Review: Tecsun PL365 Hand Held Portable Radio Receiver

Republished from March 2016 Oxtales.  Review by Henry VK2ZHE.  This radio is also sold overseas as the County Comm GP-5/SSB.

pl365 FrontSide AntennaThe Tecsun PL365 radio is a recently released compact hand held multiband radio receiver covering 150 kHz to 30 MHz plus the FM broadcast band from 76 to 108 MHz.  Like many modern radios the PL-365 uses DSP technology to achieve state of the art performance.  Of interest to Radio Amateurs is the excellent SSB reception with selectable upper and lower sideband.  The frequency stability is outstanding as the radio uses DDS to provide 1 kHz tuning steps on the HF bands.  In the SSB mode it has fine tuning in 10 Hz steps to enable transmissions to be perfectly resolved even if they are not on an exact kilohertz frequency.  The AM reception is excellent.  On the FM broadcast band the FM quality is very good on the internal speaker in mono but excellent FM stereo may be heard by plugging in the supplied external earphones.

The Tecsun PL365 is very sensitive with surprising HF reception using just the in built short telescopic whip antenna.  The radio is supplied with a 5 metre long wire antenna which may be clipped onto the telescopic whip to improve reception when signals are weak.  The receiver has a 3.5 mm phono external antenna socket on its top panel so an external antenna can easily be connected.  I have used a 3.5 mm phono plug to BNC socket adaptor to connect the radio to my HF station antennas.  The PL-365 could hear any signal that could be heard on my station receivers.  The adaptor is not supplied with the receiver but are readily available.  It is a suggested accessory available from Tecsun Australia.

Reception in the AM mode is excellent with particularly good quality.  However, it is the outstanding SSB reception capability that sets the PL-365 apart from other portable receivers.  The PL-365 has selectable USB and LSB modes with fine tuning in 10 Hz steps to enable transmissions to be perfectly resolved even if they are not on an exact kilohertz frequency.  The DDS tuning accuracy and stability is outstanding.  I found that SSB stations which are on an exact kilohertz step are perfectly resolved without having to be fine tuned.  This is the case with marine and aviation transmissions.  These days, most Amateur stations operate on exact kilohertz steps so most stations en countered when tuning the bands will be perfectly resolved without having to be fine tuned.  Being a DSP radio the SSB band width is automatically set.  While not as selective as the receivers in good quality Amateur transceivers, the PL-365 acquits itself very well on busy Amateur bands.  The quality of the recovered audio is very acceptable with a noticeable absence of the “pumping” effects exhibited by most analogue portable radios.

I regularly listen the VK2WI Sunday evening broadcasts from Dural on 3595 kHz LSB on my PL-365 receiver using just its telescopic whip.  It is very comfortable listening and the drift-free SSB reception is definitely state of the art for such a compact portable receiver.

The longwave and AM medium wave broadcast band sensitivity is very good without connecting an external antenna.  The receiver has a 3.5 mm phono external antenna socket on its top panel.  Supplied with the radio is a ferrite rod antenna for the AM medium wave band.  Plugging this antenna into the receiver provides a very worthwhile improvement.  At Port Macquarie reception of the Kempsey 684 and 531 kHz AM broadcast stations is very good on the PL-365 on the radio alone.  Plugging in the external ferrite rod enables the Sydney ABC station at Liverpool on 702 kHz to be heard during daylight hours.  To further enhance long distance AM medium wave reception Tecsun offer an optional AN-100 AM Loop Antenna.  The Loop Antenna is tuneable to the desired frequency.  It does not have to be physically connected to the PL-365 as it will couple directly into the radio’s antenna just by being placed in close proximity.  However, the AN-100 has a 3.5 mm phono coupling socket so a jumper lead with a 3.5 mm plug at each end can be used to connect the loop antenna to the radio via the external antenna socket on the radio.  A lead with mono plugs should be used but many stereo leads will work.  The advantage of using the connection lead is that the loop antenna can be more easily placed and oriented for best reception.  With this arrangement it is possible to comfortably listen to the Sydney ABC station at Liverpool on 702 kHz during daylight hours at Port Macquarie.

The PL-365 receiver utilises the SiLabs Si4735 chipset.  This is the same chipset that Tecsun uses in its top end portable receivers.  The audio clarity of received signals is improved by utilising Digital Signal Processing (DSP) technology to process the received audio and cancel out any background and RF noise.  This gives the radio a distinctive sound when it is receiving just noise.  Unlike many earlier generation DSP implementations, the audio quality of received signals is excellent.

Amongst the many features supported by the Si4735 chipset is the display of signal strength in dBuV and display of signal to noise ratio in dB.  A nice touch is the option to alternatively display the air temperature or the time.  There is an alarm facility and a selectable sleep timer.  The state of the battery is displayed via a battery symbol.

One side benefit of the Si4735 chipset is the remarkable battery life of the Tecsun PL365.  It will operate for a maximum of 225 hours on a set of three Alkaline AA cells!  The PL365 may be optionally operated from three rechargeable AA cells.  It has internal charging capabilities to recharge the AA cells via the radio’s USB connection port.  Rechargeable cells are not provided as most users will find the radio economical to operate on alkaline cells.  The PL365 receiver supports the Tecsun patented Easy Tune Method (ETM) which is a one touch automatic scan and memorise feature that scans the selected band and stores received signals in a temporary memory allowing for quick selection between stored signals.  This feature is particularly useful when travelling, or if wanting to find out the state of HF propagation at any time.  Using this feature is much quicker than manually checking each band for signals.

The PL365 has 450 memory channels so favourite frequencies can be stored for instant recall without having to manually tune them.  One of the few omissions from the radio’s many features is the absence of the ability to directly enter frequencies.  All the memory channels are tuneable though so this is less of a problem if a memory channel is available close in frequency to a wanted new frequency.

Despite the relatively small 40 mm diameter speaker the available sound level is very good with 0.5 Watts of audio available.  Plugging in an external stereo headset enables FM stereo transmissions to be heard in full stereo.  The headphone audio quality in all modes is excellent.

The dimensions of the PL365 radio is 53 x 159 x 26mm.  The form factor as a tall narrow and thin radio makes it very ergonomic to hold and use.  It is pocketable in a deep pocket but it also has a belt clip.  The supplied good quality soft case has a Velcro top flap to securely hold the radio when it is closed.  The soft case also has a belt loop.

The PL365 receiver is available here from Tecsun Australia for only $88.00 plus postage  It comes with a 12 month Australian warranty.

I knew I wanted a Tecsun PL365 radio receiver the moment I saw its specifications on line.  The nicest surprise was they very reasonable price, and the fact that it was available locally with an Australian warranty.  I placed my order on line and paid the extra for Express Post delivery as I couldn’t wait to get it.  To say that I am impressed with the radio is an understatement!  Now, if only it had keypad entry of frequency, it would be absolutely perfect!

2 replies on “Review: Tecsun PL365 Hand Held Portable Radio Receiver”

  1. Marcel Deneumostier ON7DH says:

    I found a little trick to see the signal-to-noise ratio, normally you have to press several times (4x) on the display button but if you activate the key lock function you can see the signal to noise ratio by pressing any key (except the display key). It also works with the tuning knob.

    Regards.

    • Paul VK2ICQ says:

      Thanks Marcel, that’s handy to know. I’ll pass the info onto the PL365 owners in the club – there’s a few of them now! 🙂

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