N9EWO Review : 
eton E5 / Grundig G5
 LW / MW / SW / FM PLL Portable Receiver 



The eton E5 PLL LW / MW / SW / FM compact portable from the late 2000's (Photo : N9EWO)
Stellar performer for the day provided one did not receive a dud (which were common).
Suffers from the sticky cabinet syndrome (rubberized outer cabinet paint that turns sticky).

The bit later and more rare Grundig G5 model is identical except for the black "sticky" cabinet instead of gray.

Discontinued Receiver

N9EWO's Review on the eton E5 Receiver.
2 samples were tested for this report (outdoor antenna's).


Model : eton e5 - LW / MW / SW / FM  PLL receiver
Country Of Manufacture : China (Degen)

Test Sample Serial Numbers :
Sample #1 : [not documented]

Sample #2 : eE00541x

Test Antenna's :
- Short 20 foot [6 meter] indoor wire antenna
- Comet DS150S Discone Antenna (30 foot [10 meter] height)
- RF Systems MLBA-MK2 long wire (55 foot length [16.7 meter] - 24 foot [7.3 meter] height at peak)
- Comet H-422 Dipole 31 feet [9.4 meters] in length  (24 foot [7.3 meter] height) - Straight Configuration)

PRO :
- Dual up-conversion design with adequate image rejection (see con).
- Two bandwidths, well chosen.
- Much improved ergonomics over earlier Degen/Kaito siblings including dedicated volume and added frequency slewing buttons.
- Excellent sensitivity that also inhibits low circuit noise (whip or external antenna).
- The main keypad and slewing buttons are at a good size, all have excellent tactile feel.
- Superior dynamic range for a compact portable.
- Usable SSB reception generally free from drift. (see con).
- Excellent tuning knob does not mute when tuned (no chuffing)
- Very good LED backlighting that can stay on continuously when connected to AC adapter (see con).
- Very useful auto scanning circuit that allows 2 different stop modes on SW, with a additional one for auto store to memory channels (FM only).
- 700 memory channels that also store mode and each 7 channel page can have a 4 letter alpha “tag”.
- Memories use a non volatile (no battery) EEPROM system.
- Covers entire SW spectrum, no gaps.
- Preset World Band selector, 2 ways are provided to choose the SW meter band, and can return to the last tuned frequency within these segments.
- Audio quality while limited is above average for a compact portable, nevertheless provides a healthy output to speaker or headphones (see con).
- Clock (24 hour mode only) is displayed separate from frequency.
- 4 event alarm.
- 1 to 99 minutes sleep timer that is not thankfully switched on default.
- Hinged battery cover to prevent loss.
- 4 segment battery indicator.
- Useful 5 segment signal strength meter.
- Internal recharging circuit for nickel metal hydride batteries (see con).
- Superior FM sensitivity and capture ratio.
- FM stereo indicator with switchable mode. 
- Stereo line audio jack that has a good output level.
- External power jack uses standard + tip.
- Good padded vinyl carrying case that provides much greater protection over the DE1103/KA1103's light bag (see con).           

CON :
- Just as it is with the KA1103/DE1103, the volume level is at a painfully loud setting at initial power up, but a way around this (see text).
- Badly suffers from the rubberized cabinet paint that has turned to sticky GOOooo by now with most if not all samples (see text).
- Even with some of the buttons at a good size most are a bit too small.
- Dark background color of the LCD makes it difficult to see in low room lighting without the back light in use.
- Audio quality above average for a compact portable.
- No tone control on LW/MW/SW bands.
- External antenna jack only works on SW and MW (not on FM).
- Difficult if not almost impossible ECSS reception (see text).
- Sight microprocessor/PLL locking noise when tuning, but a small price to pay for not having chuffing and is acceptable.
- Images can appear 900 kHz down from original with extremely strong signals.
- SSB modes lacks LSB/LSB selection
- AGC is too fast creating nasty distortion with SSB Signals.
- SSB uses a very touchy fine tuning “thumbwheel” that lacks a center detent.
- AGC swamped with extremely strong signals, switching the attenuator on cures this (overload ?)
- Travel lock does not disable backlighting.
- Tuning knob steps only at 1 kHz, but the added slewing buttons that use a steps at 5 kHz offset this nicely.
- Tone control works on FM only.
- Total lockups common (see text).
- Memory channels do not store bandwidth.
- Slight microprocessor noises when tuning knob is turned.
- Signal strength meter does not work on FM.
- Bandwidth Filter / FM Tone switch uses a hard to select “side-slide” type on right side of cabinet.
- Clock only displays 24-hour mode (desirable), no 12 hour setting.
- Reported NOT to have any anti-static protection with whip or external antenna input.
- Not as flashy looking as the DE1103/KA1103 metal speaker grill (E5 is plastic).
- As new the included carrying case had a strong aroma of creosote.
- Suffered from extremely poor quality control near end of production (last samples went for super low prices, most of those had issues including many DOA's).                                          

Same Degen DE1103 / KA1103  receiver innards but with a different control panel / Separate Volume Buttons   

The eton E5 receiver circuitry is nearly identical to the older Degen DE1103 (Kaito KA1103 in the USA). Except the microprocessor and from panel has been totally redesigned.
NOTE : We are talking about the EARLIER DE1103 / KA1103 NON DSP production version in this report. Yes, the E5 was indeed manufactured for eton by Degen.

It’s case has the rubbery cabinet paint just as with the more expensive e1 and suffers from the same sticky GOOEY mess. We removed this awful cabinet paint with test sample 2 using 91% isopropyl alcohol and '"Mr. Clean Magic Eraser" sheets (many of them with lots of elbow grease). We had to take this down to bare "shinny" black plastic cabinet as it was not removing equally (so to look right, see photo below). No more rotting vinyl beach ball smell either !


Eton E5 test sample #2 with it's sticky cabinet paint removed (see text).
Black color is actually uniform, camera shows it lighter on the left side.
(Photo : N9EWO)
 
DE1103/KA1103's used a very user unfriendly volume control scheme where it shared the same encoder as the tuning knob. The e5 uses separate up-down pushbuttons for the control of the receivers volume and is much improved.
 
The fly in the pudding here as just as it is with the 1103's, when the receiver is first powered up out new of the box or if it’s been left dead without batteries for awhile, the receivers electronic volume still defaults at a painfully loud volume and on FM no less (value of 20 on the display). Ouch !

However with the E5 there is way to get around this. This electronic volume control setting can be pre-adjusted before the set is powered up. With the set off as soon as one presses the + or - volume buttons a “Vol” with a numeric value will be displayed in the alpha display area.. Turn this down to 0 and when powered up all will be well. This is not possible at all with the Degen/Kaito 1103's (hold your ears). Alternatively the volume level can be entered in a value from 0 to 31 using the numeric keypad.

“0 to 9" buttons are now in the standard telephone layout. These as well as the AM-FM enter keys are more beefy as are the power and slewing buttons. The rest continue to be on the “itisy bitsy” side.

Another bug with the elder set was it lacked any slewing buttons. This too has been fixed and works at 5 kHz steps on SW, 10 (or 9 kHz) on MW, 3 kHz on LW and 100 kHz on FM. The steps with the excellent tuning knob are fixed at 1 kHz on SW/MW and LW. On FM it’s 25 kHz.

Frequency coverage is almost identical. SW with no gaps right up to 29999 kHz and North America FM coverage is from 87.5 to 108 MHz (with 10 kHz medium wave step). When selected with 9 KHz medium wave step the FM coverage is THEN between 76 to 108 MHz.

Long wave coverage starts at 150 kHz on the E1, the DE1103/KA1103 starts at 100 kHz. However the eton’s long wave can be accessed using the keypad, the 1103's you cannot.

Once in awhile we experienced TOTAL lockups of the receiver (just as many others have from reading reports). There is a recessed RESET button located on the front panel just below the power button that fixes the condition. Good news here is this does not clear the memory channel data. Just a bit disconcerting it is.

To delete all memory channels , hold down the EDIT and SSB buttons simultaneously, then press the RESET button. This deletes the contents of all memory pages.

700 Memories and easier to access with Alpha tags to boot

700 memory channels are to be found with the E5 and accessing these is a real pleasure. This a increase from the 1103 sets which have 268 memories. They are set up in 7 channels each in 100 pages. Not only is there a icon on the display to show which one of the 7 you have accessed, you can attach a 4 letter or number “tag” to each page.

Once the page is selected, the memory channel is accessed using seven buttons just below the LCD display (F1 to F7), It’s just as easy to enter these as accessing them as well. This is just another plus to the E5.

These F1 to F7 buttons also are used to have fast access to a certain meter band on SW, as well as certain receiver set ups. Example, the setting of the 9 or 10 kHz MW spacing for scanning or slewing, for setting of the 4 programmable timers, or the timing for the internal rechargeable battery circuit.

Included Goodies / Padded Carrying Case
 
The E5 originally came with an AC Adapter, earbuds, a indoor SW wire antenna and a carrying case.

Included padded carrying case is a plus over the thin bag that is supplied with most other Degen/Kaito sets (except the DE/KA 1101's). But also has the trait of some of the other Chinese cases we have “smelled” over the years. It had the aroma of creosote, almost like you are standing in a railroad yard. A good airing out will cure this, but hold your nose until then.

Better Display with Improved Backlighting / Useful 5 Bar Signal Strength Meter

A nice white backlight (more like side lit) is provided. If connected to AC adapter it can switched to continuous even if the receiver has been switched off.

Battery operation is 4 standard size AA batteries and if Ni-Mh rechargeable cells are used can recharge those inside the set. It's not a smart type of charger circuit as one must SELECT a time. AC adapter jack uses the standard positive + tip (NOT negative).

Ni-MH BATTERY
CAPACITY (in mAH)
CHARGING TIME  (hours)
1100
11
1500
15
1800
18
2300
23

Gone is the almost useless dial pointer style layout on the LCD. It’s now a more traditional layout.

Frequency digits and large and easy to read. Others do not par quite as well. The clock (24 hour only) can be displayed at the same time as the frequency. Here is another plus over the 1103's where it has to be toggled back and forth. The LCD still continues to have a dark background to it. So if one uses the receiver in a room with subdued lighting without the backlighting in use, it’s going to be hard to see.

1103's use a 4 step icon on the LCD to indicate signal strength. It’s generally useless as it tends to pin on even moderately strong signals. With the eton e5 arrangement, there has been another segment added (now 5), is easier to read with a better layout and best of all does not pin so easy. Not to say that it will equal a real old style meter (because it does not), but was found to be most useful.

Sensitivity / Selectivity / Dynamic Range / Dead Ringer to 1103 sets including Image and AGC Issues

Here we have pretty much the same identical set. General circuit noise is very low.

Sensitivity is downright excellent, either with its internal whip or when connected to an external antenna. But just as it is with the 1103 receivers the external jack still only works with SW or MW. On FM you are out of luck.

Two bandwidth filters are available for LW / MW and SW bands. Wide filter is wide enough to give decent wider audio quality which we prefer (about 8 kHz or so). On FM the side mounted bandwidth switch is a high-low tone control on FM (tone control is not available on other bands). .

FM performance ditto, on the very good side. Sensitive , selective with good capture ratio.

The E5 uses the same Dual UP conversion scheme on SW as does the 1103's (1st IF being 55.845 MHz). Image rejection it has , but it too shares the same image signal trait. This is 900 kHz down images with extremely strong signals. This is 2 times the second IF of 450 kHz.  But again this takes extremely strong signals (usually connected to a external antenna) for this to appear.

Dynamic range was tested as excellent. No overloading, even on an external antenna at night.

The same DE/KA 1103 sets exception still applies. On very super strong signals (say in the 49 MB at night, external antenna) I noticed what sounded like an overloaded AGC circuit? The audio in the signal was weakened until I kicked in the attenuation switch. This was also detected on a very strong local MW station.

SSB Most Usable / Manual ECSS Ruff Going / Improved Scanner Step on MW / ATS on FM ONLY

SSB continues to use a single BFO mode switch. No USB/LSB offset selection. A certain amount of audio distortion is present due to a too fast of a AGC decay rate. It works and is stable enough. Manual ECSS tuning is possible with the E5, but is an extremely touchy exercise as one has to use the side mounted SSB thumb wheel. It’s a mode better left alone.

When the auto “scanner”are employed with the 1103 model’s, the steps here are 5 kHz on SW and 1 kHz on MW. It takes a longer time to scan with MW band with these versions. With the E5 it no longer uses this 1 kHz step in scanning. It now does the correct 10 kHz (or 9 kHz) scan with the MW steps and performs as it does on SW which is generally quite good.

Scan stop and be selected either to pause for 5 seconds on a channel or stop entirely. Also on FM “ATS” can be selected for storage to a memory channel.

Audio Quality / Stereo Line Audio Jack

Audio quality is most pleasant for the size, It’s clean with a tad of bass frequencies.

As does the 1103 sets, the E5 includes a “separate” audio line output jack on the right side of the cabinet. Stereo jack, so when a FM STEREO is tuned in the output from this jack will be stereo as well provided the correct cable is used. It is a proper level too, that is not too loud or soft.

Lock not So Tight

Here we have a step backwards. The lock does not keep the backlight from powering up with the E5. With the 1105 sets it did.

Price point is very close if not equal to the Sony ICF-SW7600GR which is only compact portable that provided synchronous detection at the time. But the eton e5 added features that the Sony model totally misses, such as a real tuning knob, better audio quality and dual bandwidth filtering.

Suffered from Extremely BAD QC Before It Was Discontinued

Reports indicated that MANY E5 samples near the end on the market (and many of the Grundig G5 models too) suffered from BAD quality control issues and some were dead on arrival. Many of these were sold by Radio Shack for extremely LOW prices ($ 60. or less). Sadly the Grundig G3 model that followed was even a worse disaster with quality control.

Excellent Receiver IF You Get a Good One !

The eton E5 was about as good as it got in the late 2000's for a compact shortwave portable. But as it goes with many Chinese made receivers, duds are aplenty even more so with the above failure rate near the end of production.   


Dave N9EWO
N9EWO, all rights reserved
Ver 2.1


Links for additional eton E5 Information (all subject to change without notice)
eham eton E5 Reviews
Jay Allen eton E5 Review
Fenu Radio eton E5 Review
The Eton E5 Versus The Sony ICF-7600GR
Eton E5 Owner's Manual

eton E5 "You Tube" Video's

todderbert Grundig G5 Review
Revisiting the Grundig G5 receiver AM FM LW

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