N9EWO Reviews :
Degen DE1101
Kaito KA1101
LW / MW / SW / FM  PLL Portable Receiver
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------___
Tecsun BCL-2000
Grundig S350

 MW / SW / FM Portable Receiver

HUGE "Thank You" to Craig M. as without his donations this review would NOT be here.

The (Degen DE1101) Kaito KA1101 has features and RF performance that is usually only found on sets
costing much more. Very pleasant audio quality and even has a line output jack (see text). (Photos N9EWO)

Country of Origin  : China
Serial Numbers (Two samples tested for this report) :
Test Sample One (Degen DE1121) : Not documented
Test Sample Two (Kaito KA1101) : XO399xx

Test Antenna's (outdoor) :
RF Systems MLBA-MK2 long wire (55 ft length - 24 ft height at peak)
Comet H-422 Dipole (24 ft height - Straight Configuration)
(indoor : Included 14 foot wire plugged into external antenna jack.)

N9EWO's Review on the Degen DE1101 / Kaito KA1101 Receiver

Discontinued Receiver

PRO:

- Dual conversion scheme on short wave makes images nonexistent.
- 2 well chosen IF bandwidths that are selected via a front panel button (4 and 9 kHz) and are
symmetrically (centered).
- Most respectable dynamic range, especially at this price point.
- SW whip sensitivity excellent, including weak signals (improved even more with included 14 foot wire antenna).
- Very clean audio quality.
- Audio “record” line output (see con).
- FM / SW External antenna jack (see con).
- Easy to read LCD with good lighting and contrast.
- Button tactile response above average.
- 50 Memory channels (10 per band, see con).
- Originally included quazi-switching type ac adapter, case, earbuds, 14 ft indoor wire antenna, 3 nickel metal hydride 1200mah batteries (see con).
- FM sensitivity, capture ratio above average (see con).
- Kaito variant givers full MW coverage up to 1710 kHz with 10 kHz step selection (selection is done with fresh battery change).
- Operates on 3 COMMON AA batteries (no BL-5C lithium ion garbage ones being used here)
- Low current drain.
- High / Low tone switch.
- Local / Distant sensitivity switch.
- Internal charge circuit for nickel cadmium or nickel metal hydride batteries.
   
CON:
- No tuning indicator of any kind.
- No SSB mode.
- MW sensitivity only average (internal loop antenna).
- Dial light that has useless light sensor (see text).
- When set is powered up the dreaded Chinese 90 min “timer” mode kicks in, but this can be defeated (see text).
- Tunes no finer than 5 kHz on SW.
- SW coverage split into 2 bands.
- FM is split up into 2 bands.
- No tuning knob.
- Memories are Battery Backed.
- Line output jack has low level.
- External antenna jack does not work on MW.
- Odd stereo indicator (see text).
- FM was off on BOTH test samples by 50 kHz (high).
- FM band selectivity only average.
- 6VDC external voltage input jack uses nonstandard NEGATIVE tip.
- Included AC Adapter uses a switching regulator that creates RF Noise.

Please Note : We did not have any owners manuals available with either test sample. Many of the functions were discovered by trial and error.

Cheap and Plenty
 
Might sound like a slogan for a candy bar, but the DE1101 / KA1101 was a downright surprise and the FIRST major digital Shortwave receiver manufactured by Degen in 2004.
 
It originally included a regulated HYBRID type AC Adapter  6 volts at 300 ma current (uses a standard power transformer and a RF noisy SWITCHING voltage regulator), carrying case, ear buds, 14 ft wire antenna, manual. And to top it all off, 3 AA nickel metal hydride batteries. These can be recharged within the set after a bit of button pushing (set must be off, ac adapter connected).

One should obtain a better fully analog regulated AC adapter vs. the noisy included one that uses a switching regulator. WARNING : Keep in mind that it's uses NEGATIVE tip with it's DC socket / plug !
 
Tactile response of the buttons are excellent. Indeed the feeling is great, but many of the buttons are on the small side.
 
Good LCD, Lighting A Bit Strange
 
LCD has very good contrast with timed LED lighting that works well. It does not allow for continuous lighting when connected to an AC Adapter (at least I could not find it).
 
In one area it’s downright weird with the LCD lighting. If you are in a lighted area the light button will fail to operate. A bit of study on this revealed that a small light sensor just to the left of the LCD exists. At first I was thinking that this was the LED tuning light. No…it’s a light sensor.
 
Have the set in a bright room and push the light button, no cigar. Place your finger over the sensor, while hitting the light button, it then works. I cannot see a reason for this feature. Must have been developed by the same person who came up with the always on sleep timer circuit? 
 
SW RF Performance a Winner
 
Dual conversion superhet design (10.7 MHz and 450 kHz), dual IF bandwidth filters (4 and 9 kHz). SW dynamic range that is unheard of in a set of this price range (first mixer makes use of a Double Balanced FET circuit). You select the bandwidth via a front panel control too so no fumbling on the side of the set to switch it. The LCD even shows which bandwidth is selected as well.

No images were to be heard during the testing period.
 
And SW sensitivity is another surprise, it’s very good indeed. If one connects the included 14 ft wire antenna…it actually started to equal my Sony ICF-2010 on it’s whip antenna during testing.
 
You simply just don’t do that by accident. It simply was a pleasure to listen to with all important factors covered. However MW sensitivity is only about average using it's internal loopstick antenna. So this of course will not excite MW DX'ers.
 
I was able to get the receiver to overload on SW when connected to a large size external outdoor antenna, but this can be expected (and was actually a rare happening).
 
Dual Bandwidths / Aural Treat, Low line output
 
Even in it’s small package, this set boasts a fairly good sized speaker, but it just sounds very good in either SW/MW bandwidth (of course 9 kHz filter gives for stellar audio). Perhaps the combination of the speaker used and electronics, in any event this is excellent to see this. No, not much bass response but pleasant nevertheless and no excessive hiss either.

Both provided 4 and 9 kHz bandwidth filters are symmetrically (centered) perfect as well, including the WIDE 9 kHz one. So many later Chinese made superhet radios are NOT and operate weird in wider bandwidths and must be tuned off frequency to sound right ! No problems here on that front with either test sample.
 
2-position tone switch on right side. We even have a “line output” jack right next to this tone switch. However the output of this jack is way too low and one will have a problem connecting this up to anything (say a tape recorder), which is a pity. TIP : Try using the Microphone input on the recording device instead of "line in".
 
Forced Chinese “Sleep” Operation with an off position
 
OK, this is getting to be a broken record. Just after the power switch is pushed, it’s sleep timer will automatically engage itself for 90 minutes. So after 90 minutes the set will shut off. However there is a way to turn this one off. I found by trial and error. Immediately after the set is turned on, if one pushes the “Erase" button the sleep timer will be turned off (sleep icon on the LCD will disappear when properly done).
 
Also if one wishes for a shorter “sleep” time, enter the time on the keypad while the small digits flash after power up. It only does this for a couple of seconds and if you miss it, the operator will have to turn off the set and try it again. Same for the sleep timer defeat. 
 
Weird Stereo Indicator, No Tuning Indicator whatsoever
 
We have a switch to toggle the FM stereo on and off. It uses the same button as “bandwidth” when in SW. However it’s a bit weird. It does not tell you that a stereo signal is actually present on any given station. It only indicates that it will give stereo at the headphone jack “If” the signal is indeed there. So you can have a mono signal but the indicator still shows stereo.
 
This comment was made earlier, the set has no tuning indicator of any kind, not even an LED. But perhaps this is not all bad news, as the single LED tuning indicators are pretty much useless and might as well save the battery drain. 
 
Low Battery Drain / AA Batteries
 
The synthesized DEGEN DE1101 is certainly a miser on battery power. With a normal volume level I measured about a 60 ma current draw. With the volume up a bit it increased to about 80 to 90 ma. But still this is most impressive.

Uses three standard size AA batteries which is a huge plus in our view. Can be old school carbon zinc for the lowest chance for leakage or alkaline for the longest run time  or rechargeable nickel metal hydride type. No lithium ion garbage batteries are being used here.
 
Built in charge circuit for
Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries
 
Nickel metal hydride batteries can be charged right in the set. It was only after a bit of experimenting before I found the right buttons to be pushed in order to do this. First the set has to be off. Next push the “Band” button. Then before it resets back, push one button from 1 to 6 (hours?) on the keypad. Now you will start to see the battery icon start to flash in a sequence. 
 
Decent FM Performance, But display slightly off frequency
 
The FM broadcast band is a decent performer. It’s sensitive (good capture ratio) and allows for super fine tuning in 50 hz steps. Selectivity however is only average (somewhat disappointed here).
 
I did find with BOTH test samples the FM band were off by 50 kHz (high). But at least one can off set that bug-a-boo as again it has 50 KHz tuning steps available and can store this in the memories. 
 
A Clear Winner
 
The Degen DE1101 / Kaito KA1101 are outstanding entries in the low cost line of early Chinese portables. They are simply a joy to operate and listen to. Have been long gone from the market place, so must hunt on the used market if you desire one.
 


Dave N9EWO
N9EWO, all rights reserved
ver 3.5

Degen DE1101 / Kaito KA1101 Links (All Subject To Change Without Notice)

DE1101 Schematics

DE1101 / KA1101 Hiro-kun's Japanese Page (use translate function in your browser)

N9EWO Review :
Tecsun BCL-2000
Grundig S350
MW / SW / FM Portable Receiver
HUGE "Thank You" to Craig M. as wthout his donations this review would not be here.

A good effort and nothing more, the large TECSUN BCL-2000 / Grungig S350  harks back
 to the Panasonic RF-2800 that I owned back in the late 70’s with it’s beefy size
 and POWERFUL audio section. However it also comes with the same bugs, namely drifty
and very touchy tuning. With a few new added gremlins like
single conversion with  “whistles” that excessively irk into the reception
 of worldband and medium wave signals makes the set a real TURKEY !
But would make a decent garage radio with it's very powerful audio.
The later updated / improved Tecsun BCL-3000 / Grundig-eton S350DL model was not tested. (N9EWO Photo)


Country of Origin  : China
Serial Numbers (Two samples tested for this report) :
Test Sample One (Tecsun BCL-2000) : Not documented
Test Sample Two (Grundig S350) : S35050716691x

Test Antenna's (outdoor) :
RF Systems MLBA-MK2 long wire (55 ft length - 24 ft height at peak)
Comet H-422 Dipole (24 ft height - Straight Configuration)
(indoor : 20 foot wire clipped to whip)

N9EWO's Review on the  Tecsun BCL-2000 / Grundig S350 receiver

Discontinued Receiver

PRO: 
- Extremely pleasant and LOUD audio quality with separate bass and treble controls , along with a large speaker that does not buzz in any way.
- Very quiet circuitry with no PLL noise ,being that there is no synthesizer on this set.
- 2 well chosen bandwidths that work well (see con).
- Much above average whip sensitivity, especially at this price point.
- LCD display very easy to read with extra large digits and proper contrast with a superb dial lighting. 
- Tecsun version features a internal 220 VAC power supply (missing on Grundig S-350 version of this set).
- Tuning and battery LCD indicators (see con).
- Line Output jacks (see con).
- RF Gain Control.
- FM pleasant with above average capture ratio and FM stereo indication on LCD.
- FM includes an AFC off position.
- Sturdy long telescopic antenna that also swivels.
- Beefy 4 “D” batteries used for portable use, requiring fewer changes.
 
CON: 
- Being a non PLL synthesized receiver, lacks memories.
- One of most unstable sets that we have come across in many years (15 kHz drift in 30 minutes cold).
- Tuning uses old fashioned variable capacitors and dial strings to make scanning the bands a chore.
- 90-minute operation maximum per session until one is forced to turn it back on again to keep operating.
- No SSB mode.
- Spurious heterodynes (whistles) mixed with received signals across the entire MW and SW bands covered.
- Poor image rejection with its single conversion circuitry creates images 910 kHz from original.
- Frequency display off by 3 kHz (noted in wide bandwidth).
- FM stereo only available at “line out” jacks (not at headphone jack).
- S-meter bar display a bit deceptive (see text).
- External 6 VDC input jack has a negative tip (+ tip is the standard on most electronics today).


90 Minutes at A Time
 
Just as it is on many other Chinese sets,  this radio also has the “always toggled” dreaded 90-minute sleep function. And again you cannot turn it off, you are stuck with it. Hope that it does not shut off in the middle of an important news bulletin.
 
I guess the plus side is you will never leave this set on and walk away for very long when operating with batteries. But what if you are operating with external power? Thank goodness this was not a trend for Tecsun.
 
A Few Steps Backwards..
 
This early Tecsun entry into the world band radio show has no memories, no scanning, and have to deal with band changes …we indeed are stepping back a few notches in technology. Uses “old fashioned” variable capacitors with dial strings for tuning but with a frequency counter to see where you are tuned in the shortwave jungle.
 
Nostalgia from a Set of The Past, But Copied A Bit Too Close Perhaps ?? Drift and Not so fine tuning.
 
Ok, I will admit it I owned a Panasonic RF-2800 in the late 70’s. Was an interesting and exciting set for the day as it had a frequency counter the used LED’s to see where you were tuned. It was the first portable set at a reasonable price to include this (a tad over $ 200.00 USD if I remember correctly?). So was welcomed with open arms.
 
The Panasonic was very frustrating for me however, as it drifted a good 5 to 10 kHz (sometimes more depending on room temperature) even in a few minutes time. So it was not used as much as I would have liked. It made the SSB feature totally useless on that set. It sat in closet more than on my radio shelf.
 
The bad news is the TECSUN BCL2000 / Grundig S-350 inhibits the same nasty drift problem if not worse. I logged a 15 kHz drift in a 30 min period at 15 MHz. This is really a nasty gremlin that should not be a 21st century set at all.
 
And to make matters even worse, the capacitor based tuning, which uses old-fashioned dial cords and shafts…is like tuning a rubber band. One is forced to tune back and forth a number of times to zero in on a worldband signal. Panasonic at least used gears and grooved hard rubber belts instead of dial cords for a bit more reliability, and the effect was a bit better than on this Tecsun / Grundig receiver for tuning ease. But the drift is as equally nasty (if not even worse)
 
Between these two problems makes one reach for a couple of tranquilizers after a time using it. One usually zips right past a desired station even when using the “fine” position. So back and forth tuning is required before one lands on the target. The FM band has a selectable AFC which helps keeps the the drift more at hand.
 
No SSB to be found
 
Just as the name on the front panel indicates “Enjoy Broadcasting” (Tecsun BCL-2000 model) , we have no SSB mode. At the price point these receivers are at this can be expected.
   
Internal Power Supply? (Not So Fast), “D” cell operation
 
The first test sample (early production of the TECSUN BCL-2000) included a internal power supply (220v), which is a excellent idea and most desirable. But it’s close cousin sold in the US, the Grundig S350 used a external “Wall Wart” supply. This to me takes a bit out of the “neat-o” part away from the set.
 
I like the “D” cell operation, which will of course give for many hours of operation, especially with no synthesizer to power ans less current draw. But of course on the down side makes for a larger set, which these are indeed.
 
Frequency Display Off 3 kHz in Wide Bandwidth, LCD Good Contrast and Digit Size, Super Back Lighting, S-Meter a bit more limited than what appears.
 
Here is a strange finding that I first experienced with a worldband set. The counter that is used to display frequency was observed in our test sample to be off by 3 kHz (high) when in the “Wide” bandwidth. In “narrow” bandwidth it seemed to be pretty much dead on. Later Tecsun sets also suffered from this WIDE filter bug, but with the S350 second test sample , for some reason the sensitivity also dropped in the WIDE filter selection (aging IF filter ?).
 
As far as the LCD goes, let me say that the digits are nice and big with above average contrast. The LCD lighting has a well-done toggle on/off switch. All here was a real treat to my eyes.
 
With the backlight button, tap it and stays on for 5 seconds and then goes out. If you push and hold it for a second, it will then stay on continuously (well for 90 minutes anyway).
 
Bar s-meter on the LCD is a real plus. However it’s does not have as many bars as one might think at first looking at it. It appears that 4 steps exist, 2 appear for each s-meter reading (8 bars).
 
Very Nice Audio Quality, Good Bandwidth Choices
 
Here is the major "good news" with the BCL2000 / S350. The audio is not only LOUD and at low distortion, its also nice and clean with the lack of a synthesizer and PLL circuits, but has the right balance of punch and with separate Bass and Treble to makes it most pleasant indeed. Even with the bandwidth control in “Narrow” position sounds better than with many sets in “wide” bandwidth. Speaker magnet is HUGE !
 
Speaking of those filter bandwidth’s. The two provided are well chosen, and supports the above average audio.
 
Spurious Heterodynes (whistles) Mixed with Received Signals, Single Conversion Adds Another Problem

As one tunes around with this set, it will show it’s spurious Heterodynes (whistles) almost immediately across the entire range of the set mixed in with received signals. This reminds me of low cost pocket am radios from the 60’s and 70’s. 
 
The make that problem even worse, (and might have a play in the problem above?), single conversion circuit is being used and the usual 910 kHz images appear (IF is 455 kHz).
 
Above Average Sensitivity, Sturdy Telescopic Antenna with Swivel, Dynamic Range average for a set in this price area.
 
We experienced a way above average whip sensitivity. For many this will satisfy and no additional antenna will be needed. Its telescopic whip is a good L-O-N-G one too with a good feel and with a swivel to boot (It does not clip worth a hoot to the case when de-telescoped however). A set of external antenna posts (it’s not a jack) can be found for the MW/SW bands in the rear of the set.
 
Dynamic Range with the medium wave range of the set was not a problem (other than the “whistles” across the entire band). Well perhaps not quite, I did experience SW 49-meter signals bleeding in on the MW band (nighttime monitoring).
 
Dynamic Range on SW with the whip was ok, overloading did appear on the 49 meter band at night just using it’s own whip (not excessive). On a short external antenna (25 foot wire) , overloading was indeed more of a problem (on all bands now), and most of the time the switch marked “SW LPF” on the right side of the set controlled this overloading nicely. It appears to me that this is actually an attenuator switch and is incorrectly marked? There is also a RF gain control to help squash overloading when it happens.
 
The use of an AC adapter did increase the overloading factor a bit more.
 
Audio Line Output, FM Stereo but not at Headphone Jack
 
Fantastic to see a true line output on the right side of the set. Set up for not only MW and SW and is used for the left and right outputs of the sets stereo decoder. In fact this is the only way one can hear stereo, as the headphone jack does not provide for stereo listening (this was provided with the improved BCL-3000 and Grundig S350DL models, not tested)..
 
If one does plug in a pair of stereo headphones, you will indeed get audio from both ears, but is in mono only. Obviously a bean counter at work to cut costs here. This is really unacceptable.
 
We do have a great “Stereo” indicator shown on the LCD. A stereo-mono switch can also be found on the right side of the set.
 
Good set for the audio.
 
I enjoyed the audio on this set along with a very easy to read LCD, however the other gremlins as covered above leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But for someone who likes to take a step back and at the price the BCL2000 / S350's were at, might be a fun set. A shame that the very excessive drift and poor tuning gets in the way. Unless one can grab one these in the used market for a very reasonable cost...best to get a more modern receiver without the crazy drift.
 
UPDATE COMMENTS:
 
The MW in the daytime is much more tamed vs nighttime. I'm guessing SW signals really slam the MW section at night ??
 
Also if I giggle the SW band switch just a little bit (but not actually switching it) , I can see the LCD frequency counter (and the received signal) bounce all over the place. But of course one does not use the receiver this way.


Dave N9EWO
N9EWO, all rights reserved
ver 3.0

Tecsun BCL-2000 / Grundig S350 Links (All Subject To Change Without Notice)

Radio Jay Allen's review on the BCL-3000 / Grundig S350DL

eham reviews on the Tecsun BCL-2000

eham reviews on the Grundig S350

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