Category Archives: Portable Radio

Dan’s in-depth review of the new Raddy RF-919 shortwave portable radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares the following review:

[Note that all Amazon and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support the SWLing Post.]


Raddy RF-919 Receiver: Best Portable in Years – Held Back Only By Soft Muting While Tuning

by Dan Robinson

It’s quite extraordinary that in these days of reduced use of shortwave some manufacturers continue to develop portable receivers for the worldwide community of radio listeners.  We have the Choyong LC90, which for the first time attempted to combine HF, MW, FM and Internet radio (still a work in progress). And now out of nowhere comes the Raddy RF919.

Like many receiver enthusiasts, I was excited when I saw the first photos and videos of the 919, by Shenzhen Hanrongda in China.  The company has an amazing number of portables in its lineup–in addition to the 919 there are the:  RF320, RF760, RF747, RF75A, and RF750 along with various hand crank emergency sets.  The RF919 under the Raddy label also sells as the Retekess TR113 (which can be seen on its Amazon page).

It is interesting that the RF919 (TR113) appeared on the market just as the Choyong receiver continues to experience growing pains, but obviously both had been in the planning stages for some time.  One of the strengths is its very decent SSB performance, though see my comments below about one of the issues with the RF919.

The number of reviews of the 919 by YouTube influencers is rapidly increasing as the radios get into the hands of more users.  For the purposes of this commentary I won’t go into every single feature other than to observe the high points.  And here’s a headline – from a software standpoint this is a very complex radio with a steep learning curve requiring regular looks at the manual.  But enough use brings familiarity with the many features it offers:

Displays

The RF919 has two superb displays:  a main information center under which there are buttons for activating various functions and options, and a second beautiful signal level screen that has a lot of information on its own, under which there are four buttons for TIME SET, ALARM, DISPLAY, and SLEEP.   These displays are probably the best we have ever seen in a portable, offering 7 colors selectable from the front panel!  The Eton Elite Satellit (no longer made) offered a few colors on its display but it was nothing like this.  Raddy publicity materials focus on this:

“Unlike other radios, you can choose and set your favorite backlight color to match your style or mood, all while staying updated with a clear 3.54-inch main screen that shows reception status. It’s not just a radio; it’s an extension of your personality.”

Body Design

The 919 is quite a throwback to such classic receivers as the SONY ICF-5900W and other “military style” portables from decades ago – one user noted the similarity to the old National Cougar 877.

The 919 has a solid, confident, body with a space at the top rear that functions as a hand grip.  On top are two jacks for a LOOP ANTENNA, and a mobile WHIP style antenna with an OFF/ON rotary switch.  That switch is awfully close to the LOOP jack.  On the back is a 3.5 mm antenna jack with a three position slider control for specific tuning ranges.  The backstand is basically the same type found on the Tecsun H-501.  One wishes that there would have been a rubber friction grip placed on it and that it had some additional tension to allow it to hold the radio up in other degree positions.

Antenna

The telescopic whip antenna is impressive – robust, and notably designed to work while the radio is positioned on a desk using its backstand, something that the Choyong LC90’s antenna is not able to do.

I will note that the whip antenna cannot be extended up and out of the radio cabinet which limits it to a single angle when the radio is used with the backstand – placement of the 919 left carrying strap hook on top left is the limiting factor here. 

Again the 919 telescopic design is a contrast to the LC90 which both lacks a backstand, and flexibility in the antenna.

A major headline is the manual antenna tuning feature on the RF919. Utilizing the rear antenna jack and switch with MW, SW 1, and SW 2 options, along with the side adjust knob, the user can fine-tune signal strength, with the secondary screen providing real-time viewing of signal strength changes.  On top of the radio, there is a mini jack input next to an ON/OFF switch that, according to the instruction card explanation, enables selection of the LOOP (they call it “ring”) position.  Wow.  The last time we saw this kind of peaking capability on a portable was the SONY ICF-2001 back in the late 1970’s and perhaps the Grundig Satellit 700.  Hats off to Raddy for this design!

Controls

The RF919 has a large central concentric tuning outside “shuttle” knob for fast tuning, and a smaller center knob for fine tuning – the center shuttle doubles as a selector with a push function.  I am not a fan of encoders that rock back and forth as the outside concentric ring does.  At least one user remarked that this feels flimsy.  Time will tell whether these hold up in daily use.  The keyboard, which is nicely backlit, appears to be quite good.  Frequency entry is accomplished by hitting ENT, then the frequency, then ENT again.  You can enter in MHz or kHz.  There are buttons for VOLUME UP/DOWN, and for TUNE/NEXT, TUNE/PREVIOUS.

One curious thing:  if you’re tuning to 22 MHz you can just hit 22 and ENT.  But you can’t do that at 23 MHz and above – you have to enter 23.000 and ENT.  If you don’t, you get 2.300 MHz.  At least that is what I notice on my 919 – perhaps Raddy will be able to clarify why this is so.  Another point on controls: the MW/SW1/SW2 switch on the back of the radio is very flimsy and should be improved by Raddy.

Audio

The huge front-firing speaker on the 919 produces superb audio in all tuning ranges.  Rated at 20 watts, it rivals the wonderful audio of the Choyong LC90 and combined with the 10 position EQUALIZER makes the 919 even more attractive for someone purchasing it for this level of sound production not to mention a receiver that tunes from LW all the way up to 999 MHz.

Fire up the BLUETOOTH on the 919 and you can not only use it as a speaker linked with your phone, but it will play tracks from the microSD.

ATS/Memories

We have all become accustomed to the convenience of ATS, from the excellent performance on Tecsun radios, and the 919 falls right in line.  A scan conducted on FM here in Maryland stored 23 stations and I found sensitivity to be excellent. 

Though noise levels were still high from the recent solar activity, a scan on HF yielded a number of stations.  It did take quite a long time to complete ATS on shortwave – about 15 minutes, so one hopes this could be improved in future firmware versions.  And there is this:  when scanning with ATS, the 919 scans the entire HF range rather than just bands.  In comparison, ATS on a Tecsun S-8800 takes about 3 minutes, and includes only the main SW bands. 

I am not yet sure if the 919 can be made to scan this way, but if not it’s something Raddy should consider.  Both displays remain on during ATS.  This avoids the need to mess with the display functions while scans are ongoing.

Presets

There are 1600 memory channels on this radio!   Once stations are memorized, they can be accessed by hitting the PRESET button on the lower right edge of the main shuttle dials and using the TUNE/NEXT and TUNE/PREV buttons on the keyboard.  Note that when going from one present to another the first thing that appears on the display is the CHANNEL number, followed by the frequency.  That seems logical but it prevents the user from seeing first exactly what frequency has been memorized without having to wait for the display to shift to the frequency itself.

Bandwidths

The 919 provides bandwidth options not only on shortwave, varying depending on whether one is using AM or LSB/USB, but also in FM – a truly great feature for a portable, and something seen on Malahit SDRs.  Bandwidth clarity in SSB is excellent.  Maximum bandwidth in AM mode is 6 kHz, similar to portables by Tecsun, with 4 kHz the maximum in SSB.  Some users have observed that they would like an 8 kHz AM filter position.

Manual

An extensive manual goes over all of the controls, modes, etc. – the drawback here is that the printing is so small as to make reading it impossible, so better to download the manual in pdf form from the Raddy website and print it out.  A bonus is that a three page card guide comes with the radio showing the circuit design and tips for manual antenna tuning and the antenna switching on the back.  A very thoughtful addition to the package!

Battery

The 919 continues the trend of radios using 18650 batteries, familiar to professional flashlight users and also seen in Tecsun and other receivers.  It takes not one, but two 18650s like the Tecsun H-501.  I recommend purchasing a good quality multi-bay battery charger in addition to the ability to charge the radio directly on its USB-C port.  Keep in mind that using these radios while charging will create noise, so don’t expect to have the best reception doing it that way.

Recording Capability

Wow!  After years of seeing radios with a microSD slot but no recording function, Raddy has gone ahead and done it. You can record any audio to the card and play it.  Seems like we could have seen this feature years ago from receiver manufacturers, but we didn’t.  Thank you Raddy!  That said, I have not yet been able to get recording to work on my unit, using a 64 GB microSD (see below).

Reception Performance

I am very impressed so far with the 919.  Sensitivity on HF and AIR appears to be excellent.  MW reception is good as well and can be further improved using the antenna tuning feature and the ability to use a loop antenna connected to the receiver.  FM reception appears to be quite good.  On long wave I was able to hear beacons at levels equal to what I hear on some premium communications receivers.

One observation:  when using the RF919 inside my home here in Maryland, I noted what appeared to be some break-in on shortwave from AM or FM signals.  I am still investigating this and will report later.

There are many more details to discuss for the RF919.  But I need to talk about what I would call the elephant in the room on a relatively short list of CONS, but this is a big one and a bit of a disappointment.  The 919 suffers from the issue that is so familiar to us from other portables:  MUTING WHILE TUNING.  See my video discussing this at:

This is more noticeable when in 1 kHz and 10 Hz increments, and at times of the day when signals are less strong, and seems to be a bit better in the evening when signals improve.  But it is there nonetheless.

It’s not the worst soft muting I have ever heard on a portable. It’s certainly survivable.  But for those of us who value what I call a continuous listening experience, even the slight muting experienced on the 919 is annoying.  It may well be that this can be improved with a firmware update – it’s unclear though whether firmware can be updated via the microSD if new versions were made available on the Raddy website. 

Ironically, what soft muting on any receiver does is make the receiver more useful for those of us who over decades of shortwave listening have memorized multiple SW frequencies – using the 919 I prefer to use the keypad to go directly to a frequency rather than put up with the frustrating experience of using the two shuttle knobs specifically because of the soft muting problem.

I should note that there is a harshness one hears from this radio when using the shuttle dials to tune – what I would describe as AGC crashes when going from frequency to frequency.  This is nothing new for DSP radios, though some do a better job than others, such as the Tecsun PL-990 and 501 and Data/Sihuadon D-808.  It’s clear that when a manufacturer decides to build a radio around these chips, such as the Si4735, there is very little that can be done to smooth out how the chip handles AGC, though I do not claim to be an expert in this area.

Zero Beat Variations

The other issue I observed on the unit sent to me is also familiar – in SSB, the radio isn’t calibrated well enough, so zero beat in LSB or USB vary quite a bit off the actual tuned frequency.  While we don’t usually expect DSP portables to be exactly on frequency, this can be annoying as well since in an ideal world we don’t want to have to off-tune from a known frequency of a broadcaster, or amateur operator, to achieve clarity.  Tecsun provided a recalibration feature on its portables that enables the user to adjust zero beat.  One wishes that other manufacturers would do the same – if the 919 were to have this it would be a welcome addition.

Other Issues

Though the 919 manual states that the receiver accepts up to 256 GB microSD, my first attempt to get a 64 GB card did not succeed.  The card is correctly formatted so I am at a loss to determine why this is.  Obtaining the Radio-C app was also an adventure – it comes up as an APK file which then installs.  Two Bluetooth connections appear, but understanding the process is complicated.  I was finally able to get the app working with the radio and continue to experiment with the flexibilities it provides.

Overall, the app provides some great controls over the radio, but the fact that it does not appear on Google Play and has to be downloaded via a QR code may give some users pause.  Additionally, temperature appears to display only in Celsius – something I am sure will be corrected in future firmware updates.  Also, on the phone app, pressing CB brings the radio to 25 MHz rather than the CB range.  When initiating a scan inside one of the SW bands, the scan does not stop at the top of that band.  And there does not appear, based on my first tests, to be a way to control SQUELCH from the phone app.  Hitting V-UHF on the app screen brings the radio to 20,000 kHz.  So, there need to be refinements to the app to clear things up.

Conclusion

So, here’s my summary of the RF919:

Swooping down on us out of the blue, this is an extraordinary entry into the portable category, taking us by surprise with its thoughtful design, seemingly high quality construction, and features that set it apart from other radios on the market today. 

Whoever designed the 919 surely had to have some significant experience as a listener because the features included in the receiver move it straight to the top of the list of portable receivers available in 2024.

Comparing the 919 with a receiver such as the Sangean ATS-909X2 there really is no contest.  Where coverage is concerned, the 919 blows Tecsun and Sangean offerings out of the water – on this receiver you can listen from LW all the way up to 999 mHz, along with AIR band, weather frequencies, public service, and CB (though as observed by users there is no FM mode reception for CB).

I have not been impressed by other Hanrongda (labeled Raddy/Retekess) offerings.  At one point I tried a 747 only to be thoroughly disappointed with its hard-to-see display, terrible SSB, and thin telescopic antenna along with laborious thumb wheel tuning.  I was cautious when I saw initial videos of the RF919.  But this receiver truly is a major step forward for a portable:  superb displays, wide coverage, excellent SSB (aside from the zero beat/calibration issue), wonderful audio, bluetooth capability and phone app control, microSD recording capability – all of these add up to one hell of a radio.

In response to my initial comments on the soft muting and calibration issues, Raddy responded:

“We would like to thank you for bringing two important concerns to our attention: muting during tuning and frequency accuracy. Please rest assured that we are actively discussing these issues with our technical team to gain further insights and potential solutions. We value your input and will keep you updated on any progress made.”

At a price of $269 as this is being written, the RF919 could be a 5 star radio were it not for the aforementioned issues of soft muting while tuning and calibration variation.  We can only hope that the designers can address these issues with future firmware updates and possibly make updating something we can do after purchase.  The 919 website by the way also offers antennas for the 919 including the Radioddity RD-771 which is described as an upgrade of the popular Nagoya NA-771, and the Radioddity RD-371 “Tri-band” antenna for 144-220-440 mHz.

As of this writing I am not aware of any reviews of the Retekess version of the 919, the TR113, but have to assume that there are no differences.  It will be interesting to see how firmware updates occur and again, one would hope that this will be a simple process of being able to download the updates from Raddy/Retekess and be installed on the radio.  But so far, there is no sign of this so clarifications from the manufacturer would be appreciated.

It is amazing that in 2024 we still have ANY radios coming to market as advanced as the RF919.  This is a receiver that obviously was influenced in design by someone who knows their stuff and included numerous features such as antenna tuning, decent SSB, and the ability to record content.  It is frustrating that there have been no advances in chip technology that would allow SSB performance that more closely matches what we had in many classic portables of decades past.  But for those who don’t mind things like soft muting while tuning, and can tolerate harsh AGC characteristics of DSP, right now there isn’t anything on the market that matches the RF919 in terms of just wide tuning range and reception tools as well as superb audio.  

As for BUY or DON’T BUY, I would edge toward the former with a caution to perfectionists like myself who would be bothered by muting.

If Raddy can fix that issue, and ensure a calibration process that brings LSB and USB closer to zero beat on frequency, and/or include a recalibration function as Tecsun has on its radios, the RF919 would then be an easy YES recommendation.  Right now it gets a 4.5 from me, but could easily be a 5.0 if those issues are resolved.

Retailers

    • Amazon.com
    • Radioddity (note: using this link will include a $15 discount for you and a commission to the SWLing Post)
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Raddy RE40 Emergency Radio

By Robert Gulley (Guest Post)

The Raddy RE40 is another portable shortwave radio offering from Radioddity, but with a twist – it is intended to be an emergency radio first, and a listening-for-pleasure radio second. In this review I will cover the emergency options incorporated into the unit, as well as discuss operability and its overall functionality as a radio.

As always when I do a radio review, I will point out what I believe are the radio’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as where this might fit in your radio arsenal. The usual disclaimer applies for any product I review – I tell it like it is, good or bad. While the radio was provided to me without cost by Radioddity, that does not affect my opinions one iota. With that out of the way, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of the rig!

As we have come to expect from other Raddy portables, this has a lot of features packed into a relatively small package. I say “relatively small” because it is thicker than many vertical portables, and heavier. This is a solid bit of kit, and the size and weight are the first clue that this radio is not just intended to sit on a coffee table. It is definitely designed to work outdoors, as well as finding a place in the car or boat for when you need to check on the weather, or be out in it.

Specifications

    • Frequency Range: FM: 87-108MHz, AM: 520-1710KHz, SW: 5.7-17.9MHz, WB: 162.400-162.550MHz
    • Bluetooth: Version 5.0
    • Card Type: MP3/WAV/FLAC/APE
    • White Noise: 7 different natural sounds
    • Max. Capacity of Micro SD Card: 256GB (not included)
    • Size: 81x52x132mm / 3.2x2x5.2in
    • Weight: Approximately 350g / 0.77lb
    • Operating Voltage: 2.7V-4.2V
    • LED Light: 1W/120LM
    • Max. Power: About 5W
    • Speaker: 4? 5W
    • LED Flashlight: 1W/120LM
    • Battery Capacity: 4000mAh / 3.7V (non-replaceable)
    • Operating Temperature Range: -10? to 60??14°F to 140°F?

What’s in the box?

    • 1 x RE40 Radio
    • 1 x Type-C Cable
    • 1 x Wrist1 x User Manual

Power Options

This radio can be powered by an internal battery charged by a USB-C port, solar powered to charge the battery, or by a hand crank. Here is the manual description of the emergency power options:

A. Solar Charging

  1. Put the solar panel directly towards sunlight. When the green charging indicator lights on, it indicates that the solar panels charging the internal battery.
  2. The charging efficiency depends on the solar exposure: the stronger the sunlight, the better the charging effect.

B. Hand Crank Charging

  1. Turn the hand crank clockwise or anti-clockwise and the green charging indicator will light up to indicate that it is
  2. Speaker has no sound: Hand crank at 130-150 rpm for 1 minute, the flashlight can be used for more than 30+ minutes or play the radio (medium volume) for 3

NOTES:

  1. The hand crank can be turned for 3-5 minutes before using the product to activate the internal battery.
  2. The hand crank is normally used in emergency situations when the power is out.

Solar Panel

The radio has a compass built into the volume control knob on top, a flashlight, analog tuning dial, and switches for moving between playback modes (Radio, Bluetooth, and media) and desired operations (SOS, Standard battery or solar/crank charging modes, and USB charging). As an aside, the SOS feature is LOUD!

Almost the whole back of the radio is devoted to the solar cell. This is much larger than other solar cells on portable radios that I own, and presumably will recharge the internal battery faster. There is a rubber flap over the headphone, USB and memory card jacks/slots.

The unit has another interesting feature: you can charge your phone or other USB device from the standard USB slot under the flap. To use this feature the mode switch on the back of the radio has to be in the right-hand position under the charging symbol. When set to charge another device all other functions are disabled, so if you turn your radio on and can’t get anything to work, you might just have pushed the button over to the right accidentally, or intentionally the last time you used the radio.

Radio Performance

I’ll not spend a lot of time here, not because the radio performance is poor, but because as I have already noted, that is not the primary focus of this radio. There are plenty of portable radios by Radioddity and others which have better performance. However, I found the FM reception to be exceptional for a radio in this class, and AM radio reception to be reasonably acceptable for a radio with a lot going on inside. I did not test the AM radio reception with one of my loop enhancement units, mainly because I am not looking to use this as a regular radio receiver. This is going in my car for emergency/safety issues, and to grab when I am having a picnic lunch or the like.

Shortwave reception is on par with other radios of this size, and a pleasant feature is a sturdy telescoping antenna. Unlike several other small Raddy radios which have very fragile antennas, this one is much more solid.

Weather band reception is decent, but not quite as good as other radios I have tested. I can pick up one very strong signal, and a usable/readable second signal, but some other radios I have give me 4 or 5 stations. Of course, as long as you can get one strong signal, it is likely that is the one most important to you in your immediate location. With at least a second station you have the chance to pick up information should the one nearest you experience difficulties.

Sound and White Noise

As for the sound quality, it has a nice large speaker and delivers good sound, and I have found this typical of most all of the Raddy radios I have tested. In addition to the typical sleep timer radio option, this radio features a “white noise” option which allows the user to select between 7 different white noise options for those who prefer to go to sleep that way.

Compass and Flashlight

Pros

  1. Feature-Packed in a small footprint
  2. Loud SOS
  3. Sturdy Antenna
  4. Large Solar Charging Cell
  5. Ability to charge phone
  6. Multiple ways to power radio/flashlight
  7. Strong FM, acceptable AM and Shortwave (no SSB)
  8. Price ($49.99 from Radioddity, $44.99 plus 10% off coupon from Amazon at time of writing. There is also a bundle offer from Amazon which includes an SP4 4W Portable Solar Panel for $59 plus 10% off coupon) [Note that these are affiliate links that support the SWLing Post at no cost to you.]
  9. 18-month(!) warranty

Cons

  1. Weather band not as impressive as some other radios, but hardly a deal-breaker
  2. Analog tuning dial very sensitive (if you have shaky hands this is probably not for you, except perhaps for the emergency functions)
  3. Multi-colored striped analog dial is sometimes hard to read (then again, I need my reading glasses for a lot of things!)

Wrap-up

This little radio packs a lot of punch for the money, adding features similar emergency radios do not have. If you are like me, emergency radios are a necessity given our unstable weather and power grids, and I like knowing I can use solar power to recharge a radio, or crank it when the sun is not available. Some folks expect more power from a hand-crank generator than these small radios produce, but my main goal is to be able to quickly check weather conditions, use the flashlight, or make use of the SOS function if needed. These do not require massive amount of time spent cranking the generator, and to me that is a plus.

I would recommend one for each car or boat, or to take with you on outdoor trips just in case of an emergency. Of course, you could always listen to the ballgame on your front porch, too!

Cheers, Robert K4PKM

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John’s In-Depth Review of the Choyong LC90 (Export Version)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and WWLG author, John Figliozzi, who shares the following review:


A Review And Analysis Of The Choyong LC90 (Export Version)

By John A. Figliozzi

General

To my knowledge, this is the first radio to combine AM Shortwave with Internet Radio.  This makes it the first true “full service” radio incorporating ALL of radio’s major platforms.  Many radio listeners question why this hasn’t been done sooner, so this very good first effort is most welcome.

The initial presentation of the radio to the new owner is impressive.  The stylish box in which it arrives is worthy of a respected instrument of high quality.  The radio has the solid substantial feel of a device with excellent build quality.  Its sizing – that of a paperback book along the lines of some previous well-respected AM/FM/SW receivers like the Grundig YB-400 – gives it the perfect form factor for a radio that can be enjoyed both in the home and as a portable.

There is so much to like here.  Over and above its unique combining of Internet radio and shortwave, there’s a “permanent” battery that offers many hours of use before it needs recharging, ATS tuning, the ability to save frequencies and stations in several preference lists, several ways of searching for Internet radio stations, an easy way to add Internet stations not already listed by the manufacturer, and others.

But the LC90 really shines with its fantastic audio on FM and Internet radio.  There’s a woofer, a tweeter and a low frequency diaphragm inside the speaker cavity that occupies the left half the case – and nothing else.  The radio’s excellent build quality and its developers’ efforts to produce a world class audio section in a portable radio really pays off.

But no radio is perfect, and this one obviously is a work in progress.  So, being critical – which is what a review and analysis like this does — should not imply disapproval on any level.  On the contrary, the LC90 is already a well-formed radio worthy of consideration by any purchaser.

The Screen

The screen that is the center of the LC90 provides much information depending on the platform being used.  But in some cases, useful information is missing and in other cases the information provided seems unnecessary or of questionable utility.

In AM (MW), FM and SW, it is not readily apparent what all the symbols mean or why they are there.  The time, signal strength and SNR (signal to noise ratio), bandwidth, meter band, heart (for including a frequency in “favorites”) and the “Freq. vs. Addr.” indicators are all helpful and understandable.  But what is meant by “Memo” isn’t entirely clear.  Is it holding just my preferences?  Or the number of stations found by ATS?  Or something else?

So, too, with the Internet Radio screen.  What do the three dots, the speaker icon and the return icon mean?  The ability to tune stations in sequence as they appear across the bottom of the screen depending on mode is both unique and helpful.  But the use of a timer to tick off how long one might listen to a particular station seems of dubious value.

Some suggestions for better use of the screen in some circumstances are detailed below.

Operation

Initial setup matching the radio to home internet service proceeded flawlessly.  The time clock is in 24-hour mode and showed correct time and date in my time zone.  Some purchasers had previously noted that the clock showed a time one hour earlier than the actual time.  I surmise that this is because the clock remains in standard time year-round.  There is no facility to reset the clock, compensate for seasonal time changes or set the clock manually.  This is an oversight that should be addressed.

This is a sophisticated, multi-faceted radio.  As impressive as it already may be, it should be perceived as a work in progress in need of the improvements it will get eventually through firmware updates and design modifications.  It would be helpful if those updates could come directly and seamlessly through the Internet, something that apparently can’t be done currently.

The LC90 comes with a rather short, almost cryptically worded pamphlet.  This can serve as an ok quick start-up guide.  But after using the radio, it’s obvious that there’s need for a comprehensive operation manual with copious directions for the user, along the lines that Eton provided for the E1.  A radio of this quality and at this price point demands such consideration.

In short, becoming fully familiar with and comfortable using all the features of the LC90 requires a prodigious learning curve, one that is not intuitively discerned.  I have to say that even after using it almost constantly for a few weeks, I feel I am still missing things.

Just a few examples of aspects that go unexplained include:

  • What does “Auto Play” mean in Settings?
  • Getting to preferences (the “heart” icon) is confusing and I’ve inadvertently removed them without learning how it happened.
  • Why does the screen show “Please add radio channel first” when I think I’ve already done that?
  • Why does screen alarmingly show “Saved channels removed”, having done so when I press the tuning dial thinking I am obtaining a list of my preferred or saved stations?

The cleverness behind the LC90 is not intuitively apparent.  If I hit the wrong keys in combination or hard press instead of soft press a key, I get a result I don’t understand and for which there is no explanation in the exceedingly short manual provided now.  In some cases, I put myself in a corner I can’t get out of, so I must reset by shutting down and restarting the radio to get back to base.

Following are my observations on the performance of the LC90 by platform:

FM

The LC90 has a very good FM section that is quite sensitive.   Using the ATS feature, (automatic tuning) it found 37 stations in Sarasota FL, for example.

For its size – and even considering many larger radios — the LC90 has an excellent audio response on FM.  However, although it has activated stereo capability, it does not appear to actually provide stereo through its ear/headphone jack. This is because the same output is used to provide audio to the speakers and the ear/headphone jack.  This feels like an oversight that should be rectified.  The radio does “recognize” a stereo plug and audio does play into both ears.  It’s just not stereo audio.

As currently configured this LC90 does not offer RDBS (RDS in Europe) on FM.  This should be incorporated into a radio of this quality being offered at this price point.

Even so, in this user’s opinion it earns a 4.5 on scale of 5 on FM.  But if it had stereo and RBDS, it would easily earn a 5.

A question arises:   Were HD Radio (in North America) and DAB+ (in Europe and Australia – if these are targeted markets for the LC90) considered for incorporation into this radio by its developers?  If not, why not; and, if so, why was a decision taken not to include them?

Shortwave

Performance of the LC90 on shortwave is very good, especially since it clearly is not intended as a hobbyist’s DX machine.  As such in my opinion, it doesn’t require the SSB capability that some have said they wish it has.

Rather, this radio is intended for the content-focused listener.  I view the AM (MW), FM and SW platforms as back-up alternatives for and secondary to the primary focus — Internet Radio.  Nonetheless, the LC-90’s performance is above average on both FM and SW which should be assuring to anyone considering its purchase.

The LC90 is quite sensitive on SW for a small portable using just its built-in expandable and rotatable 9 stage rod antenna.   But it does especially well when a common clothesline reel external antenna is extended and plugged into the receptacle provided for that purpose on the radio’s right-hand side.  (Similar improvement is noted for AM (MW) and FM, as well.)

Complaints about placement of this receptacle close to the tuning knob is of no concern when an external antenna of the type described above using a 3.5mm plug connector is used.  Any more sophisticated an external antenna would likely overload this radio considering that “birdies” – false signals internally generated by the radio itself — can be detected throughout the SW spectrum even when just using its built-in rod antenna.  This flaw should be addressed in any future modification or upgrade.

The audio enhancements made on this radio through unique use of speakers and their orientation are not as apparent here as they are when listening to FM and Internet Radio.

On AM signals generally — both SW and AM (MW) – a listener can detect artifacts in the audio.  Audible random “clicks” often can be heard – usually when receiving weaker stations – which sounds as if the radio’s audio section is clipping.   Adjusting the bandwidth appears to offer only minimal help with this.

Indeed, the audio produced by SW and AM (MW) sounds somewhat mechanical except on very strong stations.  It seems to lack body or depth on SW and AM.   Some of this undoubtedly is due to the quality of AM audio to begin with.  But the latter does sound more natural on other receivers.  The 7 bandwidths provided (1, 1.8, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 6 kHz) do help to somewhat shape the audio, but it appears that there could be better choices for what this radio is trying to achieve.

Nonetheless on SW, the LC90 rates a comparative 3.75 on a scale of 5 for sensitivity off its built-in antenna.  That rises to a 4.0 when the external antenna described above is connected.

An unrelated anomaly was noted from using the radio on SW:  The LC90 (or at least this test unit) apparently cannot be tuned directly to frequencies in the 25 MHz (11m) band.  The radio will only accept 4 integers here, so it reverts to 120m instead of 11m.  Instead, one must press the tuning knob to change the display to 11m and then tune manually via the knob to the desired frequency.

AM (Mediumwave)

All Internet-capable radios up to now have avoided including AM – both MW and SW – into their designs due to noise and interference issues generated by the radio’s internal control signal and screen, and the difficulty involved in shielding both.

While acknowledging the considerable effort put forward by the LC90’s developers to ameliorate this problem, the radio does not fully overcome these challenges to producing “clean” AM audio.

The developers themselves seem to recognize this problem.  While they have incorporated an internal ferrite MW antenna in the radio’s design, its utility is overwhelmed by internal interference.  Rotating the radio to emphasize or null certain signals yields no apparent difference.  Consequently, the developer suggests that the listener extend the internal rod antenna for “best results”.

The AM (MW) section is unfortunately the weakest aspect of this radio.  Daytime reception is very poor – rated comparatively a 1.5 on a scale of 5.  The LC90 receives and saves through ATS only very local stations and misses several of them.

Reception does improve after dark, largely due to skywave propagation.  But it is only comparatively fair – 2.5 on a scale of 5.

Using the external clothesline antenna described above improves daytime reception to a 2.0, but those purchasing this radio should expect only marginal pedestrian – even comparatively substandard — results with AM (MW).

In sum, the audio improvements the LC90’s developers have successfully worked to provide elsewhere in the LC90 are almost undetectable here unless one is listening to an exceptionally strong AM (MW) station.

Internet Radio

To this observer, this is the core of the LC90.

There are three equally important tasks that an Internet radio must achieve to serve as a quality example for the genre:

  • Stability of signal reproduction,
  • Superior audio quality,
  • Easy user interface.

Let me begin by pointing out that it is readily apparent that the developers put lots of work into this aspect of the LC90.

The stations that do play successfully sound very good with excellent stability.  But compared to other internet radios I own and have experienced, there are just too many stations that lack that stability (characterized by frequent audio breaks or “hiccups”) or don’t load at all.

Here are some specific observations from use over several weeks:

Simply put, the user interface needs work.  While the LC90 offers several flexible tuning assists, there seem to be too many that overlap and others missing.  The effort does not seem to be centrally focused enough.  For example, listings within each category appear randomly, and many unexplainably with what looks like the same links that are indistinguishable and scattered throughout a given category.

Indeed, there are many individual listings that are repeated within the same and different lists which are found via the Tag, Menu, News. Music, Language buttons on the radio.  Why?  Is it to provide different codecs or levels of streaming quality?  There is no indication as to the way each might differ one from another, if at all.

As mentioned earlier, there is much going on here that cannot be intuitively discerned by the user/listener — and it must be!  Comparing it to other Internet radios such as the Pure Elan Connect, which uses the constantly updated Frontier Silicon station and podcast database, the LC90’s Internet radio operation is confusing and the logic behind it is difficult to perceive.

Some stations appear in Chinese and Cyrillic script, and others just as dots across a line.  This is unhelpful to listeners outside these cultures.  Also, there appear to be features within the LC90’s architecture that are “hidden”.  For example, through an inadvertent combination of key presses I found myself briefly in a listing that appeared designed solely for the Chinese market until I reset the radio by turning the radio off and then on again.

The developers appear to have created their own stations database rather than use one of the others already in use on other Internet radios.  Since it is apparently an entirely new approach, it’s impossible to determine if it is continuously updated, systematically modified or updated periodically according to some schedule.  This observer did not see any activity or change that would indicate that anything was updated over the weeks he was using the LC90.

Many domestic BBC links (Radio 3,4,5,6, e.g.) just don’t work.  When ostensibly “loading” them after selecting them, the percentage just stays at zero.  Given the importance of the BBC internationally, this is concerning and should be corrected with all deliberate speed.

In fact, this observer experienced an inordinate number of links that didn’t seem to work at all.  Some links also play initially, but then just “hang” or stop working or “hiccup” periodically (RTE, RTHK, e.g).

When comparing the LC90’s admittedly many offerings with those on Internet radios using the Frontier Silicon database, many stations appear to be missing.  However, the LC90’s developers have included in the radio’s architecture a very accessible means for the radio’s users to add stations that are not already in the radio’s database.  Whether these are just added only to the user’s radio or added globally to the LC-90 database is unknown.

In short, the way these lists — and the way the user tunes them in — work now appear to detract from rather than enhance the performance and user’s overall experience with the LC90.  This situation leads this observer to the perception that the developer’s concept(s) behind station lists and tuning is unfocused and disorganized.  This situation cannot be allowed to continue.  As stated, this user interface needs reconsideration and refinement in the opinion of this observer to make its use more intuitive for the user.

The LC90’s display for Internet radio is attractive but supplies only stream loading percentages and the station name.  There is no means of knowing the actual quality of the audio signal other than by ear.  The timer provided counting how long the station has been playing is not really of any practical use when listening to an Internet radio station.

A better use of the LC90’s screen would be to include visuals like station logos and station-provided metadata, neither of which are present now.

An anomaly that came to light through use:  The “Podcast” button only seems to provide stations like other buttons, not podcast lists.  This observer could find no way to access or listen to podcasts.  Again, this needs to be corrected.

In the opinion of this observer, the Internet section of the LC90 earns an overall 3.5 on a scale of 5 with the proviso that the radio’s audio performance with the highest quality Internet streams earns a clear 5.

Bluetooth

The LC-90’s Bluetooth feature works well.  Audio volume is jointly controlled by the source and the radio.  Its set-up and operation appear seamless.

TF and SIM cards

Not tested.  Since most SIM cards are tied to phones here, I anticipate that Internet access for the LC90 Export Version will remain with WiFi for the vast majority or, when and where WiFi is unavailable, by linking one’s phone to the radio using Bluetooth.

Neither was the timer or sleep function tested, but it can be assumed that both work as they should.

Final Notes

Other reviewers have expressed a desire for an air band, SSB capability and a fold out strip on the rear of the radio’s case so that it might be angled when used.

Frankly, I don’t see the need for any of these with the LC90 or any future enhancement or modification of it.  Anyone wishing to angle the receiver can find an inexpensive tilt stand on which to place it.  But, in that regard, I would suggest that the developer recreate the rod antenna so that it clears the perimeter of the case and allows it a full 360-degree rotation.

Otherwise, my preference would be that any such effort and the resources necessary to pursue them be concentrated on the more important matters I highlight for improvement in this analysis.

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Michael compares the Choyong LC90 Export and Chinese Versions

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Ye (BD4AAQ), for the following guest post:


Twins, Yet Each One Unique – A Comparison of the Worldwide Version of LC90 with its Chinese Counterpart

by Michael Ye (BD4AAQ)

The export version of the LC90 is now available in the market [affiliate link]. Previously, we examined the Chinese version, which has been in the China market since early 2023. Instead of a review of the export version, this article will focus on the similarities and differences between the two LC90 versions – the version that has just started to be distributed outside China and the version that is already being sold in China. A link to my previous article can be found by clicking here.

One thing to note is the name of the manufacturer. In my previous review, I used Chaoyuan, the “pinyin” phonetic of the Chinese characters of the name of the company. As it turned out, the westernised spelling that the company uses is Choyong, or Choyong Electronics.

The LC90, a hybrid radio that combines the Internet radio with the traditional radio, is a bold move and seems to be well-received by shortwave listeners and beyond. Let’s explore what these two versions of the same model have to offer.

Appearance

The two versions of the radio look the same in appearance. However, upon closer inspection, you will notice the language on the buttons differs. The export version has all the buttons labeled in English, while the buttons of the Chinese version have a mixture of Chinese and English.

Traditional Radio

I do not find differences between the FM, MW and SW features of the two versions. Both versions have the specifications as follows: FM: 64-108 MHz, MW: 522-1710 kHz and SW: 2.3-26.10 MHz. Shortwave performance remains excellent. However, for the export version, you could toggle the MW tuning step between 9 kHz and 10 kHz, and the FM tuning step as well, through the setup (gearbox) button, but it does not seem possible to change any tuning step on the Chinese version – this seems to be a matter of software upgrade and so is not really an issue.

On both versions, press MW again to enter LW (153-279 kHz).

Internet Radio

In terms of the stations that can be heard, the Internet radio exhibits significant differences from that of the Chinese version. The Chinese version is designed to exclusively feature Chinese language stations (and a few English language stations) in China. If we were to liken the Chinese Internet radio to a closed system such as iOS, it would be stable, reliable but restrictive. In contrast, the export version could be compared to Android, offering more open, inclusive and customisable user experience.

On the export version, the MENU button provides access to the main menu, which begins with the six continents (excluding Antarctica) and allows users to navigate to the desired country and then select a specific station. Additionally, shortcut keys are available for direct access to MUSIC, PODCAST, NEWS, TAG and LANG (languages).

TAG and LANG for Ai1 and Ai2 Buttons

On the Chinese version, two buttons, Ai1 and Ai2, serve as voice assistants. Activate and speak to them and the radio directly plays the content (Ai1) or displays search results for users to choose from (Ai2). They come in handy when you look for a specific item, for instance the title of a song or a talk show. On the export version, however, the voice assistants have been removed and replaced with shortcuts TAG and LANG.

Add Your Own Stations

The Chinese version has about 1000 Chinese Internet stations built-in. On the worldwide version of the radio, there is a vast number of Internet stations available, literally tens of thousands of them, in different languages, and from different corners of the world. The number is updated from time to time. And that is not all. A really cool feature is the ability to add stations of your choice and it is easy to do with the help of a mobile phone. Unfortunately, this feature for adding your own stations is not available in the Chinese version.

Nano SIM card

The Chinese version comes with a built-in nano SIM card that is prepaid and provides Internet data. To continue using it, simply add credit to the card. In contrast, the export version does not include a prepaid, data-enabled SIM card for the user. Still, the user can use a WI-FI connection or purchase a 4G nano SIM card to insert into the device’s slot.

Some Features Not Discussed Previously

Both versions have the following features:

  • Keyboard backlight;
  • IPS LCD with backlight;
  • Type-C charging cable supplied;
  • TF card supported (to store and play your own music); and
  • Bluetooth for the radio to serve as a Bluetooth speaker.

The integration of high-tech gadgets and advanced devices into our daily routines has become indispensable in this age of the Internet. It is essential to adapt to the ever-evolving nature of the times.

Bottom Line

The Choyong LC90 is an exceptional radio that combines traditional radio features with modern Internet capabilities. It is available in both domestic and worldwide versions. The revolutionary design of the LC90 allows for excellent overall performance in both over-the-air radio reception and online streaming/podcasting.

There is no difference in traditional radio reception and performance between the domestic and worldwide versions of the LC90. However, the Internet features are drastically different, as the worldwide version serves audiences around the world, while the Chinese version is dedicated to the audience in China.

Overall, the Choyong LC90 offers a unique combination of traditional radio and modern Internet capabilities, making it a versatile and high-performing device for radio enthusiasts and music lovers.

Wish List

Is SSB decoding necessary? Well, it depends. The radio primarily caters to broadcast listeners, but both hardcore amateur radio hobbyists and general listeners may find it appealing. While adding SSB decoding can enhance its functionality, it will increase costs and may require additional space, considering it already combines two radios in one device.

There are two switches, the red button (upper right) and the volume/sleep knob (lower right side). Is it really necessary to have both?

On the export version, the “network error” message may occasionally pop up, and the radio would become quiet until human intervention steps in. Is it feasible for the radio to automatically resume play after the network error is cleared?

For some users, the antenna jack is a bit too close to the tuning knob. In most situations, this proximity does not impact the radio’s operation. However, if you need to connect an antenna using a connector, you may encounter difficulty or even find it impossible to plug it in.

Click here to check out the Choyong LC90 (export version) on Amazon.com.

Note that this Amazon link supports the SWLing Post at no cost to you. Thank you!

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GE Superadio: Purchasing Used Models for Restoration and a New Groups.io Discussion

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and supporter, Chuck Rippel (K8HU), who shared the following comment on this post regarding his excellent Superadio restoration services. I wanted Chuck’s comment to get more visibility, so I am reposting it here (hope you don’t mind, Chuck!).

Chuck comments:

A number of folks have written, asking if I have any radios to sell. Every now and again, there is a model 1 or model 2 (they are electrically identical) that I offer for sale.

However, there is a better approach to obtaining a restored SR-1 or 2. Go up on E-Bay and look for a nice GE SR and have the seller ship it to me after you purchase it. Make SURE the seller encloses a note with your purchase with your name and contact information so I know to whom the radio belongs.

This one caught my eye and would be a worthy candidate for restoration and to add to a collection:

https://ebay.us/Mx7VEW

[Note: the eBay Partnership link above supports the SWLing Post at no cost to the buyer]

It’s also an excellent example of a decent SR being sold 2nd hand.

Couple things to watch for:

Shipping charges in excess of $20. Save for coast to coast or a rural area, $20 is about the reasonable limit. Many of the radios are picked up by people wandering through estate sales, thrift shops, garage sales, etc…. who have no idea what they are buying. Many see “GE Super Radio” and put it on E-Bay simply because the radio carries the “Super Radio” label. I would guess that is why there are so many Super Radio model 3’s on E-Bay. Those were made by RCA with a GE label printed on them but their performance is sub-par to the model 1 or 2.

Finally, if you have a SR-1 or 2 you’d like me to work on, drop a note and I’ll send you back a 2 page FAQ. It outlines what will be done, how to ship it and pricing which includes a couple of options from which to choose. Please read and understand the FAQ before shipping. If you decide to send it, please do it promptly and let me know it’s coming. I ask you to include your POC information with the radio and that’s best done on a word processor or note pad then printed. Sometimes, handwritten script is a bit difficult to read.

I’ve gotten radios with no return address or POC sent from a UPS store, (who does that go back to?). There are a few options from which to choose and I strongly recommend 1, having Conformal Coating applied to the solder side of the PCB’s. Solder is hydroscopic and can absorb moisture over time and we won’t get into battery acid. My conformal coating is similar to the “MFP” process used on certain mil-spec electronics save that unlike MFP, I only apply coating to the solder side of the board. A board treated to MFP has both sides coated.

Ok, now a general question:

I created a Groups.io page where those interested in the 2 GE Super Radios can share their experiences. The initial invitations went out, give it a couple days but if you did not get one and are interested, drop me a note. My e-mail address is in several location on this blog [including in this post].

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CCrane’s new C. Crane CC Skywave 2 . . . and the OODA loop

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

A software glitch at a power station, a tree branch rubbing against a transformer, a geophysical incident, a weather event, even a civil society misadventure . . . It doesn’t take much for things to rapidly go to blazes. So what do you need when Really Bad Things happen?

Back in the 1970s, Colonel John Boyd, an air warfare strategist, came up with the idea of the OODA loop. Originally designed for air combat, the OODA stands for: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. In other words, see what’s going on, understand how it relates to your situation, figure out what to do, then do it.  OODA . . . got it?

So when really bad stuff happens, once you get clear of immediate physical danger (if any), you (or me or anyone involved) need to do your OODA loop: see what’s going on, understand how it relates to your situation, figure out what to do, then do it.

And to execute your OODA loop, you need information, right?

Soooo, when the lights are out, the internet is down, and maybe cell phones aren’t working, you need an emergency radio to find out what’s going on. Rob, W4ZNG, endured three weeks without electricity on the Mississippi gulf coast as a result of Katrina. In Rob’s case, during Katrina, all of the local broadcasters were wiped out. There was a local low-power FM broadcaster who got permission to increase power to 1,000 watts and was broadcasting where to get food and water. There was a New Orleans AM station that was on the air, but all of its coverage was “New Orleans-centric.” After a few days, some local FM broadcaster, working together, cobbled together a station that they put on the air and began broadcasting news. Rob also began DXing AM stations at night to get additional news. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say radio was Rob’s lifeline to what was going on.

So, at the most basic level, an emergency radio needs to receive AM and FM stations. If you live in the U.S. or Canada, you also want NOAA weather radio channels, and, if things are really horrible, the ability to receiver shortwave radio might be useful.

Recently I had a look at an excellent candidate for an emergency radio.  CCrane has brought out a new and improved version of their super-versatile pocket-sized Skywave radio, and they sent me one for review without charge.

The new radio, the CC Skywave 2, covers FM from 87.5-108.0 MHz, AM from 520-1710 kHz, National Weather Radio Channels 1-7, air band from 118-137 MHz, and shortwave from 2300 to 26100 kHz. Small enough to fit in a shirt pocket, the Skywave 2 measures 3 inches high, 4.75 inches wide, and 1.1 inches deep and weighs about five and one-half ounces before you insert 2 AA batteries. (It can also be run off an optional CCrane power adaptor that can charge optional NiMH batteries. The manual warns: DO NOT USE LITHIUM BATTERIES).

According to CCrane, improvements to the Skywave 2 include a new micro-USB connector for external power and battery charging, a better speaker with slightly more amplification, circuit noise reduction, long feet for better stability, and a socket for plugging in an optional wire antenna adaptor available from CCrane.

I found the Skywave 2 really easy to operate. At the simplest level, select a band, then press one of the up or down buttons, and the Skywave 2 will scan to the next strong station. There is also an ATS (automatic tuning system) that programs all receivable AM, FM, or shortwave stations to memory buttons. Just select the band you want (AM, FM, or shortwave), press the ATS button, and the ATS system will scan the entire band and automatically set all available stations in sequence 1-10. If there are more than 10 stations are available, then the remaining stations will be stored on the next memory page and so forth. Each band has its own set of memories.

Everything is clearly labeled, and a gold label above a button indicates that if you press and hold that button, the function labeled in gold will be activated. If you want to directly enter a frequency (once you have selected the band you want), you must press the FREQ button first, then punch in the numbers. Otherwise, pressing any of the number buttons will activate the memory assigned to that number. To store a station in memory, press and hold any number button for two seconds.

Although I have no equipment for formally measuring things like ultimate receiver sensitivity, I found the performance on all bands to be typical of what I have come to expect of CCrane radios: excellent.

Full points to CCrane for writing a superb manual. In fact, I’ve found that the manuals for all the CCrane radios I have owned or tested have been well-written. I don’t know who is writing those manuals, but a big thumbs-up for clear manuals that are easy to use. The Skywave 2 manual even includes a section on “Hidden Settings” . . . ya gotta love it! Well done.

One other thing deserves mention: the Skywave 2 comes with CC Buds Earphones. I found they fit my ears comfortably and sound great . . . waaay better than the cheap-o earbuds I bought at a big box store.

The bottom line is: the Skywave 2 is a pint-sized powerhouse, and I can easily recommend it for anyone who needs an emergency radio, a travel radio (it has an alarm you can set), a weather radio with alert, or an ultralight MW DXing radio, or who simply wants to have a lot of fun with radio in a small, easy-to-handle package (An aside, listening to air band is pretty entertaining).

I found the performance to be excellent (for the radio’s size) on all bands, comparable to the CCrane Skywave SSB 2 that I own. In addition, with the new model (and the optional adapter), you can now plug in an external long-wire antenna for longer-range reception. That’s just great and could prove really useful.

The chief difference between the Skywave 2 and the Skywave SSB 2 is that the Skywave SSB 2 receives single sideband signals, making it possible for the listener to hear amateur radio and utility signals (like transoceanic flight control) that operate in upper or lower sideband mode. In addition, the SSB 2 includes (as well as the radio, carry case, and ear buds) a shortwave antenna and the CC wire terminal antenna adapter. In addition, the SSB 2 also has some software capabilities not available on the Skywave 2. For example, on the SSB 2, the Automatic Tuning System can also be used on the AIR band, and once AIR band frequencies have been stored, the SSB 2 can scan them. You can find my review of the Skywave SSB 2 here: https://swling.com/blog/2022/11/checking-out-the-new-c-crane-cc-skywave-ssb-2/

To conclude: I sincerely hope you never have to “do” your OODA loop, particularly not when things are going to blazes, but if you do, the CCrane Skywave 2 just might be helpful in getting the information you need. And, in the meantime, it is a very enjoyable radio to use, and I can recommend it without reservation.

Click here to check out the C. Crane CC Skywave 2 at C. Crane.

For more of my musings regarding the CCrane Skywave radios, please consult:

 

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Guest Post: A review of the Chaoyuan LC90 Hybrid Shortwave/4G/Internet Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Ye (BD4AAQ), for the following guest post:


The LC90, a Great Radio Spanning Two Worlds

by Michael Ye (BD4AAQ)

It is an awkward era for radio receivers. Although technology becomes more and more advanced and increasingly sophisticated radios are made, there are fewer and fewer stations to listen to. But hardcore radio hobbyists, mostly hams and shortwave listeners, would not give up the hobby. They continue to look for and enjoy stations among noises in the airwaves. Although Internet radios have been around for a long time, I never thought seriously about them. Perhaps I was stubborn, but in my mind, radios were noises and noises were radios and it’s the stations among the noises that I enjoyed. Receivers without noises were hardly real radios.

Until I got my first full band radio with Internet features. The LC90 was a pleasant surprise, completely changing the way I look at radio receivers. The LC90, or “full band smart Internet radio”, is my first shortwave radio AND Internet radio in one. There may be other radios with Internet features, but I have heard of few receivers that integrate the traditional radio (shortwave in particular) and the Internet. The LC90 was launched in China in early 2023, and quickly became popular among hobbyists thanks to the unique combination. News has been confirmed that the overseas version of the LC90 will be launched later this year. It provides more options for users at a time when shortwave broadcasters continue to shut down transmitters and bid final farewell.

Chaoyuan Company

The manufacturer of the LC90 is Chaoyuan, an electronics company based in Shenzhen, China, known for mobile phone design and Hi-Fi equipment. In recent years they started to design and make radios. And they are serious about the business, too.

The LC90 full band smart Internet radio

The Radio at a Glance

The radio is of regular size. A computer mouse is placed in the picture above, so you have an idea of not only the radio’s looks but also its size. The exact dimensions are 200x122x40mm. Its weight is 640 grams. The radio has a built in 4G SIM card, with 3G prepaid data. You have to add credit to the card in time by scanning a QR code on the screen before the built-in SIM card expires. You can also use your own SIM card by inserting it to a slot at the bottom of the radio. And of course, you could use Wi-Fi at home.

Although the radio is a combination of the traditional radio and the Internet, it is very ingeniously designed and does not put off the user with too many bells and whistles – you could press the tuning button to change the shortwave band and the fine tuning button to change the band width. The tuning button also serves as an “enter” key. These are clever designs that effectively save extra buttons. I have not seen a similar design in other radios.

For those who do not read Chinese, the upper five buttons are, roughly, “Configure”, “Timer”, “Setup”, “History” and “Favorites”. The four buttons on the left: “Confirm”, “Stations”, “News” and “Menu”. The four buttons on the right: “Back”, “Sequence”, “Rewind” and “Fast Forward”. The button with a globe says “Internet”.

The radio has excellent audio quality, rich bass, with a well-balanced frequency response. It is powered by two 18650 rechargeable lithium batteries. The radio has no back stand.

Traditional Radio

All three modes (or bands) are available, FM, MW and SW, as shown in the three buttons on the upper right (to get LW just press MW again). The FM band covers 64-108MHz, which includes Japan’s FM band. During the FMDX season you could have stations from Japan and other countries to explore. The SW band covers 2300-26100KHz, continuous, almost the entire shortwave band, more than enough for broadcast listening. The antenna jack works for all three modes (or bands).

Excellent Shortwave Performance

As a shortwave listener of many years, I am most interested in the radio’s performance in shortwave reception. Well, it is indeed very good in terms of sensitivity, selectivity and audio quality, with no compromise although the radio has an Internet section which requires additional space and resources.

When you use the radio indoor, reception could be poor and you can insert an external antenna to the antenna jack. Unfortunately, I cannot connect my AOR LA400 loop antenna to it as the antenna jack is too close to the tuning knob and so there is not sufficient space for the plug (see picture). Generally, a 3.5mm plug with a wire should work well if you extend the wire outside.

The external antenna jack

If there is a disappointment, its shortwave reception does not decode SSB signals. If the user is not a ham radio hobbyist, SSB reception may not be really needed anyway and the buttons, circuits and space can be saved accordingly.

Fair FM Reception

FM reception is good, but there is no obvious improvement of reception when an external plug is inserted in the antenna jack.

Mediocre MW Work

Reception on the lower bands, e.g., the medium wave band, is always a challenge in cities. It is not surprising that medium wave performance of the LC90 is mediocre at best. I don’t do much MW DXing but nowadays for each MW frequency there is almost always an FM frequency. Let’s face it – we should perhaps forget about medium wave reception in cities where there is excessive low band EMI.

However, if you go outdoor with the radio, medium wave reception can still be a lot of fun. And, contrary to FM reception, an external antenna significantly improves its performance!

Internet Radio

Admit it or not, the best days of traditional radio are gone, and while we continue to have fun on the old time radio, we should not hesitate to embrace newer technologies such as the Internet. By launching the LC90 and combining the two, Chaoyuan has made a significant move.

The Internet radio is an integrator of many online stations on the Internet, and more. It is completely different from the traditional radio which receives radio signals transmitted on air. The Internet radio, which relies on the Internet, provides much better audio quality, no noise, customizable and replay-able.

If you want to kill time and look for signals from noises, turn to shortwave and enjoy DXing. If you feel like listening to solid content or enjoying noise-free music, the Internet radio is there for you. This Internet radio integrates major web stations in China and on that basis the user can further select and configure their own favorites. Among apps that are built-in is Ximalaya FM, the leading audio platform in China. Due to requirements of policies and regulations in China, the user does not have much discretion to include foreign stations in the radio. However, Chaoyuan has indicated that they are working in an effort to secure authorizations from Spotify, Alexa and Pandora which they hope could be incorporated in the overseas version of the LC90. The future overseas version is expected to give the user more discretion to include online stations of their own choice.

A closer look at the display of the Internet Radio

Two buttons, Ai1 and Ai2, are voice assistants. Activate and speak to them and the radio directly plays the content (Ai1) or displays their findings for you to choose from (Ai2).

Finally, this is a radio with the most accurate time. There is no need to set the time for it, as it is based on the Internet.

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