Tag Archives: Shortwave Radios

Are there any tabletop shortwave receivers currently on the market?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Peter, who asks:

Two of the tabletop shortwave receivers recommended in the past are listed as discontinued by retailers. Do you have any current recommendations?

Great question, Peter. I’m guessing that you’re looking for a new tabletop communications receiver and I also assume you may be referring to the CommRadio CR-1a and the Alinco DX-R8T. Both of these have been discontinued by the manufacturer.

Fewer options than in the past

To my knowledge, there are very few dedicated, stand-alone tabletop shortwave receivers currently on the market.

The ELAD FDM-DUOr

One notable exception is the ELAD FDM-DUOr which is essentially a tabletop, stand-alone SDR. It is an excellent performer and I believe still available from ELAD for about $900 US. The FDM-DUOr is currently the best option I know of under $1,000 US.

There are still a handful of dedicated communications receivers on the market, but they tend to be wideband receivers and carry a heavier price tag than legacy HF-only receivers.

The new Icom IC-8600 at the 2017 Hamvention

One example is the Icom IC-R8600. It’s a great HF radio–click here to read the review–but it retails for around $2,200 US.

In addition, AOR still offers a variety of wideband analog and digital communications receivers, but again, the prices are all well over the $1,000 mark.

What happened to tabletop receivers?

Icom IC-705

In my opinion, two innovations pushed dedicated tabletop receivers off the market:

  1. The proliferation of high-performance, affordable software defined radios like the AirSpy HF+ Discovery and SDRplay RSPdx. Both of these models retail for less than $200 US new and offer superb performance when coupled with even a modest PC, laptop, or tablet. In addition, those seeking benchmark SDR receiver hardware and performance will invest in higher-priced models like the new ELAD FDM-S3. Click here to read Part 1 of our SDR primer.
  2. General coverage ham radio transceivers now provide performance that’s on par or even better than legacy tabletop receivers. Many shortwave listeners now purchase transceivers and simply disable the transmit function so that they don’t accidentally inject RF power into the antenna. Transceivers lack some broadcast listener features like synchronous detection, but their single sideband performance often compensates for this, in my opinion. Some current (sub $1,000 US) favorites among SWLs include the Icom IC-7300, and the Yaesu FT-891. I’m also a huge fan of the new Icom IC-705 portable transceiver, although its price point is closer to $1,300 US. Click here to read more about general coverage transceivers.

If SDRs and general coverage transceiver lack appeal, keep in mind that there are a multitude of legacy communications receivers on the used market.

I should add here that one Ohio-based manufacturer, Palstar, has mentioned that they plan to produce the Palstar R30B tabletop shortwave receiver which would be the latest iteration of their R30 series. This announcement has been out there for some time, though, and I’m not sure when or if the R30B will ever come to fruition.

More options?

To keep the scope of the original question in check, I’m leaving out a number of other viable options like larger portable radios (the Sangean ATS-909X2 and/or the Tecsun H-501 for example) and other inexpensive DSP receivers on eBay like those based on the  Si4732 chipset.

Have I missed something? Please comment if you know of other tabletop communications receivers currently on the market. Also, if you use a general coverage transceiver for SWLing, please share which make/model you like in the comments section! Click here to comment.

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Any thoughts on this inexpensive Si4732-based receiver?

I’ve received a number of inquiries from SWLing Post readers lately regarding an inexpensive Si4732-based mini stand-alone receiver being sold on Amazon and eBay for around $56-66 US shipped.

The radio is based on the Silicon Labs Si4732 DSP chip which provides the following frequency coverage:

  • FM (64–108 MHz) with RDS
  • AM/Mediumwave (520–1710 kHz)
  • Shortwave (2.3–26.1 MHz)
  • Longwave (153–279 kHz)

It appears the bandwidth selections are 0.5, 1.0, 1.2, 2.2, 3, and 4 kHz.

If 4 kHz is the widest AM bandwidth, that is a bit unfortunate. The radio does have a BFO for tuning SSB and CW signals.

If I’m being honest, even though the price is a no-brainer, I’ve been hesitant to buy it simply because, due to my limited free time, I really do seek enthusiast-grade receivers for review these days. I’m less interested in radios that are cheaply made and lack the sensitivity, selectivity, noise floor, and features an SWL would desire. In other words, I’m a bit skeptical this receiver will be a proper performer.

The frequency range is certainly adequate and Silicon Labs chips are a quality product, but as we know the Si4732 is only as good as its implementation (click here to read the PDF data sheet).

I’m curious if any SWLing Post readers can comment with their experience using one of these Si4732-based receivers. Did it live up to your expectations? How does it compare with, say, an XHDATA D-808 or Tecsun PL-330? Is it sensitive with the supplied whip antenna? Does it have many birdies or other internally-generated noises? Please comment and let me know if this radio is worth checking out!

Click here to search eBay for this radio.

Click here to check it out on Amazon.com. (SWLing Post affiliate link)

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Dan provides an update to his Sangean ATS-909X2 first impressions

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, DanH, who shares the following update to his first impressions of the Sangean ATS-909X2:


Update: Sangean ATS-909X2 First Impressions

by DanH

Sangean USA will offer a free software update to customers who have purchased the first USA mass production version of Sangean ATS-909X2. These radios are equipped with software VER-070. This is the same 909X2 version that I purchased last week and used for my “First Impressions” article. The software update to VER-073 will feature various bug fixes. Software VER-073 will be included with the ATS-909X2 shipment arriving at Sangean USA in March, 2021. These bug fixes are of a technical nature and beyond my ability to describe at this writing.

Sangean USA will offer 909X2 VER-070 owners a software update to VER-073 if they want it and as soon as Sangean USA receives the necessary update device from Sangean Headquarters.

So far, I have noticed no software bugs in 909X2 operation but like everyone else I am still new at using this radio. I hope to start entering saved shortwave station entries from my 909Xs into the 909X2 this week. In other notes, AIR band is working very well with my local international airport some 20 miles away. I also did a test on the 909X2 external antenna jack and confirmed that plugging an external antenna into this jack will disconnect the built-in ferrite bar antenna for MW and the telescopic whip for SW.

To display the 909X2 software version:

1. power up the radio
2. press and hold the INFO button for two seconds
3. turn the tuning dial until VER XXX appears on the display
4. to clear this information wait 10 seconds or hit the C button

Further details will follow as they develop.

May your shortwave listening be good and the geomagnetic field quiet.

DanH


Thank you for the update, Dan! 

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The new HanRongDa K-603 portable radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mei Tao, who writes:

Yesterday, I received a new radio: the HanRongDa K-603, which was sent to me by the manufacture.They want me to test this prototype machine in order to find any bugs. If there is nothing to fix, I believe this radio will hit the market in this or next month.

K-603 is a small portable radio which also has some great functions. Its major features include:

  • FM, AM, and SW bands
  • Bluetooth 5.0 connection
  • TF Card Player
  • Recording function
  • Line in
  • LCD can display three different languages,English?Chinese and another foreign language.
  • Powered by the BL-5C Li battery
  • MW channnel space can be switched between 9KHz adn 10KHz.
  • Tuning methods: Scan, ATS, and direct key entry

The designer told me that this K-603’s fm coverage is from 87MHz to 108MHz, but they will extend it to 64MHz in the next version. That’s really good news.

In a few days, I will test it carefully. If necessary, I will make side-by-side comparisons with my own Tecsun, Sangean, Radiwow, and Degen radios. Then i will present some text and video reviews.

I would like to share some pictures of this new radio with you and other BCLers

Best wishes to you!

Photos

Thank you, Mei Tao! We look forward to your review of the HanRongDa K-603. Yes, please let us know how it compares to your other receivers. We also look forward to any update regarding price and availability. Thanks for sharing those photos!

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Sony CRF-330K fetching top dollar on eBay

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who writes:

Saw this Sony receiver at a current high price on eBay:

Interesting that it has a cassette recorder, although back in those days cassettes were popular and other radios had ’em installed to record your favorite shows or to just use as a player.

Yes indeed, Mario! I remember absolutely lusting after a few radio models with built-in cassette recording features when I was much younger. It would have made off-air recordings much easier!  Of course, the most affordable (and accessible) model I remember in the past couple of decades was the vulnerable Sangean ATS-818cs or RadioShack DX-392.

I’ve never seen a pull-out cassette tray like the CK-330K’s:

It appears this Sony CRF-330K only has a few hours left of bidding at time of posting. There’s a bit of a bidding war going on, it seems, based on the bid history.

Click here to view on eBay.

I assume the CK-330K is a performer. Perhaps our resident expert, Dan Robinson, will share his comments?

Thanks for the tip, Mario!

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Tecsun PL-660 Hidden Feature: FM Calibration

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Rick B, who writes:

I just thought I’d share with you a hidden function I discovered documented on the web for the Tecsun PL-660. It’s how to calibrate the FM band if you have a radio that is off frequency.

As my current PL-660 is accurate on FM, I haven’t had to try this myself. But perhaps it could save someone else from having to return/exchange a radio.

http://kaito.us/miscellaneous/qa/how-to-calibrate-the-pl660-on-the-fm-band.html

“Re-calibrating FM, radio needs to be on and set to FM band. Tune to the desired frequency/station you wish to listen to, press “SYNC” for about 3 seconds back light will flash. Tune up until the frequency/station sounds more clear press “1” to confirm re-calibration. If done correctly the correct frequency/station will be displayed on the display. Keep the battery in for all the time…”

Very cool!  Thank you for sharing the tip, Rick!

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Oxford Shortwave Log 200 metre Beverage antenna: further MW and SW reception videos

a1-beverage

Hi there, further to my previous post regarding the initial testing of the Medium Wave Circle-design 200 metre Beverage antenna at the woods in Oxford, UK, I am pleased to share further reception videos for both the medium wave and shortwave bands. For medium wave, I operated the FDM DUO via a laptop and the FDN-SW2 software, recorded the entire band at the top of the hour and retrospectiively analysed the signals. For shortwave I utillised the FDM DUO as a standalone receiver, routing the audio via the excellent Bose Soundlink Mini 2 speaker.

As a quick recap, the antenna was terminated at the ‘front end’ with a 650 Ohm resistor into a 1 metre-long, permanent copper earthing rod that I had previously driven into the ground, away from the route taken by the general public. The actual wire was orientated in a generally westerly direction, and thus nulling signals propagating from the east. At the receiver end, I utillised my self-built transformer, wound for a 50 Ohm input impedance (14 turns on the primary), thus making the entire set-up suitable for the Elad FDM DUO. It was quite a pain to set up, taking over an hour to deploy, however, the results were very promising. A scematic diagram follows below.

beverage3

 

Links to the next group of reception videos follow:

The reception from VOCM St. Johns, Newfoundland & Labrador and WRCA Waltham, Massachusetts was unprecidented and another indication that the 200 metre Beverage configuration is demonstrating excellent SNR performance. Similarly, the reception of Radio Nacional Brazilia was an improvement on any signal I’d previously recorded with any receiver or antenna. Finally, the signal received from Radio Huanta 2000 – one of the more exotic stations on the Tropical Band and rarely heard in Europe – delivered discernible audio with this set-up, whereas previously I had only ever observed a carrier. All-in-all a very pleasing result, with more reception videos using this antenna set-up to follow in the coming weeks.

Right now I’m uploading SW and MW reception videos to my YouTube channel, recorded during my two week trip to Pará in Northern Brazil – it was really interesting to check out what can be heard on the radio in the middle of what is a very remote area of tropical rainforest. I hope you find the time to take a look.  In the meantime, thank you for watching/ listening and I wish you all good DX.


 

MW DX with the 200 metre Beverage: WRCA 1330 kHz, Waltham Mass., big signal/ clear IDs!

 

 

 

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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