Tecsun PL-365 Review

I have had this receiver for over 6 months now, and whilst not using it every day, I have used it enough to have an informed opinion of it’s pro’s and con’s.

Overview

A quick description of the receiver for those who have not heard of it.

pl365

The receiver is of an unusual design, more like a hand-held transceiver, measuring 53(W) X 159(H) X 26(D) mm. It naturally fits in the hand, with the thumb resting easily on the thumb-wheel tuning. The buttons on the front are for a number of alarm and display functions, SSB selection, and ETM, along with band selection and up/down keys. The inclusion of SSB makes this quite a unique radio, and certainly interesting to use when out and about.

It is supplied with ear buds, faux leather carrying case, the plug-in MW bar, and instruction booklet. A manual is also available to download.

As can be seen from the picture, the receiver sports a telescopic antenna for FM/SW, and a unique plug-in MW ferrite rod antenna, which is rotatable in its socket.

Band coverage is as follows:

FM 87~108 MHz

MW 522~1620

SW 1711~29999 kHz

Long Wave is also available and on mine was factory set to be included, but if not, it can be made available by the menu options.

Like many of Tecsun’s latest receivers, the PL-365 includes the ETM function, which stands for Easy Tuning Mode. With this, you select the band (MW,FM,SW), press ETM, and it loads into a local memory, all the stations that it detects. These do not over-ride any of the main memory that may have been already used to store stations. It is specific ‘ETM’ memory. Once the detection process is completed, the tuning wheel is then used to select each of the stations detected. This is an extremely useful feature on this receiver, as it doesn’t have keypad entry for frequencies. And band scanning using the thumb wheel in 5 Khz steps can get tedious! Of course, ETM will have to be repeated a number of times during an extended listening period as stations come and go.

Initial Listening Tests

My first port of call on starting the listening tests was FM, to judge how it received the local and national broadcasters, and to see how stereo broadcasts are received. Incidentally, I changed the supplied ear buds for some in-ear types which I find stay in place better. All national broadcasters (BBC) and local radio stations (BBC and independent) were detected well. Received audio on the built in speaker is pleasant, but as can imagined from such a small speaker, not of great range. However, stereo broadcasts from BBC Radio 3 (classical music) and Classic FM, sounded excellent using the ear buds. At night time, some further afield stations are detected, so the FM sensitivity is good.

When I conducted these initial tests, it was evening so I decided to give the MW band a whirl as well. I fitted the MW bar antenna into it’s socket atop the receiver, selected MW and hit the ETM button. After a couple of minutes, the detection process stopped and a great number of stations had been detected. Going through them, not only were there the local (and not so local) UK MW stations, but some from much further afield such as Bretagne 5, SBC in Riyadh, and RNE Radio 5 in Madrid. By turning the ferrite antenna, it was possible to peak these stations nicely.

So now to SW. As can be seen, SW coverage is full range from 1711 – 29999, excellent for a receiver of this price range. For this initial test, listening was carried out in the early evening, in the garden, during the summer, so the higher bands were where most of the action was. Following a similar pattern to the FM and MW test, the telescopic whip was extended and the ETM button pressed. On stopping detection, a total of 65 stations were noted. One or two of these, it later proved, were images, but for the most part they were all receivable signals. The treshold for detection is quite low, so some stations are barely audible under the noise, a testament to the sensitivity of the 365. All the major stations were received well, such as VOA on 15580, Saudia Arabia on a number of frequencies, CRI of course, over numerous frequencies. And in between, stations such as CNR1 (China National Radio), the regional Chinese service, and R Australia on 12065, BBC from Singapore.

After this, I did some listening on the 20 and 40m ham bands. To do this is slightly tricky, as it entails coming out of ETM mode by pressing the VF/VM button. This puts the radio into frequency mode and the thumb wheel is then used to get to the correct frequency. The USB/LSB button is then pressed and once a station is found, press the BFO button. The tuning thumb then becomes a BFO fine tune, and the amateur radio station can be tuned in accurately. It is tricky to start with but you do get used to it and amateur stations can be tuned in well. I received a number of European stations on 40m and European/Asian ones on 20m. So again, sensitivity is good, even though this is just using the whip antenna.

Long Term Listening Impressions

Over the months between those initial tests and now, I have done a number of hours listening using this radio, on both the MW and SW bands. I especially like it if I am out for a walk in the country near us as its handy to carry in the pocket. One Sunday I listened to the whole hour of a VOA broadcast on 15580, whilst wandering along the Lincolnshire foot paths. And it is also a nice radio to do a bit of casual listening from the armchair of an evening, when the TV is on but of no interest. This way I have enjoyed many a broadcast from VOA, RRI and the BBC using the ear buds. It’s also nice to tune into the Celtic music of Bretagne 5 during the evening on MW as a change from the fair on BBC Radio 2 or 3.

Conclusion

Would I recommend this radio? Yes I would, whole heartedly. For what it is designed to do, it does very well. Could it be better? Of course. A keypad would be nice, an external antenna port would be great and so on. But it was designed to be a general coverage receiver, in a small, hand-held package, and for that it receives top marks.

ABC Australia – short-sighted and out of touch

It was on January 31st the ABC ended its shortwave transmission service in the Northern Territory and to international audiences.

Yesterday a coalition of protesters gathered outside the ABC headquarters in Ultimo to protest restructure plans by new Managing Director Michelle Guthrie, including ending shortwave transmission.

Members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), Hands off Radio National Music and ABC Friends say a range of management decisions have created a crisis at the national broadcaster, telling radioinfo that recent decisions  demonstrate how out of touch the ABC Executive has become.

Among the speakers yesterday was ABC Friends NSW President Mal Hewitt who spoke about the impact the shortwave closure is having on local communties, but not before outling a list of people that rely on it.

  • Tour operators and passengers virtually over the whole of the north of Australia.
  • Aboriginal Sea Rangers who work right around the top end.
  • Fisherman both commercial and indigenous.
  • Stock camps always on the move.
  • Cattle Stations.
  • Truckies.
  • Grey Nomads – there are clusters of them around their FM receivers on a Saturday afternoon listening to the footy.
  • Road construction workers
  • Miners and prospectors ever the oil rigs off the north west coast take short wave.
  • Tradesman on the road…

“And residents of about 150 remote Aboriginal across the Northern Territory, the top of Western Australia and Queensland. Another very important group of people that totally goes under ABC management’s radar, I suspect ABC management doesn’t recognise brown people and it specifically doesn’t recognise brown and poor people…..read more at->

 

Program favourites – Music Time in Africa

Listening to the short wave bands over a number of years, you build up a list of favourite programs on some of the stations. The Morning Show on R Thailand, a magazine program about what’s going on and what’s on in Thailand,  CRI’s ‘Drive Time’ program, also a magazine program for events in China, broadcast presumably, for people going to work. RRI has their regular ‘A world of Culture’ which gets you close to past and current cultural developments in Romania. If like me, you love all forms of music, then ‘Music Time in Africa’ from VOA is a must listen.

Broadcast on Saturdays and Sundays for one hour at 09:00, 15:00, 20:00, and 22:00 hours UTC, it offers an eclectic mix of music from all around Africa. If you like ‘World Music’ then you will love this show. Hosted by Heather Maxwell, who has an infectious enthusiasm for the music she presents, the show will give you, for instance, jazz-style music from Mali, or the tribal folk-style songs of Generale Defoe from the DRC amongst many. From her bio on the VOA pages for the program, ‘Heather Maxwell is an ethnomusicologist and experienced music professional in West Africa and the United States.

The program started in 1965, and so is one of VOA’s longest running shows. The show was founded by Leo Sarkisian, who retired from the show in 2012 and handed the reins over to Heather. Leo and his wife used to carry a reel-to-reel tape recorder with them all around Africa to get the recordings for the show. Over the years, he built up a huge library of music and interviews, which also was handed over to Heather on Leo’s retirement. Leo was so influential that on his retirement in 2012, he had a mention in the Washington Post:

Long before there was ping-pong diplomacy or pere­stroika, a short, balding Armenian American was lugging an enormous reel-to-reel from village to village, sweet-talking people into singing and playing for him.

[…]In Africa, he socialized with presidents, military dictators, accomplished musicians and tribal villagers. He outwardly steered away from politics, but under the surface he wove a subtle diplomatic tapestry based around grooving on tunes.”

That enthusiasm for the music and getting to know the musicians abides to this day. Heather interviews and records musicians from all over Africa, although the method of recording is now no longer a large, trusty, reel-to-reel!

So, next weekend, treat yourself to an hour of the best music in Africa, and tune into Music Time in Africa. I usually use the 15580 slot at 15:00, this seems to be the best for where I am in the UK.

Alternatively, if you miss any or you would just like to get an idea of what it’s all about, the programs are available on the VOA website at: http://www.voanews.com/z/1456. MTIA also has a facebook page at: http://www.voanews.com/z/1456.

The ABC of ignoring audience needs

As most people who use short wave radio are aware, ABC Australia pulled all of their short wave services on the 31st January 2017. For those of us around the world who have enjoyed ABC broadcasts over the years, this at least, disappointing and at most, well, disappointing. They had a good range of interesting programs, from in-depth reports to music programs and light comedy. Some of us, me included, also used their Alice Springs and Tennent Creek low-power transmissions as a pointer to how the lower Tropical bands were performing. If you could get Alice Springs on 4835, then you knew the 60m band was holding up well and worth an explore.

But let us now turn our attention to the ranchers and ranch workers who live around the remote areas of Alice Springs and Tennent Creek. These places are literally, out in the middle of nowhere, with ranch sizes being calculated in square miles and not acres. Also the truckers making the long-haul trips via outback roads through some of the most inhospitable country known to man. All these people rely on good communications supplied locally for such items as weather reports/forecasting and anything that could be pertinent from local news. This sort of information can only be delivered successfully over these terrains using short wave. A network of FM stations would not give the coverage over the difficult topology encountered in these areas. A satellite system would have similar problems, and relies on having a ground station at a ranch with all the power requirements to receive such transmissions. If a rancher is fixing a fence several tens of miles from home will not be able to receive these transmissions.

We also need to turn to the needs of those people living on the plethora of Pacific islands which ABC also used to serve using their short wave transmissions. Some of the governments of Micronesia are not, at all times, stable, so up to date news and weather forecast/reports of a timely nature cannot necessarily be relied upon. Indeed, a few years ago, the government of Fiji closed down the local internet so any information supplied by that route was unavailable. This is where the short wave transmissions from Australia were so important through this period.

For all the non-recreational uses mentioned above, these transmissions can literally be the difference between life and death. ABC has mentioned savings as the reason for this move, but I saw a report where this amounts to only 1.9 million for the Northern Territories. But surely this cost is going to be swallowed up by having to supply content delivery via either satellite or expanding FM services.

Fortunately, a lot of debate is currently going on in Australia from community groups, MP’s in government and Union heads. If ABC thought that no-one would notice then they must be severely disappointed already with all sections of Australian society seemingly being up in arms over the decision. I think this will roll on for quite a while and ABC will either be completely bloody-minded or come to some sort of agreement. Maybe the Australian government may step in to save the day. All I know, its not going away in a hurry!

The last set of logs for 2017

I had an idea today (they don’t happen very often!) of trying to listen to New Year celebrations from around the world. This was prompted by a post on one of the Facebook groups. So the plan was to listen to RNZI just after 11:00 UTC, as New Zealand sees the new year first. And then 2 hours later, tune into ABC Australia for their celebrations and so on and so on. Well, I hadn’t planned it very carefully, and with a mixture of family stuff to do and poor conditions, well, it didn’t happen. So my only resolution for next year is to plan this event properly, by drawing up a list of stations, frequencies and times. And if the propagation is OK, then it should work out. It will certainly make for an interesting listening schedule.

May I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy and Peaceful 2017. Let us hope that the world is a little less fraught next year, and some of the ongoing wars finally come to and end. Thank you to all who use this blog, your support is very valued.

Let us also hope that some of the major broadcasters change their minds about shortwave (ABC I especially mean you!). Quite how the government ‘take over’ of VOA will pan out is any ones guess, but it would be nice to think they will not influence output, and stay in the background as a funding stream only.

Some listening from this afternoon took me to many parts of this wonderful world as usual. Hope you enjoy these and see you next year.

Charlie.

9645 Khz Australia Reach Beyond Australia 13:52 UTC English. Religious broadcast. Faith to Faith program SINPO: 44444 2016-12-31

15140 Khz Oman R Sultanate of Oman 14:20 UTC English. Pop music. SINPO: 44444 2016-12-31

15610 Khz USA WEWN 14:28 UTC English. ‘Agony Aunt’ show. SINPO: 43333 2016-12-31

15825 Khz USA WWCR 14:32 UTC English. Religious program. SINPO: 33333 2016-12-31

13590 Khz Thailand VOA Deewa Radio 14:34 UTC Pashto. OM with discussion program SINPO: 33333 2016-12-31

13630 Khz Botswana VOA 14:37 UTC Kinyarwanda. Mixture of english and african pop music SINPO: 33333 2016-12-31

13800 Khz Germany R Tamazuj 14:44 UTC Sudanese. Music and chat SINPO: 32222 2016-12-31

13800 Khz Madagascar R Tamazuj 15:01 UTC Sudanese. Music and chat. ID at 15:03 SINPO: 33333 2016-12-31

13820 Khz USA WWCR 15:05 UTC English. Religious program. SINPO: 44444 2016-12-31

13680 Khz Zambia Voice of Hope Africa 15:07 UTC English. Music and chat SINPO: 32233 2016-12-31

9335 Khz Phillipines VOA 15:52 UTC Burmese. OM and YL announcers with news. Obama mentioned a couple of times. SINPO: 33333 2016-12-31

9345 Khz Phillipines FEBC 15:55 UTC Mandarin. OM with discussion. SINPO: 44444 2016-12-31

9425 Khz North Korea V O Korea 15:58 UTC Russian. Severe ACI from FEBC on 9430 SINPO: 43333 2016-12-31

9525 Khz Java V O Indonesia 16:05 UTC Arabic. Quaran chant. SINPO: 43333 2016-12-31

Fabulous 41(m)

I don’t often do much listening on the 41m, as a lot of frequencies are used by either CRI with their blow-torch signal, or the various flavours of CNR, which are the regional Chinese stations. Add to this Firedrake/CRI jammer jamming VOA, RFE and RFA broadcasts among others, it doesn’t leave much room for anything else. But with a bit of digging, and at times, switching to LSB to enable narrow filtering and use of Notch filters, other stations pop out of the noise.

This afternoon I decided to have a tune of the 41m band and found a surprising number of interesting stations. Yes, CRI caused some major ACI at times, but digging out the other stations is all part of the fun and skill of Shortwave! With the DSP filtering on the 450D, it is possible to do this reasonably easily.

And so to the logs:

7310 Khz Germany R Menchen 09:31 UTC Playing 60s and 70s pop. Sudden fade-out at 09:36 SINPO: 43333 2016-12-30

6070 Khz Germany Channel 292 09:45 UTC English. World Deliverance program. SINPO: 33333 2016-12-30

7355 Khz New Zealand RNZI 15:38 UTC English. All Night Programme discussing various items including climate change. SINPO: 22222 2016-12-30

7465 Khz Singapore BBCWS 15:50 UTC English. Sports news. SINPO: 43333 2016-12-30

7475 Khz Thailand RFE 16:00 UTC Tajik. World News. SINPO: 44444 2016-12-30

7510 Khz Uzbekistan Voice of The Martyrs 16:05 UTC Korean. YL announcer SINPO: 22222 2016-12-30

7250 Khz Bangladesh Bangladesh Betar 16:15 UTC Arabic. Music and chat. Severe ACI from CRI 7255. SINPO: 42333 2016-12-30

7445 Khz Madagascar BBCWS 16:32 UTC English. The World – Have Your Say program SINPO: 43333 2016-12-30

 

Christmas Eve logs

I will be spending the evening doing family things (Xmas films and associated good-hearted nonsense), so I decided to get a bit if listening in this afternoon.

When I start a listening session, especially during the day, I usually start with the highest band I think will support communication, and gradually work down. You can soon work out from this what the MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency) is. So today, I started on the 17m band, but nothing doing So I moved down to the 19m band. There I found Oman with Pop music and English DJ, so moved on to 15580, knowing that VOA would have their Music Time in Africa program. I love this program as it show cases African music, which covers all genres. At the start, around 15:15, the signal strength was not too good. As time went on, the strength improved until 15:45 when it was very strong. Suspecting a bit of grey line influence, I checked the Grey Line map and sure enough, Botswana was still in daylight, and the UK just in darkness. This is a useful technique to discover which parts of the world you are most likely to hear stations from. The affect only lasts a short time, as by sign off at 15:59, the signal from VOA was starting to fade out again.

Another station heard today was ZBC on 11735, one which I hadn’t heard for a while, usually due to ACI (Adjacent Channel Interference) or same channel interference from CRI. Signal strength was poor though.

Just a few logs, but an enjoyable listening session nonetheless. Listening to Music Time in Africa was a perfect chill-out for me on Christmas Eve afternoon.

Have a really good day tomorrow. You never know, there maybe a new receiver in your stocking!

Logs:

15140 Khz Oman Radio Sultanate of Oman 15:11 UTC English. Pop music. Some QSB SINPO: 33333 2016-12-24

15580 Khz Botswana VOA 15:15 UTC Englis. Music Time in Africa with Heather Maxwell. By 15:45 signal strength improved to 4n. SINPO: 43333 2016-12-24

13680 Khz Zambia Voice of Hope Africa 16:04 UTC English. Religious broadcast. SINPO: 32222 2016-12-24

11625 Khz Madagascar Vatican Radio 16:10 UTC Swahili. Discussion and carols. SINPO: 32233 2016-12-24

11735 Khz Tanzania ZBC 16:13 UTC Swahili. Discussion. SINPO: 22222 2016-12-24

12095 Khz South Africa BBCWS 16:20 UTC Christmas carols service. SINPO: 22222 2016-12-24