Tag Archives: Sony ICF-2001D

Brilliant hard-core DX with the USB-powered Bonito MegActive MA305 antenna

 

Hi there, you might remember my post from last month focussing on the Bonito MegActive MA305 E-field antenna, kindly supplied to me for testing, by Bonito themselves. That post was essentially a report on my experiences travelling to Crete with the MA305, navigating through security at London Gatwick and Heraklion airports (mostly with relative ease), but more importantly, how well it worked with the equally excellent Eton Satellit portable receiver. Whilst in Crete I managed to copy a number of personal firsts, including CRI on 7295 kHz, via their relay in Bamako, Mali, The Voice of Beibu Radio on 5050 kHz, Nanning, XSL ‘Slot Machine’ on 6251 kHz USB, Ichihara, Japan, S32 ‘The Squeaky Wheel’ on 3828 kHz and NHK World Radio Japan, 11910 kHz. I also copied RTM Wai/Limbang FM on 11665 kHz from Kajang, Myanmar Radio on 5985 kHz and AIR Bhopal on 4810 kHz, amongst others – all of which I would certainly consider to be difficult catches in Europe.

 The USB-powered MegActive MA305 is perfect for DXing on the move…

Despite excellent all-round results from the ultra-portable USB powered MA305, there was one signal I copied, which more than any other, demonstrated the DXing credentials of this antenna; Radio Tarma from Peru on 4775 kHz. With a TX power of 1 kW, this is a very difficult station to hear in Western Europe, even with a longwire. To catch this station in Crete, with a 22 cm antenna was incredible and it was at that point during my trip that I realised E-field antennas really can work superbly well for hard-core DXers on the move.

Upon my return to Oxford, I immediately started thinking about a DXpedition to the local woods I use for what I consider serious DXing. For obvious reasons, E-field antennas require an electrically quiet environment to ensure maximum SNR performance. In noisy environments, these types of antennas amplify the signal of interest and the background ‘electro-smog’, thus increasing signal levels but critically, not signal-to-noise. Fortunately, the Oxfordshire wood I have been using for a couple of years is only a 10 minute drive from my QTH as I sort of live in the countryside anyway and the QRM levels there are just about zero. Now, given that this was essentially an experiment to determine the best possible performance from the MA305, I decided to use my best portable radio. It was quite tempting to pack up the Elad FDM DUO which running on a home-brew battery pack has proven itself to be my best (pseudo) portable radio. However, this is supposed to be a real-world test and in this type of scenario, DXpeditions with the Bonito antenna are much more likely to be undertaken with a portable radio. For these reasons I decided to conduct the test with the venerable Sony ICF-2001D. Having proven to be a superb receiver over many, many dxpeditions (check out the evidence on my YouTube Channel Oxford Shortwave Log) and still regarded by DXers as one of the best ever portable radios – possibly the best – it was the obvious choice.

 My portable DXing kit comprising the Bonito MegActive MA305 antenna and the Sony ICF-2001D…a bit of a legend in DXing circles…

I ventured out in early June around 23:00 hrs BST (22:00 hrs UTC), parked the car on the edge of the wood and proceeded to set up my cheap camera tripod, slightly modified to accept a 2 metre-long stainless steel tube, into which a slightly thinner 1 metre tube was mounted, topped off with my partially disassembled ‘Selfie Stick’ – which made it back from Crete lol. The antenna was set up in less than 5 minutes and approximately 4 metres above the ground – much quicker and easier than de-spooling 100 metres of wire! With fresh batteries in the Sony and the MA305 powered up using the USB power brick supplied by Bonito, I was ready to start listening. Almost immediately I heard and recorded a personal first; Lao National Radio, Laos, signing on 6130 kHz, with an excellent signal. Hearing them in the UK was only made possible by the annual two week shut down of the PBS Xizang transmitter in Lhasa, Tibet, but hey, I’ll take it. A brilliant start to my listening session.

Over the next two hours I was amazed at what could be heard using this 22 cm amplified antenna. Bearing in mind I have spent many hours at the woods previously, listening via various 100 metre longwires and a 200 metre Beverage, my expectations were, I thought, realistic in that the MA305 coupled to the Sony would catch some very good DX. However, I did believe there might be an absence of at least some of the more exotic low power stations on the Tropical Band – afterall the MA305 is a very short antenna. Clearly I was wrong, because what transpired during the session surpassed anything I thought possible with this set-up. A list of reception videos follows below and further below, a selection of embedded videos. Some of the entries on this list simply stunned me at the time. Rádio Educação Rural for starters is such an incredibly difficult signal to hear in Europe, even with a very large antenna. Thus, to hear them on an ultra-compact set-up felt very special. Radio Mali is another station that is very difficult to catch with any modulation, except on a large antenna and yet there they were – at the first time of trying. Similarly, Rádio Nacional de Angola and Alcaravan Radio are exotics that at best deliver very weak audio – and most of the time no audio. Furthermore, the signals from Emisoras Pio XIIMyanmar Radio and Rádio Clube do Pará were verging on what I would call superb…I’d never heard anything like it previously except via 100 (or more) metres of wire.

 The ICF-2001D and MegActive MA305              Rádio Educação Rural transmitter site in Tefé, Brazil

So what’s next? Well it would certainly be an interesting experiment to compare the performance of the MegActive antenna with the Wellbrook ALA1530 active loop in a similar environment. I have used the Wellbrook on DXpeditions several times, with often excellent results, however, it’s not designed to be portable and if SNR performance could be demonstrated as similar between these two products, given a very favourable price delta, the Bonito antenna would add up to be a very compelling purchase decision. More on that to come. In the meantime, thank you very much for reading/watching/listening and I wish you all excellent DX.

Please click on the links below for the reception videos on the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel.


Selected embedded reception videos from the list above:

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.

Sony ICF-SW77: recent DX & comparing performance with the ICF-SW55 & Tecsun PL-310ET

Some of you might remember the extensive tests I conducted last August, comparing this great portable receiver against the model it was introduced to replace – and arguably one of the best-ever portables – the Sony ICF-2001D/ICF-2010. I conducted a back-to-back series of comparison tests at the very quiet wood in Oxfordshire I use for my DX’peditions, using the same antenna for both recievers – the excellent Wellbrook ALA1530 active loop. In total, I made fourteen reception videos comparing the ICF-2001D and ICF-SW77 and posted them to my Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel. Both receivers performed very well, delivering excellent reception on the Tropical Band and elsewhere on the shortwave spectrum, however, the ICF-2001D proved to be the clear winner, with what proved to be far superior synchronous detection.

But that wasn’t the end of the road for my ICF-SW77. It remains a very capable receiver (one of my all-time favourite portables) and one which I continue to use regularly. However, every now and then, it surprises me with something exceptional. Since conducting the tests against the ICF-2001D, the SW77 has brought in my best-ever indoor reception of Radio Verdad, Guatemala on 4054.8 kHz….and when I say best-ever, I really do mean it; the audio was significantly clearer than anything I had copied previously at home with the Elad. More recently, I copied Zambia NBC Radio 1 on 5915 kHz on a DX’pedition with a far superior signal to anything I’d previously heard, with any other reciever, including the ICF-2001D and the Elad FDM DUO. Some of this of course is down to short-term conditions of propagation, however, the SW77 continues to prove why it has such a loyal following and continues to command premium prices on eBay. Text links and embedded videos to both reception videos on Oxford Shortwave Log follow below:


Further to these recent catches, I promised some of my YouTube subscribers that I would conduct another, similar test with the ICF-SW77, but against it’s cheaper ‘sibling’ the ICF-SW55. A review at the time of the ICF-SW55’s introduction concluded that the price premium of the ICF-SW77 may not be justified since the performance of the two receivers was very similar, despite the SW55 lacking synchronous detection. As someone who has extensive experience with the SW55 out in the field – it was my mainstay DXpedition receiver for more than a year – I was just as interested as my subscribers in how these two vintage Sonys would measure up against each other. The lineage is all very obvious from their respective industrial designs, but the lack of Synchronous detection on the SW55 might have been the one element of functionality resulting in poorer performance, particularly in challenging band conditions and in the presence of adjacent channel QRM etc. To mix things up a little, I have also thrown the brilliant Tecsun PL-310ET into this test. Such a sensitive and selective receiver for less than £40, it has provided more surprises with regard to it’s performance than just about any other radio I’ve owned. How would the Tecsun compare to these two vintage, but high-end Sony portables? Stay tuned to find out! Two reception videos follow, using signals from ABC Northern Territories (4835 kHz) and Radio Mali (9350 kHz), with more to follow on Oxford Shortwave Log and a further posting on swling.com/blog. Thanks for watching/reading/listening.

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.

Sony ICF-2001D/2010 vs ICF-SW77: The final result & next contender ~ The Eton E1

Hi there, after conducting a total of 14 reception tests comparing these two vintage – but excellent portable shortwave radios, there was a clear winner – the ICF-2001D. Interestingly, the second half of the testing identified yet another example of synchronous detection lock dropping out on the ICF-SW77 (during reception of Radio CANDIP, Democratic Republic of the Congo on 5066.4 kHz). Generally, however, and despite a fairly narrow performance margin, the ICF-2001D managed to deliver clearer audio across 5 of the remaining 6 reception tests, giving a final score of 9 to 3 in it’s favour. However, despite the clear win, there is no doubt in my mind at all that the ICF-SW77 is still a great portable receiver and in my humble opinion, remains one of the best ever made.

I believe this comparison test reveals the only likely remaining contender to the top-spot in portable shortwave receivers to be the Eton E1/E1XM. Originally to be marketed as the ‘Satellit 900’ (that never happened) and following a decade of development, involving RL Drake, it was finally introduced in 1995 – and then out of production within a few years. Fortunately, a couple of months ago, I managed to snag one in excellent condition on eBay, for a reasonable price. Now, these radios are not without issues, including, but not limited to; sticky rubber exterior casing, malfunctioning display, failing function keys and general all-round fragility. Not exactly what I would be looking for in a rugged, well-performing portable for my DXpeditions. However, as someone who is always exploring ways to ‘push the performance envelope’ and the obvious potential benefits of passband tuning, an allegedly superior synchronous detection circuit, 4 audio bandwidth filters and tuning resolution down to 10 Hz, the E1 was impossible for me to ignore. Thus, at some point in the near future, I will perform a similar comparison test with the Sony ICF-2001D and the Eton E1. Whichever camp you might be in, I hope you’ll enjoy the reception videos and find the results/conclusions informative.

For now, wishing you all excellent DX.

eton-e1l

The Eton E1; possibly the best portable shortwave receiver of all time?

 

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.

Which is the best? Sony ICF-2001D/2010 or ICF-SW77? Part two

sony-test

Hi there, after the first set of recordings were analysed, the score was 4-3 to the ICF-2001D, demonstrating how similar these two great receivers are in overall performance. There were a copule of notable differences however. The synchronous detection circuit on the ICF-2001D allows the user to effectively tune through a signal in 01. kHz steps, whilst the receiver automatically locks onto either the upper or lower sideband, depending on the frequency offset. The ICF-SW77 synchronous detection system differs in that the user must tune the signal and select the sideband. The results of this test confirmed that whilst the ICF-2001D almost always retained SYNC lock, the ICF-SW77 was very prone to losing lock, which of course affected the audio quality in many cases. The other issue was with the ICF-SW77 in that the narrow audio bandwidth filter often seemed to deliver ‘muddy’ audio. Whilst this feature proved to be excellent in terms of mitigating adjacent channel QRM, it also reduced signal clarity/ audio discernibility a little too much in my opinion. However, overall, sensitivity and selectivity was very similar between both radios – in fact, one recording had to be judged a draw (Radio Bandeirantes, Sao Paolo on 9645.4 kHz) – I simply couldn’t split them. Part two of the reception testing follows, using signals from Canda, DR Congo, Brazil, Cuba and Peru.

I hope you enjoy the recordings – text links and embedded videos follow below:


 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Which is the best? Sony ICF-2001D/2010 or ICF-SW77?

sony-test

Hi there, subscribers to my YouTube channel Oxford Shortwave Log  will be aware that I currently operate both of these wonderful vintage portables. I purchased the ICF-2001D only 18 months ago from eBay, based largely on its reputation as one of the best performing portables ever made. Previously I had been using my excellent ICF-SW55 as the mainstay receiver for my numerous DXpeditions, coupled with irregular appearances from my Sangean ATS-803A and the excellent value-for-money Tecsun PL-360. The ICF-2001D proved to be a revelation in terms of sensitivity, selectivity and contrary to popular belief, with careful planning (to avoid crowded bands), is able to cope pretty well with very large antennas. As regards audio bandwidth filtering, SSB and synchronous detection, in my experience, the ICF-2001D is as good as it gets in a portable – or a vintage portable at least. I have lost count of the number of personal-firsts I’ve achieved using this wonderful receiver and as someone who likes to push the envelope a little, I soon started to wonder whether it’s replacement, the ICF-SW77 might prove to be an even better performer. Subsequent online research  confirmed there was no absolute consensus on this issue, with followers of these two great receivers firmly placed in both camps.

Sometime later, a good friend of mine, fellow radio hobbyist and subscriber to Oxford Shortwave Log very kindly offered to send me his cherished ICF-SW77 on long-term loan. Like me, he was intrigued to know how it compared to it’s venerable predecessor and thus the deal was done! Upon it’s arrival in July, I started planning a back-to-back series of comparison tests at the very quiet wood in Oxfordshire I used for my DX’peditions, using the same antenna for both recievers – the excellent Wellbrook ALA1530 active loop. In total, I made fourteen reception videos comparing the ICF-2001D and ICF-SW77 and posted them to Oxford Shortwave Log. Both receivers performed very well, delivering excellent reception on the Tropical Band and elsewhere on the shortwave spectrum from Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala, amongst others. At the halfway stage, I generated a video to summarise the results to-date and this will follow in my next post to swling.com.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the first half of the reception videos; which follow below:



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.