Advertisements

Panasonic RF-562D Retro Design AM-FM-SW Portable Radio

The Panasonic RF-562D is one of the more interesting, relatively inexpensive new radios I’ve discovered recently. I found mine on Amazon for $48.99 in February 2019.

Here are the basic specifications:

Power Source: 2 D Cells or External 3.6 Volt DC Adapter (Not Included/Center Pin Positive)

Leather-Like Carrying Case with Strap

FM: 88-108 MHz

MW: 530-1605 kHz  (My Sample Covered 538 – 1659 KHz)

SW: 4.75-18 MHz

Made in Indonesia

800 mw Audio Output

3.15”/8 cm speaker

Dimensions: 8.268″ x 4.724″ x 2.559 / 210 x 120 x 65 mm

Weight (Without Batteries): 1.4 lbs./650 grams

One of the main things that distinguishes the RF-562D from other current production radios is that it does not employ a DSP chip…it is to my knowledge one of the very few remaining, true analog radios being produced. Don’t construe this to mean I don’t like DSP-based radios…in general I do, and almost all new radios are DSP-based. And while early DSP radios has big problems on AM with spurious noises, for the most part these have been eliminated in the better more recent designs. Also, DSP radios have many plusses such as multiple bandwidths and excellent filter characteristics and they’ve taken a HUGE leap forward on the FM band where they often perform as well as costly component receivers of old. Finally, there are many “analog-like” DSP radios being made today – these radios feature an analog style tuning dial and knob and externally resemble analog radios of old, but they don’t tune quite like true analog radios of the past.

So, since DSP is maturing and offers some very real advantages, why was I interested in a new, true analog design in the RF-562D? Two words sum it up – Tuning Feel. Analog radios tune in a completely fluid manner – as you tune across a station it is very continuous and natural – the signal increases from nothing to its peak, then gradually falls off, all without any steps or jumps. In an analog-style DSP radio, although the tuning knob and dial move smoothly, the actual tuning is happening in distinct steps…the radio hops from one frequency to the next. These steps may be relatively coarse in less expensive designs, jumping in 10 KHz steps (or 9KHz in other countries), or they may be half that, tuning in 5 KHz steps which means you will hear false peaks between the actual stations, but in either case the radio is either tuned to the correct frequency or it is not…there is no fine-tuning. Although this doesn’t usually impact final reception, (after all you usually do want to be tuned precisely to the exact frequency), it changes the tuning feel for those of us who grew up tuning analog radios for best reception, and band scanning becomes a very different experience. I don’t want to belabor this too long…DSP radios with their distinct steps can perform very well…the analog tuning feel I’m describing is a purely hobbyist interest and it reminds me of the way all radios used to be. If that has meaning to you, you may appreciate this new, all-analog Panasonic.

The RF-562D does use a monolithic IC chip which contains almost all of the set’s active circuitry…the difference is that such chips, which have been around quite a while, do not operate in the digital domain…RF functions are still analog even though contained in an all-in-one chip. This makes for completely different characteristics as we shall see.

One other thing I really like about this radio is its carrying case, even if it is faux leather. This is perhaps the only current radio I know of that has a carrying case which allows the radio to be used while in the case. There are some very nice radios out there with (sometimes) leather carry cases but they don’t let you use the radio in the case, because they are not designed to allow control access, the use of the whip antenna or even a perforated speaker grill. In the old days just about every radio, even the cheapest pocket portables, had leather cases which really protected the radios in use as we carried them about. I applaud Panasonic for their retro design of the RF-562D including its usable carrying case. I absolutely love it! For some reason though they did not allow access to the headphone or DC input jack on the left side – an odd omission. (A reader told me his radio DOES have openings there).

Performance: OK. I’ve waxed enthusiastic long enough about the RF-562D’s retro design, but is it all worth it? Does this radio really perform well enough to justify Panasonic’s holding on to an all analog design to compete with the many DSP radios which sell for around the same price?

Left: RF-562D – Right ICF-506

5 1/2″ AM Ferrite Rod Antenna

First, the Good News.  I pulled the very nice Sony ICF-506 off the shelf (same price, about $45 currently on Amazon) and put the two radios side-by-side, and the results were interesting. The RF-562D matched or beat the Sony on AM, slightly outperforming the ICF-506 in selectivity and matching it on sensitivity, and earning a very respectable ***1/2 Stars on the AM Mega Shootout list. The generously-sized 5 1/2″ AM Ferrite Rod Antenna is good to see at this price point. Note though that the two radios were very different in sound – while the Sony was a bit on the muffled or mellow side on AM the Panasonic was slightly bright or trebly…in fact, the Sony would benefit from a bit of treble boost while the Panasonic would benefit from a bit of treble cut… a tone control would have been really nice here, but I don’t really expect that at this price point. The Sony’s mellower sound tends to mask noise a bit better while the Panasonic’s clarity tends to enhance intelligibility. Some people will prefer one sound over the other but neither one is more “right” than the other…the most objectively accurate sound would be right in the middle between these two.

They were also different in tuning feel and selectivity. As I described earlier, The Sony jumps from one station to the next, sometimes stopping on a false peak between stations (it’s Tuning LED helps to identify the true peak). Usually this was not a problem but in some cases I could separate tightly spaced stations on the Panasonic which I could not find on the Sony. For example, I found a faint signal on 1020 KHz, between two slightly stronger signals on 1010 and 1030. I could easily tune to the faint signal on the Panasonic but the Sony just could not find it. No matter how slowly I tuned or in which direction, the Sony would jump from 1010 to 1030 and back to 1010 but never was able to lock on to the faint 1020 signal. Point in favor of the RF-562D. Most of the time the Sony didn’t have this problem but if signal conditions were just right the Panasonic would be the winner in this kind of selectivity test.

However, on FM the story was completely different…the Sony clearly outperformed the Panasonic, easily separating stations on a crowded dial which the Panasonic could not receive. This is not surprising – the advent of DSP (as in the Sony) has improved FM reception in portable radios more than on any other band. I’ve said it often – today’s DSP radios are nothing short of miraculous on FM with excellent selectivity seldom seen previously in inexpensive analog radios, which is exactly what I found here. It is fairly sensitive and will do fine for garden variety FM reception but in areas with a very crowded FM dial, you will do better with a DSP radio.

SW Bands Are Tiny Marks Below SW Dial Scale

Shortwave was yet another story. The RF-562D is not at all user friendly on SW, the primary problem being that too much SW spectrum is crammed into one band, spanning 4.75 – 18 MHz. If you look at the close-up photo of the dial you can see the little black markings at the bottom of the SW dial scale which represent the various Meter Bands. The lowest frequency band here it the 60 Meter band…it’s black marking is 3/8” long. At the top of the SW band the 16 Meter band is only 1/8” long! Imagine trying to tune in these bands…it’s almost impossible. As you tune across each band you may hear nothing unless you tune extremely slowly. Then you will hear loud blips as you pass over the signals. You then have to VERY slowly tune back toward that blip to find the signal and fine tuning it is extremely critical and fussy, not only because of the very tiny rotation needed but also because of a bit of tuning slop which is not nearly as noticeable on AM or FM but which is severe on SW. After careful testing I found that the actual SW reception was OK for this class of radio – stronger signals could be received, but finding and tuning to stations is a lesson in frustration. So, although you can get some SW reception on this radio, you will not enjoy doing it.

Conclusion – A Radio For AM Lovers: The Panasonic RF-562D is an interesting radio for a few reasons. Interesting in that it offers very good true analog AM performance in a nice-looking, retro style many will find appealing…I do. Unfortunately, it is also interesting in that it highlights just how far radios have come in the past few years using DSP technology for superb FM reception which this radio does not offer. It is not bad on FM…it just is not as selective as the better of today’s DSP FM radios. And it’s SW seems to be a tacked-on addition which would have been best omitted…it’s so difficult to use most people will avoid it. So, I can recommend the Panasonic for AM lovers…you will be pleasantly surprised at how well it performs on AM and it will also let you hear FM under normal reception conditions. But for SW listening I recommend you look elsewhere.

Jay Allen

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: