When we first started testing shortwave receivers in 1977, the best portable
was the $200-250 Panasonic RF-2800, sold in Japan as the National DR-28. Not
only was this double-conversion model the top performer for world band, but
also FM and mediumwave AM, with excellent audio and continuous bass and treble
More importantly, although the 2800 was analog-tuned, it featured something
relatively new in a portable: digital frequency readout, using LEDs. Yet, thanks
to its traditional analog circuitry it had virtually none of the audible circuit hiss, nor
any of the chugging, that tended to plague later portables with digitally synthesized
The 2800 and its successor, the similar RF-2900, went out of production
after a few years, but it appears that somebody in China never quite forgot
how pleasant this radio was. Now, decades later, Tecsun has come up with the
but smaller and with single conversion. Priced in China at under RMB400 ($50),
it sets a new standard for value. It is marketed in
under the Grundig label as the S350 Aeronautical Design. In the
United States, the S350 is
available from established Grundig dealers for $99.95. In
Canada it is available from RadioShack, HBC.com and other
vendors for CAN$149.95.
Built-in Power Transformer
The BCL-2000 measures10 3/4 x 6 15/16 x 3 1/2 inches (272 x 177 x 90 mm), including
all extremities except the carrying strap, and weighs 4.7 pounds (2.1 kg) with
batteries. This is a skosh beefier than the four-pound (1.8 kg) ICF-2010, recently
discontinued. This results partly from an inboard 220V AC power supply, so
you dont have to tote around a separate wall wart, just a removable
power cord thats supplied with the radio. Too, it uses four D cells;
while these add to weight and size, this along with low power consumption ensures
that battery changes will be an infrequent exercise.
The radio also comes with a clever carrying strap that doubles as a comfortable
padded handleits the best weve ever come across on a world
band radio. Also included is
an owner's manual that's only in Chinese, and for travelers there's an
easy-to-use clock-radio timer.
Our clock came set to 12-hour
format, but a helpful Chinese source points out that it can be toggled
between that and 24-hour format by holding down the Hour button for six
seconds. We tried it, and it works.
North Americans returning from China with a 2000 can power it from local
current by using a travel 220>120V AC transformerthe $15-18 Franzus
FR-22 is ideal. Or a 120V AC>6V DC adaptor with center-pin negative can be
connected to the receivers DC input.
The Grundig version for North America
operates from 120V AC using an outboard AC adaptor supplied with the radio.
By using a UL/CE certified adaptor instead of an inboard power supply, the
radio itself doesn't have to be UL or CE certified, which saves Grundig
Snappy Looks, Handy Operation
Henry Ford famously quipped that you could have a Ford in any color, so long
as it was black. Tecsun, however, marches to a different drummer, as there
are currently three color combinations with more possibly forthcoming. The
BCL-2000 comes in either a razzleberry red cabinet with black trim — the
above photo doesn't do it
justice — or all-black
Grundig S350 variation has an all-titanium-colored finish
with black knobs and handle.
All versions are attractive and come with brushed-aluminum accents. However,
our users, in a burst of unabashed subjectivity, preferred the Ferrari-like
red/black eyeful to Grundigs tasteful Teutonic titanium.
Operation is refreshingly simple. Tuning is by a two-speed tuning knob and
a pair of bandswitches, with three bands for shortwave: approximately
2925-8150, 7840-17325 and 16835-28495 kHzno presets, no slew or scan controls,
no keypad, no RS232 port. There are two continuous tone controls, bass and treble,
along with RF gain and volume controls. Add to that seven buttons for power,
clock/timer and LCD illumination, along with an IC-reset detent, and thats
the full roster of controls except for attenuator and mono-stereo switches
on the right side of the cabinet.
Ergonomics are reasonable, including a high-contrast LCD with an eight-bar signal
strength indicator and separate six-bar battery level display to supplement the
large digits for frequency and clock information. However, ergonomics would have
fared even better had the locations of the volume and RF gain controls been swapped.
Too, the black-on-black knob indicator detents are nigh invisible; applying Wite-Out
or white paint with a fine brush, awl or round toothpick resolves this.
Getting from here to there with the concentric two-speed (4:1) tuning
knob and shortwave bandswitch is fast and easy, although even the slow (inner)
knob requires a steady hand to tune precisely. As the 2000 doesnt
demodulate single-sideband signals, this arrangement works out reasonably well.
Visual inspection suggests that the quality of construction is at least average,
perhaps a tad better, but only time will tell.
The '2000 is full of surprises—many good, some not, and the first of the
latter becomes apparent after you turn on the radio. The power switch turns
out to be nothing but a snooze-timer control to let the radio to stay on up
to 90 minutes before it automatically shuts off. This is great for lulling
you to sleep, but if you listen for long stretches it can be disconcerting
for a newscast to go dead in the middle of an important report.
Theres no way around this except to turn on the radio again. We first
encountered this unwelcome peculiarity with the Kchibo KK-S320 tested for PASSPORT 2003,
so presumably some of Chinas world band engineers hang out at the same
tearoom or at least share some weird chips.
Another drawback is the analog tuning system which, like that of the Panasonic
RF-2800, is a maze of string, gears and pulleys connected to potentially drifty
variable capacitors. The result: frequency drift of 2-4 kHz per hour. Compounding
this, the chip used for the frequency counters reading drifts with changes
in temperature. Finally, on our unit the wide bandwidth filter is so asymmetrical
that center-tuning by ear on mediumwave AM results in an additional 2 kHz frequency
error on top of all the rest.
Tecsun appears to be keenly aware of the excessive drifting, and may be
working to reduce it in later production units.
But the worst shortcoming is poor image rejection, as this degrades listening
quality. As the 2000, like nearly all under-$100 models, is only single-conversion,
images appear 910 kHz below fundamental signals. This bothers many stations,
regardless of their frequency, but is especially problematic within the 60 meter
tropical segment. For example, a powerful station on 5745 kHz will repeat at
lesser strength on 4835 kHz, causing a variable-pitched whistle and program chatter
to bother whatever tropical band station might be roosting on 4835 kHz. Better-rated
radios just dont do this.
Great Audio, Interesting Performance
In other respects, world band performance can be a pleasant surprise. Even
though only a three-inch (75 mm) unbaffled speaker is used, audio quality,
modest distortion, is markedly superior to that found on the vast majority
of world band portables. This is aided by continuous bass and treble controlsa
rarity, even among costly world band tabletop modelsand theres plenty
of power for room-filling sound. Why cant Sony have audio like this on
portables costing several times more?
The "SW LPF"
switch, which activates a 30 MHz low-pass RF filter, also winds up acting as
an attenuator—presumably because of insertion loss. It or the RF gain control
can be used to reduce overloadingand sensitivityas can shortening
the telescopic antenna.
There are separate antenna inputs for short/mediumwave and FM, but given
that the 2000 is already pushing the overloading envelope with just the telescopic
antenna, most wont bother with external antennas.
Selectivity, or adjacent-channel rejection, is much better than is customarily
found on low-cost portables. Two well-chosen bandwidths, rather than the one
almost invariably found in this price class, provide flexibility in balancing
the specific interference vs. audio fidelity requirements of any given
This combination of high sensitivity, flexible selectivity and superior audio
makes the 2000 unusually pleasant for listening to world band programs.
Mediumwave AM Potential Unrealized
The 2000s mediumwave AM performance has much going for it, including
excellent sensitivity with low circuit noise, worthy directionality from the
built-in ferrite loop antenna, flexible and appropriate selectivity, and superior
audio quality. However, images and other spurious signals, as well as overloading,
tend to intrude with no end of annoying internally generated interference,
especially at night. This greatly diminishes what otherwise would have been
We will be doing further testing in other
parts of North America to see what impact location may have on mediumwave
Coverage is approximately 520-1640 kHz, which misses the 1650-1700 kHz segment
of the new X band. The Grundig version expands this coverage
upward to around 1730 kHz.
FM Reception Generally Superior
FM acquits itself very well. Sensitivity is very good, while selectivity and
capture ratio are at least average. There is only some overloading in the presence
of powerful nearby transmitters.
Audio quality isnt in the same league as a Kloss-designed radio, but
is unusually pleasant for a world band portable, and this makes all the difference
on FM. Alas, even though there is a mono-stereo switch and stereo line outputs,
only mono is available at the earphone
socket, although this may be upgraded to stereo units produced later this
The Tecsun BCL-2000 is not for shortwave or mediumwave AM DXers, nor for those
chasing utility or ham signals. But for the millions who enjoy listening to
news and entertainment over the world band airwaves, the 2000 is a bargain,
with superior FM thrown in. Its straightforward to operate, has excellent
sound and is priced to move.
||Beware of a quasi-counterfeit clone labeled ECB 2000, also produced in China.
Lawrence Magne, Janette Porcelet and Chewei Wang.