Friday, May 21, 2010
Tecsun PL-600 Holding Interest, PL-380 On The Way
Despite up and down reviews, there seems to be continued interest in this receiver, worldwide. Many people have viewed the Tecsun PL-600 review and schematics download featured last August on RADIO-TIMETRAVELLER. The combined download totals for both are nearing the 2,000 mark as of this writing, some 9 months later. Surprisingly, daily downloads are still averaging about 6 per day. Though some negative press is out there, interest remains, and deservedly so in my opinion. With the new DSP radios coming out, month by month, I'm interested to see at what point they start to take over the old style PLL digitals. Most that I've heard of have been ultralight-sized. Perhaps soon we will see some larger units on the market.
In case you couldn't tell, I still love my PL-600. Outside of the ultralight category, it continues to be my receiver of choice for casual and serious MW DXing, for several reasons. Size-wise, its portability is just right as opposed to my rather large (albeit excellent) Eton E1, which sits in a drawer right now. It has been totally reliable for the last year (my Kaito 1103 developed a firmware glitch in its first year), and performed admirably throughout my winter in the desert southwest. It suffered bumps and bangs and desert dust, but captured much DX, including Japanese MW stations on numerous occasions, and barefoot too. The radio has great ergonomics and firmware. It is a fun radio to use.
Kudos to the ergonomic-designers of this radio. Punch in a frequency, like 8-5-0, and it instantly tunes to 850 KHz without having to press an additional "enter" key, or a "period" key twice. Such a simple feature makes a huge difference. Easily coded in firmware at design-time, it seems to be missing from many of today's digital receivers. The PL-600 is also a great little receiver to take to bed at night with headphones on, to see what the sunset greyline will bring in. With careful nulling, I have heard KOA-850, Denver, CO this way at their sunset, 1420 miles distant, rising above the QRM of four other east coast stations within 500 miles. Again, this is with a barefoot PL-600.
Harsh audio in the AM mode is still the drawback for a lot of people, and continues to be mentioned in the critiques. I don't find it as objectionable as some, though I too have found it annoying at times as it seems to come and go with different signal levels. KB5AG's resistor mod is supposed to cure this malady, getting rid of the AM distortion. (2K resistor from pin 18 of audio IC to ground). I will try this soon.
Amazon is still selling the Tecsun PL-600 for $79.99 through the Kaito distributor.
Considered by some a better, or at least a comparable radio, Amazon is also still handling the Kaito 1103. Price: $89.99.
It will be interesting to see how long the Tecsun PL-600 and the Kaito 1103 last in the marketplace. An older radio by a couple of years, the 1103 continues to be a good seller, though I have a hard time understanding why it has remained so. Its sensitivity and audio are good, build quality is good, but the ergonomics absolutely horrible - including a pointless LCD sliderule dial face that takes up nearly the entire front of the radio which could be better used for something constructive. We shall see.
Sadly (??), the Eton E1 (see my review) has recently been discontinued by Universal Radio. Too much money ($400 for the stripped model), quality control problems early on, an atrociously low-contrast and volatile LCD display, and a shortwave radio broadcasting medium which continues to vaporize before our eyes have sealed its overpriced fate.
Wanting to move along and try new designs, I have avoided the newest Grundig offerings, the G3 and G6 because of so-so reviews, and the G5, supposedly just a Degen/Kaito 1103 with better ergonomics. I've been itching to try one of the new DSP ultralights and have watched them evolve since the Grundig G8/PL-300 came out. The new Tecsun PL-380 (see my subsequent review) seems to have corrected the audio muting problems inherent with the earlier units, so I've ordered one from eBay seller anon-co. It is in transit from Hong Kong this very day. I'll be playing with that soon and reporting what I hear. It will be interesting to see how it performs receiving weak signals up against local 50KW and 20KW powerhouse stations WHAM and WYSL.