Tecsun PL-320 AM/FM/SW Portable Radio
Top: PL-330 Bottom: PL-320
The new Tecsun PL-320 has arrived and takes its place as one of the recent crop of small, inexpensive radios with amazingly good performance for the size and price…I think it’s going to be popular. It will sell for $57.99 at anon-co.com plus shipping (cost to the US is currently just under $7 for similar models). When we heard about the new PL-320 we were told it would be “the same as the PL-330 minus SSB and Synchronous Detection”. As it turns out however, the ‘320 seems to have benefitted from a few upgrades so it has some plusses to consider and it does one or two tricks not available on the PL-330. But first let’s check the basics.
Specifications and Features:
DSP Chip: Silicon Labs Si4734
FM: Settable 64–108 MHz / 64.0–108 MHz / 76.0–108 MHz / 87.0–108 MHz / 88.0-108 MHz
Tuning steps 100 kHz/Fine tuning steps of 10 kHz
MW: 520 – 1710 kHz (10 kHz/1 KHz steps) / 522 – 1620 kHz (9 KHz/1 KHz steps)
LW: 153 kHz to 513 kHz (9K/1K Tuning Steps)
SW: 1711 kHz to 29999 kHz (5K/1K Tuning steps)
Tuning via Direct Keypad entry/Auto scan/Tuning Knob (with Fast/Slow modes)
Memories: 650 with Manual Storage and several ATS, ETM+ methods
Create time-specific memories for LW/MW/SW (ETM+)
Favorite Station Button
Display shows Signal strength and S/N, Clock, Timer A & B
Clock & 2 Alarms (24-hour format)
FM stereo / mono selection
Snooze function – 5 minutes
Sleep timer from 1 – 120 minutes
LCD backlight (always-on or auto-off)
Antenna socket (1/8”/3.5mm) for FM / SW (can also work on MW/LW – see Hidden Features)
Earphone jack 3.5 mm; 1/8 inch; 32 ~ 150Ω
Speaker 8Ω, 0.25W
USB-C charging socket
Charge lithium (Li-ion) rechargeable battery / Charging/Power: DC 5V 500ma
Dimensions: 139 mm W x 85 mm H x 26 mm D (Approx: 5 3/8” x 3 ¼” x 15/16”)
Output Power: Approx. 200mW
Unboxing, Initial Checkout and Comparison with the PL-330:
The Tecsun PL-320 is nicely packaged for this price range. In the box is a zippered carry pouch, earbuds, a short USB C charging cable, a BL-5C Li-ion battery and an Owner’s Manual which for the most part is pretty clear. For those who are familiar with Tecsun radios in general and especially the very similar PL-330 (read the PL-330 Review here) operation is pretty straight forward. Because the PL-320 lacks SSB and Sync as found in the PL-330 some of the buttons are laid out differently but overall, this design is familiar and easy to get to know. It’s nice to see the addition of a kickstand which angles the radio so the whip antenna can be extended vertically rather than leaning backwards. The radio has also been upgraded to the modern C type USB Charging jack and you can now lock the display illumination on permanently. Yes, it turns off when you turn the radio off but it remembers the constant on setting the next time you use the radio. Seems like such a simple thing but how many portable radios do you have that do this?
Of more importance is the addition of a 5 KHz AM bandwidth. The PL-330 only offered 9. 3.5 and 2.5 KHz options on AM and 5, 3.5 and 2.5 on SW. The PL-320 offers 9, 5, 3.5 and 2.5 KHz in AM/LW and SW and the extra choices are a welcome addition for program listeners in many circumstances. It is unfortunate that, like the PL-330, there is no 1 KHz option which is something hard-core DXers need and with that capability already present in the DSP chip it seems like it could have been programmed in. It’s also nice to have an FM Stereo/Mono selection…many radios only offer automatic switching.
Above: Ony visible differfence here is the USB C jack on the PL-320
One more nicety is the addition of a Favorite Station button…I’ve had one or two radios in the past with this and it’s a cool feature.
Finally, the PL-320 retains all of the PL-330’s Hidden Features except those dealing with SSB or Sync. One of the important ones is the ability to toggle between the internal ferrite and the whip (or antenna jack) on AM and LW which allows for the use of external AM/LW antennas while disabling the built-in ferrite rod. With the radio on AM or LW hold Button #3 until the display indicates CH-1 (ferrite) or CH-5 (whip or external antenna jack).
Here are the other Hidden Features:
Display Firmware: With the radio Off Press the VM button until all segments light up then release and it will show the number in the upper right corner. My early sample is 3203.
FM De-Emphasis: With radio on FM press and hold Button #4 until 75 us (US) or 50 (Europe) displays. (This one is in the Owner’s Manual).
Set Max Audio Level: In any band press and hold Button #7 then adjust Volume Knob to set level. Default is 58, max is 63.
Display or Hide Seconds: With radio off press and hold Button #8 until seconds appear or disappear.
I guess it bears repeating that it seems that all of these features should be in the manual.
Performance and In Use Tests: Tecsun has advised Anna at anon-co.com that the PL-320 uses the Silicon Labs Si4734 DSP chip (the PL-330 uses the Silicon Labs Si4735) but according to Si’s Spec Sheet these chips are identical except for the inclusion of FM RDS on the 4735…in fact they share the same datasheet. That info together with the apparent similarity of the two radios suggests that, with the exception of SSB and Sync, the PL-320 will perform just as the PL-330 does and in most respects it does but as I mentioned at the top there are a few improvements I was not expecting. New features include more AM/LW/SW bandwidths, continuous display lighting if desired, the more contemporary USB C charging jack, kickstand, 2 Alarms and the Favorite Button. AM is the weakest band on this radio and the PL-320 ranks 1 ½ Stars on the AM Mega Shootout as does the PL-330. FM still rates 4 Stars which is great for this category of radio and SW is quite sensitive too. As with the PL-330 sound quality is OK for this kind of radio…not the fullest but perfectly adequate for this category. There are more sound comparisons in the PL-330 review.
Conclusion: Tecsun is one of the handful of companies who are major players in today’s market and their lineup is wide and varied. Their H-501 is one of the most audio-centric of digital multiband radios available today. The PL-360/365/368 series are unique with their hand-held concept, and they have a wide range of more traditional portables from the widely popular PL-909 and PL-880 to the PL-320 with many stops along the way. The PL-320 takes its place among a lineup of radios at every price and size point and I predict it will be a huge success.
See It at Amazon (When available)
See It at Anon-co.com (When Available)
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