This review was compiled with the assistance of the World Radio TV Handbook, Amsterdam. Radio Netherlands has no financial connection with the WRTH, nor with Sony, the manufacturer of this receiver.
In August 1993 Sony started shipping a new short-wave portable receiver for the budget end of the market. When it first appeared it cost 199 DM in Germany, 249 Guilders in Holland...that's around £80 sterling. It has been withdrawn from many Sony catalogues, but you may still find it around. Hence this posting on the World-Wide Web. Sony says the SW-30 is the smaller brother of the ICF-SW33... in fact though it is much better value.
The radio is a pocket size format covering medium wave, FM stereo from 76 to 108 MHz and 10 short-wave bands between 3700 and 21950 kHz. Stereo on FM is only via the headphones of course. In the UK & France the ICF-SW30L is available with longwave. But this added some US$25 to price of the radio. Note that there short-wave coverage is not continuous...there are some gaps. But Sony has learned from mistakes it made with the ICF-SW-15 & ICF-SW- 22. The short-wave bands run from 3700- 4200, 4650-5150, 5800-6300, 6950- 7450, 9375-10000, 11525-12150, 13375 -14000, 14975-15600, 17475-18100, 21320-21950. There are a few stations operating on frequencies outside those ranges, but not very many.
TuningThe tuning steps on the radio are 50 kHz on FM. The steps on medium wave are either 9 or 10 kHz depending on how you set a switch in the battery compartment. On short-wave the radio moves up and down in 1 kHz steps and that is excellent. Many more expensive sets from Sony and other manufactures only move in 5 kHz steps which, in our opinion, is much too coarse. The SW-30 has a built-in 60 cm telescopic antenna, there's no provision to connect an external antenna. The set measures 16.5 by 11 by 3.5 centimetres and when the 3 penlight batteries are installed, it weighs 462 grams There's a simple time chart printed on the stand designed to tilt the radio towards you as it a sits on the table.
The radio has a dual time clock which is displayed when the set is switched off. You can set the radio to wake you up in the morning or play for 60 minutes to send you to sleep. Pressing a button lets you see the status of the battery. But there is no light to illuminate the liquid crystal display. That is a nuisance if you want to use the radio by the bedside for night-time listening. Sony have put a tiny red light emitting diode on the front panel which is supposed to be a tuning indicator. Listening on short-wave in Europe the light stays on all the time, your ear is a much better judge of whether or not a station is properly tuned in. A recessed switch prevents the radio springing to life in a suitcase if you packed the radio amongst cloths.
No KeypadSony managed to keep the price down by keeping the number of buttons on the front to a minimum. There is no keypad for direct frequency entry. Instead, there is a rocker switch which allows you move up and down the dial, in the case of short-wave in 1 kHz steps. If you keep your finger on the "UP" side of the switch then when you hit the high frequency end of lets say the 49 metre band on 6300 kHz, the radio drops back to 5800 kHz and you start scanning the 49 metre band a second time. To get to the 41 metre band you have to press two buttons at once, and then you start scanning within the range 6950- 7450. So although the SW-30 looks simple to operate, a keypad solution is really much easier to operate. But Sony have had to cut costs to make this radio in the 100 dollar range. The radio offers 5 memories on SW, 5 on medium wave and 5 on FM. In short, to jump from one end of the dial to another may take a bit of getting used to.
All digitally tuned radios have a internal synthesizer and this often creates a level of background noise which masks weak stations. The noise level on the SW-30 is remarkably low for a radio of this price...in fact it is a lot better than sets which are six times the price. The dual conversion design does result in a smaller number of unwanted ghost signals that you find on single conversion sets in this price range. The Sony SW-30 has one 5 kHz bandwidth filter in it and no provision for single-sideband.
ConclusionsAll in all, when it was launched, Sony packed a lot of power into a 100 dollar package. However, there are now better sets on the market, such as the Sony ICF-SW40. In this set there are compromises when it comes to jumping quickly from one end of the short-wave spectrum to another. But the receiver design is still not bad.