I have had the Tecsun PL-600 for 2 years now, so I thought it timely to do a review. 2 years gives one a chance to really get to know a receiver, work out it’s foibles etc., etc. This review is therefore from a users perspective and I shall not be covering every available function. Other sites have done an excellent job already on these points.
The Tecsun PL-600 is a portable receiver with LW, MW, FM and SW bands. Out of the box it comes with a nice padded travelling pouch, an antenna on a reel, 4 NiMH batteries, a wall-wart charger, earbud-style headphones and the manual. Everything is packed well and I purchased my particular example from an ebay seller in Scotland.
The specifications for the radio are as follows:
LW 100-519 kHz
MW 522-1620 kHz
SW 1711-29999 kHz
FM 87-108 MHz
So the shortwave bands, which will be the main subject of this review, are well covered with no breaks. In fact there is almost continuous coverage from 100 Khz to 29999 Khz.
I haven’t used the receiver on MW or LW as my interests do not lie in these areas. FM on local and national stations gives very good reproduction through the speaker or in full stereo if used with appropriate headphones.
For a while at this QTH, the main station receiver has been a Yaesu FRG-7, a venerable oldie from the ’70’s. While the ‘Frog’ is very good, I found it increasingly annoying that the dial calibration is not consistent end-to-end (a facet of the square-law function of a variable capacitor), and no narrow filter. The 6 Khz filter is fine for general listening but not useful for either ham-band SSB and CW or removing ACI on the broadcast bands.
So I have been using the ‘600 more and more and find it is now my main radio. Why?
Well, it has digital readout, it has memories, although I seldom use these, and it has a wide/narrow filter. The latter 2 settings I estimate being 6 Khz and 4 Khz. The narrow setting is great for removing ACI and has helped me a number of times to locate a station next to a higher powered one. The narrow setting is also selected automatically when SSB mode is engaged. The receiver also has a 3 position attenuator, which can be useful for strong stations, or indeed to cut down on noise.
Ergonomically, I think this receiver is well designed. It has a tilting attachment at the back which slants the radio at an ideal angle for desk top use. All the controls are easy to find and intuative, with push buttons, a keypad and a knob for tuning. So to select a station, one can either manually tune using the knob, use the up/down keys or directly key-in a frequency using the key pad. Tuning can be set at 5 Khz or 1 Khz, the latter useful for Ham stations or off-standard BC stations. With the SW button, the user can cycle through the broadcast bands, with an indication of which is selected display on the screen. One slightly annoying aspect of this is one can only scroll UP the bands and not Down.
A quick note on SSB reception. On my version, out of the box, SSB reception was distorted on all but the quietest stations. This is a known problem with the ‘600. Fortunately, there are a number of clever folks out in internet-land who have got a fix for this problem. I asked our tech. guy at work to do mine and it consists of adding a 1K resistor between pin 18 and ground of the audio amp chip. This simple mod transforms the audio on SSB. No more distortion and Ham band listening becomes a pleasure. So if you are thinking of or already have a ‘600 then this mod is well worth getting done.
I mainly use my ‘600 with an outdoor antenna, this being a 15 metre long wire fed through a homebrew 9:1 balun. Now some users have reported the ‘600 over-loading easily on an external antenna but I have never found this to be the case. It should be noted that the receiver is extremely capable on the built-in telescopic whip, which brings in numerous stations and I have used it this way for some garden ham-band and shortwave bc listening. The whip also swings round so that if the receiver is being used with the back tilt, the antenna can still be vertical.
There are some timer options available for setting alarms etc but I have never used these so cannot comment on their usefulness or otherwise.
The radio can be charged via the supplied charger, connection being via a power socket on the side of the receiver (not USB). The set of batteries supplied with the receiver were only 900 mAH versions and tended to run down fairly quickly, as even when the receiver is off, certain aspects of the display are still in operation. These batteries finally stopped holding any charge just recently and I switched to Sanyo Eneloop batteries, these being rated at 1900 mAH. These Eneloop batteries have a deserved reputation for longevity and charge cycles. So far the set I installed have lasted for over 2 weeks of near daily use.
So to some up. The Tecsun PL-600 is an extremely capable receiver, which can be used as a portable as well as a desk-top receiver. I think it’s good enough to use as a daily receiver for shortwave dx-ing and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a low-cost high quality radio. No it won’t compete with an Icom R-75, or CommRadio CR-1A but then those receivers are nearly 10 times the price.