The AOR 7030 Update by Guy Atkins
More than a year has passed since the beginning of widespread availability of the AOR AR7030 receiver. Recognized as a strong value for the money, the AR7030 is now used by DXers in many parts of the world.
John Thorpe and the AOR staff at Belper, Derbyshire UK have not been idle. The most significant development is the recent introduction of the NB7030 option. Some of the planned options may not see the light of day, such as the carrying case for the receiver. Others, including the FM stereo option, are still being reviewed.
In its stock form the receiver has no noise blanker or notch filter and the 100 memories may limit the active DXer. However, the new NB7030 daughterboard provides a flexible, automatic notch filter, noise blanker, and an upgrade CPU for a total of 400 memories. The "Enhanced Features CPU" (FPU7030), which can be purchased separately from the notch & noise blanker board, provides a 14-character alphanumeric text tag associated with each of the 400 memories. Other enhanced features of the CPU include 10 time/day/date timers for "VCR-like" recording possibilities, and subtle improvements in operation (elimination of the brief relay "pops" from filter and attenuator changes; smoother auto-tune synchronous detection).
The text tag allows all capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and a myriad of symbols and punctuation. I cannot fathom why some out-of-the-ordinary characters are available for display, such as the Japanese yen symbol (!). Perhaps this is a bit of droll British humour hidden in the receiver.
I've installed the FPU7030 Enhanced CPU in my AR7030, and it is a worthwhile addition for a reasonable price (68 British Pounds when purchased through Javiation in the UK). The equivalent U.S. price, including shipping, was $98 at the current exchange rate. Installation of the CPU is quick, and an included EEPROM chip fits in a formerly empty socket on the AR7030's display board. This small IC accomplishes the expansion of memory channels to 400.
A unique feature of the Enhanced CPU is "Auto Ident". When manually tuning across a frequency stored in memory, the station name, country, or other data entered into the associated memory channel will be displayed on the front panel. This occurs when tuning stops, and the alphanumeric information replaces the S-meter display for about 10 seconds. The text information displays when the tuned frequency is within 1.5 kHz either side of the exact memory frequency. For those of us whose own memories are not what they used to be, the Auto Ident feature is a great idea!
The 10 additional multi-timers enable hands-off, unattended recording of multiple stations, programs, and/or frequencies at various times and dates. This is an obvious benefit to the dedicated program listener or SWL, but the DXer can make use of the multi-timers as well. I plan to use these for spot-checking/recording of tropical band frequencies on the hour and half-hour, for later review on tape. When a new or reactivated station is expected to make an appearance "sometime", this method is worth its weight in extra sleep!
I've not had first-hand experience with the NB7030 option, but initial reports indicate it works well, particularly the notch filter. In true AR7030 fashion all settings of the noise blanker/notch filter are shown on the LCD panel, including the exact frequency of the het (tone) notched out by the filter.
Kiwa Electronics offers a $40 modification to improve the audio quality of the AR7030 even further. A number of capacitors are replaced with higher quality components and some of the wiring is replaced with silver plated, Teflon-coated wire. The result is a modest but noticeable improvement.
Word is spreading among AR7030 owners about the usefulness of a quality preamplifier, particularly when used on DXpeditions and in other low-noise surroundings. On a recent West Coast USA DXpedition in Washington State, Kiwa Electronics Broadband Preamplifiers and Shortwave Preamplifiers were used by most participants. Receivers included the NRD-535, Drake R8 and R8a, ICOM R-71a and the AR7030. The Kiwa devices provided audibly better S/N ratios on weak tropical band signals and foreign (split frequency) mediumwave DX targets. I believe more strongly now than when I first bought my AR7030 that the receiver can use a preamplifier like the Kiwa models with excellent overload immunity and noise characteristics. The AR7030's built-in preamp does not provide the same level of improvement.
The DataMaster software for the AR7030 is the only commercially available control program on the market at this time. However, a program called Ergo is in the final beta stage as of 7/97 and should be in commercial production within a few months. John Fallows of Calgary, Canada is the author of Ergo, and he has given the program a host of clever and useful features. The software runs under Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 and provides the user with a full-function database (500 record size), 400 memories, an ionospheric propagation module, mercator and azi-equi maps with realtime grayline displays and signal paths, spectrum profile, graph-like display of received signal strength, WWV/WWVH propagation forecast alert, and more. The records that the user creates in the database are similar to the memory channels; the AR7030 can be directly tuned by a single mouse-click on the record entry. All receiver parameters are available for adjustment through the software. Ergo also provides for! transferring of memories between the program and the receiver. I've used various beta versions of Ergo for the past few months, and it is a polished and impressive program. It will be a cost effective alternative to DataMaster for the AR7030 owner who enjoys linking their receiver to a PC.
The AOR staff in England continues their excellent customer service and remains a reassuring presence for those of us who have purchased from overseas. However, the receiver is now sold through a number of US outlets including Universal Radio, Grove Electronics, and EDCO.
AOR has recently added a new receiver to their product line called the AR7030 Plus. The changes in the Plus model are as follows:
--Increased mixer balance for improved 2nd and 3rd order intermodulation performance --High tolerance 0.1% components in the direct digital synthesizer (DDS) section for low noise --Enhanced RF attenuator operation for minimal intermodulation --Higher specification wire antenna input transformer for minimal mixing products --Ceramic, metal-cased 4 kHz (displayed) AM filter fitted as standard (typical bandwidths: 2.2, 4.0, 5.3 and 9.5 kHz) --Bournes optical encoder for smooth main tuning operation --"Features CPU" fitted as standard, to provide 400 memories with alpha tags, and 10 multi timers
AOR will also offer Plus version retrofit upgrades for owners of existing AR7030 receivers; contact AOR UK for details.
I've been in touch with many owners of the AR7030, and all of them seem pleased with most aspects of the receiver. It's excellent performance is undisputed; the 1997 World Radio TV Handbook's thorough review generally praises the AR7030. It is safe to say that the AOR AR7030 will be a wise choice for radio monitors for years to come.