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BEST DX RADIOS
following is an attempt to list some of the better radios, past and present,
for DXing the AM broadcast band. At this time a separate category for
LW radios is not included mainly because I've found that if a radio is good
on MW, it tends to also be good on LW.
To start the list off, I'm going to list some of my favorite DX radios. Note that this is a rough ranking based on my experiences. As votes come in, I will modify the list to reflect the opinions of other DXers.
Several DXers have recently checked in with their recommendations for receivers for MW DX. These are now included in the following list. I've also added some comments regarding each radio; most are mine and some are those of others.
Please realize that all of the following receivers are very good for MW DX. While the consensus ranks the Drake R-8 series at the top, the rest of the rankings are general in nature and are based on voters' specific needs. That is, split-frequency DXers obviously value superb selectivity specs; those in large cities require high-dynamic range front-ends and image-free performance; those in rural areas tend toward the high-sensitivity models, etc. In other words, take the following rankings as a general guide to some very good MW DX machines.
BEST DESKTOP RECEIVERS FOR MW DX
1. Drake R-8 A/B --- King of the Hill for MW DX. Excellent sensitivity and selectivity and a good front-end. Pre-amp works on MW and PBT in the ECSS mode can be very effective in eeking out an ID, especially on split frequencies.
2. Drake R-8 --- Virtually the same as the R-8 A/B but lacks the
pre-amp function on MW (not that big a deal) and its ergonomics aren't as
3. Palstar R-30 --- Sensitivity is on par with the best and selectivity is excellent in any model (though selectivity choices are limited to two). Has a good front-end but not the equal of the Drakes. No frills at all but a very good performer for the money . Audio quality a plus (I can still hear things on the R-30 that I can't hear on the Drake). Benefits more than most from a good ground. Recent reports of quality control issues may lower ranking in the future (these reports are still up in the air, so the Palstar stays at #3). Note: if you intend to use long antennas (e.g., Beverages), the Drakes will handle the signals better (although kicking in the R-30's attenuator has handled everything I've thrown at it).
4. Japan Radio NRD-515 --- A superb radio for all kinds of DX including MW. Would rank higher if it weren't discontinued and fairly hard to find. Has a manual peaking control for MW.
5. AOR 7030+ --- Recommended by several MW DXers (I have no first-hand experience) for its MW capabilities. Ergonomics may take some getting use to. May improve in the rankings as more votes come in. (Have heard from several satisfied 7030 owners, so it jumps a spot to #5.)
6. Japan Radio NRD-525/535D --- Both of these are excellent for MW DXing with external antennas. Beware, however, that if you use a loop or other indoor antenna, hash from the digital display circuitry radiates several feet from the receiver (this should probably lower the ranking (and it has, from #5 to #6)). Somewhat "wooly" audio improves by judicious use of notch control. Ergonomics a big plus; the 535D is especially enjoyable to operate.
7. Hammarlund HQ-180A/HQ-150 --- Two more tube-type receivers of the mid-20th century. Good sensitivity and a variety of selectivity options/controls. Typical full, aurally pleasing tube-type audio; front-end not as good as some modern rigs. A flood of votes for these two rigs moved them from #9 to #7.
8. Watkins-Johnson HF-1000 --- Excellent sensitivity and a mind-boggling
array of selectivity choices; good front-end. A noteworthy drawback is
that PBT only works on CW and the synchro function isn't sideband
selectable. Expensive new and now discontinued.
9. Kenwood R-5000/R-1000 --- Both do well on MW despite reports by some that MW sensitivity is lacking (note: sensitivity of the R-5000 on MW is about the same as the Japan Radio models, especially after sensitivity mod). R-5000 has useful IF shift (works only on SSB for ECSS use); noise floor on the R-1000 a bit elevated; both improved with filter upgrades. Both apparently have a strong following among DXers, based on votes.
10. Yaesu FRG-8800/FRG-100 --- Really are sleepers among MW DXers. Solid performers eventhough they lack some features (e.g., PBT). Benefit by filter upgrades. Jumped a spot or two based on the wave of votes these garnered (especially the FRG-100) in the past month.
11. R-390A --- Venerated as the best MW DX machine of the 50's-70's. This military tube-type receiver has mechanical digital read-out, Collins mechanical filters, and is built like a tank (it also weighs a ton). Best acquired by the mechanically and electronically inclined. Dropped two spots because of Kenwood and Yaesu voters, not because of DX capability.
12. Drake SPR-4 --- Extremely popular among MW DXers during the 1970's. Probably should be ranked higher (and probably will be as votes come in). Audio a bit iffy; in my case, the "ringing" of the crystals fatigues my ears after a while. According to voters, still in use and loved my several MW DXers.
13. Hammarlund SP-600 --- The darling of serious MW DXers during the hey-day of MW DX. Definitely not a portable at 87 lbs. and requires some technical familiarity to keep it in tip-top shape. Audio is the typical tube-radio pleasing but the SP-600 has the added (elusive) capability of seeming to make signals stand out more from the noise. According to votes, this old rig is still a sweetheart; there just aren't enough of them to move up in the rankings.
14. ICOM R-70 --- A couple more satisfied R-70 owners checked in voicing their satisfaction with the modified R-70, thus its appearance in the rankings.
15. ICOM R-75 --- A number of DXers are experiencing good success with this ICOM. I haven't tried one yet but defer to the opinions of others.
These are some of my favorites and the favorites of those who have taken the time to email me. Precedence in the rankings is given to those still in production or those that are fairly easy to acquire (i.e., the Japan Radios have features of use on MW but are more difficult to find than the Palstar). Note that I haven't tried any of the AOR or LOWE receivers or the later generation ICOMs. Input continues to be welcomed on these and any other receivers you feel are excellent MW radios.
The following radios (in no particular order) have received single votes from DXers as being good MW DX machines:
TenTec RX-320 (PC-based)
Drake R-7A and R-7
I'm familiar with most of these and they are good performers on MW.
NOTE: A computer crash wiped out my folder for several recommended radio submissions. If your favorite doesn't appear, it may have been the victim of the crash. Please re-submit if you would.
BEST PORTABLE RADIOS FOR MW DX
1. Sony ICF-2010 --- Still the one. After years of production, the 2010 still sits atop the mountain of MW DX portables. Unmatched in features and performance important to MW DXers. In dozens of side-by-side tests with numerous portables, the 2010 always comes out smiling. Filter options and mods available are a plus.
2. C. Crane CCRadio --- Usually a close second to the 2010 in
side-by-side tests of sensitivity (some users report equal or better
sensitivity than the 2010). Selectivity quite good for domestic (i.e.,
10 kHz spacing) DX; needs a filter mod for split-frequency DX. Doesn't
have the sometimes helpful features of the 2010 (e.g., synchro; ECSS).
There is apparently some variability in samples (common among portables)
that result in differences of opinion regarding this radio. Still, of
the three I've seen, all performed extremely well, especially after
alignment. Reports of the CCRadio Plus suggest that it may
be better than the original, but I haven't tried one yet.
3. Panasonic RF-2200 --- This discontinued, 1970's era analog radio remains a marvel of engineering. From its raw sensitivity on MW to its rotating "gyro" AM antenna to its two selectivity bandwidths, the RF-2200 is one of my favorites for MW DX. The only analog portable I've ever seen that gives 10 kHz read-out on MW (except for the Barlow-Wadley XCR-30 (which isn't very good on MW)). Audio is also very pleasing. Note that MW band coverage stops at 1600 kHz.
4. GE Superadio I or II --- The first two of the popular Superadio series and easily the best. Excellent construction quality with separate circuit boards for different stages, a high-quality variable capacitor (vice tuning diodes), etc. Superb sensitivity on MW and excellent selectivity for domestic DX. Coverage stops at 1600 kHz though and dial read-out is coarse. Best audio of any portable. Long discontinued.
5. Sony ICF-7600G --- This has to be the best under $200 all-around
portable currently available. Sensitivity on MW is very good (but not
as good as those ranked higher); selectivity is good for domestic DX; the
synchro works well and is sideband selectable; SSB on SW and MW (for ECSS
use) is excellent; and audio is pleasing. This is the radio I grab
when going on short jaunts that offer an opportunity for some casual DXing.
6. Sangean 803A/Radio Shack DX-440 --- Sangean's best effort so far for MW DXing. Not outstanding in any category but a good all-around performer on MW. BFO not operative on MW (without modification). Discontinued.
7. Realistic TRF (12-655) --- Ah, the legendary TRF. Radio Shack's one and only (other than the Sangean-made DX-440) truly great MW DX portable. This AM-only portable sold in the 1970's for about $30 and had such DX-rich features as a tuned RF section and a ceramic filter in its two IF stage design. Easily modifiable with filter and other upgrades, this was one of the most enjoyable radios to own during the era. I still marvel at some of the DX loggings with this radio...how about Paraguay from Mississippi, or Hawaii from Florida? As good as it was/is, the higher ranked portables offer equal or better performance and features; the TRF's legend is based on a combination of price, performance, and modifiability. If you can find one, jump on it, for nostalgia's sake if nothing else. Note: Radio Shack's current and recent run of Superadio clones is a joke...avoid at all costs.
8. Radio Shack DX-398/Sangean ATS-909 --- Good sensitivity and excellent selectivity (deep skirt/ultimate selectivity only fair though) makes this a good MW DX choice especially if you can get it on sale. Principal shortcomings are somewhat muffled audio on weak signals and poor battery life. Forget about using SSB for ECSS. Jumped two spots based on recent voting.
9. Grundig YB400PE --- Just had the opportunity to finally try this radio and was pretty impressed. Good sensitivity and selectivity for a small portable although audio was a little "hissy" on weak to moderate stations. SSB on MW for ECSS reception was poor. However, not on par with the Sony ICF-7600G, in my opinion, eventhough the narrow filter is useful. Based on voters, moved up two spots from #11.
10. Sony ICF-6500W --- This discontinued 1980's era analog/digital portable from Sony is a hot performer IF it is properly aligned. Good sensitivity and selectivity for domestic DX. Split-frequency DX requires a filter mod. MW stops at 1600 kHz.
11. Grundig Satellit 700 --- I have no personal experience with this radio but it has been recommended by two respected DXers for MW DX. Check it out. Discontinued.
12. Grundig S-350 --- Available at local Radio Shacks, the S-350 is not without its faults (e.g., birdies/images, tuning knob backlash) but its sensitivity is quite good, it has true wide-narrow selectivity (with decent ultimate rejection), very good battery life and, of course, digital read-out. Presently the best portable under $100 even with its shortcomings.
13. GE Superadio III --- Okay, I've never had good luck with the SRIII. The ones I've tried have had less than expected sensitivity and various degrees of image problems. Nonetheless, several DXers whose opinions I respect say that they are good radios. I guess I've just been getting lemon samples....test before you buy.
14. Radio Shack DX-396 --- Several DXers have nominated this current RS offering as providing very good value for the money (especially when it's on sale for $69). I agree, it's a good little radio IF you get a good one. The easiest way to determine this is to check each sample for a "birdie" around 1600 kHz. If you find one without the "birdie," get it, it's a good one.
15. Kaito KA-1102 --- A small, but not pocketable, portable with good MW sensitivity and wide/narrow selectivity. Quality control may be an issue in that the first one I got had a light/timer issue.
16. Sangean DT-200V --- If you are looking for a good radio to slip in your shirt pocket, this is the one to get. Digital read-out, good sensitivity, a favorite of many DXers.
The following portable radios (in no particular order) have received one vote for being worthy MW DX hounds:
1. Sony CRF-1
2. Sony ICF-2002
3. Radio Shack "TRF" (#12-656)
Again, these are portables that I, or others, have tested and found to be good on the AM broadcast band (and only a few cover LW). Not all are presently in production and some that are out of production do not cover the expanded AM band. Your input on these and other portables is welcomed!
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