Do you use a general coverage transceiver as your primary shortwave radio?

If you’ve been reading the SWLing Post for long, you’ll know that I think the Icom IC-705 is a brilliant radio for shortwave, mediumwave and even FM DXing. I mention this in my IC-705 review.

Indeed, I realize that I may even use the IC-705 as much as I use some of my excellent computer-connected SDRSs (Software Defined Radios). The IC-705 is actually an SDR, too, just one that is self-contained, stand-alone, and powered by a rechargeable battery. It’s just so convenient and easy to use–plus it has very useful built-in recording/playback functions.

I also use my Elecraft KX2 for SWLing–although not designed for broadcast band listening, it does a pretty amazing job especially if your primary goal is weak-signal work. Elecraft attenuated the mediumwave band on purpose, thus MW DXing with the KX2 is not feasible.

Do you use general coverage transceivers for SWLing?

Truth is, modern general coverage transceivers tend to be based on SDR architecture these days, thus incredibly capable and versatile as a broadcast band receivers.

I’m curious: do you primarily use a general coverage transceiver for SWLing? If so, why and which make/model? Please comment! If you prefer a dedicated receiver over a general coverage transceiver, please consider sharing your thoughts as well!

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57 thoughts on “Do you use a general coverage transceiver as your primary shortwave radio?

  1. Norm

    Absolutely !
    My Icom IC-705 has been about the best shortwave receiver I’ve ever owned right up there with my SDR Play RSP1A an dx. It has great performance, the spectrum scope and waterfall is absolutely brilliant, looks cool and is lots of fun ! Even the front panel apeaker audio is very good ! Oh, the AM Broadcast band and FM Broadcast band sound and perform excellent on the 705.

  2. Woody Bodine

    Woody. AA5U
    I started SWL as a child with my Rocket Ship crystal radio. Now I am 76 Years old. I presently do Ham on a IC-7610 and SWL on my Icom R-9500 Receiver which is one of the very best. I have owned a
    R-9500 and made a very big mistake of selling it. Guess you are supposed to learn from your mistakes. Also I have owned:
    Racal 8760
    Air Spy HF Discovery
    Elad Duo
    Presently half my time is spent on the Ham bands and the other half on SWL.
    Woody. AA5U

  3. Aubrey

    I used a C.CraneSSB.SW for a number of years. Sadly it died on me. Back to using an old Hitachi world Wide Receiver. I believe a 1968 Model with two antennas. Shortwave/AM/FM/weather/Police & Air

    Be Well,


  4. Bob Truitt / WA4A

    I started out as an SWL back in 1959 with a Sears Silvertone LF/MF/HF receiver that only received AM but eventually wired up a Heathkit Q-multiplier allowing it to oscillate at the I.F. so I could copy CW and even early SSB transmissions! By the time I got my first ham ticket in 1962, I had a Hallicrafters S-107 followed by a National HRO-5, a surplus TCS-12 and, over the years, many other general coverage receivers and transceivers, my favorites being the Collins KWM2A and National HRO-500 with the LF preselector. Now retired and “downsized,” my go-to ham and SWL sets are Yaesu FT-817 and FT-818 QRP rigs with simple wire or vertical antennas, which give me plenty of all-mode, wide frequency range coverage from LF to UHF in a tiny portable footprint! My favorite things to listen for are HF military and overseas aircraft air/ground comms, “broadcast pirates,” hamsats, VHF airband, plus DXing whatever bands are open! In addition, I always keep a Baofeng HT scanning the few analog local public safety VHF/UHF channels to find out where the sirens are headed!
    SWLing is always more interesting than what’s on TV!

  5. Marc Suttle

    For Long Wave NDB and some 22 Meter HiFER reception I use my Yaesu FT-1000D transceiver. My workhorse general use SWL receiver is an Icom R71A.

  6. Dan Vanderplough

    I use my 20 year old Kenwood TS-2000 for general SWL activity. Works great, plus I still use it as a Vhf/Uhf rig for local work.

  7. Doug Mein

    I use my IC–7300 to meet all of my SWL requirements. It works great!! Lately, I have been listening to RRI on a nightly basis.

  8. GordonZ

    I am currently using my FlexRadio 6400 for SWL. I have two antennas connected. Both are located in the attic of my three story townhome. One is a Wellbrook FLX1530LN on a rotator and the other is my 90+ foot transmitting doublet. Since the radio does not have knobs and buttons, I have been programming a 32 button Stream Deck and Hercules Starlight DJ controller to provide those.


  9. John Ainsworth

    Although I’m an active ham operator, I dedicate an “extra” ICOM IC-706MkII as my night time bedside radio.
    I am somewhat of a 706 hoarder ;( I have different models in RV, 4×4, shack, etc. Even in a go-box or two.
    This way I can use the rigs and have a spare if needed. Excessive, I know!!
    Anyway, my SWL 706 is fed with a 200ft. longwire that I can “unclip” when I turn off rig in the morning or if a storm approaches. I have approx. 35 memory channels with mostly 40/75m SSB ham frequencies, 10 SW stations and 10 AM BCB stations. The features that I enjoy the most are:
    a) memory channels are easily selected by turning a knob in the dark.
    b) small footprint as I can push it back out of view in my small dest/bedside table (being out of sight doesn’t inhibit my wife’s constant dusting…)
    c) I can dim or turn-off the display when needed.
    d) It has “heft” as it doesn’t move around and I can’t knock it over during the night.
    e) It is almost a free radio as most of my 706’s are >20 years old! It is always there ready to be put into active ham operation.
    f) Finally, after many years of using rigs made by Sony (many!), Grundig, Drake, Sangean, Panasonic, Tecsun, they all had shortcomings, bad ssb, bad AM band, noise, difficult memory access, and some are just “cheesy”.
    If you have a 706 laying around, use it! If not, I’ll buy it from you!!!

    John N5XYO

    1. WA4A Bob Truitt

      Yes! The IC-706 is the almost perfect rig when MARS modified. As a transceiver, it will allow accurate, multimode, RF output from below the AM broadcast band to 470 mHz making it a great signal generator, besides being a great receiver for LW and SWLing, HF and VHF airband, marine, and V/UHF public safety! My only regret is the lack of exact replacement final amp transistors if one ever goes bad! Keep collecting the “Great Ones!”

  10. David Curry

    I have found the Kenwood TS-590SG to be a very good LF/MF radio! I enjoy NDB listening and it has easy to use controls and a great noise blanker. Continuously adjustable bandwidth down to 50 hertz. The radio has a low level output (1mW) for those that wish to enjoy the 2200 and 630 meter bands. On 630 meters there is a SSB net every Sunday on 476 KHZ at 8PM PST on USB. With a outboard amplifier this transceiver is outstanding on both of these bands!

    If you decide to try this radio on LF don’t use a switching power supply, use a linear supply or even battery

  11. Jason VE3MAL

    The 7300 has some quirks that make it not ideal for SWL, but yes, it is the main one I use because it’s always ready and right there. I do wish there was a way to easily 100% block tx if you hit the wrong button, even with a pin #. That would be great for rx-only antennas or small power supplies, and also letting kids scan around. I may also experiment with using the 12khz “IF” out to a computer and SDR software and software equalizing for better wideband AM audio.

  12. Jason Furgason

    Xiegu G90 and SDR RSP for monitoring in the shack and Elecraft KX3 + panadapter in the field. SDR RSP for monitoring has great features and covers everything that one could want. Hustler 5-BTV and inverted V are my main antennas for the shack. End fed for portable.
    Thanks for your post. Keep up the good work!

  13. Dan Baker

    At home: Anan 7000DLE MKII followed by a RSPdx because of the SWL features. 160 (all band non resoant) Meter Skywave Loop fed with 450 window line, Hex Beam and EFHW.
    Portable: Icom R30 Telescopic Whip and Yaesu FT-818 Long Wire 9:1 Balun
    In Bed: Belka DX Telescopic Whip

    Regards, Dan

  14. Michael

    I have used many different radio’s over my years of SW listening, ranging from a Realistic DX-160, an old Zenith Transoceanic, Hallicrafters S-120, and the tossup on my 2 favorite radio’s; National NC98 and my everfaithful Kenwood TS450S. So good to see there’s still interest in radio, the SW bands have been a teacher for me through the decades and always something to hear to keep your interest.

    1. John Thomas

      I had a Zenith Transoceanic as a kid back in the early- mid 1960s. I still can hear in my head the voices of Radio Moscow, BBC, and other superhighpower SW broadcasters.

      And the voice of W3DUQ, from somewhere in PA, boomed into my bedroom in southern VA on 75 meter AM. Was he really using only 1 kW?

  15. Jeremy

    I used to do some DJ work, until it stopped paying. I found that I could repurose my mixer and headset by connecting it to my IC-7300. I can now listen to about everything you can imagine. This works really well with 215ft of wire for an antenna.

  16. Charlie Alexander

    Through the years – yes many of them too.

    Outstanding ones I have used: Kenwood TS850 & Icom 746 Pro (The 746 Pro had Sync AM detection)!

  17. John

    I will occasionally use my ICOM IC-7300 for SWLing, though my main receivers for it are a Tecsun PL-880 and an SDRPlay RSPdx.

  18. Thomas

    Many years ago, I wanted to buy the R-75 shortwave receiver, but the R-75 was discontinued at that time, and then I bought the IC-718 which looks similar to the R-75.
    The IC-718 is not expensive. Except the transmitter (I don’t have ham license), I am very satisfied with the IC-718’s receiving performance, the receiver consumes very low current, and the body is not very hot when used for a long time in hot summer.

  19. Patrick O'Connor

    I use an FTDX-5000, FT-991a, Elecraft KX3, Alinco DXR8, Icom 75 for SW. I’ve had numerous other HF rigs in the past but have sold them off. Plan on selling the KX3 and picking up an FTDX-101D soon. I use a couple of longwires, loop, and putting up a Hex Beam at the end of the year.


  20. Denzlercs

    I first started listening to SW on a Hallicrafters SX-110. It was my dad’s from who knows, the 60s or 70s maybe. It had maybe a 40 foot long wire with a single wire leading into the upstairs bedroom of the house he grew up in. It did a great job of pulling stations from all over the world. In the 80s it was still the hay day of SW listening and even heard numbers stations from foreign espionage. I know have a Kenwood TS140s and a mobile antenna on my truck. The number of stations have gone down quite a bit since my childhood. Mostly now it’s populated with Spanish speaking stations out of Latin America and Religious stations when I’m not working HF on ham radio.

  21. Dave

    I’ve mentioned it before, I have been a shortwave radio, medium wave radio listener just an all around radio lover for over 35 years now. It started when we lived in an area of New Hampshire that had no cable TV and a coworker asked me if I knew anything about shortwave. Bought my first radio Sony IFC 2010. I use to love getting my yearly Passport to World Band Radio. In 2019 I got my Ham license another extension of my love for radio. I have always used portable radios for my SWLing, but as soon as I bought my Icom 7300 and saw how the spectrum scope works I loved it, and now I use it as my main SWLing rig. It is awesome to have a table top shortwave radio something I had always dreamed of. I still have portables all over the place. Bed side, in the basement, in the shed, and I love going outside to avoid the RF of the city and see what I can pick up.

  22. Michael Black

    Until the late seventies, this wasn’t an option. Well, if you had a Collins, you coukd buy a crystal for another segment. A few other radios allowed that.

    But a ham band receiver was way better. The band spread across the dial.

    Too many kids coming into the hobby made do with general coverage receivers. I assume because they’d bought them to listen, or because an S-38 was way cheaper than most ham band receivers. Ten Tec had a low cost direct conversion receiver in 1971, I looked at the ads, but before a ham.license, it made sense to get a general coverage receiver. But a bad choice.

    It was only when synthesizers arrived in the late seventies that general coverage was added to ham transceivers. The cost didn’t add much at that point.

  23. Neil

    Using a Yaesu FTdx10 for listening, paired up with an RSPdx and SDR-Console for the waterfall display.

    Using the rigs audio and filters is a much better option for me over the filtering and noise reduction provided by the RSPdx and Console or SDRuno software.

  24. Kenneth t

    I have been an SWL since the 1960’s. I am also a jam radio operator. I have a room full of receivers, military radios like the R388, R 390’s, commercial rigs like Nationals , RME’s, Hammarlunds, Gonsets, Zenith Trans-Oceanic. And RCA Victor Strato-Worlds. What do I mostly use. My ICOM IC-7300 which I can link to my SDRPlay RS2A. With most of the big guns gone you need a receiver with the ability to pull weak signals out of the ether. The IC-7300 SDRPlay make pulling out weak signals easy the accurate frequency display makes for easy retuning.. The 7300 is blessed with a great internal speaker, uses a better external speaker and it isounds as good as my 1950’s tube-type radios.

  25. Uli

    Hi all,
    this topics fit’s quite well in my current situation. I am wondering if I should keep my Sangean ATS-909X2 for SWL and casual FM listening or do the “serious” SWL work with my IC-705 transceiver. The ATS-909X2 is a great portable, sensitive and has a really good interface to operate it. But the IC-705 is a little bit more sensitive on Longwave (on SW and MW I do not see a difference though) and due to it’s advance filters and most of all a very good notch tool, it makes a difference for weaker and more disturbed broadcasts. Antenna is the Reuter RLA-4E (which is worth an extra article).
    Concerning FM, the ATS-909X2 it quite a bit ahead of the IC-705.
    I am not decided yet but I guess I will keep both…
    Best 73,

  26. Mike Chenery

    My Yaesu FT-897D is splended for great reception on all bands and all modes.
    I do have other RX units too, including a vintage Icom 706.

  27. Les Locklear

    After reading this article many years ago:

    I purchased a lightly used pristine Icom 756 Pro III. Did the simple mod to remove the attenuation on the BCB. Excellent audio and noise reduction features. I use it strictly for SWL and occasionally us a restored Hammarlund HQ-180. An end fed 81 ft. long wire completes the station.

  28. Keith

    I use a Yaesu FT-920 transceiver as my main receiver, fed via a 3dB splitter in parallel with an SDR. Thus I can monitor two bands at the same time. Yes, there is the 3dB loss on each path but most of the time that’s insignificant. The splitter is bypassed and the SDR input grounded when the 920 is in transmit so I don’t put 100 watts into the SDR!

    I also have a Tecsun PL-880 for portable operating and for FM listening.

    Like some others who have commented, although I have had a ham license for over 50 years I now do more listening than transmitting.

    Keith G0RQQ / VA2QU

  29. Ron Liekens

    I used an Icom IC-7300 for a short while, but it was not a worthy SWL rig. I, much prefer the Elad FDM-duo beside an Airspy HF+ and a Perseus all on SDR-console software for prime quality SWL dx. All the present Japanese SDR tranceivers have a below average waterfall and no SAM on board.


    Old school ham here for 59 years. I primarily use the SDRPlay RSP1a. Secondary: A precisely-aligned Yaesu FRG-7 and a ham ICOM IC-718. The sensitivity of the tweaked FRG-7 matches or exceeds everything I own. I almost never reach to a portable for SWLing. I do use a portable for MW DXing on occasion.

  31. Stephen

    I use a yaesu 450 for listening as I am a swl ma3087swl. I also a have a elad FdM duo r, once had a jrc 525 with matching extension speaker nice radio but far to big so had to part with it!!

  32. Aubrey J. Young

    Manual general coverage receiver is what I prefer. I have an old 60s desk top radio and a C.CraneSkywaveSSB model . The C.Crane is a excellent radio. AJY

  33. Paul

    No I do not us a general coverage receiver for my main SWL radio. Though there are swings and round-a-bouts as you will see.

    I too as David has pointed out have gone a full circle with SWL, Amateur Radio and now back to SWL.

    Most of my HF SWL I use a Yaesu FTdx101D. It does service HAM duties though mainly as a Broadcast band SWL radio.

    There is a particular NET on a Friday night in Victoria, Australia that I like listening to from 10pm local time. It is an astronomy NET run by Clint VK3CSJ and he does a brilliant job of talking for an hour plus and running a callback after the broadcast. Though as time rolls on Clint’s voice/modulation does drop off over time and possibly due to my lack of skill with driving the 101. I find myself these days using my lovely TECSUN PL-990. The audio from the PL-990 is not as sweet as the Yaesu though it is more readable over the length of the broadcast and does a wonderful job of the QSB (fading in out) of Clint’s transmission.

    I have an external Parelectronics SWL 15 metre long ended as my receive antenna which enters the home and I can switch the receive antenna between the FTdx101D and the TECSUN PL-990 via a Diamond 3 way coaxial RF switch.

    For those who may wish to listen in on the broadcast/NET it can be found on 3.541 MHz LSB at 10pm AEST.

    Kind regards,


  34. Frank

    Hello. I hope this email finds everyone and their loved ones in good health & happiness!
    I’ve been a monitoring buff for 45 years. It all started on the CB radio channel’s 9 & 19, monitoring and helping travelers with any assistance they needed. This eventually ended up with a full-time interest in communications. I currently live in a 55+ older village (elder condominiums) and the day’s of outdoor antennas are over but, I’ve made the best of it by installing antennas in my attic (lol). Over the years I’ve sold off 99.5% of my communications gear, (other than 2 emergency bugout bags) that in the event of a TRUE EMERGENCY, contain everything ANYONE could/would find useful in this kind of environment. Currently, I only have (1) one receiver, i purchased in 2002, an Icom-R8500 Wideband Coverage Receiver. I was able (at that time) to buy an unblocked version and have it sent to me from a relative. This RCVR has done and accomplished EVERYTHING that I could ever ask from a radio!! I’ve seen other reviews that have complained about the radio display loosing it’s brightness but (fortunately) my unit is still going strong! I know how passionately your readers take care of their equipment, but I LITERALLY use a soft cloth whenever I adjust, program, or even touch anything on this rig. It is ABSOLUTELY IN “PRISTINE MINT” condition….INSIDE & OUT)! Being on a fixed income (social security), I cannot afford to pay the cost of an Icom-R9500 (new or used). The only thing I can say about my Icom-R8500 is that, I’ve not found anything from, Drake, Yaesu, Collins, Kenwood….and a few “offbrand” rigs that can compare in OVERALL performance from 10 kilohertz to 2 gigs. If I could afford just one “update” it would be to buy an “AOR” Digital converter (for the 10.7 output) on the 8500. That would complete EVERY SINGLE DREAM I have for listening/using my Icom-R8500!!
    I know (even used) that the 8500 is not a cheap rig to buy but I can assure you that once you have it, and are able to properly use & program it, you will NEVER BE DISSAPOINTED….E V E R !!!!
    I wish all your readers the best of health, and I thank you for taking the time to read my comments!

  35. Tha Dood

    Been using HF transceivers, since 1993, prior to that, a Sangean ATS-803A portable, which still makes for a decent MW DX’er. Tough catches can be had with an Icom IC-745, but for great audio enjoyment of stations, the Kenwood TS-2000X does well indeed. I now have tried a Xiegu G90 SDR transceiver, which isn’t a bad DX’er at all, but doesn’t get the full audio enjoyment, like the TS-2000X offers. That, and the TS-2000X can monitor 60kHz from WWVB. The stereo in the truck isn’t bad on MW, and I’ve DX’ed several 1710kHz pirates that way, but can’t DX past that FREQ that way.

  36. David

    Even though I am a ham (G4EDR) after 50 years my interests have turned full circle and I am now mainly interested in SWL again. Over the years I have owned several communication receivers from AOR, Icom, JRC, Kenwood, Lowe, Yaesu and SDR from SDR Play but I currently use an Icom IC-705. I find it so convenient to be able to sit in my easy chair and chase NDB’s, LW, MW & SW BC stations. The filtering, noise reduction and audio record facility is amazing. The waterfall display is brilliant as well. Plus, it has knobs to give that REAL radio experience! Coupled with my Wellbrook loop I think I’ve found the perfect combination.

  37. JimH

    7300 and 705, with an R8A as backup.
    The digital sets help me find stations, but the R8A still has the best sound to listen to

  38. Michel PE1MR

    Partially. At home I do use my TS-590s, but my RSPdx too. It depends on whether I want to record stuff and/or listen to DRM. On holiday and in other portable situations, it’s a whole other story; yes, mainly the IC-705, and when I really want to pack lightly: the Belka DX.

  39. Richard Hill

    I used an old Penny’s brand AM/FM/SW radio since high school days. My sister left it in her car back window and the case melted grotesquely, then the antenna broke in a car door incident. But, it played well and sounded good with a line wire antenna. After some thirty years service, it “dissappeared.” Someone decided it was too ugly. Eventually, I became a ham and tried using an IC-718 and a 746 for occaisional SW listening, then my K3 and KX3, KX2. I probably use my KX2 the most. It just works and I am most familier with it. Eventually I decided I needed a dedicated SW radio. I bought an Eton Executive Elite at a good price, but I have just not learned to use it well. I find it confusing and the manual poorly presented. One day I will have to sit with it for a day, go through the manual and available videos and get comfortable with it. I regret not buying a Tecsun, and miss the old, friendly, grotesque radio. Grin!

  40. Al Holt

    Old school: Kenwood R-5000 & R-1000
    New school: Airspy HF+, SDRplay RSPdx, RSP1a

    My Icom ‘7300 ‘annoys’ me in that its AM reception mode rolls the low end (~100Hz). Otherwise a great radio!

    1. Don W8SWL

      I use my IC-7200, too. When I got my general upgrade, I got the 7200 and sold off the Drake R-8. I didn’t have physical room for that large Drake anymore.


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