|N9EWO Reviews :
"Tecsun PL-360" (top of page)
"CountyComm GP-5 / SSB / Tecsun PL-365" (mid page)
"Tecsun PL-380" (bottom of page)
FM Stereo / LW / MW / SW DSP Receivers
The Tecsun PL-360 Pocket DSP Receiver. Size reminds one of a TV remote control. Performance is better over the Degen DE1123 , DE1125, DE1126 and the DE1127, four other Silicon Labs Si4734 DSP based pocket sets we tested. We also tested the "CountyComm GP-5/SSB and PL-380 variants (see mid and dead bottom of this page). Performance and features are identical to the PL-360, except that the PL-380 has direct frequency entry, 4 bandwidth selections, and a larger display. The GP-5/SSB Gen2 / Gen3 (Tecsun PL-365) has SSB mode operation and FULL SW coverage (also uses the Si4735 not the Si4734), review located mid way down this page . (N9EWO Photo)
N9EWO’s Review of the “Tecsun PL-360" FM Stereo
/ LW / MW / SW DSP Receiver
(also was sold as the CountyComm GP-5 / DSP.)
serial number of PL-360 test sample : 356201000xx
Country of origin : China
Tecsun PL-360 DSP Pocket Receiver – A Totally Different Size
The Tecsun PL-360 size and shape reminds one of a TV remote control. But at 6 1/4 x 2 x 3/4 inches with careful control choices and layout makes for a radio that can be pulled from a shirt pocket and held and used totally in one hand. Yes, it sits taller than most other pocket sets, so it will stick out on top a bit more than normal.
It is sold in black or silver case versions . The general construction feels solid with its spray painted plastic cabinet. But does not appear that it would handle a whack to the floor very well.
Display / Excellent Included Caring Case / Controls / Lock Function / Uses 3 AA Batteries
LCD is back lit with a single “orange” color LED, with more than enough brightness (in fact it's excellent back lighting, better than in the PL-380). Contrast is also excellent. The backlight operates in a timed fashion and there is no way to toggle it on full time.
It indicates frequency in the more standard XXXXX kHz format on SW. On the right side we have a "Tuning Encoder" thumb wheel control with dentents (rotates ok with no slop or play, but is not real smooth either), an old fashioned analog volume control (not the dreaded detented type encoder control with the tested PL-380), equal left and right levels on headphones too. Also a mini USB socket for charging the batteries or for operation with the RIGHT AC adapter (see bottom of this page). On the top there is a standard jack for headphones and another for the the included LW/AM loop antenna.
In the box is a very nice lightly padded carrying case. It has clever belt loop that allows for horizontal or vertical use. Unlike other portables we have tested in the past, this case did not smell like recycled tires or a railroad yard full of creosote. The only down side is the sides of this case are made out of some very thin material.
Additionally a plastic belt clip that snaps onto the body of the receiver is included, but we see little practical use (we would never trust it) , the included case works better and with protection to boot.
The 18 inch (from the top of the cabinet) telescopic whip antenna appears a bit more robust than most. However it does not swivel or rotate. Bottom thickest part of the antenna pulls out hard and inserts back quite hard too .
Lock feature is offered and as it should be also defeats the power button.
The odd number 3 AA battery scheme is used. The battery cover fits good, and all 3 cells insert and remove normally with no tight or loose fitting issues. Good old battery springs are used and none of the bent metal type battery contacts as seen on Uniden scanners.
Clock / Timer / Sleep Functions
The battery-backed clock is in the 24-hour format (no seconds).
Single TIMER function allows for the set to come alive with a preset radio station. The ON time can be set between 1 to 90 minutes. There is no beeper that can be selected.
SLEEP feature is in the automatically set at 30 minutes out of the box (short press of the power button, this is NOT valid on the GP-5/SSB variant which is default OFF). To defeat this nasty, just a long pres the power button (on power up) and then rotate the tuning wheel to select “ON” in the LCD. It will stay this way until the batteries are removed and clock reset occurs.
DSP (Reception) MUCH Improved Over The Degen DE1123 / DE1125 / DE1126 / DE1127 Models / Plug In MW Loopstick
The signal chopping, clicks, crackles, fizzing and other strange sounds that completely overwhelm the Degen DE1123 , DE1125 (same as the Kaito KA1123, KA800 / KA801) and the DE1126 / DE1127 sets even on strong SW stations are for the most part absent on the Tecsun PL-360. Is very much improved when compared to the elder Degen made pocket disasters.
The PL-360 uses the Silicon Labs Si4734 receiver DSP IC as does the Degen DE1123 / DE1125 / DE1126 / DE1127. It is just that Tecsun did better job of interfacing it with this model.
First take the sensitivity on short wave. It is quite good and I can connect an outdoor or other wire antenna to its collapsed telescopic whip (it lacks a jack for a SW external antenna however) and is most usable with no real overloading issues. With the Degen or Kaito pocket sets …forget it. With those that is just about impossible, at least with any real success.
Good news too is that when especially connected to a better antenna, no images or MW break thru was observed. There is no attenuator to be found on the PL-360.
Sensitivity on MW is decent with it is included “top mounted” 2.7 inch plug in loopstick antenna. Yes, it has some directional null trait to it. I’m sure this will not please any MW Dx’ers on either the sensitivity or selectivity fronts. But for most casual or normal use, it will be more than adequate. Without the loopstick plugged in it, the sensitivity decreases by a very noticeable margin, but still OK for more local signals (it must have a very small internal MW antenna of some kind?). By the way the antenna jack on top is just for the AM loopstick and not for any external MW or SW wire aerial (with the GP5 / SSB variant it does work not only for a external MW antenna but SW too).
Another huge plus is the selectivity is not as narrow as the Degen DE1123 or 1125 receivers. So the audio quality is MUCH better with the wider bandwidth.
Alas…once in awhile there is still a tad of signal clipping (chopping and maybe a wash out in and out) with weaker signals (all bands), but is much more tolerable over the Degen’s. I can actually hear semi-weaker SW stations on this set and without it chopping in and out. Separation of co-channel signals is still very respectable even with the lone “wider” bandwidth filter being used.
However weak FM sensitivity is only average using its attached whip. Excellent selectivity even in tight area’s of the band. But with the so-so sensitivity, FM performance will not bring any roars of excitement. We found that attaching the included wire antenna also improved FM as well (in fact sometimes it helped greatly).
It sounds good on headphones in Stereo and has a indicator . In fact the audio amplifier is free from any hiss or other strange sounds that the PL-380 suffers from (on one of our test samples...see it's review below) . But considering the size of its speaker, the audio quality is adequate and quite loud. It does lack ANY bass response. The headphone output also lacks any low end and its audio is not as punchy. I had to increase the volume when going from the speaker TO headphones to hear it at all.
included 2.7 inch "LW / MW Loopstick" antenna plugs on the top on the
Improves performance in these bands (including null effect), but don't expect super DX either.
SW Coverage / FM has Three Coverage Options / FM Stereo / No Audio Line
Output Jack / Uses 5 volt mini USB jack for Charging Only
Just as it is with other receivers that use the si4734 DSP IC, coverage on the Short Wave part of the spectrum is between 2300 to 21950 kHz in one band (no gaps).
On FM one can have it as 87.5 to 108 MHz, 76 to 108 MHz, or 87 to 108 MHz. A long press of the FM mode button when off toggles this selection.
Of course FM Stereo with headphones/earbuds is possible. It even has a Stereo indicator on the LCD even and works even if you don’t have headphones plugged in (unlike other sets). One can also very easily toggle the stereo on/off using a front panel button.
At as it usually is with Tecsun receivers there is no audio “fixed” line output jack to be found (a loud sigh).
The charge jack is a mini USB type. So a computer USB port can be used to charge its 3 AA Ni-Mh batteries using the PL-360’s internal smart charging circuit (thankfully is not a timer type circuit). There is a toggle to select the use of rechargeable batteries. The charging circuit worked well in our testing.
Yes, It Has LW, but Only in MW 9 KHz Step Selection only / Extended MW Coverage / Frequency Step via Speed / Some Chuffing and Muting
The PL-360 indeed has “long wave” coverage. That is from 150 kHz up. However this is only possible if the 9 kHz MW tuning steps are used otherwise it is not available. Of course the channel spacing is at either 9 or 1 kHz steps in this mode.
Also when you select the MW 9 kHz steps, the built in thermometer reverts to Celsius with no way around the limitation. This is done by pressing and holding down the “DEL” key for second with the radio off. Display will show 9 or 10 indicating the new value.
Equally the set covers the extended MW band as used in North America (up to 1710 kHz). But this happens only when the 10 kHz steps are in use.
The tuning step using the rotary thumb wheel automatically adjusts depending on how fast you rotate it. For example on LW / MW and SW it is 5 KHz in fast (9 or 10 on MW) and slow is 1 kHz. It takes a bit to get used to, but overall it was well implemented and works. This is improved over the scheme in the Tecsun PL-380 which is hard to control.
Some chuffing (muting) was noted as one moves up and down with the tuning wheel, and can get annoying after awhile. As the set scans up the bands (features we cover more below), muting is present.
All of the square front panel buttons are extremely tiny but have great tactile feedback (with the exception of the longer power button that is loose feeling) .
Tuning Methods – ATS - ETM, Scanning, Manual “Wheel” Tuning / Excellent Digital Signal Indicator / 450 Total Memories (non-volatile)
Of course there is no direct entry keyboard to be found on a radio this small. The usual “up-down” SW band presets are featured. There is no real “manual” up-down frequency slewing (via buttons) either. One can say that the tuning wheel does the manual tuning function and that indeed that does get the job done nicely.
One can scan the SW band presets (push and hold the VM button for a second) and like a car radio will seek and sit on a station for about 5 seconds before it heads UP or DOWN the band to look for another (direction it goes will be the last direction the tuning knob was used). This works extremely well and functions on all bands not just on SW. The only gremlin is that the scan speed here is very s-l-o-w.
There are 450 total memory channels provided. 100 are for LW / MW, 100 for FM and the last 250 for SW. The 3 AA cells do not back these up (flash memory).
2 auto scan-memory storage methods are provided. One is the old school ATS (Auto Tuning Storage). Automatically finds station and stores these in the REGULAR memory channels. As it goes with ATS, duplicated frequencies can happen. On SW you have the option of searching all meter bands or just one band.
The other automatic radio tuning is called ETM (Easy Tuning Mode). Storage of these found stations are done in a special bank and not within the regular memory channels. 100 for LW/MW and FM and 250 for SW. With our early PL-360 test sample ETM did not allow duplicate frequencies with additional "fresh" scans, however with later and current production samples this has changed to where it does clear existing (previous scans) frequencies (this is also valid for the GP-5 / SSB and PL-380) . An excellent idea and works well.
In general these 2 auto tune modes work as advertised. Yes, one can manually enter “memory channels” as well.
Located in the upper right hand corner of the LCD we find 4 numbers. 2 are for the signals strength (in dbu) and to the right of those 2 is a signal to noise ratio (in db). This again was well done and displayed properly.
The Degen DE1123 and DE1125 do display digital signal strength as well, but disappears in a couple of seconds once the station is tuned in.
A Nice Mini Portable
To wrap up the Tecsun PL-360 is a most worthy pocket portable for the money. Proper implementation of the si4734 DSP chip and ease of operation makes for a pleasant experience in an unusual package .
Downsides are the so-so weak signal FM sensitivity with it's attached whip and still the AGC issues on LW/MW/SW still rears its ugly head. Both of these bugs are improved with the PL-380 cousin model, (see below)...but it has it's own issues . But the PL-360 is a bit handier with its very unique size and it works reasonably well.
© N9EWO, all rights reserved
“CountyComm” GP-5 / SSB Gen2 / Gen3 (Tecsun PL-365)"
FM Stereo / LW / MW / SW DSP Receiver
PL-360 (GP-5 / DSP) with 4 Main Differences
Theoretically the CountyComm GP-5/SSB "Gen 2" and the tested later "Gen 3" version (Tecsun PL-365) are a near Tecsun manufactured PL-360 (or CountyComm GP-5/DSP) but with 4 differences.
The County Comm versions arrived in a “Plain Jane” brown box with no markings on it at all (except one green dot sticker). The Tecsun PL-365 is packed in a fancy box with the usual markings. It includes the same accessories as with the PL-360 : Plug in ferrite loop stick antenna, removable plastic belt clip (which I would never trust) , soft carrying case with belt loop, some mediocre earbuds, short “clip on the whip” long wire antenna and printed instructions that give you enough information to get started. Batteries are not included at all (still takes 3 AA’s) and it does allow one to still internally recharge optional ni-mh cells with an optional USB power supply or connection to a personal Computer USB jack. We are pleased to see the continued use of AA cells and not some lithium ion battery pack, which seems to be the norm these days.
More Tuning Steps / More Memory Channels / Some
SSB Mode Warbling / Good Manual ECSS
Number of tuning steps has been increased to accommodate the SSB modes. Instead of only 1 and 5 KHz, in addition on SSB modes we also have, 50, 20 and 10 hz steps available (selected with the radio OFF). In practice this is takes a bit to tune around and its quirky and limited button count on the front panel, but it works. The top of the LCD display will indicate L or U for the mode and then an xx number after that. This marked in the manual to be the hz display (a tad off in our tests, but not too bad).
Good news is when the SSB modes are engaged; the auto-tuning step is disabled (fixed at 1 kHz). Then when you hit the SSB to fine tune, it’s at 50, 20 or 10 hz steps (this is set with the radio OFF, default is 50 hz and is the best setting in our view for easy use in our testing).
The auto tuning steps with the thumb wheel tuning control (1 and 5 Khz for SW) are still finicky to make-work but are less touchy and more usable than the more difficult tuning on the PL-380 (review below). However with no keypad, one better make use of the memory channels to create other preset starting points to tune from.There are SW band presets (and separate ones for SSB "Ham Bands" too, be sure to be in SSB mode to access) and are useful , but maybe not so close where you want to be either ?
The GP5/SSB has 550 memory
channels, that is 100 more over the Tecsun PL-360 and CountyComm
GP-5/DSP models. 100 are for LW/MW, 100 for FM, 250 for SW (AM Mode),
and the new 100 are for SSB mode. Yes...once in the SSB mode you have
100 separate memory channels . It even stores LSB or USB and the fine
tune setting . Of course all of memory channels are stored with
the MEM key while in VFO (VF)
It’s SSB-BFO is generally stable , however tapping (or even some hand movements) on the rear of the cabinet; we did detect some some disconcerting warbling. Even without tapping the rear of the case there was some warbling present. Just keep your hand way from the rear panel and avoid any cabinet vibrations and is OK with SSB modes. With this OK stable BFO, super fine tuning steps, SSB bandwidth filtering and offset rejection (you can't resolve USB signals in LSB etc.) , manual ECSS is quite good on the GP-5/SSB. So be it with the one narrow bandwidth filter on SSB modes and AGC distortion.
In our view it actually tunes SSB
better and easier (and with LSB and USB selection to boot) over the
old and discontinued Grundig G6, which was a royal pain to
use in comparison .
Two Bandwidth Filters / Sensitivity
Unlike the PL-380 and PL-880 models (to name 2) we still have the "one" lone fixed fairly wide AM mode bandwidth (6 kHz) with no selection capability of other values that the DSP chip can provide. It works adequately just as with the PL-360 and not too narrow . However, when one selects the SSB mode the bandwidth appears to sound much more narrow (3 kHz ?) and proper for SSB use. Selectivity is excellent . So in our testing it appears like is decreasing the bandwidth selection for SSB modes and is very good news , I can strongly say that 2 bandwidths are being used with the GP-5/SSB .
Yes, it would have been better if it were user selectable bandwidths independent of mode, but this scheme works well for what it is.
The CountyComm GP-5/SSB (Tecsun PL-365) is just as sensitive using it's whip as the Tecsun PL-380 or Degen DE1128H (Si4734 receivers) in our side by side tests. But count on adding a short length of wire clipped to the whip (wire antenna as included) to have any decent reception with any amateur radio signals .
Increased SW Frequency Coverage....At Both Ends / Amateur Band Presets
With the PL-360 or GP-5/DSP models, the upper SW frequency coverage stops at 21950 kHz. With the GP-5/SSB it has been increased to 29999 kHz. So its coverage includes the 10-meter ham and the 27 Mhz CB bands. Even better is the low frequency coverage is also improved over most other Si4734 sets . It starts at 1711 kHz (and goes right up to 29999 kHz) , so the 160 meter ham band is covered as well . No gap coverage !!
Again (it's worth repeating) you
have the SW Broadcast Band "Presets" (using the SW "up and down"
buttons) just as with the PL-360 and other receivers. When the
BFO is in use (LSB or USB), these Up / Down buttons toggle through the
Amateur (Ham) bands instead . Downside is it does not shift the proper
mode for the band selected (say LSB on 80 meters and USB on 20 meters)
on these presets. Anyway this is most useful plus with the GP-5/SSB's
limited tuning methods .
Down Side…Audio "Clipping" Distortion…However No Hissy Amplifier
Just as with other Chinese receivers (like the Tecsun PL-660 and PL-880 to name 2), we have annoying audio SSB clipping distortion (and pumping) on all medium to strong strength signals peaks (even appears on AM signals as well but is not as annoying). You might be able to help control the amount of this distortion to an extent by shorting the whip antenna. Again there is no attenuator switch. But overall it is not a pleasant experience listening to signals in the SSB mode for any long periods of time with the GP-5/SSB for us. Not as bad when compared with the Tecsun PL-880 (what else is), but not great either.
OK , lets call the SSB mode usable and not a total nasty , but don't look for tabletop audio either here. You are NOT able to view the signal strength information in SSB mode.
See the above Tecsun PL-360 review for the “rest of the story” as the general performance and features are a dead ringer to this GP-5/SSB (Tecsun PL-365) model.
Yes, it still has the slight (and annoying) microprocessor muting while rotating the tuning wheel. FM performance is still only average using it's attached whip (nothing more). Really weak AM mode signals tend to get washed out in the AGC. Headphone audio is a bit anemic (but the speaker audio is killer loud) and lacks any hi-fi sound even on FM with headphones...have to crank it up a bit for headphone use. So a WARNING when going from headphones BACK to the speaker (so you don't blow it out be sure and turn it down before you unplug any headphones). Excellent news is it does NOT exhibit the hissy audio amplifier of PL-380 (review below).
found with the "Gen 2" test sample, the internal speaker wires were
connected backwards (that is the + and - were reversed). Once
corrected the audio quality improved a bit (sorry did not help with the
SSB distortion issue) .
OK…But Go With Something A Bit Larger If You Need Better SSB / Tecsun PL-365 version unavailable / "Gen 3" Version
If you MUST have SSB reception in the smallest “pocket” package available, the GP-5/SSB (Tecsun PL-365) might be a usable set for you. However for the best (but larger and more expensive) PORTABLE for much improved SSB performance, one would be wise to go with a larger model.
The GP5/SSB (Tecsun PL-365) is a fun
package for what it is. Size is perfect for the "Bug Out" bag !! One
MUST make use of it's memory channels and ETM function etc., with it's
hostile ergonomics (including no direct keyboard frequency entry and
very tiny buttons).
© N9EWO, all rights reserved
|N9EWO Review : " Tecsun PL-380 "
FM Stereo / LW / MW / SW DSP Receiver
Tecsun's PL-380 "near pocket" DSP receiver.
Sensitivity is slightly improved over the PL-360 cousin above.
In most respects , performance is pretty close.
With the 380 you have huge plus of 5 bandwidth selections that work well for the price.
The best implementation of the si4734 DSP receiver chip we have tested to date.
Newer "Hissy" 2014 made sample on Left. Older "Black" and much better 2011 sample (has no hiss issue) on Right.
Note : See update on the bottom of this mini review for important information.
Approx serial number of PL-380 test samples :
2014 Sample : 369201401001xx
2011 Sample : 369201104005xx
Tecsun's close cousin to
the PL-360 is the PL-380. In a larger traditional cabinet sans the
separate plug-in AM loopstick antenna. Here we have only the internal
MW loopstick antenna of course . Cabinet feels more lightweight, so I
don't think it's going to take much abuse (like being dropped). The
tuning and volume control wheels have a super cheap feel to them. Thank
goodness it does not use the rubber feeling cabinet paint. The receiver
performance is a near dead ringer, so most of the PL-360 review above
is valid for the 380.
1. LW band is provided with no tricks required (unlike with the PL-360). It can be turned off in normal selection if desired.
2. Direct keyboard entry (buttons still have excellent tactile feedback).
3. "Knob Wheel " electronic volume control with detents.
4. 5 Selectable Bandwidths at 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 and 6 kHz (the PL-360 is only 6 kHz only). But these all seem wider than listed / displayed. But excellent selectivity anyway for its price point .
5. Sensitivity seems bit better all around, FM band even better yet. However , still not as good as a better portable.
6. Selectable keyboard "Beep" function.
7. Larger speaker and "slightly" more powerful audio amplifier
(but is very hissy more so at lower volume levels and headphone use [LEFT CHANNEL ONLY] with current samples, see important text below on this).
8. Indication of the fast or slow tuning step (still uses undesirable VRIT tuning, but this indication helps slightly with the touchy tuning wheel)
9. Even less signal clipping (chopping) with weaker signals .
10. Can allow for the LCD backlighting to stay on full time.
11. 550 total memory channels : 100 for LW, 100 for MW, 100 for FM and 250 for SW.
Overall a nice low cost "throw away" portable , so be it a bit on the fragile side. No SSB mode like with the CountyComm GP-5/SSB (review above). Even with it's indication of fast or slow tuning in use, there is still no way to select the speed manually (where as you can with the PL-660). The VRIT is still not the best arrangement to me with the PL-380.
It includes a very nice zippered case, that also has a tiny pocket inside for the included earbuds. Large LCD for it's size for old tired eyes. Very easy to use with the keys having good tactile feedback.
It's general audio is on the very shrill side so NO bass here AT ALL (same on headphones too). No tone control to help reduce the sharp sound either. On the plus side it is louder when compared to the PL-360 above. However the MAJOR downside to our PL-380 "early 2014 made" test sample is it's audio amplifier circuit. Our samples audio amplifier had very VERY annoying amplifier hiss (we did not hear with the PL-360 at all). Even MUCH worse is when connected to headphones, this nasty hiss only irks from the "left channel" (it drove me nuts to no end). A nasty design flaw that made the set much less desirable if not near unacceptable for us. We cannot say if this was just a sample defect here ??
We received a older 2011 manufactured (Black Case) unit where
the hiss is ZERO . So as has been reported elsewhere this is NOT a
sample variation , Tecsun made changes in later production (different
PC board layout) and was not for the better !!
Tecsun PL-380 Undocumented Function Discovery / Hiss Issues Apparently Cleared Up ? :
Jack W8ADQ informs us of a Undocumented Function with the Tecsun PL-380 :
1. With the radio OFF and showing the regular power off screen.
2. Press and hold down the [AM BW] button
3. After a couple of seconds it will do a display test and turn on all segments and annunciators.
4. Continue to hold the [AM BW] button down.
5. After another couple of seconds the 4 digit display area at the upper right of the LCD (not the main frequency display digits) will briefly show a four digit number.
This appears to be the firmware version. However this did NOT work with our 2011 made sample. But did with our early "hissy" 2014 one (display as 3808). Jack's newer 2015 sample displays 3809.
On the hiss subject : Our 2014 sample suffered badly from excessive audio amplifier hiss as covered in the review above. Again it was not just with my sample being defective as it this hiss bug has been reported elsewhere in good numbers. But not with the 2011 test sample (is totally clean) hiss is ZERO. But Jack also tells us that any excessive hiss is ZERO with his his even later sample. Also other reports I have received from readers with LATE 2014 made samples and beyond are also now hiss free. So it appears that Tecsun has made quality control corrections to at least late 2014 samples and beyond ? As many already know the date of manufacture is part of the serial number. Our thanks to Jack W8ADQ for this information.
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