Qodosen SR-286: First Impressions

Qodosen SR-286 (photo by author)

I’ve been waiting for 21 days for the radio to arrive and in that time I wrote a blog article in anticipation and studied the manual. Now that it’s here I want to share my first impressions. During the wait I researched and decided that I was going pronounce the brand, “CHO do sen.”

First, the radio felt heavy, but really isn’t particularly heavy; it’s just small. It actually weighed 8.6 oz. with the battery installed. I checked and yes, it has rubber feet. It comes in a fold over Velcro fastened case, sort of a khaki color. I like having a case. The kit also includes a USB Micro charging cable. What aren’t included are earphones, a product box and a manual. Good thing I found a manual on line. The manual says that the radio comes with a manual. OOPS.

The radio is small, in fact identical in size to the Sihuadon R-108, with the same 19 1/4″ antenna length.

I quickly noted that I really like the way this radio tunes. You don’t have to set a band. If you want 351 kHz LW, just punch in 351 and hit AM. If you want 1070 kHz MW, just punch in 1070 and hit AM. If you want 6070 kHz SW, just punch in 6070 and hit AM. If you repeatedly press AM without entering a frequency, it will skip from LW to MW to SW. The buttons feel good too.

I also quickly noticed that the radio beeped when I hit a key and I didn’t know how to turn the beep off; I couldn’t figure out how to turn the beep off. (With the radio off long-press the RDS button for 2 seconds. Who knew?) I also couldn’t easily figure out how to set the MW step to 10 kHz (It’s complicated; read Page 22 in the manual). And I couldn’t figure out how to turn on RDS (with the radio on press PAGE and RDS together for 2 seconds).

Next I noticed audio quality. It was a clean sound, but no bass. It, however turn up very loud with no distortion, unlike the weak XHDATA D-808). Note to self: try an external speaker.

The first try on FM found that the radio was nearly as good as my Tecsun PL-990 , but there are a couple of things to note. One is that the PL-990 antenna is a good bit longer than the SR-286 and the second thing was there might be settings on the SR-286 involved. Also the time of day might be different. This needs another test.

I also found that I didn’t know how to switch the radio to the external antenna for MW/LW (long press PAGE + AM for 2 seconds). When set correctly I quickly picked up 4 airport beacons with a 20-foot long wire and ground, more than expected.

I quickly tuned to CFRX, Toronto, 400 miles away and picked it up with no problem on the telescopic antenna. I need to compare that with other radios.

Cool discoveries

One cool discovery is how the clock works. I never did quite figure out how the Eton Elite Executive and its time zone feature worked, but I may have this one pegged. With the radio turned off, both the local time and what it calls WORLD time (UTC) are displayed. With the radio on, you can switch between local time, UTC, Alarm and signal strength.

While there are many settings, common ones seem logical enough to remember, like turning on and off the external antenna for MW/LW by long pressing the PAGE key (used for many settings) and the AM button. Once you come to expect PAGE to be a sort of Ctrl key, other things follow, like RDS to turn that on and off.

I’m discovering how configurable the radio is. Some of my radios have a search function: hold down a key and it will start a search and stop or pause when it finds a station. The SR-286 has a setting so that you can pick whether it stops or pauses and if it pauses, how long.

Errata

The manual needs a lot of work (where have you heard that before?). The troubleshooting section offers suggestions to problems with references to page numbers that are incorrect. It says the SW frequency range is 1711 – 2999 kHz. That both a typo and wrong. The actual range is 1711 – 27000 kHz. Even so, the manual is very helpful.

The manual is ironic when it says:

The box should contain the SR-286 radio, protective bag, Carry Case, Warranty Card, Quick Guide, and this User Guide. If anything is missing or damaged, please get in touch with your dealer immediately.

The problem is that the User Guide with this statement is not in the box, so you will never know that you’re supposed to get it. There’s no Quick Guide or Warranty Card either. The “protective bag” is just a plastic film sleeve.

The SWL Who Went Out into the Cold

I’ve been trying for a couple of weeks to pick up a longwave broadcast, any longwave broadcast station on my Tecsun PL-990. I’m going outdoors around midnight local time (0400 – 0500 UTC). I got nothing but a few aircraft beacons on my 20-foot Wire Up a Tree (WUP) antenna with ground. I got stations on the Qodosen SR-286, several of them. One was Chaîne One, Algeria, verified by streaming identical content from the station over the internet.

I really can’t emphasize how important an antenna plus ground is on LW and MW. This afternoon I did my standard daytime band scan that I do with all my radios. I picked up 18 stations, very good in my weak signal area and near the top of my ratings. When I added my 20-foot Wire Up a Tree (WUP) antenna and ground, I got 86. Let that sink in. Most of those additional stations weren’t received weakly; they were solid and as good as local stations.

Summary

So first impressions:

  1. Really like the controls
  2. Great FM reception
  3. Remarkable LW reception with external antenna and ground
  4. Top reception on MW and phenomenal when adding antenna and ground
  5. Like the feel — buttons aren’t loose
  6. Good on shortwave (don’t know how good yet)
  7. Customizable in function and parameters
  8. Need to study the manual some more

About Kevin

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