Category Archives: Reviews

Guest Post: Comparing the Reuter Pocket and the Icom IC-705 from an SWL’s perspective

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Uli (DK5ZU), who shares the following guest post:


SWL with a Reuter Pocket and the Icom IC-705

by Uli (DK5ZU)

Some time ago I asked how the IC-705 performs on longwave and I got some great feedback. Thanks a lot again. Since the HAM bug bit me again, I wanted to do SWL and HAM Radio portable with one rig. I started with SWL some weeks ago (just before the bug bit). I acquired a second hand Reuter Pocket RDR 51 Version B2. It is a standalone SDR Receiver 0 … 30 MHz / 50 ..71 MHz, and in my B2 version it has also FM (Stereo/RDS) and Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB). You may find the detailed specs here:
https://www.reuter-elektronik.com/html/pocket.html

The Reuter Pocket could, at one point, be configured as an QRP Transceiver, but it is no longer supported. There is a new RDR 52 small tabletop models, which can be ordered as a transceiver, too. But due to Covid related supply chain problems and price changes for the components, the new model is currently postponed.

The IC-705 is available, though. And for portable HAM operations it is a no brainer; obviously with a high price tag, but comparable with a new Reuter RDR 52 tabletop. And since my budget for the hobby is limited, I thought about funding part of the IC-705 price by selling the Reuter Pocket. But I wanted to do a side-by-side comparison so I ordered the 705 and was able to check them both on one antenna. The goal was to compare their sensitivity and selectivity on the lower bands: BC on AM and HAM bands for SSB. I did not compare CW since I am not a CW operator.

The antenna is a MiniWhip from PA0RDT which works quite well on the lower bands.

This comparison is not at all scientific and reflects just my opinion and what I heard. But anyway, there may be some people out there interested in this. So much for the intro.

Let’s start with my overall findings. Continue reading

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Airspy HF+ Discovery & Shortwave Portables: Having Fun with the Airspy YouLoop!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Hemphill, who shares the following guest post:


YouLoop Antenna Fun

by Billy Hemphill WD9EQD

Like many listeners, I live in an antenna restricted community.  While I have strung up some hidden outdoor wire antennas, I have found that they didn’t really perform that much better than just using the telescoping antenna with maybe a length of wire attached.  The biggest problem (whether indoor or outdoor antenna) has been the high noise floor.

A few months ago I bought an AirSpy HF+ Discovery SDR receiver.  I had already owned a couple of SDRPlay SDR receivers, but the high noise floor limited their performance.  I had read good reviews about the AirSpy, especially its performance on the AM Broadcast band and the lower shortwave bands.

I have about 80 feet of speaker wire strung from the second floor and across the high windows in the living room.  This does perform fairly well, but the high noise floor still exists.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought the YouLoop Magnetic Loop antenna from AirSpy.  I gave it a try and am amazed at the lower noise floor compared to the indoor wire antenna.

Wire Antenna vs. YouLoop–some examples:

AirSpy with Wire Antenna

AirSpy with YouLoop

AirSpy with Wire Antenna

AirSpy with YouLoop

AirSpy with Wire Antenna

AirSpy with YouLoop

Dramatic reduction in the noise floor.  I’ve done a lot of playing around with it and find that the YouLoop picks up just about the same stations as the indoor wire antenna does.  But with the lower noise level, the YouLoop makes it more enjoyable to listen.  Overall, the YouLoop is now my main antenna.

YouLoop with a Portable Radio

It works so well with the AirSpy, I started wondering if I could use it with a portable radio, like the Tecsun PL-880.  But the AirSpy website has the following note:

Note: It is very likely your third party radio will not be sensitive enough to operate with the YouLoop properly. We have even seen self-documented failed attempts to build pre-amplifiers to compensate for the lack of sensitivity and/or the required dynamic range in third party radios. Use your brain, and eventually an Airspy HF+ Discovery.

Doesn’t sound like it will work with portable radios.  BUT, I’m always one to try anyway.

Tecsun PL-880

Since the YouLoop has a SMA connector, I bought a SMA to 1/8” phone jack cable.  Plugged it into the PL-880 antenna jack and found I had almost a dead radio.  Very few stations heard.  But in playing around, I accidentally touched the phone plug to the telescoping antenna and instantly got strong signals.

I did some very unscientific tests.  I attached the YouLoop through the side antenna jack, did an ATS scan, then did the same with the YouLoop clipped to the telescoping antenna.  Also did a scan with just the telescoping antenna fully extended..  I got some very interesting results.  These were done one after the other, so there can be differences in signal fading, etc.

I have repeated the above test several times at different hours.  While the actual number of ATS stations varied, the ratio between them remained fairly consistent to the above numbers.

From the above, it appears that the telescoping antenna circuit is more sensitive than the 1/8” antenna jack circuit.  Maybe some attenuation is being added to the 1/8” jack since it’s more likely a higher gain antenna would be used there.  Can anyone confirm that the circuit indeed attenuates thru the antenna jack?

The YouLoop seems to be a decent performer when directly clipped to the telescoping antenna.  While not as good as a high gain outdoor antenna would be, it definitely is usable for indoor uses.

I also tested it clipped to the antennas of some other portable receivers. Tecsun S-8800, PL-330, Panasonic RF-2200 and Philco T-9 Trans-World receivers.  All showed an increase over just using the telescoping antenna.

Some interesting notes:

The Tecsun PL-330 saw the same reduction in signal when directly plugged into the antenna jack as opposed to clipping on the telescoping antenna.

The Tecsun S-8800 did not show that much of a drop.  I basically got the same number of stations when clipped to antenna as when I connected to the BNC jack:

In conclusion, I find that I can use the YouLoop with my portable radios to increase the signals on strong stations when used indoors.  And it is quite the performer when used with the AirSpy HF+ Discovery SDR receiver.  It easily portable and I find that I move it around the house as I need to.  I just hang it off a window curtain rod.  I may just order a second one so that my family room radio has one permanently attached to it.

Click here to check out the Youloop at Airspy.com.

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Dan compares the Chameleon CHA RXL to the Wellbrook and W6LVP Loops

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, for the following guest post and review:


Chameleon CHA-RXL:  Is This Pro-level Loop A Worthy Competitor To Wellbrook and W6LVP?

by Dan Robinson

At the end of summer 2021, I took up an offer from Chameleon to test and review their CHA – RXL loop antenna.  The company describes this as a “new design high-performance” LF, MF, and HF receive-only loop perfect for mobile RV and apartment situations and with low noise characteristics.

This is not a cheap antenna, like the Chinese-made MLA-30, but a heavy duty professionally-built unit designed to, as the old TIMEX watch commercial said, “take a licking and keep on ticking”.

Price for the CHA RXL is around $500, though the company dropped the price at to $382 – but only for the two section loop rather than the single piece antenna advertised on its site.

You can see the Chameleon on the company’s website here, but it’s also sold by Gigaparts, DX Engineering and other radio suppliers.  Chameleon lists features as:

Highly directional, balanced input preamplifier to eliminate environmental noise and ground loops, receives on new 2200m and 630m ham bands, flexible mounting and power options, and a stealthy [36 inch] Navy gray loop [that] fades into the background sky.

The built-in preamplifier, says Chameleon, “will enable clearer reception than many large horizontal wire or vertical antennas.”  Weight of the amplifier is given as 7 lbs.  The large pre-amp box is made of heavy metal, with a rubber gasket seal. Continue reading

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Video: W2AEW reviews the CountyComm GP-7/SSB

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Grant, who writes:

Hi Thomas,

In case it hasn’t crossed your path yet, Alan put out a nice review of the GP-7 yesterday. He has a gift for explaining things…

Click here to view on YouTube.

He does indeed!  Thank you for sharing this, Grant!

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Jock reviews the BHI Compact In-Line Noise Eliminating Module

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:


The noise, the neighbor, and the box

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Imagine the annual meeting of an international corporation called SWLing Inc. (or SWLing LTD). The CEO, looking splendid in his custom-tailored suit, is addressing the assembled multitudes. On the giant screen is an equation showing signal-to-noise ratio. The CEO aims his laser pointer at the word “signal.” We want ALL of this, he says. Then he points at the word “noise,” and says, “and NONE of this.”

Then he looks at the audience and says, “Got it?” And he walks off the stage.

That, whether they want to admit it or not, is the mindset of every single SWL, international music fan, overseas program listener, and DXer. Period. They want as much signal as they can get, and as little noise as possible. That’s what drives radioheads to buy amplified loops, to string long wires, to build towers and yagi antenna arrays, to lay out beverage antennas hundreds of feet long, and to build ferrite sleeve loop antennas . . . it’s all about the signal to noise radio. More signal, less noise.

And it was noise that was bothering me . . . a kind of hiss, hash, eggs-frying sound. It was that noise that prompted me to create the horizontal room loop to try to boost the signal coming into my Grundig Satellit 800 over the noise normally received on the Satellit’s whip antenna.

And it worked; there was more signal on top of the noise . . . but that hiss, hash, whatever you want to call it, was still there. I could hit the attenuator, and some of the noise would go away, but it was still there. After a while, it was just plain tiring on the ears. Poking around the internet, the wisdom seemed to be that the source of the noise was likely electric/electronic gear in my radio room. So I killed the power to everything in my radio room, powered the Satellit 800 off internal batteries, and the noise was still there.

So I called my neighbor. He’s (a) a really good neighbor, (b) a ham with a serious station, and (c) technically knowledgeable. I explain the problem. He says, “Meet me outside.”

We meet between the yards, and he has a Sony 7600 portable shortwave radio in his hand. He switches it on. “Is this the noise you’re talking about?”

“Yup,” I say. “That’s the atmosphere,” he says. Well, nuts.

More poking around the internet reveals that an amplified receive-only magnetic loop antenna might be significantly quieter, and there are several manufacturers of them. I’m thinking about one of those loops when I run across a review of a relatively inexpensive ham transceiver that is reported to be excellent at pulling difficult signals out of the noise because of the superior “digital signal processing” (DSP) that is built into the transceiver.

Digital signal processing . . . that sounds promising . . . after all, if you take a step back and think about it, there are two ways to improve signal-to-noise ratio. One way is to improve the signal with better antennas and the like. The other way is to reduce the noise, and one way to achieve that might be through digital signal processing.

So, are there any companies that make external digital signal processors that could be used with an HF receiver? There are several, it turns out. Some of the units are large, studded with knobs and look complicated to operate, and almost all of the offerings require an external power supply.

But I wanted something that could be easily transferred between receivers and might even be used with a portable receiver when I was doing my horizontal DXing in bed. A big box that requires an external power supply was going to be awkward, cumbersome, and inconvenient. And that’s when I ran into a British company called BHI. They make noise cancellation products, gizmos that use digital processing to remove noise from an audio signal. They serve amateur radio, commercial, marine, medical, and even covert surveillance markets.

One of their products is the Compact In-line Noise Eliminating Module. It can be run off AA batteries and isn’t much bigger than a deck of cards (in fact, its footprint is almost exactly the same as my CCrane Skywave SSB). It has just two knobs and is easy to set up: you just plug it in between your HF receiver and your headphones or external speaker. It even comes with a cable to connect your receiver to the Noise Eliminating Module.

I order one from DX Engineering in Ohio. The cost, delivered to my door, including tax, is just over $260 American dollars. It arrives two days later, just in time for the bands to be sizzling with noise (apparently) produced by a solar coronal mass ejection (CME). The amount of noise is brutal, about as bad as I have ever heard in decades of hamming and SWLing.

Plugging the BHI in-line module into my Satellit 800 and clamping the headphones over my ears, I begin tuning the 20-meter ham band. Part way up the band, I run into a Canadian ham chatting with someone. His signal is barely above the noise and copyable, but the noise is really annoying. I punch the button for the BHI device, and . . . the noise disappears. Wow! I press the right-hand button (to bypass the BHI device), and the noise comes back full force.

Quickly, I grab my Tecsun PL-880, extend the whip antenna, tune to the same frequency, and plug the BHI in-line module into the 880. The noise sounds even worse on the 880 (the Canadian ham is barely copyable), probably because of the shorter antenna. But when I engage the BHI device, the result is even more dramatic; a very pleasant signal emerges as the BHI unit suppresses the noise, with just a bare hint of hiss still audible.

Then I take hold of my CCrane Skywave SSB to see how the BHI in-line module will behave with that. It doesn’t take long to realize that, apparently because of the solar activity, all the bands are noisy on the Skywave. Not just shortwave, but AM, FM, weather, and Air were all uncharacteristically affected by hiss or noise. The BHI Compact In-line Noise Eliminating Module reduced the noise and made each of them more pleasant to listen to, without exception. I am “officially” impressed.

As I experiment with the BHI device in following days, during which atmospheric conditions improve, I continue to be impressed. Why? Because the BHI Compact In-line Noise Eliminating Module is effective at substantially reducing noise without a lot of fuss and bother.

As good as the BHI module is, though, it is not a miracle device; it does have some limitations. Sometimes it will not eliminate all the noise, even though the noise will be reduced substantially. If you crank up the level of filtering/noise cancellation too high, it can distort speech and make tuning single sideband difficult. Further, you sometimes hear artifacts of the digital signal processing. These artifacts sound to me like trickling water, and, frankly, I don’t find these sounds objectionable (they sure beat the heck out of the atmospheric noise), but some people, I suppose, might not like them.

Image via DX Engineering

The module is easy to operate. There are two knobs. Press the left one in to power up the unit, then turn the knob to adjust the volume. Press the right knob to activate noise reduction and then turn the knob to adjust the level of noise reduction. Sometimes, I find, the sweet spot for listening is with the noise substantially reduced – perhaps 85-90 percent – but not completely gone. Press the right knob again to bypass noise reduction and hear what the signal sounds like without the BHI module online.

Because the two knobs on the face of the BHI module are also push-buttons, if you are going to pack the device in your luggage, remove the batteries to prevent the unit from inadvertently turning on and draining the batteries.

Bottom line

The BHI Compact In-line Noise Eliminating Module is highly effective at reducing or eliminating noise. It works on international broadcasters, ham single-sideband signals, and utility stations, as well as AM, FM, and even NOAA weather radio when conditions are horrible. It can make weak signals easier to hear and strong signals more pleasant for long-term listening. It reduces audio fatigue. It is not a cure-all for all signal-to-noise or audio problems, but it is a big help. Further, it can be readily moved from location to location and from radio to radio and adds a new capability to receivers that do not have built-in digital signal processing.

I think it is a worthwhile addition to any shortwave listening post.

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Video: Stock Radiwow D-808 vs. DeBock 7.5 inch Loopstick model

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary DeBock, who shares the following notes and video:

The 7.5 inch (19cm) loopstick Radiwow R-108 model “smokes” the stock R-108 model in this video demonstration of receiving daytime DX fringe station 550-KARI in Blaine, WA (5 kW at 150 miles). The modification uses the same enhanced loopstick as described in the XHDATA D-808 “Supercharging” article, and is reasonably easy to complete (although some experience is recommended)

Click here to view on YouTube.

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Dan reviews the CountyComm GP7/SSB (Gen 4)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, for the following guest post and review:


CountyComm GP7 / Tecsun PL-368:  Is It All You Need?

by Dan Robinson

It’s been a long wait, but CountyComm, that supplier of all kinds of neat and useful stuff, finally released the GP7 SSB (Gen 4).

As the name states this is the 4th generation of the series of radios adapted by the company from the Tecsun PL-36xxx series of receivers (there was at one point a GP6 that was a never-released special project).

All photos by CountyComm

This walkie-talkie style, though receive-only, portable has undoubtedly been a big seller for CountyComm since the first model came out.  It’s popular not only with SWLs and amateur operators but also with preppers.

When OEM Tecsun finally did what everyone was clamoring for – redesign the radio with a keypad and including features associated with the PL-880/330/990x/501x receivers – the ground shook. Continue reading

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