Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tecsun PL-880 mini review

There was a time when Sony ruled my portable short wave listening world. In recent years Tecsun has brought out a series of decent radios suitable for packing on trips.

This week I popped in to Av-Comm nearby in Brookvale, local distributor of Tecsun and purchased a PL-880 from them. (They're not really set up for walk-in customers but very friendly none the less).

The PL-880 is powered by a single high capacity Lithium 18650 battery which is charged inside the radio using a mini-USB socket on the side. Av-Comm supplies a suitable cable and plug pack but it's likely you already have one lying around.

These 18650 cells are turning up everywhere these days, in high brightness torches, even in home made power walls, and they seem like a worthy successor to the ubiquitous AA cells. Being 3.7V they can power lots of devices with just one cell.

The radio comes in a very nice faux leather zip around case that includes a log book. There's a large world map poster with ham radio prefixes marked on the countries and Av-Comm includes a guide to short wave listening.

Audio is excellent, probably the best I've heard in a portable radio. AM and FM sound terrific. There is a "bass" or "treble" switch that I've left in treble position but there's still a warm sound there.

On shortwave, sensitivity seems excellent. Here's a bit of Radio New Zealand International using just the whip antenna inside the house.

During this video I switch the DSP bandwidth a few times but I think this is a pretty narrow transmission.

The radio also has proper upper and lower sideband. Here's a recording of a 40m LSB conversation again just using the whip antenna.

You can hear that the tuning, although digital, is silky smooth. This is where this radio shines, previous models from Tecsun and others have not tuned well - making a chop chop sound - but this radio slides smoothly and the separate course and fine tuning knobs work well particularly if you're interested in sideband.

There's a switch for the display light that if you turn it on keeps the display lit even when the radio is turned off. Normal mode is to light up when you touch a control and then turn off again after a few seconds.

I found that the radio shows some signs of being overloaded when on the most sensitive position, various spurious signals can be heard that go away with the attenuator switched to the first position.

In all a great radio with controls familiar to you if you've ever had a previous Tecsun radio. My favourite feature is the sleep timer that turns it off after a settable period of time at night. High sensitivity, lovely smooth tuning, passable sideband and big clean sound that can fill the room. Recommended. AU$249.

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