Monday 18 June 2012

So you want a budget shortwave receiver?

Had a phone call today from a guy who was 72 and wanted to get back into shortwave listening. He said that he used to own a Marconi CR100 receiver and had things changed much?

Woo! Not much!

Anyway, after a chat he said he wanted to buy a short wave receiver, but didn't have a clue where to start and didn't have too much money. So, what to recommend?

My first reaction was to suggest a used Yaesu FRG-7700 or FR-100, or perhaps an Icom IC-R75, but these were out of his budget and he preferred new anyway.

And then it dawned on me. What about a Degen DE1103 or a Tecsun PL-600?

For those who aren't familiar with these they are both Chinese-built portable radios that cover from Long Wave to 30MHz and cost less than about £60.

Now, I know what you thinking, the best bet would be to go for a dedicated communications receiver, but for £60 brand new – I don't think so.

I own a Degen DE1103 and it is actually not bad at all. I have often listened in to various amateur QSOs with it, including CW and considering its size and weight it does quite well. It will also pull in BBC Radio Wales on 882KHz medium wave, broadcasting from Washford, Somerset, during the day at a distance of 212 miles from here in Norfolk.

It can also pick up VOLMET transmissions on SSB and lots of short wave stations, just using the whip. You can attach a longer wire antenna – it has a socket on the side, which I would recommend as it is less prone to overload. According to some reports the whip goes through a FET amplifier so overloads if you connect a wire to it..

Even using the socket, you may need to switch it from DX to Local thought to avoid overload.

It comes with a velvet carrier bag and rechargeable batteries for about £60 delivered (search Ebay). There are plenty of reviews of the Degen, especially on Eham.

I also have a Tecsun PL-600 on order which has a similar spec so I'll post a review of that when it comes.

So yes, things have moved on a bit since the CR-100, but in some respects the hobby is cheaper now than it ever was. And things are more portable too!