Tecsun PL-118 Stereo FM radio review

I usually write about shortwave radios, but this FM-only radio deserves a mention. It represents a  cost/performance/feature breakthrough based based on a new integrated circuit radio-on-a-chip.

Let’s start with cost. I paid $13 plus $7 shipping from eBay seller ANON-CO. It arrived in 8 days from Hong Kong. I selected a white model, but it is also available in black or orange. The actual radio is slightly under 4” wide, just bigger than a deck of cards. It runs on two AAA batteries.

PL-118

This is a deceptively simple-looking radio. In addition to what you see here, the only other control is a single thumbwheel knob. Nevertheless, this is a fully-functional clock radio with sleep timer and scanning memory. The DSP on the front refers to the digital signal processing chip that basically does the work in this receiver.

Maybe the best approach is to explain the controls. With so few controls, they have to do double duty. The button that looks like a clock face can be pressed and held to enter time setting mode for the hours, minutes and 12/24 hour mode. Hold the button down a second or so to enter time setting mode; set the hour with the thumbwheel. Press the button again to set minutes and again to set 12/24 set mode. When the radio is on, this button briefly displays the time in place of the frequency. The next button that looks like a speaker and sound waves is the alarm set and off/on. Press the button briefly to turn the alarm off and on. Hold it down to enter time setting mode. When the alarm is on, an icon appears in the display as you see in the picture above.

The ETM (Easy Tuning Mode) switches tuning modes. In normal mode, turning the thumbwheel tunes the radio. Pressing ETM switches the receiver to tune by what is stored in the memories and the thumbwheel runs through the memories. A long press of the ETM button initiates a scan of the FM band, loading up all the stations into memory. This feature is similar to many television sets that scan the channels once when the TV is first turned on and thereafter you only see the active ones.

Pressing the VOL. button switches the thumbwheel from tuning to volume with a digital volume level displayed while you set it. The power switch turns the radio off and on. Also, holding it down engages sleep timer setting (the sleep time value is set by turning the thumbwheel). A battery status indicator displays all the time.

In practice, the radio was quite sensitive and I was able to receive 33 stations nicely. The internal speaker was crisp and ok to listen to for voice. For music, the internal speaker isn’t pleasant to listen to. With a good set of headphones, music was very nice, but lacking in the low bass tones.

If you look to the left of the TECSUN logo in the photo above, you’ll see a scratch. That’s my only real problem with this radio. It’s going to scratch easily and not look so cool in time. The buttons, which are integral with the front panel will likely show wear quickly as well.

As for the manual, you are reading the only one I know of. Nothing came with the radio.

Update: I have now found an English manual that covers most of what is in this article.

About Kevin

Just an old guy with opinions that I like to bounce off other people.

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5 Responses to Tecsun PL-118 Stereo FM radio review

  1. Hank says:

    Hello Kevin and other readers,

    some of those scratches on smooth plastic surfaces can be buffed out with a bit of metal polish and a soft cotton cloth. Take not too much, apply a gentle pressure and that really does it.

    Hank

  2. Steve says:

    I purchased one of these radios from a well-known seller on eBay. The radio arrived in about 8 days. I was totally amazed by its size – it has to be one of the smallest radios I’ve ever owned! As far as performance, though, I think it definitely is a contender. The antenna is a little too short, the speaker is a little too small, but it does a good job with Gulf Coast FM DX.

  3. Andres says:

    Hello Friend,
    I have this urge to radio, but I doubt if earphones make antenna?
    It is very important to walk or take the bus condition.
    I have the Degen DE1126 and hearing aids if they serve as an antenna.

    Regards.

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