« HD Radio Cites Gains with Auto Makers | Main | Why Bill Settled on the Tecsun PL-600 »

April 30, 2013



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 automagically.


Another potential problem with the PL-660 is the so-called "dynamic squelch" feature, which can cause SW signals to fade into hiss. Some Russian guys figured out how to disable this feature. This has been widely discussed on the TecsunPL660TecsunPL600 Yahoo group.

Apparently this feature greatly bothers some people, while others don't seem to care about it.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

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.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)


  • Advertisements


  • Advertisements


  • Advertisements
My Photo


  • Advertisements


  • Advertisements


  • Advertisements

August 2020

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          
Blog powered by Typepad


Companion Website: Breakthrough Writer

My Photo

Become a Fan