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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Attack of the Super Cheap Portables

Mike Kuna (K9UNA) on April 16, 2005
View comments about this article!


Can you find happiness using a radio that cost less than $20?

Think back a few years to the following truths:

  1. A useable portable shortwave radio will cost well over $100

  2. Radios around the $50-$60 range are junk

  3. Radios made in China are junk

  4. Digital displays only come on expensive radios

How things have changed. Now most portable radios are made China, some of them highly respected. With that said, they still aren't cheap. However if you look around you will find a number of shortwave portables that can be delivered to your door for less than 2 sawbucks. You may wonder if they are worth your while. I did too, hence my quest to find a useable $20 or under radio.

Why $20?

I figured that $20 places most items in the disposable category. If lost, stolen or dropped it's not the end of the world. The same can't be said of a Sangean 909. Here are some instances where a cheap (but useable) multi-band radio could come in handy:

  1. When traveling abroad or stateside.

  2. When camping or hiking.

  3. When going to the beach, park or backyard.

  4. To have in your disaster kit, office drawer or glove box.

  5. To give to a college student who is spending a semester abroad.

  6. To give to someone in the armed services.

  7. To give to a kid (your kid, grandkid or neighbor) who has expressed an interest in radio.

  8. To experience the pure joy of being able to listen to the world on a radio that cost less than a milk and bread trip to the grocery (my favorite reason).

  9. You add your idea here!

Now you may think, for $25 or $35 or $75 radio XYZ is a much better radio. That may be the case, but that is not the purpose of this report. Losing a $75 radio hurts badly; losing a $10 radio is just a mild pain.

What can you hear on a cheapo radio?

More than you might think. All of the radios could receive major SW broadcasters, but on some radios it was an unpleasant experience.

Casual listening using mostly the jWin JX-M14 radio that cost me $9.50 yielded the following results:

Numerous foreign language stations

Numerous religious stations

English broadcasts (most of which came in great) from the following countries:

Canada US Cuba

Sweden Germany Chech Republic

Slovakia Bulgaria Hungary

Croatia Vatican City England

Netherlands Brussels Russia

Egypt China Taiwan

S. Korea Japan Vietnam

Thailand New Zealand Israel

Australia

Selectivity, friend or foe

These radios have rather broad selectivity. Surprisingly, this is not much of a problem when listening to a major broadcaster. But can make listening to a weaker station next to a powerhouse trying. The big plus with having a broader chuck of the radio spectrum is that listening to SW and MW (via headphones) actually sounds very pleasant indeed!

Sound Decisions

Overall these pocket sized radios produce pocket radio sound via their on-board speakers. A few of them can sound harsh. Often by using inexpensive stereo headphones the audio will improve to pleasant or even very pleasant. All of the radios accept stereo headphones, but the output is mono only.

Power to the processors!

Most of these radios have an ac adaptor port, but you probably won't use it. The majority of the radios run on 2 AA batteries, but one runs on 2 AAA cells. All in all, they should play a long time on batteries. If you are feeling energy conscious, go for rechargeable batteries and avoid the buzz that cheap wall warts generously give you.

Analog gone Wild

None of these radios use PLL for tuning. They all use tried and true analog tuning. This is an advantage for two reasons; you're not stuck with cheap PLL noise and your tuning is as fine as your fingers allow. In addition, some of the radios use a simple frequency counter to give you a digital display. These are of the 3 digit variety so 6.155 will actually appear as 6.15 or 6.16, still not too shabby. The digital display models also feature a digital clock that can turn on the radio giving you a simple “clock radio” function.

Whip it?

Some of these radios can handle a small (5-10 foot) wire antenna attached via an alligator clip to the whip antenna. Others overload with this and do better whipping it with their whips. Some might even need “whip reduction” at times to avoid outside MW and FM influences. Oddly, sometimes an extended whip or extra wire antenna negatively effects MW reception on some of the radios. Radios were rated using the configuration that worked best for them, whether it was a reduced whip or 10' of bell wire.

Birdies, Da-dits and other obnoxious whines and whistles

These are single conversion radios and as such they are more prone to obnoxious noises. Surprisingly, in most of them these “extras” are minor and not much of a bother. All of the radios have some problems with images and some pick up nasty MW and FM stations on the SW bands but many perform admirably, just don't expect them to be a Drake table top.

Where is “Inspector 37” when you need her?

My guess is, if the box looks like a radio when it comes off the assembly line it has passed QC…

Case One: RadioIntel reviewed Walgreen's (yes the drug store) LifeLong SW radio. They got a total dud. Controls need Hercules to move them and the overall reception was akin to trying to listen to a brick. Conversely, my LifeLong multi-band had some shortcomings, but preformed reasonably well.

Case Two: If you search for customer reviews of these radios you may find one review saying “Better than my Icom R71A” and the one right below it noting “Worst radio I ever used.”

The bottom line is you do take some risk when you buy these radios, if you buy local and get a dud you may consider exchanging it to see if the problem is poor design or bad QC.

Location, location, location

An expensive multi-band portable performs well in many different settings. How well these radios will work for you may be determined by where you use them.

City vs. Suburban

High rise vs. Single family dwelling

Next to a 50KW blowtorch vs. being in the middle of nowhere.

Example: One radio's FM couldn't deal with our local FM station but worked somewhat better at my office which was miles away.

Bare bones

With these radios you mostly get…radio. Some will give you limited accessories like ear buds. The radios themselves are very basic. When an extra feature is present I'll list it.

Only the purchase price, please:

I'm only listing purchase price, but all radios came to me for less than $20 total (including S/H). Shipping and handling is a huge variable and you may find a better deal. If you buy several items from the same company you may find that the S/H is the same as if you only bought one. Some companies will give coupons for free S/H or may offer free S/H if you buy a certain amount (say $25). If you buy local, there is no S/H and if you buy from certain places (like a VA store or BX) there is no tax. Shipping and handling added anywhere from zero to ten dollars to my purchases. You go tiger, find the best price!

QRP for SW listening?

When I was a grade school kid I found an old radio in the basement. That radio had a wooden case, big glowing tubes and a shortwave band. I spent many, many hours of delightful fun “discovering the world” on a piece of junk. After a while I built a SW radio and then, as finances allowed, I started buying them. The buying hasn't stopped in over 40 years later and I have to say that I have a lot of good SW radios ranging from table tops, Ham gear and wonderful portables. Yet, these cheap radios have added a new dimension of fun to my listening. With a cheap radio and a set of headphones I can sit in the same room with my wife and once again explore the world as I did when I was a kid. No high tech stuff, just a little radio and a steady thumb to tweak the tuning. I wouldn't call it the challenge of QRP rigs, but in principle it is very similar and a lot of fun.

So where do you find them?

These cheapo radios are found in the most unlikely places like your local hardware, drug or VA store. The internet is a fertile spot and who could forget EBay, the source of all radios that have yet to make their way stateside. Remember, that it may cost you more to send a radio back for exchange than what you purchased it for. Buying a $10-$20 radio can be risky business and should only be done by those Hams and SWLers who like to live “on the edge.”

Real Testing for Real People!

The question is, how do you test these radios? Certainly, if you compare them to a table top they are going to fail miserably, yet many of them really have merit. Instead, I thought I would try a different approach.

The testing lab consisted of my home which is roughly 35 miles west of Chicago in a low spot. Within 3-4 miles of my home are local broadcasters on 1280 and 1580 AM and 95.9 and 107.9 on FM. In addition there is a local college station on 89.1 and a citywide micro powered information station on 1610.

General radio performance for FM, MW and SW were based on a 5 star rating scale. One star basically means that that particular band is useless (or so difficult to use as to make it useless) in my humble opinion.

For MW and FM the 5 star standard was the Sony S10MK2. This AM/FM pocket radio sells for around $10 and does a decent job. On MW it is reasonably selective and sensitive as demonstrated by its ability to pick up a lot of out of state stations (no, it is not a Superadio). On FM it picks up Chicago stations well and it can tease a Chicago station out even when it is next to a local broadcaster.

For SW it was much harder to come up with a rating scheme. Overall, a high rating would mean that the radio was acceptably free from extraneous noises, or at least they didn't interfere with reception of international broadcasters. Could the radio reliably pick up major shortwave broadcasters? In addition, the ability to add a short wire without overloading would be a plus. Other factors included the accuracy of the dial (or digital display), extras (like a dial light) and the general pleasure factor… Did I like listening to the radio? Would I ever consider taking it as the ONLY radio on a trip? Was the sound nice via ear buds?

Some of the radios were also “tested” at my office which is further away from broadcasters and more RF shielded. In addition, a second sample of the Coby 12 band was tested, which performed identically to the first.

The roundup, listed worst to best

0x08 graphic

+

Rating: 8 (worst)

Model: jWin JX-M16

Price: $14.00

FM: 2 out of 5

MW: 2 out of 5

SW: 1 out of 5

Comments:

Cheap feel, retro-space age look, elevation tab on back, fully adjustable whip, LED AM FM and tuning indicator, includes LW, visual indicator for SW bands, Digital display with clock and wake to radio, Uses AAA batteries. Bizarre band choices (8.2-9.35 for 31m?), AM LED indicator is useless and so bright that it is annoying at night, super-broad selectivity on MW obliterates some local stations, ghosts of powerful Chicago stations present everywhere on MW dial, Ghosts of MW stations everywhere on SW bands and at times peaking louder than SW stations, a short wire overloads SW bands completely.

Thoughts:

Like most jWin products more thought went into the design of the case than in the workings of the radio. This one might perform better if you are in the middle of nowhere, but why bother.

Would I take this radio on vacation: NO

0x01 graphic

Rating: 7

Model: ECB 983

Price: $9.95

FM: 2 out of 5

MW: 3 out of 5

SW: 2 out of 5

Comments:

Cheap feel, antenna rotates along one axis, LEDs for tuning, AM, FM. Local/Dx switch, tuning knob instead of thumb wheel. Very harsh audio from speaker, headphone volume can go from soft to painful easily, Radio defaults to FM when powered on, big blobs of FM noise interferes with SW reception, short wire completely overloads SW. Dial so poorly calibrated that much of the lower broadcast frequencies are missing.

Thoughts:

Terrible speaker audio combined with ear shattering headphone volume automatically make this radio a no-go. Add to that mediocre performance.

Would I take this radio on vacation: NO

0x01 graphic

Rating: 6

Price: $9.50

Model: Coby CX-CB12

FM: 1 out of 5

MW: 3.5 out of 5

SW: 3 out of 5

Comments:

Solid feel, Tune LED, Volume and tuning on same said (convenient), knobs instead of thumbwheels, ear buds included, Visual indicators for bands, band spread bigger than most, antenna moves in all directions, LW, elevation tab and rubber feet on back, coat pocket size, numbers are dark grey on black making viewing more difficult than necessary, local FM station at 95.9 obliterated everything on the FM dial from WFMT at 98.7 to WONC at 89.1. FM worked better at my office which is further away from local broadcasters (but still not a star). Some FM interference on SW bands. Adding a short antenna also brings in some MW interference but it may be worth it as SW performance also improves. SW with whip antenna OK but nothing great. If the whip is raised when listening to MW the radio actually picks up RCI (China) around 1600on the dial, dial reasonably accurate.

Thoughts:

At a very cheap price this radio has a lot of going for it, however dismal FM performance makes it a no go. If you live far away from local broadcasters the radio would perform better. However, it would not be a travel radio. Many quality control issues noted when internet consumer reviews are reviewed.

Would I take this radio on vacation: NO

0x01 graphic

Rating: 5

Model: Bell and Howell 9 band

Price: 9.95

FM: 3 out of 5

MW: 4 out of 5

SW: 2.5 out of 5

Comments:

Cheap feel, somewhat harsh audio from speaker, somewhat touchy audio from headphones (it is easy to overshoot volume), AM FM and tuning LEDs, antenna moves in only one axis, has a tuning knob which is stiff, sensitivity seems somewhat less than others in this group when tuning SW bands, external short antenna overloads the radio and adds more unwanted FM and MW interference but may be worth it for the gain in sensitivity, local/dx switch

Thoughts:

I actually have had this radio the longest of the group (1year?) but I never use it. When I look objectively at how it performs its not that terrible, so why don't I use it? Possibly because it sounds harsh and feels cheap.

Would I take this radio on vacation: Only in a pinch

0x01 graphic

Rating: 4

Model: Walgreen's Lifelong World Band Radio

Price: $19.95

FM: 2 out of 5

MW: 2.5 out of 5

SW: 4.0 out of 5

Comments:

Cheap feel, AM, FM and tuning LEDs, radio defaults to FM when turned on, SW reception has minimal intrusion from local broadcasters, short wire overloads the radio but it is reasonably sensitive using only the whip, elevation tab on the back, audio from the speaker is mildly harsh, it is somewhat easy to overshoot volume using headphones, tiny slide rule dial, but it works, dial inaccurate by as much as 200+ kHz, battery compartment super tight.

Thoughts:

Although loaded with imperfections I still had fun using this radio. RadioIntel hated the Lifelong and our different experiences suggest QC issues. The good thing about this radio is that you get it at the local Walgreen Drug Store. You can easily exchange it if you get a dud or return it if you hate it.

Would I take this radio on a trip: Probably

0x01 graphic

Rating: 3

Model: Coby CX-CB91

Price: $9.90

FM: 3 out of 5

MW: 3 out of 5

SW: 4 out of 5

Comment: Somewhat solid feel, sound via speaker more pleasant than most others in this group, volume using headphones a bit touchy (you can overshoot), digital display with clock and radio on function, local/dx switch, antenna moves in all directions, strange band choices which eliminate parts of important bands like 31m and 25 m, actual frequency coverage is more generous than what is listed on the back of the radio, tuning LED, tuning knob instead of thumbwheel, Some blobs of FM interference on SW but these can be reduced/eliminated by shortening the whip, an external antenna generally overloads the radio. Very broad selectivity on MW which diminishes Dx'ing there, internal noise subtly heard on MW (LCD panel?), selectivity slightly wider on SW than with other radios of this group, comes with ear buds.

Thoughts:

Passport hated this radio but I think it has some merit. The combination of pleasant speaker audio and a digital display makes this a useable radio. FM interference blobs (which are controllable) and weird frequency coverage bring it down a notch.

Would I take this radio on vacation: Probably

0x01 graphic

Rating: 2

Model: jWin JX-M14

Price: $9.50

FM: 4 out of 5

MW: 4.5 out of 5

SW: 5 out of 5

Comments:

Solid feel, antenna rotates in all direction, elevation tab on the back, radio chops off the lower portion of international bands, audio more pleasant than others in this group using speaker, very pleasant using headphones, AM, FM and tuning LED, visual indicator of band selected, digital display with clock and radio on function, reasonably sensitive using whip antenna, handles a short wire well with the benefit of increased sensitivity, defaults to FM when turned on, on my radio the tuning thumbwheel was at an angle making tuning more difficult (QC issue).

Thoughts:

A radio that I have enjoyed playing with. Using headphones makes listening to a big international broadcaster a pleasure. It has proven to be a very good performer for the price and it has made me realize that even jWin can produce a good product on occasion.

Would I take this radio on vacation: YES

0x01 graphic

Rating: 1 winner!

Model: Degen DE205

Price: $9.95

FM: 3.5 out of 5

MW: 4.5 out of 5

SW: 5 out of 5

Comments:

Very solid feel, antenna comes out of the side of the radio which is odd, buttons and thumbwheels all work smoothly, volume and tuning on the same side of the radio making one handed operation easy, dial light, digital display with bigger numbers, clock with radio on function, sensitivity may be slightly less than some others in this group but handles a short wire antenna well with excellent gain in sensitivity, has a tab that you can insert to elevate radio, uses SW1 and SW 2 bands which cover more of the international broadcast spectrum than others, omits part of the MW X-band, FM band is expanded, no MW or FM interference noted on SW, very quiet on SW with less extra noises than others.

Thoughts:

The winner for all of the above reasons, but bring along a couple of yards of wire for an antenna boost.

Would I take this radio on vacation: YES

Final thoughts: In this group there are definitely radios that are painful to listen to but there are others that are welcome surprises. I really enjoyed the jWin JX-M14 and the Degen DE205 and would definitely feel comfortable taking them on a trip or giving them away as a gift (your mileage may vary). Yes, there are other sub $20 multi-bands but time and money will have to put that report on hold for now.

For more information on the jWin JX-M14, including a comparison with the Grundig Mini-World 100PE, see my Epinions review here:

For more information on the Coby CX-CB12 see my Epinions review here:

73's and happy listening!

Mike Kuna

K9UNA

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KG4RUL on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
What's next? A 20,000 word review on disposable paper cups?

Dennis KG4RUL
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by VE3HBB on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
That's what I like about this website: articles will always pull the dorks out of the woodwork. He's probably PO'ed because you got in there before he had a chance to do his writeup on paperclips!

Great article, OM.

Cheers

&

73

Charles VE3HBB
 
very thorough  
by KZ1X on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Mike, I was thinking about spending lunch money on one of these ... but did not want to waste the time to check them out as you have. It's not the $$ as it is the annoyance, and I already have two cheap radios that stink, so I know how that feels. You just saved me $85 and hours of time. Thanks. Now I just have to find where I can get one of these Degen little rigs.
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by WQ6F on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Very interesting and informative.....just ignore the cynics.
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by W2XS on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for looking at these cheapie radios. I have often had some of them in my hand while at the stores. I have had many portable SW radios (Sony 7600GR, Kenwood R11, etc.) and like the cheap ones to play with. The Grundig Mini 100PE ($30) is good on FM and SW but a bit insensitive on AM BCB. I recently bought a Degen 1103 ($44) but I don't like the sound of the audio.

I also bought a "re-conditioned" Sharper Image SN400 ($18) which is a decent digital radio with 30 memories and decent (so far) battery life. That one deserves a look as a candidate for an inexpensive small radio for vacation. The sensitivity on the AM BCB is surprisingly good and the sound through headphones is clear and distortion free.

The batteries tend to last a little longer on the analog radios but the digital ones don't drift and can store stations in memories.
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K8JDC on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Mike,

Thanks for the article. You did a good job with a nice level of detail and the photos were a nice touch and well-done. I'm amazed at the cynics on this site. I can't tell you how many times I have typed up a response to some forum topic and then ended up deleting my response without posting it because I didn't want to hear people criticize my post. The Golden Rule is a wonderful thing, but many people have opted to ignore it.

One suggestion: I was confused by your use of the word "Rating". When I saw that the first radio had received an 8 and the next radio was lower, I assumed you "rated" them on a 1-10 scale. But, I saw that you wrote "worst" next to the 8, which confused me because it had the highest "rating". I eventually figured out you were "ranking" them and not rating them numerically. Just a note for your next article.

73 Dave / K8JDC
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K3EY on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
by WQ6F on April 16, 2005
Very interesting and informative.....just ignore the cynics.

-------------------------------------------------


You're being kind and are a nice guy. I am not. The first two A-holes are exactly that, morons who think everyone that doesn't think like them should be exterminated.

I feel the time and effort that went into this article was worth the read and appreciate the info from a guy who like me loved radios all his life.

One doesn't need Einstein�s mind to realize why wars are fought when people of supposedly the same mind and interest trash each other. Like the hams proudly giving their calls while trashing the 11 meter gang acting like those individuals are subhuman when a good look into the mirror would reveal worse than the ones they trash, by far.
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by WX4O on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Very interesting and well thought out.
Might also check out the below URL.


http://www.radiointel.com/review-2005digital.htm
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K8MHZ on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Mike,

Well Done!! Thanks for the time and trouble. I have a little 10 dollar SW rig in one of my packs. I got it because it was cheap and would fit in the pack. I am going to get it out and see if it was featured. If not, I may just post it's performance here since the radio is readily available at stores like ABC Warehouse.

73

Mark K8MHZ
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by W1EH on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
When I lived in India, two years ago, one of the local malls offered a $5 shortwave radio. It covered MW, FM Broadcast, TV, and 4 SW bands! It was fun to use, as the sw tuning and grounding were highly dependent upon how the operator held the unit. You couldn't receive BBC on 15.310 MHz without grasping it a certain way and holding the unit at arms length! What a companion to have under the mosquito net!
73 de W1EH

 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KG6AMW on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Good article Mike. Shortwave listening led me back into ham radio 5 years ago. At that time I was using a Sony SWL7600 which is a good radio. Thanks for the interesting read.

KG6AMW
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by WI0T on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Good article. Thanks for the info on the < $20.00 radios.

Ignore the cynics.

Do you have any info/experience for radios < $100 ?

73, Rod WI0T
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KG4YJR on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
I enjoyed the article too. The cynics seem to only be happy when they get a "code vs. no code" article, nothing else.
The biggest piece of China made crap I bought and was very disappointed with was the Sangean ATS-909 in 2003, their flagship radio. Not only was the plastic cheap, warped, flimsy, and not fitted together well, it also had a piece of loose solder inside of it that rattled around like a BB. One knob was loose and wobbly while another was so tight I thought it would twist of the radio and to add to all that, the bottom was beveled, making it very easy to tip over and it was a very thin profile radio. The merchant said that they were getting more and more complaints against Sangean about their quality and gave me a full refund. In fairness I've got a Sangean ATS-818 that's about five years old and it's rock solid.

73
Dave
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K1CJS on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article, Mike. Very informative. I've been toying with the idea of picking one of these 'cheapies' up, you've just helped me decide which one. Thanks!
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KG6WLS on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Good article. Those that are interested SWL's should also look in to getting a copy of Passport to World Band Radio. May not find a $20 portable radio in their review section though.
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by N2UBQ on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Another 'thank you' for an informative article. A friend from work asked me just this week about a cheap SWL rig. He knows I have an interest but the last time I bought a radio that was less than $100 was 20 years ago...I have no experience in entry level sets now. Your information will be very helpful to him.

As for the whiners and negative comments, either STFU or write something interesting yourself. If it doesn't interest you move on.
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by X-WB1AUW on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
"Where's the beef!?"

An article with no complaints in it? on eHam?

Thanks!
73
Bob
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by W4JLE on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Andy Roonie mode on:

Didja ever notice that the sophomoric remarks usually come from folks who have contributed nothing?
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by OBSERVER11 on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
NICE JOB there Mike. I have often wondered about these el-cheapo SW receivers and your fine writting has answered a lot of questions.

While in the Mall last week, I stopped in The Sharper Image store and looked at the reeivers there... I was NOT impressed, none received WWV... ok, an unfair comparason, I was using the stock whip, inside a building, to listen to a powerful station on a clear channel. nada...
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K8DXX on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
About a year ago, I picked up a Degen 1102 for $56 delivered. It is probably the next level above what you described herein but in the same ballpark. It has digital readout, clock and all kinds of (sometimes annoying) microprocessor functions, 99 memories, a BFO for SSB/CW. It came with 3 AA NiMH batteries, charger for 220V and a 220/110 adapter... quite a huge dual wall wart for such a small radio). Anyway, it copies SSB and CW easily. It's bandpass controls (narrow/wide in both IF and audio... two controls) are moderately effective but do improve response on SSB. Stability is pretty good. So far, synth noise hasn't been a real problem.

Your philosophy about cheap SW portables is about like mine. If they break, are stolen or get lost, no big deal. I enjoy mine!

Bill / K8DXX
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by W5EEX on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Hey thanks for the article and the work you put into it.I am not looking for a low end radio, but I read it and found it to be interesting and well thought out. Just ignore the negative responses...they probably can't read anyway.....and only know how to throw in their negative
$0.02 worth....which is not even worth that much in today's economy .....hi hi.
73
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by N9VKC on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Great Article Mike,

I never thought of picking up one of these ultra cheap radios till I read your article. I might do just that now.

73's

n9vkc
 
Very nice. Thanks.  
by NE1RD on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you for the article. It was a very nice diversion from the usual
fare, yet very much on-topic!

I recently bought a little Grundig MINI300 RED Pocket AM/FM/SW Radio
http://www.shortwavestore.com/sws/product.php?productid=511&cat=0&page=1
while on vacation. I blew about double what you've shown but the
idea was the same: find a little fellow you can toss in the suitcase
while traveling.

I guess if there was one thing I'd look for in a cheapie radio would
be the ability to receive CW so I could use it as the receiver for one
of my <$20 QRP transmitters (Pixie, TinyTornado, RockMite, etc.)
It would be nice not to be rock-bound on receive.

Thanks again!

-- Scott (NE1RD)
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by GHOSTRIDERHF on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
I am surprised that you did not check the Tecsun R-333.

A much better radio then any of these for only a few extra dollars is the Tecsun R-333.

It is the best for under 20.00 general around-the-house use by far. It gets good reception and has the biggest, most powerful sound. Its 3 D cells should last a very long time. This radio is labeled in Chinese, but the few controls are quickly figured out with a few moments use.

It also has a Tune LED which is marginally useful, and a separate Fine Tune control which has limited effect on AM but is essential on SW.

This radio's gray case with rounded corners looks more like a typical AM/FM portable from the 80's than any of the other sets, but what it lacks in high tech appeal it makes up for in a high performance versus price ratio.

A comfortable folding handle is also a nice touch. No Stereo FM. I used the R-333 for a week in place of my trusty Grundig S350 and didn't feel particularly short changed.

It didn't match the S350 overall but still I was able to listen to most of what I'm accustomed to hearing. You could do a lot worse than the R-333.

 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by N2OBM on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Well....

The best 'cheapo' radio I ever had was a $100 GIFT from my Grandmother. Bless her...a READERS DIGEST AM/FM/SW CASSETTE PLAYER/RECORDER. This thing was before its' time (197x). A real signal/record audio meter; recorder would take audio off the radio (any mode/band) or from the supplied mike. It had audio IN/OUT at line level, separate TREBLE and BASS controls. ATT switch for AM/SW. I think SW covered from about 5-23mhz. BFO was touchy. Damn what happened to that radio? I can't remember....but I miss it.

Good article..73,
Trent
 
Radio Shack Dx 392  
by G3SEA on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!

Five years ago I bought one of these ( aka Sangean 818ACS ) for $89.99 closeout ( retail around $230 ).

With an 8 ft piece of indoor wire I have heard 270 countries ( the majority on CW )including the recent FT5 Dxpedition.

This type of rx has a relatively sensitive front end that will overload on anything more than 20-40 ft of wire.

While definitely a low end rx it shows what can be done when you know how,when and where :)

73 & Aloha :)

KH6/G3SEA
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by VE3XDB on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
To Rod WI0T and others,

If you are looking for a decent receiver for under $100, try the Kaito KA1102. It's a double conversion receiver with two bandwidths, and also received SSB and CW transmissions. The Bass Boost works well on FM. It's very small, so the speaker is also small. The audio isn't great, but I had an old Realistic outboard speaker that improves the audio.

Here is the link to the eHam.net reviews for the KA1102:

http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/4045

I understand that there are a couple of other Kaito offerings that provide good value and decent performance. However, I have not tried any of them.

There is another receiver that goes for under $100 that one might consider, with some hesitation. The Grundig S350 has great audio, treble and bass controls, two bandwidths, is easy to use, but doesn't have much else going for it. It's drifty, uses analog tuning, is a single conversion receiver, and has no memory or tuning aids. If you want one, I'll sell it to you cheap!

Here is the link to the eHam.net reviews for the S350:

http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/3112

Good luck,

Doug Behl VE3XDB
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by W3DCG on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
More pictures! Cool! Never mind bandwidth, the pictures are worth it. Kind of scary what is available for 20 bux. I had no idea. I found this article to be appealing.
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by GHOSTRIDERHF on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!




Surprised he chose the Degen DE205 as a favorite.


It truly is a dog....



 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by AH6GI on April 16, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the review Mike. I bought a cheapie, a Kaito (?) last year and was disappointed. If I could find the Digen, I'd give it a try.

Hope you do a review of the under $100 radios some time.
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by NE1RD on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
"...as for the first couple of NERDS with negatives comments..."

Um. I think you mean LIDS. Nerds are OK! <grin>

-- Scott (NE1RD)

ps Yes. NE1RD. Courtesy of the vanity call sign program. :-)
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K9ZF on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Contrary to the "nay-sayers" I enjoyed your article! The timing is impeccable!! You see I recently had a young fellow [10 year old] come over that was very interested in my radio station. He was really fascinated by all the knobs and buttons, and was impressed with some of the foreign stations on the HF bands. So I've been searching for an affordable SW rig to give him as a gift. And who knows, maybe one day soon he would like a copy of "Now You're Talking" or the modern equivalent.

So I really appreciate your article and am now going to start looking for one of the Degen units:-) And may pick up a few to have on hand in case I have more interested guests...

I also might add one more review: I have an old MFJ SW receiver that was probably in that price category. It works OK, but is a real pain to use. The band displays are so confusing that even an experience radio operator can't figure out what frequency you are listening too... So even though it does work fairly well [I didn't review it with the accuracy that you have], it was awkward to use. I would not recommend it.

73
and thanks for your reviews,
Dan

--
K9ZF /R no budget Rover ***QRP-l #1269
Check out the Rover Resource Page at: <http://www.qsl.net/n9rla>
List Administrator for: InHam+grid-loc+ham-books
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K9FV on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
I think this is the first time I've read an article that only had one negative comment - and that was from Dennis KG4RUL.

That is good. Just too much negative remarks and snide comments on eham.

Ken H>
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K4RAF on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
I think they saw the word "attack" & ran out of chain on their collars. Ignore them for they have not a clue...

I find this article interesting, informative & offered a true "buyer beware" quality not even available through online shortwave sites.

Thank you for taking the time & paying the money to prevent us from buying "dogs". Shortwave is what got me into ham radio. I started listening 32 years ago as a kid. I often take a portable to the lake. I might be inclined to take one of these Degens & preserve my many Sony portables which I treasure. The Sony SW-20 is the neatest portable ever offered but cost $100. Times have changed...
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by WA0ZZG on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
After reading your article, I spotted the Walgreen's
radio in their store. Got it. You are right about
your review. It still is a fun little radio. And
no need to order it.
Dave
WA0ZZG
 
Interesting Response Ratio...  
by KC8ZJD on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Amazing how the negative comments were added so quickly, yet all the real follow-up is positive. Guess that's the result of no real life, too much time on the internet, and an overall poor attitude.

As for the rest of us... I too appreciated the time spent on the article. Even with no real interest in purchasing one of these fellows, it was an informative read that was well-written and will be a useful reference for some time to come for lots of folks.

Two thumbs up for a worthwhile effort and giving something back!

73's!
 
RE: Interesting Response Ratio...  
by GHOSTRIDERHF on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
"yet all the real follow-up is positive. Guess that's the result of no real life, too much time on the internet, and an overall poor attitude."

So your saying that folks with the positive followups have no real life???

LOL
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by VE3XDB on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
FYI, in case some of you might not know it, Degen and Kaito are the same manufacturer, even sharing the same model numbers. (DE1102 vs. KA1102). Beyond that, they are the same radios, although I read in Passport that there may be an issue with the power supply provided by some of the Degen models. Kaito is more widely distributed in North America.

Kaito reminds me of a character in the Pink Pather movies....

Best regards,

Doug Behl VE3XDB
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K5RAN on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
RE: Degen DE205

read the review. Looked on the net - 5 minutes found one and ordered one 9.95 + 7.00 shipping

If people are still commenting on this one a week from now, I'll give a report. I started on a 1947 Westinghouse radio in my parents house as a child and heard Roger Bannister be the 1st to make his below 4 minute mile. after that I was hooked.

Dick, K5RAN
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by GHOSTRIDERHF on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Before you run out and buy this DEGEN dog you need to read the review at

http://www.radiointel.com/review-2005digital.htm
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by N4KZ on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
I enjoyed this review. I am wondering what's the least expensive portable SW radio with a BFO?

73, N4KZ
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by N1KGH on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
I have the Jwin MX-14 and I love it! I won't use a silde rule display if I can help it since my eyes are poor, so I haven't tried the Walgreens. It's a relative dog on mediumwave, which I find a slight disappointment when I want to listen to Mets games on 660, from the Boston area. (The best cheap radio I have used for mediumwave was the Sony AM/FM/TV/weather armband radio. Great AM frontend!)

I'm smiling at the comments on the 909, because I own one! It's time for a technology refresh, but I'm afraid DRM might kill shortwave like IBOC may do to MW
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KX4TT on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
There is a E-bay store that sells several of these radios - I'm ordering a couple for friends!!

73 de N4MVL Lee
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by N0TONE on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Mike nice article.

About 15 years ago, I bought a Sony ICF series SW radio. Barly larger than a pack of playing cards, and had some seven bands on it. Works extremely well, doesn't drift. No VFO, but then I only paid $35 for it. I saw the same model about a year ago, during a trip to Japan - they still make it - and it was selling for the US equivalent of about $40.

Now, here's the real challenge - write an article about multiband HF transceivers under $50!

AM
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by W6PMR on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Good article. First, I will not buy anything that uses AAA's for the power source, twice as exspensive and half the life of AA's AND you cant find them when you need them!
Second. As a Ham, I NEED a BFO. If it does not receieve SSB/CW I dont want it.
And lastly, double conversion, (at least) is also a must. I know that the name of this article's game is real cheap new radio's BUT, you can find OK stuff out there used for next to nothing now.
I have picked up SW radio's with the above features at my local flea market for $5:00 ! The stuffs out there gals/guys.
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by NS6Y_ on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
I think this was a good, and helpful, article! What if you want to give a 10-year old a radio to listen to? What if you want stocking stuffers for family or work? What if, as you said, you want something cheap for a trip and who cares if you lose it, or if you feel like giving it to a "local" in a foreign land before you leave, just to be nice? I find it intrigueing that there are these little radios out there, I too thought you had to spend at least $100 to get a useable shortwave set.
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by NS6Y_ on April 17, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
I hate to mention 'em but Ten-Tec makes a BFO kit that's like $10, really simple circuit so it's probably as good as the corresponding MFJ kit anyway, heck it probably IS the MFJ kit, but anyway

Here's how you use it: You build it, then take a wire from the output and put a few turns of it around your SW rcvr antenna. Tune the BFO so you get that "quieting" sound and it's on tune, then listen to CW and SSB with ease. I think the kit's pretty small, it's a circuit board that you can stick in any box.
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KA4KOE on April 18, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Lets not forget the old Hallicrafters rigs, such as the S-38s and S-120s, or National SW-54s of the world. OR better get, get a Zenith Transoceanic 600 series.
If you don't mind being near an outlet then these oldies offer decent performance. Paid less than 100 bux for the Zenith.
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KC7JDS on April 18, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Nicely done, even if subjective. I was going to ask about a further article on SW radios with BFO, but I think that was answered by a couple of earlier replies (adding a BFO kit). But if you did decide to do a second (or third...) article, I'm sure that the price range would have to be extended upward.
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KC0SHZ on April 18, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting review.

I have an 8 year old niece that is interested in technology and such. Would any of these be OK for a gift to a child?
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by WB2WIK on April 18, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article.

I'm not a shortwave listener at all, so I value "fidelity" probably above all other virtues in portable radios of any sort, and I must say it's really hard to beat my 1950-ish vintage Zenith Transoceanic with its enormous speaker and wooden enclosure.

Of course, it can be checked as baggage on a trip, because I'm sure not gonna carry it!

WB2WIK/6
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KC0KBH on April 18, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Did you encounter any engrish in the instruction manuals? ;)

Also, my first SW receiver was a Grundig Mini World 100 PE. $20 new on Ebay 4 years ago. Still have the thing. Pretty dang good for the price.
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KB7LYM on April 18, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
All I see is crappo ! Crappo is that sticky stuff you step in when visiting a Hog farm. Cheap radio are not made in the US. In matter of fact the US is making nothing and the few items that they make are 99 % from overseas. We are a nation of softies. Fast food, Big screen TV's, Computers, etc. We wear Korean suits.Polish shoes,Tawain underwear and the toiletpaper is made in China from Canadian wood. All we do is buy and but more. A 20.00 dollar radio is not cheap where it is made. In China 20 bucks will fill your ricebowl for 5 moths. Here 20 bucks will get you a 2 Bigmacs and a Latte from Starbuck minus tip.
Your report is good enough to clean the sticky crappo of my Polish made Alligator shoes.
Sold by Kwarskies Cheap Shoes for 19.99 and a pair of Japanese socks as a bonus
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KQ6EA on April 18, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for a well-thought, humorous look at radios most of us would only use to prop a window open with. I'm surprised that some of these little things work as well as they do.
And just ignore the wanna-bees.
73, Jim
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by VE3HBB on April 18, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
For those who accused me of being a "cynic" and an "A-Hole" I would reply that I very much enjoyed the article. Chill out folks. A little humour will not go amiss in these frantic times.

Charles VE3HBB
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by W4JLE on April 18, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
We all know Canadians have no sense of humor, it would be politically incorrect. Laughing at anyone or anything is demeaning toward the brunt of the humor and is to be abhored. That is why all your comedians are now expats in the US. :>)
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by N3AIU on April 18, 2005 Mail this to a friend!

An excellent and well thought out article, Mike.

73, Nick N3AIU
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KB3LZZ on April 18, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
thanks Mike for the info and your time 73 KB3LZZ MIKE
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by N9LIG on April 18, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Mike
Thanks for taking the time to look into these.I now have a place to start when buying one.

73

Mike
N9LIG
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by VE3RPF on April 18, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
I enjoyed reading the article. How do they do it for so cheap is amazing. See the following link for more DEGEN radios and other small SW receivers.

http://www.radiointel.com/review-degende1102.htm

Regards,
Robert VE3RPF
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by AA3WS on April 19, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Great Article!!!
I bought two for the price of one of the jWin JX-M14 radios from Amazon. The price of two radios is just over $25.00. No shipping fee when you are over $25.00.
Hence, two for the price of one.
Thanks,
AA3WS
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by NS6Y_ on April 19, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
455 kHz oscillators are not that hard to build, and the Ten-Wreck kit is HUGE, it should be possible to build a nice external bfo small enough to fit in an altoids box with battery. Good project for Elecracft so unlike Ten-Wreck you can get American made and not utter junk, or for any savvy inventer/builder out there.
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by N0IU on April 19, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
VE3RPF wrote, "How do they do it for so cheap is amazing."

Other than the QC issues mentioned combined with buying parts with perhaps a wider tolerance level than one would find in an Icom 7800, there is also little to no marketing costs. They don't have full color multi-page ads in QST and the other magazines. We all like seeing the huge booths for the major manufacturers at Dayton, but all of those costs are passed along to the folks who buy the gear.

I wonder what percentage of the selling price of any piece of gear is actually related to the manufacturing cost and how much is marketing?

It is the same reason drugs are so expensive here. A huge chunk of the cost of the drugs are due to the fact that the drug companies spend billions romancing doctors to prescribe their stuff. And you think those ads for all those drugs you see on TV, some of which you never even know what they do, are cheap? I didn't mean to get up on a soapbox on this topic, but it is just another example of how marketing costs are passed along to the consumer.
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K3UOD on April 19, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Great article. It's hard to test radios in a store because of all the RFI (flourescent lights, computers, etc.).

I carry a Grundig YB400pe when I travel overseas. It's a great radio, but I would be very upset if it got lost/stolen/damaged. One of these cheapies might be a good investment; but, I think that I'm spoiled by the YB.

Note: Any of these <$20 radios would be a stellar performer if you connected it to a fan dipole.

Hi! Hi!

73, Jerry
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K1DX on April 19, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Good evaluation Mike! These cheap portables are fun gadgets to take on a trip for casual SWLing. I've had the Bell & Howell for about a year. It's OK as long as you don't expect too much from it. I's no R8! But for the $10 I paid for it, it works quite well, giving a good choice of SW broadcast stns day or night.
I have no interest in having a BFO in such a rx. Lately, I've used a VX-2R to double as a handheld and a nifty SW rx. I like the LCD freq readout accuracy that the B&H doesn't give, but the LCD models you list would probably be quite satisfactory. In any event, any of these cheap SWL rx will give lots of enjoyment w/o breaking the bank. Just remember to bring a 6 ft hank of wire to extend the antenna as the supplied monopole doesn't capture much signal. Enjoy!
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K9UNA on April 19, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
To all... thanks for all of the comments, I enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed researching and writing about the above radios. I am cool with Dennis KG4RUL's comments, if everyone thought like me; it would be a pretty boring world. I just hope Eham doesn't read his comment and make me pay back the big advance that they gave me to write the article ;-) When I was a kid I would save my pennies to buy a new radio (sometimes a pocket AM model) much to the confusion of my Dad who would typically comment, "you only have two ears!" He didn't get it either. I'm a chronic comparer; I regularly read and renew my subscription to Consumer Reports despite the fact that my ancient washer and dryer keep chugging along (knock wood).

I thought I would add another thought or two. A number of you mentioned some other great cheap radios like the Grundig Mini 300 and the Tecsun R333. There are certainly a ton of good cheap radios out there. I was tempted to include those two plus some others in my review, but it became difficult to compare a $10 radio with one for $30 (or beyond).

I didn't know that you could get an external BFO kit that would work with a portable radio, thanks for the info!

For those of you interested in an inexpensive portable with SSB the only sub-$100 choices that I'm aware of are the Degen./Kaito models 1102 and 1103 and a refurb Grundig Yacht boy 400. There may be others, but these work pretty well (and are a lot better than a $10 radio).

Lastly, this has been a great forum. For years I had to hide my "radio addiction." People didn't get it. How great it is to share some of my nerdiness with you all and be embraced for it.
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KD1XH on April 19, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
I bought a Radio Shack DX-396 for $5 from a closeout bin a few years ago. It came from a store that had closed and another store had some items from it to dispose of. How does it compare to the regular cheapies?

Coverage:

2300-21850kHz continuous (band select for 120,90,75,60,49,41,31,25,22,19,16,13m)SW

530-1710 MW
87.5-108.0 FM
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by NN6EE on April 19, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
The "Cheap Radio" review was great but I'm more into to quality and versatility so I did'nt mind spending the $300 extra to buy a fantastic portable called the "Sony SW-77"!!!

When you want the BEST it'll cost you SURE!!!

But overall it's well worth the investment!!!

Jim/ee
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by AE4X on April 19, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Nice write-up. Very informative. You clearly took a lot of time here to evaluate these models.
Great job. Just wanted to pass that along.

73!
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by AI4IT on April 19, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
It never occurred to me that I'd lost my Deluxe Radio Shack Super ShortWave Radio until my daughter found it in the next-door neighbor's garage that was accidently left open. At any rate, it looks just like it did when I suppose I bought as best as I can recall. I just can't recall. Anyhow, the point is that I can pick up Paris, Versailles, and other French DX stations. I think it's so cool that they've opted to use "same-name" cities located within Kentucky to broadcast in a repeater fashion the Foreign Broadcasts! They've even adapted the lingua franca to sound kind of bucolic or more succinctly, like rednecks.

Pretty clever Foreigner Station OPS no doubt! Just about had me fooled. But I'm more smater than the most bestest of them! I like english. Pardon?
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K7VO on April 19, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Good article.

I bought a brand new Anjan A-1004 directly from Hong Kong on eBay. The enterprising Chinese gentleman in Shanghai who runs the auctions has over 1,100 positive feedback points and with good reason.

I spent $19.90 plus $9 shipping for the radio. It comes with a suede case and a wire antenna to clip onto the whip. It works incredibly well -- surprisingly good sensitivity and audio.

I chose this model because it weighs 4.6 oz, the lightest small, inexpensive portable I could find. It has a digital display but it's just a frequency counter. It really is analog tuning. The digital display is well worthwhile as it makes it oh so much easier to find a station that the old fashioned slide rule dial a lot of inexpensive shortwave radios have. I had no problem dialing up Kol Israel, for example. I figure that's the reason this radio is $20 instead of $10.

Oh, it also has a digital clock function with a backlight and serves as a very good travel alarm clock.

There is nothing wrong with some of today's cheap portables.

73,
Caity
K7VO/2 (on business in NJ)
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K7VO on April 19, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Good article.

I bought a brand new Anjan A-1004 directly from Hong Kong on eBay. The enterprising Chinese gentleman in Shanghai who runs the auctions has over 1,100 positive feedback points and with good reason.

I spent $19.90 plus $9 shipping for the radio. It comes with a suede case and a wire antenna to clip onto the whip. It works incredibly well -- surprisingly good sensitivity and audio.

I chose this model because it weighs 4.6 oz, the lightest small, inexpensive portable I could find. It has a digital display but it's just a frequency counter. It really is analog tuning. The digital display is well worthwhile as it makes it oh so much easier to find a station that the old fashioned slide rule dial a lot of inexpensive shortwave radios have. I had no problem dialing up Kol Israel, for example. I figure that's the reason this radio is $20 instead of $10.

Oh, it also has a digital clock function with a backlight and serves as a very good travel alarm clock.

There is nothing wrong with some of today's cheap portables.

73,
Caity
K7VO/2 (on business in NJ)
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by NS6Y_ on April 19, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
You can make a loop antenna that fits on the SMA connector on the VX-2R, VX-6 etc and that will make it recieve SW a lot better, you need to hold the loop next to something metal to pick up signals well, hold it next to a water pipe etc and you'll be amazed how that CW etc comes in.

It doesn't take a large loop or anything, 4 of 5 inch diameter will do it, it's built just like the "coupling loop" that some loop ant. designs use inside the larger loop.
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KC5SAS on April 20, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Wow. Great article. I had seen the cheap bubble pack SW radios at Walgreens and was curious about how well they worked. I see them in your review with a Rating of 4 so I guess that answers my questions. Thanks for a entertaining review.
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KE4SKY on April 20, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
I picked up a couple of the cheap Bell & Howell radios for the home emergency kit and for the office shelter-in-place supplies. I've used both of them quite alot, although mostly for strong local AM stations. I have the station adjustments taped to the strongest local station which provides EAS alerts during emergencies, so that you can turn it on in the dark, get instant news or information and not have to fiddle with the dial.

There is a place for these things, and everyone in the family should have their own, to be kept in their personal bug-out bag with essential evacuation supplies.

http://www.vaemergency.com/library/famdis.cfm
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KF4TZK on April 20, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks so much for the article. You've just helped me pick a Father's day gift--and saved me a lot of $$$!

Cheers & 73,
Thomas
KF4TZK
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K8DXX on April 20, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Agree. Kaito 1102 is virtually identical to the Degen DE 1102. When I bought my Degen, the Kaito was roughly 50% more expensive but came with a 1 year warranty (which I didn't want to pay for). I figured that postage to and from "the factory" would cost more than a new radio.

Bill / K8DXX
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by N0AH on April 21, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Best presentation I have ever noted on Eham. But you took my line of Friend or Foe. I am sending you a trademake violation invoice of $12,094,175.07 Euro's
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K4PFH on April 21, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Good article Mike. Thanks for the info. K4PFH/Ricardo
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KI4AGL on April 22, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Good article.
What is your opinion on opening up one of these radios and trying to tune the IF or any other parts to make
it more sensitive or smaller pass band on the SW bands?
TIA, 73s, Ed
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by N2NH on April 22, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Excellent article. I didn't realize that there were SW radios that were this inexpensive. They're good to have in a pinch. Based on what you wrote, I'll probably take one of these on my next vacation (or walk in the park).
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by G4REK on April 23, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Hi there,
You left out a really superb radio that only costs 24 pounds over here and even less on your side,
its the Eton mini 300 receiver, 7 shortwave. fm. am.
believe it or not its got good selectivity on sw bands. the best small potable that i've owned..a really good looker as well...check out the owners forum..........

Jim..................
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by WB4YFZ on April 23, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Good article, Mike. I have a jWin JX-M14 and agree with your review. I added a BFO made with junkbox parts(1 transistor, old 455 khz IF out of old AM receiver
,etc.). Works surprisingly well on 40M ssb and cw. Digital display is dead on freq. with WWV.

For those wanting a built in BFO, expect to pay at least $100. For those just wanting to check out the SW bands without spending a lot, these little cheap portables are great.

73

Bruce WB4YFZ

 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by W2HP on April 23, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Hello All. You rate the worst portables. How about the best. 1. Sony 2010. 2. Panasonic RF-B65 3. Degen/Kaito 1102 and 1103. The sony is legondary good. The Panasonic is 1/3 the size and excellent. The Kaito and Degen 1102 and 1103 are tiny Chineese units and are nice units. Make a radio with (kiwa) 3Khz bandwidth and a good agc and great sensitivity and you got the huge sony 2010. Too bad its so big! Maybe a wrist watch radio next year? Pete W2HP
 
Cheap Radio for receiving SSB/CW  
by W5ESE on April 23, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
For anyone wanting something inexpensive for SSB/CW,
I recommend the Ten-Tec TKIT 1056 Direct Conversion
Receiver. It comes as a board kit (you must supply
knobs, connectors, and case). It is supplied with
all the parts needed to outfit it for any single
band (160, 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12 or 10 meters).
I built mine for 40 meters. It has coarse and fine
tuning, a built-in active bandwidth filter in the
audio section, has an audio amp ic that can drive
a 5-6" speaker, and an output for stereo "walkman"
type headphones. It's $32.

Scott
W5ESE
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KA5S on April 25, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Nice work, Mike,

I picked up a "Grundig" Mini-100PE - analog tuning, double conversion(!) AM/FM and SW1-6 -- for $15 on EBay. Got it to show one doesn't need a "sophisticated" radio for BPL interference [:-(] or tracking other noise down. The darned thing is what the 1970 SW portables should have been. Drifts a bit, but selective and has decent SW bandspread. Of course I have more expensive SW and SW-capable portable receivers but this one gets the "civilians" oooh-ing and aah-ing when I turn it on and voila! there's Australia. They can get it at Radio Shack(R) too. Recruiting, you know?

Happy hunting.

Cortland
KA5S
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K1WCC on April 26, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
This article was worth reading and well done. At a hamfest last year, I bought, for $25.00, a Kaito KA-007 portable. This little rig has dynamo, solar, battery and a.c. options for power. All of the power options work. Most of the time, I use it on batteries. We had an after Christmas blizzard last year and lost power for almost 3 days. I dug this radio out and it provided news and entertainment for my XYL and myself as we played scrabble and just sat around and listened to local and SW stations. I'm glad I have it, and will never have to worry if there is power to run it-there always will be.
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KB2HSH on April 26, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
GREAT ARTICLE! Don't listen to the "pros", Mike. These are the same types of people that once told me that QRP doesn't work (even though I have WAS AND QRP DXCC), microwave is only good around town, and I would NEVER be happy with ladder line for a feeder (even though I used coax MANY years ago, and would never go back). Long before I had my license, I was given a Radio Shack Science Fair radio kit, that I vaguely remember my mother paying $12.95 for. It sure wasn't sensitve, but the shortwave stations WERE there. And in this economy (thanks to the Republican enemies amongst us), not many of us can afford a brand spankin new Grundig. So, this article was very timely, indeed. I like it so much, that I found the first radio mentioned for $8.91 online. It'll be here Saturday.

If all you want is some CASUAL shortwave listening, a disposable portable can't be beat. Thanks again!


John
KB2HSH
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by G1RHV on April 26, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
When I was a kid, any radio was better than no radio. I was obsessed with surfing the medium waves in search of dx stations and unusual signals. A two band, medium and long wave receiver was even better! VHF was normally reserved for grown ups and short wave was something I dreamed about.

Much as I have enjoyed using professional receivers, there is no way I'm going to lug a boat anchor on a camping trip.

The thrill of pulling in dx on a cheap portable or home brew receiver is often underestimated.
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by WALLY on April 27, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
I liked the topic and the information. Dont care for the negativity, but then again this is still America. I will stick with the new VX6R due at the end of this week. Sure I will cry alot more if it gets lost, than the guy who loses his 10.00 SW radio, but I will have a whole lot more fun with it until then...:-)
 
RE: Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by AL2I on June 2, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
SWLing is what started it for me. Thank you for your well-written, thoughtful article Mike.

73,
Dave/al2i
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by KG6WLV on January 15, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
This was a fun post. I had no idea there were portables as cheap as those you referenced, and it's interesting to read what they can do.
My own small portable is a Radio Shack DX-375. This is a very fine, discontinued model, which was available for around $70 when on sale. About the size of a paperback book, it has good audio, very good sensitivity, good selectivity and image rejection. Also features stereo FM at the headphone jack, and runs on 2 C cells. Has superb battery life, DX/Local switch, and narrow/wide selectivity (probably more like AF filtering rather than two different IF passbands). Two provisos: These radios are made in China and there is some variation from QC issues. Also, be sure to tighten the whip antenna screw periodically!
Passport to World Band Radio is a great source for portable reviews, but generally they dislike cheaper portables such as the ones referenced above. I, like many here, am an inveterate radio fiddler, and am always curious about any radio in any price range.
VERY important to point out: Shortwave signals on the West Coast are generally weaker than those east of the Rockies, and a radio that works well back east might be more of dud out here in California.
 
Attack of the Super Cheap Portables  
by K8AG on April 19, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
These kinds of radios have been a significant expense over the years, particularly because you can't try them without opening the bubble pack.

Good article. I have recently been considering just such a purchase. Now I know what to look for.

Thanks es 73,

JP, K8AG
 
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