Receiver Review: Sony ICF-SW77

ICF-SW77

Year Introduced: 1991
Power: Battery and mains supply (see below). AC adapter usually included in the price
Size: 290 x 160 x 50 mm
Weight: 1800 g
Price: US$649.95, CAN$700, £400, A$1250, €800
Coverage: FM, LW, MW, & SW (150 - 29999 kHz)

Value Rating: starstarstarstar

 


This review was compiled independently. The Medium Wave Circle and Radio Netherlands has no financial connection with Sony, the manufacturer of this receiver.


 

Introduction

The ICF-SW77 is the logical successor to the ICF-2001D. But note that unlike the older receiver, there is no air band coverage.
The ICF-SW77 takes up the same volume as the 2001D. It has rounded sides though, and it is easier to hold thanks to better styling. It uses 4 size C cells, other wise known as the R-14 size, to power it. So it's goodbye to the 3 large size D cells that ran the 2001D, and the three penlight cells that were needed to run and back-up the computer section of the radio. The batteries are smaller so they don't last as long... about 14 hours using AM at a comfortable volume. You're better off using the AC power supply if possible. Better audio than 2001D. Stereo on FM, but amplifier noise is annoying. Clearly the concept of the SW77 was to get rid of mechanical memory buttons and create an electronic notepad which could store the text of a station name, its frequency and mode. They then put this electronic notepad inside the receiver, and provided buttons allowing you to page forward and backwards through the notepad as it were.

Not surprisingly, you can type in a frequency directly. There's also a manual tuning knob, now rechristened a "jog shuttle" control, which allows you to move up and down the AM dial in 50 Hz. Resolution on the frequency display is 100 Hz. It's important that you set the internal clock to the correct local time, and tell it the difference between your local time and UTC. That's because the radio comes with schedules of some 26 international broadcasters already programmed into it. During comparative tests in August 1991, the synthesizer noise from the SW-77 was noticeably higher than the 2001D... especially on medium and longwave. Sony has fixed this problem and all sets sold after the summer of 1992 are considerably better.

The 162 memories gives you an enormous database of listening suggestions and updating is easy once you wade through the instruction manual. The push buttons on the receiver have a clear profile above the front panel that will be handy for visually handicapped users.

Good points:

* improved ease of tuning.
* stereo on FM
* pre-programmed stations.
* better audio than 2001D
* single set of batteries
* preprogrammed frequency info can be updated.

Negative points

* Background noise of the amplifier was too high on the models we tested in 1991, 93 and 95. This is annoying when listening to FM on stereo headphones.
* No airband coverage 116-136 MHz as on the ICF2001D.
* Some pre-programmed frequency choices are not correct. Italian channels are wrong. VOA doesn't use some of the channels given.
* Instruction manual will be very difficult to follow for first-time users. Descriptions of the Quick-Page and the programming of the timer need much more explanation. Some advice missing: e.g. the find out the current UTC time, just listen to any international broadcaster on the full hour. Time on all international broadcasting stations is given in UTC/GMT.

 

Power supply

Sony, in common with many other Japanese companies has now introduced a new DC power socket on its radios. The centre pin is now positive, and the size and colour of the socket is dependent on the voltage the radio needs. The SW77 works on 6 volts DC, and has a yellow socket to indicate that. If you have an old power supply, which has a plug with the + and - the other way round, don't worry. The plug on your old power supply won't fit the radio anyway... so no chance on any problems.

The 2001D was often criticised for its rather 'tinny audio', especially when listening to local stations on FM. Sound is extremely subjective of course, but most users will agree that the audio on the ICF-SW77 is much richer and fuller than the 2001D. The speaker is bigger and now oval shaped, and there are separate bass and treble controls. On both AM and FM you can get a rich powerful sound.

 

Hissy amplifier

If you want good stereo from local FM stations that can be done on the ICF-SW77 if you connect a pair of good headphones. However, on our example, the amplifier hiss was annoying on a good pair of 'CD quality' headphones. The level was MUCH higher than the ICF2001D on models we tested in 1991, 93 and 95. Sony says that models in 1997 are quieter.

 

Tuning

The 2001D had a front panel which included a matrix of 32 push-buttons. Daunting at first, these turned out to be memory buttons. You could store the frequency and mode of a favourite station at the touch of two buttons. But you had to make a note on a piece of paper somewhere as the name of the station under button A7 for example. Clearly the concept of the SW77 was to get rid of all these mechanical memory buttons and create an electronic note-pad which could store the text of a station name, its frequency and mode. They then put this electronic notepad inside the receiver, and provided and forward and backwards buttons allowing you to page through the notepad as it were.

The set is being sold in around 6 versions, depending on local restrictions. The full coverage version offers continuous AM coverage from 150 kHz up to 30 MHz, plus FM from 76 to 108 MHz. The set can receive signals in AM, USB, LSB, and the synchronous detection feature of the 2001D is also on the SW77. Now in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, SSB coverage and a portion of frequencies between 285 and 531 kHz and above 26100 kHz is blocked out. Sets sold in Italy have some restrictions built in to them too. What with 1992 round the corner, it makes you wonder how long such restrictions can remain in force. But still, Sony's not to blame for this.

 

Jog Shuttle

Not surprisingly, you can type in a frequency directly. There's a manual tuning knob, now rechristened a 'jog shuttle' control, which allows you to move up and down the AM dial in 50 Hz. Resolution on the frequency display is 100 Hz... you still get that 'chuffing sound' as it does so.

It's important that you set the internal clock to the correct local time, and tell it the difference between your local time and UTC. That's because the radio comes with schedules of some 26 international broadcasters already programmed into it. By that I mean, not only the frequencies being used, but the time they are schedule to broadcast on those channels. Sony tell us that radios shipped to Europe have a different set of channels programmed into them than radios shipped to Asia or North America. That's logical. On our European version we conclude that about 80% is correct. You push a button marked BBC or VOA, and most of the time that's what you'll hear. Larger broadcasters with lots of transmitters are able to create so-called in-house channels. The BBC makes extensive use of 9410 or 6195 kHz for instance.

The European frequencies for stations like Sweden or Denmark are also programmed, although you're not going to hear them outside the continent. Luckily you can not only add your own favourite stations to the electronic logbook, you can also change the pre-programmed channels to. You use the manual tuning knob to select letters of the alphabet. The set also has an ingenious timer, more versatile than the 2001D, and there is provision via an optional extra for the radio to control a tape-recorder.

 

Good performance

We put an ICF-SW77 and ICF-2001D side by side. Switching between upper and lower sideband in the sync mode is more convenient on the SW-77. Both receivers offer a narrow AM mode which you'll need if your listening to a station and there's heavy interference from a transmitter 5 kHz away.

 

Conclusions

If you're expecting improved reception from this set compared to the ICF-2001D, the conclusion is that there's not much difference. The SW77 has better audio quality though, finer tuning, and a whole variety of extra tuning aids which you may or may not find useful. 162 memories gives you an enormous database of listening suggestions and updating is easy once you wade through the instruction manual. The push buttons on the receiver have a clear profile above the front panel that will be handy for visually handicapped users.

In short this is a nice set. You're certainly getting a lot of technology for the price and Sony has gone out of their way to improving tuning convenience.

Special Note: A copy of the manufacture's manual for this receiver is included on Vol 51 of our archive CD's.

This review first appeared on the Radio Netherlands website.