Category Archives: Shortwave Radio Reviews

Dan’s initial review of the Belka-DSP portable shortwave radio

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


An Initial Review of the Belka-DSP Shortwave Receiver

by Dan Robinson

A few weeks ago, during daily online excursions, I ran across the Belka-DSP receiver.   This is not really a new receiver. Demonstrations have appeared on You Tube going back into 2019.

The Belka has a price of only about $120 U.S. I felt this was a fairly easy purchase, so I went to the website of Alex Buevky (EU1ME).

The receiver has a tuning range of 1.5 – 30 MHz – note that this is a revision from the description on the Belrig site, which still had a range starting at 3.5 mhz as of the time I am writing this.

The Belka is contained in a small heavy duty metal box – the size reminds one of a few boxes of matches put together – 85x50x20 mm with weight of about 100 grams.  Indeed, the diminutive size is quite striking.

 

Viewing videos of the Belka, including several by Fernando Duarte who runs the FENU site, the immediate impression of the receiver is that it has really decent sensitivity and that it is quiet.

While the menu system appears to be a bit confusing, once you start using the receiver you get used to the logic of it.   From the description of the SDR:

“It is possible to adjust the frequency band both from above, from 2.4 to 4.7 kHz, and from below from 50 to 300 Hz.  In telegraph mode, the frequency band is constant, about 300 Hz, and its center is regulated from 500 Hz to 1 kHz.

The settings of the favorite radio stations can be stored in any of 32 memory locations.

The receiver does not have a built-in speaker, but there is a rather powerful VLF bridge that provides sufficient volume when working with an external speaker, speaker or headphones.

The built-in LI-Ion battery lasts for 24 hours of total operating time on the headphones.

In addition to the built-in battery, the receiver can also work from an external DC voltage source of 5 V.”

The Belrig site is English and Russian, which makes ordering easier.  However, be aware that when you hit purchase using a major credit card you may receive a security alert from the card company.   Once I confirmed, the process completed and I received a verification email from Belrig – quite quickly and efficient.

Communications with Alex has been excellent – he is very responsive to suggestions and input.

The SDR arrived in an excellent small heavy cardboard box wrapped with the typical packing tape for the Belarus postal system.  The receiver itself and a telescopic antenna with BNC connector were wrapped in bubble wrap. No paper instructions – those are available directly at the Belrig site [click here to download PDF manual].

The only other item on the Belrig site is a Panoramic Adapter:

“designed for use as part of a radio receiving path of a transceiver/receiver jointly with a personal computer (PC) and SDR software” according to Belrig.  This Pan@SDR “allows you to visually see the RF spectrum in a band up to 200 kHz as well as to receive and decode different modulation types (depending on a software type). . . [and] may be used without a transceiver as SDR-receiver with fixed oscillator (similarly to SoftRock RX), for example, to listen to amateur and broadcasting stations, to decode and to record telegraph stations with CW skimmer, to control signal quality, to calibrate frequency. It may be used as well as a selective millivoltmeter.”

An unboxing video of the Belrig SDR can be seen here:

Initial impressions

My house in Maryland is notorious for high noise levels – located on a corner, we are surrounded by electric wires on four sides.   My attempts to overcome this with my many main premium receivers involve W6LVP, Wellbrook loops and one PAR-FED long wire located outside, with ANC-4 and other noise reduction efforts in my basement radio shack inside.

When I use various portable receivers upstairs in the den of my home, I usually have to keep them well away from incoming Xfinity/Verizon cable TV and Internet lines.

Usually, I am unable to hear much using portables such as SONY SW-55s and Panasonic RF-B65s while sitting on the sofa in the middle of this large family room due to noise from all of these cable lines.

However, interestingly – using the Belka-DSP receiver I was able to get decent reception at this spot.   I attribute this to the metal construction of the receiver, compared to portables with plastic cases.

Certain portables, notably the CountyComm/Tecsun GP5/PL-360-365 are extremely sensitive to being handled, with substantial signal loss once your hand is removed from the cabinet.  The Belka-DSP exhibits sensitivity to touch, but not as much signal loss as there is when you take your hands off a Tecsun PL-365.

I did notice a few frequencies on the Belka where there are digital artifacts – one occurs at or around 11,810 kHz, the BBC frequency.   You can see that in the accompanying video as I tuned up from 11,810.

Others are noticed at various points all the way up through the receiver’s top tuning range of 30 MHz, though thankfully most are not in major SWL bands.

Digital audio artifacts are seen on portable receivers using IC chips, notably the XHDATA D-808 which has several annoying digi-burps on some key frequencies occupied by stations.   On my D-808 for example, 9,650 kHz has a digital artifact that interferes with reception of Guinea.

Tuning on the Belka is simple once you get used to the steps.  The knob on the right serves for tuning, selection of tuning steps, volume, high-low sensitivity, the various audio “cut-off” modes which essentially function as DSP selectivity.   There are 32 memories. Modes are: LSB, USB, CW, NFM, AM1, AM2. For AM mode, AM1 is the most useful, as AM2 seems to be quite harsh in its various DSP audio modes.

The Belka is very sensitive to the type of speaker it is plugged into, assuming you are not using a bluetooth dongle.  Connecting via a 3.5 mm cable to a basic Brookstone speaker that has bluetooth produced audio overloads on the Belka, requiring careful placement of the speaker in proximity to the radio.

Whether this had anything to do with the quality of 3.5 mm cable I was using, I am not sure.  These audio overload issues were not present using the DSP only with a pair of quality SONY studio headphones.  I have not tested the Belka yet with a bluetooth dongle. So be prepared to do some experimenting with speakers and cables.

As mentioned by one person on SWLing Post, the surprise when I received the Belka was that the tuning range is actually 1.5 to 30 MHz rather than 3.5 MHz shown on the Belrig description and in the video there.

This certainly makes the small Belka more attractive, though one wonders why it could not include the full medium wave band.

Also unclear is whether the Belka will have the capability in future for firmware updates, and addition of any new features such as bluetooth though I have to think that adding bluetooth would impact battery duration.

I posed four questions to Alex, including why he made the decision to have the battery soldered in rather than easily user replaceable with battery terminals, whether he is considering adding bluetooth capability, adding capability for firmware updates, and whether he is thinking about extending coverage to include the full medium wave band.

Alex thanked me for my “interesting questions” adding:

“Now  Belka-DSP  is a final  product in this  regard no updates or modifications are planned in the near future.  We do think about the way how to improve this receiver, how to make it even  more user friendly, but I can not say exactly which changes will take place and when.  Looking forward for your future questions.”

Alex says that the Belka receivers ship out with batteries not fully charged to comply with post office regulations.

For me, the battery issue is a bit annoying.  Similar to cellphones with built-in batteries this means that when the Li-Ion cell does deteriorate you are stuck with a bit of soldering to replace it – and I am not good at soldering.

Another example of this practice is the Pocket SDR made by Gerhard Reuter in Germany which uses flat Li-Ion batteries that are soldered in.  If you have no problem using soldering irons, then none of this is a concern.

I can live without on-board Bluetooth, since dongles are available online.  But I would like to see coverage of the full medium wave band and it would certainly be nice to have FM band coverage.   Obviously the ability to update the radio’s firmware would be a welcome addition.

Another suggestion I would make to Alex would be to provide some way to quickly move from band to band, similar to the capability seen on most regular portables.  Having to constantly press the side knob to switch to rapid 50 kHz slewing to move say, from 49 meters to 19 meters, involves too much fiddling.

It would be interesting to see the internals of the Belka radio – four Philips screws are located on the left and right sides of the receiver, so that should not be difficult, though I have chosen not to go exploring inside mine.

Summary

Overall, I am very impressed with the Belka.  This seems to be an amazingly quiet and sensitive little receiver.  It’s obviously similar to the CR-1a in that it has a display, but much smaller and perfect for Dxing on the road, with a BNC connector that enables connection of any amplified antenna, loops or longwires.

I have included a video made outside my house using only the BNC telescopic antenna with the Belka, showing reception at about 1800 to 1830 UTC of some major stations in the SW bands.

This demonstration shows how sensitive the Belka is in broad daylight hours (also shown is my SONY SW-1000T).

A search of YouTube shows at least two other handheld DSP receivers being demonstrated in 2019, both with full scope screens, seemingly experimental units and on Russian YouTube channels.  There is some discussion of availability, but as of early 2020 these units do not seem to be available.

It’s unclear whether any of these units ever made it to production on any scale.  Comparing the features on these to the Belka – including AGC, Noise Reduction, Squelch, etc – it seems there might be quite a bit of space on the open market for SDRs that far exceed the capabilities of the Belka.

On the other hand, inclusion of larger scope displays would clearly have implications for battery life, which is one area where the Belka SDR – with its claimed 24 hour duration – obviously excels.

I will be interested to read other user reviews of the Belka-DSP – for now, it appears to be the only receiver of its kind and size being produced in significant numbers, so I certainly want to thank Alex for bringing it to the market.


Thanks so much, Dan for sharing your review of the Belka-DSP. I agree that likely the reason the Belka-DSP is less prone to the effects of holding and grounding is because it has a metal case and is probably better shielded. I agree that there should be an easy way to move between the various meter bands. Including features like this is always a concern in terms of ergonomics for small radios with simplified controls.

It is a fascinating and unique little receiver. Since it’s designed and produced by a “mom and pop” company, I imagine upgrades won’t happen unless there’s a new version produced at some point. With that said, this engineer obviously has the know-how to make a capable receiver! 

Thanks again, Dan, and we look forward to any/all updates you wish to share!

Click here to check out the BelkaDSP product page.


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Mike reviews the Retekess TR608 AM/FM/AIR/SW receiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike S, who shares his assessment of the Retekess TR608. Mike writes:

For this model, the company marketing electronics under the Retekess brand seems to be using a different supplier compared to the previous digital-radio-plus-memory—card-player products. The result is a more traditionally styled multiband DSP radio which runs on (gasp) traditional AA batteries. Its feature set takes inspiration from the Radiwow R108 and original CCrane Skywave, but with mixed results (albeit at a fraction of the price). It delivers decent performance for its price class but more serious listeners would be advised to spend a little more on a more established model.

Pros

    • Usual set of features: sleep timer, alarm, scanning, auto memory fill.
    • Uses replaceable alkaline or NiMH “AA” cells.
    • Decent sensitivity across the board.
    • Full shortwave coverage.
    • Frequency display is large and contrasty.
    • Dial light is effective and can be disabled. Display is readable without it, even in dim light.
    • No annoying keypad “beep”, so no mad rush to discover how it can be disabled.
    • Speaker can play reasonably loud without distortion.
    • FM reception is solid with good frequency response and stereo reception through headphones; this also activates a display indicator.
    • MW/SW reception is NOT plagued by digital hash bleeding through from the processor as with most other models in this price range!

Cons

    • Significantly larger than expected.
    • Unfortunately the added cabinet space is not utilized for a more wide-range speaker; audio is tinny.
    • Clumsy mounting of one spring in the battery compartment on my sample makes it almost impossible to insert the third AA battery without risking damage.
    • Many keypad buttons are so tiny and almost flush with the cabinet, that they are difficult to press.
    • Lens over LCD display is molded and unpolished with moiré distortion at some viewing angles.
    • Air band reception marred by birdies, bleed-through from other bands, and lack of squelch.
    • Volume control defaults back to level “10” under some circumstances (the manual warns about this).
    • Confusing 2-level LOCK function requires close attention to almost microscopic indicator on LCD.
    • No battery level indicator.
    • Although the manual advises that batteries can be charged using the 4.5V coaxial socket, no charging indicator is obvious.
    • Rotary knob, used for both tuning and volume adjustments, has no detents and so can easily spin off target.
    • Assigned function (no indication) depends on whether the tuning or volume buttons on the keypad were the last to be used.
    • No fine tuning outside of pre-programmed increments.
    • MW selectivity is a bit too wide for congested night reception.
    • MW reception occasionally exhibits weird artifacts; ghost images, sputtering audio on marginal signals, and “processed” sounding voice audio. Don’t know if these are DSP or AGC related, or a mixture of both. I have observed the same thing with the Eton Mini and other inexpensive portables using marginal DSP implementations.

SHOWSTOPPER ALERT: MW band channel assignments marred by 9kHz-centric firmware bug. Even after changing to 10kHz channel spacing (undocumented), the CPU still “thinks” in 9kHz assignments for direct input. Entering FREQ-1-0-1-0-FREQ should get you to 1010 kHz; but it actually lands on 1018 kHz because that is the nearest channel in the 9kHz band plan. You are now stuck in frequency step hell, as the up-down frequency keys still operate in 10KHz mode but do not know they are now off bandplan. UP/DOWN yield 1028/1008, not 1020/1000. The only way to recover is to enter a MW frequency that is the same in both bandplans, or to power off and double-reset the step rate resulting in all memories being lost.

Thank you so much for the review, Mike.  It sounds like this little receiver isn’t ready for prime time yet. The issues with frequency steps on the mediumwave band is certainly a show-stopper for anyone in North America. Indeed, it sounds like mediumwave reception, in general, is mediocre at best. At least the receiver isn’t plagued with internal noises.

With pricing around $29.99-$39.99 it’s certainly a bargain radio. But I’m sure you’re thinking what I’m thinking: you pay for what you get.

The Retekess TR608 can be purchased on eBay or Amazon.com (affiliate link).

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Mike compares the SDRplay RSPdx on mediumwave and longwave

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Ladd with SDRplay, who shares the following videos comparing the new RSPdx with a number of benchmark SDRs:

SDRplay RSPdx and ELAD FDM-S2 weak NDB station

SDRplay RSPdx and ELAD FDM-S2 medium wave selectivity

SDRplay RSPdx and Airspy HF+ Discovery medium wave selectivity

SDRplay RSPdx and Airspy HF+ Discovery weak NDB station

SDRplay RSPdx and Microtelecom Perseus medium wave selectivity

SDRplay RSPdx and Microtelecom Perseus weak NDB station

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The Sony ICF-7600A continues to impress

I mentioned in a previous post that SWLing Post contributor, Ed Earps, recently gifted me his Sony ICF-7600A.

I’ve been having a field day with this radio!

Well, many field days, in fact. Early on, I packed the ‘7600A in my Red Oxx Hound EDC pack–it fits in the Hound’s interior pocket perfectly and is well-protected on all sides. The radio has pretty much lived in my car and truck since then, thus has gotten a lot of air time when I take short breaks throughout the day.

In November, I took the ‘7600A to Mount Mitchell (6,684 feet/2,037 meters above sea level) and to coastal South Carolina (sea level). It’s been a great radio companion and has given me an excuse to go “old school” and do a little analog band-scanning.

The ICF-7600A certainly has some strengths.

For one thing, although I’ve let this radio on for extended listening sessions, I’ve yet to deplete the eneloop rechargeable batteries (Amazon affiliate link) I originally installed in October. Obviously, this radio will run for days on batteries–a serious plus if DXing off-grid.

The ‘7600A is a fantastic portable for mediumwave DXing. Although it’s also a very sensitive and selective shortwave receiver–especially in this class and era of analog portable–I think mediumwave may be its strong suit.

On the negative side, some of the shortwave band selections are truncated and for some reason, it doesn’t have a back stand (quite an odd omission). Still, these are pretty minor cons.

Obviously, the pros outweigh the cons on this brilliant vintage portable that seems to have held up very well over the years.

To ensure its longevity–and as a precaution–I do think I’ll take it to Dr. Vlado to have all of the caps replaced soon.

My thoughts? If you ever stumble across an ICF-7600A at a hamfest or on eBay, I say grab it!

Post readers: Anyone else love the ICF-7600A? Did I miss any major pros or cons? Please comment!


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A review of the SDRplay RSPdx wideband SDR receiver

SDRplay recently announced the latest product in their line of affordable 14 bit wideband SDRs: the SDRplay RSPdx.

For over two weeks now, I’ve had an early production model of the RSPdx here in the shack operating on a beta version of the SDRuno application.

In the spirit of full disclosure, SDRplay is a long-time supporter of the SWLing Post and I have alpha- and beta-tested a number of their products in the past. This early production RSPdx was sent to me at no cost for a frank evaluation, and that’s exactly what I’ll offer here. To be clear, while I am using beta software, this is not a beta SDR, but one from a first limited production run.

And thus far, I must say, I’m impressed with the RSPdx. 

Upgrades

The RSPdx has been introduced as a replacement for the RSP2 and the RSP2pro receivers. It has been updated and upgraded, with a completely new front-end design.

Here are the highlighted improvements and changes:

  • Performance below 30 MHz has been enhanced when compared to the RSP2/RSP2pro.
  • Performance below 2 MHz has been substantially upgraded. Through the use of the new HDR mode, both dynamic range and selectivity have been considerably improved.
  • There is now a BNC antenna connector on antenna C position instead of a HiZ port. Both A and B antenna ports are SMA like other RSP models.

Let’s face it:  those of us interested in low-cost SDRs are spoiled for choice these days. The market is chock-full of sub-$200 SDRs, especially if you include all of the various RTL-SDR-based SDRs and knock-off brands/models one can find on eBay.

Personally, I invest in companies that support radio enthusiasts for the long haul…those that do their own designs, innovations, and production. SDRplay is one of those companies.

SDRplay’s market niche has been providing customers with affordable, high-performance wideband receivers that cover an impressive 1 kHz to 2 GHz.

Wideband coverage can come at a cost. Unless you pay big money for a commercial-grade wideband receiver, you’re going to find there’s a performance compromise somewhere across the spectrum.  On the RSP2 series, those compromises would have been most apparent on frequencies below 30 MHz.

That’s not to say HF, MW, and LW performance was poor on the RSP2 series–indeed, it was quite impressive and well-balanced; it just didn’t stack up to the likes of the similarly-priced AirSpy HF+ and HF+ Discovery, in my humble opinion. Both little Airspy SDRs have wooed DXers with their impressive dynamic range and overall ability to work weak signals in the HF portion of the spectrum.

Neither of the AirSpy HF+ models are wideband receivers, but still offer a generous range:  9 kHz to 31 MHz and from 60 to 260 MHz––about 11.5% of the frequency coverage of RSP models. (Note that the Airspy R2 and Mini do cover 24 – 1700 MHz.) For shortwave radio listeners that also want to venture into the UHF and SHF regions, a wideband SDR is still required.

It’s obvious SDRplay’s goal is to make the wideband RSPdx into a choice receiver for HF and, especially, for MW/LW DXers. But have they succeeded? Let’s dive in…

Performance

As I say in most of my SDR reviews: doing comparisons with receivers that have so many features and adjustments is never easy. In other words, we want an apples-to-apples comparison, but it can be difficult to achieve, especially with new products.

I compared the SDRplay RSPdx with the WinRadio Excalibur and Airspy HF+ Discovery. Here’s how I set up my comparisons:

The RSPdx, Excalibur, and HF+ Discovery all used the same antenna in my tests––a large, horizontal delta loop antenna, via my ELAD ASA15 amplified antenna splitter. I’ve used this antenna splitter for years and can vouch for its equitable, lab-grade distribution of signal.

The RSPdx is not in full production at time of posting, thus application options are limited. Typically, I’d load comparison SDRs in SDR Console or HDSDR and test them with identical settings as well. At present, the RSPdx is only compatible with a beta version of SDRplay’s own application, SDRuno (which will come out of beta rior to the first major production run). The benefit of using SDRuno is that you unlock the full potential of the RSPdx, plus signal and noise numbers are incredibly accurate.

For each SDR in this comparison, I used their native/OEM application to give them the best possible performance.

I also matched filter settings and made an effort to match AGC and volume settings as closely as I could.

Additionally, I resisted the temptation of comparing my RSP2 with the new RSPdx because I didn’t want to run two simultaneous instances of SDRuno on the same computer––especially considering one was in beta.

Is this comparison perfect?  Probably not, but I did the best with the time I had available. I do intend to make further comparisons in the future.

Longwave performance

Via the RSPdx’s new “HDR” mode, both dynamic range and selectivity have been considerably improved with frequencies below 2 MHz. While I’ll fully admit that I’m not much of a longwave DXer, my very first listening session with the RSPdx started in this region of the spectrum.

In fact, the first evening I put the RSPdx on the air and confirmed that I was, indeed, in HDR mode, I noticed a small carrier via the spectrum display on 171 kHz. I clicked on it and quickly discovered it was Medi 1. The signal was faint, but I could clearly ID at least one song. This truly impressed me because I believe this was the first time I had logged Medi 1 on longwave from the shack.

I didn’t connect the Excalibur at that point to see if it could also receive the faint Medi 1 signal, but I imagine it could have. I’m pretty sure this would have been outside the reach of the RSP2, however.

I tried to explore more of the longwave band, but due to local RFI (I suspect an appliance in my home), most of the LW band was inundated with noise. With that said, I did grab three of my benchmark non-directional beacons.

Obviously, the RSPdx is a capable LW receiver.  I would like to spend more time on this band once I’ve tracked down the source of my local RFI.

Mediumwave/AM performance

In the past two weeks, I’ve spent many hours with the RSPdx on mediumwave.

We’re heading into the winter months in the northern hemisphere, and that’s normally when my listening habits head south on the bands.

In short: I find the RSPdx to be quite sensitive and selective on the mediumwave bands while the HDR mode is engaged. A major improvement over its predecessor.

I primarily compared the RSPdx with my WinRadio Excalibur on mediumwave since I consider the Excalibur to be a benchmark MW receiver. And, as you’ll hear in the screencasts below, the RSPdx truly gives the Excalibur a run for its money:

740 AM – RSPdx vs. Excalibur:

860 AM – RSPdx vs. Excalibur:

Note that my horizontal delta loop antenna is omni-directional, hence the tug-of-war you hear between stations in the clips above.

In truth, I could have done more to stabilize the signal on both of these fine SDRs, but I wanted to keep the comparison as fair as possible.

You might have noticed that both were running AM sync mode. It seems the sync lock on the RSPdx may have also improved––though I would need to do a direct comparison with the RSP2 to know for sure––but in terms of stability, I still found that the WinRadio Excalibur was superior. Mind you, the Excalibur is a $900 – $1,000 receiver and has the strongest synchronous detector of any radio I’ve ever owned.

Shortwave/HF

SDRplay notes on the preliminary specifications sheet that the RSPdx has been “enhanced” when compared with the RSP2 series.

And, after having spent two weeks with the RSPdx on the shortwave bands, I would say this is a bit of an understatement. For although I haven’t compared the RSPdx directly with the RSP2 yet, I do feel HF performance is substantially better than its predecessor. Indeed, in my comparisons, I often found it gave the Excalibur some serious competition. Overall, the Excalibur had an edge on the RSPdx, but the gap has closed substantially. That’s saying something.

For the comparison videos below, I also included the excellent AirSpy HF+ Discovery.

40M LSB – RSPdx vs. HF+ Discovery:

80M USB – RSPdx vs. Excalibur:

31M Broadcast – RSPdx vs. HF+ Discovery:

As you can see and hear, the RSPdx is now in the league of some of the finest HF receivers in my arsenal.

But I’m curious to know what you think after listening to these comparisons. Please comment!

Notch Filters

For those of you living in areas with DAB/DAB+ broadcasters nearby, you’ll be happy to note that the RSPdx has a DAB filter to help mitigate any potential overloading.

Also, if you live near a blowtorch mediumwave station, you’ll be quite pleased with the MW notch filter. It’s so effective at filtering out the mediumwave band, my local blowtorch on 1010 kHz is barely visible on the spectrum once the notch filter is engaged. (Note: I should add that neither the DAB nor the mediumwave notch filter was engaged during any of my previous comparisons above.) Check out the screen shots below showing the mediumwave band before and after the MW notch filter is engaged:

Before:

After:

Summary

For those of you looking for a budget wideband SDR with solid performance below 30MHz, look no further.

For $199 US, you’re getting a quality UK-designed and manufactured SDR in a proper metal housing.  The OEM application, SDRuno, is one of my favorite SDR applications and can fully take advantage of the RSPdx’s new HDR mode. No doubt, with a little more time, most third-party SDR applications will also support the RSPdx.

Frankly, I was expecting classy mediumwave and longwave performance as this was the most touted upgrade of the RSPdx. SDRplay certainly delivered.

In my experience, SDRplay doesn’t oversell their products. Their preliminary product sheet mentioned improved performance on HF, but their press release didn’t even mention the HF upgrades. And this is where I, in particular, noticed significant improvement. Perhaps this is because I am primarily an SWLer, thus spend a larger portion of my time in the HF region.

SDRplay products also have a mature, robust SDR application via SDRuno. Day to day, I tend to use Simon Brown’s SDR Console as my primary SDR application, since it’s compatible with so many of my SDRs and also offers some of the best recording functionality for those of us who do audio and spectrum archiving. Each time I beta test or review an SDRplay SDR, however, I’m more and more impressed with SDRuno. It’s evolved from being a rather cluttered application to one with a thoughtful, cohesive user interface that’s a joy to use––a product of true iterative agility.

Indeed, after having used SDRuno exclusively these past two weeks, I believe I would consider it as my primary SDR application…if only it had audio recording in addition to spectrum recording, and could run multiple instances with multiple SDRs. Again, given a little time, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this functionality is eventually integrated.

Questions?

Since many SWLing Post readers already own an SDR, I’m sure some of you will have questions. Let’s address a few of those right now.

Question: “I have an RSP2/RSP2pro. Should I upgrade to the RSPdx?”

My recommendation: If you are a shortwave, mediumwave, or longwave DXer, I would indeed recommend upgrading to the RSPdx. If you primarily use your RSP2 series SDR on frequencies above 30 MHz and only occasionally venture below for casual listening, then I’d keep the RSP2.

Question: “I have an RSP1a. Should I upgrade to the RSPdx?”

My recommendation: If you’ve been enjoying your RSP1a and would like to take your listening/monitoring to the next level, then, yes, I would upgrade. Not only can you take advantage of the RSPdx’s enhanced performance, but the RSPdx affords you three antenna ports, and has a more robust front end.

Question: “I have an RSPduo. Should I buy the RSPdx?”

My recommendation: I’m a big fan of the RSPduo. Unless you’re a dedicated mediumwave/longwave DXer, or you’d just like to add another separate SDR to your radio arsenal, I wouldn’t rush out to buy the RSPdx.

And while I’m offering advice, I’d like to offer my standard two cents on the subject of performance optimization: a radio is only as good as its antenna! If you have a compromised antenna, invest in your antenna before upgrading your radio. You’ll be glad you did.

Conclusion

Happily, I can  recommend the SDRplay RSPdx without hesitation. This latest iteration of the RSP series SDR is a proper step forward in terms of performance and functionality––obviously implementing years of customer feedback.

SDRplay also has a proven track record of innovation and customer support. Their documentation, video tutorials, and community are among the best in the industry. Purchase with confidence.

Click here to check out the RSPdx at SDRplay.


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Dave updates and expands AOR AR-DV1 review

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), who writes:

A greatly updated and expanded review on the AOR AR-DV1 has now been posted by me. Made a few typo corrections and some minor text changes from the first draft a few days ago, so I hope I have all of those fixed now ?

http://n9ewo.angelfire.com/ardv1.html

Also just updated (again) the Sangean DAR-101 MP3 recorder review. Some minor text changes plus added 4 internal photos (bottom of it’s page). I have never seen any internal photos anywhere on the internet of the DAR-101. Now there is.

http://n9ewo.angelfire.com/dar101.html

Again for reading any of my web pages, be sure and have your Pop Up stopper on FULL (do not allow ANY pop ups) and your security settings on your browser set at least to default. Otherwise Angelfire can be rather nasty with junk. If all else fails turn off your Java Script.

Many thanks for sharing, Dave!

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Radios: What are your daily drivers?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John C., who writes:

“Hi Thomas, I love [the SWLing Post] and have been meaning to thank you for all of the amazing reviews. Truly a treasure trove. But as I contemplate my next radio purchase I would like to know what radio you use more than any other. In other words…what’s your daily driver??? Enquiring minds want to know! Thank you. – JC”

Thanks for your question and the kind compliment, John.

Your inquiry is one I get quite a bit, so I hope you don’t mind if I share my response here publicly.

First of all, I should state that I don’t have a single “daily driver.”

Since I evaluate, test, and review radios I spend a lot of time with a variety of new receivers and transceivers.

I’m currently evaluating the Radiwow R-108, so it goes with me pretty much everywhere since I like to test receivers in a variety of settings. I’m also packing the Tecsun PL-310ET and the CC Skywave so I have units to compare with the R-108.

My Daily Drivers

Still, there are a number of radios in my life that get heavy use. Here’s my current list based on activity:

For Travel

When I travel, I reach for my favorite multi-function ultra-compact shortwave portable. In the past, I would have reached for the Grundig G6, the Sony ICF-SW100, the Tecsun PL-310ET, the Digitech AR-1780, or the C. Crane CC Skywave, Currently, I reach for the C. Crane CC Skywave SSB.

When I travel, I try to pack as lightly as I can–perhaps some would even call me a borderline travel minimalist. For example, when I fly to Philadelphia later this month for the Winter SWL Fest, I will take only one piece of luggage, a “personal carry-on” item: the Tom Bihn Stowaway, a pack the size of a small laptop bag. The Stowaway will contain my iPad, cords/accessories, and all of my clothes and toiletries for about 5 days of travel. As you can imagine, there’s not a lot of spare room in there for radio gear (quite the understatement).

I’ll still have room in my bag for the CC Skywave SSB, though, because the receiver is so compact. In addition, it’s a little “Swiss Army Knife” of a radio which covers the AM/MW, Shortwave, WX, and AIR bands.  It also has SSB mode and uses common AA batteries. The Skywave SSB is a welcome travel companion.

For Portable Shortwave DX

When I head to a park or go on a camping trip with the goal of doing a little weak signal DXing, I reach for a full-featured portable. In the past, I’ve relied heavily on the Tecsun PL-660 or PL-680, the Sony ICF-SW7600GR, and the Tecsun PL-880.

After acquiring the amazing Panasonic RF-B65 last year, it has become my choice full-featured portable. Of course, the RF-65B hasn’t been in production for ages, but thanks to a number of friends/enablers (including Dan Robinson and Troy Riedel) I finally found one for an acceptable price on eBay.

I’ve been incredibly pleased with the RF-B65’s performance and feel like I got a decent deal snagging one in great shape for less than $200. Only a few months prior to my purchase, it was hard to find good units under $300. Click here to check current prices, if interested.

For Morning News and Music

Since my staple morning news source, Radio Australia, went off the air, I spend a lot more time in the mornings listening to Internet radio mainly because I like listening to news sources that no longer, or never have, broadcast on the shortwaves.

Without a doubt, my favorite WiFi radio is the Como Audio Solo. I use it to listen to the CBC in St. John’s Newfoundland, The UK 1940s Radio Station, RFI MusiqueABC Radio Sydney, and a number of other news and music outlets.

The Como Audio Solo also serves as an audio feed for my SSTran AM Transmitter which then allows me to listen to all of this excellent content on 1570 kHz with vintage tube radios such as my Scott Marine SLR-M, my BC-348-Q, and my Minerva Tropicmaster.

For Mediumwave DXing

Without a doubt, my favorite radio for mediumwave/AM broadcast band DXing is the Panasonic RF-2200.

I mentioned in a previous post that my buddy Vlado (N3CZ) recently repaired, cleaned, and calibrated one of my RF-2200s.

Let’s just say that Vlado worked his magic and my RF-2200 now operates and performs like a brand new unit. Seriously. It’s simply unbelievable.

Not only does the Panny ‘2200 provide benchmark MW performance, it’s simply a pleasure to operate. It also produces some of the richest AM audio you’ll ever hear from a portable radio.

Of course, the ‘2200 hasn’t been produced in decades, so you’ll have to search for used ones on eBay, at hamfests, or through your favorite radio classifieds.

And, yes, I still need to finish a Part 2 blog-post about the ‘2200 repair–once I get a few details and photos from Vlado, I’ll post it!

Your Daily Drivers? Please comment!

Keep in mind that my “daily drivers” change quite a bit–the ones listed above are my current favorites and have been for a year or more.

So now that I’ve shared my daily drivers, I hope you will, too!

Is there a particular radio you reach for more than any other?  Please comment and tell us why it’s your favorite!


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