Before starting off, special thanks are given to Keith Perron and PCJ Media for providing the receiver reviewed in this article.
The Tecsun PL-390 is among the plethora of Chinese radios to flood the market in recent years. For roughly $60 US on Amazon and Universal Radio, it provides the performance of expensive sets without breaking the bank.
The radio has the standard AM/MW & FM bands and includes shortwave and longwave. For single-sideband hobbyists, the PL-390 does not have SSB.
The receiver is bundled with a carrying case, external wire antenna, and an auxiliary plug. Batteries not included.
It has a line input jack should anyone want to listen to an external device like an iPod or tablet. The radio is also powered by batteries and AC via an USB cable. For complete specifications, visit swling.com.
Those hoping for synchronous detection are out of luck, but it has DSP, or Digital Signal Processing. The technology works much the same way by helping reduce interference and fading while providing an audible sound.
Speaking of audio, the speaker quality on the Tecsun PL-390 is good for causal listening. As always, a pair of decent headphones or external speakers would perform better, but the built-in ones should suffice.
The radio allows the user to switch multiple bandwidths between 6, 4, 3, or 2 kHz steps. While most receivers have two settings (wide & narrow), the Tecsun PL-390 gives the listener more options to adjust sound quality.
The default setting works best, however the other steps still provide an audible signal. Keep in mind that the 6 kHz sounds better but may be flooded with static while the 2 kHz step reduces the noise but also sacrifices quality.
Performance-wise, the PL-390 is possibly one of the best radios out there. Between the lineup of Tecsun receivers, it works just as well as the more expensive models.
For example, Radio Australia on 9580 kHz (during 1100 UTC/ 6 a.m. Central) is received very well on both receivers with very little static and fading and no interference. In fact, it sounded better on the PL-390 than PL-660, which costs $40 more.
While it does not compete to the more DXing rigs, it holds its own against others over the $100 price point. This review does not belittle the value of radios such as the PL-660, Sangean ATS-909X, and Eton E5. Those radios are great for multiple reasons.
However, the PL-390 is a great travel radio with the same performance and half the price. It lacks features like SSB and sync detection, but sound quality, reception performance, auxiliary audio ports, and DSP more than make up for it.
In addition to the review, here are some comparison audio files between the Tecsun PL-390 & PL-660. The stations tuned to these radios are Radio Australia and Radio Habana Cuba.