Tag Archives: PL-880

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.

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.

Garcia discovers two positives about Tecsun PL-880 sleep timer

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Garcia (PU3HAG), who writes:

Not sure if you noticed this before, for me it was a glad surprise how well the sleep timer works on Tecsun PL-880.

To use the sleep timer, you press the power button for a about 2s-3s until you see the timer, using the tuning knob you can choose several options between 1 and 120 minutes.

Neat finding #1: the timer settings is kept between power cycles. So, you only have to set it once (in some radios, you need to set the timer for each use).

Neat finding #2: when using the timer, you would expect – as every other radio – the radio to shut off immediately along with ‘pop’ on the headphones. This is not the case with PL-880. When the timer kicks in, the radio gently fades out the audio for 20s-30s and then shuts off. No pops to hear. Amazing.

That is brilliant! I never use the sleep timer on the PL-880, but perhaps I will now. As you state, most sleep timers simply turn off the radio without warning and include an audio pop–not great if you’re wearing headphones and trying to sleep. Very happy to hear the PL-880 slowly fades. Happy dreams!

Troy updates the Tecsun PL-880 hidden features reference sheet

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel, who has recently added the hidden bandwidth adjustment feature to Cap Tux’s excellent PL-880 reference sheet.

Here are links to download the updated sheet:

I will also add this to the Complete list of Tecsun PL-880 hidden features page: a place where you can comment if you note any previously unpublished PL-880 hidden features.

Thanks again, Troy!

Tecsun PL-880: Richard shares winter DXing notes

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who lives in New Brunswick, Canada, and sent the following update earlier this month:

I often go outdoors to escape the RFI generated in and around the house, which can be even worse during the holidays with all the LED Christmas displays.

Trouble is, the snow is getting a bit deep for the trek to the back of the cleared part of my yard.

The attached photos show my setup on New Year’s Day to record Stephen Cooper’s DigiDX program over WRMI.

One thing about DXing and SWLing outside in the winter is that the knobs on the Tecsun PL-880 can become stiff to turn if it’s too cold and the battery doesn’t last as long as when it’s warm outside. Best approach is to go out with a fully charged battery, tune to a particular frequency and record the audio for later playback.

[…]I’ve also noted on a couple of occasions that the Tecsun will shut itself off after a few hours in really cold weather (around -20°C). And it’s not that the battery power is exhausted. I can turn it back on manually and it shows plenty of battery capacity remaining.

Thanks for sharing your notes, Richard! It certainly looks like a winter wonderland at your home. I like how you’ve made such a lightweight, portable station that protects the PL-880 from moisture.

Paul Walker also uses the PL-880 extensively in Galena, Alaska–in some very cold temps as well. Perhaps we can compare notes.

Post readers: What radios do you use outdoors in winter conditions? Please feel free to share your experiences!

By the way: I should offer my sincere apologies for sharing beautiful winter wonderland scenes while many of our dear readers in Australia are coping with a sweltering heatwave! 🙂 Perhaps we should also be sharing notes about high temp outdoor DXing!?