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Thinking about a new SW portable...

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kc2kth

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#1
So I've been poking around thinking about getting a new SW portable to play around with. I currently have a YB400PE and a DX398, both in great shape - nothing wrong with them, just looking for a new toy. I was wondering what folks thought of some of the following rigs compared with these two, which for me have been great little performers:

PL-660
PL-880
ATS-909X
(New) Eton Satellit or Field

I'm curious if performance is any better in newer rigs, or if build quality has done down to the point I might be disappointed? I see lots of reviews of all of these to each other, but couldn't find a lot regarding comparing this newer generation to some of the prior rigs.

Note I ruled out the Sony, just not a fan of it. The 909X I'm a bit concerned with because people have noted less than great sensitivity. The PL-880 seems interesting, if not a bit complicated.

Any other thoughts?
 
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#2
So I've been poking around thinking about getting a new SW portable to play around with. I currently have a YB400PE and a DX398, both in great shape - nothing wrong with them, just looking for a new toy. I was wondering what folks thought of some of the following rigs compared with these two, which for me have been great little performers:

PL-660
PL-880
ATS-909X
(New) Eton Satellit or Field

I'm curious if performance is any better in newer rigs, or if build quality has done down to the point I might be disappointed? I see lots of reviews of all of these to each other, but couldn't find a lot regarding comparing this newer generation to some of the prior rigs.

Note I ruled out the Sony, just not a fan of it. The 909X I'm a bit concerned with because people have noted less than great sensitivity. The PL-880 seems interesting, if not a bit complicated.

Any other thoughts?
From what I understand, the 909X is an improvement over the 909/398, as it apparently has a digital chip in it. It sounds like. a tough choice, though, as I keep hearing great things about the Tecsuns.
 

ka3jjz

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#3
As I understand it, the 880 has several bandwidths you can choose from, which is very unusual for a under USD300 portable. However there've been some issues with quality control

If you get this model, make sure you understand the return policy - if you need to - from whatever seller you choose. Don't throw the box out....Mike
 

kc2kth

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#5
Thanks folks. Yes, the mega review was one of the ones I read - twice actually. The multiple filters in the 880 looked pretty interesting as well. It seems we always have to choose as there are never enough slots. If these are as good as some say it is a very impressive feature and especially so in a portable. If I didn't need to drag out the 35A Astron I would play more with my IC-7000 more.
 
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#6
My PL-660 came today (well, now yesterday) in the mail. I must say it is very easy to use and tune....I was listening to 40 meter sideband, and CW with the greatest of ease....wide and narrow bandwidth choices help. A fine tune lets you bring in a sideband station with ease.
I heard lots of stations calling W1AW/KP4 from all over on both 40 and 10 meters.

I am just starting to explore....it also has LW/AM and FM broadcast, also aircraft frequencies...
A lot smaller. lighter, and more versatile than my old Hammarlund Super-Pro. I can't set up an HF station where I am now, or put up a decent antenna so this little toy lets me keep up on my CW and
general listening on the amateur bands.
 
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#7
I have some portables, I will give you my take if it helps any.

The 909X is a great radio and it can hang with the best of em. I have the white one and I have heard there have been some oddities with the black and would stay away from that.

The great thing about the 909X is the ability to handle more of an antenna. Off the whip, I think it works rather well and is a pleasure to listen to now that I have had it awhile. It can tend to be a little "muddy", but sound is always subjective. It is one radio that is rather well behaved for sure.

I also have the Sony 7600GR. Is there a specific reason you don't want it? It is a great little radio and batteries last a very long time in it. The sync works rather well and the radio in general is very well behaved, there is a reason it is very popular. Between the two radios it would be the Sony all day long.

The Tecsun radios have always looked interesting to me. One reason I don't own one is the spotty QC. I do have a Kaito 1103 and for the price, it is a wonderful radio, even beyond the price.

If you are looking for a portable that can somewhat be a desktop, I would go with the 909X, great radio. If you are looking for a radio that is predictable and want to know that every time you turn it on your going to get the same result, the Sony is the winner.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask :).
 
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#8
Maybe it's because of the lack of a tuning knob in the Sony radio that puts him off? Also, the Sony has a tiny LCD display and it doesn't show much information, it just shows you the tuned frequency and if you're in AM or FM. It doesn't show the meter bands (but luckily you can jump between the international broadcast meter bands so it's not much of an issue) and it doesn't have an indicator when you're in SSB either. And the backlighting is poor, just one small green diode that's badly lit. And it doesn't have the feature more modern radios have that when you hold down the light button the light stays on. It stays on for about 10 seconds and then turns off again.

But still, this radio has quality. There's no problem in receiving signals. I got this one because I was unhappy with my Etón (/Grundig) Satellit 750 receiver. So many problems with that thing.
 
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#9
Maybe it's because of the lack of a tuning knob in the Sony radio that puts him off? Also, the Sony has a tiny LCD display and it doesn't show much information, it just shows you the tuned frequency and if you're in AM or FM. It doesn't show the meter bands (but luckily you can jump between the international broadcast meter bands so it's not much of an issue) and it doesn't have an indicator when you're in SSB either. And the backlighting is poor, just one small green diode that's badly lit. And it doesn't have the feature more modern radios have that when you hold down the light button the light stays on. It stays on for about 10 seconds and then turns off again.

But still, this radio has quality. There's no problem in receiving signals. I got this one because I was unhappy with my Etón (/Grundig) Satellit 750 receiver. So many problems with that thing.
The Sony is not without small problems.

But for what it does, it does it really well. It has a very well mannered AGC and I would say it is the best I have ever used in that department (in a portable).

Bang for buck it is one heck of a receiver. Of course I have the Sony ICF-2010 and have been really impressed by that radio as well. Sony makes good quality stuff. We will probably be talking about the 7600GR in twenty years, Tecsuns I doubt the same. Buy a Sony you get quality, buy a Chinese radio and you get a radio for a couple years I am sure.
 
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#10
Agreed. It's why got the Sony radio. At first I thought about getting a Tecsun receiver. I first looked at the PL-880 and thought "Wow! What a nice and modern receiver!" But then I researched further and found out it had some problems. It's mainly QC stuff. And features not working as intended. Then I thought about the PL-660 and PL-600. And the research continued. After watching videos and reading reports I found out that SSB on the PL-660 can sound distorted sometimes. And the speaker on the PL-600 is below average.

See this review for more detail: Tecsun PL-600 review (Youtube)

But the report that turned me off the most about the Tecsuns is this blog post on the SWling post: Repairing the Tecsun PL-600 after electrostatic discharge (ESD). I think every owner of either the PL-600, or 660 (unsure about the 880) should take a look at it, at least skim through it. Don't throw your radio into the trash bin if you find out it doesn't work in shortwave anymore (not even static is heard).

Oh and I forgot to tell that the Sony radio lacks a bandwidth switch (Wide/Narrow). So you cannot filter out unwanted signals.

I don't know of any major problems the Sangean might have other than the built-in antenna is a little insensitive because of a construction error. (compare it to any other receiver and you may notice it..) But it works wonders with an external antenna.

So, I hope I have helped the OP.
 
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#12
For what it's worth, the Sangean ATS-909 (DX-398) has internal diode protection.

So I'm guessing that the 909X also does.

Also, the Chinese are capable of making good radios, it's just that sometimes with budget models the QC can be a bit lacking. I have two Chinese made Superadios that are practically indestructible (in fact, my SR2 fell off the refrigerator, hit the floor, and still works like new).

I would second the idea that KA3JJZ's protection box idea is a good one for anyone using a portable with an external antenna, even moreso if it's in an area with dry winter air or t-storm activity. RF amp transistors are hard enough to replace on a PCB, and even harder on a surface mount PCB, which most modern portables have inside them.
 

kc2kth

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#13
Great info from everyone, much appreciated. I think Sony products have after many years left me somewhat sour on them. Yes the lack of a tuning knob also seemed like an odd design choice. I am not a fan of the 7600GR display compared to the 909X. One thing about the mega review was that price weighed into the evaluation. I'd have preferred the author stuck to the technical aspects and left pricing out of it. I came away not sure if the 909X or 7600GR were really better quality or simply more expensive than Tecsun because of name recognition. Whether the 909X is different enough than my 398 is also weighing in on my decision. I may have to get the 7600GR another look based on feedback on its performance.
 
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#14
As a DX-398 owner, one thing to bear in mind is that the 909X is an improved version, and also remember that the tuner encoder on your 398 isn't going to last forever. I got my DX-398 in 1998, and the tuner on it has recently started to get just a little bit flakey. Even if I clean it with tuner cleaner or deoxit, every now and then it jumps a cog, something it never did until a couple months ago. The problem is it doubles as a tuner and fine tuner -- it gets double the use.

It's a great radio, but the parts are designed for only so much use.... I've read at least one account of a guy fixing his 398's tuner, and I'm sure it could be replaced, but they do have a lifetime, I don't know how many thousands of cycles before the contacts wear down....

It also looks like Sangean may have added to the memory features on the 909X, at least according to the mega review linked on this thread. Apparently you can type in alpha numeric characters for *each memory location*, something which on the 398/909 you could only do for memory *groups* on SW (and individual memory locations on FM and MW).

I have found the alpha numeric labelling on individual memory locations useful in the MW band on the DX-398, and always wished they had that feature for individual memories on SW. It looks like Sangean did that when they updated the radio.
 

kc2kth

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#15
Right Boombox, that tuning knob always was problematic on the 909/398 as far as jumping around. I thought someone had a fix for that, but I don't recall offhand what it was. Not sure if the RadioLabs folks resolved that as part of the upgrade. It can making tuning a frustrating experience. I'll say this, the 909/398 is a better performer than the YB400PE. Kind of has me leaning toward a 909X, maybe even the RadioLabs version. I would like to see some input on the new Satellit though so I may hold off a few weeks before buying anything.
 
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#16
You're in for a long wait then, as the new Satellit has been delayed for another month. I hope this doesn't mean we'll receive a below average product, but instead some actual improvements. Sometimes delays can mean there's some trouble..

I think the Sangean would be great choice.
 
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#17
Right Boombox, that tuning knob always was problematic on the 909/398 as far as jumping around. I thought someone had a fix for that, but I don't recall offhand what it was. Not sure if the RadioLabs folks resolved that as part of the upgrade. It can making tuning a frustrating experience. I'll say this, the 909/398 is a better performer than the YB400PE. Kind of has me leaning toward a 909X, maybe even the RadioLabs version. I would like to see some input on the new Satellit though so I may hold off a few weeks before buying anything.
My 398 is possibly fixed, although I'm still not 100% sure.

I did two things. I sprayed tuner cleaner down the side of the shaft, so it would work its way in. I did this several times over a week or two, working the tuner knob afterwards to get the tuner cleaner to work its way around inside the encoder so it would actually clean the contacts. There is enough play around the sides of the shaft for tuner cleaner to work its way in. That is also what I did to fix the tuner on my DX-394, which started tuning only one way. Both these radios have encoders with little contacts inside, and it wouldn't take much oxidation to make them act up.

I think the tuner on my 398 got oxidised from years of use and then a several months just sitting on the shelf. It was also a bit humid in the room where I had stored it, which also probably contributed to oxidation. I think keeping it in its carrying case only added to the problem, as the case tends to keep any moisture from the air on the radio. So I ditched the case.

I also filed down the plastic humps around the tuner knob to make it easier to grip and turn the tuner knob -- to make for a more positive grip while turning it.

I used my 398 this afternoon for the first time in about three weeks, and it didn't jump. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, as it's my best SSB radio. When it was slipping a cog, it didn't do it all the time. I was still able to use the radio. So I'm hoping the care and maintenance will extend the life of the tuner.
 

kc2kth

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#18
Just for reference Boom, I keep mine in the plastic, in the case, in the box it came in. It jumps now about the same as it always did, but it probably only has 30-40 hours on it. Maybe I'll through one of those moisture absorbing packs in there next time Imput it away. Although the receipt is in there it's faded to near white now but I know exactly when I bought it - roughly 10:30 am on September 11, 2001 at the RS in the Menlo Park Mall in Edison NJ, about 15 mins from my office at the time. I had actually forgotten just how good of a SSB receiver it was, so long as the tuner doesn't jump and Imlose my place, since I haven't had it out in a year or two. Side by side much better than the y 400pe.
 
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#19
Just for reference Boom, I keep mine in the plastic, in the case, in the box it came in. It jumps now about the same as it always did, but it probably only has 30-40 hours on it. Maybe I'll through one of those moisture absorbing packs in there next time Imput it away. Although the receipt is in there it's faded to near white now but I know exactly when I bought it - roughly 10:30 am on September 11, 2001 at the RS in the Menlo Park Mall in Edison NJ, about 15 mins from my office at the time. I had actually forgotten just how good of a SSB receiver it was, so long as the tuner doesn't jump and I lose my place, since I haven't had it out in a year or two. Side by side much better than the y 400pe.
So you have a 9-11 radio. Wow. I had mine with me at work during 9-11. I had tuned in the news when the word got around the building that something was up in NYC. I was glued to my 398 for a couple hours until someone hooked up the TV in the upstairs office, and we all went up and saw what had happened.

I still have the box mine came in, and I think I have the receipt also. It was one of those impulse buys. Definitely worth it. Mine never jumped on fine tune (if it did, I just didn't notice). Just every now and then on 1 khz tune (I use the up & down buttons for 5 & 10 khz tuning). It only started doing it early this year. But then, there was a few months or more that I hadn't used it much.

Mine has gotten plenty of use over the years. I think like with the DX-440, it's possible that consistent use may help keep the tuner from jumping cogs -- the use helps keep the contacts clean. Just a guess. My 440 will sometimes do the same thing until I have used it for a while, then it settles down.....
 
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#20
Just for reference Boom, I keep mine in the plastic, in the case, in the box it came in. It jumps now about the same as it always did, but it probably only has 30-40 hours on it. Maybe I'll through one of those moisture absorbing packs in there next time Imput it away. Although the receipt is in there it's faded to near white now but I know exactly when I bought it - roughly 10:30 am on September 11, 2001 at the RS in the Menlo Park Mall in Edison NJ, about 15 mins from my office at the time. I had actually forgotten just how good of a SSB receiver it was, so long as the tuner doesn't jump and Imlose my place, since I haven't had it out in a year or two. Side by side much better than the y 400pe.
I am a believer that having a couple radios is a good thing, but why do you even want a new radio when the 398/909 was such a great radio and you have one? I had the 909 and it was a great radio and I would say the 909x is only small improvements. The DSP that it supposedly has does lend itself to a little less noise. I would not say enough to buy a new one though.

If you are looking for a radio to be more portable, please reconsider the 7600GR. The battery life alone makes this little rig awesome (something the 909 was not known for and the 909x is just as bad).
 
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