<<< Right now, my inventory includes a CC Crane Skywave (Original model, non-SSB), Sony SRF-T615, Sony SRF-59, Tecsun PL-310, and a few others. Spent time looking for recent shootouts to see which models were the best performers currently available, but can't find anything recent.
Is there a recent shootout available somewhere? Is there a consensus on which models are the best for MW DXing? My main interest is in domestic stations. I'm five hours from the nearest beach, so TA and TP are not a high priority. >>>
Hi Les (and Chris, and Paul),
Chris and Paul are correct in that there hasn't been any recent Ultralight Radio Shootout article like the 2015 version, for which five Ultralight models (Sangean DT-400, C.Crane Pocket, Tecsun PL-310ET, Eton Traveler III and the C.Crane Skywave basic model) were extensively tested and reviewed (posted at https://swling.com/blog/2015/03/gary-debocks-2015-ultralight-radio-shootout-review/
Of course that doesn't mean that newer Ultralight radios haven't been tested and evaluated-- this has actually been going on the whole time. Since 2015, C.Crane has come out with the Skywave SSB model, the technical secrets of which "inspired" the Chinese (to use a generous term) to develop the XHDATA D-808, a portable which seems to have become very popular worldwide because of a much lower price than the Skywave SSB. The XHDATA D-808 is a little too large to qualify for Ultralight status, but in features, quality and price it's tough to beat for someone who just wants to chase portable DX, or as a travel radio. Full details on the development, features and an effective 7.5" loopstick transplant for the XHDATA D-808 (MW or LW) are posted at https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/5d0pi85jfptgmrj4pd0jsmaybgb6gteh
Other Ultralight radios recently introduced include the Radiwow R-108, a quality-control disappointment which apparently was a Chinese attempt to replace the American-manufactured Si4734-series DSP chips (used in the Tecsun PL-310ET, PL-380 and other models) with a cheaper Chinese substitute. This was tried before in the old Kchibo D96 series around 2009, with the same haphazard results. Seven R-108 models were tested here, but only one was free of digital chip issues.
As Chris has stated the C.Crane Skywave model (both basic and SSB) is still my preferred choice for all-out Ultralight radio DXpeditions, since it has the best combination of compact size, light weight, DSP choices and reliable performance. If the XHDATA D-808 was smaller and lighter it would deserve consideration because of its low price and similar performance, but it's just too porky to carry around when you bring extra backup models, FSL antennas and other DXpedition gear in the same hand carry luggage. If a DXer simply wants to chase domestic DX with a stock Ultralight, either the CC Skywave or Eton Traveler III would still be the pick of the crop (just like they were in 2015), in my opinion. My only caution would be to avoid doing the 7.5" loopstick transplant on the CC Skywave models-- unless you have serious professional experience, great close-in eyesight and nerves of steel.
73, Gary DeBock (in Puyallup, WA, USA)