Monday, 30 January 2017

Sony SW35 Review

I said last year that I would write a review of my new Sony SW35. Well I have been using the radio on and off for 12 months now and want to write a few comments. Not really a review but to help anyone thinking about buying one to make a decision.

At first I was disappointed with the SW35. Compared to the Tecsun PL660 it picked up lots of local noise and is less sensitive on HF. I didn't use it very much, except for a bit of morning Medium Wave DXing as it is really good on that band. But right from the word go I really liked the memory pages. They were such a pleasure to scroll through, store, and over-write. So much so that I found myself coming back to it again and again just to check for activity on my favourite frequencies.
On page one, for example, I stored BBC Radio 4, Radio 3 and a couple of other local FM stations. On page two, several of my favourite MW stations. In page three my best morning stations on HF, and page four for my favourite daytime ones. Each page stores 10 channels which suited me perfectly. Then, all you have to do to check through the morning HF stations is switch on and repeatedly press the "Page 3" button to scroll through. It is intuitive and a real pleasure to use after the Tecsun's complicated memory system. It reminds me of my old Sony SW7600GR as far as memories were concerned.

As I said, it is not the most sensitive radio on HF and a bit noisy if there are lots of local noise sources around. MW was very sensitive and less prone to noise.

Sound quality is quite pleasant and easy to listen to: a nice balance between lows and highs. It is not as punchy and bassy as the Tecsun PL660,  but that being said, the AGC circuit is better, so it can end up being a little more comfortable to listen to. The Tecsun's poor AGC results in the sound "whooshing" up and down if there are very large fluctuations in the signal level, even causing the sync detector to come out of lock. So although the sound reproduction is richer and bassier on the PL660, you need a nice steady signal to benefit from it. Otherwise it can be a bit head-doing. Personally, as a main portable, I prefer the bass and loud, rich tones of the PL660. But as a secondary radio for listening before I am properly awake, the Sony fits the bill best.

Another thing I should mention is the lack of a keypad. If this were your only radio, you may find it inconvenient. I would. But as I only do 15 to 20 mins listening on the Sony each morning, I am not jumping around the bands very much. Each season as the frequency schedules change, I put my favourites (China Radio, BBC World Service, Vatican Radio, VOA, Radio Romania, Voice of Turkey, Radio Farda, Voice of Greece, ORF Austria for the classical music..... I put the new frequencies in the memories and tend to just scroll through them. Latrely, it must be said, I have done a bit more searching around. But for this I use the search facility, where I let it tune up through the band and it stops on the first active frequency. If I want to listen to it or store it, I stop the scan. And if I don't I just let it carry on up to the next active frequency. So I can honestly say I don't miss the keypad at all, and even like the difference. It every radio were the same it might get a bit boring. I think actually that is a valid point. Part of the radio hobby itself is testing and buying new equipment. It's nice to have a variety of brands and types of radio. Then the very fact you are using a different radio can enrich the hobby.

It is NOT the radio to buy if you want a sensitive radio to pick up distant DX stations. But as a back up radio by your bedside table (this is what I wanted it for) it is perfect.

At first I really missed an external aerial socket. I wanted to connect my homemade loop to null out noise on HF and thought long and hard about making a socket by drilling into the cabinet. I am so glad I didn't  do that now! It is best kept as a portable radio and if you accept it limitations as a DX set you will enjoy it a whole lot more.

These past few days I have had it on my bedside table to tune into Voice of Greece and Voice of Turkey, BBC WS via Ascension, Vatican Radio etc in the local mornings with my cup of tea. They are not weak signals and though my Tecsun may've made a better job at receiving them, I find I enjoy using the Sony a little more. It's nice to have one or two different makes of radio about the house and to enjoy each one differently.

By the way, in closing, I used to use a Tecsun PL310 as my morning bedside table set. I went off using that little radio as I didn't like the DSP processed audio and the buttons were awkward to press firmly. The SW35 was to replace that radio and I'm glad I got it now.