Author Archives: radiojayallen
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I have just finished updating and expanding the Reader’s Questions Page:
I hope you will find some interesting reading there and please feel free to send me any radio-related questions you have…I try to answer all emails and save the ones of widest interest for the Questions page.
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.
It’s Here! The AM Portables Mega Shootout 2019 Update has just been posted. This is one of the most comprehensive performance ratings of portable AM radios anywhere and for 2019 dozens of new models have been added. I have carefully tested every one of these myself with the emphasis on actual performance, not just features, plus more radios are in house. Their reviews are on the way and will be added in the coming weeks and months. New entries include new models in current production and some vintage radios I have acquired over the past year.
In addition, I am continually re-evaluating many of the classics and have made subtle adjustments to some of their relative rankings. Although these rankings are based primarily on AM performance, I have added more comments regarding FM and SW performance to give a clearer picture of how particular radios compare overall.
As always feel free to email me with questions or comments:
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.
This Is An Addendum To The Original Review – August 31, 2018
I have just received the latest update of the CC-EP-Pro and it has been improved over the original model. 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.
The addition of the 9K/10K switch allows the radio to be used in countries where 9K spacing is used. That is all well and good, but as they say…”Wait…there’s more!”
There are two other enhancements which further improve the CC-EP-Pro…read the Revised Review here.
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.
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 – An Affordable 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?
(A full review of the audio compressor is coming soon).
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.
The CC EP-Pro is set to be released May 15th. This new version of the now-classic CC-EP looks externally exactly like the original model, the only give-aways are the very slightly lighter color and the EP Pro label on the front. But inside the EP Pro is all new…a completely different circuit design, and in the important areas of performance – AM/FM reception and sound quality, it is a definite step forward. The EP Pro is not perfect…no radio is. There are a few tips and tricks you need to know in order to coax the best performance this new radio is capable of, and we’ll discuss those in detail in the CC EP-Pro Review.
I have been advised that the Steve Whitt Archive CD I mentioned in the review is still available at this link:
The CD contains his original two booklets as well as a treasure trove of additional info on this radio – if you are interested in the 2010 you will find a wealth of useful information here and I recommend itg highly.
Sony ICF-2010/ICF-2001D AM/FM/SW/Air Portable Radio
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?
Although radiojayallen.com provides in-depth reports on portable radios past and present, to help your Holiday shopping here is a quick way to find that perfect radio gift. There are many other choices but these are my all personal recommendations and favorites – Happy Shopping!
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.
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.
My apologies – the link for the article did not appear in the first post.
The small size and low prices are the big attractions and it is interesting at 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?
The long wait is over – the new Tecsun has hit the streets and will no doubt garner lots of attention among radio listeners everywhere. In an age where manufacturers seem to be producing increasing numbers of inexpensive radios of every conceivable description this new Tecsun clearly takes aim at what has become the high end of the portable radio segment. The inclusion of a remote control sets makes it unique but at prices near $300 delivered purchasers will be expecting top performance. This report will describe exactly how well Tecsun did!