“Transistor radio” bargain of the decade – _some_ good stuff comes out of China.

Submitted: Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 17:54
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After 15 years my Sony SW7600 radio had given its all and it was time to buy a new one. I discovered this on my last bush trip when the car radio provided better FM reception than the Sony :( Components age and drift; we all wear out eventually.

Knowing a bit about electronics I was well aware that if you want a _quality_ “Short Wave” radio you have to pay the money so I was prepared to spend $300 to $500 on another Sony, Grundig or Roberts etc.

A few days after arriving home I started the task of buying a new radio by having a look on E-bay to see if anyone was discounting the above brands – not really, was the answer however what I did find was the Degen DE1103 at about A$90 including postage – “another rubbish Chinese copy I expect” was my response… ‘till I decided to take a look at eHam….

eHam (http://www.eham.net/) is a website for Amateur Radio operators and has an equipment review section where ordinary users of radio related products post their personal impressions of various products. To my considerable surprise the Degen DE1103 was listed there and received a rating of 4.7 out of 5 from 44 separate reviews!

For $90…? worth the risk… it arrived today and out-performs my 30 year old National Panasonic RF1110LBE in both sensitivity and selectivity on FM, AM and SSB. It has 255 memories (listed in hex!!! on the display :) and is simply an outstanding piece of kit for $90.

If you are in the market for a serious radio receiver which will enable you to listen to ABC et al (AM and FM), short wave and VKS737 (SSB) about as far bush as possible without going to a quality Amateur rig and serious antenna you cannot go past the Degen DE1103. Search E-bay for “DE1103” and you’ll find plenty of sellers.

Mike Harding

mike_harding@fastmail.fm
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Reply By: Member - joc45 (WA) - Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 18:30

Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 18:30
Hi Mike,
sounds a good deal!
I used to use my Sony 7600 on my Oz travels, but since I upgraded my HF from an old Codan 7727 to a programmable HF, I tend to use that now for listening to Radio Oz. (only like to catch up with ABC and Radio Oz programs on my travels, so they're all programmed in).
What I really missed was when the ABC shut down VLW/X in Perth in the early 90's. This station used to hammer out 50kw of ABC regional program, beamed right up into the NW, and during the day any crummy old shortwave radio would pull it in on 15MHz in the Kimberleys like you were parked in the metro area. Sadly, they couldn't get spares for it any more and decided there was no further need for it, so it was junked.
The Series I GU Patrol has a shortwave band also on its factory CD/radio, but it's a bit deaf, but no worse than the Sony.
cheers,
Gerry
AnswerID: 300999

Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 19:01

Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 19:01
Hi Gerry

In many areas the ABC have relayed FM coverage of the major stations and if you have a good FM radio (and, ideally, a bit of height) it's often possible to pick up these local transmitters from a considerable distance. In any event for $90 it's hard to go past it - I enjoy listening to the radio in my swag as I fall asleep - a bit hard to do with a Yaesu FT857D and an 80m dipole :)

Mike Harding
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Follow Up By: Member - joc45 (WA) - Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 19:14

Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 19:14
Hi Mike,
I've generally found that the FM in remote towns is about 10W output and has a range extending just beyond the town limits.
Worth picking up from the ABC is their neat little frequency guide folding up into a credit card.
Re listening in bed, yeh, my 7600 still has that use, but geez it's hot on batteries. Have got an in-line 6v reg to run it off my reticulated 12v in the tent. Dunno about your old 7600, but its performance on AM broadcast band is quite poor. Fine on SW tho.
P'raps I should invest in the $90 rice radio just to listen in bed!
G
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Reply By: Redeye - Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 18:39

Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 18:39
Is it a 7 or 9 transistor radio ??

Or could it be of them multi leg black fuses pretending to be a transistor embedded inside ?

Redeye
AnswerID: 301004

Reply By: Robin Miller - Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 19:36

Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 19:36
Hi Mike

I think its about a year now since I have had mine and reviewed it.

I thought it was a reasonable product , but I wouldn't have been one of those that gave it 4.7 out of 5.

They are a little better now though , when they first came out they supplied them with a wrong voltage charger and had many complaints of lack of charging.
Charging set up was also quite tricky , as you don't just plug it in , you plug it in the tell it how long you wish to charge it for.

For sensitivity they are reasonable as well but not quite as good as my Nissan Patrols car radio for pulling in the 4wd radio show on 97.4mhz fm.
I don't want to underate them as the Nissan has a very good radio some 10db more sensitive than in our Toyota RAV4 .

The main thing that is a little harder to get used to is the ditial tuning and requirement to select a function before operating it.
For example you cannot just turn it on and turn up the volumne, you have to select the volumne function button first.

On SSB , it should not be expected to perform as well as you HF radio and as a consequence suffers from more noise interference.

But overall a value for money product in my opinion, and iot would be interesting to see if any of the units functionality has been changed as a result of user feedback that I know occurred.



Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 19:41

Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 19:41
For A$90 Robin can you name another radio which comes close?

Mike Harding
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 20:05

Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 20:05
No Mike thats why I consider it good value for money.
Robin Miller

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Reply By: Member - Royce- Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 21:37

Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 21:37
Heay Mike. How well does it work inside your vehicle? I assume that you are swagging down outside.. I sleep inside.

cheers Royce
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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 09:24

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 09:24
Morning Royce

Correct, I sleep outside. I'll take the radio out in the vehicle later today and let you know how it goes. It has an external antenna socket and comes with a "long wire" antenna so would probably be OK if you use that.

How's the laundrette going? I've stopped by once or twice but you weren't around?

Mike Harding
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Follow Up By: Member - Royce- Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 15:12

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 15:12
Thanks, I'd like to know.

Laundrette is working well, except for a spate of vandalism a few weeks ago.

It's not really making money, but functioning well. Hopefully over the next few years, business will pick up to the point where I might be looked after a bit in my old age!

The best thing is that I don't need to be there very often.

Slip a note under the door next time you stop in... I'm there most Friday afternoons.

Cheers Royce
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Follow Up By: Member -Signman - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 15:18

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 15:18
Mike
You must be desperate if you huddle onto your swag- to listen to a radio??
I get a buzz out of just listening to 'the night'..!!

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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008 at 16:41

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008 at 16:41
Hi again Royce

I tested the Degen in the vehicle today – all doors closed and the wire antenna passed through a slightly open window and draped over nearby bushes:

Medium wave (AM) – reception was better than the car radio but (as expected) the wire antenna wasn’t much help. I don’t think you would be disappointed, especially at night, (I assume you sleep at night :) as Medium wave reception improves then.

FM – Very good, I think the wire antenna helped but am not really sure – maybe it was acting as a bit of a ground radial?

Short wave – as expected, with the wire antenna reception was much the same as operating in the open.

Sorry to hear of the vandalism – maybe a video camera connected to a recording device and notices to that effect – or, possibly, a shotgun?

>Slip a note under the door next time you stop in

Will do.

>I'm there most Friday afternoons.

I’ll try to organise a trip to the HC to coincide.

Mike Harding
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Reply By: AdrianLR (VIC) - Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 22:22

Monday, Apr 28, 2008 at 22:22
I bought my 7600 a couple of years back from "an enthusiast" in Vienna. The unit had been lovingly restored - in his ebay description he talked about replacing all of the critical capacitors and even the green backlight LEDs with red ones to improve night vision. It's been great and has the feel of a quality product (albeit of a generation ago). The only downside of buying one of Austrian/German spec was that the German Post Office regulations mean that it is not allowed to have an external antenna connector! This doesn't help AM anyway and SW is good enough. It was slightly more than the Degen unit but it was what I wanted (and the Degen didn't come up in my research). The Degen sounds sufficiently quirky that it's probably designed by engineers/scientists for engineers/scientists (rather than marketers for those who like shiny things) and so may actually work well!

Adrian
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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 09:30

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 09:30
>The only downside of buying one of Austrian/German spec was that
>the German Post Office regulations mean that it is not allowed to
>have an external antenna connector!

How interesting. I wonder if that's an old piece of legislation left over from the Second World War?

The radio doesn't seem quirky to me (but maybe I'm proving your point? :) apart from the hex display of memory numbers which is so _odd_ for a commercial product that it's amusing. Mind you I've been using hex for so long I can do mental arithmetic in it :)

The Sony is a very good radio, I would certainly have paid $400 for another one had I not happened across the Degen.

Mike Harding
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Follow Up By: obee - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 10:14

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 10:14
A left over from the cold war maybe. Spies and propaganda and all that spooky stuff. And good helping of paranoia.

Owen
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Follow Up By: AdrianLR (VIC) - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 12:56

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 12:56
I haven't been able to find the source again but I did read that it was a WWII artifact.

A great site for all things 7600 (mine's a ICF-SW7600) is here:
7600 site

It has links to all the mods, manuals and fixes (eg replacing the 1990's vintage SMD capacitors - not recomended as a campfire activity!)

I paid $115 delivered from Vienna in 2006.

All the best

Adrian
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Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 10:16

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 10:16
Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Mike.

I'm thinking that maybe I'll be able to listen to all the HF stuff - VKS, ABC radio and Radio National without being in or next to my vehicle. Any idea how clearly the HF stuff is received, and the amount of noise you get on those frequencies?

Cheers
phil
AnswerID: 301123

Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 18:43

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 18:43
Hi Phil

For listening to broadcast stations on the short wave, medium wave (AM) and FM bands I think you’ll find this radio performs as well as much more expensive models.

VKS737 transmits on “single side band”; a system used mainly for communications rather than public broadcasts, it requires the receiver to be more complex and have much higher quality components than an “ordinary” radio.

I conducted some SSB tests today and compared the Degen to my $1000 Yaesu FT857D Amateur radio.

The Degen performed, surprisingly, well using its telescopic antenna but signal (as well as noise) increased significantly when I attached the, supplied, 10m long wire antenna.

It’s “fine tuning” control is a bit coarse for SSB but usable.

Frequency stability was very good.

The Degen was no match for the Yaesu on weak signals but performed quite adequately on signals of medium strength and above – in fact it overloaded on some strong local signals.

It has a narrow band filter which will help in noisy conditions.

In short: don’t expect it to perform as well as your Amateur set or Codan/Barrett on VKS737 but it will provide a usable signal on SSB and is excellent on AM/FM. For $80 I suggest it’s worth a go.

Mike Harding
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 21:09

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 21:09
Mike,
Thanks for the great reply and for taking the time to do the comparison. Sounds like I'll get one of my mates to get one first :-))) but its good value all right.
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Reply By: Best Off Road - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 11:48

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 11:48
Mike,

A bit of an hijack. Asking your expert advice.

I bought a little Sangean for about $200 back in about 92 when we lived in Townsville, primarily so that I could listen to the Footy on Radio Australia.

1. Are Sangean OK?
2. Where can I get a guide or book about really using it? I'm sure it could be a wothwhile companion in the bush but I don't really know how to search the relevant wavelengths etc.

Regards,

Jim.



AnswerID: 301137

Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 13:02

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 13:02
Hi Jim

My apologies – I said I would contact you in regard to Amateur Radio and haven’t yet done so, but I will – honest! :)

1. Are Sangean OK?

I have heard varying reports about them over the years and you don’t say which model, take a look here:
http://www.eham.net/reviews/products/8
and see what the reviews say.

2. Where can I get a guide or book about really using it?

There are some Sangean manuals here:
http://www.radiolabs.com/downloads/Sangean-user-manuals.html

and for general info on listening to the world take a look here:
http://shortwave.hfradio.org/

and/or type “short wave listening” into Google.

>I'm sure it could be a wothwhile companion in the bush

Indeed it is – an Amateur transceiver where you can talk to back to people is even better and you can listen to the short waves etc.

>but I don't really know how to search the relevant
>wavelengths etc.

A good antenna is a must; for receiving, that can be as simple as a 10m long piece of wire as high off the ground as you can get it. If your radio doesn’t have an external antenna socket (and virtually all short wave sets will) wrap 10 turns around the telescopic antenna and secure with a bit of tape.

A fine tuning control is _very_ helpful for short waves.

Frequency and wavelength (for practical listening purposes) are, essentially, the same thing. We tend to refer to a wavelength when we really mean all the frequencies in that wavelength “band” eg. the 25m band covers the frequencies from 11.6MHz to 12.1MHz and 25m itself is exactly 12.0MHz. The “hfradio.org” page above gives a list of all the short wave broadcast bands.

Here’s a frequency guide for Radio Australia:
http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/pdf/frequency_guide.pdf

Here’s a couple for the BBC World Service:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/schedules/internet/800/radio_frequencies_south_east_asia.shtml
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/schedules/internet/800/radio_frequencies_south_asia.shtml
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/schedules/frequencies/

Deutsche Welle – Germany
http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1777509,00.html

Holland:
http://www.radionetherlands.nl/listeningguide/

And, my personal favourite, The Korean Central Broadcasting Station – hear about the latest exploits of Our Glorious Leader Kim Jeong-Il – worth a listen I tell you! :)

http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Market/2978/radio/index-e.html

And these two sites list more stations than you can poke a stick at:
http://www.naswa.net/swlguide/
http://www.ac6v.com/SWL3.htm

Ask away, or e-mail, if I can be of more help.

Mike Harding
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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 13:09

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008 at 13:09
Just to make that a bit more clear...

if your radio doesn't have an external antenna socket tightly wrap the end of your 10m antenna wire around the telescopic rod about ten times ensuring the turns butt up to one-another and secure with tape.
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