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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
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Thanks a lot for your time and help Bill!!
As I can see, none of the entry level equipments are free from some flaws, but the one I asked for I founded particularly unacceptable, even with an entry level equipment cause its virtually impossible to detect a real weak signal from that strong ticking when you are tuning with the knob. I think that I can survive to the rest of singularities you have described about PL-600.
Anyway what about some modifications I've seen to reduce the audio distortions in SW. Also seen some other owners who changed a capacitor to improve stability in SSB and eliminate a humming sound in that modulation. Have you found these flaws too?
I think that all in all, PL-600 will be my radio.
Thanks again Bill, you helped me to clarify my doubts about this equip!
October 11, 2013 at 01:13 AM
The find that the sound on my Tecsun PL-398BT is improved slightly if you tilt the radio back onto its stand. There are two low-frequency sound ports (I would not go so far as to call them "bass ports", there is none of that!) on the bottom of the radio that are exposed when you tilt it. I assume that the other PL-390's are the same. Maybe the PL-310et as well?
October 11, 2013 at 10:13 AM
Well I finaly bought my PL660 that I was waiting to be shipped into the country by the importer here in Auckland (NZ).After unpacking,reading the manuel cover to cover,setting up some of my favourite SSB frequencies into the memories,I decided to check all the bands including AM broadcast and FM.I found no problem pulling in weak AM stations and even distant FM stations came in well with no distortion.But when I went up on the Short Wave HF frequencies,on 4mgs,6mgs,8mgs and 27mgs there were very loud Squashy harmonic sounds,that seem to acturly climb up then back down the frequency.The sound was diffently internaly made,because I took the radio outside away from any house hold interference,and the loud noise remained.After waiting so long for this radio,and reading all the excellent reviews on it,I acturly found one review on hamnet,that gives the same exact problem I have,so it seems there must be some "Duds" out there,or though one review on YouTube said this harmonic sound is typical to all the PL660s,and not so on the PL600.
So Im takeing mine back to the seller and will certainly test another befor I am happy.I may settle for the PL600 instead,yet reveiws show the Audio distorts.I was hopeing for a really good portable receiver to up date my older Sony SW 55 and 7000G,but the old Sonys are far more stable than what Ive found with the 660.Anyone else had problems like this please leave a message.
james patterson |
June 02, 2014 at 02:56 AM
My Sony is acturly the 7600G not a 7000G,as I mentioned in my previous message.
james patterson |
June 02, 2014 at 03:02 AM
I have just received my Tecsun PL-600 today and I am really impressed!
My Sony ICF 7600D is showing its age (being a purchase in the 1980's)and wanted something I can take outside with me and leave the 'old girl' safe at home.
After many reviews and YouTube videos, I am glad I made the choice of the 600 over the 660, and it was more than just the $30.00 price difference. (600= $90.00 & 660 = $120.00 AUS. for an 'air-band.)(I tried the 'Air-band' mod and it did not work, as the radio was made in March 2012. Oh well!)
The sound is great. I love the sound on the FM band, which is worth the outlay just on this feature alone!
The plastic flap thing on the back is a big issue with this radio. Also, you cannot lay the radio flat in its back and extend the antenna upright, like you can do on the Sony 7600 series of radios, but I can work around this quite easily.
The controls do take a bit of getting use to, but once I have played around with the features a little, I was able to 'tamed the beast' and have had great use from the unit.
The manual is a little 'quirky' in some of the instructions, but is not no-where near the bad 'Asian-English' translations used. (No offence is intended to any non-English speaking people)
I may have written this too early in the history of the life of this radio and may find fault in the 'new' radio. Hopefully, it will pull its weight. I am not expecting this to be a 'better' radio than the 7600, it has been worth the cost so far. When the sun goes down will tell how it does go on the SW bands.
The comments about the 600 vs. 660 radios have proved to be valuable in my selections, so thank you for your comments.
June 29, 2014 at 09:28 PM
I've just bought a Tecsun PL 600 and it is more than sufficient for my FM listening.
Learning curve... I spent a lot of time reading about and then saving my most listened stations.
In my location, Madrid, that meant memorizing 8 AM stations, and about 15 FM stations.
I have two niggles.:-
1. Memory wiped changing NiMH batteries
I decided to change batteries by removing them
and replacing with a new charged set
Then I found that the memories stations had been nuked when I switched on:.
All the work of finding and classifying those 23-24 stations had been lost as the
memories were empty.
2. The battery cover needs a knife blade to start opening it
Maybe with use this will slide more smoothly.
Is there some trick to help it slide open?
Or perhaps I'm just a weakling?
I would like comments as maybe there is a time limit on removing and replacing batteries. Or perhaps the memory storage system is defective.
I can live with it as it is clearly a macho challenge.
Besides broken finger nails are part of everyday living hazards, aren't they?
I haven't manage to find reader input on these subjects and yet I feel I'm not the first to be victimized .
I would be most grateful if your good-selves or any reader could point me to where these topics have been discussed and solved. :-)
Fred Mah |
July 25, 2014 at 12:12 AM
I just pulled the trigger on a PL-600. You guys seem to be interested in the same thing I'm looking for. A stable, portable, multiband with some whistles, a few bells, but mainly a stable build carry. I've got enough weight at home with scanners and table tops but I wanted something I could take with me that didn't take a large investment and supplied ample listening fun. I'm just not seeing anything in the Sangean ats 909x or the Tecsun 880 that says buy me, I'm worth it. The reviews on these seem pretty dismal. Thanks again for your work, I've got a week to wait for my PL600 to arrive.
October 26, 2014 at 08:56 PM
With an exception with the annoying SSB fine tune, the Sony ICF SW7600GR is a very easy to use receiver, much more so than my Tecsun PL880.
Shortwave Listener 22007 |
April 07, 2015 at 10:25 AM
Purchased my PL-600 and I'm more than happy with it. It's more sensitive than my friend's Degen DE1106 (which is a great radio too and has backlit buttons) and the FM works wonders too.
PL-600 is really the best :)
March 27, 2017 at 09:19 PM
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