Tag Archives: Shortwave Radio Reviews

Dan’s in-depth review of the new Raddy RF-919 shortwave portable radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares the following review:

[Note that all Amazon and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support the SWLing Post.]


Raddy RF-919 Receiver: Best Portable in Years – Held Back Only By Soft Muting While Tuning

by Dan Robinson

It’s quite extraordinary that in these days of reduced use of shortwave some manufacturers continue to develop portable receivers for the worldwide community of radio listeners.  We have the Choyong LC90, which for the first time attempted to combine HF, MW, FM and Internet radio (still a work in progress). And now out of nowhere comes the Raddy RF919.

Like many receiver enthusiasts, I was excited when I saw the first photos and videos of the 919, by Shenzhen Hanrongda in China.  The company has an amazing number of portables in its lineup–in addition to the 919 there are the:  RF320, RF760, RF747, RF75A, and RF750 along with various hand crank emergency sets.  The RF919 under the Raddy label also sells as the Retekess TR113 (which can be seen on its Amazon page).

It is interesting that the RF919 (TR113) appeared on the market just as the Choyong receiver continues to experience growing pains, but obviously both had been in the planning stages for some time.  One of the strengths is its very decent SSB performance, though see my comments below about one of the issues with the RF919.

The number of reviews of the 919 by YouTube influencers is rapidly increasing as the radios get into the hands of more users.  For the purposes of this commentary I won’t go into every single feature other than to observe the high points.  And here’s a headline – from a software standpoint this is a very complex radio with a steep learning curve requiring regular looks at the manual.  But enough use brings familiarity with the many features it offers:

Displays

The RF919 has two superb displays:  a main information center under which there are buttons for activating various functions and options, and a second beautiful signal level screen that has a lot of information on its own, under which there are four buttons for TIME SET, ALARM, DISPLAY, and SLEEP.   These displays are probably the best we have ever seen in a portable, offering 7 colors selectable from the front panel!  The Eton Elite Satellit (no longer made) offered a few colors on its display but it was nothing like this.  Raddy publicity materials focus on this:

“Unlike other radios, you can choose and set your favorite backlight color to match your style or mood, all while staying updated with a clear 3.54-inch main screen that shows reception status. It’s not just a radio; it’s an extension of your personality.”

Body Design

The 919 is quite a throwback to such classic receivers as the SONY ICF-5900W and other “military style” portables from decades ago – one user noted the similarity to the old National Cougar 877.

The 919 has a solid, confident, body with a space at the top rear that functions as a hand grip.  On top are two jacks for a LOOP ANTENNA, and a mobile WHIP style antenna with an OFF/ON rotary switch.  That switch is awfully close to the LOOP jack.  On the back is a 3.5 mm antenna jack with a three position slider control for specific tuning ranges.  The backstand is basically the same type found on the Tecsun H-501.  One wishes that there would have been a rubber friction grip placed on it and that it had some additional tension to allow it to hold the radio up in other degree positions.

Antenna

The telescopic whip antenna is impressive – robust, and notably designed to work while the radio is positioned on a desk using its backstand, something that the Choyong LC90’s antenna is not able to do.

I will note that the whip antenna cannot be extended up and out of the radio cabinet which limits it to a single angle when the radio is used with the backstand – placement of the 919 left carrying strap hook on top left is the limiting factor here. 

Again the 919 telescopic design is a contrast to the LC90 which both lacks a backstand, and flexibility in the antenna.

A major headline is the manual antenna tuning feature on the RF919. Utilizing the rear antenna jack and switch with MW, SW 1, and SW 2 options, along with the side adjust knob, the user can fine-tune signal strength, with the secondary screen providing real-time viewing of signal strength changes.  On top of the radio, there is a mini jack input next to an ON/OFF switch that, according to the instruction card explanation, enables selection of the LOOP (they call it “ring”) position.  Wow.  The last time we saw this kind of peaking capability on a portable was the SONY ICF-2001 back in the late 1970’s and perhaps the Grundig Satellit 700.  Hats off to Raddy for this design!

Controls

The RF919 has a large central concentric tuning outside “shuttle” knob for fast tuning, and a smaller center knob for fine tuning – the center shuttle doubles as a selector with a push function.  I am not a fan of encoders that rock back and forth as the outside concentric ring does.  At least one user remarked that this feels flimsy.  Time will tell whether these hold up in daily use.  The keyboard, which is nicely backlit, appears to be quite good.  Frequency entry is accomplished by hitting ENT, then the frequency, then ENT again.  You can enter in MHz or kHz.  There are buttons for VOLUME UP/DOWN, and for TUNE/NEXT, TUNE/PREVIOUS.

One curious thing:  if you’re tuning to 22 MHz you can just hit 22 and ENT.  But you can’t do that at 23 MHz and above – you have to enter 23.000 and ENT.  If you don’t, you get 2.300 MHz.  At least that is what I notice on my 919 – perhaps Raddy will be able to clarify why this is so.  Another point on controls: the MW/SW1/SW2 switch on the back of the radio is very flimsy and should be improved by Raddy.

Audio

The huge front-firing speaker on the 919 produces superb audio in all tuning ranges.  Rated at 20 watts, it rivals the wonderful audio of the Choyong LC90 and combined with the 10 position EQUALIZER makes the 919 even more attractive for someone purchasing it for this level of sound production not to mention a receiver that tunes from LW all the way up to 999 MHz.

Fire up the BLUETOOTH on the 919 and you can not only use it as a speaker linked with your phone, but it will play tracks from the microSD.

ATS/Memories

We have all become accustomed to the convenience of ATS, from the excellent performance on Tecsun radios, and the 919 falls right in line.  A scan conducted on FM here in Maryland stored 23 stations and I found sensitivity to be excellent. 

Though noise levels were still high from the recent solar activity, a scan on HF yielded a number of stations.  It did take quite a long time to complete ATS on shortwave – about 15 minutes, so one hopes this could be improved in future firmware versions.  And there is this:  when scanning with ATS, the 919 scans the entire HF range rather than just bands.  In comparison, ATS on a Tecsun S-8800 takes about 3 minutes, and includes only the main SW bands. 

I am not yet sure if the 919 can be made to scan this way, but if not it’s something Raddy should consider.  Both displays remain on during ATS.  This avoids the need to mess with the display functions while scans are ongoing.

Presets

There are 1600 memory channels on this radio!   Once stations are memorized, they can be accessed by hitting the PRESET button on the lower right edge of the main shuttle dials and using the TUNE/NEXT and TUNE/PREV buttons on the keyboard.  Note that when going from one present to another the first thing that appears on the display is the CHANNEL number, followed by the frequency.  That seems logical but it prevents the user from seeing first exactly what frequency has been memorized without having to wait for the display to shift to the frequency itself.

Bandwidths

The 919 provides bandwidth options not only on shortwave, varying depending on whether one is using AM or LSB/USB, but also in FM – a truly great feature for a portable, and something seen on Malahit SDRs.  Bandwidth clarity in SSB is excellent.  Maximum bandwidth in AM mode is 6 kHz, similar to portables by Tecsun, with 4 kHz the maximum in SSB.  Some users have observed that they would like an 8 kHz AM filter position.

Manual

An extensive manual goes over all of the controls, modes, etc. – the drawback here is that the printing is so small as to make reading it impossible, so better to download the manual in pdf form from the Raddy website and print it out.  A bonus is that a three page card guide comes with the radio showing the circuit design and tips for manual antenna tuning and the antenna switching on the back.  A very thoughtful addition to the package!

Battery

The 919 continues the trend of radios using 18650 batteries, familiar to professional flashlight users and also seen in Tecsun and other receivers.  It takes not one, but two 18650s like the Tecsun H-501.  I recommend purchasing a good quality multi-bay battery charger in addition to the ability to charge the radio directly on its USB-C port.  Keep in mind that using these radios while charging will create noise, so don’t expect to have the best reception doing it that way.

Recording Capability

Wow!  After years of seeing radios with a microSD slot but no recording function, Raddy has gone ahead and done it. You can record any audio to the card and play it.  Seems like we could have seen this feature years ago from receiver manufacturers, but we didn’t.  Thank you Raddy!  That said, I have not yet been able to get recording to work on my unit, using a 64 GB microSD (see below).

Reception Performance

I am very impressed so far with the 919.  Sensitivity on HF and AIR appears to be excellent.  MW reception is good as well and can be further improved using the antenna tuning feature and the ability to use a loop antenna connected to the receiver.  FM reception appears to be quite good.  On long wave I was able to hear beacons at levels equal to what I hear on some premium communications receivers.

One observation:  when using the RF919 inside my home here in Maryland, I noted what appeared to be some break-in on shortwave from AM or FM signals.  I am still investigating this and will report later.

There are many more details to discuss for the RF919.  But I need to talk about what I would call the elephant in the room on a relatively short list of CONS, but this is a big one and a bit of a disappointment.  The 919 suffers from the issue that is so familiar to us from other portables:  MUTING WHILE TUNING.  See my video discussing this at:

This is more noticeable when in 1 kHz and 10 Hz increments, and at times of the day when signals are less strong, and seems to be a bit better in the evening when signals improve.  But it is there nonetheless.

It’s not the worst soft muting I have ever heard on a portable. It’s certainly survivable.  But for those of us who value what I call a continuous listening experience, even the slight muting experienced on the 919 is annoying.  It may well be that this can be improved with a firmware update – it’s unclear though whether firmware can be updated via the microSD if new versions were made available on the Raddy website. 

Ironically, what soft muting on any receiver does is make the receiver more useful for those of us who over decades of shortwave listening have memorized multiple SW frequencies – using the 919 I prefer to use the keypad to go directly to a frequency rather than put up with the frustrating experience of using the two shuttle knobs specifically because of the soft muting problem.

I should note that there is a harshness one hears from this radio when using the shuttle dials to tune – what I would describe as AGC crashes when going from frequency to frequency.  This is nothing new for DSP radios, though some do a better job than others, such as the Tecsun PL-990 and 501 and Data/Sihuadon D-808.  It’s clear that when a manufacturer decides to build a radio around these chips, such as the Si4735, there is very little that can be done to smooth out how the chip handles AGC, though I do not claim to be an expert in this area.

Zero Beat Variations

The other issue I observed on the unit sent to me is also familiar – in SSB, the radio isn’t calibrated well enough, so zero beat in LSB or USB vary quite a bit off the actual tuned frequency.  While we don’t usually expect DSP portables to be exactly on frequency, this can be annoying as well since in an ideal world we don’t want to have to off-tune from a known frequency of a broadcaster, or amateur operator, to achieve clarity.  Tecsun provided a recalibration feature on its portables that enables the user to adjust zero beat.  One wishes that other manufacturers would do the same – if the 919 were to have this it would be a welcome addition.

Other Issues

Though the 919 manual states that the receiver accepts up to 256 GB microSD, my first attempt to get a 64 GB card did not succeed.  The card is correctly formatted so I am at a loss to determine why this is.  Obtaining the Radio-C app was also an adventure – it comes up as an APK file which then installs.  Two Bluetooth connections appear, but understanding the process is complicated.  I was finally able to get the app working with the radio and continue to experiment with the flexibilities it provides.

Overall, the app provides some great controls over the radio, but the fact that it does not appear on Google Play and has to be downloaded via a QR code may give some users pause.  Additionally, temperature appears to display only in Celsius – something I am sure will be corrected in future firmware updates.  Also, on the phone app, pressing CB brings the radio to 25 MHz rather than the CB range.  When initiating a scan inside one of the SW bands, the scan does not stop at the top of that band.  And there does not appear, based on my first tests, to be a way to control SQUELCH from the phone app.  Hitting V-UHF on the app screen brings the radio to 20,000 kHz.  So, there need to be refinements to the app to clear things up.

Conclusion

So, here’s my summary of the RF919:

Swooping down on us out of the blue, this is an extraordinary entry into the portable category, taking us by surprise with its thoughtful design, seemingly high quality construction, and features that set it apart from other radios on the market today. 

Whoever designed the 919 surely had to have some significant experience as a listener because the features included in the receiver move it straight to the top of the list of portable receivers available in 2024.

Comparing the 919 with a receiver such as the Sangean ATS-909X2 there really is no contest.  Where coverage is concerned, the 919 blows Tecsun and Sangean offerings out of the water – on this receiver you can listen from LW all the way up to 999 mHz, along with AIR band, weather frequencies, public service, and CB (though as observed by users there is no FM mode reception for CB).

I have not been impressed by other Hanrongda (labeled Raddy/Retekess) offerings.  At one point I tried a 747 only to be thoroughly disappointed with its hard-to-see display, terrible SSB, and thin telescopic antenna along with laborious thumb wheel tuning.  I was cautious when I saw initial videos of the RF919.  But this receiver truly is a major step forward for a portable:  superb displays, wide coverage, excellent SSB (aside from the zero beat/calibration issue), wonderful audio, bluetooth capability and phone app control, microSD recording capability – all of these add up to one hell of a radio.

In response to my initial comments on the soft muting and calibration issues, Raddy responded:

“We would like to thank you for bringing two important concerns to our attention: muting during tuning and frequency accuracy. Please rest assured that we are actively discussing these issues with our technical team to gain further insights and potential solutions. We value your input and will keep you updated on any progress made.”

At a price of $269 as this is being written, the RF919 could be a 5 star radio were it not for the aforementioned issues of soft muting while tuning and calibration variation.  We can only hope that the designers can address these issues with future firmware updates and possibly make updating something we can do after purchase.  The 919 website by the way also offers antennas for the 919 including the Radioddity RD-771 which is described as an upgrade of the popular Nagoya NA-771, and the Radioddity RD-371 “Tri-band” antenna for 144-220-440 mHz.

As of this writing I am not aware of any reviews of the Retekess version of the 919, the TR113, but have to assume that there are no differences.  It will be interesting to see how firmware updates occur and again, one would hope that this will be a simple process of being able to download the updates from Raddy/Retekess and be installed on the radio.  But so far, there is no sign of this so clarifications from the manufacturer would be appreciated.

It is amazing that in 2024 we still have ANY radios coming to market as advanced as the RF919.  This is a receiver that obviously was influenced in design by someone who knows their stuff and included numerous features such as antenna tuning, decent SSB, and the ability to record content.  It is frustrating that there have been no advances in chip technology that would allow SSB performance that more closely matches what we had in many classic portables of decades past.  But for those who don’t mind things like soft muting while tuning, and can tolerate harsh AGC characteristics of DSP, right now there isn’t anything on the market that matches the RF919 in terms of just wide tuning range and reception tools as well as superb audio.  

As for BUY or DON’T BUY, I would edge toward the former with a caution to perfectionists like myself who would be bothered by muting.

If Raddy can fix that issue, and ensure a calibration process that brings LSB and USB closer to zero beat on frequency, and/or include a recalibration function as Tecsun has on its radios, the RF919 would then be an easy YES recommendation.  Right now it gets a 4.5 from me, but could easily be a 5.0 if those issues are resolved.

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John’s In-Depth Review of the Choyong LC90 (Export Version)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and WWLG author, John Figliozzi, who shares the following review:


A Review And Analysis Of The Choyong LC90 (Export Version)

By John A. Figliozzi

General

To my knowledge, this is the first radio to combine AM Shortwave with Internet Radio.  This makes it the first true “full service” radio incorporating ALL of radio’s major platforms.  Many radio listeners question why this hasn’t been done sooner, so this very good first effort is most welcome.

The initial presentation of the radio to the new owner is impressive.  The stylish box in which it arrives is worthy of a respected instrument of high quality.  The radio has the solid substantial feel of a device with excellent build quality.  Its sizing – that of a paperback book along the lines of some previous well-respected AM/FM/SW receivers like the Grundig YB-400 – gives it the perfect form factor for a radio that can be enjoyed both in the home and as a portable.

There is so much to like here.  Over and above its unique combining of Internet radio and shortwave, there’s a “permanent” battery that offers many hours of use before it needs recharging, ATS tuning, the ability to save frequencies and stations in several preference lists, several ways of searching for Internet radio stations, an easy way to add Internet stations not already listed by the manufacturer, and others.

But the LC90 really shines with its fantastic audio on FM and Internet radio.  There’s a woofer, a tweeter and a low frequency diaphragm inside the speaker cavity that occupies the left half the case – and nothing else.  The radio’s excellent build quality and its developers’ efforts to produce a world class audio section in a portable radio really pays off.

But no radio is perfect, and this one obviously is a work in progress.  So, being critical – which is what a review and analysis like this does — should not imply disapproval on any level.  On the contrary, the LC90 is already a well-formed radio worthy of consideration by any purchaser.

The Screen

The screen that is the center of the LC90 provides much information depending on the platform being used.  But in some cases, useful information is missing and in other cases the information provided seems unnecessary or of questionable utility.

In AM (MW), FM and SW, it is not readily apparent what all the symbols mean or why they are there.  The time, signal strength and SNR (signal to noise ratio), bandwidth, meter band, heart (for including a frequency in “favorites”) and the “Freq. vs. Addr.” indicators are all helpful and understandable.  But what is meant by “Memo” isn’t entirely clear.  Is it holding just my preferences?  Or the number of stations found by ATS?  Or something else?

So, too, with the Internet Radio screen.  What do the three dots, the speaker icon and the return icon mean?  The ability to tune stations in sequence as they appear across the bottom of the screen depending on mode is both unique and helpful.  But the use of a timer to tick off how long one might listen to a particular station seems of dubious value.

Some suggestions for better use of the screen in some circumstances are detailed below.

Operation

Initial setup matching the radio to home internet service proceeded flawlessly.  The time clock is in 24-hour mode and showed correct time and date in my time zone.  Some purchasers had previously noted that the clock showed a time one hour earlier than the actual time.  I surmise that this is because the clock remains in standard time year-round.  There is no facility to reset the clock, compensate for seasonal time changes or set the clock manually.  This is an oversight that should be addressed.

This is a sophisticated, multi-faceted radio.  As impressive as it already may be, it should be perceived as a work in progress in need of the improvements it will get eventually through firmware updates and design modifications.  It would be helpful if those updates could come directly and seamlessly through the Internet, something that apparently can’t be done currently.

The LC90 comes with a rather short, almost cryptically worded pamphlet.  This can serve as an ok quick start-up guide.  But after using the radio, it’s obvious that there’s need for a comprehensive operation manual with copious directions for the user, along the lines that Eton provided for the E1.  A radio of this quality and at this price point demands such consideration.

In short, becoming fully familiar with and comfortable using all the features of the LC90 requires a prodigious learning curve, one that is not intuitively discerned.  I have to say that even after using it almost constantly for a few weeks, I feel I am still missing things.

Just a few examples of aspects that go unexplained include:

  • What does “Auto Play” mean in Settings?
  • Getting to preferences (the “heart” icon) is confusing and I’ve inadvertently removed them without learning how it happened.
  • Why does the screen show “Please add radio channel first” when I think I’ve already done that?
  • Why does screen alarmingly show “Saved channels removed”, having done so when I press the tuning dial thinking I am obtaining a list of my preferred or saved stations?

The cleverness behind the LC90 is not intuitively apparent.  If I hit the wrong keys in combination or hard press instead of soft press a key, I get a result I don’t understand and for which there is no explanation in the exceedingly short manual provided now.  In some cases, I put myself in a corner I can’t get out of, so I must reset by shutting down and restarting the radio to get back to base.

Following are my observations on the performance of the LC90 by platform:

FM

The LC90 has a very good FM section that is quite sensitive.   Using the ATS feature, (automatic tuning) it found 37 stations in Sarasota FL, for example.

For its size – and even considering many larger radios — the LC90 has an excellent audio response on FM.  However, although it has activated stereo capability, it does not appear to actually provide stereo through its ear/headphone jack. This is because the same output is used to provide audio to the speakers and the ear/headphone jack.  This feels like an oversight that should be rectified.  The radio does “recognize” a stereo plug and audio does play into both ears.  It’s just not stereo audio.

As currently configured this LC90 does not offer RDBS (RDS in Europe) on FM.  This should be incorporated into a radio of this quality being offered at this price point.

Even so, in this user’s opinion it earns a 4.5 on scale of 5 on FM.  But if it had stereo and RBDS, it would easily earn a 5.

A question arises:   Were HD Radio (in North America) and DAB+ (in Europe and Australia – if these are targeted markets for the LC90) considered for incorporation into this radio by its developers?  If not, why not; and, if so, why was a decision taken not to include them?

Shortwave

Performance of the LC90 on shortwave is very good, especially since it clearly is not intended as a hobbyist’s DX machine.  As such in my opinion, it doesn’t require the SSB capability that some have said they wish it has.

Rather, this radio is intended for the content-focused listener.  I view the AM (MW), FM and SW platforms as back-up alternatives for and secondary to the primary focus — Internet Radio.  Nonetheless, the LC-90’s performance is above average on both FM and SW which should be assuring to anyone considering its purchase.

The LC90 is quite sensitive on SW for a small portable using just its built-in expandable and rotatable 9 stage rod antenna.   But it does especially well when a common clothesline reel external antenna is extended and plugged into the receptacle provided for that purpose on the radio’s right-hand side.  (Similar improvement is noted for AM (MW) and FM, as well.)

Complaints about placement of this receptacle close to the tuning knob is of no concern when an external antenna of the type described above using a 3.5mm plug connector is used.  Any more sophisticated an external antenna would likely overload this radio considering that “birdies” – false signals internally generated by the radio itself — can be detected throughout the SW spectrum even when just using its built-in rod antenna.  This flaw should be addressed in any future modification or upgrade.

The audio enhancements made on this radio through unique use of speakers and their orientation are not as apparent here as they are when listening to FM and Internet Radio.

On AM signals generally — both SW and AM (MW) – a listener can detect artifacts in the audio.  Audible random “clicks” often can be heard – usually when receiving weaker stations – which sounds as if the radio’s audio section is clipping.   Adjusting the bandwidth appears to offer only minimal help with this.

Indeed, the audio produced by SW and AM (MW) sounds somewhat mechanical except on very strong stations.  It seems to lack body or depth on SW and AM.   Some of this undoubtedly is due to the quality of AM audio to begin with.  But the latter does sound more natural on other receivers.  The 7 bandwidths provided (1, 1.8, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 6 kHz) do help to somewhat shape the audio, but it appears that there could be better choices for what this radio is trying to achieve.

Nonetheless on SW, the LC90 rates a comparative 3.75 on a scale of 5 for sensitivity off its built-in antenna.  That rises to a 4.0 when the external antenna described above is connected.

An unrelated anomaly was noted from using the radio on SW:  The LC90 (or at least this test unit) apparently cannot be tuned directly to frequencies in the 25 MHz (11m) band.  The radio will only accept 4 integers here, so it reverts to 120m instead of 11m.  Instead, one must press the tuning knob to change the display to 11m and then tune manually via the knob to the desired frequency.

AM (Mediumwave)

All Internet-capable radios up to now have avoided including AM – both MW and SW – into their designs due to noise and interference issues generated by the radio’s internal control signal and screen, and the difficulty involved in shielding both.

While acknowledging the considerable effort put forward by the LC90’s developers to ameliorate this problem, the radio does not fully overcome these challenges to producing “clean” AM audio.

The developers themselves seem to recognize this problem.  While they have incorporated an internal ferrite MW antenna in the radio’s design, its utility is overwhelmed by internal interference.  Rotating the radio to emphasize or null certain signals yields no apparent difference.  Consequently, the developer suggests that the listener extend the internal rod antenna for “best results”.

The AM (MW) section is unfortunately the weakest aspect of this radio.  Daytime reception is very poor – rated comparatively a 1.5 on a scale of 5.  The LC90 receives and saves through ATS only very local stations and misses several of them.

Reception does improve after dark, largely due to skywave propagation.  But it is only comparatively fair – 2.5 on a scale of 5.

Using the external clothesline antenna described above improves daytime reception to a 2.0, but those purchasing this radio should expect only marginal pedestrian – even comparatively substandard — results with AM (MW).

In sum, the audio improvements the LC90’s developers have successfully worked to provide elsewhere in the LC90 are almost undetectable here unless one is listening to an exceptionally strong AM (MW) station.

Internet Radio

To this observer, this is the core of the LC90.

There are three equally important tasks that an Internet radio must achieve to serve as a quality example for the genre:

  • Stability of signal reproduction,
  • Superior audio quality,
  • Easy user interface.

Let me begin by pointing out that it is readily apparent that the developers put lots of work into this aspect of the LC90.

The stations that do play successfully sound very good with excellent stability.  But compared to other internet radios I own and have experienced, there are just too many stations that lack that stability (characterized by frequent audio breaks or “hiccups”) or don’t load at all.

Here are some specific observations from use over several weeks:

Simply put, the user interface needs work.  While the LC90 offers several flexible tuning assists, there seem to be too many that overlap and others missing.  The effort does not seem to be centrally focused enough.  For example, listings within each category appear randomly, and many unexplainably with what looks like the same links that are indistinguishable and scattered throughout a given category.

Indeed, there are many individual listings that are repeated within the same and different lists which are found via the Tag, Menu, News. Music, Language buttons on the radio.  Why?  Is it to provide different codecs or levels of streaming quality?  There is no indication as to the way each might differ one from another, if at all.

As mentioned earlier, there is much going on here that cannot be intuitively discerned by the user/listener — and it must be!  Comparing it to other Internet radios such as the Pure Elan Connect, which uses the constantly updated Frontier Silicon station and podcast database, the LC90’s Internet radio operation is confusing and the logic behind it is difficult to perceive.

Some stations appear in Chinese and Cyrillic script, and others just as dots across a line.  This is unhelpful to listeners outside these cultures.  Also, there appear to be features within the LC90’s architecture that are “hidden”.  For example, through an inadvertent combination of key presses I found myself briefly in a listing that appeared designed solely for the Chinese market until I reset the radio by turning the radio off and then on again.

The developers appear to have created their own stations database rather than use one of the others already in use on other Internet radios.  Since it is apparently an entirely new approach, it’s impossible to determine if it is continuously updated, systematically modified or updated periodically according to some schedule.  This observer did not see any activity or change that would indicate that anything was updated over the weeks he was using the LC90.

Many domestic BBC links (Radio 3,4,5,6, e.g.) just don’t work.  When ostensibly “loading” them after selecting them, the percentage just stays at zero.  Given the importance of the BBC internationally, this is concerning and should be corrected with all deliberate speed.

In fact, this observer experienced an inordinate number of links that didn’t seem to work at all.  Some links also play initially, but then just “hang” or stop working or “hiccup” periodically (RTE, RTHK, e.g).

When comparing the LC90’s admittedly many offerings with those on Internet radios using the Frontier Silicon database, many stations appear to be missing.  However, the LC90’s developers have included in the radio’s architecture a very accessible means for the radio’s users to add stations that are not already in the radio’s database.  Whether these are just added only to the user’s radio or added globally to the LC-90 database is unknown.

In short, the way these lists — and the way the user tunes them in — work now appear to detract from rather than enhance the performance and user’s overall experience with the LC90.  This situation leads this observer to the perception that the developer’s concept(s) behind station lists and tuning is unfocused and disorganized.  This situation cannot be allowed to continue.  As stated, this user interface needs reconsideration and refinement in the opinion of this observer to make its use more intuitive for the user.

The LC90’s display for Internet radio is attractive but supplies only stream loading percentages and the station name.  There is no means of knowing the actual quality of the audio signal other than by ear.  The timer provided counting how long the station has been playing is not really of any practical use when listening to an Internet radio station.

A better use of the LC90’s screen would be to include visuals like station logos and station-provided metadata, neither of which are present now.

An anomaly that came to light through use:  The “Podcast” button only seems to provide stations like other buttons, not podcast lists.  This observer could find no way to access or listen to podcasts.  Again, this needs to be corrected.

In the opinion of this observer, the Internet section of the LC90 earns an overall 3.5 on a scale of 5 with the proviso that the radio’s audio performance with the highest quality Internet streams earns a clear 5.

Bluetooth

The LC-90’s Bluetooth feature works well.  Audio volume is jointly controlled by the source and the radio.  Its set-up and operation appear seamless.

TF and SIM cards

Not tested.  Since most SIM cards are tied to phones here, I anticipate that Internet access for the LC90 Export Version will remain with WiFi for the vast majority or, when and where WiFi is unavailable, by linking one’s phone to the radio using Bluetooth.

Neither was the timer or sleep function tested, but it can be assumed that both work as they should.

Final Notes

Other reviewers have expressed a desire for an air band, SSB capability and a fold out strip on the rear of the radio’s case so that it might be angled when used.

Frankly, I don’t see the need for any of these with the LC90 or any future enhancement or modification of it.  Anyone wishing to angle the receiver can find an inexpensive tilt stand on which to place it.  But, in that regard, I would suggest that the developer recreate the rod antenna so that it clears the perimeter of the case and allows it a full 360-degree rotation.

Otherwise, my preference would be that any such effort and the resources necessary to pursue them be concentrated on the more important matters I highlight for improvement in this analysis.

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Taking a look at the XHDATA D109-WB . . . a sweet spot on the price/performance curve

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

The XHDATA D109-WB is a small radio that hits a sweet spot on the price/performance curve, delivering a lot of performance for not a lot of money (probably less than $60 US, depending on the source).

The D109-WB measures 5.9″L x 1.45″W x 3.07″H and weighs just over 10 ounces. It covers FM 64-108MHz, AM (medium wave) 520-1710KHz, LW 153-513KHz(9K), SW 1711-29999KHz, and seven NOAA Weather Radio channels 162.40-162.55MHz with alert function. It does not receive single-sideband signals. It offers 100 FM memories, 100 LW memories, 100 MW memories, and 300 SW memories. Further, it offers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 kHz bandwidths on MW and SW bands.

On the left side of the front panel is a plastic grill that fronts an inch-and-a-half speaker. On the right side is a small LCD screen with backlight that functions as information central for the D109-WB. Below it are 15 buttons (3 rows of 5 buttons each) that control various functions, including an “SOS Emergency Distress Sound and Light Alarm,” manual tuning and various auto scanning and auto memory storage schemes, band selection, DX/local receive mode selection, 9/10 kH MW spacing, clock alarms, bandwidth selection, a key lock/display switch, and a manual tune/memory mode switch, among others. Below those 15 buttons is a 3 x 4 numerical key pad for memory and direct frequency entry functions. To the right of the keypad are 5 buttons set in a circular pattern for controlling Bluetooth use and connectivity and MP3  playback (I did not test these last two functions).

On the right side of the case, you will find a type-C socket for plugging in a cable to charge the 18650 battery, a wheel for volume control, and a tuning knob.

On the left side of the case are 3.5 mm headphone and external antenna jacks.

On the back panel is a flip-out support and a hatch for accessing the battery. On the top, there is a fold-over 21-inch telescoping antenna and, on the bottom, two anti-skid rubber feet.

In all, I found the D109-WB to be solidly constructed with fit and finish appropriate to a radio in its price class. The only serious deficit I found in the D109-WB was the extremely small type in the owner’s manual. Consult the photograph below to see what I mean.

The D109-WB was straightforward to operate, and I enjoyed it. One cute trick was variable-speed tuning: on MW, turn the knob slowly, and it will change frequency in 1 kHz increments. Turn the knob fast, and the tuning rate jumps to 10 kHz increments (or 9 kHz, if you have selected that tuning option). Variable-speed tuning works the same way on the shortwave bands, and on the FM band, the slow tuning rate is .01 MHz, and it jumps to .1 MHz when the knob is turned quickly. I had not experienced variable-speed tuning in any other radio, and I like it . . . a lot.

But what I was really wanted to know was how well did the D109-WB perform?

Now here’s the rub: I don’t have any test equipment . . . but I do own a CCrane Skywave 2. So I sat down on a bright sunny afternoon with the D109-WB and the Skywave 2 side-by-side and compared them. I found that both would receive two weather channels loud and clear and one more weather channel marginally. Then I tuned firm the medium wave band, then the FM band, running the two radios in parallel and found that there was nothing that I could hear on Skywave 2 that I could not also hear on the D109-WB, and vice versa. In other words, I found the electrical performance of the two radios to be very similar . . . except, of course, that the Skywave receives the AIR band, and the D109-WB does not.

One of the things that I enjoy doing is to grab a radio, select a band, punch the SCAN button, and see what’s out there. Since I also own a Tecsun PL-880, I decided to run a scan on each band on each radio (D109-WB, Skywave 2, and PL-880) with its native whip antenna and see how many detectable signals I could find on each. By “signal,” I mean any place where the scan stopped where I could hear music, voices, or anything that sounded like a transmitted signal, as opposed to pure noise.

So here are the results of two different testing sessions on two different nights:

D109-WB vs. CCrane Skywave

D109-WB vs. Tecsun PL-880

A caution: before you start drawing conclusions from the results above about which radio is more sensitive than another, it is important to consider that those results may be heavily skewed by whatever “SCAN” algorithm is programmed into each radio. Further, the parameters of the SCAN algorithm for a particular radio are a black box to those who use the radio. What I can conclude from those results is that, if you want to be a lazy DXer like me and use the SCAN button for cruising the bands, the D109-WB will deliver pleasing results.

Since the D109-WB has a socket for plugging in an external antenna, I plugged in a 45-foot loop antenna. The D109-WB overloaded, but when I set the DX/local switch to local, the overloading went away but there was still a boost in signal-to-noise from the external antenna.

So, the bottom line: the XHDATA D109-WB delivers a whole lot of fun and performance at a very reasonable price, and I can easily recommend it for both newbies and old-timers alike.

In fact, if you want to turn a kid onto radio, here’s an idea: give the child a D109-WB and a paper atlas, explain how both work, then set that kid to work logging as many stations as possible and looking up where they are located. Heck, that sounds like fun to me.

Click here to check out the XHDATA D109-WB on Amazon.com

(note: this affiliate link supports the SWLing Post at no cost to you)

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Jack examines the C.Crane CC Skywave SSB 2

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jack Kratoville, who shares the following guest review:


CC Skywave SSB 2: Thoughts and impressions

by Jack Kratoville

I had no intention of purchasing this radio. I already own two of the original Skywaves and, not big into Ham communications, saw little need for the upgrade. But as I was looking at the new SSB 2, my wife walked by and said, “Don’t you already have that one?” I told her it was the updated model and it’s on sale. “You should get it,” she replied. Sometimes it is best to listen to your wife.

My curiosity in the SSB 2 was the “slightly improved” audio and other updated features. It was shipped to my home for $149 complete and I eagerly opened the box. Putting it through the initial paces, I was highly disappointed. Some buttons didn’t work, and the “slightly improved” audio was harsher than the original. It was going back. In a final desperation, I stuck a paper clip in the reset hole and all functions came to life. While I still wasn’t impressed with the overall audio, I would spend more time with it. I’ll address the audio later, but let’s look at what this radio was intended for and how it stacks up to that challenge. This is a communication device, designed specifically for people looking for interesting and far away signals. As far as I can tell, it’s the only radio with “SSB” in its name – so let’s start there.

I have the Digitech AR1780 and the Eton Executive Satellit with SSB capability. I’ve explored both upper and lower sidebands on both. It always seems like too much work; pressing multiple buttons multiple times adding that the Digitech is a notoriously slow scanner. I enjoy them both, but SSB seems like an afterthought. The Skywave SSB 2 is far easier to track down and tune in signals. CCrane includes some tips in the booklet, and I find myself hunting for Ham conversations almost nightly. I haven’t had to attach an external antenna as of yet as I find something without them. If the primary purpose of this radio is to bring a capable SSB portable to your pocket on any adventure, CCrane has scored big. I’m still not a hard core listener, but this radio is very satisfying and I tend to check out the side bands much more frequently.

Next up is the SW band. The SSB2 has a longer antenna and I think it serves well pulling in more distant signals. First thing I noticed is that the SSB2 scans slower than the original Skywave. Perhaps this is due to the ability to detect single side band signals, but I’m not so sure. The original is quite speedy, the SSB 2 seems more normal. The best features are the external antenna options and the hardware provided in the box. Wherever you travel, you can easily hook up an antenna directly into the radio, simply using wire that attaches to the accessories in the box. There is a provided reel antenna, so your options are plentiful. I don’t get any overload, but I’m also not on top of any local signals. I have to say, as a communications device, this radio is designed to please.

Aircraft also benefits from a longer whip and external options. I can just get the feed from my local airport (about 5 miles away). The SSB2 gets the airport weather service clearly. There’s an updated scanner that is perfect for monitoring 2-3 signals at a time. This is a big improvement.

The weather band is one of my favorites and have always enjoyed it on the Pocket and Skywave. Here we have one step forward and one back. I understood why the original Skywave didn’t employ the tone switch on WX. There’s not a lot of dynamic audio here. But the SSB2 does which makes it a bit clearer and certainly louder. Very happy with that update, however when I push the presets on the SSB2, nothing! On the original, pushing 1 through 7 moved you to that WX channel. Now you have to slew through signals using the knob or buttons. Why would they omit this? At my home location, I receive 1, 4 & 7 and would simply press the preset I wanted to hear. Losing this capability makes no sense at all.

AM/MX. This band is always a CCrane strength and the SSB2 will not disappoint. Excellent sensitivity, filtering and scanning options makes this a top tier pocket portable.

FM. Better antenna, better reception. I think it’s a hair more sensitive and selective than the original Skywave, but listening to the FM band leads me into my biggest gripe, the audio.

“Slightly Improved” is a way of saying “don’t expect too much.” At first, I was highly disappointed. Even on “Voice,” the FM band sounded shrill and fatiguing. I almost returned it that first day. I decided that it was better to give time and put it through various paces and locations. Here’s my personal assessment. While audio dynamics is as personal as one’s favorite color, I must start by saying they did make a sizeable effort to improve this radio’s sound – to a degree. Excluding FM, the audio is louder and fuller. I would go as far to say it’s a bigger improvement than they give themselves credit for, especially with SW, SSB and WX. But with FM, they could have trimmed that high end 1-2db and it would have been so much better. U.S. FM signals are overprocessed to begin with and this radio highlights that flaw immensely. (The PL-310et does as well, but with slightly better low end to balance the sound). I’ve brought the radio outside, listened to the non-commercial locals and various low key programming – when the high frequencies are more muted, this model sounds much better than the original. OK, admittedly people are not laying out $160 for this radio to listen to the Zombies, U2 or even Doja Cat, but I don’t think it would have taken much to make this radio audibly more pleasant on all bands.

Where the audio does suffer is at low, low levels. This is not for listening in bed late at night. The improved amplifier has to send more energy to the speaker and that creates a low-level hiss – even when the volume is at zero. This is not a Skywave SSB2 issue, it is an issue with most audio devices trying to pump more into a smaller speaker. Most radios suffer from this to a degree (the original Skywave does not), but some are better than others. The SSB2 is very noticeable.

I honestly feel CCrane put in a big effort trying to please their core base with multiple adjustments to this radio. The screen light is better dispersed. When you shut the unit off, it gives you the time before the light extinguishes. Switching on and off or between bands, the audio fades up and down – better than unexpected loudness. The tuning knob is vastly improved with satisfying clicks and no jumping over frequencies. The volume knob is stiffer with less play. The buttons are better, and the adjusted layout is extremely intuitive. I’m not a huge fan of the current style, but it makes sense. CCrane designed this radio to be more in line with the CC Pocket, giving their portable lineup familiarity between models. I’d prefer the page and memory numbers to remain on screen, but it’s extraneous information. I don’t listen through the earbuds, but they are working on whatever clicking problems occur when switching between bands.

No radio will ever be perfect nor please everyone, but I remain a fan of CCrane. For Ham and SW enthusiasts on the go, this radio is worth your consideration. You can buy cheaper, but you will only get what you pay for. My original Skywave, purchased in 2015, continues working like it did brand new and remains my #1 travel companion. Well, number two behind my wife.

Click here to check out the Skywave line at C.Crane.

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Comparing the Watkins-Johnson WJ-8711 & WJ-8712 with TEN-TEC RX-340 & RX-331 receivers

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paolo Viappiani, who shares the following guest post:


The WJ-8711 & WJ-8712 vs. Ten-Tec RX-340 & RX-331 Receivers

by Paolo Viappiani, Carrara, Italy

In recent years, a renewed interest has grown in regards to the best HF receivers using “first generation” DSPs, typically the HF-1000/HF-1000A, WJ-8711/WJ-8711A and WJ-8712 models by Watkins-Johnson and the RX-340 and RX-331 models by Ten-Tec. Even today, the aforementioned receivers are considered among the best performers of all times; this is a well-deserved fame in the case of the W-Js, a bit less with regard to the units manufactured by Ten-Tec, a firm that once had a good reputation but that has been recently acquired by a new owner (who sold the old facilities by transferring the company and distorting the sales, support and assistance policies of the previous company [2]). I therefore believe that this article serves as a dutiful information for the readers who are potentially interested in these receivers.

A Bit of History

In the years between the last and the present century, two receivers very similar to each other in terms of design and structure were released almost simultaneously by Watkins-Johnson of Gaithersburg, Maryland [1] and by Ten-Tec of Sevierville, Tennessee [2]: the WJ-8711 (later upgraded to the A and A-3 versions and followed for a short period by the HF1000 and the  HF1000A  “civilian” versions [3]) and the Ten-Tec RX-340; both of them are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The WJ-8711A (above) and Ten-Tec RX-340 (below). Notice the similarity of the front panels of the two radios.

The WJ-8712/WJ-8712A and the Ten-Tec RX-331 receivers were released by their respective manufacturers in that period also (the latter one was preceded by the RX-320 and RX-330 models). All these types were nothing more than “black-box” units, that in all respects corresponded to the WJ-8711A and to the Ten-Tec RX-340 receivers but that had not been provided with true front panels, as they were controlled by special hardware interfaces or from a PC, look at Figures 2 and 3.

Looking at the appearance of the WJ-8711/HF1000 receiver series and of the Ten-Tec RX-340 units, a relative similarity to each other is evident, and it has led to various speculations regarding the design of both devices.

One of the theories was revealed by James (Jim) C. Garland W8ZR of Santa Fe, New Mexico [4], about which he claims to have obtained information from a Ten-Tec employee directly. James claims that in 1991 the US Government Agency NSA (National Security Agency), which used to purchase numerous HF receivers for surveillance and interception, decided that the current cost of the receivers were too high and formed a special group in order to study how to obtain a possible price reduction.

At that time the high-end HF receiver market was dominated by a few manufacturers: Watkins-Johnson, Racal, Cubic, Rockwell-Collins and a few others, and Ten-Tec applied for joining the group.

Figure 2: The WJ-8712A (above) and Ten-Tec RX-331 (below). While the Watkins-Johnson model is two rack units high and half wide, the Ten-Tec develops less in height (only one rack unit) and more in width (standard 19” rack). However, both receivers are quite deep (more than 20”-50 cm.).

Figure 3: The Tmate unit of the WoodBoxRadio is shown here; it is one of the possible accessories which, together with a PC monitor, allow using the “black-box” receivers via an RS-232 interface.

According to the information provided by Jim Garland, the Watkins-Johnson and the Ten-Tec designers worked together for about one year in order to agree on the technical characteristics and guidelines of the “radio of the future” which must meet all the requirements that the NSA requested.

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Paolo’s review of the Eton Elite Satellit

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paolo Viappiani, who shares the following guest post:


ETON Elite Satellit: an expensive flop 

by Paolo Viappiani, Italy 

Introduction 

After various and sometimes conflicting announcements that have created strong expectations in radio listening enthusiasts, ETON has recently launched on the extra-European market (basically in the United States) what should have been its “top of the range” portable, the Elite Satellit model . Aesthetically (and also functionally) inspired by the previous E1 model, the new portable radio should have been free from the defects of its predecessor, in particular as regards the “sticky” coating of the plastic case but also with respect to other technical drawbacks repeatedly reported by users (display contrast and shading, etc.).

The new Elite Satellit was announced to look practically identical to the E1 model and to use the same cabinet, but with various additions and improvements: RDS, FM-HD reception, Air Band, etc. A frequency resolution of 10 Hz in the shortwave bands, a PBT (Pass-Band Tuning) facility, a large LCD display with the possibility of changing its background color were also provided.

It is therefore obvious that its release was highly anticipated, and the resulting expectation gave rise to numerous pre-orders of the radio in the United States, where the main distributor was (and still is) the well-known Universal Radio company owned by Fred Osterman [1].

Unfortunately, the initial boom in sales of the ETON Elite Satellit was followed by many return requests due to the poor performances of the radio and the numerous defects encountered by users, also reported in a lot of videos and negative reviews on the Internet [2].

Fred Osterman himself, disappointed by the performance of a radio that he should have sold as an excellent portable, began to test the individual devices in his own laboratory and to return to ETON all the units that did not meet the declared specs (basically the vast majority of those received for sale) [3]. All this caused great confusion at ETON, which was forced to somehow remedy its errors (mainly due both to a very approximate alignment of the circuits and to an almost non-existent final quality control).

Unfortunately, despite the precautions adopted “hastily” by ETON, most of the “overhauled” devices that were returned to Universal Radio continued not to comply with the specifications, so that Fred Osterman, who is a good technician and a very honest dealer, decided to cancel most of the orders received and to sell the very few radios found to be in good working order within the United States only, (see again note [3]). I myself placed an order from Universal Radio for an ETON Elite Satellit on August 8, 2022 (Order ID: #8992932, retail price $599.99 plus shipping and import customs duties), but Fred was forced to “drastically cut” the orders received and to cancel mine too, due to the impossibility of satisfying the many customers on this side of the pond. However, my desire to have an example of the ETON Elite Satellit in my hands, in order to be able to see, test and judge the new radio it was really great, and great was also the wish to realize if the many negative impressions circulating on the web were or were not justified and true.

So I decided to look for other ways to buy the “latest cry” of ETON. The opportunity presented itself to me, almost unexpectedly, by visiting the American site of Amazon [4].

The purchase and the arrival of the radio; my first impressions 

I therefore ordered an ETON Elite Satellit portable radio on the Amazon.com website on January 17, 2023 at the price of $698.16 (including shipping and customs duties). I report in Figure 1 the screenshot concerning my order #113-3575479-2262609 which, as it appears, was delivered to me on January 23, 2023, after only five days; this demonstrates the truthfulness of my statements.

Figure 1: A Screenshot of my Amazon.com order dated January 17, 2023.

The shipment was delivered to me by UPS courier in the usual Amazon packaging in a plastic bag (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The UPS label and the Amazon plastic bag.

Inside the envelope was a cardboard box containing the radio, in understandably less than perfect conditions (Figure 3).

Figure 3: The cardboard box of the ETON Elite Satellit.

Figure 4: The contents of the radio box.

Once the package was opened, the contents of the box looked like in Figure 4: two shock-absorbing spacers held the device in position (inserted in a plastic bag) and its AC power supply (into a white box, and obviously with a 117V input voltage). There was also the “User Guide” in a paper version and a “mini-guide” to listening to short waves; completely absent was the CD that used to be enclosed in the box of the previous E1 version of the radio.

Continuing with the operations, I came across a sort of brown plastic cover intended for the protection of three sides of the radio (front, top and back) which can be held in position by some magnets and is provided with two circular holes in correspondence with the tuning knobs and volume of the radio (Figure 5).

Figure 5: The ETON Elite Satellit radio and its “case” (?)

I omit to make comments on this “protection”; I only say that in my opinion it is useless (and ugly too) and I believe that the gentlemen of ETON could have wasted their energies otherwise; but maybe someone likes it too…

Figures 6 and 7 show the front and back of the portable radio as soon as it has been removed from the protective plastic bag. Note the almost identical appearance of the cases of the Elite Satellit and of the previous E1 model.

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13dka Reviews: The new 2022 “Belka” (generation 3) general coverage receiver

The new 2022 “Belka” (generation 3) general coverage receiver

by 13dka

Since its introduction in 2019, the super-tiny Belka (back then called “Belka DSP”) shortwave receiver sure gained an enthusiastic followership among SWLs and hams. The main reason for this is certainly the way how the Belka is incredibly small yet playing in a different league than the various consumer grade, Chinese mass-production radios, particularly the DSP-based ultraportables: The Belka is an all-mode shortwave communications receiver with a completely different (direct conversion SDR) architecture, developed and produced by a radio enthusiast (Alex, EU1ME) in a small mom&pop shop in Belarus.

In case you’ve never heard about it amidst all the buzz about more popular brands, here’s the skinny:

The Belka offers true allmode (including NFM and CW) reception with a proper 400 Hz CW filter and individual settings for the low and high filter slopes for AM, FM and SSB. It has an AM sync detector and comes with a 0.5ppm TCXO-controlled local oscillator for absolutely spot-on, calibration-free frequency precision and stability, which makes SSB or ECSS reception of broadcast stations a pure joy. The second iteration “Belka DX” brought a slightly extended coverage down to 1.5 MHz and an I/Q output for panadapter display and/or processing via your favorite SDR software.

All Belkas are quiet and very sensitive radios with a surprisingly robust front end, the filters are better and its AGC works like you’d expect it from a communications receiver, without the artifacts and distortion the DSP radios are infamous for, and of course smooth, non-“muting” tuning in variable steps down to 10Hz.

The Belkas have no built-in speaker (available as option tho) but really excellent audio on headphones and external speakers and they actually give my Icom IC-705 a run for its money in terms of reception quality, and they do that for up to 24 hours on a single charge of the internal Li-Ion battery. This stunning feature set is crowned by the best performance on a telescopic whip antenna ever – the Belkas have a high-impedance (>10 kOhm) antenna input optimized for this whip and taking it on a walk is (really!) like having a big rig with a big antenna in tow…

Despite all this goodness setting the Belka(s) quite fundamentally apart from most (if not all) current and former, even much higher priced portables and simultaneously putting it solidly into pricey tabletop territory, it hasn’t put Tecsun et al out of business for a couple of reasons: One reason is that it can only be obtained from Alex in Belarus, which is now often assumed to be impossible (it isn’t, more on that later). Another reason is that it doesn’t try to compete with aforementioned multiband radios from China, so there is no FM broadcast band and – until now – no AM BC band, but most owners and potential buyers particularly in the US really wished it had at least the latter. Well, Alex obviously heard us! After the Belka DSP and the Belka DX, the new Belka is just called “Belka”, so in order to avoid any ambiguity I’m going to refer to this model as “Belka 2022”.

What’s new?

The most prominent addition to the Belka 2022 is the extended 0.1-31 MHz coverage, the previous version only started receiving at 1.5 MHz. With LW and MW included, its “pseudosynchronous” detector (as featured in venerable radios from Harris, Racal or Drake), the great filtering and the great frequency precision for hassle-free ECSS reception are promising that the “squirrel” is now an ultra-ultraportable companion for MW DXers as well.

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