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February 20, 2006

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ralph

That problem you've had with digital radios chuffing every tuning step is typical of the more inexpensive Sangean radios. It's not inherent in digital tuners, it's just a design decision that many listeners find mistaken. C. Crane Company offers a modification for many of the radios that display this behavior.

Also, once you get above about $120 in portable receivers, the tuning step is more fine grained than 5 kHz, which I agree is suboptimal. Between $120 and about $300, most portables have a resolution of 1 kHz, which is a lot better. Above that, you get receivers like the late lamented Sony 2010, with a .1 kHz resolution, the Grundig Satellit 800 with .05 kHz resolution, and the new Eton E1, with .01 kHz resolution. When you get to that level of resolution, tuning is indistinguishable from the tuning on an analog receiver. You also pay a lot more than you would for the S350 or BCL radios; the E1 goes for about $500, which is more than most people would want to pay for a radio.

The Professor

Thanks Ralph. Yeah, in general I've got complaints about every Sangean product I've ever owned. You can scale the turning down to a 1 kHz increments, but the using the button that does that on the tuning knob is a dodgy operation.

So, with a 2010 or a shiny new E1 you can whip through the bands and hear busy sections to further investigate like an analog receiver? I'm just curious. But I can see how slowly cruising the dial with .01 kHz resolution with the E1 could be quite satisfactory. I'd like to try it. If I could only get a hold on an extra few hundred bucks. And that's why I thought it might be good to talk about the BCL radios, because they are pretty affordable.

As far as digital portables, I've had my eye on the Degen DE1103 (otherwise known as the Kaito KA1103 in the U.S.) for a while. I've read lots of positive reviews online, and it seems like a great radio all around. And it also is quite affordable, going for just a little more than the BCL radios. And I hear there's no "chuffing" either.

Also, the DE1103 and the new super-portable, the E1, are also Tecsun products. Although I think the E1 is at least partially constructed in India instead of China.

ralph

Yes, once the resolution is below a certain point, tuning is indistinguishable from analog receiver. I don't expect anyone to spend the kind of money I have on receivers (although I have friends who have spent much more), but my AOR AR-7030 has a tuning resolution of 2.8 Hz (not kHz), and a nice, well-weighted tuning knob that's a joy to use for bandscanning. I tried the E1 in the showroom of Universal Radio in Columbus last summer, and it felt similar, although the tuning knob is flush with the top of the radio and doesn't have a dimple, so it's not quite as nice to tune. But you can still use it for bandscanning and not have to push buttons to tune. The tuning knob on a 2010 feels a lot better than the E1; I used a 2010 as my main rig for several years before buying a tabletop receiver (first a Drake R8, then the AOR). 0.1 kHz is still a *little* coarse, but not bad. The 2010 was a heck of a radio, and the E1 is the first one that's got people in the shortwave hobby saying it's even as good, and maybe a little better.

I'm pretty sure there's no connection between Tecsun and the E1; the radio is definitely completely made in Bangalore. The circuitry of the E1, like the Satellit 800, was designed by the R.L. Drake company of Ohio, based on their SW-8 portatop radio of the 1990s, which was a cut down version of the R8 tabletop. It's got features no other portable has, like a choice of three filters to help you cut down the interference from adjacent channels. Some of my friends on a mailing list I'm on have been comparing it with their pricey tabletops and sometimes the E1 outperforms them. If you're interested in the radio, I would keep an eye on the web site of Universal Radio. They have a deal with Eton/Grundig where they often get refurbished radios to sell. Drake, who have a top notch technical staff, does the refurbishing, and the price, if you go by what happened with the Satellit 800, is typically about $100 less than a new radio. Eton had a quality control problem with the power supply in a certain range of radios and actually had to recall several hundred, so I would expect to see refurbs with replaced power supplies showing up on the market in the next few months.

I haven't tried the Degen radios (at this point, I think I have enough portable receivers to last a lifetime), but friends who have speak highly of them. They've typically got something goofy going on with the display where the last digit isn't displayed if it's a 0, and the tuning resolution is only 5 kHz I think, but the performance is on a standard with radios that used to go for $120-150 in the past like the Grundig Yacht Boy 400 and the Sony ICF-7600GR at half the price. I don't think they have the chuffing problem that Sangeans do that makes bandscanning a chore.

ralph

Oh, and if you want to try an E1 and maybe hang out with a bunch of like-minded radio geeks for a couple of days, there's an event coming up in a few weeks just outside Philadelphia, the Winter SWL Fest. I'm sure there are going to be a ton of E1s there; it's definitely the hot radio in the shortwave hobby right now. Probably a fair number of Degen radios too. The guys from WBCQ usually come down, although I'm told they missed last year (I missed last year too, and won't be able to make it this year either), and there are a bunch of pirate radio operators who show up. And the beer is free. :-)

Sam

I enjoyed your comments about the Panasonic RF-2200. I bought one in about 1979 and I have used it almost every day since then. Still going strong!

Dale Hazelton

I have a Panasonic RF-1150 (http://www.radiointel.com/review-panasonicrf1150.htm) that I picked up at a yard sale for $6, and it is a decent performer with great room filling sound, although the signal sometimes shifts a bit requiring knob twiddling to hone it in again. My $5 Telefunken Bajazzo from around '62 or '63 is also a favorite, even with a broken whip and a piece of wire alligator-clipped to it's stump. Professor, about your earlier post lamenting the late great Radio Shack...I went into one last week to browse. I asked the salesman if there were any shortwave sets I could look at and he showed me an AM/FM/TV sound radio, proudly extolling the TV sound part. I said "No, a shortwave set" and he showed me another broadcast band model. I finally said "Thanks", realizing this kid didn't have a clue. What a shame, this was a great franchise that introduced alot of people to the airwaves and now they've deleted all the products that made them unique. Oh well. Professor, any interest in doing a post on scanners or CBs?

Dale Hazelton

Oh, while most of the Professor's scans take place after dark, I'd like to share a new favorite. Since I was "decruited" by the man and can listen during the day, I have discovered "Sounds like Canada" (http://www.cbc.ca/soundslikecanada/) 10am on 9515. A great program, I heard a two-hour interview with Leonard Cohen recently and the program hits all types of music by Canadian artists. While you can't brag about the QSL card, it's great listening nonetheless that an FMU listener would enjoy.

The Professor

Wow. Dale, that 1150 is one snazzy looking radio. I'd pick that up for six bucks in a heartbeat. And thanks for the tip on the CBC show.

And that sounds like a typical response from a Radio Shack "associate.". However, I'm sure the saleman was well dressed and could have set you up pretty with a fantastic cell phone. I've also experienced the scenario where there's one salesperson at an outlet who handles all of us "strange radio people" who occasionally come in, and once you're directed to that guy he proudly points out the two or three shortwave radios they carry and seems insulted that you don't jump at the chance to snatch up one of them.

Scanners and CB's? That would be interesting, but I don't know enough about them to write much. Although scanners are fascinating devices and I've played with one I have here from time to time. It's a cheapy, from Radio Shack I believe, but if I had a really good one I'd probably get a little crazy fooling around with the damn thing.

And in response to Ralph, that SWL gathering sounds mighty tempting. I wish I would have thought about it earlier. And free beer? I didn't see that mentioned on the website. Any free snacks?

The Professor

Just happened to notice that there seems to be a limited number of the BCL-3000 radios available on ebay with all English text for all functions and the LED display (instead of Chinese). The link is here if anyone is interested.

Doug Hammond

Another excellent post, Professor. An old friend of mine with a healthy interest in shortwave whetted my appetite for this stuff years ago, but it wasn't until I read these posts that I decided to dive head-first into the world of DX. I can't get enough of this series and it's yet another reminder of why the internets are so endlessly fascinating. Bravo.

ralph

Yup, free snacks too. If you can't make it this year, there will be another one at about the same time next year (the date is already mentioned on the site).

tom sheridan

I would like to know if you have the Panasonic RF2200 radio?

bree

the bcl 3000 will not have english. i am in shanghai now - and about to buy one for about 45 bucks. i bopught the degen 1107 yesterday for 40 bucks.

Don

All this praise for the Grundig DRIFTY-THREE-FIFTY and its cousins? Yuck! You need to try out a Kaito KA2100. It's the $100 portable AM/FM/SW radio that the Grundig S-350 SHOULD have been, but isn't. Great PLL drift-free tuning at slow or fast rate to 1khz (plus quicktune slew buttons and 10 memories per band) fairly sophisticated front-end electronics, variable gain, built-in battery charger, internal A/C transformer, good filters, plus quicktune slew buttons and 10 memories per band. You'd have to buy an Eton E1 to get any better SW reception: the KA2100 is a broadcast fiend with its 44" whip. Its AM directionality is as good as the Three-Fifty, and FM is MUCH better. Bonus: The 2100 does very well on external antennas, too!

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