"The world's best audio bargain" - Neil Stebbins, in his Stebbins' Stage column regarding our modified radios, published in Volume15, #2 2003 of The Inner Ear Report magazine.
Some people claim the Sony SRF-S83 as the most sensitive FM radio. In order to verify that, I purchased a S83 with $65 bank damage (for an analog radio!). To my surprise, it uses exactly the same CXA1129N chip that is used in SRF-49 and SRF-59. This low-voltage (one battery powered) and high-performance FM/AM IC is so good, Sony never give it to OEMs and uses it solely in its own pocket radio product lines. While you can easily find a datasheet for other Sony FM/AM ICs such as CXA1019 on Sony's website, Sony still keeps that of CXA1129N like Coca Cola's secrete recipe.
SRF-S83 uses 100µf (vs. 47 of SRF-59) output capacitors and therefore sounds better than an unmodified SRF-59. However, it still sounds significantly narrower than a modified SRF-59, because: 1) 100µf is still too small and 220 is the minimum, that's why Sony added bass boost circuit (LA3550) but this only makes it even Lower-Fi; 2) power filter used in S83 is 220µf (vs. 330 in SRF-59) due to the size limit, this compromises dynamics.
So far I have not found that S83 is much more sensitive than SRF-59, but I have not found anything better neither. I do find that it is more robust to static noise. For example, if you have a computer and its monitor nearby, your favorite station may be messed in interference on a SRF-59 while S83 can still do well, especially under weak signal conditions. When you open the case of S83, you'll see a metal tape shielding the CXA1129N, which may explain its better performance under electrostatic or magnetic interference. Sony spent more attentions in S83 than in SRF-59 and it should perform better but, again, there cannot be too much they can do with the same IC. SRF-S83 does not have a DX/local switch, stereo/mono instead.
[11/25/01] SRF-S83's clip is not so secure and slips off easily. Make a small adjustment and now it is very hard to slip away. Maybe too hard, but far better than taking the risk of falling this expensive baby apart. In the picture before the change I put a AA battery there to show SRF-S83's actual size.
[11/26/01] Received the super-small capacitors from DigiKey today (The DigiKey cat # for the caps are: P959-ND and P954-ND) and replaced them immediately. Wow, what a difference! The bass is now so deep and vivid, I don't feel I missed any single note! I can feel the vibrations of the bass strings!
Comparing this new picture with the older version, you can see the white circles around the 330uf and 220uf capacitors are larger than the original ones. This means the designer knows how important these capacitors are and he or she designed them as 330uf and 220uf. However, they are replaced with smaller ones (220uf and 100uf, respectively) in the final production to reduce cost. I feel really sorry for this great designer, and the consumers -- they still don't know what are missing.
Sony China cannot sell SRF-S83 to US directly. Therefore, you'll have to pay high to get this baby and orders take 5 days to ship. Sorry, but I have no control on that.
Many of our customers have excitedly told us that these little Sony radios (SRF-49, 50, S83) are extremely powerful. They even drive Sennheiser 580 without any difficulty. In order to verify this, I went to my local theGoodGuys and plugged their demo 580 into my SRF-S83. Wow, I only needed to turn the volume to 1/4 even in the very noisy store. For my ER4S, I can only turn the volume to 1/5 or lower, or it'll be too loud. My Sharp M877 MD, on the contrast, must be turned to 1/2 or higher volume for ER4S. My Panasonic portable CD player is the west on this - ER4S still sounds dull even at the highest volume.
"Sony" was the name of the first pocket radio, TR-63 (click on it, a must see site), a Japanese company exported into US market. The radio was so successful that the company changed its name to Sony. After half century, Sony analogue pocket radio is still the king (after my mods though) and meanwhile Sony still does not know how to make a decent digital pocket radio!
Also, I've found a better source of SRF-S83, so now I can lower the price and carry them in stock.
[05/17/02] AIWA released the new CR-LD120, a tiny digital pocket radio receiver. It is exactly the same size of SRF-S83. It uses a Toshiba chip (TA2022AFN), which is for the first time a non-Sony chip that runs on a single 1.5V battery. However, this chip is still far behind those used in Sony SRF-59 and SRF-S83. CD-LD 120 runs 20 hours with 1 AAA while the similar Sony SRF-M95 can run 40 hours; its sensitivity is above average, but is still no compare to SRF-S83 or -59; its sound is above average too, but thin and dry, no punching, no compare to a modified SRF-S83/59, and there is no way to improve it. It does have many digital features though, such as 40 memories, timer, clock, auto-off. Who cares these, if it cannot get my favorite stations and serve music?
What I like the most about modified SRF-S83/59, in addition to their super sensitivity, is their punching but non-fatigue sound. Like my NAD receiver, I can turn the volume very low and still feel the impacting and emotional music. This AIWA is like my sold Sony ES receiver - I have to turn the volume very high to feel the punching and thus get fatigued in few minutes while I can listen to my modified Sony all day long.
[05/25/02] Finally received SRF-M95 from UK. For $109, it is a big disappointment. Reception is very good; better than the AIWA CR-LD120, but still significantly worse than SRF-S83. For example, SRF-M95 does (while the Aiwa can't) get my favorite Jazz and Classic stations, but nearby strong stations invade in periodically like what you hear at a beach. Like the Aiwa, it uses the same Toshiba IC - TA2022AFN; there is no large electrolytic capacitor in it; therefore discrete and switching circuitry must have been used. I think this is why these two digital receivers sound just "digital" - clean with good stereo separation but not so musical. They have neither the warmness nor the energy of modified SRF-59 or outbox SRF-S83, very much like the very first CD players. The Aiwa CR-LD120 is going back to the store I purchased it from and the SRF-M95 is now on sale (email to email@example.com if interested).
[05/30/02] See my new article on SRF-M35 and other pocket radios.
[10/15/02] The new SRF-S84 is almost the same of SRF-S83 with some slightly improvement: non-detachable battery cover (I like this improvement the most), longer battery life, a different look but the same size. The out-of-box sound seems a little brighter too (not so sure, not fully audited yet). Basically, I cannot see any apparent reason to still carry S83.
[11/02/02] The ground wire of headphone cord is used as antenna. If you want to add an antenna, connect it to the ground pin of headphone plug. The wire should be thin enough so the plug can still stay in the jack with good connection.
[03/26/04] Due to changes in SRF-S84, the current modifications do not follow exactly what's showing in the pictures.
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Xin Feng Company