Michael’s impressions of the Tecsun PL-330

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Sharpe, who writes:

Hi Thomas,

Here are some personal observations after playing with the Tecsun PL-330 for a couple weeks, maybe an hour or two a day. I made a point of picking up the 310ET , the CCrane Skywave SSB and the G6 Aviator at the same time for some comparisons.

These comments are in no particular order.

The PL330 is very lightweight compared to the other three. This could be perceived in two ways.

A. The case seems less sturdy than it could be, it creaks and ‘gives’ a little when operating some of the controls that require ‘squeezing’ to activate a button. I would prefer a more solid feel.

B. The radio is very light which is a plus for travelling with hand luggage. You’ll like that πŸ™‚

The backlight can be set to permanently ‘on’, I really like this. None of the other radios do this when on battery power only. I don’t consider any radio ‘portable’ if it is tethered to a power supply. It would be nice if the buttons lit up but let’s stay real here !

Tuning: I am not crazy about the detented operation of the tuning knob, but I recognise that this is a requirement on the lower cost portables that use digital tuning. However…the PL-330 scores highly because the detent clicking is soft and silent. When compared to the Skywave SSB, there is a world of difference. For me, a clicking knob eliminates the option to tune around the ham bands when my wife is trying to sleep. I did email CCrane to ask if a solution may be suggested, but the response was negative. The G6 Aviator wins hands down in this area, but apples to pears !

Memory Tuning: I really like the options here, easy to use and the time selective ETM+ is genius. I also like the easy ‘delete all memories’ option which enables a fresh start at any time.

Audio: It’s not a PL-880 but its Ok for a small portable and the bandwidth option is a big plus. I’m no expert here because I do a fair proportion of my listening with a mono single side earpiece at night.

AM: Seems to work fine. Pulls in everything I normally listen to and seems sensitive and stable enough.

FM: Seems to work fine. Pulls in everything I normally listen to (not much!) and seems sensitive enough. Brilliant that it will suppress stereo unless the headphone socket is used.

SW: I spend a lot of time here and it seems good enough. I did compare reception with the Belka DX and had nothing to complain about. I have learned that keyboard tuning to a frequency near the frequency of interest and then final tuning with the annoying detent knob is the way to go. Also, memory tuning is easy and makes the detent truly functional.

SSB: This my main area of interest as I love to tune around the ham bands, especially when travelling with no access to real ham gear. The fine tuning at 10 Hz with suppressed soft muting is a real winner. It would be nice if soft mute could be disabled completely but I understand this is limitation of the DSP hardware.

Calibration seems easy too with just a long press on the USB button when the audio is zero beat (note the calibration option is for the AM band but utilizes the USB or LSB to zero beat and set). I don’t do this any more, after all, what’s the point when tuning around to listen πŸ™‚ Just twiddle the knob until it sounds good and Bob’s your uncle. I think the ‘Step’ button should replace the ‘Sync’ button and not be shared with the sunken ‘lock’ button. Too squeezy.

SYNC: Don’t bother. I tried it several times, not so much any more. Waste of a perfectly good button. (See SSB above.)

Battery: I actually like the battery choice. I get that AA’s or AAA’s are a good choice for emergency use because of availability but in an emergency you would probably have your phone with you, and some means of charging it. Just have an appropriate cable or adapter in the bag and you are good to go. My current phone uses the usb micro, as does the PL330 so I may be a little biased at this time.

Antenna: For portable use, the existing antennas work fine. The SW input jack works and the ability to switch the AM signal source between the internal ferrite and the external jack is a nice touch if you want to experiment.

I cut the wrist strap off, not sure what benefit this offers but they all have them. I must be missing something ?

A rear stand would be nice but it stands on its base reasonably well.

So….for around $60, it’s a no-brainer in my book.

Hope this helps. I’m no expert when it comes to deviation ratios, 3rd order intercepts, microvolt sensitivity etc. etc. but these are my impressions from a guy who just likes to play with radios.

Best wishes

Michael (N9YZM)

Thank you for sharing your impressions of the Tecsun PL-330, Michael! I’ve also been testing the PL-330 and find that it is a great value for $60–certainly a low-cost alternative to the C.Crane CC Skywave SSB (although I much prefer the build quality of the Skywave). My family life has been so busy this past month, I’ve had little dedicated time to do comparisons, but it appears to me that the PL-330 is a solid performer.

Thanks again for sharing your assessment, Michael!

Click here to check out the Tecsun PL-330 (export version) at Anon-Co.

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7 thoughts on “Michael’s impressions of the Tecsun PL-330

  1. Nick

    You mention being able to clear out the ETM. Can someone explain the procedure please? Mine came with Chinese only manual so Zi have no idea. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Robert Richmond

      I have to tried it, but AFAIK, pressing and holding the enter key should bring up a del all function. Press the power button when that shows, and it probably will set the radio back to its factory settings, including clearing ETM, memories, offsets, etc. Note that might clear or reset more than you want, so YMMV.

      Reply
  2. John G8XTJ

    Thanks for your thoughts. They agree with mine in the main . It is very good value for money.

    Just one question. How do you switch between the internal ferrite road and an external antenna on medium wave? Can’t find that in the manual

    Reply
    1. Robert Richmond

      Hold down the “3” button while in the MW band. It will change between CH-A for the internal ferrite antenna and CH-S for the external antenna jack. More info and other button features here:

      https://swling.com/blog/2020/10/a-tecsun-pl-330-features-reference-sheet/

      My PL-330 worked quite nicely with my 31′ vertical during a short testing of daytime MW reception. Probably even about as a good as some of my desktop receivers, though admittedly, I do not spend much effort hunting for MW BCB transmissions compared to HF stuff.

      Reply
  3. kevin

    Glad I’m not the only one who cuts off the wrist straps. πŸ˜‰

    I have this radio, too. I mostly agree with the initial review. What kills me is the muting during tuning. No one seems to like it and yet its on nearly every radio. It takes the fun out of browsing around the dial. Sounds like you’re listening through a picket fence.

    The PL880 does NOT have it so it must be possible to turn it off. Yay, PL880!

    Reply
  4. Robert Richmond

    About the same results here. It is good value for casual SWL and even SSB comms IMO. The selectable bandwidths are nice even if the SSB selections are perhaps little different than what I might have chosen. HF selectivity is decent, as overload has been largely nonexistent with my 148′ LoG and even my 31′ vertical over radial field.

    I am not really into mediumwave, but AM BCB reception using the built-in ferrite antenna seems acceptable and comparable to my other portables. Similar performance for FM reception, and even better with my 31′ vertical – yeah, I know that is hardly an ideal VHF antenna…. anyway. πŸ˜‰

    Sync is… there? I mean it has a button and screen function indicator. I am not sure it really does anything else, though. Just ECSS tune if trying to limit interference on a particular sideband.

    One possible missing feature is an attenuator, though as already noted, selectivity seems decent enough even with dedicated HF outdoor antennas, so I suppose “whatever.”

    While I still prefer some aspects the PL-660, especially for a working sync detector and proven performance, the lower price point of the PL-330 likely will have it becoming my new recommendation for those seeking an affordable shortwave receiver with SSB support.

    Reply
  5. Vince

    “I cut the wrist strap off, not sure what benefit this offers but they all have them. I must be missing something ?”

    LOL…I do the same. First thing I do actually.

    I only ‘regret’ doing it once, it was with the Tecsun ICR-100. The wrist strap is also the FM antenna. πŸ™

    Reply

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