Sony's LAST SW Receiver : The ICF-SW7600GR
N9EWO's Review on the Sony
(NOTE : I do not own this model, used a test sample for this 2001 light review)
Serial Number On Test Sample : 1092x
COUNTRY OF MANUFACTURE: Japan
Added Features / Made In
Made in good old Japan, but as you read the text below one wonders if corners were not cut inside in order to achieve this status ??
The first thing that hits you from the older black cased "G" model is the new silver color. I'm not sure how well this is going to hold up in use......I liked the black color better.(yep, silver is the "in" color today).
We now see 100 memories , which is a big plus. You are now also able to scan the memories, which for many is good news as well.
As does it's lower cost sibling ICF-SW35, the "GR model now has a variable attunator, that also includes a switch.to turn it off. So one can " preset" it, and switch it in when needed. Very handy indeed , especially when using a external antenna of some sort.
The "lock" switch is better implemented. It is not a "plastic" blocking piece that held the power button from being pushed as it was in the old "G" model . It now is a "real" button. Much better.
A bit of button cramming was needed to include these 2 new buttons on the front . These would be the "page" and "scan" additions. Other than that, we have pretty much have the same basic layout, with a exception on the left side.
A Variable "ATT" Control
You can see this on the low cost ICF-SW35 (first Sony set I know of to use this), This new "GR" model has a knob on the left side near it's external antenna jack called "ATT" (attenuator), along with a switch to turn it on/off. Great plus here and works well.
This is of course one that Sangean has offered for some time on the much older ATS-909 (Radio Shack DX-398) model. But Sony went one better with the added switch.
Sensitivity To Weak Signals Could Be Better (using whip antenna)
Using a late sample ICF-2010 for comparison, this "GR" sample was wimpy with weak signal sensitivity using the on board whip antenna's. A signal that could be heard weak on the 2010 also using it's attached whip (but still very much listenable) was awash this Sony set. Of course on a external antenna all faired better.
Also a certain (but not serious) amount of low-level (white noise) background noise was heard even with the strongest of signals. Not excessive, but a comment that needs to be pointed out. Even with the sync on, it does not make a difference here with this noise.
Serious spurious "image" signals
Here is one that really surprised me. Punching up 4915 in the later evening using it's own whip antenna, I received WEWN crystal clear. Humm, well it turned out to be receiving the "power-house" WEWN's freq of 5825 on 4915 khz...(so a 910 Khz image signal). Test's with other strong signals in other higher bands proved this problem even stronger. (This was not overloading)
Mind you it takes a strong signal to hear this, but again on the ICF-2010 it hears no such image signals. The other 2 major problems with the "GR" to me is audio quality and muting when tuning (see below).
Fair To Poor Audio Quality With AM signals, Very Good SSB reception for price. One Bandwidth Filter..
With a set with only having one tight bandwidth compromise filter, this can be expected. But it really takes away the keen side of a generally good sync detector.
It's audio is on the muffled side and was hard for me to listen for any length of time on any AM mode signals. SSB signals fare much better.
Matter of fact the SSB is a far better treat on the ears, and with the variable control allows for better SSB than it's older 2010 sibling (only having a 100 khz fine step).
NOTE: There has been talk around the internet over the years with the SSB "fine tune" and volume control's failing after normal use (become noisy).
The set desperately needs a second wider bandwidth filter. This would indeed improve audio quality. One could make the comment, "well it would add to the price of the set". So be it...and of course the Grundig YB-400 has 2...so why not Sony ??
Muting a Royal Pain for any Band Scanning at 5 khz steps...Auto "scan" somewhat useful..
As the case is with many sets around this price point, people who like to manually tune around will find the ICF-SW7600 "GR" a disaster. It's muting circuit will make a user climb the walls. It's a tune and wait, tune and wait situation here, and frankly it should not be this way period.
Good news is that if you use the 1 khz steps, once you get moving...the muting drops out, so you can indeed tune without this happening, but at 5 Khz steps forget it (you are stuck using scan or poke up the band). The "scan" works, but tends to stop off channel more than not.
Another missing needed feature as on all other compact portables and which the "GR" is also lacking is a tuning knob. Set manufactures need to take a gook look on how Panasonic used a tuning knob on the old RF-B65 model. It would be a refreshing surprise indeed and is a most desirable feature.
Good "Sync" most of the time....Not to the ICF-2010's Standards
The "sync" function along with it's tight bandwidth filter does a very good job in reducing or totally canceling out adjacent channel interference (as it did in the old "G" model). However it does NOT improve audio quality to my ears.
It still does not equal the "sync" circuit found in the ICF-2010 model (not even close). It does not hold lock at all or very poorly with the weakest signals that the 2010 is still hearing just fine. Signals where the "GR" losses lock and groans are still holding lock very good on the 2010.
Once in great while it might loose lock even on a super strong signal and give a little hiccup. I can be a bit of a annoyance but is not a major problem (but is a nasty downside anyway). Even a bit of excessive distortion on fading peaks show's it's ugly head once in awhile.
Being what the "GR" price is at, the sync works well and is most worth it. But if someone is expecting the sync performance of the 2010...forget it !!!
Every Jack You Can Think Of.....
This set is still comes loaded with every jack that one could imagine.
Of course "external antenna", power, headphone jacks can be found. But where Grundig (Sangean, and some Degen sets too) misses this boat on all of their compact portables, Sony has still sees the importance of a "line output" jack for tape recorder use on the "GR". This is BIG plus with me, and I wish others would see this as well (along with a tuning "encoder" knob of some kind).
Still a Great Set at a Great Price
For the money spent, the ICF-SW7600GR is a fine "Made in Japan" value. A pity that Sony did not make a few additional improvements in the audio quality and excessive muting that would have even made it more of a winner. Even if the price would have increased $ 50. for an additional wider bandwidth filter.
"Best" SW Receiver :
Sony's BEST SW Receiver EVER made : The ICF-2010 (ICF-2001D outside North America)
In my view it even beats out ALL of the Sony CRF series sets ever made.
But just as with the eton e1, it too had it's share of nasty quality control issues over it's 18 year life on the market.
The ICF-2010 (ICF-2001D)
.......A Bit of History
The long discontinued Sony ICF-2010 has to go down as the longest running sw receiver of all time, tabletop or portable. It was released in the last days of 1984 and was with us (in the US anyway) until the first days of 2003. It was sold in other parts of the world as the ICF-2001"D". I have owned 4 samples over the years.
I can remember the first 2010 I had my hands on to play with back in January 1985. It was indeed a big deal. Early versions suffered from a bit of excessive hiss, and indeed the first sample I tested back then was more hissy than later serial numbers I have actually owned. Even just a year later.
Sony had done a few (minor) changes with the innards over the years. 1984 surface mount parts in consumer products were very early in the ball game, when the 2010 came out it used strange "quazi" SMD parts (the resistors still had color bands on them). I cannot say actually when, but in later years this was changed to standard SMD parts that we see today.
Also diodes were added (tacked) to the rear of the smaller PC board near the jacks near the antenna terminal. This was to help with the destruction of the front end FET from static when using a external antenna. IMPORTANT NOTE : But I would not put alot of trust in this, still best to pull a external antenna from the set when not in use. I never had a sample where I blew the front end FET.
About the only other changes that I'm aware of is with the included AC adapter. 3 different ones have been included since 1984. My late 2000 purchased ICF-2010 includes a AC adapter that comes from China, is a bit bigger and heaver than either of the eariler 2 Japan adapters (Gray and White) and now is black in color. This last "made in China" version is rated 4.5V @ 700ma..a bit higher current rating than the 2 before it. I found the newer chinese adapter to be a bit cleaner (no low level hum) over the 2 older ones. Of course the actual radio always came from Japan.
A few quality control isues over the years.....
I have experenced a number of little quirks over the years in the quality dept.with 2010's.
In the late 80's I had 2 "Brand New" defective samples in a row. One was pretty much DOA, the next one did not work right above 20 Mhz (unit just sputtered). So in this time peroid, I gave up on the 2010. But in 1994, I purchased a new sample that worked perfect (serial number in the 355xxx area).
Other little very minor cabinet flaws that I have noticed: The mounting of the little brushed metal strip just above the LCD displays tends to vary in assembly via the factory. Somtimes it sticks out more than it should or mounted crooked. Has always been this way.
The whip antenna when viewed "de-telescoped" and in it's holder, as viewed from the straight on from the front of the set...well looks like it was not installed right, is not all the way down in it's holder (they are all like this), it sticks up a bit on the elbow end.
WIth my last sample (serial number in the 365xxx area) , the AM RF gain control is very sticky and just about impossible to slide. Thank goodness this is rarely used with me. All of my older samples never had this one.
One sample that I had purchased from a friend in the late 80's, the headphone jack was loose and lost making contact. I simply removed the rear panel, hit the contacts of the jack with a soldering iron and all was fixed.
Another was the good old memory "2 AA" battery contact problem. Most of you already know about this one, but this was really bad in the early days of the set. With the same friends set above...the actual plastic support on the + contact cracked from just the stress on it. Well of course it lost contact and the set died. I took a bat cover from a plastic 1/8 inch phone plug, filed it down a bit to fit between this cracked support and another plastic piece next to it (used a bit of super glue to hold it in), and he never had another problem with it.
Why was the ICF-2010 so great ??
When Sony had the ICF-2010-2001D on the drawing board, I think they were really trying to replace the landmark ICF-2001 model ? The ICF-2002/3 which came out in between these 2 sets was just was a entry to address the keypad failure that plauged the 2001 (with most of them too). Also to put that nasty "antenna" tuning control behind them and a bit smaller size.
But if the 2010 were to hit the market place any eariler, we more than likey would have not seen the "Sync" circuit ?
And Yes, that is the # 1 good thing about the 2010 that I like. The "Sync" mode. Not only does it decrease the fading distortion on SW signals, but also co-channel interference. And most important, we have a nice wide "bandwidth" filter to be able to use with it. All of the more current Sony sets suffer badly in the audio quality area due to the use of ONE too tight bandwidth filter. I know many will say I'm crazy, but you can keep your aftermarket "Narrow" filters ( I like the stock filters and audio). Even the SW-77 which has 2 filters..and well it's wide is way too narrow for my tastes.
In my view, Sony has NEVER equalled he "sync" mode performance in any other set. The 2010's sync locks on the weakest of signals, and stays locked (no burps). And most important does not degrade the audio of a signal when activated (unlike the sync in the old JRC NRD-535).
It's audio quality with the "Sync" on is very good, however a bit of distortion can still be noticed. More so on the peak of a fade, a bit of general distortion does poke through. This is when compared to the AOR AR7030. But being that the AR7030 is one of the the CLEANEST sets around..that's not too shabby.
I have found on my latest "made in 2000" sample, the audio is a bit more sharp and clearer. Not sure if this is a sample thing or not ?? Direct side by side test vs my 1994 sample.
A great feeling keypad. You are not directly touching your fingers on "rubber" keys either. It has a carbon-contact rubber type mat BELOW that actually makes the contact. Only after quite a few years use do might see a bit a "less spring" to them. But usually hold up well even then, provided that the set was not used in a excessive dusty / dirty area or really abused. It might take a bit more "push" of a button to make it contact after a number of years of use, but usually no more. As you might remember, this type keyboard started with the ICF-2002 model. No painted keys either, the SW-77 and SW-55 both used PAINTED keys (and yes it can and does wear off with only normal use).
And with that keypad we have "one touch" memory access for the 32 memories. Some would rather have alpha tags and all of that stuff (fewer buttons), but me..I'll take the seperate buttons anyday. The alpha tags and pages of memories can go fish with only 32 memories.
Oh.....we still have painted plastic all over the place, but at least a nice brushed black METAL bezel over the entire keypad really helps the old "finger rub" problem. We could have wished for this over the entire front (like around the volume control)...but can't have everything.
For the most part great sensitivity, and a nice line out jack (even if it's only at the "very low" mic level), above average s-metering round out why I still like this set.
Oh yes we cannot forget about the tuning knob. This set has it and works just fine. A must have indeed !!! However I would have liked to seen a 5 Khz step for the SW bands.
On the Downside....
Well it's not perfect, and what is.
For starters this is NOT a set for any serious SSB listening. It does not tune fine enough, only 100 hz steps. Also there is an excessive amount of distortion is present. This was noticed much more on my latest "late 2001"sample (serial number in the 365xxx area) . Fiddling with the RF gain control can help a bit (decrease the input level), but does not really fix the problem. If you plan on doing most of your listening on SSB, better choose a different receiver. Even the ICF-SW7600GR pars better here. But for SW/MW broadcasting that uses AM mode..the great sync/wide bandwidth filter more than makes up for this for my uses.
It can overload on a good external outdoor antenna, more so during peak signal strengths (say 41 and 49 meters at night). The 2 step attenuator usually fixes the problem, but not always.
Again in my view it was the best SW receiver that Sony EVER made, quirks and all.
SONY's Worst "Digital Display" SW Receiver : CRF-1
The "problem prone" Sony CRF-1
If you want to avoid one model SW receiver on the used market , this is it !!
(Yes, I did indeed owned one of these and was a royal pain to use.)
The CRF-1 came onto the market in
1980 and never sold well for Sony. Cabinet construction : Metal
bottom , painted plastic top and bare gray plastic rear panel. Di-cast
painted metal front panel. BNC antenna connector. This was a
weird receiver to say the least. Performance was good, however in
my view the ICF-2010 above (ICF-2001D) beat it out easy. It goes
down for the biggest "pain in the rump" as far
as ease of operation I have ever used on a SW receiver , portable
or tabletop. Every 100 khz you had to pull the knob out to slide
over to the next 100 khz segment (then push it back in, then find
were you were in that segment). I will admit that the audio was
pretty good in the "super wide" bandwidth selection.
Only so-so dynamic range, good sensitivity but the CRF-1's real performance downside is it had a very noisy synthesizer. Another set that required a pre-selector to be tuned, and was pretty sharp. It did have a preselector bypass switch, but did not work well when out of line. These can be had in the used market once in awhile for excessive prices, but beware as the 4 weird panel (dial) lamps burned out fast and the volume control were known to fail more than not.
WARNING : Total "Synthesizer Failure" is very common with the CRF-1 and the "Sony Custom Made" CX-764 IC that goes out can no longer be purchased (see photo below) . The analog power supply went into the empty battery cavity (yes it's a normal analog supply being used here, not a switching type).
WARNING : The Sony CX-764 custom IC is very prone to failure in the CRF-1's.
It contains the synthesizer , frequency display/counter and control circuits all in this one IC. Of course you cannot buy them anymore.
So if (more like when) it dies, turns the CRF-1 into a great looking expensive paperweight.
Back To Main Page