Many on the PL-880 Yahoo Group have been reporting “soft mute” or “noise gate” audio jumps that are heard when the PL-880 is tuned to a weak SSB signal.
SWLing Post reader, Tim, has a Tecsun PL-880 with firmware version 8819 (mine is 8820) that exhibits this soft mute behavior. Check out the following video where he uses the built-in attenuator to force the PL-880 to engage the soft mute. Tim notes that the sound quality of his $30 camera phone is poor, but I can still easily hear what’s happening:
There have even been confirmed reports of SSB soft muting in PL-880s with 8820 firmware. With that said, I have now spent hours trying to force my PL-880 to engage soft muting in SSB, but to no avail. My SSB copy is solid, regardless of signal strength, noise level, or adjacent signals (at 5, 10 or 15 kHz and much closer)–no muting at all in SSB.
While I’m very pleased with my PL-880, I would encourage many readers to consider waiting a couple of months before making the purchase. Many of the PL-880 early adopters have felt a bit like Beta testers–admittedly, I’ve felt this way as well–but with time, I imagine many of the 880 quirks will be ironed-out by Tecsun.
In the following video, I compare single side band reception between the Tecsun PL-880 and PL-660. On 80 meters, in SSB mode, you can hear that the PL-660 has a slightly lower noise floor than the PL-880. Note again, however, that I mistakenly had the tone control of the PL-880 set to “bass.” I’ll try to make another video later with the tone control set to the “treble” position.
In the following video, I have tuned both the Tecsun PL-880 and the PL-660 to a relatively local AM station (880 kHz). Note that I had the tone control switch set to “bass” on the PL-880 (it would have been better on “treble”):
For normal AM radio listening, I believe the PL-880 produces better audio fidelity than the PL-660. I will try to record a weak medium wave station this evening, if time allows.
In this video, I’ve tuned both the Tecsun PL-880 and PL-660 to All India Radio on 9,445 kHz (transmitted from Bengaluru, India, some 8,800 miles away).
Thanks to an image of a (prototype?) PL-880 keypad posted on the Tecsun PL-880 Yahoo Group–an excellent group you should join, by the way–I’ve discovered that if you press and hold the number 6 on the PL-880 keypad, it engages the hidden DNR function. I assume DNR is an acronym for “digital noise reduction.”
I engage the PL-880 DNR feature in this video and compare with the PL-660 audio. Again, apologies for quality as this was made using my iPhone.
Once again, I ventured out to my truck tailgate to make a few videos of the Tecsun PL-880. In this video, I’ve tuned the PL-880 and PL-660 to Deutsche Welle’s English language service on 9,800 kHz (transmitted from Kigali, Rwanda, some 7,600 miles away).
I made this video with my iPhone, so apologies for the low quality:
Note that when I first turn on the PL-660 it is in sync mode by accident. After changing the bandwidth on the PL-660, I then turn off sync.
I’ve noted that the PL-660’s sync detector locks better than that of the PL-880. However, using the PL-880’s SSB mode to zero-beat the AM carrier (see article on ECR), produces great (and stable) results.
Sensitivity-wise, these radios are quite similar. While I personally prefer the audio of the PL-880, the PL-660 makes vocals pop out of the noise a bit better.
While working outside today, I propped the PL-880 up on the tailgate of my truck and listened to some international broadcasters on shortwave. I then received a message from a reader asking if I would make a video of the PL-880 being tuned to CW (Morse Code).
I switched the PL-880 into SSB mode and quickly found a “pileup” of CW operators around 14,035 kHz.
In this video, I used the fine tuning control and the bandwidth selector to give you an idea how the PL-880 sounds in tight conditions. The bandwidth will narrow all the way to 500 Hz (.5 kHz)–a very respectable width for CW. While it doesn’t sounds as good as an amateur radio transceiver, it is certainly better than any other portable shortwave radio I own.
Also, about halfway through the video an operator begins tuning up in the middle of the CW pileup (terrible manners!); I used it as an opportunity for you to hear how smooth the PL-880’s 10 Hz steps sound as I move away from his signal.
You’ll also note that I press and hold the number 6 and the display flashes “OFF.” I believe this is a noise reduction feature, but will need a little more time to experiment.