Tag Archives: Alinco DX-R8T

SWLing.com’s 2011 Holiday Shortwave Radio Buying Guide

Would you like to buy a shortwave radio as a gift, but don’t know a thing about radios? Or want help leaving a hint for Santa or Ms. Claus? 

Following, you’ll find a handful of select radios I recommend for this gift-giving season. I’ve arranged this selection by price, starting with the most affordable.

This quick guide is basic, non-technical, and to the point. For more comprehensive reviews, please consult our Radio Reviews page.

Updated for the 2011-12 holiday season on 23 November 2011.

High-tech stocking-stuffer

The Degen DE321 ($21 US)

Don’t be fooled by looks: the Degen DE321 is not your dad’s portable shortwave radio. Behind the analog face hides cutting-edge DSP (digital signal processing) technology that makes this slim cell-phone-sized radio a quirky yet pleasing portable.  The impact upon your wallet will be slim, as well:  this radio will set you back only $21 bucks. One additional note to tuck away–don’t hesitate to order the DE321 if you want to put it in your sweetheart’s Christmas stocking. There’s an approximate two week delivery time, as this radio can only be ordered from vendors in Hong Kong, and airmail doesn’t come with a confirmation date. [Read our recent full review of the DE321 if you want more details about this little radio.]

Pint size performer

The Tecsun PL-380 ($55)

When I flew cross-country to visit a friend on the coast of British Columbia earlier this year, I had very limited space in my carry-on bag. I required a radio companion of a modest size, one that performs well on all bands–not just the shortwaves–for I intended to listen to local and distant AM (medium wave) stations, too. My choice was simple:  the Tecsun PL-380.  This little radio is affordable, compact, and has (especially with the aid of headphones) excellent audio. It’s powered by a pretty innovative DSP chip that helps pull stations out of the static, as well.

Keep in mind, if you’re planning to purchase any Tecsun product, to allow at least a two week delivery time, especially if ordering from eBay.  Occasionally, Kaito (the US distributor of the PL-380) will sell some stock on eBay; in this case, delivery is quicker and the unit carries a US warranty.

Purchase a PL-380:

  • from Amazon

Best performance for price

The Tecsun PL-600 ($70.00 US)

Simply put, the Tecsun PL-600 offers the best bang for your buck in 2011. The PL-600 is not the newest offering from Tecsun; in fact, it’s a model that has been on the market for several years. (Tecsun’s PL-660 is basically the updated version of the PL-600.) For $60, though, you get a very capable, sensitive and selective portable shortwave radio with SSB capabilities and nifty auto-tune features. I liken its performance to the legendary and highly-regarded Grundig G5 (which is no longer in production).

The PL-600 is easy to use, has reasonable audio fidelity from the built-in speaker, and sports a display with all of the essential elements for casual shortwave listening or hard-core DXing. I have found the quality of Tecsun radios to be superb. The PL-600 is a great size/weight for portability–it will easily fit into a suitcase or carry-on–it is not, however, a pocket radio.

The Tecsun PL-600 would make an excellent first radio for the beginner or seasoned radio listener. Click here to read full specs and links to other reviews of the PL-600 in the Shortwave Radio Index.

Purchase the PL-600:

  • from Amazon

It’s like a PL-600 on steroids

The Tecsun PL-660 ($100-120 US)

Okay, so forget everything I said about the PL-600 if you’re able and willing to invest another $50-60 into your radio gift. The beefier Tecsun PL-660 is new to the market in 2011 and has quickly gained the respect of the shortwave community. It is, in essence, an updated version of the PL-600, with improved performance, sync detection, a band for listening to aircraft, and RDS for displaying FM radio station info. As with other Tecsuns, eBay sellers provide better pricing, but Kaito does sell these radios on Amazon.com as well. If you purchase from Ebay, do so at least two weeks in advance of gift-giving time–again, these radios make a trip from Hong Kong via airmail.

Purchase the PL-660:

  • From Universal Radio

Performance, Audio Fidelity and Simplicity

The Grundig S450DLX  ($100 US)

This large portable (along with the C.Crane SW) is still my first pick for someone who wants excellent radio performance, but also wants a radio that is simple and straight-foward, with ease of use in mind (i.e., grandparents, children, your uncle who gets muddled by the TV’s remote control).  It comes with an owner’s manual, but you most likely won’t need it.  The S450DLX has robust, room-filling sound. Ergonomics are excellent, and it sports a large, comfortable tuning knob. Audio performance is very good and enhanced by its large front-facing speaker. This is not a pocket or travel portable, rather a tabletop portable.  The S450DLX will please both the beginner and seasoned radio listener.

Quality and classic performance

The Sony ICF-SW7600GR

The Sony ICF-SW7600GR ($150)

This Sony shortwave radio is a classic, with solid, time-tested performance, and features to please both the beginner and the seasoned radio enthusiast. I like to include different radios each year in the gift guide, but the Sony ICF-SW7600GR is on the list again this year.  It’s probably the only radio on this list that isn’t made in China–it’s made in Japan!–and is built, as one of my ham buddies says, “like a brick toilet.” (Ahem, just meaning that it’s sturdy and reliable).  The ‘7600 will deliver some of the best performance that you’ll find in a portable on this page. At $120-150 US, it’s not the cheapest on the market, but certainly one of the best. I regret that its days are limited as Sony pulls out of the shortwave market; but mark my words, this one will become a classic.

Read the full review here.

Chase DX

The Alinco DX-R8T

The Alinco DX-R8T ($499 US)

The Alinco DX-R8T is new to the market in 2011. We reviewed it, in detail, only recently; in short, it impressed us. It’s full-featured, performs well, and comes at a very affordable price. If you’re buying this for a ham radio operator, they’ll understand the reason why the Alinco DX-R8T needs a 12 volt power supply and an external antenna. It’s a receiver version of a ham radio transceiver–as such, it does a fine job on SSB modes.

Crazy money? Crazy performance

The Ten-Tec RX-340 ($4,450.00 US)

Let’s face it, these are tough economic times. So, you may be wondering why I would put a radio in this list that’s priced the same as two Tata Nano passenger cars. Why? Because, if you have the money, I promise the performance of the RX-340 is not likely to disappoint even the most discerning of radio listeners. It is a textbook-perfect, 12.5 lb. example of form following function.  Heavy, man.  But it is very, very good.  Sure, you could buy two hundred (and eleven) lightweight Degen DE321s for that kind of money, but who wants that many portables cluttering up the den when you could lounge by the fire and tune in an RX-340 instead?  Close your eyes, sip your favorite scotch, and just…listen to the world.

If you doubt me, Check out our RX-340 page in the Shortwave Radio Index. It’s chock-full of stellar reviews on this radio work-of-art.

Let’s put it this way:  every time I dream of Santa leaving a radio under my tree…it’s the RX-340. (Seriously, I must have this dream at least twice a week.)

Note from your wife (aka, Ms. Claus):  Dream on, dear.

Want more gift options?  Try our 2010 gift guide, take a look through our shortwave radio reviews guide and/or our simplified reviews page.
Happy Holidays!

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Review of the Alinco DX-R8T tabletop shortwave receiver

Last year, when I saw the announcement that a new tabletop radio–the Alinco DX-R8T–was about to hit the market, I almost fell out of my chair.

AlincoDX-R8T

The Alinco DX-R8T tabletop shortwave receiver

A new tabletop on the market? Could it be true? Over the past few years, many long-time manufacturers have dropped out of the shortwave tabletop market, while newer, smaller manufacturers have been popping up in the SDR (Software Defined Radio) market. SDRs are great–a lot of performance for the price–but to listen to the radio, you have to turn on your computer, launch a program, and typically, do things to isolate any noise your computer may generate.

A tabletop, on the other hand, simply requires that you turn it on:  instantly, it’s there, awaiting tuning.

Obviously, I was eager to try out the DX-R8T. Fortunately, the good folks at GRE America (the US distributor for Alinco) kindly loaned me one of their receivers to review for SWLing.com.

First Impressions

The face plate on the Alinco DX-R8T is detachable (with optional extension cable). This view, from underneath, shows where it plugs into the receiver body.

I really appreciate the size and feel of the Alinco DX-R8T.  It’s heavy, with a metal case and a very durable plastic face plate.  It has a bail under the front panel which allows it to be lifted and carried for easy tabletop operation.

Please note: If you’re new to tabletop shortwave receivers or ham radio transceivers, be aware that the Alinco DX-R8T is based on the Alinco DX-SR8T ham radio transceiver–and as such, it operates on 12VDC. Meaning, you will need a 12 volt power supply like the Pyramid PS-3 or similar. If you already have a power supply, make sure it can at least deliver 1.5 amps at 13.8V. You do not want to purchase a “wall wart” type power supply, as many of these are noisy and will effect your ability to hear stations. For the purpose of review, I have actually been running the DX-R8T off of a 40AH, 12 V battery to eliminate all such noise.

The tuning knob on the DX-R8T is solid, smooth and certainly pleased this reviewer.

The tuning knob, which I personally find to be a particularly important feature, is substantial, solid, and moves fluidly–a plus.  I have not found a way to adjust the tension/resistance on the tuning knob, but haven’t felt the need to do so, either. The radio is heavy enough that it stays put while tuning and pressing keys, which is also important.

The ergonomics are good. I like how the volume, squelch, IF shift and RIT are all easily accessible single-function knobs.

If I have any criticism of this radio’s ergonomics, it would simply be that several of the buttons are a bit close to the tuning knob.  I have larger fingers, so while pushing the Function switch, RIT switch, keylock or turning the RIT knob, I often inadvertently move the tuning knob. But in truth, this is a fairly persnickity observation; in general I’m pleased with the panel layout and ergonomics.

AlincoSpeakerLike the IC-R75, the DX-R8T has a front-facing speaker–always a good thing when listening via a built-in speaker. Admittedly, the overall fidelity of the built-in speaker is mediocre at best–it lacks any bass response and sounds shallow, and unfortunately, there’s no way to change the tone from high to low. While the built-in speaker is fine for listening to the ham radio bands (in SSB or a CW mode), I would like better fidelity for the broadcast bands. This is no doubt a vestige of this radio’s ham transceiver heritage.

The front display is large, with an adjustable dimmer. It is crisp and very easy to read, which I like very well.

The competition

The only current shortwave tabletop competitors with the Alinco DX-R8T ($500), are the Icom IC-R75 ($600-700) and the Palstar R30A ($740 US). The Icom IC-R75 is a fine receiver and one I have recommended to many web readers in search of a multi-function tabletop. It has been on the market for years in many versions (some more successful than others), and is generally a solid performer.  The Palstar R30A is also an excellent receiver, though it lacks the bells and whistles of its Japanese counterparts. People who buy a Palstar want bare-bones simplicity and performance.

Since I own a Palstar R30C (the predecessor to the R30A), I used it as a point of comparison in my review of the DX-R8T.

Operation

The DX-R8T is a pleasure to operate. I was able to intuit nearly all but the memory functions without looking at the owner’s manual even once. A major plus, in my opinion!

Tuning is the function you use the most on any radio; with the DX-R8T you have three ways to tune:

  • the tuning knob
  • the up/down arrows and M/kHz button to toggle steps
  • the direct keypad entry
The keypad is configured like that on a phone, which I like. Again, because I have large fingers, I do wish the keypad buttons were slightly bigger. Frequencies are entered in MHz, so to go to 6,925 kHz, for example, you enter “6” “.” “9” “2” “5” “ENT.” To move to 6,000 kHz, you can shortcut by entering “6” “.” “ENT.”  Simple enough.

I did find it helpful to use the up/down arrows to move between meter bands, otherwise I never tune with the up/down arrows.

The tuning knob gets my seal of approval and scanning with it is a pleasure. Admittedly, I wish it were a little more adaptive to tuning speed (i.e., turning quickly speeds up the frequency steps) or that it could be adjusted somewhat. You can tell that the Alinco DX-R8T derives from amateur radio, as its tuning knob speed is perfect for finding ham radio stations.

Switching between modes is simple–pressing the “Mode” button moves you between, AM, FM, CWL, CWU, LSB and USB.

The volume, squelch, IF shift and RIT knobs are all well-spaced and easily accessible.

Broadcast listening

The Alinco DX-R8T is a capable broadcast receiver. In my tests, it was as sensitive as my Palstar.

The generous, wide 9kHz AM bandwidth means that broadcast stations come in with a great deal of fidelity. The flip side of the 9kHz bandwidth, though, is that it is less effective if there is an adjacent station–say, 5kHz away. Luckily, the DX-R8T has an IF shift knob handy so that a modest adjustment can usually eliminate adjacent interference.

I found the narrow AM bandwidth a little too narrow for broadcast listening.  It’s a mere 2 kHz wide and is simply too restrictive if listening to music. For voice intelligibility, the narrow filter works fairly well, using the IF shift to open it a bit. This narrow filter could be useful if trying to snag a weak DX signal, as it’s sufficiently narrow to cut out a lot of noise.

Speaking of noise, the Alinco has a respectfully low noise floor.

Amateur radio bands

The DX-R8T has modes for upper sideband, lower sideband and even upper and lower CW (morse code/digital) sidebands.

It performs rather well on the ham bands, pulling out weak SSB stations from the static.

In fact, its 500 Hz CW audio filter is quite good if you like listening to CW under normal conditions. I did try out the DX-R8T on Field Day 2011 and found that it had a hard time dealing with the intensely crowded band conditions.  Adjacent signals cause “thumping” while listening in pile-ups. This was no surprise; even pricey ham radio transceivers are subject to this type of problem under crowded CW conditions. [I usually turn to my Elecraft K2 or Ten-Tec OMNI VI+ (ham band-only transceivers) when participating in a Field Day or contest event.]

Th DX-R8T should do a formidable job listening to SSB ham radio, utility and pirate radio stations and the digital modes (like PSK31, RTTY, etc.).

Summary

Pros:

  • Excellent sensitivity in the shortwave (HF) bands
  • Simple design requires very little reference to owner’s manual
  • Extra wide 9kHz filter lends to high-fidelity broadcast listening (see con)
  • Filters are effective and well selected for SSB and CW modes
  • Large dimmable back-lit display with all pertinent information
  • Versatile: use the DX-R8T as a tabletop, detach the remote head to save footprint in your shack, mount in your car or connect to your PC and use the DX-R8T as an SDR
  • Front-facing speaker (see con)
  • DRM ready
  • Full control of all receiver functions when used as an SDR
  • Excellent value

Cons:

  • AM narrow filter is a little too narrow for most broadcasts
  • Some front-panel buttons are a little too close to the tuning knob
  • Mediocre built-in speaker, but good fidelity through external speaker or headphones
  • External speaker hook-up only on front panel
  • Does not come with a 12 volt power supply (sold separately)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that I was very skeptical of the Alinco DX-R8T before reviewing it. The price point was almost too attractive for a tabletop radio, and to offer the versatility of a detachable faceplate and control as an SDR receiver seemed too good to be true. I thought there must be a compromise somewhere.  Fortunately, it seems I was wrong.

Rear panel view of the Alinco DX-R8T

The Alinco DX-R8T is, in fact, a fine receiver. I especially love the fact that it’s simple to operate. While there are relatively few new tabletops introduced to the market, there are a number of Software Defined Radios available–their performance is excellent, but the learning curve (especially for a newcomer to the hobby) can be intimidating. Plus they require a computer.

With the Alinco DX-R8T, you get the best of both worlds, a simple “turn on and tune in” tabletop, plus a fully DRM ready SDR.

When people write in and ask for advice on buying their first tabletop receiver, I can recommend this DX-R8T without hesitation. Though it lacks the DSP that can be purchased separately with an Icom R75, it’s as sensitive as my Palstar R30C and the 9kHz AM bandwidth lends some excellent fidelity into headphones or an external speaker.

I must admit, I’m impressed with the Alinco DX-R8T.  It has all of the major features I like in a tabletop radio: it’s well-built, easy to use, sensitive, versatile, and it has sufficient control options to help adjust adjacent interference and improve intelligibility. It also has a very attractive price at $499 US.  It’s next-best competitor is probably the Icom R75–but neither the Icom, nor the Palstar R30A, can be used as an SDR and neither have the appropriate IF output for DRM as does the Alinco DX-R8T.  In short, it’s a lot of radio for the money, excellent for those starting in the hobby.

Paired with a good antenna, the Alinco DX-R8T is a bargain performer. If you’ve thought about moving from portable radios to the world of a more serious receiver, you can’t go wrong with the Alinco DX-R8T.

––

Want to hear what audio from the Alinco DX-R8T sounds like? Here is a 2+ hour sampling of Radio New Zealand International recorded 02 Sep 2011:

Resources

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Pirate Radio and Hurricane Irene

Last night, I tuned to the pirate radio watering hole of 6,925 kHz shortwave. I caught a bit of the Southern Relay Network as they played several hurricane and storm themed songs.

I recorded a bit of the end of the show for you. Note that there was a lot of noise on the frequency–many of the static crashes were attributed to Hurricane Irene herself.

Click here to download/play the mp3 file, use the archive.org flash player below (if visible) or simply visit the archive.org audio page. Enjoy!

Radio used, by the way, was the Alinco DX-R8T. We will be posting a review of this receiver, so check back soon!

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Alinco DX-R8T $499 from Universal Radio

UPDATE -> 02 September 2011: Please click here to read our full review of the Alinco DX-R8T. 

The Alinco DX-R8T tabletop shortwave radio.

Universal Radioannounced today that the Alinco DX-R8T will be priced at $499.95 US.

Expected delivery is December 27, 2010–Universal is now taking orders.

Please see our previous post about the DX-R8T.

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The Alinco DX-R8T – a new shortwave tabletop

UPDATE -> 02 September 2011: Please click here to read our full review of the Alinco DX-R8T. 

Universal Radio has announced the Alinco DX-R8T with an estimated delivery date of December 28th. All of the data and specs they mention are subject to change, but this looks like it could be a receiver worth consideration.

The Alinco DX-R8T tabletop shortwave radio.

Notable features include:

  • Frequency coverage: 150-30,000 kHz
  • 500 Hz CW Audio Filter
  • 600 Alpha Memories
  • 10 Hz Display
  • IF Shift
  • RIT
  • Squelch
  • Dual VFOs
  • Attenuator

Will the Alinco DX-R8T perform as well as the Icom IC-R75 or the Palstar R30A? We’ll let you know.

We can say that this is most likely a stripped-down version of their amateur transceiver, the Alinco DX-SR8T–probably a good thing. The DX-SR8T gets good marks for receiver sensitivity and selectivity (for a transceiver in its price range). In fact, eham reviewers give it an average of 4.5 stars out of 5.

Regarding price, I imagine it will be in the $500-600 US range (especially based on the pricing for the DX-R8 by Nevada in the UK and the $645US price point of the DX-SR8T transceiver). Universal has not yet announced a price (listed T.B.A.).

Check back for updates–we will post them as soon as they become available.

Please click here to read our full review of the Alinco DX-R8T. 

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