N9EWO Review :
Grundig "Satellit 800"
  / Tecsun "HAM-2000"
 LW / MW / SW / FM / Aircraft Portable Receiver

The discontinued and VERY LARGE "Grundig Satellit 800" LW / MW / SW /  FM / Aircraft Portable Receiver. Was designed by R.L Drake in the USA and built in China by Tecsun who sold it as the "HAM-2000" in China and Asia. Circuit based on the Drake SW8 "port-a-top" receiver, with a number of improvements. Suffered from quality control issues over it's entire life in production. One major bug was with 2L41 RF Choke on the PLL Synthesizer PC board that had a nasty habit to blow open (see text and photo below). In our view is overall one of the best "Chinese made" SW receivers to ever hit the market place (if not the best at the time this report was complied) ! But as with ANY receiver it has it's quirks as well. Be prepared to find a regulated (non switching) 9 VDC power supply at least 800 ma of current which are very hard to come by pre-built. The included "floor wart" AC supply (unregulated) provides too much voltage even at full load which gives for excessive cabinet heat, plus hum with headphones at lower volume. (N9EWO Photo)

N9EWO Review : Grundig Satellit 800 (as Stock....No Modifications)

Country of Manufacture: China
Approx. Serial Number of Test Sample #1: Not Documented
Approx. Serial Number of Test Sample #2: S80120119xx

Discontinued Receiver

In the Tradition and Sprint of the Large REAL "European Made" Grundig's - General Circuit as an Improved Drake SW8 

The Grundig Satellit 800 is HUGE monster portable at 20 7/8 long x 9 1/4 high (not including the handle) x  8 1/2 deep (including front handles) inches. Weight (without it's 8 D size batteries or AC Adapter) is around 11 pounds, of course much more with batteries installed). That makes it a tough set to lug around and rules out any easy travel let alone being carried onto a airplane. Thank goodness there is very nice fold down top handle provided and works well.  You don't have to worry about this set sliding around when pushing the buttons. Thee are also 4 rubbery type feet on the bottom that greatly helps here as well.

Circuit design is near identical of later production of the "Drake SW8" port-a-top receiver (not tested). However with a few important differences :

1. The audio stage is much improved along with separate Bass and Treble controls
2. Large real mechanical "analog" signal strength meter with the Drake style markings (it's unusually accurate too)
3. Actual "Tac Buttons" used instead of the "rubber" carbon contact type on the Drake SW-8.  
4. Much larger LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)
5. F style antenna connector used for FM band
6. FM Stereo With Headphones (or via the rear mounted speaker jack, with 2 appropriate speakers)
7. Internal LW / MW Loopstick antenna

Designed by R.L. Drake in the USA, manufactured by Tecsun in China. Model was sold in China and Asia as the Tecsun HAM-2000.

Included Power Supplies - Alternative "Pre-Built" Regulated Power Supply (Must Be Modified) - High Current Consumption

When the Satellit 800 hit the marketplace, a worldwide voltage "switching" AC Adapter was included. Complaints quickly roared in that it created excessive Radio Frequency interference. At least for North American samples, a change was made to include a unregulated analog transformer type "floor wart" adapter.

These receivers operate on nominal 9 VDC and require a good healthy 700 milliamps (ma) of total current for proper operation. The later included UNREGULATED floor warts is rated at 1 amp of current and even at full load give OVER voltage to the set (around 11.5 to 12 volts meter tested at full load). So the receiver internal voltage regulators must work harder with more "voltage burn off" difference and this is in the form of excessive heat from these regulators.

If one operates the Sat 800 for a few hours using it's included AC adapter one will feel this excessive heat on the top part of the cabinet just above the S-Meter. It's on the warm side and any PC board is quite a ways from this point. But you get the idea and excessive heat is never a good thing in any electronic device.

Of course the solution for less internal regulator heat is to just use a nice 9 VOLT REGULATED linear-transformer type supply that is good for at least 700~800 ma of current . Of course using any low cost switching type supply (or a linear one that uses switching regulators) is not a good idea with any Long-Medium-Short wave receiver !! That is unless you love self-inflected interference.

Another issue that makes it very desirable to use a regulated supply is the fact the internal audio amplifiers normally do not see any of the filtered current from the lower voltage internal regulators inside the receiver. It's just the raw voltage off right off the external DC jack. So one can hear a background hum especially with headphones in use. Have verified this and it drives me crazy. Using a regulated power supply will eliminate this. However finding a Pre-Built Transformer type Regulated type power supply (9 VDC at say 800 ma) are near impossible to come by anymore. We developed a modification from a Pre-Built one that worked well, but these are now discontinued (have a peek here) , [one may just be able to still unearth a sample if you look around ??]. Any owner who wishes to make this right will probably have to build one now that is electronic handy ?? Nearly everything Pre-Built today are of a switching type supply and you do DO NOT want any of these !!

Excellent Ergonomics - Poky Tuning Knob Speed and Mechanical Encoder- Super Long Telescopic Antenna

We found the Satellit 800's ergonomics to be first rate. Direct Keyboard entry works well and  the user uses the "." as the enter button (if you don't care to wait for the 3 second timer). Buttons are laid out properly , not close together and lack any wobble. Are also constructed of the desirable hard plastic type (none of the dreaded soft plastic / rubber variety which break down faster).

Knobs are actually metal, so be it they are of a push on variety. Tuning encoder is a mechanical type. With very early samples there was excessive wobble and play with the main tuning knob. A bearing was added and completely corrected this issue. Mind you one will rarely see a sample without this bearing as it was fixed shortly after production started (but they do exist).

The tuning knob normally tunes in 50 Hz steps. When it's rotated quickly in the LW / MW and SW bands this is stepped up to 100 Hz. For SSB tuning this is good. But using for MW / SW Broadcast band scanning it's "very poky" going. Thankfully there are slewing Up-Down buttons provided which allow 5 kHz steps in the Short Wave broadcasting bands (10 or 9 kHz in the Medium Wave band). 

A "super long" 57 inch (yes that is not a typo) telescopic antenna is used on the Satellit 800. A nice touch even if the provided detents are not always where one wishes it. If you are not in those detents the antenna flops over like dead fish. Sadly many antenna's on the Sat 800 used market are damaged from misuse and abuse (so a question to ask to any seller of a used sample).

There is a internal loopstick antenna for the Long Wave and Medium Wave bands. Not that it's of any real length, but works quite well for what it is (not for DX'ing performance). Good news is this internal loopstick is completely disconnected with the rear selector switch. So connecting an external loop is no problem with the Satellit 800 via it's rear SO-239 antenna jack or 500 ohm connections.

Every Type Of Tuning -
70 Memory Channels - No Way to VFO Scan (only Memory Scan) - "ATT" Icon on LCD AWOL On Some Samples

Every Tuning method is provided on the Satellit 800 (with one exception).
- Direct Key Board Entry
- Knob Tuning
- Up / Down Slewing Buttons
- 70 Memory Presets (with Scan lockouts)
- 13 SWBC Band Presets
- Timer (2 event)
- Memory Channel Scanning

While there is Auto "Memory Channel" scanning provided (with lockouts), there is no way to just scan up and down the bands (VFO). 70 "Tunable" memory channels are provided and store frequency, mode, bandwidth, AGC, attenuator and Sync Detector operation. Memories are in a strange 7 blocks of 10 channels each. You can only scan a block of 10 memories at a time.

There is a electronically switched 20 db attenuator provided, but with it's excellent dynamic range was not required at the testing location and antenna's. A bug that happens to many samples is the ATT icon on the LCD is AWOL (missing) when engaged. We are not aware of any fix to this minor issue.

HUGE LCD Display - Dismal Backlighting

LCD measures a whopping 6 3/4 by 2 3/4 inches. This is of course much larger than the Drake SW8's LCD Even with no contrast adjustment, it's excellent with dark high contrast and can be viewed at different angles. Green LED backlighting for the LCD and the S-Meter are provided and can be switched off during battery operation. Good thing too as the backlighting is a HUGE battery pig adding up to a good 200 ma addition to the current draw. When on batteries this is a requirement.

Downside to the backlighting is it's greatly lacking in brightness. Works OK say in a totally dark room, but is of little help in anything but. It is very evenly lit however.

Ah yes, we can't forget to cover the weird LSB and USB LCD icon markings. USB appears as LI , not anything disconcerting just strange.

Sensitivity - AGC Adjustment

MW / SW Sensitivity is as good as any portable, if not even as compared to many tabletops (external antenna). Whip sensitivity lacks a bit but is not bad at all. Dynamic range is decent, we never experienced overloading at any time (even on 49 meters at night). FM broadcast is decent as well. Selectivity is good.

There is a a FAST and SLOW AGC adjustment and works just as with the SW8 (decay rates properly chosen and work fine). 

3 Excellent IF Filters - Excellent Synchronous Detector - SSB  Dead On

Unheard of with most portables, there are THREE "Metal Cased" IF bandwidth filters (11 element ??) provided for the LW / MW and SW bands. Those bandwidths are around  6.0,  4.0  and 2.3 KHz  (the 6.0 and 4.0 slightly wider than advertised). These are all independent of mode too. All work extremely well and the 2.3 Khz filter allowing the SSB mode to work to near tabletop performance.  We did feel like the receiver would have greatly benefited with a super wide (like 10 to 12 kHz) IF filter when conditions warrant. As it is, we felt the AM mode audio quality potential was squashed a bit (muffled) with widest being limited around 6 kHz.

Good news is with the excellent Synchronous Detector (which holds lock with the weakest of signals), one can off tune slightly with the "Sync On" and enhance the high end frequency response.    

SSB mode reception is right up there with the best tabletops. Also the frequency display was dead on accurate with the test sample. Something not noted for MOST portables.

Audio Quality While Very Good and Clean , Is Not Up to the LARGE "GERMAN MADE" Grundig Set's of the Past

General audio quality is very good. The separate Bass and Treble controls allow for decent sound from it's internal 4 inch speaker. One is not going to experience the "Deep Rich Bass" response as compared to the Large German Manufactured Grundig sets of the past (say like with the Satellit 3400). No...it's going to disappoint for that kind of audio.

When headphones were used we detected a minor but disconcerting amount of microprocessor hash a low or idle audio situations. Also if you use the included unregulated AC adapter, one will hear some hum with headphone use at lower volumes. Neither of these gremlins are detectable using the speaker. 

Grundig Satellit 800's excellent "Drake Style" mechanical S-Meter. Not only is it accurate but the white background with a black pointer makes for easy viewing.  However as with the main LCD it's backlighting could have been much brighter. The weakly lit LED's used don't cut it except in / near total darkness. (N9EWO Photo) 

Audio Line Out Extremely Clean  (but slightly anemic level) - Rear Panel

There are two color marked Phono (RCA) jacks provided on the rear panel for fixed line level audio output. These are of proper level and are IC amplifier buffered. However with any radio station that has weak audio, it can be a bit anemic. Overall the line output is just fine and supports FM Stereo.

External connections provided on the real panel are : A standard female SO-239 for SW and LW / MW (50 ohms) antenna. Spring terminals for 500 ohm LW/MW/SW antenna. A separate female F-Type for FM broadcast and/ or Aircraft Band antenna (sorry the Airband was not tested for this report). 1/4 inch headphone style jack for a pair of external speakers (not tested). 9vdc power input (approx 800 ma current, plug 2.1 x 5.5 mm size). Two slide switches  : SHORTWAVE ANT SELECT and FM / AIR ANTENNA SELECT.

Satellit 800's rear panel was properly designed with the required input and output jacks. SO-239 antenna connector (F fitting for FMBC/AIR) that also functions for the MW band minus the internal loopstick (great for use with loops). 2 RCA (Phono) jacks for fixed audio line outputs are IC "op-amp" buffered and clean. The 1/4 inch STEREO "Speaker" phone jack is for connection of TWO small "stereo" speakers (not tested). (N9EWO Photo Edit)

Why Do So Many Satellit 800's Fail ?? - RF Choke 2L41

When we attempted to use a new Satellit 800 sample near the end of it's production run, only minutes after power up we heard a "pop" and it went dead. Turns out this is a very common bug with the Satellit 800 near to the end of production. More times than not is caused by a under-rated 1 mH RF choke on the PLL Synthesizer board that blows open (2L41). Of course this is not the only reason why a sample fails, but is the first item to check.

 A "MAJOR BUG" that can plague the Satellit 800 is with the 2L41 RF Choke (1 mH value) on the PLL Synthesizer PC board. It has a NASTY habit to blow open. Of course when it opens the receiver does dead. This was corrected in VERY late production samples (version 4 of the PLL board) , but from our information most have the old "underrated" smaller choke !! (John C. Photo) 

Clearly the Best "Larger" Chinese Portable Manufactured to Date in Our Testing

Many would say that the Eton E1 would be the number 1 larger portable ever made (R.L. Drake's last designed receiver made in India with Tecsun parts). I greatly dispute that and you can read my report on the e1 here. The E1 had many bugs including general audio quality that was plagued with so much spurious microprocessor junk mixed it gave one "brain pain" and eyes water in short order (MW / SW). Oh yes we can't forget the sticky cabinet syndrome and major failure issues of the LCD display with the E1 !!

The Tecsun manufactured 'Satellit 800" is a stellar portable provided it's not a very early sample (before the tuning knob bearing was added) , plus any issues with the "2L41" RF Choke (text / photo as above) has been taken care of if required. Now, if it equals or surpasses the classic Sony ICF-2010 (ICF-2001D) is a difficult one to answer. We feel that depends on what function ?? For example, the Sony's audio recovery is rated better in our book with it's nice W-I-D-E AM stock filter, plus it's still "top of the heap" Synchronous Detector. Of course the SSB performance winner goes to the Satellit 800 easy.

Some may ask how it compares to the later Grundig Satellit 750 / Eton Elite 750 (Tecsun S-2000), well it's not even in the same ball park in our view ! 

Dave N9EWO
all rights reserved
Ver 2.6

Discontinued Receiver

Links (Subject To Change Without Notice) :

RADIOJAYALLEN Review on the Satellit 800

Eham Grundig Satellit 800 Reviews

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