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Tecsun PL880 Portable Digital PLL Dual Conversion AM/FM, Longwave & Shortwave Radio with SSB (Single Side Band) Reception
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- Full range coverage including AM/FM, Longwave & Shortwave with Single Side Band
- PLL synthesized digital dual conversion receiver with unparallelled sensitivity & selectivity
- 4 & 5 selectable bandwidth filters on AM and SSB respectively plus single Side Band receiver with 10 Hz tuning step
- 24 hour alarm clock plus sleep timer from 0-120 minutes
- Powered by one single 18650 Li-ion rechargeable battery with built-in charger, battery included
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|Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping|
|Color||Black & Gray||Black||Black||Grey||Black||NGWFBTB|
|Item Dimensions||1.3 x 7.56 x 4.45 in||1.3 x 7.36 x 4.49 in||8 x 1 x 5 in||1.25 x 7.5 x 4.75 in||1.25 x 7.5 x 4.75 in||3 x 6.9 x 12.4 in|
|Power Source||AC & Battery||Battery||Battery & AC||Corded-Electric, Battery||Corded-Electric, Battery||Corded-Electric, Battery|
FM: 64-108 MHz
SW: 1711-29999 KHz
AM: 520-1710 KHz
LW: 100-519 KHz
FM < 3 uV
AM < 3mV / m
LW < 5mV / m
SW < 20 uV
SSB < 3 uV
FM > 35 dB
AM / LW > 40 dB
SW > 40 dB
AM/LW > 40dB
SW > 45dB
-Output Power > 450 mW
-Speaker: Diameter 40mm / Impedance 4 Ohm / Power 3W
-Earphone Jack: Diameter 3.5mm
-Rechargeable battery: Li-ion 3.7V
-External adaptor: USB jack, DC 5V, Current >300mA
-Dimensions: approx. 7 ½ (W) X 4 ½ (H) X 1 ¼ (D)
-Weight: 1 lb 3 oz(battery not included)
18650 rechargeable battery
External shortwave antenna
Kaito Electronics, Inc., amazon.com seller ID: Electronnix, is Tecsun's sole distributor and service provider in North America. Only Tecsun radios sold by Kaito have user manuals in English and suitable power adapters.
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The Tecsun PL-880 is easily the best and most expensive of the small Tecsun radios. See Picture of Tecsun Radios.
By using a better 450mW audio amplifier (thanks, Dan) and an improved 3 watt mylar speaker, the PL-880 has the best sound of these radios. High frequencies are crisp and clear, low frequencies are audible, and the midrange is exceptionally clear. FM Stereo is available through the headphone jack.
The unit is powered by a 5V USB port or a rechargeable, replaceable 18650 lithium battery. This is a huge deal. With heavy use and the back-light on, the factory-supplied 2000mAh battery lasts me about 15 days. When it does discharge, I can just recharge it in the radio, or swap it out with another inexpensive, long lasting 18650 battery. I just swapped out my 2000mAh 18650 with a 5000mAh 18650. Note that this is better than using AA batteries to get 4.8 volts, because the amperage isn't cumulative. If you use 4 AA batteries that are rated at 1600 mAh at 1.2v to get the required 4.8 volts, you still only have 1600 mAh, just at 4.8 volts.
Because of the long-lasting battery, the back-light of the display can be turned on indefinitely. Alternatively, you can choose to have it only stay on for a few seconds (after you touch a knob or button), or just turn it completely off. A long press on "5" when the radio is off, toggles the light's behavior. Likewise, you can use a switch on the side.
Tuning for all bands is easily accomplished with separate main tuning and fine tuning knobs. This is a great arrangement, far better than the auto switching tuning speed of the PL-660. Frequencies can be directly entered through the key pad. In addition, you can scan to the next/previous station with a long press to the SCAN button. Direction of scan depends on whether you were last manually tuning up or down.
There are 100-250 memories per page per band (FM, AM, LW, SW, SSB), and there are 25 pages (0-24). Since many stations are only available for a limited time, I use each page (0-23) to group broadcasts available at that hour. An auto sort function will sort memories by band and frequencies, eliminating duplicates. Auto Tuning Storage (ATS) will automatically find and remember all stations available for a single band, or search all bands.
Many other convenience features include a sleep timer, an alarm clock, 8 band widths, direct keypad entry, simple tone control, line-out for recording, a headphone jack, an internal ferrite bar AM antenna, and an external antenna jack.
In addition to the many features listed in the "Operation Manual", techies are delighted to find many more hidden features like Synchronous Detection, Dynamic Noise Reduction, Muting Threshold, Line Output Level, Calibration of SSB, Antenna Source, Firmware Version Display and date, "up" time, and charge time. Accessories include an Operation Manual, a lithium rechargeable battery, a long wire external antenna, a wall charger, and a very nice leatherette case. The knobs turn very smoothly with a nice damped motion and ergonomic placement.
INTERNATIONAL BROADCAST BANDS
If you follow the reception hints below, you'll find interesting stations like Austria, Australia, Cameroon, Deutsche Vella, Greece, Japan, Radio Marti, Quebec, Romania, Slovakia, Turkey, Tirana, Vietnam, etc. You can find these broadcasts in the vicinity of 2300-2495, 3200-3400, 3900-4000, 4750-5060, 5900-6200, 7200-7450, 9400-9900, 11600-12100, 13570-13870, 15100-15800, 17480-17900, 21450-21850 and 25600-26100. When you key in any of these frequencies, the PL-880 will tell you the meter band.
You can use this radio for DX (distant) reception of AM stations that will surprise you. Get outside. You might even try an external AM antenna like the Kaito AN-200 Tunable Passive AM Antenna for AM radio, Any Brands, Like Kaito,Sony,Eton,Panasonic,Tecsun,Grundig Etc.. Inexpensive and great fun.
SINGLE SIDE BAND
Single Side Band (SSB) is where the ham broadcaster uses only half (lower or upper) the channel that he would otherwise use. This allows more broadcasters in the same vicinity but sounds garbled without the proper decoder. This radio will allow you to understand them by choosing either the upper or lower side band (USB/LSB). You can then fine tune the broadcast with the fine tuning knob and reduce noise by choosing the best of 5 alternative band widths (4, 3, 2.3, 1.2 and 0.5 kHz) especially chosen for SSB mode. Most digital radios (including this one) are callibrated to the nearest khz. However the PL-880 will display hundreths of a khz on SSB, and you can easily calibrate it so the that ham band SSB transmissions are dead on. Say that most transmissions sound clearest at 0.15 above the khz, for example 7060.15 on LSB. All you have to do is fine-tune it for the clearest sound and hold down the "Snooze" button for a few seconds. The .15 will turn to .00 and your radio will be calibrated to the "zero beat" for virtually all LSB stations. You can repeat for the USB and your SSB stations will be easily tuned and clear. Typically, the Lower Side Band is used below 10MHz and the Upper Side Band is used above 10MHz. Ham Radio is very popular. You can find these amateur broadcasts in the vicinity of 1843-2000, 3790-3800, 3885, 7290 and 14286 kHz.
Just tuning randomly may not be rewarding.
o Get a phone app for Short Wave Listening like SWBC, or use your browser to find Shortwave Listening guides.
o Search for particular stations on their own frequencies and recommended times.
o Get away from electrical interference like your computer or USB charger.
o Try the long-wire antenna outside. Better still, make a simple dipole antenna by stretching some 18 AWG wire in opposite directions and connect one end to the Left terminal of a 3.5mm connector, connect the other wire to the GND connector. A solderless connector makes it easy. BCP 5pcs 3.5mm (1/8inches) Stereo Audio Male to AV 3-Screw Terminal Female Connector See picture, below.
o Reception is better in the evening and at night. However, if you have a good antenna, you'll find good things all day long.
o Find the best bandwidth for your broadcast.
You may want to record the marvelous stories from Slovakia and Romania of things only found there. In the last photo, I show how I record from the "line out" output to the "mic in" of the voice recorder by using a headphone volume control like Stellar Labs 35-4180 In Line Headphone Volume Control. The volume control reduces the line level of the radio, making it suitable for the microphone-level input of a voice recorder like ALS Portable Rechargeable 8gb Hd/vox/sto Stereo Professional Digital Voice Recorder with Double-mode of WAV and Mp3.
o Ideally, you would have a variable RF gain control to adjust radio sensitivity to the strength of the station. Instead, this radio has 3 position switch for Local, Normal, or DX reception.
o The sync detector is poor, hardly ever improving the reception.
o You must send the radio to Kaito to get a free firmware update; you cannot do it yourself.
o The frequencies and mode are memorized, but you cannot add text.
o FM sounds great in mono or stereo, but there is no RDS (Radio Data Service), or HD radio.
o The display back-lighting is great, but does not illuminate the keys.
o Unlike more expensive radios, you cannot control this radio with your computer.
o All but the most recent samples with firmware version 8820 have the minor, but annoying "Fine Tuning Bug". Within a khz, the fine tuning will tune (but not display) backwards while tuning SSB. Just because the radio has version 8820 of the firmware, doesn't mean this bug is fixed. Check with the vendor or Kaito if you are concerned. My radio does not have this bug.
FOR THE SAME MONEY
If you listen to distant AM stations or Shortwave, the PL880 is well worth the money, currently rated 4.6/5 by Amazon buyers. Another good radio in the same price range is the Eton Satellit Eton NGWSATB Satellit AM/FM with RDS and Shortwave Radio, Black, rated 3.9. A slightly less expensive contender is the Sony ICF-SW7600GR Sony ICF-SW7600GR AM/FM Shortwave World Band Receiver with Single Side Band Reception, rated 4.1. If you can afford to spend more, you might also check out the Sangean ATS-909X Sangean ATS-909X BK AM/FM/LW/SW World Band Receiver - Black, rated 4.0. Each of these competitors excel the PL880 in some ways (RDS, sync, display size), and may not equal the PL880 in other ways (battery, audio fidelity, back-lighting, band-width choices). You may find a trade-off that you prefer among them.
These reviews contain great information. Check out Yahoo's Tecsun PL-880 group. Read the 23 great reviews at eham. (Google: "eham tecsun pl-880")
Build and aesthetics: solid, solid, solid. I will be moving to China soon and bringing this. I am more worried about breaking my own leg than anything happening to this thing. It includes a nice feaux leather (animal lovers thank you, Tecsun) carrying case that is perfect for travel. The knobs, and I must admit, I am a sucker for turning knobs, are smooth and tuning with them is dead on accurate. They are not overly sensitive like on that on the Grundig 750, so no worries about sneezing and loosing your signal. The radio feels well built, the buttons are responsive and touch firmly. Display is standard. It does not display a ton of information, but I do like having a numeric value for the signal strength and S/N ratio. Helps for reception reporting. Finally, this radio just looks classy. It is the sort of thing that I would not mind leaving out in my living room with guests over. It has the look of some of the old Zenith radios. No offense Tecsun, but the 600 and 660 looked straight out of a 990s sears catalog, however quality their internals were. Thanks for changing this with the 880.
While some are hidden and not fully implemented (don't even try the sync) it is packed with useful features.
The band scanning function works wonderfully. Before I night of shortwave listening I like to go ahead and log domestic stations along with Radio Havana Cuba so that I can just dial past them as I try to pull in weak signals. One simple scan once the 49 and 60 meter bands open up at night, and all of the strong signals are in memory so I can quickly log them and then ignore them as I band scan later. Short of jamming Brother Stair's signals and/or shutting him down, this is the best gift Tecsun could give to North American SWLs who aren't interested in religious wackjobs or right-wing conspiracy theories.
Single Side Band tuning is absolutely rocking on this receiver. First, it has both LSB and USB modes. A nice feature not found on many portables. Rather than a traditional BFO, it engages a >1khz frequency selection function (adding .00 to the readout) when in SSB mode that allows you to tune with the precision necessary to really get the most out of listening to the amateur bands. It surpasses the Grundig 750 even, which is no slouch on SSB. The 750's BFO suffers from the same limitations of other portables: you are always going to be just a few hertz off, and thus HAMs will always sound a bit distorted, when all you can do is tune SSB to the nearest 1 Khz and add a carrier on the back end. This is particularly true for DXing, where you are already fighting noise and interference to hear HAMs on the other side of the globe. I can't fathom the negative reviews this gets for SSB. It has precision tuning that is normally found exclusively on high end tabletop transceivers/receivers.
The station memory works fine, although other than the use listed above, I don't fool with memories that much except to save my local NPR stations.
Backlight is great. Contrary to popular belief there is a way to turn it off (the side switch has only automatic/on). Press and hold 5 while the unit is in standby. Sorted.
Battery life is excellent. I have to charge it every 3 days or so with heavy use. I *love* that it charges over USB. That means one charger for my phone, ipad, and radio will do the trick when traveling. It does not come with an AC adaptor. They used to ship with the units, but the drawback to Lithium ion batteries is that when charging they produce RF interference, so the only remedy was for Tecsun to stop including an AC unit. They should, I will say, state explicitly in the manual that the unit is not meant to be listened to while charging. Just charge it like you would anything else when not in use. It does, I would also add, take quite a while to charge fully. But once charged it stays charged.
The speaker sounds incredible. While the unit only has a bass/treble switch for EQ emphasis control, Tecsun has calibrated these to the sweet spots for stereo-FM and MW/SW audio. No comparison to my Grundig 750, where the Bass control seems to pull up your highs for whatever reason, and whose speaker is far inferior, as far as sound is concerned.
Bandwidth filtering on here is another stand out feature that Tecsun clearly but some work into. There are 4 selectable filtering options in AM, and 3 in SSB, and they are perfect for tuning out interference without sacraficing too much audio quality. I do wish that the 2.3 khz wide filter setting on AM were just a bit narrower. IMO your narrow filter should go for readability over sound fidelity, whereas Tecsun appears to have tried to save both. But there are no cases where the 2.3 khz wide filter has been inadequate enough to cause anything under a 3 in the SIMPO ratings of my reception reports, and I have logged about 250 with the Tecsun.
The included random wire antenna works well. I suggest doing what I did: get some standard 3.5 mm cable extenders so that you can have the entire length of the reel outside. I mounted one that came with my 600 onto my chimney and ran it into my room with great results. Since I am about to move to the big city and outdoor antennas will be difficult, I also got the Kaito active loop and it works well with the Tecsun. What noise it does amplify is taken care of on the back end by the Tecsun. I have also used the Sangean reel antenna with the unit, with good results.
I saved the best feature for last: the telescopic whip antenna. These are famous among shortwave listeners for, well, sucking at pulling in high frequency AM signals. Both my Tecsun 600 and my Grundig 750 are spotty with Radio Havana Cuba on 49 meters (and I am right here in Georgia where they should boom in) if just using the telescopic whip. RHC, along with tons of South American broadcasters, boom in on the barefoot Tecsun 880. I have logged Romania, Deutche Welle out of Rwanda, Australia, and more without any external on this thing. If tuning local FM stations, do not extend the whip at all: just stand it up. It is so sensitive that it will overdrive the unit. Extended, it can pull in FM signals from Atlanta that normally are marginal here in NW Georgia. It is extremely long, and at the end is thinner than a toothpick, so handle it carefully. One small complaint is that it does not fit snugly back into its socket. I think that the factory fastened it to the unit too tightly, so this may be fixable. Of course, serious DXing means you need something external. But it is nice to be able to listen to Radio Australia in the morning as I have my coffee without having to hook up the external. If the signal propagates well, the Tecsun's whip can pull it in on its own. Rare indeed for a shortwave radio.
Hidden features are well documented so I wont go into them here.
Sensitivity is excellent, although admittedly at times it is too sensitive. I have to attenuate the antenna gain, for example, when listening to the Voice of Vietnam's relay signal out of South Carolina. But better too sensitive than useless for DXing!
Selectivity is this radios one major weak point. I think that Tecsun focused on delivering a really capable radio that can pull in signals like a champ at the expensive of a selective unit. This is really only a problem when tuning distant signals that are adjacent to domestic broadcasters. I have only needed to go over to my Grundig 750 to log a decent reception report once, however, so this problem is not a deal breaker. Since most SWLs have multiple radios, it is not even much of a concern. If you need better selectivity, go to something like the Grundig 750 or a high-end tabletop. I hear the 660 is more selective. My 600 is about the same as the 880.
FM reception as I noted above is excellent.
MW reception is good, not outstanding, but good. You will not be doing any MW DXing on this unit without something like the external ferrite passive loop that Eton offers.
Cannot comment on LW since we do not have anyone broadcasting LW signals North America.
When propagation conditions are poor, this radio far outperforms the 600 and the G-750. When they are excellent, this radio usually outperforms or matches them. It sounds better than both. It looks better than both. Save for Airband on the 750 (which is just there, but not any good at all) it matches them feature for feature and then some. It will not replace my Grundig, which hs become my go-to unit for MW DXing and my backup unit when I need the selectivity. But it has brought high-end features to my monitoring setup without the high end price tag.
To the hardcore SWLs out there who want to give good reception reports: you need a portable exactly like this one. Why?
Our hobby is a service to international broadcasters who want to know how they reach their audience. Broadcasters that beam signals to the developing world don't give a rats behind that you pulled in their station on a 4 grand transceiver that costs more than the lifetime income of many in their audience. They want to know how everyday radios pick up their station.
Here you have an everyday radio. It may have functionality that blows other radios in its class out of the water, but it is nonetheless in that class. Not a perfect radio. But perfect enough for us SWL fanatics, and imperfect enough to make our reception reporting worthwhile.
The radio does have sync detection available by pressing and holding either one of the SSB keys. However, sync does not hold well at all, and it also adds considerable distortion. There are multiple filter options available, but SSB is limited to 4 KHz, even when sync detection is activated, which limits the fidelity of the radio. There are also other problems with the current firmware which cause the bandwidth to change when you try to tune a SSB signal, and also cause the audio to jump around when trying to listen to a weak signal. The front end overloads easily with an outdoor antenna, even when the signal is attenuated by using the 3 position switch to cut down the antenna gain.
If all you are looking for is a good looking radio with a great sound for AM and FM only, I would recommend it. If you will be listening to more Shortwave, Longwave, or SSB, and want a functional sync detector with a reasonable bandwidth for good fidelity, then I would hold off until the design matures more. Also beware firmware revisions 8819 and below at this time. These should be "B" stock and not sold as new.
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