Hi! Welcome to my site! I’ve worked in broadcasting and electronics all my life and have been interested in portable transistor radios since the early pocket portables of the 50′s through today’s multiband radios. For 26 years I worked for CBS Radio as Production Director for one of its station clusters and I previously managed a repair facility for an audio shop for 18 years back in the 70’s and 80’s.
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WHAT’S NEW: Latest Reviews
Radio Shack SW-100 AM/FM/SW/CB/TV/Air/Weather Radio
The SW-100 is a real step back in time…more so than many other radios of its era. While 1993 doesn’t seem like ancient history to me, this radio demonstrates just how much has changed since then, primarily because of its band coverage. In addition to AM/FM, SW and VHF (which includes Air & Weather) it also includes VHF TV sound which is no longer useable (since analog TV transmissions no longer exist) and Citizen’s Band which, while still in use, is not nearly as popular as it was 30 – 50 years ago.
But we’ll take a look inside and see how the SW-100 performs compared with today’s portables.
5Core T-22 AM/FM/SW Analog Portable
A few readers have alerted me to the existence of a new analog portable radio on the market, the 5 Core T-22. Made in India it is claimed to be of high-quality design and to offer the familiar advantages of a true analog design, primarily a smooth and seamless tuning characteristic which is something many of us love about our vintage analog radios. Some online sources have raved about how great this radio is…we’ll check it out and see if it lives up to the promise.
Sony 7600 Series
The Sony 7600 series of radios was an extremely popular and long-lived line of paperback book-sized radios which spanned the years from approximately 1977 – 2018. Under the guidance of Sony Co-founder Akio Morita who was passionate about portable electronics (he later invented the original Walkman), the 7600 series occupied a mid-sized, mid-priced niche and were innovative and of generally high quality. They were great travel-sized radios which were also good enough for in-home use and were good values.
Read the Sony 7600 Series Article:
Prunus J-160 Retro AM/FM/SW Radio with MP3 Player & Bluetooth
The Prunus J-160 is almost irresistibly cute. It offers a DSP tuner with AM/FM/SW reception, Bluetooth as well as an Aux input and the ability to play audio files from either a Tiff card or USB stick. How does it compare with other retro radios on the market?
Sangean WFR-28 WiFi Internet Radio
The Sangean WFR-28 is the first Internet Radio I have tested which runs on batteries and it is specifically this capability that drew me to it. The radio is built into the same cabinet as the PR-D4W (a traditional AM/FM/NOAA Weather radio), whereas the WFR-28 is designed for Internet Radio and Podcast streaming, FM (with RBDS/RDS) and USB flash drive playback. It can also act as a network music player accessing files on a computer linked via Wi-Fi, it can access the Spotify streaming service and it can be remote controlled by an Android or I-Phone App. Additionally, you can register your radio online then set up and organize lists and groups of Favorites and My Added Stations and create Playlists if desired. We’ll take the WFR-28 for a test drive, check out its many features and performance and report on what we found.
Sangean RCR-40 AM/FM RDS Stereo Clock Radio with Bluetooth
The RCR-40 is a stereo clock radio in a wooden case with excellent performance in typical Sangean tradition. There is a long list of features, many of which other clock radios offer, but the RCR-40 is more than a typical clock radio – it is a combination of clock radio and high-performance, compact stereo table radio. As of Summer 2021 it is selling at Amazon for about $105.74. How does it perform?
Read the Sangean RCR-40 Review:
Tecsun PL-368 Handheld AM/LW/SW Receiver
The new Tecsun PL-368 is the third major version of this vertical, hand-held “walkie-talkie-style” radio. It is of course not a walkie talkie but rather an unusual multiband receiver. Initially there was the PL-360/CountyComm GP-5 DSP (which seems to still be available from some sources). The next version (also still available) was the PL-365/CountyComm GP-5-SSB which added a few improvements along with SSB. Now a real game-changer…this latest version adds a keypad for direct frequency entry, elevating the PL-368 to a much higher level of usability.
Should the PL-368 be your next radio purchase? Read the Tecsun PL-368 Review:
Two More Inexpensive MP3 Player/Recorders
Several readers have asked if I could find any inexpensive MP3 players that also had the ability to record. Two such units, the Prunus J-401 and Rolton E500 are the focus of this article. Like the Geson and Aocome I reviewed a few months ago, these are relatively inexpensive units; the Pronus is currently selling on Amazon for $21.99 and the Rolton goes for $19.99. As such I didn’t expect top performance but rather basic functionality – for me the purpose of such units is the ability play audio files stored on a TIFF card and to easily record from the radio or to make non-critical recordings from the built-in mic or other external sources. Each player has some advantages over the other: Read the Prunus J-401 & Rolton E500 Review:
Tecsun S-8800 AM/LW/FM/SW/SSB Portable Radio
This is a 2021 update to my original review of the Tecsun S-8800 published in 2017.
With the arrival of several excellent new radios from Tecsun such as the PL-330, PL-990 and H-501, I decided it was time to re-evaluate the S-8800 as these four are my personal favorites from Tecsun’s incredibly extensive line. Looking at anon-co.com there are dozens of models at every price point, feature set and performance level, several of which I happen to own so I have first-hand experience with many of them. To be sure several models have specific qualities that may be of special importance to some users, but the four above are the ones that seem to offer a good balance of performance and value. I have also learned about a list of Hidden Features I was not aware of before so I will include that as well.
Tecsun H-501/H-501x FM/AM/LW/SW/Audio Player with Bluetooth & Stereo Speakers
Tecsun has emerged over the past several years as one of the largest manufacturers of multiband portable radios and their latest H-501/H-501x is an interesting new addition to their very extensive lineup. Coming on the heels of their well-respected PL-990 and PL-330 the H-501 is unique in several ways including a high-tech 4-speaker stereo system and a switchable dual battery design utilizing two 18650 Li-ion batteries. Other notable features include auxiliary antenna inputs and the ability to disconnect the internal antennas on all bands, audio playback capability from a Micro-SD card, the ability to play digital computer audio through a USB connection and Bluetooth. The H-501 has much to recommend it – Read the Tecsun H-501/501X Review:
Sangean ATS-909X2 AM/LW/FM/SW/Air Radio
The ATS-909X2 is the third generation of a well-known series of top-of-the-line multiband portable radios from Sangean. The immediate predecessor was the ATS-909X which replaced the earlier ATS-909 which was also marketed by Radio Shack as the DX-398. Each upgraded version has represented an evolution of performance and features and the newest ATS-909X2 is no exception. Outwardly extremely similar to the ATS-909X, the new ATS-909X2 offers many advanced and upgraded features over the older model which can enhance the user experience. There are also some important performance improvements – read the Sangean ATS-909X2 review:
Two Inexpensive MP3 Players – Geson RV-155 Pro & Aocome L-088 AM
Or When Is A Radio Not A Radio?
Once again, I am taking a look at two very inexpensive MP3 players which also happen to contain AM/FM radios. These days, such devices are often referred to as “speakers” rather than as radios or MP3 players and in this report, I will focus on their MP3 playback ability as their foremost feature because their radios capabilities are…shall we say…unusual.
A $10 Radio – the Yorek YK-901 AMFM/SW Radio
A reader emailed me and asked if I would review a $10 radio he found on Amazon. Although my initial reaction was to dismiss it as not worth the time it would take, something about the $9.99 price grabbed my attention. After all, it was only weeks ago that I reviewed the QFX-R24 which was selling at the time for about $15 and that was a total disaster…I concluded that even at $15 it wasn’t worth it. But a digital AM/FM/SW radio for $9.99 (with free shipping for Amazon Prime customers) seemed too enticing to pass up, although I wasn’t expecting much. Two days later I found it in my mailbox and although it won’t’ replace my more sophisticated radios I’ve got to say that for $9.99 it isn’t half bad (and certainly its better than that QFX-24). So, just want can you expect nowadays in a $10 digital radio?
The CC WiFi 3 is a new offering from C. Crane and is a great addition to their radio lineup. I must admit that prior to this most of my online listening had been via my smart phone and this method does let you hear a world of information, but the Skytune software in the CC WiFi 3 makes many more stations available and much easier to find. As someone who never tried a dedicated WiFi radio before it was a fun experience!
Retekess V117 AM/FM/SW Radio
The Retekess V117 Is a no-frills portable that has been around for a while. Although it has a SW band, I consider this to be primarily an AM/FM radio, at least here in the US where its SW band coverage is a limitation to its usefulness. But it’s not bad for the price on AM and FM. It is available on Amazon for between $9.99 to $15.99 or $17.99 depending on the day.
After some bad experiences with other bargain basement radios I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Read the Retekess V117 Review:
The new Tecsun PL-330 is a very small Ultralight-sized, DSP-based radio and is a worthy upgrade to the still available and less costly PL-310 Et and PL-380 radios, adding several features and somewhat better overall performance as well. It is now available at Amazon and from www.anon-co.com
Covering AM/LW/FM/SW it packs some unusual features for such a small, relatively inexpensive ($59.95) package. For example, it offers Synchronous Detection, making the PL-330 the least expensive radio I am aware of to sport this feature. It also demodulates SSB (Single Sideband) signals, and allows the use of external antennas on ALL bands…one of the very few current production portable radios to offer that terrific capability.
The list of extra features is long and in this article we’ll check them all out and compare the PL-330’s performance to some other popular competing models.
Read the Tecsun PL-330 Review:
The Sangean HDR-15 is the first HD Clock Radio I am aware of. It is an unassuming little box which makes no pretense of being a hobbyist’s radio, yet in some ways it is unique among clock radios. It offers a long list of features, many of which are unusual for a clock radio.
I was lucky enough to receive a pre-production sample of the new CC Radio Solar, a feature-rich, high quality Emergency Radio with all the bells and whistles we’ve come from top-of-the-line emergency models plus several added “Hidden Features” I haven’t seen on any other such radio until now. According to their new 2021 catalog the CC Radio Solar will not displace the still-available (and highly regarded) CC Solar Observer which sells for $59.99. The CC Radio Solar will sell for $99.99. What does that $40 difference get you? Quite a lot!
Everyone loves a bargain, right? Sure we do, so, when a reader alerted me to the QFX-R24 I had to check one out. You see, it’s a dead ringer for the Panasonic RF-2400D which I have reviewed favorably.
What caught my attention, other than the fact that these two radios look virtually identical, is that the QFX-R24 adds 2 shortwave bands whereas the RF-2400D is AM/FM only, and although the QFX-R24 mentions a list price of $24.99 it was selling for $15.78 with free shipping from Amazon…roughly half the price of the Panasonic model. This seemed too good to be true so I ordered one and eagerly awaited its arrival.
What did I find? Read the QFX-R24 Review:
There’s no doubt that pocket portable radios can be a lot of fun, and not only for those of us who remember the excitement they engendered in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s but for anyone who wants a small companion handy for camping, travel or listening to a ball game out in the back yard or wherever you may be. Today’s pocket portables are in some ways a far cry from those radios we loved in their heyday.
Radio Shack, once a marketing giant has closed its doors but remains as an online seller so I decided to try two of their new Pocket Portables to see what they offer for the money.
The WR-12-BT has been around since 2012 but just recently came to my attention thanks to a reader who asked what I thought of it. In fact, I was unaware that Sangean still has a range of ten analog radios in their catalog with the WR-12-BT being an interesting model with FM stereo, three channels of amplification (left, right and woofer) along with Bluetooth technology to let the radio act as a great sounding stereo speaker for your BT audio sources. Sangean also offers the WR-12 which is the same but without Bluetooth. Do the three channels of amplification really make a difference? We’ll take the WR-12BT for a spin and let you in on the facts.
The PL-990/PL-990x is an upgrade to the still-available and very popular PL-880. At this writing (Fall 2020) the PL-990 is just becoming available and some sites are selling early production units at wildly varying prices. Anon-co.com is now selling the regular production version for $235 while the PL-880 goes for $149 in its basic from or with a deluxe package going for $209.99. I have compared the PL-990X with the PL-880 extensively and also compared it with other models from Tecsun and other manufacturers and I’ll share all of that information with you in this report.
The Degen DE-115 is among the least expensive and the smallest (less than 2” tall) AM/FM earbud radios I have tested, costing $23.99 plus shipping from Anon-co.com and a few dollars more on eBay. In spite of its relatively low price many users have given the radio high praise with some claiming it is as good as any radio in this category…a strong claim. I was of course anxious to compare it with my reference earbud radios…and I have several, to see just how good it is.
Every now and then someone sends me a comment or asks me a question about a vintage radio that I’ve never seen or owned. There are so many of these that it is impossible to obtain all of them, but occasionally one seems to grab my attention, either because I’ve read about it and known about it for years or simply because it occupies a unique niche in portable radio history and seems to hold a special place in many people’s hearts. One such radio is Radio Shack’s Realistic DX-440/Sangean ATS-803A from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
What Makes the DX-440/ATS-803A so special and how does it perform compared with other vintage radios and today’s portables? All will be revealed in the Realistic DX-440/Sangean ATS-803A Review.
The Sangean PR-D9W is the size of a paperback book, and features standard AM, FM and NOAA Weather band reception with Alerts. It is currently selling for about $56 on Amazon.
Sangean has several radios at approximately this price point, each has its own merits and features. We’ll check out the PR-D9W for reception, sound and ease of use and, in addition we’ll compare it with the same-priced yet quite different PR-D7 to see what Sangean’s focus is with these two radios.
The WR-16 and deluxe version WR-16SE continue Sangean’s long-respected line of wooden tabletop radios with upgraded technology. The radios are identical in all regards except the 45th Anniversary Special Edition features enhanced cosmetics.
Although they tune like analog radios and feature a smooth tuning knob with an attractive analog dial scale they are in fact PLL digitally tuned and offer Bluetooth connectivity to let you stream audio from your smart phone or other Bluetooth audio source, a USB charging jack to charge an external device, the ability to use internal or external AM and FM antennas, Aux In, Record Out and Headphone jacks and the ability to operate either on AC or 12 volts DC.
If there’s a table top radio in your future join me and the WR-16SE for a test drive to see how well it performs. Read The Sangean WR-16/WR-16SE Review:
I haven’t owned more than one or two Sears portables over the years and Sears is not a brand I have read much about in regards to transistor radios, so I was pretty much starting out with zero knowledge, trying to piece together as much information as I could from the internet.
There were many Silvertones over the years…this article will focus on a 10-transistor design made around 1966 and comprising three models: 6223/4/5 in different cabinet colors
Retekess/TIVDIO V-111 AM/LW/SW/FM Stereo Radio with DSP
The Retekess V-111 (and the seemingly identical TIVDIO V-111) are DSP designs featuring AM/LW/SW/FM Stereo reception with most of the usual digital features such as 100 Memories, Clock. Alarm and a Sleep Timer. You even get a pair of stereo earbuds…all for only $11.99 (from Amazon US . I also found the same radio as “Used But Like New” under the TIVDIO brand for $9.49 from a third party seller also at Amazon, and the radio did appear as a new one…it still had the plastic protector sheet covering the display for example. A Later check on this version showed it as Currently Unavailable.
But what kind of multi-band performance and earbuds can you get for $11.99? Is this a possible new value leader or just a so-so cheapie? Read the Retekess/TIVDIO V-111 Review:
I must admit that I didn’t know quite what to make of the CP-100 when I first saw it on Sangean’s website. The design resembles the horn speakers of vintage acoustic wind-up 78 record players and I had to have the radio in my hands before I understood what it is. In brief, the horn is an elegant design for an acoustic port to augment the bass response of the front-firing speaker. In this case, Sangean decided to use the port to create a retro look that harks back to the days of wind-up Victrolas, and I must say the CP-100 will elicit comments from your friends who see it. But how well does it actually perform?
Another new model from newcomer Retekess, the TR608 is an inexpensive, travel-sized, digital multi-band portable at a relatively low price of $39.99 (via Amazon as of January 2020). It covers MW (AM), SW, FM and Air band and has a large, bright display. So, what can today’s technology give you for $40?
An inexpensive new antenna from Tecsun ($27.99 plus shipping from https://www.anon-co.com/product/tecsun-an48x-antenna has just hit the market and after using the antenna over a period of many days and with several different radios I’ve figured out its strengths and weaknesses. It offers unusual connection flexibility and I found several cases where reception was indeed improved, but at other times the results were less spectacular. Knowing the behavior and quirks of this antenna are key to getting the most out of it and I think that as much as some users will dislike its fussy tuning behavior, others will find it an inexpensive way to learn the advantages of a remotely placed loop antenna. Is it for you?
Read the Tecsun AN-48x Loop Antenna Review
The RCA Globe Trotters: Radio’s Unsung Heroes
RCA Victor’s line of Globe Trotter radios has to be among the longest running of any product nameplate in radio history. It stretches at least as far back as 1933 and continued into the 70’s. My first (and one of my favorite) models was an RZG133E circa 1969 given to me by a friend who owned several of them and told me it was one of his better-performing AM radios. I already had an older Globe Trotter model 7-BX-L8 tube type as well as a 1-T-1J and a 1962 model 3-RG-81, all in unrestored condition. I later acquired a few other models of this series and restored an RLG34T which is another excellent transistorized model.
The Globe Trotter series of radios is also unusual in that it originally ran the gamut of console, table and portable tube and solid-state models with band configurations ranging from AM-only to sophisticated multi-band radios. Later on, in the tube era and continuing into the transistor models, the name continued to be applied to RCA’s best performing AM portable radios.
We’ll take a look at several of these radios in words and pictures and describe the design and performance of two representative transistorized models.
CC Radio 2E (Same Radio Without Bluetooth)
Crane has released the new upgrade to the still available CC-2E – it is the CC-3. I was lucky enough to receive an early production sample of this radio but it is now in regular production and it has become my new daily player. It is truly excellent – in fact, it is identical in performance to the still available CC-2E which means it ranks as ***** in both my AM and FM Mega Shootout articles,
except it has added Bluetooth capability. I have learned from the company that it is indeed the same radio as the CC-2E with Bluetooth added so now you have a choice. The CC-2E will continue to be available for $169.99 while the CC-3 will set you back $199.
The TR604 is not a great radio. I’m not sure I can even call it a good radio. But for less than $30 is there any reason to own one? Maybe, but you’ll have to decide based on its features versus its operating quirks.
The new PR-D12 from Sangean continues their tradition of quality in the world of portable and tabletop radios. Rather unassuming in appearance, the PR-D12 receives AM/FM and NOAA Weather Band frequencies and offers the Weather Alert feature which can be a lifesaver if you are in an area threatened by dangerous weather conditions. We’ll check it out, compare it with some reference radios and see how well it performs.
Read The Sangean PR-D12 Review:
When Sangean asked if I was interested in testing a new AM/FM portable radio they were introducing, designed specifically for the visually impaired, I envisioned something a bit less than what I received. I expected a radio with bright knobs, braille and other raised labels on the major controls and a large, bright display, along with simplified menus for initial set up and use.
I was pleasantly surprised that what I received was so much more. This radio speaks to you in its own voice telling you which button you have pressed and what the status is, such as, “Power On – AM Band – 100% Battery Level – AM Eight Eight Zero (880)”.
Aside from its special qualities the PR-D17 is also a winning performer. Read the Sangean PR-D17 review:
Eton Elite Models Summer/Fall 2019
Eton is revamping their lineup of radios with the new Elite designation and with a new flagship Satellit which is promised for November. That radio externally resembles the former and very highly-regarded E1 and should be an excellent performer.
Eton’s popular multi-band radios will now be named Elite – the new model lineup, now available, includes the Elite Mini, Elite Traveler, Elite Executive (formerly the Satellit Executive Edition) and the Elite Field (formerly the Field BT).
In my review of the new Elite Executive I discovered it is identical in every respect to the previous version, the Executive Satellit except for the case color. This is currently my travel radio of choice and is highly recommended. More great news – all of the older models are now available at Amazon at great savings.
I suspect the other Elite models, like the Elite Executive, will be identical to the previous versions. So those older versions are great values at their currently discounted prices.
Check out the links in this article and grab the deals while they last!
As of Summer 2019 Eton has revamped their lineup of multiband radios with the new Elite Designation and in addition a November introduction is promised for the new flagship Elite Satellit. Their multiband portables will now be named Elite – the new model lineup includes the Elite Mini, Elite Traveler, Elite Executive (formerly the Satellit Executive Edition) and Elite Field (most recently the Field BT). The upcoming Elite Satellit externally resembles the former and very highly-regarded E1 and as I am a big fan of the E1 I am eager to see the new one when it is available, but the other new models are available now so I ordered the new Elite Executive to see how it compares with the earlier versions.
For those of us who follow the market of old and new radios, the arrival of the Radiwow R-108 was somewhat of a surprise. Nothing to do with the little radio itself, but rather how it came to be in the first place. It’s not a bad little performer, but it has a colorful backstory.
The Panasonic RF-562D is one of the more interesting, relatively inexpensive new radios I’ve discovered recently…I found mine on Amazon for $48.99. It offers a leather-like carrying case which allows you to use the radio while in the case…something almost all radios used to offer in the good old days. It is also one of the few remaining true analog radios being made today with no DSP (Digital Processing) chip. As such it has both strengths and weaknesses and it depends on exactly what you want to listen to whether you will love or hate it. But in today’s market place it may be a one-of-a-kind radio from Panasonic, one of the truly iconic names in analog radios of days gone by.
The Sangean DT-800 is Sangean’s new top of the line Walkman-style radio and it is another winner. I’ve owned several Sangean earbud portables from the earlier DT-200 and DT-400W to the newer DT-160 and DT-210 and have found them to be excellent performers, particularly the newer DT 160 and DT-210 models, both of which are excellent, but the DT-800 tops the list with some added features and a better built-in speaker than usual in these Walkman-style radios which are meant primarily for headphone use.
The Panasonic RF-2400D is an upgrade to the original RF-2400 and is externally identical to the first version. It is available in silver or black and has a street price the same as the original at about $30.
The RF-2400 generated lots of interest because of the Panasonic name. Definitely a no-frills set the RF-2400D is a basic AM/FM portable radio with a pleasing retro look and a large slide rule tuning dial. At its price it offers good utility where maximum performance is not needed nor expected. Controls are basic – and it is a cute little radio with a convenient folding carry handle which also acts as a support to rest the radio at an angle if so desired.
Regarding the updates from the RF-2400 to the RF-2400D one could assume the “D” means DSP…I did not try to confirm nor deny that, but it does tune like a DSP/analog design with discreet steps as you tune. For me the proof of the pudding is to see how this new model performs and how it compares with the original version. So let’s find out!
The HDT-20 is one of very few component HD tuners currently available, with an average street price around $155 it is the only component HD tuner anywhere near its price. With the popular Sony XDR-F1HD discontinued, Day Sequerra is the primary alternative and their models begin at ten times the price of the HDT-20.
Every HD radio I have tested previously has been either a portable or table model and although most of these can feed an audio output to an external amplifier, none were created as a true component designed to be used as an audio source for an external audio system. But exactly what are the specific advantages of a component style HD tuner compared with a stand-alone radio?
The HDT-20 is designed to easily interface with any home audio or audio/video setup with standard RCA Line Out jacks along with SPDIF Optical and Digital outputs for maximum connection flexibility. It’s large front panel and clear controls make it easy to master and use. And theoretically a component may be designed for maximum performance compared with table or portable models which stress convenience over ultimate quality.
I’ll put the HDT-20 through its paces and see just how well it does.
As of December 2018 the Eton Field BT has been upgraded and is somewhat improved over the originally released version. I can’t tell you just when these improvements took place but you can identify the new model by the fact that the words “Grundig Edition” have been removed from the front panel…the newest version simply says Field BT at the top right. Otherwise the radios are externally identical.
The original release was a top performer and a great bargain in almost every way, with excellent FM and SW reception and great sound. But there was a serious problem with the AM band…at the top end of the band the volume of weaker stations dropped way down to the point where I could receive almost nothing. It was so bad I assumed it was defective so I bought a second sample – the second unit was a hair better, but not enough for me to keep the radio.
Now Eton has upgraded the ‘BT. The new version does perform better than those two older ones so I have updated the review to reflect the changes.
Pocket Radios Under $20: Degen DE797 – Kaito – KA-210 – Tecsun R-233 – Vondior 926
And a comparison with other models from the original Pocket Portables review still available including the Kaito KA-200/Degen DE-333, Sangean SR-35 and Sony ICF-P26.
It’s been a while since I compared pocket-size portable radios. Since then some models have unfortunately disappeared but many new ones have appeared. These small radios will fit into a large pocket but they still vary considerably in size with some literally half the size of others, so choose accordingly. As a group they remind me of the old “transistor radios” we all carried with us in the 50’s and 60’s. Of course, today’s pocket sets bear no internal relationship with those all-analog sets of old.
The most interesting thing I found is how much these pocket radios vary in their areas of strengths and weaknesses and there’s no way to know which are best on AM or FM reception or which sound best without comparing them to each other. Some are better on AM, others are better on FM, and some have more balanced sound than others. While no one expects top grade performance from a $10 to $20 pocket portable, picking the right one can make all the difference depending on what is important to you. And one new Chinese offering is an obvious copy of a very popular Sony model which is now discontinued. How does the clone perform compared with the original? I was frankly surprised and think you’ll find the results interesting.
The XHDATA D-808 was born as a result of the sometimes strange state of affairs in Chinese manufacturing today. The story goes that it was derived from the Redsun-designed C. Crane Skywave SSB. In China today there seems to be no protection from theft of intellectual properly…there is no patent protection. Presumably to prevent conflicts with US-based C. Crane the D-880 cannot be sold directly to the US but it is now available here on eBay shipped via Tel Aviv. It is based on the same Silicon labs DSP Chip as the Skywave yet has several differences. It omits the NOAA Weather Band of the Skywave but adds FM RDS. It also is built into a slightly larger cabinet which allows improved sound quality and a larger AM ferrite rod antenna.
We’ll put the XHDATA thorough its paces and compare it directly with the Skywave SSB and several competing travel-sized radios.
I have just received the latest update of the CC-EP-Pro and it has been improved over the original model. As of this date this is the version being sold so if you buy one now you will receive this upgraded version. You can identify it by the presence of an additional slide switch on the rear panel beneath the Ext/Int Antenna switch, and it is labelled 9K/10KHz.
There two other enhancements that help make the newest CC-EP-Pro even better than the original. I’m glad to see that C. Crane is working to continually evolve and improve their products…the EP-Pro is indeed today’s Superadio and it merits your serious consideration.
Although not a new model on the market I wanted to try one of these because I was looking for one specific capability which none of my other small mp3 player offers – the ability to scan forward or backward within a track. All the portable players I have seen (and I’ve seen a few nice ones) only let you select a track – none let you search or scan within a track. This is a big problem when listening to half hour Old Time Radio shows which is what I often use my player for. The DE29/KA29 does offer this feature so I bought one to check out. Currently $36 at Amazon let’s see how much Degen/Kaito have packed into this cute little box. I also uncovered an undocumented feature that could be crucial.
The Cuthbert FM to AM Converter lets you listen to FM stations or an external audio source on an AM-only radio. It consists of an FM tuner connected to a low power AM transmitter. Tune in your favorite FM station on the Converter and rebroadcast it as an AM signal to any nearby AM radio. As far as I know this is the only such unit available today. I’ll check one out and describe how it performs.
Sangean HDR-14 AM/FM Stereo HD Radio
The Sangean HDR-14 is a small, travel-sized AM/FM portable radio offering HD and RDS reception. As far as I know this is the smallest radio to offer both AM and FM HD at this size and at a street price of $79.99 ($99.95 list price) it is a bargain to boot. We’ll put it through tis paces and see how it compares with its larger brother HDR-16 and other HD portables.
If you are a home broadcasting enthusiast you have probably been disappointed that your personal “radio stations”, while being lots of fun, never sound quite as good as the professional stations. Of course, the transmitters themselves have limitations but one of the biggest differences is in the audio processing ahead of them. Radio stations use very sophisticated, expensive audio processors, such as Orban’s Optimod line which are way beyond the reach of home hobby broadcasters. Now, the Cuthbert 6 Channel/3 Band Audio Compressor, which was pattered after the Optimod, brings the home user surprisingly close to that level of performance for $159. My single word description for it is “Amazing”!
Cuthbert AM Stereo C-Quam Transmitter – An Affordaable New Home AM Transmitter
As a lifelong professional and home hobby broadcaster I was excited to learn of a new kid on the block, the Cuthbert AM Transmitter. You can find this and other electronics goodies Sean sells on eBay if you search “AM Stereo Transmitter” – his seller name is sean-jcil. Sean graciously sent me his AM Stereo C-Quam model for evaluation and I found it to be a very cool addition to my home setup. But how well does it stack up to my long-reigning reference AM Transmitter?
The good folks at Sangean US sent me one of their newest goodies a few weeks ago, the little WR-7 and I haven’t wanted to put it down since I opened the box. I didn’t appreciate how tiny this unit is but its high-tech speaker will amaze you with how much powerful sound it can pour out. ..the WR-7 has a fullness of sound that belies its small size and I find myself marveling at how well I can hear the bass lines of my favorite songs. FM reception was also a pleasant surprise and the Bluetooth function worked flawlessly.
Perhaps one of the most iconic multi-band portable radios of its time, the Sony ICF-2010/2001D enjoyed one of the longest production runs of any radio, being manufactured from 1985 to 2002. The US version was called the ICF-2010 while ICF-2001D was the model number used in the rest of the world…there were 6 versions sold in different areas. It’s is fairly well accepted that the “2010” was among the best of its day, but how does it compare with the best SW portable radios made today? We’ll take a close look, compare it with the competition and see just what made the 2010 so special.
Longtime readers of this website know I am a die-hard fan of loop antennas. Although there are many types of loops they all share one thing in common – they respond to the magnetic rather than the electrical component of the RF signal which means they are inherently less noisy than wire and whip antennas. Australian-based, PK’s Loops offers an exceptionally large range of loop antennas, ranging from passive to amplified designs covering AM, LW or SW bands – to my knowledge no other company offers as many different loops. They kindly sent me one of their most popular models, the A-LOOP-TAM, which I have tested and compared with several other loops. Coming from Australia the PK costs a bit more than these other loops…what do you get for the extra cost?
A much-anticipated addition to C Crane’s extensive (and excellent) line of portable radios, the new Skywave SSB is a worthwhile upgrade to the popular and still available CC Skywave. The initially announced price of $169.99 has been reduced to $149.99 which includes a carry case, reel-up antenna and CC buds, which represents a great price for a radio with all the capabilities of the Skywave SSB. The Skywave SSB really is the “Swiss Army Knife” of portable radios, utilizing not one but two DSP chips in order to cover not only standard AM/FM/SW but also NOAA Weather and Air Band, and now with the addition of SSB -Single Sideband Reception, in a small size which is ideal for the traveler. We’ll put the new model through its spaces and report on how it performs.
Sangean PR-D7/PR-D14 AM/FM Portables
The Sangean PR-D7 and PR-D14 have little in common other than being somewhat close to each other in price. The PR-D14 features DSP design while the PR-D7 is PLL digital, and the ‘14 has more features including FM Stereo at the headphone jack, FM RBDS, USB MP3/WMA Playback and an Aux input jack. The PR-D7 runs on 6 AA batteries while the PR-D14 uses 4 D cells. Finally the PR-D7 is more compact, measuring approximately 8 ½” x 4 ½” x 1 ½” while the PR-D14 measures approximately 9 1/3” x 6” x 2 ½”. But the features tell only part of the story. Although both are good performers overall each has its own strengths and weaknesses which might make one far better suit to your needs than the other. We’ll look in depth at these two models to help you decide if one is right for you.
Sony ICF-P26 – ICF-P36 – ICF-306 AM/FM Portables
We take a look at three inexpensive, entry level Sony compact portables. The shirt pocket-sized ICF-P26, the slightly larger, horizontal format ICF-P36 and the paperback book size ICF-306.
The small size and low prices are the big attractions and it is interesting how strong their family resemblance is – they look like the same basic design which grows from smallest to largest. But how well do they perform?
Three Sony Portable AM/FM Radios – ICF-506 – ICF-19 – ICF-801
A Look at How Old School Compares with New School
What started out as a review of a single Sony model, the ICF-506 has evolved to a comparison of three Sony portables; the ICF-506 – ICF-19 and ICF-801. The ‘506 and ‘19 are very similar models but with some significant differences while the ‘801 is a completely different animal but with some very different strengths and weaknesses. All are very good performers in this category of paperback book-sized AM/FM portable radios, but again, their differences will be important in your choice of which one might suit you best.
The latest pocket portable from Sangean competes directly with their excellent DT-160. But the DT-210 is an entirely different design and is in many ways very different than the DT-160, yet their street prices are virtually the same. How do they compare – which one is best?
Sangean MMR-88 Emergency Radio – One of the nicest radios of this type I have seen, this one has it all from Solar, Crank or USB charging to DSP Digital Tuner, Cell Phone Charging, NOAA Weather with Alert and more.
The new Sangean U4 Rugged/Jobsite Radio offers powerful audio to fill outdoor areas and features Digital Tuning with all the usual features such as presets, alarms and timers, Bass, Treble and Loudness controls, FM-RBDS with Auto Clock Set, AM, NOAA Weather Band with Alert, Bluetooth connectivity, Aux-In and built-in AC power with Smart Charging capability, all in a rugged, rainproof cabinet. We’ll take the U4 outdoors to see how it performs.
Panasonic RF-2200: As a long-time radio enthusiast, I had for many years read about the legendary Panasonic RF-2200. Several sources refer to it reverently as “The Holy Grail” of AM analog portables, while others, more conservatively, simply say it’s “the best AM portable radio ever made…a DX-er’s dream”. Strong claims to be sure. It also has an excellent FM tuner.
Few radios remain at the top of a short list of favorites and since the RF-2200 is arguably as well-respected as any portable for AM performance I wanted to bring the review into a modern context. This is an update of my original review written 14 years ago. Many new radios have emerged, many with decidedly mediocre performance, but a few with superb performance and it seemed like a good time to report on how the RF-2200 fares against modern competition.
FM Portables Mega Shootout: With the advent of DSP (Digital Signal Processing) chips several years ago portable radios have greatly improved in overall FM performance. We’ll take a look at several of today’s radios to compare their FM reception and we’ll throw in some vintage receivers as well to see how they stack up. We’ll also provide a Quick FM Glossary to explain some of the technical aspects of FM reception and to help describe some of the things we look for when comparing radios on FM.
Sangean HDR-16 AM/FM/HD Stereo Radio
It seems that we waited a long time for the HDR-16 to come to market – the pre-release announcements generated much curiosity and internet buzz. Now that it is here I can tell you that in many ways it is what I hoped it would be. Although there have been previous HD portable radios most if not all of them only received FM HD broadcasts, not AM. The HDR-16 offers AM HD reception in addition to FM HD along with several other welcome features. I was also curious to see how the new model compares for basic AM/FM reception with some other top portables which are familiar benchmarks.
The Sangean HDR-18 is a new DSP-equipped AM/FM HD tabletop radio in a wooden cabinet with many features and enhancements designed to make the user experience a pleasant one. The radio had a few surprises in store for me…pleasant ones. It is a solid performer and in some ways it advances the State-of-the-HD Radio art, outperforming earlier HD radios I’ve tested.
I’ve just spent a few weeks getting to know the new Sangean DT-160 AM/FM DSP Pocket Portable Radio and it is a little gem. It features excellent FM performance and good AM performance for such a small radio, is easy to operate and sounds great. And at its current street price of under $45 at Amazon (see it here) it is a real bargain.
Tecsun AN-100/AN-200 Passive AM Loop Antennas – Loop Update
It has been a while since I last reported on passive AM loop antennas…the smallish variety that are such a cost-effective way to perk up your AM radio reception on the cheap. If you haven’t tried one out you’re in for a treat! The good folks at Tecsun Australia just sent me their Tecsun AN-100 to check out and as usual I pitted it against the well-known Terk AM Advantage AM antenna and a few others I have on-hand, such as the excellent but no longer available Select-A-Tenna.
The Tecsun AN-100 is also sold in other areas as the model AN-200 which appears identical in every respect except for the style of the plastic base…they can be found under the names Grundig and Kaito as well as Tecsun.
How Well Does it Work? Read The Tecsun An-100/Grundig Kaito AN-100/AN-200 Review
Grundig Satellit 800 Speaker Upgrade
It’s hard to believe how many years it has been since the Grundig Satellit 800 was released…the name SAT 800 Millennium on the front panel reminds us of that. One complaint about the receiver has always been its lackluster audio quality and specifically, it’s lack of bass given its large size. While not exactly bad sounding it certainly lacked the bass extension and punch it could have. There were a few “modders” back in the day who managed to get better sounding speakers transplanted into their 800’s but there are now more speaker choices available which offer not only direct drop-in-replacement with no modifications needed (they fit exactly as the original speaker did) but which also offer improved frequency response and efficiency…they are able to play as loudly as the original speaker with the amplifier power available in the Satellit 800. In this upgrade report I’ll not only recommend a specific replacement speaker but I’ll also take you step by step through the replacement procedure which will reward you with a much improved sounding Satellit 800.
Having previously tested several Sangean radios such as the PR-D5 and PR-D15 which offered great AM reception at bargain-basement prices but which were hampered by less-than-wideband audio I hoped the PR-D4W might be a real step forward, and in many ways it is. But always cautious when I read claims of how a new radio matches or beats radios that time has shown to be near the limits of what is achievable on AM or FM I was eager to put it up against my hottest portable radios…such as the C. Crane CC-2E. So at today’s state of the art what can you get for under $70?
Sangean PR-D19 AM/FM Stereo Radio
The new PR-D19 is available in Blue/White or Gray/Black and is the logical upgrade to the well-received PR-D18. The new PR-D19 adds stereo FM and with its dual speakers is a slightly larger radio, but is the addition of stereo FM the only change? Or are there are there other areas of performance which have changed? The full review is now posted…read it here.
Best price is at Amazon – Click Here
Sangean has upgraded its ATS-404 with the new ATS-405 portable radio and I was excited to find that this new model offers several important new features. Externally the two models look quite similar but internally and operationally this is a completely revamped radio with improved performance and features. Although the ATS-405 is not a top of the line radio, it nevertheless is a bold step for Sangean in that there are now dedicated keys that let you turn off Soft Muting and Tuning Muting – this is exactly what we have been waiting for.
But how does it perform?
Read The Sangean ATS-405 Review:Read The Sangean ATS-405 Review:
The new Traveler III replaces Grundig’s popular G8/Traveler II (aka Tecsun PL300WT). The original model was an instant hit and has become an Ultralight favorite…the new Traveler III is a much better AM radio than the earlier model but FM and to some extent SW seem to be just a slight step backwards..at least in my early production sample. But as an AM lover I am impressed by this new radio and think you will be too…read the full review here.
The Tecsun PL-880 is a worthy follow-up to their popular and capable PL-660 (which is still available). Most notable in the PL-880 is a new technology speaker which gives the radio a far more natural and pleasing sound quality than that usually found in radios of this size…it sounds just amazing when compared side by side with the older model.
There have been some real upgrades to performance in almost all areas but the new model also features at least one step backward…we’ll check that out as well.
This new model has many extra features which are accessed via hidden menus…this allows far more control over the operation of the radio than usual but adds some complexity for the less sophisticated user. I will list the important ones so you can just set them and forget them. For most users this will be totally satisfactory but if you want to delve more deeply into every aspect of the radio’s performance you have that option as well.
At $59.95 the CC Pocket is slightly less expensive than the well-known Sangean DT-400W…how do they compare? Here’s a complete review.
Also note C.Crane is currently throwing in a FREE pair of Voz Premium Wooden Earbuds which sell separately for $19.95.
In the late 1950’s and early 60’s transistor radios were the new rage. We kept them with us as often as we could…they went everywhere with us. In November of 1955 Zenith entered the game with their Royal 500, the first of a long line of radios that not only set the standard of performance, but would also become one of the most popular and most copied of all portable radios. We’ll check out the entire 500 series from the first, 7 transistor, hand-wired model through the pinnacle of the series, the Royal 500H. Then we’ll go inside a few of them and discuss what kind of work they generally need to be restored to original working condition, then we’ll compare them to some current day radios to see just how good they really are.
These were Zenith’s top-of-the line AM portables in the 50’s and 60’s. I’ll take you through the entire model line and we’ll restore a few of them to peak performance, then compare them with some other great AM radios to see how they compare – a fun look back at Zenith’s in its heyday!