The Super Bowl of pocket radio weak signal reception was held this afternoon here in Puyallup, Washington. The contestants were:
1) Tecsun PL-310ET ($49.99 with free shipping from Amazon) The Ultralight radio class leader in MW sensitivity from 2009 until recently, this AM-LW-FM-SW model (along with the Tecsun PL-606) has the longest loopstick among the Tecsun DSP Ultralights. Although it has the odd heterodynes and "soft mute" drawback typical of the Tecsun DSP models, it also has multiple DSP selectivity choices from its Si4734 chip, including 1 kHz filtering. With a direct frequency entry keypad and a round, external tuning knob, this model has been one of the most popular Ultralight radios for quite a few years.
2) C.Crane "Skywave" ($89.95 plus shipping from C.Crane) The first pocket radio found to use the new Si4736 DSP chip, this AM-FM-WX-AIR model has complete freedom from the Si4734 chip heterodynes troubling the Tecsun DSP Ultralights (as well as complete freedom from "soft mute" distractions). With the full range of DSP filtering options (6,4,3,2 and 1 kHz) and switchable audio tone, this new model has already attracted some significant interest among transoceanic DXers (despite its relatively high price).
3) Eton Traveler III ($59.14 with free shipping from Amazon) The newest contestant among these radios, this AM-LW-FM-SW portable has a unique appearance, and functions which set it apart from the crowd. With only one selectivity option it is mainly designed for maximum sensitivity on MW, with excellent audio quality as a primary feature. Unlike the other contestants the model has no direct frequency entry keypad, and can only tune frequencies according to the 9 or 10 kHz band plans. A unique feature is a rotary control selecting world time zones, hidden behind an access door on the front panel.
Shootout Preparations: All three models were tested in the reception of weak daytime DX signals in Puyallup, WA (30 miles south of Seattle) just after local noon on Sunday, January 11. The Tecsun PL-310ET and the C.Crane Skywave were set in their 1 kHz DSP selection, and the Skywave was set in its default "Music" tone option. In each weak-signal MP3 the Tecsun PL-310ET receives the fringe station for the first 15 seconds, the C.Crane Skywave then receives the same fringe station for 15-25 seconds, then finally the Eton Traveler III receives the same station for the last 15 seconds:
550 KARI Blaine, WA (5 kW at 127 miles)
620 KPOJ Portland, OR (25 kW at 117 miles)
690 CBU Vancouver, BC (50 kW at 148 miles)
750 KXTG Portland, OR (50 kW at 117 miles)
1070 CFAX Victoria, BC (10 kW at 100 miles)
1470 KELA Centralia, WA (5 kW at 46 miles)
1650 Vashon TIS, WA (15 watts at 15 miles)
COMMENTS: 690-CBU was the weakest of all these fringe stations, and the PL-310ET was totally missing in action during the test-- maybe a victim of its "full-blown soft mute?" Its "reception" of 750-KXTG was nothing to shout about, either-- maybe Tecsun is cutting some corners on these new model PL-310ET's? The new Eton Traveler III's MW selectivity is roughly comparable to that of the 2 kHz DSP filtering in the PL-310 and Skywave models-- although if those two models are switched to their 2 KHz DSP setting, they both have an additional MW sensitivity reduction in reference to the Traveler III.
73 and Good DX,
Gary DeBock (in Puyallup, WA, USA)