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!


  1. He could also consider the Target HF3 communications receiver from Spectrum Communications, a proper communicatoins receiver at a budget price (just over £200.)

  2. Hi Julian - yes, that's another goody and probably a better performer. Nice to hear from you.

  3. The HF-3 series of radios are not intended to be serious DX radios.

    As they were designed primarily for use on board yachts they are designed primarily to be lightweight , have low power consumption and minimal corrosive parts.

    The HF3 suffers from intermod distortions and by-products when subjected to strong signal levels.

    Those that connect it to any reasonable outdoor antenna will quickly be disappointed with the results.

    The HF3 is one step up from a portable , but then , not a very big step and is a world of difference when compared to a FRG-100.


  4. I am also a big fan of the Degen DE1103. You can read my review at .



  5. Hi Steve.
    How do you find the TECSUM PL-600.I have one by on the short wave bands well no go just a lot of noise !! I have an ETON G6 and this is great

  6. That's strange. The Tecsun PL-600 seems quite a good performer on short wave. It may be very easy to overload the front end, so don't connect long wires etc to the telescopic antenna itself and if using the side socket you may have to use the dx<>local attenuator. Also, keep it well away from computers etc as these can generate a lot of noise. I've been quite pleased with mine - there isn't a lot between the Degen and the Tecsun, bit I like the Tecsun's big display and ability to scan medium wave in 9kHz steps. It is bigger and heavier though.

  7. Update: I just tried the Tecsun PL-600 on my main antennas (plugging them into the side antenna socket through an adaptor). It will overload quite easily and I recommend switching the "Ant Gain" switch to "Normal".

    This does attentuate the signal a lot and I think it might be worth making a small box with a varirable resistor so that you can leave the switch on "Dx" and adjust the gain that way.

    The Tecsun could hear what my Icom IC-756 Pro 3 could hear, but it is not a true communication receiver and will likely miss weaker stations.

    But then it costs a heck of lot less too!

  8. That's correct about the Tecsun PL-600. Be judicious and conservative with antennas & gain. I can hear anything with it. I do better using battery power because it prevents incoming noise (through the power line). A fantastic $72 radio. Can Dx with it no problem.