Starting to compare the Tecsun H-501x and Sangean ATS-909X2

I took delivery of the Tecsun H-501x yesterday morning and the Sangean ATS-909X2 last week.

I’ve been waiting for these portable receivers for what seems like ages, and both arrive within one week of each other.

My initial impressions are positive for both radios, but I know it’s time to start some proper comparisons.

These portables are arguably the flagships of both manufacturers, so I decided to pit them against a “legacy” portable that has a reputation for eating other receivers for lunch: the Panasonic RF-B65.

“Nom nom nom…”

I fully expect the RF-B65 to emerge as the leader of this pack on shortwave in AM mode. No kidding. That’s why it’s a benchmark. If you can out-perform the RF-B65, you’re a five-star, Holy Grail portable and that’s the end of the story.

Where both the H-501 and ATS-909X2 will have an advantage is in audio fidelity. Both have excellent built-in speakers.

In addition, while the Panny RF-B65 is a great AM mode radio, it has very basic BFO controls and fine tuning for SSB. No doubt, I’ll likely pull out a different receiver for SSB comparisons.

Dan Robinson just published his initial review of the H-501x and I’m in agreement with his observations.

DanH expects his ATS-909X2 back from firmware update soon and I look forward to his evaluation.

I plan to write a review of the Sangean ATS-909X2 for the June 2021 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine. My Tecsun H-501x review may appear in TSM as well.

I will post updates here on the SWLing Post and possibly some comparison audio/reception examples.

Tecsun H-501x availability

SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel, received word from Anna at Anon-Co that they hope to have their first batch of H-501x units available to ship by the end of April 2021. Pricing has not yet been firmed up.

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12 thoughts on “Starting to compare the Tecsun H-501x and Sangean ATS-909X2

  1. Zumaque

    I would like to ask for help with a query.
    I have had the H501X for a long time, it works very well and I only notice that from a while ago, the Headphone connector moves.
    All 3 line out, line in and earphones are moving. It does not bother and works fine, just a slight movement when touching the plug.
    Does it happen to anyone else?

  2. Andreas

    thanks to this great article i acquired a panasonic rf b65 in new condition – unbelieveable performance – i remember seeing the panasonic in shops in the nineties but couldnt afford it as a twelve year old – one of the best things i ever bought! thank you

  3. Paul S. in CT

    The H-501 with bad sync is a return to seller, period. At the asking price that defect should be fixed

  4. Dave

    The Sangean wins on better AGC and natural sounding SSB. The Tecsun DSP receivers are so distorted and harsh sounding in this area.

    Mo more Tecsuns for me. Degen radios with SSB actually perform better. Models such as the Degen 1103 and Grundig G3 are quite good performers on all bands. Even the XHDATA D808 beats the Tecsun portables on sensitivity and selectivity.

    My favorite portable SW receiver is still the original Sangean ATS-909. I have four of them and they perform brilliantly with any external antenna and have the best sounding SSB audio for a portable imo.

  5. Dan Robinson

    It is interesting to see that Sangean may have improved the 909x to the point where many are preferring it. If the whip antenna sensitivity has been improved, and quality control is such that units are not off frequency on zero beat, that is definitely a positive development. However, the ability on Tecsun receivers to re-adjust calibration is a major positive point — even if you have to re-calibrate from time to time across the bands. However, auto-bandwidth control is kind of a waste — I can’t see wanting to listen to any signal while having the radio itself make my decisions on bandwidth. Meanwhile, Thomas is quite right about the RF-B65 — I like them so much I have four.

    1. DanH

      You should try the auto bandwidth feature on the Sangean ATS-909X2 before dismissing it. I appreciate this feature for shortwave in certain situations where rapid and deeply fading signals make words difficult to copy. This feature can sample filter choices every 300 ms. I listen to all-news station KCBS AM740 often on MW. This station is strong and fades little during the daytime but becomes weaker at nighttime after reducing power and switching antenna patterns. Auto bandwidth control will switch the 909X2 to a bandwidth filter with better signal to noise ratio every evening. I don’t need to walk across the room to do this. Of course, the operator has the choice to use auto bandwidth control on the 909X2 or to select bandwidth filters manually. This is easily accomplished with the MANUAL/AUTO slide switch on the right hand-side of the radio and the bandwidth select button of the front panel. It is nice to have choices. I use manual bandwidth control most of the time but appreciate having auto control when I want it.

      Quite a few 909X2 customers reviews mention just how good SSB sounds on a 909X2 and how easily it tunes. I agree.

      1. Mike S

        If the auto bandwidth works similarly to the bandwidth narrowing on the PR-D4W it would be just fine with me too.

    2. Julio Cesar Pereira

      As for sensitivity, I’ve just read a review by a very reliable source who compared the ATS-909X2 to its predecessor the ATS-909x and it has improved greatly, specially regarding its whip antenna.

      1. Mike S

        Unfortunately that reviewer did not mention anything about the firmware issues which received extensive and ongoing discussion here.

    3. Chris

      I am getting to this a bit late, but not that late in early October 2021, the H501x calibration capability is simply moot on the three samples I have lain hands upon, not one of them maintains calibration long, and I am talking calibrating them to zero and then instantly encountering a 10-150 hz drift in zero beat by the very next frequency.

      Also, a real deal killer for me on the Tecsun is its hunger for 18650’s, as in eating them alive, its power needs render a fully charged 18650 down to drained in just four-six hours depending on what features you are using on the set, the units then power themselves off once battery levels hit a certain low, mind you the batteries still have power, but receiver just powers off like some LED torches do, and that is a problem for a sophisticated set that can only be run on 18650 cells!

      I just purchased a new ATS-909X2, and if it will perform as ably as the original did for me back in the day, then the Tecsun won’t ever leave its nice faux leather soft case again…..

  6. Shawn j

    I have the Tecsun h501 it runs nicely similar in some parameters as the Tecsun Pl990 x but in my opinion I think the sangean ultimate has the slightly better performance. Comparing all 3 when the sangean fixes the firmware update it would be my 1 radio.

    1. Blake Ratliff

      Good to see Sangean has improved their 909x. I bought the PL-990x first because of its bluetooth connectivity. To me that really sets it apart from the 909x. Using my radio to play a podcast from my phone while hiking or in the outdoors is a real treat. I also enjoy using the PL-990x to listen to the Alexander Scorby Audio Bible. The Alexander Sorby Bible reading takes about 3.85 gig of the 16 gig Micro SD card that came with the PL-990x.

      So if I were going to get another radio for fun I would be choosing between the H-501x and the 909x. Since I already have the PL-990x which is already highly portable with great sounding bluetooth, I am thinking the 909x may be a more complementary radio to the PL-990x than the H-501. So as much as I like the H-501x (I like it a lot), I would probably pick the 909x as my next radio before getting an H-501x.


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