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Degen DE1103


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ith my old Sony ICF SW1 on the blink, I bought the Grundig Mini World 100PE, then the Kaito WRX911 (both pocket analog sets), as temporary measures while I hunted for a replacement. (See October 2004 Monitoring Times for my comparison of these two sets.) I was pleasantly surprised at the performance of these tiny, inexpensive units pulling in African and European stations here on the U.S. West Coast. Nothing beats the analog feel for bandscanning, but I still wanted a radio with digital precision for DXing. I was holding out for the ideal radio which would meet my list of desired features:
* * * * * * * * * * * Full coverage of 100-30,000 kHz Dual conversion for image rejection SW tuning in 1 kHz increments A tuning knob Direct entry Memories (20 to 40) SSB reception Sleep timer Dial light Small portable Operation on two to four AA batteries
A Poor Mans Ideal Portable -


Degen DE1103

By Eric Bryan

where the traditional telephone-pad layout can be operated by touch. Theres a slight ridge on button 5 to help orient you, and you can count your way in from 1 or 0. Still, the buttons are small, and your hand has to move around to find them, where the usual keypad format requires almost no movement and provides easy counting. But this is the price for having the semi-analog dial face where a standard keypad would normally be. In the upper left corner are three buttons: M/F/AL1; STORE/AL2; and VOL/CHG. Underneath the direct entry buttons are seven more buttons: Power/ Sleep; Reset; Hold; Time/Del; SSB/StMono; Band-/FM enter; Band+/AM enter. The Jog Dial Probably the main thing to keep in mind when approaching this radio is to recognize the jog dial as the multi-purpose control it is. Besides being a tuning knob, its also for memory setting and scanning, charge, sleep, clock, and alarm time setting, and volume control. But all of these functions can be operated through direct entry, too, including volume (press a desired volume level/number, then push VOL). The volume control is easily mastered. The LCD/Semi-Analog Dial Face Information at the top of the dial includes a 4-position triangular signal strength meter, mode (AM or FM), frequency, volume (0-63), a note if either of the alarms is set, and a battery icon which appears during charging and which flashes when the cells are about to run out. Pressing Time changes the frequency to the clock momentarily. The clock displays when the radio is off, and while charging, the signal
it had a semi-analog dial and needle. Instead of achieving exact digital readout on an analog radio, the engineers here had done the reverse, adding an analog readout to a digital radio. I thought it was clever, but apparently Sony experimented with a similar thing several years ago (ICF SW40) without success. While I was reading up on this radio which appeared to fulfill my wish list, I noticed it was being sold on eBay for a low price. When the Degen DE1103 suddenly dropped another $10, I was hooked! Vital Stats Aside from all my requirements, the DE1103 has an extended FM band (76-108 MHz), a built-in battery charger (batteries charge inside the radio), an AC adaptor, a line-out jack, an external antenna jack (external antenna disables whip on SW and FM), a Wide/Narrow switch which lets you select a 55.845 MHz or a 450 kHz IF (and doubles as an FM tone selector), a Hold (lock) button, a signal strength meter, a Local/DX switch, two alarms (radio only), 255 memories, auto scan, memory scan, a flip-out stand so the radio can sit at about a 30 degree angle, and all of these features presented within 6x4x1 dimensions and weighing in at a pound or less with the four included rechargeable 100 mA NiMH AAs inserted. Honestly, I was so glad to be getting a digital radio with a knob which tuned in 1 kHz steps, many of these other features were extras to me. The Buttons The direct-entry digit buttons are in one row, 1-0, beneath the dial face. This is an inconvenient setup when fumbling in the darkness at the bedside to enter a memory or frequency,

Of course I also wanted the radio to be sensitive and selective. And in the spirit of the poor mans shortwave listening post, I wanted to pay $100 or less. I was curious about some of the analogdigital hybrids, in which an analog tuner is fitted with digital readout. Many of these were intriguing and all had tuning knobs, but none of them read out to the last frequency digit. Does 9.46 MHz mean 9460 kHz, 9465, or even 9455 kHz? It would be nice to have analog-feel tuning, but the 15 kHz of frequency guesswork would hamper DXing. The Grundig YB550PE had many of the functions I wanted but omitted LW and SSB. A huge plus was its scroll wheel which tunes in 1 kHz increments, and it was also fairly small. But then I discovered the Tecsun PL200, a tiny version of the YB550PE. The extreme portability of that set was almost a clincher plus it had a tuning knob, but the PL200 lacked the same things the YB550PE did. Next, I almost decided on the Grundig YB400PE because of its proven and venerable record. But it didnt cover all of long wave, required six AAs batteries, and lacked a tuning knob. Thinking maybe I could find an analogdigital hybrid which read out to the last kHz digit, I searched online and came up with the reverse: a digital-analog which read out to the last kHz digit. The Degen DE1103 came with a bonus for someone like me with analog leanings in addition to the precise digital readout, 66
strength meter doubles as a charging indicator, to show that charging is in progress. Further, the meter acts as a battery level indicator, to show how much charge is left in the cells. And, with the radio charging, pushing CHG changes the clock to the number of charging hours left. LW, 120 meters, the 18900-19020 band, 11 meters, and the CB band arent shown on the semi-analog face, only by the digital readout. The SW coverage of the semi-analog face is (kHz):
3100-4100 4500-5500 5500-6500 6500-7500 9000-10000 11450-12450 13450-14450 14950-15950 17050-18050 20950-21950
enter memory mode, all you have to do is turn the tuning knob to carousel up and down through your group of chosen stations, without having to press a single button. SSB For SSB reception, you tune to a SSB signal with the knob or by direct entry, punch the SSB button, turn the knob until the transmission starts to become intelligible, then adjust the fine tune dial for precise demodulation. SSB is stable, and the fine tune dial feels smooth and solid. Once you fine tune a SSB signal, usually no further adjustment is necessary. Illumination With the light switch on, while running on batteries, the radio lights up whenever the jog dial is turned or one of the front buttons is pushed. Not only is the dial face illuminated with an amber glow, but all of the front buttons are, too. The lights stay on for 15 seconds after the last turn of the dial or press of a button. When running on AC power, with the light switch on, the lights are always on. To get the lights to come on without changing your settings, punch any of the direct entry digit buttons. These functions only change the LCD readout for a few seconds before returning to the standard readout, giving you 14 light buttons to choose from. Selectivity Selectivity is excellent on all bands. I did a test on SW with the crushingly massive signal of Radio Thailands 5890 relay. With the IF switch set to wide, I found the bleed-over ceased about 15 kHz up or down, at 5905 and 5875. On the narrow setting, RTs footprint was reduced to about a 5900 to 5880 spread. If there were fair signals on 5880 and 5990, they would be listenable with the narrow IF, though perhaps not on 5885 and 5895, but Radio Thailand is extremely strong in my area. Overall, the IF selector works like a charm, and is usually only necessary to separate stations which are 5 kHz apart. If a station does interfere, switching the filter from wide to narrow will usually make the desired station listenable, providing it isnt too weak. The sound will be somewhat muffled and an increase in volume will be necessary, but the interfering signal will be drastically reduced or eliminated. A strong station 10 kHz away will rarely interfere, unless its your local AM station. The narrow IF setting is also helpful in pulling out a signal suffering under heavy noise. Tuning up 49 meters, there are no traces of the spurious signals of RT or gospel stations in the background, as there are on single conversion units. Images are rare. Tuning with the knob is smooth, probably as close to an analog feel as they could get it, with no muting. But when a band is quiet, some chirping can be heard with each 1 kHz step. Sensitivity The 1103 has a very low internal noise floor, so that weak stations inaudible on a noisier radio will appear on the 1103. The rats

nest encountered around 6 MHz here in the Northwest in the evening on single conversion and lower quality radios is absent on the 1103. The BBC on 5975 usually has no interference, and the band is quiet on adjacent channels. The 1103 can pull in almost any signal with the 36 telescopic antenna. Plugging in the included 35 foot wire and stringing it indoors gives a further boost. With the wire plugged in, the BBC on 11835 and Radio Vlaanderen Intl on 11635 often overload this radio, necessitating unplugging the wire or sliding the LO/DX switch to LO. Radio Havana Cuba on 9820 also sometimes overloads with the wire. Table 1 lists some of the stations Ive heard lately on the 1103, minus the monster stations. I always use the wire indoors, though just about all stations come in using the whip.
While in one of these bands, a thin LCD line appears and acts as the tuning needle. On SW it jumps in 25 kHz steps, so it reads anywhere from exactly on to 24 kHz off. On MW, it jumps every 30 kHz, and on FM, from.47 to 4.27 MHz, depending on where you are on the dial face. The digital tuning increments via the knob are 1 kHz for MW and SW, and.02 and.03 MHz (alternating) on FM. When you reach the top or bottom of one of these bands, the needle snaps back to the opposite end of the band. To tune to frequencies outside these bands, you must enter them, or a memory, directly (but coverage is complete, from 100-29999 kHz). Auto scanning up or down is in 5 kHz increments on SW, 1 kHz on MW, and.10 MHz on FM. Auto scan goes through the entire band on the dial, following the needle as it wraps around back to the top or bottom of the band. When auto scanning or manual tuning while outside one of the bands on the dial face, if you then enter one of the bands, you are locked in that band until you again direct-enter an outside frequency or memory or use Band - or + to enter another band on the dial face. Memories The memories are labeled from 0-9, then 0A-0F, 10-19, 1A-1F, 20-29, 2A-2F, and so on. Presets numbered 0-99 can be accessed through direct-entry. Any memory with a letter in its label (from 0A to FE; there is no FF) can only be accessed by the jog dial in memory mode. Your positions on each of the 12 bands on the dial face are remembered, unless you switch to memory mode, when they are effaced by presets. The operation manual refers to memories 0-99 as the convenience area, and memories 0A-FE as the hidden area. As you can see, deciding how to set and use your memories can be a confusing business. Memory scanning is accomplished by entering memory mode and then turning the jog dial, which will run you up or down through all preset memories (unset memories and all other frequencies are skipped). This feature is the way to at least partially overcome the lack of a standard keypad for groggy bedside operation: If you preset all your sleep time frequencies consecutively in a cluster in the memory, then
Table 1: Sample Loggings of Moderate-Stength Stations

Austria:.. 9870 Argentina:. 15345 Belgium (RTBF):. 17570 (via Julich) Bulgaria:. Chile:.. 11665 Croatia:. 9925 (via Julich) Czech Rep:.. 17485 Dominican Rep (tent): 6025 Egypt:.. 12050 Gabon:.. 15475 Greece:.. 15630 Hungary:.. 9790 Indonesia:. Israel (Kol):. Israel (Galei Zahal): 15785 Italy:. 11800 Jordan:.. 11690 Kuwait:.. 15505 Libya:.. 17880 Moldova (Cland):.. 13800 Morocco:.. 15345 Nigeria:. 17800 Philippines:. 17720 Portugal:. Romania:.. Saudi Arabia:. 13710 Serbia/Montenegro:. 9580 Singapore:.. 6150 S. Africa:. 15265 Spain:.. 15385 Switzerland:. 15515 (all via Julich) Syria:.. Tunisia:.. 7275 Turkey:. 15350 Ukraine:. 7545 UN Radio:. 15495 (UK) Vatican:. 15595 17515
Also heard were many Middle Eastern and African relays of Radio France Intl, Deutsche Welle, BBC, and VOA. On 41 meters SSB, Ive heard hams from Australia, Arkansas, and throughout the Midwest. On the CB band, The Big Bad Wolf from The Bayou and another from Dallas came crashing in during early afternoon. At night on MW, a station is audible almost every 10 kHz with just the internal antenna. The
1103 pulls in the low powered FM stations well on the whip or wire. Audio The 1103s 3-inch speaker is powerful enough to be listenable in a mid-sized room. Those who have the 1103 and the bigger YB400PE say the Degens sound isnt as rich and resonant as the Grundigs. With the included earphones, which apparently are similar to the Sennheiser models MX/200 or MX/300, I tuned in Nigeria on 7255 near the top of the hour. I was stunned by the depth and timbre of the African drums during Voice of Nigerias interval signal. They sounded huge. Through the earphones, music on decent SW signals has rich bass. Build Quality I was impressed with the feel of the cabinet, aluminum front, and controls of the 1103. The whip is fairly thick and heavy duty and the whole unit is solid. The silver model especially has a nice finish and the bare aluminum face looks sharp. The dark model has a flat gray finish, with the aluminum face painted a matte milk chocolate color.
A Fatal Flaw? One of the 1103s I tried developed a faulty tuning shuttle, affecting all jog dial functions. The Yahoo! Kaito-de1103 users group reported some other units with the same problem. The dealer I bought the radio from says Degen claims to have ironed out the shuttle fault and improved SW sensitivity (already extremely sensitive) in their recent batches of 1103s. My replacement from a new lot so far shows no problems, though the faulty radio took about two months to begin acting up. Time will tell. Bottom Line There are a few changes I could recommend for easier operation, but overall, besides the direct entry button configuration and possible future tuning shuttle faults, I may have found my ideal radio. Everything works well, from the sleep timer and alarms to the tuning knob and SSB fine tuning. Availability I bought my 1103 from eBay seller Liypn, a gentleman in Hong Kong who, unlike some of the other sellers, offers a one year warranty on the radio. His usual price is $44.90 plus $20 shipping to the US. The 1103 comes with a

220V AC adaptor, so Liypn offers a 110/220V transformer for $7.90 at no extra shipping cost. Liypn currently carries a %100 satisfaction rating on eBay. plans to sell the KA1103 (Kaito version of the DE1103) in the US, with a 110V adaptor and one year warranty. (Tecsun is the parent company of Degen and Kaito, and they also manufacture a good part of the Grundig line at their factory in Hong Kong.) The KA1103 should be the same as the DE1103, relabeled as a Kaito. Detailed specs of the 1103 and Degen line can be found at: Thank you to the Yahoo! kaito-de1103 users group for their many helpful posts. Note: If you get a DE1103, be aware that the factory set (and reset) volume level is 40 (it comes on in FM). My normal listening volume is between 8 and 12, 20 at the most to fill the room. I worry the 40 level is high enough to damage the speaker. The second you turn it on (out of the box or after resetting), immediately hit a direct entry button 1-0 and immediately punch VOL/CHG and save your speaker and ears. You will not have time to hit VOL/CHG and go to the jog wheel to turn it down. It has to be done instantaneously with the buttons.
Optoelectronics X Sweeper

By Bob Grove W8JHD

ne of the handiest gadgets for the frequency explorer would be a handheld device that not only provides signal reception, but shows band activity on a wide-span spectrum display and also accurately reveals their frequencies. Scanners can slowly sweep and memorize search-discovered frequencies for later recall and monitoring, but have no wide-span spectrum display. Spectrum analyzers can manually be tuned to various portions of the spectrum to visually display signals and some have audio recovery, but they tend to be large and expensive. For several years a Chinese manufacturer has offered such a device, but at $2000 its slow sweep doesnt find wide appeal. Now a prominent, American test-equipment manufacturer has released a faster device at lower cost. The new Optoelectronics X Sweeper expands technology embodied in a previous Opto product, their Xplorer, offering a continuous frequency range from 30-3000 MHz (3 GHz) (less cellular except on government models), and sweeping, acquiring and memorizing active frequencies in that entire range in as little as one second. Apparently it accomplishes this quick sweep of a vast amount of spectrum through the use of a proprietary comb-generating variablefrequency oscillator, mixing a large number of separate oscillator frequencies simultaneously. 68

The X Sweeper at a Glance
As shown in the accompanying photo, its a handful; the black plastic case measures 4-1/2W x 8-1/4H x 2-1/2D and weighs nearly 2 pounds. A convenient (although hard to open), hinged, tilt bracket is recessed in the back, allowing desk-top placement at a comfortable viewing angle. The 64 x 128 LCD is backlit for night viewing, and is strongly visible in direct sunlight as well. Contrast can be adjusted by a simple key press. Yet another selection can reverse the contrast from blue on white (normal) to white on blue. The backlight can be extinguished to extend battery life during high ambient lighting conditions. The display shows currently-chosen functions, menu, center frequency, VFO settings, clock/calendar, span, spectrum bar graph, and other readouts as selected by the operator. The X Sweepers LCD spectrum display will show analog signals, but not digital, and the audio detector circuitry is designed to demodulate FM signals only, although weak audio from strong AM aircraft signals were heard during our test.
A 25-button membrane keypad allows direct frequency entry as well as selection of operating mode, setup instructions, lockout of undesired response frequencies, joystick up/down keys for VFO operation, rapid span/frequency changes, and bank selection for stored hit (active) frequencies, As many as 1000 search-discovered frequencies can be automatically stored in its 10 memory banks (100 channels each) which may then be scanned for continued activity or identification. Up to 65,000 hits are recorded and reported by the memory which also stores frequency, signal strength, and a time and date stamp. A separate log memory bank can store up to 1919 first- or last-sweep-discovered frequencies with their own reports. An optional GPS unit ($249, factory-installed at the time of order) provides automatic memorization of the X Sweepers latitude and longitude for each signal record for mobile/portable applications. Spans of frequency bands may be swept from user-selectable widths of 0.1, 0.3, 1, 3, 10, 100, 300, 1000 and 3000 MHz. Up to 2000 unwanted frequencies (inter-
ference, continuous carriers, signal harmonics, intermod products, birdies, etc.) may be locked out of the scan/search function at the touch of a key. An autoskip/autohold function allows the unit to search and register active-frequency hits without dwelling on each signal for audible monitoring, enabling a much faster registry of active frequencies. Alternatively, the unit will lock onto a search-discovered frequency for monitoring.
reception capabilities. A list of such scanners is supplied in the users manual. The installation of an Optoscan 535 or 456 digital interface ($199 option) is required for some scanner models.


Low sensitivity and broad
Near-field reception is assured, and weak, distant signals are ignored by the deliberately-low sensitivity of the unit. Typically, the Sweeper responds to signal levels above 20 microvolts in the 30-800 MHz range, increasing to 150 microvolts at 1 GHz, and 40 millivolts at the top end (2.4-3 GHz). Compared to the fractionalmillivolt sensitivities of scanners and receivers, this is relatively deaf, but is necessary to reduce unwanted hits from distant signals. Intermediate-frequency (IF) Selectivity is quite broad (nearly 100 kHz), dictating that the unit will respond to the strongest (and presumably the closest) signal in its passband.


Power requirements
Power is provided for up to 6-10 hours (as warned by a Low Battery sign before shutdown) by 8 AA alkaline batteries (included), or continuously from the 120 VAC wall adaptor (included). Alternatively, the unit can be operated by user-provided and externally-recharged NiMH or NiCd cells. Its 9-12 VDC power jack makes it a natural for long-duration mobile operation, identifying nearby signals as they are approached or passed. Alternatively, a 12 volt gel cell or other high-current, rechargeable battery in a belt or sling pouch would be a practical consideration for extended portable operation.
It must be pointed out that this is a piece of test equipment, not a scanner. As such, its display shows a single, narrow bar for a near-field signal, and the detector demodulates the strongest (usually closest) FM sources. It is not a selective, sensitive receiver that can distinguish between closely-spaced, weak or distant signals, nor does the display sweep or refresh quickly enough to show digital bursts, spread spectrum, frequency hopping, pulse, or single-signal waveforms. The temptation to attach a large, outdoor antenna to this instrument is irresistible, but signal saturation from the receivers limited dynamic range is likely, especially in a strong-signal environment, creating all sorts of phantom signals and misidentified frequency readouts from the resulting intermodulation, which also slows the search function. Adjusting the squelch knob to a looser setting reduces the false hits, but decreases the low sensitivity even further. Since there is no attenuator, strong signals may be reduced by shortening the antenna or increasing the distance from the signal source. No provision is made for rechargeable batteries to be charged in the X Sweeper surprising considering the cost of the instrument and the presence of such a facility in other, less expensive Opto products. A separate charger must be acquired (available from Opto for $89, although a less expensive discount-store model will work just fine), and two screws must be removed each time the batteries are accessed. The sweep circuitry of the X Sweeper does emit RF noise into its immediate environment; while using it in my car I was unable to listen to weak and moderate FM signals on my car radio.
choice of whips, mobile antennas, or even base antennas as the requirement dictates. The supplied telescoping whip enabled reception of two-way base stations from several miles away using the monitoring function. Sitting in my car at Wal-Mart with a roof-top antenna connected, I was unable to sweep-detect 460 MHz FRS handy-talkies in use by the clerks, but miles-distant paging signals and the sheriffs repeater came in loud and clear. A more serious assignment to sweep a professional office for a suspected listening device made the X Sweeper a logical choice. Many interesting emissions from modern office equipment were revealed (but no bugs were found!).

The Bottom Line

The outstanding features of this new test equipment are its wide frequency range, audio recovery capability, fast search and acquisition of signals, accurate frequency determination, scannable memory with auto-loaded hits, LCD display of signals over a wide spectrum, direct keyboard frequency entry, and small size and weight. The signal-strength bar graph with its digital level readings is useful for antenna adjustments, bug detection, interference locating, signal-distance estimating and, with a directional antenna, hidden-transmitter hunting. The X Sweeper is available for $1599 plus $10 shipping from Optoelectronics, 5821 NE 14th Ave. Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33334. For additional information or to place your order, phone (954) 771-2050, email them at sales@optoelectronics. com, or visit their website at

Our Field Tests

A swiveling, telescoping whip (4-1/2 to 22 inches) is provided (although when fully extended, the weight of our whip caused it to continually swivel downward from its loose connector sleeve). Optional antennas are available from Optoelectronics, but the standard BNC connector accepts an endless number of widelyavailable antennas. Detected audio is clearly and loudly heard from the internal speaker, disconnected when an optional earphone is plugged into the 3.5 mm (1/8) jack. Volume and squelch controls are provided. An RS232 jack (1/8 stereo) allows data download from a computer (cable and software included), and a CI5 Reaction Tuning jack is offered as well.
Sweeping the spectrum from 30-3000 MHz, our sample could lock onto a nearby transmission within as little as one second, and no longer than a few seconds. Narrowing the span didnt make signal acquisition faster, but it did reduce the likelihood of false stops and certainly made the LCD spectrum display easier to read in an RF-rich environment. Unlike many scanners that inaccurately display search-discovered frequencies slightly high or low of their actual carrier frequencies, we found the X Sweeper to have an excellent window detector that accurately displays intercepted frequencies to 4 decimal places (specified accuracy of 500 Hz). The BNC antenna jack invites the users

Reaction Tuning

The ability of the X Sweeper to lock onto the frequency of a nearby transmitter may be used to control certain Icom, Uniden and Radio Shack scanners in order to use those radios additional



New Product Reviews
The Degen DE1103/Kaito KA1103: A Second Look

By Eric Bryan

Wide band - 40dB Narrow band - 50dB AM 1st IF wide band: 55.845 MHz AM 2nd IF narrow band: 450 kHz Wide band < 6 kHz Narrow band < 4 kHz Power Supply: Battery: 4 AA cells External power: DC 8V 300mA Recharging time: 1-23 hours Speaker: D 77mm Earphones: D 3.5mm
ince my review of the DE1103 in the March 2005 MT, and Ken Reitzs review of the KA1103 in April 2007, there have been several other articles in Monitoring Times with praise for this little portable world band radio. A few years ago, Grove Enterprises confirmed the positive reviews of this unit by adding it to their selection of shortwave radios. Now that Ive been using the radio daily for four years, I thought I would update readers on its performance and how well its worn over that time.

What I Was Looking For

I was originally looking for a replacement for my Sony ICF SW1, which, after 15 years of daily use (including travel), started to develop problems. That radio was a little gem, but for my next go-around, I wanted to make sure I got a portable radio with full coverage, from the bottom of longwave to the top of shortwave, tuned via a tuning dial in 1 kHz increments, dual-conversion for image-rejection, capable of decoding single-sideband signals, with directentry capability and a reasonable number of memories 20-40 or so (the SW1s 10 memories were pretty restricting). I noticed a flurry of new analog radios coming from the Tecsun factory in Hong Kong, some of which were rebadged as Grundigs and other brands. These looked fun; some were dual-conversion with impressive coverage, but most didnt have the SSB facility plus, I would forego the memory function on an analog set. The Grundig YB 400/400 PE, with its proven track record and solid reviews, almost fit the bill. But it didnt quite cover all of longwave, and it lacked a tuning knob.

Enter the DE1103

Shortly thereafter, I came across the Degen DE1103 online and did a double-take at the faux analog dial. I was surprised, as I read up on it, to find it fulfilled all of my requirements. But one thing concerned me: With that
big dial face, what about a keypad and directfrequency entry? The specs claimed the DE1103 had direct keypad entry, but where was the keypad? Oh, there underneath the dial face tiny keys in a single row, numbered 1 to 0. That would be hard to operate by feel in the darkness, I thought. And where was longwave? The specs said it covered longwave, but that band didnt appear on the dial face. I found the Passport to Worldband Radios DE1103 review online, which praised the set except for the ergonomics of the multi-function tuning knob/decoder and the row of tiny buttons. I liked the dial face, but that little row of buttons was holding me up. What sealed my decision were the informal users reviews I found online and at the KA1103 Yahoo group. Hong Kong-based eBay sellers were offering the radio for about $65 delivered. At that price, I took the plunge. As the tuning knob/decoder developed problems, I had to return the first radio. The second radio had the same fault. I returned that one for a third, which is the unit I own today. About four years later, the tuning knob function is still normal. Since I had to pay for postage on all of this shipping back and forth, I ended up spending about $110 dollars to get my DE1103 about the same as if Id bought the Kaito version, the KA1103, from a US or Canadian seller in the first place! The specs of this radio can be hard to come by. They are in Table One, according to the Degen DE1103 users manual, translated from the Chinese.

Points of Confusion

There have been some inconsistencies in the ads for the Kaito KA1103, which, so far as I know, is still identical to the Degen DE1103 in all but name:

SW coverage is indeed complete, starting from 1711 kHz, and not 3000 kHz, all the way to 29999 kHz. Though LW doesnt appear on the dial face, the 1103 covers LW from 100 to 519 kHz. There is no beeper alarm, only radio. The 1103 runs on four AA cells, not three. There are 268 memories, but some of these are used to remember your place on each of the bands shown on the dial. And, of course, though there is no keypad in the traditional layout, you can indeed direct-enter and tune through any frequency between 100 to 29999 kHz, and 76 to 108 MHz.
Derived from Degen DE1103 Users Manual Frequency Range: FM 76 - 108 MHz LW 100 - 519 kHz MW 520 - 1710 kHz SW 1711 - 29999 kHz Sensitivity: FM - 10 mV MW - 1mv/m SW - 20 mV SW Selectivity:
In order to listen to longwave, you must direct-enter a LW frequency, or have LW memories stored, in order to access that band. If you direct-enter a LW frequency, you can then tune up and down in that band via the tuning dial. If, while tuning, you go past 519 kHz, youll then be locked in MW, and will have to go through the procedure again to get to LW. If you tune below 100 kHz, you will land in the FM band, and ditto to get back to LW. So, though shortwave coverage is complete from 1711 to 29999 kHz, if you are on a frequency within one of the bands on the dial face, you are locked into that band (needle wraps around to the other end of the band when you try to go past the top or bottom limit on that band). You must direct-enter via the keypad a frequency or memory outside one of these bands in order to tune out-of-band. But, the memory function covers the full frequency spectrum, so you can have as many out-of-band memories as you like. The actual coverage of the bands on the faux analog dial in kHz is:

3100 - - 5500


October 2009

Biggest Drawbacks
When this radio first came out, the major complaints were about the volume control you must pres the VOL button, then adjust the volume with the jog dial, or you can direct-enter a volume level with the keypad. Having used the radio for several years, this is not a problem for me. I almost always use the jog dial method of volume control. Ive found the main bugaboos in operating the 1103 are:

5500 - - - - - - - - 21950
Again, to tune outside of these frequency limits, direct-enter a frequency or go to a memory not covered on the dial face.
Not being able to tune continuously up the 41 meter band past 7500 kHz; you have to enter a frequency above 7500 kHz in order to tune that section of 41 meters. Usually, I enter 7600 kHz, and tune down. The calibration isnt perfect on my unit. The tuner likes to be set 1 kHz below the actual frequency, so WWV on 10000 kHz is always 9999 kHz. Im used to this, but now all of these 1 kHz-off frequencies are ingrained in my mind, so when I think of Croatian Radio on 31 meters, its 9924 kHz, etc. This is annoying when reporting a logging, and I accidentally write it as 1 kHz off, or read a frequency listing and forget to make the mental conversion. On the keypad, the buttons arent perfect, and the 6 button sometimes doesnt take, causing another try or two to enter my frequency. Though I liked the dial face at first, I find I dont use it, always relying on the digital readout. The LCD needle/indicator jumps in 25 kHz increments on SW, so it can read up to 24 kHz off, making it of limited use. For operating by feel at the bedside at night, or for blind users, the traditional telephone keypad layout would be easier. (Though now Im so used to operating it at night in memory mode, tuning up and down with the jog dial through my selected memories, this isnt as
big an issue for me.) In the same vein, when operating by feel, its hard to access a memory by direct-entry. You have to first enter the memorys number on the keypad, then find the M/F button in the upper left corner of the radio, and press that. With the linear keypad layout, its an impractical exercise in the dark. Again, the way to access your memories in this situation is to enter memory mode, and cycle through your memories by the jog dial. The scan in 5 kHz increments on SW is so slow I never use it its faster to just use the tuning dial.

Biggest Pluses

The first one is easy and its a biggie, but I
NEW! Dual Conversion, Digital Entry, AM/FM-stereo/mono, Shortwave Radio with SSB
Kaito's latest entry into the multiband portable market may look like an analog-dial radio, but it's actually a precision PLL circuit with 1 kHz steps and digital LCD readout! It tunes 76-108 MHz FM and also continuous 52229900 kHz AM and shortwaveand it has infinite clarifying SSB as well! This powerful, dual-conversion portable also has 190 memory channels (10 pages of 19 + 1 page for SSB) to store your favorite stations, and runs off 4 Ni-MH AA rechargeable batteries (included) and AC; an automatic charger/adaptor is provided.

Just look at these additional specifications: 268 memory presets (Dynamic memory on 19 Pages) with autoscan Beeper, radio and sleep clock/alarm Manual or direct-entry frequency tuning Electronic volume set Smart charger with count-down timer and battery power/charge indicator Meter band to frequency conversion 3 backlight modes LCD bar graph signal strength indicator External speaker, earphone, line output and antenna jacks Auto reset prevents deadlocking Extra-long telescoping antenna improves reception DX/LOCAL switch to prevent front-end overload FM mono/stereo selection Music/news (voice) tone control with Super bass selection Measures only 6.5W x 4H x 1D

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forgot to mention it in my initial review:
The memory function remembers the mode AM or SSB of that memory/ frequency. There is a ham channel I sometimes listen to at night, where they broadcast in SSB, and it has been a snap to go into memory mode and tune up and down with the jog dial through my entered memory frequencies from FM, into MW, and on into SW, without having to manually go in and out of SSB mode. This is a gigantic advantage for bedside operating-by-feel listening. I cant imagine now having to punch in and out of SSB mode. Plus, the 1103s SSB is stable, so rarely do I have to fine tune that SSB signal thats in my memory (once its been initially tuned in). I would find it hard to do without this function, now. The radio has fallen off the nightstand and landed hard several times with no serious permanent damage. Sometimes the fine tuning gets knocked askew, so I have to retune my stored SSB frequency, but thats all. Sensitivity and selectivity have been good across all the bands, with the narrow IF usually doing the trick when I need to separate closely-spaced SW signals. Its been freeing to get away from button-only tuning to the tuning/jog dial on the 1103. Using the tuning dial in memory mode is very handy and the way to go for regular bedside listening, unless youre exploring for new signals. The built-in battery charger has been great, eliminating the hassle of regularly removing and inserting batteries.

Though its survived the falls and knocks well, there are a few little signs of wear on the 1103 to note:
Number one is the headphone jack has become a little temperamental sometimes I have to rotate and fiddle with the mini-plug in order to get a full connection. The slider switches have become, at times, scratchy. The paint has worn off the oft-used BAND- and BAND+ buttons. The telescopic antenna suffered a little damage, but was my fault, being bent in a fall. Any other slight dings have also been from knocks and falls.
The only other wear notes to add are the demise of the Degen earphones, which had the best sound of any mini-phones Id ever used; and the snarling and damage to the included wire antenna, which was prone to injury because it had no facility for winding or storage.
antenna, and sensitivity options and combinations possible. I was trying to listen to one of the Central or Eastern European stations which was being clobbered with noise, when I started to experiment with DC versus AC power, the wire antenna versus the whip extended to various lengths, and the settings of the LOCAL/DX switch. Though there is a considerable drop in RF when switching to DC/battery power, I found that this lowering of sensitivity also decreased the noise or interference. Further, while running on DC, unhooking the wire and receiving over a partially extended whip, the European signal, though weaker, was now set in a background of quiet, and was just listenable. (The AC power supply does cause buzz on AM and 90 and 75 meters shortwave, but is not usually a problem in the higher shortwave spectrum.) Other combinations running on AC with the switch set to LOCAL, both with and without the wire antenna; running on DC with the switch set to DX, but with the wire, etc. all produced varying effects, and usually an improvement over my standard mode of running via AC with the switch set to DX and using the wire antenna. The general effect of all these methods was a lessening of sensitivity, but a more listenable, though sometimes weaker signal, with noise or interference decreased or eliminated. Here in the Northwest, I believe Ive caught all of the Central and Eastern European international shortwave stations with the 1103. When conditions are decent, Egypt and Argentina have been listenable. Greece on 9420 or 7475 kHz is pretty reliable. Gabon on 15475
and Jordan on 11690 are regular. Also Morocco and Tunisia are semi-regular. Turkey (from Turkey, not relayed) and Galei Zahal in Israel are occasional catches. Good old Rai/Italy on 11800 used to be daily (a frustrating loss, there). I would sometimes get Libya, and once caught a clandestine in Moldova. The Voice of Nigeria and Channel Africa are pretty routine catches. All of this with a portable, randomly-strung indoor wire, or with the whip. Im sure, in a quiet area with less local noise and with an outdoor antenna, many more tropical and other more challenging stations could be had with the 1103. I regularly hear hams in SSB in Spanish, probably in Central or South America. I also hear hams in SSB speaking in Chinese or a related language, though whether they are transmitting from ships at sea, or the Far East, I cant say. Several Australian hams have come in over SSB, too.

Should You or Shouldnt You?
For the price (about $100 delivered from Grove), getting a dual-conversion, full-coverage LW/MW/SW/SSB radio (plus extended FM) that tunes in 1 kHz increments via a tuning knob, with excellent sensitivity and selectivity for any portable, despite some of the ergonomic challenges, is a good deal. You can always pay less by ordering the radio from Hong Kong/China through eBay but be forewarned by my experience of paying for shipping three times over in order to get a correctly working unit. Ive mostly overcome the ergonomic issues. When using the radio in the light, or during the daylight, theres no problem with direct-entering frequencies, etc. A blind radio enthusiast might want to think twice, since the dial face will be useless for them, combined with the lack of a traditional keypad layout. There is a slight ridge on the 5 button to help you get your bearings by touch, but the buttons are tiny and the ridge even tinier. Plus, once youve found it, you have to count your way out either side of the 5 button. At least 1 and 0, at either end, are easy to find. Despite being a portable, with a size of about 6.5 x 4 x 1 inches, you can truly DX with this radio. I think, being able to do that for around $100 possibly more or less makes it a good deal. Other comparable units start at about $150 some with easier ergonomics, but some without the coveted tuning knob (which is a huge ergonomic plus!). So, if the 1103s peculiarities dont bother you, it looks as though its the best deal available right now in a dual-conversion portable world band radio. I think, if it looks right for you, yes, you should.


Ive never seen another shortwave radio where it performs almost equally well, whether with the extended whip or on an indoor wire. Just about everything thats audible with the wire is as good or almost as good with the whip. One thing I learned when struggling with a shortwave signal that was being crushed by noise or interference of some kind, was that it pays to try all the power,



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