Retekess TR608 AM/FM/SW/Airband Portable Radio
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 although there is no signal strength meter function. So, what can today’s technology give you for $40?
Features & Specifications:
FM: 76-108MHz (Stereo at Earphone Jack)
MW: 522-1620KHz (9K Steps) / 520-1710KHz (10K Steps)
Sleep timer: 0-90 minutes
Size: (142mm x 87mm x27mm) / ( 5”x 3.43”x1”)
Weight: (177g) / (6.25oz)
24 Hour Clock/Alarm/Sleep Timer
120 Memory Presets (30 per band)
Automatic Search and Store
Manual tuning via the Tuning knob
Direct Frequency Entry
Whip Antenna (530mm) / (20.87”)
Key lock function
3.5mm Earphone jack
Power: 3 AA batteries or a DC4.5V Adapter (neither Included)
Checking It Out: The first thing I noticed was when I was installing the three AA batteries – the spot where one of the cells goes is so tight I had to use a screwdriver to wedge the battery into the radio…I literally could not get it in using only my fingers. I tried a few brands of alkaline batteries (Energizer, Duracell, Amazon Basics and BJ’s) and all were the same. Another 16th of an inch would make it much easier.
The next thing I discovered was the omission of any instruction on how to change the default AM Tuning Step from 9 KHz to 10 KHz. Although the manual does mention 9 and 10K steps with their accompanying AM band coverages there is no mention of how to change it. It was fairly easy to find though – with Power Off, Press and Hold the Band button for about 5 seconds and a 9 or 10 will display. If it is incorrect, release, then Press and Hold the button again until the opposite number displays, then release the button and it will be set. Easy once you know how.
Another oddity is the way the volume is controlled. Although not the most convenient arrangement, it’s fairly typical of some of today’s radios in that you have Up/Down toggle buttons to control the volume. Within a second or two of having done so you can also use the Tuning Knob to adjust the volume faster. Not that unusual although I prefer a dedicated volume knob which is faster and easier to use. But one annoying design quirk is that volume, which is calibrated in 30 steps will always revert to setting of at least 20 after the radio is turned off. In other words, if you set it to, say 23, then turn the radio off, when you turn it back on the volume will be 23. But if the volume happens to be set at 19 or less, when you turn the radio back on it will be set at 20. That happens to be fairly loud so in some cases this could be a bit jarring. It’s not necessarily a deal killer for me, but why would it be programmed this way? I would think it would generally be desirable for a radio to remember its last volume setting, or at least revert to a fairly low setting.
Performance: There aren’t many digital radios with this band coverage near this price point, but one fairly close competitor is the similarly-sized Radiowow R-108 which cost about $12 more than the TR608. The Retekess compared to the R-108 most favorably on AM where their sensitivity to weak signals was fairly close. Even right down to trace signals that were barely intelligible the two radios were quite similar, but I must say that the more full-bodied sound of the R-108 made it much more pleasant to listen to. The Retekess, which has only a single bandwidth for AM and SW and no tone control, sounded quite thin and lacking in fullness by comparison.
On SW the TR608 was somewhat less sensitive than the Radiwow and this seemed consistent across the bands. FM was also less good on the Retekess. Not bad but not as sensitive or selective as the Radiwow.
Air Band too was a hair less sensitive than the Radiwow but not bad.
Conclusion: So, is the Retekess TR608 worth $40? If you want Air band it may be because I don’t know of another radio with AM/FM/SW and Air band at this price. You also have to remember that you can spend $12 more and get a better radio with the $52 Radiwow R-108. The TR608’s AM reception is as good as I have found in a digitally-tuned radio with the TR608’s band coverage at the price. Yes, I greatly prefer the Radiwow R-108 for $52 but at $40 the TR608 may be a reasonable option if price is the main consideration. On the other hand, if Air band is not important to you there are other choices in the $40 range that may serve you better.