Degen DE-115 AM/FM Earbud Radio
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. When mine arrived, I was anxious to compare it with my reference earbud radios…and I have several, to see just how good it is.
First, the basic specifications:
FM range can be set to:
64 – 108 MHz
76 – 90 MHz
87 – 108 MHz
AM (9 kHz / 10 kHz steps):
522 – 1710 KHz
Auto Tuning Storage (ATS)
Aluminum Front Case
AM / FM-stereo with Stereo/Mono switch
Memories: 60 stations: FM (40), AM (20)
Digital LCD display
Sleep timer (5-90 minutes)
Bass Boost function (switchable)
Key lock function
Stereo Earphone jack (1/8”/3.5mm)
Power supply: 2 x UM4 AAA batteries (not included)
Size: Approx. 1.8” L x 3.2” H x .75G” W /46 mm L x 81 mm H x 19 mm WColor: Black / Silver (Silver not available some areas)
Weight: Approx. 1.7 oz/48g
Supplied with Stereo earbuds, carrying strap and English manual.
Checking It Out: Operation was straightforward and the user manual was clear enough. The main learning curve was figuring out that some of the buttons require quick or long presses to operate – once I got that all was fairly easy. One feature I liked was the Stereo/Mono button which many such units lack…although many units have well-executed auto/blend functions, being able to force mono is sometimes a good way to clear up problem FM stereo signals.
Sound Quality: I used my favorite noise-isolating earbuds for sound comparisons with other pocket radios and the Degen sounded good – the sound was loud, clear and the bass boost function was often enjoyable. I will say that the supplied earbuds are not very good at all…by now most of us have a drawer full of earbuds from various devices and most will sound better than the supplied buds which were very midrangy with no bass or treble, sounding like one was speaking into cupped hands. Use different earbuds.
FM Reception: Judging FM reception with this type of radio can be tricky since they use the earbud wire as an FM antenna, but I was able to ascertain that the DE 115’s FM reception was very good. It was not quite as sensitive or selective as the best units I compared it to…I wouldn’t expect it to be, but it was fairly close and in most cases it does very well. In addition to my usual side-by-side tests I also walked around listening to stations which tend to fade in and out and sometimes be swamped by other stations and again, the Degen was fairly close to the best I compared it with. Not bad at all.
AM Reception was a different story. Due to its very tiny size it necessarily contains a very small internal AM antenna and as a result its AM sensitivity was noticeably less than with the larger units I compared it with. Actually I don’t see how Degen could possibly make it any better at this size so they are to be commended for getting it as good as it is for the tiny size, but you should only expect to receive stronger AM signals with it…medium strength signals will sound weak and noisy, making the DE 115 definitely a radio for FM users first.
Conclusion: All in all, if you already have a decent pair of earbuds to use with it, I think the D 115 is a good value at under $30 and a fine performer. It has very good sound as long as you substitute better earbuds than the ones supplied and although it is not very sensitive on AM its FM reception is quite respectable at this price point.