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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FM Portables: With the advent of DSP 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 take a look at some easy ways to improve your FM reception.
WHAT’S NEW: Latest Reviews:
Tandberg Portable 41/Model 41/TP41 Hailing from Norway the 70’s era Tandberg is a distinctly European design which was available in at least two versions which differ in their band coverage. This radio sports a huge oval speaker and large ferrite rod which deliver the goods with great reception and powerful sound. One unusual component called a Stabistor often fails but can be easily replaced with modern components – there is also a unique fine tuning arrangement for shortwave. We’ll take it apart to see how it’s made and rate its overall performance.
Eton/Grundig Executive Satellit: Eton has upgraded the Satellit with a new color scheme and integrated leather case but have given no clues as to whether that is where the differences end. The original Satellit is one of my favorite travel-size portables…are there any internal updates that make it worthwhile to get the new version if you already own the original Satellit?
AM Mega-Shootout 2017 Update
What’s the best radio for AM reception? Do expensive multiband radios provide better AM reception than a purely AM or AM/FM radio? Wondering how the most popular radios compare? Here’s the biggest AM Portable radio comparison project I’ve ever done and one of the most expansive you’ll find anywhere with over 100 radios put through rigorous tests to see exactly how they compared in a variety of circumstances, plus I describe my testing methodology to help you understand the results and do your own comparisons more accurately. Since last year’s update many new radios have become available, some with improved implementation of DSP (Digital Signal Processing) technology. Do these new radios outperform the great vintage radios? Can they match them?
In addition to the many new entries in this survey several others are in-house and under-going testing and some vintage sets are under-going rehabilitation so they can be included…these will be added to the list in the coming weeks and months as well.
I have been receiving more and more questions about FM performance and have begun to do more FM comparison tests and have incorporated lots of new FM comments in the ratings. In this article the radios are still rated based on AM reception but I now also describe FM performance for many of them.
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What’s the best AM Radio? Here are the facts you need. AM Portables Mega Shootout 2017 Update:
Grundig Satellit 750/Tecsun S-2000 – Another Look
The multi-band portable landscape has changed considerably in the years since I first reviewed the Grundig Satellit 750/Tecsun S-2000. Since this radio remains the flagship model of both of those manufacturers offerings it seemed worthwhile to obtain a new sample from the latest production and to compare it against other currently available models. As the only currently available, reasonably priced desktop-style multi-band portable, how well does it compare with other popular models? We’ll explore all the ins and outs in the SAT 750/S-2000 Updated Review.
Eton Field BT:
The Eton Field BT has replaced the Field 550 in Eton’s line-up. The basic functions and control layout are virtually the same as the older model so you may want to read the original Field 550 Review for those details. The original model was a nice radio and overall a decent performer…the new model appears outwardly identical except for the inclusion of Bluetooth capability. The big question is whether or not the basic performance has changed…I now have the answers and you can get the details here in the Eton Field BT Review.
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 WR-50/WR-50P is a high performance table radio with excellent AM/FM reception and sound quality. It is available in two versions: The WR-50 is a single mono unit while the WR-50P adds the matching SP-40 Slave Speaker. It features standard AM/FM reception plus FM RBDS capability and has Bluetooth connectivity so you can stream audio from any Bluetooth enabled device. So how well does it perform…and how does it compare with the recently-reviewed HD-R18?
Read The WR-50/WR-50P Review:
The Sangean PR-D6 was quite a pleasant surprise. It is a simple, analog-tuned portable radio covering standard AM (520-1710 KHz) and FM (87.5-108 MHz) bands, available in Black, White or Blue and is a little gem for AM radio lovers. But how good can a $30 radio really be? To find out we’ll put it up against some well-known radios to see exactly how good it is.
Pocket-sized transistor radios have been with us since the 1950’s. When first released they were quite expensive and were AM only, but since then they have come a long way.Many of today’s inexpensive AM/FM pocket-sized portables offer good enough performance to be truly enjoyable companions in situations where you would not want to lug a larger radio. The best of them are decent on AM and some are very good on FM. However some are so poor on AM as to be almost useless. We’ll take a look at a large selection of small portables – some of the results are surprising.
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.
The Channel Master 6515 “Super Fringe” is a beautiful 8 transistor AM portable radio with a tuned RF stage manufactured by Sanyo exclusively for Channel Master throughout most of the 1960’s. These usually need recapping when received and it’s not an easy job but once recapped and aligned they are excellent performers. I decided to put it up against the most obvious competition…namely a Zenith Royal 500H, long known as a reference among vintage mid-sized AM portables. Does the Channel Master Super Fringe match or even unseat the Zenith sensitivity champ?
One of Sony’s earliest “Super Sensitive” radios from the late 60’s this cool-looking radio features a three-gang air variable tuning capacitor with a Tuned RF stage and 9 transistors for powerful reception and audio. It features a nice vernier tuning dial and a Hi/Lo tone switch…but the main thing is that it rates*** in my AM Mega Shootout List. The 6R-33 has pleasing audio and will run for hundreds of hours from 3 D cells. This one was a great find.
All-American Five vs GE P-780
Back in the late 1950’s transistor portable radios were all the rage. (We just called them “transistors” back then). It was an exciting time. While we didn’t expect ground-shaking performance from shirt pocket portables, even the larger “lunchbox-sized” transistor radios fell short of what the older All American Five tube radios could do…after all, transistor technology was still in its infancy.
According to Conrad Jutson, the lead engineer on the development team for GE’s ground-breaking P780 series of transistor portable radios, “In 1958, all portable transistor radio performance and specifications compared very unfavorably with tube radios, so (we) decided that the department should design a radio that was both rugged (durable) with high sensitivity, selectivity and very good sound. The result was the (GE) P780”.
I did an extensive restoration article and discussion of the P780 radios several years ago…you can see it here along with Conrad Jutson’s comments about its design. But I never thought to compare it with a tube radio of that era to see just how they might compare…until now.
I chose two so-called All-American Five tube radios for this comparison….”AA5” is the name given to radios which were extremely popular in the US from the 1940’s through the early 60’s. They were mass-marketed, inexpensive radios…you could certainly buy nicer sets but I chose the AA5 because of its extreme popularity… the AA5 was as typical as you could get.
One of the nicer recent additions to my collection is the Panasonic RF-1401. Common internet wisdom has it that the ‘1401 was “Panasonic’s answer to the GE Superadios”. There is some truth in this…the RF-1401 does compete with the GE SR and SR II in design concept and approximate dates of manufacture but as we will see they are rather differently designed internally giving each areas of superiority over the other. It therefore depends somewhat on your personal preferences and the nature of signals in your listening area which you might like better.
At first glance the C. Crane FM Reflect Antenna looks like a piece of white plastic tubing. In reality it is a specially designed folded dipole antenna cut for the FM band (88 – 108 MHz) housed in a semi-rigid yet bendable sheath which makes it easier to position where it will work most effectively. But there’s more to the design of the FM Reflect than meets the eye. It took some digging to discover the secrets of how the FM Reflect outperforms a standard dipole FM antenna but indeed it does and unless you have an outdoor FM antenna I think this is one accessory every FM lover should have.
Tecsun AN-100 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
The Tecsun PL-680 is a seemingly unusual addition to Tecsun’s line. I describe it as unusual because it shares its case design with the much older PL-600 but has identical control layout and functionality of the more recent PL-660, both of which are still available, along with the upscale PL-880. The new ‘680 is curious in that it is overall quite similar to the PL-660 but it is clearly better in one way and less good in another. I’ve put it through some rigorous tests, comparing it with the PL-660 and several other current world band portables and the results have been interesting.
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 Sangean PR-D18 radio is a straight-forward AM/FM portable radio. It lists for $69.95 but is easily available for considerably less…around $47 as of this writing. It dispenses with additional bands or MP3 capabilities in favor of the best performance possible for the price along with operating simplicity and ruggedness and has succeeded on all counts. This radio surprised me with its heft and solid feel. It’s a really cute little radio, available in several two-tone color combinations; a gray face with black surround or a white face surrounded by gray, blue or red. Sangean calls these rubber trim pieces protective bumpers which are designed to resist damage due to minor bumps and scrapes. Sangean’s website claims the PR-D18 has “excellent sensitivity and selectivity and will surprise you with its ability to pull in those distant stations.” How could I resist checking one out?
Two Pocket AM/FM/SW Portables: The Eton Mini and Radio Shack 2000629 are each priced below $40. These new pocket portables offer multi-band coverage in a tiny size, but how do they compare? I was surprised at the results because each has certain clear advantages over the other. Which one is best for you depends primarily on how you will be using it. For the details ready my full review.
C.Crane’s CC Skywave Radio – Great New Travel Companion With Unusual Band Coverage
C.Crane’s newest model is aimed at the traveler who wants as many sources of information as possible. The Skywave is unusual in a small portable radio in that it tunes not only Standard AM/FM broadcasts but also includes Shortwave, Weather Band and Air Band. It’s a fun radio and easy to master, plus it includes a carry pouch and a pair of CC Buds earphones for personal listening. After short while using this radio I have come to appreciate that it offers quite a lot in a small package.
Eton Traveler III (Compared with G8/Traveler II/Tecsun PL-310WT and PL-310)
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.
C.Crane CC Radio-2E Enhanced AM/FM/Weather/2 Meter Ham Band Radio
For the past month I’ve been using C.Crane’s latest update to their flagship AM/FM portable radio – the CC Radio 2. This revised version is called the CC Radio 2E Enhanced and I’ll tell you right now, it is an immense step forward – most noticeably in its AM sound quality, but in several other respects as well. C.Crane has redesigned the radio’s circuits around an entirely new chip, so although the new version looks outwardly identical to the older CC-2 the radio has been thoroughly revamped and the results are impressive.
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.
New production differs a bit from the original production and I’ve discovered an unusual characteristic which may explain why different people have such different opinions about the sensitivity of this radio.. Read the updated Sangean ATS-909X Review.
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!
C.Crane’s Wonderful CC Radio-EP is a winner with “Top Tier” AM performance in a simple, analog radio…and it’s only $69.99!