Monthly Archives: December 2008

The Grundig G3 Voyager–a new portable with synchronous detection

Grundig G3 Voyager

Grundig G3 Voyager

Universal Radio has just posted a product page for a new Grundig portable–the Grundig G3 Voyager. Feature wise, it looks like a marriage of the G6 and G5 in that it has full LW/MW/AM/FM coverage, plus the G6’s aircraft band. Physically, the G3 resembles the G5.

What could make the G3 Voyager a highly competitive portable, though, is the fact that it will offer Synchronous Detection. This feature reduces fading and adjacent station interference on shortwave frequencies. The other notable portable with this feature is the trusty Sony ICF-7600GR.

Note that the G3 has not not hit retailer shelves yet, nor does it have FCC approval. Subscribe to our RSS feed, or check back here often as we will announce when the G3 becomes available.

UPDATE 01/10/09 – Etón has now released a product spec sheet (below) and has the G3 listed on their website (link below).

UPDATE: The Grundig G5 no longer appears on the etón website. Perhaps the G3 is replacing it?

Links:

Please comment on this post or contact me if you have more information about the G3. I will add info as it becomes available.

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Review of the Kaito KA 500 Self-Powered Radio

I tested the KA500 along with several other self-powered radios for a project I’m working on in Africa. I found that the KA500 is a very capable shortwave receiver it’s just not nearly as rugged as its current competitors. Here are my thoughts:

What I like about the KA500:

  • Solar Panel–the KA500 is one of the only portable shortwave receivers out there with a built-in solar panel. The panel is effective enough that it will power the radio (if in direct sunlight) without batteries and produce a reasonable amount of volume through its built-in speaker.
  • The 5 LED reading lamp — This reading lamp is impressive. If the batteries are fully charged, the lamp works for VERY long periods of time. I’m also an amateur radio operator and found that the reading lamp is bright enough that it lit up my large radio table.
  • Good shortwave sensitivity — For a self-powered analog radio, I was impressed with the shortwave sensitivity. I also found the AM broadcast and FM bands adequate/average.
  • Good selectivity — When a station is tuned-in well, you don’t often hear adjacent signals.
  • Good frequency coverage — I like the fact that KA500 covers the NOAA weather frequencies, FM, AM and a very large portion of the SW spectrum (from 3.2 MHZ to 22MHz, missing only a little used piece between 8 & 9 MHz)

What I didn’t like:

  • Quality — Though the radio feels solid in your hand, I found through my testing that the quality of the KA500 is actually quite poor. More than once, the tuning mechanism would slip and the needle would get stuck in the middle of the dial. The worst part, though, is the poor quality of the hand-crank mechanism. The dynamo and crank arm feel cheap. Well, they are cheap. After only a month of occasional testing–and with me being very careful with the hand crank–the dynamo started showing signs of failing. The crank became less fluid to turn and would rub the side of the radio chassis. One day, while slowly cranking, the crank arm just snapped in half. No more crank power.
  • No Fine Tune control — Kaito fits the whole SW1 and SW2 spectrum on a small dial. There were a few times I wish this radio had a fine tune control like the Grundig FR200.

Bottom line

I sent my KA500 back and did not get it replaced. It’s a shame, really. I loved the radio’s features and overall performance, but was very disappointed with quality.

I could only recommend this radio to someone who plans on tucking it away and using it on rare occasions or someone who wants a basic full-featured radio but never plans on using the hand-crank. I’d also keep the receipt handy for the return (and buy from an authorized dealer like Universal Radio).

For my purposes, I will be using the Grundig/Etón FR350 and the FR200. The difference in quality between these and the KA500 is night and day. The Grundigs/Etóns are very rugged, water resistant and time tested. The crank arms are made better and even after long-term use, continue to function properly. They’re simply designed and tested better (before hitting the retail shelf).

Sure wish Kaito would work on the quality of the KA500, they’d have a very competitive product.

[Update 8/11/10: Since the time I first published this review, Etón now makes self-powered radios with built-in solar panels along with hand cranks–the FR600 is a fine example.  I have not noticed that the quality of the KA500 has been improved upon.]

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Wind powered community radio in Southern Sudan

This week’s Living on Earth Broadcast featured an interview with Internews program director Deborah Ensor about bringing solar and wind energy to the region to power a new radio station in Southern Sudan.

This story is a wonderful example of how radio empowers and promotes community relations in parts of the world that lack a communication infrastructure.

Links:

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Canada’s shortwave time station, CHU, is moving

Press release from the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada:

CHU's QSL card used in the 1980s depicting Sir Sanford Fleming, father of uniform times zones.

1980s QSL card from radio station CHU depicting Sir Sanford Fleming, father of uniform time zones.

Time to change your shortwave radio dial

After seventy years of broadcasting Canada’s official time, NRC’s shortwave station CHU will move the transmission frequency for the 7335 KHz transmitter to 7850 KHz. The change goes into effect on 01 January 2009 at 00:00 UTC.

CHU is a part of NRC’s system for disseminating official time throughout Canada, broadcasting 24 hours a day from a location approximately 15 km south-west of downtown Ottawa. Listeners hear tones to mark the seconds, voice to announce the time in French and English, and digital data to set computers.

The atomic clocks at CHU are part of the ensemble of clocks in the time and frequency research laboratories in Ottawa, at the National Research Council Canada. The NRC clocks are used in conjunction with clocks in the time laboratories of other countries to construct the internationally accepted scale of time, UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), which is now the reference for official time used by all countries. UTC is the modern implementation of Greenwich Mean Time.

“Coincidentally, this frequency change comes at a time when NRC is investing resources to refurbish the aging transmitters at CHU in order to provide clear, dependable shortwave services as part of NRC’s mandate to disseminate time to all Canadians.” said Raymond Pelletier, Technical Officer at the NRC-Institute for National Measurement Standards, who oversees the CHU facility. “The shortwave time service is especially beneficial for those in remote locations where there is limited access to internet and telephone communication. CHU also provides a back up against failure of other services.”

In April 2007, the International Telecommunications Union re-allocated the 7300-7350 KHz band from a fixed service to a broadcasting service. Since then, interference on the 7335 KHz frequency has come from many information broadcasters around the world.

CHU listeners in Canada and around the world who have for so long considered the 7335 KHz frequency exclusively for time signals, are very vocal about this interference. We have heard from amateur radio operators, watchmakers, astronomers, and navigators who use the tones and voice signals. As well, comments were received from those who use the carrier as a calibration source at a distance for their equipment.

To give notice to users, CHU will broadcast an announcement in both English and French. More information
about CHU can be found at:
http://inms-ienm.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/time_services/shortwave_broadcasts_e.html
Comments about the CHU change can be sent by e-mail to radio.chu@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca.

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VOA honors former director who introduced Special English programming

Henry Loomis (1919-2008)

Henry Loomis (1919-2008)

Voice of America (VOA) recently broadcast a tribute to former director, Henry Loomis who passed away last month. The VOA tribute was appropriately broadcast in “Special English”–a broadcast method Loomis created and championed at VOA.

Importance of Special English

Loomis developed the concept of Special English for VOA while travelling the world in the 1950s. He noticed that English was quickly becoming an international language and VOA’s international listeners were keen to learn but needed a simplified “text book” English broadcast to better understand the content. Loomis developed English broadcasts with slower speaking rates and more simplified vocabulary.

Though VOA began broadcasting in Special English on October 19, 1959, the programming was internally criticized as ineffective and American embassies even demanded that the slower rate program be cancelled. Regardless, Loomis continued to champion the method and hundreds of listeners soon wrote to VOA praising the system. Today, Special English programming remains some of the most popular at VOA.

Other Special Language Broadcasts

Since I am a native English speaker, I rarely listen to programming in Special English. However, I have listened to programming from other international broadcasters in Special French (Français Facile).

Français Facile from Radio France International gave me the confidence to listen to professional news broadcasts in French when I was still a student. Though I speak French fluently now, I still like to listen to these broadcasts. I believe the slower rate and careful diction actually help to improve my French vocabulary.

If you have never heard a broadcast in Special English, I encourage you to listen to the VOA broadcast mentioned above–click here to download the recorded broadcast as an mp3 file (courtesy of VOA).

More information on Loomis and Special English:

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