Current "best" UL DXing Radio


Paul Blundell
 

Hi all.

I now have the time and money to get back in to the hobby more, what is the current "go to" Ultralight DXIng radio? I am keen to buy one and really focus on getting the most out of it.

Paul
https://ultralightradiodxing.blogspot.com/


Les Rayburn
 

I’m not an ultralight expert, but do own several. Ounce for ounce, I think the CC Skywave is the best performer currently available-especially with the SSB reception capability. 

This is one of the most fun aspects of the hobby, so you’ll have lots of excitement without a huge investment. 

Welcome back! 


73,

Les Rayburn, N1LF
121 Mayfair Park
Maylene, AL 35114
EM63nf

NRC & IRCA Courtesy Program Committee Chairman
Member WTFDA, MWC

Perseus SDR, Elad FDM-S2 SDR, AirSpy + Discovery, SDRPlay RSP-2 Pro, Sony XDR-F1HD [XDR Guy Modified], Dennon TU-1500RD, Sangean HDT-1X, Ray Dees RDS Decoders, Korner 9.2 Antenna, FM-6 Antenna, Kitz Technologies KT-501 Pre-amps, Quantum Phaser, Wellbrook ALA1530 Loop, Wellbrook Flag, Clifton Labs Active Whip. 

“Nothing but blues and Elvis, and somebody else’s favorite song…” 

On Oct 6, 2020, at 6:15 PM, Paul Blundell <tanger32au@...> wrote:

Hi all.

I now have the time and money to get back in to the hobby more, what is the current "go to" Ultralight DXIng radio? I am keen to buy one and really focus on getting the most out of it.

Paul
https://ultralightradiodxing.blogspot.com/


Rémy Friess
 

Maybe we ought to wait and see how the new Tecsun PL-330 performs. Might be an interesting set, especially since it has a sync detector.

Regards, Rémy.

Le 07/10/2020 à 08:51, Les Rayburn a écrit :

I’m not an ultralight expert, but do own several. Ounce for ounce, I think the CC Skywave is the best performer currently available-especially with the SSB reception capability. 

This is one of the most fun aspects of the hobby, so you’ll have lots of excitement without a huge investment. 

Welcome back! 


73,

Les Rayburn, N1LF
121 Mayfair Park
Maylene, AL 35114
EM63nf

NRC & IRCA Courtesy Program Committee Chairman
Member WTFDA, MWC

Perseus SDR, Elad FDM-S2 SDR, AirSpy + Discovery, SDRPlay RSP-2 Pro, Sony XDR-F1HD [XDR Guy Modified], Dennon TU-1500RD, Sangean HDT-1X, Ray Dees RDS Decoders, Korner 9.2 Antenna, FM-6 Antenna, Kitz Technologies KT-501 Pre-amps, Quantum Phaser, Wellbrook ALA1530 Loop, Wellbrook Flag, Clifton Labs Active Whip. 

“Nothing but blues and Elvis, and somebody else’s favorite song…” 

On Oct 6, 2020, at 6:15 PM, Paul Blundell <tanger32au@...> wrote:

Hi all.

I now have the time and money to get back in to the hobby more, what is the current "go to" Ultralight DXIng radio? I am keen to buy one and really focus on getting the most out of it.

Paul
https://ultralightradiodxing.blogspot.com/


mediumwavedx
 

Great points, Les and Remy.
 
I would agree with Les that the CC Skywave is the best in my lot and I have quite a few Ultralights. One I don't have, the Radiwow R-108, apparently is a design copy of the CC Skywave and might have similar specs for much less the price (about $50 U.S.). The only problem I have with the CC Skywave is the tuning dial is jittery when slowly rotated, causing channels to jump either up or down. But this seems to be a general problem with the cheap encoders that are being used these days.
 
Over the summer here in North America I have bought quite a few of the cheap Chinese analog-tuned DSP Ultralights (using SiLabs 483x chips). Though I have found some can be quite sensitive (like the Sangean SR-35 and the ultra cheap Dreamsky Pocket Radio), the SiLabs tuning algorithm is still wonky and masks a lot of weaker adjacent channel signals. It becomes tedious for serious DXing. Selectivity is also pretty poor on these units.
 
I'm also awaiting the reports on the PL-330 when it comes out. It might be a winner.
 
Bill
RADIO-TIMETRAVELLER
https://radio-timetraveller.blogspot.com


Paul Blundell
 

Thanks. I will check it out. eBay the best source?


On Wed, 7 Oct 2020, 17:52 Les Rayburn, <les@...> wrote:
I’m not an ultralight expert, but do own several. Ounce for ounce, I think the CC Skywave is the best performer currently available-especially with the SSB reception capability. 

This is one of the most fun aspects of the hobby, so you’ll have lots of excitement without a huge investment. 

Welcome back! 


73,

Les Rayburn, N1LF
121 Mayfair Park
Maylene, AL 35114
EM63nf

NRC & IRCA Courtesy Program Committee Chairman
Member WTFDA, MWC

Perseus SDR, Elad FDM-S2 SDR, AirSpy + Discovery, SDRPlay RSP-2 Pro, Sony XDR-F1HD [XDR Guy Modified], Dennon TU-1500RD, Sangean HDT-1X, Ray Dees RDS Decoders, Korner 9.2 Antenna, FM-6 Antenna, Kitz Technologies KT-501 Pre-amps, Quantum Phaser, Wellbrook ALA1530 Loop, Wellbrook Flag, Clifton Labs Active Whip. 

“Nothing but blues and Elvis, and somebody else’s favorite song…” 

On Oct 6, 2020, at 6:15 PM, Paul Blundell <tanger32au@...> wrote:

Hi all.

I now have the time and money to get back in to the hobby more, what is the current "go to" Ultralight DXIng radio? I am keen to buy one and really focus on getting the most out of it.

Paul
https://ultralightradiodxing.blogspot.com/


Paul Blundell
 

What is the ETA on that?


On Wed, 7 Oct 2020, 20:39 Rémy Friess, <rfriess@...> wrote:

Maybe we ought to wait and see how the new Tecsun PL-330 performs. Might be an interesting set, especially since it has a sync detector.

Regards, Rémy.

Le 07/10/2020 à 08:51, Les Rayburn a écrit :
I’m not an ultralight expert, but do own several. Ounce for ounce, I think the CC Skywave is the best performer currently available-especially with the SSB reception capability. 

This is one of the most fun aspects of the hobby, so you’ll have lots of excitement without a huge investment. 

Welcome back! 


73,

Les Rayburn, N1LF
121 Mayfair Park
Maylene, AL 35114
EM63nf

NRC & IRCA Courtesy Program Committee Chairman
Member WTFDA, MWC

Perseus SDR, Elad FDM-S2 SDR, AirSpy + Discovery, SDRPlay RSP-2 Pro, Sony XDR-F1HD [XDR Guy Modified], Dennon TU-1500RD, Sangean HDT-1X, Ray Dees RDS Decoders, Korner 9.2 Antenna, FM-6 Antenna, Kitz Technologies KT-501 Pre-amps, Quantum Phaser, Wellbrook ALA1530 Loop, Wellbrook Flag, Clifton Labs Active Whip. 

“Nothing but blues and Elvis, and somebody else’s favorite song…” 

On Oct 6, 2020, at 6:15 PM, Paul Blundell <tanger32au@...> wrote:

Hi all.

I now have the time and money to get back in to the hobby more, what is the current "go to" Ultralight DXIng radio? I am keen to buy one and really focus on getting the most out of it.

Paul
https://ultralightradiodxing.blogspot.com/


Paul S. in CT
 

As far as the PL-330, I have one on order. Should arrive in the USA at my door by mid Nov. Review at swling.com. Pix and specs at ebay.

Without SSB... Tecsun PL-310
With SSB... Grundig G6/Skywave (both can overload, needs a DX switch)

I've owned both the PL-310 and the G6. Not as good as larger radios, (Superradio 2 or Grundig G5/Degen 1103) but portability for travel is great. The PL-310 can be offset 1kHz to stop the soft mute effect.

Regards
Paul S. in CT FN31nl


Paul S. in CT
 

Sorry for the double-post... a few things came to mind.

1.) Analog ULDX Radio... IMHO Tecsun R-9012. US$20 and batteries (2AA) last over 400 hours continuous. I've done it many, many times (The R-911 also does this, but SW less good). Makes for an emergency radio.

PL-330...
2.) I am reading that the SYNC detection does not work well on the pre-export models (Chinese manual). But USB/LSB with 10Hz is the bee's knees.

3.) The rechargable BL-5c battery might only last 30-60 hours, get a spare and an external charger (eBay has them resonable $)

Regards
Paul S. in CT FN31nl


Gregory Mosher
 

About the PL330  and SYNC – I’d wait for the reviews before pulling the trigger.  The PL-990x export version was just released, it’s had solid reviews except for SYNC.  I recently bought a China market Tecsun H-501 and frankly, it’s a nice radio – solid performer, however SYNC sucks – in my mind, not useable. However, SSB on the H-501 is solid – works well.  All three of these radios had same intro date and similar availability date – suggesting they were probably developed together.  Also, reasonable to expect that if the SYNC implementation on 2 of the 3 new models are not stellar, that’s what you’re going to get with the 3rd.   Also – why would they have a poor SYNC implementation on their two flagship models and a good implementation of it on the least expensive of the three? 

I’m comparing the SYNC ability on the H-501 to that on the Eton E-1 – no comparison.  SSB capability though is similar between the two. 

BTW – I’ve had a Radiwow R-108 for just over a month now – solid little performer, not bad for ~ $50 (Amazon).   I’d rate it better than my early production Tecsun PL310.  Sharp nulls possible.  Probably as good as the non SSB Skywave – the R108 is purported to be a copy?

Regards,
Gregory


Rémy Friess
 


Le 07/10/2020 à 20:17, Paul S. in CT a écrit :
I've owned both the PL-310 and the G6. Not as good as larger radios, (Superradio 2 or Grundig G5/Degen 1103) but portability for travel is great. The PL-310 can be offset 1kHz to stop the soft mute effect.

What exactly do you call soft mute ?

Rémy.


David Smith
 

I’ve had a Tecsun PL-990x for just over a week and the Sync is disappointing on weak signals.

73 David


Paul S. in CT
 

Yes, that 990x is the new version. At that price and likewise for the H501 its a MAJOR dissapointment.
/MHO

1.) In the meantime, my PL-330 arrived this afternoon. Set up and running without incident. AM/SW/FM, and USB/LSB function checked... all as advertised. Noted that the 1kHz offset on AM removes the soft-mute. SSB with the 0.01kHz (10Hz) tuning increments does function on AM-BCB. Minor nitpik is that one should tune 1kHz low for USB as the radio ADDS 1kHz to the receiver. Likewise, the opposite occurs using LSB.

Buttons a bit small, but have that nice indent function sadly lacking on the ATS-405. If you don't need the SSB or "Sync", I'd stick with the PL-310/380.

2.) I don't know the why for this, but since I bought the R9012 radio, I've noticed an increase in battery life. I believe this is a combination of using the Tecsun A200 passive loop, and an improvement of my standard-use Rayovac AA alkalines. Would you belive 550+ hours continuous?

Using the loop improved life from just over 400 hrs average to 500 hours. And I think the new tub of batterries 'high energy' with date code of early 2029 improved the time more. The most recent pair of AA's could operate the radio down to 0.94V (1.88V total). All of my previous batteries would quit at 1.05V (total 2.10V). This last pair of new batteries went 608 hours continuous.

So in closing there are some new tricks here that may influence a decision. For about US$45 one gets either a PL310/380 or a R9012 + A200 loop. For AM-BCB this looks like a coinflip, but the PL-310 really excels at SW and FM. And the R9012/loop gets one emergency radio type life from a pair of AA's. If one needs SSB theres the Tecsun PL-365 or this PL330 in the US$70-80 range.

Paul S. in CT FN31nl

PS: that soft mute question... As far as I know its an Automatic Gain Control function that amplifies the strongest 10db of signal, and reduces lower-powered signals. The problem is that the atmospherics may cause the signal to fade. This causes the soft-mute function to go from a loud signal to a barely audible signal (aka: pumping). Fading normally produces this effect, but soft-mute makes it worse. The SYNC function is supposed to help this by supplying the carrier wave that fades. The problem with THAT is the audio is part of that faded carrier. Many of us here and in the Amateur community are of the opinion that the audio frequencies are NOT affected by the fading, just the carrier. Providing a carrier will recover the audio. Yet another 'can of worms' so to say.


Paul Blundell
 

Thanks for the detailed reply.

That is some amazing battery life, I use some 2000mAh recharbales which are sold at our local supermarket, at $5.60 for 4 AA or AAA's, it is amazing how long these last, even if I replace them once a year, I am still miles in front.

I have settled on the Teac PR130 and Digitech AR-1733, I might look at adding to this in the future.

On Sat, Oct 10, 2020 at 11:17 AM Paul S. in CT <dxrx@...> wrote:
Yes, that 990x is the new version. At that price and likewise for the H501 its a MAJOR dissapointment.
/MHO

1.) In the meantime, my PL-330 arrived this afternoon. Set up and running without incident. AM/SW/FM, and USB/LSB function checked... all as advertised. Noted that the 1kHz offset on AM removes the soft-mute. SSB with the 0.01kHz (10Hz) tuning increments does function on AM-BCB. Minor nitpik is that one should tune 1kHz low for USB as the radio ADDS 1kHz to the receiver. Likewise, the opposite occurs using LSB.

Buttons a bit small, but have that nice indent function sadly lacking on the ATS-405. If you don't need the SSB or "Sync", I'd stick with the PL-310/380.

2.) I don't know the why for this, but since I bought the R9012 radio, I've noticed an increase in battery life. I believe this is a combination of using the Tecsun A200 passive loop, and an improvement of my standard-use Rayovac AA alkalines. Would you belive 550+ hours continuous?

Using the loop improved life from just over 400 hrs average to 500 hours. And I think the new tub of batterries 'high energy' with date code of early 2029 improved the time more. The most recent pair of AA's could operate the radio down to 0.94V (1.88V total). All of my previous batteries would quit at 1.05V (total 2.10V).  This last pair of new batteries went 608 hours continuous.

So in closing there are some new tricks here that may influence a decision. For about US$45 one gets either a PL310/380 or a R9012 + A200 loop. For AM-BCB this looks like a coinflip, but the PL-310 really excels at SW and FM. And the R9012/loop gets one emergency radio type life from a pair of AA's. If one needs SSB theres the Tecsun PL-365 or this PL330 in the US$70-80 range.

Paul S. in CT FN31nl

PS: that soft mute question... As far as I know its an Automatic Gain Control function that amplifies the strongest 10db of signal, and reduces lower-powered signals. The problem is that the atmospherics  may cause the signal to fade. This causes the soft-mute function to go from a loud signal to a barely audible signal (aka: pumping). Fading normally produces this effect, but soft-mute makes it worse. The SYNC function is supposed to help this by supplying the carrier wave that fades. The problem with THAT is the audio is part of that faded carrier. Many of us here and in the Amateur community are of the opinion that the audio frequencies are NOT affected by the fading, just the carrier. Providing a carrier will recover the audio. Yet another 'can of worms' so to say.







--
Paul


Paul S. in CT
 

Over the years I've had bad luck with the Ni-MH batteries. Some radios just don't like them, and the batteries themselves are as fragile as glass. My tub of 60 alkaline AA's cost $20, or about 67c for the two needed in the R9012 or R911 in the house.

Best of listening with your choices

Paul S. in CT FN31nl


Rémy Friess
 

Hi everyone out there,

Le 10/10/2020 à 02:17, Paul S. in CT a écrit :
[...] Minor nitpik is that one should tune 1kHz low for USB as the radio ADDS 1kHz to the receiver. Likewise, the opposite occurs using LSB.
Not necessarily a bad thing. As I see it this might help keep the filter on the actual signal. Too many receivers, when switched to SSB remain with the AM bandwidth and decode only the wanted sideband, which adds some background noise.

Buttons a bit small, but have that nice indent function sadly lacking on the ATS-405. If you don't need the SSB or "Sync", I'd stick with the PL-310/380.
Yes, the PL310/380 receivers are excellent on AM, but as far as the 310 is concerned this applies only to the original version, not the PL-310ET, which is way behind the original version. Unfortunately that one is no longer on the market.

PS: that soft mute question... As far as I know its an Automatic Gain Control function that amplifies the strongest 10db of signal, and reduces lower-powered signals. The problem is that the atmospherics may cause the signal to fade. This causes the soft-mute function to go from a loud signal to a barely audible signal (aka: pumping). Fading normally produces this effect, but soft-mute makes it worse. The SYNC function is supposed to help this by supplying the carrier wave that fades. The problem with THAT is the audio is part of that faded carrier. Many of us here and in the Amateur community are of the opinion that the audio frequencies are NOT affected by the fading, just the carrier. Providing a carrier will recover the audio. Yet another 'can of worms' so to say.
OK, now I see what you mean by soft-mute. But mind you, on the PL380 it can be deactivated relatively simply. Here's how to go about it:

1/ press VF

1/ tune the receiver to an unused SW frequency.

2/ press and hold VF

4/ when the receiver starts scanning tune down. The background noise becomes stronger, which shows that this "soft-mute" is no longer active.

Unfortunately it becomes active again when you switch the set off, and so you have do it all over again when you switch it on again.

It might work with other Tecsun models, I don't know. Maybe you could try it with the PL-330. It might also improve the action of the synch detector.

The audio frequencies are necessarily affected by the fading, which is caused by multipath propagation. Two or more signals arrive out of phase which causes a sort of notch that creeps through the bandwidth, just as if you were using a notch filter. Of course this just changes the tone of the audio and does not cause the distorion you get when the notch reaches the carrier itself. That change of tone will be more important if the notch is wide and go almost unnoticed if it is very narrow.

Regards,

Rémy.


gordrstaples
 

Hi Remy

With all due respect, I don't think that procedure works to turn off the soft mute.  I have several Tecsun PL380 radios and tried your technique on them all but didn't notice any improvement at all.  I have found that tuning 1kz up or down off the desired frequency defeats the soft mute, although you need to turn the volume control up a bit to compensate for the volume drop.

Regards
Gord


On Sat, Oct 10, 2020 at 9:22 AM Rémy Friess <rfriess@...> wrote:
Hi everyone out there,

Le 10/10/2020 à 02:17, Paul S. in CT a écrit :
> [...] Minor nitpik is that one should tune 1kHz low for USB as the radio ADDS 1kHz to the receiver. Likewise, the opposite occurs using LSB.

Not necessarily a bad thing. As I see it this might help keep the filter
on the actual signal. Too many receivers, when switched to SSB remain
with the AM bandwidth and decode only the wanted sideband, which adds
some background noise.

> Buttons a bit small, but have that nice indent function sadly lacking on the ATS-405. If you don't need the SSB or "Sync", I'd stick with the PL-310/380.

Yes, the PL310/380 receivers are excellent on AM, but as far as the 310
is concerned this applies only to the original version, not the
PL-310ET, which is way behind the original version. Unfortunately that
one is no longer on the market.

> PS: that soft mute question... As far as I know its an Automatic Gain Control function that amplifies the strongest 10db of signal, and reduces lower-powered signals. The problem is that the atmospherics  may cause the signal to fade. This causes the soft-mute function to go from a loud signal to a barely audible signal (aka: pumping). Fading normally produces this effect, but soft-mute makes it worse. The SYNC function is supposed to help this by supplying the carrier wave that fades. The problem with THAT is the audio is part of that faded carrier. Many of us here and in the Amateur community are of the opinion that the audio frequencies are NOT affected by the fading, just the carrier. Providing a carrier will recover the audio. Yet another 'can of worms' so to say.

OK, now I see what you mean by soft-mute. But mind you, on the PL380 it
can be deactivated relatively simply. Here's how to go about it:

1/ press VF

1/ tune the receiver to an unused SW frequency.

2/ press and hold VF

4/ when the receiver starts scanning tune down. The background noise
becomes stronger, which shows that this "soft-mute" is no longer active.

Unfortunately it becomes active again when you switch the set off, and
so you have do it all over again when you switch it on again.

It might work with other Tecsun models, I don't know. Maybe you could
try it with the PL-330. It might also improve the action of the synch
detector.

The audio frequencies are necessarily affected by the fading, which is
caused by multipath propagation. Two or more signals arrive out of phase
which causes a sort of notch that creeps through the bandwidth, just as
if you were using a notch filter. Of course this just changes the tone
of the audio and does not cause the distorion you get when the notch
reaches the carrier itself. That change of tone will be more important
if the notch is wide and go almost unnoticed if it is very narrow.

Regards,

Rémy.