This receiver review deals with the new and enhanced AOR AR7030, the AOR AR7030 PLUS and my hands-on impressions with this new receiver.
A few years ago AOR announced the release of a new receiver, the AOR AR7030. Upon its release I read the reviews that appeared in DX Ontario and other sources of reviews on the Internet as well as the reviews in Passport and WRTH. This receiver caught my attention mainly due to its advertised high-end performance figures and secondly due to the fact that all of the receivers controls are software driven, which means computer accessibility to almost all receiver functions. While I do not have a PC to connect to the receiver, I plan on adding one soon and testing some of the software packages for this receiver.
After gathering all the data and reviewing the mass of information, I ventured to one of the local Toronto area swl shops and put this receiver through its paces in the showroom. On powering up the receiver and connecting a suitable antenna, I was amazed at just how quiet this receiver really is. It compares favorably with the legendary Sony ICF6800W of the past. Great audio and quiet internal circuits. The bottom line is, if you can't hear a station with this receiver, it is either not on the air, or the propagation is so terrible that nothing will help you receive the station.
After spending roughly one hour with the AR7030 I was left with a favorable impression. Combined with the quick spin and examining the owner's manual for the AR7030, I noted the following minor shortcomings
The initial AR7030 was a decent receiver but it needed several improvements or tweaks to make it a worthy contender before I would consider adding it to the receiver lineup here in the shack. Due to these less than perfect shortcomings, I decided to wait it out and see what AOR did with this receiver, either an updated/upgraded model or a replacement model.
In early 1997 I learned of the upcoming release of the upgraded AOR AR7030 PLUS version due out by midyear. Throwing caution to the wind I placed an order for an AR7030 PLUS in early November. Two weeks later it arrived. Well I can now happily recommend the updated model, the AOR AR7030 PLUS.
After spending a bit of time reading through the supplied info sheets that came with the receiver, I gleaned the following information. Improvements over the basic AR7030 include: Increased balance of the mixer for greatest IP2 & IP3, High tolerance 0.1% components in DDS ladder for low noise, Enhanced RF attenuator operation for minimal intermod, Higher spec wire aerial input transformer for minimal mixing products, Ceramic metal cased 4 kHz (3.6 kHz displayed) AM filter fitted as standard (typical bandwidths: 2.2 kHz, 4.0 kHz, 5.3 kHz and 9.5 kHz), Bourns optical encoder for the smoothest DX tuning and Features CPU fitted (400 memories, multi timers & alpha tag).
All of the 400 memories can be selected using the spin-wheel (VFO knob) in one of the memory menus but because it takes a long time to step through 400 memories, using the infrared controller is recommended. Memory numbers can be one, two or three digits long, leading zeros are optional. The first digit of a three-digit memory number can be 0, 1, 2 or 3. If a number higher than 3 is entered, 3 will be assumed.
A small point I noticed is that there is no easy way to clear the contents of a memory, but if this is required then store a frequency of zero in the memory (tune the receiver to 000.00 and then use the [STORE] button on the infrared controller or [Sto] from the MEMORY menu). This will remove the memory from any ident search and scan sequence, and also clear the text identifier. If you clear several memories in this way it is beneficial to run the Memory re-index operation from the CONFIG menu to improve the efficiency of the ident search.
The owners manual is well written and is easy to follow. The receivers software controls are all detailed on a flow chart which is a great way to figure out how to get from point A to point B without spinning your wheels in the process.
After putting the AR 7030 PLUS through its paces at home, I can offer the following observations. The filters in the AOR AR7030 PLUS are as good as or better than the filters in the recent Drake and Japan Radio offerings. The '7030 sits right next to my Drake R8A/SE3 combo which admittedly, I hardly turn on anymore. In other words, the Drake R8A/SE3 combo has been relegated to 'second banana' status.
The only advantage that the Drake R8A/SE3 combo has over the AOR AR7030 PLUS is the Sherwood SE3's sync detector. While not meaning to plug the Drake/SE3 equipment in this article, the Sherwood SE3 sync detector is 'the top of the heap' when it comes to sync detectors. Nothing else comes even close! The AOR sync detector is still a respectable sync detector. Of note is the rear panel 455 kHz IF output. The next thing I do will be to pick up the optional rear panel DIN connectors and wire one of them up for the 455 kHz IF output and connect the SE3 to it. That will provide a truly unbeatable Dxing combination to say the least.
The synchronous detector in the receiver is configurable for automatic or manual operation. Also, the pass band tuning control can also be used at the same time for selectable sideband synchronous reception.
The passband tuning control allows you to shift the passband of the selected filter up to 4.2 kHz either up or down in 100 Hz steps. Combined with the synchronous detector, the passband tuning control is very effective in fighting crowded band conditions and can make the difference in either hearing intelligible audio from a weak station or not. This combo is definitely top drawer.
Another advantage that the '7030 has over most current receivers is that you can install filters of your choice. Not easily done with most modern receivers. This is another plus it has over most modern receivers. After installing your new filters you will want to make sure the receiver is aware of the installation. A self-diagnostics setup routine is available so that the receiver will know that you have installed new filters. Not only will it align the radio to accept the new filter(s) but also it will put the new filter(s) in the proper numeric order of the new bandwidth(s). This is a feature seldom seen in the consumer grade of equipment, usually only available on the high-end commercial/military receiver equipment. The self-diagnostics setup routine is definitely another plus.
The first thing you notice when unpacking the receiver is its small footprint and the sturdy all black metal case and front panel.
White lettering is used for labelling the controls and silver lettering for the 'PLUS PERFORMANCE' identification.
Along with the standard owners manual, a certificate is included which verifies you have a PLUS version along with the receivers serial number affixed.
There is a wireless remote control supplied with the receiver. The rubber buttons on the remote have a positive feel for operator feedback. The lettering for the individual keys is printed on the area above or below each key, which means you will not wear the lettering off too easily. I prefer to leave the remote inside the supplied plastic bag that came with the remote. The keys are still easily pressed with a positive action. The 'Clear' button takes care of any input errors. Another point is that the receiver and remote do not beep at you when pressing buttons. A minor point but appreciated. The remote will allow you to control almost all of the receivers functions. Notice I said 'almost all'. Receiver controls that are missing on the remote are the BFO offset, IF Gain, Power on/off and AGC speed settings. A mute function would be a welcomed addition to the remote control.
Both kHz and MHz frequency input is supported.
Frequency steps for band scanning can be setup for your individual needs or preferences. 10 kHz tuning for North American medium wave, 5 kHz for International Shortwave, 3 kHz for marine band etc. There are three such groups available for your use if you so choose to use them.
The smallest tuning step available is 2.655 Hz, though display is only to 10 Hz.
Frequency coverage is from 0 to 32 MHz. The modes in the receiver are AM, AM synchronous, USB, LSB, CW, DATA and FM Narrow. Two VFO's are included for quick frequency comparisons. One small point is that the data in the second VFO is wiped clean when you switch the power off. To remedy this, when I power up the receiver I just copy the data (transfer the contents) in the active VFO over to the second VFO and make any changes as needed as I go along. It would be nice if AOR could configure the receiver to retain the data in the second VFO when switching the power off. I imagine you could add a small battery to retain the contents of the second VFO, but I will wait and see what AOR comes up with to remedy the situation.
Sensitivity in the medium wave region has not been deliberately reduced, as has been the case in receiver offerings from other manufacturers.
You can elevate the front of the receiver for better viewing by swiveling out the standard fare metal bail.
This is a receiver that performs the way a receiver should. By that I mean you get a receiver that delivers excellent audio, 4 filters standard plus 2 optional, different setup preferences (i.e. groups for swbc, medium wave, utility etc.).
No compromises or lack of features has been spared. Its hard to think of any features that could be added to this excellent receiver.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that there is available a 19 inch rack mount version which features the remote keypad and speaker mounted on the front panel.
NEW FEATURES Added to the AOR AR7030 PLUS:
The audio notch filter in the NB7030 is manually tunable from 150 Hz to 6 kHz and will typically offer more than 50 dB of rejection to unwanted heterodynes. A variety of automatic facilities are incorporated to make the notch quick and easy to use - the tuning rate slows down when a signal is detected close to the notch frequency reducing the chances of tuning through and missing the signal, and a signal tracking facility is available that will finish the fine tuning after coarse manual tuning. This will also track wandering heterodynes or move the notch with the receiver tuning in SSB and CW modes (provided the receiver is tuned slowly). A fully automatic notch search from 300 Hz to 6 kHz can be started, with the notch settling on the first steady heterodyne it finds.
auto tune: On/Off
year counter: 0 to 3
Also new functions in the menu settings allow you to adjust and enjoy the new additions.
UPNB7030 - Upgrade multi option for customers who already have the features "B" CPU fitted, such as AR7030 PLUS where the complete NB7030 is not required.
CFJ455K8 1.0 kHz (nominal) 1.0 kHz Murata ceramic data filter.
XTAL2.4 2.4 kHz (nominal) SSB CRYSTAL filter (455H2.4A).
MF2.5 2.5 kHz (nominal) 526-8635-010 (or 526-8694-010) Collins 2.5 kHz mechanical SSB filter.
CFK455J 3.0 kHz (nom) Murata 3.0 kHz ceramic very narrow AM / SSB filter.
MF4 4.0 kHz (nominal) 526-8710-010 Collins 4.0 kHz mechanical narrow AM filter.
CFK455I 4.0 kHz (nominal) Murata ceramic narrow AM filter.
6.0 kHz (nominal) AM Collins 526-8636-010 (or 526-8695-010).
of note is the fact that the KIWA brand of filters are easily added
to this receiver. Bandwidths from 2.5 to 8 kHz are available. KIWA
can be contacted at:
TW7030 - Optional telescopic whip for the AR7030 when operating portable from a table top. Terminated in a PL259 plug (whip amplifier already fitted inside the standard AR7030 receiver).
Data-Master - IBM-PC control software for Windows 95. For AR7030/3030 with database and lots of features. Have a look at the link from our WEB site http://www.demon.co.uk/aor Latest version now supports Windows 3.1/3.11 as well.
SM7030 - Service information with PC alignment disk and serial lead, Note: Extensive test equipment is required for full realignment! Revised to include BP123, NB7030.
FPU7030 - Enhanced microprocessor as shipped with NB7030.
7030PC - PC lead terminated in a 5 pin DIN plug for the AR7030 and either 9 or 25 way D-type connector at the other to match your PC, state which is required when ordering
COMP7030 - RS232 command set printed and on disk in WORD format. Also available as a free download from AOR's web site.
CR400 - Tape lead for AR7030 (also fits AR3000, AR3000A & AR3030). Provides audio output to a 3.5 mm mono plug and remote switching to a 2.5 mm plug
- Soft carry case for the AR7030 when transportable.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT
output (taping), 455 kHz IF output, line output etc. are available
from a rear apron mounted 8 pin DIN plug. I would like to see those
functions available on separate RCA phono plug connectors for ease
of connection. It would also save the owner from having to solder
user-supplied cables to the current DIN connector. This should not
add much to the basic cost of the receiver.
I would like to see a variable tuning rate as in the JRC NRD535 series of receivers. In other words, a smaller number of kHz tuned per each revolution of the VFO tuning knob.
The VFO incorporates VRIT (variable rate incremental tuning. In other words, the faster you spin the VFO, the faster you can spin from the end of one band to the other end.
There is a 'Fast' button that increases the tuning x 256 times which is very useful for rapid frequency changes, say for moving from one band to another. This saves you from having to reach for the remote to input the frequency change.
The supplied handheld remote control unit does a good job controlling the receiver sub functions and is a time saver when inputing data into the receiver. The remote control unit is nice but it would be better applied by replacing it with a mouse keypad such as the type used on the Lowe receivers. This one change would enhance this receiver even further.
Owners of plain 7030's can upgrade their receiver to PLUS status by contacting their nearest AOR outlet for more details. A certificate confirming modification is then provided with upgrades. First production batch sets with serial numbers between 100001 - 100525 also have their band pass input components changed to provide a flat IP3 around 1.7 - 2.0 MHz.
While receiver design engineers put a tremendous amount of time and effort into incorporating the latest bells and whistles into their new receivers, they also will have to heed the needs of the end users of their products. It is a fine line to walk to make any receiver perform to everyone's individual desires and try to keep within the budget constraints, but the receiver manufacturers will have to listen to the input and feedback from the end users of their products if they wish to stay in business. That is the bottom line. This is one area that AOR has heeded with the introduction of the AOR AR7030 PLUS and I might add they have come up with a real winner!
Thanks to Dave for permission to repost his review which originally appeared in DX Ontario February 1998
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