Tag Archives: PL-330

Tecsun PL-330 fine tuning bug

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Pawel Kita, who writes:

Good morning Thomas.

I bought a Tecsun PL-330 firmware 3303.

Do you remember when I once reported a bug in one of the versions of the
Tecsun PL-880 radio? This error was later named as “fine tuning TECSUN reversed bug”

The same error occurs in the following Tecsun radios: PL-365 and PL-330
firmware version 3303.

Thank you for the tip, Pawel. That is an odd and slightly obscure bug that Tecsun obviously has yet to address.

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How to find the Tecsun PL-330’s firmware version

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jaap de Goede, who shares the following note:

Thanks for posting the hidden feature table to the Tecscun PL-330.

I see more and more videos of the PL-330 popping up on YouTube. I’m wondering what firmware they run. It’s easy to identify the firmware version.

Press and hold the VM/VF button when the radio is off. Release the button when all icons are displayed. Next, the display will briefly show the firmware version in the upper right corner. As you can see in the picture (above), mine has version 3302.

Thanks so much for the tip, Jaap! I am curious, too, if Tecsun is updating the firmware version with each release/update of the PL-330. With the PL-880, there were a number of iterations all carrying the same version number (8820, if memory serves).

It would be great for comparison purposes to check the firmware number.

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A Tecsun PL-330 features reference sheet

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor,  Jaap de Goede, who shares the following as an update to his Tecsun PL-330 review. Jack writes:

I discovered several features that are not displayed on the keyboard both on the Internet and by fiddling with the radio. Maybe these features are in the Chinese manual but I simply can’t read that language. What became clear is that the PL-330 resembles the PL-990x. But I couldn’t find if DNR and Muting Threshold are supported in the firmware I have (3302). Here is a table with the features and how to operate:

Click here to download as a PDF.

Many thanks for creating and sharing this excellent reference sheet, Jaap!

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Tecsun PL-330: Initial impressions, overview of functions, and operation


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jaap de Goede, for the following guest posts:


Operating the TECSUN PL-330 without an English manual

by Jaap de Goede

Introduction

Inspired by my father, I like listening to radio transmissions for the last 60 years. That includes listening to shortwave transmissions. In my collection there are a number of radios including computer based SDR-receivers. The TECSUN PL-330 is a shortwave portable radio with SSB and digital readout.

I’d like to share my operating experience of the PL-330 and throughout I will now and then compare this radio to similar radios in my collection:  Eton Satellit, XHDATA D-808 and CountyComm GP5-SSB (AKA Tecsun PL-365).

To be clear the PL-330 used here is a Chinese domestic version, probably manufactured in July 2020. An English manual was not available at the time of writing. In the meantime, the English manual of the Tecsun PL-990 helped to figure out a number of the features of the PL-330. Newer manufacturing batches might contain other firmware and that could change the way of operating.

Size and sound

With a volume of about 18 cubic inches the PL-330 is less than 20 cubic inches. It easily fits the pocket of my jeans. 20 cubic inches (unofficially) classifies it as an Ultralight DX radio. The smallest radio of the four is the GP5-SSB with 14 cubic inches. The Satellit is the largest of the four and the size of these radios can be determined by the eye but by the ear as well.

The PL-330 has digital VOLUME control and the volume level is indicated on the display. In contradiction, the three other radios have analog volume control. All radios have a 3.5 mm socket for a stereo headset. A nice feature of the PL-330 is that the FM stereo decoder only works with a plugged-in headset. Else FM remains in mono.  I think that’s a very clever feature because why would the stereo decoder degrade the mono-sound through the speaker in case of poor FM stereo reception?

Personal audio quality ranking from best to worst:

  1. Satellit
  2. PL-330 and D-808
  3. GP5-SSB

Power and Batteries

The PL-330 is supplied with a BL-5C battery of 1000 mAh. The battery can be charged in the radio through though a micro USB port. The display permanently shows battery status, regardless whether the radio is on or off. USB makes it very easy to charge from any external USB charger or an external USB battery. Here a quick comparison of the powering of the four radios:

Radio Battery Charging Port
Tecsun-PL-330 1 x BL-5C Micro USB
CountyComm GP5 3 x AA NiMH Mini USB
XHDATA D-808 1 x 18650 Micro USB
Eton Satellit 4 x AA NiMH Bus

 

I don’t have runtime figures. I just charge when indicated on the radio’s display and carry a spare USB battery to charge the radio in case.

Antenna and Backlit

All four radios have an extensible whip antenna (what else would you expect). Also, all four radios have a 3.5 mm socket for an external antenna. The only radio with an antenna attenuator switch is the Satellit.

All four radios have backlit. But a feature that none of the other radios has is the ability with the PL-330 to toggle the backlit between “always on” or “automatic off”. Just hold and press the 5 button to toggle between the two modes. For comparison, the Satellit has the nicest illuminated display of all four, while the D-808 is way too bright.

Supported Radio Bands

The PL-330 supports the following radio bands:

  • Long Wave (153-513 kHz)
  • Medium Wave (520-1710 kHz or 522-1620 kHz)
  • Short Wave (1711-29999 kHz)
  • FM broadcast (64-108 MHz)

Radio Band and Demodulation Selection

To enable or disable the LW-band you must long press the 2 button when the radio is powered off. When the radio is powered on and LW has been enabled you can select between LW and MW by short press of the MW/LW button.

The American or Rest of World MW-band plan can be toggled by long press the 3 button when powered off. When the radio is powered on you can select between MW by short press of the MW/LW button.

To select the regional FM-band plan you should long press the 0 button when the radio is powered off. When the radio is powered on the FM-band can be selected by short press FM/ST. button.

When the radio is powered on the SW-band can be selected by short press < or > button.

In LW, MW and SW bands de-modulation can be AM, SSB and AM synchronous (SYNC). A short press of the SSB button toggles between AM and SSB. A long press of the SSB button toggles between AM/SSB and AM synchronous mode.

A nice feature within the SW band is that you can quickly skip to pre-determined broadcast or HAM bands. In AM and SSB mode you can skip to the desired band by pressing < or > button. The following bands can be selected and indicated in the display:

  • AM (broadcast) bands: 120m, 90m,75m, 60m, 49m, 41m,31m25m, 22m, 19m, 16m, 13m, 11m
  • SSB (HAM) bands: 160m LSB, 80m LSB, 60m, LSB, 40m LSB, 30m USB, 24m USB, 20m USB, 17m USB, 15m USB, 12m USB, 10m USB

Manual Tuning and Step Sizes

There is one (digital) TUNING dial for all tuning operation in any radio band. It only tunes up and down the bands and has no other function. (That makes tuning with the PL-330 so easy compared to the other three radios with multifunction dials.) Depending on the selected band and de-modulation the tuning steps can be altered by the STEP button.

In the LW and MW bands for AM demodulation the step size can be toggled between 1 kHz and 10/9 kHz by short press of the STEP button.

In SW for AM demodulation the step size can be toggled between 1 kHz and 5 kHz by short press of the STEP button.

In the SW band for SSB and synchronous mode the step size can be toggled between 10 Hz, 1 kHz and 5 kHz by short press of the STEP button. My other three portable radios, but only plus or minus 1 kHz of the actual frequency in steps of 10Hz. The PL-330 has continuous fine tuning in SSB; you can tune the entire SW band up and down in steps of 10 Hz. However, I noticed that the step size can change from 10 Hz to 50 Hz in case you turn the TUNING dial fast.

In the FM band the step size can be toggled between 100 kHz and 10 kHz by short press of the STEP button.

Bandwidth Settings

For AM and SSB you can change the bandwidth by pressing the AM BW button, turn the VOLUME dial to the desired bandwidth and press the AM BW button again.

  • LW/MW band, AM bandwidth selection: 2.5 kHz, 3.5 kHz, 5.0, 9.0 kHz kHz
  • SW band, AM bandwidth selection: 2.5 kHz, 3.5 kHz, 5.0 kHz
  • SSB bandwidth selection: 0.5 kHz, 1.2 kHz, 2.2 kHz, 3.0 kHz, 4.0 kHz

Easy Tuning Mode or ETM and Memories

I decided to purchase the PL-330 because of my good and bad experience with the GP5-SSB (PL-365). The PL-365 is super portable and I think ETM is great for occasional shortwave listening. However, without direct frequency entry the GP5-SSAB is a nightmare to operate just now and then. Now the PL-330 has an enhanced version of ETM:  ETM+. No other radio has such a feature and I think ETM+ is fantastic.

ETM + provides 24 ETM banks that are chosen automatically based on the hour. Every hour you can press and hold the ETM button to initiate a (new or renewed) shortwave scan. It will display “E” plus the hour in 24 hours format like E00 to E23 depending on the time. When you quick press the ETM button it recalls the memory bank according to the time. As an example, when you quick press the ETM button at 15:24h it will recall bank E15. Then you can select the memory locations stored in the bank by turning the TUNING dial.

To toggle between ETM and Tuning mode press the ETM button.

In addition to ETM memories, the PL-330 has a lot of memories but lacks alpha tags. I really have difficulties remembering what I put in those memories. I hardly use them. The only one of the four that has alpha tags is the Eton Satellit, that makes things a lot easier.

Memories can be automatically populated in a bank separate from the ETM banks by using the Automatic Tuning and Storage (ATS) function. All four radios have ATS and I think it’s only convenient for FM. It works like:

  1. Press FM/ST. to select FM Band
  2. Press and hold FM/ST. to start ATS
  3. Use the TUNING dial to select from the stored FM stations

To toggle between Memory and Frequency tuning mode simply press the VM/VF button.

Bugs or Features

With the DISPLAY button you can change the upper right part of the display between:

  • Signal strength
  • Clock
  • Preset (only in VM Mode)
  • Alarm time

The display always returns to signal strength after a few seconds. Except if time is chosen with a long press of the DISPLAY button. Nevertheless, the display returns to signal strength after applying any operation, including volume change. I’m not sure if this is a feature or a bug.

When using a headphone and changing volume, sometimes the sound is cut off. By changing the volume again, it comes back. Seems like a bug, not a feature.

I tried AM synchronous mode. It works like on the Satellit: poor. I would recommend to make this mode hidden or make it work well.

Universal Serial Bus

When connecting the radio with an USB cable to a PC, its operating system does not show any connection information. If the radio would have USB logic apart from charging, connection information would have showed up. I assume there is no way to update firmware via USB.

Hidden Features

Without an English manual, and maybe even with a Chinese manual I couldn’t understand all functions.

When the radio is powered off:

  • Press and hold VF/VM shows all items of the display.
  • Press and hold 8 toggles display clock in “HH:MM” and “HH:MM: SS”
  • Press and hold 3 in MW/LW band toggles between internal ferrite and external whip antenna
  • Press and hold Enter shows “dEL ALL”, probably delete all (except what is all)?
  • Press and hold M shows numbers, no idea.
  • Press and hold 0 shows “PO []”, no idea.

There seems to be a combination to show the firmware version.

Missing Features

RDS display would be welcome. Even though the PL-330 shares the radio chip with the D-808 and the Satellit, the PL-330 does not display FM Radio Data System (RDS) on its display. Backlit buttons would be a welcome for operation in the dark. (Although you’ll quickly get used to the button layout.)

Features I didn’t miss

None of the four radios has DAB+ or HD radio. For DAB+ reception I use a Sony XDR-S41D and I can’t receive HD radio in Europe. DAB+ and HD radio could make the radio way more expensive and I prefer good SW performance anyway.

The possibility to upgrade firmware would be convenient. But I understand constraints of costs and the liability of bricking the radio.

The Satellit and D-808 support the Air band (108-135 MHz). That is ok for occasional listening to one single channel, but forget about channel scanning. I have my Bearcat UBC XLT125 VHF/UHF scanner for that purpose.

Conclusion

Like I started, I’m an occasional shortwave listener. I couldn’t really tell the difference in radio performance between the four radios. Of course, the best radio is the one you have with you. And because of its size, easy operation with a single tuning dial and features like ETM+, the PL-330 is probably the best portable shortwave receiver at the moment (for me ?). Thanks to Tecsun!

Jaap de Goede

October 2020


Many thanks, Jaap, for taking the time and care to put together this excellent overview of the Tecsun PL-330! This will serve nicely as an operation manual. Your father would be proud of you! 🙂

Readers: Please note that you can also download Jaap’s PL-330 guide as a printable PDF document by clicking here. The PDF has even better formatting as Jaap has used operation manual styled fonts to indicate button labels and functions. 

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Tecsun PL-330: A quick update and an important note before you buy

We posted an update about the new Tecsun PL-330 in late April 2020. While we didn’t have a lot of details, it’s worth reading.

We still don’t have a lot of details (as of today, July 3, 2020) but readers have been contacting me and commenting recently with links to online retailers who are already selling the PL-330.

SWLing Post contributor, Babis, shared a link to retailer (Taoboa.com, see above), this website with more information, and a review on this page.

Before you buy

To be clear: I am not placing an order for the Tecun PL-330 yet.

Indeed, as I mentioned in a previous post, my trusted Tecsun contact informed me that all of the new portables–the PL-990, H-501, and PL-330–are first being released as a “domestic” or pilot version in China. The pilot version is not the final and fully-updated/upgraded international/export version.

I will make an announcement here on the SWLing Post when the international/export versions are available for purchase.

To be clear, I can’t comment on the performance of the domestic models, but I do understand that the export models will likely have better specifications and even updated front panels/functions.

I also understand that the PL-990 will likely be the first export model in terms of availability.

Stay tuned! I’ll post any/all updates here on the Post.


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The Tecsun PL-330: Some details about this compact shortwave portable in development

Source: tecsun.com.cn

Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post readers who shared a link to this website (in Chinese) with photos and details of the new Tecsun PL-330. Note: The server hosting the PL-330 page has been unreliable the past few days.

Some of you might recall the PL-330 in photos of the new Tecsun product line we posted last year. Recently, a handful of preliminary working prototypes have been produced,  so I reached out to my trusted Tecsun contact for more information. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Position in Tecsun product line

In terms of the Tecsun product line, the PL-330 appears to be the successor to the venerable Tecsun PL-310ET and/or PL-380.

The PL-330 will have features these legacy Tecsun models do not have, namely:

  • synchronous detection,
  • single-sideband reception,
  • and an upgraded ETM (auto tune and store) feature.

It also appears the SSB tuning steps could be as fine as 10 Hz. Most impressive, if true.

Size

Size comparison: PL-330 (left), PL-990 (middle), H-501 (right)

I refer to radios in this size class as “ultra-compact.”

The PL-330 measures 139 × 85 × 26 millimeters (5.5 x 3.3 x 1 inches). Its form factor is very similar to the PL-310ET, but much thinner in profile. The total depth of the radio is only 26 mm.

I love the idea of an even thinner profile, although this certainly limits the type of internal battery that can be used.

Battery

The PL-330 is powered by a single BL-5C lithium battery.

In my world, this is a bit of a negative, but I’m sure the BL-5C was one of the only viable battery options for a radio that’s only 26mm thick.

On the plus side, the BL-5C is widely available, affordable, and can be charged internally.

On the negative side?

Well, I find that the overall capacity doesn’t match that of, say, three AA batteries. Also, I find that the battery’s longevity (meaning, how many charge cycles it can handle) is not that impressive–arguably worse than any other rechargeable battery system I’ve used.

Another reason I prefer AA batteries in compact portables is I know no matter where I travel, I can easily purchase them at almost any retailer, airport, or even hotel, in a pinch. In the past, when I’ve traveled with radios that use the BL-5C, I simply carried a fully-charged spare in a poly zip-lock bag (to protect the battery contacts from inadvertently shorting.

In addition, when I fly, I like to carry as few Lithium batteries as possible.

Perhaps, however, I can find a very high quality BL-5C to use in the PL-330? I would appreciate any leads from readers.

Performance

Since the preliminary prototypes were more or less mechanical prototypes and lacked most of the features planned for this model, there are no performance reports as of yet. In fact, I would be skeptical of any reports you might read in advance of the final production model.

Availability

Like the PL-990 and H-501, there are no reliable estimates for availability or shipping yet. The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down this process. Most likely, the PL-330 will be released after the PL-990 and H-501, but that isn’t even certain.

Stay tuned!

The PL-330 will have a number of other features and specs, but these are early days and I prefer sticking with what we do know now. As soon as I learn more, I’ll post updates–bookmark the tag PL-330.

Note this reddit thread with an English translation of the Chinese page I mentioned at the beginning of this article (thanks, Tom Daly). It mentions more details, but again, it’s such early days I prefer to stick with what has been confirmed. As with any product in development, a number of changes could occur before the first production run.

Of course, I will review and evaluate the export version of the PL-330 when as soon as it’s available. Stay tuned!


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Photo of the new Tecsun PL-330, PL-990, and H-501

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Lee, who writes:

Hi Thomas, I just found this photo [above] on Reddit of three new radios from Tecsun: the PL-330, the PL-990, and the H-501. I knew about the PL-990, but I didn’t realize there was a PL-330 or H-501. Any inside info? 73, Lee

Thanks for your message, Lee. I had not seen the photo of the PL-330 until you sent this one.

The PL-330, I assume, is the latest in the PL-3XX line which has primarily been DSP-based ultralight broadcast receivers. I believe only one model, the PL-365/CountyComm GP5-SSB, had SSB capabilities. The PL-330 appears to have dedicated LSB and USB mode buttons on the front panel (lower right in photo below).

Since both the Digitech AR-1780 and XHDATA D-808 both have selectable sideband, I’m not surprised the new PL-330 does as well. I’m very curious if the PL-990 will be priced competitively like PL-3XX models have been in the past–perhaps below $80 US.

The PL-330 certainly appears to have taken design cues from the PL-990 in terms of overall control layout.

The Tecsun H-501 is a new model that was previously referred to as the Tecsun S-9900.  I believe a pilot run has been made of the PL-990 and H-501–possibly the PL-330 as well.

I will be reviewing each of these radios as soon as they’re available here in the US.

Thanks for the tip, Lee!

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