The New Degen DE1103 DSP: First impressions & review


When I discovered that Degen had recently refreshed the receiver design of the DE1103, I was intrigued, to say the least. The original DE1103 sported some serious performance for a sub-$100 receiver.


The 2015 model of the Degen DE1103 implements a DSP chip (the Silicon Labs Si4735-D60).

Yet I was on the fence about purchasing the new DE1103. Why? In truth, I never fell in love with the original DE1103. While I appreciated the 1103’s unique analog-style digital display, I never got used to its quirky ergonomics. Degen had quality control issues, too: I had to return two faulty units before getting one that worked as advertised (incidentally, I had a similar problem with the Kaito KA1102).

Then last week, SWLing Post reader, Ron, contacted me. He had purchased the new DE1103 from Hong Kong-based eBay vendor Bigbargainonline.


Ron kindly provided the SWLing Post with his impressions of the DE1103, as follows:

Performance is roughly on a par with the earlier dual conversion version. This one is just as hot, but no hotter.

If you were thinking a GP5 on a bigger ferrite bar, yes…and no.

There is one major gripe…[this unit] will not remember frequencies set with the BFO on, like the earlier dual-conversion version did. Instead you have to turn the BFO on for each memory frequency [for which you] need it.

One thing [I] noticed right off was the almost complete lack of AGC “pumping” on CW and SSB that all earlier versions had (yay!) but this plus comes at the cost of having the BFO “remembered” in memory.

Zero-beating (or centering) the BFO to null on WWV and local AM stations to check alignment was…strange. At null beat the BFO seems to quit for a second. It is fine
either side of zero beat, however.

This is doubtless due to Tecsun’s adapting the Silicon Labs IC to a full range BFO like this. Recall the same IC in the GP5 features Upper and Lower selection on CW/SSB.

This 1103 DSP version also has the GP5’s slight tuning mute, not a problem.

But for ease of operation in CW/SSB mode, the GP5 is [much] better IMO.

Ron also notes that he wasn’t pleased with the DE1103’s longwave performance and didn’t feel the mediumwave and shortwave reception was an improvement on the original DE1103.

He decided that he would sell this DE1103 and gave me first dibs, so I bit the bullet. I was eager to compare the new DE1103 with some of the other DSP-based portables in my collection. Ron dispatched the DE1103 immediately–it arrived a few days ago, but I didn’t have a chance to test it until yesterday.


I took the Degen DE1103 outside, sat it on the tailgate of my truck and put it on the air…

I tuned around the mediumwave band and picked up all of the local benchmark stations. Same with FM. So far, this tuning confirmed Ron’s assessment of the DE1103: it didn’t surpass the original.

But the shortwave bands were a different story.

As I tuned around the HF bands, the DE1103 seemed to receive quite a lot signals.  But in most instances, I could hear local AM broadcasters bleeding in, as well. Indeed, imaging was prevalent across the shortwave bands–the receiver was obviously being overwhelmed by a local broadcaster.  Unfortunate.

Could strong interference account for this? While there are local AM broadcasters around, they’re not exactly “blow-torch” stations. Indeed, I’ve never had overloading issues with other shortwave portables I’ve used in the same location–not even with my Kaito WRX911!

Imaging was prevalent on the DE1103 when it was tuned to pretty much any audible shortwave broadcaster.

Here’s a video of the Degen DE1103 tuned to the Voice of Greece on 9,420 kHz:

What you’re hearing in the audio is a local broadcaster bleeding in. Note that when I tune off-frequency, no imaging is heard.

Wondering if something had changed locally–and just to be fair–I pulled out my Sony ICF-SW100 and sat it next to the DE1103. The Sony had no issues.

This time, I tuned to WWV on the 19 meter band and compared the two receivers:

As Dan Robinson expresses it, the ICF-SW100 “wipes the floor” with the DE1103. There’s no hint of overloading in the SW100.

My buddy, Ron, is clearly a keen radio reviewer; obviously he didn’t hear overloading on the shortwave bands where he tested the rig, else he would certainly have mentioned it. The location where I tested the DE1103 does have some local broadcasters in the area, but no clear channel or high-power stations; in short, there’s no likely interference within a ten-mile radius to account for this debilitating performance problem.

Too bad…!

Obviously, the new DSP version of the Degen DE1103 is especially prone to imaging on the shortwave bands. In fact, it’s the only receiver I’ve ever tested that has overloading issues at this testing location (where I tested the original Degen DE1103, by the way).

My assessment? Avoid the new Degen DE1103.

A much better receiver with SSB for roughly the same price would be the venerable Tecsun PL-600 ($89.99 at Amazon and $89.95 at Universal Radio). If SSB reception isn’t necessary, you might also consider the CC Skywave or the very affordable Tecsun PL-310ET.

Posted in AM, Mediumwave, New Products, News, Radios, Reviews, Shortwave Radio, Shortwave Radio Reviews | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Thanksgiving, Microwaves and…Acorns?


It’s Thanksgiving here in the States–without a doubt, my favorite holiday.  What’s not to love about family, feasting, and, of course, friends? To that end:

I’d like to take a moment to offer my thanks to all of you who read, comment, and otherwise contribute to the SWLing Post community. You make this a terrific place for everything radio! Thank you.

And on the topic of radio–while anticipating a wonderful Thanksgiving meal–I’m reminded of this video I recently viewed.  Evidently, some form of native wildlife–and suspicion rests upon a number of industrious squirrels and woodpeckers–decided that a radio microwave antenna in Bear Creek would be an excellent place to stash a few acorns and other winter nuts.

So–just for fun–here’s what it looked like when the field engineers cleaned out the microwave antenna cover:

Sometimes it really is a challenge to count all your blessings.  At any rate, may your day, no matter where you live in this world, be just as abundant!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Posted in Funny, News | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

VOA Radiogram 128 on a cheap Tesco shortwave radio


SWLing Post reader, Christopher, lives on the north coast of Labrador, Canada. He recently contacted me regarding the purchase of a new receiver–he’s currently stuck with a very inexpensive analog portable he purchased at the UK grocery store, Tesco: the Tesco RAD-108.

While the RAD-108 has poor sensitivity and selectivity, it’s still (evidently) more than capable of receiving the VOA Radiogram. Many thanks to Christopher for sharing this video he found on YouTube:

Posted in Digital Modes, News, Shortwave Radio, What's On Shortwave | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Hackaday recounts an “An Unlikely Radio Story”


Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Michael Letterle, who shares this story from the excellent website Hackaday.

The following is an excerpt from Swans, Pigs, and the CIA: An Ulikey Radio Story:

Shortwave radio is boring, right? Maybe not. You never know what intrigue and excitement you might intercept. We recently covered secret number stations, and while no one knows for sure exactly what their purpose is, it is almost surely involving cloaks and daggers. However, there’s been some more obvious espionage radio, like Radio Swan.

The swan didn’t refer to the animal, but rather an island just off of Honduras that, until 1972, was disputed between Honduras and the United States. The island got its name–reportedly–because it was used as a base for a pirate named Swan in the 17th century. This island also had a long history of use by the United States government. The Department of Agriculture used it to quarantine imported beef and a variety of government departments had weather stations there.

…[T]he most famous occupant of Swan Island was Radio Swan which broadcast on the AM radio band and shortwave. The station was owned by the Gibraltar Steamship Company with offices on Fifth Avenue in New York. Oddly, though, the company didn’t actually have any steamships. What it did have was some radio transmitters that had been used by Radio Free Europe and brought to the island by the United States Navy. Did I mention that the Gibraltar Steamship Company was actually a front for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)?

Read the full story on HackADay…

Posted in News, Numbers Stations, Radio History, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Brittle ribbon cables: James cautions Sony ICF-2001D and ICF-2010 owners


Regarding the Sony ICF-2001D (or ICF-2010 in North America), SWLing Post contributor James Patterson writes:

I have a comment on the Sony ICF-2010. In New Zealand it is called the ICF-2001D, as labeled on it.

I bought the ICF 2001D at a sale. Brought it home and it seemed to perform almost perfectly on all bands. In fact I was very suprised on how well it worked. Audio was excellent, sensitivity was great, even the Air Band received very well. But I’m a very keen SSB DXer, meaning I monitor the Single Side Band [SSB] utility stations like HFAir, Marine, military, etc. so I needed to check the SSB in the radio.

[O]n official frequencies like 8.86700 HF AIR, it was well off, and came up readable around 8.86500, even with the tuning speed mode set to “slow”. So I then decided that with the age of the radio, over time it has drifted off zero beat, so I would need to re-align the BFO/SYNC coil.

I looked up on the internet at the signal board, and located the correct coil. Having the batteries out of the radio, I plugged in the DC power supply and retuned that coil and got the speech correct at 8.86700. I also checked the universal time signal on both USB and LSB and it was “Bang on”.

I was very pleased with myself, meaning I now had a Sony ICF-2001D working in perfect condition.

But just then the radio went dead. At this stage I still had the board lifted up, as I had just finished the realignment. I could not understand, after all my work, what had happened. So having a good look at the wires and the board, to my most disappointed dismay, I noticed one of two ribbon cables–Sony called it a “Flexible circuit board” had snapped right across and come apart.

There are two ribbon cables on the board. This was the short one. So,with the slightest lift of the board, this one snapped. I then felt the cable and noticed how frail it was with a piece just falling off. The ribbon cable as I call it, had become most fragile with age and probably heat from the sun(?) over the years the previous owner had it.

So all of a sudden I found I had a ICF-2001D no more. I looked at the other board, the CPU board underneath and noticed that ribbon cable was joined to the other ribbon cable side by side to become one cable, and spot soldered onto the board. Also on shifting the CPU board to view underneath it, the selective speed plastic slide switch snapped off.

Note broken ribbon cable and broken switch.

Note broken ribbon cable and broken switch.

Sony ICF 201D .Note broken ribbon cable and broken switch 001

[B]y now, I was in a state of complete disarray to say the least. Never was I going to have the ICF-2001D operational again.

So guys, be most careful if you ever need to do any repairs or realignment of that radio–remember the ribbon cables become very fragile and will just snap right across as mine did with the slightest lift of the board. I wish I had known this, and I would have taken the cable out of it’s socket first,then when finished, plugged it back in, and radio would still be working. But to realign it, the cable would need to be connected anyway. So I hope this does not happen to anyone else, especially if you don’t have spare parts, as I don’t have.

So Im keeping this one for parts now,and hopeing to replace it with either another 2001D or its older brother ICF 2001. I do have a small collection of vintage portable short wave radios; they all have SSB, and all work very well. Most have the varible BFO control knob and that seems to suit me better, rather than a radio with tuning steps and needing to perhaps realign it. I think the ICF-2001D is very similar to my ICF-SW7600G with only a few memories and no tuning knob. I think the older ICF-2001D would still be my radio of choice though.

Showing the slide switch that snapped off the CPU board when trying to bend it slightly to get access to the board.This pic shows a small hole where the plastic tip of the switch was.The switch is unsoldered off the board.

Showing the slide switch that snapped off the CPU board when trying to bend it slightly to get access to the board.This pic shows a small hole where the plastic tip of the switch was.The switch is unsoldered off the board.

Showing soldered open ends of the computer cable.

Showing soldered open ends of the computer cable.

In this photo I have tried to replace the ribbon cable with an old Computer ribbon cable,but that job failed because the board underneath has the ribbon cable spot soldered on.There are two ribbon cables both joined side by side to become one.So the idea of replaceing the broken ribbon cable would disturb the other having to cut it away from it.

In this photo I have tried to replace the ribbon cable with an old Computer ribbon cable,but that job failed because the board underneath has the ribbon cable spot soldered on.There are two ribbon cables both joined side by side to become one.So the idea of replaceing the broken ribbon cable would disturb the other having to cut it away from it.

Posted in News, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

SPROUT SSTV and Digitalker Every Sunday

SPROUT SSTV and Digitalker active every Sunday

SPROUT SSTV and Digitalker Active Every Sunday – AMSAT-UK

AMSAT-UK Announces SSTV Activity Every Sunday

Slow Scan TV (SSTV) images in Scottie 1 format will be transmitted from the SPROUT satellite every Sunday (Japanese Standard Time) on 437.600 MHz FM (+/- 9 kHz Doppler shift). The Digitalker will also be active.

SPROUT, a 20 x 20 x 22 cm amateur radio nano-satellite with a mass of 7.1 kg, launched successfully with the L-band (1236.5 MHz/1257.5 MHz/1278.5 MHz) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite ALOS-2 on May 24, 2014 at 0305 UT. SPROUT is in a 654 km, 97.9 degree inclination Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO).

SPROUT (Space Research On Unique Technology) was built by students from Nihon University

— A FM Digitalker will enable the satellite to speak to amateurs around the world.

— The Voice Message Box will record transmissions from radio amateurs and play them back.

— Pre-loaded images from the Message Gallery can be transmitted using Slow Scan TV (SSTV).

— Pictures of the Earth can be transmitted by SSTV and radio amateurs can receive it using free software such as MMSSTV. As part of the Earth mapping project the team ask radio amateurs to contribute pictures they have received from the satellite for display on the SPROUT website.

Callsign: JQ1ZJQ

Size: 214x210x220 mm

Weight: 7.1 kg

Mode: 1200bps AFSK, 9600bps GMSK

CW downlink 437.525 MHz

FM packet downlink 437.525 MHz

Digipeater uplink 437.600 MHz

Digitalker downlink 437.600 MHz

SSTV downlink 437.600 MHz

Many FM radios can be switched been wide and narrow deviation FM filters. For best results you should select the wider filter designed for 5 kHz deviation FM.

— SPROUT English website

— SPROUT Japanese website

— Nihon-Univ. Miyazaki Laboratory on Facebook

— Telemetry Software

— Telemetry format

SPROUT launch data page’s from the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) are also available at

Free Slow Scan TV (SSTV) software MMSSTV

The JE9PEL website has information on other satellites on this launch

(Full details and links may be found here.)

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

Posted in Digital Modes, Ham Radio, News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The best shortwave radio for cross-continent cycling?


SWLing Post reader, Pat, is an avid cyclist and is seeking a radio for his next cross-continent adventure. There are a limited number of products on the market that meet Pat’s requirements, so I thought posting his inquiry might bring a few options out of the woodwork. Check out Pat’s requirements and please comment if you have a suggestion!

Pat writes:

I’m a professional ski coach from Colorado. When I’m not on skis, I like to get on my bicycle and go explore the world. I’ve ridden across the USA a few times, covering all 48 states in the Continental US. A couple of years ago I got my 49th state when I rode from Alaska back home to Colorado.

Next year I plan to ride to Argentina, a journey of 12,000 miles over six months.

One of the things that keeps me sane is to have a radio strapped to the handlebars of my bike. I used to have a cheap AM/FM transistor, but have slowly improved the choice of radios on each trip.

During my Alaska ride I used a Degen DE1123, which was a great item. Not a great radio, but having an mp3 player built in made a world of difference. There were some mighty long distances without radio signal, so having the mp3 was great. But like I said, the 1123 wasn’t the most user-friendly item. Plus, it ate up AA batteries, which were pricey in the Yukon. So I upgraded to the Degen DE1125. Certainly an improvement, but still some things that could be improved. [See photo above.]

For my Argentina trip I want to have something really good; something that works well and will hopefully last six months. Also, I really like the idea of having a radio with a mini SD slot. I’ll have to download a lot of music and podcasts to keep me happy.

Someone suggested the Melson S8. I purchased one and it is a great unit, but way too big to fit on the handlebars.

You obviously have experience with many different portables and I was wondering if you could give me your suggestions. Maybe something from Degen, ShouYu, Tecsun?

Things that are important:

  • Ease of use (I’ll be using the controls while pedaling)
  • Weight (smaller and lighter is better)
  • Durability
  • Mini SD capability
  • Radio reception
  • AM, FM and SW capability
  • Li-ion batteries

Not overly important:

  • Ability to scroll through songs/find songs
  • Sound quality (I’ll have wind in my ears anyway)

Things that are not important:

  • Recording ability (I don’t foresee recording anything along the way)
  • Looks
  • Cost (I don’t want to spend $150 on a CC Crane, as the radio may get broken or stolen, but I’m willing to spend some money on a quality product if available).

[…]I’d love to select the best option for this silly ride I’m taking next summer and will happily take any advice.

A cycling trip to Argentina? Nothing silly about that, Pat! What an adventure!

Shortwave radios with MicroSD slots are somewhat limited in numbers, but more and more models have appeared on the market in the past few years.

Readers: can you help Pat with some suggestions/options?  Please comment!

Posted in News, Portable Radio, Radios, Shortwave Radio, Sports, SWLers, Travel, Ultralight DX | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments