If you're a serious DXer, and in need of a compact, but reliable and super-high quality radio, then you should definitely consider the Tecsun PL880. Standing at merely 7.6 x 1.3 x 4.5 inches, and weighing only 1.1 pounds this is an extremely compact, yet very powerful (and ubiquitous) radio, with amazing reception capabilities.
It is able to pull in a wide assortment of bandwidths, including AM/FM bandwidths, long- and shortwave, as well as SSB. This radio is indeed a top of the line product, offering rich, full audio quality through its 40mm speakers, and comes with both a USB and 3.5 mm jack, enabling superb adaptability. PL880 is also powered by lithium-ion batteries, which are rechargeable, offering up to three days of intensive use. Now, let’s get to know this radio’s features a bit better.
Tecsun PL880 has come to the market as a replacement for the PL660, featuring an ultra dynamic audio amplifier with a full range, 40 mm speaker that delivers top quality, distortion-free sound. As noted, it utilizes a USB jack, which will enable you to recharge the batteries using just a simple universal phone charger.
The batteries are a 3.7V 18650 Li-ion batteries with excellent life span, allowing for a much extended period of continuous use. However, the batteries will take a significant time to charge once fully exhausted.
The radio features 25 memory pages used to store 3050 stations. These allow the user to store, and then quickly sift through the stations in order to find their favorite ones, or simply to skip some bandwidths when trying to pull in weaker signals.
He radio has manual tuning controls for fast, slow and fine-tuning in the form of knobs (these you’ll especially like if you’re old school) that are exceptionally sensitive, smooth and accurate, but not too sensitive, so you don’t have to worry about losing the station after a single miscalculated move.
PL880 also comes with a telescopic antenna that has amazing capabilities when it comes to pulling in high-frequency AM. However, due to the antenna’s sensitivity, it may overload the device if used for local FM signals. Also, you ought to take care when using the antenna, as it is quite thin near the tip. The antenna also sometimes does not fit perfectly back into its socket.
PL880 features a broadband filtering array, offering 4 selectable options in AM, and another three in SSB. The filters operate at 2.3 KHz and do not sacrifice too much audio quality on the account of readability.
The SSB uses both LSB and USB modes, and though it is excellent, it is not perfect. The accuracy of the SSB is 1 KHz, up or down, so there is no way to tune in perfectly. In addition, the radio has sync detection (by holding the SSB keys), but the sync sometimes experiences problems and adds a fair amount of distortion.
The radio has a backlight on the monitor, which can be turned on or off. The monitor doesn’t put out that much information but it does show the numerical value for the signal strength and S/N ratio.
Albeit the radio is well rounded and reliable, it is not without problems. These problems are not big shortcomings, so they indeed shouldn’t damage its value, but they still persist, so if you find them overwhelming, you might opt for a different product.
One of the problems reported by users who tested this radio is its firmware issues. To this respect, Tecsun is offering updates and revisions of the firmware. Also, consumers are advised to check the firmware version, as the 8820 is the most recent, and has the least of problems, but some earlier versions have more persistent problems.
The radio also occasionally struggles with a tad weaker signal reception and has lower selectivity than other products on the market. It would appear that the company producing this radio wanted to create a jack-of-all-trades, but, in doing so, had to slightly sacrifice the selective unit.
The SSB is limited to 4 KHz which limits the fidelity of the radio, causing it to jump around and be unable to tune precisely to a weaker signal.
As mentioned above, one of the problems may be the long recharge of the batteries, but we find this only to be an issue of convenience, as the battery life can compensate for this.
Tecsun PL880 Video Review
Currently, this device enjoys a large attention of amateur DXers and professionals alike. The radio has been the subject of much praise, as many people report that the specifications are meeting their needs. Many customers praise its sound quality, and its ability to locate and catch even the most sensitive of stations. However, many report problems with firmware, especially in older versions, as well as problems with oversensitivity, signal problems, and limited selectivity.
Pros and Cons
As for pros, the device is sound, high quality, ubiquitous and reliable. It has an exceptionally long battery life, good sensitivity when fine-tuning, and a solid antenna for catching more elusive longwave stations. The device is also highly durable, and, above all, compact and lightweight, thus being very portable and suitable for long trips in cars or RVs. Also, it is important to note that the design is quite fashionable, a bit old school, which will assuredly appeal to most users.
When it comes to cons, we put emphasis on, the firmware, which is not all that reliable. However, Tecsun is looking to fix this mistake as soon as possible. There are constant reports of lower quality signals being picked up, but this is, in all honesty, to be expected, as this is a small, portable radio, and not a cutting-edge tabletop HAM beast of a machine.
Overall, this is a good piece of DXing equipment, with many benefits and only a few, non-deal-breaking problems. For the listed price tag, the Tecsun PL880 Portable Digital PLL Dual Conversion AM/FM offers a great bang for the buck and we can only give it a thumbs up. Good stuff!