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Sony Corporation, Tokyo

ICF - SW 800

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überarbeitet am 30.10.2010

In 1989, Sony brought a shortwave travel radio with a quite unique operation scheme: It was the time when receivers like the Grundig Satellit 500 or the Sony ICF-SW55/77 featured an alphanumeric display to indicate the station's name instead of only it's transmitting frequency - to help the technically unexperienced user to tune in to his favourite shortwave stations. All these alphanumeric indicators had to be programmed (manually, then You have to do the job which will mean, You need quite some experience - or by factory, which means, You cannot alter the fixed programmed frequencies).
The Sony ICF-SW800 used a row of cards to be inserted in a slot at the radio's right small face to program the receiver. So You could simply insert the card "DEUTSCHE WELLE" and press the DW buttons on the display to tune the radio to the frequencies coming from Germany - and check, which channel offers the best reception.

Double conversion superhet,

Digital display, 5 kHz,

AM 3'700 - 17'800 kHz, FM (VHF)

Selectivity -6 dB/ -60 dB


Cards with proprammed frequencies, direct keypad frequency entry, clock, timer

The Sony ICF-SW800 comes with a dark grey plastic cabinet with rounded edges, some people might find the external appearence stylish, in some other's eyes, the set just looks like a cheap radio for kitchen or camping use. At least, the receiver does definitely not look like a high tech world band radio.

The dimensions of the receiver are 19 x 11,5 x 4,5 cm and it's weight is around 300 gm. The ICF-SW800 is powered from three UM-3 / AA batteries or an external center - negative power supply. On the rear face, it has a fold-out plastic stand and can operated in a slightly tilted position. The telescopic antenna cannot be hiddein inside the cabinet, but it's fully rotable, there is no provision of an external antenna connector.
At the laft smal lface or the receiver, You find the power supply connector and the jacks for headphones and a cassette recorder.

The speaker is located at the left half of the front panel. The main switch has a mechanical lock to prevent inadvertend switching on of the radio during transports. It has a OFF, STANDBY (receiver acts as an alarm clock) and ON position.
In the small display, the frequency and the number of the memory card inserted is displayed.
The bigger "window" has a touchscreen, behind You can see the fields / keys for the numbers 0 - 9, UP / DOWN tuning and direct frequency entry in the shortwave (SW EXEC) and FM band (FM-EXEC).
The different memory cards are inserted from the right side in a slot behind the touchscreen. When a memory card is inserted, You can read the station names instead of the mere numerals.
The version sold in Germany comes with one card with eight standard frequencies use by Deutsche Welle, Cologne, the cards OMNIBUS 1 & 2 have stored frequencies of german language transmissions of international broadcasters audible in central Europe, the cards FREE MEMORIES 1 - 3 can be used to store ten frequencies in the shortwave or FM broadcast band, each, another card is used to program the clock and timer functions.

At the right small face You find the slot for the memory cards, an EJECT pushbutton and a thumbwheel volume control. The memory cards not in use can be stored in a compartment at the back of the receiver.

The operation scheme of the ICF-SW800 is uncomplicated: Set the sliding switch in the right upper corner to "on". Insert the card "Deutsche Welle" and touch the fields DW 1 to DW 8 to recall frequencies typically used by Radio Deutsche Welle. When You press key 6, the display should read "6075 kHz CARD PRESET2" and You should hear the signal coming from Cologn in the speaker (at least this one is still active in 2010, most of the other preprogrammed freqencies are not).
Use MANUAL TUNE - or + to tune the radio up or down in 5 kHz steps, You there is no fine tuning capability for frequencies in between. For direct frequency entry, press SW EXEC, enter the frequency in kHz and press SW EXEC again. In case You have entered a frequency outside the receiver's 3700 - 17900 coverage, You end with a "TRY AGAIN" message, if You enter a frequency that cannot be divided by 5, the receiver "rounds" to the next higher or lower 5 kHz tuning step.
All memories can be altered by the user: Hold Your finger on the red field "WRITE" until You see a flashing WRITE!PRESET, then press one of the memories 1 - 0 at the same time, a beep will indicate, the frequency is accepted by the receivers microprocessor.

The clock card is used to enter the local time or the alarm clock time, just press the TIME key followed by HOUR + or - and MINUTE + or -.

The ICF-SW800 is not a real champion on the bands: sensitivity and selectivity is fair, You cannot evade interference from an adjacent channel by just tuning the radio 1 or 2 kHz low, there are no selectable i.f. filters and the set has no BFO to receive CW or single sideband transmissions.
It might be worth keeping an eye open for a SW-800 to appear somewhere at a garage sale or online auction, it can act as a nice little secondary receiver in Your kitchen or workshop and it is a little "gem" in Your Sony radio collection, as it has a unique operation scheme.

© Martin Bösch 22. Aug. 2004 / transl. 13.11.2010