The Grundig G6 makes for an excellent travel companion
Last week, I traveled to New York City by air and used trains, taxis and buses en route to Philadelphia. All the while, I carted along my luggage–and it’s a good thing I like to travel light.
Indeed, I almost never check in luggage, no doubt a remnant of my days as an expatriate, when I was required to travel throughout Europe at a moment’s notice. But I love traveling with only one bag. It’s incredibly liberating. I revel in the challenge of fitting everything I need into one Eagle Creek convertible backpack/suitcase.
This latest trip was no exception, and I planned to do a little shortwave and medium wave DX along the way. So which radio did I reach for? Oddly enough, none of those I listed from my travel radio suggestions, my usual stand-bys. This time, I chose my Grundig G6.
Keypad for direct entry and as with most Grundig radios, the G6has a logical, simple key combination for entering frequencies.
I have had a mini Grundig G6 review out for a couple years now in which I praise it highly. I am surprised to find that many other reviewers only give it a lukewarm rating. I believe a lot of this stems from the fact that the radio’s aircraft band (117-137 MHz) is not terribly sensitive or selective. Since purchasing the G6, I’ve only used the aircraft band once–during review. I leave aircraft and VHF/UHF listening to a proper scanner, preferably one with triple-conversion circuitry.
Yet I find that the Grundig G6 performs quite well on the shortwave and medium wave bands. Last week, while in NYC and Philadelphia, I was surrounded by big signals and didn’t hear many instances of overloading or imaging. Sure, larger portables (like the Grundig G3, Tecsun PL-660, Sony ICF-SW7600GR, Sangean ATS-909X) will outperform the G6 on SW and MW, but none of those radios can comfortably fit in my pocket. In fact, the G6 is so small that it can get lost in my suitcase–oh, there it is, tucked among my socks. The portables mentioned above, though reasonably sized, will need some dedicated space.
The placement and orientation of the tuning knob on the G6 is genius. My favorite ultra-portable radio for band-scanning
There’s another plus about the G6. It feels good in your hand. I have big, clumsy fingers, yet I still manage to punch in the frequency correctly every time. Having the (smooth) tuning knob in the upper left corner of the radio where it’s accessible both on the side, and (more importantly) on the face, was a stroke of ergonomic genius by this little radio’s designer. I wish more manufacturers would do this. It’s so easy and comfortable to band scan using your thumb on the face of the tuning wheel, which is great when you’re sitting around a campfire or listening to FM on a bumpy bus ride.
Don’t get me wrong: if I were going on a DX vacation where I needed top-notch filtering, sync-detection and SSB, I would not pick the G6. For the odd business trip, though, it’s the perfect little radio.
The G6 even has an external antenna connection.
Small, affordable and full-featured
Shortwave and medium wave reception are comparable to others in price class
Two bandwidth choices
Direct keypad entry of frequencies
Fluid and well-placed tuning knob
No chuffing/muting during band scans
Includes SSB (see con)
Great audio for a tiny speaker
Excellent ergonomics (especially for such a small package)
Aircraft Band (see con)
SSB reception is mediocre–fine tuning is difficult
Volume button increments a little too steep (between 8-12) with headphones
Keypad not backlit
Some image problems on aircraft band
The Grundig G6 has been on the market a long time, in a consumer electronics life span. I would not wait to purchase one. Occasionally, RadioShack (in the US and Canada) will close out their stock of shortwave radios and the G6 can be found at bargain prices. Universal Radio currently has a promotion where if you buy a Grundig Satellit 750 for $299.95, you will receive a free Grundig G6. You get both a large portable/tabletop radio and a pocket-sized one in the same deal. That’s great value!
A great portable radio is your passport to the world while traveling, even in remote areas.
I receive a lot of emails from SWLing.com readers, quite often from those who about to embark upon international travel–sometimes to remote locations–and who are looking for a durable travel shortave radio. These travelers are looking for a basic travel radio which, while it might not need to survive being submerged underwater or dropped from a cliff, will hold up in the semi-protected environment of a suitcase or backpack experiencing some rough baggage handling.
I travel a great deal myself, and always carry a shortwave radio with me (actually, I usually take more than one). Here are some considerations I use to determine which radios go in my bag or pack, and thus make good travel companions:
Rugged enough to withstand typical suitcase/backpack travel conditions
Lightweight and relatively compact size
Supplied protective travel case
Efficient operation on AA cells, the most common batteries found in the world
Useful travel features, like auto-tuning, alarm/clock functions, sleep timer
Relatively inexpensive–if you lose your radio or it gets stolen, you don’t want it to ruin your trip
To be clear, none of the radios on the list that follows are marketed as “ultra-tough radios”–indeed, I know of no capable SW portable that is–but these do represent the most durable I’ve personally tested and used in my travels.
This Sony shortwave radio is a classic, with solid, time-tested performance, and features to please both the beginner and the seasoned radio enthusiast. It is full-featured, with excellent SSB and exceptional sync detection. I grab the ‘7600GR when I plan to do a little DXing on vacation. It has everything I need.
The Sony ICF-SW7600GR is still made in Japan and the case is metal. It feels like a very high-quality portable when holding it in your hands. The lock button is a sliding switch on the top part of the radio face–easy to turn on and off intentionally, difficult to do so unintentionally. Additionally, it comes with a decent padded case. The ‘7600GR operates on 4 AA cells. The only travel feature the ‘7600GR lacks is an alarm, and that’s okay by me; for the features and durability, I’ll keep the Sony and use my cell phone or watch for an alarm. The instruction manual is comprehensive and easy to read. Read the full review here.
Actually designed with the traveler in mind, the Grundig G8 will make for an excellent companion on your next venture. I’m quite impressed with this radio: shortwave reception is good, and FM reception exceptional. The AM broadcast band does suffer from some images (a type of signal interference in which aural “ghosts” of other broadcasts layer over the one you’re trying to hear), though still quite respectable. The G8’s audio is a little tinny out of the built-in speaker, though quite good for a radio this compact. The customary price for the G8 is $49.95, but occasionally retailers place them on sale for nearly half this price. I especially like the fact that there is a front cover on the G8 which protects many of the controls. The body is somewhat rubberized and the zip case that comes with the radio is padded and perfectly designed for suitcase/backpack travel. The G8 is also smaller than a paperback book.
The G8 does not have SSB capability like the Sony does, but it is a good product for casual broadcast listener. The G8 also has a great alarm clock function and a world time selector switch on the front: simply dial up your time zone as you cross the planet. The G8 uses 3 AA cells.
The County Comm Marathon ETFR Emergency Task Force Radio is a very small ultra-portable radio. The ETFR is similar to the earlier County Comm GP-4L, but was produced initially for the Canadian military, thus it features enhanced cold-weather operation. It is very durable–indeed, military-grade durability at least with regards to impact. To my knowledge, it is not waterproof, but it will certainly withstand your airline’s roughest luggage treatment.
The ETFR is no incredible performer, but the price is low and it is quite capable of catching the major international broadcasters–indeed its sensitivity is better than I had anticipated. The tuning is actually analog, though the display is digital, thus you can expect a little receiver drift if you keep this radio on a broadcast for very long. The ETFR operates efficiently on 2 AA cells providing up to 150 hours at 40% volume or 70 hours of illumination from the built-in LED light. The ETFR also has a built-in clock and alarm feature.
In my humble opinion, all frequent travelers should keep a County Comm ETFR in their go-to vehicle and/or travel bag.
Also (I have to admit) this radio looks very cool in the carry case that Universal sells. Together, these make a great bon voyage gift for any traveler.
Would you like to buy a shortwave radio as a gift for someone, but you don’t know a thing about radios? Or, are you thinking about buying a radio for yourself (cashing in a gift card, for example) but aren’t sure how much you need to spend to be satisfied with function and performance? Want a little help leaving a hint for Santa or Ms. Santa? If so, no worries: you’ve found the right place in this vast world wide web to answer your questions, or help you with that hint–just leave a link to this article somewhere that Santa can find it!
Following you’ll find a few select radios I recommend based on best performance, lowest price, and ease of use. I’ve also included current pricing and made suggestions where these radios may best be purchased. Of course, radios are available at large internet retailers–occasionally for better prices–but I highly recommend you purchase from the manufacturer and/or authorized retailer. Most radio retailers offer much better customer support in case you have a problem or question, or just need a little help getting started.
This quick guide is basic, non-technical, and to the point. For more comprehensive reviews, please consult SWLing.com’s Radio Reviews page. Also, take a look at our new Radio Marketplace page where we have pre-filtered shortwave radio eBay search results.
How current is this information? This guide was last updated on: 6 December 2010
Best performance for price
I start with this category because I believe that if you’re going to the trouble of finding the right radio as a gift, you at least want one that will perform and give years of listening pleasure. All of the following radios are sure to please those who are new to shortwave radio, and seasoned radio listeners as well. Most of these radios fall between the $100-150 price range.
The G4000A is a great portable radio and I include it here first because it is a part of a special promotion continuing through the end of March 2010. The receiver performance is very good, and it has all of the major features one might expect in a radio in its price class. I owned a version of this portable for over ten years and traveled with it extensively–it’s the perfect little travel companion, and it even has an alarm clock. But what’s really amazing about the G4000A is that it’s currently part of an exceptional package promotion by Universal Radio. If you buy the G4000A for $99.99, you also receive a free Grundig FR350 self-powered (emergency) shortwave radio, and a Grundig AN200 indoor antenna. I wrote about this special in a previous post if you want more info. Suffice to say, this is the best advertised deal for a portable shortwave radio I’ve ever encountered. You could, of course, buy the G4000A for someone and give the two extras as gifts to others on your holiday shopping list–or, better yet, keep one for yourself!
This Sony shortwave radio is a classic, with solid, time-tested performance, and features to please both the beginner and the seasoned radio enthusiast. The instruction manual is comprehensive and easy to read. Read the full review here.
The Grundig G3 was introduced in August 2009. It’s the latest portable receiver from Grundig and is an upgrade of the popular Grundig G5. I reviewed this radio right after it hit the market and found it to be excellent, save that its sync detection (a new feature for this model) did not perform up to spec, so I simply never use it–but this is no problem, as the receiver has many other outstanding features. The latest models of the Grundig G3 all have good sync detection. Overall, the G3’s performance is on par with–or in some respects, better than–the Sony (above). Read full review here.
This large portable would be my first pick for someone who wants excellent radio performance, but also wants a radio that is very simple to use (i.e., grandparents, children, your uncle who gets muddled by the TV’s remote control). It comes with an owner’s manual, but you most likely will not need it. The CCRadio-SW has robust, room-filling sound, and is a joy to operate. Ergonomics are excellent, and it sports a large tuning knob. Performance is top-notch on all shortwave bands and it’s top of it’s class on Medium Wave (or the AM broadcast band). It’s a little bigger than the previous radios (not really for flight bags), but still fine for car, camper, and fishing trips. The CCRadio-SW will please both the beginner and seasoned radio listener; speaking for myself, I find I use mine all the time. Read the review here.
This radio is more expensive than the others listed here, and is not a portable, however, I couldn’t help but include it because I recently reviewed this radio and found that it offers high-end performance for a fraction of the cost of a tabletop receiver. The little RX-320 is PC-controlled, meaning, you need to hook it up to a computer to bring it to life. It’s the perfect gift for your favorite ham radio operator or a computer enthusiast who also likes radio. Read the full review here —or, if you prefer, a short review here.
Let’s face it, these are tough economic times, and it may very well affect your gift budget this year. Below, I’ve put together a small list of radios for $100 or less that would make excellent gifts for a radio enthusiast or for someone who has never used a shortwave radio. Keep in mind, of course, that you pay for what you get; thus these radios do not perform quite as well as the portables above.
The G6 has many of the features of the portables above and comes at a much better price and in a smaller package. This radio could easily fit in a glove compartment or coat pocket. Its shortwave radio reception is very respectable for such a small radio. Read the full review here.
The Kaito KA1103 (a.k.a. Degen DE1003) offers the best performance I’ve tested under $100. But keep in mind, the ergonomics of this radio (pretty much any Kaito/Degen radio) leave something to be desired: for example, to turn up the volume, you have to press the volume button and use the tuning knob to adjust. Still, it’s fairly easy to operate, and comes with a one-of-a-kind digital display that imitates an older analog style dial. Another Kaito/Degen Product to consider is the KA1102/DE1102–read a review of this $60 portable here. In general, I’ve found that Kaito offers great performance for price, but their quality control is sometimes sub-par. I have had to return two of their products in the past, and each time was relieved I had purchased from an authorized dealer (see below). Read the KA1103 full review here.
The CCRadio-SWP has a great receiver, especially in such a tiny package. C.Crane ergonomics are always very good, and you’ll probably never read the manual, it’s so simple to operate. I keep one of these in my car to listen to shortwave radio when I have few minutes to spare. A few “AA” batteries will run this little radio for 70 hours! Now, the CCRadio-SWP has some limitations, as does any little radio in this price bracket, so read the full review here before purchasing. But this cute radio can make a great stocking stuffer–and will fit in that stocking’s toe just fine!
The Grundig G8 is a nice pocket radio and the perfect traveling companion. I’m quite impressed with this radio. Shortwave reception is good and FM reception exceptional. The AM broadcast band does suffer from some images, though still quite respectable. The G8’s audio is a little tinny, though quite good for a radio this compact. The customary price for the G8 is $49.95, but occasionally retailers place them on sale for nearly half this price. It’s a grab at $50, it’s a steal at $25!
The M400 is a fun, ultra-portable, ultra-thin shortwave radio. Though its performance isn’t as good as other portables on this page, it is a super simple radio and is quite capable of picking up strong SW broadcasters–at $30, it’s also super affordable. I wouldn’t purchase this radio for someone who is just discovering shortwave radio since they will want a better performer with more features (like the portables at the top of this page). I do think the M400 makes for a nice stocking-stuffer or small gift for the radio enthusiast in your life. I take mine with me on morning walks and overnight travels.