Tag Archives: Shortwave Radio

Tecsun PL-990x vs. PL-880: Comparing SSB audio characteristics and pre-production/production PL-990 models

A number of SWLing Post readers have been asking about SSB audio characteristics on the new Tecsun PL-990.

Earlier this week, I took a moment while visiting family to make a few quick comparison videos with the PL-880 outdoors and away from RFI.

As I mention in the videos, there are a lot of cicadas singing in the background and you can also hear a bit of road noise–not ideal for audio, but I had to take advantage of a break in the weather!

You should also note that this isn’t a sensitivity comparison. The radios were pretty close together–if measuring sensitivity, I would have spaced them much further apart. Rather, I hope these videos give you an idea of the audio characteristics in SSB (both CW narrow and voice) and one comparison in AM. If you’re curious about sensitivity and how the PL-990x compares, check out Dan Robinsons initial evaluation.

CW Audio: .5 kHz filter on the 80 meter band

CW Audio: .5 kHz filter on the 30 meter band

SSB audio: 75 meter band

AM Audio: 5 kHz filter WWV 10 MHz

My thoughts

While these videos are far from ideal, they should give you a real-word impression of audio characteristics.

Personally, I think the PL-990x is a much better performer in single sideband. The noise floor is lower, but I think that may have more to do with better filter implementation. I’ve always felt that the PL-880 audio sounds “wider” than the selected filter in the more narrow SSB selections.

In addition, the PL-990x exhibits better SSB stability that’s especially noticeable in CW. The PL-880, at times, almost sounds garbled in comparison.

I also mentioned in the last video that the audio sounds better on the PL-880. I should have qualified that statement a bit better.

In general, yes, the PL-880 audio sounds better because its built-in speaker has slightly better audio fidelity that’s most noticeable when listening to music on the FM band, or a strong local AM station. On shortwave, I feel like I actually prefer the PL-990 audio for all but the strongest stations although I do wish the PL-990 filter could be widened to 9 kHz like the PL-880.

PL-990x (pre-production) vs. PL-990 (production model)

Tecsun Radios Australia reached out and kindly sent me one of their PL-990 production model radios to compare with the PL-990x pre-production model from Anon-Co we’ve been testing up to this point. This has been incredibly helpful as I put together my PL-990 review for the 2021 World Radio TV Handbook.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I feel it can be problematic using a pre-production model radio for review only because there can be differences in quality control when a small number of pre-production units are manufactured compared with a proper first production run (remember this case?).

I’ve only had the production model PL-990 for a few days and most of that time we’ve been dealing with the remnants of hurricane Sally moving through our area dumping torrential rains.

Last night, however, a massive tree fell across our road knocking out power for the better part of 5 hours. This gave me a perfect excuse to start my comparison indoors while rain continued outside.

Based on my comparisons last night, it appears performance is nearly identical between the production and pre-production models. I’ve still more testing to do, but my initial impressions are most positive. Very happy quality appears to be consistent.

Many thanks again to Tecsun Radios Australia for making this comparison possible.

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Can you help Bruce identify this shortwave noise?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bruce (VE6XTC), who is trying to identify noises he’s hearing on the HF bands. Perhaps readers can help.

By request, Bruce has provided me with two recordings via his Kenwood TS-440S:

Recording 1: 7,335 kHz at 0500 UTC on September 13, 2020

Recording 2: 7,405 at 0500 UT on September 13, 2020

Post readers: If you can help Bruce by identifying these HF noises, please comment!

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BBC World Service: “Over To You” on the future of shortwave broadcasts

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Webster (G7KVE), who shares the following article and interview from the BBC WS program Over To You:

Tuning in to the future for shortwave

We answer your questions about the BBC World Service’s plans for shortwave. With many tens of millions still relying on it to listen every day, what does the future hold?

Plus: earlier this year it was “temporarily suspended” due to Covid – but now Weekend is back. We get your reaction.

Presenter: Rajan Datar
Producer: Howard Shannon

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Can’t receive anything on your new shortwave radio–? Read this.

This morning, I received a question from Andrew, an SWLing Post reader in the UK.  Andrew writes:

May I ask a question please? I am very much a newbie to this. I am not really interested in FM, but I would like to listen to international stations on SW, utilities stations, amateur broadcasts and if possible, local airports, aircraft on air band.

I have just purchased a Tecsun PL-680 and have tried it inside my home with the telescopic and wire aerial that came with it, plugged into the antenna port and clipped to a point near the ceiling. All inside the house and the wire aerial did improve the reception, but I get hardly and channels either during the day or night.

Grateful for your detailed advice on what I need to do exactly to improve the number of stations I can receive.

Kind regards
Andrew

Thank you for your question, Andrew, and I hope you don’t mind that I share it here on the SWLing Post as I receive this question so frequently from new shortwave radio enthusiasts.

Of course, a number of things could be affecting your shortwave radio reception and there is, of course, the possibility the receiver is faulty–however, this is very unlikely. Let’s talk about what is most likely the culprit:

Radio Frequency Interference (RFI)

RFI is quite often the elephant in the listening room. It’s not always immediately obvious–especially if you’re new to shortwave listening.

RFI (also known as QRM) is radio noise that is created locally and often concentrated in our homes and neighborhoods. RFI deafens our shortwave radios by overwhelming the receiver with strong spurious signals. Even if you can’t hear the noise, it could still be overwhelming your receiver from a different portion of the band.

RFI can emanate from most any modern electronic or digital device in your home: televisions, power supplies, dimmer switches, smart appliances, and even computer hard drives. Honestly, most any device could be the culprit.

These “Wall Wart” type adapters can create a lot of RFI

RFI can also be caused by power line noises outdoors which have a much larger noise footprint and typically require intervention from your local utilities company/municipality.

In all likelihood, though, it’s a noise inside your home.

There’s a quick way to determine if RFI is the culprit:

Take your radio outdoors, away from the noise

Depending on where you live, this might only require walking with your radio to the far end of your garden/yard, or it might require hopping in your car and visiting a local park. The idea is to find a spot far removed from houses and buildings, outdoor lighting, and even power lines if possible.

Once you find a listening spot, turn on your portable and tune through some of the popular shortwave radio bands.

If in the late afternoon or evening, I like tuning through either the 31 meter band (9,400–9,900 kHz), 41 meter band (7,200–7,450 kHz) and, if late evening, the 49 meter band (5,900–6,200 kHz). Jot down the frequencies where you hear stations and perhaps even make notes about the signal strength. Then go back home and see if you can receive as many stations. Shortwave stations change frequencies often, but if you listen from home at the same time the following evening, the radio landscape should be similar.

My guess is that you’ll hear many more stations in the field than you can from within your home.

Living with RFI

Sadly, RFI is just a fact of life in this century. It’s very hard to escape, especially for those of us living in dense urban areas. This is one of the reasons I’m such a big fan of taking radios to the field.

There are things you can do to improve reception and I would encourage you to read through this post from our archives (the first two points in the article directly address RFI). Do your best to track down sources of noise and eliminate them.

If you find that, even in the field, your shortwave receiver can’t receive stations with the antenna fully extended, then it may indeed be an issue with the radio itself and you might need to send it back to the manufacturer or retailer if it’s within the return window.

Post readers: If you have other suggestions, feel free to comment!


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Website highlights the history of YLE Radio Finland

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark (VA3MK), who writes:

I found a great website written by the former head of broadcasting in Finland.

I hope this brings back memories of YLE Radio Finland.

I used to listen regularly on 15.400 MHz when they were on the air. Enjoy:

http://www.ulkomaanmedia.net/RFTIMELINE.html

What a fabulous deep dive into YLE Radio Finland history! Thanks for sharing, Mark.

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Radio Emma Toc World Service Schedule for September 2020

(Source: Jim Salmon, Radio Emma Toc)

RADIO EMMA TOC WS SCHEDULE SUMMARY – SEPT. 2020 

Programme Contents – a look at – two documentaries about 1920’s radio – ‘Radio Sings’ & ‘Sounds From The Ether’, the BBC Antarctica Midwinter broadcast, Radio Caroline memories, RadioShack’s ‘Sounds of SW’, & hello to listeners.

Ways to listen…   Radio Emma Toc World Service – programme no. 5 – September 2020

Check out Radio Emma Toc online, or visit the World Service page

You can listen to our shortwave or FM broadcasts via our relay partners as follows:

WRMI – Radio Miami International – 9955kHz – covering Latin America (& beyond)

Tuesdays 18:00 EasternTime / 22:00 UTC

WRMI – Radio Miami International – 9455kHz – covering Eastern North America (& far beyond)

Sundays 21:00 EasternTime / 01:00 (Monday) UTC

Unique Radio Australia – online  – covering Australia (& beyond)

Saturdays 17:30 AEST / 07:30 UTC and Sundays 17:30 AEST / 07:30 UTC

World  FM –  88.2MHz / 107.6MHz – covering Tawa, Marahau & Stoke, New Zealand

Sundays 22:00 NZST / 10:00 UTC and Thursdays 16:30 NZST / 04:30 UTC

(every other week – alternating with HRI – Hobart Radio International)

Channel 292 – 6070kHz – covering Europe (& beyond)

Friday 4th September 20:00 UTC  &  Saturday 19th September 19:00 UTC

Scandinavian Weekend Radio – 6170kHz / 11690kHz / 1602kHz / 94.9MHz

covering Finland & Europe – Saturday  3rd October 05:00UTC

Happy listening! If you are outside the transmitter coverage areas, why not listen via the broadcasters’ online services. Website details for the above stations are listed on our own website here –  www.emmatoc.org/worldserviceschedule

If you don’t have access to receivers & aerials you can try using an online SDR receiver – ve3sun.com/KiwiSDR – experience the enjoyment of tuning around shortwave from worldwide locations online.

We are happy to issue eQSLs for reception reports sent to – emmatoc1922@gmail.com – & will gladly include for online reports. If using an online SDR, please give us the SDR location.

If any stations wish to relay our programme a download link is available on our website. Please advise us of times & dates so we can publicise in our schedule.

Finally – please note – we are still able to take requests for our November Global Request Show. Email us with your song choices!

Thank you!

Jim Salmon  –  Radio Emma Toc

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WBCQ purchases World Harvest Radio (WHRI)

WBCQ’s Ampegon antenna at the Monticello transmitting site.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Benjamin, who shares the following news tip via Radio Insight:

Family Broadcasting Corporation is selling shortwave Christian “World Harvest Radio” WHRI Furman SC to Allan Weiner for $1.25 million. Weiner also owns shortwave Talk “The Planet” WBCQ Monticello ME as well as Talk/Rock 780 WXME/98.3 W252DW and Classic Country “Kixx 94.7” WBCQ-FM Monticello. The seller owns multiple Christian television stations as well as Christian AC “Pulse-FM” 103.1 WHME South Bend IN, 96.9 WHPZ Bremen IN, and 92.1 WHPD Dowagiac MI.

Click here to read this item at Radio Insight.

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