A review of the Tecsun R-9012 shortwave radio


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Laurence Neils, who shares the following guest post:

A review of the Tecsun R-9012

by Laurence Neils

I have cheap radios. I can’t really justify buying more expensive ones given how much time (not all that much) I spend listening to the short wave broadcasters. The consequence of this is that, when I do listen to shortwave stations, I have the rather standard ultraportables to listen on.

My go-to radio is the Tivdio V-115, which has pulled out quite nice reception for me, and offers several functions I like a lot. However, it was missing one that interested me the most: analog or analog-like tuning. If I want to listen to something, I either have to know its frequency and try it, or I have to let the radio do an automatic scan. While it’s quite good at pulling out stations and letting me hear them, it can take a few minutes to do a full scan, and canceling it doesn’t result in the part scanned so far to be stored. Very few stations I am interested in hearing are convenient to jump into several minutes after they start (my interest is in spoken content rather than music, and neither news nor stories make a ton of sense if the introductory information was not heard).

From a recommendation here on the SWLing Post, I chose to purchase a Tecsun R-9012 radio to help me do a convenient scan, which is useful because it allows me to find stations without knowing their frequency, and leaves me to not remember all seventy frequencies a certain broadcaster is using this year.

Physical Description

When I bought my Tecsun R9012, it arrived quite quickly from Amazon. It included a short manual, whose contents could be loosely paraphrased as “insert batteries and turn on”. Other than that, the radio is all that’s there.

The R9012 is relatively small, but not as thin or compact as the Tivdio, which will be my main comparison unit for this review. It is your basic rectangle form factor, and about the size of the small tape recorders that were the last to be phased out for portable recorders. It would be easy enough to put this in a backpack, jacket pocket, or glove compartment, but you have no chance comfortably fitting it into a standard pocket. On the back, there is a flip-out kickstand that can hold the radio at about thirty degrees from horizontal and the battery compartment. This radio is powered from two AA batteries.

The right side of the R9012 contains the analog tuning knob, which I will discuss quite a bit later, and the power switch, which is not connected to anything else (not integrated into the volume knob or mode selector).

The left side gives you a 3.5mm audio out jack. This supports all the headphone types I’ve tried. One benefit of this radio is that headphones with integrated microphones, such as the ones that come with the iPhone as well as various sets that are intended for phone use, will work with it. Some other radios won’t work well with that type of headset. The Tivdio, for example, will play through the headphones but forgets to turn off the speaker if there is a microphone on them, making the headphones pretty much pointless.

Next to that jack is a power port, supposedly to recharge the batteries. A connector for this is not included, nor do they seem to sell one. I suppose the theory is that you might already have a suitable one in that box of old cables we all have, but I can’t see this as a particularly useful feature given the RFI you’ll get if you connect a radio directly to the mains to recharge. Above the ports is the volume knob, which is a very basic analog one, and then the wrist strap, which is integrated into the case. There doesn’t seem to be a way to remove or change it, should you desire that.

On the front of the radio, the speaker takes up the left half. This is fine for standard listening, but don’t expect wonders of audio fidelity. On the right half, there is the twelve-position mode switch (from left to right, FM, MW, SW from low to high frequency) and the tuning display.

FM performance

The Tecsun has a standard FM function, with stated coverage from 76 to 108 MHz. This is the leftmost position on the mode selector. The band is not divided into multiple switch positions, meaning that stations will be relatively packed into dialing space when compared to shortwave, which is spread across ten bands.

I didn’t buy this radio to use it for FM. I have very little interest tuning for FM stations. Some people may enjoy the experience of manual tuning for a station they can locate quickly, but I’m not one. I can easily type the frequency I want on my Tivdio, and I intend to keep doing that for FM. I mostly intended to test FM performance on the R9012 because I was curious to see whether there would be anything audible in the 76-87 MHz section. I know that our TV standards have switched off using analog audio, so I assumed there would be nothing, but I’d never formally put that to the test.

FM on the R9012 has problems. In fact, it has a lot of problems. Among other things, the FM process on this radio doesn’t seem to have a very good idea where things are. I’d be tuning through looking for some station and I’d find it…only to see that I was in a completely foreign part of the spectrum where that station had no business being. It seems that, unless you’re very focused in on a station, the R9012 is liable to pick up some other broadcast and layer them on top of each other. Never mind that the broadcasts have nothing to do with each other and aren’t anywhere near each other on the band. If you have a specific station you want, you can tune to it and have no problems. If you want to see what’s there, you’ll have a very fun time listening to stations that you might want to listen to, only to find that that was an image, you’ve lost it now, and you can’t find it again.

Sometimes, I managed to find a part of the spectrum that gave me three different images simultaneously. Ironically, the broadcast I intended to use as my landmark, the local classical music broadcast, which is located very close to the middle of the FM spectrum, was strong enough or at a coincidental frequency that I identified images of it at six different places on the scan, in addition to where it should be. So I got my answer about 76-87 MHZ. According to the R9012, there’s a lot of signal there. It’s just coincidence that it sounds exactly the same as standard FM broadcasts with extra static.

FM performance gets worse: this radio is extremely sensitive to location.

In order to get nice reception, you have to have the radio in a good position. This seems to be completely random. Standing up so the antenna lies flat on the top, but is not extended produces almost silence. Lying down so the antenna is touching the table (not a metal table) or chair (not a metal chair) causes most signals and images to come through quite clearly. Extending the antenna to medium length helps reception. Extending it all the way introduces a lot of interference. On FM, volume also changes a lot. We may reasonably expect for the signal to change if we connect something conductive to the antenna by, say, touching it with our conductive fingers. Maybe reception will get more static, or maybe it will in fact improve. What we don’t expect is for the broadcast to switch from comfortable volume to let’s see if we can get you some tinnitus volume. Unfortunately, that’s sometimes what happens on FM if you touch the R9012’s antenna. Or tilt it a bit in the wrong direction. This doesn’t seem to happen much if it is tuned onto a station, but if it is anywhere in the middle or if there’s some static, the volume change is very noticeable, in that it makes you want to get the radio off as soon as possible.

In summary, this radio just can’t really do FM. If your other radios are broken, you’ll be fine by using this, but don’t buy it if you intend to do FM things.

Mediumwave performance

The MW frequencies are mostly there, with stated specs including from 525 to 1610 kHz. While there are broadcasts between 1610 and 1710 KHZ, that’s not a ton of the spectrum. I don’t have much interest in MW. I tested the radio’s performance, and it seems fine. Strong stations come in loud and clear. Stations that have low broadcast powers are easy to tune in. I was able to get some skywave MW in here as well, but I really don’t have any interest in that. I was able to verify, however, that the terrible effects that plague FM performance don’t appear on MW. I got no images of distant stations, no rapid volume switches, and the position of the radio doesn’t seem to affect MW reception all that much. Perhaps this is due to the different antenna that most radios employ in tuning MW. However, the manual doesn’t say whether this radio has such an alternative antenna and I haven’t gone to the effort of disassembling it to find out.

Shortwave performance

Once again, the crazy stuff seen on the FM band doesn’t appear during shortwave listening. I was able to tune in quite a few stations, although this probably isn’t a DX-capable device unless you’re willing to go out into RFI-free areas. That sounds enjoyable, but it’s not really my thing. When I got signal, it came in quite clearly. I got very little interference from the device itself, although it does seem quite susceptible to RFI from power lines. Of course, so is everything else, but if you put its antenna closer to a line, you’d know it.

Frequency coverage

Shortwave is covered in ten bands that allow access to the more populated areas of the spectrum, but have many gaps. Certain descriptions claim that the radio has coverage from 3.90 to 21.85 MHz. This is so misleading I’d be willing to call it a lie. The actual ranges are as follows:

  • SW1: 3.7 – 4.10Mhz
  • SW2: 4.75 – 5.06Mhz
  • SW3: 5.95 – 6.20Mhz
  • SW4: 7.10 – 7.30Mhz
  • SW5: 9.50 – 9.90Mhz
  • SW6: 11.65 – 12.05Mhz
  • SW7: 13.60 – 13.80Mhz
  • SW8: 15.10 – 15.60Mhz
  • SW9: 17.55 – 17.90Mhz
  • SW10: 21.45 – 21.85Mhz

So what if most signals are in there somewhere? Those gaps are very large. For example, the only broadcast frequency for WWV that would be covered on this set is the 5MHZ one. 10, 15, and 20MHZ are all located in various gaps on the bands.

This turned out to be quite annoying. I know that these are standard areas of the spectrum, in which people place a preponderance of broadcasts, but the fact remains that a lot of broadcasts occur between the bands on this set. I checked the A18 shortwave schedule to identify how crazy I was. Of the 5530 broadcasts that were listed between the limits of 3.90 to 21.85 MHZ, 1870 of them or 33.8% of the total, are outside the range of this set.

It strikes me that the largest band on this radio covers only 500 kHz of space, whereas the smallest gap between bands covers 750 kHz. In many cases, bands cover only 100 kHz of bandwidth. While I guess it’s better that they’re there rather than their being completely absent, perhaps some effort could have been done to open that up a bit more. I quickly analyzed where missing signals were, and if Tecsun could extend the 5.95-6.20 MHz band down to 5.8 MHz, 7.10-7.30 up to 7.60 MHz, expand the 9.5-9.9 band, and give an extra 50 kHz to the 11.65-12.05 band, most of the missing spectrum, nearly a thousand broadcasts, would be brought back into coverage. This could be done and still keep the maximum band width at 500 kHz. Therefore, as they didn’t seem to feel this an important issue, it falls to me to consider it so.

Manual tuning

So I bought this to tune manually. It stands to reason that I should review how well it does that.

The analog dial is on the right, and protrudes outward. Once again, the knob does its job, but not all that well. It was very easy to use this to pan through the spectrum and pick up stations, but the wheel doesn’t make it all that easy to do so quickly. You have to turn it by grasping, as the wheel has a fair bit of resistance. I don’t doubt that this feature helps to keep from knocking it off frequency, but you have to use two fingers to rotate freely, and that slows the process down. Meanwhile, the wheel has a rather disconcerting way of stopping, where the wheel seems to have hit an obstruction. However, this essentially increases the resistance, rather than feeling like a barrier. It’s noticeable, but it feels like something’s blocking the turning mechanism, rather than that the mechanism has reached its limit. Actually, it is possible to keep turning the dial, which I assume will eventually damage something, but if you’re not used to how it feels, you may do so without realizing that you’re not actually going anywhere.

The wheel has quite a bit of travel. On my set, it will rotate about three full turns. I believe this is necessary because all of FM, including the standard and Japanese bands, is in one section. Therefore, the wheel needs to be able to turn a lot in order to separate those stations. However, this means that panning over a shortwave band that covers at most 500 kHz of spectrum includes a great deal of panning over static. This works to scan quickly, but there are undoubtedly even faster ways to do so.


It’s a radio. It will pick up stations and make noise. In that, it works. However, this isn’t exactly a great set. The $22 price tag may forgive some of its flaws but not all of them.

Radios like the Tivdio models cost similar amounts and cover the spectrum more fully with some extra features. When I purchased this model, I expected the lack of features to be made up by convenient scanning over shortwave, relatively good sound, and relative disposability. I got enough for me to keep the set, but nothing more.


  • Mediumwave is rather sensitive for those who enjoy listening to those signals.
  • Radio has a kickstand and the antenna can be rotated freely.
  • Radio supports headphones with inline microphone.


  • FM is plagued by images of other stations that should not be there. This is rather bad.
  • FM is far too sensitive to antenna position.
  • Shortwave coverage, while it includes most of the spectrum in use, has big gaps that are actually being used by a lot of broadcasters.
  • Analog tuning works, but not really well. The knob can turn but does so with effort.

Would I recommend people to purchase this? Probably not.

Those who have higher-priced devices will get nothing from this. Those getting into the hobby aren’t going to get a ton of benefit from this, because tuning on shortwave requires enough familiarity with dial position that they may spend too long figuring it out. It would be useful on FM only if most other radios have been broken. It’s not even that good as an emergency set because of the FM sensitivity problem.

If all you want is analog tuning over the bands that are provided, the radio will do it for you. If you want more, buy something else.

Thanks for sharing your evaluation Laurence. Thanks for focusing on one of the points that is often overlooked with analog radios: the frequency coverage on various shortwave bands. The R-9012 does seem particularly segmented. 

Tecsun R-9012 retailers:

Post readers: Do you own the R-9012? What are your thoughts? Please comment!

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19 thoughts on “A review of the Tecsun R-9012 shortwave radio

  1. Conrado Miguel Vigo Suárez

    Muy interesante y amplia tu reseña. Me aclara absolutamente todas mis dudas y resolví no comprarla. En Uruguay es muy difícil adquirir un receptor portátil multibanda. Lo poco que viene es costoso y la garantía muy dudosa.

  2. Julio Cesar Pereira

    I learned more about what the author of this review doesn’t like than I wanted to. For example, he doesn’t say whether this radio is DSP based. It makes a whole world of difference an analog-like radio which is DSP based from a pure analog one. To the point that I do not recommend DSP based radios with analog layout at all. Either one chooses a pure analog radio or a DSP one with digital display and the features that makes them awsome.

  3. Sandip Sedhumadhavan Nambiar

    Thank you Jose for your comments. I bought the R-9012 few weeks after I had posted my comments. It suits my listening objectives and my backpack radio when travelling. 73, Sandip EI7IJB.

  4. Sandip Sedhumadhavan Nambiar

    Good morning.

    I’m interested in an analog portable shortwave radio like this Tescun R9012 with its quirks and all. Is there another such analog portable that I could buy today or compare to the R9012?

    Thank you.

    Sandip Nambiar

    1. Jose Fernandez

      Hi, I did purchased the Tecsun R9700DX, it is Analog tuning, stereo FM when lit-sen with earphones and very sensitive on AM , SW is OK On FM, see the reviews on It, probably You will enjoy it to. It is not has cheap, You want something that will work for you and can enjoy. I do have several digital radios I just wanted to keep at least a couple of good old technology radios on my hands and enjoy them like in the old times.

  5. Alf

    Everything is OK with the review EXCEPT that this radio unit actually covers more than what the that the SW frequency indicators indicate. Also, the indicators in some bands are way off. For example, I get a Chinese radio station located at 10820MHz at the 9.75 mark in the r9012 display.
    The ghosts in FM are totally correct between frequencies, and also is correct that weak stations are not well handled and almost non-existent.
    As its been said in the review, the location is way too sensitive. I move the radio some centimeters and then the r9012 doesn’t catch a weak signal radio station that broadcast a couple of kilometers from my house.
    The SW is pretty decent on somewhat strong signals, if you use a external wire everything improves.
    MW is very good and the sound is very clean. But I’m not that into MW listening anyway.
    The R9012 is a good radio. It’s currently accompanying me at the nights, when I study, with well known and established local FM radio stations with which this little radio doesn’t have any problems. The 2 AA batteries last for soooo long.

  6. Val

    I really like this little radio. Shortwave performance is rather surprisingly good, as well as MW. I wouldn’t call FM useless either, even though there are many images they don’t interfere with normal usage in my experience. Sound quality on FM is very good (but no stereo, as I understand). Funny enough, once I could even hear weather radio (which normally appears around 165 MHz) on FM with this radio.

    Battery life is on par with the the most economical on the market – in my test it worked more than 13 days continuously (with headphones attached) on two AA batteries, and all this time it worked fine.
    It’s a very small and light, easy to fit in a pocket.

    I’ve compared it with Grundig FR200 which has very good reviews. Tecsun R9012 has better MW and SW performance and the same great battery life (using less batteries, though). FR200 was pretty much useless on SW because of it’s short size of the SW scale, while R9012 was relatively easy to tune to many signals. On MW I could hear more signals with R9012 than with FR200 and the sound quality was similar.

    1. RalphSnd

      Hi Val, you mean 13 days so 24h x 13 days = 300h with 2 AA?? I have a tecsun 365 and it lasts 100h with 3 Eneloop AA. Does the R9012 really last 5 times longer?!

    2. RalphSnd

      Hi Val, so with 13 days you mean 13 x 24h = > 300h with 2xAA? My Tecsun 365 (3xAA) reached 100h with headphones and on AM. 300h out of 2xAA would be marvellous!!

  7. DE1DGK

    I also have the Tecsun-R-9012, the little analog brother of the R-920c with digital display, and like to tune over the given bands with it. The sound is loud and clear and speaker-quality seems to be quite good as well. With earphones you can listen FM in stereo sound.
    Either on Shortwave and Mediumwave, selectivity and sensitivity are fantastic for such a little 20€ worldband receiver. On FM, the bigger stations come in fine but its not very selective for weaker signals or FM-DX.
    For Shortwave, a external antenna like Tecsun AN-05, often overloads the receiver. Its not recommend to use it for such low cost receivers at all. In fact, the serial telescopic antenna works good enough in most of the situations. It could be helpful to shorten telescopic antenna a bit so reception might be better when there is too much RFI around. It depends from band to band. Battery life is amazing. It only needs two AA-batteries and works over months.
    When you look for a basic worldband receiver, the Tecsun R-9012 is one of the best analog devices in the 20€-price-range. On the internet are out many reviews and tests about this little receiver which are all positive and often outperforms much more expensive worldband receivers. I would rate the Tecsun R-9012 with all pros and cons with 4.5 out of 5. It does perform great. Ideal for SW-beginners, listener who like the analog-feeling or those who want a universal little radio with shortwave.

  8. Lennart Benschop

    The markings on the dial suggest that the shortwave bands are not as severely restricted as you describe, for example the description says SW5 = 9.5-9.9 MHz, but if I look at the picture I see 9.25-9.95, so we get the much desired coverage at the bottom of this band (around 9.4MHz) and you might be able to just tune in WWV at 10 MHz. Certainly the 41m band 6.9-7.35 would be better if it was moved just a bit up (say 7.1-7.5MHz), but it does not look as bad as the description 7.1-7.3MHz, but other than that, when looking at the picture of the dial instead of the description from the manual it does not look all that bad.

    Looks like we start to get spoiled a lot by the FM performance of the Si7435 chip that so many affordable radios have today., but as you describe it in your review, the FM performance of this one looks like the other end of the spectrum. Might be super sensitive, but with a lousy dynamic range.

    1. ryan

      You definitely can tune to 10khz wwv. the 41 meter band is also a lot more open than stated, although it is cut short. Radio Romania International comes in fine at 7375 even though the radio is listed to stop at 7350 khz. I have not been able to receive 15khz wwv because it’s currently night time but I believe it is also tunable on this radio. You however can not tune to CHU at 3330 khz or 7850khz as these are out of the range of the radio.

      Shortwave performance for the price is great on this radio. the reviewer is correct that fm is garbage but shortwave and mediumwave are great and I feel like he judged it a bit too harshly. It’s a 20 dollar analog radio, you can’t expect much. I’d much rather have a cheap analog radio than a cheap dsp radio where I’d have to deal with poor automatic gain control and muting, as well as weird button layouts. If I were going with dsp I’d at least step up to a tecsun pl-380 or 310. I seriously feel like the reviewer spent 10 minutes with this thing and then wrote the review, as many of the stations he listed are definitely receivable on this thing.

    2. joshua

      I have this radio as well as a tecsun pl-660 and I have gotten lots of enjoyment out of it (contrary to the writers statement). Obviously it doesn’t perform as well as the 660 but its over 100 dollars less. The wwv time signals at 5 and 10khz are definitely receivable on this radio even though the 10khz one is slightly out of band. I am not sure of the 15khz wwv signal as it is currently night and hard to pick up but I believe it is also receivable on this radio. the main lacking band is the 41m band. It does go up to about 7.34 mhz or slightly higher, so Radio Romania at 7375 is receivable fine, but you do miss out on stations above that. CHU at 3330 and 7850khz isn’t listenable at all due to both being completely out of band on this radio. I feel as if the op was a bit harsh on this thing. It’s a 20 dollar analog radio, you can’t expect a ton. I get there are probably dsp radios in this price range that may perform a bit better but that doesn’t denote this radio as a bad performer by any means. I’d personally much rather have a cheap analog radio than a cheap dsp one, as I’d have to put up with poor automatic gain control as well as weird tuning and muting. If I were to go dsp I’d just skip up in price to at least a pl-310 or 380. I get that fm is definitely garbage on this thing but it does for sure hold up as a cheap camper radio or burner radio for a trip in which you are likely to damage or lose it.

  9. Bill (WD9EQD)

    While I haven’t used the R-9012, I do have the analog R-9700DX. It’s a little bit more expensive with some additional features, but is quite similar. It has a nice backlight, FM stereo thru the headphones, and antenna input jack. It’s not a bad performer.

    I’ve always liked analog SW portables. One of my favorites was the Sony ICF-4910. Very small and a nice performer. The nice feature with analog is that each band has a stop at each end. When I used them in the car, I could just tune from the top of a band to the bottom, then select the next band segment and do it again. If you knew what each band segment was, then you could quickly tune to a relative position. All without looking at the radio. Fox example, third switch position is the 60 meter band. I could then tune RCI at 5960 knowing that that was about 1/3 of the way down the dial. It was perfect for where you are more interested in the program than the precise frequency.

    Smithville, NJ

  10. Curt Schwarzwalder

    I’ve had one of these for years, and occasionally take it out and mess with it for fun. I agree the FM band is a nearly useless mess and AM (MW) is actually fairly good. Assuming the dial calibration is not too far off (a big assumption on this radio) you should be able to receive 5, 10 and 15 Mhz time signals if they’re strong enough. 5 Mhz is near the middle of the 60m band, 10 at the top of 31m, and 15 near the bottom of 19m. But don’t assume you’ll be able to accurately estimate the actual frequency of whatever you’re hearing by looking at the dial.

  11. Joseph Bieck

    I have owned the R-9012 for over two years and have gotten a lot of enjoyment from it. I do get some fairly distant MW signals and a decent amount of SW signals on it. I don’t listen to much FM personally. As is generally the case with lower priced receivers, the R-9012 does some things well but has shortcomings also (imaging on the FM band but really good on MW and respectable on SW).

    Yes, the range of Shortwave coverage is as described but with gaps between the bands. As long as the seller’s description does not use the word “continuous”, it is not misleading. I too wish the bands were a bit wider.

    I think if one is looking for a really good quality, low cost, analog, portable world band radio, the Tecsun R-9012 is a good choice.

    1. rtc

      Maybe we should regard sets like this as “models” much like the model
      cars and airplanes some of us built as kids…
      non-functiong models that aren’t supposed to work or work very well.

      The out-of-production Kaito-911 (Universal Radio has a few left) is
      similar but with “standard” FM/AM coverage for this hemisphere.
      Not bad if you get a good one (lotsa luck).

      Try a good used Sony ICF-10/11 if you want a better analog or one
      of the Panasonic or Magnavox analogs on Ebay but as always,be careful.


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