Monthly Archives: February 2021

Dan provides an update to his Sangean ATS-909X2 first impressions

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, DanH, who shares the following update to his first impressions of the Sangean ATS-909X2:


Update: Sangean ATS-909X2 First Impressions

by DanH

Sangean USA will offer a free software update to customers who have purchased the first USA mass production version of Sangean ATS-909X2. These radios are equipped with software VER-070. This is the same 909X2 version that I purchased last week and used for my “First Impressions” article. The software update to VER-073 will feature various bug fixes. Software VER-073 will be included with the ATS-909X2 shipment arriving at Sangean USA in March, 2021. These bug fixes are of a technical nature and beyond my ability to describe at this writing.

Sangean USA will offer 909X2 VER-070 owners a software update to VER-073 if they want it and as soon as Sangean USA receives the necessary update device from Sangean Headquarters.

So far, I have noticed no software bugs in 909X2 operation but like everyone else I am still new at using this radio. I hope to start entering saved shortwave station entries from my 909Xs into the 909X2 this week. In other notes, AIR band is working very well with my local international airport some 20 miles away. I also did a test on the 909X2 external antenna jack and confirmed that plugging an external antenna into this jack will disconnect the built-in ferrite bar antenna for MW and the telescopic whip for SW.

To display the 909X2 software version:

1. power up the radio
2. press and hold the INFO button for two seconds
3. turn the tuning dial until VER XXX appears on the display
4. to clear this information wait 10 seconds or hit the C button

Further details will follow as they develop.

May your shortwave listening be good and the geomagnetic field quiet.

DanH


Thank you for the update, Dan! 

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2021 Shortwave Shindig (in Exile) via WRMI

David Goren (left) and Richard Cuff (right) during the Shindig live broadcast at the Winter SWL Fest.

The Virtual 2021 Winter SWL Fest starts today and one of the Fest traditions–the Shortwave Shindig hosted by David Goren–will be broadcast via WRMI at 0200 UTC Saturday (9:00 EST Friday/Today) on 5,800 and 7,780 kHz. Please tune in!

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VisAir HF DDC/DUC Transceiver: Randy purchased one exclusively for shortwave radio listening

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who recently shared a message he received from his friend Randy regarding the VisAir HF DDC/DUC Transceiver:

I recently acquired a VisAir transceiver from Russia. It is an amazing SDR unit developed by two amateur radio operators. It is about the same size as the RDR55, but at about 1/3 the cost. While it does not have FM or amateur 2/6 meter, GPS, and a couple of features, this VisAir has other features not found on the RDR55 such as dual receivers, waterfall, receiving audio equalizer, CW decoder, etc. It is a true SDR receiver. The user manual was in Russian and I had to break it into thirds so that I could get it translated into English. Interestingly, the user interface is completely in English despite its Russian origins. While designed primarily for amateur radio operators, it works especially well on the shortwave bands.

[…]I have really been enjoying this “transceiver” and as you imagine, I use only the receiver portion of the unit. It has two antenna connectors and you can configure these however you prefer. I set one as a receive antenna and the other as a transmit antenna to avoid accidentally hitting the antenna match or some function and sending power into my equipment. I also disabled the transmitter portion to further protect against any accidental transmissions.

Unfortunately, virtually all the YouTube videos and information are in Russian and also its use is shown only on the amateur radio bands, but I can tell you that this is a very nice SW DX receiver with lots of interesting user defined menus whereby the unit can be modified to match the user’s preferences. Here is a website with some information on the unit.

As you know, I have enjoyed using a wide variety of communications receivers from simple beginner’s units to the more complex and highly esteemed units built to exacting standards for government use. This VisAir is built by two guys in Russia and amazingly it was designed by them in 2017 and not a whole team of design engineers such as found at Yaesu, Kenwood, and Icom. From what I understand, the unit sells in Russia in rubles for the equivalent of about $1800 USD. Unfortunately it is not exported to the USA and it only comes with a 220 VAC power supply and so I operate it exclusively off of DC current without any issue. It is my understanding that this low production transceiver has sold between about 200 – 300 units and virtually all of these were in Russia. To my knowledge, I am the only person in the USA with this unit. Further, it is my understanding is that there is a wait list of about 2 years to obtain the unit. The VisAir is upgraded via firmware and my unit has the latest firmware installed.

When I got information about the transceiver to consider for purchase, there was only a Russian user manual available. I have access to an online PDF translator, but it can only accept up to 10 MB files and so I had to break the Russian manual into 3 sections, translate each section into English, and then stitch the 3 sections back together to make a complete English manual (which is too large to email as a whole). Attached are sections 2 and 3 of this English user manual for the VisAir:

You can look at the manual and see what features are available with this transceiver. While the translator worked nicely overall in getting the manual from Russian into English, there are issues whereby the illustrations have Russian language information and these did not translate, but this did not thwart me from understanding and using the VisAir as most of the Russian information relates to connecting the transmitter to microphone and other devices.

As with most all low production units from small producers, the user manual is good at pointing out controls, but lacks in explaining what is the purpose of settings or offering suggestions on the settings other than telling you what is a “default” setting from the factory. I found this same dilemma with the manuals for the Fairhaven RD500, the Reuter RDR55, the Kneisner & Doering KWZ30, etc. But an experienced DXer can generally figure out operations and establish the appropriate settings with a little time. For the first 3 days of operation, it was a discovery for me as I kept learning about new features that I didn’t know about previously and weren’t highlighted in the user manual. It was like reading the user manual for my Toyota Highlander in that there are options and controls that are found in menus and not particularly obvious at first glance or with casual use.

Randy

Thank you, Randy, for sharing your comments about the VisAir transceiver here on the SWLing Post. Looks like a fascinating tabletop SDR.

Click here to check out VisAir’s website.

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Kevin’s care packages for the homeless include a simple radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kevin, who writes:

I often see people on the side of the road at intersections holding signs, “homeless, can you help”, that sort of thing. Like a lot of people I used to ignore them. A few years ago I decided that I wanted to help so I looked up what items homeless people need the most. Clean socks, toiletries, and grocery store gift cards are high on the list, most of which you can get at the dollar store. Now I assemble these items in gallon-sized zip-lock bags and always keep a couple of them in the car, ready to hand out the window.

Being a radio nerd I also stay on the lookout for cheap portable radios from Amazon. I like the ones with big dials and big numbers. You might wonder if a homeless person really needs a radio, but who is to say what joy it might bring? Maybe somebody somewhere is listening to some music or a ballgame on the radio I gave them. Maybe they gave it away, but that’s up to them. I usually toss in a second set of batteries as well.

If you’re in a giving mood consider assembling a few of these bags, especially if you’re reluctant to hand out cash. You could make someone’s life a little better.

We need more people in the world like you, Kevin. What a thoughtful and considerate gift to give those in need. Like you, I’m very reluctant to hand out cash because I dislike the idea that I could inadvertently become an enabler, but I do want to help. Your care package contains items that would only assist those in need: a clean pair of socks, toiletries, basic first aid supplies, and even reading glasses.

Besides news, weather, and entertainment, a radio can provide much-needed local health and wellness information especially during the pandemic.

Besides…all we’ve got on this world is each other, right?

Thank you so much for sharing.

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FTIOM & UBMP, February 28-March 6

From the Isle of Music, February 28-March 6:
This week, special guest Yunior Romero, leader of Yunior Romero y su Sello Cubano, helps us present music from his two albums.
The broadcasts take place:
1. For Eastern Europe but audible well beyond the target area in most of the Eastern Hemisphere (including parts of East Asia and Oceania) with 100Kw, Sunday 1500-1600 UTC on SpaceLine, 9400 KHz, from Sofia, Bulgaria (1800-1900 MSK)
2. For the Americas and parts of Europe, Tuesday 0100-0200 on WBCQ, 7490 kHz from Monticello, ME, USA (Monday 8-9PM EST in the US).
3 & 4. For Europe and sometimes beyond, Tuesday 1900-2000 UTC and Saturday 1300-1400 UTC on Channel 292, 6070 kHz from Rohrbach, Germany.
Our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/fromtheisleofmusic/
Our V-Kontakte page is https://vk.com/fromtheisleofmusic
Our Patreon page is https://www.patreon.com/tilford

Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot, February 28-March 6:
In episode 206, we present music from Uganda.
The transmissions take place:
1.Sunday 2300-0000 (6:00PM -7:00PM EST) on WBCQ The Planet 7490 kHz from the US to the Americas and parts of Europe
If you don’t have a shortwave or are out of range, you can listen to a live stream from the WBCQ website here: http://splatterbox.us/wbcq1
2. Tuesday 2000-2100 UTC on Channel 292, 6070 kHz from Rohrbach, Germany for Europe.
3. Saturday 0800-0900 UTC on Channel 292, 9670 kHz from Rohrbach, Germany for Europe with a directional booster aimed eastward.
Our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/UncleBillsMeltingPot/
Our V-Kontakte page is https://vk.com/fromtheisleofmusic
Our Patreon page is https://www.patreon.com/tilford

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Dan’s first impressions of the new Sangean ATS-909X2

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, DanH, who shares the following guest post:


Sangean ATS-909X2 First Impressions

by DanH

A few hours spent tuning a new radio are enough to make me feel confident that I know most of the new features and how to use them. Then several days, weeks or months later I discover overlooked features and I figure out new ways to operate the radio. Sometimes I actually read the operating instructions again. Understand that I received my new Sangean ATS-909X2 only three days ago so this early report is hardly a comprehensive review nor was it intended as such. At this point I’m looking mostly at shortwave and medium wave performance.

My first experience with the new Sangean ATS-909X2 was online at the Amazon shopping site. On December 16, 2020 I pre-ordered the radio for US $459.99 (list price). The radio didn’t ship and the prices dropped a couple of times. Each time I cancelled the order before it shipped and ordered it again at the lower price. In the end I ordered my 909X2 for $297.95 and paid for it with credit card bonus points and a little more that I had on my Amazon gift card.

The 909X2 arrived on Friday afternoon, February 19. I devoted the first 24 hours to tuning around on SW and a little MW only. I deliberately made no videos at this time and devoted my radio time to exploring the bands. The latest addition to the ATS-909 series is a well thought out evolution of the radio and much more than a 909X with a cosmetic facelift. The 909X2 retains the excellent speaker sound of its predecessor, the tuning knob is unchanged from late production 909X, the solid build quality remains the same as does the general layout, performance, size and weight. SSB audio for the 909X2 remains at a lower level than for AM, like 909X. I don’t like having to turn the radio volume up for ECSS or SSB. Like 909X, the new radio excels with external antennas and is not easily overloaded by a lot of wire antenna.

Like 909X, 909X2 occupies an interesting niche in the portable multiband world. It is a little too large and heavy for a travel radio but over the years I have packed it many times in my carry-on bag. Sometimes I am willing to sacrifice extra clothes if it means bringing the best radio. These radios excel on a desk or radio room work station. The radio is big and powerful enough to provide top notch sound for all modes. Late at night I run mine with Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones. With 909X2 you get top performance in a small package. It is an over-used metaphor but think of a 1950 – 60’s communications receiver in a small package, plus VHF air band and FM. The speaker audio sounds better for broadcasts than many Amateur rigs.

There are many new features with the 909X2. Instead of charging NiMH batteries like Eneloop in series the 909X2 monitors each cell individually and identifies failing cells for you. SSB resolution is now selectable 10 – 20 Hz, auto-bandwidth control may be used on all bands except SSB on HF. There are many more memory slots available in three separate banks. The LCD has dimmer settings, soft muting is switchable for FM and the keyboard beeper may be shut off! Instead of hidden features the 909X2 has an INFO/MENU button for customizing your operating options.

The new bandwidth choices make a real improvement in LW, MW, SW, FM and VHF airband signal quality especially when adjusted in tandem with the audio tone control. Automatic bandwidth control selects the bandwidth that offers the best signal-to-noise ratio. Now I understand why the 9090X2 shortwave bandwidths are relatively closely-spaced: auto control shifts quickly between multiple bandwidths. Too much space between bandwidths would sound jarring. The auto bandwidth control is most useful during heavy fading and has improved my ability to copy words on poor AM broadcast signals. This feature does add an odd effect to fading signals: the audio tone quality will shift as different bandwidths are selected. This feature is not something that I would leave ON as a default for shortwave listening but it is definitely a welcome tool when needed.

MW performance is as good as the 909X but with improvements made possible with more bandwidth and memory slot availability. I found that 909X2 LW is generally better than 909X with fewer MW images. I am hearing substantially more LW beacons on 909X2. LW activity is very limited here on the US West Coast.

10 Hz SSB resolution means that ECSS is excellent on the 909X. I can tune a shortwave music broadcast on the 909X2 without warble. This was impossible with the 909X 40 Hz resolution.

The 909X sold near US $220 for most of the last five years with a few rare Amazon holiday sales at the $190 level. Then the prices jumped another $30 post-Covid 19, as did prices for other radios in this range.

Is 909X2 worth the additional money right now? I say yes! Mine is a keeper.

I do not believe that there will be significant improvements coming along any time soon. Sangean is a private Taiwanese company with its own factory located in PRC. 20 pre-production units delivered to Europe in January are not the same batch as the retail production units released by Sangean USA this month. Sangean USA has two of the pre-production units. They did not offer these for sale. The first retail production units arrived at Sangean USA in mid-February before the Lunar New Year. If there are significant changes for 909X2 we won’t see those radios for at least another 6 – 8 weeks. I can’t see much need for significant changes anyway.

Believe it or not I have been very busy with the Sangean ATS-909X2 and haven’t tried FM or VHF air band on it yet!

This video is a companion to my first impressions written here. Hearing and seeing video is hard to beat. SW and MW features are shown in real-life reception conditions. I test for the dreaded LCD/hand capacitance internal noise and have a look, listen and comparison for telescopic whip performance. And you will hear DX too, not just Brother Stair. You need to see and watch auto bandwidth control to believe it.

Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this, Dan. Very encouraging. We look forward to publishing your updates as you get to know the 909X2 even better! 

Sangean ATS-909X2 Retailers:

All prices are current at time of posting (22 Feb 2021).

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