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Tecsun BCL-2000 Photo Preview

With more radio models being discontinued than being introduced, the roll-out of a new offering creates excitement indeed. I got caught up in the excitement caused by the introduction of the Grundig S350 portable in early 2003. The S350 is manufactured by Tecsun for Eton/Lextronics (who own the Grundig name in North America). Tecsun also sold the radio in Asia under its own name (Tecsun BCL-2000)

The Basics
The S350 covers the standard AM/MW broadcast band (525-1710 kHz), the FM band (87-108 MHz) and continuous shortwave from 3 to 28 MHz. Shortwave is broken up into three segments (SW1, SW2, SW3). It is not capable of sideband reception.

The 350 weighs in at about 3.5 lbs. with batteries. The physical dimensions are approximately 7"h x 10.5"w x 3.5"d (with protrusions). It comes equipped with a shoulder strap which can be shortened and wrapped to make a very effective padded handle. It is a sharp looking radio, silver with black knobs.

It would appear that designers of the S350 were fans of the old Panasonic RF-2200. The left side of the radio is dominated the speaker (reported to be 4"). The tuning dial and display are located in the right center of the front panel. A row of clock control switches and the backlight switch are located above the display. The audio controls (bass, treble, volume) are at the lower left of the tuning knob. The RF gain control is at the bottom right corner. The power/sleep button and band switches are located in between the display and the speaker. The overall layout makes sense. My only complaint is that it would make more sense to swap the locations of the RF gain and volume control. Volume is used a lot and it would be easier to get to if it was located all by itself in the corner. External construction seems generally solid. I do have some concern about the switches which seem a little lightweight. I wonder how they will hold up over time.

As my buddy Ulis, K3LU, might say, "This is a real radio - none of that sissy stuff, memories or up/down buttons." He would be right. It is a bit of a throwback. The way you get to a different frequency is the old-fashioned way…turn the tuning knob! There is one major convenience; the tuning knob can tune in two rates. The outer "ring" of the tuning knob lets you tune fast (real fast) and the inner knob allows you to slow down and zero in on your target station.

The fast speed covers about 475 kHz (AM/MW) in one revolution. The slow speed covers about 120 kHz for a full turn. For FM, it is approximately 7.2 MHz fast / 2.0 MHz slow. On SW, the fast speed covers about 2 MHz and slow is about 500 kHz. You can "get around" with the fast tuning speed.

To select bands, you first use the bandwidth switch. For AM/SW listening, switch it to either narrow or wide. For FM, select AFC on or AFC off. If you are choosing AM/SW, then you need to use a separate switch to choose either AM (MW), SW1, SW2 or SW3.

SW1 = 3000 - 8000 kHz
SW2 = 8000 - 17000 kHz
SW3 = 17000 - 28000 kHz

(Note - the manual does not indicate the frequency ranges for SW1, 2 or 3. It is printed on the top of the radio, however).

With regards to wide/narrow bandwidth selection…set it on narrow and forget it. Wide means barn-door wide. You will get a lot of undesired adjacent channel interference in the wide mode.

AM(MW) reception comes via an internal ferrite bar. Reports to various radio posting boards indicate that the ferrite is 9" long. The long whip antenna (42") pulls in both FM and SW stations. The S350 accepts external antennas for either AM/SW or FM via terminals in the back. The AM/SW terminals are similar to speaker connections on the back of most stereos. The FM jack accepts the European style PAL plug (Radio Shack carries adapters).

The S350 runs off 4 D cells or the supplied 6 volt AC adapter. The DC power jack is located on the back panel. Battery power is exceptional. The battery meter has not budged yet and I certainly have 50+ hours on the radio.

Other Connections
Left/right line out jacks (phono) are located on the right side of the radio, just above the 1/8" earphone jack.

Reception Aids
Besides the narrow bandwidth filter, the S350 provides an RF gain control. Normally one would keep this at max, however backing if off can help with overloading from strong local signals. Be aware that this control is not at all linear with the dial markings on the radio. The radio has markings all the way up to 10 for RF gain. In reality, maximum gain is achieved at about 3. There is a Low Pass filter switch on the right side of the radio. The manual says this is to help reduce interference. I have found that it functions almost like an attenuator.

Other features
The radio automatically goes into sleep mode when powered on. There is no way to over-ride this. So if you turn it on, it will automatically shut off 90 minutes later. Some hate this "feature" while others (like me) who wander off and leave radios on, love it. The countdown sleep period can be adjusted (90, 75, 60, 15, 1 minute). (see update note at the bottom) Why would anyone set a sleep control for 1 minute, I wonder.

The S350 has an alarm that turns the radio on for 30 minutes. The radio turns on to whatever frequency was last listened to. So, it is important to have the radio turned to a reliable station and at a proper volume in order to take advantage of the alarm. The clock is a 12 hour am/pm style. The clock shows on the display when the radio is off. It can be viewed on the display while the radio is on, if the operator pushes the Time button.

The 350 has a nice bright amber backlight. With large black numerals, the display is very easy to see. Hitting the backlight button gives you about 8 seconds. By pressing the button and holding it in, it will stay on until you turn it off.

The display shows the frequency, of course, as well as what band you are on. There are indicators for alarm status, relative battery strength and signal strength. The battery strength and signal strength show 6 bars at maximum. However, they are really 3-position indicators as they either read as 2-bars (low), 4-bars (medium) or 6-bars (high).

FM - The S350 does a good job and was able to separate a rather weak classical station at my location which unfortunately is right next to a nasty local signal. Note that stereo reception is not provided via the headphones but only from the line out jacks. There is a stereo/mono switch on the right side and the display indicates stereo reception. The audio is very clean and local FM reception (mono) sounds very good.

AM (MW) - Not bad for a single conversion model. It fights of my local AM slopper here as well as most of my portables. It certainly does not fold up under overload like the CC Radio does. There are some shortwave images that appear in the upper part of the band (over 1600) and you do get some heterodyne whistling - but it can typically be zero beated. Drift is minimal on MW and the digital readout is pretty accurate, within a kHz or so as best as I can tell. I was expecting tremendous overload problems and images galore with and external antenna. I was surprised at how well the 350 handled the external antenna on MW.

SW - The S350 has inherited its looks from the Panasonic RF-2200, but it may have inherited a nickname from the old Swan Radio, a manufacturer of amateur equipment in the 60's. Back then, Swan had a transceiver called the 350. Because of significant drift problems, hams called it the Swan Three-Drifty. This nickname could fit the Grundig S350 as well. I knew about the drifting before I bought it, so it wasn't a surprise. While I don't have lab equipment, etc. for precise measurements, it seems to me that the degree of drifting is temperature dependent. At room temperature, I found that it would drift 2-3 kHz in the first 30 minutes and then settle down to a 1 kHz drift in each of the following 30-minute periods. The drifting appears to be less in an air conditioned environment. When I took it outside on a hot day, the drifting was quite bad. It was drifting 5-8 kHz in the first 30 minutes. The drifting was worse at higher frequencies.

With the digital readout, it is easy to forget that this is an analog radio. This means that your last listened to station on a band will not be there when you return from tuning around on another band. It's just like any typical analog receiver, except that you can't visually see any tuning pointer. This is my first analog radio with a digital readout, so it is taking me some time to adjust!

The S350 is a fun radio. For someone who is looking for good performance in an easy to use, attractive package, the S350 merits consideration. I am impressed with the performance.

On SW, while reception is actually quite good, the drifting issue may be problematic for some. Retuning is probably going to be necessary during the first half hour and then maybe a touch up after that. Serious program listeners may also grow weary of the auto-shut off feature after 90 minutes.

Credit should be given to the Tecsun engineers for including an RF gain control, external antenna connections and a great display. I am very impressed with battery life in this analog portable.

Who will appreciate this radio the most? Perhaps someone new to shortwave who is going to be a casual shortwave program listener who also wants the usual AM/FM listening capability. I can envision older members of my family appreciating the easy to read display, lack of tiny buttons & switches and non-complicated layout / operation. If you long for a simpler time when "men were men and radios were analog with tuning knobs," you may be a real fan of this radio. The Grundig S350 is a good basic everyday radio that offers a wide spectrum of listening possibilities.

Best DX
Russ K3PI

Update: Since the debut of the S350, the auto shut-off after 90 minutes has been changed. Numerous users report that circuitry in the newer generation S350's give the user the option of turning the radio on without auto shut-off engaged

The Tecsun BCL-2000
Available in red or black. Only slight minor differences. No extended MW band and 220V AC Input.





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