Category Archives: Radio Modifications

The AirSpy HF+ R3 bypass modification

After SWling Post contributor, Guy Atkins, posted the survey results of his excellent Elad FDM-S2  vs AirSpy HF+ weak signal comparison, I received a few questions about the AirSpy HF+  “R3 Bypass” modification Guy mentioned in his post.

Guy has not yet performed the modification on his HF+–neither have I–but he points out that others have noted it: “significantly boosts sensitivity of the HF+ from longwave up to about 15 MHz, without any noted overload issues.”

I reached out to AirSpy president, Youssef Touil, for a little more insight about this modification. Youssef replied:

During the early phases of the design R3 was a place holder for a 0 ohms resistor that allows experimenters to customize the input impedance. For example:

  • A 300 pF capacitor will naturally filter the LW/MW bands for better performance in the HAM bands
  • A 10µH inductor would allow the use of electrically short antennas (E-Field probes) for MW and LW
  • A short (or high value capacitor) would get you the nominal 50 ohms impedance over the entire band, but then it’s the responsibility of the user to make sure his antenna has the right gain at the right band
  • A custom filter can also be inserted between the SMA and the tuner block if so desired.

Click to enlarge. (Photo source:

R3 and the nearby resistors have been intentionally left outside of the RF shield, and their size was picked to be big enough to allow anyone to play with them. You will notice the size difference with the rest of the components.

In general, unless one knows what he’s doing, it’s not recommended to alter a working system. “If it’s working, don’t fix it”. But, we are hobbyists, and not doing so leaves an uncomfortable feeling of something unachieved. Most brands addressing the hobby market leave some tweaks and even label them in the PCB.

The main purpose of the HF+ is the best possible performance on HF at an affordable price. This is to incite HAMs to get started with this wonderful technology while using an SDR that isn’t worse than their existing analog rig.

The MW/LW/VLF crowd may have slightly different requirements, but that can be addressed by shorting a resistor.


Youssef Touil

Thank you, Youssef, for replying to my inquiry so quickly and thoroughly.

No doubt, I too will eventually modify R3–it’s very difficult not to experiment, especially when a product was designed with the experimenter in mind.

I really feel like AirSpy has knocked it out of the ballpark with the HF+. For those of us primarily concerned with HF performance, this SDR is very hard to beat–especially at its $199 price point!

Video: How to calibrate the Tecsun PL-660 frequency offset

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Mander, who writes:

I’ve recently really been enjoying Thanks for having such a great resource online with shortwave radio and hardware reviews, tips and more! I started listening to shortwave on an old Philips portable receiver back in the late 70’s as a teenager. Recently, after decades of not listening to shortwave, I decided to buy an Eton ‘Grundig Edition’ Satellit radio and in no time at all, I had also acquired a C.Crane Skywave SSB and now, within the last week, a Tecsun PL-660.

[…]I thought I’d record a video showing how one can calibrate AM, FM, SW wide-bandwidth as well as SW narrow-bandwidth independently, and how to reset those calibrations back to factory default. I have not heard it mentioned anywhere that one can calibrate both wide and narrow bandwidth SW modes independently.

Online, I have read about many people being disappointed in their PL-660’s wide-bandwidth frequency calibration, where often being on-station results in the frequency being up to 5 kHz too low, and it seems many simply return their radios as defective, not realizing how easy it is to recalibrate. This is the first “instructional” video of this sort that I’ve ever posted online, so you’ll have to pardon if I am perhaps not explaining things clearly enough:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Excellent video, Mike! You’ve done a fine job making the explanation clear and easy to follow. Thank you for sharing!

A $25 upgrade for the Elecraft KX2

Many of you know I’m quite a fan of the Elecraft KX2. I take this little transceiver along almost any time I travel. Not only is it a full-featured ham radio transceiver, but it’s also an exceptional shortwave broadcast receiver.

The KX2 is a quality US-built rig (like all of Elecraft’s gear) but I’ve never been a fan of its plastic encoder knob. It lacks a finger dimple and feels cheap compared to the rest of the radio. Don’t get me wrong: the stock encoder knob gets the job done, but it’s not nearly as nice as the one on the slightly larger Elecraft KX3.

Comparing the Elecraft KX3 (top) and KX2 (bottom) at Elecraft’s Dayton Hamvention booth.

Two weeks ago, I ran into another Elecraft KX2 owner and happened to notice that his KX2 had a solid aluminium encoder knob with a finger dimple. Turns out, he purchased the knob from a ham radio operator (W1JH) in Maine who manufactures and sells this knob on eBay.

The price was $24.95 US shipped. I didn’t hesitate to place an order.

You might think $24.95 is a lot to pay for such a small item, but third party Elecraft vendors tend to charge much more for comparable items. I’ve also considered adding a heatsink to my KX3, for example, but those can total upwards of $100!

My new encoder knob arrived in only a couple of days via the USPS–installing it was a breeze.

It took me all of thirty seconds to pull the plastic knob off of the KX2 and replace it with the new aluminium one. The seller even includes an Allen wrench to secure the new knob.

The new knob is slightly larger in outer diameter, but fits the KX2 like a glove. The slightly larger size makes the finger dimple a practical addition for smooth band-scanning.

If you own an Elecraft KX2 (or the Elecraft KX1) I highly recommend this simple encoder/VFO knob upgrade!

Click here to order on eBay.

Doctor Vlado repairs the Panasonic RF-2200 (Part 1)

Panasonic RF-2200 at Hamvention

Last year, at Hamvention, I picked up a Panasonic RF-2200 for $70. It came with the original box, manual and was in superb cosmetic condition.

The seller told me that over the years he exclusively used the radio to listen to a local FM station.

At that price, I didn’t hesitate to make the purchase even if this would have simply been a non-functioning parts radio for my other RF-2200.

After I brought the radio home, I unpacked it and gave it a quick test.

FM worked brilliantly. Mediumwave and shortwave, however, were essentially deaf. I made the assumption that the ‘2200’s switches and pots likely needed cleaning with DeoxIT. The next day, I was leaving for a two month trip to Canada though, so I packed the RF-2200 back into its box and set it to the side of my shack table.

Fast-forward to yesterday…

While digging around my shack, I re-discovered the boxed RF-2200. Since I was planning to visit my buddy Vlado (the best radio repair guy in the world) yesterday evening, I thought I’d take the RF-2200 and do a proper contact cleaning. Several of the RF-2200’s switches and pots cannot be easily cleaned without removing the chassis.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

Vlado is familiar with the RF-2200 and since it’s not the easiest radio to work on, I asked for his expert hands on the job. Within seconds of handing him the radio, he plugged it in, tested the switches and pots, then removed the back cover (disconnecting the battery compartment leads) and then the front cover (disconnecting the speaker leads).

The magic behind the RF-2200’s classic analog dial:
Vlado offered a word of caution to anyone operating on their RF-2200: as you can see in the photo below, the dial string snakes around the front of the radio and is very close to some key components. You must exercise caution when having a soldering iron tip near the string, or using lubricants nearby.I didn’t realize this, but by the time Vlado started taking apart the RF-2200, he had already determined that even though the contacts needed cleaning, this wasn’t the source of the audio problem for the MW and SW bands.Vlado expertly pulled out the pot for the FM/AM/SW selection–not an easy task–began cleaning it, testing it and re-soldering contacts.

Vlado determined the pot was actually in good shape, thus started testing the rest of the circuit.

After a few minutes of performing tests and getting intermittent performance, he determined that at least one, if not more, of the RF-2200’s caps need to be replaced. Of course, neither one of us was terribly surprised. At this point though, it was getting late and I had an early wake up time in the morning, so I left my RF-2200 with Vlado.

Am I worried about this prognosis?  No, not in the slightest…

Doctor Vlado is on the job!

Vlado will have the RF-2200 back on the air in no time, working as well as it did when it was new. He’s actually performed a similar RF-2200 repair for an SWLing Post reader and I’m willing to bet this repair job is relatively simple compared to most he encounters (including the Icom IC-7200 he recently repaired after it was hit by lightening!).

I’ll try to post a “Part 2” update with photos of the RF-2200 repair.  Follow the tag: Panasonic RF-2200 Repair

Rolf’s Sony ICF-SW35 mod removes the beep sound

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Rolf Snijder, who shares the following modification for the Sony ICF-SW35. The mod is very simple: remove one capacitor.

Rolf shows the capacitor location on the following images:

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Thanks, once again, for sharing your modifications, Rolf!