One of the top-rated budget ultralight shortwave radios is the Kaito WRX911 (also known as the Tecsun R-911). I have the Kaito-labeled version and it’s a respectable little radio. Add one to 911 and you get 912, inviting an obvious comparison to the Tecsun R-912 model that waltzed in today. My new radio was the Chinese version (there is also an English version).
I was immediately struck by the similarity. Both cases are the same size and shape; the back could have been made by the same mold. Both have an identical 19” whip antenna and identical controls on the sides (volume, tuning, on-off) and jacks, 3v DC and earphone. Indeed, the only visible differences are the presence of extra button and two lights in the upper left corner of the Tecsun. The 911 switches all bands, including FM using the single band switch, while the 912 switches between FM and AM using the button, and notes which one is selected with the light (FM is the red light on the left).
There are two less-obvious differences that leads to the “one better” in this article’s title. First the second LED indicator upper right means something different on the two radios. On both radios the top light is a tuning/signal strength indicator. On the 911 the lower light just means “on” but on the 912 it indicates “stereo” for FM. Stereo is activated and the stereo light only comes on when headphones are plugged in. On my 912, the tuning indicator is on solid for the whole FM band and only shows signal strength on AM (on the 911 the tuning indicator works on all bands).
The second “one better” is in the number of bands: the 911 has 11 and the 912 has 12 (cool how that works out with the model number). The additional band is 3.55 – 4.0 MHz.
As far as performance goes, I couldn’t really tell any difference. Some folks say the FM is better on the R-912. Given how weak signals fade in and out, a real A/B comparison is difficult. Both radios drift some (wander off frequency) further complicating comparisons receiving weak signals.
These are respectable radios and you should be able to pull in a number of stations. If you don’t need stereo, however, I’d pick something like the Tecsun DR-920 with digital readout available for about the same price.
Looking for the Tecsun R-912 schematic diagram? Here it is.