ZHIWHIS ZWS-603 Shortwave Radio Review

The ZHIWHIS XWS-603 appears to be the same radio as the HanRongDo K-603.

What’s unusual about this radio

This one is not like anything I’ve used before in several ways. First, it combines a shortwave radio, an MP3 player, a sound recorder and a Bluetooth speaker.

I’ve come to expect digital displays to consist of 7-segment digits, or predefined messages or bars on the display, but the ZWS-603 is a general dot-matrix screen. This means that it can display menus and draw pictures. It can switch languages and display English, Chinese and Japanese. Also because of the dot matrix design, the radio can put up very large characters, including a very visible frequency display.

XWS-603 Screen Detail

One feature that I have never before seen in a portable shortwave radio is a “Mute” button. Just as MP3 players have a Play/Pause button, this radio uses the same button provided for its MP3 function to mute the radio. It’s great for comparing radios.

The radio has relatively few buttons for its functionality, which means that many of the buttons serve dual functions. Multi-use buttons are not unusual, but these will take some getting used to. The volume control doubles as a “next station memory” button with a long-press to switch between them. The MP3 Next/Previous track doubles for up/down tuning in the radio, since it has no tuning knob (or knob of any kind).

In actual use, I didn’t find myself stumbling because of multiple use of a button (something that has been a problem with my Tecsun PL-330).

USB functionality

I plugged a USB cable into the radio and my Windows computer’s USB hub. Nothing happened except that the battery in the radio started charging; however, when I explicitly followed the instructions by plugging in the supplied USB cable directly into the computer, Windows installed a driver for the radio. Once that was done, two things happened. The radio became a speaker for the computer, and the TF card in the radio because accessible as a disk for the computer, where I could copy files. I’m happy to report that music files inside directories are accessible by the radio. When playing a music file, the file name is displayed. According to the advertising, it will also display lyrics for files with them.

Note that the radio cannot be used when the USB cable is connected to a computer, although it can be used when connected to a dumb charger.

Bluetooth

The ZWS-603 is also a Bluetooth speaker. Switching between MP3, auxiliary audio cable (supplied) or Bluetooth input is accomplished with a Mode button.

I was readily able to connect the radio to my Samsung TV via Bluetooth, but I had to try twice before it showed up on my Windows computer. It also paired with an iPhone.

MP3

MP3 is rather straightforward. It has a the typical controls for Next track, Previous Track and Play/Pause. It displays the file names on the screen. When plugged into the computer, songs can be copied directly to the TF/Micro SD card in the radio.

The user can pick a particular song by number, entering the number on the numeric keys. It plays well with folders. Songs can be selected by:

  • Select all songs
  • Repeat the current song
  • Repeat songs in the selected folder
  • Play random songs

Radio

This device is sold as a radio, and it is that. As it comes, the full low FM range is available and the AM step is 10 kHz. The shortwave step is 5 kHz.

I’ll say right off the bat that AM performance sucks. At midnight I could not get a single clear AM station. I could hear stations but all were very noisy. FM was good as was shortwave, not on par with my Tecsun PL-660, but still c0mpetitive.

I tried daytime reception of WWV on 15 MHz around noon local time. It was a weak signal on my PL-330, but very weak on the on the ZWS-603 (with a shorter antenna), but it does demonstrate that the radio doesn’t mute very weak signals.

The MP3 track controls double as tune up/down buttons, and long presses scan for the next station. Repeatedly pressing the SW button selects the various shortwave bands. You can also enter the frequency directly on the number keys and short press Play/Pause. Stepping is quite slow, about 1 second per frequency change.

There are memory presets: 80 on FM, 60 on MW and 300 on shortwave. Stations can be stored manually by long-pressing the 5 key (sub-labeled MEMO), the number, and pressing Play/Pause. Long pressing Play/Pause starts a memory scan with automatic storage.

Recording

Recording can come from 4 sources:

  • Live sound recording
  • Aux input jack
  • Bluetooth
  • The radio

While the recordings are stored on the TF card, they are placed in different folders on the TF/Micro SD card. FMRECORD, for example, is the folder for radio recordings (not just FM) and microphone recordings go into the MRECORD folder. I thought the microphone recordings were quite good. Recordings can be made in 3 quality levels with 128-bit sampling the default.

Conclusion

The ZWS-603 is not going to take the world by storm. It doesn’t have sync/SSB reception. It’s not as sensitive as the Tecsun PL-330/PL-660 radios. There’s no tone/bandwidth control. It’s memory system lacks features. It doesn’t have a clock, and hence no alarm (it does have a sleep timer). However, the wide range of record/playback capability, Bluetooth, the imminently readable display, the compact size/light weight and a very nice speaker make this $25 radio a keeper.

About Kevin

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