Tag Archives: PL-880

Recommending the Tecsun PL-880 over the Sangean ATS-909X

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Direwolf131, who recently commented on one of the Sangean ATS-909X reviews in the Post archives.

Direwolf131 writes:

I’m a few years after Steve’s comments but I will have a go at it, at least anecdotally speaking. I’ve owned a half dozen Sangean ATS-909’s, which includes two of the 909X’s, and one super-909 from radiolabs. The 909X is the finest looking portable I have ever seen or lain hands upon, and that includes several Sony’s that I still think of as neat looking, I had the white cabinet 909X first and then the much more striking (to my eyes) black cabinet 909X after returning the first one due to rock hard buttons.

They are both extremely attractive, and exceptionally well made, especially by today’s cheap Chinese standards. I must confess that I also still find the original 909’s almost equally neat looking, though not quite sporting the same robustness of build.

The 909x’s sound wonderful on MW & FM, and its a decent performer reaching out to fairly distant FM stations. Unfortunately that is largely the best of the radio, its performance on MW & SW is best described as pathetic, and not just due to being deaf, it has a lot of noise, even when attached to the superb RF systems tuned EMF antenna. The older 909 is also to my experience substantially better then the 909X when matched up to a serious outboard antenna, such as the above EMF, I found this difference especially surprising, its not even close.

The PL-880 from Tecsun blows it away on SW and MW sensitivity, while also offering the superb advantage of genuinely ECSS tuning anything on MW & SW, you cannot decently receive any MW or SW signal via ECSS with the 909X as its SSB can only be fine tuned to 40 Hz, which is terribly disappointing, you can zero beat the little Tecsun easily. serious ECSS capability is to my mind a much more attractive option then a sync circuit, and unfortunately with the beautiful little Sangean 909X you get neither.

I do hope anyone who happens upon this pays attention, because for the money the PL-880 is far and away the better performer, in fact my little 1103 from Degen/Kaito out performs the 909X, as does my Grundig Yacht Boy-400, and my Sangean ATS-803A. Its my great hope that Sangean seriously upgrades these deficiencies in the otherwise gorgeous 909X, its circuitry is noisier than the old 909 and its not nearly not as sterling a performer hooked up to household current and a decent outboard antenna as the old 909, its 40 hz tuning SSB once a great reason to buy a 909, is no longer competitive, especially against the superb PL-880 which again is capable of excellent ECSS even by Icom R75 standards, Sangean would do well to drastically improve the SSB performance of the 909X.

I hope this helps, I liked the original review up top, but again its several years old, and the ATS-909X is now known to be clearly outclassed by the more affordable Tecsun, actually by the PL-660 to boot, I really hope Sangean addresses the issues, its such a beautiful receiver, you just want it to be as good as it looks, unfortunately it’s not!

Thank you for sharing your evaluation and comments!

The Sangean ATS-909X is an interesting radio indeed. Almost everyone loves the design, audio and overall quality of the 909X.  Yet performance reviews are somewhat polarizing: some 909X owners claim the 909X has strong performance characteristics on shortwave, while others believe it’s almost deaf. Your findings coincide with mine from the Mega Review where I pitted the ATS-909X against the Tecsun PL-880, PL-660 and Sony ICF-SW7600GR. In that review, where I relied on a whip antenna, the 909X was noticeably less sensitive than the other three competitors. Based on the premium one pays for the 909X, I was surprised.

I have learned over the years, however, that the 909X can handle larger outdoor antennas and doesn’t easily overload. Additionally, the 909X requires a fresh set of batteries for optimal performance/sensitivity. Some users have even modified the radio with a 4:1 impedance transformer–click here to read a post/comments about this mod.

I would love to see Sangean produce an updated/upgraded version of the 909X, but at this point I’m not exactly holding my breath. I’ve heard that they’re slowly pulling out of the market. Hope I’m proven wrong because I’d love to see a new shortwave set from Sangean.

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Tom praises Anon-Co’s “first-rate” customer service

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Tom Adams (W9LBB), who left the following comment on our Tecsun PL-880 review:

Just a note re. kudos to Anon-co re. customer support.

I got a PL880 late last year, and LOVED it; so much so that I ordered a second one, the “special edition” version, both radios from Anon-co.

While waiting for the second radio to be delivered, my first one developed a bug; the AM broadcast band was dead at turn-on. Sometimes switching to FM and back to AM made it work… not good.

The second radio arrived, and it worked on short wave for about 5 minutes, and went dead. Turning it off and waiting a while brought it back… but it would die in 5 – 10 minutes again.

I wrote Anon-co about the problems, and Anna addressed the problems. After the usual fixes (reset, pulling the battery for a half hour and reinserting to reboot the processor) failed, she had me send both radios back for factory service. Anon-co covered the cost of the FedEx to get them back to Hong Kong.

A half hour ago I got a note from Anna.

The newest radio is confirmed dead; they’re replacing it.

The older radio (sent for repairs under warranty) seems to have developed a bug that the technicians have never seen before. They say that diagnosis and repair could be very difficult… therefore they are replacing THAT radio too!

I’m a happy camper with that solution… and I can’t praise Anon-co and Anna too highly! FIRST RATE customer service!!!

Thanks for sharing this feedback, Tom. I’ve had the same experience with Anon-Co over the many years I’ve done business with them. Anna is an amazing customer-focused agent and they stand by their products each and every time.

There are so few companies who retail shortwave radios these days it’s nice to know that Tecsun’s primary distributor in Hong Kong is one of the best in the business! We can buy from Anon-Co with confidence.

Click here to check out Anon-Co’s website.

Click here to check out Anon-Co’s listings on eBay.

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Tecsun PL-880 hidden feature/hack: 1 kHz bandwidth on shortwave

[Note: This procedure was updated and simplified by Guillermo on 22 December 2017]

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

I own the PL-880 and just discovered a new feature : a 1.0 kHz bandwidth mode on shortwave (SW only not in MW).

The procedure to get it is as follows:

  1. Turn on the radio and tune any frecuency on SW . There is no need to connect or disconnect an external antenna and turn on or off the radio during this procedure.
  2. Be sure that on SW the 4 button feature(press 4 for about 2 seconds) is ON and 9 button feature(press 9 for about 2 seconds) indicates a value of 13 or more and not less than 10.
  3. Then turn OFF 4 button feature and then ON again . Press BW button and see the 1.0khz new BW on the screen. Now you can use it permanently on SW and ALSO on MW , UNTIL you press BW button again .

Well, I hope you understand this description–if not please let me know, and tell me if it works on your unit, or it is just works on mine.

Thank you, Guillermo! I see where this is somewhat of a fragile adjustment in that a number of actions could change the bandwidth back to a previous setting, but nonetheless is quite a fascinating hack/hidden feature! Thank you and I’ll add this to our list of PL-880 hidden features.

Post readers: please comment if you can successfully enable the 1.0 kHz bandwidth on your unit.  Please comment with your radio’s manufacture or purchase date if possible.

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Video: Shortwave shootout with the Tecsun S-8800

After enjoying an afternoon testing the Tecsun S-8800 on the Blue Ridge Parkway this past weekend, I decided to return to the parkway yesterday and test the S-8800’s shortwave performance.

I carved out about two hours of my afternoon and spent the entire time comparing the S-8800 to the Tecsun PL-880 and the Sony ICF-SW7600GR. I tested the radios on several shortwave bands and in both AM and SSB modes.

On Sunday, we discovered that mediumwave performance is lacking on the S-8800. Not so on shortwave! Check out this short video:

Click here to view on YouTube.

In my comparisons, the Tecsun S-8800 has consistently outperformed the PL-880 and Sony ICF-SW7600GR on the shortwave bands. The AGC is pretty stable and sounds much like that of the PL-880 when QSB (fading) is present. Sensitivity is better than the PL-880, though, so the S-8800 can dig those signals out of the noise a little better.

Note, too, I had to pick up both the PL-880 and ‘7600GR  in my hand to obtain the best performance–that additional grounding gave each a slight boost. Quite common for portables. The S-8800 didn’t require this.

After I returned home yesterday, it struck me that perhaps a longer telescopic whip gave the S-8800 an advantage. Turns out, it’s only three inches longer than the PL-880’s whip.

Next, I need to spend a little time with the S-8800 mapping out any birdies on HF–a tedious process. I hope to start on that today.

To follow updates on this yet-to-be-released receiver, follow the tag: Tecsun S-8800.

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

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The Tecsun PL-880: triple conversion architecture

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Larry Thompson, who writes:

There’s been some confusion on my part whether the Tecsun PL-880 is a dual conversion or triple conversion receiver. Amazon and eBay list the receiver as double conversion, whereas Universal Radio doesn’t mention either.

After scouring the Instruction Manual, I was pleased to learn that the PL-880 uses the Silicon Labs si4735 DSP microchip and has 4 Intermediate Frequencies.

1st IF: 55.845 MHz
2nd IF: 10.7 MHz
3rd IF: 45 kHz
4th IF: 128 kHz (exclusively for FM)

To me, that looks like a triple conversion architecture. The combination of the DSP microchip, and the triple conversion would explain why my Tecsun PL-880 is so much more sensitive and selective than my Sony ICF-SW8600GR.

My CountyCom GP-5/SSB emergency portable also has the same Silicon Labs DSP chip and it is almost as sensitive as the Tecsun PL-880, far more sensitive than the Sony. I’ve owned a Japan Radio JRC-525 and a Yaesu FT-900AT transceiver for many years, and the PL-880 digs out weak signals better than both those tabletop receivers, both dual conversion.

To quell the speculation, yesterday I contacted Anna at Anon-Co, the worldwide distributor for Tecsun radios. Her quick reply confirms my suspicions that the Tecsun PL-880 is indeed a triple conversion receiver. That would explain why it blows my Sony ICF-SW7600GR out of the water in senitivity and its ability to pull out weak stations.

Among all the other great attributes, this is an welcome discovery and one never mentioned in the specs by the various retailers of this receiver!

Thank you Larry, for shedding light on this–Anna would certainly know.

Your note makes me realize that I really should order a second, current production model PL-880. My PL-880 is from one of the first batches produced. I imagine I could benefit from some of the firmware tweaks that have been made to this receiver over time.  Perhaps it would even be a good time to compare the 1st generation with the current generation?

I just checked and Anon-Co is selling the PL-880 on eBay for $153.99 US shipped.

Have any SWing Post readers compared early and late model PL-880 units? Please comment.

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