Tag Archives: Panasonic RF-2200

Radios: What are your daily drivers?

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

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

Thanks for your question and the kind compliment, John.

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

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

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

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

My Daily Drivers

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

For Travel

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

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

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

For Portable Shortwave DX

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

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

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

For Morning News and Music

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

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

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

For Mediumwave DXing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Daily Drivers? Please comment!

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

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

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


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Doctor Vlado repairs the Panasonic RF-2200 (Part 1)

Panasonic RF-2200 at Hamvention

Last year, at Hamvention, I picked up a Panasonic RF-2200 for $70. It came with the original box, manual and was in superb cosmetic condition.

The seller told me that over the years he exclusively used the radio to listen to a local FM station.

At that price, I didn’t hesitate to make the purchase even if this would have simply been a non-functioning parts radio for my other RF-2200.

After I brought the radio home, I unpacked it and gave it a quick test.

FM worked brilliantly. Mediumwave and shortwave, however, were essentially deaf. I made the assumption that the ‘2200’s switches and pots likely needed cleaning with DeoxIT. The next day, I was leaving for a two month trip to Canada though, so I packed the RF-2200 back into its box and set it to the side of my shack table.

Fast-forward to yesterday…

While digging around my shack, I re-discovered the boxed RF-2200. Since I was planning to visit my buddy Vlado (the best radio repair guy in the world) yesterday evening, I thought I’d take the RF-2200 and do a proper contact cleaning. Several of the RF-2200’s switches and pots cannot be easily cleaned without removing the chassis.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

Vlado is familiar with the RF-2200 and since it’s not the easiest radio to work on, I asked for his expert hands on the job. Within seconds of handing him the radio, he plugged it in, tested the switches and pots, then removed the back cover (disconnecting the battery compartment leads) and then the front cover (disconnecting the speaker leads).

The magic behind the RF-2200’s classic analog dial:
Vlado offered a word of caution to anyone operating on their RF-2200: as you can see in the photo below, the dial string snakes around the front of the radio and is very close to some key components. You must exercise caution when having a soldering iron tip near the string, or using lubricants nearby.I didn’t realize this, but by the time Vlado started taking apart the RF-2200, he had already determined that even though the contacts needed cleaning, this wasn’t the source of the audio problem for the MW and SW bands.Vlado expertly pulled out the pot for the FM/AM/SW selection–not an easy task–began cleaning it, testing it and re-soldering contacts.

Vlado determined the pot was actually in good shape, thus started testing the rest of the circuit.

After a few minutes of performing tests and getting intermittent performance, he determined that at least one, if not more, of the RF-2200’s caps need to be replaced. Of course, neither one of us was terribly surprised. At this point though, it was getting late and I had an early wake up time in the morning, so I left my RF-2200 with Vlado.

Am I worried about this prognosis?  No, not in the slightest…

Doctor Vlado is on the job!

Vlado will have the RF-2200 back on the air in no time, working as well as it did when it was new. He’s actually performed a similar RF-2200 repair for an SWLing Post reader and I’m willing to bet this repair job is relatively simple compared to most he encounters (including the Icom IC-7200 he recently repaired after it was hit by lightening!).

I’ll try to post a “Part 2” update with photos of the RF-2200 repair.  Follow the tag: Panasonic RF-2200 Repair

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Video: Daytime mediumwave shootout with the Tecsun S-8800

The Tecsun S-8800

About a week ago, I received a re-engineered version of the Tecsun S-8800 from Anna at the excellent online retailer, Anon-Co.

If you recall, I evaluated an early production unit of the S-8800 in February and while putting it through the paces, I discovered loud, warbling DSP birdies throughout the mediumwave and shortwave bands. Tecsun, to their credit, pulled the S-8800 from production to address the issue.

My schedule last week made it impossible to carve out the dedicated time I needed to begin an S-8800 evaluation.

Yesterday, however, I spent the afternoon with my family at Richland Balsam, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway (6,000′ ASL) and a completely RFI-free zone. I brought the Tecsun S-8800 and a few other portables along for the ride–namely the Digitech AR-1780, the C.Crane CC Skywave and the Panasonic RF-2200.

I had just enough available space on my smart phone to record this one short video:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Let’s be clear: comparing any modern radio with the RF-2200 on mediumwave is hardly fair.

For one, the RF-2200 has been out of production for a few decades.

Secondly (what I never finished saying in the video is that) the RF-2200 has a large rotatable ferrite bar antenna that provides excellent gain. The RF-2200 simply wipes the floor with all of my modern portables as their ferrite bar antennas are a fraction of the size.

In other words, the RF-2200 was engineered to rule mediumwave like a boss.

On shortwave, the RF-2200 does a fine job, but isn’t nearly as accurate and stable as modern DSP receivers.

Spoiler alert

Still, as the video indicates, my final review of the Tecsun S-8800 will indicate that it is not a receiver for the serious Mediumwave DXer. It’s been my experience that few shortwave portables are excellent on both HF and MW.

At home, tuned to local station 880 AM.

Of course you can’t tell from the video, but the S-8800 actually sounds brilliant when tuned to a relatively strong/local AM station, but either a lack of sensitivity or internal noise makes MW DXing a challenge.

I spent the better part of two hours yesterday evaluating its daytime MW performance–the video is pretty indicative of my findings. The S-8800 struggles with weak stations, but does a fine job with strong ones. It’s overall audio fidelity almost matches that of the RF-2200 when tuned to a strong broadcast. I’ve yet to test evening MW

The S-8800 still has some birdies on MW, but they’re not the loud warbling kind found on the previous model. Tecsun did properly address this, though in full disclosure, I haven’t fully explored the shortwave bands yet.

Shortwave?

I suspect the S-8800’s performance on shortwave will be much better than mediumwave because the previous S-8800 showed excellent results. As long as sensitivity wasn’t harmed while addressing the DSP birdies, I expect it’ll give the PL-880, PL-680 and Sony ICF-SW7600GR a run for their money.

Still…the lesson learned yesterday?

The Panasonic RF-2200 is the indisputable champion of mediumwave!

UPDATE: Click here to read our full Tecsun S-8800 review.

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Back from Xenia: My 2017 Hamvention spoils

I’m finally back from a week of travels which included the 2017 Hamvention held a the Greene County Fairgrounds in Xenia, Ohio.

As an inside exhibitor, I was quite busy at Hamvention–indeed, my voice is only now recovering.

I did manage to sneak away from our table on several occasions to visit with vendors, friends, and check out new innovations (thanks to ETOW volunteers Eric McFadden, Miles McFadden and Robert Gulley!). I also attended the NPOTA (National Parks On The Air) forum on Sunday.

This year, I posted hundreds of photos of the event here on the SWLing Post: both inside exhibits and flea market booths.

I’ve also already started a re-cap/review of the 2017 Hamvention which I plan to post in the next few days. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, though, a number of readers have asked what I brought home from the Hamvention. Though I had no intention to buy stuff this year–seriously–I did manage to come home with a few treasures.

Panasonic RF-2200

If you’ve been reading the SWLing Post for a while, you’ll know I’m a big fan of the ‘2200. On the shortwaves, it’s a great performer even though the analog tuning can be a bit squirrelly.

Where it really shines is on mediumwave, though. It’s easily the best AM portable I own.

My buddy, Eric (WD8RIF), pointed out this RF-2200 (see photo above) in the flea market. Since I already own an RF-2200, I had no intention of buying one.

While taking a photo of it, the seller started telling giving me details. He said he’d never used batteries in it, and only used a small external wire antenna connected on the back (his homebrew connector was still attached). He then mentioned that he also had the original box, manuals, accessories and packing materials.

I put my camera phone away and picked it up to take a closer look. It had obviously been taken care of over the years. The battery compartment was immaculate and the telescoping whip didn’t have any bends or missing sections–it was straight, clean and original.

Out of curiosity, I asked how much he wanted for it.

He wanted $70.

Sold!

With absolutely no hesitation, I reached for my wallet. Sure, I’ve already got an RF-2200, but one can never have too many RF-2200s. Right?

I took a few photos of the RF-2200 this morning:

Without a doubt, this was my exciting 2017 flea market find. .

MFJ-8121 Analog Shortwave Portable

While browsing the inside exhibits late afternoon on Saturday, I spotted this analog portable from MFJ Enterprises.

In truth, I didn’t realize MFJ even had a shortwave portable in their product line.

This particular unit was on the clearance table and was labeled as a “factory second.” The sales person told me it was likely due to the damaged box (the unit inside had no visible blemishes).

At $12, I decided to purchase it.

You see, I get a lot of requests from readers asking for recommendations of simple analog portables. I thought I might eventually review this MFJ unit.

Last night, I popped some AA batteries in the radio and, sadly, it produced no audio. The tuning indicator works, but the speaker doesn’t even produce a hiss. I suspect this is the real reason it was being sold on the clearance table.

I might contact MFJ and let them know about this, or I might simply pop the radio open and see if it’s a broken connection.

HamSource flashlight

And finally–while not a terribly exciting purchase–I did also pick up this CREE LED flashlight at the Ham Source booth. It’s small, bright and runs on one AA battery. It has three settings: high, low and flashing. It appears to be very durable and the beam can be focused. For eight bucks, it’s the perfect flashlight to live in my new Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack.

That’s all, folks!

Looking back, I’m quite impressed with my self-control. I really didn’t want to return home with any new finds. If anything, I’m trying to downsize right now.

But a Panasonic RF-2200?  I always have room for another FR-2200!

Post readers: Have you acquired any flea market finds recently?  Please comment!

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Panasonic RD-9820 on eBay

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi, who shares an eBay link to this Panasonic RD-9820–the matching antenna coupler for the Panasonic RF-2200. Mario notes that RF-2200 owners might take note as the auction price is on a more reasonable trajectory than ones have in past auctions. This 9820 also includes the box.

Thanks for the tip, Mario!

Click here to view on eBay.

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