The XHDATA D-808 arrived yesterday afternoon. My first impression, just fondling the radio, was good. It was solid and the materials seemed better than average quality. After some time using the radio, I was less impressed. I detail below how the radio has excellent performance as a radio, but that its operation and documentation are poor.
It appears some changes have been made since the XHDATA D-808 was initially announced in 2018. In 2021 the display back light was changed from white to amber. Other users have experienced the antenna coming loose from the circuit board which apparently was the only anchor point for the antenna. Now there is a screw through the back of the case that holds the antenna more securely.
More recently (2023?) the internal circuit of the of the radio was radically changed and users are reporting that the new version isn’t as loud. This version can be identified by rubber feet on the bottom and a USB-C charging connector (the prior version has a USB Micro). Others are speculating about poorer performance. I’ll post an update when I know more. Mine is this latest version. You can read more about the update on the Ultralight User Group.
I compared the XHDATA D-808 to my other $70+ radios: Tecsun PL-660, Tecsun PL-330, Sangean ATS-405, and Eton Executive Elite. Every one of them had the volume control on the lower right side of the radio except the XHDATA that has a fine tuning control there: drives me nuts trying to compare radios by turning down the volume on one and up on the other.
Several of the buttons have secondary functions. They are labeled in orange against a gray background, and as such are nearly impossible to read except in bright light (the photo above was taken in full sun, angled to make the orange letters stand out).
The buttons are barely raised beyond the surface of the radio, and operating the radio by touch is difficult.
There is a way to set the display temperature scale, but there is no secondary label on the key that does it (it’s long press “3” with the radio off), and unless you have the display set to show temperature, there is no visual feedback that you have changed the setting when pressing the key.
The radio has 500 memories (I presume 100 each for MW, SW, LW, FM and Air — the manual doesn’t say). 100 memories is inadequate for shortwave. Having the stored frequencies divided among 10 pages, 10 frequencies each (you have to figure that out on your own), makes access clumsy and as far as I could tell, there’s no way scroll through the memories, nor any way to tell how many memories are in use. If there’s a way to delete a station from memory, I didn’t find it in the manual or online. The manual does say that the AM bandwidth or FM stereo setting is saved along with the station. There’s also nothing in the manual about retrieving a station from memory, nor are memory pages and the Page button described. The number keys on the radio default to retrieving memories, not entering frequencies — something I consider backwards. For a detailed review of portable radio memory systems including the D-808, refer to my article: Radio memory systems.
Setting the time is tricky if you want to start the time on the second. A long press of the Set Time button starts the process, but if you don’t hit a key within 4 seconds, it exits time mode. You have to plan nearly to the second when you will key in the number so as to be able to finish at the right time. They manual says that the time will flash until the entry is completed, but in fact it will stop flashing in 4 seconds if no key is pressed.
I found the antenna quite stiff to extend. Lubrication did not help. In earlier versions of the radio, this contributed to antenna failure.
I don’t like how the power switch works. When you turn the radio on, you can’t just turn it back off, because pressing the power switch activates the sleep timer. You have to wait 5 seconds before the switch will turn the radio off.
There is no tone control, nor a Local/DX switch. The display is smaller than I would prefer. I want the frequency to be front and center on the display, but it’s no larger than other information and it’s not in the center. I do like that both the frequency and the time can be on the display at the same time (the Sangean can’t do that).
The manual is awful, both incomplete and just plain wrong. Let’s say you want to direct enter a frequency like 7850 kHz or 89.7 MHz. The manual says to press the FREQ key and then the numbers, but for these frequencies the FREQ key has to be pressed again at the end. Who knew? It needn’t be pressed again for MW stations.
The radio has automatic scan and frequency storage (ATS) on each band. The manual mentions ATS, which it explains is “automatic tuning system,” says nothing about what ATS is or how it works. They just say that long presses of the band buttons are for ATS. There’s nothing about storing anything in memory, the memory page system, or how to retrieve a station from memory. Here are my instructions for saving and recalling stations from memory:
There are 100 memories for each band. Memories are organized in 10 memory pages, with 10 memory slots on each page. Select the desired band (MW, LW, FM, SW and AIR) first. Then to save or retrieve a station in memory, establish the current memory page by pressing the PAGE button and then the page number key (0-9).
Once a page is selected, a frequency is stored to a memory location within the page by long-pressing the position number (0-9). For LW, MW and SW stations, the current bandwidth is saved with the frequency. For FM stations, the Stereo setting is saved.
To recall a saved station, just press the key number (0-9) of the memory position within the current page.
The manual says the radio takes USB Micro charging, not updated to match the current version of the radio that uses USB-C. This is what it says about charging:
Use this radio to recharge your Lithium type batteries. Supply power to the radio from DC power adapter (not included). With the radio powered off, press and hold CHARGE button for two seconds. The battery icon on the display will begin to cycle indicating that the batteries are charging. …
The problem is that there is no button labeled “Charge” on the radio. The manual elsewhere indicates that it is the SSB button, but in any case, the radio starts charging without pressing anything. The D-808 is based on an earlier radio, the Digitech AR-1780, that uses AA batteries which might or might not be rechargeable. It needed a control to tell it whether to charge batteries or not and it had the word CHARGE under the SSB button. The D-808 uses an 18650 battery that’s always rechargeable so there was no need for the switch function, and it’s manual just copied the obsolete text from the old manual.
The manual says that the external antenna jack is used by MW, SW, LW and AIR; however, testing found that it does not work with MW (and likely it doesn’t work with LW either).
There is nothing in the manual that tells the user how to tune single sideband (SSB). There is a brief description of buttons, but nothing to suggest when to press them and in what order. The manual says: “In SSB mode, rotate the fine tuning knob to adjust the level of fine tuning,” not particularly informative. It says nothing about using the control to clarify the signal. The manual uses the abbreviations SSB, LSB and USB, but never says what those abbreviations stand for.
The radio performs well on shortwave; it’s comparable to the Tecsuns and the Eton — a little more sensitive on SW than the Sangean with the MLA-30+ antenna. With the whip antenna receiving WWV on 25 MHz, the Eton was, however, markedly superior to the XHDATA.
I readily received some traffic on the Air band. I do like the ability to scan for the next station by long-pressing an arrow key; however, when two stations are close together, one is likely to get skipped when restarting the scan. I like the ability to set fast/slow tuning explicitly by clicking on the tuning knob. Sound seemed good from the 1W speaker, but I need to do more comparisons. Given that the fine tuning knob also advances 1 kHz, I’m not quite sure why the dual speed is needed on the main tuning knob.
I did a brief test of SSB. It seemed to work well and was comparable to the other DSP radios with SSB. I would rather that it worked like the Eton Elite Executive and the Tecsun PL-330 that use a single control for fast, slow and fine tuning, rather than a separate knob where the volume control ought to be. Also the PL-330 frequency can be calibrated, eliminating the need to fine tuning on SSB in most cases.
MW performance was outstanding during the daytime with the internal antenna. I had previously done a detailed MW comparison between my Tecsun PL-330, PL-660, R-9700DX, Eton Elite Executive and Sangean ATS-405. The Sangean was the winner on MW. I went out to the same location again at midday and checked the D-808 side by side with the ATS-405. Performance was identical, receiving the same stations. On weak, barely audible stations, they both sounded exactly the same. The D-808 has the better than usual sensitivity specification of 0.5 mV/m. Typically one sees 1 mV.
FM reception is very good. I received 64 daytime FM stations on the D-808, second only to my Tecsun PL-330 at 66 and the Eton Elite Executive at 67. However, the radio only recorded 39 in memory with an ATS scan. Very strong stations tend to bleed over into adjacent channels, sometimes even two channels. The radio is supposed to be capable of setting the clock from RDS, but no station in my area includes the time, and the radio says “NO DATE” in the RDS display.
The package includes the radio, earbuds, an rolled up external wire antenna, a bag (I would have prefered a pouch with a flap), 2000 mAh 18650 rechargeable battery, USB-C charging cable and manual. The antenna is 25.5″ long.
- FM 87.5 – 108 (64 – 108) MHz
- MW 522 – 1620 kHz (9k step) 520 – 1710 kHz (10k step)
- SW 1711 – 29999 kHz
- LW 150 – 450 kHz
- AIR 118 – 137 MHz