I took delivery of the Tecsun H-501x yesterday morning and the Sangean ATS-909X2 last week.
I’ve been waiting for these portable receivers for what seems like ages, and both arrive within one week of each other.
My initial impressions are positive for both radios, but I know it’s time to start some proper comparisons.
These portables are arguably the flagships of both manufacturers, so I decided to pit them against a “legacy” portable that has a reputation for eating other receivers for lunch: the Panasonic RF-B65.
“Nom nom nom…”
I fully expect the RF-B65 to emerge as the leader of this pack on shortwave in AM mode. No kidding. That’s why it’s a benchmark. If you can out-perform the RF-B65, you’re a five-star, Holy Grail portable and that’s the end of the story.
Where both the H-501 and ATS-909X2 will have an advantage is in audio fidelity. Both have excellent built-in speakers.
In addition, while the Panny RF-B65 is a great AM mode radio, it has very basic BFO controls and fine tuning for SSB. No doubt, I’ll likely pull out a different receiver for SSB comparisons.
DanH expects his ATS-909X2 back from firmware update soon and I look forward to his evaluation.
I plan to write a review of the Sangean ATS-909X2 for the June 2021 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine. My Tecsun H-501x review may appear in TSM as well.
I will post updates here on the SWLing Post and possibly some comparison audio/reception examples.
Tecsun H-501x availability
SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel, received word from Anna at Anon-Co that they hope to have their first batch of H-501x units available to ship by the end of April 2021. Pricing has not yet been firmed up.
The Midwinter Broadcast has never been an easy catch here in North America–after all, the BBC aim their signals to Antarctica–but I always manage to receive the program with only a portable and I’m almost always travelling on the day of the broadcast.
This year, I was actually at home and could have used one of my SDRs at home to snag the broadcast, but it’s become a bit of a tradition to listen in the field, so that’s what I did.
Knowing how difficult it would be to receive the broadcast–especially given the poor propagation–I reached for one of my “Holy Grail” portables: the Panasonic RF-B65.
The Panny RF-B65 is a portable DX hound!
I never take only one radio to the field, though, so I decided it was time to give the hefty GE 7-2990A a little outdoor time on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I was quite surprised with the 7-2990A’s ability to pluck this weak signal from the ether. Although the video doesn’t do it justice, the GE’s excellent audio fidelity made listening more enjoyable compared with the much smaller RF-B65.
And, yes, that’s my faithful brown and white listening companion, Hazel, in the background. In truth, she was less interested in the broadcast and more interested in finding squirrels!
Your Midwinter recordings–stay tuned!
Halley VI Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica (Source: British Antarctic Survey)
I’ve already received about twenty emails from SWLing Post readers with audio and video recordings of the Midwinter Broadcast. Thank you!
If you would like to submit your recording, and you haven’t yet, please do so by email (thomas *at* swling.com) so I don’t overlook it. Remember to link to your video so that I can easily embed it on the upcoming post. Please don’t send me duplicate emails as it makes the sorting process more difficult.
I’ll try to find recordings linked via Twitter and Facebook, but it’s much more difficult to sort those in comments and know for sure that I’ve discovered them all.
Please note that, due to my schedule, it will likely be two weeks before the final post is published. I appreciate your patience and understanding!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John C., who writes:
“Hi Thomas, I love [the SWLing Post] and have been meaning to thank you for all of the amazing reviews. Truly a treasure trove. But as I contemplate my next radio purchase I would like to know what radio you use more than any other. In other words…what’s your daily driver??? Enquiring minds want to know! Thank you. – JC”
Thanks for your question and the kind compliment, John.
Your inquiry is one I get quite a bit, so I hope you don’t mind if I share my response here publicly.
First of all, I should state that I don’t have a single “daily driver.”
Since I evaluate, test, and review radios I spend a lot of time with a variety of new receivers and transceivers.
I’m currently evaluating the Radiwow R-108, so it goes with me pretty much everywhere since I like to test receivers in a variety of settings. I’m also packing the Tecsun PL-310ET and the CC Skywave so I have units to compare with the R-108.
My Daily Drivers
Still, there are a number of radios in my life that get heavy use. Here’s my current list based on activity:
When I travel, I try to pack as lightly as I can–perhaps some would even call me a borderline travel minimalist. For example, when I fly to Philadelphia later this month for the Winter SWL Fest, I will take only one piece of luggage, a “personal carry-on” item: the Tom Bihn Stowaway, a pack the size of a small laptop bag. The Stowaway will contain my iPad, cords/accessories, and all of my clothes and toiletries for about 5 days of travel. As you can imagine, there’s not a lot of spare room in there for radio gear (quite the understatement).
I’ll still have room in my bag for the CC Skywave SSB, though, because the receiver is so compact. In addition, it’s a little “Swiss Army Knife” of a radio which covers the AM/MW, Shortwave, WX, and AIR bands. It also has SSB mode and uses common AA batteries. The Skywave SSB is a welcome travel companion.
After acquiring the amazing Panasonic RF-B65 last year, it has become my choice full-featured portable. Of course, the RF-65B hasn’t been in production for ages, but thanks to a number of friends/enablers (including Dan Robinson and Troy Riedel) I finally found one for an acceptable price on eBay.
I’ve been incredibly pleased with the RF-B65’s performance and feel like I got a decent deal snagging one in great shape for less than $200. Only a few months prior to my purchase, it was hard to find good units under $300. Click here to check current prices, if interested.
For Morning News and Music
Since my staple morning news source, Radio Australia, went off the air, I spend a lot more time in the mornings listening to Internet radio mainly because I like listening to news sources that no longer, or never have, broadcast on the shortwaves.
I had not checked to see if propagation was good, but tuning to WWV on 10 MHz and 15 MHz confirmed that signals were travelling. In fact, as I started tuning around–first with the CC Skywave SSB, then with the Panasonic RF-B65–I discovered some of the best propagation I’ve experienced in ages!
I did a relatively quick scan covering the 31 through 19 meter bands. Some signals were absolutely booming in.
I jotted down some of the broadcast details on a make-shift log and recorded a few videos.
Note that after making the first video, I discovered I had limited space on my phone, so most of the clips are quite short:
It turns out, I didn’t need to worry about the delivery time of the Panasonic RF-B65 I ordered on eBay Thursday evening. It was shipped from Washington state and arrived here yesterday (Saturday) via USPS 2 Day Priority Mail. I’m quite impressed with the delivery speed!
I haven’t had time to put the RF-B65 through the paces, but so far all appears to be in order. The unit is very clean, the battery compartment looks like new and the antenna straight and fully intact. This listing did not include a case, box or manual, but I’m fine with that.
I’ve only had the RF-B65 on the air for a few minutes to verify that everything works properly–so far, so good. This afternoon, I’ll start a “burn in” session to see if the radio will play for multiple hours on a set of fresh batteries. I’ve found in the past that if there are any capacitor issues, older portables like this could power down prematurely.
I’m hoping all will check out with the RF-B65 because I look forward to taking it on travels this week!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who notes that Panasonic RF-B65s are, “Abound […] all over eBay–most I have seen in years.”
As I’ve mentioned in the past, the Panasonic RF-B65 is one of the few “vintage” benchmark portables I’d happily add to my collection. I’ve been looking for one since last summer and have missed out on a deal or two. Very few have been posted. Dan, and a number of SWLing Post readers, have touted this radio’s performance many times, so I bit the bullet and ordered one of the units from eBay. I hope it’s in good shape–it does not include the manual or box, but I’m not looking for a mint unit–this will accompany me on travels and to the field. I have a padded bag that should fit it well.
I should receive my RF-B65 early next week and will look forward to putting it on the air!
A strong signal with a clear ID from Conakry, Guinea, heard in Oxford UK on 08/08/16 at 18:04 hrs UTC using my trusty Panasonic RF-B65 and a 50 metre longwire. No SYNC of course, but once again, the vintage Panasonic performs very well for this personal-first reception. I do have another recording of this station using the Sony ICF-2001D, from which a performance comparison can be made at a later date. Great to hear Radio Guinée by the way; I believe they had been off-air for around 5 years, until earlier this year. Click the image below to watch the reception video on Oxford Shortwave log.
Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.
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