Comparisons Of Several Small Radios

Comparisons Of Several Small Radios – Tecsun PL200, Kaito WRX911, Tecsun R-9700DX, Sangean SG-622

I just completed my first round of tests of the Kaito WRX911 versus the Tecsun PL-200. To make it more interesting I decided to compare them with a few other inexpensive small portables…the Tecsun R-9700DX and the Sangean SG-622/Radio Shack DX-397. I used a Sony 2010 as a reference to find the stations initially and to have an idea of how these small radios performed overall. I will try to present my data in an organized and concise manner. Note that the PL200 is the only digital radio in this group other than the reference 2010. All the others are analog.

The analog radios are all similar in street pricing. I did some last minute price comparisons and came up with the following prices available right now (June 5th, 2004).

PRICE
Tecsun PL200 $47.90 (New-eBay)
Kaito WRX911 $27.95 (from Radios4you.com)
Tecsun R-9700DX $27.90 (New-eBay)
Sangean SG-622(Radio Shack DX-397) $26.99 (Sangean version-Amazon.com)
Note: The Tecsuns are not imported into the USA but can be readily bought new from a few suppliers on eBay).

The Tecsun PL-200 is the only digital model so the $20 higher price seems reasonable. Since they are priced so closely you can virtually choose the model you like the best. They have different strengths and weaknesses. I want to also say that I was going to include two other small radios…the Sangean SG-711L and the Bell & Howell (no model number evident) but didn’t as they were so miserable I couldn’t consider them anything more than toys. They each sounded terrible even on relatively strong local am stations, and sw reception was nearly impossible to really listen to. I don’t consider them serious radios.

SIZE
The PL-200 and WRX-911 seem to share an almost identical cabinet. It is 4.5 x 3 x 1 inches.

The R-9700DX is the biggest at 7 x 4.5 x 1 inches

SG-622 in between at 6 x 3.5 x 1.2 inches

They are all small compared with the Sony 2010 (see picture)

SHORTWAVE
I started on shortwave…BBC on 15190 KHz. It was medium strength on the reference 2010 with some fading in and out. The SG-622 was the best of the small radios here…it received the signal almost as well as the reference. Next came the R-9700DX…it was just a notch weaker sounding (more noise). The signal was barely audible on the PL-200 and WRX-911…they seemed pretty close to each other though.

Then I went to a another medium strength (but slightly stronger) signal on 7465 KHz. At this frequency, the R-9700DX was the closest to the reference radio and they were very close. Then the PL-200, WRX911 and SG-622…all with reasonable reception and each very close to one another. It’s interesting here that the SG-622 was best of the small radios on 15190 KHz yet the worst on 7465 KHz!

17640 – A weak signal on the reference. It came in well enough to hear on the SG-622 and the PL-200…considering how weak it was on the reference it was surprisingly good on the small radios. It wasn’t there at all on the WRX-911 and the R-9700DX was having overload of some other stations which blanketed that portion of the dial so I couldn’t find the signal at all. I tried shortening the whip just to the point where the interference stopped, but there was no trace of the weak signal at that point.

AM (MW)
AM (MW) Tests. 710 KHz. Weak on Sony 2010 reference. Here the second choice was the R-9700DX, followed very closely by the PL-200 and the SG-622. The WRX-911 brought up the rear…the station was very noisy on the WRX.

1250 KHz. Weak station. Here all the small radios did somewhat better than they did on 710 compared with the reference, except surprisingly, the R-9700DX had much lower ultimate volume. The signal didn’t seem any noisier on it then the other small radios, but it just wasn’t very loud at max volume. Strange.

Finally, 880 KHz. Medium strength station. Here the SG-622 was second to the reference, followed by the PL-200, the R-9700DX and lastly the WRX911.

Another point. During all these tests I really saw the advantage of digital tuning. After choosing a target station on the reference radio I struggled to find that stations on all the analog portables. Their dial calibrations all were only approximate and it sometimes took some time to find the station at all. In this respect I would choose the PL-200 as the easiest one to find a specific station on.

Sound Quality
To my ears the SG-622 was far and away the best sounding of all the small radios…warm and full but still with good clarity. Reminiscent of the YB400. Next was the R-9700DX…not as warm sounding but powerful audio with loud volume The PL-200 sounded a bit fuller and stronger than the WRX-911, but make no mistake…both the PL-200 and WRX-911 , very tiny radios, sounded tiny. Exactly what you would expect, and not a big issue for me where maximum portability is wanted. Of course, if used as a Walkman, they both sound great with earphones.

One more thing. I spent some time overnight checking selectivity on the AM band…I found all the radios could reasonably well separate stations adjacent to each other on the dial. There was some interference on all of them from time to time, but if the station is coming in reasonably well you will be able to keep it separated from an adjacent signal. All the radios have lots of stations all over the dials and seemed very good at night. You could have lots of fun with any of them. None of these radios have dual bandwidths…you wouldn’t expect that at this price range), so on sw you may have trouble separating some signals when they are crowded close together, but again, for general listening to signals that are coming in reasonably well, it usually won’t bother you too much. None of these are dx ing receivers after all.

Conclusions?
One point is that how they compare for sensitivity seems to be frequency dependant, as their relative rankings changed from station to station. For tuning around I would choose the PL-200…you always know exactly what frequency you’re on and that’s a big plus most of the time. It’s also as small as they get. Only the WRX-911 is as small but it doesn’t compare overall. Among the analogs, the R-9700DX has very nice feeling analog tuning and a dial light and more powerful audio but it’s quite a bit larger than the smaller sets. The SG-622/DX397 is really nice sounding if you just like to listen without tuning around a lot. I’m afraid there’s not much to recommend the WRX911 except for its tiny size and low price. It does look great in the metallic blue color and looks like an analog cousin of the PL-200, but the PL-200 outperforms the WRX in every way. I think for their prices it’s hard to go wrong with any of these radios, but it’s good to know their relative strengths and weaknesses to make the best personal choice.

(This article was originally published in 2005).

Comments or questions? Email me at radiojayallen@gmail.com

Jay Allen

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