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Sony Corporation, Tokyo

ICF - SW 1

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überarbeitet am 13.11.2010

The miniature receiver ICF-SW1 is a double conversion PLL synthesized radio covering the complete AM frequency range as well as the FM broadcast band and gives You everything You expect from a serious travel radio - but, keep in mind, the radio, all controls, it's antenna, it's display, all is in miniature size.

Double conversion superhet

Digital display, 5 kHz


Selectivity -6 dB/ -60 dB


Tuning LED, keypad, 10 memories, clock, timer

When You open up the small suitcase made from rugged grey plastic, You find a complete receiving equipment, a miniature double conversion PLL synthesized receiver, an active antenna, a universal power supply and stereo headphones - this would probably have been the dream of every spy in the Cold War years in the fifties and sixties.
The anthracite grey couloured cabinet of the ICF-SW1 with it's 11,8 x 7,4 x 2,4 cm and a weight of 230 g is really, really small and has a size similar to the one of a pack of cigarettes.
The integrated telescopic antenna is located at the top of the left small face of the radio, there is also a 3,5 mm jack to feed a cassette recorder an a AM/FM attenuator switch.

The left part of the front panel is taken by the speaker grille, the audio power of 250 mW will do the job for a hotel room, but it's quite poor to bring enough audio power to a beach party... or even when used outside.
At the right, next to the speaker, You find two pushbuttons to switch the receiver ON/OFF and to set it to SLEEP timer operation. A tiny sliding switch at the upper small face blocks the power supply and prevents the set from switching on in Your suitcase during a transport, the key protect button lets You lock all front panel controls. Below You find the BAND and ENTER keys, as second functions, they are used together with the UP/DOWN keys to set the clock to the correct time and to set the alarm time.
Att he right, You find the frequency display indicating the reception frequency with an accuracy of 5 kHz.
The numbered keys are used to directly enter the desired frequency, just select the AM (all frequencies between 153 - 29'995 kHz) or FM range (76 MHz - 108 MHz in the international version and 87,5 MHz - 108 MHz in the version for Germany), enter the frequency and press the AM or FM button again to tune the radio. So by pressing the keys AM - 6 - 1 - 5 - 5 - AM (EXECUTE), You immediately are tuned to the signal of Radio Austria Intl. from Vienna.
To store a frequency of a favourite station in memory, You just press the ENTER key and one of the numbered keys at the same time. To recall the frequency from memory just press the same number key again - a really easy procedure for storing and recalling memory content.
The receiver has no "real" main tuning knob, to tune the radio up or down in 5 kHz steps, use the + / - MANUAL TUNE pushbuttons, when You press the BAND key together with it, You jump to the next upper or lower shortwave broadcast band. The SCAN TUNE START/STOP button activates a scanning function, the receiver tunes up in 5 kHz steps to stop on frequencies with a sufficient signal level, it will continue scanning after 1,5 seconds, as long as You don't press the STOP button again.
There are some more important controls at the right small face of the cabinet - yes, You need small fingers to operate this radio properly! You find the rotary volume control, a tone switch and the connectors for stereo headphones and the external 3V power supply. The receiver has no BFO for CW and single sideband reception.

The Sony has can be powered from an external mains power supply, from the special car adaptor cable DCC-70A to connect it to 12 V DC car battery or from two UM-3 batteries.

The shortwave reception performance is quite good when compared with other travel shortwave radios and far above average compared with other often radio in the same size range. In my eyes, it can be compared with the performance of the venerable ICF-7600D.
The sensitivity with the internal antenna is not extremely high, which will rarely cause problems in the high signal strength areas of Central Europe, in Africa or Australia. In the set ICF-SW1S, Sony has included an active antenna matching the ICF-SW1. It consists of an antenna controller which has to be attached directly to the receiver with a switchable attenuator and a band selector and a remote antenna module powered by another four UM-3 batteries. This module can be attached to a window with a sucker or placed on a windowsill.
The radio comes only with ten memories, a relatively small number from today's point of view, but You don't have to bother with a comlicated access to several memory pages... The timed operation features are very helpful, so the receiver can replace an alarm clock easily.
One problem with the miniature Sony radios is the problem of leaking or shorting SMD mounted electrolytic capacitors, quite a few ICF-SW1 suddenly ceased operation.

The ICF-SW1 has been replaced by the ICF-SW100 in 1994, another miniature receiver, in contrast to the SW1, it is equipped with AM-Sync mode, can receive single sideband transmissions and has alphanumeric tagging of frequency memories. One drawback was the ribbon cable between the folding up parts of the radio which tends to break after a few years of use.

weitere Lektüre:
d: Kurzwelle im Liliputland mit System: Sony ICF - SW1S, Nils Schiffhauer, funk 10 / 1987

© Martin Boesch 13.11.2010