shortwave radio buying for 2014

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#1
What's the best sortwave radio out there now that you can listen to utility*stations, ssb, ham and all shortwave band also with external antenna jack, wide & narrow switch and great reception in portables and desktops?
I prefer portable radio with the list above

Price range $50 to $200
 

Token

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#3
What's the best sortwave radio out there now that you can listen to utility*stations, ssb, ham and all shortwave band also with external antenna jack, wide & narrow switch and great reception in portables and desktops?
I prefer portable radio with the list above

Price range $50 to $200
Your goal is slightly schizophrenic. “Whats the best”, “great reception”, and “$50 to $200”. That is kind of a hard pull, or at least relative. You can have “best in this price range”, but not “best” or “great” with that price range.

Your desired targets are also ambitious for a portable, particularly utility and ham can be a problem with portables. Both of these classes of stations tend to be unscheduled and lower power, requiring at least fair to good performance to make the listening experience enjoyable, vs a lesson in frustration.

There are no new desktops you can buy in that price range. A few used desktop rigs can be found that fit the price range and are decent performers.

There are many portables that will be found new in that price range, a couple of them quite good, none of them qualify as the best shortwave radio out there or “great”. Probably the best one (current production) under $200 I have tried is the Tecsun PL660, I also like the PL880 with the 8820 or later firmware, but both of these radios have been known to have quality control issues. However for just over this $200 top end you can get the Sangean ATS-909X, and I think it is a much better radio than the Tecsuns.

In my opinion if you really want to do utilities, other than the aviation standbys that are always present to some extent, nothing beats an SDR. The waterfall displays help you notice those short duration, unpublished frequency, transmissions that can so often be the most interesting. There are a few different SDRs that can be found in your price range, but none of them are really all that great. At about the same price as the Sangean ATS-909X (~$250) you can get the AFEDRI SDR, a pretty decent performer.

So weight your goals a little better. By that I mean, what are the most important factors for you (performance vs cost, portability vs performance, battery power vs fixed power, etc)? What is the order of importance of the services you intend to listen to? If you do those things you can probably narrow down the options to one or two best fits.

T!
 

scannerbuff999

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#5
here is the best buy right now for this type of listen

here is the best buy right now for this type of listen
for this type of listening you will need a good high end radio some of data you need to hook up to a computer to read some of the data stuff
you can do that with this radio and it is a very good receiver on top

Alinco DX-R8T Alinco DX-R8 Receiver
 

krokus

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#6
I purchased a RadioShack 20-629, which is a re-badged ATS-505, a few months ago. It has performed pretty well, for being a portable unit.

An external antenna did wonders for HF reception, and the FM reception has been really surprising. (In a good way.)

Sent via Tapatalk
 

ka3jjz

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#7
I would echo Token's comments - portables are a nice way to get a toehold in this side of the hobby, but they have serious limitations with selectivity (able to separate 2 stations close in frequency), tuning steps and resistance to overloading, among other issues. Another thing to keep in mind with portables is that they really can't handle any big antennas - short wire antennas and loops are a good rule here. Put anything of any real size - say 100 foot or so - on a portable, and it's likely to overload it. You will know this by hearing stations in places where they don't belong, such as hearing VoA on a 8 Mhz frequency

Software Defined Radios or SDRs are where its at these days. Not only is the AFEDRI SDR a possibility here, but even the Funcube Dongle Pro (which, unlike its predecessor, works on HF) would be a better choice than a portable. For just a bit more money, the Cross Country SDR-4 is another HF capable SDR.

Before you make the plunge we have 2 articles in our wiki with lots of links (always blue) to reviews and much more. Doing your homework now will help prevent an expensive error later...

Category:Receiver Reviews - The RadioReference Wiki

Software Defined Radios - The RadioReference Wiki

Mike
 
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#10
For portables I would cast my vote for the Sangean ATS-909X -- if it's anything like the 909, it's a good SSB radio.

Other people rave about the Tecsuns, so they are probably also a very good radio for the money.

The ATS-505 / Radio Shack 20-629 World Receiver is very good for SW broadcast, FM, and AM DXing also (although if you live in a low AM signal area like I do an external loop will help with the AM reception). It's got excellent selectivity for the AM band, and adequate selectivity for SW broadcast. If you're gung ho into SSB, there are probably other portable radios that may be better.
 
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#11
I own the Sony 7600GR and the Sangean ATS-909X.

In a race I would have to give a slight edge to the Sony. Audio on the ATS can tend to be a little muddy (if you catch my drift). Of course sound is always in the eyes of the beholder.

Big antenna and a radio that will grow in that respect? Easy, ATS. The Sangean has always been known to be a portable with desktop dreams :). Same for the original 909 (I owned it), it could handle a good bit of wire.
 

Michael-SATX

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#12
The ATS-505 / Radio Shack 20-629 World Receiver is very good for SW broadcast, FM, and AM DXing also (although if you live in a low AM signal area like I do an external loop will help with the AM reception). It's got excellent selectivity for the AM band, and adequate selectivity for SW broadcast. If you're gung ho into SSB, there are probably other portable radios that may be better.
Also, considering that the Radio Shack 20-629 is on DEEP clearence @ $31.97 reg price was $79,
the actual clearence prices and availability will vary from store to store so happy hunting out there ;)
So, at a seriously bargain price of approx. $31.97 it is an absolutely GREat Deal and it's got SSB !!!

btw~ It's pictured in my 1st "Shack" photo at the top right hand corner over the Cobra 29 WX NW ST CB 21-1601 @ $110.97 :)
 
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Token

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#13
I own the Sony 7600GR and the Sangean ATS-909X.

In a race I would have to give a slight edge to the Sony. Audio on the ATS can tend to be a little muddy (if you catch my drift). Of course sound is always in the eyes of the beholder.

Big antenna and a radio that will grow in that respect? Easy, ATS. The Sangean has always been known to be a portable with desktop dreams :). Same for the original 909 (I owned it), it could handle a good bit of wire.
Got to agree with most of that.

I do not own the 7600GR, but I have used one several times for various periods of time. I do own the Sangean. I made that decision based on using two borrowed radios (7600GR and 909X) side by side.

The Sangean on its own antenna is so-so, a good basic radio but a little lacking. However connected to an external antenna the Sangean seems to be the best portable that I have tried that is still in production. On signal / antenna combinations that often have portables overloaded the Sangean seems more forgiving, and the extra signal level brings the radio alive quite well. Since most of the time I do want to connect a portable to at least a meager external antenna the Sangean was the clear choice for me.

However when I do want a portable to stand alone I use the Tecsun PL-660.

T!
 
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#14
Also, considering that the Radio Shack 20-629 is on DEEP clearence @ $31.97 reg price was $79,
the actual clearence prices and availability will vary from store to store so happy hunting out there ;)
So, at a seriously bargain price of approx. $31.97 it is an absolutely GREat Deal and it's got SSB !!!

btw~ It's pictured in my 1st "Shack" photo at the top right hand corner over the Cobra 29 WX NW ST CB 21-1601 @ $110.97 :)
I agree, for $30-40 the 20-629 probably can't be beat for the price. I get a lot of use out of mine. Smooth tuning, easy to use, good sound. Fairly hot off the whip (something other Sangean SW portables really aren't).

SSB is fine, but when you get really strong signals -- especially on voice (CW doesn't seem to present a problem with this) the SSB will chirp a little bit (especially when I'm using a 25 ft. wire), so you kick in the attenuator switch from DX to Local, and crank the volume. When Sangean revamped this radio they put in a different audio chip with more output than the original ATS-505's audio chip had, so there's enough audio gain to compensate.

My take is that if someone wants to concentrate on SSB more than AM and SW broadcast, there probably are other portable radios they will be happier with. But if they're looking for a good buy on a solid portable that also gets SSB, the Radio Shack 20-629 is a great deal.

FWIW, I've used mine listening for utilities and it's o.k. for listening to CW and SSB voice on the maritime and aeronautical frequencies, etc., as most of those signals are pretty low level.

It's on the 20 meter band I have encountered the AGC overreacting to really strong ham signals. So my DX-Local switch gets used on that radio, where on other radio's I've got I've never touched the thing. :)

My best SSB radio is probably my DX-398 (Sangean ATS-909). The sound sometimes is muddy on AM (ceramic filters, probably), but I will tune the radio off by a Khz or so to brighten the sound on SW broadcast. My guess, from what Token has said, is that's probably what you do with the 909X.
 
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#15
Slightly off-topic but.....reading what you guys have said about strong SSB signals sounding distorted - this is a common problem due to the AGC voltage being normally generated by the AM carrier but on SSB there is no carrier. The AGC cannot turn down the gain fast enough top stop the overload distortion on the voice peaks. To prevent this, you have to change your mode of operation! If you have an RF gain control, turn it down and turn the audio volume up, otherwise turn on the RF attenuator.
A more expensive desktop will have selectable time constants for the AGC and audio derived AGC.
 
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