My nomination for the best low-cost shortwave set is the Tecsun DR-920. It’s available from eBay sellers for around $17 and comes in gray and silver.
Right out of the box I noticed that the battery compartment door fit a little better than most of the low-priced radios I buy. The buttons and knobs are solid. The wrist strap is big enough. All in all, it seems well built and made a positive impression even before I turned it on.
After I turned it on, I was not disappointed. The tuning knob allowed precise tuning, with the frequency readout showing the exact setting. The display is to 5 KHz on shortwave and 100 KHz on FM. The dial light wasn’t as bright as the photo, but it was adequate. I liked the fact that the dial light came on automatically while I tuned the radio (the light can also be turned on manually).
Reception was really outstanding for a radio of this class on all bands. I picked up CHU Canada on 7.850 MHz clearly (I’m in South Carolina) and reception wasn’t all that much better on my Grundig G4000A. I didn’t spend much time on AM, but I noticed that it picked up more stations that other small portables I have. FM performance was solid.
There are 10 shortwave bands (MHz):
- 3.90 – 4.00
- 4.75 – 5.06
- 5.95 – 6.20
- 7.10 – 7.30
- 9.50 – 9.90
- 11.65 – 12.05
- 13.60 – 13.80
- 15.10 – 15.60
- 17.55 – 17.90
- 21.45 – 21.85
The radio has one quirk. Pressing the power switch turns on the radio with the sleep timer activated, meaning it will turn off after the sleep setting expires. Maybe that is a good thing to save batteries. To turn the radio just plain on, you have to hold the power button down a couple of seconds.
Because this is a single-conversion receiver, it is prone to images — strong signals appearing on the dial on multiples of 455 kHz from the original signal. This can be confusing to hear a station on a frequency where it is not listed, nor actually broadcasting.
There is a lock button that keeps the radio from coming on accidentally, although the firm action of the power button makes accidental turn on unlikely. The radio operates on two AA batteries or an optional 3V DC adapter.
Things it lacks include: a signal strength indicator and FM stereo. The stereo version is sold by Eton as the G1100 for a much higher price tag. [The Et0n version of this radio is now selling on eBay right now for $12.99 including shipping.]
I have a lot of shortwave radios to choose from. I think this one is going traveling with me.
However, for $26 (if you’re lucky) you could get a Degen DE15 on eBay and it’s a better pick for its continuous digital tuning and stereo FM.
There is one more radio that’s come to my attention in the under $25 category: the Kchibo KK-D202. I’ve written a separate review of it. This radio has the disadvantage of all of the controls labeled in Chinese, and it’s AM performance is sucky. FM and Shortwave are, however, quite good, the radio is truly shirt-pocket size, it has a spiffy brushed aluminum face, a clock and station memories.