N9EWO Review :
DEGEN DE1121 - Kaito KA1121
LW / MW / FM / SW Receiver - MP3 Player / Recorder

The DEGEN DE1121 (and variants) is the only PORTABLE receiver on the planet that can give GOOD on board / OFF AIR "MP3 recordings" in the SW band. Receiver section works decent too including dual bandwidths, and has SSB mode to boot. It's MAJOR down side is that it is NOT easy to use and takes time and lots of patience to learn the strange menu layout and general operation. The usual DEGEN "Quality Control" warning has to be stressed, it's highly variable and even if a sample works out of the box, it's electronics are prone to failure in time. There is actually a "Record Pause", it's the A-B button on playback (that's the large "round" button in the center of the 4 smaller round ones) Photo : N9EWO

(2 "Degen DE1121" Samples, 1 early + 1 later Kaito KA1121 Samples, were tested for this Report)

NOTE 1 : The Thieking & Koch DE1121 variant (not tested) has 50 kHz to 29.999 MHz continuous coverage on LW / SW bands and is also RohS compliant. In addition the firmware is different to provide improved audio quality with timer recordings , but at a loss of record time. Also the menu’s are reportedly to be in German only.

NOTE 2 : Kaito KA1121 variant (as tested) , LW coverage drops down a bit lower to 140 kHz and also adds the 7 channels of the national weather service frequencies in the 162 MHz area. World band coverage still starts at 3.0 MHz.

NOTE 3 : Nasty with the second Degen sample was when we tried to install the 3 AA batteries into the main radio body, the battery door would not latch. Once we removed the thick black foam cube stuck to the rear of the battery door, then we were then able to close it. The batteries did giggle around slightly in the battery cavity after this so we opted to insert a much thinner and less stiff piece of foam in place of the factory mounted one and this did the trick. This was not an issue with the first sample. The next nasty involves the tuning knob (mechanical encoder). With the first sample it was fine, however with the later set it intermittently jumped up as it was tuned down. Once in awhile it was a major step erratic jump like almost 100 kHz up. Another very annoying bug but also certainly a sample issue ? The tested Kaito KA1121 samples did not have these bugs.

Test Sample Serial Numbers

Early : DR 00008x
Later : DR 00235x

Kaito KA1121
Early : DR 00304x
Later : DR 00854x

Tested firmware (all 4 samples) Ver. : 1.1 , 1.2 , 1.3
Note : Firmware versions are different between the DEGEN, Kaito and Thieking & Koch models and should not be intermixed !!

MP3 player/recorder memory : 256 MB
Country Of Manufacture : (PRC) China

Discontinued Receiver

The Degen DE1121, The First Of It's Kind

The DEGEN DE1121 receiver might be considered a upgrade to the DE/KA1103 or even to the Degen manufactured eton/Grundig e5/G5 sets. Size is similar and as with the eton/Grundig’s 5's it uses the rubber “feeling” paint on the case. As the normal goes with this type of cabinet paint , it will (more like already has because of it's age) become sticky and smell like rotting vinyl beach ball.

Receiver has one big difference over all other Degen receivers . It’s in 2 pieces. The main receiver and a detachable 2 1/4 x 1 1/2 x 1/2 inch cube that contains a MP3 recorder/player. One can indeed make recordings direct from the receiver in the standard MP3 format. Even with the cube removed from the main unit the left receiver can still be operated all by itself.

But for the proper and the easiest to see display one will wish to keep the MP3 attached to the main receiver. The display on the MP3 device is really the radio’s main display as well. The power button on the main receiver has 2 sides to it, one for the MP3 unit and the other for the receiver. You cannot power both at the same time (other than when recording off the receiver). There is a very nice green LED back light to the detachable MP3 unit. This back light can be timed to shut off or stay on continuous. However it’s not easy to get to this toggle located down in the menu’s. The contrast can also be adjusted on the main display and again is done in the menu system.

Main display is entirely of a TINY dot matrix affair, so it does not have the contrast of a normal LCD (but usable). It also takes a bit of learning what everything does and the poor owners manual does not help. All icon’s are small, right down to the frequency display, but the good “green” back lighting helps.

Sub LCD is another story as it’s even more microscopic, and here there is no back light at all here. Frequency display digits use the old un-standard Chinese XX.XXx layout here. Other icons on this sub LCD are almost totally unreadable for over 50 eyes unless you some reach for strong reading glasses or a good magnifier.

The main receiver uses 3 AA rechargeable ni-mh batteries (supplied), and a single very un-standard 1.2 volt 450mah ni-mh battery marked as the DF6 in the MP3 cube (supplied). This will no doubt be a difficult task to find a replacement when a one is needed. It does have a removable door for access. Good news is that this weird battery does not have to in place for normal operation when docked to the main body (we ran extended testing on this to be sure).

Owners manual indicated a internal memory versions as 256 MB and 512 MB. Only the 256 MB version was ever available, the 512 MB version turned out to be vapor ware and never happened . The internal memory cannot be upgraded or changed. There was a sticker inside the MP3 cube player battery lid that had 256M marked on it, as well as on the outside of the box.

These can both be recharged internally using the receivers built in recharge circuit. They recharge independently, but all is automatic (it shuts of after it’s done) and no timers need to be set.

Excellent “On Board” MP3 Recorder

The major excitement of the DE1121 is that it has a built in digital audio recorder that can be used to capture programs directly off the air, and NOT using it's internal microphone located in the removable MP3 device. Even the 3 timers can be set for daily unattended recordings. However it’s not easy to make happen and cannot select the day of the week. It uses the popular and standard MP3 format (and not some low quality wav file) .

Our test sample MP3 cube had a internal memory of 256 MB. It may not be upgraded for additional memory. Two modes need to be understood. One is marked as “Music” and the other as “Voice”. The only time one will see “Voice” appear is when the MP3 recorder is used with the internal microphone. Otherwise one may never see one show up on the main LCD.

The recorder is even in Stereo on FM. In “Music” record mode the quality selections are: 32 kbps, 80 kbps or the best at 128 kbps. The recorder when not attached to the radio can play back MP3 or WMA files (transferred from a computer) . In “Voice” mode only 32 kbps is available for recording.

Of course no radio reception on the removable MP3 cube is available when disconnected from the base. But can record using the “Voice” mode from the on board microphone. As indicated earlier, the receiver on the main base can be still used , however only using the micro size unlit LCD display. In the “Music” mode the recorded audio is directly taken from the radio circuitry (or the “line in” jack). IMPORTANT : In any “Voice” mode it’s being inhaled via the MP3 cube’s internal microphone only.

The playback speeds are more open and anywhere between 32 to 320 kbps goes. Maximum recording times with the 256 MB version are a bit over 17 hours at 32 kbps (see below).

Real stinker when activating the recorder (recording audio from the radio) is you have to enter the menu “hell” and once into the right area select the desired 1 out of 3 quality settings. It takes a good second after this is done to get all going. The poor manual indicates a instant record “button” shortcut at 32 kbps (press and hold the “Dot” button below 0 on the keyboard), but this only works in the microphone recording “Voice” mode (and also only when in MP3 playback side is in use).

There is no pause available in the recording mode (but playback does). Once the MP3 recorder is activated in a , no adjustments of the receiver is possible with the exception of the analog SSB fine tuning thumbwheel and the volume control. The recording level is preset and no adjustment is required or available.

UPDATE : There is actually a "Record Pause" after all , it's the A-B button on playback (that is the large "round" button in the center of the 4 smaller round ones). Our thanks to Joe S. for the great find here .

(Degen DE1121 test sample, firmware 1.1, recording times worked out as.)
Available MP3 Record Times (as tested, maximum) Degen DE1121. 256 MB Memory
Quality - Time (Hours / Minutes)
32 kbps* 17:25
80 kbps 6:58
128 kbps 4:21

( * - “Voice” record modes are preset at 32 kbps quality setting only and cannot be changed, plus the maximum record time is at 16 hours, 56 minutes. All times listed here may vary depending on the number of total tracks and other factors. Timer recording quality varies depending on version, see text).

The sparse owners manual indicated that files (tracks) should be kept under 1 hour each.
Unlike the DE1123, we did not find this to be valid in actual testing (but still recommended to follow this suggestion). There is a format function for the player/recorder and would not be a bad idea once in awhile use this to clean the slate and when it’s first being used..

Overall the record quality is excellent and most pleasant (as far as MP3 goes) and a huge boon over the poor digital recorder in
ICOM's IC-R20 which uses a very strange un-standard format. The IC-R20 only uses 32 MB of memory which tells the story why it’s so pedestrian using very heavy compression. The DE1121 is a improvement as a world band receiver too , so it just works better overall to record SW programs and gives for much extended time period.

Rear of the DE1121's MP3 unit (battery cover removed). Shows the weird DF6 battery that is used.
In OUR testing this battery was NOT required when docked to the main receiver (even in record mode).
However it is needed to retain menu settings. (photo : N9EWO)

3 Event Timer That Can Also Be Used for Unattended Recording / Timer Recording : 32 kbps only and uses Internal Microphone

A 3 event timer allows one to use the 1121's as a “radio awake clock” You have the choice to be awaken with a preset radio station or automatic playback (starting at track 1) of a MP3 file. There is no beep/buzzer sound alarm available.

Those 3 timers can also be used for unattended recordings from the radio (however this uses the internal microphone) or even just the microphone (sort of a room bug on a timer). These are set in the radio’s menu, Setting > Time > Alarm (1, 2 or 3). This is a daily affair here, with a day of the week selection not provided.

The preset of the volume level needs to be set properly for any timer recordings using the “Music” mode. Once the presets time happens, the user cannot adjust any radio or volume adjustments. The recording level in this "Music" mode is fixed and cannot be adjusted.

With timer radio reception (no record), the volume control is still active. Setting the off time can be anywhere between 1 to 99 minutes, or if you hit the delete key (left arrow under the 7 key) when it comes to set the off time in the timer screen, then 2 semicolons appear to show continuous. This timer “Off” setting is totally separate from other 2 power off settings as covered below.

In the case of the Kaito and Degen versions, any radio timer recordings are automatically set at the low quality 32kbps rate and cannot be changed. When the “Music” mode is used the normal recording audio is taken directly from the radio circuitry and the volume control is not affected on the recording. IMPORTANT : Again in timer record this uses the “Voice” mode (Degen and Kaito versions) and here it uses the internal MICROPHONE for audio pickup. If the radio volume is not set a good level, one will record noises more of the room. In other words the level of any "Voice" recording is controlled by the volume control.

With the Thieking & Koch variant this is at the other extreme 128 kbps quality setting (cannot be changed), but of course the available recording time will be less. NOTE : It was unknown if the microphone is still used with timer recordings with this version (not tested) ??

Once all of the settings are correct (no easy task mind you), the timer recordings worked as advertised.

Tested Coverage / Preset SW Bands / Auto Sleep at Power Up - Separate Auto Off timer

The Degen DE1121 receive coverage on the test sample.
(Kaito variant includes the 162 MHz US "National Weather Service" Band)  :

LW : 150 to 520 kHz
MW : 520 to 1710 kHz
SW : 3000 to 30000 kHz
FM : 70.00 to 108.00 MHz

Hitting the SW/EQ button when in “Step” mode gives for these SW band presets as in chart below. MW and FM have a sort of preset as well, but in the case of the MW band it’s the entire tuning range that is covered. To tune into the expanded FM portion (70 to 87 MHz), one needs to enter a frequency down in that range using the keypad and then can tune within it with the knob.

DE1121 Band Presets  
49 m 5.9 to 6.4 MHz 19 m 15.1 to 15.7 MHz
41 m 6.9 to 7.5 MHz 16 m 17.4 to 18.0 MHz
31 m 9.3 to 9.9 MHz 13 m 21.4 to 22.0 MHz
25 m 11.5 to 12.1 MHz MW 520 to 1710 kHz
22 m 13.3 to 13.9 MHz FM 87.0 to 108.0 MHz

As with many other Degen sets of the past we have a 60 minute auto sleep timer that is forced upon the owner. This can be defeated by hitting the left arrow key (below the # 7 key) within a few seconds after power up. It does not need to be done again unless the batteries are removed.

Separately there is another confusing auto “power off” timer. This is adjusted with in the menu’s up to 120 minutes. The skimpy manual totally confuses the owner on how to use either one of these (or the 3rd timer off for the timer).

Keypad / Some Buttons Tiny / No Tuning Muting Expect on MW / General Tuning

All keys have a good tactile feeling and work well. The numeric keypad is using a standard layout and use large buttons (unlike the DE/KA 1103). Still many could still be a bit larger including the volume “up-down” and power buttons.

None of the keys are backlit. Knob encoder has a soft detent with each step. This has a nice feel with no slop either as rotated or general wobble.

2 tuning steps are available with the knob. No muting is present on SW / LW or FM. However if the knob is spun fast then a slight amount of muting can be detected. There is “tuning” muting present within the MW band however no matter how fast you go. On MW there is no muting on the 1 kHz step (provided you don't tune too fast), with the faster 9 or 10 khz step , muting does happen and is a bit annoying.

World band “knob” tuning within the preset bands is 1 or 5 kHz. This step is selected via a pushbutton on the top right side of the cabinet. There is also a lock for the tuning knob and well as another one that locks all other buttons including the power.

Outside the band presets when tuning with the knob using the 5 kHz step (when using 1 kHz step this is ignored), once you reach the end of that band preset, you will automatically jump down or up to the next preset band. A way around this is just before one gets to the end of that preset band, tap the up-or-down slewing (left and right arrow buttons on either side of the menu) past the preset band point and you can then continue tuning “out of a band” and continue to still use 5 kHz steps. If you are using the 1 kHz step then this is not valid and will just continue past the band preset (again in 1 kHz step the band preset is not recognized using the knob).

Also with any direct entry using the keyboard and this frequency lies outside the preset areas, if you wish to tune in 5 kHz steps using the tuning knob, tap the up-down slewing a couple of times before you do. If this is not done as soon as the knob is turned it will zip to edge of the closest preset band.

Tuning knob steps on MW is either 1 or 9/10 kHz, FM is 50 or 100 kHz, With LW only 1 kHz is available. Additionally when selecting the LW band one must access this from medium wave band using direct keyboard entry, then one can tune about.

Slewing buttons on SW are always 5 kHz, MW is either 9 or 10 kHz, FM is 50 kHz, LW is 1 kHz.

Volume Control Similar to E5-G5 / Can Blast Ones Ears / Very Handy Mute Button

The electronic volume control on the 1121's uses a 2 separate up down buttons. As noted above these could stand to be a bit larger. When powdered up in the radio mode (every time) the volume can give for a very loud blast of whatever station one last was tuned to, until the microprocessor recognizes the previous volume preset.

UPDATE NOTE : That separate volume setting actually powers up for a second in the "volume preset" for when the receiver is NOT  connected to the MP3 player/recorder or is disabled (long press of the power button at power DOWN). So if you set this (no mp3 player/recorder) volume separate then does not have this too loud volume issue.

Additionally the radio normally requires a much higher volume control setting vs. the MP3 player. So what happens is that the speaker blasts into outrageous territory unless one remembers to turn down the level before the MP3 player play button is pressed.

The left arrow below the 7 numeric key also doubles as a very handy “Mute” button. This was a very pleasant surprise to see and makes for a quick volume shut down say when the telephone rings. There is no indication that the mute has been activated on either LCD however. This can save wear and tear of the “up-down” volume buttons.

Sensitivity Great / Selectivity OK But ?? / External Antenna Jack For SW and FM Only

Way above average sensitivity was noted on all bands. Even with just the whip antenna does an above average job.

2 bandwidths are provided and were well chosen. These are selected via a pushbutton on the right side of the cabinet. Generally does very good job separating close WEAKER stations , but....

The downside here is, when you have a super strong station one next to weak one, you can almost forget the weak one all together. The stronger station bleeds badly a couple of channels either way even in the narrow bandwidth.

Just as with other Degen sets from the past the provided 1/8 phone jack for an external antenna only works with SW and FM bands. It does NOT function on the LW or MW bands. The internal loopstick antenna is made for MW, so LW suffers badly. There is some microprocessor noise that appears when on the MW band  (but was near non existent on the last Kaito KA1121 sample tested).

Dynamic Range Fair / Stable SSB Performance

Dynamic range on world band is not on the par of either the DE1103 (KA1103). Fair at best. With any better outdoor antenna in use our samples overloaded badly. The 3 position attenuator (Local-Normal-DX) can help tame this, but it usually (not always depending on the band and time of day) took the local setting to help and of course that kills the sensitivity badly.

The use of the attached whip or a longer indoor antenna pared much better and for the most part behaved itself even at the DX setting.

FM dynamic range also suffers overloading with any better antenna in use. Local stations with a outdoor in use saturate the receiver badly. But with the attached whip it was above average.

SSB is most usable with the 1121. Stable and fairly easy to zero in using the “thumb wheel” control. This control lacks and detent for 0 and no LSB or USB offset mode is offered. In any event we were actually able to tune manual ECSS with the 1121 with fairly good results (but touchy). But with the lack of true SSB filtering, one can not select one side band or the other.

As with all other Degen sets that offer SSB, the AGC decay rate is too fast and clipping occurs badly (especially with stronger stations).

Image Rejection / Local CB , MW and FM Station Intrusion

The DE1121 (and the very similar KA1121) use a first IF frequency of 10.7 MHz and second of 450 kHz. Not up conversion that is used with the DE1103 (KA1103) or eton e5 / Grundig G5. While signals 900 kHz down are rejected very well with the 1121's (450 kHz IF), however at the first 10.7 IF is not so great. It’s actually downright poor.

On 5935 kHz we heard local CB signals loud and clear. Sure enough these local signals were coming from CB-Ch 33 ,or 27335 kHz. So that works out 27335 kHz minus 21400 kHz (the 10700 kHz first IF frequency times 2) which equals 5935 kHz. Now mind you this was not a issue that we encountered much at all, but it shows the pedestrian first IF image rejection lacking up conversion.

But a more evil gremlin that plagues this receiver just as did with the Redsun RP2000/2100 is that strong local MW signals were heard mixed in with “World Band” SW signals (more at night). This was most annoying and to make matters even worse we even heard a local FM broadcast station creep along with a SW signal as well. There is simply no excuse for this to be occurring.

Microprocessor A Bit Unstable / Noisy

Once in awhile the DE1121 does just strange things. Including, weird characters or errors on the screen, not powering down correctly, buttons not responding at all....etc.. Usually if one of these bugs bits you , just powering the set down and back up should cure it.

Additionally more times than not it takes 2 (or sometimes even more) presses of any single button to activate, including the volume control.

You are able to hear the receiver’s microprocessor chuffing along and the PLL locking at times with a click or 2 (more so if the whip or close by antenna is being used), but none of these were found to be a major issue.

Audio Quality OK / With Headphones a “Buzzy” Trait Creeps Up. / No Radio Tone Control / Line Input Jack

A short disconcerting “pops” appear when powered up or down. Audio contains no hiss and is more than loud enough. The internal speaker even has a touch of bass response.

FM audio quality is more than adequate and with the electronic volume being used , the left and right channels are equal in level when headphones are used.

However, when headphones are used on the LW/MW and SW bands, we noticed a “buzzy” sound that resonated with certain audio frequencies within the phones. We tried many types and brands of phones and came up with the same buzz sound. Oddly this is bug did not appear at all on the FM band or MP3 recorder (not playback of LW/MW/SW recordings). Not that this totally ruins listening with headphones (it doesn’t), but for the record.

There is no tone control at all for LW/MW/SW (MP3 player has 5 EQ settings and off). On FM there is a stereo/mono button (is the selectivity/SSB button on SW/MW/LW) and when switched to mono there is a high cut, sort of a tone control. Might as well say, no tone control at all.

Another note involves the “line in” jack located on the right side. This allows one to make MP3 recordings from other devices. The output can be monitored in the radio speaker or headphones and can of course be recorded using the MP3 recorder which is the idea of the input. If one just plugs in the cable and tries to play the device just over the 1121's speaker (not in record mode), it can hardly be heard. As soon as the record function (MP3 recorder mode) is engaged , the monitor volume springs to life at a much louder, almost normal level. The input level still has to be adjusted using the device plugged into it as the 1121 has no record level control at all. One can get the level too loud as we found out in the updated testing. But in general it worked as it should.

Useless Screen Saver Function - Save What ?

Once can opt to have some strange cartoon like so called “screen saver” appear on about 2/3 of the main LCD if any button activity is missing for awhile. But this serves no real purpose as LCD screens like this do not have burn in issues such like computers. A total waste of the receivers resources and can you actually hear more microprocessor noise while it dances around the screen. Thanks goodness this can and should be turned off.

Major Memory Confusion / Step mode for General Tuning

To a new user of the 1121 , memory operation could very well be an exercise of extreme pain ? The poor owners manual covers this is such broken English/Chinglish (and just lacking information to begin with) to make one scream.

400 non-volatile memory channels are available, but in not the normal way you would think. 100 memory pages (marked from 00 to 99), and within each of these pages 4 frequencies can be entered. So 100 memory pages times 4 memories per page = 400 total. A 8 character alpha tag on each PAGE can also be added, however not on each individual memory.

How one selects this operation is normally done in the menu (as is with many of the receivers functions). For normal “tuning around” operation (no memory access). It’s Menu>Search>Step. Using the “up-down” arrow buttons to maneuver to the desired selection, and hitting the “menu “ book icon in the middle to enter the “Step” mode.

Here the bottom half of the display gives for a pseudo-analog dial to indicate where you are tuned in a preset SW band segment. In this “Step” mode you have up down slewing using the left-right buttons on either side of the menu “Book” icon, Outside the preset ranges it gives for a little picture of a radio on the main LCD. Of course the frequency is always in full view here.

Now how do you access the memory channels ? There are 2 way in which to do this.

#1: From the menu screen: Menu > Search > Memory. One then can see up to the 4 entered frequencies displayed below the main frequency on the main display.

Selecting the individual pages for either method listed, is done either by using the keypad (entering 00 to 99) or by using the arrow up or down keys on either side of the Menu (book icon) button.

For accessing the different frequencies on any given page, then you use the 2 lower “left-right” buttons (on either side of the large “stop” button, larger button just below the Book icon) to cycle through the up to 4 entered memories

# 2: Another way to access the memory channels, is to use the Menu > Station > Browser. In this “Browser” memory mode, moving around the memory pages and memories within the pages work the same way as above (up-down and left-right buttons below the main LCD). It shows the selected memory as a dark reversed “highlighted”icon. Difference here is that you only peek at the channels and it does not automatically receive the channel until the user enters it.

To make life easier, the “Browser” button (the larger “dot” button just below the “O” key), allows the user to toggle back and forth from the “Browser” to either to the “Memory” mode or “Step” mode. This (or the book “Memo”) button is also used to enter a selection when using the “Browser” mode.

This shortcut button takes a slight edge off the normally very difficult ergonomics.

Also while in either memory mode the band buttons become inactive (FM-MW-SW). You have to enter a memory first to get into the “Step” mode and then the FM-MW-SW buttons become active.

You are always able tune a fixed channel (at any time) with the tuning knob in either memory mode.

Alpha Tags / Computer Use for Memories and MP3 Files

One can enter frequencies via a button on the front panel of the receiver. If entering frequencies directly using the keys on the receiver, it needs to be kept in mind that this can only be done while in “Memory” mode. It does not allow memory entry when in “Browser” mode.

However, by far the easiest method to do this with the 1121 is using a "Windows" computer .

Connection to the computer is via a 5 pin mini USB connector on top of the removable MP3 device to the computers standard USB connection. A short cable is included. We tested the PC connection using Windows XP home and Windows 7 (Home and PRO) and here it was pretty much plug and play (no additional drivers required). A removable drive will then appear in “My Computer” and you just drag and drop any files to and from the computer and the 1121. For Windows 98SE users, included in the box is a driver that needs to be installed (untested). Once in awhile it did not work right away (took a min or 2.....so wait a bit if it does not show up right away) .

Storage of memories is done in a standard “text” file done with a special format. We found this to be very simple to understand even if the instructions (at the bottom of the text file) are written in the same sour English as the printed manual. We had no problems working with this or transferring to or from the computer.

After the user has transferred this text file over to the receiver, the “import” function must be done in the 1121 menu’s. Accessed in the Menu > Station > Import. Once this is done then the receiver recognizes the new file and any new user defined settings.

The only way to enter the 8 character alpha tags is with this computer programming. It cannot be done from the receivers front panel. Also selection of the 9 or 10 kHz medium wave step, 12 or 24 hour mode for the clock are also in the same boat. Actual clock time setting is done in the menu system. It was indicated in the manual that the time could be set in a more simple fashion with the radio off using the keyboard, but this did not work on our samples , at least we could not get it to work.

I will NOT be held responsible for any info that is listed here

Firmware Can Be Updated (MP3 part of the set) / Tick Mixed in With Recordings / Version 1.3 Firmware Was Sour For Us

The 1121's firmware can be updated. However, it appears that the the firmware updates is strictly for the MP3 part of the device and doesn’t even touch the radio side of the fence ??

Known firmware versions (as shown in a radio menu selection) , are the 1.1 , 1.2 and 1.3 . 

ENGLISH firmware for the Degen versions can be found on the “Yahoo Groups” page for the set (do your own search). All versions are (or were) here, and the usual free membership is required for any downloading. The only caveat here is that one needs to be sure and hit OK at the end of the procedure BEFORE the USB cable is disconnected. If not done this can make the MP3 unusable and then needs to be reformatted. It’s easy to forget this step with the way it’s set up. We have tested all versions and went fine. These firmware versions on the “Yahoo Groups” web site existed as we type this text should NOT be attempted with either the Kaito or Thieking & Koch variants (was not tested with these versions, they have different firmware).

Another minor bug-a-boo with the MP3 recording part of the device . While it worked and sounded OK for the most part (128 kbps), we noticed a intermittent “click-pop” sound mixed in with recordings. While not continuous it was indeed a bit annoying to our ears. It did not make any difference what firmware version was tried. For many this may not even be noticed at all, and it took us the second time around to even discover it. In any event we did not find this to make the feature any less useful.

The English version of firmware 1.3 became available for the Degen version in late Jan 2008 and ran it through a light testing process. NOTE : It is the ONLY firmware update that is compatible with Windows Vista or Windows 7 (we were able to validate this with Windows 7 and worked fine, 1.1 or 1.2 does NOT). In nut shell we were unable to detect any real performance improvements (receiver or MP3 part). One minor observation was the main LCD contrast was less touchy to adjust and was lighter in the same adjustment point. So for more contrast we had to turn it up a bit. But the main bug to our ears was the MP3 player high frequency response was cut back (sounded a bit less clear) in any of the EQ selections. We found the old 1.2 firmware to sound better.

Battery Time of MP3 Device / Errors In Computer Transfers / Noisy Included AC Adapter / Be sure It Is OFF "BEFORE" plugging in a USB Cable

We were also wondering how is the battery life was with the removable MP3 device all by itself (note: back light off). So with a fresh charge we got about 2 hours 20 mins on the first go around. That jumped to 3 hours 10 mins on the 3rd charge cycle. 3 hours is what the manual states for operation time, so that was a pleasant surprise indeed. This was with 128 kbps files. As is the case with ni-cad and ni-mh rechargeable batteries, full battery capacity is not reached until they are cycled a number of times.

We did not check battery operation time with the main body or when docked to the main body.

The 117VAC version of the included AC adapter (6 VDC output with a 300 ma rating) produced hum mixed and added noise with some SW stations when used with the attached whip or any “in the room” local antenna’s. With any external antenna in use this hum was not an issue (see other note on this above).

The external power input jack is using the un-standard “negative” tip polarity. These days this is simply inexcusable.

These days in the power saving 21st century, more and more portable products are being powered with switching mode type power wall or floor wart adapters to save every micro watt of energy.The downside to this is for any radio devices this usually turns out to be a very sour pill as the self generated interference that is created by these low cost marvels usually ruins any chance of use even with a external antenna in play.

You might say, well I will just purchase a after market “non-switching” type of adapter and all should be well. Not so fast these are extremely hard to come by these days as switching type are the common type sold today.and those are totally unsuitable for any world band radio use. It is easier said than done.

Also with our tests of the Degen DE1121, we found that using the included "Quazi-switching" 6 volt wall wart gave errors to the MP3 unit when files were transferred FROM the computer TO the device. Turns out Degen uses a power transformer all right, but, after that comes a SWITCHING regulator that gives for a erraz of noises across the LW/MW/SW radio bands. If properly charged batteries or a better regulated adapter was used this problem cleared up completely. UPDATE : Later versions of the
Kaito KA1121 included an AC Adapter that was actually clean . The body being more square on these , noisy ones have a rounded case.

VERY IMPORTANT WARNING : "Before" plugging in the USB cable (and transferring ANY files between the DE1121 and the host computer), be sure it is TOTALLY turned OFF (MP3 or the radio side). Otherwise the 1121 can be damaged !!

I will NOT be held responsible for any info that is listed here

Very Sour Ergonomics / Sticky Cabinet Trait / Now Discontinued / Suffers From Failure In Use

The DE1121 was the first "world band" receiver to provide useful on board digital MP3 recording and is the main draw to this entry. It can give for over 17 hours “off the air recording” using it’s on board MP3 recorder (256 MB version). The nasty side is the sets ergonomics are even more of a nightmare over the DE/KA 1103. One good trait over the 1103 sibling model is that the volume control operates in a similar fashion to the eton e5/Grundig G5/G3 portables. Overall receiver performance is a bit below the KA / DE 1103, but the recorder makes up for the gap and is a very usable receiver (not bad overall) . As we have said before Degen’s quality control has turned into a very mixed bag. So it is indeed a genuine hit or miss exercise.

The cabinet does have the "rubber feeling" paint finish. This will in time become sticky (count on it).

However, the real stinker with the DE1121 / KA1121 is even if you were (are) lucky to have a sample that works properly out of the box, it could fail in some way down the road . We can say this as 2 of our 4 test samples have failed in some way after being "carefully" used for awhile. If improperly used and or abused, you can count on failures of some kind down the road (more so with the MP3 unit). The overall general design was very unreliable (an understatement) !! NOTE : The connections between the MP3 unit and radio are sensitive to ANY dust or dirt (must be kept extremely clean) !!

Sadly all versions of the DE1121 / KA1121 are now out of production. So you will have to find a good used "working" sample, or a "new old-stock" sample from somewhere on the internet. Even with it's bugs we still have and use two DE1121 samples (our KA1121 samples both died in use over the years) here at HQ and enjoy these very unique portables.   

Dave N9EWO
N9EWO, all rights reserved
Ver. 5.9

Discontinued Receiver

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