Short Videos: the XHDATA D-808 Portable SSB Receiver on MW and SW

I recently received a new XHDATA D-808 SSB portable receiver, after AliExpress had a $69 USD introductory sale. I’m intrigued by this new model, as it uses the SiLabs Si4735 DSP chip, the same “brains” that powers the Eton Satellit (and Executive version), and C. Crane Skywave SSB. I believe the same Si4735 is found in Tecsun’s PL-880 and the CountyComm GP-5/SSB. A key feature found in all of these radios is USB/LSB modes and 10-Hz tuning step in SSB.


It would be a mistake to assume that all portable DSP receivers with the same SiLabs chip will perform equally; quite the opposite! They all have reception differences that owners will notice. I certainly noticed differences in sensitivity, AGC action, audio quality, and (to some extent) variations in adjacent channel (splatter) rejection between receivers using the same bandwidth. I made these observations when I owned the PL-880 and GP-5/SSB radios. Differences in the circuitry surrounding the SiLabs chip, as well the sizes of MW ferrite loopstick antennas and SW/FM whip antennas contribute to each receiver’s personality.

Below are four videos showing the D-808’s reception of three weaker daytime medium wave stations from indoors at my suburban Seattle-Tacoma (WA) home, plus one video of a shortwave reception in the 41 meter band. The XHDATA D-808 is compared to C. Crane’s newest Skywave radio, the SSB model, and the Eton Executive Satellit. Although brief, these tests show how the new XHDATA portable is a welcome competitor to the field of modern, compact SSB-capable radios:

What about single sideband? These four videos show reception in AM mode only, but rest assured the D-808 is very capable on the SSB modes of LSB and USB! A separate fine tuning rotary wheel on the right side of the radio’s case offers adjustment in 10 Hertz increments. The effect feels very similar to tuning CountyComm’s GP-5/SSB “walkie-talkie” style receiver. The plus or minus (+/-) offset is displayed in multiples of 10 Hz steps as “-1”, “-2”, “-3”, and so on.

I hope to post some future videos showing SSB usage of the D-808.

Soft mute. The dreaded soft mute is present in AM and SSB mode to some degree, but I do not feel it is excessive. Like most radio hobbyists I’m not a fan of soft muting and prefer uninterrupted tuning with no sign of “chuffing” or lowering of noise or audio.  The amount of soft mute on this radio seems the same as the Eton Executive Satellit in my opinion.

What else to like? My take–

Audio. I find the D-808’s audio quality to be slightly more mellow or warmer…I like that, especially on FM! Audio on the MW and SW bands still has a crispness that aids in DXing on those bands, however.

18650 Li-Ion battery. Not all may agree, but I like this style of battery. The D-808’s internal circuit shuts off when the battery is fully charged, or after 10 hours of charging. The radio comes with a 18650 battery and a USB cable; the owner supplies a common 5V USB charger.

RDS on FM. This is a feature lacking on the Skywave SSB, but it is present and performs as expected with the D-808. The XHDATA radio lacks the Skywave SSB’s NOAA weather presets, however.

AM filter bandwidths. Interestingly, this receiver supplies two additional narrow AM mode bandwidths lacking in the Executive Satellit: 1.8 kHz and 1.0 kHz. It’s good to have options, although such narrow filters in AM mode sound a little muffled (offset tuning helps). The Skywave SSB does offer 1.0 kHz in AM mode, but has a 2.0 bandwidth in place of 1.8 kHz.

Backlighting. If desired, the D-808’s easy-on-the-eyes white backlight for the display can remain illuminated continually. Bravo, XHDATA! Now, if we could persuade more manufacturers to add backlighting to the keys themselves (a la the Degen DE1103/Kaito KA1103/Eton E5), we’d have more choices use in low light conditions like camping or bedside use.

Handy size. Probably a third larger than the diminutive Skywave SSB, the D-808 is still a very handy size that will fit most coat pockets, and is a smaller receiver than the Eton Executive Satellit. As you can tell from my videos, reception doesn’t suffer due to the smaller size.

Design. OK, this one’s very personal! As a graphic designer I have a real soft spot for any receiver that looks as good as it sounds, no matter what the technology or vintage. The D-808’s look really appeals to me and adds to my enjoyment while operating it. There are no unnecessary protrusions, ridges, or visual do-dads on this XHDATA model. In fact, I seem some design clues from the stylish Tecsun PL-880 in the D-808. The radio also has a quality feel to the plastic case and buttons, giving it a more “upper class” impression during use.

Antenna jack. The D-808 has the standard 3.5mm antenna port on the left side of the receiver. This is an addition I appreciate, and wish that C. Crane had included one on their Skywave SSB model. I tried this external antenna jack with an amplified PK Loops’ shortwave antenna and the combination performs excellently.

Minor annoyances

So far, the list is short! As a sacrifice to style, the manufacturer has kept all front panel buttons almost flush with the case. The effect looks great, but they are almost too low and close to the front panel. Those with larger fingers may find operation awkward or frustrating. Also, entering a shortwave frequency with less than five digits (i.e., below 10,000 kHz) requires a trailing push of the Frequency (FREQ) button.

I encourage other new owners of XHDATA’s D-808 to leave their comments below. Where does this portable rate among other radios you may own?

 

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

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29 thoughts on “Short Videos: the XHDATA D-808 Portable SSB Receiver on MW and SW

  1. Stephen Nolan

    Just got this radio and am delighted with the performance. However, the steps for setting the time are lost in translation for me. I’ve tried pressing quickly ‘the’ button, but which one is ‘the’ button. Thanks to Thomas for the advice and steer. 🙂

    Reply
      1. Stephen Nolan

        Yes sir, I feel rather foolish, power followed by AM/FM – choose auto – perfect. Sincere thanks ?

        Reply
        1. 13dka

          You’re welcome! As you probably know, “Auto” will let RDS set the clock for you (if the station transmits that portion of RDS). When I tune around the FM band a little looking for DX, I sometimes receive some garbage data setting off the clock again tho, so once I have the current time I turn the radio off and set time to “Manual”.

          Reply
  2. Pingback: SSB Reception Examples with the XHDATA D-808 Portable Receiver | The SWLing Post

  3. Phil Nic

    I ordered mine from the UK through AliExpress, after several issues with setting up account – doesn’t seem to like IOS for some reason. Ended up with Radiwow and I received within 3 days , very happy.
    I echo all the comments in the review, and for fairness, I compared it in my head to the GP-5/SSB. Better in my view, similar sensitivity on SW, decent sensitivity on AIR (better IMHO than the PL660). This off the whip.
    The page system had me baffled and took a while before I figured out for pages 0-9; I still am baffled as to how there are 500 memories so if anybody can advise how to access pages above 9, then I’d really appreciate.
    Other than that, it’s my new pocket SW SSB buddy for walking the dog…..good value and would recommend for anybody who wants an entry into SSB radio, especially aviation SW.

    Reply
    1. Golan Klinger

      The fact that the top of their website says, “LOGO” rather than displaying their logo and their “PAYMENT METHODS” and “SHIPPING & RETURNS” links are completely devoid of information would make me a little nervous to do business with them. On the other hand, $66.48 (with free shipping) for the D-808 is mighty appealing.

      Reply
    2. K.U.

      I searched a little further information about radiwow from the Internet, and concluded thereby, that it is safe enough to order from radiowow.com. Now, after two weeks wait, I am happy to report that I have the ordered product at hands. I have the impression that the seller tries to provide good service – there was even a leaflet included in the box with a message encouraging the customer to take contact if the product suffered any damage during the mail transfer. Maybe, it is time to add radiwow.com to the list of recommended web stores.

      Reply
  4. Darshan

    Guy,

    You can prefix the frequency with 0 (zero) if you do not want to press frequency button again so 06615 kHz instead of 6615 kHz. Although it is also one button press more than absolutely necessary. (BTW, I did not discover second frequency button press.)

    Michael Meyer

    I ordered from Ali Express for USD 50 and received in India in reasonable time. The Ali Express Seller (https://goo.gl/TEcped) will ship to Denmark although may take slightly more time than Amazon UK.

    Reply
    1. Guy Atkins Post author

      Hi Vince, that’s disappointing about the widespread instances of problems with AliExpress. It seems like their eCommerce web system and customer service hasn’t kept up with the rapid growth of the company.

      Indeed, the radio will very likely turn up soon on Ebay. In fact, I wonder if it would be worth contacting the popular (and very reliable) Ebay seller Anon-Co to see if she will be selling the XHDATA D-808? She can also be reached at https://www.anon-co.com/.

      Guy

      Reply
      1. Vince

        Hi Guy,

        Contacted my bank, it did not block the transaction. All intiated by the merchant.

        Went back to the AliExpress site. The ‘My Appeal’ page the email link sends me to is still ‘Busy, try again later’. Tried the robot again. This time it said to try another payment method, or to upload documents, which they don’t list, to an AliPay page.

        I have decided to stop here. I’ll keep an eye on eBay, and may well contact Anon-Co. I have purchased a couple of radios from her in the past.

        Thank you very much for your interest.

        Reply
  5. Guy Atkins

    Hi Vince, I’ve placed a couple of orders with AliExpress now, and have had zero problems. They are very good about follow-up to confirm you’ve received the order and that all is well, too. They are a large firm, having been around since 2010, and according to Wikipedia they are owned by the huge company Alibaba.

    AliExpress is made up of many smaller Chinese retailers; it reminds me of Amazon Marketplace sellers, although Wikipedia says the company is more accurately compared to Ebay.

    Reply
      1. Vince

        Not sure what’s going on. I placed an order, and it went through, credit card charged. An hour later, an email saying order cancelled due to security reasons, credit card refunded.

        Link provided for ‘appeal’ does not work. ‘Chat’ option looks like a robot following a script, not much help. Some other pages return ‘Busy try later’. Used 3 different browsers, from 2 different internet connections.

        I’ll contact credit card company to see if they have any additional info.

        Reply
        1. Guy Atkins Post author

          Wow, that’s strange, Vince! I hope you get matters sorted out and are able to place an order for the D-808. Maybe you can use Google to search out any tips on dealing with AliExpress. As I’ve mentioned it has twice worked fine for me when ordering products.

          Reply
          1. Vince

            Hi Guy,

            I did use Google for info. Looks like what happened to me, happens a lot. Granted they may not all have been for the same reason. In some cases the buyer was asked to email a number of documents, things such as driver’s licence and the like. I hope it’s not my case, or the order cancellation won’t be ‘appealed’. Others were also very critical of the customer assistance they received, and how hard it was to reach a ‘human’.

            I asked a co-worker that uses the site regularly, and he told me his sister has had a similar issue once, but could not remember the reason, or how it was resolved. He also mentioned that the site was not working properly this past weekend. This would explain all the error and try again pages I received. If I cannot solve this problem, he offered to order the radio for me.

            This radio will eventually be available on eBay. I may just wait until it does.

  6. Vince

    Hi Guy,

    I’ve heard of AliExpress before, but never did business with or through them. I see they do not accept PayPal. Have you been dealing with them for some time? Is it ok to give them your credit card number?

    Thanks.

    Reply
  7. Thomas

    Wow–Thanks, Guy! I’ve a D-808 inbound–hopefully it will arrive this week.

    Your review is most impressive–it appears to me that the D-808 even has an edge on both radios in terms of audio clarity and, perhaps, noise floor? This is very similar to my experience with the Digitech AR-1780.

    Perhaps we have a new ultra-affordable radio on the market!

    I look forward to your comments as you explore this little radio.

    Cheers,
    Thomas

    Reply
    1. Thomas Brogan.

      I have had my XHDATA for three weeks now, and have recommended it to your very talented Clint of Oxford Shortwave Log. This radio is a solid game changer at this price, and competes with my Pl 680 and 880, and yes it is indeed that good ? Tom.

      Reply
      1. Guy Atkins

        Hi Thomas,

        I’m glad you’re enjoying your D-808! Yes, I hope Clint, of the popular Oxford SW Log on YouTube, checks out this value-packed receiver. I would be very interested to see some of his comparison videos with it during his walks in the quiet Oxford Woods.

        I have not yet done any outdoor rural tests of my D-808, but I’m anxious to do so. If all goes well I will be on the Oregon coast soon for a week and plan to do more comparisons of portables (in addition to DXing with SDRs).

        As we see more portable radios on the market using the same DSP chips, any real differences in performance will be up to the skill of the designers with PCB layout, RF shielding, and (to a lesser degree I think) external supporting components in the circuitry.

        Reply
    1. Guy Atkins Post author

      Hi Michael, I’m sure that’s very disappointing! If you’re determined to get a D-808, you might try using the UK reshipper “Skypax”. I use this service when I purchase items from Ebay-UK and find their service excellent and very reasonably priced. I expect they will reship items to many more countries than just the USA where I live.

      Reply
      1. Michael Meyer

        Hi Guy.

        Thanks for replying. Yes, I have heard about these reshippers, also something called ShopUSA, but I think I will give it a miss, since the fees will make the purchase too expensive, compared to other radios available.

        But I do find it’s weird, a simple thing like a small radio can have delivery restrictions!

        Best regards, Michael

        Reply
  8. Troy Riedel

    Bravo Guy! Very encouraging documentation of performance … VERY! Looking at the videos, the form factor, size, does look identical to the AR-1780 by DigiTech when next to the Executive Satellit (I own those two, not the Skywave).

    I, too, have no issue with the XHDATA D-808 using the 18650 battery.

    On question … you wrote: ” … add backlighting to the keys themselves (a la the Degen DE1103/Kaito KA1103/Grundig G5)”. My Grundig G5 does NOT have backlighting to the keys but my Eton E5 does indeed have key backlighting. I’ve seen this before, on other posts on various sites, about the G5 having key backlighting but I’ve also seen posts stating the G5 model dropped the key backlighting from the E5. Due to various contradictions I have always wondered: is this something Eton/Grundig changed on the G5 – either earlier or later models did or did not have backlighting? It’s of no pertinence to your video comparisons, simply a curiosity …

    Oh, one more thing … it’s nice to see a pouch for the D-808, unlike the AR-1780 which did not come with a pouch/case.

    Troy

    Reply
    1. Guy Atkins Post author

      Hi Troy, thanks for mention the G5/E5 backlighting question, as I typed G5 in error. I’ve corrected my article to “Eton E5” instead. However, it’s interesting about the conflicting reports on G5 backlighting. My guess is that dropping this feature at one point may have been a cost-cutting measure. I can’t imagine they’d save more than a few pennies though!

      Yes, the pouch for the D-808 is nice! I neglected to mention that.

      Reply
      1. Troy Riedel

        Thanks for clearing up that myth, Guy 🙂 I thought my G5 might have been an outlier without backlit keys. So many online reviews & reports state the G5 is a clone of the E5, yet I’ve watched dozens of YouTube videos of both and no G5 I’ve ever viewed has the backlighting of keys (the E5 has silver keys with clear key identifiers for the backlighting to shine through, the G5 has black keys with stenciled key identifiers so backlighting could not shine through).

        But getting back on point … again, excellent article & videos of the D-808. It appears the performance-to-dollar ratio of the D-808 can’t be beat and this might be a great entry level radio for someone looking to enter the hobby at a modest price point.

        Reply
        1. Jack K.

          I have the Grundig G5 and the keys are back lit. The G3 doesn’t feature back lit keys because they changed the design of the dial to A) make it easier to read (the G5 needs to be tilted just right) and B) add different display info (RDS, et.)

          My theory is this wasn’t cost cutting at all, but an unplanned benefit from the G5/E5 being direct descendants of the Degen DE1103. The DE1103 had the full faux analog dial (lit by multiple bulbs). The G5/E5 have two bulbs as well, one down by the keypad, most likely left over from the Degen board. The G3 (with the redesign) moved the second bulb up to give that dial better lighting (hence, loss of keypad lights).

          Reply

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