LiJiANi Rd239: A different radio

A Black Friday sale item caught my eye on Amazon for just under $40.

LiJiANi Rd239 MW/FM/AIR/VHF/Weather radio (photo by author)

The first thing that jumps out is the coverage: FM/MW/SW/AIR/VHF/Weather. It also has weather alerts, MP3 Play/Record, external antenna jack, AUX in jack and a flashlight/reading light. There are a number of things about this radio that are different from other radios I have owned, and I want to focus on those here, as well as cover features and performance.

Link to manual.

Firmware updates

I have never encountered a radio before that provides for user installed firmware updates. Mine has version 2.8. LiJiANi provides firmware updates upon request. Version 2.8 added AIR band squelch, something the radios didn’t have a month ago. The email address in the Version 2.1 User Guide was wrong; however, it’s updated today in the V2.9 manual. Thanks to a commenter for letting me know the correct address! [Update: I now have the V2.9 firmware installed.] [Update 2: Now it’s 3.0, changing the default tuning step on FM to 100 kHz instead of 50 (yea!). There is an updated 3.0 manual, but I didn’t spot any feature changes.]

Fit and Finish

The radio is fairly small, almost exactly the same size as the Tecsun PL-330, but a little thicker to accommodate optional AA batteries that can be installed instead of the provided BL-5C. Specifically it’s 28 x 85 x 138 mm (1.1 x 3.4 x 5.4 inches).

Close up, you can see that the radio doesn’t look expensive. The matte finish on the front panel is just too grainy. Still, the buttons work quite well and the tuning knob feels sturdy and works flawlessly. The telescopic antenna is quite thin, necessary to get a good length in such a small collapsed package. Take care when collapsing the antenna by starting from the base segment of the antenna and working outward.

Operation

The Rd239 doesn’t seem to copy any other radio I’ve seen. For example, the radio can be set for 9 or 10 kHz step on MW. That’s quite common, but on every other radio I have seen, once the step is set, the radio advances only on the channels common to that step. On the Rd239, the radio steps the set amount regardless of the standard channels. So if the radio is set to a frequency of 555 kHz and the step is set to 10 kHz, the next steps will be 565, 575, 585 …, rather than 560, 570, 580….

The biggest operational annoyance on the radio is FM tuning. The tuning step is 50 kHz, and in North America that means you have to advance the tuning knob 4 times to advance one 200 kHz channel. [Update: This is changed to 100 kHz with firmware version 3.0. Thank you,]

The display backlight comes on when a button is pushed or the tuning knob turned. It times out after 5 seconds. I can’t find any way to keep it on. That’s a shame because of one rather significant feature on this radio that’s extremely rare now: the buttons are illuminated along with the display! [Update: As of firmware version 2.9, the back light can be set to stay on up to 20 seconds. I think that is a good compromise.]

One feature fairly common in radios with music players is the ability to mute the radio using the Play/Pause button. I really like the feature and this one has it.

Tuning

There are FREQ and MEM keys akin to VF/VM keys on some other radios that switch modes between tuning by frequency and retrieving memory presets. The mode controls how the tuning knob works, either advancing through the presets, or incrementing frequency. After 10 seconds with no turn, the radio reverts to frequency mode. There are also up and down keys that seem to be stuck on the MEM setting. A press/hold of the arrow keys causes the radio to scan for the next station (by frequency). There is also a SCAN button that scans for stations and stores them in memory, during which time the radio is silent. More on ATS later on in the Memory System section. On the weather band, the SCAN invokes the weather alert feature, a logical choice of button.

Performance

I ran my standard AM/FM Daytime scan and the Rd239 scored rather well, better than I anticipated.

In particular, it outperformed the XHDATA D-109 and quite a few others. Clearly, this radio was needed in my Battle of the under $50 shortwave radios. [Update: Now check: Battle of the under $50 shortwave radios: Take 2

Using internal and telescopic antennas

On its first outing, it picked up a nice signal from Japan through a 20-foot Wire Up a Tree (WUT) antenna on 12095 kHz. It had no problem with WWV or CHU. While the much more expensive Eton Elite Executive (visible in the background) had better results, they were not all that much better.

NHK Japan on LiJiANi Rd239 receiver

Here is the frequency coverage and sensitivity data:

The radio has an external antenna jack that is supposed to work on all bands except MW. I found the jack extremely tight and it was difficult to accommodate a 3.5 mm plug. I ended up clipping on the external antenna.

The whip antenna is considerably longer than I would expect from a radio of this size, 23″. I did most of my first shortwave testing with the external antenna, but it wasn’t deaf with the telescopic.

I tried the Rd239 against an XHDATA D-808 connected to an external speaker through an A/B switch. I think the Rd239 sounded better.

I tried Citizens Band outdoors with the whip antenna. I punched in 27.085 (Channel 11) and picked up stations there and on some other CB frequencies.

AIR band isn’t a big player where I live and I don’t pay much attention to it, although I have a few radios with the band (PL-660, Eton Elite Executive, XHDATA D-808 and Raddy RF75A) and I have gotten a few transmissions before. The Rd239 did pick up some air traffic plus some guy droning on in Spanish that I thought might be an image.

I punched in my local NOAA weather station frequency in the VHF band and picked up the station, albeit not as strong as it was on weather band.

Here’s a shot in the dark, receiving CFRX 6070, Toronto, Canada (about 400 miles away) indoors around 12:00 UTC here in Virginia on the telescopic antenna, and receiving it quite well! The following video highlights the illuminated button feature as well.

CFRX 6070, Toronto, on the telescopic antenna in Virginia

I’m having some problems with the external antenna. I hooked up my MLA-30+ and all I got was raucous noise, compared with another radio where the loop antenna worked fine. I tracked it down to noise from the power supply connected to the low noise amplifier, but that power supply causes no problems for other radios. Running from a DC power battery pack fixed that problem. It could be that the radio jack is 1/8″, and some of my plugs are 3.5mm (larger). The radio is rather sensitive just on the telescopic antenna, so I’ll probably not use it with an external antenna often.

Weather band

I received two NOAA weather stations, which is one better than most weather radios I’ve tried. Reception was good indoors on the local station even without extending the antenna.

Alert is engaged by a long-press of the SCAN button while on the weather band. In alert mode “ALE” appears on the display when in alert mode and the first LED of the bar is on. It continuously scans all the NOAA weather bands for an alert. It’s not necessary to tune to an active station before engaging the alert. NOAA weather alerts were detected in my testing.

Memory system

The memory system is a little unusual; it has two memory systems: Quickset and Preset. Quickset memories are assigned to the keys 1-9. Simply pressing the key retrieves that station. Each band has its own Quicksets. There are 99 additional “Preset” memories for each band (except Weather). Presets can can be manually added or deleted in addition to automatic storage from a scan function. By my count, there are a total of 540 station memories, 108 per band except Weather.

This radio scans the entire frequency range for HF, not just the international broadcast bands. That means it stores SSB signals on ham radio that it can’t properly detect. It also takes 8:54 to scan the SW bands, much slower than radios that only scan the broadcast bands.

Flashlight

I have to say that the flashlight is phenomenal! No radio flashlight (and few dedicated flashlights) I’ve owned are even close to this one’s brightness. In addition, it has a diffuse reading light, both lights on the side of the radio. A switch on the back of the radio selects the light.

MP3 Play/Record

The radio doubles as a music player, supporting MP3, WMA, WAV, APE and FLAC formats on TF/Micro SD cards up to 256GB. Unlike some radios that support music playing, this one handles large music collections with no problem. One can simply punch in the track number, like “1200,” and the radio will skip to that track. The tuning knob can also advance to the next track, allowing rapid scrolling.

While playing a radio station, a long press of the ·REC key starts and any press of it stops the recording function. The radio can also record from an internal microphone. When I recorded from FM, the results were excellent. Recording from Weather Band introduced some noise. Noise on shortwave depended on the station.

A long press of the REC FILE button switches between general music files on the TF card and ones recorded by the radio (that are stored in the RECORDF) folder. Attempting to play recordings when the currently accessed folder is empty results in the “Err” message. Microphone recordings appear in the RECORDM folder.

Some of my music tracks, particularly classical ones, are recorded at a fairly low level. Listening to them requires turning up the volume quite high. One common problem, with this radio also, is that turning up the volume results in some distortion. Normal music is OK, but trying to compensate for an uber quiet track doesn’t work well.

Like many music player radios, this one also has equalizer presets for Normal, POP, Rock. Jazz, Classical and Country. I never bother with them.

When the USB-C port is connected through a data cable to a Windows PC, the PC can access files on the SD card. The radio has to be on for this to work. It’s a nice feature for organizing your music on the radio memory card.

Audio

I’m hearing impaired, so my hearing aids are tuned to enhance speech. The result is that I’m not the best one to judge audio performance of a radio. It seemed to me that the bass was decent and the highs were strong, with the midrange underperforming (fair common in radios of this size and price). The radio can be turned up very loud. But I need to do more testing on this. In any case, it was pleasant to listen to FM programs. With Thanksgiving Day in the past, most radio music is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Clock

There is a clock, alarm and sleep timer. The clock does NOT display when the radio is off, nor when the radio is on! It only displays in the no man’s land between states. Turning the radio on requires two presses of the power button; the first turns on the clock and the second turns on the radio. A quick press of the Lock button will briefly display the clock when the radio is off. A long press of the power button turns the radio off, with the clock displaying for a few moments until it’s fully off. This reminds me of the Raddy RF75A radio that has what it calls the “clock state” where certain settings must be made.

Power

The radio can accept 3 AA batteries or one BL-5C battery (but not at the same time). The instructions say to use alkaline AA batteries because rechargeable ones have insufficient voltage. AA batteries are intended for emergency backup, and the BL-5C (included) for standard operation. Charging of the BL-5C is achieved through the USB-C jack.

Comparisons

What I really would like to compare to this radio is the Sihuadon/XHDATA R-108, but I don’t have one (update: on order). The new XHDATA D-109WB is my initial target for shortwave and Weather. The original D-109 was the best shortwave in my under $50 challenge. I think I’ll also do some AIR band comparisons, and perhaps look at how it stacks up against the Raddy RF75A on Weather, AIR and VHF. [Update: The R-108 is here and the comparison is: Battle of the under $50 shortwave radios: Take 2.]

Impressions

This has been a fun little radio. It covers quite a large section of the radio spectrum. It has flexible power options, and I’m sure a small plug-in USB solar panel would work nicely as well. It’s no slouch on performance. For the hard core shortwave listener, a radio must have SSB, which this one (and every one in its price rage) does not. For everybody else , it’s a viable option, particularly for a travel radio due to its small size.

Update

Pricing for this thing is a moving target. I bought mine for $39.80 plus tax from Amazon on sale for Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Immediately afterwards, the price jumped to $58 with a $14 coupon. Then it went to $49.90 (December 2, 2023) with a $5 coupon, $46.99 (December 19, 2023) and $49.90 (January 31, 2024). Given the feature set, I think the price is reasonable.

I hope to complete another article that I am currently working on by mid February 2024: The Thunderous Clash of the Weather Radios. It will compare the LiJiANi Rd236, XHDATA D-109WB, D-608WB, HanRongDa HRD-701, Mesqool CR1009 Pro, CR1015 and the Raddy RF75A.

About Kevin

Just an old guy with opinions that I like to bounce off other people.
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23 Responses to LiJiANi Rd239: A different radio

  1. Kevin says:

    The manual only talks about recording from the microphone and from the radio. It seems pretty clear from testing that it will not record from AUX.

  2. Rich says:

    I must have read the reviews wrong. This is an excellent unit in all ways but one. I thought it was supposed to be able to record from another source through the AUX input. It clearly does not although it does record well from the radio. Can anyone offer me any tips?

  3. John Weiner says:

    On , Wednesday, January 17, 2024, I did cancel this previous order, had my card refunded, then reordered this radio. The next day, Thursday, January 18, 2024, not only was that money back in my account, but my second order went through, I found out that a label was printed for it. It languished in Los Angeles for 13 days, until, Wednesday, January 31, 2014, until it was shipped to a place in the middle of the country, then a place closer to me. On Friday morning, February 2, 2024, I looked the order up and found out that at 8:49 A.M., it arrived at the Chester Post Office, so I walked down there to pick it up, only to be told that ,” it is already out for delivery,” by a stocky, young, middle-aged black man without him even looking it up. It didn’t arrive, Friday, February 2, 2024, thus proving that he lied to me. That night, Friday, February 2, 2024, I looked my order up again, and was informed that it was delivered to my local post office; and that ,” it would be delivered to me ,Saturday, February 3, 2024, by 9: 00P.M.,” it was not. When I looked it up this time I was informed that I ,” would have to pick it up at the Chester post office,” leading me to believe that the radio is being mutilated by orders of the police by having the parts of the VHF band that pick up first responder communications deleted so that we can’t listen to police broadcasts to find out what is really going on. I remember when I was homeless and living on the streets of Chester in 2017, I was robbed twice in one week and when I reported them to the police, they did not write a report on either one. The second time, the skinny, black police officer who ,” worked,” with me, frisked me, treating me as the criminal, and when I pointed out the person who was on that platform at the time, he wouldn’t frisk him to see if he had my stolen sweatshirt or anything else of mine in his possession. On a bright, clear, almost perfect spring day, Tuesday, April 12, 2021, from late morning on we had a fat black man ranting and raving at the top of his lungs, causing a disturbance on Edgmont Avenue, and it took the Chester police over two hours to respond and they did nothing while he ranted and raved at them for over a half hour, not even writing it down, or taking him down, even after he continually laid his hands on them, striking them, they still did nothing, meaning that their attempt to mutilate my radio is an attempt by the police to cover up their lazy, corrupt actions, as would be not posting this comment, THANK YOU, JOHN. P.S. I guess it could also be an attempt to do me as well

  4. Ted says:

    I wanted to let you know that I did receive my radio a week ago.

    As my main interest these days is MW Dxing I wanted to determine if the AM broadcast tower near might cause possible interference.

    Except for 10khz either of the transmitter frequency I haven’t noticed any overloading in the American AM radio band. Living near Chicago there are some other clear-channel powerhouses too.
    They don’t seem to cause any overload near their frequencies I am bothered by.

    Thanks again for the great blog and your willingness to respond to comments!

  5. Kevin says:

    My understanding is that SSB detection requires a different (and more expensive) DSP chip. I hope you enjoy your radio.

  6. Ted says:

    Kevin,

    Thanks for responding.

    I am hoping to receive one from … ducking … Amazon on Sunday.
    It’s supposed to be ‘in stock’.

    It seems to have all the frequencies I want to monitor.

    Now if they can upgrade the firmware to receive SSB it would spec out 100%.

    I’ll comment again after I play with it for a while.

    Ted

  7. Kevin says:

    I live in a low signal area, meaning that I get no strong MW stations and only a few others. So I can’t advise about overload or bleed through on this radio. I have very good results with the XHDATA D-109, but it is reportedly terrible near strong local stations.

  8. Ted says:

    Kevin,

    I live in one of the western suburbs of Chicago. There is an AM broadcast transmitter antenna (3 tower system) about 2 miles from my apartment.

    Do you happen to know if that will overload the front-end of the Rd239?

    In a previous post you mentioned you lived ina ‘low-noise’ area and I was wondering what your experience with this radio has been.

  9. John Weiner says:

    P.S., For the record, this would include the recovery of, and my possession / reception of the brand new, fully upgraded LIJIANI RD 239 MULTIBAND RADIO, Iordered,/ purchased on CYBER MONDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2023, and once again, THANK YOU, JOHN.

  10. John Weiner says:

    I just looked this order up again on the AMAZON APP, and received the message stating ,” your order may be lost. “( I say probably stolen, /trashes by one of their,”contractors,/ drivers,/employees), and with the message saying that I ,” may still receive it, I can ask for a refund,” if I do, I will also ask for the Interest, and any other money these incompetent bunglers have been making off of having my money and merchandise , ie, one LIJIANI RD 239, MULTI BAND RADIO since ,”CYBER MONDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2023, and if there is anyone out there who can help me get to the bottom of this sad, sorry situation I would greatly appreciate it, as well, THANK YOU VERY MUCH,JOHN

  11. John Weiner says:

    Unfortunately, once again, AMAZON missed their delivery date for my LIJIANI RD239, stating ,” YOUR delivery is running late,” with a statement beneath it saying that if I,”didn’t want to wait for it to be delivered, I could request a refund,” and with no further information, such as when it might be delivered, especially, considering that I received a notification stating,” flight containing package arrived, dated ,” December 16, 2023,” it seems to me that neither AMAZON nor LIJIANI want me to have this radio at any price, and I don’t know why, although the two of your suggestions regarding coupons, in addition to a price starting at $40, plus the interest and all they have been making off of my money for the last, going on seven weeks, in addition to the original $52.98 I paid them for this radio is a good starting point for compensatory damages. Also their site didn’t mention how I could get said refund, besides, I still want the radio I paid for almost seven weeks ago, THANK YOU, BOTH FOR YOUR INTEREST IN MY SITUATION, AND SUGGESTIONS, JOHN

  12. Rupe says:

    Hi…i think it is just that the supplies of these may be limited, but i doubt Amazon is trying to pull something. But if i were you, i’d get my money back and then re-buy it for 40 bucks as Kevin detailed below on Jan 9th.

  13. Kevin says:

    The radio is now $46.99 less a $7 coupon on checkout at Amazon.

  14. John Weiner says:

    I ordered this radio from AMAZON on ,”Cyber Monday,” November27, 2023, for $49.99 plus tax for a total of $52.98, the best price that I could find for it. Two weeks later, while looking it up to find out what would be included in the package, it was listed for $46. On , Thursday, December 28, 2023, I received a notification from ,” AMAZON,” that I,” would be recieving it by 8:00 P.M., Thursday, January 5th, 2023. When it didn’t arrive by then, AMAZON notified me that I,” could now expect it to arrive by, Wednesday, January 10th, 2023, with their apologies or get my money back. I have a feeling they are trying to pull something on me, and I don’t know why. Could someone please help me get my radio that I paid $52.98, plus the interest AMAZON has been making off of my money for the last over six weeks, THANK YOU

  15. ZHAOLI says:

    There is an upgrade video on YOUTUBE.

  16. ZHAOLI says:

    LIJIANI RD218 The clock is always displayed. But it consumes only 20 microamps, which is almost negligible. I concluded that if the radio has more functions, the circuit board must be more complicated. It would use more power, so the manufacturer wouldn’t dare to let it display the clock all the time.

  17. Kevin says:

    I have several radios that display the clock with the radio off, and they run for many months. Tecsun PL-118. PL-330, PL-660, PL-880, PL-990, DR-920C, Sangean ATS-405, Eton Elite Executive, XHDATA D-808, D-109, R-108, and HanRongDa HRD-701.

  18. ZHAOLI says:

    I disagree, the clock stays on after shutdown. It’s too much of a battery drain and when you use it again the next day you’ll realize there’s no power left.
    When the clock goes to sleep, the board goes dormant and no longer drains power. Believe me, I’ve studied the principles of his circuit.

  19. Kevin says:

    Thank you very much for that information! When I got my radio following Black Friday, the manual linked on the Amazon website (V2.1) had an incorrect email address. I see that today it has been updated to match your comment (V2.9).

  20. Rupe says:

    I can confirm that they reply quickly to every email. Make sure you copy it correctly from the latest manual. Mine worked going to zl393688798 at foxmail.com

  21. Rupe says:

    For anyone needing the email address, i find sending to this one works fine for me and they always reply in great English and always update me. Here:
    zl393688798@foxmail.com
    Try it out, and let me know.

  22. Kevin says:

    No, I cannot confirm. The email address in the manual just bounces back for me.

    A quick tap of the Lock button will display the clock briefly when the radio is off. I agree that it would be nice if it stayed on.

  23. Greg Splond says:

    Hello just got mine today at the 39.80 and after waiting a week. Can you confirm the email address / website for the software updates? I emailed the company customer service and never got a response. I would like to catch any future updates. I wish they would fix the clock display where it would work while it is turned off.

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