TECSUN'S FLAGSHIP RADIO
I've had my eye on an S2000 for quite a long time and even when I was ready to buy one a coupe of years ago, I chose to hold back again and opted for the PL-680 instead. And to be honest, I don't regret that decision because the PL-680 has been a fantastic radio - I just love it. It's been a joy to operate and to own - a little treasure.
But sometimes, you want something that little bit bigger - something with more accessible buttons and dials - something with a bit more heft - enter the Tecsun S2000!
My initial reason for not buying an S2000 was its size. In all the magazine and online reviews, it looked like a big ghetto blaster and it wasn't until I saw one in the flesh that I realised how compact they actually were. Sure, they're not tiny, but they are not as big as they look in photos.
For many people, the appearance of a radio is what initially catches one's eye. The S2000 is certainly a piece of eye-candy and that bulky, almost military style with chromed grab handles, big tuning dial and slightly retro signal meter really grabs your attention. But a pretty face isn't everything. This good lookin' gal has to perform as well!
You will hear that the Tecsun S2000 is really a Grundig Satellit 750 and to be honest, that's no bad thing, but the Tecsun version actually has a little extra in the form of an IF-OUT (more on that later). In all other regards, the 2000 and 750 are identical. Needless to say, some will always make claims to the 'superiority' of the Grundig model, but the truth is, the only real difference is the badge! Anyway, Grundig went bankrupt years ago!
The other reason for me not buying an S2000 up to now, was the cost. Some people sell these things for a ridiculous price and it seems that some are foolish enough to pay it! I've even see them sell at £444 😮 even though the MRRP is closer to £300.
Well even £300 is too much for me when it comes to something which will only have occasional use, so I opted to do what I almost always do - find a minter second-hand and that's exactly what I did here. I found one for sale at £180 on FaceBook MarketPlace and the seller was just around the corner from me.
The radio was described as MINT, BOXED and sure enough it was. You couldn't tell it from new and so I snapped it up and took it to its new home. I put it in the corner of my lounge and gave the box to my wife to wrap as a Christmas present to put under the tree 😂
As I switched the radio on for the first time and played around with the dial in FM mode, my first impression was that this was a neat radio and one which was pretty well built. All the knobs felt tight and responsive. The dial was nice and smooth with just the right amount of resistance. Everything was very clearly labelled and I didn't have to pick up the manual - not even for storing frequencies in memory. Mind you, I do own another Tecsun.
On FM all the stations were pulled in with absolute ease and I noticed that the signal didn't really change when I switched from my external AOR SA-7000 to the built-in telescopic whip - so that's good! The only odd bit was when I tuned to ClassicFM - it was a cleaner signal through the telescopic whip than through the external antenna - and it wasn't a case of overload.
But FM is only a tiny part of my interest in this radio - my main interest is ShortWave and AirBand. Like the PL-680, the S2000 has AM, MW, LW, FM, LSB and USB modes, so there's not much it can't do. In the bottom right corner of the front panel it has a BFO dial which provides that all important fine tuning of SSB signals (bearing in mind that the lowest tuning resolution is 1KHz via the big dial). One mode which is sadly absent is CW but the signals can be heard quite well using the Narrow bandwidth filter.
The radio is littered with nice features including two 50ohm BNC sockets for external antennas (one marked FM and the other marked SW). That's a fabulous and highly valued feature to me. Below those are a couple of snap-lock connectors for a high impedance SW antenna. Also in this cluster is a switch to swap from Internal/External antennas. Nice!
Antenna options don't end there though! On top of the radio is a rotatable AM antenna which works incredibly well. At first, it just looks to be part of the radio cabinet, but it soon becomes apparent that it can be rotated (either way) to find the best MW/LW signal. And there's more! Using the 3.5mm jack-plug in the center of the AM antenna, you can plug in an external antenna or even something like Tecsun's own AN100/200 LOOP antennas.
The S2000 has other useful connectors including the usual stereo 3.5mm headphone jack, a 3.5mmstereo Line-In jack and a pair of RCA sockets for stereo Line Out. And then of course, there's that IF-OUT.
Although the Line In/Out connections make sense, I can't really understand the point of the IF output.To use it for a panadapter for example, you'd need to inject that signal into an SDR device such as the SDRPLAY RSP1A and a computer. Well if you had an RSP1A and a computer, there's not much point plugging the S2000 into the loop - the RSP1A would do a much better job anyway. I guess you could use it to connect to some sort of demodulator for DRM, but it just seems like too much faffing around to me.
So what's the receiver like? Well without posting lots of video examples (there's already loads on YouTube), I'd simply say that I'm quite happy with it. For comparisons, I connected it to the same antenna as used on my ICOM IC-7300 - it's an EFHW. Before comparing the two radios, I switched off the pre-amp, noise-blanker and noise reduction on the 7300.
Using a high quality antenna switch, I tuned both radios to LW/MW frequencies and switched between the two. I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of difference between them. Sure, the SDR technology inside the Icom did a better job than the Tecsun, but the latter was perfectly audible and on some stations, even better!
The SSB performance test wasn't easy because at the time of testing, there were very few HAM stations on air. I managed to find one on 40M, 20M and 80M. Even though you can only tune in minimum steps of 1KHz, you can then turn to the BFO dial and fine tune the signal. It's not 100% perfect (as none of these radios are) but it's good enough. It's only when you're trying to hear very weak stations that frustration creeps in. Overall though, I think I'm going to be very satisfied with the S2000 when conditions are better.
In fact, that's what I like about these portable radios - I can sit wherever I like such as a comfy couch in the lounge or conservatory, idly flicking through the bands and then when I find something that really interests me, I can go to the shack and pull out the big guns. It's great when you're tuning through and hear a Radio Ham who you've been chasing for months and hear him on your portable, allowing you to go work him/her on a transceiver.
The noise floor and general sensitivity of the S2000 is quite good and I don't really have any complaints. When I've read elsewhere that people have struggled with a radio (any radio), I've come to realise that something may work for someone in one location very well and not for someone else in a different location. It's the same with antennas - many people say that a G5RV is not very good and yet at my QTH, I find them to be quite effective and have worked the world with one at QRP levels.
Without doubt, this radio (and any other) will benefit from an Antenna Tuning Unit when using a long wire antenna. I found an old GLOBAL COUPLER AT-1000 which works a treat. They're cheap and worth every penny. As for MW/LW, the rotatable antenna on top of the radio is amazingly effective. I really was surprised by this.
The squelch is a little odd. It seems to quieten the background noise rather than provide a clear-cut threshold. Maybe I'm doing something wrong - I'll investigate more and update this post.
The S2000 has lots of memories for each band and it's incredibly easy to store stations that you've found - it's just a case of pressing the M button briefly, then choosing a location to store it and holding the M button for a couple of seconds.
The AirBand reception was pretty good through my AOR SA-7000 antenna but Manchester Airport's ATIS signal sounded a little weaker than I'm used to, so I need to look into that a little more. I might try putting my AirBand Filter inline and see if that makes a difference. I need to bear in mind though, that I normally listen to the Airband on a dedicated AirBand radio connected to a colinear mounted much higher up than the SA-7000. This is why you have to be careful not to make unfair comparisons. I'll update on this later.
The audio from the S2000 suits me perfectly well. It's great for Broadcast radio (especially FM) and it's good in other modes as long as you adjust the tone controls to suit the modulation and noise levels. No use moaning about muffled signals on SSB when you've got the tone settings all wrong.
Up to now I've only used the S2000 on internal battery power (4xD Cells). Apparently, the radio has quite a reputation for long battery life, so I'll keep it on DC until the cells expire, then try it on Mains via the supplied psu. It's worth pointing out that the centre-pin of the power supply is ground which is not typical, so don't be plugging in any old 6V supply you have hanging around.
Construction and overall quality of the Tecsun S2000 is good. It's tough, it's attractive and it seems to be well made. Sure, there's a little play to be felt in the large tuning dial, but I've witnessed similar levels of play in much more expensive radios!
Although this is really a desktop radio, I'm quite looking forward to slinging it in the car in Spring and having a play outdoors, higher up than my home QTH. I reckon it'll be a lot of fun. I also think I'll come to love this radio like I do my PL-680. In fact, I will try to do a side-by-side comparison of the two over the weekend and report back. I'll try my ELECRAFT AX-1 on it too!
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73, Tom, M7MCQ.
I managed to get hold of a Tecsun AN200 Loop antenna and tried it on both the S2000 and the PL-680. I have to tell you that it was DEFINITELY inferior to the radios internal ferrite bar! No doubt about it whatsoever! Don't waste your money if buying it to use with either of those two great radios.
I'll try the loop with some other (cheaper) transistor radios and see if it makes an improvement there, but it certainly doesn't improve reception on the S2000 or PL-680.
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73, Tom, M7MCQ.