Tag Archives: Sony ICF-2001

From the Shortwave Archives: Radio RSA reviews the Sony ICF-2001

I’ve mentioned many times before what a joy it is to curate the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive (SRAA). Sometimes I’m sent recordings that evoke a flood of memories. SRAA contributor, Tom Laskowski, just submitted another such recording.

Tom included the following notes with his Radio RSA – Voice of South Africa recording:

Every Saturday night during the early 1980s [in South Bend, Indiana] I would regularly tune to 9580 kHz at 0200 to listen to Radio RSA (Channel Africa as it is now known) to hear DX Corner, their regular DX program.

This episode from March 14, 1982 was a look at a brand new hot radio, the Sony ICF-2001.

The audio isn’t great but should be listenable. I think this was recorded using my new Realistic DX-302. Enjoy:

Click here to download this recording as an MP3.

 Thank you, Tom! I think Radio RSA did an admirable job reviewing the ICF-2001!

Post Readers: You can listen to more archived shortwave recordings at the SRAA website, or by subscribing to the audio feed via iTunes. You can also listen to the archive on TuneIn radio.

Frank shares 1991 recordings and original notes of station IDs and interval signals

Sony-ICF2010

SWLing Post reader, Frank, writes from Germany:

First let me say that I enjoy your blog a lot.

After a 2005-13 hiatus, I have rediscovered a childhood hobby and your reviews have helped me find my way to the post-Sony portable shortwave radio markets.

First, I obtained my “childhood dream” radio (Sony ICF 2001D), because at the time I made these recordings I was still in school and 1300 DM would have equaled over 1 year of pocket money, so a Supertech SR16HN had to do. I thought I got some fine results with this Sangean-Siemens re-branded receiver then, using a CB half-length antenna, a random wire, and much endurance.

The Supertech SR16HN (photo: Radiomuseum.com)

The Supertech SR16HN (photo: Radiomuseum.com)

I kept regular logs throughout the years, wrote to 50 international and pirate stations for QSL and compiled this cassette.

A few years before I got that trusty SR16HN, however, I recorded a few number stations (such as G3, Four Note Rising Scale etc) with an ordinary radio cassette recorder, and in 1991 I put them onto this tape as well. The other recordings are done with the same radio placed right in front of the SR 16HN.

Feel free to make use of these recordings. Most of it are the well-known international state-owned shortwave stations of the past; plus European pirates; plus number stations; and at the end, a few (off-topic) local Am and FM stations interval signals.

As I said, this collection I made shortly after the Wende/reunification period, when all former-GDR state broadcasters changed their names, sometimes more than once.

Please continue your good work on the blogs! Weather permitting I am often outside cycling and always have the tiny Sony ICF 100 with me (which I call my then-student’s dream radio of the later 90ies).

Cassette Side 1

Click to enlarge.

Frank’s original hand-written notes. Click to enlarge.

Click here to download Side 1, or listen via the embedded player below:

Cassette Side 2

Click to enlage.

Click to enlage.

Click here to download Side 2, or listen via the embedded player below:


Wow! Frank, what a treat to listen to all these station IDs!

I had forgotten how many interval signals have changed over time and how many, of course, have disappeared. This tape represents a flood of nostalgia for me.

I should add, too, that I’ve enjoyed hearing so many IDs in German. It’s funny, but we all get hooked on listening to language programming from our native or second languages. It makes me realize just how many broadcasters used to have German language services.

Again, many thanks, Frank, for taking the time to digitize these recordings and scan your original hand-written notes. This stuff is invaluable, in my book!

My new (to me) Sony ICF-2001 shortwave radio

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A few weeks ago, I made an impulse purchase: a Sony ICF-2001.

Perhaps it was the post about John Lennon’s ICF-2001, or perhaps it was the simple fact I couldn’t afford a ‘2001 when I was a kid; either way, I saw what I thought was a fair price and I bit the bullet.

icf2001lAt about 9-10 years old I remember seeing the (above) image of the ICF-2001 in an advertisement and imagining all that I could hear with this amazing–microprocessor-controlled, dual conversion, frequency synthesized general coverage(!)–portable receiver.

Sony-ICF-2001-7

At the time, my only shortwave radio was the Zenith Trans Oceanic Royal D7000–a wonderful radio for sure–but the convenience of digital tuning? I could only imagine.

The ICF-2001 had revolutionary featured like direct access keypad tuning and an LCD digital readout. The ICF-2001 covered 150 to 29,999 kHz and, like my Transoceanic, could receive single sideband. It also had six memories that could be assigned to buttons for quick access to my favorite frequencies. Six. Whole. Memories!  

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I picked up my used ICF-2001 for $67.00 US shipped. The seller (a fellow ham radio operator) insured that the radio was in excellent mechanical shape, though cosmetically showed some signs of wear. The only thing missing was the ICF-2001’s shoulder strap. That was fine by me, though, because the seller included all original manuals/documentation and a very cool canvas carry bag (below) that fits the ICF-2001 like a glove.

Sony-ICF-2001-8I’ve had the ICF-2001 for a few weeks now and I must say that I’m quite pleased.  It’s much larger that most portables currently on the market, but was probably slightly smaller than the venerable ICF-2010.

The audio from the ICF-2001’s built-in speaker is top-notch; with separate treble and bass control, it’s easy to adjust audio to your taste.

Would the ICF-2001 out-perform a modern portable receiver? Probably not. Was performance similar to the ICF-2010? No way. The ICF-2001 has a few annoying quirks (like muting between frequencies, no tuning knob, a backlit display that’s rather small and hard to read at certain angles)–items most modern portables have long since addressed.

With that said, the ICF-2001 does have a few features I wish modern receivers would adopt, like, a built-in antenna trimmer.

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This morning, on my porch, I listened to several broadcasters across the bands and used the antenna adjustment to tweak the match. The adjustment would sometimes increase reception by three S units. I would love to have a similar feature on, say, my Tecsun PL-680.

I also like the old school power switch–a proper mechanical switch that makes it much more difficult to accidentally turn the radio on while traveling or operating in a portable setting.

Sony-ICF-2001-1

Even thought the ICF-2001 was a bit of an impulse purchase, I have no buyer’s remorse at all. She’s a sturdy rig with great audio and, I believe, decent performance on the shortwave and medium wave bands. I can certainly confirm that it would have blown my mind when I was 9 years old!

Besides..if the ICF-2001 is good enough for John Lennon, it’s good enough for me!

Sony-ICF-2001-5

Any SWLing Post readers out there still have a Sony ICF-2001?

John Lennon and the Sony ICF-2001

icf2001l

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Robert Yowell, who writes:

“I happen to be a huge Beatles fan, and especially a fan of John Lennon’s solo music as well. The last album he recorded was “Double Fantasy” which was made in New York City during the summer of 1980.

As you probably know, Sony introduced that same year the revolutionary ICF-2001 PLL synthesized receiver. John was known to have been a great fan of home electronics, especially those produced by Sony and other Japanese manufacturers. He also was a great fan of radio – as his appearances on the local WNEW-FM rock music station in NYC in the 70’s attest to.”

Photo credit: Bob Gruen, a photographer who photographed John many times during the latter part of his life in New York City.

Photo credit: Bob Gruen who photographed John Lennon many times during the latter part of his life in New York City.

“The attached photo was taken at the NYC studio called “The Record Plant” during the making of the album “Double Fantasy” in 1980.While I cannot be 100% sure that the ICF-2001 sitting on the table belonged to John – I think it is extremely likely. He still stayed in regular contact with his native England, and at this pre-Internet time, the only easy way for him to listen to the BBC was through this radio.

Another possibility is John enjoyed experimenting with new sounds in his music. During the Beatles, he even plugged in a radio into the sound mixing board when the song “I Am the Walrus” was recorded. You can hear at the end of the song a heterodyne whistle of tuning in a station as it settles on the BBC during a reading of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Perhaps John was intending to do something similar in the studio the day this photo was taken?”

I imagine that was a good possibility, Robert. Again, many thanks for this bit of Lennon history.

For those of you who have never heard “I am the Walrus,” you can listen below courtesy of YouTube: