Mike’s review of the Sangean HDR-14 AM/FM HD Radio

Sangean HDR-14 (left) and the C. Crane CC Skywave SSB (right) (Photo: Thomas)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike S, who comments with his short review of the Sangean HDR-14. Mike writes:

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.

The Sangean HDR-14 RDS display (Photo: Thomas)

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.

Thanks for your review, Mark!

It’s interesting that you couldn’t reproduce FM overloading or imaging. I have noted images on the FM band and it hasn’t been in a market as congested as that of NYC. It’s only noticeable when listening to stations adjacent to strong signals, however. It’s almost as if the FM filter is a little too wide.

I also agree about analog AM reception.

My HDR-14 review has been delayed due to a very hectic schedule, but I plan to complete it in the next couple of weeks! Thanks again, Mike!

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9 thoughts on “Mike’s review of the Sangean HDR-14 AM/FM HD Radio

  1. randy

    so which set is better the sangean or sparc, and which is more expensive…seems like the sparc is no longer available… I just purchased the sangean and believe it or not my small square one inch insignia pulls in fm hd much better it has no am but it has graphics of album covers on certain fm hd’s, btw I live in Philadelphia…thanks randy

    1. Mike S

      I think it’s a moot point now as the SHD-TX2 seems to be out of stock everywhere; perhaps out of production. They are similarly priced, plus or minus.

      MW sensitivity, I’d choose the SPARC.
      MW selectivity, I’d choose the Sangean.

      Audio off the speaker is much more pleasing from the SPARC.

      If your Sangean is having issues with sensitivity on FM you can always try clipping a longer antenna to the end of the telescopic whip.

      1. randy

        Thanks for the info, I did notice when you have the antenna up to full extent more powerful FM signals seem to bleed over the original frequency. Example, WMMR at 93.3 is heard on 93.1-92.9- 93.5 there is a rimshot on 93.7 so that channel is OK, I never experienced that with any other radio I ever had, I have to lower the antenna less than half up to avoid this.

  2. Douglas Hunsinger

    I’m probably the person who posted about FM on the HDR-14 having slight image problems. I’ve owned two, and my second is better than the first. But the problem is still there, somewhat. For MW HD DXing, I prefer the Sangean HDR-16. From Pittsburgh, I occasionally receive WBZ’s HD signal. It’s funny to hear KDKA splash disappear when WBZ’s HD kick in. Thanks all for great reviews and a great website.

    1. Mike S

      Yes, it was your review that I referenced in my posting. I agree that the HDR-16 is miles ahead when it comes to MW reception, but it is too large and heavy to be used for travel. The HDR-14 meets those requirements and has at least useable MW and excellent FM performance. In the end I’ve decided it’s a keeper.

  3. Mike S

    If size is not an issue, the “gold standard” for AM reception in radios currently in production right now is the CCrane CCradio-2E. For a mere fraction of that price, the Sangean PR-D4W comes very close.

    Your need is for a small portable – even ultra light. Remember that sensitivity on such sets is going to be limited by the size of the ferrite antenna that fits in the cabinet so there will never be “exemplary” AM reception in comparison with larger sets.

    In that category though, the CCrane Skywave and Eton Traveller III, which are small portables, do very very well.

  4. Mike DePoe

    …I would like to purchase this (Sangean HDR-14) or other set, that has good AM, selectivity and sensitivity! I don’t really care about FM, as it doesn’t carry more than 50 miles of line of sight! If someone can tell me about a small (ultra?) portable, that has “exemplary” AM (medium wave), and the FM, shortwave, long wave would come secondary! That silly “weather band” is OK, but NOT the weather alert, as this would drive insane a person that has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)!
    ….. in this day and age of high technology, why can’t these radio companies manufacture a small radio with good AM , such as the Sony T-615 or a miniature Panasonic RF-2200..?….what can we say…? rsvp!

    1. radiolover

      I just purchased this radio to be used primarily to sit on my bathroom (no window) counter for listening to news/talk/sports. It works very well for that purpose. FM analog and digital are excellent. AM analog is good for a small portable. What makes this little radio special is the AM HD. This little rascal reaches out and grabs all the available AM HD signals in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, even at night. Static and hiss are eliminated. Love it. The tiny speaker provides good sound for voice listening. The small size of this radio is also appropriate for travel, and it can be carried in a pocket of your cargo pants or shorts. Stereo with ear buds is a nice bonus. This little radio is excellent if you listen to AM radio and live in or near a metro area that provides HD signals. It’s a keeper. Give it a try.


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