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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45 thoughts on “Dan provides an update to his Sangean ATS-909X2 first impressions

    1. DanH

      I discovered one bug that effects the tuning step symbols on the display. I just guessing that is is related to the firmware. I will have more on this with another update very soon.

      Reply
  1. Chuck Rippel

    I see that Amazon is advertising these for $262.46 with a note next to the price: “In stock on March 19, 2021.”

    https://tinyurl.com/3mjdrb72

    Am wondering if the new shipment will find the low SSB audio characteristic solved? Maybe a call to Sangean will shed some light on the whole issue.

    Chuck

    Reply
    1. paul nakroshis

      I just talked with Sangean USA.
      The new production run is already in port,
      and it takes a while to leave ports and get distributed but they were expecting that to happen in the next couple of weeks.
      I was told that the only difference between the new radios with version 73 of the firmware and currently shipping versions from Amazon at version 70 is indeed just firmware.

      And since the process for getting a version 70 radio updated will involve sending the radio back and that process will take 2 to 3 weeks I’m going to return my radio when it arrives and just wait for the new versions to hit the shelf.

      thought everyone would like to know this update.

      Reply
      1. Robert Lonn

        If they are out of stock now, and waiting for the new shipment then I would send it back, but what will they do with yours??? If old stock and new stock get mixed up, hard to tell what software you will get?? Amazon has a relatively good return policy.. BUT if only new software, then placing your hand over the display should cause the same interference as the model you have now!! Sounds like they decided to make a few changes to the software-firmware, but not make any Hardware Improvements! TBD..

        Reply
      2. Robert

        I just spoke to Jimmy at Sangean and he emailed me a shipping label. Sangean is covering the cost in both directions. He said that because the radios were coming in one at a time he was usually able to get the update installed and radio shipped back out the same or next day. That is pretty good service.

        Reply
  2. Forest

    Does the portable external shortwave antenna also work for FM? The Sangean China said that the portable external antenna also work for FM on the Chinese version ATS909X2. How about US version?

    Reply
    1. DanH

      My ATS-909X2 from Sangean USA does not disconnect the telescopic whip antenna for FM reception when an external antenna is plugged into the external antenna jack.

      By “the portable external shortwave antenna” are you referring to the Sangean ANT-60 random wire shortwave antenna included in the 909X and 909X2 box? If so, then no. The ANT-60 works well for shortwave but plugging this antenna into the 909X2 external antenna jack when operated on FM with the telescopic antenna fully collapsed and put way offers no noticeable improvement in FM reception.

      However, plugging my suburban 83m horizontal loop shortwave antenna into the 909X2 offered significant FM signal improvement compared to running the radio with the whip antenna collapsed and put away.

      Reply
      1. Jim in Mass.

        I have the ATS-909X2 on order. Does the ANT-60 offer a decent improvement over the whip for SW? I have a few other SW radios but I only use the whip antennas on them. The improvement with your external antenna was great. I do not think I would be able to install an external antenna like that, but was hoping that the ANT-60 roll up antenna would help.

        Reply
  3. DJ

    Amazon now states they will have more supplies on March 8th. Could these be the new versions? Do you think Sangean will fix the low SSB volume on these?

    Reply
    1. DanH

      Sangean USA will receive their first shipment of the 909X2 with VER 073 in March. Sorry, I do not know if VER 073 will have a discernible effect on 909X2 performance or what those effects would be. There will be a lag between the time that Sangean USA receives 909X2 VER 073 and the date that retailers have these radios available for sale.

      Reply
  4. JimF

    I hope that the VER 073 update for the 909X2 will fix the SSB low volume issue that was introduced in VER P01 of the 909X.

    I tried two different 909Xs that had VER P01, and they both would drop very low in volume when I would switch to SSB – both in USB and LSB. Not only did this make it hard to hear weak signals when DXing for LW NDBs, but you had to prepare for a big jump in volume when switching back to AM mode.

    A friend of mine has a 909X with the older VER 1.29 software, and it does not have the SSB volume problem.

    Reply
        1. DanH

          I’m no engineer. This has not been a biggie for me. I just turn up the audio gain control for SSB. For me, there are many attributes of the 909X and 909X2 that outweigh its particular set of quirks. Believe me, all radios have their quirks.

          Reply
  5. Tom

    Hello, I have a question – do you know when the Eton E-1 will go on sale?
    Or should I buy Sangean 909X2? I like it more but ETON !! Thanks for the info.Tom.

    Reply
  6. Robert Lonn

    Who knows where these OLDER version will be stored? If they have , say, 20 in stock, they would sell those first before ordering more radios, that could take Many Months to clear the shelfs. These are all over the internet at many different stores around the country… May be able to tell by the serial number??? I would not assume March is some magical date!!

    Reply
  7. Mark

    Many thanks for the update Dan, I’m not sure what will happen European owners as I was told I’d receive one of the new batches.

    Reply
  8. DanE

    Will we be able to obtain the connector and flash ourselves or will we be forced to send in the unit to Sangean and wait for it to return? That will determine if I send mine back to Amazon by March 25th and re-order from the “new” batch or if I hold on to it..

    Reply
    1. DanH

      I doubt it. I have two 909Xs. The first is VER 1.29 and second is VER P01. I asked Sangean USA customer service about upgrading the first radio to the newer software and learned that this could be done only by a Sangean approved tech with the correct equipment. I didn’t send my older radio in because I was told that my station memory entries would be wiped in the process.

      Reply
      1. DanE

        That’s sort of what I figured.

        I’m going to wait to do anything until I know what this update actually does. If it fixes something major (like the low SSB volume), then I’ll return the one I just received back to Amazon before March 25th and order one from the new batch (if there is a way to tell which version is being sold at that time). If it isn’t addressing anything noticeable, I’ll just hang on to the one I have. I’d send mine to Sangean (not concerned about the memory presets), but who knows how long it will take them to do the update and get it back to me.

        Reply
  9. Peter

    I am wondering whether the ATS-909X2 is a standard double conversion receiver or based upon a Si47XX (or similar) chip? Does someone here know?

    Peter

    Reply
    1. Mark O'Byrnes

      HI Peter,

      I don’t think this is a DSP radio, it sounds too good and it’s free of the harsh muddy audio with no distortion unlike the Tecsun PL-880, 990 and S-8800 which sound very poor on SSB meaning ECSS is impossible.

      There are other DSP radios most likely all using this flawed DSP chip, the XHDATA D-808 and the newer breed of Eton DSP radios.

      I believe the only reason they include DSP is for marketing purposes, I mean it works fine on AM but on SSB they are junk.

      Reply
      1. Roger Fitzharris

        “the harsh muddy audio with no distortion unlike the Tecsun PL-880, 990 and S-8800 which sound very poor on SSB meaning ECSS is impossible.”

        Mark,
        I can’t speak to the Tecsun 990 and S-8800 models, but I can assure you that the audio on my PL-880 is not harsh, nor “muddy,” or distorted. The audio heard on the SSB transmissions that I receive is actually very good, and easily fined tuned. ECSS is possible, and I do use use it on occaision. However, it is not the PL-880s strong suit — I will concede that.
        What is important though, is the Tecsun PL-880 can easily be calibrated for zero-beat operation; and this should definetely be done on an as needed basis. It should also be noted that this receiver pairs nicely with the 7-m Sangean ANT-60 antenna.
        I also believe it helps if you can stay behind the curve with respect firmware updates. I didn’t purchase my PL-880 until 21/2 after its introduction; and, after 5-years of moderately heavy use; it has been a stellar performer. Worth every penny of $149.99 that I paid for it.

        Reply
        1. Ron F

          > “ECSS is possible”

          Yeah, no it’s not ? – zero-beating is not ECSS.

          Mark likes to whinge about “DSP radios” and their “flawed DSP chips”, particularly about “muddy” and “distorted” SSB. I’m the first to admit that the SSB on the PL-880 etc ain’t *great* – but it’s nowhere near as bad as is made out.

          FWIW, the ATS-909X – and seemingly the X2, though I haven’t seen inside one – uses one of those “flawed DSP chips”; the Si4735. The 909X (and maybe the X2; haven’t seen inside – or a deep enough review of – one to know for sure) just doesn’t use it for direct SSB demod; it has upper/lower sideband BFOs. Still uses it for FM, AM, and (once the BFO re-inserts the ‘carrier’), SSB.

          Reply
          1. Roger Fitzharris

            I was referring to zero-beating the signal for calibrating the PL-880 to enhance its SSB reception. I know it’s not ECSS. All I said was that ECSS was possible with this receiver, and I stand by that.
            https://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/ECSS
            It certainly is not impossible. I can’t find any support for that. Now, does it work all that well? Well that’s a horse of a different wavelength!

          2. Ron F

            @Roger Fitzharris: Radioreference is wrong about ECSS.

            Some more reliable sources:
            * Crosby, M.G., “Exalted-Carrier Amplitude- and Phase-Modulation Reception”, in Proceedings of the IRE, vol. 33, no. 9, pp. 581-591, Sept. 1945.
            * A more accessible description of the technique in the Crosby paper appears in Rock, A.L., Tromley, R.J., and Rothschild, D.R., “A Survey of Single-Sideband and Associated Techniques for Voice Communications”, Technical Report No.117, Department of Army Project No. 3A99-06-001-01, Jan 1961. – “The units from the antenna input through the second IF amplifier comprise a conventional double-superhetrodyne receiver. The IF output is split into two branches, one of which feeds through the carrier filter, where the carrier is separated from the sidebands, while the other is passed directly into the recombining detector. The filtered carrier is passed through a limiter, which maintains it at a constant level (20dB above the sideband), and, after its phase has been adjusted, is combined with the unfiltered signal. The resulting signal is detected and passed to the output channel via an audio amplifier.”
            * MIL-STD-188 (later MIL-STD-188/100) defines “RECEPTION, EXALTED CARRIER” as – “A method of receiving either amplitude or phase modulated signals in which the carrier is separated from the sidebands, filtered and amplified, and then combined with the sidebands again at a higher level prior to demodulation”. FED-STD 1037 Rev. C explains it similarly, with the addition of “Synonym *reconditioned carrier reception*”.
            * RFCEC, Fundamentals of Single Sideband, Ch 1 – “The most serious result of selective fading, and the most common, occurs when the carrier level is attenuated more than the sidebands … The distortion resulting from a weak carrier can be overcome by use of the exalted carrier technique whereby the carrier is amplified separately and then reinserted before demodulation.”

            The key common component to all the above descriptions is that the *original* carrier is separated, amplified – “exalted” – and re-inserted before detection. This is what separates ECSS from:

            * Synchronous AM – where a replacement carrier is generated internally to the receiver and phase-locked (synchronised) to the incoming carrier before being inserted prior to detection;
            * Zero-beating – where a replacement carrier is generated internally to the receiver but is free-running and not locked to the phase or frequency of the incoming carrier before insertion; and
            * Simple sideband-selection of AM – where the receiver is tuned so that the original transmitted carrier and one sideband is allowed through the IF passband filter to the detector (the other sideband being suppressed by the filter skirt), without any amplification, regeneration, or replacement of the original carrier.

            Don’t feel bad about not knowing the difference – hams and SWLers have been getting this wrong for *decades*, and the misinformation has spread far and wide. But they *are* different techniques, with different advantages and disadvantages, and so it’s well-worth knowing & using not only the correct terminology for each but which one you’re actually using…

          3. 13dka

            Hi RonF,

            I appreciate that you’re trying to fight the increasing information entropy here. 🙂 Been there, done that in a couple of other areas and I agree the RR article is lacking a bit. But here comes the but:

            You wrote:

            ———— snip ———-
            “The key common component to all the above descriptions is that the *original* carrier is separated, amplified – “exalted” – and re-inserted before detection. This is what separates ECSS from:

            * Synchronous AM – where a replacement carrier is generated internally to the receiver and phase-locked (synchronised) to the incoming carrier before being inserted prior to detection;”
            ———— snip ———-

            This implies that ECSS is not sync detection and/or that an exalted carrier is not sync detection, which could be somewhat imprecise:

            First off, to my knowledge (I may be wrong there) “ECSS” is a JRC marketing acronym for their quite “regular” NRD-535 sync detector that just lacked the DSB capability – it uses an oscillator to fully replace the carrier which is proven by the usual howling when the PLL loses its lock, which it likes to do. 🙂 AFAIK that acronym wasn’t used before and the now common wrong usage of it started with the release date of that radio.

            Secondly, “exalted carrier” was originally a term used as a generalization of all the various techniques to reinforce the carrier on AM signals in order to mitigate the various selective fading effects, including earlier “homodyne” improvements (which included attempts at syncing an additional oscillator as early as the 1930s) to later “synchrodyne” concepts. The 1972 MIL-SPEC-188/100 just copies the very vague definition from the older version and seems to describe mostly the oldest “filtering” way of carrier reinforcement.

            The second (1961) paper describes what’s also known as “pseudo-” or “quasi-synchronous” detection (which is probably a bit of a misnomer itself), maybe in order to distinguish this inherently synchronous “carrier extraction and recovery through a limiter” technique from inferior older “filtering” methods and even more sophisticated methods of entirely replacing the carrier with a synced (via PLL or control voltage…) oscillator.

            In 1948 the same Murray G. Crosby of RCA you cited applied for a yet another patent on a receiver circuit that (if I understood the bad OCR transscript correctly) introduces the idea of “using AFC” to keep an additional oscillator to be fed into a mixer in tune, and alternatively selecting only one sideband for demodulation – he basically described what we know today as “regular” sync detector while he was still using the term “exalted carrier”.

            So what all these patents and papers have in common is that they use the term “exalted carrier” while actually describing what we now know as the 3 general flavors of “synchronous AM” detection, with only one of the papers additionally dealing with “selectable sidebands”. The efforts to introduce sync AM techniques obviously predate widespread SSB usage, and extending this technique to indivdual sidebands was added last and possibly not called ECSS until the 90s.

            Anyway, the current usage of the term “ECSS” is obviously bollox, and it should probably only be used for a sync detector with selectable sidebands. Maybe we should coin a new term for that, “zero-beating” sounds actually quite appropriate. 🙂 However, after getting angry about its usage for a decade and zero-beating a dead horse I adopted it too because everyone understands it the same way now and it’s only 4 characters to say “listening to AM in SSB mode”. The line between using SSB for AM demodulation and a sync detector with sideband selection is a bit thin anyway, “exalting” the carrier does not necessarily imply that the carrier must be exactly in phase. What separates them is the difficulty to truly zero-beat a station in first place and the required stability to keep it in zero-beat. But consumer-/hobyyist-grade receivers with that kind of stability are not the exception anymore and I agree, tuning in 10 Hz steps is may not be good enough to achieve a true zero-beat but what we usually aim for is being able to select the sideband with less interference anyway and a <5 Hz beat is still tolerable even for music, even providing the same (mild) restoration effect on selective fading hitting the carrier, minus the tendency of the oscillator to wander off when the original carrier drops below a threshold.

    2. DanH

      Peter, like its predecessor ATS-909X the 909X2 is definitely double conversion, PLL and DSP with a Si47XX chip. If implemented well, these innovations work well.

      Reply
  10. DanE

    Well – I suppose this is good news. Looks like I’ll be sending mine back for now and ordering again in March (which is what I originally intended to do).

    Reply
    1. DanH

      That would be a nice feature but in the real world software hijacking is very real. Maybe that is why none of the other portable shortwave radio brands are doing this.

      Reply
      1. Mike S

        I suppose, but wonder if that is really an issue in the real world with the intended market for such a device.
        I think that, in this day and age, designing CPU-based electronics that lack the ability to have field software upgrades is shooting oneself in the foot. What would a laptop owner think if they needed to send it to the factory for a BIOS upgrade?

        Reply
    2. Bill (WD9EQD)

      From the manual, there two terminals on the bottom of the radio:

      44 Data-IN A terminal
      ?? This terminal is used for configuring the device in the
      factory and is not intended to be used by end-users
      CAUTION! End-users should not use this terminal as it
      can damage the unit

      45 Data-IN B terminal
      ?? This terminal is used for configuring the device in the
      factory and is not intended to be used by end-users
      CAUTION! End-users should not use this terminal as it
      can damage the unit

      Makes me wonder if the “update device” will be using these terminals.
      Who will be the first person to fugue out how to use these terminals.

      It has always irritated me that the cheapest Baofeng ham radio HT can be
      programmed by a PC cable while shortwave radios never can. What’s the use of
      having thousands of memories that have to be manually programed on the radio.
      While the Sangean does have some memory tagging, it still has to be painfully
      done from the radio.

      And I have to confess that I did order my ATS-909X2 this week and am expecting
      to get it tomorrow (Saturday). I’ve never had a Sangean so am interested in
      comparing it to my Tecsun radios (PL-330, PL-880, S-8800) and the Panasonic RF-2200.

      If the radio seems to perform okay, I may wait to send it back for firmware upgrade until
      I learn what it fixes and whether the upgrade messes up something else.

      73
      Bill WD9EQD
      Smithville, NJ

      Reply
      1. Mike S

        Makes sense. I’d bet D+ and D- terminals which presumably operate on some serial protocol. Given the original plan to have a USB port, and the ready availability of USB UARTs, I’d bet that they saved a few cents by not bringing these out, with power and ground, to an actual USB port.

        Reply
      2. DanH

        There is wisdom in what you write. Although I haven’t noticed problems with VER-070 it may be VER-81 before the engineers are happy with this radio. I’m holding off from alpha tagging my 909X2 SW memory pages and entering station frequencies because I don’t know if this will be lost when new software is installed. I use the SW memory pages on my 909X frequently.

        Reply
      3. Mike S

        By the way this is not entrely foreign to Sangean.

        I have a DPR-39 (a pocket DAB+ radio, also rebadged in Britain by Roberts) which has a USB port in the battery compartment for firmware upgrades. They actually did issue a firmware update which I flashed using this connector and a software download from Sangean Europe.

        Reply
        1. Mitja Kocjan?i?

          Hi there, A/B terminals are actualy SPI Data and Clock (B — SDA, A — SCL)

          so you can read and Save station presets to the radio (you only need the right cable to fit in there (had a bit of problems as I couldn’t find the right connector, breadboard wires were too thin and constantly fell out), its the same way Sangean does it: http://ats909hoggy.sourceforge.net/

          I tried it once but have due to lack of time and proper hardware at that time I forgot a bit

          When I read a comment about the right cable I think that Sangean also uses A/B terminals for firmware update so its possible it will just take a long time until we figure out how to do it ourselves

          Reply

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