N9EWO Review : Sangean ATS-909X
 LW / MW / SW / FM Portable Receiver
(as STOCK, no modifications)

Be sure and view the comparison chart located on the bottom of this page
HUGE thanks to "John Case" as without his help, this review would NOT be here.

The discontinued Sangean ATS-909X.
Was available in White or Black case.
(see VERY IMPORTANT updates in green block below)
(N9EWO Photo)
N9EWO Review : SANGEAN ATS-909X (as Stock)

Discontinued Receiver

IMPORTANT NOTE : Test sample was with earlier production BEFORE hardware changes were made (firmware 1.29). Later and more current samples may not perform as given in the below review (see green update block below).

Firmware Version Tested: 1.29

Country of Manufacture: China (not marked on radio cabinet, manual or box)
Approx. Serial Number of Test Sample: 290050xx

- Analog dual up conversion with an additional well implemented Si4735 DSP stage that gives good sensitivity and selectivity with 2 IF bandwidths on MW and SW.
- Good SSB mode with low distortion audio, and separate USB and LSB selections (see con).
- Manual ECSS somewhat useful (see con).
- Excellent top notch FM performance (sensitivity, selectivity and audio quality).
- Easy to view “large” LCD that also features excellent back lighting (on full time when operating from external AC adapter).
- Front panel tuning jog shuttle wheel (with detents) that feature 2 well chosen tuning rates which auto change between modes (see con).
- Very good ergonomics (see con).
- SW / MW side mounted "variable" attenuator (marked as RF Gain) that works well to tame the receiver’s limited dynamic range.
- Hard rubber push buttons that have good tactile response (see con).
- Well-positioned “Up-Down” slewing buttons.
- 3 position tone control works above average (for a switch type tone control).
- Useful and good performing squelch control.
- 406 total memory channels, including a lone and very useful priority button (includes alpha tags for pages).
- 3-event timer and sleep/snooze functions.
- An unusually accurate 12-segment (is really 12 and not say 6) signal strength indicator.
- Sensitive “Radio Data System” (RDS) feature that works without any major intervention.
- Built in automatic battery recharge circuit for internal 4 AA ni-mh batteries (not included).
- Stereo “Line Audio” output that has proper level.
- Line input jack for mp3 player or other audio device.
- FM stereo LCD indicator and stereo-mono selection.
- Attractive metal speaker grill. Includes a hum free AC-AC adapter (see con), soft plastic carrying case, reel antenna and so-so earbuds.
- Clock displays separate from frequency (see con).
- LW band coverage (not tested).
- External antenna jack works for SW and MW (see con).
- Hinged battery cover.
- More solidly constructed than other lower cost Chinese sets in this size (or somewhat smaller).
- Available in “White-Silver” or “Black” cabinet versions.

- Limited dynamic range (MW/SW) especially detected with external antenna’s at night (easily cured with variable attenuator control) .
- SW whip sensitivity below average.
- SSB slow step rate is 40 hz, so tuning may be off including any manual ECSS reception.
- "Klunky" Tuning knob “job wheel” sometimes skipped or missed steps on test sample.
- Slippery and tight rotating volume control.
- Requires pressing the F button prior of using direct frequency entry.
- MW / SW fading distortion above average.
- General audio quality on MW / SW "AM Mode" is fair to poor.
- 5-language skimpy owners manual that only covers very basic operation.
- After some time during AC adapter operation the rear cabinet (near the power jack) becomes quite warm.
- AGC performance for very weak signal reception is fair to poor.
- Clock digits small and only 24-hour format.
- Even with good SSB mode, the AGC decay rate is still too fast.
- 3-step battery indicator is only of marginal use.
- External antenna jack does not work on FM.
- Bandwidth selection is via a mechanical slide switch on right side panel.
- Reports of button failures after a few years of normal use.
- Later Samples include a noisy SWITCHING type AC adapter (receiver is also DC Input on these later samples as well)
- County of manufacture is missing on the receiver or box (a common trait for Sangean).
- Relatively expensive (about double) when compared to other Chinese sets with similar features.

Yes the ATS-909X's audio quality on MW and SW is a utter disappointment. If you desire better audio quality and a fairly decent Sync Detector the Tecsun PL-660 might be a better portable choice (see review here) ?? But it too has it’s own bugs to deal with.

There are modifications around to help improve the dismal SW “whip” sensitivity (at the cost of FM sensitivity), but we did not test this, and for most it will be better to forget this. When connected to a decent outdoor antenna, or even just using the included “reel” one, the sensitivity is equivalent to any other portable out there.

The included power adapter is the same AC to AC supply that comes with the Sangean DAR-101 mp3 recorder (as shown in picture below). This 9 volt wall wart has AC output (not DC) and the rectifier, filtering and regulation are done inside the ATS-909X / DAR-101. UPDATE : ATS-909X and DAR-101 later production uses a 7.5 VDC input with positive tip polarity (and include a SWITCHING type DC adapter). The DAR-101 stand alone audio recorder is a perfect add on as the timer jack connections are ready to go.

Sangean discontinued the ATS-909X in late 2020. Replaced in early 2021 by the greatly updated "ATS-909X2" model (N9EWO full X2 review available here).

Sangean's DAR-101 "stand alone" MP3 audio recorder (above) is a perfect add on as the jack connections are ready to go (if you make use of the timer functions). My review on the DAR-1 can be found here.

Discontinued Receiver

Dave N9EWO
, all rights reserved
Ver 3.4

Included ATS-909X and DAR-101 AC Adapters with Early and Later production (see text). (N9EWO Photo's)
Early (Output 9.0 VAC Transformer) : HK41UA-9.0-700
Later (Output 7.5VDC Switching - positive tip) : HKP24-0750800dU

  Later Production "P-01" Firmware / Hardware has Issues
John Case informs us that Sangean changed the ATS-909X's firmware to "P-01" (from 1.29) in later production. The MAJOR downside with HIS sample of this later "P-01" firmware is on LSB or USB modes the volume either drops severely or drops out near all together. John tells us that Jay Allen has also verified this bug.

I for one can not stand listening to a ATS-909X for more than 30 minutes on SW (AM Mode Broadcast) before my brain gets tired and MUST shut it off with a early sample ! But BEFORE the firmware/hardware changes it DID have very good SSB performance / audio.

UPDATES : Appears there is more to the later "P-01" firmware. Avo Ohaniam reports over on "SWLing.com", that his "P-01" sample suffers from greater general drift (as noticed vs. his older sample with 1.29), undesirable backlight changes, background audio hiss even on super strong signals and a higher FM Stereo threshold (that is it now takes a stronger signal for "Stereo" to kick in). However he also states that his MW reception is improved, plus the bandwidths are wider and better audio quality (this is not a bad thing aside from the increased hiss). Another user report says that his ATS-909X with the 1.29 firmware has unusable SSB as well. So this saga gets even more interesting ! Were all of these just defective samples (we don't know as this text was typed here) !

N9EWO's Sangean ATS-909X (early version), ATS-909X2 (review here) , Tecsun PL-660/680/880 Comparison Chart

Links for Additional Sangean ATS-909X Information (All Subject To Change Without Notice)

- Amazon ATS-909X Reviews (Date Sorted)

- (You Tube Video) "Sangean ATS-909X - The Good and the Bad"

- Incident at C.Crane (Aug 2005)

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