Radio Cameo On Metal Gear Solid V

Being a fan of video games and radio, I appreciate seeing this in Metal Gear Solid V. I don’t have my own screen capture, but I was surprised to see it when I played the game this fall. I have shared a picture from imgur and radio fans will like this neat little cameo.

If you look towards the middle, you’ll see a large radio. Upon a closer inspection, it looks like a Sony ICF-2001.

I caught this cameo in the opening scenes leading up to Big Boss’s (aka Venom Snake) awakening in the hospital in Cyprus. I know the radio looked familiar then closely looked at it in-game and saw that it appears to be similar to the ICF-2001.

I never had one, but the ICF-2001 was already released (1980) and this game’s story takes place in 1984. Shortwave was also still relevant in this point in history so it makes sense why it’s there.

The Cold War was still happening and many shortwave broadcasters like the BBC and Voice of America had a larger on-air presence too, so this radio definitely fits into MGS V very well. Snake also uses a Sony Walkman so it is no surprise to see another Sony product popular in the 80s featured in a game full of 80s nostalgia.

Retro Review: Sony Walkman D-NF430

Introduction

While throwing away and getting rid of some junk and unnecessary clutter, I found an electronic relic. As a famous archaeologist/adventurer would say, “it belongs in a museum.”

As I dug up some old stuff, I found a CD player that I aggressively used in my freshman and sophomore years in college. It actually might be one of the last ones of its kind.

It is a Sony Walkman D-NF430 CD Player. It was originally purchased in the summer of 2005 for about $60 at Circuit City.

Yeah, it was more than 10 years ago and still in pristine condition. Then again, it has been virtually unused for about 8 years.

It was pretty common piece of tech at the time, but this was a turning point when MP3 players and iPods were becoming more popular. Just by looking at the image, you can clearly see why this device was an attractive alternative and inspired by the times.

Appearance & Build Quality

Like most Sony products, this Walkman is well-built. It is a hard, white plastic enclosure with silver and chrome plating on the face buttons. Also, it was roughly the size of a CD, but not bulky for its size. Aside from a notch (where a single AA battery rests), it was thin enough to slip into a jacket pocket or awkwardly into a jeans front pocket.

Features

The Sony D-NF430 is a very unique CD Player. Not so unusual for the company, but it is not a normal thing you see on many media devices, especially today.

Aside from playing normal CDs, this Walkman reads MP3 files if stored on a disk. Like a MP3 player, you could just drop a bunch of songs on a data disk and the device would recognize them instead of tracks. Of course, the limitation of space relied on how much storage a CD-R would have (which generally would hold up to 700 MB).

In addition, Sony has a proprietary audio compression format called ATRAC. The process was similar to MP4 or AAC audio where a 128 kbps MP3 would be compressed into half the size while retaining the same audio quality.

This would allow you to fit more songs on a disk without sacrificing audio quality, but would only work on Sony devices such as this Walkman, PlayStation consoles, and MP3 players. In addition, you needed to used Sony’s own software (similar to iTunes) to export & import ATRAC files and burn them onto a CD.

Like many Walkmans, the D-NF430 has a built-in radio. Sony managed to fit several bands into this CD player.

It has the standard AM & FM bands, but also included TV audio channels and NOAA Weather radio. That’s not a typo.

Before the mandatory conversion to HDTV in 2008, the Walkman was able to tune the VHF portion of the electromagnetic spectrum and pick up audio from Channels 2-13. This band is pretty much useless, but it was a cool function to have to catch up on television programming like news and sports while away from home and would otherwise not be carried on local AM/FM stations.

Included with the CD player is a remote control that allows you to adjust volume, change songs and stations, pause tracks, and the like.

Display

The screen on this Walkman is pretty small, but contained plenty of details. While reading MP3s and ATRACs, it would display song, artist, and album information.

Users could also navigate between albums as separate tabs or shuffle all songs together.

Otherwise it would also show frequency if you’re using the radio and track number. The screen was also monochrome black and white and nothing to white home about.

Sound Quality

Audio coming from the headphones sounded very good. The player allows you to set bass/treble and several equalizers like pop, rock, jazz, or custom settings. On default, music sounds really nice on the radio or CD.

Radio Performance

Radio has been a staple on many Walkmans past and present. While not the greatest receivers, the radio built into them functioned very well. Since the antenna is essentially your headphones cord, reception will vary.

The AM/FM bands on this particular one can pick up local stations clearly with little or no static.

On the FM side, you can pick up some distant ones but you’ll be overpowered with noise especially if you move around a lot. As for AM, forget about picking up clear channels.

Again, Walkmans are meant to those walking or running about and aren’t meant to be used as a radio you can set down and lounge. For its purpose, it handles local stations well and locks onto the signal effectively. Also, no worries with NOAA weather stations as long as you’re inside its coverage area.

Overall

Before the popularity of media players like the iPod and Zune, Walkmans were the de facto media player. You always get a quality experience when using one.

Smartphones have pretty much taken over now as a primary source of audio content on-the-go, and I don’t use my Walkman CD Player anymore. It sets unused in a drawer inside a CD wallet.

Before my habits changed, I enjoyed using the D-NF430. It was an amazing device with lots of functionality. I would lug it between classes and have a bunch of my favorite albums on a single CD (which I still have).

During my time using it, podcasts were also loaded onto disks. I would use the Walkman to listen to shows from Radio Netherlands, the BBC, and NPR until I cave in and purchased an iPod Nano.

Overall, it was a fantastic player for its time. Today, I really can’t recommend anyone to buy and carry around a CD Player.

Why would you? I guess if you’re in a nostalgic mood and have a bunch of CDs.

It is no longer in production obviously, but you can still find it online. The cost is roughly $500 brand new! It’s funny considering I bought it for $60.

I didn’t realize how much it was really worth. I don’t think I’ll sell mine, but you can also fine them used for about $50 if you’re looking for a good portable CD player.

Meteorologists Got It Right…Sort Of. Now Enjoy Your “Snow Day”

Memphians today have been in a fuss on social media about our recent snowstorm. Or rather the blizzard that never happened.

Through the week, meteorologists on TV and National Weather Service were predicting snowfall for the Mid-South. Yesterday, it seemed things were going to be real serious with high winds (gusts upwards to 45 mph) and upwards to 7 inches of snow.

Since I work at a TV station and do not get days off for inclement weather, I took some precautions on getting to work on time today. Since riding a scooter is no bueno on icy roads, I rented a motel room for the night and would report to work the next day.

Now, the storm has pretty much past West Tennessee and moved towards the East Coast. Here is the wake of the “Great Blizzard of 2016.”

What was supposedly going to between 3-7 inches of snow didn’t amount to much in the city. Yeah, impressive right? In fact, I lament that I wasted about $54 on a motel room and could have easily rode into work.

It is easy to poke fun of this scenario. The bread and milk raids leading up to the weather event were for naught. Schools and most businesses were closed for nothing. Everything is a-okay in the city.

So we’ll blame the weathermen, right? “They got it wrong” or “they’re never right” got thrown around a lot on social media today. Many of these comments coming from people who praised the coming winter end times and got their wish for school and/or work to be shut down.

Well, it turns out the meteorologists were right…for the most part. If you look outside right now Memphis, you’ll see snow on the grass. They nailed it on that detail. It’s not 5 inches but it is snow.

Other areas outside of Memphis (especially Jackson and Dyersburg) got a bit more snow than Memphis. This was accurately predicted and is typically the case when dealing with urban vs. rural climates. It wasn’t as impressive as they were hoping either, but the streets are less clear there than in Memphis.

High winds are also present. Instead of 40-45 mph gusts, the winds are roughly 15-20 mph with 25 mph gusts. Not as windy as predicted, but still pretty breezy and that’s still going to be a big factor in the wind chill.

Also, the timing of the storm came as they said it would. It arrived sometime overnight (about 2-3 a.m.) and pretty much left the area by noon.

For all intents and purposes, they got it right. I don’t get the fear-mongering behind the weather forecasts, but it was mostly on-point. We just didn’t see the big snowfall.

But hey, mostly everyone got their wish for having the day-off or having a clear roadways (for the few that are fortunate to grace their presence in the workplace today). We can stop blaming the weather people for “messing up” because they were mostly correct in their forecast.

If there’s anyone to blame…blame Nashville. They stole it from us.

My 2015 Game Of The Year

Hello folks!

It has been a good while since my last blog post. My life has been crazy these past few months, but I managed to squeeze some light gaming.

This year has been jammed packed with lots of great video games, but there can only be one “Game of the Year.” For me, it was definitely a hard decision and one that could be in constant flux since there’s literally a stack of them I haven’t started yet.

However, there are a few I did finish. One of those games just happens to be my personal “Game of the Year.”

Winner: Metal Gear Solid 5

I’ve always been a MGS fan, and this newest entry had plenty of hype. For the most part, “The Phantom Pain” lived up to its expectations.

The world is massive! There are so many things you can do in this game and you’re not limited to a predetermined path. Players can approach their missions by stealth, going all out, or a combination of the two.

Your base, weapons, even Big Boss himself are highly customizable.

The story, perhaps its weakest link, is still a very good plot and way more engaging than MGS 4.

I thoroughly enjoyed Snake Eater and Peace Walker. As a sequel, Metal Gear Solid V did not disappoint and is the perfect way to the MGS saga.

Kudos to Hideo Kojima!

Runner-Up: Fallout 4

I am still nowhere near finished with it, but Fallout 4 is pretty fun. It’s as fun as Fallout 3 and maybe more massive. I am also a fan of the Boston metro setting and pseudo-future from a 1950’s sci-fi perspective.

My gameplay has already exceeded 48 hours and I still haven’t touched the main story yet. Honestly, I’ll probably get finished with it and the first round of DLC will probably launch.

On The Airwaves Cancelled Indefinitely

On-The-AirwavesHello everyone! Some of you may have guess this but I will just go ahead and confirm it. Over the past few months, my schedule has been quite busy and it has been difficult updating the podcast on a weekly basis.

With my schedule and possible life changing plans in motion, I can no longer produce any more episodes of “On The Airwaves” at this moment.

So for now, the podcast is effectively terminated. In addition, I will be taking a prolonged hiatus from podcasting.

Sorry to disappoint everyone with this news. Since 2013, podcast production has been fun and I have enjoyed it when there was time for it. Since working at my current employer last year, my time has been well spent there, but my past projects have been a great way for me to hone in on-air and production skills.

In the future, I will like to revisit podcasting but for now it is not possible. However, I still regularly update my blog at https://chrisfreitas.wordpress.com and I manage to find something worthwhile to post every month. So if you like to read more about radio, electronic media, and other related subjects, please check it out.

Thanks for supporting me and the podcast!  I will keep up past episodes on-line on my Sample Works page along with CFOR for anyone interesting in listening to the shows.

Episode 6 – On The Buzzer

On-The-AirwavesOn this episode of the podcast, Chris talks about phone carriers pushing for FM radio in smartphones. Additionally, there is news about a host of a popular public radio show finally retiring and a new line of shortwave radios.

Also On The Airwaves, listeners will learn the history of the Russian numbers station called “The Buzzer,” or UVB-76.

Finally, Chris gives an update of rural radio reception on the new Tecsun PL-680.

Download & Listen

An Update on the Tecsun PL-680

20150706_114807Hey folks! Sorry for the delay on making this week’s episode of On The Airwaves. I intend to have the episode up and available by tonight, but don’t quote me on that.

There’s been a ton of breaking news in Memphis, especially in the past 24 hours and it has caused me to spend more time at work. These news developments haven’t allowed me time to make (or even create) the podcast so please bear with me a little bit longer.

Last week, I told you about taking a break for my birthday camping trip. In short, it was a blast at Enid Lake, MS.

During my outdoor trip, I took the Tecsun PL-680 with me and put it to further use. There are not any recordings with this post because my recorder wasn’t packed and my phone’s battery was drained most of the time.

I will, however, discuss my findings on how the Tecsun PL-680 operated in rural and outdoor settings.

On the FM and Shortwave side of things, sensitivity and clarity of radio stations was excellent. The distance from Memphis and Enid Lake is roughly 70 miles apart and I was able to receive every Memphis FM station (such as WKNO, WMXX, and WUMR) with little or no static.

Reception of broadcasters like Radio Australia and WRMI came in very well and sounded like a local station. Outdoors conditions were noticeably better than back home in Memphis.

Sadly, AM reception didn’t do so well. I think I mentioned on the review that local AM stations could not be received well in Atoka, TN, which is 20 miles away. They were audible but static and noise overwhelmed signals from Memphis stations like WREC 600.

Unfortunately, the PL-680’s MW limitations became more apparent. At Enid Lake, I could not receive any AM station from Memphis. There was nothing but static.

However, clear channel stations like KMOX 1120 AM from St. Louis, MO came in well. In fact, I listened to a Cardinals baseball game on the first night of camping.

It’s a bit odd that a faraway station came in better than a local one like WREC, but it is unsurprising given clear channels operate with more powerful transmitters. Still, it is disappointing that the Tecsun PL-680 isn’t good at AM reception.

It is fine in urban areas, but gets much worse as you move away from the signal’s origin. The PL-680 is certainly not the radio you want to use for AM reception. Otherwise, it is still a fantastic radio and well worth the money.

Midnight in the Desert with Art Bell on Shortwave

Art Bell, former host of “Coast to Coast AM,” has created a new show. Starting today, he is starting a test run of “Midnight in the Desert.” While listeners can hear the show online and on certain local radio stations, shortwave listeners can tune into the program on WBCQ on either 7490 kHz and 9330 kHz on weeknights from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Episode 5 – On The Shortwaves (Part 2)

On-The-AirwavesIn this episode of the podcast, Chris talks about a new international broadcaster coming to shortwave later this year. Also there is news about a cable provider offering streaming video services and a project to bring shortwave to car radios.

Later in the podcast, you’ll hear Part 2 of “Sounds of Shortwave” and details about next week.

Download & Listen

Tecsun PL-680 Review

It has arrived!

Introduction

The Tecsun PL-680 hit the radio market earlier in 2015. Despite the decline in shortwave broadcasting, the Chinese radio manufacturer has been churning out receivers and they are meeting some success for this niche market.

It is the first true successor to the PL-660 and follows the latest radios in the 600 series. I have had it for a few days, put it to test, and came up with some impressions of the Tecsun PL-680.

Appearance & Build Quality

20150706_114807This radio will immediately look familiar to SWL enthusiasts. It shares a similar design to the PL-600, the 660’s predecessor.

Even though the PL-680 replaces the 660, its casing is nearly a duplicate of the 600. The appearance is angular unlike the the PL-660 which was a round design.

For example, the numeric keypad buttons are bigger and flat, unlike the smaller and rounder buttons of the PL-660. This design choice make inputting frequencies and switching band easier and ergonomic.

Like the PL-600 and PL-660, the Tecsun PL-680 uses the same hard plastic. It isn’t glossy but not quite matte. It roughly weighs the same as those models. It is in that middle ground of not feeling cheap, but not quite as premium builds such as the Sony ICF-SW7600GR and Sangean ATS-909X.

The tuning and volume knobs are not wobbly and are firmly in place. In fact, there seems to be more resistance compared to the PL-660. Also, the face buttons more responsive compared to its predecessor.

Features

The Tecsun PL-680’s features are exactly the same as the PL-660. Internally, both radios are identical.

In case you missed out on the PL-660, here’s what can expect in this model.

20150706_114751The PL-680 has full continuous coverage of AM, FM, shortwave, LW, and aircraft bands. There is also selectable Single Sideband Band equipped with BFO (beat frequency oscillator) with fine tuning.

The feature that set the PL-660 apart for the 600 comes included in PL-680: synchronous detection. In short, it is a method of signal processing that extracts a weak signal and replaces it with a stronger channel.

This, in turn, reduces or eliminates fading and interference from adjacent stations. Sync detection only works on AM, LW, and SW bands.

There is an external antenna jack along with a tone switch for bass and treble and antenna sensitivity controls for DX, Normal, and Local. In addition, you can adjust the bandwidth on AM, LW, and SW for wide and narrow.

The radio also has 2000 memory presets with numerous pages to set them. For me, I would never use that many but there is certainly plenty to program favorite stations.

In the box, the Tecsun PL-680 comes with a pseudo-leather carrying case, rechargeable batteries, power adapter, owner’s manual, and a long wire antenna. Tecsun certainly gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

Display

The display is also the same as the PL-660’s. It gives you frequency readout, signal strength, time in 24-hour format, dual alarms, tuned band, bandwidth or in stereo (FM only), and sync hold. It’s not a large display but is large enough to display these indications clearly.

The screen is also backlit when you turn the radio on, press a button, or tune the bands. However the light stays on for roughly 30 seconds and turns off.

You can manually keep the it off, but the backlight can’t stay on.

Sound Quality

The speaker is sounds nearly the same as the Tecsun PL-660. It tends to have more bass than other radios in the market. Adjusting the tone controls to treble and bandwidth to wide certainly brings clarity, it allows more static to overpower it on weaker signals. I am usually content with having bass on and a narrow bandwidth.

The noise floor on the PL-680 seems to be considerably lower the PL-660. I’ve noticed this on AM and shortwave.

Sync Detection

As previously mentioned, the Tecsun PL-680 also has sync detection. Like the PL-660, it functions in a similar manner and locks the signal.

You’ll be happy to know that synchronous detection works well with this model. It is perhaps slightly better than its predecessor.

It holds the receive signal better and does a better job at fade and interference rejection. Even on weaker stations, the PL-680 has a firm grip on it and I haven’t notice any fades on SW and AM.

By far, this has the best synchronous detector that I have used on any radio.

AM Performance

First, it’s time to get some bad news out of the way. Compared to the PL-660, reception on AM is weaker.

While local AM stations here in Memphis were clearly received, distant ones were not as lucky.

I tested reception on some clear-channel distant stations as well as local ones. There was no trouble receiving them, but stations like KMOX in St. Louis, WGN in Chicago, and WLAC in Nashville were not as pleasant to hear as if I had received them on the Tecsun PL-660 or even my Sangean WR-22 (which made it sound local upon comparison).

It is not doom and gloom though. The weaker stations were subject to more noise, but using sync actually helped remove any fading, something that even the PL-660 couldn’t handle right on AM DXing.

Despite the noise, listening to clear-channels is tolerable on the PL-680. Lower power AM stations may be a trouble find, though.

If you plan on listening to local AM stations or others like KMOX, it should be fine but the performance is a step back from PL-660, which has less than stellar AM reception.

If you own an external loop antenna like the Tecsun AN-200, that might help improve reception.

KMOX 1120 (St. Louis, MO)

WGN 720 (Chicago, IL)

WLAC 1510 (Nashville, TN)

WSM 650 (Nashville, TN)

WREC 600 (Memphis, TN)

FM Performance

This rest is up hill from here. FM performance is the same as the Tecsun PL-660. Local and distant signals came in very well. I don’t do much FM DXing but there is a distant NPR station in Mississippi, WMAV 90.3, that comes in loud and clear and is more than 50 miles from Memphis.

Weaker local stations are received just as well, both on the telescoping whip antenna and external wire antenna bundled with this radio.

WEGR 102.7 Rock 103

WMAV 90.3 FM (Oxford, MS)

WMFS 92.9 ESPN Radio

WUMR 91.7 FM U92 “The Jazz Lover”

WYPL 89.3

Shortwave Performance

Like the PL-660, the Tecsun PL-680 really shines on shortwave. In terms of sensitivity, this one is marginally better than its predecessor. Both on the whip and external antenna’s sensitivity is top-notch.

Essentially every station that I was able to pick up on the PL-660 was received on the PL-680. However, this radio has the edge.

Some stations that I had a bit of trouble getting like WRMI, WBCQ, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle came in better and clearer. Using the synchronous detection improved it even further by not allowing the signal to fade.

Also, the noise floor on shortwave to be slightly lower compared to the PL-660. Signals just sound a bit better and more intelligible.

Deutsche Welle at 0430 UTC (9800 kHz)

Radio Australia at 0445 UTC (17840 kHz)

Radio New Zealand International at 0500 UTC (11725 kHz)

Voice of America at 1700 UTC (17895 kHz)

WRMI at 0440 UTC (9955 kHz)

LW and Aircraft Band Performance

In the United States, there are not any broadcasters that use longwave transmissions. I did give it a test and didn’t pick up one station.

In Europe or other regions that still use LW, there may be better results. However, there is simply no way of knowing how it performs here in the U.S.

Therefore I don’t see that as a negative or positive on the PL-680.

I wasn’t able to pick up aircraft communications either, not for lack of trying. The Memphis International Airport is roughly 5 miles from my home, but perhaps it is not close enough to pick up any air traffic chatter.

I don’t listen to any aircraft signals, but someone who does may like this feature.
It wasn’t able to pick up anything when I tested it, but I don’t see it as a huge feature to consider when scoring this radio. With that said, there were similar results on the Tecsun PL-660 in this area.

Overall

To sum up my experience with the Tecsun PL-680, it is worthy as an successor to one of the best multiband receivers created in recent times. It performs better than the PL-660 in most areas, except AM.

I truly love this radio and don’t see myself going back to the PL-660. However, I really can’t recommend the PL-680 to anyone who owns the PL-660 or even PL-880.

It does have better performance overall, but it is marginal compared to those radios. All three are nearly neck and neck when it comes to sensitivity, synchronous detection, sound quality, and signal to noise ratio. If you already own one of these receivers, then there’s really no point to upgrade. Heck, the PL-660 is slightly cheaper and performs close to par.

However, if one doesn’t already have a shortwave radio or perhaps upgrade from the PL-600 or other cheaper models from Eton, Sangean, Kaito, or Degen, then I’d say go for it.

The Tecsun PL-680 will not disappoint. It is now my favorite all-time shortwave radio and definitely a keeper.

Score Breakdown

Build Quality: 4/5
Sound Quality: 4/5
Affordability: 4/5
Features: 5/5
Portability: 5/5
AM Performance: 3/5
FM Performance: 5/5
SW Performance: 5/5
Sync Detection: 5/5

Overall Score: 4.5/5

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