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write your own review of the Magnavox D2935.
Jan 21, 2010 14:39
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Time owned: more than 12 months
I have a philips d 2935 for 22 years, it has a blue on/off button. they are a little better than the one's with the the small grey buttons.the dial lamp died and was easy to replace,the light button got lame and needs a toothpick now.the bad thing is the rubber covers the buttons that dissolves in time, I repeared it with bookcover plastic adhesive sheet.
Dec 26, 2007 04:49
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Durable, very good performer, excellent audio
Time owned: more than 12 months
Can't believe this one hasn't been reviewed here before. In the words of Sheila Broflovski: "Wha-wha-wha-WHAT?!?!"
This has been one of my favorite portables since lucking into it in a Texas pawn shop more than 10 years ago. Apparently it was expensive when new and never as widely distributed in the U.S. as the contemporaneous Sony ICF-2010. So finding one for $25 was a stroke of good fortune.
Why such a lengthy review for a radio that hasn't been produced for almost 20 years? Because you too might luck into one for a reasonable price. BTW, I *don't* consider the prices over $200 or more for this radio on ebay, Universal or elsewhere to be reasonable unless the radio is in excellent condition and includes the original manual and accessories. Unless you're a diehard collector, you can do a lot better for $200 these days.
My primary motivation for writing such a detailed review is the hope of prompting today's manufacturers to take a little pride in the construction quality of their radios. There's no shame in putting top performing electronics inside a sturdy, decently shielded box that won't crack inside your luggage or go brain-dead if you look at it crosseyed.
This radio was also sold as the Philips D2935 and was favorably reviewed in the 1987 edition of Passport to World Band Radio. In my 1993 copy it was given three stars, rated as an "Editor's Choice" and, like the D2999 tabletop, praised for its audio quality.
I mentioned this radio on a Yahoo! group and received this informative reply (from the Yahoo! "Shortwave-SWL-Antenna" group):
"The 2935 was developed at Philips in the Netherlands and produced in Hong Kong. I used to work at Philips and in the early 80's my development group was responsible for the mechanical part of the 2935. The electronic development team was working on the same floor, so I talked to them a lot.
"The 2935 turned out to be a decent SW receiver because among the designers were SWL's and hams. They took the commercial assignment to the limit. It was a very difficult radio to develop, because it was only the second up-conversion, PLL controlled receiver at Philips (the first was the D2999).
"Because of radiation by the microcontroller all the digital electronics were encapsuled in a separate metallized box. Even the LCD display has a conductive transparent coating to shield the radiation.
"And I agree, the styling is a bit "dated" now.
"Cor Beijersbergen van Henegouwen"
Regarding the styling, I'd make some wisecrack about the radio resembling some Teutonic fashionista's notion of a 1980s New Wave handbag.
Direct tuning frequency entry keypad.
Tuning wheel calibrated in 1 kHz steps when tuned slowly; 100 kHz leaps when spun quickly (a short flick works best).
Three external screw contacts for antennas, labeled AM, ground and FM.
Five bar red LED signal strength meter in any AM mode.
Chart displays typical meter bands and frequency ranges for most amateur radio and broadcast SW bands.
Good selection of power choices. Reasonable life from six D cell batteries. Three AA for memory preset backup - not critical since there's no clock and only nine presets. Operates from fairly common direct AC cord or 12 volt DC adapter. Inset but readily accessible adjustment for 110-127 volt or 220-240 volt power supply.
Constant audio line out RCA socket for recording to tape, computer, etc. Variable audio output via sturdy 1/4" phono socket for monaural headphones.
Snap-in/out plastic bar on rear for tilting radio. Does not lock open but seems to resist collapsing.
Carrying strap lugs, large enough for makeshift straps including inexpensive military surplus nylon straps.
Lamp for LCD display (mine burned out after around 10 years).
Local/Distance switch in addition to AM gain control knob.
Large gray LCD panel displays frequency (from 146-29999 kHz in AM and 87.50-108.00 MHz in FM), mode (FM, LW, MW, SW), and memory preset. In shortwave mode, when tuning within the limits of the defined broadcast bands (as of the mid-1980s) the meter band is displayed: for example, when tuned to Radio New Zealand on 9765 kHz, the upper left corner of the LCD displays "31m". When in the amateur or UTE frequencies or outside of the broadcast bands (again, as of the 1980s definition), it reads "SW".
1. The beefy construction goes straight to the bone - it's rugged. Easy to grip - lots of textured surfaces. Good choice for field DXing.
2. Solidly made telescoping whip, unlikely to bend easily. Pivot point hasn't come loose. Rotation on a heavy duty stub is spring loaded with positive clicking detents.
3. Membrane covered keypad feels a bit odd at first but has a positive feel and protects the keys from those greasy fingers during field DXing.
4. LCD display protected by hard plastic cover.
5. All buttons and knobs operate smoothly and positively. No wobbles, wiggles, off-centered knobs or scratchy pots. Nicely knurled knobs. This is *the* example of how serious portable DX rigs should be made.
6. Multiple options for powering the radio.
7. Very good overall performer throughout the frequency range, AM and FM.
8. Excellent audio, one of the best. Rich sound for FM music listening.
9. Straightforward, uncomplicated operation. No instruction manual really needed. Even the memory presets can be figured out with a little experimenting.
10. Precise feeling tuning wheel, with soft detents for each 1 kHz step.
11. Volume, tone, AM gain control and BFO control knobs each have palpable raised notch to aid in adjusting by feel.
12. Direct AC connection at radio never gets more than slightly warm even when left powered on for hours or days.
1. It's heavy. And bulky. You can't have beefy and rugged without heavy and bulky.
2. Needs a full complement of six D cell torpedoes for field use. Adds to the aforementioned heft.
3. Doesn't seem possible to completely isolate the external antenna inputs from the internal ferrite bar and telescoping whip (unless, perhaps, modified).
4. In extreme conditions, vulnerable to images from powerful local MW stations in LW and MW modes. Seems to occur only when the radio is placed within inches of a CRT computer monitor or TV.
5. Not quite as easy to null out competing MW broadcasters as with the Sony ICF-2010. Seems to null only in one orientation, while most radios are able to null in two orientations.
6. Knobs project out approximately 1/2" from the front, making it somewhat less travel friendly than something like the ICF-2010.
7. No synchronous detector. On the other hand, it isn't often missed since the D2935 performs well using ECSS tuning technique.***
8. No selectable AGC or filter widths. AGC is geared toward pleasant program listening, not CW, RTTY or other data modes. Filter width not the best choice for CW listening during pileups.
9. Lower tuning limit in LW is 146 kHz. Upper tuning limit for use with internal ferrite antenna is 1622 kHz - external antenna is needed for directional reception of extended AM MW broadcast band.
10. No FM mode in HF range. Not many opportunities to use this mode but even the lightly regarded Uniden Bearcat DX1000 offers FM mode at all available frequencies.
11. Coarse 1 kHz tuning. (***See tip below for fine tuning.) Sturdy dial but no fingertip tuning aid.
Automatically selects internal ferrite antenna when tuned to 1622 kHz or lower. Defaults to whip from 1623 MHz on up. While this simplifies tuning, it also excludes the extended MW broadcast band from use with the internal ferrite antenna.
Note: there is a switch for choosing between the ferrite and whip antennas; however, at least on my sample, it does not seem to have any effect on some frequencies and relatively little effect on others. I'm wondering whether a previous owner modified this radio, so I'm reluctant to conclude anything about its possibilities as a MW DXing machine as-is, although it's adequate for my uses. From my home in Fort Worth I've been able to null out 50,000 watt WHO on 1040 kHz in Des Moines to hear a low powered local gospel station, and vice versa, especially toward greyline. And some days I can pick out a local 250 watt station that, while only 50 or so miles away, is often buried under adjacent stations.
In practice, the FM lug can be used for AM reception but can overload easily. So far I haven't found a use for an external antenna with this radio and don't know how well it might perform with, for example, an external loop LW/MW antenna like the DX Tools Quantum or other design.
The Local/Distance attenuation switch does not completely reject images from strong stations in certain extreme conditions, especially when the internal ferrite antenna is selected. This seems to be a problem only when the radio is very close to a CRT computer monitor, TV or other strong source of interference. However, this can make the D2935 slightly more difficult to use alongside a computer for DXing LW beacons. (The obvious solution: "Don't Do That!")
Difficult to isolate RFI/EMI when using line out for recording audio files on a computer. Using ferrite chokes on the cable helps but does not completely eliminate noise. (As a comparison, the Palstar R30 is relatively easy to isolate using a single snap-on choke in the line out cable.)
Only nine total presets available for all modes, not nine for each mode. I use mine only temporarily, reassigning as needed for a session (such as romping around the most commonly used pirate frequencies on a weekend or holiday).
Very good performing, reasonably selective internal ferrite bar antenna for MW and LW. In general, it compares favorably with the original GE Superradio I and II. Oddly, mine seems to null only in one direction, a minor annoyance. Vulnerable to images from the strongest local MW broadcasters in LW and MW modes only when placed within inches of my PC monitor. Otherwise, no problems - just keep it a foot or so away from your CRT monitor or TV.
Very good shortwave performance with built-in telescoping whip. Resists overloading, no problems from local powerhouse AM stations or other sources, very good sensitivity to weak signals, good selectivity (no narrow filter option). Orienting the whip parallel with the ground/floor can reduce some noise while still retaining copyable moderate to strong signals. (Some portables can't handle this trick.)
Excellent audio for large, metal mesh covered speaker. Very comparable to the Palstar R30 through the SP30 outboard speaker. Mellow but not wooly. Effective continuous tone control knob that is useful throughout its full range, not just an afterthought as with some radios.
AGC characteristics (not manually adjustable) still compare well with more contemporary radios, an excellent compromise to ensure weak signals can be heard while maintaining pleasant audio characteristics, tolerable even when static is heavy or poor propagation causes fading.
ECSS listening is possible for AM broadcasts due to effective design of the BFO option. In fact, the D2935 is an excellent performer with the ECSS tuning method.
***Although the tuning wheel is calibrated only to coarse 1 kHz steps, in BFO mode it's easy to smoothly tune out beats even when tuning one or two kHz to either side of center. Very useful for weak and fading signals, crowded MW and SW bands (such as the 49 meter band at night) and even occasionally useful for minimizing whines and whistles. In effect, using the BFO enables stepless tuning to slightly more than 2 kHz to either side of center for well modulated MW and SW broadcasts. This negates the apparent limitation of 1 kHz steps for most broadcast listening. In effect, it provides for more pleasant ECSS tuning than with the Sony ICF-2010, with its chuggy tuner and no BFO control.
Continuous AM gain control knob also facilitates tuning SSB for amateur radio, utilities or ECSS listening to broadcasts. A useful trick is to turn the gain slightly down from maximum, which seems to stabilize fluttering signals better when dealing with AM broadcasts or over-amped hams. The volume can be turned up to compensate for the reduced gain.
It seems reasonable to compare the D2935 to another favorite for ECSS listening, the Palstar R30 (I have the R30C with a ceramic MuRata wide and mechanical Collins narrow filter). Both feature outstanding audio for MW and SW broadcast listening. While the D2935 doesn't quite match the Palstar R30 in terms of selectivity or resistance to overload and images, it is slightly better for fine tuning in ECSS mode due to the well designed continuous, stepless BFO and AM gain controls. The D2935 offers only coarse 1 kHz tuning, but stepless adjustments, while the R30 offers tuning in 20 Hz steps. Radios using the seemingly obsolete beat frequency oscillator adjustment can actually make it easier to home in on a weak carrier, which will whine in protest when even slightly out of tune. Meanwhile, the Palstar is almost too well engineered to resist such whining, and only the off-pitch tone of voices and music can give away the need to retune. It's a tossup: when either the signal or the radio drifts a bit, BFO tuning will whine and tell you about it; the R30 requires careful listening to the pitch of the broadcast. Where the R30 beats the D2935, ultimately, is in strong signal handling and isolation from extraneous sources, whether true signals or just plain noise. The R30 is as good - or bad - as the antenna attached. The D2935 is difficult to separate from its built in ferrite bar and telescoping whip antennas - which is fine, because those are good enough for the intended purpose of this radio.
This makes the D2935 my favorite for daily SW and MW broadcast listening. When I know exactly where I want to tune, this radio sits right next to my computer (despite the occasional need to reorient it for MW listening). It's what I use for listening to Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Sweden, Cuba, China, Taiwan, Japan and most English language programming. I prefer the Sony ICF-2010 for portable DXing - the nulls are slightly more effective in MW and the sync detector occasionally helps with a handful of really difficult broadcasts. But I don't like the ICF-2010 audio or ergonomics as well for daily use. The Palstar R30 is better for twiddling around the bands to find programs, hams, utilities, etc., because the improved weighted metal knob of the later model R30 series has a nice feel and the Palstar handles difficult signals more gracefully. But for 10 years the D2935 is the one I keep going back to for scheduled broadcast listening.
Due to the relatively minor weaknesses in performance I'd give it 4.5 points (if the eHam rating system allowed fractional points) in relative terms, evaluating the D2935 against truly comparable portables. And in absolute terms, considering the lack of passband tuning, notch filter, etc., in fairness it merits only a 3. But that would be misleading considering the inflated ratings given to certain recent portables. So I'll give it 4. Which, in my obviously biased opinion, may reveal that some of the overly enthusiastic solid "5" ratings given to certain recent models by new owners may best be taken with a dose of salts.
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