« Bill Getting Better AM on His Tecsun PL-600 Than His PL-660 |
| Read Recommends the $18 Sangean SR-35 Portable Radio »
I have been looking for a mid-sized general coverage portable, something with better sound than my smaller portables (including the Tecsun PL-398BT, which sounds a bit rough on MW and SW. I wonder whether these Tecsun digital signal processing portables are capable of good sound?) But it had to be small enough to be easily portable, which my excellent Redsun RP-2100 is not. And it should be able to handle SSB signals.
I tried four major contenders: the Sony ICF-SW7600GR, the Grundig G-3, the Tecsun PL-660, and the Tecsun PL-600. I ended up settling on the PL-600, the least sophisticated of the four.
The SW7600GR is built like a tank. Its ergonomics are bad, though, and I never liked the sound quality. It's a great set but its design is showing its age. Since Sony has pretty much abandoned shortwave, I don't expect to see them update the design.
The PL-660 was good on shortwave and OK on FM. I listen to MW a lot, though, and it is disappointing on MW. It had four problems:
1. The sound quality with the sync detector actually seemed worse than without it, to me anyway.
2. Mid-powered signals had much more background noise than they should have. They were half-buried in noise, as if they were very weak signals except louder, if that makes any sense.
3. The digital frequency display was a bit off the actual frequency.
4. There was a blank spot on the dial where any signal was overwhelmed by a radio carrier generated by something inside the radio itself. This was powerful enough to blot out an area on the dial, originally around 974 in the MW band. I know that this is a radio signal generated inside the PL-660 itself because if I moved another radio near, the other radio would pick it up too! But if I moved that other radio away from the PL-660 the phantom wave faded out from the second radio.
I could put up with that. Unfortunately the MW station I listen to most is WWJ, a news station at 950 on the MW dial. Wouldn't you know it, but as the radio aged a bit the internal signal migrated down the dial and settled right over it.
Well, the radio worked well on SW, so I sent it to Drive-In Freak, who wants it for that. I'm glad he likes it.
I tried the Grundig G3 when it was such a good deal, a few weeks ago. It's a nice set. A bit smaller than the Tecsuns, it had good sound and a lot of fun features. Unfortunately, instead of the Tecsun PL-660's one blank spot on the MW dial, the G3 had a number of faint whistles and squeals up and down the dial. One of the whistles came on whenever the dial light did, but there were several others. And then the radio's display began to be incorrect by one or two KHz, a minor problem but it was getting worse. I returned the radio to the seller.
So far the PL-600 has been great. It doesn't have any of the problems I found with the PL-660 or the G3, it has good quality, and its performance on MW, SW, and FM seems at least good, maybe excellent. I'm very happy with it so far.
But of course there have been problems reported with this radio. The bugaboo of the Chinese shortwave portables, inconsistent quality control, rears its head!
I've read many reviews of the PL-600. Maybe I can shed some light on the reported problems.
If it isn't picking up anything, it's busted. Period. The design is a good one. There have been enough reviews saying it is sensitive, and my own is sensitive. If it is deaf, it's broken and needs to be exchanged.
Several people complained that the NiMH batteries won't charge inside the radio. Others complained that they were sent wall warts meant for 220 volt current, when of course in the US we need 110. If you try to charge a radio with a 220 volt charger using 110 volt wall current, I'd guess it ain't gonna charge the batteries! It is inexcusable that a US-based warehouse selling to North Americans would provide the wrong voltage of wall wart, but it's not a fault with the design of the radio as such.
It's also possible the radio wasn't set to charge the batteries properly. The manual that came with this radio is rather abysmal. At one point it says that the radio can automatically detect the capacity of the NiMH batteries you put into it, and then a paragraph later says you have to tell it you're using NiMHs and you have to enter the capacity of those batteries.
This is done using System Code 28- with radio off, press the system code button, then 2 and 8, then the system code button again. The radio display flashed 1000 at me when I did this, indicating it was set for 1000 mAh, the rating of the batteries that came with it. I turned the tuning dial until the display said 2200, since that is the rating of the batteries I use in my radios. The point is probably moot, however, since I plan to charge these batteries in a separate charger outside the radio. The wall wart that came with my PL-660 (which says that it IS meant for 110 volts, by the way; they got it right in my case) is a decent one. It doesn't introduce much noise into the radio. But it does introduce some, so it would be nice not to have to use it. Besides, the dedicated wall charger is faster and warns me if one of the batteries has gone bad.
Some reviews of early PL-600s say the sound quality is bad. Later reviews say this has been corrected. All I know is that mine sounds very good to me.
One review complained that the wake-up alarm was useless because it only played static. I don't know, but I would guess that person didn't know to enter a radio station into the special alarm timer memory.
You see, unlike a normal clock radio, the Pl-600's alarm function plays a radio station stored in a special memory, NOT the radio station you were last listening to. I've had several Tecsun portables and they all worked like that. For a shortwave radio this makes sense. In general, shortwave stations aren't on the same frequency all hours of the day and night. If they were, you wouldn't necessarily be able to hear them anyway since propagation changes between day and night hours would make some frequencies fade out and others fade in.
It's a bit fussy to have to set the alarm time, then set how long the radio should play at that time, then tune to whatever frequency you want to wake up to and enter that into a special memory. But it's a nice system once you get used to it. I enjoy drifting off to sleep listening to tropical music or a distant MW station that just won't be there when the sun comes up the next day. I like to wake up to a strong local station with news. To do that I can have two different radios at bedside. Or I can use the Tecsun. Properly set up, it can handle all that for me automatically.
Posted at 07:01 PM in Radio Lovers Can't Be Cured | Permalink
| | Digg This
And this is why I went with the 7600GR; you don't have to get out the manual to decipher the Engrish portion to figure out the cheat code sequence to access subsection J and reroute the encryptions etc. et al. ad inf. It's a straightforward, WYSIWYG radio. And there is no debate about its reliability, it's a thirteen year old refinement on a quarter-of-a-century-old design; yes it is aged, so is the Zippo lighter concept.
The one word you'll never see in a review about the Sony is "quirk."
April 30, 2013 at 07:53 PM
The internally generated carrier on the 660 is a design issue acknowledged by the Tecsun engineers. It's strongest in the medium wave band but there are lots of harmonics also in the shortwave bands. It's curious how none of the reviews I read mentioned this problem. Some people do not notice it and some do not care about it. For me that's the main reason I don't like the Tecsun PL-660 (which otherwise would be a good radio).
May 01, 2013 at 04:35 AM
No, StarHalo, you don't need to read the manual for the Sony 7
ICF-7600GR. Except of course to set the clock, with its tiny display. Or to figure out that the numeric keypad defaults to accessing the memories and there's no way to get it to stop, so that to directly tune a frequency you have to press direct, then the number, then execute, every single time. But you can always just use the tuning knob. Oh, wait, no you can't. It doesn't have one. Or a volume knob either. As I recall the slower of the two frequency slew rockers does let you tune through frequencies without stopping on each signal and muting the radio between, albeit at a glacial pace.
So the Sony's ergonomics stink, as I said. Oh well, at least to make up for that it is also expensive and sounds bad.
May 01, 2013 at 06:10 AM
Ach, the Sony does have a volume knob at the side, if I recall. Sorry, it's been a while since I donated it to a club.
May 01, 2013 at 06:16 AM
Tudor, it seems to me most reviews are written right after a purchase and before all the device's faults may be evident. I know I do that myself too often. You never know what quirks and quibbles will drive you mad in the long run until it is the long run.
I see two kinds of online user review: "It's the best ever!" and "it's junk and doesn't work," which means they got a broken one. Unless a product is completely worthless you hardly ever see anything between those extremes.
Then of course any product that isn't total junk (and many that are) will accumulate a crowd of fanboys. The fanboys want to reassure themselves that their toy is the Greatest Thing Evar and will attack anyone who points out a flaw.
Plus people don't use products the same way. In the case of the PL-660 for example the spurious carrier in MW doesn't matter if you don't care to listen to MW, or even just that particular spot on the MW dial.
I did find an online review or two that mentioned the PL-660's spurious signal and even a YouTube video demonstrating it, but it took a lot of looking.
May 01, 2013 at 06:44 AM
The Tecsun 600 reminds me of a slimed down Seagean ATS-808a
Tom Welch |
May 01, 2013 at 08:10 AM
As noted, usage scenarios dictate much regarding each of our radio experiences. For example, I find the PL-660 quiet competent on shortwave, but as previously noted, I have little to no interest in mediumwave, so YMMV there. It is a matter of personal interest.
I also generally use various outdoor antenna systems, even with portable radios, along with preselection and amplification depending upon the desired band and listening situation. Therein, it is hard to compare my shortwave results with someone simply using a portable radio setting on a desk or window sill with the whip antenna extended.
I am of the adage that an antenna system can make or break a listening experience, regardless if one is using a $50 portable, a $600 desktop, or a $15000 commercial receiver.
May 01, 2013 at 07:41 PM
I've been looking for a reason to buy the 660 and I just can't. It doesn't offer enough of an advantage on SW over my other radios to overcome its shortcomings on MW that would justify the expense. Not to say it isn't a fine radio, but it doesn't meet my particular needs. The 600, on the other hand, looks like a promising candidate.
May 01, 2013 at 07:50 PM
" a $15000 commercial receiver."
Rob Rich: I'd be quite interested in your view of what the best high-end commercial receiver is.
Doug T. |
May 02, 2013 at 02:28 AM
I would be hard pressed to identify the "best" of any receiver, but if money is no object, then the Icom IC-R9500 is a popular offering. About $13k new. Not exactly in my price range for a part-time hobby. ;)
Being a little more realistic, and looking at SWL/HF in particular, let a government department or corporate business take the depreciation by looking at something like a Racal 6790 or a Watkins-Johnson HF-1000 on the used market. The 6790 was around $20k new, and the internals reflect the cost. Load it with filters, the latest firmware, and replace any suspect caps.
That said, for the typical shortwave enthusiast, I find little reason to recommend anything more than the popular Icom R75, even with the stock filters. Perhaps consider the Kiwa mod for increased audio bandwidth if the factory sound is too narrow for your preference.
Spend your money (and/or time, effort, etc.) on the antenna system(s). Case in point, most of my SWL listening these days is done at night via a portable sitting on my nightstand, switched between a couple of outdoor verticals placed away from the house.
May 02, 2013 at 08:45 AM
Ordered the 600, passed on the 660.
May 02, 2013 at 07:13 PM
Salicat, please send us your impressions of the 600's performance.
May 02, 2013 at 07:38 PM
I'll do that, big guy!
May 02, 2013 at 09:23 PM
Two days ago, I returned a Degen DE1103 cause when tunning with the knob, a sharp "blip-blip" sound was produced and made a really annoying time trying to catch some station, mainly in very calm spots in SW and LW.
I would like to ask Bill and Sailcat if in your PL-600, have you noted such an anoying distorsion.
Thanks a lot for your opinions!
October 10, 2013 at 05:50 PM
I just fired up my PL-600 to see if it had the blip, or chuffing, or whatever noise when tuning. I didn't remember hearing that, but before I said so I wanted to be sure.
I think I can hear just the faintest ticking as it jumps from one frequency to the next, turning the knob, but it is very faint. It seems to be too weak to interfere with any received signal.
The 600 does have a few peculiarities. Aside from the codes you have to use to set the thing up, which I noted in my first review.
One annoyance is that the ATS, which is excellent on Tecsun, doesn't work on the 600's shortwave bands, just FM and MW. (Because these bands are so much smaller than SW, I haven't tried to use ATS on them, so I don't know how well it works even there.)
The second glitch is that direct tuning doesn't work in the expanded AM band. It is as if they adapted this radio from one that topped out at 1600 in MW to one that topped at 1700, but forgot to change the direct tune programming. The result is that if you put the radio in the MW band and punch in 1600, 1610, or 1620, you go to those frequencies directly, but 1630 on up give you the message ERR in the tuning display. You can, however, still tune to 1640-1710 by using the tuning knob or the up-down step buttons.
October 10, 2013 at 06:47 PM
This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.
The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.
As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.
Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.
(URLs automatically linked.)
(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)
Name is required to post a comment
Please enter a valid email address