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Review of the Tecsun PL-380 AM/FM/Shortwave Receiver


I am a technological person.  As such, I was fascinated by new technology in radio equipment.  Looking at other reviews and cost factors, I decided to purchase the PL-380.

Features and specifications:

AM (MW) and FM broadcast band. (9 and 10 kHz spacing)
LW  153-513 Khz
Shortwave: 2300 to 21950 kHz (AM only)
Digital Signal Processor (DSP)
Backlit multifunction LCD display
AM IF bandwidth : 1, 2, 3, 4, 6kHz.
Easy Tuning mode and Auto tuning storage finds and stores active frequencies.
Clock, alarm and sleep timer.
Signal strength indicator.
Built-in battery charging system for rechargeable batteries.

Ease of Operation

You can direct enter a frequenciy in all modes.  Also, you can use the tuning wheel on the side to move through frequencies.
A single press of the ETM button will scan through all frequencies and store them in temporary memory.  After the scan is complete, you can then scroll through the stored frequencies.  These frequencies stay stored until overwritten.  The ATS function works in similar fashion; but stores frequencies in a memory which can be manually edited, either additions or deletions from a "permanent" set of memory channels.

The signal strength display shows signal in microvolts, as well as Signal to noise ratio. 

The radio has a USB port to charge rechargeable batteries.  It is a smart charger that turns off after a full charge.  You know to charge when the battery level displayed on screen gets low.

I find the radio very simple to operate.  In some cases, consulting the manual is needed; but it seems less complicated than many radios I have used.

Performance Review:

How does it actually work?

AM and FM reception in local areas is very good.  Naturally, the small speaker won't get you high fidelity sound; but it is very good for the speaker size.  There is a stereo headphone jack and included earbuds, which will allow you to listen to FM stereo and help listen to noisy far away AM and SW stations.

On distant AM station reception it isn't bad.  It is not great.  Certainly not up to par with a Superradio or other radio designed for AM performance.  The ferrite rod antenna is small, and this takes away from performance.

On shortwave, the built in antenna is fair.  Strong stations are easily picked up.  You won't get the rare stations.  There is no external antenna jack.  The radio comes with a wire antenna that attaches to the built in antenna.  This improves reception dramatically. 

This radio does NOT have single-sideband (SSB), and there it is not full coverage as indicated in the specifications above.  As a result, you will not be able to monitor ham radio, as well as a lot of utility stations.  This is not unexpected for a radio in this price point.  This radio does not have synch detection that compensates for signal fading.

The DSP chip has some control of an automatic gain control that helps with some signal fading.  The DSP will not eliminate noise; but it minimizes it to a degree.  The IF bandwidth is controlled by the DSP and is VERY useful for distant stations.  Fidelity is reduced the narrower you go; but noise is reduced, as well as an improvement in readability.

I consider this radio very good for travel and casual use.  As an ultralight receiver it is a good performer relatively speaking.  It is, however, by no means a hard-core "DXers" radio.  Audio quality is good, and received stations can be understood well.

Final Thoughts


This radio is classified as an "ultralight" by shortwave enthusiasts.  Shipped, the radio cost me about $50.  This radio performs well for what it was designed for.  It has a good "cool factor" with the latest digital signal processing technology.  10 years ago the performance levels versus price would not have been possible in a radio this size.  Hard core listeners may stay away from it; but casual SW and MW dxers will have fun with it. 

I like it.