Tag Archives: Mario Filippi (N2HUN)

Guest Post: Battery Testers–Don’t Get Caught Without One!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who shares the following guest post:


Battery Testers; Don’t Get Caught Without One!

by Mario Filippi, N2HUN

(All photos by author)

Ever consider what life today would be like without the humble dry cell battery? Old timers know the term “dry cell” as opposed to “wet cell.” The dry cell is your garden variety battery for sale composed of a semi-dry composite or paste of chemicals designed to make electrons flow when the circuit is complete, such as in flashlights, radios, remotes, watches, etc. “Wet cells” on the other hand have fluids, such as sulfuric acid that work in conjunction with lead plates. But let’s stay with dry cells for now. Walk into any house and you’ll find some form of battery powering a plethora of devices that contribute to the quality of daily life. In short, life without the humble battery would be unfathomable.

Electronic Menagerie: Radios, Timepieces, Flashlights, Remotes, Test equipment, Mouse.

Batteries, like humans, unfortunately expire due to age or use. True, they toil tirelessly while out of sight and mind, hidden behind plastic compartment panels somewhere in the bowels of a device and for the most part are ignored or taken for granted. That is until the device they are powering ceases to function. We’ve all been there and done that countless times in our lives with an array of consumer products. Most instances of battery failure tend to occur at the most inconvenient times, that is when the device they are powering is needed most (a corollary of Murphy’s Law hi hi). A good example is the toolbox flashlight. It can sit amongst the tools quietly and ready to go (at least in our minds) until we switch it on while working in some dark, cramped location. Or late at night when under the covers and the bedside shortwave radio starts spewing out distorted audio. To boot, the radio’s convenient dial light is too weak to determine where you are in the shortwave spectrum.

Motley Crew of Cells in Author’s Armamentarium Awaiting Call to Duty.

Well, all is not lost my fellow hobbyists; it is time to do some cell (dry cell that is) soul searching and plan for future failures. I propose a useful acquisition for the home, shack, Go-Bag (or what have you) that won’t break the bank; a simple battery tester that’ll be the end to your power problems.

At this QTH an AMPROBE BAT-200 was purchased a few years back from Amazon and has proved its worth and utility many times over. This simple tool, which ironically needs no batteries, will test many of the common batteries around the shack and home such as AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, and button batteries.

Pocket-size BAT-200. A Snap to Use.

Since purchasing the BAT-200, life in the battery cosmos has become a lot less complicated. Armed with one of these, you can immediately rule out battery failure when troubleshooting myriad devices. You can also test outdated batteries to determine their status.

Flashlight, Magnifying Light, and Head Lamp…

…Test meter…

…And Various Remotes Use A, AA or Button Batteries.

AA Battery from Remote Tests “Good.”

An item such as the BAT-200 can be found for less than five dollars if you shop around, and will pay for itself by taking the guesswork out of the bad battery scenarios. You’ll wonder how you ever did without one!


Thank you very much for sharing this post, Mario!  

At the SWLing Post HQ, we keep all of our loose batteries in a “battery box.” All new cells stay in the packaging where we mark the date purchased (although many alkaline cells now have a “best by” date). We recently pulled all of the loose/orphan batteries out of the box–there must have been 40+–and tested the voltage of each one. I used the test meter from my toolbox to do this, but I’ve just ordered one of the BAT-200 chargers from Amazon and will now keep this in the battery box permanently.

Thanks for enabling me, Mario! Ha ha!

Click here to check out the BAT-200 in Amazon.com (affiliate link).

Mario spots a rare J.I.L. Communications Receiver SX-400 on eBay

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi, who writes:

Hope you are doing well. Spotted this J.I.L. receiver on eBay, never heard of this unit before.

Click here to view on eBay.

Thanks for the tip, Mario! This is a new one for me as well–what an interesting stack-able set of up/down converters. RigPix has a few more details.

Post readers: Can anyone comment about this until or its performance on the HF bands?

The Panasonic Radar Matic RF-880

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who writes:

Came across this very unusual Panasonic Radar Matic RF-880L radio on eBay:

Click here to view on eBay.

Very interesting model from the mid-60’s that automatically tunes for radio stations; apparently there’s a motor mechanism to accomplish this.

Some other links for this remarkable radio are:

http://www.radiomuseum.org/r/panasonic_radar_matic_rf_880l.html

Click here to view on YouTube.

I was not aware of this unique Panasonic model, Mario.  Thanks for sharing!

Mario points out that the tuning mechanism on this Radar Matic RF-880 does not function. Any eBay bidder would have to be willing to repair this otherwise very clean unit.

Guest Post: Old School Infrared Wireless Headphones

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who shares the following guest post:


Old School (Infrared) Wireless Headphones

by Mario Filippi (N2HUN)

Have you ever mindlessly walked away from your TV with headphones/ear buds still tethered, causing all sorts of havoc? Been there, done that hi hi! Let’s face it; there are plenty of avenues to remedy the situation by upgrading to wireless headphones. Nowadays most state of the art wireless headphones use radio frequencies to achieve a wireless method of listening. For example, my XYL blissfully listens to TV audio with Sony stereo wireless headphones, using a frequency of 915.5 MHz; below is the actual signal viewed with an RTL-SDR dongle.

Sony wireless headphones signal viewed via a SDR dongle; FM modulation.

But hold the presses: there’s good news for folks not averse to old-school technology.

I recently purchased a set of RCA wireless headphones using infrared technology from shopgoodwill.com.  Yes, those of us who are somewhat long in the tooth remember infrared as the common method for consumers to “cut the headphone cord” way back when.  Infrared is located just above the radio frequency spectrum starting around 300 Gigs (Gigahertz) and is still commonly used in TV and satellite remotes, but less so now with modern wireless headphones operating in the  900 MHz  and 2.4 GHz ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) bands.

Admittedly, the new breed of wireless headphones possesses an array of options not available with older infrared units, but if you are satisfied with a no-frills method of headphone freedom (well about 25 feet range that is), check out the pre-owned inventory offered on shopgoodwill.com.  The pair I purchased started at  $7.99 with no other interested bidders so the total with shipping was $16.82 with the original box and was complete, including the rechargeable NiCad batteries which still functioned but undoubtedly will need replacing.  To boot, the money went to a charitable organization.

Wireless IR stereo headphones from shopgoodwill.com

Interestingly, I tried using the wireless IR headphones in conjunction with a shortwave receiver (Panasonic DR22) but there was lots of interference, evidently from the IR transmitter; shortwave and the AM BCB were wiped out by the interference. Now on the FM BCB it worked fine. Even tried it with a scanner and it seemed to work well with FM transmissions (police, fire, EMS) but not with aero AM (108 – 136 MHz).

In the end my venerable older headphones have been relegated to the “shelf of infrequently utilized equipment.” Radio hobbyists might want to visit www.shopgoodwill.com as there are lots more radio memorabilia for window shopping or adding to one’s armamentarium. Remember to read the descriptions carefully as to the working condition. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not associated with ShopGoodWill in any way except that I’m a very satisfied customer. And yes, there are new, state-of-the-art wireless headphones available at a comparable price, so why the reason for this tale? Well, for knowledge, a little history, and a dash of sentimentality, that’s all! hi hi!


Thanks, Mario!

I briefly worked in a RadioShack store in the mid 1990s. We had a set of IR wireless headphones on display and hooked up to a receiver. I remember putting them on and listening to music after/before store hours completing mindless tasks like inventory, clean up, etc. It felt incredibly liberating to walk around the store without a headphone cord umbilical cord! The IR footprint covered the entire store, but fell apart if I had to duck below an end-cap or shelf partition.  

Thank you for taking us on a wireless stroll down memory lane, Mario!

A review of CozyPhones sleep headphones

A few months ago, SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi–being both a good friend and an (ahem!) enabler–sent the following note:

My XYL bought me a set of CozyPhones for Christmas.  If you like listening to the radio, especially at night while in bed, these work great. Speakers are nice and flat.  And if you are outdoors you can listen to shortwave and not suffer from ear frostbite hihi.

https://www.cozyphones.com/

[I’ve attached the photo below of] the one I got.  Absolutely amazing!

Little did Mario know that, back in 2014, I ordered a pair of similar sleep headphones by the company Acoustic Sheep after reading SWLing Post contributor Anil Raj’s brilliant entry in our Virtual Radio Challenge II.

I purchased an open-box pair of the Acoustic Sheep SleepPhones for about $33 and was very pleased with the purchased…initially, at least.

I used the Acoustic Sheep SleepPhones a couple nights a week for several months. I was disappointed, however, when the braided jacketing started coming off of the headphone cord, bunching up, and the rubberized jacketing underneath began staining my pillowcase, so I was no longer able to wear them at home or when traveling. My wife was amused and said it looked as if I had worn mascara to bed.  Well, at least until she attempted to clean the marks off of the pillowcase with limited success.

I feel it’s only fair to state that my SleepPhones were a fairly new product in 2014, thus may have been an early iteration and may not accurately reflect what the product is like currently. I’m guessing that Acoustic Sheep have improved the design and reinforced the jacketing since then, because they seem to enjoy relatively positive reviews on Amazon.

Panasonic Ergo Fit (in-ear) Headphones

At any rate, I set the troublesome SleepPhones aside and and went back to using my go-to in-ear sleep phones: the Panasonic Ergo Fit Headphones. The Panasonics are the least uncomfortable of all of the in-ear headphones and do a decent job of isolating any environmental noises while you sleep. Still, having something inside your ear while you slumber isn’t exactly the definition of comfort.

Enter CozyPhones

I replied to Mario’s email telling him about my experience with the SleepPhones. He encouraged me to give the CozyPhones a try.

I took a quick glance at Amazon (the only distributor I could find for CozyPhones) and the price for a pair was only $22. Almost $16 cheaper than a pair of new SleepPhones?  I even noticed combo packs with two sets of CozyPhones for $24. My doubts about quality resurfaced.

I decided to contact CozyPhones customer service directly and ask if their headphones were likely to experience the same problem as my SleepPhones–I mentioned my hesitancy and the fact these would likely be mentioned in a frank review (hint, hint: if quality is poor, this will get a negative review).

They promptly addressed my concerns, standing confidently behind their product, and even offered to send a sample. One week later, the CozyPhones arrived.

The CozyPhones arrived in a thick plastic re-sealable bag (seen above)–a nice touch! Included in the package were both the headphones and a satin carry bag.

Performance

Let’s be frank here: with sleep phones, I’m not expecting the same audio fidelity I would achieve with my Sennheiser HD558s––which, by the way, would be incredibly uncomfortable as sleep headphone; I simply wanted to be able to listen to my bedside radio as I drifted off.

Here’s what I do expect from a pair of sleep headphones:

  • decent audio fidelity at low volume levels–something suitable for listening to AM or shortwave radio
  • something with enough sound isolation that it won’t keep my wife awake while I listen to the Voice of Greece into the wee hours
  • comfort around my head and against my ears as I lie on a pillow…actually, this might be the #1 priority for me
  • headband’s earphones (speakers) stay in place, don’t shift within the band
  • quality construction and the potential for product longevity
  • no black marks on my pillowcase!

Let’s see how the CozyPhones deliver on my points:

Audio fidelity

The CozyPhones easily pass this test. I’m very pleased with audio fidelity for radio listening. Indeed, the audio response is pretty well tailored for AM/SW broadcast listening. FM and music sounds fine, too; good enough that I would consider wearing these in the winter while hiking. Again, these are not audiophile quality to be sure, but they surpass my needs for this application.

Sound isolation

The CozyPhones do a respectable job in this regard. My wife can’t hear what I’m listening to while lying in bed, not even a hint of what I hear. Now, if I were hard of hearing, listening to music and had the volume cranked up, I’m sure she’d at least hear percussive sounds.

Comfort

I should note hear that there are essentially four versions of CozyPhones:

CozyPhones sent me the second version mentioned above, the headphones with Cool Mesh lining and a lightweight Lycra-like exterior. I was quite pleased, as it’s what I would have selected. If anything, I tend to generate a lot of heat, so don’t like products that make me feel even warmer at night while I sleep.

After a few months with the CozyPhones I can say that I’m very pleased with how comfortable they are. The material is soft, the headphone speakers are very thin and seem to stay in place even as I move around and adjust my head on the pillow during the night.

Quality

The SleepPhones I purchased in 2014, in contrast, were also comfortable, but the earphones, essentially mini speakers, tended to migrate within the soft headband. I’d often wake up and find the speakers had completely moved within the band away from my ears; it was then a matter of trying to bunch up the headband material and re-position the speakers.

The CozyPhones don’t seem to have this problem. The ear speakers might shift a little some nights, but not enough to be annoying–certainly not as the SleepPhones initially did.

The braided headphones cord is non-obtrusive and comes out the back of the headphones. So far, the CozyPhones haven’t suffered the same fate as the SleepPhones–the braid has remained intact and seems quite sturdy, resilient to light tugging and normal movement.

And as for my pillowcase?  Still clean…no black marks.

Summary

If, like me, you enjoy listening to radio in bed, but don’t want to disturb your partner, CozyPhones really are a fantastic option.

Perhaps as a side effect of my years of SW listening, I find I’m a bit sensitive to environmental noises when I travel; often hallway noises, nearby traffic, children screaming, doors slamming, can disturb me, so I never leave home without earphones in my pack to quiet the noise. Quite often I’ll listen to my radio at bedtime, then, right before nodding off, I tune to a blank spot on the AM dial to the soothing sound of static. This “white noise” tends to drown out other abrupt environmental noises, and I find I drift off peacefully.

I think CozyPhones will serve you well. At $18-22 shipped? I think they’re a good bargain and a great gift. In fact, I intend to buy a pair for my wife!  Shhhh…don’t tell her.

Click here to view CozyPhones on Amazon.