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Reviews Categories | Receivers: General Coverage | Sangean 803A/Radio Shack DX 440 Help

Reviews Summary for Sangean 803A/Radio Shack DX 440
Sangean 803A/Radio Shack DX 440 Reviews: 35 Average rating: 4.4/5 MSRP: $$180
Description: One of the best portables ever made!
Product is in production.
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WDX6HQY Rating: 4/5 Dec 28, 2002 23:54 Send this review to a friend
Good for ECSS  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've had my Sangean 803A since 1997, and used it regularly for DXing in the late 90s. It is a good second receiver, as I used it "behind" an ICF2010.

I recently dusted it off, and have it in parallel with a new Radio Shack DX-402. The 803A readily holds its own with the 402. Although the digital display on my model has drifted a few hundred hertz off of perfect accuracy, it still goes like gangbusters.

One thing about the 803A is that it can be used for Exalted Carrier Selectable Sideband reception. Although the BFO knob is pretty small, with a little practice it can be adjusted to beat down to 'carrier match', and wallah!, a weak siganl pulled out of the mush! (This technique is well described by Radio Nedraland at ) If you are looking for a second daily receiver, and find one at a good price... anywhere from $30 to $50 is my guess, I recommend it.

I give it 4 because there are better, newer comparable models, but this is a dandy for its age.
TAILSTRAKE Rating: 4/5 Dec 11, 2002 14:34 Send this review to a friend
best digital for the price and vintage  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought my 440 through E-bay, for ~$70, and thanks to all the support sites for this radio, I knew that when I powered it up the first time, that the RF amp Fet was blown. While at the local (Dare I admit it) Radio Shack picking up a new MPF-102, I ordered a service manual. Good investment.

The DX-440 has an overload, and static electricity sensitive front end. If you are not careful, the FET is easily destroyed. Good news, they are common 99 cent items. Flea merket finds of this radio that "just don't seem to pick up shortwave" are worth the work.

When opened, and after replacing the FET, I simply moved the wires that go to the tuning knob, out from the area of the sensitive RF amp. No more whine that everyone talks of.

You cannot appreciate the sweet performance of this radio on shortwave without external antennas.

The radio works very well on the HF bands, but the VLF band is poor from the radio using the internal ferrite rod antenna. I have heard of mods to correct this, perhaps someday I'll try it. I use this radio with a 160 foot long wire, 30 feet up, and it pulls the weak hams as well as my Kenwood TS-820s. Of course in busy bands, the 440 does not have the separation ability of the Kenwood.

On FM broadcast stereo, the DX-440 is nearly as sensitive as my fancy Denon FM tuner on the same FM antenna, but the Denon will distort less when tuned to a weak station, next to a local strong station. Still excellent for a portable not meant to be a high-end FM tuner.

The "S" meter on this radio is odd, its non-responsive for weaker signals, then slams full scale on any signal of medium strength. Frankly, I like the dynamic range of analog meters on other rigs.

The RF gain on this radio is nothing more than a pot that shunts off signal to ground. Not very effective.

The accuracy of the tuning is spot on, and WWV is exact dead on. I have used the radio as a quick calibration check for my RF generator, and as a alignment tool for FM IF's at 10.7 Mhz. So not is it only a decent communications receiver, its a handy tool as well.

I find it also handy with headphones, to hear my own SSB signals while tuning up the Kenwood on the dummy load.

There are tons of modifications out there for this radio, but before you try one, order a service manual from Radio Shack. I found out that the audio IC is a stereo amp, but the internal speaker only uses 1 channel. After a few changes, and adding on 2 RCA jacks and a sub-mini switch, I have a choice of both channels driving the internal speaker for better volume, or I can add a pair of small external speakers for a decent portable stereo without using amplified computer speakers.

Bang for the buck, it's a 5.0. Find one at a garage sale or flea market with bad ears, it's a 6.0.

Features wise it only lacks 10 meter FM, a good "S" meter, and a real gain controlling RF gain control, a 4.0.

Function wise, its a sensitive performer with a oddly calibrated "S" meter, just keep a spare MPF102 in the garage (rs #276-2062). Portability could be better if it was smaller, but you can't beat the "D" cells for life. Its amazing how light the radio is without the "D" cells inside. If you like to tinker, get the manual and have fun. The circuits are reasonably sized, not many surface mounted items, so the Dx-440 is an experimenter's playground.

On a final note, an earlier reviewer noted soldering jumper wires to the back cover to bridge the battery power contacts. This is a good idea, not only for noise, but it allows you to back off how tight to make the cover screws. There's nothing worse than plastic posts getting stripped out from constant spring load or over-tightening, ruining an otherwise good piece of equipment.
RENTON481 Rating: 5/5 Nov 9, 2002 20:54 Send this review to a friend
Very good SW and DX portable  Time owned: more than 12 months
My DX-440 / 803A was the first radio with digital readout I ever owned. I got mine in 1989. I've bought several newer models since then (Sangean 818, Sangean 909, DX-375, Panasonic RFB45, DX-394), but in many respects the 440 is the best of them.

Positives about this radio:

What I've found best, over the years, is the radio's narrow filter (very effective for reading CW, reducing adjacent channel QRM, ECSS, etc); and its ease of use, especially on SSB -- the control is easier to manipulate to zero in on a sideband than my 818, and quicker to tune on SSB than my other digital radios..

The radio's sensitivity and selectivity are very good, and the sound of the radio is very good, especially through headphones (there's higher fidelity through headphones than the speaker, and there's plenty of volume also). The separate treble and bass tone controls are very handy, they make listening to SW broadcasts very nice (the bass response is nice for SWLing -- something missing in my other portables).

The separate tone controls also help with DXing.

Battery life with this radio is excellent. I've had my present set of D cells in my 440 for almost a year, and I've used the radio at least once a week, sometimes for hours at a time.

The frequency entry is quick and easy -- one less step to go through than my other digital radios. It only has nine memories available on the keypad, but they're very quick to access, less time to bring up than the Sangean 909, for example.

The negatives with this radio:

The tuning knob gets a little finicky if you don't use it often, or have stored the radio for a few months or years -- it'll jump a couple hundred kilohertz, when you wanted it to go ten. But after using it a bit, it tunes normally.

There is a bit of whine from the display circuitry, mostly audible if there's no signals present -- but the whine can be reduced or eliminated by a) adjusting the tuner knob ever so slightly, b) switching the lock switch on -- or listening through headphones, where the whine seems completely non-existent.

Medium wave reception using the internal loop antenna on this radio is poor, at least in the NW U.S. where I live. When I use an external antenna, or an inductively coupled loop (like the Select-a-Tenna) it's fine, though, equal or better than a GE Superadio.

The battery power connection to the main p.c. board is a screwy set-up, where little metal fingers (from the battery compartment) touch contact spots on the board. I hard-wired mine, to eliminate some scratchy noises I was getting when I'd pick up the radio while it was on.

I don't know if the radio's diode protected or not, but I added diodes between antenna and ground on mine, anyway.

Some peculiarities:

A peculiarity of this radio is the way it tunes when using the manual scan method -- where you hold down the up or down key. It is different from most modern digital radios -- when you hold down the up or down key, it goes one Khz, then progresses in ten Khz segments.... For example, if you start at 6000 khz and tune upwards, you'll end up on 6011, or 6016, or 6021, etc. (an extra khz thrown in).

This has something to do with the simple way the radio tunes, and it's really no problem for me, I just automatically back up one Khz when I stop scanning the band using the up or down keys. For those people used to more modern digital radios, it could take a bit of getting used to.

Another peculiarity in tuning this radio is its "chuffing" while scanning up or down the bands.... I've never found the "chuffing" bothersome. At least it doesn't mute, like the 818 and 909 do -- when you bandscan this radio, you'll hear "chuffing", but at least you'll still hear what's on each frequency.

The auto-scan feature is handy when you just want to hear whatever signals are coming in over the powerline buzz on a bad afternoon.... press a button, and it scans the band, and stops on the stronger signals. The auto-scan, which only tunes up in frequency, will mute while tuning. I've only used the auto-scan feature when I just wanted to hear whatever's on the band while I'm reading or something....

Even though the auto-scan mutes the audio while scanning up the band, the LED strength meter will light up on any weaker signals that happen to be muted.

I give this radio a high rating because in my experience it's a good performer, and it outperforms, in many respects, its successors, both for DXing and SWLing. Obviously, the 440 / 803A is not a DX machine like the Drake R8 or Icom R75, and other tabletop receivers are -- but for what the 440 / 803A was designed to do, it does very, very well.

Its ease of use, good sound, and that narrow filter come in handy. I've used a 15 ft. dipole made of zip-cord and had good results with this radio; more recently I've used a long wire with good results.

I've only had one problem with my radio -- one day, long ago, my cat decide to do some DXing, and he knocked the radio off the desk, breaking / loosening the power jack in the process. Radio Shack fixed it no problem.

KF6YVG Rating: 5/5 Nov 8, 2002 12:22 Send this review to a friend
Solid performer  Time owned: more than 12 months
I echo Matt's sentiments on the 803. Purchased mine over 10 years ago at a clearance sale and it's still going strong. Whether sitting on the table top or being dragged along on a camping trip, it continues to crank out the audio.
If one feature/function stands out above the other's the radio exhibits, it's the BFO used to bring in the sideband signals. Have used it a lot and am always impressed with the stability. I've listened for as long as an hour or more to sideband channels/nets before having to readjust.
As of about two years ago when I bench-checked it, it still meets or exceeds the specs for sensitivity in all modes.
Would have been a bargain even if I had paid MSRP!
FALLGUY Rating: 5/5 Nov 8, 2002 00:15 Send this review to a friend
Great, durable radio  Time owned: more than 12 months

This was my first digital shortwave radio, and it has given me 10 years of faithful service, and is still a great performer. It is rugged, and built to last. While sensitive off the whip, it also handles an external antenna very well (no overloading) and is a decent DX machine on LW, MW, and SW. It has two good bandwidths, the narrow one being very good at rejecting adjacent channels. It also has a BFO switch that allows you to listen to SSB transmissions. I also find it to be sensitive on FM.

One of my favorite things about this radio is that it is one of the very few shortwave receivers that has one slide switch for treble, and another separate one for bass. You really have alot of control over the audio tone this way, and it's a shame more receivers don't have this! Combine this with a very good speaker, and this radio really produces some fine audio!

This is laptop-portable, so it might be a little large for some trips when you don't have alot of room. However, it seems to run forever on those 6 D batteries! It's size also permits it to be a fine base station.

Although no longer in production, this radio has a great following and is one of the all time best selling sets. If you are thinking about getting into SW listening or MW DXing, if you can find one of these used, you will have a set that will get you off the ground and grow with you.

If you do already have one of these radios, please submit a review, and then join us over at

and join the discussion! We also have a good number of mods and tips and tricks for the radio there!

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