The Kchibo KK-9615 is a Chinese AM/FM/Shortwave shirt-pocket radio from a decade or so ago. It has analog tuning and a digital display with clock and alarm.
I know of no English-language manual for the Kchibo KK-9615, but through trial and error I discovered how it works. Below is a labeled photo.
The power switch is on the side of the radio, lower right. The tuning knob is on the side of the radio, upper right. The volume control is on the side of the radio, upper left. To tune an FM station, flip the power switch downward, extend the antenna, press the FM button (see photo), and tune the radio with the tuning knob. The large display shows “FM” and the frequency below. To tune MW (AM) press the MW/SW button and set the band selection (top of radio) to MW. The display shows “MW.” To tune shortwave, again press the MW/SW switch and use the band selector to pick the desired shortwave band; the display shows “SW.”
With the radio on or off, press the Alarm Off/on button to turn the alarm on or off. A clock icon will display on the radio screen to indicate when it’s set. To display the alarm time, press the View Alarm button.
To set the clock or the alarm time, first turn the radio off. Press and hold the Time 1 button while pressing the Time 2 button repeatedly to set the hour. Press and hold the Time 2 button while repeatedly pressing the Time 3 button to set the clock minutes. To set the Alarm time, press and hold the View Alarm button while repeatedly pressing the Time 1 button to set alarm hour. Press and hold the View Alarm button while repeatedly pressing the Time 3 button to set the alarm minutes.
Using the Radio
The most noticeable thing about the radio is how loud it is, especially for its size. The size is quite small; I measured 113 x 72 x 21 mm. I found reception to be good for a cheap pocket radio. Here is the frequency coverage:
I’ve been interested in shortwave radio since I was a teenager, and over the decades I’ve owned quite a few shortwave radios. Now it’s time to downsize and I’ve been selling radios on eBay right and left, 61 so far. As the inventory dwindles, it’s time to decide what to keep.
Some I want to keep for sentimental value and some to use. The first shortwave radio I had was in the 1960’s in high school, a Nanaola Model 10NT504. That radio is long gone, but I found a photo of one online:
It had MW, longwave and 3 shortwave bands. The two features I fondly remember were the dial light button and the concentric tuning control with the outside control knob for coarse tuning and the central knob for fine tuning. It worked quite well.
My next radio was a Lafayette KT-340, a multi-band shortwave radio that I built from a kit. This is what it looked like:
Here’s a photo from 1967 of me with both of these radios.
A number of other radios have come and gone including a RadioShack DX-60, DX-300 and DX-400 that I very much enjoyed at the time, but back to the question of what to hang onto from the existing accumulation.
This is the oldest shortwave radio I still own. They were made around 1985. It’s a single conversion AM/FM/Shortwave radio. Shortwave is segmented into 3 bands, but provides continuous coverage from 2.3 to 18 MHz; it has an LED tuning indicator and a tone control plus a connection for an external antenna that can be wired as a dipole for FM or a long wire with ground for shortwave. That’s pretty advanced, and the only radio I still have with an explicit connection for ground. I still have the external AC power supply for it. This one is definitely a keeper for sentimental reasons.
I took it for a spin and I was immediately impressed by the big sound from the speaker. It latched onto stations well and the LED tuning indicator was helpful. One thing stuck me about tuning this receiver, that it is quiet between stations, where I’m used to hearing a great deal of noise. I finally found my original Panasonic RF-085 Operating Instructions (manual) and since there appears to be none online, I scanned it put it here on the blog as well as some product specifications I found online.
The E1100 (AKA Tecsun DR-920, AKA Grundig G1100) is a very simple radio, a basic analog tuned, single conversion radio with a digital frequency display. It receives AM, FM and 10 shortwave bands. I used to have two of these and I gave one to a friend who had been a ham radio operator earlier in his life. He died of cancer and I heard that he enjoyed the radio towards the end. So this radio reminds me of him.
I gave the radio a try and was pleasantly rewarded with a good number of stations from this sensitive receiver.
Next: Three radios from Tecsun on my potential keeper list
I think this is probably the best radio I have, making it a strong candidate for a keeper. It has a staggering 2000 memories, covering AM/FM/LW/SW with SSB demodulation. It’s my only air band radio, not that I listen to that very often. This radio is larger and heavier, less amenable to travel. It has an external antenna jack.
I bought several digital signal processing radios from Tecsun over the years looking for the ultimate travel radio. The PL-380 has been around the world with me and it has done a very good job. It has automatic band scanning, 550 memories, and direct frequency entry. It also has a thermometer. The one odd omission is that it lacks an external antenna jack. It’s a very compact radio lightweight radio, has nice padded case and can charge its 3 AA batteries with a mini USB cable. It was definitely on my keeper list, at least until recently when I bought the next model. Now it’s sold.
This moderately-priced radio does it all, building on the PL-380 while adding SSB demodulation. It also has Enhanced Tuning Mode (ETM+) that scans the entire shortwave band and stores the stations it finds in a separate bank of memories for each hour of the day. That’s on top of other banks of memories that can be scanned and stored separately. It adds the external antenna jack, but loses the thermometer. This radio uses a smaller rechargeable battery, making it thinner and lighter than the PL-380. It uses a micro USB cable for charging. This one goes on my next trip.
What I don’t like about the PL-380 and the PL-330 is that it’s obvious that they use synthesized tuning as there is a chuffing sound between each frequency tuned. The PL-660 doesn’t have that unpleasantness.
That’s it for the serious shortwave listening radios, but there are a few more keeper candidates.
This was a $24.99 whim from Amazon, the Zhiwhis (I hear that as “gee whiz”) ZWS-603. It not only has MP3 but also Bluetooth and a feature I wish I had in other radios, recording (from four sources: an internal microphone, an audio cable, Bluetooth and the radio). It also has a remarkable 3W speaker and a claimed bass port (keeping in mind that the speaker is only 2.7″). This is what it looks like:
On a 19″ monitor, that picture is a 50% bigger than the real radio.
We’ll see if this one is a keeper. One major drawback is that it has no clock.😱
I just like the ergonomics of this one and the really bright green screen. It’s as bright as in the photo. It has synthesized tuning and can also use a USB cable to charge batteries (3 AAA in this case). It’s definitely a shirt-pocket radio. It also sounds rather good, especially with stereo headphones. It’s main drawback is that it lacks a tuning dial, relying instead on buttons.
A new/old entry – Kaito RWX911
I discovered that I had salted away a Kaito RWX911 because it had such a nice metallic blue color and it had a real tuning dial.
One useful technique for keeping within my 9 shortwave radio budget is reclassification; therefore, any radio with a weather band is classified a “weather radio” whether it has shortwave or not, a radio up for auction on eBay or that didn’t sell is classified as “stored stuff” and a software defined radio is classified as an SDR (after all, it can receive weather!). I have two weather radios, around 6 “stored stuff” radios and one SDR.
This article continues to be updated. In addition to the 7 (by my count) radios in the list, I added a Kaito KA29. This shortwave radio can be used as a recording device and it has very good sound with quality headphones. Whether I’ll keep it for the long term is an open question. The display and button labels are very easy to read, but operation is somewhat counterintuitive, and shortwave coverage is separated into bands, leaving gaps between.
I’ve written another article comparing the Zhiwhis ZWS-603 and the Kaito KA29. Zhiwhis ZWS-603 vs Kaito KA29, These two radios occupy one niche and probably one of them will be retired or reclassified somehow.
That leaves one slot open
Originally that slot was reserved for an XHDATA D-808, an excellent radio that I thought I was going to get for a good price, but two orders for one defaulted and I’m left with the option of paying over $100. The radio might arguably be worth that (or not), but I already have two solid Tecsun radios for serious listening.
There are now 9 radios on the keeper list:
Tecsun PL-660 (because it doesn’t chuff, is a great all around radio, has SYNC, and air band)
Tecsun PL-330 (lightweight and convenient for travel, Enhanced Tuning System, and SSB)
Eton E1100 (same as Tecsun DR-920, sensitive and simple)
Kaito RWX911 (same as Tecsun R-911, because it’s blue and has a real tuning dial)
Degen DE15 (a true pocket radio with a bright display, synthesized tuning, but alas no tuning knob)
Panasonic RF-085 (my oldest remaining radio, sentimental, about the same size as the PL-660, great sound and remarkably quiet tuning shortwave)
ZHIWHIS ZWS-603 (because I can record with it and it has a big 3W speaker and a “bass port.” I can use it to boost the sound of the other smaller radios and it has a very low price
Kaito KA29 (because it has big buttons and orange accents)
I haven’t bought a radio in quite a while, but the new Tecsun PL-330 seemed quite capable, so I used the proceeds from selling off older radios on eBay to buy a new PL-330 (with firmware version 3306). I was primarily looking for an all-purpose model with emphasis on travel.
The PL-330 invites comparison with the earlier PL-380, both at similar price points and size, so I dug out my old A/B switch, plugged in the headphones and compared reception of CHU on 3300 kHz. I could not detect any difference in reception between the two radios — I thought the switch was broken. The switch was fine; the radios were just that close.
Note: the only manual that came with my PL-380 was in Chinese, so I found one online and have included it here. The others came with English-language manuals.
For travel purposes, size and weight are concerns. There’s a big difference. (Specifications from the manuals, weight with battery and case measured.)
PL-330 – 130 x 80 x 26 mm – 210g (238g with case and battery)
PL-380 – 135 x 86 x 26 mm – 200g (324 with case and batteries)
PL-660 – 187 x 114 x 33 mm – 470g (649 with case and batteries)
The PL-660 with case and batteries weighs more than the other two radios combined! The manual is just wrong on the depth measurement. The PL-330 is 24mm deep and the PL-380 is 29mm (rounded down). Part of the difference in depth is that the PL-380 has a kickstand structure on the back that adds to the thickness, but even without the kickstand, the PL-380 is noticeably thicker.
Part of the weight difference comes from the batteries (my measurements used eneloop brand rechargeable batteries). The PL-660 uses 4 AA batteries; the PL-380 uses three AA batteries and the PL-330 uses one BL-5C cell phone battery (included), available on eBay for under $5 with free shipping.
Both the PL-330 and PL-380 can be charged in the radio by connecting a 5V DC source. The PL-380 uses a mini USB connector and the PL-330 a micro USB connector (in the models I have). The PL-660 requires a 6V external supply to charge the batteries.
Each radio has a setting to enable internal charging and to change the battery charge status indictor to take into account the lower voltage of rechargeable batteries.
The PL-380 seems to be unique among the three in having a thermometer. Use the “Display” mode button to switch between what’s displayed in the upper right corner of the screen. A long press of the “3” key with the radio OFF switches between 9 kHz and 10 kHz steps on the AM band and at the same time switches the temperature display from C to F.
The PL-380 and PL-660 have kickstands but the PL-33o does not. The PL-660 has an aircraft band but the other two do not. The PL-330 and PL-660 have external antenna connectors, but the PL-380 does not. Supposedly there is a secret long-press (“3” with the radio ON) for the PL-330 to switch AM/LW reception from the internal ferrite antenna to the external antenna. For more hidden features, visit the swling site.
The PL-330 can tune in 5 kHz or 1 kHz steps on shortwave, but in addition can be set to tune to a precision of just 10 Hz. This is used for SSB and SYNC tuning.
The PL-330 and PL 380 each have 27 buttons and 2 knobs, albeit not exactly the same ones. The PL-660 forges ahead with 28 buttons, 2 switches and 3 knobs. The two switches are for features lacking in the other radios, a DX/Normal/Local switch and a tone switch.
Sensitivity specifications are identical for each radio except for longwave where the PL-660 is rated at 5 mV/m compared to 10 mV/m for the other two.
All three radios have better memory than I do, organized in different ways:
PL-330. 850 memories, 100 LW, 150 MW, 300 SW, 100 AM, 100 SSB, 100 SYNC. In addition there is a separate memory set for the Enhanced Tuning Mode (ETM+) that stores stations found by automatic scanning, organized by band and for some bands, by time of day. For shortwave, there is a separate bank of memories for each hour of the day, and for AM there are 6 segments of time with their own memory bank. FM has only one bank. The user can also store individual stations manually. There is a total of 21 banks of ETM+ memory, but the number in each bank is not specified in the manual.
The PL-660 has an incredible 2000 memories. It has an Easy Tuning Mode (ETM) that can store 100 FM/AM/LW/Air stations each, 200 shortwave stations and 200 SSB frequencies. On top of that there are an additional 1200 memories organized in 12 pages of 100 memories each. It also has manual storing.
The PL-380 has a pathetic (just joking) 550 memories, 100 each for AM/FM/LW and 250 for SW. It also can scan and automatically store stations.
LW 153-512 kHz
MW 520-1710 / 522-1620 kHz
SW 1711-29999 kHz
FM 64-108 / 76-108 / 88-108 MHz (depending on region; mine goes 87-108)
LW 153-513 kHz
MW 520-1710 / 522-1620 kHz
FM 87-108 / 64-108 / 75-108 MHz (depending on region; mine goes 87-108)
LW 100-519 kHz
MW 520-1710 / 522-1620 kHz
SW 1711-29999 kHz
FM 76-108 / 87 MHz-108 MHz (depending on region; mine goes 87-108)
Air 118-137 MHz
Single sideband (SSB)
Only the PL-330 and PL-660 support SSB transmissions. The PL-660 uses a more traditional approach. On tunes the station and then uses a separate SSB BFO (beat frequency oscillator) control to zero in on the setting that generates the missing sideband. The PL-330 simply tunes the station by frequency and nails the reception. It is possible for the station or the radio to be slightly off frequency and for that the turning step can be set for 10 Hz to get it precisely, although this is usually not needed.
The two SSB radios also have synchronous tuning, a technique where only one sideband is received and the other excluded and regenerated in the radio. This can perform miracles when two stations are very close together.
Up until now, my go to radio for home use was the PL-660 and for traveling the PL-380. I prefer the PL-660 overall because of the lack of chuffing, the “chuff, chuff, chuff” sound heard when tuning. It’s annoying. The PL-660 tuning dial turns smoothly, while on the other radios there is a detent for each position that can be felt (more so on the PL-380 than the PL-330). At this point I don’t see any need to keep the PL-380 and I’ll probably sell it.
I’ve driven every incarnation of Tesla’s Autopilot system, from the Autopilot Convenience Feature using the Mobileye chip, to Enhanced Autopilot using TeslaVision and the NVidia computer, to the FSD computer and Tesla’s limited distribution Full Self-Driving Beta 10.10.2. I have some basis for an informed opinion.
Autonomous driving has two parts: building a computer model of the roadway surrounding the car, and deciding how to drive on it.
Both Tesla and Waymo (Google’s autonomous ride-sharing project) use artificial neural networks to map sensor data into a model of the car, the roadway and objects on the road. They both use expert-written computer code to tell the car what to do, and they are both trying to increase the role of machine learning and reduce the amount of computer control code. Here is a diagram from a Waymo presentation showing the overlap (ML is Machine Learning):
Neither Tesla nor Waymo to my knowledge have disclosed how big each piece is, but Musk (in the interview below) indicated that a significant shift will occur towards the ML side in Version 11 of their FSD that’s in alpha test now, with a possible release date of February 2022 missed.
But Musk says that the driving rules are the easy part; vision is the hard problem. Waymo simplifies the problem with specially-prepared high-definition maps. The car already knows every curb and every driveway before it starts. (Preparing those maps will delay deployment by Waymo to new locations.)
Vision is the hard part, but look at where Tesla was as of version 10 of its FSD Beta:
It sees cars, trash cans, motorcycles, pedestrians, stop signs, speed limit signs, lane lines, mile markers, turn lane markings, traffic lights and even dogs.
It’s easy for me to understand why Waymo uses high-definition maps when I drive and notice all the weird stuff in the real world — roads that are really parking lots, and nonstandard intersections. I run across things that I can’t visually figure out at night.
As a user of the cutting-edge pre-release Tesla system, it’s easy to be both optimistic and pessimistic. It does wonderful things, and it has colossal failures.
What I believe, however, is that things are headed in the right direction and that we’ll experience more rapid improvement soon, coming from:
Merging the city and highway software stacks (one stack to rule them all)
The transition from human-coded rules to machine learning
The transition from processed images to photon counts as inputs to the neural network (this will greatly improve night driving)
Faster neural net training when the Dojo computer comes online in mid 2022
Reduced latency (the time it takes to respond to an input) due to software optimization and a new C++ compiler.
We should see these in FSD Beta 11.
The most pessimistic sign is when Elon Musk says “Level 4 autonomous driving in 2022.” This is the same guy who said a fleet of robotaxis by the end of 2019.
So yes, I believe Tesla will reach Level 4 autonomy. I expect it to be pretty much done in 2022. I’ve been wrong before, but I know more now than I did before.
There is a very curious thing about Republican claims of a stolen election in 2020: they never say who personally did it. One guy with Dominion Voting Systems supposedly said something, and one low-level election worker in Georgia is getting death threats, but this massive conspiracy that supposedly happened in many states about Venezuelan voting software, supercomputers in Germany or under the South Pole, and trucks of Chinese-made fake ballots magically appearing under a table or whatever else remain vague. They fish for “anomalies” but are clueless how they could have actually happened. They don’t name names.
Things don’t happen unless someone made them happen and that is the fatal flaw in the Trumpian version of 2020. They say things happened, but nobody did it.
The conspiracists did name some companies, companies that are suing for billions of dollars in damages for defamation. That’s why the conspiracies have no names attached because the moment they name names, those falsely accused of crimes can sue in court to clear their names and recover damages — big damages.
Always be wary of a conspiracy claim that names no one.
Some people like Tesla’s latest revision to the user interface, and some don’t. I’m in the first group.
How quickly they forget
I’ve gone through every version of Tesla firmware since Version 7. Once you get used to one, the previous version fades from memory, as is quickly becoming the case with Version 10.2 of blessed memory.
We forget what was wrong with Version 10. It was cluttered. There was a bar across the top with buttons to push, and a bar along the bottom with buttons to push — in fact there were so many buttons that one had to focus (read: stop looking at the road and ponder) on what you wanted. Many things that are infrequent settings (like Bluetooth pairing) took up visual space all of the time.
I like the less cluttered touchscreen. It’s more focused on driving and music, and less on settings.
Where did it go?
This is the short-term frustration. I learned where all those things were: the odometer, the tire pressure, the dash cam viewer, the seat heaters, Bluetooth pairing and other stuff I’m quickly forgetting. I’m the first to admit that I couldn’t find the dashcam recording viewer (it’s an app with an icon that looks just like the live dash cam viewer except for one tiny red dot). I couldn’t find the tire pressure (it’s on the service menu and doesn’t show up until the car is driven a little — like before). The seat heaters are under the climate controls. The Odometer is on the Controls | Trips tab. The other settings are on the main controls screen.
One cool thing is that you may not need a setting that you used before; for example, seat heaters. There is a setting for them to turn on automatically with the cabin climate control. How cool is that?
One might say that they don’t want to go to a second screen to save dashcam footage, but there’s a voice command for that — you don’t have to go anywhere.
I think placement of things before was rather ad hoc. This is more intentional.
“I used to know where everything is and now I don’t know where anything is.” I get that, but it goes away quickly.
Far and away, my absolute favorite new feature is the automatic display of the rear-facing side camera display when the turn signal is activated. That’s a huge safety plus. It’s one setting that everyone should make.
The Light Show is cute to show to other people. Now you don’t have to have a Model X for a show. I don’t really play games on my car, so the new ones don’t excite me.
The app bar at the bottom is customizable and remembers your recent selections. I like that, and I put the web browser down there. On a long trip, I can quickly refer back to the energy graph.