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Sony ICF-5900W

Portable Multi-Band Radio Receiver (1976-79)

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Sony ICF-5900W


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Reviewed Oct 04th, 2019 by ilkkasuni

One of the coolest looking world-band portables, ever. This I dare state, after my having been an HF radio enthusiast ever since the '60s, and having owned some 200 world-band radios and communications receivers, both desktop and portable.

The ICF-5900W is not too portable, as the radio is rather large, heavy and bulky. More of a dragable, and not one to comfortably pick along for airplane traveling. On the table, takes rather little space, though.

ICF-5900W was one of the very last purely analog world-band receiver models, as the PLL synthesized receivers and digital displays especially, in late '70s already started to emerge. For an analog receiver, with an analog tuning dial, on short-wave the ICF-5900W is outstandingly accurate. Thanks to the crystal calibration and the band-spread dial, on SW the ICF-5900W is capable up to accuracy higher than +/-2 kHz.

Unfortunately, the band spread dial only works for SW. On medium-wave, the ICF-5900W dial is comparable to that of any decent portable radio only, in accuracy. Neither does the calibration and band spread cover them short-wave broadcast bands completely.

Anyway, combining the ICF-5900W sensitivity to it's accurate SW dial, for a short-wave receiver this radio is highly efficient. The ICF-5900W short-wave sensitivity is among the best I have experienced in portable world-band radios, also beating many HF communications receivers of the '70s I experienced. Even with the built-in telescopic antenna, I recall having caught plenty of domestic SW stations from around the world, in the transmitter power range of 10 kW and below. Also, on short-wave, ICF-5900W copes beautifully, even with an external long-wire antenna very long. Audio quality on SW is very good.

ICF-5900W has one bandwidth only. Considering, the dual conversion receiver most likely was targeted for serious short-wave listeners, the lack of selectable bandwidth - a narrower one - clearly is a downside.

On medium-wave, ICF-5900W is not for the serious DX hobbyist. Adding to the MW dial accurate up to some 10...15 kHz only, on MW the radio stands an external antenna poorly. An efficient outdoor antenna fills the Sony MW band with birdies. This is the reason I discarded my ICF-5900W for, some 40 years ago. Btw, rather oddly, the radio has no long-wave band.

FM reception, then. For listening to one's favorite local stations, ICF-5900W is big fun. The loudspeaker is of proper size with quite heavy a magnet, and the radio has treble and bass controls, both. In FM audio quality, I rank the ICF-5900W right next to world-band boomboxes such as the Grundig Satellit 600. Then again, is there a powerful FM transmitter very close, one cannot use the Sony well-sized, built-in telescopic antenna. I live just a mile away from a 30 kW FM transmitter, and popping out the radio's telescopic antenna fills the band with birdies. Another disadvantage is, ICF-5900W has no 75 ohm input, for a proper outdoor FM antenna.

A minor disadvantage is, the Sony 4.5V DC input requires plenty amperes, so spotting an external power source has one none original, is challenging. Fortunately, the radio's battery consumption is almost examplary.

How come I kept writing about my experiences on the ICF-5900W, recently and 40 years ago. In 1978, I had one imported from Dubai to Finland, and I dumped the radio next year, due to its mediocre MW capabilities. Some 35 years later I noticed one, on a domestic internet auction site. I just had to buy the Sony. To my big surprise, the very radio I bought was the same one, I had sold in 1979! Not only is this radio big fun for an everyday FM radio in one's office, kitchen or bedroom, especially for listening to music, but the radio also is sassy as heck, in its appearance.

+good looks, military-like
+for a portable, very good FM audio
+proper a short-wave receiver, dual conversion
+low battery consumption

-no selectable AM bandwidth
-mediocre an MW receiver
-for a portable, rather big and heavy

Ilkka Suni



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