As the twentieth century drew to a close, I bought my last great premium receiver from the era – the Japan Radio NRD-545 table top. What a charm.
My NRD-545 was the fifth generation of premium consumer general coverage receivers, and the first with DSP. This up-conversion gear implemented its third IF at 20.2 kHz using a digital signal processor, pretty rare for the era. Kenwood had released the first final-IF DSP transceiver in 1995 – the TS-870S. Japan Radio released the NRD-545 table top in 1998. I bought mine used, with CHE-199 2GHz converter, in late 1999.
In appearance, this radio looked like an NRD-535D on steroids, which essentially is what it was. If you want a deep dive, check out the QST review.
Great features which I enjoyed included continuously variable bandwidth (down to 10 Hz) and passband filtering and fully customizable AGC. While we take these things for granted in our modern SDR radios, they were leaps ahead for the time. Unlike many ham receivers, the JRC radios performed exceptionally in medium and long waves, as well. And the CHE-199 converter let you explore everything from DC to daylight.
You would discover DSP conducted with 40 bit floating point analog to digital convertor (ADC) using 18 bits, which was quite something for the late 90’s. Such ADC chips used to be very expensive.
According to Fred Osterman at Universal Radio “The NRD-545 is without question, the most sophisticated receiver ever developed for the hobby market.” Look and feel and performance, what more could I seek in a premium table top. Just in case you think my comments are a bit over the top, this radio had its problems, too. Here’s a list of nits from N9EWO.
NRD-545 Table Top Nits
My biggest complaint with the NRD-545 table top was inconsistent AM reception. Quite often, I found the otherwise excellent AM audio to be plagued by pops and clicks. Really annoying, and happened most often on rapidly fading signals. For some reason, you could not adjust the AGC in AM reception. I suspect these pops and clicks arose from poor DSP implementation of AGC. These problems went away after the DSP chip was changed later in the production run.
One last quirk was that the NRD-545 had an “AMS” mode. No, not synchronous, but rather AM Stereo. Japan Radio implemented Motorola’s C-QUAM AM stereo just as the market was giving up on it!
Nits aside, enjoy watching and listening to this radio in action.