I’ve been interested in shortwave radio since I was a teenager, and over the decades I’ve owned quite a few shortwave radios. Now it’s time to downsize and I’ve been selling radios on eBay right and left, 61 so far. As the inventory dwindles, it’s time to decide what to keep.
Some I want to keep for sentimental value and some to use. The first shortwave radio I had was in the 1960’s in high school, a Nanaola Model 10NT504. That radio is long gone, but I found a photo of one online:
It had MW, longwave and 3 shortwave bands. The two features I fondly remember were the dial light button and the concentric tuning control with the outside control knob for coarse tuning and the central knob for fine tuning. It worked quite well.
My next radio was a Lafayette KT-340, a multi-band shortwave radio that I built from a kit. This is what it looked like:
A number of other radios have come and gone including a RadioShack DX-300 and DX-400 that I very much enjoyed at the time, but back to the question of what to hang onto from the existing accumulation.
This is the oldest shortwave radio I still own. They were made around 1985. It’s a single conversion AM/FM/Shortwave radio. Shortwave is segmented into 3 bands, but provides continuous coverage from 2.3 to 18 MHz; it has an LED tuning indicator and a tone control plus a connection for an external antenna that can be wired as a dipole for FM or a long wire with ground for shortwave. That’s pretty advanced, and the only radio I still have with an explicit connection for ground. I still have the external AC power supply for it. This one is definitely a keeper for sentimental reasons.
I took it for a spin and I was immediately impressed by the big sound from the speaker. It latched onto stations well and the LED tuning indicator was helpful. One thing stuck me about tuning this receiver, that it is quiet between stations, where I’m used to hearing a great deal of noise.
My second oldest is the Grundig G4000A, a radio I bought specifically because I believed it to be a quality model and I wanted to do something nice for myself. It uses synthesized tuning with digital frequency entry, 40 memories, dual clocks and it demodulates SSB signals. It’s physically pleasant to operate, but rather heavy when the 6 AA batteries are installed!
I haven’t used this radio much in recent years, but I want to get to know it again. This one is also a keeper for sentimental reasons.
I got to know the radio a little more, and decided I don’t like the way it operates. The radio is nice enough and a fine receiver, but the display is hard to read, the buttons are a bit mushy and the memory system is inconvenient, so it’s now listed on eBay.
The E1100 (AKA Tecsun DR-920) is a very simple radio, a basic analog tuned, single conversion radio with a digital frequency display. It receives AM, FM and 10 shortwave bands. I used to have two of these and I gave one to a friend who had been a ham radio operator earlier in his life. He died of cancer and I heard that he enjoyed the radio towards the end. So this radio reminds me of him.
I gave the radio a try and was pleasantly rewarded with a good number of stations from this sensitive receiver.
Next: Three radios from Tecsun on my potential keeper list
I think this is probably the best radio I have, making it a strong candidate for a keeper. It has a staggering 2000 memories, covering AM/FM/LW/SW with SSB demodulation. It’s my only air band radio, not that I listen to that very often. This radio is larger and heavier, less amenable to travel. It has an external antenna jack.
Like the Grundig, This is not a digital signal processing model, so there is no annoying “chuffing” sound with each frequency step.
I bought several digital signal processing radios from Tecsun over the years looking for the ultimate travel radio. The PL-380 has been around the world with me and it has done a very good job. It has automatic band scanning, 550 memories, and direct frequency entry. It also has a thermometer. The one odd omission is that it lacks an external antenna jack. It’s a very compact radio lightweight radio, has nice padded case and can charge its 3 AA batteries with a mini USB cable. It was definitely on my keeper list, at least until recently when I bought the next model. Now it’s up for sale on eBay.
This moderately-priced radio does it all, building on the PL-380 while adding SSB demodulation. It also has Enhanced Tuning Mode (ETM+) that scans the entire shortwave band and stores the stations it finds in a separate bank of memories for each hour of the day. That’s on top of other banks of memories that can be scanned and stored separately. It adds the external antenna jack, but loses the thermometer. This radio uses a smaller rechargeable battery, making it thinner and lighter than the PL-380. It uses a micro USB cable for charging. This one goes on my next trip.
What I don’t like about the PL-380 and the PL-330 is that it’s obvious that they use synthesized tuning as there is a chuffing sound between each frequency tuned. The Grundig and the PL-660 don’t have that unpleasantness.
That’s it for the serious shortwave listening radios, but there are a few more keeper candidates. Next are a couple of shirt-pocked shortwave receivers.
This radio is too new for me to have much experience with it, particularly since I have been spending my time testing and selling old radios.
I like the Degen DE32 (reviewed in 2013) because of its small size and features. It’s the only one of the keepers with a built-in flashlight and an MP3 player with a micro SD card. It also shares the BL-5C rechargeable battery with the PL-330 and can be charged from USB. It has 8 shortwave bands plus the low FM band, 64 – 87 MHz. Reading back over my original review, I noted that it was very hard to tune.
Update: I’ve decided to sell this one and buy something newer that includes MP3, and that’s a $24.99 whim from Amazon, the Zhiwhis (I hear that as “gee whiz”) ZWS-603. It not only has MP3 but also Bluetooth and a feature I wish I had in other radios, recording (from four sources: an internal microphone, an audio cable, Bluetooth and the radio). It also has a remarkable 3W speaker and a claimed bass port (keeping in mind that the speaker is only 2.7″). This is what it looks like:
We’ll see if this one is a keeper. It should arrive in a couple of weeks. The only drawback is that it has no clock.😱
I just like the ergonomics of this one and the really bright green screen. It’s as bright as in the photo. It has synthesized tuning and can also use a USB cable to charge batteries (3 AAA in this case). It’s definitely a shirt-pocket radio. It also sounds rather good, especially with stereo headphones. It’s main drawback is that it lacks a tuning dial, relying instead on buttons.
And to finish, for emergencies:
Kaito Voyager Pro
This is an emergency weather radio. It has flexible power, with an integral solar panel, hand crank, batteries and USB charging (both in and out). It’s the only radio I have left with Radio Data System (RDS). It has a flashlight, a reading light and a thermometer. And it receives AM, FM and NOAA weather alerts and weather. Shortwave coverage is from 2.3 to 23.0 MHz. It looks likes the radio has 235 manual station memory location and 115 ATS memory locations.
We used it during the recent extended power outage to get weather.
The downside is that its rubberized finish has gotten sticky. I have more work to get it properly cleaned.
The Degen DE-32 and the Tecsun PL-380 are up for sale. I discovered that I had salted away a Kaito RWX911 because it had such a nice metallic blue color and it had a real tuning dial.
I’ve also ordered an XHDATA D-808 that has become rather popular and is now widely available in the US again, and dirt cheap.
There are now 9 radios on the keeper list:
- Tecsun PL-660 (because it doesn’t chuff, is a great all around radio, has SYNC, and air band)
- Tecsun PL-330 (lightweight and convenient for travel, Enhanced Tuning System, and SSB)
- Eton E1100 (same as Tecsun DR-920, sensitive and simple)
- Kaito Voyager Pro KA600 (weather and crank/solar for emergencies and has RDS)
- Kaito RWX911 (same as Tecsun R-911, because it’s blue and has a real tuning dial)
- Degen DE15 (a true pocket radio with a bright display, synthesized tuning, but alas no tuning dial)
- Panasonic RF-085 (my oldest remaining radio, sentimental, about the same size as the PL-660, great sound and remarkably quiet tuning shortwave)
- XHDATA D-808 (because of product reviews and a very low price — on order)
- ZHIWHIS ZWS-603 (because I can record with it and it has a big 3W speaker and a “bass port.” If the sound is good, I can use it to boost the sound of the other smaller radios and it has a very low price — on order)