dig out some weak signals without any intervention by the user.

    This has been a time too where I have used the AirSpy HF+ with the YouLoop on the noisy porch. I can at least hear WMRI with help from the noise reduction in SDR Console OK, and that is a good thing. The second antenna connector is connected to a small amplified FM dipole also on the porch which allows me to hear my favorite classical music station over the horizon to the west of me.

    Using the SDR with the Loop-on-Ground idea out at a park has been very interesting as well. I am hoping to do more experiments with that combo with or without amplification and different baluns and RF choke. It shows some possibilities of using a shorter length (40 foot circumference instead of 60 feet) and any flat field of grass I can lay it down on which would help with portability. I might have to get a second SDR for 2021! 🙂

    So, not just radios but also antenna ideas too!

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      I’m not surprised that you’ve tried a number of receivers, but also antennas, Tom! And a second SDR for 2021? Why not!?! Go for it! 🙂

      Reply
  18. Rob

    Finally wore out(!) my 2011 PL-660. Keypad and rotary tuning encoder both went. Looked at reviews, including here – thanks!, and bought another PL-660. Wanted a PL-990, but with all the delays this year I went with the tried & true option.

    For bedside & backpacking, it’s the C. Crane Skywave, non-SSB version, recommended in one of the contests a few years back. Light, and it’s easy to operate in the dark.

    For my field transceiver, it’s still the Yaesu FT-817nd. A little antiquated, sure, but it does everything it should and it is, again, the tried & true option. We put in a good showing last Winter Field Day, looking forward to WFD 2021 next month.

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      I’m a massive fan of the PL-660 and original Skywave–two of my favorite portables. And I, too, am rediscovering the FT-817ND on shortwave.

      Reply
  19. Steve Allen

    2020 for me saw the re-addition of an FT-891 to the shack as well as my rekindled love affair with the FT-817ND. While both of these Yaesu favorites are doing duty on the air, I have to say that I have been most impressed with the Belka-DX. I have owned a number of consumer grade SWL receivers over the last 20 years. With the exception of the SDR dongle and RSP series receiver I use, the Belak-DX is hands down my most highly recommended short wave listening receiver. I suspect that as time goes by the price will fall, and that the Chinese will offer their usual low cost knock off.
    Happy New Year to all.
    Steve, KZ4TN

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      You and I both are falling in love with the 817′ again! I think it’s such a cool purpose-built transceiver and has certainly stood the test of time.

      Very curious what you think of the FT-891. IT’s rare to hear any meaningful criticism of it. It is easily the most popular transceiver in Parks On The Air.

      Cheers,
      Thomas

      Reply
  20. NT

    Mostly been listening to my Tecsun PL-660. Reception has been surprisingly good. Had a PL-880 briefly, best sound of any portable I’ve used. Just received the AirSpy HF+ Discovery and hope to squeeze in some 2020 listening in the next few days.

    Reply
  21. 13dka

    Since I’m on a strict [cough] radio diet I bought only two itsy-bitsy tiny radios this year. 🙂

    Of course they got 99% of my attention now because they render most of my other radios obsolete, it’s 23 hours for the 705 and 1 hour (when the weather permits) for the Belka each day. The only exception is the CC Radio 2E I bought last year – it didn’t see much action after the review in June 2019 but this year I used it so much that I almost emptied the first set of batteries I put in last year…because it’s such a great powered speaker for the Belka! (Since you have both you may want to try that – what the CC Radio makes out of the little Belka’s great audio is pure joy!)

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      A radio diet? Yeah, me too, friend! I’m on a “strict” radio diet as well. Hi hi! (Belch!)

      And wow! Thanks for the suggestion about using the CCRadio3’s speaker for the Belka! Double radio power! And that way, you’ve got the AM BC band as well!

      Reply
  22. Bruce Lagergren

    Been thru a Bunch ,sold Grundig SL-350, A few Sony’s different models, Some old ressurected Vintage AM’s and A bunch of Antennas. New to me is a radio shack DX-394B, A Sony ICF-2010 and some older ones that need work. My main problem is being in a brick and metal building on the second floor facing SE. Getting a few Higher end Loops helped alot. Thanks to SWLing and all the great info.

    Reply

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