Parking lot air time with the Tecsun PL-330

My Tecsun PL-330 hasn’t been getting the love it deserves at SWLing Post HQ. In a “normal” year, I would be traveling quite a bit and the PL-330 would accompany me. Compact portables like the PL-330 are my choice receivers for one bag travel.

The PL-330 has actually been in my travel pack for a couple months now, but not really going anywhere. My hope is that now most of the family is C-19 vaccinated, we might even be able to hop a border late this year. One can dream, I reckon.

I spent much of this morning in a parking lot outside a medical specialist’s office. My father was undergoing some tests and I needed to wait outside. As I waited in the car, I remembered that I had recently moved the PL-330 from my GoRuck GR2 pack into my Red Oxx EDC bag that was sitting in the car seat next to me.

I pulled out the PL-330, extended the antenna out the window and enjoyed a little morning SWLing. It was very enjoyable, actually, and the local RFI was more manageable than I would have anticipated.

The PL-330 is a capable little radio!

Eventually, I moved to the AM broadcast (mediumwave) band to see if I could snag a few of my favorite local/regional stations. After tuning to WAIZ on 630 kHz, I opened the AM bandwidth up to 9 kHz and it sounded amazing. Thanks, Tecsun, for giving us a wide AM filter width for those strong locals. (If you’d like to hear WAIZ’s morning show, check out one of these recordings.)

After tapping my feet to some of WAIZ’s 1950s B side tunes, I switched to the FM band. I must say, these DSP portables really deliver solid FM performance. The PL-330 is very sensitive and sounds great for such a compact portable.

I think I’m going to keep the PL-330 in my EDC bag for a while along with the Belka DX. Between the two, I’ll have top-shelf compact portables for more parking lot and picnic table DXing.

Click here to read Dan Robinson’s recent review of the PL-330.

Have you purchased the Tecsun PL-330? What are your thoughts about this compact receiver? Do you also enjoy a bit of parking lot DX? Please comment!

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12 thoughts on “Parking lot air time with the Tecsun PL-330

  1. Eric Graf

    Second opinion, for others that come across this article: The “AM bandwidth of 9 kHz” in this case is clearly referring to the IF bandwidth, not the audio bandwidth. It certainly beats 3.5 kHz, but I personally wouldn’t describe it as sounding amazing.

    This is a great portable in a lot of ways. (I too really dig the ETM+ feature.) But if you’re looking for a true Superadio-III-type wideband AM portable for listening to the locals (as I was), then I’m afraid this isn’t even slightly it.

    1. Thomas Post author

      Honestly? The only modern portables I know of that have the sensitivity of a Superadio or RF-2200 era Panasonic, are made by C.Crane and they’re larger radios (to accommodate a larger ferrite bar and larger speaker). Even those radios, though, lack the amazing fidelity of the Superadio.

      Sadly, I doubt we’ll ever have a compact DSP portable with AMBC audio characteristics like any 70s-80s era solid-state portables.

      1. Eric Graf

        That’s the conclusion I’ve come to. I previously bought a CCradio 2E for the same reason (reliable rave reviews praising its fabulous AM sound quality), and got the same disappointing result. That which I seek is just not out there.

        I just wanted to warn anyone else in the same boat as me, because I really do feel ALL the reviews I came across led me to a false impression of what I was getting, so I ended up wasting a lot of money. Both this and the CCrane are fine radios for what they do, but to find truly wide, high fidelity bandwidth for AM, I’m afraid you must look to the past.

        It’s a shame. Local radio is a thing too. I’d take pretty much ANY new radio, portable or otherwise, that can get me full 10 kHz audio bandwidth with something approaching the correct NRSC deemphasis for under $300. (Heck, I’d even consider over $300 at this point.)

  2. Michael Ye

    I ordered a PL-330 on Tecsun’s website after reading this post. It will arrive in a few days. Good job Thomas 🙂

    I didn’t pay much attention to this model before, as it kind of looked almost as large as one of those other models such as 660/680/880/990. As it turned out, it is actually small and compact and can easily fit into a pocket. I also like the fact that it is regarded by some as a mini version of the PL-990.

  3. Patrick Sullivan

    I’ve had a couple chances to play with mine in my DC shack and backyard. This past weekend I used a series of adapters to plug my 40m dipole into the external and ran the automatic memory programming routine. The rig did great and grabbed 50 odd stations across the sw broadcast bands. Last night I sat on my back steps and listened using the whip and a tecsun wire antenna hung from a low branch. Got a lot of local medium wave overloading using both the whip and the wire below 6mhz. Switched over and listened to a 40m worked all states ssb net, heard stations from up and down east coast and Midwest with the wire. Very enjoyable radio. As Dan R notes it gets tiresome cranking through the vfo with one finger. If you pick the radio up you get a little more bang for the buck. That was much better on the PL-660. But this is a great little radio. Super fun.

  4. James Fields

    Hi Roger. I heard it on 10 MHz. I do not hear it often – but in each case where I have, it has tended to be in the morning shortly after sunrise here on the east coast. The WWVH voice announcement of the time happens about 5 seconds before WWV so when you can hear it, it’s a faint female voice speaking right before the male voice makes the time announcement on WWV.

    1. Roger Fitzharris

      Thanks James for the detailed info. What a remarkable catch – never been able to hear the WWVH voice at my QTH in SW Ohio. The 5-sec audio offset is interesting (and key) as well as listening shortly after sunrise. Good things sometimes happen around sunrise and/or sunset. I’m going to try my luck with my PL-880 paired with my 7-m external wire antenna (Sangean ANT-60). If successful, I’ll post my results.

  5. Roger Fitzharris

    Hello James,
    Can you tell me the frequency where you heard the WWVH transmission. I’m guessing 5, 10, or 15 MHz since I believe those transmitters are radiating 10 KW, whereas the 2.5 MHz frequency is broadcast on a 5 KW transmitter.

  6. Donald J Glocka

    Just wondering, when you’re out and about DX’ING DXing do you use the same external antenna with the Belka as you do with the 330? What is it?

  7. James Fields

    I just received my PL-330. It’s just the latest in a growing collection of travel portables. I like the light weight (much as I miss AA batteries), the ETM+ system is pretty cool, performance seems better than the other Tecsun travel portables. I REALLY am liking that I can use the external antenna jack for MW. I do most of my listening in a room full of electronics, a real RF swamp, but when I plug in my 45 foot outdoor longwire – even though it’s not a great MW antenna, all the RF noise is gone and I can hear my MW stations.

    Bonus, this morning I was able to hear WWVH with Jane Barbe’s voice calling the time just barely audible behind WWV. Since I am on the east coast of the US that’s always a nice catch.

    1. Andrew (grayhat)

      Hi James, given that you have 45ft available for a wire, did you consider using a linear loaded dipole instead of it ? You will just need a 45ft run of 3 wires electrical cable and a balun for the feedpoint, the resulting dipole would be electrically (almost) 3 times the physical length and, in my experience, such an antenna works quite well in RX ;-D !

      sure, it won’t be a beam, but it will serve you better than the single wire (used that too); an alternative to the above may be this one

      the original design calls for 10ft arms, but nothing forbids you from making them longer, also, the switch box allowing to select the configuration (doublet or T) could use relays and be placed outside, at that point, a simple transformer balun would allow to connect the box to a coax (which may then also carry the relay power)


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