Best portable radio for outback coverage

I am looking at getting an easy-to-come-by portable radio that gets good reception (mainly AM for AFL and news) in the outback. I figure that ABC is available in most locations, but just need a unit that will receive it well enough.

I am currently traveling through WA and will be heading up to the top end and then back through the middle.

I recently spent some time in the Cape Arid National Park (WA) and found that despite the fact that my car radio (VW, Tiguan) could pick up radio broadcasts with ease, the small radio I had with me was unable to lock on to a strong signal. I figure the ferrite rod in it must be too small, or the battery power not strong enough to be useful.

Obviously good reception can depend a lot on the aerial, but I'm largely looking for a product that can do the job reasonably well without too much hassle without having to muck around with extra wire, etc. - good for listening when camped out, but also when stopping for lunch on the move, etc.

Any suggestions?

Given what is easy to come by at Dick Smith or Retravision, I am currently looking at either the (~$60) or the Site Link (~$120).

I figure that the SW on the Sony might be useful for picking up the HF broadcasts by ABC, but perhaps the more expensive Digitor product might have a more powerful receiver in general? For those with some knowledge about the topic, which of these two products would be best?
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Reply By: Peter O17 - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 13:14

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 13:14
Looks like those hyperlinks stuffed up a bit. The two radios I was referring to are:

Sony ICF-704S FM/MW/SW

Digitor Long Distance Radio AM/FM PLL Tuning

AnswerID: 491869

Follow Up By: Peter O17 - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 13:20

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 13:20
Looking at the close up pics, it seems as though the Digitor model also has LW 144-279 kHz.

The Sony SW is 5.95-18 MHz.

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Follow Up By: garrycol - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 13:43

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 13:43
I bought the Sony a while back for exactly the purpose you want - am unimpressed with its performance and would not recommend it.

I have used it out through Bourke, Camerons Corner, Innaminka and was useless - also in the SE mountains - also usless.

Has been relegated to the workshop at home when working on the car on FM only.

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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 13:47

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 13:47

As much as I like Sony gear, I'd give it a miss, and go for the Digitor. Jaycar also has one with AM, FM & SW, World Band radio Cat No: AR-1748.

A couple of years ago, there were some members here, that were buying a cheap radio from China, or Hong Kong. Only about $99, and excellent performance. You might want to check archives.

Don't know about WA, but down through the NT there's little AM stuff, unless you are near the towns. Even at night on the Barkly H'way, there was little to choose from, and the iPod usually won out.

But it's all to do with the aerial. Unless you run out a long wire, you won't do much good. I went to an outstation once, and this bloke had this little Phillips AM/FM radio, probably worth $50. It was pulling in the local commercial station(300+ km away), like the transmitter was just over the hill. Turned out there was 100M long wire aerial running up onto top of a pinnacle behind the cottage.

Portables made out of a car radio is the best, but they tend to be a bit bulky, and heavy, if you fit a battery to the unit.


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FollowupID: 767489

Follow Up By: Peter O17 - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 13:48

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 13:48
Thanks Garry. Did the Sony manage to pick up any reception at all?

I'm hoping that I can at least get something with the AFL finals coming up!
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Follow Up By: Peter O17 - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 13:51

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 13:51
Thanks Bob.
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Follow Up By: hazo - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 14:00

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 14:00
I have a Degen de 1103, its the one Bob mentioned from China (Hong Kong) a superb little radio for the money.

The buttons and menu's are a little confusing at first but you soon get the hang of it.

If you do a Google it has had excellent reviews and will do all you want, comes in a kit with rechargable batteries, long wire antennae if needed, and plug pack for 240vac.
It does need a plug adapter for aussie power points.Can be had for a couple of dollars.

See here:-

Mine is about 5 years old and I use it nightly at side of the bed.
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Follow Up By: Andrew & Jen - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 22:28

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 22:28
Hullo Peter 017

Bob Y is on the money.

A good aerial will make a world of difference.

I have little Sony ICF-SW7600G (bought back in the late 70s for about $320) with a telescopic aerial which is OK [as well as the internal ferrite-rod one].
In addition, it came with a wire aerial on a spool which could be strung up - that made a big difference.

But the biggest difference came when it was connected to a proper 2 mast supported wire - it would pull in stations from 10 of '000s km away, particularly at night.

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Follow Up By: Outbacktourer - Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 08:21

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 08:21
I have one of those Digitor long distance radio's. I was given it as a birthday present by my Wife. This, and because I know how much she paid for it are the only reasons I have not either burnt it or binned it. I have travelled all over Australia with it and can assure you with a great degree of conficence that the reception is very poor. On mine the LCD screen is now blank. It would have to be the most disappointing and overpriced piece of equipment we have. In fact the reason I opened this thread was to see if I could get some tips on where to get a decent radio to finally replace it!

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Reply By: rocco2010 - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 14:05

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 14:05

That digitor radio has a good reuptation for AM (broadcast band reception) and a decent sized speaker which is handy if outdoors. but if you are truly remote there often no AM signals to pick up. Sometimes there are
aboriginal communities or minesites which rebroadcast ABC stations on low power transmitters, At night you can get AM stations from all over the place.

If you are interested in sport then Radio Australia broadcasts AFL and NRL games on the weekends in day time hours but you need shortwave to listen to them. If you decide to buy a shortwave radio don't buy one that does not have digital tuning where you enter the frequency via a key pad (and that is not a digital radio, entirely different beast). You will find thumbwheel tuning for shortwave a very frustrating business. I have a sangean shortwave radio with a whip antenna that performs well. Other people on here have reported that the Tecsun and Degen range of shortwave radios are good performers and they are lower down the price scale than Sangean.You may have to google to find a retailer.


AnswerID: 491871

Reply By: Member - Neil G (VIC) - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 18:06

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 18:06
Hi Peter,
We always had difficullty getting reliable AM reception on our outback travels until I bought a loop antenna from
Trading as PK's Loop Antennas.
We are amazed at the reception we receive with one of these little units beside the radio and there are no wires to connect or batteries to go flat! Well worth checking out.
We have no connection with this company apart from being a satisfied custmer.
Hope this info is useful.
kind regards.
Neil G
AnswerID: 491879

Reply By: Member - eighty matey - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 20:45

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 20:45
G'day Peter,

I've got a little AM, FM, SW1, SW2 radio that cost about $50 but I can't remember the brand.

Anyhow, it was ok but a bit frustrating until I connected the radio aerial to the Landcruiser aerial with a bit of wire with alligator clips either end. It increased the signal 10 times, well heaps anyway.

That's worth a thought if you get stuck,

AnswerID: 491893

Reply By: Rod W - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 20:49

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 20:49
Get yourself one of these a Sangean ATS-909X, is a brilliant radio. When I was looking to buy Dick Smith had an earlier and dated model to which they wanted squwilloins for it. I brought the unit online.
AnswerID: 491894

Follow Up By: Peter O17 - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 21:46

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 21:46
Thanks mate, will have a look.
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Reply By: Peter O17 - Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 21:45

Sunday, Jul 29, 2012 at 21:45
Thanks for the advice, Eighty Matey, Neil and Rocco.
AnswerID: 491897

Reply By: Member - wicket - Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 11:12

Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 11:12
Yes it is all about the antenna as mentioned above these are what you need we have one and they are excellent

AnswerID: 491920

Follow Up By: Member - wicket - Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 11:13

Monday, Jul 30, 2012 at 11:13
oops here is the link

PK Loop antenna

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Reply By: Peter O17 - Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 00:54

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 00:54
Those loop antennas look good. I rang the number on the website, but unfortunately they are not sold in WA. The guy said he'd be happy to arrange postage, though.

In the meantime I purchased the Jaycar radio that was mentioned earlier in the thread, the AR1748, which has PLL tuning for FM/MW/SW.

Hopefully it does the trick until I can get around to getting a loop antenna. Will post back here with results.
AnswerID: 491956

Reply By: Member - Boobook - Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 09:03

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 09:03
I have a Tecsun loop antenna. It is about $20 and as good as any other more expensive antenna, smaller, better built and more rugged too. After all they are just a loop of wire and a variable capacitor.

The one I have changes reception to a barely distinguishable signal to full strength even on a cheap $10 radio and works great with my good Sony and Tecsun PL660 ( which beats Sony hands down for reception)

Loop Antenna

Also make sure any shortwave goes down to 2325 khz so you can get ABC , many Sonys won't.

ABC Shortwave frequencies
AnswerID: 491967

Reply By: Member - Rod N (QLD) - Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 12:26

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012 at 12:26
Do you have a VAST satellite TV set up? You can get the following radio stations via VAST, ABC stations, 20 Classic FM, 21 Radio National Qld, 22 Regional Radio Nth Qld, 23 Regional Radio Sth Qld, 25 JJJ, 26 Parliamentary News. Also 35 Chill, 36 Pop Asia 37 SBS National Qld, 38 SBS1 Qld, 39 SBS2 Qld and all SBS stations for other states on 327 to 389

AnswerID: 491977

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