29 January 2008

tecsun pl-450 radio appears on eBay

Tecsun just released a new digitally-tuned portable radio called the PL-450. The eBay auction that I found for this radio indicated that it replaces the PL-350 (which is in my collection). Here's an image from Tecsun of the PL-450 in an attractive silver enclosure:

This radio receives AM (522-1620 khz with 9 khz steps, or 520-1710 khz with 10 khz steps), FM (76 - 108 mhz), and shortwave (1711 - 29999 khz). Although the auction currently omits this, the Chinese specs for the PL-450 also lists longwave (100 - 519 khz). If you look at a high-resolution image of the radio, you can see FM, MW, LW, and SW labels below the band switch buttons. The auction specifies dual conversion reception for AM; I'm unsure if this includes shortwave. The PL-350 model was a single-conversion receiver.

Like the PL-350 that preceded it, the PL-450 takes three AA batteries. Three batteries is inconvenient, especially if one decides to buy higher-quality rechargeable batteries to replace the factory rechargeables. What to do with the fourth battery? I like the tuning knob on the side of the radio as opposed to a flat tuning dial recessed into the enclosure as found on other pocket-sized receivers.

I like this oddly-translated phrase from the auction: "The sleepy function allows you to sleep more before getting up!"

Tecsun's website also shows a PL-600 radio, which probably replaces the PL-550. Anyone have any theories why Tecsun added longwave reception to the PL-450 and PL-600?

24 January 2008

my tecsun dr-920 replacement arrived

My Tecsun DR-920 replacement arrived on 15 January 2008, alongside the Redsun RF1201 that I ordered from China. I installed two alkaline batteries, set the clock, and tuned to several AM and FM stations to give the radio a basic workout. So far, so good.

If you didn't read it already, here's a link to my April 2007 review of the Tecsun DR-920.

This DR-920 has very good build quality, like the unit that I had before this one. The knobs, buttons, and switches are all in excellent condition. The telescopic antenna is as durable as can be expected for its size. The audio quality, both through the built-in speaker and through the headphone jack, seems the same as before. Hiss is audible on all bands through headphones, even with the volume at zero.

I noticed a difference between this radio and my original DR-920: this radio's backlight is yellow while my original radio had an orange backlight. The orange backlight looked better.

One issue I previously complained about with the DR-920 was the frequency display rapidly alternating between adjacent frequencies (such as 739 and 740 khz). When that happened, it kept the LCD backlight on unnecessarily. With this new unit, the frequency jumps a bit sometimes, but often it quickly settles on a frequency and shuts off the backlight. There was one instance where the frequency was unstable just after turning the radio on, requiring adjustment of the tuning knob to calm it. I'll keep watching to see if this DR-920 shows improvements over my previous one.

20 January 2008

images of new grundig radios

Here are images of the forthcoming Grundig G4, G6, and Satellit 750 radios. These images come from the Universal Radio online catalog.

Grundig G4

Grundig G6

Grundig Satellit 750

18 January 2008

redsun rf1201 first look

My Redsun RF1201 arrived from China on January 15, 2008. This pocket radio receives AM, FM, and shortwave, and is comparable to the Kaito WRX911 in terms of size, design, and features.

Inside the box were these items:
  • Redsun RF1201 radio
  • a wire antenna that clips onto the telescopic antenna
  • a cloth pouch (hooray! I really like these, and sometimes the sellers remove them from the box before shipment)
  • a 3" blue-and-white CDROM, labeled with a panda bear face, claiming to hold 25 minutes / 225 megabytes

Alas, all of my current optical drives are slot-load models that don't support 3" discs.

I loaded the RF1201 with a pair of alkaline batteries for initial testing. I'm pleased with this radio so far, due to:
  • very good build quality
  • strong, clear signals for local AM and FM stations
  • high-quality printing on the tuning scale
  • nice frequency response via headphones

I heard a weak WWVH signal and a moderately strong WWV signal at 5000 khz with just the telescopic antenna. I found a few strong signals in the 60-meter, 49-meter, and 31-meter bands during an evening session a couple days ago, although shortwave reception was noisy due to local interference.

My main gripes about this radio thus far:
  • limited frequency response from the speaker due to its size
  • the volume dial is very touchy
  • noticeable hiss from the headphone jack

To be fair, headphone jack hiss is common for the pocket radio category. Overall, this has been a satisfying radio buying experience. I unfortunately had a bad first impression of Redsun, since the RF1210 that I bought had a loose tuning knob. I'm still planning to acquire an RP3000/RP3100 once those are available for purchase in the USA.

If you're interested in Redsun radios, you might wish to check out the RP2100/KA2100 user reviews on this site.

14 January 2008

new grundig radios for 2008

The Eton website lists new Grundig radios that are expected in the next couple of months:

* Grundig G4 World Recorder

This radio has an interface that resembles the Kaito 1102. It is an AM, FM, and Shortwave receiver with MP3 recording and playback. MP3 storage will use an SD card that can be up to 2gb in size. Eton's website lists February 2008 as the launch date, and the list price is US$200.

* Grundig G6 Aviator

This radio provides AM, FM, VHF, and Shortwave reception with SSB. Eton's website lists February 2008 as the launch date, and the list price is US$100.

* Grundig Satellit 750

This radio appears to be smaller than, but taking many design cues from, the well-known Satellit 700 radio. The Satellit 750 will receive AM, FM, LW, SW with SSB, and VHF. Eton's website lists March 2008 as the launch date, with a US$300 list price.

Interestingly, the only shortwave products still listed in the Eton product line section are the wind-up radios and the E1XM. Other radios, such as the E1, E5, E10, and E100, are now listed in a section titled "Past Collection".

12 January 2008

shortwave web news

I'd like to first highlight the relatively-new Radio Kitchen Blog. Radio Kitchen is operated by The Professor from WFMU, and is a dedicated site for his radio interests that rose out of his "Adventures in Amplitude Modulation" series on the WFMU weblog. Radio Kitchen hosts band scan recordings along with context-rich commentary and images.

Second, as a recent reader comment reminded me, RadioIntel changed its website layout and is no longer designed around news articles and periodic updates. RadioIntel is a tremendous resource for me, and browsing that site put the idea into my head about publishing my own shortwave radio content. Ulis, the site's owner, gave me some great tips for close-up photography of radios using macro mode. I have accepted the fact that I can't offer anything approaching the quantity and quality of radio receiver reviews that RadioIntel publishes. If you somehow haven't visited that site yet, please do so and let them know what you think.

06 January 2008

harry shearer prefers an ats-909

Harry Shearer, known for his contributions to the movie "Spinal Tap" and a number of voices on "The Simpsons", is a shortwave radio enthusiast:

* Harry Shearer: Comic Relief via Shortwave

Regarding his Sangean ATS-909 receiver, Harry says
This has all the buttons I need and not much else. There is one that says ‘Page,’ and I’ve never pressed that. I don’t know what would happen.
Mr. Shearer's radio show, "Le Show", is part satire, part radio drama, and is broadcast on shortwave by WBCQ.

Harry, I am continually delighted by your work! (I wonder if he has a super 909...)

solar cycle 24 begins

The folks at passband.com have announced the start of solar cycle 24. It is expected to be a great one for HF propogation! So let's see how long-distance reception goes during the next several years.

01 January 2008

a place for comments and questions: 2008

Readers of the Cobalt Pet shortwave radio weblog are encouraged to post comments and questions. In case you have a comment that's not related to a specific article, you are welcome to reply here. I'll link to this post from the website's sidebar so it's always easy to find. I welcome general comments, questions, and any feedback about the website.

I'll do my best to respond, either with a comment here of my own, or an article on the front page.

* 2006 comments and questions
* 2007 comments and questions