Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sangean ATS 909 (first impressions)

Bought myself a new receiver for Christmas. Yes, yet another one. Here's some blabla about my first impressions.

For €199.- the package contains, the receiver (oh well...), some earphones and a 110/230V power supply with an adapter for American sockets. OK, and a very short manual.

When first attempting to engage... nothing... ???? Ahhh, by factory default, the keys are locked. That was a surprise, honestly.

There are a couple of features not really standard to such receivers. One is RDS which can be used to automatically program the internal clock. Interestingly enough, the clock can be set to two time zones and daylight saving time can be toggled by a single key. Speaking of "FM", the tuning range is 76 to 108MHz. There are two memory pages for FM, which can be programmed automatically (aka. ATS) by a single key.

The ATS also can be used for medium wave and long wave. The feature scans the respective band and stores the strongest stations to memory channels.

The MW channel spacing can be selected to 9kHz or 10kHz at a well accessible switch on the right side panel. This side panel also carries switches for "auto time set", "tone" (news/normal/music) and AM bandwidth next to a potentiometer for volume and a rotary tuning encoder.
The left side panel houses connection for DC, headphones, line-out, record trigger and external antenna. Also to be found, a potentiometer for RF gain (nice touch!).

Now to the more interesting things, short wave and first impressions as a grabber receiver.
Frequencies can be selected in a couple of ways, hacking it in by using the key pad, up and down tuning keys (5kHz steps) or the rotary encoder on the right side panel. The steps of the encoder can be toggled between 1kHz/40Hz in SSB mode and 5kHz/1Khz in AM mode, a third position disables the encoder. Since fine tuning in USB/LSB is 40Hz, there is no need for a clarifier, which therefore is not present.
When tuning, the receiver mutes whenever the frequency changes by 1kHz, even when using 40Hz steps. Within the kHz, the receiver does not mute. Seems some PLL locking.

One interesting feature is the memory system. Whenever a frequency is typed in which is stored in somewhere, the memory system changes to the memory page which the frequency is stored in. The mode is change to the stored mode.

During the first night, the receiver was very unstable and drifted a lot, the QRSS test was very difficult, doubts raised on the usability of the receiver for QRSS. The major drift was in one direction only and slowed down with time. That made me believe that this drift was due to fresh components which were not aged. The second attempt was going much better, the gadget was left one for the best part of the day. Before the test, I switched it off for a couple of hours, to see the effects of the warming up. Stability is much better now than it was during the first test.

BTW, for QRSS the RF-gain feature proved itself as very useful.

I hope that further use will further age the frequency determining components and thereby increase the frequency stability. If that will happen, the ATS 909 will make a really nice portable grabber setup.