Avo’s review of the Digitech AR1946 shortwave portable

digitech-AR1946-front

The Digitech AR1946

Digitech has released their latest shortwave portable: the Digitech AR1946.

If you live in Australia or New Zealand, you’re probably familiar with the Digitech brand which is sold at JayCar Electronics. If you live in other parts of the world, you may never run across a Digitech (branded) portable.

Digitech-AR1946-box

SWLing Post reader, Avo, purchased the new AR1946. He commented with the following brief review (I inserted a few product photos from JayCar):

[The] AR1946 is now out. Had one for a day but ended returning it as shortwave was full of garbage. Fully DSP based according to the box.

Digitech-AR1946-Front-Handle

I do have to say that FM performance is superb. Sensitivity and selectivity is better than any previous radio I have used and RDS is very usable even on weak signals. 10 kHz steps with a very smooth non muting dial make it a pure DX machine in my books for FM.

Digitech-AR1946-R-sdie

Digital [DAB+] is ok but kept cutting out even with good signal strengths. AM modes have 7 bandwidths that work very well. MW is a bit dull but no images.

Digitech-AR1946-Left-s

If only SW was good I would recommend it as a good all rounder but at $219 for just a great FM tuner I think it’s expensive.

Digitech-AR1946-Back-S

Saying all this, the unit feels good quality wise and in my opinion is a better attempt than the [Digitech] AR1945.

Digitech-AR1946-Front-1

I think a revision can sort out SW and if so, I am definitely repurchasing….

Many thanks for your assessment, Avo!

It sounds like your unit suffers from the same problems many recent DSP portables have experienced: a high noise floor. This was the issue affecting the recently released Degen DE1103 DSP.  I’m not sure why this is happening more in some of the most recently released receivers, but I assume it has to do with poor engineering and internal shielding.

I bet that the noise level may vary unit to unit. Avo, you might ask for another to test before getting the full refund (if Jaycar’s return policy allows).

Have any other readers put the Digitech AR1946 on the air? Please comment!  Click here to view the AR1946 at JayCar Electronics.

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16 thoughts on “Avo’s review of the Digitech AR1946 shortwave portable

  1. Phil Ireland

    I forgot to add, it would’ve been good to have say 2 bandwidths on FM but so far the AR-1946 seems to be an FM powerhouse in performance!
    Also the radio has line in and line out features.
    I’m currently listening to ABC Western Victoria Horsham on 594 khz and I have to say the radio is slightly outperforming my CCRadio-EP here. It’s 10am local DST and Horsham would be over 600 kms from my home QTH. Very impressive MW performance.
    Cheers and good DX….. Phil

    Reply
    1. James Patterson

      I must say that my earlier version,the 1945 model certainly out performs all my other portable receivers as far as AM broadcast and FM receiption goes,and the UHF Air Band is excellent,pulling all the local Air Traffic in very strongly.Unfortunitly the SSB mode on it is a joke,and I bought it for SSB DXing,but alass,I cant use it for that,so it’s become my radio that I take away when ever I go camping into the hills over here in New Zealand.It simply pulls in all our good old AM and FM stations no probs at all.
      So I now have it as my “Long distance” radio,I have made a few changes to it though,Ive changed the Tuning knob,giving it a much larger knob making it easier to turn and I have put a new antenna socket on the rear of the case enableing me to screw my antenna coaxal plug straight to it.But over all,Im very pleased with the radio,so I hope the newer version is as good or even better than mine.

      Reply
  2. Phil Ireland

    Hi all,
    I had a great opportunity to put the AR-1946 through it’s paces last night and I like this radio a lot. There are certainly some quirks with it, no radio is perfect by any stretch which, considering the amount of constructive comments on line suggesting features for the perfect radio, designers and manufacturers are bound by cost structures which would make the “perfect radio” cost prohibitive!
    After all, the vast majority of users are the average person who has no interest in having a radio that can eke the last vestige of signal from the “ether”. It is only enthusiasts like us that wish for radio’s “Holy Grail”!
    The AR-1946 is a radio that has to cater for both the average user and enthusiasts alike so as such some features that would make this radio as close to perfect as we would like just aern’t there, but what features are available are very good. So a brief summary of the radio follows
    PROS:
    Super sensitivity on all bands (DAB+ not tested)
    Excellent selectivity specially on AM with no less that 7 bandwidths available
    Very pleasant audio
    Good build quality and well laid out panel. Good physical size of radio.
    Bright, easy to read LCD display (see CON)
    Soft mute that is a bane of many DSP sets is almost non evident
    Multiple tuning features (See CON)
    External antenna connections
    Handy carry handle
    CONS
    Partially mutes on tuning with the rotary encoder. Makes band scanning for weak signals unnecessarily difficult.
    Rotary encoder too sensitive, increments in 1 khz jumps on AM, would be better to have radio tune in smaller increments, say 100 khz. Again makes tuning with the encoder difficult.
    Fine tuning control not really fine tuning! Tunes in 1 khz jumps on AM, way too coarse. Obviously added with the thoughts of SSB but no SSB offered.
    No SSB as mentioned before.
    Some useful display icons not available. It would be good to have had the SW metre bands displayed when in the SW mode. As would have been a clock displayed when the radio is on.
    No Air band which is really a nice touch.
    No IF out for DRM listening.
    Some very slight digital and display noise but not imposing at all.
    So there you have it, as I said, no radio is perfect but the AR-1946 is never the less very good. It’s a keeper for me with the only real issue for me the partial muting when tuning. That IS a pain!
    Can I recommend it? As said before, a very definite yes but I must stress, make sure the seller will let you listen first as many Chinese radios lately have marginal QC and item to item variability seems to be a factor judging by Avo’s initial comments. I have none of the issues he’s experienced.
    Cheers and good DX…… Phil

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Phil’s review of the Digitech AR1946 | The SWLing Post

  4. Phil Ireland

    Hi again,
    I forgot to mention that the RDS feature is handy but needs a strong signal to show RDS info. Not a major issue but again worth noting.
    Cheers….. Phil

    Reply
  5. Phil Ireland

    Hi all,
    I’ve now purchased the AR1946 and I have to say, I’m very impressed! No noise problems at all with mine, although if you listen very carefully under certain conditions, you can discern a slight digital hash. Not in anyway imposing though.This radio is super sensitive, AM comes very close to the CCRadio-EP in performance and FM is outstanding. SW is very impressive but there a a few quirks in tuning in as far as below 10MHz, you hit Frequency, key in the value and hit Frequency again to tune and above 10MHz, you hit Frequency type in the value and it jumps straight to the frequency. Not a great issue but worth knowing.
    This radio has 7 bandwidths in AM both accessible on MW and SW and rudimentary fine tuning with a separate wheel control. Unfortunately FM only has 1 bandwidth but seems well chosen. DAB+ is not available in Regional NSW so that cannot be commented on.
    The telescopic antenna is ridiculously small but seems to pull in the signals with no problems. There are external antenna connections for improved performance.
    Audio is very pleasant and you can control both treble and bass with the push of a button. The display is bright, well lit and easy to read with a useful tuning indicator.
    There are a number of useful features and with 700 memories, there are more that needed. The radio is very reminiscent of the Grundig Satellit 700 in some respects. Build quality seems very good, time will tell if reliability becomes an issue.
    What I don’t like is the radio partially mutes when tuning, this is annoying when bandscanning with the rotary tuning control. I have noticed what appears to be synchronous detection being used as occasionally when tuning onto a frequency, you will hear the detector lock on frequency. If so, there is no control over this feature. That may explain the display showing synch but the final model has automatic synch lock..
    The AR1946 dispenses with Airband that was good on the AR1945 and SSB. Its a pity that SSB is omitted but along with the Tecsun PL310ET with DSP, they don’t have SSB capabilities as well. I suspect the same DSP chip is being used in this radio.
    Can I recommend the radio? A resounding yes! As mentioned I’m very impressed. Try before you buy though as it may be that QC is variable along with many Chinese radios of late.

    Reply
  6. Avo

    Hmmm, I wonder if the Soulra version of the Field is released yet… Apart from design, I bet the 1946 is the same unit internally. As you say Keith, proudly brought to us by SOE.

    I suspect the Eton/Soulra units and the 1946 are based around the same family of DSP chipset. If so, perhaps the additional functionality in the Satellit could be ported into the larger footprint of the Field. The engineering has already been done….

    Eager to see more info on the new S8800. I can certainly forgo digital capability if SSB is on the equation. Unfortunately no mention of RDS. The 1946 uses RDS (or DAB) to set the clock which is very useful (if the station has the master clock set correctly!) for me… Here’s hoping the S8800 will have the necessary hardware for RDS.

    Reply
  7. Keith Perron

    Redsun, Degan and Tecsun are technically all the same company. They are all owned by the same company. SOE. State Owned Enterprise.

    Sangean years ago use to and still does put other retailer names on certain products. Like the ATS818. This one sold as Emerson, Radio Shack and others.

    Reply
  8. Avo

    Oh yeah, one thing to keep in mind. FM being super sensitive might be problematic in high RF junk areas. My apartment is down in a gully about 11 kms from transmitter-ville in Sydney so the hot frontend was quite advantageous for me. Up until 5 years ago however I lived about 3 to 4 kms from the 4 major TV/FM tx towers vmany 50-150kW signals being transmitted from those towers). Now THAT location would have been a good test for this unit! I strongly suspect overload will be an issue here…..

    Reply
  9. Avo

    Hi all,

    There is no SSB capability with this unit. Interestingly the LCD panel (which I suspect is the same as the Eton Field radio) has icons for AIR, WB (Weather), LSB, USB and SYNC. One can dream, I usually do at the darndest times…..

    I agree Phil and Keith that this is an amalgamated China production ala Redsun/Tecsun/Kaito/Eton/etc.

    Andi, the images above are of a pre-production unit. The production unit is all black and looks far better than these images portray (Jaycar are doing a disservice to themselves, the production unit looks classy…). The actual unit is as per the image on the packaging box. Labelling and general cabinet fit and finish are top notch. The buttons are solid to use and I keep harping on about the tuning knob, so smooth and linear. I might have had a decent unit with the quality though. If only SW was useable…. The AM IF Out is not so on the production unit, it is an AM external antenna jack. FM/DAB connector is as shown. Sound quality is superb. No need to tweak the electronic bass/treble control.

    John, couldn’t agree with you more. I salivated over units of yore in my youth and now that I have the means to afford them…. where are they? A couple of weeks ago I bought a Sangean WFR28C internet radio thinking it would replace my Pure Sensia 200D. Returned it the next day. The cute little colour LCD panel was grossly askew (slanted to the left quite prominently to the point that the bottom of the panel disappeared into the unit), constant clicks and pops on internet and terrestrial radio was plain deaf.

    I do think though that this unit gives a glimpse into the direction of Chinese production. If the feel is anything to go by, I think some fun times are coming in receivers from China. Reminds me of car manufacturing. 4 years ago I bought a Kia Optima, a brand I would never have bought say 10 years ago. I am probably going to upgrade to the new for AU turbo model next year so impressed I have been with it. The quality is superb on my car and all reviews point to even higher quality in the new models. Korea has got it’s sh++ right with car engineering and design to the point that… well… why buy Japanese or European when I can spend my hard earned money on equipment and engineering rather than brand plate. I think this is currently occurring with Chinese electronic manufacturing.

    Reply
  10. John

    I suppose this receiver is ok for broadcast listening but paying A$200+ for the pleasure is a bit rich. DAB+ is also problematic with its limited signal coverage and varying audio quality as well.

    I would also concur with the lack of SSB as a big omission. To me it’s a deal breaker and renders the receiver less capable than it could have been. I suppose Jaycar instructed Redsun to design a receiver that appeals to the majority of listeners rather than the enthusiasts that want to chase SSB DX.

    It’s rather demoralizing to see good quality SW radios with SSB capability drying up in the marketplace. I don’t consider the SW receivers designed and manufactured in China anywhere near acceptable in quality and performance. If Sony had stayed in the market and Sangean not outsourced most of its manufacturing to China we might have a better choice of quality receivers. Instead we are bombarded with Chinese junk that won’t stand the test of time.

    Unfortunately people want cheap – and that’s what they get.

    Reply
  11. Phil Ireland

    Hi all,
    I think you’ll find the Digitech Audio radios series are made by Redsun in China. You will see Redsun stenciled in the circuit boards if you open the radios up. I think Redsun is a step down on Tecsun in quality but trying to make inroads into the market.
    My guess is the board is similar to the AR-1945 and as such, won’t have included SSB due to the atrocious design in the 1945. They probably decided to leave it out.
    I agree, the shielding is a big problem in a lot of radios, just cost cutting and sadly ruins a lot of radios for serious devotees. You could make the shielding yourself and add it but it shouldn’t be necessary.
    Stiil, I think I will have to get one at some stage!
    Cheers…. Phil

    Reply
  12. James Patterson

    Well its interesting that you say that Keith because normaly Digitech have only been involved in Audio systems such as Speakers and Amps as far as I know.But the 1945 model does look simular to the Degan shape and design from what Ive seen on internet pics of it.It doesnt look as if the 1946 model has SSB.They have added features to it but have left out SSB.TheDRM decoder is of really no use to me,because Im right into SSB monitoring.Unfortunitly Digitech did not do a great job when designing the SSB mode on the 1945 yet it has very good sensitivity on all bands and really pulls in the VHF Air band far better than my PL660.Infact I find the Tecsun PL660 very quite on the air band.I have changed the tuning knob on my 1945 to give it a far better feel when turning,also added a large coaxal type socket at the rear of the case for my antenna imput.One thing about them,there is plenty of room inside to make changes.I also find its a great “Long distance” receive radio,would be great for the Out Backs of Australia or stuck in the hills of NZ.All and all the 1945 was a good radio for its price,so Im hopeing the 1946 is even better.

    Reply
  13. Andi_84

    “Fully DSP based according to the box.”
    Interesting – though on the JayCar website they write:
    “It utilises a PLL synthesized receiver for a high level of stability …”

    Also an interesting thing to note is the terminal block labeled “AM IF Out” – it could potentially be used for feeding the IF to a DRM decoder. Do they specify the IF frequency anywhere in the documentation?

    Best regards,
    Andi

    Reply
  14. Keith Perron

    I’ve been to one of their shops before. These are not Digitech radio. They have Tecsuns and Degans. They only have the different name. Some of the housing are different. A bit..

    Reply
  15. James Patterson

    Does the AR 1946 have SSB mode at all? I bought the AR 1945 just as a “Novety” radio to play arround with,compared to all my other portables SSB is a waste of time even trying.It’s a hit or miss when it comes to SSB with it.But I dont see it mentioned in the specs.If it hasnt got SSB at all,it isnt a full SW radio thats how I see Sw radios.When picking a radio,it must have SSB for my likeing.Anyway it may be a big improvement for Digitech!I may check Jaycar here in NZ !!

    Reply

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