in December, I e-mailed RadioLabs to ask them if they would modify
my radio. At the time, they were only selling pre-modified radios,
but they told me to give them a call. Long story short -- Chris Justice
agreed to do the "Super mods" to my radio. I UPS'd my radio
to him, using the RMA instructions on the "Repair" section
of the RadioLabs site.
It took a few weeks to get my radio back, but there were very good
reasons for the delay. First and foremost was the fact that RadioLabs
had not planned on being in the "mods" business -- they
were planning on selling pre-modded ATS-909's as they had time to
build them. I know they had to wait for more custom-design filters
to arrive from the manufacturer.
I got an e-mail from Chris when it was ready, and confirming UPS tracking
numbers from both him and the UPS shipping system. I had RadioLabs
ship it to my office.
Two business days later, I saw the UPS guy in my office window, and
met him at the door.
My Super ATS-909 looked exactly the same until I flipped it over.
There, on the upper right-hand side of the back was a new RCA jack
for an external FM antenna.
I put some new Alkaline batteries in it, and powered it on.
My presets were still there, so I was treated to WWL-AM, my "Priority"
station, in a rich, full CLEAR sound.
I was floored.
Because my office is in one of those flat-roofed, metal-studded, radio-unfriendly
buildings full of RF from a couple of dozen networked computers and
various other noisy electronic gizmos like plotters, copiers, laser-printers,
and dozens of fluorescent light fixtures. I've never been able to
hear radio there except near a window -- and even that was noisy.
I pulled up the antenna and tried shortwave. Too much noise there.
Perhaps 11:00 AM inside wasn't the best time to try ;)
That evening, I put it on my nightstand and plugged in the AC adapter
and my 75-foot random-wire antenna.
The display was not what I expected -- I expected some "bluish"
white light (instead of the algae-colored green), but what I see
is a very deep blue color, reminiscent of something it would normally
take neon to produce. It's like indiglo on steroids. The display
is very readable, and though the display is a little brighter
than it used to be, it is not an unwelcome new night-light. I
can see a dim reflection on the ceiling in a pitch-black room.
in luck -- propagation conditions were "good." WBCQ in Maine
came in great (even on the whip), and I live near New Orleans. Of
course all of my old favorite presets did as well -- only they didn't
fade nearly as much as before. Then, another surprise -- It literally
took me an hour to get through the 49-meter band, because it was full
of newly-listenable signals to explore.
I came to really appreciate what RadioLabs had done with the "AM
RF GAIN" knob. It will now zero, which is a HUGE help when you're
trying to find a direction on MW or LW. Tuning shortwave, I found
that I was using it quite a bit to help fine-tune signals and mute
background noise. It is quickly obvious that the sensitivity has been
Setting the bandwidth to "wide" on a powerful signal results
in a very clean, full sound. When DX'ing, the "NARR AM"
is different than before. It now seems to actively isolate a signal.
It's fairly difficult to get two signals at the same time in that
setting -- which I was trying to do to review this radio so I could
use SSB to zero-beat a signal. One signal seems to get pulled in (even
off-frequency) until there is another (stronger) signal, when the
first signal will just drop away. This, at first gives the impression
that it is "splash," but then you realize it's nothing but
the radio continuing to bring in faint signals. When tuning crowded
Shortwave broadcast bands, a Super 909 on a decent external antenna
tends to move from one signal to another, rather than signal static another
I went to the 3.800 MHz area to tune in some SSB. At first, it was
a little unusual, because I could hear the signals much sooner, and
it required several more turns of the fine-tuner to get them. That's
right -- you will now use coarse tuning to get close and fine tuning
for perfection. SSB is "wider" than before, and the fine-tuning
seems "finer" than before. I don't know if this is because
of the better IF Filters or what. It could be that the sound is just
so much cleaner that it "feels" like the sweet spot is much
wider. I found one of the quickest ways to tune SSB was to turn off
SSB, tune to the loudest spot that you can hear chatter, then turn
on SSB and fine-tune.
increase does bring in a many more SSB signals, so you will find yourself
using the newly-modified "AM RF GAIN" to drop the noise
floor of off-frequency signals in overcrowded SSB areas, to isolate
a single "net." This takes a little practice, but makes
the radio a lot of fun to use.
to use SSB a lot more to zero-beat signals than I did to hear Hams.
The new filters and the better "NARR AM" setting make for
less need to zero-beat than before, so I set it to "WIDE"
and pulled a few stations in as a test. It still works flawlessly
as a tuning aid.
I still don't hear anything I'm really interested in on Longwave.
There are some curious "beeps and boops" (presumably navigational
aids), but I'm just not enough of a radio geek to get excited about
them. However, you do hear more of them -- A lot more.
I've already mentioned how the modified antenna gain helps you find
(or null) signals for medium-wave (Domestic broadcast AM radio).
There's more -- the sensitivity improvements really pull in more signals.
I found myself wishing my CCRadio Plus had the same antenna gain control
as my Super ATS-909, because you can decrease the "floor level"
of all signals and effectively blank weaker stations heard in the
background of stronger ones -- very handy. It makes the Super 909
the more listenable of the two in some ways. The 909 is still not
as directional as the CCRadio Plus, and it does not "null"
signals as well by turning the radio, due to a shorter internal ferrite
I moved my Justice AM Antenna (JAMA - now renamed the C. Crane AM
Antenna - CCAMA due to Chris Justice's move to RadioLabs) to the Super
ATS-909 just for grins -- and it makes for a real DX combination.
You can bring in a really marginal frequency using the CCAMA, then
attenuate it on the 909 to pull one station out of the jumble (as
long as that station is marginally stronger than the others in the
I like being able to listen to my favorite nighttime 50 KW's with
much less fading than before.
wish I could say that I've hooked up an external antenna to
the new RCA plug for FM/SW, but I haven't. It is much the same
as before, except with a much better sound from the speaker,
especially on "MUSIC." Headphones are much the same
as before, only with improved tone.
original stereo mini-plug antenna jack still functions as normal.
function (which displays information such as station names, slogans,
artists, and songs on RDS-enabled FM radio stations) is not modified
and functions as before.
Basically -- night and day. First, the new speaker is crisp and clear,
but more importantly it sounds FULL. I have found that I can keep
the "TONE" switch on "MUSIC" and still understand
spoken words from even marginal signals. The other settings are very
good as well, and I have found them to be very useful when propagation
conditions deteriorate. Still, I have really enjoyed actually hearing
a little "bottom" on shortwave lately.
To give you an idea of the sound quality, many stronger Shortwave
stations will remind you of "FM-ish" clarity. This radio
shines on "broadcast" Shortwave, like BBC, VOA, etc.
My radio came back in great condition. Frankly, I think they polished
it -- the display was really clean, etc. -- nary a sign that it had
been on someone's "bench."
my radio was a bit unusual, because I bought it from C. Crane with
the tuning detent mod already done (their "Deluxe ATS-909). I
was really surprised to see that RadioLabs even tweaked that. I guess
it wasn't up to their standards, because the tuning knob now turns
easily with one finger on the face of the knob -- something it did
not do before, and a very welcome improvement.
You can go two ways -- get a new Super ATS-909 for $299.95 or send
them your own to modify for $109.95. As I mentioned in my review,
I sent them a C. Crane-modified "Deluxe ATS-909" for modifications,
so they adjusted the price for the tuning detent/anti-chuffing mod
for that radio (around $30 as I recall) since it was already done.
Now that it's back, I actually think I should have paid them more,
because of the obvious work they did on that tuning knob.
This is one radio that will never be on Ebay. It's a keeper.
Guy Davis cmstinger@<CUTFORSPAMCRAP>yahoo.com
I am not affiliated in any way with Sangean, RadioLabs,
or C. Crane company, and I was not compensated in any way for this
review. In fact, I paid good money for these modifications -- and
I'm very glad that I did.