Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Peter, who asks:
Two of the tabletop shortwave receivers recommended in the past are listed as discontinued by retailers. Do you have any current recommendations?
Great question, Peter. I’m guessing that you’re looking for a new tabletop communications receiver and I also assume you may be referring to the CommRadio CR-1a and the Alinco DX-R8T. Both of these have been discontinued by the manufacturer.
Fewer options than in the past
To my knowledge, there are very few dedicated, stand-alone tabletop shortwave receivers currently on the market.
One notable exception is the ELAD FDM-DUOr which is essentially a tabletop, stand-alone SDR. It is an excellent performer and I believe still available from ELAD for about $900 US. The FDM-DUOr is currently the best option I know of under $1,000 US.
There are still a handful of dedicated communications receivers on the market, but they tend to be wideband receivers and carry a heavier price tag than legacy HF-only receivers.
One example is the Icom IC-R8600. It’s a great HF radio–click here to read the review–but it retails for around $2,200 US.
In addition, AOR still offers a variety of wideband analog and digital communications receivers, but again, the prices are all well over the $1,000 mark.
What happened to tabletop receivers?
In my opinion, two innovations pushed dedicated tabletop receivers off the market:
- The proliferation of high-performance, affordable software defined radios like the AirSpy HF+ Discovery and SDRplay RSPdx. Both of these models retail for less than $200 US new and offer superb performance when coupled with even a modest PC, laptop, or tablet. In addition, those seeking benchmark SDR receiver hardware and performance will invest in higher-priced models like the new ELAD FDM-S3. Click here to read Part 1 of our SDR primer.
- General coverage ham radio transceivers now provide performance that’s on par or even better than legacy tabletop receivers. Many shortwave listeners now purchase transceivers and simply disable the transmit function so that they don’t accidentally inject RF power into the antenna. Transceivers lack some broadcast listener features like synchronous detection, but their single sideband performance often compensates for this, in my opinion. Some current (sub $1,000 US) favorites among SWLs include the Icom IC-7300, and the Yaesu FT-891. I’m also a huge fan of the new Icom IC-705 portable transceiver, although its price point is closer to $1,300 US. Click here to read more about general coverage transceivers.
If SDRs and general coverage transceiver lack appeal, keep in mind that there are a multitude of legacy communications receivers on the used market.
I should add here that one Ohio-based manufacturer, Palstar, has mentioned that they plan to produce the Palstar R30B tabletop shortwave receiver which would be the latest iteration of their R30 series. This announcement has been out there for some time, though, and I’m not sure when or if the R30B will ever come to fruition.
To keep the scope of the original question in check, I’m leaving out a number of other viable options like larger portable radios (the Sangean ATS-909X2 and/or the Tecsun H-501 for example) and other inexpensive DSP receivers on eBay like those based on the Si4732 chipset.
Have I missed something? Please comment if you know of other tabletop communications receivers currently on the market. Also, if you use a general coverage transceiver for SWLing, please share which make/model you like in the comments section! Click here to comment.
What about Japan Radio Corp ? I remember Gilfer Shortwave and/or Universal Radio selling the NRD-525. The luxury model I used to salivate over. How about Racal ? Professional class ? Used them in the military. They had commercial models.
I have no problem dropping over $1000 if I could get a decent tabletop. I don’t think that is expensive. My Drake R8 cost that much in 1990. I think $2000-3000 is well worth it for something decent.
My Drake R-8 is slowly crapping out. I am overseas where there are no SW radios to be found. I am praying my Drake can be salvaged…….
I have the Tecsun PL-680, 990x , 330 , The Pl-680 is by far the best sounding of the 3, it’s a joy to listen to on SSB, while it doesn’t hae the filtering that the 990x does the 990x sounds really bad on SSB making ECSS impossible. The 330 actually sounds better, maybe because the 4 Khz filter actually works but in general it sounds a lot better than the 990x/880.
I also have the sangean ATS-909 x2, wonderful sound on SSB and ECSS sounds really great but lack of filtering on SSB is a shame, what were they thinking ? but listening to SSB is a lot nicer than the 990x and as I said, ECSS sounds great, something not possible on the 990x.
But one of the sweetest sounding radios with headphones is the Yaesu FT-891, the audio is a real pleasure. Definitely recommend someone to purchase this instead of a 891 or ats-909 x2, look out for one 2nd hand and the filtering is really great.
The AOR AR-8600 Mk II is still available. http://www.aorusa.com/receivers/ar8600mk2.html
I have one and use it connected to a random wire about 40′ in length. I use it mainly for HF utility listening (primarily HFaeronautical}
Although sold mainly by maritime suppliers in the UK, the old school NASA/Target HF-3 is still available. I recently imported one for about US$275 shipped. It’s simple and performs adequately, and works well in desktop and mobile applications. It comes across sort of like a cost-reduced Lowe HF-150, to which it’s distantly related.
I remember reading about that thing ages ago. What is the selectivity and sensitivity like on that radio? What about the audio out of the speaker? What’s the build quality of the radio like?
RE: the HF-3, years ago I had a Lowe HF-150 in a Jeep and really enjoyed it…until the radio was stolen. I decided to try a new HF-3 in my current truck and it’s been very fun, recreating the easy operation of the Lowe, if not the full performance. Sensitivity is in the 2.5uV range, b/w choices are 3.8 kHz SSB and 6 kHz AM. Dynamic range/overload near local AM transmitters is somewhat below average. Audio is loud and decent, and there’s a fixed line out. Case is plastic, tuning knob has a good feel and the rotary encoder seems not to be an issue in older sets. Build quality is fine. Performance is fair with a passive YouLoop, and good with NASA’s active HF antenna, which is powered by the HF-3.
This is where I miss Universal Radio, they had the latest products in their catalog.
Universal Radio is still in business, shipping only to the USA, but no storefront.
Like someone else I recommend the tecsun s2000 from anon-Co. I love mine.
Nice post, I’m a fan of classic receivers with lots of buttons, knobs, and a vfo so I can comfortably tune by hand.
Now as some colleagues say, shortwave desktop receivers and with this arrangement only the second-hand market options remain or to use a transceiver only as a receiver.
I do not know if it is the new engineers or it is the market in general that pushes to magnify only touchscreens, I hope that some brand of receivers will make a new “classic” desktop receiver with the necessary connections to visualize on the computer a Pleasant width of spectrum band, this would be the best for me.
Is the alleged Eton Elite Satellit DOA? It’s apparently a close clone of the old Eton E1. The latest news I could find says it was pushed back to 2021, but I have my doubts that it will be released.
I’ve heard no updates lately. 🙁
I actually emailed Eton and they claim they haven’t forgotten about it. Maybe we should all start pestering them to get them to actually do something about it.
I own a Grundig S-800, Sony 2010 and just recently got my amateur radio license and picked up an Icom 7200 on a sweet deal.
The receiver is SO good. I have used it more for SWLing than actually operating.
YES! Check out the Eton Elite 750 ( currently selling for $338 to $399 at Amazon.com ). I have its immediate predecessor, the Eton Satellit 750, but I am told that they are one in the same. I have found its sensitivity & selectivity on MW & SW to be very good especially with capable outdoor antennas. I use a MFJ loop or a 100 ft. random wire and I’m very happy with its performance.
I had an Icom ic-706 mkll vhf/hf transceiver unused on the shelf. I programmed about 30 of the 99 memory channels with every SW station (those on at night…) that appealed to me. When I ran out of “candidates”, I loaded 80m ham frequencies. To further fill up the channels, I loaded AM stations.
This is my bedside radio. The rotary channel selector allows me to tune the memory stations in darkness just turning the knob up and down and stopping when I hear something I want to listen to. I’ve used Sony, Drake, Grundig rigs, etc. but to me, buttons aren’t for tuning at night and when the radio is barely in reach. The knob spinning has sure spoiled me. It also allows me to re-purpose a neglected but loyal ham radio! 73
I’ve been hearing about this Receiver Model XHData D-808. This is a great Shortwave receiver for the SWL’er. I did not realize how small it is. Please post some data on it. I found it for less than $50.00 dollars on the internet. what is the cheapest it cane be found for. LW, MW, FM, Aircraft and Shortwave Bands. Also I find it incredible to find it with SSB and Bandwidth settings for such a price.
What about the TenTec RX-340. Guess still in production altough I guess with a 4k plus price tag.
As far as I know the Tecsun S2000 is still available from Anon-Co. I got one for Christmas and it is an awesome performer!
What about the Russian Malahit SDR receiver?
It’s more of a pocket receiver than a table top receiver, but would do the job and the price is very competitive.
Yes… They are called HF Transceivers. Hey, don’t knock the performance of a decent HF rig. Case in point, in the early 1990’s, my bro-in-law had the famed Icom IC-R71A receiver, then got rid of it later. I wanted one. A friend of mine later had an Icom IC-745 HF rig for sale. After researching that it was pretty much an IC-R71A, with a transmit selection, I bought it, and still have it almost 30 years later. Kenwood has not made a stand-alone HF Receiver in a couple of decades, now. That said, if you see a TS-590S, TS-870S, TS-570S, even a decent shaped old TS-440S, going for a good sale price, don’t refuse it, just because it has a transmit section in it. Do your research, and look at the RX specs in a transceiver.
If the Palstar R30B actually comes to the market, I’d be surprised.
I’ve owned a R30A in the past. What a mistake. I’d rather be set adrift in the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season than own another R30.
I’ve really been diggin’ my 818 lately for listening as well.
I do love the idea of a standalone receiver though (i have a DX-394) and the larger tuning knob is a plus.
Perhaps there are not many tabletop SW receivers available because there no longer much to listen to on the airwaves?
My Yaesu ft817nd still holds good, highly portable and proven performance when you are mobile. A very decent general coverage receive spectrum too. But it’s not everybody’s cup of joy. You need a lot of patience, willingness and dedication, once one finds that the radio is a joy to use. Mine is still topclass even after 16 years of use.
Isn’t the Yaesu ft817nd discontinued?
Yes the 817ND is but it’s been rebirthed as
the 818ND extra 1 watt & a TXCO.
There are many 2nd hand 817s to be had as it’s
been in production for 20 years.
Tecsun has several deck top receiver
There are ham,overcounter type receiver s