A few years ago, I heard a lot of buzz in AM/Mediumwave radio circles about a small, inexpensive radio called the Sony SRF-59. Discussions were focused on the incredible performance of this diminutive low-cost radio and how it held it own against some real benchmark receivers. Out of curiosity, I did a search on the radio to see what it looked like–I expected some Tecsun PL-like unit–and found that, much to my surprise, it’s a simple, analog, totally unassuming AM/FM walkman. Say, what?
The far biggest surprise came with my price search, however. The SRF-59 is easy to find at $14.95 US. Really, you ask? Oh, yes–and it’s readily available at many online and big box stores.
So–carefully counting my pocket change–I took the plunge, and bought one.
The radio came in a basic plastic blister pack, and it also included headphones. I can’t comment on the headphones as I didn’t even bother unpacking them; instead, I plugged my new SRF-59 into my favorite Sony earbuds.
I have to admit, the AM band on this little radio does indeed shine. Not only is the receiver sensitive and relatively selective (meaning, I don’t hear adjacent signals when tuned in), but it also has excellent audio. Amazingly, it lives up to all of the praise I had heard about it. I’m quite amazed, in fact, at how well this little unit can null out stations by rotating the radio body a few degrees. Most impressive.
Though I’m no major FM radio listener, I can also vouch for its FM performance, which is quite good.
- lightweight–indeed, one can safely say, “ultralight”
- very inexpensive, by comparision
- operates almost indefinitely on one AA cell
- simple design, durable construction
- AM (Mediumwave) sensitivity and selectivity comparable to $100 shortwave portables
- because tuning is analog, it works in North America just as well as in Japan (see cons)
- tuning is analog, thus no stations can be saved to memory and there is a noticeable amount of receiver drift if listening over long periods of time
- no fine-tuning mechanism means that tuning in weak stations takes precision skill on the SRF-59’s very small dial
- no built-in speaker (this is a Walkman, after all)