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Reviews
What The Press Say Various Cuttings from Magazines.
Shortwave Mag RD500VX Review  By John Wilson
Shortwave Mag RD500HF Review  By John Wilson
Ham Radio Today RD500VX   By Chris Lorek
Strong Signals RD500VX   By Richard J Wells
 
 
What the Press Say...
 
"Sometimes, when you pick up a 
piece of equipment for the first time,
 you know your handling quality kit. 
It's the nearest thing to perfection 
in a receiver that I've ever had the 
privilage of operating. 

In use, the Fairhaven is an absolute
 joy to operate. Putting it simply, 
it just plain works: it does what you'd
 expect it to do, and it does it very well.

 The Fairhaven RD500VX Radio Database
 is a truly great radio.

It really is an insult to its massive 
capabilities to just call it a scanner: 
it makes a perfect main base station
 all-band, all-mode receiver, 
yet is small enough to fit
under a dashboard for mobile use."

 - Giles Read, Radio Active Magazine.


___________________

"One of the best receivers tested in 40 years
 of short wave listening" 

- Geoff Brown, SMC. 


__________________

"If you're after a 'do-everything' receiver
 having the advantage of a massive built-in
 frequency and user database, 
then take a very serious look at the RD500,
you'll be pleasantly surprised.
 It's a receiver I'd be happy to use as my own."

 - Chris Lorek, Radio Today.


___________________

 "I was impressed with the RD500 
at our first meeting,
 and I'm even more impressed now.
This is really innovative design
 and deserves success. I know of no 
other receiver which combines all
 the features found in the RD500." 

- John Wilson, Short Wave Magazine.
___________________
"A singular vision of how radios 
of the future might be conceived" 

Star ratings for sensitivity, dynamic range,
 RF intermodulation, IF filters, IF performance 
and audio quality:- 

Fairhaven RD500VX (price £899) - 23 stars,
 AOR 5000 (price £1550)- 24 stars,
 Icom 8500 (price £1550)- 20 stars.

- WRTH Handbook.
___________________
 What we have here is basically an excellent
communications receiver for the entire spectrum
 that is loaded with features and interfaces
yet remains easy to use. Let the drooling begin...
Click below for the full review.
STRONG SIGNALS REVIEW
Richard J. Wells N2MCA - STRONG SIGNALS
___________________

 
 
 
 
 
 
The RD500VX HF/VHF/UHF Version 
John Wilson
 
A Second Look At An Intriguing Receiver

Having already reviewed the RD500 receiver last year, John Wilson was pleased when Fairhaven offered a second look following revisions to the original receiver. How could he refuse? Although still called the RD500, there have been some real changes to the unit, the first being a decided upgrade in the external appearance. The finish on the case, and the addition of a neat styling touch in having the name Fairhaven incorporated on the top cover make the RD500 much more attractive to look at, and whilst I appreciate that this doesnít help the performance of a receiver, it does show that the makers are listening to what their customers are saying and actually doing something about it. More interesting to me was the change of first IF filter frequency and the upgrading of the filter specification to take account of my original observations about the non symmetrical nature of the i.f. response and the effect this had on the signal handling capabilities of the receiver.

It Ain't Heavy - Its just Heavier

When I picked up the RD500 I realised that this was heavier than I remembered and was impressed by the two N-type professional antenna connectors on the rear panel in addition to the original pair of SO-239 connectors, which you may recall were for connection of either a low impedance coaxial fed antenna for the l.f./m.f./h.f. ranges or a whip antenna at a higher impedance. You may also remember the clever use of both connectors at the same time to provide r.f. noise cancelling facilities. The two new connectors were labelled "48 to 860MHz" and "860 to 1750MHz" so here was something exciting, because I hadnít expected the test receiver to come equipped with this amazing frequency coverage. And amazing it is when you consider how compact the RD500 seems in comparison to other receivers, even those which do a great deal less than the Fairhaven. Since the v.h.f. and u.h.f. coverage were the most important additions since my first review, letís start with how the receiver performed up there in the wide open spaces. I had an immediate problem in that my Rohde & Schwarz SMY generator stops at 1040MHz so I couldnít carry out sensitivity measurements above that frequency. However, with a measured sensitivity at 1040MHz on narrow f.m. of - 118dBm for 12dB SINAD, the receiver was clearly pretty hot, so I carried on down as shown in Table 1. The sensitivity was measured in dBm for 12dB SINAD with 3kHz deviation at 1kHz for f.m, the RD500 set to 'FMN', and with 60% modulation at 1kHz in a.m., with the RD500 set to 'AMN'. The receiver r.f. preamplifier was switched on during the tests. I encountered a gap between 590 and 670MHz where the receiver synthesiser was apparently not working.


590 to 670MHz is now catered for in all modes......C.B. 

 
 

Hot Little Receiver

As one of my colleagues from Exeter University often says to me "Whatís that in real microvolts?", and to give you some idea of the level of signals you will hear, -117dBm is equivalent to 0.3µV p.d. and that makes the RD500 a hot little receiver. Connected to a small log periodic I could hear signals over really long distance, and had the experience of tuning around during a sporadic-E opening when the band between 50 and 80MHz was simply awash with broadcast and TV signals from Italy to the Baltic States. Mind you, the same opening meant that I couldnít carry out any EMC measurements on the open area test site, but thatís another story. Great fun. For those who may want to tune s.s.b. signals at v.h.f., I did find that the demodulated signal became more 'wobbly' as I tuned higher in frequency, which I put down to noise from the synthesiser, but on the 144MHz and 432MHz amateur bands there were no problems. I wouldnít however recommend trying to listen to s.s.b. or c.w. on 1296MHz - but who does? I suppose that may trigger a letter from a keen v.h.f. contest operator but Iíll take a chance. I did encounter one barnstorming internal spurious carrier on 600MHz, but thatís the only one I fell over. I didnít have the time to tune the entire 1700MHz range in 100Hz steps, so if you find another sproggie, Iím sorry I missed it. Overall, I couldnít fail to be impressed by the performance of the RD500, and I find it hard to guess how it all fits in that tiny box.
 


Synthesiser performance has been tweaked at UHF, since the prototype was sent out for review. We had hoped to send a later version to John but the magazine deadline prevented it. As with any receiver a few sproggies exist and if you spend a day or two tuning the whole 1.75 gigs in 5Hz steps you will find a few, the important thing is that sproggies are kept away from amateur bands and away from 12.5kHz steps, so you can tune for miles without experiencing problems. ......C.B.


Symmetry

Since the first i.f. filtering had been changed, I went back and re-measured the 3rd order intercept point at h.f. and found that the response was now symmetrical with a figure of +10dBm easily attained at 20kHz spacing, just as the handbook says. I also found that operating the RD500 became very easy once I had mastered the triple function keypad, and I do prefer this approach to the Zen simple layered menu system, even though that is ultimately more flexible and extendible. The RD500 keypad in particular can be a mite confusing when you have a single key labelled as 'A', '2', and 'BP FILT' or 'W', '9', 'CLK'. Despite the obvious increase in cost, it would have been better to engrave the key tops with the numbers so that they were unmistakable, and had the second and third functions on the panel alongside. Donít get the idea that operation is very difficult, it isnít, but at first encounter you have to be very careful in determining which key is which. Having said that, itís a delight to have all the receiver functions available right there on the panel, even with second and third functions, but if I had been in a position to influence the design of the RD500 I would have insisted on a larger front panel in the first place so that all the controls could have had greater spacing between them. Going one step further, and suggesting the ultimate heresy to those who like micro styled receivers, if the RD500 was the same size and shape as, say an Icom receiver or the NRD-545, it would be an absolute stunner. But to go back to the keypad; Fairhaven can provide a small laptop type of keyboard which will plug into the PC interface socket on the rear panel, and this enables easy entry of data in a more familiar format. I havenít had the opportunity to try out the Windows based software from Fairhaven, but this would probably fulfil all needs for easy operation of the receiver, as well as great flexibility in entering database details. Itís worth mentioning that with two megabytes of memory fitted, you can store simply huge amounts of information and use it to drive the receiver. Imagine having the whole of Passport to World Band Radio or the Klingenfuss Guide right there in the receiver...what power.

It's British

As far as the million other functions and features which embellish the RD500 are concerned, I suggest that you go back to my original review rather than have the pages of the magazine filled with the same information this time around. All I can say is that I was impressed with the RD500 at our first meeting, and Iím even more impressed now. This is really innovative design and deserves success. I know of no other receiver which combines all the features found in the RD500, and this, coupled with the very wide frequency coverage makes the RD500 a very tempting prospect for anyone looking for a single receiver to use as an entire listening system. And itís British, so there are people here who do things other than spray beer over Belgian football fans and kick policemen unconscious.

Thanks again go to Clive Buxton at Fairhaven for supplying the review receiver. If you missed John's first look at the RD500, don't despair, back issues are available from the SWM Book Store at £2.75 each. - Ed.

Table 1:

MHz FM(N) AM(N)

1040 -118 -112

940 -116 -111

840 -118 -113

740 -118.5 -114

540 -120 -116

440 -122 -118

340 -123 -120

240 -122 -119

140 -123 -119

80 -121 -117

50 -119 -115.5
 
 

(The VX model includes video o/p and stereo FM)

PW Publishing Ltd. Short Wave Magazine & Practical Wireless.

The Home of British Hobby Radio. Editorial: Tel: +44 (0)1202 659910

SEE SHORTWAVE MAGAZINE FOR PICTURES AND FULL DETAILS.


 
John Wilson's RD500HF Review.
Short-wave Magazine.
 

"I found that using the RD500 (HF version) became very easy in a relatively short timeÖ by the time the manual arrived I no longer needed it apart from checking the memory functions (and I was surprised)"

Modes: "Very comprehensive" Stereo C.W: Ö."Listening in all modes produced pleasant results"

"Works very well"Ö"Outstanding"Ö "Switching between conventional filtering and stereo is quite an experience, and Iím completely hooked. How can I ever listen to C.W. again without the stereo facility? The comprehensive step size selection seems to cover any tuning increment the operator could wish for"Ö. "very easy to use". "Good S.meter calibration". Noise canceling: "very elegant". Record and playback: "Brilliant feature accessed at any time"

AGC function: "This is a very flexible arrangement and a well thought out feature"

Clock and timers: "Very comprehensive"

On board database: "Powerful stuff this, but simply executed and easily understood". "The storage capacity is huge"

"Instant access to any band you chose to put into the system is an excellent feature and well engineered"

"Think of the possibility of having the entire Klingenfuss guide or Ferrells Confidential frequency list at your fingertips, stored within your receiver - quite a thought."

The on board database "is very well organized and carefully arranged to be easy to use, and I enjoyed it immensely"

"Installing the Windows software took only a few seconds and was easy to use."

"The whole memory/database system has been carefully thought out and developed"

"It performed surprisingly well, the synthesiser was quiet, with a decent reciprocal mixing performance" (up to 143 dBc/Hz) "This is very similar to the Drake SW2 and somewhat better than the NRD 345"

"IP3 was +9.5dB" reducing to -3.5dB within the receivers I.F. passband.
 
 

Final impressions

"Most of the operating functions and facilities anyone could demand"

"Very individualistic" Ö "demonstrates the thoughts of a designer who has chosen a new path and knows where he is going"

"In the database concept he has clearly developed an approach which has great merit"

"The noise canceling system and the digital audio recorder shows real initiative"

"Well done the Brits and well done Fairhaven"

See Short-wave magazine for the full story.
 
 
 

 
Receiver
Signal handling (IP3) 
Synthesiser noise dBc/Hz
5kHz/50kHz
Drake SW2
+11 dBm
104/138 
JRC NRD345 
-9dBm (minus) 
101/131
Fairhaven RD500 Radio Database
+9.75 dBm 
115/142
 
 

Sensitivity and Image rejection (typical sample HF)
 

Without preamp.

 
Frequency MHz
5
10
15
20
25
30
Sensitivity (MDS) uV
0.1uV
0.1uV
0.12uV
0.13uV
0.15uV
0.2uV
MDS (dB)
-127
-127
-125
-125
-123
-120
Noise floor
-130
-130
-128
-128
-126
-123
First IF image rejection

(+110 MHz)

69dB
68dB
70dB
73dB
71dB
70dB
 
Intermodulation performance IP3

Taken from Ham Radio Today (HRT) review
 

 
Frequency
10kHz
20kHz
50kHz
100kHz
IP3 Extrapolated
from HRT results 
ARRL method 
-5.6 dBm
+2.95dBm
+9.4dBm
+9.7dBm
These figures have been improved due to better 1st IF filtering, to give +5dBm at 20kHz
 
 

Selectivity

Taken from Ham Radio Today (HRT) review

 
Selectivity
SSB/CW
AM/FM
-3 dB
2.26kHz
8.8
-6 dB
2.63kHz
10.9
-20 dB
3.33
13.2
-40 dB
3.61
15.4
-60 dB
4.05
17.4
 
Note

1. In CW mode additional filtering can be applied in 3 bandwidths (not shown).

2. In FM mode a 12kHz filter is used (not tested by HRT)

3. For improved AM reception, sync mode can be selected, where two AM filters are cascaded to give an improvement to the above results and the SSB filter is used for AM synchronous SSB.
 
 
 

Ham Radio Today.
 

The RD500 isnít only a receiver, it has a very powerful command and control system built into it. So much so that the manufactureís donít call it a receiver but instead a "Radio Database". After having used it for a while, I must say I quite agree!

Although the receivers RF and audio facilities themselves are already very comprehensive, you havenít yet heard half of it"! The receiver is a self-contained "control centre" in its own right.

The handbook is well written, but does not give very comprehensive information for the absolute beginner. However it does give fairly concise information with the encouragement to experiment, by doing this I did indeed find that I quickly picked up the setís method of operation.

I found it extremely useful to cycle through a block of stations with their channels tagged with a station identification. Ö I could cycle through them with the up/down buttons or the tuning knob. - very useful!

Similarly with other entries in the setís large database, it allowed me to find and tune into whatever I was interested in at the time. Ösuperb control facilities.

The IF shift was very useful on the amateur bands Ö the audio notch was very good although very sharp in operation.

Using the synchronous AM mode on the broadcast bands was often like a Ďbreath of fresh airí

The switchable AVC added to the overall resultant quality. I could happily listen to weak stations without getting a headache after half an hour or so.

With all this built in processing power I was pleased to find the set didnít have a large number of internally generated spurious signals.

I found the RD500 virtually emulated the facilities of full PC control for day to day listening, but without the need to have a PC switched on - something I really did appreciate especially for low band Ďgrey-lineí DXing. I did manage to hear a number of New Zealand and Australian stations on 80 metres over a number of autumn mornings.

I certainly managed to snatch some good DX. The SSB selectivity was very good. Blocking and IMD was symmetrical to within 2dB.

The RD500 offers a very comprehensive Ďcontrol systemí for listening around, it will certainly appeal to enthusiasts who would typically be thumbing through a frequency and station guide with one hand and tuning the radio with the other, the RD500 does both.

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