Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, for the following guest post and review:
The H-501: Jewel in the Tecsun Crown, With Some Attractive Features
by Dan Robinson
Since 2020, there has been one Tecsun receiver I have been most looking forward to reviewing, and that is Tecsun’s H-501.
Videos showing the pre-production and mainland China versions of the 501 started appearing online at least a year ago. There are also numerous videos showing comparisons between the H-501 and PL-990x as well as the PL-330.
What I will do here is provide an assessment of the 501 informed by my use of a H-501 just received, the other two Tecsun receivers, and my decades of experience using a wide range of portable receivers. This review is based on initial tests of a H-501x, among the first production units.
HOMAGE TO RECEIVERS OF THE PAST
The elephant in the room with the 501 is, of course, its two large left and right speakers. This reminds one of another Tecsun DSP portable, the PL-398BT with a similar left-right speaker arrangement.
On the left of the H-501, from the top, are the Volume, Treble, and Bass knobs which like the PL-880 and 990x has obvious lineage back to the famous Grundig portables of the 1990’s – the Satellit 500 and 700. Both of those were limited to two bandwidths. Only the 700 had anything approaching usable synchronous detection.
Each of the left hand control knobs on the 501 contains a dot to indicate where you are in the Maximum/Minimum range. At the bottom of the left side is a micro-USB port for when the receiver is used as a computer speaker – quite a nice feature!
On the right side of the 501 you find ports for AM and FM antennas, each with a rubber traction cap, similar to what is found on the PL-990x. There is also a three position sensitivity sliding switch for Local, Normal, and DX modes – that’s one more than usually found.
Knobs on the right side are the Main tuning and Fine tuning, again similar to the PL-990x. At the very bottom of the right side is the 5v 1.0 amp micro-USB charging port.
NEGATIVE: Here I discuss one of two major negatives with the 501. The tuning knobs are embedded quite far into the radio body. Each has a round piece of rubber covering on the knob end surface designed obviously to provide traction, possibly also as a protective measure.
The reality is that on the 501, more seriously on the PL-330, embedding of the knobs so far into the cabinet makes it virtually impossible to undertake rapid tuning using those knobs if you are just placing your finger on the top barrel part of the knob itself!
As you will see in photos and video accompanying this review, holding a finger against the rubber on the end of each knob, or closer to the center, to achieve more rapid tuning. But it’s kind of annoying. On the PL-990x the knobs are somewhat different – extending a bit farther out of the cabinet, but also with the rubber coverings.
So, this is a design point for Tecsun to consider. Surely, it should be possible to come up with slightly different knobs for the 501 that make it more comfortable to achieve rapid tuning. As it is, the knobs on the 501 barely extend beyond the cabinet edge, including the end and rubber cap.
The same goes for the PL-330 – which has knobs that only one half inch in depth, and extending only about 1/16 of an inch beyond the cabinet edge. Part of the attractiveness of the 330 is its compact size and I doubt Tecsun will be moving to put slightly larger knobs on that radio anytime soon. But as it is, using the main and fine tuning controls on the 330 gets you maybe 10 kHz in tuning range.
[UPDATE] I realized after further use of the 501x that Tecsun clearly intended for the rubber knob cap covers to act as traction for tuning. The problems I see: after significant use over time, those rubber covers will lose their stickiness and thus their ability to help tuning will be reduced. Also, the fine tuning knob is smaller — and even using the rubber cover on the knob for more traction, it is somewhat difficult to achieve rapid tuning in 1 kHz mode. Tecsun could help 501x owners on the issue with the tuning knobs by including spare rubber knob caps. But it’s uncertain how the existing rubber knob covers are attached to the original knobs and how easy it would be to replace them when they lose their stickiness.
H-501 IMPRESSIVE FRONT PANEL
At the top of the H-501 radio above the LCD display can be found the Display/Snooze/Lock button. On an older Tecsun radio, the PL-880, this button doubled as the calibration adjust control. On the PL-990x this triple function button is located on the top of the radio.
POSITIVE: One of the big positives of the 501 is the large LCD display. The number digits are absolutely huge and make it easy to read frequencies.
Thanks Tecsun! The display contains numerous bits of information about receiver operation, the signal strength meter, etc.
Below the display is the keypad, with special dual keys for 9/10 kHz mediumwave, Longwave activation, and FM range adjustment. Backlight activation is on the 5 key. At the bottom you have the VF/VM key to select between frequency tuning and memories. To the right are the FM, MW/LW, and SW + and – buttons. These put the radio into shortwave mode and as is the case with the PL-990 and other receivers, activate ATS/ETM tuning.
At the very bottom of the front panel can be found PLAY/PAUSE, RR, and FF buttons for control of SD card audio when using the microSD card, which like on the 990x is located on the bottom of the receiver. According to the manual, by the way, the microSD slot accepts cards of up to 128 GB. Included in the box is a 16 GB SanDisk Ultra card. A reset hole is also on the bottom of the radio.
Finally, at the bottom of the 501 face are rubber covered input ports for Earphones, Line In, and Line Out.
METAL TILT BAIL
POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE: On the back of the receiver, you find the metal tilt bail which folds down and locks into two plastic tabs and can be lifted easily with a finger from an indentation in the cabinet.
This was a good design move by Tecsun, with the following observations: there are no incremental positions on the metal bail as you find on, say, a Microsoft Surface or similar tablet type PC. The only fully stable position is to have the metal bail fully extended back. That places the 501 in a great position if you’re standing or even sitting to a degree. But if you try to place the bail in any middle position you’re in danger of having the radio become unstable. Tecsun should definitely give some thought to a re-design, though the bail is better than the flimsy plastic stands found on the PL-990 and PL-880 and some older portables.
Still on the back of the radio, intelligently, Tecsun marks a screw hole which can be used to remove the telescopic antenna (marked as ANT SCREW). The other screw holes for removal of the back of the radio are also clearly marked. Thanks Tecsun!
However, one additional partial negative – there are no rubber pads on the bottom back edge of the 501x which will be contacting whatever surface the radio is sitting on while the metal bail is in use. So, if you don’t want that bottom back edge to be scratched, place the radio on something to cushion it.
POSITIVE: Another interesting feature not found on other radios: Tecsun has created a dual charging system for the 501 which uses two 18650 batteries.
In viewing numerous videos, I have not seen this discussed much. Basically, this enables you to use the receiver’s internal charging capability to choose which battery you are charging. The manual states that the battery contains space for a “spare” battery. The charging indicator on the LCD display will flash while charging is underway – there does not appear to be a separate display for battery A or B. However, and this is quite a unique capability – while you are using the 501x, the switch changes which battery the radio is using.
It’s not clear to me whether the receiver while powered on is taking energy from one or both batteries simultaneously. As I note in my reviews, and this is amplified in the manual, do not expect to be able to charge a battery internally and listen to the radio at the same time because there WILL be noise.
HUGE WORLD MAP AND RADIO DIAGRAM INCLUDED
Tecsun includes a huge – and I mean HUGE – World Amateur Radio map in a plastic pouch with the manual. On the back of this is a large photo of the 501 with clear English guide points to each and every feature of the radio. In this, Tecsun is really going out of its way to make owning the 501 a special experience.
In the box (see photos) Tecsun includes 2 18650 lithium batteries, a 5 volt double USB A charging cube, a mini to mini cord, a USB charging cable, and to boot, a pair of fairly high quality wired earphones complete with spare ear tips.
Anon-co advises that the H-501x uses a different IC than the PL-990x. No further details were available as of the time of this writing.
This is clearly a sensitive radio, as is the PL-990X. In these days of declining use of shortwave, almost any receiver is going to be able to hear “stuff” all over the bands and the 501x and 990x as well as the 330 are all quite capable in this regard.
In the video, I tune some familiar stations, including Voice of Greece and BBC
and move through the excellent bandwidth options. This is where the 501, with its large dual speakers, excels because if you’re on a strong station – Greece is a great example because of its great music programs – and you have that wider option, it’s really pleasant to listen to.
NEGATIVE: However, one has to puzzle over the decision to limit bandwidth to 6 kHz when in shortwave mode. On mediumwave (AM) you have a 9 kHz option which provides some fine listening. Perhaps Tecsun felt that there are few stations using shortwave these days that would benefit from having a significantly wider option? I would urge Tecsun to make 9 kHz available in shortwave.
NEGATIVE: I really had some hope that Tecsun would go farther toward
solving the problem of unstable/distorted SYNC mode with all of these recent radios. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
Using SYNC on these radios – though this was not the case with the PL-660 and 680 – involves a delicate dance, requiring using a combination of bandwidth filters and LSB/USB. SYNC works fairly well with some stations, but it really depends on signal level, and to an extent signal level of any station close to the frequency you are on.
There is a 1 kHz fine tune spread when using SYNC after which lock is lost. And still, lock is often lost even when you’re on center frequency and not using
fine tune in SYNC – the signal just becomes distorted. Not fun. The PL-990x has the same issues.
Now, Tecsun has definitely made progress since the horrendous implementation of SYNC on the PL-880, which wasn’t even an official feature. But it’s disappointing that given the design features in the 501, especially the wonderful dual speakers, a way has not been found to resolve this issue which obviously involves the DSP chip that is the brain of the receiver.
Video: Detailed testing of Tecsun H-501x
NEGATIVE: One of the things the folks at SONY, Panasonic and some other manufacturers did so well was design radios with antennas that nested inside the radio and could be pulled up and out of the cabinet, and because of this, there was clearance from the top of the radio so the antenna can achieve vertical position. Tecsun has not done the same. Antennas on the H-501x, PL-990x, PL-330 swivel but cannot take up vertical position, and of course they are nested on the top of the radio. One would have thought that after years of producing portables, and coming to dominate the portable market, someone at Tecsun would have recognized the importance of antenna re-design. NOTE: the antenna on the 501x is sufficiently long, but on the PL-330 for example, seems to be not long enough.
POSITIVE: Hooray for Tecsun in integrating BT capability into the 501x and 990x. This was such an obvious move and thanks to Tecsun for really hitting it out of the park. Unfortunately, we don’t get the ability to record audio from the radio on to microSD cards – that would truly have been a major step forward
The H-501 has the same re-calibration adjustment feature as is seen in the PL-909x and the PL-330. This involves going into LSB or USB mode, holding down the USB or LSB keys until a flash appears, then using the Fine Tuning knob to achieve zero beat on WWV or strong station that is known to be on frequency, then holding down USB or LSB again to have the radio re-zero itself. This is a fine feature that we have seen since the PL-880.
When I first received the H-501 it appeared that the receiver was fairly on zero beat from mediumwave up through 25 meters shortwave. Further testing revealed that re-calibration was necessary, but the degree of error from mediumwave up through 19 meters was not as significant as I have seen on the PL-990x. Re-calibrating at a mid-point of 25 meters appears to be a good mid-point choice, but inevitably, doing re-calibration on shortwave will throw the receiver off by a bit down on mediumwave.
A cautionary note: when undertaking this calibration function be sure to give the radio time to confirm it’s in calibration mode with the FLASHing LCD. Sometimes, the readout will jump a full 1 kHz above or below the frequency you’re zeroing on – if that happens use the MAIN TUNING knob to get yourself back (i.e. 9,704 to 9,705.00) and complete the zero beat operation with the FINE TUNING knob, then hold down LSB or USB to complete.
All of this may be overkill for most people – I am just among those who obsess over having receivers as exactly on zero beat as possible. That’s more difficult or impossible to achieve with older receivers that have no calibration function, such as the ICF-2010 or SW-55 without literally taking those radios apart to access internal points of adjustment. The fact that Tecsun provides this capability in these portables is something we should all be very grateful for.
All of the Tecsun radios have a “reset” hole to be used if the receiver is not functioning properly. I had one occasion of lockup with this sample of the H-501x. Rather than using the reset hole, I decided to remove one of the two 18650 batteries, which of course reset the receiver. I have alerted Anon-co to this issue, but it’s hard to tell whether it’s a major problem without having other H-501 units to compare to.
POSITIVE: The H-501 that I received for review from Anon-co came with a beautiful faux leather case complete with a convenient carrying handle. My understanding is that this matches mainland China versions that have been widely seen in videos online.
Anon-co advises that the first batch of 501x to be carried by them will come in a gift box with this PU leather case, possibly to be followed at some later point by a hardcover carrying case. Indeed, a photo can be found online showing the H-501 in a hardcover carrying case similar to the cases for the PL-880 and PL-990x kits.
As of early April, Anon-co advises that while the price for 501x is not set yet, it’s expected to be somewhere in the $310 – 330 range including shipping to the U.S.
AM/MEDIUMWAVE AND FM PERFORMANCE
Not much to say here – I find FM performance on the 501x to be superb, and mediumwave reception is more than satisfactory.
As I noted earlier, these days amid declining use of shortwave by remaining broadcasters, almost any DSP or older portable receivers are capable of producing excellent results for shortwave listening.
Facebook groups devoted to shortwave (they have become the new gathering place and information exchanges for those of us who still love the hobby) are
full of newcomers inquiring about which Tecsun, Degen, or other portables are best.
Often, my advice is to consider older portables that are still quite competitive, especially considering the reduction in the number of stations still on shortwave. These would include such classics as the Grundig Satellit 700/500, the SONY
ICF-2010(2001D), SONY ICF-SW77, and ICF-SW55, along with the venerable Panasonic RF-B65 and SONY ICF-SW100S in the smaller category.
What Tecsun has done with what we have to assume may be the final group of DSP receivers it produces is come up with small (PL-330), medium (PL-990x), and large (H-501) radios that combine extremely attractive features and excellent audio. The H-501x, in effect, is a Grundig Satellit 700 re-born for the 21st century and the path to it was paved by the PL-880.
Though implementation of SYNC in each of these receivers still leaves much to be desired, having this feature is enough to push prospective buyers to choose one or more of these Tecsun units over older portables.
Note that Sangean, which is now producing its ATS-909×2 (though the radio has growing pains and is having its firmware updated by Sangean) seems to have taken note of Tecsun’s dominance of the market and provided multi-bandwith capability, and an improved and enlarged LCD display on the 909×2 along with finer frequency resolution.
In a strange but perhaps understandable decision, Sangean left SYNC mode off of its new flagship receiver. Whether this had more to do with production costs or a decision that synchronous detection really brings little to the game these days, or both, along with other factors, remains a puzzle. It does appear, from early reviews, that Sangean may have improved sensitivity on the 909×2, though this too remains unconfirmed.
But again, even with the negatives I noted here about the H-501x, what Tecsun has accomplished is significant. It has given remaining potential buyers of multi-band portables three superb receiver choices. There are others in the Tecsun line such as the S-8800 and S2000, but of these only the S8800 is something I would recommend.
As I noted in a recent review of the PL-330, had we enjoyed a situation back in the golden days of shortwave in the 1960’s/1970’s/1980’s where a portable provided multiple bandwidths, advanced memory operations, and synchronous detection, DXing would have been even more of an enjoyment than it was. Certainly those Country Heard/Country Verified totals would have been higher!
The H-501x could easily be considered the crown jewel in the Tecsun group with its killer looks, large speakers, and performance equaling the PL-990x. Each of these receivers is arguably an easy choice as a “daily driver” for traveling, though where air travel and TSA issues are concerned, the PL-330 would be a better choice.
RECOMMENDATION: Of the negatives I discuss in this article, only one I would consider fairly huge, and that is the ongoing issue with synchronous detection. If the 501x, like the 990x and 330, were to have this issue resolved that would make it easy to recommend any of the three radios. As it is, the attractiveness of the 501x lies with its beautiful two speaker design. Even with the annoying SYNC issue, I would recommend the radio to anyone who understands the SYNC issue and doesn’t mind and who wants a nice, larger version of the 909x.
Why has no reviewer or poster even mentioned a serious limitation with the H501 and PL-990 series that would make many people avoid these latest receivers from Tecsun ?
The limitation is quite simple and bizarre. These receivers (as well as the PL-330) all have a hard limit if 100 channels for storing shortwave SSB frequencies.
The previous Tecsun models (PL-880, PL-680, PL-660, PL-600) have no such limit
This is a real deal breaker for utility listeners so beware before buying.
Not sure why a 100 channel limit should dissuade anyone from purchasing. Even classic older receivers have this limitation.
I hope you have better luck with yours. I bought one on eBay, was not the X model, and it was so far off frequency that calibration couldn’t even fix it. Then the replacement radio had the infamous unstable master oscillator and the SSB was all warbling. I read there is no difference between the x and non x model once you set it to 10 khz tuning on AM. I really wanted to like this radio but lost all confidence in Tecsun.
I ordered the 501x but have not received it from Hong Cong yet. I do have a pl 880 and it is a great radio but I will sell it because I don’t need both. The only radio I have owned that the synchronus detection worked well on was the big Eton (Grundig/Drake). On that radio it would sync up the station and not distort the audio. I stopped using it because if the sticky plastic case that those had a problem with.
The issue is the receivers AUTO-DNR, if you toggle that off, the receiver will stop automatically changing filters, its the DNR that creates this issue! Follow procedure’s I posted you, and the problem will cease, my advice would be to leave the DNR turned off permanently, its a terrible feature….
To terminate DNR functions the following must be done in order, first with receiver powered up, depress additional functions key(button-6)and activate additional functions, then depress DNR key(button-6)and turn down DNR functions. I would suggest you leave DNR permanently off after doing this, its imparts all sorts of havoc upon the listening experience…..
Pardon me I typed the process incorrectly, the additional functions key is button 4, that must be depressed to on while radio is powered up, then depress the DNR key(6) and terminate DNR functions….
I would like to ask if you set up a 3.5 khz filter, for example, and listen to if the filter stays in the band for the whole time of tuning. Or it must be set to the next frequency again. I sent the receiver for repair because my filters switched when tuning in the band. I still need to ask if anyone is listening to them on the TECSUN H501X, NDB beacons with an antenna connected. I’m very interested in how he’s done.
Thank you Ludek
I need to get in touch with someone who owns a TECSUN H-501X receiver for advice.
I bought a TECSUN H-501X radio because I don’t think this receiver is working properly, so I need some information. No one answered my questions from our DX club. So I write to you. 1) The biggest problem is setting the filter, I tune the station and put a 2.3 or 3.5 kHz filter and that’s fine. I will give a different frequency and the filter will change itself to 5 -9 kHz per MW. I have to set the filter again. This is in all LW, MW, SW bands. I think the filter should keep tuning and switching all the time. How’s your receiver? 2) When tuning the exact signal (5 MHz, 10MHz) I have to tune 2 kHz + and that is on all bands LW, MW, SW 3) I don’t know if stereo FM is ok. My “RDS manager” does not respond at all, it works 100% on other receivers. 4) I wanted to listen to NDB beacons on the LW band. How I connected the assets. LOOP ANTENNA, so stations from the MW band up to 50 kHz started playing. I had to make a Preselector. Thank you very much for the answer and maybe GooGLE translated it well. 73 Lud?k Košek
Email: [email protected]
Hi there Ludik, power off the DSP!, and leave it off permanently!
thank you for the info on TECSUN H-501X. Where does the DSP turn off?
I think to buy one of the two,ie H 501x,or S8800.I already have a PL-660,a PL-880,a Panasonic RF-240D,two Grundig Yacht boy 500,a SONY 7600A, a Philips D2299PLL,plus a tube vintage Murphy TA54. .
Which of the two to choose please?
I would caution all who are considering dropping $300.00 plus dollars on one of these Tecsun receivers, to consider looking elsewhere, perhaps the superior Sangean 909X2, but stay away from this troublesome HF receiver unless you are collecting. The power consumption issues with the h501/h501X are absolute deal breakers, period!
I have had hands upon four individual samples, and everyone of them manifested exceedingly inferior battery consumption, draining down 3500 mah 18650’s in just a few hours time with steady use at 12% volume. Turn volume up to 20-40% and in ten – twenty minutes or so, battery would drain down in dramatic fashion, like from 420V to 377V or thereabout, also if you start using functions such as SSB, Synch, or whatever, that greatly adds to that battery draw down.
One extremely annoying issue I can safely conclude every such receiver sold all will manifest, is the auto turn down of the unit at volume. What that means is this, lets say you run unit at 20-40% volume, you will notice the little battery level indicator spiking up and down, mostly down, but spiking, even with energy still within the 18650 cells, the spiking will demonstrate an empty cell for a moment, over and over, and if you do not immediately reduce volume down to lets say 5-8%, the receiver automatically powers itself off as not enough energy exists in battery to run the device anymore!
Again this issue has been observed in all four units in my orbit, and its not necessary that battery be drained, simply put, the more functions and volume you are using, the swifter the battery fails to power the device, and this can and will occur in batteries that are fully charged up to 420V!
I find it inconceivable Tecsun did not know full well that this device was so poorly regulated, running a radio at 20% volume is not in any fashion abusive, theoretically you are still left with another 80% to play with, in a large room you might need to up volume to 30-40% to hear it. In my considered opinion this radio is strictly, “caveat emptor!”
Pl-660, great radio in all aspects, jon collins, birmingham, uk
I think to buy one of the two,ie H 501x,or S8800.I already have a PL-660,a PL-880,a Panasonic RF-240D,two Grundig Yacht boy 500,a SONY 7600A, a Philips D2299PLL,plus a tube vintage Murphy TA154. .
Which of the two to choose please?
Thanks to great reviews such as these, I have finally ordered an H-501. It’s been something in the proverbial pipeline since hearing about the units long before the release date. I look forward receiving my shipment.
Such a good radio and they don’t have a BNC connector for the antenna? Really, a 3.5 mm connector does not cut it for any external antenna. A radio for this price should have a proper antenna connector like a BNC
The AGC still pumps and causes SSB wobble that sounds like it’s pulling the oscillator off-frequency on SSB signal peaks.
I agree that the 9khz bandwidth should be able to be independently selected regardless of the band or mode.
The S-meter is very unstable, and it makes peaking signals difficult. More work needs to be done to closely replicate the ballistics of a moving coil meter.
Exactly! I posted a video on a FB shortwave group. I had two examples of the H501 and both had so much “warble” from the master oscillator instability. The first set was off by 1.2 khz, and when I tried to recalibrate it I could only get to about .99 kHz and then the radio would shift back to 1.2 kHz off. Apparently there is a limit to the calibration. My PL 330 out did both these 501’s on SSB and so they both went back for s refund. Disappointing as I was hoping for one last “high-end” receiver to take into my retirement.
For all of you looking to purchase this radio, here are my bullet points regarding issues encountered on very first day and night of playing with a Tecsun H501x receiver. You need to see if these issues play out across the full spectrum of the 501x’s first generation.
Absolutely epic battery drain, seriously, my PL880 runs for weeks on one 18650, months if little used, not so this bird, totally consumed tecsun supplied 18650 in a single evening, which is awful!
Terrible SSB stability, you cannot zero beat the radio across frequencies successfully, it certainly demodulates SSB very well, just don’t expect to zero beat the thing as you can say the rock solid PL880 which once zero beat, can be easily toggled between bands holding that zero beat! Think Sangean 909X, and original 909, or Yacht Boy 400, that kind of instability, you will have to painstakingly re-zero each, or most every frequency. BTW, upon powering up the radio after night of use, SSB frequencies which had been perfectly zeroed, were now off again by as much as 170 hz!
Synch works well, the problem is, and I cannot imagine the guys reviewing the radio missed this, that the SSB, must be re-zeroed, which is a problem when trying to rely upon the synch! Folks, SSB(at least on my sample)is a seriosus hindrance.
Regarding batteries, after the dismal performance of tecsun supplied 18650 cells, I inserted a pair of Olight 3200 mah 18650’s, both fully charged, then powered down the set until morning. Upon firing the set back up I was met with a low battery warning whilst tuning the radio, literally upon firing it up, then the radio powered itself off altogether! That would be absolutely epic battery drain, except when I took the offending Olight and placed it back in charger it was still fully charged! This will be a huge problem I think we can all agree, on a radio that only can be run via 18650 cells!
Tuning oddities, the tuning dial demonstrates repeated instability, manifested of course in the radio suddenly falling out of frequency!
Sound, is it me, or do the PL880 and 909X just sound better, including much better volume, even under battery power???
I’m not knocking this set at all, like the original 909X I really want to like this thing, but based upon my initial experience I would wait before buying these, they have bugs, some quite serious! I will of course play with the radio more fully in coming day and report back if allowed to do so!
I bought the Chinese version (H-501) a few months ago. I must say, battery life is quite short.
The thing that concerned me the most, was the poor sound quality, particularly on FM. No matter how I set the tone controls, the radio would warble, at times very badly, at other times not too bad. music played from an SD card was pretty good, but the radio!! Not bad for speech, but for music, forget it, just awful! Quite frankly, this was the worst sounding FM radio I that I’ve ever come across, really just unlistenable! The Tecsun PL-880 sounds very much better. In fact the humble Tecsun ICR-110 AM/FM radio left it for dead!
I came to the conclusion that the H-501 that I’d purchased must be faulty, as no radio at this price should sound this poor.
I recently decided to bite the bullet, and get myself the H-501x. The first one I received proved faulty as the audio kept cutting out, so was returned for a replacement. Now my findings of the new radio are, that it’s exactly the same as the original H-501 I had. So, I’m sadly disappointed with this set, and how people can say that it has good audio, and even superb audio is beyond me!
Nice review, I fully intend to land myself the 501, that said, I remain puzzled by all this synch circuitry interest, these radios, and their superb selection of bandwidths, along with equally superb SSB performance, will excel at ECSS which in my book effectively neutralizes any need for a synch circuit!
I’m just following up to my own question, I just took delivery of a H501x from Anon-co(from Honk Kong to NW WI in 5-days flat)and the very first thing I did was zero beat the receiver, then ran it for a a few hours, literally just a preliminary looksie, and imagine my surprise when the synch worked just fine, certainly as well as the PL660/680 and better than the worthless synch on the PL880…. I don’t know if they made an improvement, or whether some folks just got a quirky set, but my sample worked just fine, tenaciously locking down signal!
Dear can you inform us which is better for short wave reception: Tecsun H-501x or Tecsun S-2000 ? Which of them more sensitive for short wave stations ? Which of them of higher selectivity ? Which of them better in suppression of noises ?
I’m living inside a vertical building. Currently, I’m using SONY ICF-7600DS FM/LW/MW/SW digital receiver (made in Japan from 1980s). I’m suffering from noises when using short waves stations …… I like to upgrade to newer device. Which is better in my case, Tecsun H-501x or Tecsun S-2000 ? It seem that H-501x came with newer technology like triple conversion. But triple conversion is minor issue for short wave. It is more important for VHF & UHF. From specification, S-2000 should be more sensitive for short waves … But can one give me recommendation which of them better for short wave reception based on her/his practical experiments with both devices ? Which of them associated with better sound ? Which of them suppress background noises & allowing for better & clearer station voice ??
Hi Dan, thanks for your review…
but finally we all want to know if the AGC problem on the PL880 has been solved on the PL-990 and on the H501. models …. That was very troublesome and just cannot be ignored…
And what about the quality and the stability of the SSB signals….??????
Vy 73 Bertrand…
how is he in sw
Hello, dear radio enthusiast friends!
I´m Tecsun PL-880 owner. I want an upgrade from Tecsun as a manufacturer, no discussion about it. What I got from multiple reviews and my personal observation is, that until I don´t want MP3 player via memory card (what´s my case), it isn´t worth to buy PL-990x. In addition, I want bigger radio with better sound quality in comparison with PL-880. There are only 2 possible options left for me: S-8800 or H-501x. Which is better if I want something like PL-880 “bigger bother”? S-8800 lacks keypad, but it has very nice oldschool design and once all the things (hidded features) are set via remote, tuning is easy. H-501x is pretty much the same as PL-990x. The only one additional thing are 4 speakers. Card reader and bluetooth connection are irrelenvant for me. Is it worth to buy H-501x just because of stereo sound on FM? What´s Your overall impression? Which one from S-8800 and H-501x will You buy?
Thank You for Your answer.
If you want the look of the old Grundig sets, then I think a 501x is hard to beat. It really is nice. But you are right, it is essentially a 909x but bigger, though it does have the unique feature of 2 battery operation — it operates from one 18650, but you have a spare in the same battery compartment and a switch to choose between them. The S8800 is quite nice and very sensitive. See my review of it here on SWLing Post…https://swling.com/blog/2018/11/dan-compares-and-reviews-the-tecsun-s-8800-portable-am-fm-shortwave-receiver/
My brother in law gave me S-8800 as a birthday gift 3 days ago. It´s latest model year 2021 and I noticed, that radio is hyper sensitive. When I plugged in 30 m (100 ft) long external antenna and despite I switched from DX to LOCAL, there wasn´t a big difference. Tons of stations, amateur broadcasters and beacons on SW are all over the place. I´ve got latest firmware version 8830 (released in 2021). According what I got from my research, Tecsun is releasing new versions each year. It shifted this radio to whole another level: e.g. there´s possibility to use fine tuning button as RF gain control, once I push it twice. I never heard such super sensitive MW and LW with that sound quality as this radio has. It´s fully comparable with FM. Just btw., they removed soft mutting on FM and FM performance is absolutely amazing too. I can get 70 – 80 % stations 400 – 430 km (250 – 270 miles) away with very little noise only and the same percentage of stations 300 – 320 km (190 – 200 miles) away from me, I can get in stereo! They increased the memories to the same amount, as have PL-880 and PL-990x. There are a lot of another very cool things, they´re accessible as hidden funcitons via remote. And the battery endurance on very high volume level is perfect too. I tried it and they lasted 3 x 8 hours, that equals 24 hours in total. So, from my point of view, the dilema is solved.
I will be very thankfull for Your opinion about this idea.
Mathew, I loved you in The Transporter series and Hobbs & Shaw wasn’t shabby, either. I sure you are the man for “action” portables, too. Will we be seeing this radio in your next movie?
There will be interesting portables as a key communication devices in next movies. Just btw. I´m only the regular guy, but a big fan of Jason Statham.
Hello Dan R,
“The tuning knobs are embedded quite far into the radio body … embedding of the knobs so far into the cabinet makes it virtually impossible to undertake rapid tuning using those knobs if you are just placing your finger on the top barrel part of the knob itself!”
This is the negative that I consider to be fairly huge. Why, see the excerpt below (James Field’s Review/Comments – January 2018) on the usability factors of multi-band portable radios – which I wholeheartedly agree with.
… some observations on the usability factors, in particular those which I find to be lacking. For some reason, very few radio reviewers seem to spend any time on ergonomics, or on the actual implementation of the controls that have to be used to operate the device. Personally I find these things to be key to my long-term enjoyment of a radio, and strongly impact the likelihood that I will want to use a radio on a day-to-day basis. I am more likely to use and enjoy a radio that is easy to tune, has decent auto-scanning capabilities, a sane memory preset scheme, etc. – even if the radio isn’t quite as strong a performer as some others on given band.”
I had high hopes for the Tecsun H-501x to be the replacement for my PL-880. Say what you will about the Tecsun PL-880, it’s easy to tune, and a joy to listen to – and for the past five years it has been my go -to receiver for armchair listening and robust sound.
Now, as far as the annoying Sync issue is concerned on the 501x, I too would have like to have seen that issue addressed and resolved in this model. However, it was never anything that I had on the PL-880; and, as such is of lesser importance.
I can justify the shortcomings of the PL-330 for its price point. However, not so much the H-501, and that is coming from a person previously interested in the model.
…for the same $$$, it’s better to purchase the superior build quality of the Sangean 909X2, instead of the Tecsun H-501…!
Plus it has Air band, which the Tecsuns do not.
See latest reviews assessments of the 909×2 — not necessarily better than Tecsun
Dan, thanks for the review. Nice broadcast examples. I did notice when you had it in SSB mode (I think it was Radio Espana), that the frequency was correct but the sound did not seem to be zero-beat to the BFO. Does the Fine Tune feature fix that easily? It is supposed to be 10 Hz increments.
As usual for the latest Tecsun line up, the Sync implementation is more or less useless, so the SSB fine tuning and clarity of the AGC while in SSB mode becomes a more important feature for Broadcast reception of distorting, fading signals.
I don’t know if you have demonstrated the re-calibration function on the 501 and 990x. That would be useful for you and others and is one reason that the Tecsun receiver have it all over the Sangean at this point. They enable re-calibration AND multiple bandwidths in SSB.
Great review.Thank you.Where can i purchase a H501X?
No mention of SSB performance for ham, utility and ECSS listening makes this review below par.
At least a mention of AGC performance and SSB sensitivity tuned to a marine weather frequency would have helped.
Sorry, can’t be everything to everyone. I don’t listen to AROs or utilities. If you watch the video, I do show stations using ECSS
Well Dave sounds like you need to make videos yourself. A person can’t possibly cover every feature that is important to each individual and keep the video under 4 hours. What a ridiculous comment to make. People with your douchenozzle attitude is the reason I will never make another video.
Get a reality check fool.
Not all shortwave listeners focus on the broadcast bands. There is a large contingent of utility monitoring enthusiasts who use portables for monitoring.
Next time try not to be a presumptuous jerk.
I think Dave needs to go to his happy place
Before even reading the review I was struck by the similarity of this unit to the Grundig Satellit 500 I had in the 90’s. I loved that radio, still have it but it’s little more than a collection piece. The left and right speakers are a bit odd but at least that does not make it a complete cosmetic clone. Interesting radio but I’ll stick with the Grundig Satellit 800 from 2000 for now, investing in new SW radio with fewer stations on air and difficult DXing out here in the Canadian prairies makes little sense, but SW will always have a place in heart.
Thank you Dan for your review, much enjoyed.
Thanks. Yes, when I first saw a PL-880 I was immediately reminded of the 1990s Grundig sets.
SYNC performance will be a deal-breaker for some. Frankly I’d like to see the Eton Elite Satellit (E1 clone) reviewed (assuming it does reach the marketplace) as I would not purchase both – but likely would purchase the better performing model of the two.
Anon-Co should have H-501x details incl. pricing posted on the web site within 10-days – and the first batch is expected by the end of April.
Yeah, I’m not really into SSB utility stations, though I used to listen to those decades ago. This is a capable SSB receiver just as the 909x is.
Concerning the new Tecsun H-501x,I notice the reviews did not cover any SSB BFO HF frequencies such as Utility stations eg AirCraft,Marine etc. All short wave radios receive “Short Wave”.But the real question should be the clearity, of a SSB offical utility station. How clear is the speech etc.Is there any drift off frequency.A true short wave receiver must also be capable of receiveing SSB utility stations. No dout the new Tecsun H-501x will ,but any reveiw should a “full” reveiw espeisaly for those of us who are DXers of SSB.Not just Short wave.
Yeah, I’m not really into SSB utility stations, though I used to listen to those decades ago. This is a capable SSB receiver just as the 909x is.
If I wished to buy a medium to big size receiver, based on your appraisal of its synchronous detection, I would be in doubt whether I should choose the S-8800 or the H-501x. In my case, the former would have an advantage because I like Etón’s field radio concept. However, of these new releases by Tecsun, the one that drove my attention is the PL-330, which I regard as an update to the excellent PL-310ET. I already have one “lunchbox portable”, the ICF-2010 and the self designated “porta-top” Etón E1 XM with features that are unique such as superior synch detect in three modes, i.e. dsb, lsb and usb, pass band tuning and lsb/usb enhanced mode. Thank you Dan for your review, I’ll share it in the ‘Rodada dos Radioescutas’ facebook group here in Brasil.