[RFI] All band handheld receivers

Cortland Richmond ka5s at earthlink.net
Sun Feb 11 20:54:31 EST 2007

Don, k4kyv, asks

> Has anyone tried one of the miniature handheld receivers, like the Yaesu
VR-500 or Icom IC-R series?
> Seems like it would be a good receiver for casual listening and rf noise
sniffing purposes.
> Looking at the specs and some comments on the web, I would think the
VR-500 would be a better deal 
> than the Icom ones.  The IC-R5 is less expensive, but has no SSB or CW
capability, and tunes in 5 kHz 
> steps.  The others are far more expensive than the VR-500.
> But I am wondering just how well do those things pick up signals.

Pretty well, actually.  I have used several different ones to sniff
interference (I work as an EMC Engineer).  It's a close contest, I think,
between the very sophisticated AOR-8200, and the less sophisticated VR-500,
with the very solid Alinco DJ-X10 a close third.   (I've never tried an
Alinco DJ-X2000.)

I prefer the VR500, because, although it has a lower maximum frequency and
a less useful spectrum display, it is much smaller and easy to use than the

I've used an AOR AR-8000 - an earlier AOR all mode, all band receiver - and
a Yupiteru MVT-7100, too, though these are not really up to field service
due to lightweight plastic construction. The VR500 isn't built that tough
either, but it's small enough to get away with it, its sole weak point as
far as I can tell, being a fragile encoder shaft that if it breaks leaves
you with a radio tunable only by keyboard entry.  

At the less expensive end, I've used a VR120 and Icom R2 as well, and I do
have a Kenwood TH-F6A.  They're quite sensitive, however (IMO) the Kenwood
is not sensitive enough with untuned loops for snooping all but the
strongest signals, though with a real 50-ohm input it does quite well. 

What makes a big difference is a BFO.  It is easier to use SSB mode and to
detect weak signals and differences aurally than to use an AM detector and
try to estimate differences from background noise.  Put a small untuned
loop on one of the top four and wave it around a suspect device and you can
tell pretty quickly what leaks and what from.    Make a current probe out
of coax and a snap-on bead and you can tell which conductors or guys have
the most RF on them. The uses are legion.


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