Tag Archives: ShouYu SY-X5

Mechanically-tuned portable DSP radios: a shootout

Three of the five contenders: The Degen DE32, Degen DE321 and Tecsun R-2010D (Click to enlarge)

Three of the five contenders: The Degen DE32, Degen DE321 and Tecsun R-2010D (Click to enlarge)

Following is my premiere shortwave radio column for the January 2014 issue of The Spectrum Monitor digital magazine.  It takes the form of a review–or “shoot-out,” if you will–of a few select mechanically-tuned DSP radios I’ve tested over the years.

While I’m a big fan of print publications, digital publications like TSM offer me flexibility that I can’t get in traditional print: namely, shorter time to publication (thus more up-to-date information) and especially, the ability to embed links and audio as I do here on The SWLing Post. In this case, I’m able to include audio clips which the reader can utilize to compare the radios firsthand (embedded here, as well).

Note: This being my first contribution to a brand new magazine, I thought it would be fitting to begin by explaining why I still believe in shortwave radio…I mean, how could I resist? I guess I’ll always be a shortwave evangelist at heart.

Hope you enjoy.


First:  why I still believe in shortwave

SP600Dial3While I’ve been blogging about shortwave for several years now, I simply can’t tell you how many times I’ve received an email asking doubtfully, “This seems like a fun hobby, but isn’t shortwave radio dead?”

My response?  No way!  Here’s why.

I once had the truly good fortune to be interviewed by Gareth Mitchell, host of the BBC World Service technology program Click. For once, I made a point of listening to this interview that featured me––always a bit embarrassing––but after all, this was the BBC World Service!

But Gareth’s lead-in to our segment about my shortwave radio-based charity, Ears To Our World (ETOW), truly surprised me:  our non-profit, he said, “distributes portable battery powered devices that can stream audio in real time, all via an intuitive touch interface.”

Wow…how true.  And since that interview, this is exactly how I see shortwave radio, too: not as a forgotten relic of the past century, but as a medium at home in the future with a unique, highly accessible, and yet global reach.  Shortwave radio, after all, requires no apps, no subscriptions, and no mobile phone or Internet connection to deliver information worldwide at the speed of light.

All you need––in short––is a radio.

Shortwave lives!

This column exists to prove to the doubtful that shortwave radio––indeed, radio in general––is not only alive and well, but loud and clear in urban as well as rural settings the world over.   Here, you’ll find in-depth articles that reflect the changing state of shortwave radio:  the technologies, the techniques, and the vast array of content currently available across the shortwave radio spectrum. Best yet, because SWLing (shortwave listening) is what you make of it, you can be part of it:  share your input, so that I can cover (and uncover) shortwave topics you wish to discuss.

So I begin this first column with a little comparison––a shootout––between five newly-popular analog DSP radios.  Let’s find out who’s left standing.

The contenders

We’ll be pitting five models against each other here: the Degen DE321, the Degen DE32, the Tecsun R-2010D, the Kchibo KK9803 and the ShouYu SY-X5. With the exception of the ShouYu SY-X5, all of these manufacturers have in the past produced at least one portable with truly notable performance (the Degen DE1102, 1103, Kchibo D96L and an array of Tecsuns, including the PL 310, 380, 390, 600 and 660).

Moreover––so that you can hear the difference for yourself!––I’ve included linked audio clips for each model. They were all tuned to the same frequency, same broadcast and within seconds of one another.

But first, what is a DSP radio? And why do we need them?

The Silicon Labs DSP chip found in many of these radios.

The Silicon Labs DSP chip found in many of these radios.

Mechanically-tuned DSP

Radio is no longer just your granddad’s medium.  Several years ago, the digital signal processing chip manufacturer, Silicon Labs (SiLabs), altered the entire radio landscape with one little chip. Indeed, most new digital shortwave/AM/FM radios on the market use a SiLabs (or other manufacturer’s) DSP chip as the centerpiece of their receiver architecture.

Using a DSP chip in a fully digital radio makes sense: after all, you have a digital display, digital buttons, and digital encoder. But using a digital chip with a traditional analog display––a mechanically-tuned DSP radio––does that make sense?

SiLabs and a growing number of radio manufacturers and retailers believe the answer is a resounding “yes.” In truth, there are concrete benefits to making this addition; among them:

  • Decreasing production cost of radios by as much as 80%
  • Decreasing R&D costs of new radios dramatically
  • Digital signal processing with the simplicity of analog radio design
  • Reduced power consumption when compared with digital display radios
  • An avenue to make radios more affordable––especially to listeners living in poverty, such as those in developing world settings, who make up a large subgroup of listeners

When I first learned about the implementation of a DSP chip with a mechanically-tuned radio in 2010, I felt like it might be “the” way to make quality receiver performance available and accessible to many.  Now, four years later, several manufacturers have produced mechanically-tuned DSP shortwave radios.  All are available from sellers at a price of under $40 USD. Not bad…

Common review points for mechanically-tuned DSP radios

I’ve now reviewed enough mechanically-tuned DSP-based radios that I’m beginning to note performance commonalities that can only be attributed to the design of the DSP chipset itself, regardless of how these are implemented in each model. So, before the shooting starts, let’s take a quick look at some common review points of the contenders.

Tuning: not quite an analog radio…

I’ve got to begin with the most obvious common review point: namely, tuning.

For those of us accustomed to analog tuning, the DSP/analog combination is, well, completely different and a little quirky. Tuning a traditional analog radio is a fluid process which allows for a certain amount of play; you need not be precisely on a frequency to hear a station, and often you hear a station fade as another pops into the band pass. But when tuning analog DSP, you hear stations and static pass by in comparatively coarse 5 kHz chunks. Especially in radios with tiny analog frequency dials, it makes tuning feel somewhat “sticky” or finicky, and ironically, rather imprecise. You feel like you’re skipping over stations while band-scanning.  And for those accustomed to digital tuning, instead of using buttons to tune in these 5 kHz increments, you’re using a tuning wheel, with no customary “step” response.  Not what you would expect from either digital or analog radio.

But of course, you can locate your station with this method.  It takes a little practice––and a measure of patience––but you’ll adjust to this different method of tuning.  Note that much of this awkwardness may disappear if SiLabs produces a chip with more precise tuning increments, such as 1 kHz steps with decreased muting.

Automatic Gain Control

In all the models I’ve tested so far, the Auto Gain Control (AGC) is a little too overactive when listening to weak AM/SW stations. This results in a “pumping” sound and serious listening fatigue when set on weaker stations. However, on strong stations, all models perform quite well.

Conformity

Since all of these radios are based on the same chip family from SiLabs, you can expect eight shortwave bands: two FM bands, one AM (medium wave) band, and eight shortwave bands. The frequency ranges available to the manufacturer in all bands are identical.

FM

FM performance on each of these radios is above average, and the coverage quite wide––from 64 MHz to 108 MHZ in two FM bands. If you like listening to FM radio, you’ll be pleased with any of these inexpensive models.

And now for some action!

Now, we’ll pit these five radios against each other in an listener’s challenge that will leave the losers in the dust…and the winners clear.

Degen-DE321

The Degen DE321 – Current retail:  $21.00 USD

The DE321 was the first analog DSP shortwave radio on the market. The DE321 is small, slim, über-simple, and fits nicely in the hand. The analog tuning dial takes up more than half of the front face of the radio––a good thing, as the larger the dial, the easier the tuning. Performance-wise, the DE321 holds its own in this crowd; it’s quite reasonable in both sensitivity and selectivity. The DE321 is the most bare-bones radio among the five described here.

Degen-DE32

The Degen DE32 – Current retail: $27.00 USD

The DE32 is the smallest radio of the five. Unlike the DE321, the DE32 is not “just” a radio; it also sports a simple MP3 audio player and a small white LED flashlight. The DE32 has a small built-in speaker which delivers tinny and rather cheap audio, but is okay for a single listener, and fine for spoken-word broadcasts. Audio fidelity is greatly improved with headphones. Performance-wise, the DE321 is slightly better than the DE32 on shortwave.

Tecsun-R2010D

The Tecsun R-2010D – Current retail: $39.00 USD

When I first held the R-2010D, I initially assumed I had found the holy grail among analog/DSP radios:  while the R-2010D is the largest of the five radios, measuring nearly equivalent to my Sony ICF-SW7600GR (not a pocket-sized portable like the others) it nonetheless has a beautiful large analog display (a major plus!), an amply-sized speaker for great portable audio, and a fluid tuning mechanism. To top it off, the R-2010D has a small digital frequency display so that you can verify your frequency. The R-2010D’s AGC circuit handles strong stations well, but clips on weak stations. But the promising R-2010D has one major flaw: terrible selectivity. Indeed, the selectivity is so sloppy, that you will not be able to delineate two strong signals spaced 10 kHz apart from each other.

ShouYu SY-X5

The ShouYu SY-X5 – Current retail:  $27.00 USD

The SY-X5 surprised me: what makes this model stand out is the fact that it can be powered by either a rechargeable slim battery pack (found in the DE32) or three standard AA batteries.  It also has a built-in MP3 player that, like the Degen DE32, uses a standard microSD card for media storage. Unlike the DE32, the SY-X5 has a bright red LED display that helps in navigating MP3 files. The SY-X5 also has surprisingly good audio from its built-in speaker, rivaling the much larger Tecsun R-2010D. The negative here? Though the SY-X5 has a fluid tuning mechanism, it is prone to drifting when trying to adjust the analog tuning needle to frequency.

IMG_0823The Kchibo KK9803 – Current retail:  $16.00 USD

When I first wrote this review, I didn’t even include the KK9803. Why? Because, frankly, it’s one of the worst performing radios I’ve ever owned, and I would strongly discourage you from even considering it. My primary criticism of this radio is that the tuning is barely functional:  the shortwave band segments are far too close to one another on the dial, hence the digital tuning steps are too narrowly-spaced to offer any sort of tuning accuracy whatsoever. Barely moving the tuning wheel, one may pass over even a strong station…undetectably. The only hint of the station’s existence may be an occasional quick blip or audio buzz. I must confess that the experience of band-scanning (tuning) this radio offers is the worst I’ve ever known in any radio. Don’t buy it. In our shootout, it’s bitten the dust before it even aims, because let’s face it:  this radio just can’t.

Audio comparisons

Click on each radio model to hear a short comparison audio clips. Note that I added an audio sample of the Tecsun PL-660 to the weak signal DX examples as a benchmark.

The Tecsun R-2010D (left) has the best audio from its large internal speaker, the Degen DE32, on the other hand, produces "tinny" audio via its speaker.

The Tecsun R-2010D (left) produces excellent audio from its large internal speaker. The Degen DE32 (right) produces “tinny” audio via its tiny built in speaker.

Local AM Comparison (1350 AM)
Degen DE321
Degen DE32
ShouYu SY-X5
Tecsun R-2010D

Weak Signal Shortwave Comparison (KBS 9,805 kHz)
Degen DE321
Degen DE32
ShouYu SY-X5
Tecsun R-2010D

Tecsun PL-660 (AM and Sync)

Strong Signal Shortwave Comparison (WINB 9,265 kHz)

Degen DE321
Degen DE32
ShouYu SY-X5
Tecsun R-2010D

The Winners

All of these radios share similar qualities.  After all, they’re brothers of a sort, built around the same family of DSP chips. If you’ve read the summaries above, then you won’t be disappointed by any of these that follow–especially at this modest price point. Still, I reach for different radios based on their strengths, and to help you choose, here’s a “best of” list:

Most versatile: ShouYu SY-X5

Best Audio: Tecsun R-2010D and ShouYu SY-X5

Best sensitivity: Tecsun R-2010D

Best value: Degen DE321

Best overall?

The ShouYu SY-X5

The ShouYu SY-X5

If I had to choose just one of these radios, it might just be the ShouYu SY-X5. It offers the most value and versatility for the performance. I think its audio is brilliant for a pocket radio, and I love the fact it has an LED display to help me navigate through the MP3 files loaded on my microSD card. However, as with any of these low-cost contenders, don’t expect to try any weak-signal DXing with the SY-X5.

By the way, if the Tecsun R-2010D simply had better selectivity and weak signal gain control, it would win this contest, hands down. In fact, I actually sent feedback to Tecsun engineering regarding the R-2010D selectivity shortcoming in the hope that they’ll fix this problem in future production runs.  You might do the same.

In conclusion, mechanically-tuned DSP portables may not pack DXer-grade performance, but they are priced so that everyone can afford to experiment. And for your buck, that’s pretty good radio bang!


This article was previously published in The Spectrum Monitor.


Resources

Click on the radio model to read full reviews of each radio on the SWLing Post–I’ve also provided links to eBay:

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SWLing.com’s 2013 Holiday Shortwave and Radio Gift Guide

gift-wrapOne of the most popular posts on the SWLing Post each year is the annual Holiday Radio Gift Guide. I started this annual post in 2010 when I realized that it would be easier than answering an in-box full of individual emails from people seeking the perfect shortwave radio for their friend or loved one.

In the following, you’ll find a handful of select radios I recommend for the 2013-2014 gift-giving season. I’ve arranged this selection by price, starting with the most affordable.

For the benefit of those with less radio experience, this quick guide is basic, non-technical, and to the point. For more comprehensive reviews, please consult our Radio Reviews page.

Updated for the 2013-14 holiday season on 08 December 2013.

Simple, affordable and portable

The Shouyu SY-X5 mechanically-tuned, DSP portable radio. (Click to enlarge)

The Shouyu SY-X5 mechanically-tuned, DSP portable radio. (Click to enlarge)

ShouYu SY-X5 ($29)

You can’t buy a lot for $30 US these days, but I’m here to tell you that you can buy a unique, portable AM/FM/shortwave radio with a built-in MP3 player called the ShouYu SY-X5.  I made a full review of the SY-X5 earlier this year; in short, it surprised me. While this little radio’s receiver can’t compare to the others on this page performance-wise, it is still very respectable. The MP3 capability is worth the price. You can load a microSD card full of your favorite music (or shortwave radio recordings) for days of listening!

Indeed, the audio from the built-in speaker is superb for a radio this size. Th SY-X5 can be powered from multiple sources (a rechargeable built-in battery pack, AA batteries, or via USB power cable).

Since the ShouYu SY-X5 is only available from eBay sellers in Hong Kong, you need to allow at least two or three weeks shipment time from the seller. You might ask if they offer an expedited option.

Click here to search eBay for the ShouYu SY-X5.

Other considerations include the Degen DE32 (review here) or Degen DE321 (review here). Note that the Degen DE321 lacks an MP3 player.

Self-Powered Shortwave Goodness

The Tecsun Green 88

The Tecsun Green 88

Tecsun Green 88

In each issue of the holiday guide, I like to feature at least one self-powered radio.  Why? Because if you’re ever been left in the dark due to a natural disaster or extended power outage, these radios become invaluable.

The Tecsun Green 88 is not only self-powered, but quite a capable little analog shortwave radio.  It has a nested fine tuning control on the tuning knob, an easy to read display and will give you about 40 minutes of listening time (at moderate volume levels) from two minutes of cranking. The LED lamp on the front makes an excellent flashlight and reading lamp. Again, to my knowledge, this radio is only available from sellers in Hong Kong on eBay, so allow extra shipping time.

Click here to search eBay for the Tecsun Green 88.

Some other self-powered radio options you might consider are the Eton Rover and the Eton FRX2, though note that they both have NOAA weather radio channels instead of shortwave. A very useful feature, though, for weathering winter storms.

Portable & powerful shortwave receivers

The Tecsun PL-660

The Tecsun PL-660

The Tecsun PL-660 ($100-110 US)

With the introduction of the new Tecsun PL-880 this year, retailers have dropped the price of the PL-660; you can now find them between $100-110 US.

The PL-660 is an all-around excellent receiver with great sensitivity, selectivity and all of the features to please a casual listener or the experienced DXer. For a full-featured radio, the operation is so simple an owner’s manual is barely needed. The PL-660 covers the entire shortwave radio spectrum, LW, AM (medium wave), FM and even has an AIR band (to monitor aircraft communications).

Purchase the Tecsun PL-660 from:

The new Tecsun PL-880

The new Tecsun PL-880

The Tecsun PL-880 ($150-170 US)

[Update: Unfortunately, after reviewing the PL-880 favorably, I have discovered that many units–especially those purchased through Amazon.com–have an older firmware version and lack some functionality I would consider very important. I now suggest buyers wait until Tecsun has corrected this–sometime well after the holiday season.]

At time of posting, the Tecsun PL-880 has only been on the market for about a week. It is the newest flagship portable radio from Tecsun. I have been reviewing this radio for several days and find it to be an excellent choice, if your budget allows. (Indeed, reviewing this radio had lead to a late delivery of the Annual Gift Guide!)

If you would like to see and hear the PL-880 in action, simply click on this link and explore the numerous posts and comments.

In short: it’s a great radio with superb audio from the built-in speaker. It’s also designed to make the amateur radio operator happy as it has an array of filter selections for the ham bands. In my experience, the selectivity and sensitivity are on par with the PL-660 (mentioned above).  Click here to read a full review of the PL-880.

The PL-880 is only available from a few retailers so far–most of whom are on eBay. Again, I purchase all Tecsun products from Anon-Co–I’m sure there are other qualified sellers on eBay, but Anon-Co provides excellent customer service. My PL-880 was shipped by Anon-Co and received in 3 days!:

Tabletop Performance

The CommRadio CR-1 is sure to please even the most discriminating radio listener in your life.

The CommRadio CR-1 is sure to please even the most discriminating radio listener in your life.

CommRadio CR-1 ($600 US)

The CommRadio CR-1 was introduced early this year and began shipping in the Spring. While you can read my full review of the CR-1 by clicking here, in a nutshell, it’s a brilliant little receiver! It wooed me from the moment I first saw it.

The CR-1 is made in Colorado, USA by CommRadio, a company well-versed in radio avionics. It’s thoughtfully engineered, relatively small (über portable), and meets all of my performance needs. It’s also a fun little radio and very easy to operate.  The CR-1 can be updated by the user via a USB cable and free PC software. Many of the updates include minor tweaks requested by users and even new features.

Only one catch: CommRadio has sold out of their stock for the holiday season. They’re offering a $25 coupon (see below) if you order and don’t mind an early January delivery time. However, call Universal Radio as they had radios in stock at time of this posting.

Purchase the CommRadio CR-1 from:

  • CommRadio (until December 31, 2013 use the coupon code CR12014 at check out to receive $25 off the price) or
  • Universal Radio who may have them in stock to ship

Other tabletop radios to consider are the Alinco DX-R8 and the Icom R-75.

Looking for an accessory?

UniversalRadioIn addition to the radios above, there are many antennas, accessories, books and used gear that you might consider. I would encourage you to contact Universal Radio and speak with one of their staff to seek suggestions. I mention Universal Radio frequently, because they are one of the only remaining true shortwave radio retailers in the US. If you live in Canada, you might also consider Durham Radio, in the UK, Waters & Stanton. (Readers: if you have suggestions of radio retailers in your country, please comment on this post.)

Want more gift options?  Try our 20122011 or 2010 gift guides, take a look through our shortwave radio reviews guide and/or our simplified reviews page.
Happy Holidays!

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A review of the ShouYu SY-X5 DSP shortwave radio

The Shouyu SY-X5 mechanically-tuned, DSP portable radio. (Click to enlarge)

The Shouyu SY-X5 mechanically-tuned, DSP portable radio. (Click to enlarge)

The ShouYu SY-X5 shortwave radio came to my attention only a few weeks ago. It is yet one more mechanically-tuned, DSP based, portable shortwave/AM/FM radio. I have reviewed several other models based on the same DSP chipset: the Silicon Labs SI4844–see my reviews of the Degen DE321, Degen DE32, and the Kichbo KK-9803. I also recently reviewed the Tecsun R-2010D, though it is based on a slightly newer, though similar, SiLabs DSP chipset.

What makes the ShouYu SY-X5 stand out is the fact that it can be powered by either a rechargeable slim battery pack (found in the DE32) or three standard AA batteries.  It also has a built-in MP3 player that uses a standard microSD card for media storage. Why are these features of particular note for me?  I have been searching for a shortwave radio/mp3 player for use by my charitable non-profit, Ears To Our World. ETOW works in parts of the world where people lack mains power as well as access to the Internet (or else simply can’t afford Internet service). In such settings, radio allows teachers and school children to hear up-to-date international news via shortwave, and through pre-recorded educational material, they can play (and replay) MP3 content as needed.

Therefore, I immediately ordered an SY-X5 for review here, hoping to donate it for use in the field care of Ears To Our World.

First impressions

Degen DE321 (left) Shouyu SY-X5 (right)

Degen DE321 (left) Shouyu SY-X5 (right)

The ShouYu SY-X5 is a small radio, almost exactly the same size as the very portable Grundig G6 and only slightly larger than the Degen DE321 (see left). It feels sturdy and even slightly heavy in your hand (no doubt, due to the number of batteries it holds). The antenna is rotatable and feels more robust than other radios in its price class.

The SY-X5 has a back stand that likewise feels sturdy enough. Note: to open the battery compartment, you must lift up the back stand.

The overall quality is better than one might expect for $27 (US), with one notable exception: the printed frequency display behind the analog dial on my unit is positioned slightly off-center and not level, making needle position on the dial, well, frankly ambiguous.

Audio

Without a doubt, the greatest aspect of the SY-X5 is the audio delivered from the built-in speaker. It is exceptional for this size radio, full and with impressive bass characteristics. It very much reminds me of the Melson M7 (not yet reviewed here) and the Degen DE1129.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Performance

I’ve reviewed enough of these mechanically-tuned DSP-based radios now that I’m beginning to note performance commonalities that can only be attributed to the design of the DSP chipset itself (regardless of how they are implemented in each model of radio).

At risk of sounding like a broken record, this radio’s sensitivity, selectivity and AGC performance is nearly identical to the Degen DE321 on every band; here’s a summary:

  • Shortwave
    • sensitivity is mediocre–expect to hear all strong stations
    • AGC circuit has difficulty coping with weak station and fading
    • selectivity is mediocre
  • Medium Wave (AM)
    • strong daytime stations sound great
    • the SY-X5’s AGC circuit struggles with night time conditions, even with some strong stations
    • selectivity is mediocre
  • FM
    • FM performance is quite good
    • Both selectivity and sensitivity are great for the price–in this case, $27 US
(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Between the two FM bands, the SY-X5 should easily accommodate world-wide FM broadcasts (even Russia). The two AM (medium wave) bands are almost identical in frequency allocation, but have been set up so that one is on 9 kHz spacing and the other on the 10 kHz spacing typically used here in North America (nice touch).

Tuning

While the “feel” of the tuning wheel on the right side of the radio seems smooth, in reality it is not. The tension or actual mechanics behind the analog tuner are problematic; I find that upon tuning in even a strong station, when I let go of the tuning wheel, it immediately moves off-frequency. It’s most annoying. Over the course of several days of use, it doesn’t seem that the mechanism has broken in at all as I had hoped. This is perhaps the biggest negative of the ShouYu SY-X5; it is just not easy to accurately tune it.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

MP3 Player

While I haven’t spent hours using the MP3 player, I find that it’s simple, yet quite effective. Most notably, it lacks fast-forward and reverse controls, though it does have buttons for ten-second skips both in the forward and reverse directions. Of course, you can pause, stop and skip to next/previous MP3 files.

The SY-X5 has a dedicated MP3 player red LED display; it is very bright–almost too bright, in fact, for low light conditions–and quite simple, offering only basic functions (no alpha-numeric tags, for example). Unfortunately, I find that the LED display does inject a little noise into the audio, but it’s nothing that would deter me from using it with the built-in speaker.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Summary

Every radio has positive and negative attributes; below are the pros and cons I noted from the moment I unpacked the SY-X5:

Pros:

  • Audio from internal speaker excellent for size
  • Integrated digital audio player
    • Uses standard Micro SD card for storage
    • Very bright red LED display (see con)
    • Dedicated, tactile buttons for basic MP3 functions
  • Multiple power sources
    • Internal rechargeable slim battery pack
    • Standard AA batteries
    • Charged/powered via standard mini USB cable
  • Relatively sturdy construction
  • Good FM sensitivity
  • Tuning indicator light
  • Inexpensive
(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Cons:

  • “Sticky” tuning wheel/dial results in immediate and annoying digital “drift” off-frequency
  • Sloppy selectivity (typical of this class of mechanically-tuned DSP radios)
  • MP3 player’s LED display almost too bright for low light settings; the LED does inject some slight noise into the headphone amp chain
  • Shortwave and medium wave sensitivity is mediocre, typical of other SiLabs SI484X radios
  • MP3 capabilities are only as a player, the SY-X5 cannot record in any capacity
  • Analog dial is small enough to make tuning accurately quite difficult
  • The dial’s printed frequency display in my unit is positioned off-center and tilted, resulting in ambiguous needle alignment

Conclusion

The ShouYu SU-X5 is very similar, performance-wise, to the Degen DE321. Out of all of the mechanically-tuned DSP portables reviewed thus far, the SY-X5 may have the best audio fidelity via its built-in speaker (save the Tecsun R-2010D). Also, like other similarly sized and priced models in this family, the SY-X5 has tuning issues; in its case, a tuning wheel that will not stay on frequency without practice.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

I’ve decided to take my SY-X5, on behalf of Ears To Our World, to inner Belize City in the near future. I’m going to offer this radio–together with a microSD card packed with VOA Special English programming (and a host of other English language educational materials, music and stories)–to a visually-impaired, economically-disadvantaged school child who will hopefully give this basic little radio lots of use, and perhaps even maximize its potential. While the SY-X5 has shortcomings, for this particular use–serving an individual who will not rely primarily on sight, but on tactile response, to operate it–I think it may serve its purpose. Perhaps this will be the best litmus test for the SY-X5’s utility and longevity:  I may post an update when I receive feedback in approximately one year, as to whether this radio has required repair, replacement, or has offered (as I sincerely hope!) some measure of benefit to the child-owner.

For the radio hobbyist, I would encourage you to skip the ShouYu S-X5 and, instead, invest in a Tecsun PL-380, PL-390, PL-398BT, Degen DE1102, DE1103, or the Tecsun PL-600. Though all are pricier, each is under $100 US, and will actually provide a lot of performance for the price. The SY-X5 and other mechanically-tuned DSP radios seem only to offer mediocre performance and a low price.
Click here to search for the Shouyu SY-X5 on eBay.

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New product: the ShouYu SY-X5 shortwave radio

The ShouYu SY-X5

The ShouYu SY-X5

[Update: Check out our review of the SY-X5 by clicking here.]

Thanks to Paul, I just found out about the ShouYu SY-X5: a new analog DSP-based shortwave radio with built-in MP3 player. Like the Degen DE321DE32Kchibo KK-9803 and the recently released Tecsun R-2010D, the SY-X5 has a mechanical tuning mechanism powered by a Silicon Labs DSP chip.

I just purchased the ShouYu SY-X5 from this seller on eBay. The total cost was $27 US including shipping from Hong Kong. There are other sellers offering the SY-X5 on eBay, but their prices are almost double (with shipping from the US).

At a low price of $27 US, my expectations will be adjusted accordingly. My hopes are somewhat higher for the Tecsun R-2010D as Tecsun tends to do a better implementation of DSP chips than their competitors. Since I’ll be receiving both units within days of each other–and I still have the DE321 and DE32–I will certainly compare them.

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