The Professor reviews the XHDATA D-328

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, The Professor, who shares the following review of the XHDTA D-328:

First off, this is the best radio I’ve ever operated… that cost me less than ten dollars new. When I saw the promotion on the SWLing Post for free or half price radios, I had to bite, especially because the deal was that the first ten to respond would get a free XHDATA D-328. They told me I was the 15th caller, so I was allowed one for half price. And since they were going for just under fourteen bucks on Amazon, it felt like it was almost free.

Of course, I didn’t expect much. But as they wanted the people who received these free or very inexpensive little radios to leave reviews, I figured the Chinese manufacturers knew there were some good features radio folk might notice. And there are. And I’m not sure if I’ll post part of this brief review on Amazon, but I’ll do so here in this comment.

If you want a radio that will reliably pick up local AM and FM stations and play some MP3 files, this will work, and work pretty well. And it doesn’t sound bad at all for the size. I personally don’t have much love for these new analog-style tuning DSP radios, but I suppose people who aren’t as radio wise as readers of the SWL Listening Post won’t notice the less than poetic effects of moving between stations on these sets. Most probably tune in their desired stations and just listen to it, and this radio does this well enough.

I don’t really listen to FM much, but the XHDATA D-328 seems adequate enough. And with headphones on it sounds quite rich on FM. AM isn’t bad either, but it’s far from selective. I was able to dig out clear channel regional biggies like Zoomer Radio at 740kHz and WHAS at 840kHz in Louisville from here in Brooklyn at night, but in between often easy to find fifty-thousand watt stations like WBBM or CKLW weren’t there. The DSP tuning just defaulted to the next local station like WNYC or WABC when I turned the dial.

Shortwave was worse. Beyond the U.S. powerhouses like WWCR this radio doesn’t seem a very worthy shortwave set for those of us in North America. But I can imagine in that in third world countries where international and local broadcasters still target broadcasts that this radio might be an inexpensive way to access that programming.

I must admit that listening to MP3 music files was kind of pleasing. Again, the audio is really good for a radio at this price point. However you are listening blind, there’s no screen to tell you what you’re hearing, and no shuffle function to make a folder full of MP3s into unique sequences of songs each time. What you get are the songs in the alphabetical order of the file titles, although you do have the option to jump ahead 10 files before or after the one you are playing. So the best use of an MP3 player like this would be to listen to podcasts or whole radio programs with it. What I would do is copy the files onto the SD card and then perhaps number the filenames in the order I would like to hear the shows.

So, for the price there’s not a lot to complain about. People have already mentioned the off-center small kickstand, and that’s a little cheesy. But the tuning thumb wheel moves smoothly thru the imperfect DSP tuning function, and the volume thumb wheel is actually analog which make it much easier to get the exact volume you want out of this radio. But the sliding band selection switch under the tuning scale is a bit worrisome, as I’ve had a few cheap Chinese radios with a switch like this and just normal use eventually rendered them unable to switch bands adequately. This one feels a little bit more stable then they did, but time will tell.

All that said, there are radios that are not too much more expensive than this radio that offer much more in a number of ways. The small and inexpensive analog Tecsun radios from a few years ago are a case in point. Selling for twenty to thirty dollars, those multi-band radios are a little challenging to tune (a stiff thumb wheel on some), and the tuning scale may be a little off and they may drift a little, but the analog tuning is a much better experience. And you can DX with them. I remember listing to All India Radio with a decent signal one afternoon on my Tecsun R-9710.

There’s a lot of similar analog radios which I believe are probably just about the same radio – the Tecsun R-9012, the Tecsun R-911, the Tecsun R-909 and the Kaito WRX-911, among others. Once you get a look at these you’ll recognize other similar radios in this family. I’d say they’re the best really cheap receivers I know of. They generally run between twenty to just over thirty bucks. I believe these radios appeared on the scene in the early 2000s.

I have this fear that they’ll start turning these radios into DSP sets. That would be a real shame, but I’ve heard no mention of that. However I did notice that the marketers of the XHDATA D-328 didn’t even mention that it was based on a DSP chip. And Chinese manufacturers are notoriously not very open about how they are altering radios that they’re putting out, so be aware of that.

As far as MP3 playback, the one radio I would really recommend is the Meloson (or Tesslor) M8 (or the Meloson M7 or S8 if you can find one). It’s simply the best audio you’ll hear in a really small radio, AND you can shuffle the MP3 files in a folder with these. While it only give you the sequential number of the song in the display, it will generate a unique sequence of songs each time you shuffle. Fill a folder on a card full of songs and let it rip. It’s the perfect micro music player if you make a good folder of music. And the DSP radio in these is not bad either. It’s digital, not fake analog tuning, and most AM clear channel targets you can usually find at night in your region will show up on these. They used to go for less than thirty bucks, but right now I see they cost close to fifty dollars.

Two other radios I have that I can recommend for MP3 playback, are the Tecsun ICR-110 and the Tivdio V-115. Neither one offers playback shuffle, but they will play the files in alphanumeric order just fine. But they both have a cool feature in that you can press a button and record the broadcast you’re hearing as an MP3 file. And they both also sound great. The Tivdio has incredible sound for a tiny radio, but the ICR-110 is even more impressive. I believe it has the same speaker setup as the much more expensive Tecsun PL-880 and it also has similar warm and clear audio.

The reception with the V-115 is OK, nothing stellar, but the ICR-110 is kind of a monster on medium wave. I’ve been impressed. The ICR-110 is rather big compared to the other radios I’ve mentioned, closer to the PL-880 in size, but quite a bit lighter. The ICR-110 used to be cheaper, but can be found for around forty bucks. The Tivdio V-115 still goes for just under twenty if you look around. A bargain. Tecsun, Tivdio, Degen and other Chinese manufacturers have all sorts of inexpensive radios for sale out there, and others I haven’t used or mentioned might be quite good as well. If one appeals to you, do a little online research.

Of course, since I’m talking about small and inexpensive radios I should mention that the Tecsun digital DSP sets like the PL-310ET, the PL-360, PL-380, PL-390 and other variations are all amazing inexpensive radios that will run you around 35 to 50 bucks. The ultralight DX community loves these things, and for good reason. And there’s a version of the PL-390 that plays MP3 files from an SD card and another that offers bluetooth playback. No, none are perfect, but they’re solid sets, and all would have been dream radios thirty years ago.

So, that’s my evaluation of the XHDATA D-328, well worth fourteen dollars, but for a few dollars more you can get radios with similar features that do much more. It’s small, it doesn’t sound bad, and it’s fairly well-built. It will pick up all your favorite local stations and play all your MP3 podcasts effortlessly. Not bad. Like I said, it’s the best super cheap radio I’ve ever used.

Excellent review!  I’m impressed that the D-328 has enough AM performance to grab some  night time clear channel stations. It’s disappointing, however, that it lacks performance on the shortwave bands.

Thanks for posting your review–always great to hear from The Professor!

The XHDATA D-328 is available on Amazon.com (affiliate link).

Click here to read other XHDATA D-328 posts.

5 thoughts on “The Professor reviews the XHDATA D-328

  1. Marty

    Good review and I really like the comparison with other radios in a similar price range.

    I am happy to see a few more manufacturers coming to market with products for shortwave radio. With Sony stepping out of the picture and nothing new from Sangean in some time it is good for these other companies to start filling the gaps.

    SDR is taking the world by storm in both the amateur radio and SWL space. With this being said it is refreshing to be able to take a simple portable off the shelf and head out to the park for the day. I would love to see some of these newer manufacturers work on higher end radios to help push the likes of Tecsun and Sangean to continue to innovate. Competition is good for consumers in this regard.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this little radio!

    Reply
  2. Laurence N.

    I’m still kind of disappointed with the reviews I’ve heard so far. I wonder what those people who have tested these would think about those of us who have the option to buy this at a slightly reduced (about $3 off) price. I’m mostly considering it because I like the convenient scans afforded by the tuning dial, as all my other ultraportables lack a dial that can quickly bandscan. They can do an automatic scan, but that can take a few minutes. However, if this set won’t receive much, then there is really no point to doing that anyway. Thanks.

    Reply
  3. The Professor

    Laurence, you might want to think about getting one of those little Tecsun analog sets I mentioned. I just looked on ebay and saw a Tecsun R9012 for $21.90 including shipping from a U.S. dealer with a 100% rating. It also has a tuning knob instead of a thumb wheel, which is much better. You’ll get some fine convenient scans with that thing.

    Reply
  4. The Professor

    At this point I feel like I should write a little addendum to this review, because now that I’ve had some time to get familiar with my XHDATA D328. And not only am I liking it more, but I realize that my initial appraisal in this post was a bit short-sighted.

    If you read my last comment on this post you’ll see that I recommended to a reader that he might consider purchasing a Tecsun R9012. Well, I guess ended up talking myself into doing just that. And since then I’ve been comparing it to the D328, and there were a couple surprises.

    They’re both very small and very inexpensive. The XHDATA is smaller, but thicker. They both offer a good number of SW bands, plus AM and FM. The analog tuning R9012 is known as a respectable DX ultralight for over a decade. The D328 is new on the scene, and just a smaller version of the many DSP radios with analog-like tuning that are popping up on the scene.

    My earlier review of this radio was probably a little unfair because of one thing this radio just doesn’t do very well. If you like to DX the broadcast band at night, this is not a good radio for you. And in fact, comparing the little Tecsun to this radio and I couldn’t even hear a lot of the lesser signals between the stronger ones which could be easily found with the Tecsun.

    I’m still not a fan of the analog-style DSP turning, especially on AM. There’s minuscule muting between every reception point you come across. And upon passing a strong station you will typically will hit upon lesser “false peaks” of that station on either side of the main frequency instead of the more distant station in that part of the dial.

    So, that’s the bad part. But there are many good things, especially the audio. The D328 sounds SO much better than the R9012. And not just through the speaker, but it’s just as big of a difference through a set of headphones as well. FM sound great, but stations received on AM and SW offer much richer sound on the tiny XHDATA. More bottom. More presence. And for me, listening to shortwave radio is just a lot easier when the audio is nice and meaty as it is with this DSP radio. I guess that was the main reason I decided to purchase a Tecsun PL-880 instead of a PL-660 a couple of years ago.

    Speaking of shortwave, this was the one part of my previous review that I really got wrong. I just got my first impression during a time when the SW bands were rather quiet. But now I have to say that this is a very good little shortwave radio for less than twenty bucks. I often got much better reception of a number of SW broadcasts on the D328 compared to the R9012, using both with just the whip antenna. I even found some stations I couldn’t really hear on the Tecsun.

    Where this radio fails on shortwave is if you get to a pile up of stations in one section of a band, and then it can be hard to resolve some of the signals, which is similar to what I’ve heard on MW with the XHDATA. However, finding a bunch of broadcasts jammed up in a band doesn’t happen as much as it used to when SW was a much more active platform. Scanning is weird, but I kind of adjusted to the DSP oddities after a while. I do wish it had a knob instead of a thumbwheel.

    I had mentioned in this review that I thought this little XHDATA would be a good set for people in poorer countries or off in far flung locales where shortwave radio broadcasters that remain are likely to target. Well, I would like to further emphasize that point. At this bargain price, this would be an excellent little portable for people who listen to shortwave radio for the traditional reasons- to hear news, music and other programming content. It really is sensitive and the audio is not fatiguing. And the MP3 playback available via an SD card is just another bonus.

    So, I’ve decided I really do like this radio. And I’m starting to think that the upside of these new analogue flavored DSP radios might just be that they easily offer more full audio reception of signals. I have a larger AM & FM with the same type of chip here as well, and I’m duly impressed with the sound coming out of that box too.

    Reply
  5. Nisar Ahmad

    Thank you professor for writing this addendum to your initial impressions about XHDATA D 328 receiver. I recently bought one and after using it for a couple of weeks, fell in love with it so much so that I ordered another one. Not that I needed yet another radio but this one is certainly a good toy to listen to. I agree with you 100% that it’s audio is superb.

    Reply

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