Tag Archives: PL-660

Portable SSB radios for people who are visually impaired

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Svein Tore, who writes:

I’m blind. The type of shortwave radio I like best, is the analogue type with a tuning wheel, because I don’t need sight to use it, and I have full control over the receiver.

I would like to buy a radio with SSB, but it seems that all of the radios with SSB are digital, and you need to see the display to use the radio.

Are there any analogue radios with SSB?

If not, what is the simplest radio receiver with SSB?

I’m looking for a radio with as few functions and menus as possible, but it should have SSB.

I’m looking for a small or medium sized receiver, but if you are thinking of a big radio that seems to be right for me, please tell me about it.

Perhaps I have given you an impossible question now? I’m sorry for that.

Thanks 🙂

Greetings from Norway.

Svein Tore

Excellent question, Svien. I thought it would make sense to share your inquiry with the SWLing Post community as I know we have other readers who are visually impaired. Readers, please comment with any suggestions you may have.

To my knowledge, there are no analog shortwave radios with a BFO (for SSB) that are in production today. There are, however, numerous analog models from the 60s, 70s and 80s with a BFO (two examples: the Sony ICF-5800H and the Panasonic RF-2200).

My trusty Zenith Trans Oceanic will always be a part of my radio collection (Click to enlarge)

In fact, my first proper radio was a Zenith Transoceanic. I’ll never forget taking it to our local RadioShack, when I was eight years old, to ask one of the employees (who I knew was a DXer) what the heck “this strange BFO knob” does!

There is the analog Sony ICF-EX5MKII that SWLing Post contributor Troy Riedel reviewed, but I don’t believe it has a BFO–only a synchronous detector which can be switched between upper and lower sidebands. Perhaps a reader can confirm this.

Since I can’t recommend a current analog model, I do have a digital solution that I believe may work for you:

The Tecsun PL-660

Listening to Channel Z in a parking lot with the Tecsun PL-660.

Listening to Channel Z in a parking lot with the Tecsun PL-660.

 

Though not an analog radio, the menus on the PL-660 are not “deep”–most buttons simply toggle features. There is no hardware “switch” to change bands, but I think you would find it easy enough to use the direct frequency entry keypad to navigate across the spectrum. The SSB feature works more like an analog radio as it has a BFO dial on the right side of the radio. The buttons and dials are also raised and tactile. Best yet, the tuning sounds like an analog radio since there is no muting between frequency changes.

There are a number of other portables out there that are about as simple to operate as the PL-660, but I like the price point of the PL-660 and its overall performance characteristics. For a little less money, and a similar form factor and function set–minus a synchronous detector function–you might also consider the Tecsun PL-600 as well.

Again, I’m hoping Post readers might chime in with even better suggestions! Please comment!

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Video: How to calibrate the Tecsun PL-660 frequency offset

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Mander, who writes:

I’ve recently really been enjoying swling.com. Thanks for having such a great resource online with shortwave radio and hardware reviews, tips and more! I started listening to shortwave on an old Philips portable receiver back in the late 70’s as a teenager. Recently, after decades of not listening to shortwave, I decided to buy an Eton ‘Grundig Edition’ Satellit radio and in no time at all, I had also acquired a C.Crane Skywave SSB and now, within the last week, a Tecsun PL-660.

[…]I thought I’d record a video showing how one can calibrate AM, FM, SW wide-bandwidth as well as SW narrow-bandwidth independently, and how to reset those calibrations back to factory default. I have not heard it mentioned anywhere that one can calibrate both wide and narrow bandwidth SW modes independently.

Online, I have read about many people being disappointed in their PL-660’s wide-bandwidth frequency calibration, where often being on-station results in the frequency being up to 5 kHz too low, and it seems many simply return their radios as defective, not realizing how easy it is to recalibrate. This is the first “instructional” video of this sort that I’ve ever posted online, so you’ll have to pardon if I am perhaps not explaining things clearly enough:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Excellent video, Mike! You’ve done a fine job making the explanation clear and easy to follow. Thank you for sharing!

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Comparing the XHDATA D-808, Digitech AR-1780 and Tecun PL-660 on shortwave

On Friday, I managed to set aside an hour to finally do a video comparison of the Digitech AR-1780 and the new XHDATA D-808.

I placed a table in my driveway, far away from any source of RFI, and set up the radios in identical configurations: same orientation, antennas fully-extended, same AM bandwidth (4.0 kHz), same audio levels, etc. For good measure, I also included the venerable Tecsun PL-660 in the mix.

This was still daytime listening, so all of the stations were from 31 meters and up.

Apologies in advance: somehow the cord from my monitoring headphones is in the shot on some of these videos! I’m still getting used to the new Zoom Q2n video camera:

WRMI 9,455 kHz

Click here to view on YouTube.

WWV 15 MHz

Click here to view on YouTube.

Deutsche Welle 15,200 kHz

Click here to view on YouTube.

Afia Darfur 9,825 kHz

Click here to view on YouTube.

I should add that QSB was slow and deep on Friday. Twice I had to re-shoot videos because the station simply faded into oblivion.

I plan to do a few more comparisons with the XHDATA D-808 and Digitech AR-1780 soon as I’m very curious how SSB reception may differ.

Please comment with your observations. Which radio did you prefer? I’ll hold my comments for now.

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Tecsun PL-660: A simple hack to scan the air band

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bruce F, who writes:

HI Thomas, I thought I would put this idea out to your site – in case it isn’t already there. It’s a brilliant solution to the apparent lack of a working Air Band scan function on the Tecsun PL-660.  Note – I did not come up with this idea, but came across it in a Yahoo group.

It IS possible to scan the Air Band on the PL660, as long as you have picked out WHICH Air Band frequencies are in use in your area. There are websites which list these frequencies for each airport:

Here’s how to set up the PL-660:

  1. Pick an empty page in the Memory.
  2. Put in a shortwave frequency in the first empty space; the “00” slot.
  3. Then fill in the succeeding spaces on that page with the Air Band frequencies you’ve chosen.
  4. Now go back to the “00” slot and hold down the scan button.

Works on my set!

What a cool trick!  I’ve lent my PL-660 to a friend, but as soon as I get it back, I’ll also try this trick by setting up a page dedicated to my local aviation frequencies!

Thanks, Bruce!

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eBay Deal: Tecsun PL-660 for 50.90 GBP shipped

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, George T, who writes:

Just a tip that I found a bargain price on eBay for a new Tecsun PL-660. The price is £50.90 with free P&P…best I’ve ever seen. I grabbed one. The unit ships from China. The seller has a 97.4% positive rating and apparently sells a high volume. Many of his negatives are about shipping time. I suspect the shipping is basic post from China, so I don’t expect it to arrive anytime soon.  Also, eBay will back the purchase. It appears they have at least a few more available.

Oh yes…the seller notes they ship worldwide with the following exceptions: “Germany, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Indonesia, United States, Burkina Faso, Lesotho, China” What an intriguing set of exceptions!

Click here to view deal on eBay.

Thanks for the tip, George!

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Tecsun PL-660 Hidden Feature: FM Calibration

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Rick B, who writes:

I just thought I’d share with you a hidden function I discovered documented on the web for the Tecsun PL-660. It’s how to calibrate the FM band if you have a radio that is off frequency.

As my current PL-660 is accurate on FM, I haven’t had to try this myself. But perhaps it could save someone else from having to return/exchange a radio.

http://kaito.us/miscellaneous/qa/how-to-calibrate-the-pl660-on-the-fm-band.html

“Re-calibrating FM, radio needs to be on and set to FM band. Tune to the desired frequency/station you wish to listen to, press “SYNC” for about 3 seconds back light will flash. Tune up until the frequency/station sounds more clear press “1” to confirm re-calibration. If done correctly the correct frequency/station will be displayed on the display. Keep the battery in for all the time…”

Very cool!  Thank you for sharing the tip, Rick!

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Intek PL-660 on sale at Maplin

Intek-PL-660

If you live in the UK, you might take note that the retailer, Maplin, has the Intek PL-660 on sale for 59.99 GBP. Though I’ve never held an Intek PL-660 in my hands, I’m pretty certain it’s simply a rebadged Tecsun PL-660. (Readers, please correct me if I’m wrong.)

Click here to view the Intek PL-660 at Maplin.

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