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Sony Corporation, Tokyo

ICF - SW 55

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überarbeitet am 30.10.2010

In 1991, Sony added another "World Band Receiver" to their range of different travel shortwave radios, the ICF-SW55 filled the gap between the "big" ICF-2001D or ICF-SW77 and the "small" receivers of the ICF-7600D series, as far as reception performance as well as dimensions and weight are concerned.
The ICF-SW55 has a unique design with a large frequency and world time clock display, many different pushbuttons, a thumbwheel tuning knob and no front facing speaker, it is rather a big slot, where the sound of the internal speaker leaves the cabinet.

Double conversion, I.F. 55,845 MHz, 455 kHz

Digital display, 1 kHz,
Fine tuning in 100 Hz steps


Selectivity -6 dB/ -60 dB


Attenuator DX / Local, 125 memories in 25 pages, clock, timer, FM Stereo via headphones

The Sony ICF-SW55 is a shortwave receiver with a very futuristic design, or a quite strange external appearence, I will let it over to You, what You think about the form of the receiver cabinet, for me it looks like a Sony design study for a game console from 20 years ago. The receiver is 19,4 x 12,7 x 3,9 cm wide and has a fold out plastic stand at the back to bring it to a slightly tilted position for easier operation.
The wealth of different features and functions is too complex to be completely dealt with, here. The speaker is located in the inside of the cabinet and sound leaves the cabinet through a rectangular slot (looks like a vent) at the top of the front panel. Below it, You find the large liquid crystal display giving You informations on the active frequency, time and status of several receiver functions. The keys M1 - M5 give access to memories, but also act as menue - keys to access special receiver functions.
The switch in the left upper corner of the receiver is used to switch on the radio, it can be set to a mechanical lock position to prevent the radio being switched on inadvertedly during transport in Your suitcase. The buttons next to it activate sleep timer and alarm clock functions, the black round keys below are used to control the different possibilities of the world time clock. When local time is set and the actual location is selected with the "tuning" thumbwheel, You can scroll through a list of different capitals in the world and find the local time displayed, You can toggle between two time zones and set the radio to summer daylight saving time by pressing one single button. Another button will set the display to indicate, in which timezones, it is day or night, this tool is useful to study propagation conditions.
The white keys below are used to organize memory contents: the total of 125 memories is divided in 25 pages with 5 memories each. Use the MEMORY PAGE +/- keys to navigate through the memory pages and the M1 - M5 keys to recall memory content. One "memory page" gives access to timer functions and on/off times, another "page" to special functions active in the AM band as reception mode and i.f. filter bandwidth. The pushbuttons below the M1 - M5 keys give access to the different reception modes and wavebands.

At the right of the display, You find the thumbwheel tuning knob, small keys are used to lock the tuning mechanism and to switch between the tuning steps 100 Hz and 1 kHz.
The numbered keys just below is used for direct frequency entry and for alphanumeric tagging of the memory channels. To set the receiver to 6155 kHz, set the radio to AM mode and press 6 - 1 - 5 - 5 - EXE, two up/down keys can be used to tune the radio a little bit up or down.

On the display, You find at the top a world time map and display for local time and difference to UTC world time. Below, You find the reception frequency displayed with a resolution of 1 kHz, the indicator for the SW broadcast band in meters and the LCD bar signal strength indicator.
The big alphanumeric display at the bottom showas You the labels of the memory pages (for example VOA_WASH, LONDON or TROP-AFR for african tropical band channels), the number of the memory page and a triangular indicator, which memories are in use.

Like in most Sony shortwave radios, You won't find much technical information in the user's guide. The ICF-SW55 is a double conversion receiver with a high first intermediate frequency of 55,845 MHz and a standard second i.f. of 455 kHz; in presence of very strong local signal levels, the dynamic range seems not to be too strong, so that "ghost stations" and mirrors might appear on some frequencies. It's indispensable to use a preselector or antenna tuner, when You connect or long wire antenna. The ceramic filters are of medium quality, the small 2,7 kHz filter is well suited for SSB and the wide filter can only be used for free AM channels. For single sideband reception, You can choose the sidebands, the small tuning steps are useable to listen to some maritime and amateur radio communications, they are too wide to operate the receiver properly in connection with a radioteletype converter.
The ICF-SW55 has no synchroneous detector integrated.
With four UM-3 batteries, the SW55 has an audio output of 400 mW, the batteries last a mere seven hours.

The ICF-SW55 is a portable shortwave radio with a quite unique design, it has some very useful features like the graphic world time clock and alphanumeric memory tags, but also some weakness, as performance on the shortwave is converned, on my eyes, the Sony ICF-2001D / ICF-2010 is the better receiver, this is partly due to it's AM-Sync mode.

further literature:
d: Sony ICF - SW 55 - kompakt und leistungsstark, tte, wwh 3 / 92
d: Sony ICF SW-55, Bernd Klaus & Joachim Salisch, kurier 92
e: Sony ICF SW-55, R. Netherlands receiver test

© Martin Bösch