Stephan notes a few issues with his first production run Sangean ATS-909X2

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Stefan, who recently shared two descriptive comments about issues his new Sangean ATS-909X2 is exhibiting. I’ve edited both comments together below:

I purchased [my Sangean ATS-909X2] from Sangean Europe and I am totally disappointed. I know that my radio is from the first production batch and I really hope that Sangean will address the following issues:

1. When I switch from FM to MW/LW/SW, I lose reception completely on these bands. However, FM works as expected, regardless from which band I switch back to it. To restore reception on the affected bands, I have to turn off the radio for a few seconds.

[Stefan then provided the following update:] Note [in this audio clip example the] first time I had to restart the radio two times to restore reception.

2. Lots of tones across all the bands, except FM. In fact, every receivable station has at least a minor tone. I can’t judge if these tones are interferences coming from internal components, such as the display, or there are oscillators related. If you are interested I can record some audio samples. Video is not possible because I’m visually impaired.

[Stefan shared the following update:] I am pretty confident to say that most tones across the bands are not generated by internal components. There are some birdies here and there, especially when I touch the screen, but these are acceptable. I suspect that it is something wrong with signal demodulation. I can get that tone even on strong local stations, while the sensitivity is set to minimum.

[…]The environment where I made these recordings is very noisy, but I tried the radio outside and, even if reception is much better, that tone on the affected bands is always present.

Below [is an audio sample] demonstrating that annoying tone on MW (LW, SW and air band are also affected):

3. The following one is not so important: The upper part of the LW is totally deaf. I can’t receive anything above 300 kHz. Tried some non-directional beacons from the nearest airport, but no luck. I also tried to induce some interference from my mobile phone, but I can’t generate any noise. Very interesting…

4. Frequency calibration is off by 2 kHz. For example a station on 540 kHz sounds centered at 542.

5. I noticed a huge sensitivity drop on MW/LW (SW not tested yet) when the batteries reach the half of their capacity. I suspected that it was bad propagation, but tested this with another radio I have and turns out I was wrong. When batteries are full, the sensitivity is ok. When the batteries are a bit discharged, sensitivity on MW/LW begins to drop. I can admit that the sensitivity is correlated with battery voltage, but on this radio the dropping curve is unusually aggressive.

That’s all for now. This is not a review. These are my first personal observations on the new ATS 909×2. I think I should return the radio for a product exchange and try another unit after a few months or maybe even for a refund, I still have not decided yet.

Thanks so much, Stefan, for taking the time to share these notes with us.

I’ll admit that this is discouraging if these issues are present in all of the ATS-909X2 units from this production run. Your points 1 and 2 are big ones. I would not enjoy hearing those het-like tones in my received audio. It sounds like it’s ever-present in AM mode regardless of frequency. The drop-off in sensitivity when toggling FM? That’s also unacceptable. These bugs should have been discovered and addressed during Alpha/Beta testing which leads me to believe it could very well be an issue with the first production run (and lack of QC check before shipping).

Issue number 5 on your list is actually a criticism of the original ATS-909X as well.

Please keep us informed, Stefan, and thanks again. I know our contributor, Dan, has an ATS-909X2 on order in North America and I’m sure we’ll hear from him once he receives his unit.

Any other ATS-909X2 owners out there? Please feel free to comment.

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24 thoughts on “Stephan notes a few issues with his first production run Sangean ATS-909X2

  1. mark

    I received an email form one of the Sangean sales managers who is going to pass on my feedback on the 909 x2 so we will see if they fix some issues. So if this update can be posted on the main page ?

    He did confirm that he expects an “improved production run around the end of March” And I will be sure to receive a replacement.

    The issues I noticed are,

    1: internally generated noise on the Telescopic antenna more pronounced below 7 Mhz

    2 : audio volume a little low on SSB via headphones.

    3: Pressing Bandwidth on SSB does nothing.

    Other than that it’s a superb receiver, no overloading at all noticed even with the myantennas.com EFHW-8010 which is 134 feet long. MY IC-7300 overloads when conditions are tough and requires me to turn down the gain, don’t have to do this on the 909 x2, how’s that possible on a 325 Euro radio ? the 990x overloads sometimes and I can hear RTTY and CW come through on some parts of the SW commercial bands. Using the antenna gain switch helps but at the expense of some signal.

    Best of all is that super clear sound especially on SSB, Using ECSS is fantastic and it even beats my trusty Tecsun PL-680 using ECSS because the Tecsun has some soft muting, it’s not bad but it can be an issue when the signal gets low enough to activate the soft mute but it’s still a very fine receiver especially for the money, if someone doesn’t want to spend the money on the 909 x2 or PL-990x then the PL-680 is a great radio and sounds a lot better than the 990x on SSB.

    AM sound quality is fantastic compared to the old 909x due to the different filter options, the old 909x had 2 filter settings and they were far too narrow making the audio very muddy but the 909 x2 sounds fantastic.

    I think those coming from a Tecsun PL-880, 990x or S-8800 would be blown away with the quality of the Audio on SSB, those serious DX’ers who use ECSS will also be blown away with the quality of audio using ECSS something extremely difficult on the 880 and 990x because the audio just never sounds right and has lost most of the quality.

    The 880, 990x and S_8800 have a tight 3 Khz filter the 909 x2 filter is a lot wider so some QRM can be noticeable on a crowded band but the tighter filtering on the Tecsun radios is not really worth much because the audio is so poor.

    We will see if Sangean make the bandwidth setting work on SSB, probably just a matter of firmware because you can change it in AM so there should be no reason why it can’t be done on SSB.

    But I am very very impressed with the Sangean so far, I love the audio and it even sounds a lot better than my IC-7300, quieter receiver too and that’s saying a hell of a lot for the sangean. In fact, via headphones I could say that the 909 x2 sounds more like my Yaesu FT-891 which has an amazing receiver with a super low noise floor and great audio.

    Reply
    1. Mark

      I have the 909 x2 see my youtube channel here.

      https://www.youtube.com/user/o00scorpion00o/videos

      My Firmware version is 0.70

      Issues I notice, at lower frequencies using the telescopic antenna on Battery there’s some internally generated noise which gets worse if you put your hand over the screen, this goes away with external DC supply and it’s much less noticeable above around 9 Mhz + on battery.

      Reception is stronger on external DC supply.

      SSB bandwidth does not change when you press the bandwidth button.

      Improvements over the 909x

      AM sound quality is much improved.

      10 Hz tuning.

      sensitivity on telescopic antenna is greatly improved.

      ******Compared to the Tecsun PL-990x******

      The 909 X2 Sound quality on SSB is much better than the 990x , lovely clear audio, no distortion but as a consequence of no bandwidth options on the ham bands, QRM can become an issue on a crowded band, this is one area the 990 x actually wins except that the filter isn’t of much use because the sound quality on the 990x on SSB is really poor.

      The 4 Khz filter does not work on the 990x, 880 or S-8800 and it’s incredible Tecsun never fixed this, it does nothing for audio quality, in fact, the really cheap Degen DE-1103 sounds better on SSB due to it’s wider filter choice but it still has some of that DSP related distortion.

      The Sangean 909 X2 really shines using ECSS, it has no noticeable soft muting with really weak signals, check out my video in the link above listening to Rádio Clube do Pará last night, QTH Ireland. I even included a short clip using ECSS on the ic-7300 to compare.

      One of my favorite radios for ECSS is the Tecsun PL-680 but it has some soft muting which can effect readability on some very weak signals, the ATS-909 X2 is a real DX’er’s delight because ECSS works so good. Who needs SYNC ? 🙂

      One other note is that LW performance on the 909 x2 with external antenna greatly improves and doesn’t overload like the 990x which is very bad on LW with external antenna. MW performance on the 990x is excellent with external antenna, there is some overload on the 990x.

      On SW on some ham bands I can hear RTTY and CW come through on 20m voice part of the band and some commercial bands with external antenna on the Tecsun PL-990x, using the Antenna switch helps but no observable overload on the 909 X 2 on SW.

      I emailed Sangean to see if these issues can be fixed. Hopefully they will fix the noise on the telescopic antenna, I mostly use the wonderful Bonito MA-305 so it’s not a hug deal for me but mostly I would like the bandwidth options on SSB.

      Will I be keeping the 990x ? not a chance. As soon as I finish making videos it’s gone.

      Reply
  2. Joe Average

    I have a question maybe you folks will be able to help with. I have a Radio Shack version of the ATS-505. It is the RADIO SHACK 2000629.

    It runs the batteries dead even if the radio is off. There is a green SSB/Tuning light that is on even if the radio is off. Can you help me?

    I bought this radio before I knew who Sangean was. Mine is a ~2014 or so. I like the radio, but I want to be able to use it on batteries.

    Reply
    1. Chris C

      I have a 200629 and it never does that. I would suggest resetting your radio. Pull the AC adaptor plug (if you’re using one), and pull out one of the batteries, and let it sit for 15 minutes or so. Then repower the radio. The radio has a microprocessor inside, and it’s possible that it glitched.

      Reply
  3. stefan

    Hi all!

    I am happy to tel you that I was contacted by an after sales and product manager from Sangean. This is not an answer to my first feet-back sent to service@sangean.eu, but it doesn’t matter. Anyway, is good to know that Sangean is really interested to make their products better. I was surprised that they gathered the information about my radio from the sw-ling blog. Many thanks to Thomas for making my case visible!
    I was asked to provide my radio’s serial number for further investigations. If the ATS 909×2 can be improved by the engineers, my radio will be replaced. Of course, if I find that only my radio is faulty from the first production run, than I will request a product exchange.
    On the other hand, I found an interesting fact regarding the sensitivity drop when switching bands from FM. Sensitivity can disappear also if an interference is created by an electronic device. I discovered this by mistake. Someone called me on my mobile phone while I was listening to a station on longwave and the sensitivity disappeared instantly. Than I conducted some experiments with other electronic devices and I discovered that the sensitivity disappears when the radio is close to a wifi router, to a mobile phone or to a computer. So this behavior is not necessary a result of a firmware bug. I know that the Xhdata D-808 pops when switching bands. If a strong interference is created inside the radio when I go from FM to another band, it means that we found a possible source of this issue. Might be that this radio has some safety circuit to avoid damages, caused by lightnings and other electrical discharges. That circuit acts as a breaker and is a very good idea, but is just too sensitive. I will inform Sangean about this finding.
    Even my device will be exchanged, I want to know as much as possible about this particular unit. A full report will be created and sent to Sangean.
    Shortwave evaluation coming soon.

    Reply
  4. Mark

    I should have my 909 X2 by Friday, the old 909x sounded so much better than the PL-880/990x and the S-8800 because it was free from the distortion and horrible sound on SSB but for me audio volume was too low via headphones making weak DX difficult to hear and the AM filter was far too narrow, the sound was muddy.

    I emailed Sangean to see if the new 909x 2 could work on LW/MW via external antenna socket and sadly it can’t but if I decide to keep it if it’s good enough I might mod it, I’m going to do this soon to the PL-680.

    The PL-990x works on LW/MW via external antenna but LW overloads badly, MW greatly improves but with some overload but the issues on SSB really make the 990x very overpriced, as soon as I’m finished making videos with mine I’ll be selling it. Just hope the 909x 2 is good. I returned the 909x to Amazon.

    Reply
    1. stefan

      Just a few words regarding my experience with Tecsun radios

      Last year I tried three Tecsun pl 880 units and the new pl-990x. All four radios had two issues on medium wave:
      1. On 540 kHZ there was a clearly audible tone, mixed with a signal from Kosuth Radio, Budapest, Hungary. I tried the radios in different locations with the same result. Only these Tecsun Radios sounded bad on that particular frequency, my Tecsun pl-398 can receive that station without being mixed with any tone. I can receive clearly that station on other radios, including Sangean pr-d4, Panasonic RF-3500/g500, Sangean vocal 170/pr-d17. An older recording is here:

      https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HpKCgCSHhgqvCB9borHEEU74RC3d90UO/view?usp=sharing

      Hear the same tone here, at 03:55:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cZOq239Hd4&t=182s

      2. The upper part of the medium wave was much less sensitive on these four radios, compared with a much cheaper pl-398. Above 1200 kHZ, the difference was huge. Unfortunately, I don’t have any recordings for demonstration. On the contrary, the pl-398 is almost deaf on long wave.
      I was surprised that nobody mentioned these issues, but is not easy to notice them. For example, you will never hear the tone on 540, unless there is at least a faint signal on that frequency.

      Reply
  5. DanH

    I hope that Stephan’s experience with the Sangean ATS-909X2 from Sangean Europe improves soon. It’s good to see that some people are beginning to receive these radios.

    I have a 909X2 on pre-order from Amazon.com. This is a production line model and not a promotional radio. My Visa card took the hit with discounts and pricing available to all customers on the order date. My latest estimated delivery date is February 9 – 12, 2021. This 909X2 will be distributed to both Amazon and HRO by Sangean America, Inc. As of last week my unimpeachable source tells me that the 909X2 is expected to arrive at these two retailers by January 31.

    One of my hobbies is making SWL and DX videos at YouTube channel Willow Slough DX https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBS1S1WX1DkCp037ZWfLzvA/videos. I have two 909Xs (one built in 2014 and the other in October of 2019) and both work flawlessly. I want to feature the new 909X2 videos after becoming familiar with the radio. Incidentally, the only significant differences in my two 909Xs are improvements made to the power supply in the newer radio.

    I’ll keep in touch as the 909X2 saga continues.

    Reply
      1. DanH

        LOL! No, I didn’t bite on that offer. As mentioned above I pre-ordered the 909X2 from Amazon.com, not one of the third party vendors that also list on Amazon.

        Reply
  6. Andreja

    Oh, wow, it’s quite disappointing to hear this!
    I actually just came back from a walk to a nearby park, where I was trying out the radio. My own 909X2 is much different in its performance. It’s the “black” version, the date code is 2020/10, and version number is 070.

    I don’t get any reception loss when switching bands, and I never had to turn the radio off, and turn it on again, for reception to re-appear.

    I’m not 100% sure what to say about the tone issue you mentioned. I definitely don’t hear the tones as clearly as you do on your recordings, but I did hear a persistent tone around when I was listening to a wide bandwidth around 3700 kHz in LSB. On the broadcast bands, it’s possible to hear tones sometimes, but I always assumes that they’re carriers of adjacent stations, since the tones only appear with the widest bandwidth, and go away when I select a narrower filter.

    I also had a quite different experience on the long-wave band: I had no problems picking up a number of NDBs above 300 kHz!

    As far as the frequency calibration is concerned, I tested my unit using RWM, on 4996 9996 kHz, and my radio was off by some 80 Hz, so I was a bit dissatisfied, since there’s no easy way to adjust the calibration. I did have the same issue with my ATS-505, but I got the service manual for it, after contacting the Sangean America. Even if Sangean does share service manuals for 909X3, that’s still more complicated than the menu solution Tecsuns have.

    I can’t say anything about the battery levels. I was trying out the “smart” charger on the radio, and was regularly recharging my batteries, so I still haven’t run my radio with batteries half empty.

    As far as unexpected behavior goes, I did manage to accidentallyenter into 100 kHz step mode on the SW band, and got out of it by accident. Perhaps I’m not reading the manual properly, but I don’t remember seeing anything about that step size in it.

    Perhaps it would be good to contact Sangean and see what they can do/say about the issues?

    Reply
    1. DanH

      Andreja, I have an advance copy of the ATS-909X2 user manual GB v.1. “Setting the Tuning Step” appears on page 9:

      “Finally, the ATS-909X2 also features a quick tuning feature. This feature can be used by pressing and holding the Enter button (30) while simultaneously rotating the Rotary Tuning knob (16). Quick tuning allows for even larger frequency steps, but it can only be used on the AIR, FM and SW bands.”

      A table (also on page 9) lists the available tuning steps for AIR, FM, LW, MW, and SW. The tuning steps for SW are: zero (stop), 5 kHz, 1 kHz, and 100 kHz (Quick Tuning).

      Happy listening!

      Reply
      1. Andreja

        Hi! Thanks for pointing that out, I did miss the description, when I looked at that page.

        When I press and hold enter, and turn the tuning knob, I do indeed get the 100 kHz step, but what I got yesterday was a bit different: I would only get the 100 kHz step in the SW band, and not the rest (and I did switch through all other bands),meaning that the enter key did not get stuck in pressed state or similar, and it would happen without me pressing and holding the enter key.

        Reply
        1. d

          As the table (chart) on page 9 states the Quick Tuning steps for the FM and AIR bands are 1 MHz, not 100 kHz. The 100 kHz step is used for SW only. There are no Quick Tuning steps for MW and LW.

          Reply
      1. LukAM

        I saw this radio on the Sangean EU website a few months ago. Discover 405 was still in the Sangean 2020 catalog. I was browsing the catalog on the site Sangean.eu I didn’t find this radio. So I wonder if they have finished production.

        Reply
  7. john

    I recently purchased an ATS-909X.

    I had to return it due to display issues, characters would appear on the display unassociated with the display function selected and the clock would reset itself at random…back it went.

    Reply
  8. Mike S

    Unless someone is acting as a hardware reviewer, I still fail to see the logic in shelling out large sums to purchase from a first production run – especially now, with all the worldwide issues with production and parts issues. You run a great risk of paying to act as a beta tester.

    I used to think that Sangean had a great track record of getting it right the first time, but that bubble was burst when my 909X ended up being my most expensive Amazon return to date at the time, as it was so deaf when used as a portable (i.e. barefoot).

    Reply
    1. John

      That’s interesting, in the time I owned my ATS-909X before it was returned due to the flaws mentioned above, I did a crude comparison between my ICF-SW07, ICF-SW7600GR and ICF-SW100 and the ATS-909X indoors using their telescopic whip antennas. Looked for weak signals across the HF bands and listened to the reception on each receiver for each weak signal I found. I thought the sensitivity of the ATS-909X was slightly weaker than the others but there wasn’t much in it.

      Reply

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