SONY ICF-2010 SW RECEIVER

Sony's ICF-2010 (2001D outside North America)

(Of course these are my comments, your views may be different ?)

NOTE: Discontinued Receiver.

A Bit of History

The 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 it was known 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 has 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" SMT parts (the resistors still had color bands on them). I cannot say actually when, but in later years this was changed to standard SMT parts that we see today.

Also diode(s) have been 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. But I would not put alot of trust in this, still best to pull a external antenna from the set when not in use.

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 new one is rated 4.5V @ 700ma..a bit higher current rating than the 2 before it. I find this new chinese adapter to be a bit cleaner as well (no low level hum) than the older ones. Of course the actual radio still comes 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.

My current sample's (serial number in the 365xxx area) 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.

With 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 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 set of my friends 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 is 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 ICF-2001? The ICF-2002/3 which came out inbetween these 2 sets..just was a entry to address the keypad failure that plauged the 2001. 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 will be keeping mine stock and enjoy the better 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 yet to duplicate the "sync" mode performance in any other set yet since (not even close). 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 or 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 minor 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.

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 a 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 !!!

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 . This is not fine enough. Also 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-SW7600G 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 does tend to overload on a good external outdoor antenna fairly easy, more so during peak signal strengths (say 41 and 49 meters at night). The 2 step attenuator usually fixes the problem, but not always.

What I would like to see or not see on the next Sony superset...

Ok, here is what "Dave" would like to see or changed on Sony's next superset (If we ever see another one in our lifetime??).

- Additional steps for tuning knob. 5 khz and 10 hz steps and a pushbutton to toggle these steps.(So we would have 4 tuning knob steps : 5 khz / 1 khz / 100 hz and 10 hz.

- Frequency display down to 10 hz.

- Add slewing tuning pushbuttons.

- Dial light that stays on with AC Adapter use. Also improved lighting would be a plus.

- Cleaner, less distorted SSB mode.

- No more slide controls. Make volume and RF gain good old knobs.

- 3 Bandwidth Filters : 2.2~2.5 Khz / 5.5~6.5 Khz and last but not least keep the 9.0~11 Khz filter.

- Keep the sync circuit 100% EXACTLY as it is...DON'T TOUCH IT IN ANY WAY !!

- Keep the tuning knob just the way it is (Size, type and placement)...DON'T TOUCH IT IN ANY WAY !!!!

- Keep the 32 one touch memory pushbuttons (dreaming I know here). Forget the alpha tags / pages..etc...etc...

- A REAL ANALOG S-meter !!

- Seperate BASS and TREBLE tone controls.

- Improve the "Tape Recorder output" (not at the current low mic level..make it a good line level)

- No more "memory batteries" (use EEPROM which is no problem these days)

- Could care less about FM Stereo (with headphones), put the money in the SW receiver.

In my view, simply the best Sony has ever offered (or might be the best ever ??) .

Dave Z


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