In the pipeline: a review of the Sangean HDR-14 portable AM/FM HD radio

Based on readers correspondence, the most anticipated non-shortwave radio to hit the market this year might be the Sangean HDR-14 AM/FM HD radio.

Sangean sent me a sample evaluation unit and I’ve had it on the air since taking delivery last week. I’m starting to put the elements of my HDR-14 review together while also writing Part 2 of my SDR primer for The Spectrum Monitor magazine (Part 1 was published last week). Indeed, I’ve a total of five reviews and evaluations on my desk right now–!

So far, I’m impressed with the little HDR-14. If you recall my review of the Sangean HDR-16, I mentioned that one of my benchmark distant HD FM stations is WFAE 2–its transmitter is a full 101 miles from my home and I’m well outside even the the fringe reception area.

The HDR-14 has a unique back stand: a small foot that swivels out of the base of the chassis.

I’m pleased to note that on more than one occasion, I’ve gotten a reliable HD lock of WFAE from my porch. A most positive sign!

Over the next three weeks, the HDR-14 will be travelling with me and I hope to even snag an AM HD station if all goes well.

I can tell you already that I’m as pleased as punch Sangean gave the HDR-14 a total of 20 AM and 20 FM memory presets. The larger HDR-16, in contrast, only has 5 AM and 5 FM presets.

Look for my review of the HDR-14 on the SWLing Post in the coming weeks. If interested, follow the tag: HDR-14

I’ve noted that both Universal Radio and Amazon.com (affiliate link) have the HDR-14 in stock and shipping. Universal’s price is $79.99 plus shipping and Amazon’s price is $88.67 including shipping.

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5 thoughts on “In the pipeline: a review of the Sangean HDR-14 portable AM/FM HD radio

  1. Mike S

    Well, I did something I said i would not do, triggered by Amazon’s tendency to introduce impossibly low prices on things for a couple of days, I sprang for the HDR-14. I have used it side by side with its direct competitor (the Nicetex “SPARC” SHD-TX2) for a few nights and a couple of days. Interesting little device.

    As has been pointed out by those that read the specs, it is barely larger than the CC Skywave overall. It is made of the same soft, shiny black plastic as the larger Sangean portables (it is alternately a fingerprint magnet or a scuff magnet) but has a much less solid feel. The swivel-out foot on the bottom is a welcome addition and works well.

    I have not yet played with other features (memories, etc) except to note that somebody has finally gotten it right in that memory locations store the chosen FM multicast channel instead of just the frequency.

    Performance is a mixed bag. This is NOT an HDR-16 crammed into a smaller cabinet; not surprising, really, considering the amount of real estate available for circuitry. Analog FM and HD capture are right up there with the the larger sets and similar to the SPARC. I am unable to reproduce the spurious FM image problem noted by a lone Amazon reviewer. Audio is “just OK” out of the speaker with a harsh emphasis on treble – the SPARC portable is MUCH better with its passive radiator – but just fine for headphones or an external speaker.

    However, for AM, that reviewer was spot on. The noise floor on AM is a tad too high and the native sensitivity a tad too low; resulting in “just OK” useable sensitivity on the band especially compared to the SPARC. I had no trouble with AM-HD on the only two stations in NYC metro (WCBS and WINS); however, it was unable to even detect the HD carrier from known stations in nearby cities that I was able to get >50% on the HDR-16 and HDR-18. The selectivity is better than the SPARC due to the DSP active for bandwidth adjustment; witness that I was able to clearly separate stations in Connecticut (600) and Philadelphia (610) from the splatter of local powerhouses at 570 and 620. Unfortunately too, analog AM reception is plagued with DSP artifacts reminiscent of earlier Tecsun sets which can even manifest in odd distortion in adjacent-channel splatter that bleeds into the tuned signal. The fact that the audio circuit/speaker accentuate the treble, make this even more annoying – the “ticks” from adjacent channel splatter are so harsh that you might think the speaker cone is damaged and vibrating.

    I’m still waffling on whether to keep this one. It’s a nice little set which is sure to become a collector’s item, and its FM performance really is exemplary. But I kinda view the inclusion of the AM band as its raison d’être and in that regard it could certainly do better.

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      Yes–the audio from the internal speaker leaves something to be desired! It’s a pretty sensitive set, though, on FM!

      Thomas

      Reply
  2. Mike S

    Looking forward to it.

    Amidst the handful of glowing reviews on Amazon is a significant one from a more critical owner; who points out that AM is noisy (effectively reducing overall sensitivity due to higher noise floor) and FM prone to spurious images.

    Interestingly the reviewer’s basis of comparison is the underrated SPARC (Nicetex) AM-FM portable which seems to our-perform the HDR-14 overall.

    Reply

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