Degen DE15 Vs. Grundig M400

Two identically sized mini radios go head to head

I was struck by the fact that two radios in my budget shortwave collection are so very similar in size, and I thought a comparison was in order.

Both radios cover AM, FM and Shortwave bands, have internal speakers and clocks with alarm. Both come with a carrying case, integrated antenna and ear buds. Both fit in a shirt pocket.

Degen DE 15

What impressed me right off the bat was the bright, and I mean bright, green display. You can see this thing! The DE 15 is a digital radio, meaning that the tuning is digital – no tuning dial. In addition to up/down tuning buttons, you can also scan for a signal and set up memory pre-sets. Volume is set digitally too.

The radio includes 3 AAA rechargeable batteries, AC charger and plush draw-string carry bag. The charger system uses an included USB cable so that you can charge from your computer. The USB connector on the radio is the common mini-USB socket found on many devices: cameras, mobile phones, Bluetooth headsets and radios.

The clock was relatively straightforward to set. It supports a 12/24 hour mode. The clock displays when the radio is off.

Band selection is accomplished with a 4-position switch on the left side; however, the shortwave bands are selected by repeatedly pressing a button.

The operation manual is somewhat odd in its language, for example:

While tuning the stations, you had better get very close to the window or stand on the outdoor field in order to avoid the interrupt and gain the best reception.

The manual is careful to note that if power is interrupted, everything goes to factory defaults and the clock is reset. I was able, however, to quickly change batteries and retain the clock setting if I hurried.

There is an FML band, which corresponds to the VHF television channels; however, since VHF isn’t broadcast in the US any more, this is useless here.

One nice feature that both radios have is a slide lock switch that prevents the button controls from operating. If you have opened your luggage only to find the radio on and the batteries almost dead, you will appreciate this feature.

The radio has 245 memory locations for favorite stations, although there is no way to label them. There are separate memories allocated for each band, meaning that the 20 allocated to the FML band are wasted. It has an Auto Tuning Storage that I hadn’t seen before. It works like most TV sets, to scan the band and set up the stations you get. Here each band can be scanned and the strong stations automatically stored. I don’t know how useful this would be on shortwave, but it certainly makes sense for FM, with 100 station memories available. It worked OK, memorizing only two FM stations that were too weak to be useful. These can be easily deleted.

Both with the internal speaker and headphones, I found the the audio to be crisp but decidedly lacking at low frequencies.

Grundig M400

IMG_1259What impressed me right off the bat was the rubberized case. No slipping or sliding with this one. Mine is a deep cherry red in color (also available in black).

Unlike the Degen, the M400 is an analog receiver with a digital readout. There is a tuning knob on the right side. The tuning knob was easy to advance quickly and to tune precisely. However, the radio tuning would change by as much as 10KHz if I put my hand under the LCD display (so don’t do that).

There does not seem to be any dial light, so the radio would be difficult to operate in the dark, except that since tuning and volume are easy to find knobs on the side, I guess the radio could be operated blind.

The M400 shortwave coverage is in two bands: 5.90 – 10 MHz and 11.65 – 18 MHz. In actual practice, I could  tune a little beyond these published ranges (see following chart).

Both with the internal speaker and headphones, I found the the audio to be have less high-frequency response and more emphasis at low frequencies. Stereo reception seemed to give a more expansive impression than with the Degen. The volume control is easy to accidentally change and this is proving to be an issue.

Head to head

Degen DE15 Eton/Grundig M400
FM Stereo Yes, with earphones Yes, with earphones
Backlit display Yes No
Frequency Coverage (MHz) MW .52 – 1.71
FM 87.00 – 108.00
FML 64.00 – 87.00
SW: 2.30 – 23.00

SW tuning is continuous, but there are 7 frequencies preselected when you press the band button repeatedly. They are:

6.00 MHz
7.30 MHz
9.50 MHz
11.70 MHz
13.50 MHz
15.20 MHz
18.20 MHz

AM .52 – 1.71
FM 87.00 – 108.00
SW 5.90 – 10.00
SW 11.65 – 18.00The previous frequencies are the published ones. In actual operation I could tune:

AM .505 – 1.768
FM 85.7 – 108.8
SW 5.745 – 10.57
SW 11.48– 18.59

Lock switch Yes Yes
Weight with batteries 4.3 oz. 3.9 oz..
Battery level indicator Yes No
Signal strength indicator Yes No
Battery 3 AAA (rechargeable included) 2 AAA
Power options USB cable and AC adapter (included). Radio recharges batteries. 4.5 – 5v DC (adapter not included)
Memories 245 n/a
Sleep timer Yes No
Tuning Digital Analog
Tuning indicator Digital Digital
Clock Display HH:MM:SS HH:MM
Clock when radio is on Yes No
Accessories Stereo ear buds, AC adapter, USB charging cable, carrying drawstring bag, 3 AAA Ni-MH rechargeable batteries, Operation Manual Ear buds, carrying case with belt loop, stereo earphones, Operation Manual

Performance

I compared the two radios tuning WWV at 10 MHz and 15 MHz in the daytime both using the whip antenna. The Degen pulled in both reasonably well, but the Grundig did not receive the 10 MHz signal at all and was weaker on 15 MHz. There was one troubling issue with the Grundig. I head a faint signal from a local broadcast station over the entire tuning range of the two shortwave bands.

On FM the Degen was clearly superior in pulling in stations clearly that the Grundig missed entirely. AM on the Grundig was essentially dead, picking up only weakly the very strongest local stations. I’ve had better results with a crystal set. I was about to call Eton customer service when it started working for some reason. Go figure.

This practical exercise exposed one other shortcoming of the Degen. It takes a good bit longer to tune the radio. For shortwave, you repeatedly have to press the SW button to get close to the desired frequency, then push +/- buttons to go the rest of the way. On shortwave, it steps at 5KHz which can take a lot of button pushing to go very far. Memory presets help.

Conclusions

Both radios work well. The Grundig is a delight to hold with smooth and solid controls and rubberized non-slip case. Music sounds better on the Grundig. The  One concern with the Grundig is limited shortwave band coverage, for example the tropical band isn’t covered.

The extremely easy to read display, rock-stable tuning and continuous frequency coverage make the Degen stand out. The Degen is more expensive, but I found one on eBay for the same price as the Grundig.

So which is my pick? To listen to music on FM with headphones, I’d pick the Grundig. While I like analog tuning, the drift and relatively low sensitivity make the Degen a clear winner for anything else.

About Kevin

Just an old guy with opinions that I like to bounce off other people.
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16 Responses to Degen DE15 Vs. Grundig M400

  1. JMaff says:

    I’d love to see a picture of the red Grundig! Is there anyway you can post this? Or email?

  2. Kevin says:

    I added a photo of the red one to the article.

    What I’m trying to get are all the color variations of the M300. I have black and yellow so far and on the trail of a silver one. I bid on a red one on eBay and lost. Supposedly there’s even a camouflage version. THAT would be cool.

    • Pedro P. says:

      Hello, I not long ago I bought this radio grundig m400, along with other radios of this brand to renovate some I have. I managed to solve the problem with the volume, installing a brake on the volume knob. At the same style of the grundig g8. This arrangement has worked if you like I can send a photo to give him a look. I would rather know how it could be modified to install a switch that allows you to select mono or stereo reception on fm. If you have an idea, be grateful. Greetings.

  3. hiker says:

    so-so radio……..
    the lock should lock the tunning and vol.
    would not buy another——–
    my cheaper radio -about the same size has better fitures…
    just paying for the name here !

  4. Pedro P. says:

    Well, I do not usually complain aboutwhat I buy, if you do not like something do not buy it, plain and simple. On the other hand, if you buy something knowing that you do not like, then why are you complaining? It is very easy to criticize and complain, but few add to all this a solution.

  5. Anna Anderson says:

    I bought the Grundig M400 so I could listen to local national public radio (here, it’s FM 88.5). The FM stations don’t start until 94 ! I think most NPR stations are below 94. What’s the deal?

  6. ldwhite says:

    Greetings
    In Nov 2013 bought a unit made last Feb according to the serial #. The Mini400 has been receiving continuous improvement. The way to tell the improved unit is to look for SW+ on Minute button and SW- on Hour button.

    No apparent creaking of the cabinet

    The frequency drift is virtually nil.

    Easier to dial in AM channels. AM sensitivity and selectivity a bit of a problem. Mini 300 has better AM reception but more difficult to tune. If you want to use this radio for something other than locals and night time powerhouses audition carefully

    FM sensitivity good enough to get full power stations 50+ miles away. Selectivity may be just a bit behind Mini300. FM through a quality headset quite good including channel separation. As with AM locals and powerhouses audition carefully.

    I’m most pleased by SW improvments. SW connections through induction to my tuned wire gets me All India Radio on 9445 most days.

    On a 6 ft wire direct connected I’m hearing REE Spain 6055 next to RHC 6060 I’m hearing VOA Botswana on 19m and DW Rwanda 12070 during 2100z.

    On SW expect only the strongest stations on the whip alone. Expect to find a wire six to 25 feet useful.

    Best wishes and thanks for the forum

  7. ldwhite says:

    for got to say that on SW1 the SW+ and SW- cycles through 49 41 and 31 meter bands and on SW2 cycles through 25 22 19 and 16 meter bands. This was not mentioned in the manual with my unit

    • Kevin says:

      OK, you have me really confused here. Pressing a button to cycle through bands is a synthesized tuning feature, but my M400 has analog tuning. What you’re describing is not just an improvement, but a completely different radio technology. Where did you get your radio? Is there a picture somewhere?

      The Eton web site photo doesn’t show the changed buttons:

      http://www.etoncorp.com/en/productdisplay/mini-400

  8. lowell white says:

    Greetings, Kevin. Sorry for the delay but I’m almost off-grid now.
    Yes, this radio is a bit different than the others. I don’t remember if I said but I first purchased a “regular” M400 at a local Radio Shack that I return for FM band swamping both AM and SW making it completely useless. The manager is a radio guy and when he heard my complaint he grabbed a radio off the shelf, put in batteries then said “try this one” with a grin. I tuned it and delclared it failed on the spot because it wouldn’ tune above 6.400. Then he showed me how the SW really works.
    Tunning on the first one was just like the Mini 300 that I have around here. This newer example tunes differently though the feel of the tuning wheel is the same. The frequencies have more of a “lock on” visual look/feeling as the tuning wheel is turned. There’s no chuffing like on my G8 so I can’t say is is PLL. No discernable drift and I have brought it in out of the cold just to make it drift.
    I haven’t seen a pic. No mention of any of this in the manual. Rear of the radio does say SW1: 5.80-6.40MHz 6.80-7.60MHz 9.10-10.00MHZ
    SW2: 11.40-12.30 MHz 13.40-14.28MHz 15.00-15.90MHz 17.20-18.15MHz and that’s what the radio tunes and nothing more.
    I’ve been living with this radio for a while. I find AM selectivity challenging. AM daytime sensitivity is poor. FM sensitivity and selectivity is adequate for my needs. SW is the pleasant surprise. It’s not great but good enough with a 15 feet wire outside to meet my needs.
    And there is a work around for the poor selectivity. If I direct tune Spain on 6055 but find it swamped by Cuba on 6060 I tuned 6045 and creep back up to 6055 to hear it. Same on AM. If I want to hear Toronto 740 but Atlanta 750 is covering I tune 730 and back to 740. This works in both directions.
    Perhaps this will give a clue. Serial # depicted as follows:
    eM4001300 2 6 9 7 !
    where ! is actually the last digit.
    Or call Eton. Why not? 800-872-2228 customersvc@etoncorp.com
    Take care now

  9. Jay Versluis says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I too have the M400 in red. Amazon have it for $17.99 which was a bargain, and I really like what it can do. My batteries have just given up, and I was wondering if I were to replace them with rechargeable ones, will the M400 charge them? I’ve not seen this feature mention in the manual, just wondering if you had any experience with it.

    All the best from Miami Beach!

  10. Jay Versluis says:

    After a test yesterday I can answer my own question: the M400 does not charge batteries. As soon as you plug in an adaptor, it switches away from the batteries.

  11. Dee C says:

    I got the m400 in 2014 at Radio Shack on sale for $15. I had a Grundig G5 so I thought it should be good as a pocket radio for shortwave. The controls interfere with each other. If I plug the power cord in, the volume is hard to turn. The AM or MW band is non-existant by day, very faint few signals by night even with clip on antenna. That surprised me since the shortwave signals are powerful with clip antenna. Also, the signal drift on SW is terrible. despite strong signals as soon as I tune to a SW station, it moves off frequency & slowly loses the signal. it’s inconsistent. sometimes it stays on. I have to keep retuning. for such strong signal strength, the drift is odd. FM is fine, for a FM radio it’s great! I wouldn’t buy it again if I had it to do over. Maybe mine was a lemon if others who got the M400 like theirs.

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