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Tecsun PL-600: First Impressions

My Tecsun PL-600 arrived yesterday in the post at work, and I couldn’t wait to get home and fire up the bad boy. I had been thinking about getting this radio (or one of the similar models) for quite a while as I was using an inexpensive SilverCrest receiver for a couple of years as my main SWL radio.

Overall, I’m delighted with my new radio, and I’ve only just being using the included external antenna so far; I hope to get a multiband dipole antenna built for even better reception. I have no doubt that the Tecsun PL-600 will do me for years to come, so if you’re on the fence about buying one, just take the plunge and get it!

Over the last day I’ve heard stations from several new countries that I never heard before, and lots that the PL-600 could pick out from the noise that my previous radio just couldn’t make out too well. The first station I heard after turning on the radio was Radiodifusión Argentina al Exterior, the first time I heard it. Needless to say, I spent the next few hours excitedly scanning the bands and listening to a host of transmissions. When I made use of the greyline (the division between night and day, where radio waves propagate very well) I was in for a fantastic surprise when, for a minute or two, I could make out a local radio station in Vanuatu in English from their 10kW transmitter. Vanuatu is an island in the Pacific, right in between Australia and Fiji. I was amazed!

As there aren’t many, I’m going to outline the cons first, then the pros:

Cons

  • The external antenna socket is a jack socket, rather than a shielded socket that would work straight away with antenna plugs without an adapter.
  • The battery charger setup is a bit finnickety, and the instructions a little unclear. Also, the batteries are crap, so replace them with cells with a rating of 1200mAh or more.
  • It seems to be quite prone to electrical interference, even from its own AC charger, which is a pain when you have useless batteries.
  • It’s difficult to get SSB transmissions tuned in well, but that’s probably more to do with my own inexperience and antenna setup.

Pros

  • It has an external antenna socket, and comes with a random wire antenna and spool.
  • The SSB features is great fun, especially when I’ve never listened to hams on a set like this before
  • The frequency range is nice and broad, covering from tropical bands right up to 29.999 MHz.
  • The bandwidth filter is very useful in picking out stations from other interfering transmissions.
  • Three frequency inputs: rotating knob, up/down button scrolling, and number pad – this makes quickly going to a frequency extremely easy.
  • I found the sound quality to be very good, despite some reviewers saying it was too ‘tinny’

So far I’m very happy. The pros by far outweigh the cons for me, as most of the cons can be easily overcome. Including postage, the Tecsun PL-600 cost me about €65, which was money well spent. I bought it thanks to the many excellent reviews by people much more experienced at SWL than me, so I refer you their reviews if you’d like more information.

If you’re brand new to radio, you will probably have to learn a little bit about shortwave before being able to get full enjoyment from this radio; but it’s still a good radio to start off with if you have patience and enthusiasm for radio. If, like me, you’ve been working off various cheaper radios and are looking for the next step up, this is most definitely it.

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