Tecsun Pl 680 Review – When I heard the first reports of the new Tecsun PL-680, I was already wondering how it would stack up against the Tecsun laptops. The first image of the Tecsun PL-680 revealed how very similar it is, in fact, to the Tecsun PL-600, which has been on the market for years. Also, the specifications of the PL-680, which I heard about a few weeks ago, seemed like a carbon copy of the decent PL-660. I investigated further and spoke with Anna at Anon-Co; he understood that the Tecsun PL-680 was basically a modified PL-660 with improved sensitivity. I was excited enough about the PL-680 to order one from Anna as soon as it became available, even paying for expedited shipping to get it in hand early.
Tecsun PL-660 has been on the market for several years now; is one of the most popular portable shortwave devices on the market. And for good reason: The PL-660 is affordable, easy to use, includes all the necessary functions/modes, and is available from a variety of retailers that ship worldwide. I have reviewed it many times and often used it as a basis for comparison with other portable shortwave devices. Its China-based manufacturer, Tecsun, has become a leading manufacturer of shortwave radios in recent years.
Tecsun Pl 680 Review
Tecsun PL-680 is similar in body to Tecsun PL-600, with features and layout of Tecsun PL-660. Indeed, all the buttons, switches and dials are positioned exactly like those of the PL-660.
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Answer: No. It appears to be, and is probably identical in all respects (functionally) to the Tecsun PL-660. No surprises here, unless there are some hidden features I haven’t discovered…!
See the following comparison photos – PL-600 on the right, PL-660 in the middle, PL-680 on the right (click to enlarge):
The similarities are so striking, in fact, that I believe the PL-680 was the first radio I ever turned on for the first time, and found myself immediately familiar with all the functions. I know the PL-660 so well that I could use the PL-680 in the dark the first night I used it.
It also helps, of course, that the PL-680 is almost identical to the PL-600, which I’ve owned for years.
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Has a smooth output, its default shortwave volume is too loud for most digital recorders to use. I was hoping the PL-680 might have a proper output jack, potentially making it a replacement for my trusty Sony ICF-SW7600GR. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
But aside from the fact that it doesn’t have a line jack, I have very few complaints. I’ve always been a fan of simple radio design and I think Tecsun has done a good job of keeping the user experience right in its PL-6XX series of portable shortwave radios. Looks like a good thing is a good thing.
I should add here that I’m about to find a good technical and radio expert, so if you just want an overview, please skip to the bottom of the page.
Since I spend 95% of my listening time on shortwave, I’ll start with shortwave performance. Again, we will compare the performance of the PL-680 with that of the PL-660.
A Review Of The Tecsun Pl 680 With Reader Survey Results
Having had such good results in radio comparisons in the past (see our head-to-head comparisons between the best handhelds and the most compact radios), I decided it would make sense to invite our knowledgeable readers to rate the PL-680’s performance in series. blind, informal tests. (For more information about these studies, please read the first of the three studies.)
Than the PL-660. It’s a small improvement, but one that I’m definitely seeing on the shortwave bands, as have many readers who took a survey of AM shortwave reception.
In fact, I think the signal reception on these radios is excellent and almost indistinguishable.
The results of the WWV and Radio France International recording tests showed a strong preference for the Tecsun PL-680. Again, here are the original recordings:
London Shortwave: 2020
According to the feedback of the attendees, the PL-680 came out ahead of the PL-660 in two respects: better sensitivity and stronger AGC. In both sets of records, the signal was weaker than the Radio Prague record and the QSB (faded) was more pronounced. Therein lies the well-known weakness of the PL-660: smooth muting and sometimes overactive AGC equates to more listening fatigue.
Here is a table with the full survey results based on 194 inspectors’ reports. The number of responses is plotted on the vertical axis.
Of course, Tecun engineers looked into the soft mute/AGC problem of the PL-660. In all my time with the PL-680 on the air, I didn’t notice any smooth muting; the sound was smoother and the AGC knobs faded better than the PL-660. Without a doubt, these two improvements alone make the PL-680 a portable shortwave radio listener.
Higher background noise than the PL-660. This is especially noticeable when listening to a weak signal. Although I haven’t compared it yet, I’m willing to bet the noise level is comparable to the Sony ICF-SW7600GR. Personally, if increased sensitivity and stability means a slightly higher noise floor, that’s fine with me. I find I listen best when the signal is steady and not floating/cutting with each QSB dip.
Tecsun Pl 680 Review
The second investigation focused on the detection of a equalizer, which is a very important receiving tool that reduces interference of nearby signals and improves signal stability. Maybe I’ve been lucky that on the same day I tried the sense of sync, fading even on strong channels was sometimes pronounced. Perfect!
The first set of recordings came from Radio Australia, a strong signal here in North America. Still, the QSB was pronounced – making the signal unstable – and there was heterodyne interference in the upper broadcast band. When I turned the radio up to low-band, mid-range sync, it effectively reduced heterodyne in all recordings.
While I have always considered the PL-660 to be one of the strongest sync locks in production handhelds today, it struggled to hold lock in Radio Australia and Radio Riyadh recordings. In fact, I was so amazed by the relative weakness of the sync lock on Radio Australia that I disconnected the PL-660 from the recorder and moved to another location to check that something nearby wasn’t causing the lock instability. It wasn’t; this was only due to the unstable nature of the band.
Not surprisingly, respondents rated the PL-680’s firmest lock: The PL-680 beat the PL-660 by a wide margin in all sample recordings. I present below the results of the total of 85 responses:
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Very nice, PL-680! One day I’d like to compare the PL-680 to the Sony ICF-SW7600GR, which I’ve always considered to have the strongest sync lock among modern notebooks.
I was unable to provide an audio test of the SSB performance as the PL-680 received too much noise from my DVR making it a fair competition.
This time I spent some time listening to both radios in SSB mode and comparing models. To my ear, both are
Close to SSB performance, but again the PL-680 has a slight edge over the PL-660 in sensitivity and AGC performance.
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Although I haven’t spent more than, say, an hour with the PL-680 on the FM band, I’ve concluded that it’s very responsive – capable of receiving all my local and regional reference stations.
An informal comparison between the PL-680 and PL-660 also leads me to believe that both are excellent FM performers and seemed to compare well. I would certainly welcome FM DXers to comment on their own reviews of the PL-680.
I’ve also posted a mid-wave listener survey, as many of you have asked me to do a mid-wave band evaluation.
In short, this is where the PL-680 loses to the PL-660: while on the shortwave bands the PL-680 is more sensitive, it doesn’t have the same sensitivity on the wave bands.
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Although I think the PL-680 does a better job than the PL-660 of handling rough conditions there.
MW DX, the PL-660 has always taken sounds and music out of static and made them more intelligible.
The survey results leaned heavily in favor of the PL-660, which has long been one of the best medium-wave performers among portable shortwave devices.
I have provided a total of four sample streamed recordings for comparison. Below I have embedded one of them – a recording from 9:40 am in Macon, Georgia, for your reference.
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You can listen to all four previous screening recordings (again, note that radio A is PL-680, B is PL-660).
In all station samples except the strongest (750 AM – WBS Atlanta), the PL-660 was favored by a wide margin.
Occasionally, all radios have strengths and weaknesses; Here is a list of my notes when I put the Tecsun PL-680 on the air:
If you are a shortwave radio listener, you will be satisfied with the Tecsun PL-680. In all my comparison tests between Tecsun PL-660 and Tecsun PL-680, PL-680 tends to outperform PL-660 in performance. This is also consistent with user surveys.
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If you are a medium wave DXer, you can skip the PL-680. That is, unless Tecsun makes a nice iterative design upgrade. If you are a regular listener of medium wave, on the other hand, probably