Category Archives: Shortwave Radio Reviews

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


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.


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:


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?


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.


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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Dan’s Overview of the Stampfl Stressless Receiver Kit

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares this review of the new Stampfl Stressless receiver:

The Stampfl “Stressless”

by Dan Robinson

Stampfl based in Switzerland is well known as a manufacturer of excellent antennas, morse keys, and other equipment for amateur radio operators and SWLs. Now, Stampfl is offering what it calls the “Stressless” HF receiver. Housed in a beautiful heavy metal cabinet, one would think that there would be more to this than there is actually is — it’s a very basic receiver made, as the name implies, for those who want a minimum of stress in their HF listening.

Note: All photos have been sourced from Stampfl.

It is intended as an assembly kit, with some minimal soldering required. Heinz Stampfl notes that the VFO and RX board are fully assembled and tested. Total construction time is estimated a 1-2 hours. Star of the show on the Stressless is the large color display which enables changing of colors, tuning step, VFO A/B, attenuation, and memories. The single bandwidth has been well chosen — I had no problems listening to Voz Missionaria in Brazil on 9,665 khz though any stations requiring separation will be a challenge for this receiver since there is no SSB and that one bandwidth. The receiver tunes from 100 kHz to 30 MHz.

One would hope that firmware might be upgradeable, but Stampfl states that this is not possible, which is a bit of a puzzle. The receiver runs on 11-15V DC — the only other thing on the back of the cabinet is the BNC antenna input.

I’ll have more thoughts on the “Stressless” after I complete additional testing. So far, it has appeal as a very simple receiver with high sensitivity and a beautiful front interface. It might be a good choice for beginning SWLs, as many of them as there are out there, but the price/feature ratio is a bit of steep climb against the background of Tecsun portables with multi-bandwidth and SSB capabilities, not to mention the recently released Choyong LC90 which combines good SW, AM, and FM with Internet radio.

The “Stressless” — for those who can afford the price — would be good as an easy-to-use main listening receiver for stations not requiring much DXing skill or tools to separate. These days with the SW bands populated by fewer stations, this receiver might be fun to have around and it is certainly a good way to teach the radio hobby to newcomers.

The “Stressless” I am testing arrived well-packed in a clam-shell style inner box — it was already assembled by Stampfl for which I am grateful. The company also makes the X One Active Dipole antenna, which I am also testing at the moment and will have more on at a later date.

Click here to check out and order the Stampfl Stressless.


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Taking a look at the XHDATA D109-WB . . . a sweet spot on the price/performance curve

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

The XHDATA D109-WB is a small radio that hits a sweet spot on the price/performance curve, delivering a lot of performance for not a lot of money (probably less than $60 US, depending on the source).

The D109-WB measures 5.9″L x 1.45″W x 3.07″H and weighs just over 10 ounces. It covers FM 64-108MHz, AM (medium wave) 520-1710KHz, LW 153-513KHz(9K), SW 1711-29999KHz, and seven NOAA Weather Radio channels 162.40-162.55MHz with alert function. It does not receive single-sideband signals. It offers 100 FM memories, 100 LW memories, 100 MW memories, and 300 SW memories. Further, it offers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 kHz bandwidths on MW and SW bands.

On the left side of the front panel is a plastic grill that fronts an inch-and-a-half speaker. On the right side is a small LCD screen with backlight that functions as information central for the D109-WB. Below it are 15 buttons (3 rows of 5 buttons each) that control various functions, including an “SOS Emergency Distress Sound and Light Alarm,” manual tuning and various auto scanning and auto memory storage schemes, band selection, DX/local receive mode selection, 9/10 kH MW spacing, clock alarms, bandwidth selection, a key lock/display switch, and a manual tune/memory mode switch, among others. Below those 15 buttons is a 3 x 4 numerical key pad for memory and direct frequency entry functions. To the right of the keypad are 5 buttons set in a circular pattern for controlling Bluetooth use and connectivity and MP3  playback (I did not test these last two functions).

On the right side of the case, you will find a type-C socket for plugging in a cable to charge the 18650 battery, a wheel for volume control, and a tuning knob.

On the left side of the case are 3.5 mm headphone and external antenna jacks.

On the back panel is a flip-out support and a hatch for accessing the battery. On the top, there is a fold-over 21-inch telescoping antenna and, on the bottom, two anti-skid rubber feet.

In all, I found the D109-WB to be solidly constructed with fit and finish appropriate to a radio in its price class. The only serious deficit I found in the D109-WB was the extremely small type in the owner’s manual. Consult the photograph below to see what I mean.

The D109-WB was straightforward to operate, and I enjoyed it. One cute trick was variable-speed tuning: on MW, turn the knob slowly, and it will change frequency in 1 kHz increments. Turn the knob fast, and the tuning rate jumps to 10 kHz increments (or 9 kHz, if you have selected that tuning option). Variable-speed tuning works the same way on the shortwave bands, and on the FM band, the slow tuning rate is .01 MHz, and it jumps to .1 MHz when the knob is turned quickly. I had not experienced variable-speed tuning in any other radio, and I like it . . . a lot.

But what I was really wanted to know was how well did the D109-WB perform?

Now here’s the rub: I don’t have any test equipment . . . but I do own a CCrane Skywave 2. So I sat down on a bright sunny afternoon with the D109-WB and the Skywave 2 side-by-side and compared them. I found that both would receive two weather channels loud and clear and one more weather channel marginally. Then I tuned firm the medium wave band, then the FM band, running the two radios in parallel and found that there was nothing that I could hear on Skywave 2 that I could not also hear on the D109-WB, and vice versa. In other words, I found the electrical performance of the two radios to be very similar . . . except, of course, that the Skywave receives the AIR band, and the D109-WB does not.

One of the things that I enjoy doing is to grab a radio, select a band, punch the SCAN button, and see what’s out there. Since I also own a Tecsun PL-880, I decided to run a scan on each band on each radio (D109-WB, Skywave 2, and PL-880) with its native whip antenna and see how many detectable signals I could find on each. By “signal,” I mean any place where the scan stopped where I could hear music, voices, or anything that sounded like a transmitted signal, as opposed to pure noise.

So here are the results of two different testing sessions on two different nights:

D109-WB vs. CCrane Skywave

D109-WB vs. Tecsun PL-880

A caution: before you start drawing conclusions from the results above about which radio is more sensitive than another, it is important to consider that those results may be heavily skewed by whatever “SCAN” algorithm is programmed into each radio. Further, the parameters of the SCAN algorithm for a particular radio are a black box to those who use the radio. What I can conclude from those results is that, if you want to be a lazy DXer like me and use the SCAN button for cruising the bands, the D109-WB will deliver pleasing results.

Since the D109-WB has a socket for plugging in an external antenna, I plugged in a 45-foot loop antenna. The D109-WB overloaded, but when I set the DX/local switch to local, the overloading went away but there was still a boost in signal-to-noise from the external antenna.

So, the bottom line: the XHDATA D109-WB delivers a whole lot of fun and performance at a very reasonable price, and I can easily recommend it for both newbies and old-timers alike.

In fact, if you want to turn a kid onto radio, here’s an idea: give the child a D109-WB and a paper atlas, explain how both work, then set that kid to work logging as many stations as possible and looking up where they are located. Heck, that sounds like fun to me.

Click here to check out the XHDATA D109-WB on

(note: this affiliate link supports the SWLing Post at no cost to you)

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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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Jack examines the C.Crane CC Skywave SSB 2

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jack Kratoville, who shares the following guest review:

CC Skywave SSB 2: Thoughts and impressions

by Jack Kratoville

I had no intention of purchasing this radio. I already own two of the original Skywaves and, not big into Ham communications, saw little need for the upgrade. But as I was looking at the new SSB 2, my wife walked by and said, “Don’t you already have that one?” I told her it was the updated model and it’s on sale. “You should get it,” she replied. Sometimes it is best to listen to your wife.

My curiosity in the SSB 2 was the “slightly improved” audio and other updated features. It was shipped to my home for $149 complete and I eagerly opened the box. Putting it through the initial paces, I was highly disappointed. Some buttons didn’t work, and the “slightly improved” audio was harsher than the original. It was going back. In a final desperation, I stuck a paper clip in the reset hole and all functions came to life. While I still wasn’t impressed with the overall audio, I would spend more time with it. I’ll address the audio later, but let’s look at what this radio was intended for and how it stacks up to that challenge. This is a communication device, designed specifically for people looking for interesting and far away signals. As far as I can tell, it’s the only radio with “SSB” in its name – so let’s start there.

I have the Digitech AR1780 and the Eton Executive Satellit with SSB capability. I’ve explored both upper and lower sidebands on both. It always seems like too much work; pressing multiple buttons multiple times adding that the Digitech is a notoriously slow scanner. I enjoy them both, but SSB seems like an afterthought. The Skywave SSB 2 is far easier to track down and tune in signals. CCrane includes some tips in the booklet, and I find myself hunting for Ham conversations almost nightly. I haven’t had to attach an external antenna as of yet as I find something without them. If the primary purpose of this radio is to bring a capable SSB portable to your pocket on any adventure, CCrane has scored big. I’m still not a hard core listener, but this radio is very satisfying and I tend to check out the side bands much more frequently.

Next up is the SW band. The SSB2 has a longer antenna and I think it serves well pulling in more distant signals. First thing I noticed is that the SSB2 scans slower than the original Skywave. Perhaps this is due to the ability to detect single side band signals, but I’m not so sure. The original is quite speedy, the SSB 2 seems more normal. The best features are the external antenna options and the hardware provided in the box. Wherever you travel, you can easily hook up an antenna directly into the radio, simply using wire that attaches to the accessories in the box. There is a provided reel antenna, so your options are plentiful. I don’t get any overload, but I’m also not on top of any local signals. I have to say, as a communications device, this radio is designed to please.

Aircraft also benefits from a longer whip and external options. I can just get the feed from my local airport (about 5 miles away). The SSB2 gets the airport weather service clearly. There’s an updated scanner that is perfect for monitoring 2-3 signals at a time. This is a big improvement.

The weather band is one of my favorites and have always enjoyed it on the Pocket and Skywave. Here we have one step forward and one back. I understood why the original Skywave didn’t employ the tone switch on WX. There’s not a lot of dynamic audio here. But the SSB2 does which makes it a bit clearer and certainly louder. Very happy with that update, however when I push the presets on the SSB2, nothing! On the original, pushing 1 through 7 moved you to that WX channel. Now you have to slew through signals using the knob or buttons. Why would they omit this? At my home location, I receive 1, 4 & 7 and would simply press the preset I wanted to hear. Losing this capability makes no sense at all.

AM/MX. This band is always a CCrane strength and the SSB2 will not disappoint. Excellent sensitivity, filtering and scanning options makes this a top tier pocket portable.

FM. Better antenna, better reception. I think it’s a hair more sensitive and selective than the original Skywave, but listening to the FM band leads me into my biggest gripe, the audio.

“Slightly Improved” is a way of saying “don’t expect too much.” At first, I was highly disappointed. Even on “Voice,” the FM band sounded shrill and fatiguing. I almost returned it that first day. I decided that it was better to give time and put it through various paces and locations. Here’s my personal assessment. While audio dynamics is as personal as one’s favorite color, I must start by saying they did make a sizeable effort to improve this radio’s sound – to a degree. Excluding FM, the audio is louder and fuller. I would go as far to say it’s a bigger improvement than they give themselves credit for, especially with SW, SSB and WX. But with FM, they could have trimmed that high end 1-2db and it would have been so much better. U.S. FM signals are overprocessed to begin with and this radio highlights that flaw immensely. (The PL-310et does as well, but with slightly better low end to balance the sound). I’ve brought the radio outside, listened to the non-commercial locals and various low key programming – when the high frequencies are more muted, this model sounds much better than the original. OK, admittedly people are not laying out $160 for this radio to listen to the Zombies, U2 or even Doja Cat, but I don’t think it would have taken much to make this radio audibly more pleasant on all bands.

Where the audio does suffer is at low, low levels. This is not for listening in bed late at night. The improved amplifier has to send more energy to the speaker and that creates a low-level hiss – even when the volume is at zero. This is not a Skywave SSB2 issue, it is an issue with most audio devices trying to pump more into a smaller speaker. Most radios suffer from this to a degree (the original Skywave does not), but some are better than others. The SSB2 is very noticeable.

I honestly feel CCrane put in a big effort trying to please their core base with multiple adjustments to this radio. The screen light is better dispersed. When you shut the unit off, it gives you the time before the light extinguishes. Switching on and off or between bands, the audio fades up and down – better than unexpected loudness. The tuning knob is vastly improved with satisfying clicks and no jumping over frequencies. The volume knob is stiffer with less play. The buttons are better, and the adjusted layout is extremely intuitive. I’m not a huge fan of the current style, but it makes sense. CCrane designed this radio to be more in line with the CC Pocket, giving their portable lineup familiarity between models. I’d prefer the page and memory numbers to remain on screen, but it’s extraneous information. I don’t listen through the earbuds, but they are working on whatever clicking problems occur when switching between bands.

No radio will ever be perfect nor please everyone, but I remain a fan of CCrane. For Ham and SW enthusiasts on the go, this radio is worth your consideration. You can buy cheaper, but you will only get what you pay for. My original Skywave, purchased in 2015, continues working like it did brand new and remains my #1 travel companion. Well, number two behind my wife.

Click here to check out the Skywave line at C.Crane.

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RF75A Radio

Raddy RF75A Review – Pocket Radio with Interesting Bells and Whistles

Radioddity Raddy RF75A

By Robert Gulley K4PKM

The RF75A is an interesting little radio which (currently) retails on Amazon for ~$53.00 in the States. It can also be purchased via Radioddity directly for $53–if you use this referral code, you can save $15 off a $65 purchase.

Before we get into specifics, two things are worth mentioning right off:

  1. I was asked if I would be interested in reviewing this radio by our fearless shortwave listening leader, Thomas, and the copy I have was provided to me at no cost by Radioddity directly. (I have no other affiliation with them, but have recently purchased a GMRS mobile radio from them which I am looking forward to using when I finish my review of the RF75A.)
  2. This is, as you will see from the photos I am including, a pocket radio, not to be confused with a tabletop radio or a small portable radio such as the CCRadio Skywave or similar radio. I mention this because invariably there will be folks who expect tabletop or portable quality from a radio about the size of a playing card. It is not going to happen!

Having those thoughts out of the way, the quick and dirty answer as to the quality of the radio is, I am impressed. For those who have not read anything related to my past experience with radios, I have been a shortwave listener since I was about 10 years old, and now in my early sixties. So, I have seen a fair number of radios in my time (speaking as an old codger, or is that curmudgeon?) and have even moved with the times to incorporate SDRs into my radio arsenal.

Each style of radio has its place, and a pocket radio is designed to be the ultimate in portability and space savings. As light as this shirt pocket radio is, it still manages to feel reasonably solid, and of course, it could be packed into anything one was taking along for a trip.

Size Comparison with Playing Card and Cell Phone Battery

The radio measures 2.5″ x 3.5″ x 1″. Playing card and cell phone battery for comparison.

Here are some specs from the manufacturer’s website (saving you my long-winded descriptions!):

  • APP Control SW Radio: Thanks to the app intelligent remote control and Bluetooth 5.0 features, you can enjoy the convenience of RF75A. With its intuitive user interface and powerful wireless capabilities, you can easily control your radio from your devices (support iOS, Android, and HarmonyOS systems).
  • Wider Reception Range: Listen to FM, VHF, AM, SW, and WB, and stay up-to-date with your favorite radio shows and music with this powerful multi-band receiver. RF75A has a wider range of shortwave frequencies compared to the RF750.
  • Automatic Scan and Manual Storage: You can save up to 396 stations, so you can easily access your favorite stations. Experience powerful sound and crystal-clear reception with its 9.85′ wire antenna.
  • Personal Music Player: Boost your music experience with this all-in-one outdoor audio system. With Bluetooth 5.0 feature, a 3.5mm earphone socket, and a TF card socket, you can easily connect to your personal audio devices and connect to your computer as a speaker.
  • Outdoor Companion: This one-of-a-kind radio is designed to be small and lightweight, making it ideal for travel and outdoor activities. Use the flashlight and SOS for emergencies.

What’s in the box?

  • 1 x Raddy RF75A
  • 1 x Storage bag
  • 1 x Lanyard
  • 1 x Wire antenna
  • 1 x Type-C charging cable
  • 1 x Earphone


I always like to start a radio review by either listening to AM stations first, or WWV time stations for checking out shortwave reception. In this instance I started listening to AM stations in the daytime to see what I could hear on a typical day (no storms nearby, early spring, etc.).

Living in a fairly remote area I was surprised it captured as many stations as it did, making me think the ferrite bar inside must designed well for such a small radio. Evening and nighttime listening brought in many of the usual stations with which we are familiar, particularly the so-called Clear Channel stations. What was more impressive were the many small stations I was able to pick up, not only at night, but early in the morning around 8 a.m.

Ferrite Bar- Front View

Surprisingly effective Ferrite Bar

Ferrite Bar Side view

Side vide showing the magnetic wire wrap

One in particular caught my attention as I am quite certain I have never captured them before, was WHKY 1290, Hickory North Carolina. That’s a distance of about 285 miles, received in the morning. I am only about 50 miles from Cincinnati and cannot receive some of their smaller stations on any radio! Color me impressed!

Nighttime brought stations in from several thousand miles, as you would expect, yet I was likewise impressed with this little radio’s capabilities on AM.


I confess to not being much of an FM listener, but I did tune around the band for FM stations to test its ability to “lock on” to signals (as indicated by a tiny red light) and to pick up stations from quite a good distance away with clarity and good sound.

This might be a good time to mention the quality of sound from the small 3 Watt(!) speaker and bass boost from the back. Again, this is not my Sangean 909 X2 with a large speaker, nor my CC Radio EP, but it has rather amazing clarity and volume capability for such a small radio. I cranked the volume up quite high with no distortion, and even though the speaker is small, the bass boost seems to round out the sound quite nicely, avoiding some of tinny sounding speakers common in such a small radio.


The radio has coverage of the NOAA weather radio stations and it surprised me with being able to receive 4-5 stations, more than I have gotten with most other radios. All but one of the signals were crystal clear, with the fifth having some noise, but still quite intelligible.

Air Band

This radio includes the air band frequencies and amateur 2-meter frequencies (30.000-199.975 MHZ). I am usually able to receive some signals, but I am quite far away from any local airports or repeaters, so my main reception is from CVG, Greater Cincinnati Airport. While the radio scans the air band frequencies, like any other radio, it is best to find local frequencies you want to hear and program them into memory so you are not wasting a lot of time scanning dead air (these are country specific). Likewise amateur repeaters or GMRS, marine, or public service channels would be best used in memory channels except when scanning for new frequencies.


Shortwave listening is very respectable, with frequency ranges between 4.750-21.850 MHz (it does not have SSB capability). Tuning can be accomplished by pressing and holding one of the directional tuning keys for about 2 seconds, a long press scans faster. A single press of either directional button will move the frequency increment based on the band/mode chosen.

The radio also features something I have come to really like: a pause button which works not only in music mode, but also when receiving regular radio signals, activated by a quick press of the power button. The frequency is held while pause is active, and then releasing the pause with a second quick press of the power button resumes with all your setting still active.

When comparing this with another radio it was particularly useful instead of having to turn the volume down like most radios. This feature is also nice for answering a call or other interruption, and you resume right where you left off.

Sound Effects, TF Card, Audio in, Bluetooth Usage and other Errata

I have not covered these features as they do not impact radio reception, but I mention them just for completeness. All of these features are available and can be read about in the user’s manual. I will mention the flashlight feature and the emergency siren features, as these are useful for portable operation. The light is quite bright, and the siren will hurt your ears if you trip it accidentally, especially more than once. Ask me how I know!

There is a sleep timer as well as an alarm clock function, with the sleep timer adjustable by default starting at 90 minutes. Most buttons have multiple functions depending on the mode employed, so reading the manual is important for some of these features. I was able to get up and running without reading the manual initially, but some features were functional only in certain modes, so eventually you will need the manual which can be downloaded from the Radioddity site.

The App

A bit of a novelty in this size and type of radio is the Apple/Android app available to control radio functions remotely through Bluetooth connectivity. I have to say, on Android at least, the app is beautiful and I wish more apps used such a clear color scheme and large controls. Your mileage may vary based on your preferences, but I like it!

Phone App on Android

The free Phone app on an Android phone. I like the crisp, clear layout and colors, and the intuitive design.

As to function, the app gives you more information than the radio screen, such as the Bandwidth, SNR, received signal strength and the volume setting in one display. As a side note, the radio can still be adjusted at the radio, and then changes are reflected in the app almost instantaneously.

Of course, the main use for the app is to operate remotely, and the controls are easy to use, including, most importantly, direct keyboard entry of frequencies! This is always the biggest drawback to small radios without a keypad. There are instructions for using the app, but for the most part the app is laid out so well you can control the radio pretty much intuitively.

Negatives –

Yep, there are a few. When tuning with a single press each time there is some soft muting – fortunately it does not last long, but it is there. The buttons also make a clicking sound, not too loud, but it is there. If something like that annoys you, be aware all the buttons make a mechanical click.

I have noticed on several occasions that the band/mode button may stick slightly and take you past where you want to go. Not a big problem, but it does happen now and again. Of course, this could just be my unit.

Also, naturally, the buttons are small. And while I did not have much of an issue even with fairly large fingers, there were times when I pressed the desired button but also hit the one below it. Not a problem for me, but again, if you have very large fingers you may find the radio a bit tricky to navigate in some places. (This only happened on the front buttons for me, the tuning buttons are adequately spaced for most anyone I think.)

The telescoping antenna is probably the weakest point on the radio – similar to most radios, really. It is thin and could be bent easily. I had no difficulties, but I always took care to raise it gently and watched where I was moving the radio around. Then again, I do that will all my radios with telescoping antennas. Just a heads-up to be careful.

Concluding Thoughts

I like this little radio, and will probably keep it in my car for those times when I might want to listen to the radio out and about, check the NOAA weather forecast, use the flashlight, or (hopefully never need) to use the siren. The battery seems to last a long time on a charge when using the radio – I cannot speak to the MP3 drain or a prolonged flashlight/siren drain, but under normal use it seems excellent. It uses a USB-C connection like my phone, so charging is not an issue for me. It will almost fully charge in an hour; the instructions say 2 hours.

Pocket radios certainly have their niche, and I think this one does quite well in that role. If you are in the market for such a radio, I think you will be pleased, especially for the price and the addition of the free remote-control app. 73!

Click here to check out the Raddy RF75A at Radioddity.

Click here to check it out on (affiliate link).

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Comparing the Watkins-Johnson WJ-8711 & WJ-8712 with TEN-TEC RX-340 & RX-331 receivers

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paolo Viappiani, who shares the following guest post:

The WJ-8711 & WJ-8712 vs. Ten-Tec RX-340 & RX-331 Receivers

by Paolo Viappiani, Carrara, Italy

In recent years, a renewed interest has grown in regards to the best HF receivers using “first generation” DSPs, typically the HF-1000/HF-1000A, WJ-8711/WJ-8711A and WJ-8712 models by Watkins-Johnson and the RX-340 and RX-331 models by Ten-Tec. Even today, the aforementioned receivers are considered among the best performers of all times; this is a well-deserved fame in the case of the W-Js, a bit less with regard to the units manufactured by Ten-Tec, a firm that once had a good reputation but that has been recently acquired by a new owner (who sold the old facilities by transferring the company and distorting the sales, support and assistance policies of the previous company [2]). I therefore believe that this article serves as a dutiful information for the readers who are potentially interested in these receivers.

A Bit of History

In the years between the last and the present century, two receivers very similar to each other in terms of design and structure were released almost simultaneously by Watkins-Johnson of Gaithersburg, Maryland [1] and by Ten-Tec of Sevierville, Tennessee [2]: the WJ-8711 (later upgraded to the A and A-3 versions and followed for a short period by the HF1000 and the  HF1000A  “civilian” versions [3]) and the Ten-Tec RX-340; both of them are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The WJ-8711A (above) and Ten-Tec RX-340 (below). Notice the similarity of the front panels of the two radios.

The WJ-8712/WJ-8712A and the Ten-Tec RX-331 receivers were released by their respective manufacturers in that period also (the latter one was preceded by the RX-320 and RX-330 models). All these types were nothing more than “black-box” units, that in all respects corresponded to the WJ-8711A and to the Ten-Tec RX-340 receivers but that had not been provided with true front panels, as they were controlled by special hardware interfaces or from a PC, look at Figures 2 and 3.

Looking at the appearance of the WJ-8711/HF1000 receiver series and of the Ten-Tec RX-340 units, a relative similarity to each other is evident, and it has led to various speculations regarding the design of both devices.

One of the theories was revealed by James (Jim) C. Garland W8ZR of Santa Fe, New Mexico [4], about which he claims to have obtained information from a Ten-Tec employee directly. James claims that in 1991 the US Government Agency NSA (National Security Agency), which used to purchase numerous HF receivers for surveillance and interception, decided that the current cost of the receivers were too high and formed a special group in order to study how to obtain a possible price reduction.

At that time the high-end HF receiver market was dominated by a few manufacturers: Watkins-Johnson, Racal, Cubic, Rockwell-Collins and a few others, and Ten-Tec applied for joining the group.

Figure 2: The WJ-8712A (above) and Ten-Tec RX-331 (below). While the Watkins-Johnson model is two rack units high and half wide, the Ten-Tec develops less in height (only one rack unit) and more in width (standard 19” rack). However, both receivers are quite deep (more than 20”-50 cm.).

Figure 3: The Tmate unit of the WoodBoxRadio is shown here; it is one of the possible accessories which, together with a PC monitor, allow using the “black-box” receivers via an RS-232 interface.

According to the information provided by Jim Garland, the Watkins-Johnson and the Ten-Tec designers worked together for about one year in order to agree on the technical characteristics and guidelines of the “radio of the future” which must meet all the requirements that the NSA requested.

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