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Reviews Categories | Receivers: General Coverage | Sangean ATS 818 / Realistic DX 390 Help

Reviews Summary for Sangean ATS 818 / Realistic DX 390
Sangean ATS 818 / Realistic DX 390 Reviews: 47 Average rating: 4.0/5 MSRP: $175
Description: Nicely priced Good Rx. for the dollars
Product is in production.
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You can write your own review of the Sangean ATS 818 / Realistic DX 390.

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ICHY7 Rating: 3/5 Dec 21, 2008 19:44 Send this review to a friend
Not enough radio for the money  Time owned: more than 12 months
I purchased my first ATS818 back in the 80's, but it was a dud right off the git go. I could pick up some AM signals and FM signals, but the SW was not there at all. Very few stations came in at all on SW. Add to that the problem of the display. It was so bad that you could only see it when you looked at the radio at an odd angle. If you looked at it straight on it was so faint that it was almost undistinguishable. I finally put it up on the shelf and chalked it up as a loss. But then last year I got the bug again for DX'ing so I recovered the radio and began to play with it again. That's when I remembered all the problems. Needless to say it hadn't gotten any better. I finally wrote the Sangean Co. and they told me to send it in. Well, after about about 6 weeks with NO word back, I finally called the Co. and they said they hadn't seen it yet. OK, so I waited another three weeks before I got hold of their one and only repair man and he finally located it. The bad news was that he said it was unrepairable, too old. Does that make sense? They offered to sell me another one for $74. I decided that it might be worth it so bought it. OK, it finally came and it looked exactly like the one I had sent in, except for the color and having an added cassette recorder/player. It works a little better. AM/FM are good, but the SW leaves something to be desired. I even hooked it up to my external antenna W/O a lot of difference. So, where does the "too old" to fix part fit in? Guess I'll never know now. I have since purchased my first FRG-7 and what a difference. It's old, but so much better. Back on the shelf for the ol' Sangaen. It's good for AM/FM and some local SW, but save your money and buy something a bit more reliable.
W2WHT Rating: 4/5 Dec 28, 2007 14:57 Send this review to a friend
decent for the money  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have had my 818 since they came out, so far back I cannot remember but at least 15 years. It is as others have mentioned, a decent radio.
Now I am a licensed ham and basically use this radio for FM/AM. Very occasionally I use it for SW. If you are interested in listening to local and worldwide broadcasting this radio will do the job. If you are a dx station hunter, then you will need to find something a bit more sophisticated. Still, I am pleased I still have this radio. The SSB is poor, and overloads at the drop of a hat. I do not use a wire antenna, so I have not had any issues with the static as others have. I do use a preamplified SW antenna that simply plugs in (another RS product) and it enhances the reception a bit. It is somewhat big, and a bit heavy for travel. There are quite a few other portables that are more suitable for being packed into your suitcase.
AUDIOMAGNATE Rating: 3/5 Jul 31, 2007 08:45 Send this review to a friend
Great FM Section  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I paid all of $5 for a mint condition unit last Saturday at a local Habitat for Humanity. I can't receive ANY SW stations with the whip antenna, but after connecting an external longwire I can get quite a few, although all but Radio Marti sound pretty awful; the signal just constantly fades in and out and there's tons of noise. While I've enjoyed Radio NZ, Australia, Holland and Havana, I've yet to pick up up the BBC or VOA!

The big surprise for me was finding out how well the FM section performs. I own several "high end" FM tuners, one that's popular with DXers, the Akai AT-93, which is connected to a rooftop FM antenna. The DX-390 beats it hands down, even with the stock whip. Plug in a good set of headphones - yet another hobby of mine - and you've got a great sounding ultra cheap FM DXer!

Besides the poor SW reception, I hate the fact that the auto scan feature is worthless, it just stops tuning when you lift your finger off the button.

I will take this unit with me when I camp or travel, but now I'm on the hunt for a REAL SW receiver now for my desktop.
KE4WKP Rating: 2/5 Jan 9, 2007 22:48 Send this review to a friend
Static Sensitive  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have had the Radio Shack DX-390 for almost 10 years. Just like NG9D said in his review. I also had trouble with a blown front-end. This has happened to me two times. First time it was connected to an external antenna. Second time it was not. It is an easy fix. but this radio is very sensitive to static electricity. So discharge your antenna and yourself when you use it. If you blow your front-end you will need to replace Q1 on the circuit board. The original is 2SK152. When I replaced mine I replaced with the same. If it happens again I may try the MPF102 as NG9D used. It may be more tolerant of the static charge. Or so I have read somewhere when researching this problem.
N1WCL Rating: 3/5 Oct 26, 2006 15:48 Send this review to a friend
Not bad and cheap!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I use my Sangean 818 as my travel trailer radio. We camp every year for two weeks in the White Mountain National Forrest. The camp is about a mile from the nearest power lines.
So there’s no AC noise in the receiver, which is good. There’s no local broadcast radio transmitters which is also good for this radio. So starting off clean with not much interference the radio works pretty well. I can listen for hours to Amateur Radio Operators or utility stations connected to one of those reel antennas and get decent results. At night I’ll troll around the AM broadcast band and it’s works ok for that. Battery life is good. I usually change them after a week maybe 20-25 hours of use. Nice size, good sound, enough memories, ok tuning knob, big display, receives SSB excellent under these conditions. This past summer I also had a Sony 2010 with me. It might of sounded better and maybe it receives a little better, but it was hardly noticeable. At home the 818 with all the AC noise, local transmitters and who knows what, it just becomes an OK receiver. But I have gotten good results at certain times in that environment. Don’t expect too much you’ll be surprised by what you can hear with the 818. I think they stopped making the 818 a couple of years ago. But they made a ton of them along with the Radio Shack DX390. So finding one shouldn’t be hard or cost too much.
NG9D Rating: 5/5 May 2, 2006 06:04 Send this review to a friend
It's Alive  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have had a DX-390 for longer than I can remember. Then last winter when fiddling around with long wire antennas I damaged the front end with a self-inflicted static discharge. The receiver went dead except for some local AM stations. An internet search revealed the problem. Radio Shack also carried the replacement ($1.29) FET (MPF102) needed to bring it back to life (Q2 on the board)

Stability: Calibrated on CW against WWV the receiver is stable. Direct frequency entry makes it easy to locate stations. I have used it to align several CW transceiver kits.

Sensitivity: Like most receivers, this one has ample sensitivity, especially when used with a resonant antenna cut or with a random wire and antenna tuner.

Selectivity: OK for SWL. For communications type reception of CW or SSB it’s a little broad. An external audio filter helps that.

I use the DX-390 occasionally with a ¾ watt Ramsey CW transmitter on 20m. That activity generally requires a lot of patience and time -- but it is entertaining to hear the reply after I describe the station.

I now drain static accumulation from long-wires in the winter prior to connecting to the antenna and keep the antenna grounded when not in use to protect the front end. (But just in case, I’ve got a spare transistor.)


AC6AN Rating: 4/5 Mar 24, 2006 11:08 Send this review to a friend
A decent budget SW/SSB receiver  Time owned: more than 12 months
I read the many reviews on this site and decided to throw my 2 cents...
I'll start with the conclusion and then explain: the DX-390 is a decent AM/FM broadcast radio. It receives shortwave and single-sideband too and is a good value if you can live with that.


As many noted, the radio has many features. It's great if you like bells and whistles, not too great if you need function and they don't deliver. You can enter a frequency on the keypad, but it's not an accurate frequency for sideband reception. There is just no indication of the BFO shift, so you have to guess.
Turning the tuning knob brings a lot of clicks and the mute circuit is just annoying. Tuning step is coarse, designed to work with the wide-range variable BFO. It works, but leaves a lot to be desired.
And that sorry backlight… Let’s not go there…

Sensitivity and Selectivity

The whip antenna is not suitable for serious shortwave listening but it will bring in the strong stations. For example, net controls on West Coast daily nets on 7235 and 7268.5 are an armchair copy but the weaker stations are sometimes in the noise.
The receiver features an RF preamplifier stage for SW, but it is prone to damage from static discharge. I would bet there are many “deaf” DX-390 with that transistor gone. I burned the front-end transistor and eventually replaced it with a much more robust MPF102, which may have also improved sensitivity. Be careful when you change devices. The pinout might be different and the device you pick may not work in that circuit (for example, only select MPF102 would work).
Connecting an external antenna brings in a lot more signals, but since the preamp is not switchable, you may end up with overload and intermod. There is no free lunch!
Good communications receivers have some front-end selectivity. This radio doesn't - and it shows.
It also lacks selectivity. There is just no substitute to a good IF filter or roofing filter coupled to a low-IF DSP filter. This radio has none. It features cheap filters that just don't do the job for serious ham or general SWLing.

Noise Fighting Features

Are you kidding?
Any serious listener would eventually move on to receivers that offer some QRM/QRN fighting features such as: IF Notch, Passband Tuning (PBT), IF Shift, optional IF filters, Noise Blanker (NB), selectable RF Gain or Attenuation (ATT), DSP, etc.
The DX-390 is a bare-bones radio in that respect. There is a "wide-narrow" select button, but it is useless for serious communications work. Engage the AM/Narrow button and turn down the TONE control to lower the hiss. A little bit of practice with the BFO will make this radio somewhat usable for casual listening on the ham bands and in some instances you might prefer listening to broadcast stations with the BFO on. Sort of a “poor man’s sync AM”…
Don't even consider "modding" this unit. Even if you find a way to squeeze a decent ceramic filter in there, this radio will never be mistaken for a communications receiver...

Price and Value

Now we're talking!
Recent examples on ebay did not sell for $30! Let's think of this for a moment: a radio which offers decent AM/FM reception and can hear shortwave broadcast and some sideband - for $40-50 total (including shipping).
If you're on vacation and you want to listen to ham radio without dragging your table-top communications receiver, then the DX-390 is a reasonable substitute at a rock-bottom price.
If your budget does not allow you to buy a $200 Kenwood R-1000 or a $300 Icom R-71A but you still want to listen to some HF, then the DX-390 is better than nothing - and well worth the recent ridiculous prices in the used market. It beats the likes of DX-160 in overall ergonomics and the beginner is not likely to struggle with low-price tube receivers with their size, instability and lack of features. Hop on the HF wagon with the DX-390 - it's a great way to start!
N8AUC Rating: 5/5 Mar 24, 2006 06:31 Send this review to a friend
Keeps going and going...  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've had the DX390 for 9 years now. It's a nice radio with good sound quality, and excellent versatility. This unit covers AM broadcast, FM Broadcast, long wave (150-500KHz), and short wave up to 30 MHz. There is a BFO to allow you to copy CW and listen to SSB, and on FM you actually get stereo when you plug in a set of stereo headphones.

Sensitivity is very good, even on the built-in whip. When you connect an external antenna you have to turn down the RF Gain control. Selectivity is OK, but not great. You wouldn't want to try working a contest with it. But for casual listening it's serviceable.

This radio does a lot of things well, but none of them great. It is NOT a high end professional receiver. It IS an excellent portable, that will run a long time on a set of fresh alkaline D cells.

I got a good deal on it when I bought it, it has served me well, and I'm glad I have it. If I had it to do all over again, knowing then what I know now, I'd still buy this radio. It's a keeper.
SLIDERULEX Rating: 5/5 Mar 23, 2006 21:53 Send this review to a friend
Great SW performance (West Coast!)  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
When I recently received this radio through the mail (won it on ebay for $37.50 price includes shipping) I put in the 4-D batteries and the 3-AA batteries, and the only thing I got from it was speaker sound. The only operational control was the volume control. No lights on the LCD, no other button functioning. I couldn't even turn it off! To turn it off, I had to remove one of the D batteries.

So, I used a voltmeter to check the voltages to make sure I was getting the proper voltages from the batteries, and that checked out okay. Then I decided to remove the back cover to see if any obvious problems revealed themselves to me. Nothing obvious. So I decided to bend the prong coming from the 3-AA battery section which makes contact with the circuit board to power it. And, wah-la, it worked! The prong had broken contact so that the 3-AA battery powering the processor and LCD was not operational. Now, it is.

And then I tested it. Shortwave performance is EXCELLENT! I have some 20 plus worldband radios of varying capability from the meek and lowly Grundig 100PE and Kaito WRX911 (a good radio for the price) and Sony ICF-7601, to medium-performers SW7600GR and Radio Shack DX-380 and DX-440 and Grundig S350, to the noble and glorious high-performers Sony 2010 and Panasonic RF-2200 and Zenith 1000D Transoceanic and the Degen DE1103. I have other brands too, but these are representative of the 3 categories low-medium-high performers.

I would put the DX-390 in the high-performer class. It is as good on shortwave as the other high performers (off the whip!) and is also just as good on SSB. On AM, it is also quite good, though not quite as good as the Panasonic RF-2200 on AM. On SSB, it is better than the Panasonic RF-2200 on SSB.

I live on the West Coast (Washington State) and shortwave is typically more difficult to get here than in other locations throughout America. But my DX-390 performs admirably, and I'm glad I won it in auction. I know others have had problems with theirs, but at least mine is quite a good performing worldband radio. I did tighten the antenna screw, and it is holding okay. All in all, for under $40.00, I think I have the best radio money could buy!
K4IDX Rating: 3/5 Dec 4, 2005 14:16 Send this review to a friend
Middle of the pack  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
This radio was certainly not worth what I paid for it, but every now and then I just have to have a new toy! Overall, it's a good radio. The size is larger than what I prefer, but for those who want a laptop size rig, here it is! Sensitivity is not nearly as good as a 7600GR or even a YB400, but the sound quality is much better than those two. Tuning the SSB is a bit tricky and takes some getting used to, although it isn't difficult, but takes a little practice. AM reception works great and exceeds those cheap GE Superadio's, so BCB'ers will appreciate that. FM has nice reception too and good sound to go with it. I did perform the modification to eliminate the muting when using the tuning knob and HIGHLY recommend others to do the same if you're a bandscanner too. The plastic build of this radio is rather cheap, but it is a Chinese deluxe, so I suppose most of you probably expect that from Sangean/Radio Shack.
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