Retekess TR604 AM/FM Portable Radio
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. As for features it’s a basic AM/FM portable radio which runs on 3 D cells or built-in AC power…no external wall wart adapter needed. It has a 2-position tone control switch, an earphone jack and a large slide rule dial which is something I like in analog-tuned radios. The radio features a 3.5-inch speaker, a folding carry handle and has a street price (at Amazon) of $27.99 as of September, 2019.
I won’t keep you in suspense…the TR604 rates ** on the AM Mega Shootout list and *** on the FM Mega List. This really is not bad for a sub $30 radio but there are some quirks which are unique to this radio. The TR604 is said to be a DSP design and in most respects, it acts like one, but sometimes its tuning behavior seems unusual by either analog or DSP standards, on both AM and FM. Sometimes one doesn’t detect the tuning steps which are usually the hallmark of DSP tuning behavior, where the reception jumps through discreet steps as you tune. The Retekess seems to tune across some AM signals like an analog radio, smoothly transitioning sound as you tune across a signal. But it turns out that the steps are really there…they are merely masked under some conditions. In other situations, you will hear the steps as you tune. To clarify, there are indeed discreet tuning steps but extra images surrounding some stations tend to blend together. As you tune across a station it seems to fade in and out somewhat gradually but when you try to home in on the exact center tuning spot you will begin to notice the steps…you just have to tune for the loudest one.
After using the TR604 both day and night and on both AM and FM it became clear that it has only mediocre selectivity and is not great at separating crowded signals. They tend to spread out and overlap. Still, although clearly not a radio for the true DXer, it did an OK job at separating typical AM signals on crowded nighttime band scans, and while better radios were easier to tune in these conditions due to fewer false peaks, radios anywhere near the price of the TR604 did no better in eventual reception. Selectivity was also mediocre on FM, where sensitivity was pretty good but stations tended to spread out and crowd each other in crowded band conditions. My primary stations all came in just fine but the tough-to-separate ones did not fare well on the TR604. This is not a surprise…again for the price, performance is hard to fault.
Except for one thing…an occasional snapping or popping noise on AM. On strong, heavily modulated AM signals the Retekess occasionally pops on audio peaks making for an impossible listening experience. I first noticed it on a very loud music station which sounded distorted on other radios but which popped on the Retekess. Interestingly, I didn’t get the problem on most other stations. But then at night, with many stronger signals I heard it more often. Experimenting with a home AM transmitter I found that if I pushed the modulation the radio would pop. If I either backed off a bit on the modulation or moved the radio to a weaker signal location the popping stopped. It seemed that the signal has to be highly modulated (which many are) and strong to cause the defect. I sometimes found that rotating the radio a bit would stop the noise, but clearly, if you customarily receive many strong signals this is a “personality defect” you may not be able to live with. I will say that most of my usual stations here were perfectly fine but that snapping noise is nasty when it occurs and may be reason enough to avoid the TR604. My guess is that something is being over-driven and perhaps a simple circuit tweak by Retekess could cure it but we can’t count on that.
Dial calibration is off a bit on my sample but at the price this too is not surprising.
One other negative…the Tone switch is almost useless. The Low position sounds normal and audio is reasonably natural for this class of radio and clearer than many. But the High position sounds poor…very screechy and thin…nothing ever sounded reasonable in the High setting.
Conclusion: Obviously I can’t recommend the TR604 overall. It suffers from that occasional popping noise on AM which is somewhat reception-related, its FM is not super selective and the tone control is not useful. But still, for $27.99 it might be worth it. For one thing, its built-in AC power cord is a real feature if the radio has to play for many hours a day, such as in an office. Its sound is not bad at all and it will capture your typical AM/FM stations just fine. Just don’t expect performance comparable with radios in the $40 plus class. Retekess has many models which you can see here: