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N9EWO Review : " Tecsun PL-360 "
FM Stereo / LW / MW / SW DSP Receiver
( variant as the "CountyComm GP-5DSP" , not tested )

The Tecsun PL-360 Pocket DSP Recever. Size reminds one of a TV remote control.
Performance is better over the
Degen DE1123 , DE1125, DE1126 and the DE1127, four other si4734 DSP based pocket sets we tested.
(N9EWO Photo)


Approx serial number of test sample: 356201000xx
Country of origin : China
 


The 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 x 2 x 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.

Display / Excellent Included Caring Case / Lock Function / Uses 3 AA Batteries

LCD is backlit with a single “orange” color LED, with more than enough brightness. It 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.

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 seen little practical use for this given the 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.

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.

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). 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 and DE1125 sets (same as the Kaito KA1123, KA800 / KA801) 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.

Of course all of these DSP sets use the si4734 DSP IC. It is just that Tecsun did better job of interfacing it.

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 useable 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.

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) 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. 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.

It sounds very good on headphones in Stereo. In fact the audio amplifier is free from any hiss or other strange sounds. But considering the size of its speaker, the audio quality is adequate and quite loud.

The included 2.7 inch "LW / MW Loopstick" antenna plugs on the top on the set.
Improves performance in these bands (including null effect), but don't expect super DX either.
(N9EWO photo)

Very Good 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 si4735 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. It does NOT include a standalone USB AC wall adapter, but these are now much more of a common aftermarket product. The charging circuit worked well in our testing.

It does not appear there is any way of actually operating the set from this USB connection jack (charge function only). At least we were unable to discover this in testing. With USB ports being very RF noisy anyway this makes solid sense.

Yes, It Has LW, but Only in MW 9 KHz Step Selection only / Extended MW Coverage / Tuning Wheel / 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.

There is an excellent “Tuning Wheel” on the right side of the cabinet that has detents. It has a very positive feel with no play. Just below that is an analog volume control that also has a good feel.

The tuning step using this 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.

Some chuffing was noted as one moves up and down with the tuning wheel, but I did not find it objectionable. 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.

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 the band to look for another (goes up only, no down). This works extremely well and functions on all bands not just on SW. The only gremlin is that the scan speed is 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 REGUALR 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. The neat part here is that it will not allow duplicate frequencies and does not clear existing (previous scans) frequencies. 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 Portable

As is the case with most Tecsun labeled receivers, the easiest way for most people in North America to purchase a PL-360 is on Ebay via China direct. So really there is no choice but to take your chances that whatever sample(s) you receive works properly on receipt. UPDATE : Do a general seach for a limited number of North American dealers.

To wrap up the Tecsun PL-360 is a most worthy pocket portable for the money. Proper implication of the si4734 DSP chip makes for a pleasant experience.

Downsides are the so-so weak signal FM sensitivity and still a bit of weak signal chop off on SW still rears its ugly head.

Even if Degen messed up in the 4 tries (so far anyway) with use of the
si4734 DSP IC on the DE1123 , DE1125 and DE1126 / DE1127 sets, I still point to the now discontinued Degen made (Grundig labeled) G6 the best POCKET portable around as it has SSB mode and generally decent performance (for this size class).

But the PL-360 is a bit handier with its very unique size and it works reasonably well.

Dave N9EWO
N9EWO
Ver 2.1


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