I’ve seen nice things said about the Sihuadon R-108 radio for some time, but I never bought one because it seemed redundant for my personal use. The radio is quite small (5″ L x 1.2″ W x 3″ H), it convenient to pack or carry. It’s powered by a BL-5C battery and sports LW, MW, FM, general coverage SW and AIR bands.
I thought that if I had the XHDATA D-808, I wouldn’t have any use for this scaled down version without SSB and without RDS. And that made sense, but not everyone has a D-808, and those who don’t might want a review of the R-108.
I’m always looking for the best price for. This radio’s price has varied quite a bit. Today on Amazon US it costs $59.90 less a 12% coupon, or $51.71. On the XHDATA website it’s $52.90 less 30% promotion plus around $6.50 shipping from China, or $43.53. I paid $49 for mine including shipping from XHDATA.
I like the switchable tuning step that facilitates manual band scanning like the ones I do to make my AM / FM Daytime Band Scans:
Scans take a while, especially when the tuning step is variable (switching back and forth automatically). There are 100 channels in the US FM band (twice as many in Europe) and MW has 238 possible channels. One reason that I like the R-108 is that the operator can pick a tuning rate that exact matches MW tuning, and it takes no more than 2 steps per channel on FM. The XHDATA D-808 works this way as well. And while on that chart, notice how well the R-108 performed on MW!
There is also direct frequency entry, although every entry must be prefixed (and sometimes suffixed) with the totally unnecessary FREQ button. The ATS memory system is improved over the D-808 with 10 memory pages, 10 stations each (for each band). Here there is a simple 100 stations per band layout — no messy pages to deal with. The D-808 and R-108 have the same inadequate 100 ATS memories on shortwave. One advantage on the R-108 is that it has a way to scroll through the ATS memory; the D-808 does not. For more on radio memory systems, see Radio memory systems.
There is a feature (long press “4”) to switch between voice and music audio settings.
For a larger R-108 feature table, see my Battle of the Under $50 Radios: Take 2.
Not nice things
- You cannot directly access a memory location by number. It’s all scrolling.
- The number of memory locations for shortwave is inadequate.
- Every frequency entry must be preceded by the FREQ button, even though there is no other function the numeric buttons perform when receiving stations.
- While the radio does display shortwave meter bands, there is no way to skip through the bands when tuning.
- No means of keeping display backlight on.
The manual is another of those bad jokes from Chinese radio manufacturers.
We’ve seen that it’s phenomenal on MW and middle of the pack on FM. The external antenna jack can be used on FM and shortwave.
I always start my reviews of shortwave performance with some disclaimer about shortwave changing from moment to moment, making comparisons tricky. When I post videos, people commenting on them seem to like a different radio than I do. The elephant in the room is the fact that local and atmospheric noise make much more difference in a half-way decent modern radio than the receiver does. This is one reason that I’m doing more listening with the telescopic antenna than I used to — it gives me more flexibility in orienting the antenna for best reception.
So to what shall I compare thee? I think I needn’t venture far for something to test: the XHDATA D-808 comes from the same company and represents a good radio that many people own. The D-808 has an advantage with its 26″ antenna compared to 19″ for the R-108, but that’s part of the radio’s performance. Since neither radio has a MUTE feature and turning volume controls up and down takes time during which signals can fade, I’m going to use an A/B switch and an external speaker (Sony SRS-XB20) for the test. To hear live audio from the R-108, skip down to the Audio section below.
I typically try CFRX, Toronto, and today with the A/B switch, it was pretty clear that when the signal faded, the D-808 was better. While I was out, I also tried the Tecsun PL-330, XHDATA D-109WB and the LiJiANi Rd239. The last three have approximately the same antenna length as the R-108. I think the LiJiANi performed the best.
Despite coming in last in this comparison (in my opinion), the R-108 is still good.
It sounds pretty good. I was sitting in my study, a few feet from a desktop computer, and tuned WRMI on Okeechobee, Florida. I kept the telescopic antenna collapsed and got this brief recording.
Update: A new version of the R-108 with USB-C charging and supposedly updated audio stage that doesn’t click on headphones when changing bands has been released. Also check out this page at the Radio Museum for more details.