Based on readers correspondence, the most anticipated non-shortwave radio to hit the market this year might be the Sangean HDR-14 AM/FM HD radio.
Sangean sent me a sample evaluation unit and I’ve had it on the air since taking delivery last week. I’m starting to put the elements of my HDR-14 review together while also writing Part 2 of my SDR primer for The Spectrum Monitor magazine (Part 1 was published last week). Indeed, I’ve a total of five reviews and evaluations on my desk right now–!
So far, I’m impressed with the little HDR-14. If you recall my review of the Sangean HDR-16, I mentioned that one of my benchmark distant HD FM stations is WFAE 2–its transmitter is a full 101 miles from my home and I’m well outside even the the fringe reception area.
The HDR-14 has a unique back stand: a small foot that swivels out of the base of the chassis.
I’m pleased to note that on more than one occasion, I’ve gotten a reliable HD lock of WFAE from my porch. A most positive sign!
Over the next three weeks, the HDR-14 will be travelling with me and I hope to even snag an AM HD station if all goes well.
I can tell you already that I’m as pleased as punch Sangean gave the HDR-14 a total of 20 AM and 20 FM memory presets. The larger HDR-16, in contrast, only has 5 AM and 5 FM presets.
Look for my review of the HDR-14 on the SWLing Post in the coming weeks. If interested, follow the tag: HDR-14
Hi, my name is Donald Brown, and I did a video review of the Sangean WR-7 and I thought that you might want to have a look at it and even place it onto your site as well. The YouTube address is here below:
Folks have been known to say that good things come in small packages. And, do you know what? They’re sometimes right. [Spoiler alert: This review features a good thing which comes in a small package.]
I’ve been in the process of evaluating some pretty complicated pieces of communications equipment lately. So when Sangean approached me a few weeks ago and asked if I would check out their latest FM radio and Bluetooth speaker––a comparatively simple piece of kit––I thought, Well, why not? Because while I prefer “enthusiast grade” radios, sometimes it’s nice to check out something super-simple and purpose-built from a company I’ve grown to trust. Plus, it didn’t hurt that Sangean actually bothered to include FM radio on what would otherwise simply be just another Bluetooth speaker. Ah, yes; a worthy addition.
By my measurements, the tiny Sangean WR-7 is about 2 1/2″ tall, 4 5/8″ wide, and 3″ deep (if you include the tuning knob in that last dimension). It’s mini by almost any standard.
For this photo I placed it next to my handy XHDATA D-808 compact radio. And here’s how they compare:
Though wee, the WR-7 feels weighty (14.4 oz), solid, and substantial in the hand.
Turns out the chassis is solid––solid wood. Sangean has two options: walnut and dark cherry. Of course, my sample is a black version which may appear later in the year.
And the WR-7 is as simple to operate as it is to…well, hold in your hand. There’s one knob to turn the radio on and select the source (FM, Bluetooth, or the analog AUX input), and another knob for volume. Just as these photos show.
The tuning knob is the largest knob and moves fluidly across the dial. The analog dial is white with black frequency markings, and is backlit. From my tests, the FM dial is fairly accurate, although the frequency marking steps are a bit odd: 2 or 3 MHz increments starting at 87.5 and ending at 108 MHz.
There is a green LED lamp hidden behind the speaker grill that acts as the FM signal strength indicator. This LED turns blue when in Bluetooth mode.
There’s not a lot to report on here and, perhaps, that’s why I halted my other evaluations to fit this one in. This radio needs no owner’s manual (though it does ship with one). All you need is a USB charging cable––yep, the same type that likely charges your mobile phone. And, of course, it ships with one. It also ships with a lightweight cloth-like carrying bag.
You might have noticed that the WR-7 doesn’t have a telescoping whip antenna. That’s okay, because it also ships with an external wire antenna (which I actually prefer on this type of mini tabletop radio).
The WR-7 has an internal 2600 mAh Lithium-Ion Battery that provides this tiny rig with up to 36 hours of operation between charges. While I haven’t tested this claim yet, I can tell you that its battery life is incredibly good––especially acknowledging that the audio amplifier must be using quite a bit of the battery.
The WR-7 receives the FM broadcast band from 87.5 to 108 MHz. While the dial is analog, I know there’s a DSP chip inside because I can hear frequency steps while I tune across the band. There is no muting between frequency steps, so the experience of tuning feels somewhat analog. As I mentioned earlier, the dial layout is a little quirky, but overall the frequency markings are pretty close to accurate. I found my benchmark stations with little difficulty.
In terms of sensitivity, the FM receiver is quite good in the WR-7. I could receive almost all of my local stations with the external FM antenna connected. Of course, you’ll want to connect the FM wire antenna.
With the external antenna connected, I could receive all of my benchmark distant and weak stations as well on the WR-7. While reception is very good, it isn’t quite as good as on my XHDATA D-808, C. Crane CC Skywave SSB, or Tecsun PL-660––the lock isn’t quite as stable––but I probably could have tweaked this by moving the external wire antenna.
Thing is, with even a decent FM signal, you’ll be mighty impressed with the audio fidelity of the WR-7. It easily manages to sound like a radio three to four times its size. Truly, the bass that emanates from this tiny speaker is incomprehensibly deep–only limited by the size of the acoustic chamber.
The sound is rich and room-filling when the volume is turned up.
And speaking of turning up the volume, this is one little radio you’ll probably peg at its highest volume setting from time to time. In fact, I rather wish this radio would allow the volume level to reach even a notch higher…but I expect this was a design choice at Sangean. With the volume turned up all the way, the sound is room-filling, but not distorted. While testing the WR-7, I tuned it to a variety of stations and played a wide range of music through it via Bluetooth: I never noticed bass-heavy songs distorting the audio. I suspect if the volume could be increased even further, the audio would indeed distort a bit.
In short: though you might occasionally turn up the volume on the WR-7 all the way, you’ll be pleased with the results––even across the room!
I’m not sure what to say about Bluetooth; to me this is a technology that seems to work quite well for wireless connections between mobile devices. The WR-7 has built-in Bluetooth Technology Version 4.1, and it worked flawlessly with all of my mobile devices as well as my shack’s PC.
For a full week, I used the WR-7 as the speaker for my shack computer, and it was most impressive. In fact, it makes for a nice compact external speaker to pair with my SDR applications. AM audio, piped through Bluetooth into the WR-7, is a treat.
For a few nights, I even streamed OTR productions of “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” with my shack computer, connected to the WR-7 via Bluetooth. The WR-7 was actually in the adjoining room, yet the Bluetooth connection was strong and never dropped the audio. The resulting sound was nothing short of amazing: if you closed your eyes, it almost sounded like a valve set from 1939.
And that’s another thing about the WR-7 worth noting: It’s so small and so simple in design, it fits in anywhere, and isn’t in the least obtrusive, all while filling the room with its warm, rich sound.
Every radio has its pros and cons. When I begin a review of a radio, I take notes from the very beginning so that I don’t forget some of my initial impressions. Here is the list I formed over the time I’ve spent evaluating the WR-7.
Superb, room-filling, rich audio especially considering its very compact package
Very good FM sensitivity
Internal battery powers it for dozens of hours between charges
Easy to recharge via any 5VDC USB source
Easy Bluetooth connection and brilliant audio
Volume and selection knobs could be slightly small for some users’ hands
Volume range more limited than most, upper volume capped
Although it does come with a nice lightweight carrying pouch for traveling, you might wish for a little extra protection in a suitcase or carry-on bag
Radios like the Sangean WR-7 give me hope that consumer electronics might be heading back in what is, in my humble opinion, the right direction: that is, toward quality.
The WR-7 is really a quality piece of kit: it has a solid feel (imparted by solid wood), has an acoustic chamber that produces excellent audio, and you can tell that the FM receiver wasn’t simply an “add-on” feature, as it works quite well.
While you won’t see many radios like this reviewed on the SWLing Post, I’m glad I agreed to take on this one. It was an fun exercise, and reminded me why I love doing radio reviews: sometimes these digital marvels really surprise me. That, and I’m enough of a radio and consumer electronics geek to bask in the indulgence of pure listening!
Good one, Sangean! Accolades!
Note: At time of posting, the Sangean WR-7 has not yet hit retailers. I understand that the MSRP will be $99.99, but imagine the actual retail price will be closer to $79.99 once it hits the shelves. I’ll update this review with the actual price and links to retailers once they’re in stock. Stay tuned for that.
I’m a few years after Steve’s comments but I will have a go at it, at least anecdotally speaking. I’ve owned a half dozen Sangean ATS-909’s, which includes two of the 909X’s, and one super-909 from radiolabs. The 909X is the finest looking portable I have ever seen or lain hands upon, and that includes several Sony’s that I still think of as neat looking, I had the white cabinet 909X first and then the much more striking (to my eyes) black cabinet 909X after returning the first one due to rock hard buttons.
They are both extremely attractive, and exceptionally well made, especially by today’s cheap Chinese standards. I must confess that I also still find the original 909’s almost equally neat looking, though not quite sporting the same robustness of build.
The 909x’s sound wonderful on MW & FM, and its a decent performer reaching out to fairly distant FM stations. Unfortunately that is largely the best of the radio, its performance on MW & SW is best described as pathetic, and not just due to being deaf, it has a lot of noise, even when attached to the superb RF systems tuned EMF antenna. The older 909 is also to my experience substantially better then the 909X when matched up to a serious outboard antenna, such as the above EMF, I found this difference especially surprising, its not even close.
The PL-880 from Tecsun blows it away on SW and MW sensitivity, while also offering the superb advantage of genuinely ECSS tuning anything on MW & SW, you cannot decently receive any MW or SW signal via ECSS with the 909X as its SSB can only be fine tuned to 40 Hz, which is terribly disappointing, you can zero beat the little Tecsun easily. serious ECSS capability is to my mind a much more attractive option then a sync circuit, and unfortunately with the beautiful little Sangean 909X you get neither.
I do hope anyone who happens upon this pays attention, because for the money the PL-880 is far and away the better performer, in fact my little 1103 from Degen/Kaito out performs the 909X, as does my Grundig Yacht Boy-400, and my Sangean ATS-803A. Its my great hope that Sangean seriously upgrades these deficiencies in the otherwise gorgeous 909X, its circuitry is noisier than the old 909 and its not nearly not as sterling a performer hooked up to household current and a decent outboard antenna as the old 909, its 40 hz tuning SSB once a great reason to buy a 909, is no longer competitive, especially against the superb PL-880 which again is capable of excellent ECSS even by Icom R75 standards, Sangean would do well to drastically improve the SSB performance of the 909X.
I hope this helps, I liked the original review up top, but again its several years old, and the ATS-909X is now known to be clearly outclassed by the more affordable Tecsun, actually by the PL-660 to boot, I really hope Sangean addresses the issues, its such a beautiful receiver, you just want it to be as good as it looks, unfortunately it’s not!
Thank you for sharing your evaluation and comments!
The Sangean ATS-909X is an interesting radio indeed. Almost everyone loves the design, audio and overall quality of the 909X. Yet performance reviews are somewhat polarizing: some 909X owners claim the 909X has strong performance characteristics on shortwave, while others believe it’s almost deaf. Your findings coincide with mine from the Mega Review where I pitted the ATS-909X against the Tecsun PL-880, PL-660 and Sony ICF-SW7600GR. In that review, where I relied on a whip antenna, the 909X was noticeably less sensitive than the other three competitors. Based on the premium one pays for the 909X, I was surprised.
I have learned over the years, however, that the 909X can handle larger outdoor antennas and doesn’t easily overload. Additionally, the 909X requires a fresh set of batteries for optimal performance/sensitivity. Some users have even modified the radio with a 4:1 impedance transformer–click here to read a post/comments about this mod.
I would love to see Sangean produce an updated/upgraded version of the 909X, but at this point I’m not exactly holding my breath. I’ve heard that they’re slowly pulling out of the market. Hope I’m proven wrong because I’d love to see a new shortwave set from Sangean.
It’s funny that, while I’ve written dozens and dozens of radio reviews over the years, I’ve never written even a single review that included an HD radio.
Well, the time to begin is now: HD radio, here we come.
Those readers living outside North America may be scratching their heads, asking, “What exactly is ‘HD radio?’” To answer in clear terms, I’ll turn the question over to Wikipedia:
HD Radio is a trademarked term for iBiquity’s in-band on-channel (IBOC) digital radio technology used by AM and FM radio stations to transmit audio and data by using a digital signal embedded “on-frequency” immediately above and below a station’s standard analog signal, providing the means to listen to the same program in either HD (digital radio with less noise) or as a standard broadcast (analog radio with standard sound quality). The HD format also provides the means for a single radio station to simultaneously broadcast one or more different programs in addition to the program being transmitted on the radio station’s analog channel.
Got that? In brief, HD radio is digital radio broadcasts that occupy the same FM/AM spectrum currently allocated for analog broadcasts. Wikipedia adds:
[HD radio] was selected by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2002 as a digital audio broadcasting method for the United States, and is the only digital system approved by the FCC for digital AM/FM broadcasts in the United States.
For my own part I had mostly ignored HD radio, assuming there would be few stations to listen to from my rural home location. That is, until recently, when I purchased a car that has built-in HD radio reception. I was impressed by the number of commercial stations I found that I can receive via HD radio. In truth, only a handful of the mainstream HD station offerings had any appeal for me, but I really took notice when I received a commercial-free jazz station via the HD2 channel of my favorite NPR member station, WFAE. Having been a jazz fan since I studied music in college, I was intrigued: could a portable HD radio receive this distant HD station reliably? I had my doubts; moreover, I really didn’t want to purchase a radio, then be obligated to send it back if it didn’t receive anything.
Instead, I contacted Sangean. The company was more than happy to send me a loaner radio for review. I requested the HDR-16––at the time it was Sangean’s most affordable HD portable, one about which a number of SWLing Post readers had expressed their curiosity.
The Sangean HDR-16 is a simple radio with a modern design. The chassis is a glossy black hard plastic and feels substantial. It has a useful fold-out carry handle and substantial telescoping whip antenna. The front face features a 16-character two-line backlit display, five function buttons, five dedicated preset buttons, and a dedicated power button. On the right side of the radio you’ll find a dedicated (two function) tuning knob and smaller volume/tone knob. The left side of the radio features an “aux-in” port, a “rec-out” port, an earphone jack, and a 7.5 volt “DC-in” port.
HD Radio digital and analog AM / FM-Stereo reception
10 Memory Presets (5 FM, 5 AM)
PAD (Program-Associated Data) Service
Support for Emergency Alerts Function
Automatic Multicast Re-Configuration
Automatic Simulcast Re-Configuration
Auto Ensemble Seek
Real Time Clock and Date with Alarm and Sleep Function
2 Alarm Timer by Radio, Buzzer
HWS (Humane Wake System) Buzzer and Radio
Tone & Bass Control
Information Display for Channel Frequency, Call Sign, Radio Text, Audio Mode, Service Mode, Signal Quality and Clock Time
Easy to Read LCD Display with Backlight
“Battery Low” LED Indication
Auxiliary Input for Additional Audio Sources
Record Output for Connecting to Hi-Fi System or Recording from Audio Program
I/O Jacks: DC In, Line-Out (Rec-Out), Aux-In, Headphone and HD / FM Rod Antenna
The HDR-16 sports two 2.5” front-facing speakers that deliver crisp audio that can be customized with simple treble/bass EQ settings. I found increasing the treble just a bit and the bass quite a lot produced the best audio for music broadcasts. Even the default audio settings are pretty good, however. The HDR-16 doesn’t have the rich fidelity of the Eton Field BT or the Tecsun S-8800, but it does offer stereo sound that is room filling and pleasant. Sangean obviously took audio fidelity seriously when designing the HDR-16.
The left side features AUX in, Record Out, Earphone and a DC power port.
Note that the the HDR-16 sounds especially good in spoken word/news broadcasts.
Operation and Ergonomics
The Sangean HDR-16 is a very simple and intuitive radio to operate. I sorted out all of its functions simply by following button and knob labels, but even the most tech-challenged person in your family could give the owner’s manual a single read-through and operate the HDR-16 with ease.
But let’s get one gripe out of the way…perhaps a case of simplicity gone too far: the HDR-16 only has five station preset buttons. Five! Actually, it offers a total of 10 memory allocations: five for AM, five for FM. Still…even in my rural market, I can easily program ten station memories on an FM radio, especially since HD Radio channels offer that many more new options. But the HDR-16 forces me to curate my presets down to a mere five stations per band. In my view, this strict limitation is an unfortunate design oversight.
The HDR-16 is an AM/FM radio that receives both legacy analog broadcasts and HD/digital broadcasts on both bands. I’ll break down performance by mode and band below.
Of course, what I was most eager to explore was FM HD reception from my home. After unpacking the HDR-16, I placed the radio on my kitchen countertop and initiated an HD Seek scan via the dedicated button on the front panel. Couldn’t have been easier.
The HDR-16’s scan/seek functionality is impressively quick.
I quickly found there were a number of commercial radio stations––about four, to be exact––that I could instantly receive with little to no effort. Mind you, I live in a relatively rural market in a mountainous area. No doubt, if I initiated an HD radio search in LA or New York City, the dial would be chock-full of terrific stations.
All of the HD radio stations I received were either local, or powerhouses from neighboring markets. I was disappointed to find that I could not receive my most desired station, WFAE HD2.
I then moved the HDR-16 to a south-facing window and tuned to WFAE’s FM frequency of 90.7. I found I could easily receive the analog station and its RDS information, but still had no option to listen to HD2. After tinkering with antenna position and placement in our kitchen window, a sweet spot for reception was found, and voila! WFAE HD2 came in fully decoded, without any drops.
Recalling the days when I used to tinker with the rabbit ears on a TV, once I found that sweet spot, I carefully left the HDR-16 alone and didn’t move it further. As a result, over the course of the afternoon, I had nearly 100% copy from WFAE HD2.
I knew WFAE was a fringe station and checked their propagation map for HD radio. My location was actually outside of the fringe reception area. I looked up GPS coordinates of the WFAE 90.7 MHz transmitting site and found it is exactly 101 miles/162 km from my home.
Obviously, the HDR-16 is a sensitive HD radio on FM!
Via the 1/8″ stereo AUX in jack, you can use the HDR-16 as amplified stereo speakers for your favorite portable music device.
Turns out, FM HD reception is pretty flaky when dealing with fringe stations, though.
Over the course of the next weeks, I tried the HDR-16 in different positions and locations. There was only one spot in my house where the HDR-16 could get reliable reception of WFAE HD2. When I started the evaluation, it was August; our trees were still had a canopy full of green leaves. Sangean kindly allowed me to hang onto the HDR-16 to see if reception improved in late fall when all of the leaves were off the trees. As I write this review, we’re in winter, and the tree branches are bare. But curiously, reception of WFAE’s fringe signal is about the same as before. Nor have I noticed any difference in the reception of other commercial stations.
The HDR-16 accepts four C cells.
My conclusion is that the HDR-16 is a true performer on the FM band in HD mode. I have no other HD radios with which to compare it, but based on what I know about HD radio, this rig certainly exceeded my expectations.
The HDR-16 can also receive AM HD signals. There are far fewer AM HD broadcasters on the air, however. In fact, one of the first in our region dropped their HD coverage last year due to a lack of listeners.
With that said, I’ve read that a number of HDR-16 owners who live in the vicinity of AM HD broadcasters love the fact they get a digital audio quality signal on the AM band. One SWLing Post reader recently told me he even gets the occasional night-time AM HD DX signal with an HDR-16.
There are no local AM HD stations near me, and despite my best efforts, I never decoded an AM HD broadcaster in the evening. Perhaps if I did a little research and planning, then inductively coupled the HDR-16 to a MW mag-loop antenna, it would increase my chances.
I’ve done almost as much analog FM listening on the HDR-16 as I have HD listening.
The HDR-16 can hold its own with most of my portable radios, in that it can receive all of my benchmark FM stations, and even some fringe analog stations.
RDS decoding also seems to be quite effective, even with fringe stations.
AM (mediumwave) performance is surprisingly good. Perhaps my expectations were low, but I expected analog AM reception to be an afterthought. Or perhaps to have acceptable AM HD reception, Sangean had to put some extra effort into overall AM performance. Honestly, I don’t know, but what I do know is I’ve been pleased with the HDR-16 on the AM band. The AGC is pretty stable, noise relatively low, and sensitivity better than on other similar digital radios.
Many of my shortwave portables, like the PL-660, PL-310ET, and PL-880, could outperform the HDR-16 on the AM band, but frankly performance is on a level that it’s going to please most radio listeners. I’ve even had luck getting solid copy from one of my favorite AM DX stations, CFZM (740 kHz) with the HDR-16.
Should you purchase the HDR-16 for AM/MW DXing? No; there are better radios for this exclusive function. But for what I would consider a “bonus” band on a digital radio, I’m very pleased.
Every radio has its pros and cons. When I begin a review of a radio, I take notes from the very beginning so that I don’t forget some of my initial impressions. Here’s the list I’ve developed over the time I’ve spent evaluating the HDR-16.
Excellent FM HD radio reception
Excellent FM analog reception
Very good AM broadcast band reception for a modern digital portable
Good audio from internal stereo speakers
Nice carry handle that tucks away
Both auxiliary-in and -out jacks for audio
Dedicated earphone jack
Design is compact, sleek, yet sturdy
One of the more affordable HD radio options currently on the market
Easy access to bass/treble tone controls through volume multi-function
HD seek functions work on all but the most fringe stations
No ability to internally recharge C batteries
No external antenna jack to improve FM HD reception with directional antenna
Limited to just 10 memory presets (five for AM, five for FM)
Fringe HD stations may continuously flip between digital and analog, annoying when HD station content and analog broadcast content are quite differentUpdate: I recently tried to have the receiver replicate this behavior but it did not, so I’m striking it from the cons list!
Can I recommend the HDR-16? Absolutely.
If you’re looking for an AM/FM HD radio that’s well-rounded, simple to operate, and provides quality audio, I don’t believe you could go wrong with the HDR-16. The HDR-16 has proven to me that it’s a worthy FM HD receiver as it’s sensitive enough to snag fringe HD stations with some reliability. I’m certain I could design a small FM antenna and get 100% copy from my favorite HD station 101 miles from my home.
I think the HDR-16 would be a safe purchase for anyone, as it’s easy to operate, relatively compact, and makes the process of seeking HD stations a breeze.
I’m especially pleased with the HDR-16’s AM analog reception. It pleasantly surpassed my expectations and makes it easy to recommend the HDR-16. The HDR-16 is one of the few HD portables that also includes AM HD reception.
I like Sangean’s high gloss finish (though it does show fingerprints rather well!).
I’m very tempted to purchase the HDR-16; I’ve found it difficult to justify, though. Living in a rural location, I have fewer HD stations to choose from––all but one are commercial, chock-full of advertising, and lack any real variety and diversity. I am very pleased with WFAE’s jazz station on HD2, but it’s hard to justify a $100 purchase just to receive one station over the air. Especially since I can easily stream WFAE HD2 from my Sangean WFR-28, Como Audio Solo, or Amazon Echo.
But if I lived in an urban area, with the accompanying diverse radio market, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy the HDR-16.
Here are some retail options for the HDR-16––at the time of this writing, almost all retailers price it at $100–Amazon, New Egg and some eBay vendors offer free shipping:
In closing…I should add that there’s another tempting Sangean HD radio coming just around the corner: the HDR-14. It’ll be priced lower than the HDR-16, and is even more compact, suggesting that it might make an excellent portable for the traveler. I will certainly review the HDR-14 when it’s available, as I’ll be very curious if its equally effective at snagging fringe HD FM stations. Note that the HDR-14, unlike the HDR-16, has only one speaker, so I doubt audio fidelity will match that of the HDR-16, which should be a better choice for home and local use.