Looking to upgrade to a new sw radio, would like some help.

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EMSW

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Hello, I hope this is the right place to ask this!

I've had a Tecsun PL-380 for about over a year now and have enjoyed the time I've had with it. I'm still a novice when it comes to shortwave but I would like to get more serious and upgrade from my Tecsun. I'll spend up to $500cad and I don't mind a portable or desktop, and as for antenna situation, I am able to build one as I've seen recommended. I would like SSB if possible, too. I've hear the Sony ifc-2010 is good. In regards to antennas, I would like to set one up inside of my shed if possible (there's no appliances or anything). Would a longwire antenna leading to the outside be good? Or perhaps one going around the inside perimeter of the top of the shed. I'm still not very knowledgeable when it comes to antennas, except for the fact that they're good to have.

Thank you! I still have a lot to learn so sorry if my questions aren't very clear.
 

KB4MSZ

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If you are open to moving to "desktop" units then I would strongly suggest moving into the SDR (Software Defined Radio) family of radios. You don't have to spend $500 and you will receive a lot of features and performance. Many units are well under that price.
 

Boombox

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The benefits of of SDRs are that they have a lot of features for the money.

However, the main negative is that the shelf life is limited to however long your computer lasts before it becomes a fine looking doorstop.

Next to me are two desktops from the early and mid 2000s. At the time, there were at least a couple of versions of SDRs available -- Perseus and WinRadio come to mind. The two computers I just mentioned are doorstops, and have been for several years. If I had any SW software on them it would be as equally useless as the dead computers that SW decoding software would be residing in. Meanwhile, every digital SW radio I have, ranging back to even before 1989 when I got my first, new digital SW radio (a DX-440), still works. All I need is an decent antenna and I can still hear whatever is out there.

So, depending on how deeply you want to get into the hobby, it's something to keep in mind. SDRs obviously have benefits, and so do standalone SW receivers.

RE: antennas: the longer and higher -- generally -- the better. That said, if you can put up an indoor wire antenna in a wooden building, and the antenna is at least 20 ft or so long, you should be able to pick up a lot of signals, especially when the sunspots start kicking in in a year or two. Indoor antennas also have the benefit of being safer from lightning, storm induced static discharges, and the like.

Others here will probably have a lot better input on antennas, but I heard much of the world on a 30 ft indoor antenna. My 100 ft outside antenna (that blew down) brought in even more.
 

K4EET

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Hello @EMSW and welcome to Radio Reference!

There is the Tecsun H-501 as one possible candidate:

https://swling.com/blog/tag/tecsun-h-501/

with a price-point in the U.S. of about $380 USD on the street. Of course, @KB4MSZ above makes a good point to consider as well. I am not sure what he has in mind for a good receiver in the "SDR (Software Defined Radio) family of radios." Perhaps he can make some suggestions.

You might also consider the pre-owned receiver market. While higher than you want to pay, there is an Icom IC-R7000 on eBay for €700 or about $850 USD. The listing does say that it may need calibration and that it is not fully tested so you might be able to whittle them down to your price range. See:

 

Patch42

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However, the main negative is that the shelf life is limited to however long your computer lasts before it becomes a fine looking doorstop.
Why would the SDR become a doorstop just because the computer died? Absolute worst case you'd just be back where you started when you first got the SDR. Best case, you've done proper backups and can restore everything needed to make the SDR work when you get a new computer.
 

EMSW

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If you are open to moving to "desktop" units then I would strongly suggest moving into the SDR (Software Defined Radio) family of radios. You don't have to spend $500 and you will receive a lot of features and performance. Many units are well under that price.
I will for sure check out some SDR options, thanks.

The benefits of of SDRs are that they have a lot of features for the money.

However, the main negative is that the shelf life is limited to however long your computer lasts before it becomes a fine looking doorstop.

Next to me are two desktops from the early and mid 2000s. At the time, there were at least a couple of versions of SDRs available -- Perseus and WinRadio come to mind. The two computers I just mentioned are doorstops, and have been for several years. If I had any SW software on them it would be as equally useless as the dead computers that SW decoding software would be residing in. Meanwhile, every digital SW radio I have, ranging back to even before 1989 when I got my first, new digital SW radio (a DX-440), still works. All I need is an decent antenna and I can still hear whatever is out there.

So, depending on how deeply you want to get into the hobby, it's something to keep in mind. SDRs obviously have benefits, and so do standalone SW receivers.

RE: antennas: the longer and higher -- generally -- the better. That said, if you can put up an indoor wire antenna in a wooden building, and the antenna is at least 20 ft or so long, you should be able to pick up a lot of signals, especially when the sunspots start kicking in in a year or two. Indoor antennas also have the benefit of being safer from lightning, storm induced static discharges, and the like.

Others here will probably have a lot better input on antennas, but I heard much of the world on a 30 ft indoor antenna. My 100 ft outside antenna (that blew down) brought in even more.
Thanks for the reply, I'll do a bit more research on SDR and see which I prefer, though I think I'm leaning more towards a digital radio at the moment. Also thanks for the advice on antennas, that helps a lot!

Hello @EMSW and welcome to Radio Reference!

There is the Tecsun H-501 as one possible candidate:

https://swling.com/blog/tag/tecsun-h-501/

with a price-point in the U.S. of about $380 USD on the street. Of course, @KB4MSZ above makes a good point to consider as well. I am not sure what he has in mind for a good receiver in the "SDR (Software Defined Radio) family of radios." Perhaps he can make some suggestions.

You might also consider the pre-owned receiver market. While higher than you want to pay, there is an Icom IC-R7000 on eBay for €700 or about $850 USD. The listing does say that it may need calibration and that it is not fully tested so you might be able to whittle them down to your price range. See:

I had been looking at some pre-owned receivers a bit yesterday, so thanks for bringing my attention to the Icom IC-R7000. I'm glad I have some more options to go over!
 

ka3jjz

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The R7000 really doesn't cover much on HF - it starts its coverage at 25 Mhz. The 2010 has been out of production for many years.

You can start your research here....all links are in blue...



The Belka has been making quite a name for itself. I've been toying with getting one myself (being unemployed for 8 months SUCKS). The 2nd link has links to many HF capable SDRs - but the SDRPlay series is probably the most popular.

As for antennas - we have a separate forum for that.


Yes, random wires and L's are certainly popular, but you do need a bit of room for these (yes, even the well known PAR needs some space). There are many other options, and they will be dependent on your budget as well as well as your particular circumstances - can you put something outdoors and away from your home (always best)? How much room do you have to work with? Do you know how to properly solder? Use simple tools? When you settle on your radio, this is your next set of questions (there are others) you will need to answer, and that forum is the place to ask

Mike
 

K4EET

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The R7000 really doesn't cover much on HF - it starts its coverage at 25 Mhz. <snip>
Thanks Mike. I wasn't thinking. I forgot that the Icom IC-R7000 covers 25.000 MHz to 999.999 MHz for the USA model. Maybe I was thinking it started at 25 kHz (wouldn't that have been real nice). Scratch the Icom IC-R7000 from the list of candidates... Sorry @EMSW
 

iMONITOR

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Thanks Mike. I wasn't thinking. I forgot that the Icom IC-R7000 covers 25.000 MHz to 999.999 MHz for the USA model. Maybe I was thinking it started at 25 kHz (wouldn't that have been real nice). Scratch the Icom IC-R7000 from the list of candidates... Sorry @EMSW
You were probably thinking of the ICOM IC-R71/IC-R71A. It looks identical to the IC-R7000. The IC-R71 is HF where the IC-R7000 is VHF/UHF.

IC-R71A
IC-R7000


1619356883741.png1619357160837.png
 

WA8ZTZ

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Whatever you decide upon, make sure that it has SSB. That will give you the ability to hear ham and utility transmissions.

If portable is your thing, forget SDR as you will be tied to a computer. Otherwise, check out the RSP units from SDRplay.
Lots of radio for the price. Just be aware that it will take some learning before you feel comfortable with a SDR.

Eton has brought back the 750 now called the Elite 750. It was reviewed in the April 2021 QST. A big portable, it looks more like a desktop.
Lots of coverage, a great radio for the casual SWL. A little pricey but it will fit your budget.

Do a little reading about antennas. The best radio in the world is just a paperweight without a good antenna.
Also, with an outdoor antenna you need to consider lightning protection.
 

KB4MSZ

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check out the RSP units from SDRplay.
Lots of radio for the price.
Here is a screen shot of the SDRPlay software control interface (SDRUno). This one is connected to the SDRPlay RSPdx unit. It is especially good for the long wave bands (below 2 MHz). It covers 1 KHz to 2 GHz in all modes. Shown below is the entire 20 meter ham band. One of the features I find especially useful is that the unit has three antenna ports, this makes it quite versatile.

1619371611946.png
 
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WA8ZTZ

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Nope, not quite. The now discontinued CommRadio CR1 and CR1A were both SDR stand alone radios.

Mike
Correct, however, keyword "discontinued"... although he may be able to find one used within his budget.
My suggestion for someone new to the hobby would be to get a new radio. However, if the OP would be
OK with a used radio then it's a whole new ballgame.
 

Boombox

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Why would the SDR become a doorstop just because the computer died? Absolute worst case you'd just be back where you started when you first got the SDR. Best case, you've done proper backups and can restore everything needed to make the SDR work when you get a new computer.
Meanwhile, all I need to do is put batteries in my SW portable, plug a wire into the EXT socket, and not have to mess with all the rest of it, I can take my portables anywhere. All I need is batteries and some wire.

The reason I've brought all this up isn't to say SDRs are bad. But there's a benefit to standalone radios, even in 2021.
 

iMONITOR

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Meanwhile, all I need to do is put batteries in my SW portable, plug a wire into the EXT socket, and not have to mess with all the rest of it, I can take my portables anywhere. All I need is batteries and some wire.

The reason I've brought all this up isn't to say SDRs are bad. But there's a benefit to standalone radios, even in 2021.
SDR's require more power.
 

ka3jjz

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Horse hockey. The Chinese Si4732 requires 3.6vdc (and from what little I've seen on this one, I'd avoid it). Even the CommRadio works off a LiIon battery. Perhaps you're thinking of the ham SDR transceivers that take a bit more than that to work

Mike
 
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Patch42

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Meanwhile, all I need to do is put batteries in my SW portable, plug a wire into the EXT socket, and not have to mess with all the rest of it, I can take my portables anywhere. All I need is batteries and some wire.
While all of that is true, it has absolutely nothing to do with the claim that a SDR turns into a doorstop if the computer dies.

Self-contained radios are generally simpler than SDRs that require a separate computer to run them. I don't think anyone is denying that. OTOH, as evidenced by the screen shot KB4MSZ posted, SDRs with the right software can do things most self-contained radios can only dream of. And some very capable SDRs are now available in self-contained forms at quite reasonable prices.

I've never owned a SDR so I'm not trying to play up one side over the other here, but I also don't want to see someone being turned away from SDRs due to misinformation.
 

devicelab

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A quality SDR will cost you some serious money but it's the antenna you need to worry about.

Saving that debate for another time, there are not very many current production radios I'd recommend -- especially in the desktop market. The Eton Elite (Satellit 750) is probably the best value. It's large but you definitely get the best of both worlds -- portability and desktop-level sound. You get multiple inputs and a built-in antenna -- but obviously an external (outdoor) antenna is a must. If portability is a major factor then I'd probably look at the Tecsun PL-880 (or the latest model which I think is the 990.) I think the Eton is a better investment.

The used marketplace is going to be hit or miss. You could easily sink $500 into a SW receiver but you're getting older technology that may or may not last. You may get a lemon or worst-case, a receiver that is only partially working.

Checking E-Bay really quick -- there's a Drake R8 that is selling for $675 (with shipping costs) but that's a pretty good deal for a quality desktop receiver. Seller claims the unit is working 100% so take that for what it's worth. Either way, for $675 that's not a bad deal. His shipping cost seems a tad high but perhaps he's double-boxing it and/or insuring it.

There are a few Grundig Satelli 800s listed but those are VERY large radios. The audio quality from them is amazing but the cost is high -- and that's because they are good receivers -- and are sought after by collectors. Wow, there's one for $480 shipped. Not bad.

A lot of HF HAM transceivers make decent receivers but will be tough to find right now due to the component shortage.

The Yaesu FT-891 is a steal at $600 if you can find one.
 

Boombox

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Self-contained radios are generally simpler than SDRs that require a separate computer to run them. I don't think anyone is denying that. OTOH, as evidenced by the screen shot KB4MSZ posted, SDRs with the right software can do things most self-contained radios can only dream of. And some very capable SDRs are now available in self-contained forms at quite reasonable prices.

I've never owned a SDR so I'm not trying to play up one side over the other here, but I also don't want to see someone being turned away from SDRs due to misinformation.
I get what you're saying, and agree for the most part, but my original statement wasn't misinformation. It's a valid concern, especially if one is to get into this hobby for the long run and wants to ensure that whatever equipment they are paying for now will still be working, and/or supportable 15-20 years from now -- should they be thinking that far ahead.

Like most computer programs and hardware, if you want to use your SDR 15 or 20 years from now, you'll want to make sure you have backups -- as you mentioned -- and enquire whether the SDR maker will support their discontinued products (WinRadio, for example, does this). With a standalone radio you don't have that particular worry.

With a standalone radio you have different worries -- the possibility of different sorts of breakdowns. I've been fortunate in that all of my old radios work, and only one of them had a bad solder joint, and it was right at the negative battery terminal. Some other posters here have had issues crop up with their older standalone radios. So yeah, there's a trade off. But I don't think it's misinformation to inform someone that there are things to watch out for when they invest in any equipment, SDRs included.
 
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