Tag Archives: Portable Radio

BELKA-DX: A Pocket-Sized Radio for Pocket Change

Well, not pocket change for most people, but I couldn’t pass up a clever headline!

I want to alert SWLing Post readers to a lower cost option for the new BELKA-DX than the Mobimax source: the ecommerce web site of Alex Buevky (EU1ME) who designed the radio.

In early February I bought the original BELKA DSP from the designer’s site, for a total of $117 USD. It arrived safely in 10 days to my Washington State address, with free tracked shipping included.

Yesterday I ordered the new BELKA-DX from the same web site, and the grand total was 340 BYN, or in US Dollars, $128, tracked shipping included.

If I had ordered from Mobimax, the total would have been 176.91 Euro, or $205.76 USD. That price includes FedEx shipping, the only available option to the USA.

Purchasing from the BELKA-DX designer’s web site in Belarus saved me nearly $78, and I’m confident I’ll receive this new model in about a week and a half as before (hopefully no COVID-19 related delays).

I had no issues this time or previously with my payment being “flagged” for security concerns. I used my PayPal VISA card and the transaction completed without issues.

For more information on this tiny powerhouse receiver, see Georges Ringotte’s (F6DFZ) brief review here on the SWLing Post.

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

 

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Proper Radio Prepping: Keep a kit that is always ready to hit the field!

My Red Oxx Micro Manager packed with a full radio field kit

Yesterday, my family packed a picnic lunch and took a drive through Madison County, North Carolina. It was an impromptu trip. Weather was forecast to be pretty miserable that afternoon, but we took the risk because we all wanted to get out of the house for a bit.

Although that morning I had no intention of performing a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation, my family was supportive of fitting in a little radio-activity, so I jumped on the opportunity!

A quick glance at the POTA map and I determined that the Sandy Mush State Game Land (K-6949) was on our travel route. Better yet, the timing worked out to be ideal for a lunch picnic and before most of the rain would move into the area.

Ready for radio adventure

I had no time to prepare, but that didn’t matter because I always have a radio kit packed, fully-charged, and ready for the field.

My Red Oxx Micro Manager EDC pack (mine is an early version without pleated side pockets) holds an Elecraft KX2 field and antenna kit with room to spare (see photo at top of page).

The Micro Manager pack easily accommodates the entire kit

This 20 year old blue stuff sack is dedicated to antenna-hanging. It holds a reel of fishing line and a weight that I use to hang my end-fed antenna in a tree or on my Jackite telescoping fiberglass pole. The sack also accommodates a 10′ coax cable.

The Elecraft KX2 transceiver, EFT Trail-Friendly Antenna, hand mic, CW paddles, C.Crane earphones, and wide variety of connectors and cables all fit in this padded Lowe Pro pack:

The advantage to having a simple, organized radio kit at the ready is that everything inside has its own dedicated space, so there’s no digging or hunting for items when I’m ready to set up and get on the air.

This level of organization also makes it easy to visually inspect the kit–missing items stand out.

Yesterday I parked our car at one of the Sandy Mush Game Land parking areas, deployed my field antenna, and was on the air in a matter of seven minutes at the most.

Hunter Parking Area Sign

Technically, this should read “Activator” parking area! (A questionable inside joke for POTA folks!)

We planned for heavy rain showers, so I fed the antenna line through the back of my car so that I could operate from the passenger seat up front.

I also brought my Heil Proset – K2 Boom Headset which not only produces better transmitted audio than the KX2 hand mic, but it frees up my hands to log stations with ease. This is especially important when operating in the front seat of a car!

The great thing about the KX2 is that it’s so compact, it can sit on my clipboard as I operate the radio (although typically I have an elastic strap securing it better). Since all of the KX2 controls are top-mounted, it makes operation a breeze even in winter weather while wearing gloves.

Since I routinely use the KX2 for shortwave radio broadcast listening as well, I know I always have a radio “locked and loaded” and ready to hit the air. My 40/20/10 meter band end-fed antenna works well for the broadcast bands, as long as there is no strong local radio interference (RFI). When I’m faced with noisy conditions, I pack a mag loop antenna as well.

What’s in your radio go-kit?

Having a radio kit stocked and ready to go on a moment’s notice gives me a great sense of security, and not just for recreational ham and shortwave radio listening reasons.

Sometimes I travel in remote areas by car where I’m more than an hour away from the nearest town and where there is no mobile phone coverage.

If my car breaks down, I know I can always deploy my radio kit and get help from the ham radio community in a pinch. Herein lies the power of HF radio!

If you haven’t built a radio go-kit, I’d highly recommend doing so. Although I’m a bit of a pack geek, keep in mind that you don’t need to purchase special packs or bags for the job. Use what you already have first.

I’m plotting a detailed post about the anatomy of an HF radio field kit. In the meantime, I’m very curious how many of you in the SWLing Post community also have a radio kit at the ready–one based on a transceiver or receiver.  Please comment!

Better yet, feel free to send me details and photos about your kit and I’ll share them here on the Post!


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Let’s take a deep dive into a list of our favorite radios!

Over the past week, I asked the SWLing Post community if they’ve ever regretting parting with a radio, and then what radios they’ve owned that had the most “fun” factor.

The response from these two posts was pretty overwhelming.

I don’t actually check the SWLing Post viewer stats that often, but I was too curious: together, those two posts amounted to well over 20,000 unique pageviews in two days!

Obviously, I’m not the only radio nostalgic person around here!

These posts resonated so well, I didn’t want readers’ favorite models to be lost in the comments section. I decided to comb through the comments, make a list of all of the models, and link to sites and pages with more information and photos.

This is an interesting collection of radios since some are benchmark performers, while others much less so. Many were listeners’ first radios–the ones we cut our teeth on.

I would encourage you to read through the comments on our first and our second posts. Many great memories in there!

Below, you’ll find the full list of radios in alphabetical order, starting with receivers then moving to transceivers:


Receivers

AOR 7030

AOR AR8000

Drake 2-C (Photo: Eric McFadden)

Drake 2-C

Drake R8B

Eddystone 750

EH Scott SLR12B

Eton S350DL

Globetrotter V01

Grundig YB400

Hallicrafters SX-100 (Photo: Rick Post)

Hallicrafters SX-100

Hammarlund HQ-140

Heathkit GR-64

Heathkit GR-78

Heathkit SB-310

Icom IC-R2

Icom IC-R75

JRC NRD-515

JRC NRD-515

JRC NRD-345

Kaito KA1103/Degen DE1103

Kenwood R-1000

Knight Star Roamer

Palladium 949/469

Panasonic RF-2200

Panasonic RF-2200

Panasonic RF-2800

RCA AR-88

Realistic Astonaut 8

Rheinland 4953W

Realistic DX-160

Realistic DX-200

Realistic DX-300

Realistic DX-394 (Photo: RigPix)

Realistic DX-394

Realistic Patrolman 6

Realistic Patrolman 9

Sangean 803A/Realistic DX-440

Siemens Radio E309

Sony Earth Orbiter (CRF-5090)

Sony ICF-2001D

Sony ICF-SW1000T (Photo: Universal Radio)

Sony ICF-2010

Sony ICF-SW1

Sony ICF-SW1000T

Sony ICF-7600D

Sony ICF-SW7600

Sony ICF-SW7600GR

Sony ICF-SW7600GR

Sony ICR-4800

Unelco 1914

Wireless Set No.19 Mk III

Yaesu FR-50B

Yaesu FR-101D

Yaesu FRG-7

Yaesu FRG-7700

Transceivers/Transmitters

Heathkit HW-8 (Photo: Eric McFadden)

The Icom IC-735

Drake 2-NT

Heathkit HW-8

Index Labs QRP+

Icom IC-735

Marconi C100

National NCX-3 (Photo: Universal Radio)

National NCX 3

Yaesu FT-77

Yaesu FT-101B

Yaesu FT-817ND

Yaesu FT-857D


Many thanks to everyone who shared their favorite radios! I truly enjoyed checking out each of these models as I listed and linked to them. There were a number of unique models I had never seen before and many I had completely forgotten (like the Sony ICF-SW1000T)!

If you have more favorite models to share, feel free to comment here or on the original posts!


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Using amplified loop antennas with portable radios?

SWLing Post contributor, Klaus Boecker, sports a homebrew magnetic loop antenna on his balcony in Germany.

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

I have a question about loop antennas; specifically which type is “better,” passive magnetic loops or active electric loops?

I know, “It depends.”–?

I live in a ground-floor apartment, with a small porch, lots of RFI and restrictions against visible antennas. Also there are no trees within 75 ft of my porch, which faces on a parking lot. My radio is a Tecsun PL-660, which works okay inside with my 10-ft bare wire antenna hidden on the porch.

With a loop antenna, I’d like to mount the antenna on the porch at night and have a remote tuner/control inside because it’s very hot n humid here in Louisiana even after dark.

No doubt there are a number of magnetic loop antennas that could serve you well in your situation, Marty.

To answer your first question, though, you should search for a wideband amplified loop antenna since you’re only concerned with receiving.

Passive loops are great antennas on the shortwave bands–and easy to build–but they best serve ham radio operators who wish to transmit. Passive loops typically have a very narrow bandwidth that requires the operator to constantly tune the antenna when they tune the radio a few kHz. Most amplified wideband loops need no separate tuning mechanism.

Last year, I posted an article about choosing the right loop antenna for situations like yours where one has limited installation options.

Click here to read : Shortwave antenna options for apartments, flats and condos

Portables and amplified loops?

I do hesitate to encourage you to invest in an amplified loop antenna when your only receiver is a Tecsun PL-660. Some portables don’t handle amplified antennas well–they can easily overload and I imagine you can even damage the front end of the receiver.

I’m well aware, however, that there are a number of readers here who do couple their portable radio to an amplified loop. I have connected a number of portables to large wire antennas and found they could easily handle the extra gain, so I imagine an amplified loop would perform as well; the Sony ICF-SW7600GR, Tecsun S-8800, and Sangean ATS-909X come to mind.

But the PL-660 is a hot little receiver even with the built-in telescopic antenna–I’m not sure if amplification would help or hinder.

Please share your experience

This is where I hope the amazing SWLing Post community can pitch in and help us out here!

Does anyone here regularly connect their PL-660 to an amplified loop antenna? If so, what model of antenna are you using? Are there other portables out there that you regularly connect to amplified loops? Please share your notes, thoughts and experience in the comments section.

Thank you in advance!


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“Perfect Fit” Cases for the ATS-909X and D-808 Radios

I’m generally not a fan of slip-cover cases (or pouches) that are included with many portable radios. I like to have a little extra padding around radios, but I don’t like bulky cases either. My preference is to carry accessories separately and keep the case as small as possible while still offering some protection.

With that in mind, others may be interested in my choice of non-original cases for the Sangean ATS-909X and XHDATA D-808 receivers.

The Evecase brand of sleeve for the Apple iPad Mini 4 makes a close fitting case for the ATS-909X. After a day or two in this sleeve, the radio stretches the fabric a little and the result is a fit “like a glove”.

The Evecase sleeve leaves NO room for anything else, except perhaps a pair of earbuds loosely coiled on top of the radio before zipping the case shut. Protection of the ATS-909X is very good though, better than the stock Sangean slip case.

For the XHDATA D-808, I discovered that a model of the popular “Pelican” line of hard cases is an absolutely perfect fit. Model 1040 (Micro Case series) is the one to get, especially if you want the extreme protection this padded, hard-sided case provides. It’ll be right at home among your camping gear for instance, and if it happens to take a tumble from your backpack or car’s trunk, no problem!

It’s important to note that the solid color 1040 cases like mine have a sheet of thin protective foam in the lid, in addition to the molded padding in the bottom half. The clear lid versions of the 1040 case do not have this extra padding.

Let the description and photos of these two case solutions inspire you to consider other ideas for protecting your radio gear! A lot of possibilities exist, considering the wide array of protection available for tablets, laptops, GPS, hard drives, and so on. Many of these can be repurposed for portable receivers.


Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

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Any reviews of the JINSERTA Mini portable radio?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Marc Thomas, who writes:

I was wondering if anyone has tried this $40 receiver that seems to have an exceptionally broad frequency coverage:

SW: 2-30MHZ, 5KHZ STEP
AM: 520-1720, 9K/10K STEP SEL
FM: 87.5-108MHZ, 0.1MHZ STEP
AIR: 118-138MHZ, 5K/50K STEP SEL
VHF: 30-223MHZ, FM-N/FM-W
CB: 25-28MHZ, 5KHZ STEP

Links to several sellers:

Link to the manual on this page:
http://www.beliteaircraftstore.com/radiant-pocket-radio-receiver/

Not sure I like the proprietary looking battery.

Thanks.

I am not familiar with this radio, Marc, other than I can see the physical similarities with the Eton Mini. The Eton Mini, however, does not have the VHF coverage of this radio.

Post readers: Is anyone familiar with the JINSERTA Mini? If so, please comment!

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Updated and Original Versions of the CCRadio-EP Pro Briefly Compared

Remember the American television game show To Tell The Truth? This very long-running show challenged four celebrity guests and viewers to identify the real “central character” in the midst of two impostors.I was reminded of this game show when attempting to tell the difference between the original and recently updated versions of C. Crane’s CCRadio-EP Pro receiver when viewing the front panels. If there’s a difference, I can’t spot it! You need to turn around the radios to see the new EP-Pro’s key feature: switchable 9 kHz/10 kHz tuning steps.

The only clue to the newest version of the CCRadio-EP Pro is the 9/10 kHz tuning switch on the back panel.

I recently met with a good friend and radio hobbyist from Oregon to compare a few selected portable radios, FSL (Ferrite Sleeve Loop) antennas, and the newest low-noise Wellbrook ALA100LN module that was introduced just a few weeks ago. I was particularly interested in a head-to-head match-up of my friend’s original EP-Pro versus my newly arrived EP-Pro (9 kHz/10 kHz steps) version.

I’m looking forward to Thomas’ usual thorough review of the new CCRadio-EP Pro, but I want to offer a few observations of medium wave tuning after my time with the two models:

  • On very weak daytime MW signals, the radios are equally sensitive except on higher frequencies where the new model excels to a moderate degree. It’s enough of an advantage to make the difference between catching an ID or not on a low, DX-level signal.
  • The new EP-Pro feels more accurate–and simply more enjoyable–to tune, thanks to the elimination of false “peaks” surrounding the main signal. This is a BIG plus for the new radio, and frankly the CCRadio-EP should have performed this way from the start. Kudos to C. Crane for correcting this problem, but I can understand why the original version was brought to market with the odd tuning quirk. It isn’t a deal breaker for most non-DXing purchasers.
  • I could not find an instance of soft muting on either radio. I listened for a while to signals barely above the noise floor, and never did audio “cut in and out” suddenly, a clue to soft muting. Both receivers are very useful for chasing weak MW stations…but the new version is highly preferred for ease of tuning because of the lack of false audio peaks.
  • With the tuning working way it should, medium wave channels “snap” in and out as you slowly tune. This took a little getting used to, but after a while I began to appreciate the sense of exactness with the newest CCRadio-EP Pro.
  • Fast excursions up or down the band (either radio) will blank the audio, recovering when you stop tuning or slow down. I believe this is simply a case of exceeding the AGC’s recovery time, not soft muting. It’s easy to live with, but granted the effect is not one of smoothness as found on traditional, non-DSP analog receivers. Successful DXing takes a slower approach anyway when scanning the band; casual listeners may be more annoyed by either version of the radio if they are used to very quick knob-cranking.
  • The Twin Coil Ferrite “AM Fine Tuning” control works well on both units, and gives significant gain to weak signals on either extremity of the band. I love this feature; it makes digging out the weak ones a lot more fun!

So, should you buy the newest CCRadio-EP Pro with the 9 kHz/10 kHz steps?

  • If you already own a CCRadio-EP Pro and are fine with the false tuning peaks and have no desire for the 9 kHz MW step option–keep your radio! Only on high band does the new model have a sensitivity edge. Especially don’t make the jump if you’re a casual listener and listen only to a handful of local stations, or a single distant station.
  • If you do not own a CCRadio-EP Pro yet, but are in the market, definitely buy the newest version. Be aware that you can only be assured of getting the newest model if you purchase directly from C. Crane. Amazon does not yet carry the newest version according to some reports.
  • If you’re a radio junkie and just have to have both…go ahead…we understand!

I also made a short video comparison of the new EP Pro versus the top-ranked Panasonic RF-2200 on medium wave:

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

 

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