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Author Topic: Tecsun PL-880 Review  (Read 37435 times)

Offline Mentholyptus

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Tecsun PL-880 Review
« on: December 13, 2013, 2041 UTC »
http://swling.com/blog/

Looks like a winner!
Location: Ligonier Pennsylvania area
Primary radio: Icom R75
Secondary radios: Kenwood R1000, Icom R9000
Thirdary radio: Tecsun 660 Portable
Antennas: Par EF-SWL -- 25 ft horizontal longwire
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Offline ff

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Re: Tecsun PL-880 Review
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2013, 1523 UTC »
It looks good to me too, Paula.  I am a VERY happy owner of a PL-660 and I hope this one is a home run for them too.  Tecsun is definitely capable of producing a great radio for the price.
Hailing from the upstate boondocks region of the progressive paradise which once was New York State

Offline Mentholyptus

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Re: Tecsun PL-880 Review
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2013, 1842 UTC »
I really like my 660 also. For a $100 portable, I don't think you can beat it. Plus the 880 may drive the price down even lower on the 660!  :D  it's certainly not obsolete, still holds it's own vs the 880 according to the review.

One thing the review didn't address is whether or not the signal meter on the 880 is a true S-meter or not... Or does it even have one?? That was a minor sore point with me on the 660. Not a deal breaker though. I'll probably wind up getting one this coming summer or fall, but I'm gonna wait a bit and let the circuit board go through a few revisions first.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2013, 1918 UTC by Mentholyptus »
Location: Ligonier Pennsylvania area
Primary radio: Icom R75
Secondary radios: Kenwood R1000, Icom R9000
Thirdary radio: Tecsun 660 Portable
Antennas: Par EF-SWL -- 25 ft horizontal longwire
=====> Please eQSL to:  pm121152@gmail.com  <=====

Offline Chanter

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Re: Tecsun PL-880 Review
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2013, 0404 UTC »
Another happy 660 owner here.  It really is an excellent little radio.  I bought mine at the NASWA get-together here in Wisconsin this past summer, and at least one other HFU member was there when I tested it against my DX-398 and his radio - Eaton, was it?  It outperformed them both.  :)  If the 880 is similar, good for Tecsun. 

It's no wonder PCJ went in with them as a sponsor. 
Madison, WI, U.S.A. 
Tecsun PL-660, Yaesu FT60R handheld, and Realistic DX-398 (currently down for maintenance) 
QSL's appreciated 

There's a geeklady turning that dial!
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Offline glimmer twin

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Re: Tecsun PL-880 Review
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2013, 0457 UTC »
I just got my 880 today & to sum up my review ...Glimmer like radio....radio good.
KCMO  Icom R 75 , SDR-IQ, Grundig Satellit 750 ,Tecsun PL 880, Tecsun PL660 , Tecsun PL380 & PL360  10 meter random wire  w/ RF systems MLB    Alpha Delta SWL DX sloper  
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gentlemen,you can not fight in here, this is the war room

Offline RobRich

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Re: Tecsun PL-880 Review
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2013, 0617 UTC »
First PL-660 failed. Did not bother fixing it. Replaced the external antenna jack in my second PL-660. Replaced at least one PL-660 power supply, too.

That said, I still have been recommending the PL-660, especially for perspective enthusiasts to the HF hobby. I also even have one for occasional portable listening. I just suggest not abusing the PL-660 if purchased.

How is the sturdiness of construction on the PL-880? Does the external antenna jack feel solid and reliable? My hands (CTS) are getting to the point where soldering small components for radio repairs is becoming a concern.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2013, 0539 UTC by RobRich »
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Offline ff

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Re: Tecsun PL-880 Review
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2013, 1407 UTC »
First PL-660 failed. Did not bother fixing it. Replaced the external antenna jack in my second PL-660. Repacked at least one PL-660 power supply, too.

That said, I still have been recommending the PL-660, especially for perspective enthusiasts to the HF hobby. I also even have one for occasional portable listening. I just suggest not abusing the PL-660 if purchased.

Good points.  I always wonder how many of these problems are due to shipping abuses and reseller screwups.  I bought my 660 a couple years ago from an Amazon seller.  I found that the radio would not charge the batteries like it was supposed to do.  After wasting several minutes with other possibilities I realized that the enclosed wall wart was intended for European buyers and required 220VAC input to spit out the proper amount of voltage to the radio.  I don't blame Tecsun for that.  I blame the reseller.  These radios are produced by the millions in China and scattered to the winds.  I imagine that if Grundig and Icom dealt with numbers that big, they'd have a lot of downstream troubles too.  I guess it pays to have a limited number of vendors selling your products.
Hailing from the upstate boondocks region of the progressive paradise which once was New York State

Offline glimmer twin

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Re: Tecsun PL-880 Review
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2013, 1440 UTC »
I have only actually spent maybe 1/2 an hour with my 880. As I was going out the door with my dog for my nightly DX dog walk I saw that it had arrived & quickly swapped the 660 for the 880. It has a big 'ol rechargeable battery that I quickly charged with my portable crank flashlight thing. I don't usually like rechargeable batteries but I will reserve judgement on this one, I never use the included power supply with portable radios, batteries always. I have slightly peculiar needs in a portable SW radio as I mostly use it away from home as I am walking & I have a dog leash in one hand. I need a rig that can be operated one handed (if possible), The 880 is about as big as I can go & still do a single handed frequency entry. I also need one that I can tune to a station & then slip it inside of my coat on cold nights. Last night was unseasonably warm so I didn't even have on a big coat but its not much bigger than  the 660 so I see no problem there. The tuning & volume controls are different from the 660 as they move in a plane perpendicular  to the radio where as the 660 moved in the same plane as the radio & when I would slip it into my pocket or inside my jacket the volume would go up as the wheel was moved. The S-meter is like the PL 380 , a digital DBu readout on the display that shows strength /SNR. It seems solidly built, I've somewhat abused my 660 by having it out in the rain, dropping it, tossing it on the table after I get home & the dog is still on the leash & forgetting the headphones are still plugged in & yanking it to the floor. I am pretty rough on radios sometimes. The 880 tunes in very exacting increments , you can tune hundredths of kilohertz (XXXX.xx khz) so exalted carrier reception is a thing with the 880 where as it is a problem with the 660. Where the 660 had synchronous detection the 880 does the DSP thing. It seems to function just like the synchronous detector does & a weak signal will sort of "unlock" as it would in synch on the 660 except there isn't the horrible beating as it "re-locks".  When the 880 does its "lock/unlock" on a weak signal  that is a good sign to switch to ECSS. I was hearing Channel Africa on 7230 with the "lock/unlock" thing & I switched to ECSS & tuned to 7230.10 & had great reception until the band slowly changed & it got to weak for enjoyable listening. The selectable bandwidths are pretty nice too. I was able to tune Voice of Vietnam on 6175 with Havana on one side & Brazil on the other side with no problem. Bandwidth goes as low as 500 hertz & as wide as 9 khz. As I said I only used it for 30 minutes or so but I am pleased with it & can see it being my go to radio for outdoor dx adventures. btw, I took it right out of the box without reading the manual & was able to figure out everything I needed to know to operate it effectively. That is usually not the case, although it is similar to the 660 so I already knew a lot of the tecsun operating tricks.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2013, 1449 UTC by glimmer twin »
KCMO  Icom R 75 , SDR-IQ, Grundig Satellit 750 ,Tecsun PL 880, Tecsun PL660 , Tecsun PL380 & PL360  10 meter random wire  w/ RF systems MLB    Alpha Delta SWL DX sloper  
qsl   keithglimmer810@gmail.com

gentlemen,you can not fight in here, this is the war room

Offline Mentholyptus

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Re: Tecsun PL-880 Review
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2013, 2038 UTC »
When I bought my 660 a little over a year ago, I got it off of eBay from Tecsun's US distributor (Kaito Electronics). Really fast delivery, 3 days via UPS. Also came with the correct wall adapter, English instruction booklet & all the rest of the stuff. Plus the 1 year US warranty. Kaito also has the 880 now in stock on eBay.
Location: Ligonier Pennsylvania area
Primary radio: Icom R75
Secondary radios: Kenwood R1000, Icom R9000
Thirdary radio: Tecsun 660 Portable
Antennas: Par EF-SWL -- 25 ft horizontal longwire
=====> Please eQSL to:  pm121152@gmail.com  <=====

Offline The Late Movie

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Re: Tecsun PL-880 Review
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2013, 2111 UTC »
I've had the PL-880 for about a week, purchased from Kaito, and it is by far my favorite portable. (And I've owned them all.)  The 880 is what the Sangean 909x should/could have been if they'd spent as much time on the sound quality as they did on external design.  The speaker/amplifier is really wonderful; deep, rich, yet no loss of detail.  I find myself listening to SW, MW and even FM for...*gasp* ....actual pleasure... It made me step back and be aware of just how much ear-straining I was doing with my other radios, including the IC-R75 with external speaker...(Pirate listening notwithstanding;))

I feel the construction is slightly better than the PL-660, sensitivity seems about equal.  The best thing is they've managed to increase verbal intelligibility on marginal signals for the most part.  I like the nice stainless steel whip and the knobs are butter smooth.  Echoing the above comments, SSB tuning is as easy as the ICOM, and for those times when the bandwidth filters don't completely eliminate adjacent channel interference, you can use USB or LSB with only a small penalty in fidelity, even on MW, something no other portable will do (that I know of). 

I'm starting to appreciate the new 18650 lithium battery, though additional ones are kinda expensive (around $10).  I was getting sick of all these double AAs proliferating around the house.  The PL-880 is more like your laptop or smart phone--keep the battery inside, and charge while not in use. *Beware Chinese fakes on these batteries, and claims of 4000mah and up.  From what I can tell, the good brands are Samsung and Panasonic and though I haven't ordered any extras as yet, it seems 3400mah is a realistic max. (The Tecsun supplied battery is 2000mah and seems to last a good solid 6+ hours at medium volume).  I'd love to hear if anyone else knows a reputable yet inexpensive source for these batteries.

One small problem, the first shipment of these radios from Kaito had firmware with some bugs...(see SWLing blog for the gory details) --namely an overactive soft muting circuit that could not be disabled.  Disastrous for SW with deep fading.  It would actually *reduce* volume at the bottom of the fade...I hope whatever genius at Tecsun that let them out the door like that gets their just reward...

However, don't be discouraged as I heard a rumor that Kaito is going to be able to perform the firmware upgrade for the radios that have been returned for this defect, and I'd assume they'll be updating any new ones sold from this point forward.  The ebay seller from Hong Kong (Anon Co) apparently got the updated model and hasn't suffered this issue.

In case you haven't noticed yet, I LOVE the PL-880.  Does it have quirks?  Yes.  Will it replace the ICOM (or other communications grade receiver)? Of course not; but I do think it represents a step forward in modern portables that has been a long, long time in coming.
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Gear: Hammarlund HQ-129-X/Icom IC-R75/Icom IC-718/Tecsun PL-880/Kaito KA1103/Tecsun PL-380
170' grass wire; 40m inverted vee dipole @ 40ft; 4' tunable loop for MW
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Offline glimmer twin

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Re: Tecsun PL-880 Review
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2013, 1525 UTC »
I have read the posts about the volume drop thing on early models of the 880 & had thought that maybe that is what is happening with the lock/unlock that I mentioned in my long winded post earlier. It seems to be a ssb issue & what I hear is an AM/weak signal thing. Only on exceptionally weak signals do I have the up & down , lock & unlock deal happen & as I said switching to SSB & zero beating the signal makes for great reception. I was worried because my radio, when I check for what I have seen called the firmware number, says 8819. With the radio turned off pressing the AM bandwidth button 2 times shows a number & supposedly 8819 is the crappy one with the "soft muting" issue. I have noticed that when you tune to an amateur frequency , if you press the "SW METER BAND" button it will go to the next amateur band & if tuned to a broadcast band it will go to the next broadcast band. It does go from the 30 meter band to 13149 khz before it goes to the 20 meter band. I don't think there is an amateur band there (is there?). Another observation is that the backlight can be switched on using the little switch at the top of the left side. This has caused me to leave the light on as I forget that it is on & not just on a delay like other Tecsun radios do. I picked it up to take out on a dog walk last night & found the battery drained. You have no option to use regular batteries so I was screwed as I took the radio out of my pocket & found enough juice for about 3-4 minutes of use. Luckily I had my trusty crank flashlight with me & was able to charge it in a few minutes. I am really loaded down when I take the hound outside , radio, flashlight, portable wind up or spool antenna, test lead for coupling to nearby fences or stop signs ( these make great antennas) phone, smokes & my wallet. I used to also carry a small antenna tuner  & I would strap a large (1 meter wide) loop antenna to my backpack. I was a portable dx-pedition in the truest sense.
KCMO  Icom R 75 , SDR-IQ, Grundig Satellit 750 ,Tecsun PL 880, Tecsun PL660 , Tecsun PL380 & PL360  10 meter random wire  w/ RF systems MLB    Alpha Delta SWL DX sloper  
qsl   keithglimmer810@gmail.com

gentlemen,you can not fight in here, this is the war room

Offline glimmer twin

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Re: Tecsun PL-880 Review
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2013, 0233 UTC »
A correction to my earlier post...the PL880 does have synchronous detection. It can be accessed by holding the usb or lsb button while the radio is on. It tunes in 100 hz increments when in synch mode & not the 10 hz increments you can do in ssb. Also the soft muting can be disabled by holding the 9 button & dialing down to 00 with the tuning knob & then pressing 9 again. You have to do this in MW  SW  &  SSB. One thing I do hate about this radio is that when you change frequencies it automatically changes bandwidth. I'm not sure what the hell that is all about. If ,for example, I am on 5000 khz it will set the bandwidth at the widest setting  9 khz. If I tune to 6180 it is set on 5 khz. If I tune to 6175 it goes to 3.5 khz. If I go down to 6165 it is on 9 khz. I'm not sure what criteria it uses to determine the bandwidth but it is annoying & I haven't figured out how to disable that feature yet. It seems like it is determining whether or not there is any adjacent channel interference but if so it's doing a lousy job of it.

btw...the synch detector sucks..no surprise that it is hidden & not mentioned in the literature. recovered audio is lousy & imo ecss works much better.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2013, 1602 UTC by glimmer twin »
KCMO  Icom R 75 , SDR-IQ, Grundig Satellit 750 ,Tecsun PL 880, Tecsun PL660 , Tecsun PL380 & PL360  10 meter random wire  w/ RF systems MLB    Alpha Delta SWL DX sloper  
qsl   keithglimmer810@gmail.com

gentlemen,you can not fight in here, this is the war room