Sunday, June 9, 2019

Quality Issues In Modern Portable Radios

My luck with buying modern portables and pocket radios has not been the best. They often have problems right out of the box or develop them within months or the first year of operation. By modern portables, I'm talking about the last 20 years or so, at least since the year 2000.

In the narrative below are $905 dollars of radios I have bought in the last ten years and the problems I have had with them. This points to continued quality control issues and poor materials in today's cheap (and not so cheap) consumer radios coming out of Asia.

What's a radio nut to do? I doubt things are going to change any time soon. You either put up with it or leave the hobby.


Kaito KA1103 $80

After a year an occasional processor glitch would cause tuning to become erratic, skipping every other channel. The only fix was pulling the batteries and letting the radio sit overnight. Reset did not cure problem.

Radio was also highly sensitive to static. Wipe your hand the wrong way across the display face and the processor would lock up.

Eton E1 $400

At about the one year point the radio and display would go dead intermittently due to apparent processor problem. Problem remained intermittent and was never resolved.

Rubberized coating got sticky and attracted grime after about a year. I used alcohol to remove the rubberized coating but the plastic underneath didn't fare well in some areas, bleaching the grey color out.

Another ding for this radio was the poor quality display for such an expensive radio.

Tecsun PL-380 $45

After a year many of the Tecsun's notoriously hard-to-press buttons started to fail to make contact making it impossible to set frequency or control radio settings. Some buttons now are unusable.

Mechanical tuning encoder is sub-par and cheap. When tuning slowly in one direction, frequency will jump intermittently to a channel in opposite direction.

Eton Traveler 3 $45

The weak orange-on-black display is unreadable in outside daylight. Overall contrast has gotten even worse over time.

Mechanical tuning encoder is sub-par and cheap. When tuning slowly in one direction, frequency will jump intermittently to a channel in opposite direction. Again. The problem is is particularly bad on this radio.

CCrane Skywave $80

Mechanical tuning encoder is sub-par and cheap. When tuning slowly in one direction, frequency will jump intermittently to a channel in opposite direction. Again.

Sangean ATS-909X $205

AGC problems started after about a month. Radio eventually went dead at two months. Sent in to Sangean for repair. Two way shipping costs were $26. Radio now works great. Good job Sangean. I was sweating this, as the 909X is a particularly expensive portable.

Panasonic RF-562DD $50

Tuning glitch occasionally occurs at a certain spot on the dial where the radio suddenly goes dead. It seemed to be a misplaced litz wire contacting one of the I.F. cans. After moving the wire the problem disappeared, I thought. It has since re-ocurred occasionally. Maybe a battery contact issue caused by flexing of the case by the tight dial mechanism? Or a bad leaf in the tuning capacitor? Still unknown. Luckily it's only very intermittent.


Manufacturers: WAKE UP! Use better materials. Up your quality control game. Charge a little more if you have to. Sell me a radio that will work a year from purchase.

Will I keep buying Asian radios? Probably.

If you feel like adding your experiences to the comments section, please do.


Bill M said...

What else but poor quality can be expected since everything is made in China and uses cheap Chinese or Japanese components. Manufacturers of components and radios need to bring their plants back to Europe, UK, Canada, and USA to get high quality instead of having things made my outside companies in China

Unknown said...

This is Thomas. Right out of the box my Tecsun PL 310et was horribly weak on AM and shortwave. I live too faraway from the UPS store to return it. I kept getting it back out of the box hoping things would get better but they didn`t. So I decided to try a "burn in" period by installing fresh batteries and just turning it on and leaving it on. The shortwave issue corrected itself. It`s now very sensitive.

Using the speaker AM reception is horribly weak on the Tecsun but I discovered that AM reception is very good using headphones! Using a loop makes stations listenable using the speaker but audio pumping is horrible unless I tune 1kz off frequency. Very strange radio!

My Eton Elite Traveler has an issue where it often requires multiple presses of the buttons to get a response. Apparently this is true of all these radios according to others. I love the radio though because of its great AM reception and lack of soft mute on weak signals. Apparently they`ve improved the latest versions of these Eton radios because I have no issue others described with the tuning encoder except sometimes it will jump ahead on the dial one step just sitting there. This has only happened maybe 3 times. FM and shortwave reception has apparently been improved on the latest version as well. Battery life is horrendous though!

My Grundig G6 had issues with the memory overwriting stored stations with those nearby. That seems to have cleared up on its own. Sometimes it locks up and refuses to turn on for a minute or two which worries me. I love that radio and hope it lasts forever. It will run for 3 days straight (I leave it on when I sleep) on 2 low capacity rechargeable AA batteries. I`m lucky to get 10 hours run time using the Eton.

Out of all three radios I suspect that the Tecsun will die first. I`ve had the Grundig for 5 years and have heavily used it daily and listen to it while I sleep. I even dropped it 8 feet onto concrete and it survived.

I`ve ordered rechargeable batteries for the Tecsun and plan to start using it much more (like while sleeping) to give the Grundig a much needed rest since it`s my only SSB radio, is very sensitive on all bands and has no muting while tuning.