Category Archives: AM

Troy compares the Tecsun S-8800 with the Grundig Edition Field BT

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel, for producing this excellent comparison of the Tecsun S-8800 and Grundig Field BT “lunchbox” radios:


The Lunchbox Showdown

by Troy Riedel

I have been watching with interest all of the information & reviews of the new Tecsun S-8800. Frankly, I was especially interested in how it would compare with the other “lunchbox” SW radio – the Eton Grundig Edition Field BT (the Digitech AR-1748 lunchbox radio is also available in AUS for approximately $207US shipped). As I contemplated which lunchbox to purchase, I put together the following Excel comparison table of the S-8800 vs. the Eton Field BT to assist me in making my decision:

Tescun S-8800

Eton Field BT

Price:

$268.00

$129.99

Tuning Methods: FM / LW / MW / SW FM / MW / SW
Q.Tune Q.Tune
Digital tuner, Jog dial manual tuning Digital tuner, Jog dial manual tuning (Fast, Slow and Hold)
Auto scan tuning with 5 second stop (w/ storage) Auto scan tuning (no tuning storage)
Direct frequency entry using the remote control
Fine Tuning Knob: SW Meter Band
No soft muting when tuning Subtle Soft Muting when tuning
Station Storage Methods: Manual storage: tune into stations manually and store them Manual storage: tune into stations manually and store them
Semi-auto storage: storing stations during auto scan
Auto Tuning Storage (ATS): automatically tune into and store stations
FM / MW / LW / SW FM / MW / LW / SW
AM Bandwidth: Bandwidth selection (2.3, 3.0, 4.0, 6.0) Narrow & Wide Settings (3.0*, 6.0*) *Reported
SSB: SSB (USB/LSB)

N/A

SSB tuning steps at 10 Hz / 1 kHz
SSB Bandwidth selection (0.5, 1.2, 2.3, 3.0, 4.0)

N/A

FM with RDS

N/A

Bluetooth
Adjustable shoulder or hand carrying belt Hand carrying strap
Remote control operation

N/A

SYNC:

N/A

N/A

Gain: Local / DX antenna gain switch Local / DX antenna gain switch
SW RF Gain Control
Memories: 650 station memories 50 station memories
Stored stations memory browsing
Auto Sorting Memory
LCD: Standard Backlight Orange Backlight
5-seconds or continuous settings 10-seconds or continuous settings
Clock/Alarm Time: Clock/Alarm time (24H-format) Clock/Alarm time (12 & 24H-format)
Alarm: (1) Alarm (2) Alarms
By radio only By radio (60-mins) or buzzer (2-mins)
Digital Display: Frequency & SW meter band Frequency & Band (e.g. FM, LW, SW1)
Signal strength indicator Signal strength indicator
Stored station location Stored station location
Clock & Alarm time Clock
Volume Level (while using remote)
Battery indicator & charging time Battery Indicator
Sleep Timer A & B (Selectable)
RDS Info

* No Lock Feature

Display Lock “On”
Tuning Speed (Slow, Fast, Stop)
Sound Tuning: Bass & Treble Bass & Treble
Line In:

N/A

3.5mm Stereo Input for mp3 Player
Line Out: (2) RCA Left & Right Stereo Channel Line Out (1) 3.5mm Line Out for tape recorder or audio amplifier
Ant Selector: Int. or Ext. Switch for FM/SW Int. or Ext. Switch for FM/SW
FM/SW Antenna: BNC: Low-impedance (50?) FM/SW Coax: Low-impedance (50-75?)
MW Antenna: High-impedance (500?) wire clamp terminals High-impedance (500?) wire clamp terminals
Battery: 2 x 18650 Li-ion Cell 4 x “D” Cell
AC Adapter: No AC included – does include a USB mini-B charging cable 7v 1200mA DC Neg Center included

Yes, the S-8800 without a doubt has more features than the Field BT.  However, the S-8800 is slightly more than twice the price of the Field BT ($268 vs. $130)!  Does the performance of the S-8800 equate proportional to the price difference?

Shortly after I made my Excel comparison table, Thomas published video comparisons of the S-8800.  I very much appreciated the review and video comparisons that pitted the S-8800 against several popular portables.  It gave me a baseline to set my expectations.  However, those videos didn’t answer my question: “should I purchase the S-8800 or the Field BT”?

I contacted Thomas and I told him “we need an S-8800 vs. Eton Field BT” video comparison so SWL’ers have a true lunchbox vs. lunchbox comparison!  I volunteered to purchase an Eton Field BT and have it delivered to Thomas for him to compare the two (after which he would forward the Field BT to me).  After he hesitated, I replied: “what if I buy the Eton and we meet in North Carolina to compare them together”?  Fortunately Thomas readily agreed and I made the 6.5-hour journey from Southeast VA to Mount Mitchell State Park for the Lunchbox Showdown (864-miles roundtrip on my odometer)!

Thomas and I had a limited amount of time.  I arrived at noon.  Thomas and I had 8-hours … and that included time for Thomas’ Parks On The Air (POTA) Activation, our S-8800 vs. Field BT comparison, we had to eat (it was a long drive for me!), and Thomas brought many other toys so we had to carve out time to “play radio” (and I can’t drive 400+ miles to Mount Mitchell and not walk to the summit of the highest point east of the Mississippi River!).

Luckily conditions were as ideal as I have ever seen them (evidenced by the fact Thomas made contacts from TX to the Azores with his Elecraft KX2).  So please keep in mind, what follows is in no way a complete comparison.  And to be clear, it was never my intention to review either receiver (there are many people more competent than I am that have already done this – Thomas among them!).

My interest re: these two models is primarily limited to each’s shortwave performance (I use a Sangean PR-D15 and a Grundig YB400 for AM DX, I prefer my Sangean PR-D15 for FM and I own 12 shortwave receivers).  Thus our goals were to find and compare multiple representative SW signals.  Thomas is obviously familiar with local AM stations in the area that he uses in his comparisons, thus we sought out a few AM signals (I recorded one to illustrate one huge difference that we both perceived in the two radios).  Due to time, hunger, and eventually darkness we had to call it a day at 8 P.M.

I used my iPhone 6S to record the following comparisons.  This was the first time I recorded shortwave signals.  In retrospect, I wish I had made the recordings longer but at the time I was unsure of how much memory each recording would used, how much time it would take to upload, etc., so I kept everything at 1-2 minutes.  As you will see, I recorded nearly all of the signals with the backlight off.  You’ll see me reaching in, on Shootout 5, to tune off frequency – then back on – simply to show how the backlight would/or would not affect the weak signal on the Field BT (you’ll also see that it’s harder, outdoors, to read the Eton display without the backlight vs. the clearer Tecsun S-8880).

The Eton Field BT has its own SW RF Gain (a huge bonus) and you will see me reach into the field of view once or twice to fine tune the Field BT on weaker signals.  And if you’ve studied my comparison table, you’ll see that the S-8800 has multiple bandwidth choices whereas the Field BT only has Wide & Narrow settings.

You will see me occasionally change the BW on both.  I preferred not to speak during the videos as not to mask the audio of the signal thus I will set-up the specifics of each video with each individual link to my new YouTube Channel, SW Hobbyist, that I set-up to host these (and hopefully many future SW-related videos to include radio recordings & antenna comparisons).

All videos

Date: Friday, 06 October 2017

Location: Mount Mitchell State Park, NC USA

Shootout #1

Frequency: 15580 kHz

Broadcaster: Voice of America (VOA)

From: Botswana

Target: East Africa

https://youtu.be/nZO_yTRjykM


Shootout #2

Frequency: 15610 kHz

Broadcaster: WEWN

From: Vandiver, AL

Target: Europe

https://youtu.be/CEzKA1116ow


Shootout #3

Frequency: 15000 kHz

Broadcaster: WWV

From: Fort Collins, CO

* Wow, that’s a strong signal – is this FM?!

https://youtu.be/LJ2YykJ7Wz0


** Shootout #4

Frequency: 15130 & 15140 kHz

Broadcaster: NHK Radio Japan via Issoudun, France & Radio Habana Cuba via Bauta, Cuba

Target: Africa & Western North America

https://youtu.be/aBW0imojl94

** I wish I hadn’t prematurely ended this recording – the Eton Field BT signal on 15130 improved after the recording ended


Shootout #5

Frequency: 15245 kHz

Broadcaster: Voice of Korea

From: Kujang, North Korea

Target: Europe

https://youtu.be/D5cjlseVNfE


Shootout #6

Frequency:  11810 kHz

Broadcaster: BBC

From: Ascension Island

Target: Central Africa

https://youtu.be/oXbxeLFl2-0


Shootout #7

Frequency:  630 AM

Broadcaster: WAIZ Hickory, NC

*** This is where I believe you will see a difference in the sound/speaker

https://youtu.be/kXNGNFgnDB4

General Conclusions

Thomas and I both felt that the AGC of the Tecsun S-8800 was very slightly better (more stable – absolutely no “chug”) than the Eton Field BT (again, a very subtle difference). We both liked the sound of the Eton Field BT much better – it was crisp, full and just seemed to “pop” through its grill (see Shootout #7). The huge thing we both disliked with the Eton Field BT is its tuning dial. Yes, it has Q-Tune so one can jump from 5000, 6000, 7000, etc., with the push of a button but the tuning dial (even in “Fast” mode) is painfully slow and deliberate (dare I say horrible in comparison to the S-8880?). We both love the fact the S-8800 has a remote. But even without the remote, the S-8800 was much more pleasurable to manually tune.

Not to speak for Thomas, but I believe we generally felt [overall] that the SW signals were essentially close enough to call even … the edge to the Tecsun on a couple and the edge to the Field BT on a couple of others (I specifically remember us both commenting on an Arabic language broadcast from Radio Saudi Arabia where we both felt the Field BT was a very clear winner – that was one of the signals that I did not record). The better “sound” of the Field BT’s speaker may have influenced our opinions – a sound that was markedly better on FM, better on AM, but a sound that was much closer on SW.

My final thoughts and conclusion: Radios are like vehicles. No one vehicle is best for everyone. Each vehicle has a specific purpose and each has a subset of features. I own a large travel trailer. I need and thus own a heavy-duty diesel truck to tow it. But I surely wouldn’t recommend my vehicle to somebody who only needs a commuter vehicle. That’s why we have everything from SmartCars, to sedans, to SUVs, to dually diesel trucks. The same goes for radios. Some people will absolutely need SSB, others may demand SYNC (neither of these units has this feature!) while others may choose a radio based on size (compact for travel or larger models with a large, easy-to-read display for desk or tabletop use). Until now, I felt the video comparisons we had for the S-8880 were comparing a truck to an SUV to a sedan. At least now we have a few videos of two lunchbox radios compared side-by-side. True, one (the S-8800) is fully loaded (in vehicle terms: a 4×4 with a touchscreen GPS and DVD entertainment system). But not everyone who requires a truck needs a 4×4 with GPS and DVD entertainment system. Some truck owners prefer the smoother ride from a 4×2 truck. I think that’s the best way to describe these lunchbox receivers.

Am I glad that I bought the Eton Field BT? For me – despite the cumbersome tuning of the Field BT – I feel the S-8800 is not worth 2x the price of the Eton (I got an even sweeter deal for my new, sealed box Field BT off eBay that was well under the $129.99 street price). But you can make your own decision, you can decide which features are must-have, and you can listen to these videos as well as the other videos that Thomas has already posted and determine if one of these lunchbox models are in your future. And because I learned so much regarding the video recording of shortwave signals (I suffered from tunnel vision while recording – not fully aware of what I caught and what I missed), I hope I can meet-up with Thomas again so I can do a better, more thorough job with a “Lunchbox Comparison, Deuxième Partie” (that French was for Thomas – I hope I got that correct!).


Thanks for putting together this comparison, Troy! It was great hanging with you last week on Mt. Mitchell!

If you’re shopping for either of these radios, you have a few options:

The Tecsun S-8800 is only available worldwide via Anon-Co at time of posting. Eventually, they will begin appearing on eBay. There are retailers in Australia and Europe also selling the model (Important: make sure you’re ordering a model from the latest production run which solves the DSP birdie problem in early units).

The Grundig Edition Field BT is available from a variety of retailers including Universal Radio, Amazon.comCrutchfield, Adorama and others.  Occasionally, like Troy, you can find excellent prices on the Grundig Edition Field BT via eBay.

Jack Berg Sales: You too can own a brand new vintage radio!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ron, who shares a link to Jack Berg Sales–a company specializing in New In Box (NIB) vintage electronics.

Ron points to one radio example in the Berg inventory, the Americana 10 Transistor AM Portable Pocket Radio:

 

The price is a very reasonable at $35.00 US plus $8.00 shipping and handling. Click here to view.

Jack Berg has dozens of other radios and electronics, though. It’s like walking through a vintage vault.

As Ron points out, Berg would probably make much more profit posting these vintage gems on eBay, but fortunately for us they do not.

It doesn’t appear Jack Berg does online ordering, which could make purchasing from outside the US quite complicated. In fact, they request a money order or cashier’s check sent to their office in El Paso, Texas.

(Side note: I honestly can’t think of the last time I purchased something from a company by sending in a money order or cashiers check.)

I suppose it would make sense to contact Jack Berg via email or phone (915-532-4519) to make sure your order can be fulfilled.

Additionally, there is no warranty of any sort.

These are NIB units and are untested. There’s a decent chance some radios may not function without replacing a capacitor or two and using a little DeOxit on switches and pots. For me, it’s worth the risk.

Click here to browse Jack Berg Sales full radio inventory. 

Post readers: please comment if you’ve ever purchased from Jack Berg.  How was your experience? See any particularly amazing models in the inventory? I bet many of the AM radios have decent ferrite bars inside!

648 kHz: Radio Caroline gets a permanent home on the MW broadcast band

Radio Caroline circa 1960’s.

(Source: ARRL News via Eric McFadden, WD8RIF)

Radio Caroline, the latter-day incarnation of the famous shipboard pirate radio station that beamed rock music to the UK in the 1960s and 1970s, has obtained a license to operate permanently on 648 kHz at 1 kW ERP. A transmitter imported from Europe has been undergoing necessary modifications to suit the MW frequency, which falls between the 10-kHz-spaced AM Standard Broadcast Band frequencies in the US.[…]

Click here to read the full article on the ARRL website.

Puerto Rico: This radio station stayed on the air even though it lost its roof

(Source: The Miami Herald)

SAN JUAN
Normally, Rubén Sánchez would not interrupt a live interview with as prominent a newsmaker as Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

But Wednesday was anything but normal.

Less than an hour after Hurricane Maria plowed into Puerto Rico, Rosselló was updating Spanish-language radio listeners by phone on the Category 4 storm’s destructive path when host Sánchez suddenly interrupted.

The studios of Univision’s WKAQ-AM (580) had become “vulnerable,” Sánchez said, his voice tinged with tension. He and his broadcast colleagues would have to abandon the premises — and fast.

“Stay safe,” Rosselló said, urging them to seek shelter in an internal hallway.

Finding refuge — and a safe place to keep broadcasting — turned out to be complicated. The station and a handful of others became vital listening posts for Puerto Ricans starved of information Wednesday as their electricity went dark and their cellphones silent. Several news outlets continuously reported online, but relatively few people on the island could click.

[…]“A few of the offices exploded,” he said, describing how Maria shattered street-facing office windows and forced itself into the building, in the Guaynabo neighborhood west of San Juan. “It even changed the smell of the environment, and the temperature in WKAQ.”

The on-air staffers scrambled, making their way into the studios of a sister station, WKAQ-FM (104.7), known as KQ-105. But even that proved insufficient. Moments later, News Director Jaime Cosme grabbed the microphone to say they were devising a makeshift studio deeper in the building — a structure that, until Wednesday morning, the station had considered a “bunker.”

Sánchez likened the scene to a grenade blast. “It was a bunker,” Sánchez said. “We could see the sky because the roof blew off.”[…]

Click here to read the full article at The Miami Herald…

NASB: “Digital Radio Mondiale Delivers at IBC 2017”

Photo credit: NASB

 

(Source: National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters Facebook Page)

Digital Radio Mondiale Delivers at IBC 2017

Participants in the four DRM events organised at IBC by Gospell, Thomson Broadcast, Nautel and Ampegon between 15th-17th of September have had an insight into a wide range of DRM activities, from big projects in Morocco (Thomson Broadcast), India and Hungary (Nautel), to the progress of DRM in South Africa. And DRM used not just for broadcasting but for other vital activities was demonstrated by Rfmondial involved in a wide-ranging application for the US Coast Guard.

One constant for all events, each unique and so different from the other, was the positive messages about DRM in both AM and VHF and the increasing availability of new receiver and receiver solutions, many always on display. The first event on Friday the 15th (Gospell) saw the launch of GR-227 the multi-standard (DRM/DAB/DAB+) car adaptor that is compatible with any car stereo with USB port and able to work with Android Smart Tune App. As the manufacturer explained, this after-market solution can be a significant development allowing digital reception in cars initially fitted with analogue receivers.

Of equal major interest was also the Titus II multi-standard digital radio receiver produced by Titus SDR, a division of PantronX. The consumer software-defined radio digital receiver platform, which is the result of collaboration between Titus SDR/Patron X, Jasmin-Infotech, TWR, and Fraunhofer IIS, supports multi-standard radio reception, including DRM, DAB and DAB+ and core data applications. The representatives of PantronX and TWR received lots of questions about this receiver system based on a custom Android tablet platform, featuring multipoint touch, WiFi/Bluetooth and stereo sound.

Other receiver possibilities: the tablet solution presented by Fraunhofer IIS, the Indian receiver Avion, and a new concept DRM receiver produced in South Africa all enforced the idea that the excellent work done by transmitter companies like Thomson Broadcast, Nautel and Ampegon in providing a digital transmitter infrastructure in many parts of the world can link now with the innovative receiver solutions.

The Thomson event came alive with the presentation about the huge project in Morocco and the Nautel event attracted lots of guests already familiar with the big projects of this established transmitter manufacturer recently in India and now in Hungary.

The last of the DRM events, hosted on the 17th by Ampegon was a moment of celebration. First of this company (now 75 years old) displaying solid-state transmitters of all capacities successfully used globally, as well. As Ampegon has been also involved in Africa and supported the first DRM trial in South Africa two years ago, they were the natural hosts of a special DRM award moment. The DRM Enterprise Award 2017 (Africa) has been awarded to 3 pioneering experts in promoting DRM digital radio in South Africa. The winners are Dr Roelf Petersen on behalf of Radio Pulpit (member of the Pulpit Media Group) and Broadcom International involved in the trial of DRM in mediumwave. The other two winners Thembeka Khaka (Thembeka Khaka and Associates) and Johannes von Weyssenhoff have been very active in getting the legal framework and conducting the current trial (DRM for local coverage) that is taking place in conjunction with a community station in Johannesburg. (This event was streamed on Twitter click here to view.)

As Ruxandra Obreja, Consortium Chairman, remarked: ”All those who have hosted successful DRM events, the new and old supporters and specialists interested in digital radio and DRM, all the other companies supporting DRM and present at IBC (BBC, Babcock, Becil, RFI, Riz, NXP, Rfmondial, Sentech, to mention just a few) all the guests from countries as far apart as India, Argentina, the Netherlands, Belgium, Pakistan, the Philippines have seen how much effort goes so that DRM can deliver for all, globally.”