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I’ve got a DE1103 and haven’t noticed any AM bleeding on SWL so far. I sometimes stay at one of my family’s properties located at the center of a city with lots of stations. There I use the balcony on the 9th floor and I get a lot of spurious interference from FM stations, which is normal once you’re surrounded by buildings. However, I already tuned some images on SW. I used an old SW7600G to check it out and it didn’t get any.
I kind of started to dislike DSP, for it can be annoying to hear it engage and disengage when a signal constantly drops down and recovers. It is fantastic when a signal is strong and constant for it improves audio quality whether it is MW, SW or FM.
At one time, I even thought it would be perfect for the DE1103 to have this [DSP] feature, but you know what? I’m very happy with the way mine is right now. I find this receiver to have the best FM reception compared to the others of my little collection of tabletop and portable receivers, which includes scanners ICOM IC-R20 and R5, receivers PL-660, SW7600GR, ICF-2010, etc. The DE1103 is by far the most sensitive and selective one, it even beats my old Realistic DX-440.
As for SW, I like the combination of its very good AGC and very low floor, which allows me to do DXing with the RF attenuator on and does not have any annoying filter like the PL-660. I also enjoy its audio quality, especially on the headphones, for it is more natural, not processed like the PL-660’s or over-processed like the SW7600GR’s.
You can tell I’m a big fan of this little radio. It has its flaws, but I can live with them.
Thank you for sharing your experience with the DE1103 DSP, Julio!
If you’ve read my DE1103 DSP review, you’ll note that I haven’t been the biggest fan of the new DSP version of the DE1103. I did review a very early model and wonder if Degen has tweaked the DE1103 DSP to provide better performance? Can any other readers comment?
Update: Several readers pointed out that the “Version 2.0” might simply be a way sellers are using to indicate that this is the DSP-based DE1103–rather than this being an improved version of the original DSP receiver I tested.
Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Phil Ireland, who comments:
I’ve just received my Degen DE27 from China. Interesting little radio, I haven’t had a good chance to put it through its paces yet but my initial impressions are the radio seems well built and fairly intuitive to turn it on.
However, all the instructions are in Chinese so luckily there was someone in my office who could set the language to english otherwise, setting up the radio is a nightmare! I will have to take the radio outside to test its performance as the office environment is useless to listen in.
The box says the radio tunes from 3.2 mhz to 21.850 mhz however, I havent been able to work out how to make it tune out of the standard SW Broadcast Bands yet. Toggling between 10 khz and 9 khz steps for AM is easy as it setting the FM band coverage but I’m yet to determine the SW settings. It appears tuning is only in 5 khz as well on SW.
As for venturing into MP3 settings and recording, I’ll leave that, it seems too much of a challenge! The clock and calendar, sleep timer, alarms are all fairly straight forward but there is an “E-Book” setting which defies description! It has a USB flash disc function and inputs for a micro SD card. Charging the supplied Lithium battery is via a supplied USB cable.
The display is easy to read and attractive with excellent backlighting. I’m not expecting stellar performance on any band, after all, it was a cheap radio (about 40 AUD with free postage) but it is built around DSP architecture. Only a single bandwidth is available and there is no SSB capabilities. The radio hopefully will be ideal to throw onto a backpack or pocket as a travel portable.
If DEGEN read these comments, perhaps an English manual put online would be extremely helpful to allow users to get the most out of the DE27.
I’ll comment more on the performance later but for now, the radio shows promise.
Thanks so much for sharing your initial impressions, Phil! Please keep us informed as you discover more about this little radio!
This reminds me that I have yet to put my Degen DE221 through the paces. Stay tuned!
On a side note, I suppose I should mention that I was pretty disappointed with the DE1129 because I had hopes it would make for a great all-in-one portable radio recorder for ETOW. While the DE1129 could record FM/AM and SW radio directly, it had serious problems: it auto-adjusted the volume level during recording (one could not turn off the internal speaker), it degraded audio quality in recording, and medium wave was plagued with a “ticking” sound every 10 seconds. It produced digital hash on various meter bands. My summary of the DE1129: fine concept, poor engineering. Read my full review of the first version of the DE1129 here.
The Kaito KA29: First impressions
The Kaito KA29 is a cute little portable. Mine has a black body with orange band encircling the diameter. That orange band is actually a nice addition–it helps the radio show up a bit better and makes the ports a little easier to see when lighting is low.
The overall quality of the radio feels fine: the hard plastic body has a smooth matte quality and the buttons have a very tactile response. The telescopic whip antenna is long for the overall radio size, but is still a little on the short side for good HF gain. Oddly, unlike most radios, the antenna cannot swivel at its point of attachment to the chassis; it can only be extended and tipped side-to-side–but not front to back, or back to front. Like the DE1129, the KA29 lacks a back stand–a big negative in my book–but admittedly a back stand would be of little use while SWLing with this rig because the antenna can’t be swiveled or tipped into a useful vertical position. Hm. Also like the DE1129, the KA29 uses a slim rechargeable battery pack.
When I first turned on the KA29, I thought I had received a faulty unit: I pressed and held the power button for a second, the display lit up a bright green, I released the power button…and the unit turned off. After a little trouble-shooting, I realized that the KA29 requires holding the power button a full two seconds, until the “Kaito” brand name appears on the display.
Unfortunately, the KA29 antenna does not swivel.
This sluggish power-up response is truly an indicator of most functions on the KA29. It’s as if every function is controlled by a slow processor–which I’ve no doubt is the case.
As far as I can tell, all the menu functions are the same on the Degen DE1129; obviously, they’re built on the same firmware. Indeed, Kaito is the North American brand for the Chinese manufacturer, Degen; the Degen model number for this radio is DE29. In this sense, most functions are familiar to me.
The one added feature of the KA29 that my version of the DE1129 didn’t have is a number pad, useful for direct entry of radio frequencies. I should note here that I (typically) toss the owner’s manual aside when I first get a radio, in order to test how intuitive its functions are. I spent quality time with the KA29 while traveling a few weeks ago, and as I didn’t bring the manual, I had to learn its functions via trial and error. It wasn’t until I returned that I learned how to use direct frequency entry; the is answer clearly stated in the manual: just key in the frequency, then press the appropriate band (AM/FM/SW) to go to that frequency. Pretty simple, actually. The response time for the radio to start playing the frequency you enter is only about one second.
Use of the tuning knob (located on the right side of the radio) is easy and straightforward–tuning up and down will move the needle 5 kHz steps between frequencies. Unfortunately, as on the DE1129, 5 kHz is the smallest tuning step available. The KA29 briefly mutes between frequency changes, so when tuning slowly it’s very noticeable. If you tune quickly, the KA29 will produce snippets of audio as you pass signals, but I find it often skips over even very strong signals. In short? Though I suppose it could be worse, I do not like tuning the KA29.
I should also mention that the KA29 has no adjustable bandwidth; I’m guessing the AM bandwidth is stuck at around 6 or 7 kHz.
While I no longer have the DE1129 in hand for side-by-side comparison, my impression is that performance between the two radios is very similar.
Herein lies the strength of the KA29. It obviously uses the same speaker technology (with an acoustic chamber) that the DE1129 uses. You will be favorably impressed with the audio from this wee radio–it is quite robust for a pocket radio of this size, and in a small room, almost room-filling. It sounds fantastic on FM and AM alike–you can even hear a hint of bass. One day, I tuned the KA29 to a local AM station and listened quite comfortably in another room. Impressive.
But what about receiver performance?
FM performance is quite good. I’ve used the KA29 in two different cities, and found that it could detect most of the same FM stations my other portables picked up.
I was pleasantly surprised to note the absence of the annoying ticking sound I heard in the DE1129; it appears Degen engineers have succeeded in eliminating this distraction. In general, I believe the KA29 performs acceptably on medium wave for basic local and nighttime clear channel broadcast listening. The AGC circuit is not ideal, though, for any sort of medium wave DXing; don’t consider the KA29 for MW DX.
If the KA29 is better than the DE1129 on the shortwave bands, the improvement is negligible. You’ll be fairly happy with the KA29 while listening to strong shortwave broadcasts. During my review, I listened to the new Global 24 a few hours on 9,395 kHz–an easy catch on the east coast of North America–and the KA29 was fairly stable, producing rich audio.
Here are the cons on shortwave:
Automatic Gain Control
While listening to weak stations, you’ll discover the KA29 to be somewhat sensitive, but again, the AGC circuit is just too active to listen comfortably for very long.
The noise floor is more obvious while listening to weak signals: I believe much of the noise is coming from the internal electronics of the KA29. It produces an audible digital hash sound that makes weak-signal listening a bit of a chore.
Quite often as I tuned around the shortwave bands, I noticed that FM stations bleed through the audio. Check out this audio sample as I attempted to listen to Radio Ryhad:
Indeed, even if the shortwave station has a relatively strong signal (like this recording of Global 24) you can often hear noise:
Fortunately, several of the recording problems I noted with the DE1129 are no longer an issue with the KA29.
The DE1129, when recording radio, had the exceedingly annoying habit of automatically setting the internal speaker’s volume to a high level. While recording, this could not be changed.
Fortunately, this problem has mostly been addressed in the KA29, which does not increase the volume while making a recording, but still fixes the volume at the level set at the recording’s start. I didn’t find this to be much of a problem.
The recording performance is better than that of the DE1129, which produced noisy, muffled recordings. The KA29 will produce fair audio recordings on AM, on FM, and on shortwave. One drawback: you will note a low-volume, high-pitched static noise–a hiss, to be specific–inherent in every radio recording, regardless of band. While it’s not too offensive, nor enough to deter me from making direct radio recordings (at least of strong stations), there is still much room for improvement. Obviously, I can use the headphone jack and an external digital recorder to make better radio recordings. But the convenience of an all-in-one recording device plus radio outweighs the slight hiss in the internal recordings it produces.
All in all? I’m reasonably pleased with the radio recording capabilities of the KA29, and the improvements it’s made over its predecessor. If the Degen engineers could lower the KA29’s noise floor and fix the imaging problems, and add 1 kHz tuning increments, this could be a good value all-in-one radio, a real contender.
Ever radio has its pros and cons. The following is a list I made while reviewing the KA29:
Great audio for a tiny radio
FM reception quite good
MP3 playback audio is good
Onboard radio recording acceptable (see con)
9/10 kHz select-able medium wave steps
Sluggish response to most actions; if (for example) volume control has been used, you must wait nearly 4 seconds before using another function
Awkward menu to navigate
No bandwidth selections
Imaging on SW bands
Fixed 5 kHz steps on shortwave
No adjustable bandwidth
Digital noise on portions of MW and SW bands
Low audio hiss present in all internal radio recordings (see pro)
No back stand
Antenna does not swivel 360 degrees for optimal placement
If you’re looking for a pocket radio to make local radio recordings on-the-go, and the quality of your recordings is not a major concern, you might give the KA29 a try; chances are you’ll be fairly pleased with the affordable KA29.
If you’re a shortwave radio hobbyist or DXer of any stripe, however, don’t waste your time or money on the DE1129. Instead, pitch in $10 more and buy a Tecsun PL-310ET–it has no MP3 recording or playback, but it will receive circles around the KA29.
The Degen DE32 is one of the latest DSP-based analog radios to hit the market. In the past, I have reviewed two others: the Degen DE321 and the Kchibo KK-9803. Tecsun had announced a version of their own–the Tecsun R-2010–which I had eagerly anticipated, but I now believe it’s been dropped from their future offerings. [Update: Not true–the Tecsun has been released as the R-2010D, see review].
I purchased my Degen DE32 from this China-based seller on eBay. To my knowledge, eBay is the only place the DE32 can be purchased, at time of posting. As with the other radios mentioned above, my expectations were quite low for this little radio. After all, at $27 US (shipped), you can’t expect top-notch performance characteristics.
The DE32 un-boxed (Click to enlarge)
The DE32 comes with a carry strap, USB cable, a carry pouch, slim rechargeable battery, and operating instructions in Chinese. It does not come with a USB wall adapter (you’ll have to plug it into a USB port on your PC or other USB wall charger) and it does not come with a Micro SD card (for digital audio playback).
The DE32 has a small built-in speaker. The sound is a bit tinny, but is actually better than I expected from a speaker of this size. It makes for comfortable listening at close range–especially of spoken-word broadcasts. Happily, plugging in a good set of earphones helps audio fidelity tremendously. This is the only way I would listen to music on the DE32 for an extended period of time. On FM, in fact, audio via earphones is surprisingly good (again, for a $27 radio–check out the audio sample below).
(Click to enlarge)
The DE32 covers three radio bands: medium wave (AM), FM and shortwave (5.6-22 MHz). Performance between bands varies greatly. The best band, by far, is FM. Again, no surprise here, as the DE321 and KK-9803 performed quite well on FM.
Here’s a 20+ minute audio sample of a local classic rock radio station I recorded, 95.7FM The Ride:
From my home, I can pick up my benchmark distant NPR station quite easily if I hold the radio in my hand. If I place the radio in a window sill, its performance degrades somewhat and contains more static as the extra grounding (from holding the radio) made a positive difference. The audio, though, is still perfectly intelligible. Local FM stations come in quite clear and fidelity (through headphones) is excellent.
The Degen DE321 (left) and DE32 (right)
I found that strong local medium wave (AM) stations sound quite good on the DE32–better than its cousin, the DE321, by a small margin.
While traveling over the holidays in December, I recorded extended samples of local station (630AM WAIZ) with both the DE32 and the DE321. You can listen to audio samples below, but first it’s important to note that I recorded these (and the FM sample above) with my Zoom H2N digital audio recorder, with radios at a comparable volume and via an audio patch cord.
Note that these recordings represent what each radio sounds like via headphones, not their internal speakers.
You’ll note that the DE32 sounds a little fuller than the DE321, but reception is nearly identical on this local strong medium wave (AM) station. I also found that the DE32 was quite effective at nulling out local RFI (electrical noises) on medium wave. At the beginning of the recordings, above, you’ll hear the static increase and fade as I null out the noise by turning the body of the radio. The DE321 couldn’t null out the local noise quite as effectively as the DE32.
For medium wave DXing, though, you’re better off finding a different ultralight radio. The AGC simply can’t handle marginal signals. Indeed, the same AGC problems plague the shortwave bands as well. DXing would be very unpleasant as the AGC circuit simply can’t cope with weak signals or fading. All in all, as with medium wave, shortwave radio reception is fine for most strong signals.
Tecsun PL-380: What a difference an extra $23 makes
On shortwave, I decided to also compare the DE32 ($27) to the Tecsun PL-380 ($50). I tuned to a Radio Australia broadcast on 11,945 kHz. The comparison between these three portables is interesting:
Both the DE32 and DE321 struggled to receive the Radio Australia signal. In fact, if you really wanted to hear those broadcasts and had to listen on either radio for 30+ minutes it would be frustrating and fatiguing. Notice, however, the difference when listening to the same broadcast with the Tecsun PL-380:
The Tecsun PL-380 receives circles around the DE32 and DE321 on shortwave and medium wave (Click to enlarge)
There’s no comparison, really. In other words, you can hear it. The PL-380 has a lower noise floor, a fuller sound and no AGC problems as with the DE32 and DE321. Hence the reason I always take the PL-380 while travelling–and as a back-up if I plan to record a broadcast on-the-go.
On the shortwaves, as with medium wave, the DE32 is respectable when tuned to a strong signal. For comparison to the weaker signals above, here is a short recording of the DE32 tuned to Radio Havana Cuba:
Not too bad, really. Keep in mind, though, that in my part of North America, Radio Havana broadcasts are so strong that I can pick them up without even extending the whip antenna on most portables.
The DE32 has a built-in LED flashlight (Click to enlarge)
I haven’t tested the digital audio playback on the DE32 yet, although I expect the audio to be pleasant enough. Of course, it lacks a display to show any information about the audio you’re playing, but it would be great to load a few podcasts or audio books on.
In summary, I’ve tabulated the pros and cons below from the moment I took the DE32 out of the box, below. Note that these pros and cons take into account the $27 price level of this radio:
Very portable and lightweight
With micro SD card, storage for hours of pre-recorded content (though not tested in this review)
Adequate shortwave coverage (5.6 to 22 MHz) (see con)
Good audio fidelity, via headphones, on strong stations, slightly better than the DE321
Above average FM reception
Great nulling ability on medium wave (AM)
Features a built-in LED light (see con)
Overall build quality seems to be acceptable
Standard analog volume control (not digitally incremented levels)
Red LED tune light (see con)
Shortwave sensitivity and selectivity are poor
Shortwave coverage lacks the lower tropic bands
Bandwidth is not adjustable and too broad for crowded conditions
AGC (as with many DSP portables in this class) cannot deal with weaker DX stations
Medium wave (AM) imaging on the shortwave bands if strong local station present
Antenna slightly loose in antenna hole when fully extended
No battery level indicator
No back stand
Tinny sound from tiny built-in speaker
To operate LED flashlight, you must press a button continuously to keep illuminated and LED bulb orientation does not help with reading display in dark (see pro)
No option for standard AA or AA batteries–only included li-ion rechargeable pack
LED tuning light only works with very strong stations (see pro)
Conclusion? Though slim, lightweight and inexpensive, I wouldn’t find the DE32 DSP radio/digital audio player a useful radio in my collection.
If I were you, would I buy it?
If you’re looking for a very inexpensive MP3/Digital Audio player with AM/FM and shortwave, and your expectations are fairly low, the Degen DE32 is a reasonable $27 piece of kit. Especially if you only plan to use the FM band.
If the digital audio playback abilities are not important to you, I would go with the cheaper ($18 US) Degen DE321.
But if you really want performance on medium wave and shortwave, and you could care less about digital audio playback, spend the extra $23 ($50 total) and buy the Tecsun PL-380, instead. As you can hear above, it’s a much, much better receiver.
If you’ve been sitting on the fence about purchasing the DE1129, perhaps RDS will sway you toward purchasing this portable radio with integrated digital recording and playback.
Frankly, I was unimpressed by the DE1129. Though the radio has very good FM reception and an impressive little speaker with bass response, I believe the majority of shortwave and medium wave radio listeners would be upset with its overall performance. I can’t imagine that Degen’s updates would bring dramatically improved performance on the shortwave and mediumwave bands. If nothing else, the lack of a number pad to directly input frequencies, would put me off. Cruising through the shortwave bands at slow 5kHz steps with noted muting between frequencies make band-scanning a chore on the DE1129.
According to TecsunRadio.com, this image was altered by Degen to show what the DE1129 would look like with a number pad. It’s obvious that the image has been altered by Photoshop or another graphics application.
DE1129 Number Keypad?
Speaking of a number pad…earlier this year, TecsunRadio.com told me that there would soon be a version of the DE1129 with a number keypad. They published a prototype image (see right). When I first saw this image, I could instantly see that it had been Photoshopped; obvious use of cloning tools and the fact that the number pad characters are not in alignment with the buttons really stand out. Still, for a prototype image, it gives you a good sense of what the final product will look like.
Within weeks, I started noticing the keypad version of the DE1129 appearing in search results on eBay and had assumed it was in production.
This eBay seller shows a version of the DE1129 with number pad, but the image is the Photoshopped image (see above) released from Degen earlier this year.
This morning, I opened an eBay listing of the DE1129 keypad version (see image on right) from pbuying.usa. Their listing clearly shows the same Photoshopped image from above. I then noticed that neither the product description nor any other image they feature indicates a number pad on the DE1129. I wrote a message to them this morning asking for clarification and will update this post with their response.
UPDATE: pbuying.usa confirmed that his radio does not have a number pad and was apologetic and thankful that it was pointed out. The image has been removed.
I mention this as a note of caution: On eBay, you should always confirm any discrepencies before purchasing. Though you could rightfully return the radio and get a refund, return shipping to Hong Kong/China (which you would pay for) could be in excess of $20-25 US.
By the way, though the addition of a number keypad on the DE1129 would make this radio at least 50% more usable, it would not sway me to recommend it because receiver performance is so mediocre. Check out my other review notes here.
I’m very curious if any SWLing Post readers have actually received a keypad version of the DE1129–please comment!