Tag Archives: Mount Mitchell

Troy compares the Tecsun S-8800 with the Grundig Edition Field BT

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel, for producing this excellent comparison of the Tecsun S-8800 and Grundig Field BT “lunchbox” radios:


The Lunchbox Showdown

by Troy Riedel

I have been watching with interest all of the information & reviews of the new Tecsun S-8800. Frankly, I was especially interested in how it would compare with the other “lunchbox” SW radio – the Eton Grundig Edition Field BT (the Digitech AR-1748 lunchbox radio is also available in AUS for approximately $207US shipped). As I contemplated which lunchbox to purchase, I put together the following Excel comparison table of the S-8800 vs. the Eton Field BT to assist me in making my decision:

Tescun S-8800

Eton Field BT

Price:

$268.00

$129.99

Tuning Methods: FM / LW / MW / SW FM / MW / SW
Q.Tune Q.Tune
Digital tuner, Jog dial manual tuning Digital tuner, Jog dial manual tuning (Fast, Slow and Hold)
Auto scan tuning with 5 second stop (w/ storage) Auto scan tuning (no tuning storage)
Direct frequency entry using the remote control
Fine Tuning Knob: SW Meter Band
No soft muting when tuning Subtle Soft Muting when tuning
Station Storage Methods: Manual storage: tune into stations manually and store them Manual storage: tune into stations manually and store them
Semi-auto storage: storing stations during auto scan
Auto Tuning Storage (ATS): automatically tune into and store stations
FM / MW / LW / SW FM / MW / LW / SW
AM Bandwidth: Bandwidth selection (2.3, 3.0, 4.0, 6.0) Narrow & Wide Settings (3.0*, 6.0*) *Reported
SSB: SSB (USB/LSB)

N/A

SSB tuning steps at 10 Hz / 1 kHz
SSB Bandwidth selection (0.5, 1.2, 2.3, 3.0, 4.0)

N/A

FM with RDS

N/A

Bluetooth
Adjustable shoulder or hand carrying belt Hand carrying strap
Remote control operation

N/A

SYNC:

N/A

N/A

Gain: Local / DX antenna gain switch Local / DX antenna gain switch
SW RF Gain Control
Memories: 650 station memories 50 station memories
Stored stations memory browsing
Auto Sorting Memory
LCD: Standard Backlight Orange Backlight
5-seconds or continuous settings 10-seconds or continuous settings
Clock/Alarm Time: Clock/Alarm time (24H-format) Clock/Alarm time (12 & 24H-format)
Alarm: (1) Alarm (2) Alarms
By radio only By radio (60-mins) or buzzer (2-mins)
Digital Display: Frequency & SW meter band Frequency & Band (e.g. FM, LW, SW1)
Signal strength indicator Signal strength indicator
Stored station location Stored station location
Clock & Alarm time Clock
Volume Level (while using remote)
Battery indicator & charging time Battery Indicator
Sleep Timer A & B (Selectable)
RDS Info

* No Lock Feature

Display Lock “On”
Tuning Speed (Slow, Fast, Stop)
Sound Tuning: Bass & Treble Bass & Treble
Line In:

N/A

3.5mm Stereo Input for mp3 Player
Line Out: (2) RCA Left & Right Stereo Channel Line Out (1) 3.5mm Line Out for tape recorder or audio amplifier
Ant Selector: Int. or Ext. Switch for FM/SW Int. or Ext. Switch for FM/SW
FM/SW Antenna: BNC: Low-impedance (50?) FM/SW Coax: Low-impedance (50-75?)
MW Antenna: High-impedance (500?) wire clamp terminals High-impedance (500?) wire clamp terminals
Battery: 2 x 18650 Li-ion Cell 4 x “D” Cell
AC Adapter: No AC included – does include a USB mini-B charging cable 7v 1200mA DC Neg Center included

Yes, the S-8800 without a doubt has more features than the Field BT.  However, the S-8800 is slightly more than twice the price of the Field BT ($268 vs. $130)!  Does the performance of the S-8800 equate proportional to the price difference?

Shortly after I made my Excel comparison table, Thomas published video comparisons of the S-8800.  I very much appreciated the review and video comparisons that pitted the S-8800 against several popular portables.  It gave me a baseline to set my expectations.  However, those videos didn’t answer my question: “should I purchase the S-8800 or the Field BT”?

I contacted Thomas and I told him “we need an S-8800 vs. Eton Field BT” video comparison so SWL’ers have a true lunchbox vs. lunchbox comparison!  I volunteered to purchase an Eton Field BT and have it delivered to Thomas for him to compare the two (after which he would forward the Field BT to me).  After he hesitated, I replied: “what if I buy the Eton and we meet in North Carolina to compare them together”?  Fortunately Thomas readily agreed and I made the 6.5-hour journey from Southeast VA to Mount Mitchell State Park for the Lunchbox Showdown (864-miles roundtrip on my odometer)!

Thomas and I had a limited amount of time.  I arrived at noon.  Thomas and I had 8-hours … and that included time for Thomas’ Parks On The Air (POTA) Activation, our S-8800 vs. Field BT comparison, we had to eat (it was a long drive for me!), and Thomas brought many other toys so we had to carve out time to “play radio” (and I can’t drive 400+ miles to Mount Mitchell and not walk to the summit of the highest point east of the Mississippi River!).

Luckily conditions were as ideal as I have ever seen them (evidenced by the fact Thomas made contacts from TX to the Azores with his Elecraft KX2).  So please keep in mind, what follows is in no way a complete comparison.  And to be clear, it was never my intention to review either receiver (there are many people more competent than I am that have already done this – Thomas among them!).

My interest re: these two models is primarily limited to each’s shortwave performance (I use a Sangean PR-D15 and a Grundig YB400 for AM DX, I prefer my Sangean PR-D15 for FM and I own 12 shortwave receivers).  Thus our goals were to find and compare multiple representative SW signals.  Thomas is obviously familiar with local AM stations in the area that he uses in his comparisons, thus we sought out a few AM signals (I recorded one to illustrate one huge difference that we both perceived in the two radios).  Due to time, hunger, and eventually darkness we had to call it a day at 8 P.M.

I used my iPhone 6S to record the following comparisons.  This was the first time I recorded shortwave signals.  In retrospect, I wish I had made the recordings longer but at the time I was unsure of how much memory each recording would used, how much time it would take to upload, etc., so I kept everything at 1-2 minutes.  As you will see, I recorded nearly all of the signals with the backlight off.  You’ll see me reaching in, on Shootout 5, to tune off frequency – then back on – simply to show how the backlight would/or would not affect the weak signal on the Field BT (you’ll also see that it’s harder, outdoors, to read the Eton display without the backlight vs. the clearer Tecsun S-8880).

The Eton Field BT has its own SW RF Gain (a huge bonus) and you will see me reach into the field of view once or twice to fine tune the Field BT on weaker signals.  And if you’ve studied my comparison table, you’ll see that the S-8800 has multiple bandwidth choices whereas the Field BT only has Wide & Narrow settings.

You will see me occasionally change the BW on both.  I preferred not to speak during the videos as not to mask the audio of the signal thus I will set-up the specifics of each video with each individual link to my new YouTube Channel, SW Hobbyist, that I set-up to host these (and hopefully many future SW-related videos to include radio recordings & antenna comparisons).

All videos

Date: Friday, 06 October 2017

Location: Mount Mitchell State Park, NC USA

Shootout #1

Frequency: 15580 kHz

Broadcaster: Voice of America (VOA)

From: Botswana

Target: East Africa

https://youtu.be/nZO_yTRjykM


Shootout #2

Frequency: 15610 kHz

Broadcaster: WEWN

From: Vandiver, AL

Target: Europe

https://youtu.be/CEzKA1116ow


Shootout #3

Frequency: 15000 kHz

Broadcaster: WWV

From: Fort Collins, CO

* Wow, that’s a strong signal – is this FM?!

https://youtu.be/LJ2YykJ7Wz0


** Shootout #4

Frequency: 15130 & 15140 kHz

Broadcaster: NHK Radio Japan via Issoudun, France & Radio Habana Cuba via Bauta, Cuba

Target: Africa & Western North America

https://youtu.be/aBW0imojl94

** I wish I hadn’t prematurely ended this recording – the Eton Field BT signal on 15130 improved after the recording ended


Shootout #5

Frequency: 15245 kHz

Broadcaster: Voice of Korea

From: Kujang, North Korea

Target: Europe

https://youtu.be/D5cjlseVNfE


Shootout #6

Frequency:  11810 kHz

Broadcaster: BBC

From: Ascension Island

Target: Central Africa

https://youtu.be/oXbxeLFl2-0


Shootout #7

Frequency:  630 AM

Broadcaster: WAIZ Hickory, NC

*** This is where I believe you will see a difference in the sound/speaker

https://youtu.be/kXNGNFgnDB4

General Conclusions

Thomas and I both felt that the AGC of the Tecsun S-8800 was very slightly better (more stable – absolutely no “chug”) than the Eton Field BT (again, a very subtle difference). We both liked the sound of the Eton Field BT much better – it was crisp, full and just seemed to “pop” through its grill (see Shootout #7). The huge thing we both disliked with the Eton Field BT is its tuning dial. Yes, it has Q-Tune so one can jump from 5000, 6000, 7000, etc., with the push of a button but the tuning dial (even in “Fast” mode) is painfully slow and deliberate (dare I say horrible in comparison to the S-8880?). We both love the fact the S-8800 has a remote. But even without the remote, the S-8800 was much more pleasurable to manually tune.

Not to speak for Thomas, but I believe we generally felt [overall] that the SW signals were essentially close enough to call even … the edge to the Tecsun on a couple and the edge to the Field BT on a couple of others (I specifically remember us both commenting on an Arabic language broadcast from Radio Saudi Arabia where we both felt the Field BT was a very clear winner – that was one of the signals that I did not record). The better “sound” of the Field BT’s speaker may have influenced our opinions – a sound that was markedly better on FM, better on AM, but a sound that was much closer on SW.

My final thoughts and conclusion: Radios are like vehicles. No one vehicle is best for everyone. Each vehicle has a specific purpose and each has a subset of features. I own a large travel trailer. I need and thus own a heavy-duty diesel truck to tow it. But I surely wouldn’t recommend my vehicle to somebody who only needs a commuter vehicle. That’s why we have everything from SmartCars, to sedans, to SUVs, to dually diesel trucks. The same goes for radios. Some people will absolutely need SSB, others may demand SYNC (neither of these units has this feature!) while others may choose a radio based on size (compact for travel or larger models with a large, easy-to-read display for desk or tabletop use). Until now, I felt the video comparisons we had for the S-8880 were comparing a truck to an SUV to a sedan. At least now we have a few videos of two lunchbox radios compared side-by-side. True, one (the S-8800) is fully loaded (in vehicle terms: a 4×4 with a touchscreen GPS and DVD entertainment system). But not everyone who requires a truck needs a 4×4 with GPS and DVD entertainment system. Some truck owners prefer the smoother ride from a 4×2 truck. I think that’s the best way to describe these lunchbox receivers.

Am I glad that I bought the Eton Field BT? For me – despite the cumbersome tuning of the Field BT – I feel the S-8800 is not worth 2x the price of the Eton (I got an even sweeter deal for my new, sealed box Field BT off eBay that was well under the $129.99 street price). But you can make your own decision, you can decide which features are must-have, and you can listen to these videos as well as the other videos that Thomas has already posted and determine if one of these lunchbox models are in your future. And because I learned so much regarding the video recording of shortwave signals (I suffered from tunnel vision while recording – not fully aware of what I caught and what I missed), I hope I can meet-up with Thomas again so I can do a better, more thorough job with a “Lunchbox Comparison, Deuxième Partie” (that French was for Thomas – I hope I got that correct!).


Thanks for putting together this comparison, Troy! It was great hanging with you last week on Mt. Mitchell!

If you’re shopping for either of these radios, you have a few options:

The Tecsun S-8800 is only available worldwide via Anon-Co at time of posting. Eventually, they will begin appearing on eBay. There are retailers in Australia and Europe also selling the model (Important: make sure you’re ordering a model from the latest production run which solves the DSP birdie problem in early units).

The Grundig Edition Field BT is available from a variety of retailers including Universal Radio, Amazon.comCrutchfield, Adorama and others.  Occasionally, like Troy, you can find excellent prices on the Grundig Edition Field BT via eBay.

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Radio Day at Mount Mitchell State Park

Troy Riedel preparing the Tecsun S-8800 and Grundig Field BT for a comparison review.

Shortly after publishing my review of the Tecsun S-8800, SWLing Post contributor Troy Riedel contacted me and asked if I would consider comparing the S-8800 to the Grundig Field BT. Of course I was very curious how the $130 Grundig Field BT might compare with the $268 Tecsun S-8800, but I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment and didn’t really want to purchase another large portable.

Long story short: Troy found a honey of a deal on a perfect Grundig Edition Field BT via eBay. He ordered it and we decided to bring the two radios together yesterday at beautiful Mount Mitchell State Park the highest point east of the Mississippi river.

Yesterday was an ideal day, too. The weather was picture-perfect, the park was (surprisingly) not too busy and propagation was the best I’ve experienced in weeks.

Troy left early in the morning and embarked on the 6+ hour pilgrimage to Mount Mitchell–I only live an hour away, so it was a casual drive for me. We met at noon.

Parks On The Air

After a quick lunch, we deployed my Elecraft KX2 with EFT Trail-Friendly antenna and made my first Parks On The Air (POTA) activation.

You might recall I was very active during the ARRL National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) program last year, but since then I’ve done few field deployments. It was great fun to get on the air again and do a park activation for the World Wide Flora & Fauna POTA program.

While we didn’t log a lot of stations, I was still impressed we worked stations from Texas to Quebec to the Azores. Not bad for 10 watts SSB!

Sure, I only worked a handful of stations, but this activation was essentially unannounced so chasers had no advance notice. No doubt, many more POTA activations are in my future! The bug has bitten!

Radio Fun

Except for a break to eat dinner at the park restaurant and a short hike to the peak of Mount Mitchell,  we played radio until about 8:00 PM. It was amazing, uninterrupted fun.

Troy spent a lot of time comparing the Tecsun S-8800 with the Grundig Field BT and made several videos. No doubt, he’ll post his thoughts and review in the near future!

Being a bit of radio geek, I couldn’t help but bring a few “extra” radios and accessories. Here’s what I packed:

We were a little disappointed to discover that both my Tecsun PL-680 and Grundig Satellit exhibited flaky behavior.

During my S-8800 comparison tests, a few weeks ago, I did notice that sometimes when I turned on the PL-680, it was absolutely deaf. Next time I turned it on, it worked fine. Yesterday, the PL-680 simply didn’t want to perform. I’m not sure what happened.

The Grundig Satellit, on the other hand, worked great, but sometimes if you touched either the antenna or even brought your hands near the radio body while tuned to a station, it would go deaf. You could correct this by tuning off frequency, then back on–still…very strange! It’s as if the AGC or RF gain were hanging up.

Have any Post readers experienced this before? I’ll look into the issue this week and reset both radios. Perhaps that will help.

A great “Mini DXpedition”

Thank you, Troy, for suggesting the meet up and for making the pilgrimage. It was great meeting you in person! I also thoroughly enjoyed watching someone else do comparison tests and exploring a new radio–Troy certainly has a knack for doing radio evaluations!

This has encouraged me to do more meet-ups, perhaps during my travels. Great fun!

Post Readers: be on the lookout for Troy’s comparison of the Grundig Field BT and Tecsun S-8800 in the coming days/weeks (no pressure, Troy!).

UPDATE: Click here to read Troy’s comparison.

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Update 3: Sangean DT-160CL v Sony SRF-39FP

Sangean-DT-160CL-Sony-SRF-39FP

My iPhone's stopwatch has been tracking the endurance test.

My iPhone’s stopwatch has been tracking the endurance test.

It’s been one hundred nine hours since I started the Sangean DT-160CL versus Sony SRF-39FP battery endurance test and both radio are still hanging in there!

Not knowing which radio will check out first, I’ve been taking them with me everywhere and have been careful to keep their settings identical the whole time.

Last night, I even prepared my Zoom H2N digital recorder to monitor both radios simultaneously. Having passed 100 hours of operating on the same set of batteries, I was certain one would call it quits last night.

Not so.

There was one noticeable change this morning: the Sangean DT-160CL’s battery indicator now shows a depleted cell.

IMG_20160808_073431228

It’s still operating, though–no noticeable difference in volume and reception.

The end must certainly be near! Indeed, it’s hard to believe I started this endurance test last Wednesday!

I’m very interested to see which pocket radio will go first.

Field time

Sangean-DT-160CL and Sony SRF-39FP Mount Mitchell

Yesterday, I spent the better part of the afternoon at Mt. Mitchell State Park. Of course, I brought the DT-160CL and SRF-39FP along.

Mt. Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi river. It’s a great place to play radio.

At one point, I tuned both radios to WAIZ 630 kHz: a 1,000 watt AM station about 95 miles east of the park. It’s one of my benchmark daytime stations from Mt. Mitchell.

Though most DT-160 reviewers have given the receiver low marks for AM performance, I found that the DT-160CL did a better job locking onto WAIZ than the venerable SRF-39FP.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that both radios, at that point, were operating on low voltage? Or perhaps the CL version of the DT-160 series has better AGC characteristics and sensitivity?

I doubt the latter assumption, but once the endurance test is complete, I’ll put the 160CL through the paces.

Follow this review thread by bookmarking the following tag: Sangean DT-160CL v Sony SRF-39FP.

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In the field with the Panasonic RF-2200

Panasonic-RF2200-MtMitchell

I’ve had the Panasonic RF-2200 for just one week, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this classic solid-state portable. Without a doubt I’ve been very pleased with the RF-2200, and I only have good things to say about the eBay seller, volodymyry123 from whom I bought it. Eventually I’ll take the time to calibrate the analog dial, which is about 100 kHz off-frequency.  (I’m obviously in no rush, but if readers with these rigs have suggestions for doing so, feel free to comment.)

The RF-2200 is surely one of the largest, heaviest portables in my collection…still, it begs to be taken outdoors!

Last week, I drove with some friends to the highest point in eastern North America, Mount Mitchell State Park. As I left for our drive, picnic supplies and backpacks in tow, I took a glance at the RF-2200 in my office–and couldn’t resist taking it along.

During our mountain picnic, I turned the RF-2200 on; immediately I heard Radio Exterior de España‘s interval signal on 17,715 kHz. It was loud and clear, at times pegging S9 on the signal meter.

Panasonic-RF2200-MtMitchell-2

I also tuned to the medium wave band and was instantly amazed by all of the signals it drew in. I was able to hear one of my favorites, WAIZ, on 630 kHz–the signal was very stable and sounded local, although the transmitter was easily 60 miles away.

In general, medium wave performance on the RF-2200 has been nothing short of incredible. But this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Indeed, just prior to purchasing the RF-2200, I consulted my buddy, Jeff McMahon (the fellow behind The Herculodge); here’s what he says about the ‘2200:

“I borrowed my friends’ RF-2200 for a month in 2008 and I loved it. It picked up stations effortlessly and had a magisterial quality about it, especially the AM sound. It reminded me of why I fell in love with radios.”

Panasonic-RF2200-MtMitchell-3But why is it that when I look at the RF-2200, I feel like I should be taking it to the field? Perhaps it’s the staunch, beefy look of the chassis, or the controls that could easily be worked even with winter gloves? Or perhaps it’s that woven carry strap?

Or perhaps the RF-2200 offers something I miss in the age of compact portables with digital displays: a radio with presence, one that lends itself to pure listening discovery. The RF-2200 demands your attention, and does so with a clear, deep voice…

Yep, the RF-2200 is a true field companion.  But don’t take my word for it:  find one, take it along, and see–or rather, hear–for yourself.

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