As I find myself getting into Short Wave Radio again I find myself picking up more radios to play around with and assess. The latest acquisition is a Sangean ATS-909X. $205! OUCH! But lets see what we have before we pass judgement.
First of all in the batch of current model short wave portable radios this is by far the most attractive of the bunch (in my opinion). Attractive is good but sound, sensitivity, and selectivity are really what matters with a radio of this caliber.
This might be the first radio I’ve seen though where I needed to go through the manual right from the get go to get started. I strongly recommend if you get this radio to go STEP BY STEP through the manual to get the time, time zone, world time, etc. all set up. One bizarre thing I noticed was that after I did get set up the box near the bottom said “AUSTRALIA”. Well, that just won’t do.
I changed mine to say “New Bern” which is the name of the town I live in. I couldn’t think of anything more interesting or exciting to put in there. Oh well.
The radio comes with a very nice pouch with a positive velcro closure. Nice touch and expected for $200+
So that’s good. What’s bad? No batteries. $200 plus and I need to buy $11 worth of batteries? Boo.
It has a charger and it has an external antenna which is nice.
So I turn it on and find an FM channel and lo and behold it does RDS (station name and info). Very cool.
Now switch to SW and I literally have no clue how to get around the bands. SW is broken into 14 separate bands. Boo. The manual doesn’t clear it up a lot but I finally figured out that all the buttons have print on them showing what meter band it is. Push the SW button then the corresponding button for the band you want. Clear as mud.
Another anomaly I just found was performing a manual input of frequencies using the keypad was a bit bizarre. The manual says “push the FREQ button, then input”. Ok. Where’s the FREQ button? It isn’t labelled. It’s the “F” key on the top row of gray buttons. A little silkscreen that says “FREQ” would be helpful here.
Sadly most new radios have several issues like this. Some features are impossible to find without the manual. But, hey, that’s why there’s a manual!
It sounds pretty good. About as well as you can expect a single speaker portable radio to sound and I’ll go as far as to say it sounds better than my Tecsun PL-880. Still you don’t listen to these radios for audiophile type performance.
The killer features for me on this radio are that it has an external antenna connector, it does Single Side Band, Upper and Lower, and it has a Line Out. I like the Line Out more than anything. It allows me to record directly to a computer sound card.
And more and more as I use this radio I’m finding that the MW performance in EXCEPTIONAL.
Anyway, I’ll add to this. Here’s a quick video.
And here’s a quick SoundCloud grab or SSB performance.
I like everything about this radio but I’d sure love to see it priced around $150 or so. If I could only have one radio given a budget I’d select the Tecsun PL-880 but ONLY because of the price. I’ll say that again. Only because of the price.