The editor has had the brand-new Sangean ATS-909X2 in the editor’s shack and shares his evaluation of this stylish portable world band radio from one of the most traditional and well-known makers on the market. Read our Sangean ATS-909X2 Review.
The Sangean name is a well-known brand, widely recognized by radio enthusiasts, world travelers and short wave listeners. Some of us may have owned an earlier model of one of a range of world band receivers made by the company over the decades. I have fond memories of the ATS-818CS myself – the one with the inbuilt cassette recorder, remember? I have also worked with the ATS-803A (also marketed under the Realistic name) and the model immediately previous to the one reviewed here, the ATS-909X.
This new model – the 3rd Generation ATS-909X2 FM Stereo / AIR / MW / LW / SW PLL Synthesized Receiver – is the most recent incarnation in a long line of world band receivers (Figs. 1 and 3)
It offers some interesting new functions and a few positive ergonomic changes. Therefore, when Martin at ML&S asked us to review this ‘new kid on the block’, I was happy to oblige.
The medium-size portable radio comes in ‘graphite’ and white (not in black anymore), measures 208 x 41 x 135 cm and weighs in at a considerable 1.6kg. The promotional materials emphasize several noteworthy features, such as the smart battery function (which detects faulty batteries), the airband mode (118136MHz), the advanced bandwidth, memory and squelch features, and some of the nifty automatic tuning options.
The key specifications of the ATS- 909X2 are summarized in Table 2 and can also be found in the online manual. https://tinyurl.com/aakmh7sn
Out of the Box and Basic Operation
In the box, you get the radio, the ANT60 portable short wave reel antenna, a set of earphones, a stylish carrying bag and a power adapter (continental; have an EU- to-UK adapter handy). I put my Eneloop pro-Ni-MH rechargeable batteries in (min 2,500 mAh), set the time zone, local time and one other world time – and away I was.
The set covers Airband, FM (with RDS), LW, MW and SW (100-29999.00kHz). Notice that the ribbed tuning wheel is at the front (think: ‘Sony ICF SW77′) and the (non-ribbed) volume control is on the right-hand side of the set. If you like, you can just use the comfy Automatic Tuning System (ATS), where the radio performs a comfortable scan-and-store routine on all bands; this works slightly differently, depending on the frequency band you are after.
This is always a useful thing to do when you arrive at a new destination. In manual scan mode, the scan stops (and does not resume) at any stations found. You can also tune by meter band, which can save time.
Table 1 illustrates the available tuning steps for the rotary tuning knob and the tuning up/ down controls, in relation to the wavebands. The set does not (‘soft’) mute between stations in manual tune – an extremely important issue for many SWLs and DXers. All aspects of memory management (storing-locking-recalling deleting-moving-renaming) are simple and intuitive, and the radio offers 1,674 memory places, in three banks of 558. Most on SW, naturally.
More than enough space here and no PC is needed for this radio – nor it is possible to ‘program’ it with one.
A few points may be noted about this receiver; these may be helpful before you make a purchase decision:
Like other Sangean models, this set does not offer synchronous detection (SYNC), you have got to decide as to how significant this is for you; as far as I am concerned, I very rarely find this feature useful, even on ‘big’ receivers.
Another point to note is that frequency entry requires first pushing the ‘F’ key (‘Frequency’) before you enter the numbers, as well as a subsequent confirmation with the ‘Enter/ Return’ key.
For many, this radio will stand out on account of its good sensitivity, dynamic range and selectivity on the telescopic aerial. This, and the added airband coverage (118-137MHz), make it an excellent travel companion.
In common with some other early users, I have also observed that the auto bandwidth function can act as a kind of noise-blanker; this can make a difference, and it will be up to you whether you find the automatic changes useful.
SSB signals and utility monitors should note that the ATS-909X2 is restricted to a single bandwidth; however, the set does offer the convenience of 10Hz tuning steps.
The ATS-909X2 can be connected to a matching Tecsun DAR-101 digital recorder to make (timed) recordings (of up to 60 minutes in duration); as it is, the set does not offer a digital record function; however, there are three timers.
Table 1: The Sangean ATS-909X2: Operation, Tuning Steps and Wave Bands.
Small things make a difference, and many will note that the radio has a high overall build quality, reflected in its weight; the jacks for aux-in, record (standby and line out) and headphones, for example, are made out of metal. The socket for external aerials is plastic-rimmed, but it does work for LW, MW, and SW antennas. The small AM RF gain-wheel on the side is a nice touch, and it is sensitive enough to make a difference. The sound quality from the speaker is excellent. Table 3 shows a host of medium wave stations received on the review model, in November/ December 2021, by our columnist and fellow medium wave DXer Scott Caldwell.
• Radio for Air / FM / LW / MW / SW broadcasts
• Automatic Tuning System for FM / LW / MW / SW band
• A total of 1674 radio station presets
• 3 memory banks for preset stations allow the radio to store presets for different users and/or different areas
• Local / World Time with 2 customizable city names
• FM RDS with PS, PTY, RT and CT features
• Comes with RF Gain Control for AM band
• SSB (Single Side Band): USB / LSB, 10/20 Hz / Tuning-Step
• 3 alarm timers with snooze feature
• Large LCD screen with backlight
• Built-in battery charger […].
Table 2: The Sangean ATS-909X2: Key Specifications (ATS-909X2 Manual, p. 03).
|540 kHz||MR Kossuth R||Solt||1000kW||22:26||13/11/21||54444||TX, MX, Excellent Signal, ID|
|576 kHz||RNE||Barcelona||100 kW||00:33||13/11/21||33333||TX, Moderate Noise, ID, SS|
|585 kHz||RNE||Madrid||600 kW||00:31||13/11/21||44444||TX, Slight Noise, ID, SS|
|590 kHz||VOCM||St Johns||50 kW||02:30||14/11/21||33222||VOCM MX, Signal Fading|
|657 kHz||RNE R5||Madrid||50 kW||00:37||13/11/21||33333||TX, Moderate Noise, ID, SS|
|729 kHz||RNE||Multi-Site||n/a||01:00||13/11/21||32333||ID RNE, PIPS, SS|
|738 kHz||RNE||Barcelona||600 kW||23:58||13/11/21||44444||ID RNE NX, Very Good|
|750 kHz||CBGY||Bonavista Bay||10 kW||04:00||14/11/21||32222||CBC News, ID, EE|
|774 kHz||RNE||Multi-Site||n/a||20:58||13/11/21||32333||ID RNE, PIPS, SS|
|792 kHz||SER Radio||Sevilla||50 kW||20:33||13/11/21||43444||TX, OM, SS, ID|
|855 kHz||RNE||Multi-Site||n/a||20:00||13/11/21||43333||ID RNE NX, Very Good|
|864 kHz||NMA Koran Progs||Santah||400 kW||00:40||13/11/21||43333||Prayers, ID, AA|
|900 kHz||RAI||Milan||50/100 kW||00:54||13/11/21||44333||TX, Good, Noise, ID, I|
|963 kHz||Asian Sound Radio||Haslingden||0.2 kW||21:21||13/11/21||54444||Asian Sound Network, ID|
|999 kHz||COPE||Madrid||50 kW||21:50||13/11/21||33333||TX, ID COPE, SS|
|1044 kHz||SER Radio||San Sebastian||10 kW||00:34||14/11/21||33333||TX, SS, Noise, ID, SS|
|1278 kHz||Greatest Hits Radio||Bradford||0.4 kW||22:00||13/11/21||33333||Greatest Hits of the 70s, 80s, & 90s, ID|
|1413 kHz||Premier Christian Radio||Multi-Site||1 kW||02:00||14/11/21||33222||Christmas and Stress, ID|
|1458 kHz||Gold||Manchester||5 kW||01:00||14/11/21||54444||This is Gold, NX, ID|
|1548 kHz||Gold||London||98 kW||02:10||14/11/21||44444||This is Gold, ID|
|1593 kHz||Bretagne 5||Saint-Goueno||5kW||02:44||14/11/21||33333||FF POP MX; Noise, ID.|
Table 3: MW stations received (DXer: Scott Caldwell, Warrington, with a TECSUN AN200 Indoor Loop; Fig. 2).
[Information and reception reports by Scott Caldwell; Many thanks to Martin Lynch and his team at ML&S Martin Lynch and Sons Ltd., for the loan of the review unit – Ed.].