Tecsun PL-330 AM/LW/SW/FM Portable Radio
The new Tecsun PL-330 is a very small Ultralight-sized, DSP-based radio and is a worthy upgrade to the still available and less costly PL-310 Et and PL-380 radios, adding several features and somewhat better overall performance as well. It is now available at Amazon and at www.anon-co.com
Covering AM/LW/FM/SW it offers some unusual features for such a small, relatively inexpensive package. For example, it offers Synchronous Detection, making the PL-330 the least expensive radio I am aware of to sport this feature. It also demodulates SSB (Single Sideband) signals, and allows the use of external antennas on ALL bands…one of the very few current production portable radios to offer this terrific capability.
The package contains the radio, BL5C battery, stereo earbuds, a USB cable and a cloth carry pouch. Anon-co-com also offers an upgrade to a zippered pouch for an additional $4.25.
Band Coverage: Medium Wave (520-1710 kHz or 522-1620 kHz) with Tuning Steps 10K/9K/1K (With Radio Off Long Press #3)
Long Wave (153-513 kHz) Can Be Turned Off (With Radio Off Long Press #2)
FM broadcast (64-108 MHz) Can be set to begin at 64, 76, 87 or 88 MHz (With Radio Off Long Press #0)
Short Wave (1711-29999 kHz continuous coverage)
SW Bands: 120m, 90m, 75m, 60m, 49m, 41m, 31m, 25m, 22m, 19m, 16m, 15m, 13m, 11m
SSB (HAM) bands: 160m LSB, 80m LSB, 60m, LSB, 40m LSB, 30m USB, 24m USB, 20m USB, 17m USB, 15m USB, 12m USB, 10m USB
Tune by Knob, Up/Down Scan Buttons, Direct Keypad Entry, ETM or ETM+
Bandwidth Settings: Press the AM BW button, turn the Volume know to the desired bandwidth then press the AM BW button again.
MW/LW: 2.5 kHz, 3.5 kHz, 9.0 kHz, SW: 2.5 kHz, 3.5 kHz, 5.0 kHz, SSB 0.5 kHz, 1.2 kHz, 2.2 kHz, 3.0 kHz, 4.0 kHz
Memories: MW: 150, LW: 100, SW: 300, FM: 100, SSB: 100, Sync:100
24 Hour Clock/Timer/Sleep Functions – & Hold #8 to show or hide Seconds
VM/VF Button toggles between Memory and Frequency Tuning Modes
Display Button toggles among Signal Strength/SN Radio, Clock, Alarm Time or Memory Position
Power: BL-5C lithium battery charges via Micro USB
Backlight: Auto On or Press & Hold #5 To Lock Backlight On (Says “On”) but cancels when radio turns off
Other Notable Features: The new ETM+ feature should appeal to many users. It allows the PL-330 to Auto Scan and Store AM/LW and SW stations in separate groups depending on the time of day in six different groups. This is useful, for example, on AM where many stations are receivable at night which aren’t in the daytime and of course SW where stations can change hourly. The function worked as advertised and will be a welcome tuning aid for those who rely heavily on memories.
FM Deemphasis of 75 microsecond (Americas & S. Korea)/50 microsecond (Other Countries) – Long Press #4 in FM Mode to select
Add Seconds to Clock – With Radio Off, Press & Hold #8
Calibrate SSB/USB: Tune to good signal, Press SSB, then USB, Adjust Fine Tune to Zero-beat, Press & Hold USB until display flashes, repeat with LSB Mode
Toggle between Ferrite or Whip Antenna & Aux Ant Input on MW/LW – Press & Hold #3 – Display shows CH-5 for Whip or Aux Ant Input, CH-A for Ferrite Rod. Like the PL-990 this allows the ferrite rod to be disconnected and the Ant input jack to work on the AM band in addition to SW and FM…rare among today’s portables.
Set Maximum Volume Level: For each band, with Radio On, Press & Hold #7 and adjust Volume Control. Default is 58.
Lock Backlight On – Press & Hold #5. Cancels when power is cycled.
There are many more features and nuances too numerous to mention…you can find them online and of course in the printed manual which is quite clear.
Performance: I was very curious to put the PL-330 against some competing radios. Some of the primary contenders also offering SSB included the XHTATA D-808 and the C. Crane Skywave SSB. Other radios in a similar category but not equipped with SSB included the Radiwow R-108, the C. Crane Skywave (non SSB version) and the Eton/Grundig Traveler III. It’s worth noting that at a current street price of $59.99 the PL-330 is the least expensive of the SSB-capable radios and is the only radio in this group with synchronous detection and the ability to use the external antenna jack on AM and LW in addition to SW and FM, and on all bands you can disable the internal antennas while doing so…a decided plus. You should keep any external antenna fairly modest since there is no RF Gain control but I found it worked well with the amplified AM loops I tried it with.
AM is the weakest band on the PL-330 where it came in at 1 ½ Stars on the AM Mega Shootout List. On weak daytime AM signals the PL-330 performed similarly to the Skywave SSB and Radiwow R-108 which are also 1 1/2 Star AM performers. These same signals were a bit clearer and just a tad less hissy on the Traveler III and XHDATA which rate 2 and 2 1/2 Stars respectively but for perspective the differences were quite small…you would have to be in a fairly noise-free environment to discern these differences. But the PL-330’s ability to disconnect the internal ferrite rod and use an external antenna on AM makes it one of the very few modern portables to allow this option (the Tecsun PL-990x also has this great feature).
There is a bit of Soft Muting on AM when you tune slightly off the center of a channel but it is not too bad. There is a defeat I have read about for this but I was not able to duplicate that on my sample. I noted no Soft Muting on SW however.
On SW the Tecsun compared favorably with the other radios in these comparisons. Differences were small among all of them except the Radiwow which was the weakest by a small margin. In fact, adding a short wire antenna more than made up for any differences which is something I can’t stress often enough. I also found SSB performance to be good for this kind of radio…I was usually able to get natural demodulation with a minimum of fuss and Fine Tuning is quite easy.
On FM the PL-330 was on a par with the other DSP radios in this group. It achieved **** on the FM Mega Shootout List, beating the Traveler III and matching the others.
Interestingly, sound quality differences were very obvious. To my ears the little Radiwow had the fullest sounding audio, while the Skywave SSB has the thinnest audio. The PL-330, XHDATA and Traveler III were a bit different than each other but approximately equal…all sound fine on their own and were fine for the small radios they are and I wouldn’t make too much of this.
Synchronous Detection: The PL-330 must be the least expensive radio available to offer this feature but unfortunately the way Tecsun has implemented it may not please many users because although it has the very real advantages of helping to reduce the distortion caused by selective fading and the ability to ignore an interfering sideband, it destroys the basic sound of the radio with a very filtered audio which to me is undesirable. It is still a mystery to me that other Tecsun radios with sync have this problem except the PL-660 and PL-680 which have sync that works fairly well and sounds “normal”. Engaging sync should not cause the audio to change dramatically producing a very limited frequency response, and since they “got it right” in the ‘660 and ‘680, why can’t they get it right on the PL-330, PL-880 and PL-990?
Battery Life seemed excellent. Although the battery meter indicated full when received, I “topped it off”, then used it for several hours a day at average volume levels for over a week before the battery level began to drop. I used it several hours after that and it was still going strong before I decided to recharge it, so it would appear that you should get many hours of playing time between charges.
Conclusion: The English owner’s manual is clear and well-written and this is important in order to fully understand all of the features of this radio. It seems important to emphasize that pure performance does not fully describe how these radios compare. For example, while the more expensive Skywave SSB had the thinnest audio quality it has the most extensive band coverage adding both NOAA Weather and Air band and very good reception. The modest Radiwow was not the most sensitive radio in the group but has the most pleasing sound. And the subject of this article, the Tecsun PL-330 is the only radio that has sync and the ability to use an external antenna on all bands while disconnecting the built-in antennas which for many users sets it apart from the others.
At its price the PL-330 is very competitive with each of these radios as well as others not mentioned in this review and its feature set may be what makes it a good choice for you.
See it at www.anon-co.com