For Hans and the group PL-310ET first impressions


On Mon, Sep 08, 2014 at 02:43:06PM +0000, microcode@... [ultralightdx] wrote:
On Mon, Sep 08, 2014 at 03:24:04PM +0200, Hans Stam hansstam@... [ultralightdx] wrote:
Nice that you have the experience that your 310 is more quiet then the
pl660. And fine if you can tell us about the sensitivity of the 310 and
the 380 on MW.
First impressions are the PL-310ET is not nearly as sensitive on MW and SW
as the PL-660 but this is not surprising. What is surprising is the PL-310ET
is very hot on FM as I believe others have pointed out. The 310 pulls in
stations with full quieting with the whip not extended that the 660 doesn't
quiet fully even with its larger whip extended.

It's not my thing but I believe it's worth giving this rig a try on FM DXing.

The 310's audio into phones on FM stereo is very nice but overall the audio
is thin even into phones compared to the 660, especially on MW and SW.
However it is very listenable and not tiring. Have not spent much time over
the speaker.

The lack of sync on MW/SW is a glaring omission and a definite issue DXing
although the larger selection of filter widths helps. The sync on the 660 is
extremely good and improves listening on that radio significantly in many

Unfortunately and probably because it's a radio on chip the 310 doesn't seem
to do exactly the same thing all the time. After using it a couple of hours
it seems as noisy if not noisier than my 660 contrary to my initial
impression. It is also very sensitive to the way it's being held, where it's
being held (iPhone syndrome?) and of course where the ferrite is
pointed. Some additional shielding is probably in order.

If you can check also SW, that would be nice..
Again this is a first impression based on a couple hours of listening but
the 310 seems sensitive enough on SW. The issue I have with it is the front
end appears very open and without looking at the signal/noise meter it's
often very hard or even impossible to tell what center frequency the signal
you're hearing is on. While on the 660 you can hear the difference by going
up and down 5 KHz and figure out the center frequency quickly, on the 310 I
found I was often able to move +- 10 or even 15 KHz and couldn't decide
where the center was. Then I realized the radio does know and tells you if
you look at the signal/noise meter. It will be zero or something very small
off-center but will have some positive value on center. This is something
you have to get used to when you're band scanning or stumble across a
station and want to ID it. Narrowing the filter bandwidth doesn't help on
the 310 in this situation nearly as much as it does on the 660.

If I learned one thing in the few hours I spent with this rig I would say I
am not a fan of DSP radios at least not in the portable category. With
conventional radios the responses to switch actions are immediate because
the switch is actually doing something. This radio is sluggish to respond to
switch input because the radio is computer controlled and the switch isn't
actually doing what you want, it's telling the radio what you want. I find
myself blowing past desired filter bandwidth and memory locations because the
radio just can't keep up. It's annoying and needs to be dealt with if you
are running more than one radio because it makes switching back and forth
painfully obvious. You can hear some chuffing in the audio when operating
the controls. This ought to be cleaned up.

The switches are positive and I like the flat rectangular keypad buttons more
than the 660's elongated thin and rolled keys. The display is informative
but I don't like the etched timer box and don't feel it was necessary. The
back stand doesn't seem to keep the radio straight. On a level table the
radio rocks when you use the controls. Otherwise the radio feels tight and
well made.

The ETM memory is a neat feature but it isn't integrated as smoothly as it
should have been. Once you get into ETM you can't get out by toggling the
ETM switch. You have to toggle the regular memory switch and it's not marked
for that and not exactly intuitive. The manual is wrong or unclear about the
backlight timer. The switch doesn't do what it seems it should. I did not
see it documented but you can hold down the 5 key with the power off to
switch the backlight off completely as I believe on the 380.

For the money and for the form factor I think this series of radios (310,
380) are going to be very hard to beat. They do offer amazing capability for
their size. Until I got my 310 and put it next to my 660 (which feels small
to me as my previous radios were mostly boat anchors) I didn't understand
why people were making up names for imaginary subclasses of radios like
"ultralight." When you get your hands on one of these tiny wonders you will
understand there really is a class of radios that fits that term quite well.

I cannot imagine this as an only radio for a dedicated radio enthusiast. It
simply doesn't have everything you want in one radio and although it's very
good it's far from perfect. However it's such a neat little rig and so
affordable that I believe many people will be happy with it as a 2nd or 3rd
radio. And it is certainly a very good travel radio. It's so small and light
it's effortless to pack and bring along.

At this price point I believe they ought to clean up the rough edges in user
interface, noise, and add synchronous detection. That may require a chip
revision, I haven't looked to see whether it is there and just not
implemented in this radio or whether it's not there at all. Otherwise it's a
very good value and hard to fault for what it is.


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