Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who writes:
Attached is a picture of a recent purchase of mine from eBay, a six foot long monophonic earphone for use with my Panasonic RF-2200.
Single mono earphones of that length are not easy to find. Most are too short for night stand use. And with the abundance of RFI emitting appliances in the home, a six-foot long earphone allows me to move my portable radio far away from things like laptops, cell phones and noisy power supplies.
Thank you for sharing this, Mario. I love how practical and affordable this is and the fact that the earpiece is identical (save cord length) to the original that would have accompanied the RF-2200. Click here to check out this item on eBay.
I recently took delivery of a better-than-new classic solid-state portable broadcast receiver: the venerable GE Superadio II.
This Superadio II was generously given to me by SWLing Post contributor, Chuck Rippel (K8HU), who has–in his spare time–been re-capping and restoring all three of the GE Superadio series models and bringing them back to life. Chuck wanted to send me one of the units he’d recently finished, knowing that it might help me when doing AM reception evaluations. He insisted “no strings attached.”
Besides thank you, all I can say is…
Note angels singing in the background.
When I received the Superadio II a week or so ago, I removed it from the box and it looked brand new; even sporting the original “Headset Capable” grill sticker.
This is a case, however, of a refurbished radio likely out-performing the original. Here’s a list of the main modifications:
All of the original dry capacitors replaced with Nichicon Audio Grade components
FM AFC and AM and FM IF and RF sections have been aligned
Rebuilt the volume control
I’m sure there are other modifications Chuck didn’t mention.
Chuck told me each radio takes a full day to restore. Some of the alignment, rebuilding, and re-capping is surprisingly tricky and varies with each of the three models. Why is he doing this?
Chuck told me, “My enjoyment comes from giving these radios a new lease on life.”
A new lease on life, indeed!
Last weekend, we had a break in the weather–and I had a short break in my schedule–so I took the GE Superadio II, GE 7-2990A, C.Crane CCRadio3, and Panasonic RF-2200 outdoors for some fresh air.
It was late afternoon and, frankly, I didn’t have the time to do a full comparative session, but having spent the better part of an hour tuning around and comparing the characteristics of each radio, I decided to make a short video to share.
The video features the GE Superadio II, but I speak to some of the pros and cons of each model. Keep in mind, this is very much a casual/informal comparison:
The SR-II not only has the best audio fidelity in this bunch, but it’s also extremely stable and has no noise floor to speak of. No doubt, this is the result of those Nichicon Audio Grade components and a skilled technician.
Side note: Chuck is well-known in the radio world because he used to restore the Collins R390A which must be one of the most mechanically-complicated receivers ever made.
I haven’t even properly tested the SR-II on FM yet because I couldn’t pull myself away from the mediumwave dial that afternoon!
I asked Chuck if he would consider refurbishing GE Superadios for other people and I think he would. If interested, contact me and I’ll put you in touch. Else, Chuck might leave details in the comments section of this post.
Chuck, thank you once again for sending me this SR-II. It’ll become a permanent addition here at SWLing Post HQ. Again, I’m simply amazed at the audio fidelity of this 1980s era receiver. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything made today that can even compare.
And thanks for doing your bit to refurbish these classic portables!
This model appears to have an original box in great shape. The price is steep, though at roughly US $563.35 as a Buy It Now listing although it does include free economy shipping from Japan. The seller also notes, “The first stage of the antenna is removed, so it is bonded.” Not exactly sure what that means and am guessing it’s a machine translation from Japanese.
Mario notes that most of the Cougar 2200s he spots on eBay are from sellers in Japan and at a recent auction one fetched $400.
Curious if any Post readers have the Cougar 2200? I’ve never seen one in real life, but I assume the differences between it and the RF-2200 or DR22 is branding and power cord? Please feel free to comment if you own one.
This morning, I’m looking at the calendar and I see and end in sight for 2020. I think most of us can agree that 2020 will be one for the history books, in large part due to the Covid-19 global pandemic which has had a pretty dramatic affect on many of our lives. It certainly brough my planned travels to a halt. I think many of us are quite happy to show 2020 the door!
As each year comes to a conclusion, I often look back at my radio activities during that year and see how it played out. I especially note the radios I used most heavily throughout the year.
Since I evaluate and test radios, models that are new to the market obviously get a lot of air time. Still, I’m also known to pull radios from the closet and give them some serous air time.
I’m very curious what radios you gave the most air time in 2020?
Here’s my list based on type/application:
Portable shortwave receivers
Since they’re new to the market, both the Tecsun PL-990 (above) and Belka DX (below) got a lot of air time.
I do like both radios and even took the pair on vacation recently even though packing space was very limited. I see the Belka DX getting much more air time in the future because 1.) it’s a performer (golly–just check out 13dka’s review of the Belka DSP) and 2.) it’s incredibly compact. The Belka now lives in my EDC bag, so is with me for impromptu listening and DXing sessions.
A classic solid-state portable that also got a lot of air time this year was the Panasonic RF-B65. Not only is it a performer, but it has a “cool” factor that’s hard to describe. I love it.
In a sense, the C.Crane CCradio3 got more play time than any of my radios. It sits in a corner of our living area where we tune to FM, AM and weather radio–90% of the time, though, it’s either in AUX mode playing audio piped from my SiriusXM receiver, or in Bluetooth mode playing from one of our phones, tables, or computers. In October, the prototype CCRadio Solar took over SiriusXM duty brilliantly. I’m guessing the CCRadio3 has easily logged 1,600 hours of play time this year.
Of course, the Panasonic RF-2200 is one of my all-time favorite vintage solid-state portables, so it got a significant amount of field time.
The HF+ Discovery was my choice receiver for portable SDR DXing and the RSPdx when I wanted make wide bandwidth recordings and venture above VHF frequencies.
Without a doubt the new Mission RGO One 50 watt HF transceiver got the most air time at home and a great deal of field time as well. It’s such a pleasure to use and is a proper performer to boot!
My new-to-me Icom IC-756 Pro, however, has become my always-connected, always-ready-to-pounce home 100W HF transceiver. It now lives above my computer monitor, so within easy reach. Although it’s capable of 100+ watts out, I rarely take it above 10 watts. The 756 Pro has helped me log hundreds of POTA parks and with it, I snagged a “Clean Sweep” and both bonus stations during the annual 13 Colonies event.
The new Icom IC-705 has become one of my favorite portable transceivers. Not only is it the most full-featured transceiver I’ve ever owned, but it’s also a brillant SWLing broadcast receiver. With built-in audio recording, it’s a fabulous field radio.
Still, the Elecraft KX2 remains my choice field radio for its portability, versatility and incredibly compact size. This year, in particular, I’ve had a blast pairing the KX2 with the super-portable Elecraft AX1 antenna for quick field activations. I’ve posted a few field reports on QRPer.com and also a real-time video of an impromptu POTA activation with this combo:
How about you?
What radios did use use the most this year and why? Did you purchase a new radio this year? Have you ventured into the closet, dusted off a vintage radio and put it on the air?
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Matt Blaze (WB2SRI), for sharing another brilliant audio comparison featuring benchmark portable radios:
Medium wave selectivity shootout
by Matt Blaze
I did another monster medium wave portable receiver comparison, this time with the aim of comparing receivers’ ability to deal with weak signals in the presence of strong adjacent channels.
Once again, I went up to the roof with eight MW portables with built-in antennas and recorded them simultaneously along with my “reference signal”, from an Icom R-9500 with an active loop on the roof. As before, I recorded a narrated stereo mix with the Icom on the left and the rotation of radios for a minute or two each on the right, but have “solo” tracks available for the full time for each radio. The nine receivers in the lineup this time included:
Icom R-9500 (with amplified Wellbrook loop antenna on roof)
Potomac Instruments FIM-41 Field Intensity Meter (my personal favorite)
C.Crane Radio 2E
I recorded two signals, one at night and one during the day.
The first was at night: WWL New Orleans on 870 KHz. This signal is usually weak to medium strength here, but is a challenge for two reasons: first, it shares the frequency with Cuba’s Radio Reloj, and it is squeezed between two much higher strength signals: Toronto’s CJBC on 860, and NYC’s WCBS on 880. So you need a decent receiver and careful antenna orientation to receive it well here. That said, everything did pretty well, though you can see that some radios did better than others.
Potomac Instruments FIM-41 Field Intensity Meter
C.Crane Radio 2E
The second signal was during the day and was MUCH more marginal: WRJR Claremont, VA on 670 KHz. This was real challenge for any receiver and antenna. The signal was weak, and overshadowed by WCBM Baltimore on 680, a 50KW daytimer that is very strong here. (I’m not 100% sure that we were actually listening to WRJR – I never got an ID, but the station format and signal bearing was right). We can really hear some differences between the radios here.
Potomac Instruments FIM-41 Field Intensity Meter
C.Crane Radio 2E
Everything (except the Icom) was powered by batteries and used the internal MW wave antenna, oriented for best reception by ear (not just maximizing signal strength, but also nulling any interference). The loop for the Icom was similarly oriented for best intelligibility.
For audio nerds: The recording setup involved a lot of gear, but made it fairly easy to manage capturing so many inputs at once. The portable radios were all connected to a Sound Devices 788T recorder, with levels controlled by a CL-9 linear mixing board control surface. This both recorded the solo tracks for the portables as well as providing a rotating mix signal for each receiver that was sent to the next recorder in the chain, a Sound Devices 833. The 833 received the mix audio from the 788T, which went directly to the right channel. The left channel on the 833 got audio from a Lectrosonics 822 digital wireless receiver, which had the feed from the Icom R-9500 in the shack (via a Lectrosonics DBu transmitter). The center channel on the 833 for narration of the mix, which I did with a Coles 4104B noise-canceling ribbon mic. This let me record fairly clean audio in spite of a fairly noisy environment with some wind.
All the radio tracks were recorded directly off the radios’ audio line outputs, or, if no line out was available, from the speaker/headphone jack through a “direct box” interface. I tried to make the levels as close to equal as I could, but varied band conditions and different receiver AGC characteristics made it difficult to be completely consistent.
Making the recordings was pretty easy once it was set up, but it did involve a turning a lot of knobs and moving faders in real time. I must have looked like some kind of mad scientist DJ to my neighbors, some of whom looked at me oddly from their own roofs.
Happy Thanksgiving weekend!
Thank you, Matt, for another brilliant audio comparison! I appreciate the attention and care you put into setting up and performing these comparisons–not an easy task to say the least. That Potomac Instruments FIM-41 is an impressive machine!
By the way, I consider it a badge of honor when the neighbors look at me as if I’m a mad scientist. I’m willing to bet this wasn’t your first time! 🙂
Post readers: If you like this audio comparison, please check out Matt’s previous posts as well:
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Matt Blaze (WB2SRI), who shares the following guest post:
Matt’s Marathon MediumWave Matchup
by Matt Blaze
Here’s another simultaneous receiver comparison, this time of ten portable medium wave receivers plus the Icom IC-R9500 (as a “reference receiver”). Previously, I used the same antenna for all the comparisons, but since these are portable receivers, I wanted to compare their performance using their built-in antennas. I did two comparisons, both of moderate to weak signals, one in the evening of a DX signal and the other in the daytime of a regional station.
The receivers were the Potomac Instruments FIM-41 (a “field intensity meter”), the Panasonic RF-2200, the Nordmende GlobeTraveler Exec (a beautiful German SW portable from 1968), the Sony ICF-EX5MK2, the CCrane Radio 2E, the Sangean ATS-909X, the Sangean D4W, the new Tecsun PL-990X, the XHDATA D-808, and finally the CountyComm GP5-SSB, plus the Icom IC-R9500.
All the receivers were recorded simultaneously. The radios (except the Icom R9500) were on the roof of my building and oriented for best reception (signal/noise) and kept sufficiently away from each other and other metal objects to avoid interference, The R9500 was in the shack and used a Wellbrook loop on the roof, also oriented for best signal/noise. I took the audio from the Line Out if one was available and from the headphone jack (via a “direct box” level converter) if not. I tried to match the audio levels reasonably closely, but different ACG characteristics made it difficult to be completely consistent across all the receivers throughout the sessions.
As in previous comparisons, for each session I’ve got a narrated stereo mix with the R9500 on the left channel and each receiver, for a minute or so one after the other on the right channel. You definitely want to use headphones to listen to these so you easily tell the left from the right radio. I’ve also provided mono “solo” recordings of each receiver for the full 15 minute-ish sessions so you can hear a receiver you’re interested in in detail.
Sound Devices 688 Multitrack Recorder
The recordings were made with a Sound Devices 688 recorder/mixer (which can record 12 simultaneous channels of audio). The portable radios were hardwired to the recorder, and the 9500 (which was downstairs) was connected via a Lectrosonics digital radio link. (Everything except the R9500 was on battery power to avoid mutual interference and ground loops, etc). The narration used a Coles noise canceling ribbon mic. Everything was done in a single take per session – there was NO postproduction editing – so I apologize for a few glitches and awkward moments.
You can see a “class photo” of the setup below, although the position and orientation of the radios was different during the actual recordings.
The first recording was at night, where we tuned to 1630 KCJJ in Iowa City, IA. This is effectively a 1KW clear channel; other than a few TIS stations, there’s not much else there on the east coast, and the signal is reliably weak to moderate but readable here on the east coast.
Narrated L/R stereo comparison:
Individual solo tracks:
CCrane Radio 2E
Potomac Instruments FIM-41
Nordmende GlobeTraveler Exec
The next recording was made during the day, of WSVA, a regional station in Harrisonburg, VA running 5KW in the daytime. Their signal is also reliably weak-moderate but readable here.
Narrated L/R stereo comparison:
Individual solo tracks (receiver should be obvious from the file name):
CCrane Radio 2E
Potomac Instruments FIM-41
Nordmende GlobeTraveler Exec
Hope your readers find it useful!
An absolutely amazing job again, Matt! Thank you so much for taking the time to put this comparison together and sharing it here on the SWLing Post.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Hemphill (WD9EQD), who shares the following guest post:
My First DX Contest
by Bill Hemphill, WD9EQD
Being a recent new member of NJARC, this is my first time competing in this contest. I have always been a big fan of BCB DXing and have recently got back into it – especially with the amateur radio bands being in such poor conditions. The acquisition of a couple of Loop antennas plus two Panasonic RF-2200 radios have just enhanced my enjoyment.
For the contest, I used two completely different radios. First was the RF-2200 and second was a spur of the moment creation.
The RF-2200 was its usual good performer. While the RF-2200 has a beautiful built-in rotating bar antenna, I enhanced it with the 27” Torus-Tuner Loop Antenna as made by K3FDY, Edmund Wawzinski. I think I had picked this antenna up at one of NJARC’s swap meets. So I wish to thank whoever it was that was nice enough to bring it and sell it at the meet. I have really enjoyed using it. With this setup, I was hoping that I might be able to pull in Denver, Salt Lake City and maybe even a Mexican station, but it was a complete bust on them. But I did have a nice surprise in receiving the Cuban station Radio Enciclopedia on 530 in addition to the usual Radio Reloj time signal station. Following is photo of it in operation:
Originally, I had thought that my second contest entry would be done with a 1962 Sony TR-910T three-band transistor radio. This radio has a fairly wide dial along with a second fine-tuning knob which would be a big help. I would have again used the 27” hula-hoop antenna.
But I made the nice mistake of running across Dave Schmarder’s Makearadio website:
Dave’s site is a wonderful resource for creating your own Crystal, Tube, and Solid State radios as well as Audio Amplifiers and Loop Antennas. While going down the rabbit hole of his site, I ran across his Loop Crystal Set, #19 Crystal Radio:
It was a really nicely constructed, nice swivel base.
I replaced the tuning capacitor with one that has a 6:1 ratio.
At this point I started thinking that I could create something similar with my loop.
I randomly grabbed a diode from my parts box. Not sure what the exact model is. (I later found out that it was an IN-34 which is what I was hoping it was.) Then quickly soldered the diode, a resistor and capacitor to a RCA plug:
I then proceeded to use some jumper cables and just clip it to the tuning capacitor on the antenna base:
The RCA plug was then the audio out (I hope) from the radio.
I quickly realized that I did not have a crystal headset or any headset that would reproduce any audio. So I used an old Marantz cassette recorder to act as an amplifier. Fed it into the mic jack and then tried to listen to the monitor out. Bingo – I could pick up or local station on 1340 really weak.
So I then fed the audio from the Marantz into a Edirol digital recorder. Now I was getting enough audio for the headphones plus could make a recording of the audio.
At last I was receiving some signals. To boost the audio some more I removed the resistor from the circuit.
I found out the I could only tune from about 530 to 1350. I probably needed to clip the lead on one of the loop turns, but I really wanted to see how it would do at night. I spent several hours and was just totally amazed at how well it performed and how good the audio was. The hardest part was when there were very strong signals on the adjacent frequency. What I found really interesting was that it was not linear in its tuning. At the low end of the band the stations were more spread out than at the higher end. This made tuning fairy easy at the low end and very touchy at the high end. I was able to hear a couple of Chicago stations along with Atlanta and St. Louis.
Here’s photo of it in action:
I have created an audio file of the station ID’s heard with the diode/loop radio. The audio file is on the Internet Archive at:
I had a lot of fun in the contest and especially enjoyed trying something really different with the diode/loop radio. Now I have a whole year to try to think up something really creative for next year’s contest.
Absolutely brilliant, Bill! I’m so happy to see that your ham fest homebrew loop has served you so very well in a contest. I love how you pulled audio from your homebrew, make-shift diode radio as well–using your audio gear in a chain for amplification obviously worked very well.
Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Bill!
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