Manufactured by Sony, Tokyo.
In 1989 Sony came up with a completely new concept of a travel receiver, it was the time of alphanumeric liquid crystal displays. Just as, for example, the Grundig Satellit 500 or Sony's ICF-SW55 were able to provide not only the frequency but also (previously stored) plain text information about the station. It is also possible with the Sony ICF-SW800 to listen to „Deutsche Welle“ by pressing the „Deutsche Welle“ button without having to worry about frequency information, the corresponding meter band or even the position within a shortwave band between any frequency marks. The ICF SW-800 has a slot for frequency memory cards, on each of them ten stations can be stored.
The Sony ICF-SW800 comes in a dark grey plastic casing with rounded corners. It looks very „cosy“, or more like a small cheap kitchen or camping radio, depending on the observer.
In any case, the set does not exactly look like a high-tech receiver, probably Sony was making an understatement with the concept of a world band receiver that is easy to operate even for the completely inexperienced user.
The receiver in the grey plastic cabinet measures 19 x 11.5 x 4.5 cm and has a weight of 300 g. It is powered by three UM-3 (AA) batteries or an external centre-negative 4.5 V power supply. With a fold-out stand, the ICF SW-800 can be placed in an inclined position for comfortable operation. The telescopic antenna attached to the top edge is not retractable, but can be aligned vertically when the set is set up at an angle; an external antenna socket is not provided. On the left face of the set, apart from the external voltage socket, there are only the jacks for the headphone and tape recorder outputs.
The loudspeaker is hidden behind the left half of the front panel. To the right are two viewing windows and the main switch at the top right. The main switch is secured against unintentional switching on in the luggage by a knob that has to be pressed for switching. It switches the set to standby (switched on by the integrated timer) and normal operation.
The upper small LCD display shows the time, the frequency and the number of the inserted memory card.
The lower large window has a touch screen. On the cards, the position of the number fields 0 - 9, the fields for UP / DOWN tuning and the fields for direct frequency input in the shortwave (SW EXEC) and FM (FM EXEC) range are indicated. The various memory cards can be slid behind the touch screen panel vom the right face of the set; instead of just the numeric keys, the station names can be read when the memory card is inserted. On the three memory cards, 8 standard frequencies of the German Deutsche Welle are stored on one side, German-language stations audible in Central Europe are stored on the two sides OMNIBUS 1 & 2, the three sides FREE MEMORIES 1 - 3 can each be assigned ten shortwave or VHF frequencies by the user. The fourth card is for setting the clock functions.
On the right-hand side of the unit, below the slot for the memory cards and the eject button, there is a volume control in the form of a knurled wheel.
The memory cards that are not needed are stored behind a large flap on the back of the set above the battery compartment.
In keeping with Sony's concern with a foolproof operating concept, the ICF-SW800 is completely uncomplicated to use: switch on „on“ at the top right; to move the switch, the turquoise knob must be pressed in. With the „Deutsche Welle“ card inserted, tapping the fields DW 1 to DW 8 calls up typical frequencies occupied by Deutsche Welle. At the latest, tapping key 6 displays „6075 kHz CARD PRESET2“ and the „DW“ becomes audible. With MANUAL TUNE you can change the frequency in 5 kHz steps by touching - or +, but you cannot tune between these 5 kHz steps. To enter the frequency directly, tap the SW EXEC key, enter the frequency and press SW EXEC again to receive the new frequency. If a frequency outside the frequency range 3700 - 17900 is entered, the receiver will bleep „TRY AGAIN“. If the frequency is not in the 5 kHz channel grid (for example 6233 kHz), the receiver will automatically correct to the next frequency in the 5 kHz channel grid (in our case to 6230 kHz).\ The user can program other frequencies into all memory channels. When the red „WRITE“ key is pressed for a longer time, WRITE!PRESET flashes, then one of the memory keys 1 - 0 must be pressed simultaneously, an acknowledgement beep signals that the receiver has accepted the frequency entry. The clock card is used to store the time: the TIME key is tapped, then in the HOUR + or - or MINUTE + or - area, the time is quickly programmed; the procedure is the same with the timer/alarm time.
In terms of reception performance, the ICF-SW800 does not break any records: adjacent channel interference cannot be avoided due to the rigid frequency grid of 5 kHz, there is no selection of IF filters, no BFO or no possibility of receiving single-sideband transmitters (radio amateurs), the tuning step size is also too coarse for this. The sensitivity is probably about the same as that of other small Sony travel receivers and much better then the sensitivity of cheap world receivers from the discount shop.
It's worth keeping your eyes open for the Sony ICF-SW800 at ham radio and other flea markets if you're looking for a second receiver as a companion for holidays when you don't have time to DX but want to hear the news from home. And when you arrive at your holiday destination, you can even have the SW800 wake you up… - but there is one major drawback in the 21st century: most international broadcasters have left the shortwave bands so the cards with their typical operation frequencies are not useable anymore.
Double conversion superhet, digital PLL synthesis
The set is equipped with semiconductors.