Category Archives: New Products

AirSpy HF+ vs. HF+ Discovery: Ivan’s blind daytime propagation comparison

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ivan NO2CW, who shares the following:

I did this video where I compared the two Airspy editions [HF+ and the new HF+ Discovery] only calling them Receiver 1 and Receiver 2:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Using the same W6LVP loop. 3 PM local time daytime propagation. Testing on Medium Wave and Short Wave, no VHF. AM broadcast signals only.

Ivan also included an image comparing the size of the HF+ discovery with other popular SDRs:

From top to bottom: the Microtelecom Perseus, SDRplay RSP, AirSpy HF+, Airspy HF+ Discovery, and the RTL-SDR.com SDR dongle. 

When I demo the AirSpy HF+ to radio clubs, folks are amazed that such a tiny SDR can provide benchmark performance. It’s hard to believe the HF+ Discovery might even provide more performance from an even smaller package!

Thanks, Ivan for sharing these comparisons!

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A review of the Sangean PR-D17 portable AM/FM radio for the visually impaired

Photo of the Sangean PR-D17 AM FM Radio while tuned to 96.1 FM and showing RDS backlit display

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and producer, Peter Atkinson, who shares the following review of the new Sangean PR-D17 AM/FM radio:


Sangean PR-D17 review

by Peter Atkinson

I’ve been visually impaired all my life and a radio enthusiast for over 40 years.  I was intrigued when I learned that Sangean was offering a radio for the visually impaired.  I purchased one, and wanted to share my thoughts about the Sangean PR-D17 from the perspective of a visually impaired listener.

Photo of the PR-D17 box

For those readers who are mainly interested in the performance of this radio, please stay tuned, while I talk a moment about the features geared to the visually impaired.

Photo of the radio manual.

First of all: the manual, [see photo above] while it is comprehensive (as most from Sangean are), it is odd that it’s printed in the smallest type I’ve seen from this manufacturer.

Image of the PR-D17 tactile preset keys with Braille.

The yellow controls on a black radio are easily seen.  I like that the preset buttons on the bottom row of the front panel, are in Braille.  The raised symbols, however, on the upper row, may be too complicated to be easily discerned by touch alone.  The yellow-on-black motif, is reminiscent of my Sangean HDR-16.

When the 6 C batteries are first inserted, or AC power is connected, the radio announces that it has entered the setup menu.  The voice prompt menus (whose volume can be adjusted independently of the radios’ main volume but cannot be disabled) make setting up this radio somewhat straightforward.  The setup might have been easier, if the clock setting function was available as part of the menu system. The voice prompts are surprisingly comprehensive. The voice not only speaks the frequency, time & menu options, but will also tell you when something is connected to (or disconnected from) the AC input, headphone or AUX-IN jacks.

When the radio is turned on, it announces that the radio is on, the battery level & the frequency to which it is tuned.

When tuning, the voice gives the frequency at each change. It’s especially helpful when using the seek function, knowing where the next station was found.

Click here to download audio clip of tuning voice prompt.

When storing a station into a preset, the voice says exactly what frequency has been stored & at which present position.

Click here to download audio clip of tuning voice prompt.

The same information is given when recalling a preset. One quirk of the voice prompt, is that when announcing the time, it speaks full numbers (e.g. “twelve thirty-seven’), but when giving the frequency, each digit is spoken (e.g. “one two three zero” or “nine six point one”).

Click here to download audio clip of time voice prompt.

Finally:  Tuning time.  

Image showing that the HDR-16 and PR-D17 are identical in size.

Comparing the Sangean HDR-16 with the PR-D17

This radio is the same cabinet as the HDR-16.  Aside from the voice prompts, it operates similar to the PR-D5.  Therefore, I’m comparing its performance to that model. Like the PR-D5, the AM tuning steps can be set for 9 or 10KHz, but the FM tuning steps are fixed at 100KHz (0.1MHz).

Image showing right side of radio.

There are 5 presets per band. The display also shows RDS information for any FM station that transmits RDS. The clock can be set from the RDS signal, as well.  I’ve found several stations, in my area, that are sending the wrong time.

Audio

The sound from the twin 2-1/2” speakers is very balanced.  The bass is substantial, but not overpowering. The highs are good for definition, without being too brassy.  There are no provisions for customization, though.

Image showing left side of radio.

There is a 3.5mm AUX-IN jack for connecting an external sound source, such as an MP3 player or smartphone.

AM

While the AM sound is a bit muffled for my taste (the bandwidth cannot be changed) it makes for excellent selectivity.  There was no hint of my nearby 50KW 620, on 610 or 630. Like many Sangean radios, the noise floor is very quiet. The long 200mm internal ferrite bar antenna does a superb job at snagging those weak stations.  I was able to get a noisy, but readable signal on a 50KW station on 700, at 350 miles, during the day. That one is my benchmark for a great DX machine. The top end of the band is no slouch, either. Another benchmark station (10KW 1690 at 75 miles) came in loud and clear.  The long ferrite antenna also helps to better null unwanted signals. This is a greater benefit for nighttime DXing.

FM

The PR-D17’s performance on FM is stellar.  It has shown to be very sensitive, pulling in stations as well as my PR-D5 & PR-D9W.  I easily hear FMs at 60 miles. The selectivity is also amazing. I can listen to stations on 95.9 & 96.3, with a 6KW station on 96.1 less than 10 blocks from my window.  Even though the PR-D17 pulls in those weak stations with ease, it requires a stronger signal to receive stereo.

Close up of RDS display

The RDS is quick to display station information. It starts off by showing the 8-character PS information of the RDS signal, then switches to the scrolling display of the RT segment.

Summary

Overall, I am very happy with the Sangean PR-D17.  It is a superior radio, now with the added benefit of voice prompts.  Hopefully, this will alleviate some of the annoyances visually impaired listeners may have with operating a digitally-tuned radio.


Thank you so much for sharing your review, Peter and thank you for being an SWLing Post producer!

It looks like the Sangean PR-D17 is an excellent choice for those radio listeners who would appreciate voice prompts, high contrast controls and tactile keys. I’m also happy to hear you rate AM selectivity as excellent. When radios only have one chosen bandwidth, I’d rather give priority to selectivity than audio fidelity for the purposes of nighttime AM DXing. 

Sangean PR-D17 retailers:

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QRPGuys Active Antenna Splitter Kit

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Eric McFadden (WD8RIF), who shares the following announcement from Ken (WA4MNT) via the QRP-L forum:

QRPGuys is open for orders after this year’s Summer shutdown. We have  added a product that may be of special interest to SWL listeners and some hams. It is an active antenna splitter that will enable connection to three receivers from a single antenna.

Product Deescription:

The KN8TND Active RX Antenna Splitter will allow you to use one antenna with mulitple HF receivers simultaneously. Many hams and SWLers like to monitor several bands and/or frequencies, i.e. 14.300, international nautical emergency freq, 14.100, world HF beacons, etc, etc. Having two or three HF receiving antennas is a luxury some Hams and SWLers can’t afford. With the active receiver antenna splitter you can use one antenna and three receivers at the same time. Keep abreast of what’s going on on the bands, put some of those dust collecting receivers back in action. On a difficulty scale of 1 to 5, this kit is a 2. Build time is about 2 hours, depending on your experience, with the normal kit tools. Bear in mind, this is for receiving only. For HF transceivers you would need a T/R switch to your tuned transmitting antenna.

Come by and see it at:
https://qrpguys.com/k8tnd-active-antenna-splitter

QRPGuys makes amazing QRP kits. Immediately after receiving Eric’s email, I purchased the active antenna splitter kit. Total cost with shipping was $25 US. A true bargain! Although I already have an ELAD Active antenna splitter, this one would be nice to take to the field as it’s much smaller and lighter weight.

Click here to check out the new Active Antenna Splitter at QRPGuys.

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Review of the C.Crane CC Buds Solo In-Ear Single Earbud (and a chance to win one!)

A few weeks ago, C. Crane sent me one of their newest radio accessories: the CC Buds Solo Single Earbud.

Here’s the description from the C.Crane product page:

Single Earbud Optimized For Voice

The CC Buds™ Solo single earpiece provides a unique advantage over traditional earbuds because it allows you to interact better with others while listening to radio, podcasts or audiobooks (your boss will love you). The integrated stereo to mono plug works with smartphones, radios, tablets, and most other audio devices.

The Solo can give you a safety advantage when running, biking, or walking because you are more likely to hear if danger approaches. The cable is Kevlar™ reinforced for maximum durability. It is perfect for scanner radio listening. Can work well for law enforcement when greater awareness is needed.

Audio is tuned for superior voice clarity. Included are three silicone and three compressible foam covers––sized small, medium, and large. The small covers usually fits a small ear comfortably. Standard 3.5 mm headphone jack. Cord Length 48″.

At first blush, the idea of a single earpiece smacks of vintage solid-state radios. I’ve a number of classic portables that were designed around a hard-plastic single earpiece–anyone else remember those?

In fact, my Sony ICF-5500W (above) even has a little compartment to house its custom earpiece.

The Sony ICF-550W’s unforgiving 1970s era earpiece.

In my youth, I carried a hard plastic single earpiece with me everywhere, especially at school, because it made listening to the radio and still having some situational awareness possible. [Unfortunately, I was known to listen to the radio during classes…what a renegade I was back then!]

If you, too, used those hard plastic earpieces, I doubt you’d have ever described them as “comfortable.” I never found them even remotely so. Those earpieces were functional, but the audio they produced was tinny and it was always difficult to keep them in my ear.

Think of the CC Buds Solo as the earpiece we all wish we could have had back then!

The Solo includes numerous earpiece options, a carry bag and owner’s manual.

Here are some of the CC Buds Solo pros:

  • The audio quality is superb for spoken word
  • The earpiece is very comfortable (see notes below)
  • The audio plug allows for mono listening on stereo devices (obviously a must in 2019)
  • Features a super-strong Kevlar-reinforced cord
  • Includes a clothing clip that acts as strain relief
  • Ships with a small, soft carry bag

So does the Solo deliver what it promises? Yes, it does.

What I really love is the number of soft silicon and foam earpieces that ship with the Solo: a total of seven options, when including the default earpiece.

If you’ve ever used in-ear earbuds, you’ll understand the importance of swapping out the soft earpieces to a size that best suits your ears––that is, to a size that makes for a comfortable seal.

The Solo might also be useful if your hearing is a bit better in one ear than the other.

Unlike single earpieces of old, it’s actually a pleasure to use the CC Buds Solo earpiece.

Before using the Solo, I would often wear only the right earpiece of my stereo earbuds when I needed to be able to hear the environment around me. This obviously isn’t ideal because the left earpiece would dangle, catch on my shirt or otherwise get in the way, and often lead to jerking out the right earpiece. Not to mention, it led to an awkward muffling (or altogether missing) of some of the sound in that other dangling earbud when stereo sound is split or processed differently for each ear. Clearly, not the best way to listen.

Note the adjustable clothing clip.

Now, when I’m driving, working, or walking, I can use the Solo clipped it to my shirt; it’s a more simple and annoyance-proof solution that allows for greater mobility and permits me to hear all of the intended sound.

I’ve only used the Solo for spoken word; primarily AM/SW broadcast band listening and for listening to podcasts.

These days, while I’ve been at work on a home renovation, podcasts have become an essential part of my day by helping me pass the time while painting, sanding, cleaning, mowing, doing yard work, or carrying out other tedious tasks. A good podcast definitely keeps it fun. The Solo makes podcast listening easy.

And of course, the Solo is also a great solution for listening to audio books, too.

I’ll admit, when I first saw the product announcement for the CC Buds Solo, I was curious if there’d still be a market for a mono earpiece. I suppose I proved it, myself, as I have found it quite useful when I don’t need the total isolation or stereo sound from two in-ear earbuds.

Well played, C.Crane!

Click here to check out the CC Buds Solo Single Earbud at C.Crane.

Win a CC Buds Solo!

C.Crane kindly sent me two samples of the CC Buds Solo at no cost to me. I’ve used one for evaluation purposes and C.Crane is kindly allowing me to give the other away to a lucky SWLing Post reader.

Here’s how you can enter our Solo giveaway!

As I mentioned, I consume a lot of podcasts these days. Here are just a few you might want to check out:

What are your favorite podcasts or radio shows?

Please leave a comment with some of your favorite podcasts or radio shows for a chance to win! Next Tuesday (July 30, 2019) I’ll pick a winner at random from the comments section and ship them a brand new CC Buds Solo single earpiece courtesy of C.Crane!

Click here to leave your comment!

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The Sangean PR-D17: An AM/FM stereo radio designed for those who are visually impaired

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Doug Hunsinger, who notes that Universal Radio is now shipping the Sangean PR-D17.

The PR-D17 has a unique design to make operation easier for those who are visually impaired. Per Universal Radio:

It has high-contrast, large yellow rotary tuning and volume control knobs, preset buttons with raised symbols to aid in identification and thoughtful voice prompts of all controls that announce all functions in English or Spanish.

It has a large and easy-to-read backlit LCD display that highlights RDS information, frequency, signal strength, battery status and alarm symbols. It has a 200 mm ferrite AM antenna for the best possible AM reception. The controls are very easy to use and you get 5 presets for AM and 5 for FM. And you can auto scan stations. The RDS technology can display station name, call sign, song title or other transmitted information, plus it can set the clock automatically. There is a stereo mono switch. There is a built in clock timer with sleep function and humane wake up system to buzzer or radio. The left side of the radio has an auxiliary input and a stereo earphone jack. The perfect solution for the radio enthusiast who is visually impaired.

Click here to check out the Sangean PR-D17 at Universal Radio.

Doug notes that he may purchase the PR-D17 and share a review here on the SWLing Post. He is especially interested in how it might compare with similar voice prompt radio models.

Post readers: If you’re visually impaired, what radio models do you prefer? PLease share your thoughts and comments by clicking here.

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