Can the Eton Elite Satellit meet 2022 expectations?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, for the following guest commentary:


The Elite Satellit: Can Eton Deliver to Radio Users Who Expect Higher QC and Feature Standards?

by Dan Robinson

It’s been many years since the original E1 took the hobby world by storm. Everyone remembers the issues that plagued the E1, from the rubber coating that degraded over time, to display and encoder issues, and the calibration issues that frustrate some users.

In anticipation of the arrival of the Elite Satellit, I got both of my E1s out of storage — one in the 9xxx serial number range required a de-gooing session, accomplished quite well using Max Pro cleaner and 70% alcohol. It was interesting note, during that process, that the XM module on one side of the radio was more sensitive to color loss than other parts of the cabinet, reducing to an almost silver color when all was finished.

Original Eton E1 XM

Using the original E1s provided a reminder of how good these receivers were and still are, if you have managed to avoid display and encoder issues. The combination of PBT, triple selectivity and highly-effective SYNC was a blockbuster combination. The radio failed only in the area of quality control.

As Universal Radio and other distributors prepare to send out the first tranche of receivers, some thoughts are in order. The first is that one hopes Eton has lessons from the first go around regarding Quality Control. I have a sinking feeling about this based on my experiences in recent years reviewing receivers by Tecsun.

Eton needs to know that those who will buy the Elite Satellit, and that includes old-timers like myself but newcomers to the hobby, now have much higher standards specifically because of the features we have seen Tecsun and some other manufacturers put in portables.

Primarily, the presence of a recalibration capability really poses a challenge where the Elite Satellit is concerned. Discerning buyers no longer have to put up with a radio that has calibration and/or stability problems. This is why I am curious as to whether Eton included an adjustment function through software or an adjustment hole as with the original E1. So far, there has been no confirmation on this question from Eton or anyone else.

Original Eton E1 XM

With an older E1, tweaking of the master oscillator was possible through the small adjustment hold in the rear of the radio cabinet. This was tricky since in many units the hole was inconveniently located directly under one of the plastic ribs on the back.

I solved this problem by gently cutting a small section of one rib with a Dremel or similar tool, providing easier access. Still, adjustment has to be done carefully due to the sensitivity of the pot, and preferably with a non-metallic jewelers flat head screw driver. Even then, movements of the radio would often throw the radio back off.

But again, E1 users were spoiled by the recalibration capability which Tecsun included on receivers from the PL-880 to the 990x and 501s and even the PL-368, all of which provide a software method of zeroing frequency in SSB. Even Malahit SDRs have a fine adjustment setting in software.

If Eton has not taken this into account, and has not made any recalibration possible, I fear that it may face a good number of buyers who will simply return radios that suffer from significant frequency error. In short, a “good enough for government” approach by Eton when it comes to calibration QC is simply not going to be sufficient because for years now, Tecsun has been setting a higher standard.

Physical cosmetic issues too will also be an important indicator as to Eton’s attention to QC. If Eton learned its lesson from the rubberized cabinet fiasco, this should not be a major problem. But I would urge owners of the new Elite Satellit to examine your radio for QC issues, like LCD pixel problems, wobbly knobs and loose encoders, and issues with the telescopic antenna.

All of this becomes even more important because Eton is charging so much for this radio. Even taking inflation into account since the original E1 appeared, $599 for a radio that adds only HD and AIR band as features, but which still might suffer from QC problems is extremely high and I fear Eton may end up with numerous returns if the Elite Satellit fails in any key areas.

So, the clock ticks down to the moment when many of us will receive that box containing the Eton Elite Satellit. The question is will what is inside be able to meet the higher standards we have come to expect from a multi-band portable?

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36 thoughts on “Can the Eton Elite Satellit meet 2022 expectations?

  1. Pags

    What a dismal debut. It’s certainly not meeting the 2022 high expectations. Why not? Was it incompetency? Was it manufacturing sabotage? Was it a cash grab? Who knows? Eton must have known there was a lot on the line for the release of this radio.

    From 3 years of delays, to inconsistent publishing of specs, to failed testing of FM HD, to the inexcusable SW muting issue, to an overloading external antenna, to unreadable screen color backgrounds (apparently green is the only decent color background) . On top of all that a full DSP design, rather than a hybrid design? Dual conversion instead of triple conversion? An antiquated external antenna jack? What an embarrassing debut! So disappointing for many radio enthusiasts.

    With the full DSP design, it’s easy to conclude that from the start Eton was intending to take advantage of the success of the E1 and put an inexpensive DSP receiver in the cabinet of an E1 and continue to call it “simply the finest full-sized portable in the world” for the intent of profit over actually developing finely engineered radio. I suppose this recipe was successful for the 750 Satellit. Many were disappointed with the 750’s debut as it never lived up to its predecessor the 800 Satellit. Never the less it was a popular seller due to its good looks.

    If the reviews on this radio showed that this radio was deserving to be the successor of the highly regarded, some say “legendary”, E1, I intended to buy one. Now it’s completely off my radar, as is Eton. Eton has tarnished its reputation.

    While Universal Radio is not shipping it, Ham Radio Outlet has completely taken it off their website, yet Eton Corp continues to accept orders for it on their website.

    Reply
    1. MIKE

      HRO IS selling it on site for $499 –
      I will not buy it till all of us SWLrs get specifics on how this radio stands as to
      FIRMWARE etc. WHY does the company Not respond? must not care, money….
      See IF anyone dares buy one and does a Good Review on it.
      OR I bet places selling this are going to get stuck with these No Sell item.
      The BELKA is a Winner – it would be nice to get an Add-On SDR for it – Anyone know an item?
      I bot one due to SWL Post reviews. Awesome radio.
      OK – 73s

      Reply
  2. MikeP

    Did Eton in CA not do ANY testing on this radio? Did they just accept the shipment from China and send them right out? This is truly unbelievable….

    Reply
  3. MikeP

    Just added to Universal’s listing for this radio:
    ” 08/18/22
    Our initial allocation of radios arrived 08/17/22. Our Q/C testing detected a problem with the radio. We are working closely with Eton to find a solution to the issue. We will begin shipping radios as soon we are satisfied the radio fully meets specifications.”
    And after a 3 year delay…..

    Reply
    1. Bob

      How many radios did they test ? Is the problem with just one sample or many ?

      In any case it doesn’t sound good for such a pricey receiver. So much for quality control. I hope early adopters don’t get burnt.

      Reply
      1. MikeP

        Knowing how Universal has been operated (and the fact the Ostermans seem to have delayed their retirement waiting on this radio to be released) I would bet they tested a number of them to conclude it’s a QC problem. It’s speaks volumes that – even in the waning days of their business – they won’t ship out junk.

        Reply
        1. MikeP

          8/20 HRO has removed this radio from their website. Not a promising debut…….and for a 3-years-late, $600+ radio. I’ll keep my checkbook closed and my credit card firmly ensconced in my wallet.

          Reply
  4. Dimitrios

    Hi,
    In the radio picture I saw fungus in the LCD. I face the same problem in my E1. Any suggestion to get rid of it.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. robertkoa

      If it is a DSP Chip unless they worked really closely with SI Labs – there is no way the DSP chip can provide passband tuning .
      Nor the excellent SYNC Detector
      Nor the excellent Dual Band Simultaneous SYNC Detector .
      Regarding Calibration I spoke to the former tech for Eton who did repairs and the software versions above as I recall version 2.2 had a user calibration feature in the software .

      IF it is really a DSP Radio it can not have all these above features so can anyone confirm DSP or not ?

      Reply
  5. Guy Atkins

    Universal Radio has recently updated their Elite Satellit HD information: “Eton expects this new model to be available July/August 2022”. A few days ago the web page indicated “late July 2022”.

    A backorder invoice I received yesterday says “Date Expected 08/25/22”.

    So…the drama continues for at least another month :^)

    Reply
  6. Michael Cathcart, N0TLD

    I just finished talking to Universal, getting my Elite Satellit order paid. Like many of you, I ordered it quite some time ago — in my case, Sep 2019 — and certainly I am curious and wondering. I know there are obviously a lot of potential issues and much understandable concern about it being remotely worth the very high full price tag.
    But I am taking the plunge on this radio for a number of reasons, not least of which is the $350 pre-order deal while Universal is honoring it. That’s generally what most sellers ask for the Elite 750, which I like but for its performance always thought overpriced (especially the silly prices at the catalog stores). If this radio only performs at least as well as the 750, it would be a bit disappointing but I’ve saved a few dollars, at least.
    I am not expecting it to behave like that, though. In fact, I don’t expect it to perform like the original E1. I never thought it would simply be a digital update of the E1, but a mostly pretty different beast with similar looks. I hope it’s performs well, just in its own way.
    Of course, I certainly hope it performs much better than other Eton and Tecsun offerings costing far less. If it doesn’t, well, that would be lousy, but it would still be easier to make my money back reselling it at that price than at $700 retail… unless it’s SO bad that no one wants it even at half price. But I do wonder what the odds are on it being THAT kind of a flop. It COULD be, I know… but how likely is that?
    As well, I’ve never been “in on” the rollout of a new, anticipated, much-discussed radio before, so that whole ‘wonder/excitement/worry/anticipation/first in line’ kinda thing is in play… along with wondering if it’s going to be one of the last (if not THE last) high dollar, full-featured portable/portatop multiband radios to be produced. Who knows?
    However, I am lucky enough at the moment to be able to spend $350 on that gamble. Many radio lovers are not, and in their shoes I would be certainly be waiting for the first batch and its bugs and problems to get sorted out before even thinking of spending $350… let alone $700.
    Here’s to awaiting the arrival… and hoping it’s worthwhile.
    We’ll find out soon enough.

    Reply
    1. Jack Dully

      ANTICIPATION ! Well Said I do want to compare the units,I have the E-1 (XM) bought from Universal in 2007 Serial # SL 00018. I never had any issues what-so-ever and it works quite well,now after years of frequent use.Somehow it even escaped complete sticky metamorphosis,showing up on the rear of the cabinet..I came by a copy of the “full instruction manual” to this point but it certainly falls short of the original 75 page manual that came with my radio.For instance,there is no mention of a charging circuit for rechargeables or what kind that you can use.Also alternative power supply stats,ie voltage and amps required,for it is questionable at this point.I’m hoping for the best for all who buy it and especially us pre-order valiant E-1 owners. https://manuals.plus/eton/elite-satellit-hd-radio-manual#related_manuals_resources

      Reply
  7. Mark Goldhawke

    I’m weak…just got the email from universal and went ahead and ordered at the pre order price…
    Sad thing is I have 2 e1 radios already…a third with new features can’t be bad can it?
    Be interesting to see how it fares with my wellbrook mag loop and my ccrane twin coil am antenna…

    Reply
    1. Jack Dully

      The E-1 (XM) was a super-star in my book,everything worked well,once you got it down.I used it totally as a tabletop,although a Rube Goldberg rope and velcro set-up made a secure carry handle that was removable but a big heavily padded laptop carry bag made it travel in class and saftey.The new Elite Satellit version has a lot to live up to,matching the original.As you stated,we will find out soon,good luck with yours and others first up on the beach ! https://manuals.plus/eton/elite-satellit-hd-radio-manual#related_manuals_resources

      Reply
  8. Fotios

    Boy!, I just realized that the E1 had more problems than mine has had many of which I did not know of.
    I think it is fair to say that’s what happens when a person not dedicated to radios decides to buy the rights from Grundig, rename the new product and have it built in far away places.
    Also, has Eton decided to to use a ferrite antenna in the new model?

    Reply
    1. jack dully

      From what I understand no internal ferrite but you can lower the whip to a horizontal position and rotate it.You can also use an AM antenna that needs to be plugged into the external antenna port and switch over to ext.antenna to listen

      Reply
  9. ray dowley

    Just to add the American purchase price as it stands with taxes added not import duties but that is something extra to think about for Europe/UK $763

    Reply
  10. Droumaguet

    It looks very nice, but over here in Europe i do not see the point to spend 600/700€ on a radio which has a reputation for poor quality control – Worse, there is apparently no possibility to detect DRM programs on AM (as planned for doestic broadcast in France) or DRM on SW (the real future of SW) – and to finish with the missing items, all europe is developping quickly a DAB+ VHF band for national, regional, local commercial broadcast; Question will the “new” E1 pick all this up ?

    Reply
    1. Guy Atkins

      The radio’s datasheet indicates DAB+ reception is possible for those Elite Satellit HD units sold outside of North America.

      Reply
  11. Jock Elliott

    I never owned the original E1. It will be interesting to see how the new unit compares with my Satellit 800.

    Nice write-up, Dan!

    Reply
    1. Jon

      In a sense, seeing how the Elite Satellit compares to the Satellit 800 is like seeing how it compares to the E1. The Satellit 800 and E1 share a many commonalities from their shared technological lineage from the Drake SW8. Size, obviously, is not one of the commonalities between the E1 and Sat 800. 🙂

      Reply
  12. William Scott

    I was one of those burned by the original Eton E1. It lasted a year, then the display and processor went south. I gave it away. I won’t be repurchasing, Eton.

    Over Christmas last year, for $539 I bought a beautiful new but dated ICOM IC-718 ham transceiver to use for shortwave DXing and broadcast band DXing. It has general coverage from 100 kHz – 30 Mhz. Beautifully crafted, with I.F. shift, RIT, pre-amp, DSP audio noise filter, notch filter, another noise filter, two VFOs, adequate memories.

    No, the ‘718 is not portable. and does require an external power supply. Doesn’t matter to me. The E1 was large and I hardly used it in a portable mode anyway.

    As an old ham (licensed 59 years), I feel sync is overrated. If you have SSB USB/LSB capability, you are good to go. Just my opinion, that’s all.

    Be careful spending $600 on any plastic Asian portable. We will see what comes out of the factory on the new E1.

    Reply
  13. Doubtful

    It looks like a vintage radio. It could have been a bit bigger to better suit the target buyer, plastic doesn’t cost much after all.

    Reply
    1. Jon

      Interesting point about the “vintage” look. It is, after all, a mid-1990s cabinet design.
      The forthcoming Elite Satellit release (assuming it happens) had me thinking a few days back: Imagine if in the 1980s a portable shortwave radio was being introduced that was housed in a radio cabinet designed from nearly three decades prior. If that had been done, it would surely have been marketed as a “retro” style radio and would certainly not have been the flagship receiver of one of that era’s major producers of shortwave portables (e.g. Sony or Panasonic). Of course, one cannot ignore the glaring fact that there was an evolution to far less bulky technology/components between the ‘50s and ‘80s; so the size of what was being housed shrunk considerably over that period.
      I don’t necessarily think we reached the apogee of portable radio cabinet design in the mid-1990s, but it does seem that (1) the inside technology did not evolve in such way as to necessitate a much different form factor and (2) the enhancement of the user experience did not drive cabinet size or user interface evolution in a significant way (at least for mass produced portables aimed at a broad market). Consequently, the size and ergonomic layout of today’s PL990 has vastly more in common with a ‘90s era Sony ICF-SW7600 or Grundig YB-400 than does an 80’s era Sony ICF-2002 with a 50’s era “portable” like the Zenith Trans-Oceanic Y600.
      I find interesting, too, your comment about how the Elite Satellit could have been housed in a *bigger* cabinet. I’m sure that some SWLers might be lamenting that Eton could not have housed whatever performance its flagship portable packs into a more travel-friendly size (e.g. that of a PL-990 or SW55). Today’s portable shortwave radio market is notable for the near absence (only the Tecsun H-501?) of the larger “lap” portable form factor that many of us tend to associate with premium performing portables of yesteryear (e.g. the Sony ICF-2010, the Sony ICF-SW77, and – if you didn’t get a lemon – the E1). I suppose there were never truly too many models of this type, and perhaps someone can enlighten me as to whether there was any such shortwave radio of this type before the 1980 release of the Sony ICF-2001.
      While Grundig designed what is the Elite Satellit’s cabinet, the Satellit 900 for which it was intended, as we know, was never released; and the comparably sized shortwave portables that Grundig actually mass produced (e.g. the Satellit 600 and Satellit 700) added the extra inch of so of depth that that permitted these radios to stand upright without the user being in fear of them tipping over. I’m guessing that the latter option on dimensionality would have been more to your preference for the Elite Satellit.

      Reply
  14. Jon

    This is an interesting article, Dan, and it raises good points. Your concerns with regard to the Eton’s rollout of the Elite Satellit very much focus (for good reason) on what the E1 got wrong. But I would just further note the following: while the Elite Satellit has the appearance of the old E1, we should not assume much technological carryover from the E1. And given that, we should not assume that the positives we enjoyed with the old E1 will necessarily convey to the Elite Satellit (although I hope that they do!).
    The original E1 was in large measure a Drake derived design inside a Grundig (Satellit 900) cabinet. The Elite Satellit retains the same Satellit 900 cabinet, but that cabinet apparently houses a new design radio. The Elite Satellit’s 7 IF bandwidth filter settings imply that Eton is employing DSP technology in the Elite Satellit.
    As we know from the multitude of shortwave radios using the SiLabs DSP chipset, lower end DSP IF bandwidth filtration can produce decidedly less pleasant audio than the old analog technology. Further, the shape factors of these filter settings seem far less tight than those provided by high quality ceramic filters, as were used in the E1. Additionally, I know of no shortwave portable with SiLabs DSP technology that delivers a decent synchronous detector. The E1, by contrast, delivered perhaps the best synchronous detection found on a portable.
    Now, that said, we don’t know that Eton has chosen the SiLabs route with the E1. The Elite Satellit could be charting a new path with DSP technology in a Chinese portable. In recent years, many of us have been impressed with small DSP/SDR receivers that have emerged through the work of innovators across the globe. Specifically, I would note the Belka DSP, the Malahit, the Afedri LAN-IQ, and, going back a bit further, the CommRadio CR1/a. Obviously, these are more of hobbyist-oriented receivers, while Eton tends to design radios to target a broader market. I’m just noting that Eton isn’t confined to the Tecsun-type route in implementing DSP technology (and to be sure, there are a number of Tecsun radios that I really quite like – but none for which I would pay $600).

    Reply
    1. pu3hag

      Jon, that’s a really good assessment.

      The biggest pet peeve with Si473x ICs (now owned by SkyWorks) is the muting or chuffing when tuning the bands.

      Eton could use look at Belka and use a Si5351 for smooth VFO and feed it to Si473x at a fixed IF.

      They could also chip in like CountyComm did and hire SkyWorks to write an improved DSP code (loaded on demand) in order to fix the Sync AM and perhaps include NFM.

      Reply
  15. Guy Atkins

    Excellent piece, Dan. You raise numerous valid points! Both newcomers and old timers will scrutinize this receiver for (sometimes) different reasons. I’m looking forward to how this all shakes out.

    Reply
  16. Robert Richmond

    Has Eton quality control actually improved in recent years? I have had some “interesting” experiences with various Eton/Grundig products over the years.

    Reply
  17. Sean Welsh

    I will find out shortly. Much to my surprise, Universal confirmed my order today and held the original quoted price plus shipping.

    Reply
    1. jack dully

      Sean,I guess we will All see when we get our units.I ordered mine in June of 2019. I think Universal made a honorable decision in keeping the original “pre-order pricing” and should be commended on that.I don’t believe that many companies would do the same, in these financial hard times we are all in.The E-1 XM that I purchased from Universal in 2007,is still working quite well.I never had any of the viruses of the display and other issues at any time nor sticky-ness (alright maybe a little).I believe it was first made avaiable in 2005.So mine may have been upgraded to work some of the bugs out.Enjoy your new toy,take care

      Reply
    2. jack dully

      Sean,Jack Dully,just an afterthought.Perhaps if the original pre-orders where not done this new radio from Eton the satellit, never would have gone to the actual production stage of development. I just hope that it can compare with the original E-1 XM,which in my mind was a true performer and a quality piece of reliable electronic gear

      Reply

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