Tag Archives: Tecsun PL-990

Looking back at 2020: What radios were in heavy rotation at your home and in the field–?

This morning, I’m looking at the calendar and I see and end in sight for 2020. I think most of us can agree that 2020 will be one for the history books, in large part due to the Covid-19 global pandemic which has had a pretty dramatic affect on many of our lives. It certainly brough my planned travels to a halt. I think many of us are quite happy to show 2020 the door!

As each year comes to a conclusion, I often look back at my radio activities during that year and see how it played out. I especially note the radios I used most heavily throughout the year.

Since I evaluate and test radios, models that are new to the market obviously get a lot of air time. Still, I’m also known to pull radios from the closet and give them some serous air time.

I’m very curious what radios you gave the most air time in 2020?

Here’s my list based on type/application:

Portable shortwave receivers

Since they’re new to the market, both the Tecsun PL-990 (above) and Belka DX (below) got a lot of air time.

I do like both radios and even took the pair on vacation recently even though packing space was very limited. I see the Belka DX getting much more air time in the future because 1.) it’s a performer (golly–just check out 13dka’s review of the Belka DSP) and 2.) it’s incredibly compact. The Belka now lives in my EDC bag, so is with me for impromptu listening and DXing sessions.

A classic solid-state portable that also got a lot of air time this year was the Panasonic RF-B65. Not only is it a performer, but it has a “cool” factor that’s hard to describe. I love it.

Tabletop portables

In a sense, the C.Crane CCradio3 got more play time than any of my radios.  It sits in a corner of our living area where we tune to FM, AM and weather radio–90% of the time, though, it’s either in AUX mode playing audio piped from my SiriusXM receiver, or in Bluetooth mode playing from one of our phones, tables, or computers. In October, the prototype CCRadio Solar took over SiriusXM duty brilliantly. I’m guessing the CCRadio3 has easily logged 1,600 hours of play time this year.

Of course, the Panasonic RF-2200 is one of my all-time favorite vintage solid-state portables, so it got a significant amount of field time.

Software Defined Radios

While at home the WinRadio Excalibur still gets a large portion of my SDR time, both the AirSpy HF+ Discovery and SDRplay RSP DX dominated this space in 2020.

The HF+ Discovery was my choice receiver for portable SDR DXing and the RSPdx when I wanted make wide bandwidth recordings and venture above VHF frequencies.

Home transceivers

Without a doubt the new Mission RGO One 50 watt HF transceiver got the most air time at home and a great deal of field time as well. It’s such a pleasure to use and is a proper performer to boot!

My new-to-me Icom IC-756 Pro, however, has become my always-connected, always-ready-to-pounce home 100W HF transceiver. It now lives above my computer monitor, so within easy reach. Although it’s capable of 100+ watts out, I rarely take it above 10 watts. The 756 Pro has helped me log hundreds of POTA parks and with it, I snagged a “Clean Sweep” and both bonus stations during the annual 13 Colonies event.

Field transceivers

The new Icom IC-705 has become one of my favorite portable transceivers. Not only is it the most full-featured transceiver I’ve ever owned, but it’s also a brillant SWLing broadcast receiver. With built-in audio recording, it’s a fabulous field radio.

Still, the Elecraft KX2 remains my choice field radio for its portability, versatility and incredibly compact size. This year, in particular, I’ve had a blast pairing the KX2 with the super-portable Elecraft AX1 antenna for quick field activations. I’ve posted a few field reports on QRPer.com and also a real-time video of an impromptu POTA activation with this combo:

How about you?

What radios did use use the most this year and why? Did you purchase a new radio this year? Have you ventured into the closet, dusted off a vintage radio and put it on the air?

Please comment!

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Tecsun PL-990 in stock again

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jack Dully, who notes that the Tecsun PL-990X is back in stock at Anon-Co. Click here to check out their ordering page.

In addition, Tecsun Radios Australia is offering free shipping today (Friday 13, 2020).

If you’ve been considering purchasing the PL-990 or PL-990x, I’d encourage you to check out the following posts and reviews:

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John’s Tecsun PL-990 Hidden Features Quick Reference Sheet

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John Hoad, who shares the following:

I took delivery of my Tecsun PL-990x yesterday from Anon. I thought this hidden features list might be of interest.

Click here to download (PDF).

Thank you for sharing this sheet, John! Well done!

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Matt compares the Tecsun PL-990 and Sangean ATS-909X sharing an external antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Matt Blaze, who shares the following comparison of the new Tecsun PL-990x and the original Sangean ATS-909X communications receivers.

Like Matt’s recent comparison of the Tecsun PL-990x to the Icom IC-R9500, this review is in audio form and brilliantly narrated by Matt. I highly recommend listening with headphones or, at least, an audio device with separate left/right channels as his comparison takes advantage of this.

Enjoy:

Yet another superb presentation, Matt! Thank you so much for taking the time to make these audio comparison tests.

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Matt compares the Tecsun PL-990 to the Icom IC-R9500 on an external antenna and the results are surprising

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Matt Blaze, who shares the following comparison of the new Tecsun PL-990x and the benchmark Icom IC-R9500 communications receiver.

Matt’s excellent comparison  is in audio form. I highly recommend listening with headphones or, at least, an audio device with separate left/right channels as his comparison takes advantage of this.

I love not only how he set up this comparison with both radios sharing an identical antenna, but his evaluation also explores how well the PL-990 handles a proper external antenna via its external antenna jack.

Click below to listen to Matt’s piece, or right click here to download the audio:

Thanks for sharing this, Matt. You’ve inspired me to do similar narrated audio comparisons!

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Tecsun PL-990 Hidden Feature: Toggling ferrite bar and telescopic whip antenna on MW & LW bands

Many thanks to Anna at Anon-Co who recently shared an interesting “hidden feature” of the Tecsun PL-990 which allows the user to toggle between the internal ferrite antenna and telescoping whip antenna while on either the mediumwave or logwave bands.

Procedure:

1) Turn on the radio and then select either the MW or LW frequency band.

2) Press and hold the [ 3 ] key for about 2 seconds.

When the display shows “CH-5” (actually an “S” which stands for shortwave telescopic antenna) the radio is now set to MW/LW reception using the telescopic whip antenna.

The display will show MW (or LW) and SW on the left side of the screen.

3) Press and hold the [ 3 ] key for about 2 seconds.

When the display shows “CH-A” (“A” stands for “AM”) the radio is now set to MW/LW reception using the internal ferrite antenna once again.

The display will also show only MW (or LW) on the left side of the screen.

Pressing and holding the [ 3] key essentially toggles between these two antenna settings.

I’ve actually found that, indoors, using the whip antenna on mediumwave has been more effective at mitigating RFI with strong local stations. The ferrite bar antenna has more gain, of course, but for locals it’s not necessarily needed.

Many thanks, Anna, for sharing this tip!

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Anyone sorted out how to calibrate the Tecsun PL-990?

I mentioned in a previous post that one of the “hidden features” of the PL-990 series is the ability to calibrate the radio so that the frequency display is correct when say, you zero-beat an AM broadcaster/carrier in SSB mode.

For normal AM broadcast listening, you’d never notice the frequency discrepancy on the display. When I used the PL-990 in ECSS mode, though, my frequency display is a few Hertz off pretty consistently across the spectrum.

Our friend Gilles Letourneau (at the Official SWL Channel) recently told me that after a couple hours of tinkering with his PL-990 last weekend, he was able to calibrate it but was so deep into the process, he wasn’t able to document exactly how he achieved it. Of course, now that it’s accurate, he doesn’t want to inadvertently harm the calibration. I don’t blame him.

Big news is he’s confirmed that it’s possible.

I’m curious if any PL-990 or PL-990x owners have successfully calibrated their receiver. If so, please consider sharing your procedure with us!

UPDATE

Gilles comments…

“Tune a strong signal in AM .. like WWV then use LSB USB modes to fine tune the receiver as close to zero beat as possible. Then simply press and hold the USB key until display light flashes two times … you will be all set and calibration will work !”

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