The Grundig Satellit 800 Millennium Receiver
Reviewed by Steve Ford, WB8IMY QST Managing Editor
Impressive audio fidelity and admirable performance—along with a very nice selection of features—makes the Grundig Satellit 800 tabletop receiver a great choice for shortwave and domestic broadcast listening.
The Grundig Satellit 800 Millennium receiver is the product of a combined engineering effort between Lextronix Corporation and the Drake Company, a name familiar to many amateurs. The radio itself is assembled in China.
If you've seen the advertisements for the Satellit 800 in the pages of QST, you might think that this is a portable receiver. Well, unless your idea of "portable" is toting a 15-pound box, the Satellit 800 is better described as a tabletop radio, despite the portable appearance.
Its substantial size—about 9 72X8 72X21 inches—allows the Satellit 800 to accommodate quite a large speaker, which provides some of the best audio that I've heard from a radio in some time. Separate bass and treble controls allow you to tailor the sound to match your tastes. In addition, the 800's girth incorporates large, widely spaced pushbutton controls and a large LCD display that you won't need a magnifying glass to read. One nit to pick about the display: USB is displayed by adding an "I" immediately following the "L" in LSB. The result looks like "LISB" and it annoyed me every time I saw it.
You won't find an S meter incorporated into the LCD display. Instead, the Satellit 800 opts for a traditional analog S meter separate from the main display. As with the LCD display, you can backlight the S meter for easy viewing.
Although the Satellit 800 comes with a long telescoping antenna, you'll find several handy antenna connectors on the rear panel to accommodate just about any feed line you're likely to use. There are traditional longwire connectors, an SO-239 coaxial connector and even an F connector for 75-Q coax (this is for FM broadcast and airband reception only).
Grundig also supplies a set of quality headphones (no, not the spindly Walkman-style headsets—these are large, full-ear-coverage cans), a hefty 120/230 V ac power supply module (the Satellit 800 will also operate on six D cells or another external dc source) and a convenient copy of Passport to World Band Radio, the Bible of shortwave listening.
Navigating the Radio
The Satellit 800 spans a wide frequency range: 100 kHz to 30 MHz, 87 to 108 MHz (FM broadcast) and 118 to 137 MHz (aviation). Modes include AM (including synchronous AM tuning), LSB, USB and FM (including FM stereo). FM reception is only available in the FM broadcast range.
When it comes to tuning, you have your choice of direct frequency entry via the keypad or manual tuning with the front panel knob or A./ V buttons. Both methods work very well, but I wish the knob had variable-rate tuning—where the tuning step rate increases the faster you rotate the knob. As it is, the Satellit 800 steps through the frequencies at the same maximum rate regardless of how rapidly you spin the control.
You can easily program your favorite frequencies into any of the 70 memory slots provided, and then step through them using the A./ X buttons or punch them up with the keypad. It's worth noting that the frequency display includes two independent clocks and two timer functions. For our tests I set one clock to local time and another to UTC, a configuration common with most users. The timers are convenient but,
unfortunately, the Satellit 800 does not provide a switching output that would allow the timers to turn on an external recorder.
Audio outputs include a 1/8-inch stereo headphone jack on the front panel, and linelevel audio left and right channel phono jacks on the rear. The rear panel also includes a 1/4-inch stereo jack for connecting an external speaker (or speakers).
Reception features of note are an adjustable squelch for use on the aviation band and pushbuttons to select the 20-dB RF attenuator, automatic gain control (fast or slow), IF bandwidth (2.3, 4 and 6 kHz), AM sync, SSB (LSB and USB) and band (AIR, FM, SW and AM). Conspicuously absent are a noise blanker and passband tuning.
Memories and Scanning
As I've already mentioned, the Satellit 800 offers 70 memory channels. These are extremely convenient when you have a long list of favorite stations and frequencies that you wish to revisit in the future. The memories are divided into seven blocks of ten channels (00-09, 10-19, 20-29, etc). Each memory channel will retain frequency, mode, bandwidth, AGC and sync detector settings.
The scanning function allows you to scan the 10 channels within a specific block of memories very quickly. You can not scan through all 70 memories or select more than one block to be covered in a single scan operation. It is possible to "mask" any of the memories to effectively lock them out of the scan, however.
Too bad Grundig didn't add the ability to tag each memory slot with an alphanumeric label ("BBC-1," for instance).
On the Air
The Satellit 800's audio is a wonder to the ears—either in headphones or with the forward-firing speaker. No complaints whatsoever in that department. There is plenty of audio power as well. The Satellit 800 was loud with the audio gain control at only the 9 o'clock position. Anything beyond that constituted various definitions of "earsplitting."
AM listening on the domestic broadcast or shortwave bands was a pleasure. Even with the whip antenna, the Satellit 800 is more than sensitive enough to provide a broad variety of signals. The AM synchronous detector makes a substantial difference in signal quality. Once you properly tune a signal and activate the AM sync, the distortion caused by selective fading is kept to a minimum, if not absent altogether. The effect is especially pronounced when listening to music on the shortwave bands. (I could finally listen to music without cringing each time the signal faded.) If SSB is your pleasure, the Satellit 800 is sufficiently sensitive in the SSB modes to allow reception of both amateur and commercial phone traffic. Overall, the Satellit 800 seemed to be better than or equal to Drake's own SW-8 receiver and it approaches the quality of the R8A.
From an audio standpoint, the radio really shines on the FM broadcast band. You're treated to excellent FM audio fidelity and, when wearing headphones or when connecting the receiver to the line-in connectors on your home entertainment equipment, outstanding stereo separation.
Two Flies in the Ointment
There are only two significant performance blemishes on an otherwise fine receiver. While testing the Satellit 800 on various WWV frequencies, I uncovered a very strong (about S5) pulsating signal on 20 MHz. It was so strong, in fact, that it almost obliterated WWV. Testing the radio at various locations in my home and office produced no difference in the strength of the interfering signal. Further investigation revealed that the signal appeared every 2 MHz from 20 to 30 MHz. It was also audible on 124 and 130 MHz. Switching in
the attenuator reduced the signal substantially, suggesting that the pulse was being radiated by the Satellit 800 itself and picked up on the whip antenna. Using my ICOM IC-706 as a test receiver with a short piece of wire, I discovered that it received the signal from the Satellit 800 at a distance of about 6 feet. When I switched off the Satellit 800, the signal vanished.
The other problem is most likely related. I found that the Satellit 800 would produce an audible "click" in the speaker while rotating the tuning control. This noise was only heard above about 20 MHz and was mildly annoying. In the aircraft band, however, it was noticeable to the point of being objectionable at times. The clicking was particularly strong when tuning through elevated noise levels.
I did discover, however, that connecting an external antenna to the SO-239 jack and selecting the 50 Ohm. position on the antenna.......
Copyright © 2000 by the American Radio Relay League Inc.