A reasonably priced tabletop SWL rig?

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by KK4CUL, Aug 8, 2018.

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  1. KK4CUL

    KK4CUL Ham Member QRZ Page

    I really like the IC-R75 and R8500, but they are out of my price range for the time being. The R7000/7100s look nice enough, but I wondered if anyone as used them and how they compare to modern transceivers? I have a Tecsun PL-600 which is OK with the external whip antenna, but the BFO is very warbly and the AGC on it leaves a lot to be desired (lots of pumping like it is too past, even after I did the resistor mod, as well as still large holes in the range of quiet / soft).

    I am currently using an IC-7410 as my main rig and really love the front end on it, especially with a 6" full range driver. After adjusting the filter width and shape, roofing filters, pass-band adjustment and a little bit of NR, it is a dream to listen to at night. That external speaker makes it super smooth and almost tube-like. I know the R75 is related to the IC-718, and having used that rig I know it doesn't have the best receiver (even with the AF DSP). I have never used either the R7000/7100 so wondered if they were worth the $250 -$350 they're fetching on FleaBay.

    This is not a necessity, hence why it seems I am being a cheapass ha. However, I like to listen to other bands or even broadcast stations while tuning the bands or mid QSO. Do the portable handhelds work ok? I could definitely spring $100 or so. I have a lot of homemade EQ / preamps / amplifiers and speakers so built in speaker is not a detraction. I just wonder how well they handle adjacent signals without being overloaded and how their selectivity since they are so small and have such a large bandwidth. I realize an external antenna would help with weaker signals, but am afraid it would swamp the front end.

    So, any opinions, suggestions, or advice? Thanks!
  2. KM1H

    KM1H Ham Member QRZ Page

    What IS your price range?
  3. KC8VWM

    KC8VWM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2018
    KK4CUL likes this.
  4. N5AF

    N5AF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think I understand what you are looking for. The "tabletop" shortwave market these days is slim pickings. You mentioned you had a PL-600. I had a PL-660, it was "ok" for tabletop listening, but really needed the external antenna connected for any usable indoor performance on shortwave. The SSB on mine was not bad at all for a $100 radio. I found it not suitable for "tabletop" use as it tipped over way too easy. (A concern in a house with active felines..)

    VWM mentioned the SDRPlay. I agree with that recommendation for a second independent receiver in the shack. I have an RSP2 paired up with a 590SG. Love it. If you want something you can drag to another room, the bedroom or outside, the SDR is obviously not the solution.

    You might look at the C. Crane products. I think they have one SSB capable portable. https://tinyurl.com/yahkklmt

    There's also newer products from Tecsun, Eton, etc. Google is your friend.

    Here's a guy who reviews a LOT of newer (and vintage) tabletop and portable radios: https://radiojayallen.com/

    Good luck.
    KK4CUL likes this.
  5. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    ^I agree 100%. I also have one, and it's "not bad" for the price and kind of a fun toy, but not an "enjoyable tabletop SW receiver" for me -- not by a long shot.

    SDRPlay stuff can be great but, um, they're not stand-alone receivers with a dial.:p

    For me, "enjoyable" tabletop SW receivers would be something big with a dial and probably a good internal speaker (or ability to connect a good external speaker), plus a headphones jack; something I can "spin" across a band and find stuff without really looking at it, and without the need to connect it to a computer or anything other than an antenna.

    Re an earlier OP comment about not connecting an outdoor antenna: Of course you need to connect one, if you want to really hear stuff! There's no kind of whip or loopstick or small indoor antenna that will allow reception of far-away, weaker signals.

    Worried about overloading the receiver when you transmit? Get an old-time tube-type SW receiver (zillions on the used market, find one that works fine) and that won't happen. Tube front ends can handle lots of volts of RF and there's no way you'd damage it. Sometimes the "input coils" that match the antenna to the front end are the weak link, but in good receivers they won't be.

    I use a 61 year-old Collins 75A-4 (all tubes) running when I'm on the air running a kilowatt output (sometimes more) to good antennas, and the receiver is also connected to its own outdoor antenna on the same small lot at the same time, and have done this for about 40 years...never had any kind of problem. It's not an SW receiver (it's ham bands) but its "sister" receiver like a 51J-4 is general coverage (SW) with similar circuitry and it wouldn't have a problem, either.

    An old HQ-180, NC-183, SX-100 and several other receivers from the 50s-60s (tubes) are amazing receivers that sound great, are easy to use, work fine for SSB as well as AM, and will not be damaged by high levels of RF nearby. Plus, they look like real receivers.:p

    These will cost more than $100 if working properly...probably more like $200 or so. Worth it.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
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  6. KK4CUL

    KK4CUL Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thank you all for the awesome suggestions. No real price in mind, but I was just putting feelers out. Like I mentioned, it's not a necessity to have one -- if only the 7410 had dual watch! The Tecsun is great for listening to SW broadcasts at night, but kind of a bummer to have to put up the long external antenna for anything outside the US. The SDRPlay radios look awesome and might be just what I was thinking -- I have WAY too many laptops so a computer isn't a big deal (5 Thinkpads, a beefy i7 15" laptop, and a netbook), as well as two desktops (I salvage a lot of things from work ha). Also, the old tube receivers would be more fun as well. I do like the 80-90's Icom and Kenwoods, but never have been much of a Yaesu guy (no offense, I am just used to Icoms and love Kenwood audio). I think I've narrowed it down to the SDRPlays and one of the older tube RXs mentioned. You guys are the best!
  7. W1VT

    W1VT Ham Member QRZ Page

    If you are really cheap, perhaps you could work out a barter deal with an older ham that needs to clean out his basement.
    KK4CUL likes this.
  8. KJ6ZOL

    KJ6ZOL Ham Member QRZ Page

    I don't think anybody makes a tabletop rx-only SW rig anymore, and if they do (Icom maybe?) it likely costs a bundle. If you're into Kenwoods, try checking your local Craigslist (or that of a nearby big city) for old 80s-90s Kenwood tabletops that pop up every so often. Usual price in my area is $200-300. The newest rig is the 2000, the 1000 is older, then the 600 and 500 are older still. The older you go, the less features you get, but the price comes down too. You could also keep an eye out for tube rigs, but there seems to be a frenzy around old tube ham rigs right now, similar to the antique radio craze of the early 90s, and rigs are going for far more than they're really worth. I would stick to the early all transistor Kenwood rigs. Sometimes an older Icom will pop up, but those are rarer.
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  9. KK4CUL

    KK4CUL Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks, all. I always forget about Craigslist.. Ebay prices are always way too high, even for used gear. It's insane! I saw someone post a RadioShack wideband tabletop receiver in the swapmeet but was working.. If it's still for sale I might take a hard look at it.
  10. W4KJG

    W4KJG Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've gone about 95% SDR for receiving.

    One of the best deals is an RLT-SDR with a built-in HF upconverter. They typically run $55-$75 on eBay.

    There are two versions that look extremely similar. One uses direct sampling below about 25 MHz and has reasonably poor HF performance.

    Both look the same on one side -- DON'T GET THIS ONE:


    You would want the one that looks like this on one side. Note the block diagram with filters and upconverter. Also note that it has a toggle switch that selects the upconverted path vs., the direct VHF path. It has excellent performance on HF.

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