Category Archives: Accessories

Review: Commando Precision Pocket Screwdriver Set

Last month I received a $50 Amazon gift card from my new mobile phone company, Visible. It was completely unexpected (and most welcome, I might add), likely due to a few network glitches we experienced shortly after launching their service.

When I receive a gift card out of the blue like this, I like to use it to buy something I’ve always wanted, but never could bring myself to pull the trigger to buy: items just a little too indulgent for me to justify snapping up with my hard-earned cash. Gourmet coffee, high-end earphones, travel bags/pouches, or radio accessories come to mind…you know, a proper splurge.

At home, I have a great set of precision screwdrivers, but they’re not really portable––at least, nothing I’d want to carry with me every day. So when I received this Amazon card, I knew exactly how I’d use it, because I’ve been searching for a quality set of precision screwdrivers that I could tuck away in my EDC pack.

Screwdrivers are an important part of my EDC (“everyday carry”) kit. In fact, I think I use screwdrivers almost as much as I do my pocket knife, nearly as much as a pen.  Since I was a kid, the screwdriver was my light-saber––the means by which I could effectively crack into toys and pull out the insides. Harbinger of things to come?

Yep. If I had a disclaimer as a kid, it should have been this one…

Today, I reach for precision screwdrivers, among other things, to work on small electronics, open radio cases, as well as to snug up the screws in the hinges of my glasses.

And I freely admit it:  on occasion, I still void warranties.

Over the years I’ve tried a number of pocket screwdrivers, but I’ve never found a quality set I could recommend. Almost all of them have multiple bits that fit inside the body and magnetically lock into head/handle of the screwdriver. The lock is never that strong, and quite often, I pull up the screwdriver only to find the bit still stuck in the screw: not useful.  In addition, very few of these screwdrivers have a handle with the requisite grippiness––you know, for those times when you need a little extra controlled force.

Last year, I started searching for a higher-end solution, and discovered the Commando Precision Pocket Screwdriver Set. This set comes in a familiar pen-shaped form factor: tips attach to the head and are stored in the body. The price of this set floats around $33 US or so ($31.95 at time of posting).

Overall, reviews are very positive, with most owners stating that the screwdriver set “was worth the investment.”

The set comes with the following heat-treated alloy steel tips:

  • .040, .055, .080, .100 and .125 flat
  • #00, #0 & #1 phillips
  • Scribe/Awl & Punch

Better yet, the whole set is made in the US, the anodized aluminum body handle has a lifetime warranty, and each of the tips have a one year warranty.

The Amazon gift card gave me an excuse to pull the trigger and buy the set, so I did…Now, I only wish I had purchased it long ago.

I’m very pleased with the Commando.  It’s very lightweight, yet durable. The finger grip texture on the body is superb. The best part, though, is that the tips/tools don’t rely on a magnetic lock to stay in position; rather, this mini set uses a chuck nut and grip much like a full-sized drill or screw driver––excellent design.

Once locked in properly, there’s no way a bit can slip or fall out in use. Just what I had in mind.

And, best of all?  It easily fits in my Maxpedition Fatty EDC pouch which then tucks neatly away in my Tom Bihn Stowaway pack.

This kit goes with me everywhere, and even though I’ve only had the screwdriver set a month, I’ve used the little Commando multiple times, and feel I now have a pocket set that matches (or exceeds) the quality of my full-sized set. One that should last a lifetime.

I know this review is a little off-topic, but if you, too, like having precision screwdrivers handy to support your radios and other gear, I highly recommend this particular set.

Retailers:

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Sony ICF-SW100: Whip vs. DE31MS active vs. Sony AN-LP1

Click here to view on YouTube.

Guest Post by: Troy Riedel

It’s been a while since I posted a video on my YouTube Channel (but I’ve gotten the urge to make several more videos as I’ve been recently comparing my equipment – 16 portable receivers & many antennas).

I try to tune in to Radio Prague via WRMI on many weekday East Coast USA mornings from 1300-1325 UTC. Yesterday I encountered bad propagation but today was much better.  The video linked to this post is from today – 30JAN2019 recorded around 1310 UTC.

[Sorry, no tripod for this one]

People often ask, “are amplified antennas helpful” – as evidenced by this post from Thomas from a few years ago.

Without repeating the debate, just take a look at this one example.  As stated, reception was pretty good today off the little whip – but – there is an improvement using an amplified antenna.  My question: is there a difference between the two amplified antennas?  And if so, is the difference worth the price?

My TG34 is a clone of the DE31MS – purchased from Tquchina Radio & Component (ebay user: Tao Qu … they used to have an eBay store “Sino Radios” if I recall, but they stopped selling on eBay when the Post started cracking down on shipment of batteries – I actually exchanged an email with a frustrated Tao Qu when they closed the store).

I paid about $21 if I recall for my TG34 (the DE31MS is available today on eBay for as little as $17.28).  I paid over $100 for the Sony AN-LP1 (out of production now and can be listed for as high as $300 on eBay).  So … $21 versus “over $100”.  Is there a difference – and if so – is it 5x the difference – 5x better?!

You be the judge.

P.S. Just a quick slightly over 1-minute video recorded inside my house (sitting in my breakfast nook) … typically “okay” reception but not my usual Listening Post.

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“Perfect Fit” Cases for the ATS-909X and D-808 Radios

I’m generally not a fan of slip-cover cases (or pouches) that are included with many portable radios. I like to have a little extra padding around radios, but I don’t like bulky cases either. My preference is to carry accessories separately and keep the case as small as possible while still offering some protection.

With that in mind, others may be interested in my choice of non-original cases for the Sangean ATS-909X and XHDATA D-808 receivers.

The Evecase brand of sleeve for the Apple iPad Mini 4 makes a close fitting case for the ATS-909X. After a day or two in this sleeve, the radio stretches the fabric a little and the result is a fit “like a glove”.

The Evecase sleeve leaves NO room for anything else, except perhaps a pair of earbuds loosely coiled on top of the radio before zipping the case shut. Protection of the ATS-909X is very good though, better than the stock Sangean slip case.

For the XHDATA D-808, I discovered that a model of the popular “Pelican” line of hard cases is an absolutely perfect fit. Model 1040 (Micro Case series) is the one to get, especially if you want the extreme protection this padded, hard-sided case provides. It’ll be right at home among your camping gear for instance, and if it happens to take a tumble from your backpack or car’s trunk, no problem!

It’s important to note that the solid color 1040 cases like mine have a sheet of thin protective foam in the lid, in addition to the molded padding in the bottom half. The clear lid versions of the 1040 case do not have this extra padding.

Let the description and photos of these two case solutions inspire you to consider other ideas for protecting your radio gear! A lot of possibilities exist, considering the wide array of protection available for tablets, laptops, GPS, hard drives, and so on. Many of these can be repurposed for portable receivers.


Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

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The Prof recommends the Sangean DAR-101

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, The Professor, who writes:

I’ve had one of these for along time, and it’s been pretty much the only way I’ve recorded radio for years. It’s an easy to use rock solid workhorse.

My biggest complaint is the lack of recording format choices, and I’ve long hoped there would be a firmware update to expand them. Sure, being able to record WAV files would be welcome, but I’m not really in need of that. What I would like is a broader range of MP3 encoding options, up to 320kbps. And of course, to be able record in mono or stereo. All MP3 options on everything are just stereo by default, because almost everybody is dealing with post 50s music in the MP3 format, and that’s always stereo. But AM and shortwave radio are of course only mono, as are phone conversations, which this device is specially outfitted to record.

It’s a waste of a channel. If it’s a mono source it’s a waste of space on the SD card just for starters. But don’t forget that the encoding rate is divided by two in a stereo format. A 160kbps mono file is equal to a 320kbps stereo file. So, a 192 mono file would be superior to a 320 stereo file. Of course, I could get into “joint stereo” and VBR and throw in more variables, but what I’m saying here is pretty much on point.

That said, AM broadcasting is rather limited in acoustical dynamics, at least as we know it. I’ve found that it’s very hard for almost anybody to hear any artifacts in a 32kbps mono recording of AM radio. It stands up to compression well. And it also stands up well to RE-compression. I often expand the MP3 files I make on this into mono WAV files and tidy them up and normalize and edit them. I never notice any artifacts in the MP3 encode I make of the resulting file(s). So, I’d like more encoding formats, but the 192kbps stereo option on the DAR-101 is fine for me in the end.

This recorder also makes a fine speaker for a laptop. When you hit record the first time the speaker monitors the audio source out loud. You press record again and it starts to lay down audio on the card. So if I want to use it as a speaker I just leave it in “ready to record” mode. Works fine.

And for you old cassette heads, it looks enough like a cassette deck, which is comforting I suppose. I think the wall wart AC power adds a little noise. I just make sure the batteries are charged when I’m going to use it. And sometimes it makes a difference to keep it a couple feet from your radio to avoid any little bit of RFI.

In general, I highly recommend the DAR-101. If anyone has any questions feel free to ask.

Thanks for sharing your review of the DAR-101 and your recommendations for recording amplitude modulation!

The DAR-101 is currently $87.95 on Amazon (affiliate link) and $99.95 at Universal Radio. I’ve also found used ones on eBay for as little as $50.70.

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Dave’s review of the Sangean DAR-101 digital recorder

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), who notes that he has updated his Sangean DAR-101 recorder:

Yes, a newly tested (latest production) sample of the [DAR-101]. My years old “lightly used” sample died back in the fall. New one seems to work less sluggish with the updated firmware as well as adding monitor speaker selection in the menu’s.

http://n9ewo.angelfire.com/dar101.html

The AC Adapter info should also be valid for the ATS-909X as well.

Nice standalone MP3 recorder with a built in amplifier and large speaker.

Thanks, Dave.  This is a very tempting purchase. I do quite a lot of off-air recordings for the SWLing Post and, especially, the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive. I typically use my Zoom H2N for line-in recordings, but at home would prefer something that would sit on my desktop better and with a built-in speaker. The DAR-101 might fit the bill.

I see that it’s currently $81.52 on Amazon right now (affiliate link) and $99.95 at Universal Radio.

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