Mike reviews the Retekess TR608 AM/FM/AIR/SW receiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike S, who shares his assessment of the Retekess TR608. Mike writes:

For this model, the company marketing electronics under the Retekess brand seems to be using a different supplier compared to the previous digital-radio-plus-memory—card-player products. The result is a more traditionally styled multiband DSP radio which runs on (gasp) traditional AA batteries. Its feature set takes inspiration from the Radiwow R108 and original CCrane Skywave, but with mixed results (albeit at a fraction of the price). It delivers decent performance for its price class but more serious listeners would be advised to spend a little more on a more established model.

Pros

    • Usual set of features: sleep timer, alarm, scanning, auto memory fill.
    • Uses replaceable alkaline or NiMH “AA” cells.
    • Decent sensitivity across the board.
    • Full shortwave coverage.
    • Frequency display is large and contrasty.
    • Dial light is effective and can be disabled. Display is readable without it, even in dim light.
    • No annoying keypad “beep”, so no mad rush to discover how it can be disabled.
    • Speaker can play reasonably loud without distortion.
    • FM reception is solid with good frequency response and stereo reception through headphones; this also activates a display indicator.
    • MW/SW reception is NOT plagued by digital hash bleeding through from the processor as with most other models in this price range!

Cons

    • Significantly larger than expected.
    • Unfortunately the added cabinet space is not utilized for a more wide-range speaker; audio is tinny.
    • Clumsy mounting of one spring in the battery compartment on my sample makes it almost impossible to insert the third AA battery without risking damage.
    • Many keypad buttons are so tiny and almost flush with the cabinet, that they are difficult to press.
    • Lens over LCD display is molded and unpolished with moiré distortion at some viewing angles.
    • Air band reception marred by birdies, bleed-through from other bands, and lack of squelch.
    • Volume control defaults back to level “10” under some circumstances (the manual warns about this).
    • Confusing 2-level LOCK function requires close attention to almost microscopic indicator on LCD.
    • No battery level indicator.
    • Although the manual advises that batteries can be charged using the 4.5V coaxial socket, no charging indicator is obvious.
    • Rotary knob, used for both tuning and volume adjustments, has no detents and so can easily spin off target.
    • Assigned function (no indication) depends on whether the tuning or volume buttons on the keypad were the last to be used.
    • No fine tuning outside of pre-programmed increments.
    • MW selectivity is a bit too wide for congested night reception.
    • MW reception occasionally exhibits weird artifacts; ghost images, sputtering audio on marginal signals, and “processed” sounding voice audio. Don’t know if these are DSP or AGC related, or a mixture of both. I have observed the same thing with the Eton Mini and other inexpensive portables using marginal DSP implementations.

SHOWSTOPPER ALERT: MW band channel assignments marred by 9kHz-centric firmware bug. Even after changing to 10kHz channel spacing (undocumented), the CPU still “thinks” in 9kHz assignments for direct input. Entering FREQ-1-0-1-0-FREQ should get you to 1010 kHz; but it actually lands on 1018 kHz because that is the nearest channel in the 9kHz band plan. You are now stuck in frequency step hell, as the up-down frequency keys still operate in 10KHz mode but do not know they are now off bandplan. UP/DOWN yield 1028/1008, not 1020/1000. The only way to recover is to enter a MW frequency that is the same in both bandplans, or to power off and double-reset the step rate resulting in all memories being lost.

Thank you so much for the review, Mike.  It sounds like this little receiver isn’t ready for prime time yet. The issues with frequency steps on the mediumwave band is certainly a show-stopper for anyone in North America. Indeed, it sounds like mediumwave reception, in general, is mediocre at best. At least the receiver isn’t plagued with internal noises.

With pricing around $29.99-$39.99 it’s certainly a bargain radio. But I’m sure you’re thinking what I’m thinking: you pay for what you get.

The Retekess TR608 can be purchased on eBay or Amazon.com (affiliate link).

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19 thoughts on “Mike reviews the Retekess TR608 AM/FM/AIR/SW receiver

  1. Brent Kauser

    When you say “gasp, runs on e AAA batteries” that is what people want for backup radios, you cant charge radios if you have no electricity.
    I actually like this little powerhouse. You are right though about the small speaker, but I am guessing that hi fi sound is not what the average user is looking for, we just want to hear the news, weat6and such. I did not experience the channel stepping issue that you experienced.

    Reply
  2. Steve

    Also sold in the UK as Steepletone SAB2019, exactly the same apart from the name sticker! I noticed that Retekess are also selling the Hanrongda HRD-737 as one of their own too.

    Reply
  3. Tom Stiles

    I have had good luck with Retekess radios in the past and was hoping this would be a good radio to review on my YouTube channel but based on Mike’s detailed review, I as holding off buying one for now. Maybe he just got a bad one. Hopefully Retekess will reach out to him and send him another one to review that doesn’t have all these problems.

    Thanks for your review, Mike

    Tom Stiles (YT ID=hamrad88)

    Reply
    1. Mike S

      Tom,

      I posed substantially the same review on Amazon (which took a few days to appear because of moderation). To their credit, the US distributor emailed me the same day the review appeared. They offered to send me another model of radio, but I am going to decline that offer because, by design anyway, the TR680 is the best they have in this product segment.

      Reply
  4. Tom Stiles

    Mike, this is a very informative review. I was about to purchase this radio and found your review. I would like to reference your review of you don’t mind on my YouTube channel. Thanks.

    Tom Stiles

    Reply
  5. Ken K. in NJ

    Mine arrived today and it’s everything your review said, right down to having trouble inserting the 3rd battery. Thanks for the review.

    So, how DO you change it to 10 khz channel spacing? I can’t figure it out and like you said, it’s not mentioned in the documentation. Obviously this radio is not ready for North American prime time.

    Reply
    1. Ken K. In NJ

      Found the answer on the Amazon Q & A. Long press the band button while the radio is off. Not very intuitive. I have 3 other Retekess radio, all of which I really like. Not this one.

      Reply
  6. Andrew C

    Thanks so much for this review, Mike! I purchased my TR608 from Amazon a week or so ago, and after spending one day with it, decided to send it back. For me, the poor sound quality was the deal-breaker. I’d hoped for much better audio, especially given the surprisingly rich sound of other Retekess products (like the V-115), but this is tinny and shrill. The more compact Radiwow R-108 is only slightly more expensive and has very pleasant audio.

    Reply
  7. Marcus Keulertz

    Simply it’s not a good radio to buy. I love my chinese micro radios XHDATA D-808 and the Tecsun PL 310ET and PL600 which are excellent receivers for DX’peditions. They fit in my personal budget. I know that there are cheaper radios in the market.

    Reply
  8. Mangosman

    10 kHz stepping in Medium Frequency band is assigned to region 2 in the International Telecommunications Union plan. This covers all of North, Central and South America. The rest of the world used 9 kHz steps.
    DSP radios use a high clock frequency and divide it down in all but the Americas to 9 kHz. This frequency is then compared to a crystal oscillator which is also divided down to the same frequency. The frequency of both signals are compared and the frequency difference is applied to the oscillator which is then mixed with the incoming frequency. If you are tuning frequency steps of 10 kHz and this is not the comparison frequency then the error will cause the tuning to be off frequency. This can cause interference effects particularly when the frequency is 4.5 kHz away from a ##0 kHz channel. For this type of world wide radio, the divisions should be down to 1 kHz which is a multiple of 9 and 10 kHz along with the 5 kHz used in the high frequency band.

    Reply
    1. Mike S

      Understand all that; but the radio’s operating firmware is, nonetheless, not properly programmed. Specifically, while the steps increnented by the up/keys have bene reset from 9KHz to 10KHz, the CPU is not repsonding properly to direct frequency entry.

      Entering 1-0-1-0 on the keypad, at the time that the radio’s bandplan is set for 10 KHz stepping, should cause the CPU to choose 1010 KHz, not 1008 KHz. Keying in other MW frequencies result in similar assignment errors depending on what the neartest 9KHz-standard slot would be in the internal lookup table.

      –mike

      Reply
    2. Max

      Thank you for the honest review. I don’t think that the air band is enough to prefere this to the Tecsun PL-380 at the same price.
      However i do not consider the AA batteries a PRO and the Radiwow cost $10 more but has full coverage up to 30MHz , the air band, LW band, selectable BW and comes with a lithium BL-5C battery that can be charged with common USB adapters without removing it and even powered or charged with a power bank.
      This is a difficult product range dominated by reliable brands and models. The others must rely on the unaware buyer or on the serial collector if want to stay in the same price segment.

      Reply
      1. Mike S

        Max,

        All the PRO and CON comments are subjective of course, and I realize that the choice of power source depends on the owner’s intended use. I am admittedly biased against proprietary batteries but would almost give the Radiwow a “pass” because the battery is removeable and replaceable. The venerable BL-5C is the closest thing to standardization when it comes to flat Li-Ion packs; unfortunately it was rather low capacity even when manufactured for Nokia back in the day. That was long ago, and the batteries currently in circulation are cheap Chinese knockoffs which almost certainly are of even lower capacity than the original Nokia spec.

        I own (or have owned) a Tecsun PL-880 and Xhdata D-808 which use cylindrical 18650 cells, and I enthusiastically agree with this choice (especially as a high-tech flashlight enthusiast). These are of much higher capacity and there is an endless variety of third-party sources with varying capacities approaching 3000 maH, so nothing is lost in terms of run time.

        I have a collection of old portables dating to the 1970’s and, aging capacitors permitting, they all power up and work simply because they use a standard type of battery that has existed continuously for all those years. I have some much newer products that are now doorstops because they use proprietary power sources that have given up the ghost, and replacments are either unavailable or cost-prohibitive.

        Reply
    1. Mike S

      If you are referring to the button on the bottom row marked “METER”, it is for switching between shortwave band segments.

      I do not find any kind of signal strength indicator, if that is what you are getting at.

      Reply

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