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The Degen DE1102 is a new compact, full featured, AM (MW) - FM - SW digital readout portable from one of the newest Chinese manufactures of Shortwave radios. Featuring 190 memories, ability to receive SSB and an automatic lighted display and keypad when the radio is used in the dark, the DE1102 is expected to have a retail sale price below $100 when it reaches the U.S.A as the Kaito KA-1102. Rivaling the Sangean ATS-505P (aka Radio Shack DX-402), this would make the DE1102 the most least expensive SSB capable Shortwave portable available today on the market. Thanks to the folks at Degen, I got a chance to test drive a pre-production sample of this new radio. Please keep in mind that since the radio I used was a pre-production sample, some things may be modified or changed that I do not yet know about.

The final production radio will come with a carrying case, stereo earbuds, AC Adaptor/Charger, wire antenna that plugs into the antenna jack to improve reception, and three AA NiMH rechargable batteries. This should make for an impressive value for under $100.


The Specs

Size: 5.6" W x 3.5" H x 1.1" T inches or 143 x 88 x 28.,5 mm
Weight: 9.5 oz or 270g (without batteries)

Frequency Coverage
70.0 - 108.0 MHz
520 - 1710 kHz
back of the radio states: 522-1620 kHz
2.996 - 29.999 MHz
back of the radio states: 3.00 - 29.99 MHz

190 in 10 pages (19 memories per page). Note: memories are not lost when the batteries are removed.

Tuning Steps
AM (MW) - 1 kHz / 10 kHz (9 kHz when radio is setup in 9 kHz mode) - Note: there is no 9/10 kHz manual switch. The 9/10 setup is done during setup via the radios CPU. To do this, the radio must have the batteries taken out for 30 seconds minimum and put back in for the radio to come back on in the setup mode. The 12/24 clock mode is also set at the same time during setup. More on this later in the review.
FM - 50 kHz / 10 kHz
SW - 1 kHz / 5 kHz

SSB Mode - Only available in Page 9 (more on this later in the review)

Power: 6V DC or 3 AA batteries - Built in charger for NiMH/Nicad batteries

Clock: 12/24 hour selectable

Power Button acts as a Sleep Timer. Sleep Timer - 99 minute default (adjustable down to 1 minute through a series of steps via the keypad). There is no permanent ON button. This is similar to the Grundig S350 (Tecsun BCL-2000), Degen DE1101 and the Kchibo KK-320.

Wide/Narrow Switch for AM (MW) / SW. Same switch is used in FM to switch from Stereo to Mono.

ATS - Automatic Tuning System (Page 0 only)

+ - Digital Volume Control

Direct Frequency Entry

Frequency Scan - (Pages 1- 6)

Keypad Lock

FM Bass Boost

Lighted Display and Keypad - Automatic when pressing any button on the radio in very low light. Illumination stays on for about 8 seconds after the last button is pressed.

Tone Switch - music/news

Alarms: 3 radio alarms and 1 beeping alarm

Local/DX Switch

External Antenna Output Jack

First Impressions
I received the DE1102 the same day hurricane Isabel made it's way to where I live. Fortunately the radio arrived at the right time. When installing the batteries, the first thing you notice is that the battery cover on the radio is hinged. A very nice touch considering the number of times I read about someone losing the battery cover to their radio. The DE1102 appears to be well made. Buttons on the keypad are slightly smaller than most portables and about the same size of a typical cell phone. They don't wobble and are firm but responsive. By the time I got to try the radio out, we had lost electricity and I was down to a flashlight for light. The automatic lighted display was a great touch for the moment because I was using the radio for the first time in limited light. After I turned the radio on, the first thing I wanted to find out was how well the radio operated in SSB. I punched in an 80 meter amateur radio frequency through the radio's keypad. Without yet reading the users manual, I pressed the SSB button on the right side of the radio and was greeted with "ERR" on the display. Ooops….. time to read the manual.

Getting To Know The DE1102's Page System
In order to store a lot of memories into the DE1102, Degen went with the Page system. Those who are familiar with the Sangean ATS-909 (Radio Shack DX-398) already know about the Page system. The Page system makes it easier for the user to recall a frequency in memory with a single push of a button when in a particular page.

How does this work? On the DE1102 the page number is indicated on the bottom center of the radio's LCD display under the letter P. To go to a page, press P button on the keypad and the number 1 - 0 for the page you wish to be in. After you learn to store a memory in a particular page then you are able to recall it quickly if you are in that page. Note: for memories 10-19, you must press the 0 button first to then the corresponding second digit. For example, memory 12 would be 02. To go from memory recall mode to tuning mode, the SCAN button must be pressed and the LCD display will toggle from MEM to STEP. MEM is memory mode and STEP is tuning mode.

However the DE1102's page system is a bit more complicated. For some functions you must be in a particular page, but not in a particular memory, to activate some functions.

Page 0: Same tuning steps as Pages 1 - 6 (see below). However, to activate ATS the radio must be in Page 0.

Pages 1 - 6: Any frequency may be stored for any particular band. This means you can store AM, FM or Shortwave frequencies mixed in with any of these pages. Sounds great but there is one draw back. If you are in these pages, it also effects the tuning steps: 5 kHz for Shortwave, 50 kHz for FM and 10/9khz for AM (MW). To activate the scan mode (to make the radio to scan and stop on frequencies with strong signals) the radio must be in any of the Pages 1 - 6)

Page 7: Reserved for FM only and tunes in 10 kHz steps only.
Page 8: Reserved for MW only and tunes in 1 kHz steps only
Page 9: Reserved for Shortwave only and tunes in 1 kHz steps. To activate SSB mode, the radio must be in Page 9.

After some practice and pulling the users manual out a few times, the Page system becomes less complicated and its advantages begin to make more sense. The only exception is the requirement that the DE1102 be in Page 9 to active the radio in SSB mode. For those who do not like to read the user manuals, the DE1102 may be very frustrating.

How's The Reception?
For testing reception I used only the built in whip antenna and a supplied 15' feet of wire antenna that Degen supplies with the radio. Reception on all bands AM (MW) - FM - Shortwave was outstanding. Weaker stations on Shortwave were very readable. The Narrow switch works well to cut out adjacent interference from near by stronger stations. The radio I used had no images of stations appearing on frequencies where they should not be on Shortwave thanks to the DE1102's dual conversion circuitry. This is usually more a noticeable problem on radios around the 5 MHz and 8 MHz range.

SSB (BFO) on the DE1102 works very well though as mentioned before the radio must be in Page 9 in order to activate SSB mode. To activate SSB after the radio is in Page 9, the SSB button on the right side of the radio must be pressed. The thumb wheel clarifier on the right side of the radio is somewhat small but after some practice tuning becomes much easier. During hurricane Isabel I was able to tune into various radio amateur activity on 80 and 40 meters without any problems. The Narrow/Wide filter helps to cut out interference. SSB signals were not garbled and the radio did not drift.

Some Features Really Stand Out
With the DE1102's excellent reception performance, there are some other things that really stand out on this new radio.

I especially like the light blue illuminated display and keypad that comes on when the radio is used in the dark. It is refreshing to see some new ideas being used. Though this might cause more battery drain, this feature makes you wonder why this has not been done before by other manufactures. The light blue type display for illumination is also very attractive. This feature is similarly on the DE1101 non-SSB model except only the display lights up and is amber only. Like the Sangean ATS-909, the DE1102 display stays lit up when connected to external power. The lighted display may be turned off by pressing the light button. The light button is the same as the SCAN button.

Though I did not use this feature, the ability to recharge batteries with the built in charger helps to swallow the dreaded 3 AA battery combo much easier. I am not a big fan of the 3 AA battery combo. Many chargers operate on pairs and purchasing a 4 pack of alkaline AA leaves you hanging with an extra battery. The radio's internal charger can be set to charge from 1 hour up to 9 hours depending on the remaining battery life indicated on the DE1102's LCD display.

190 memories are more than enough to store what you want to listen to. At 19 memories per Page, you can store say your favorite stations in Page 1, Page 2 for your morning listening, Page 3 and 4 for your evening listening, Page 5 for all your favorite BBC, VOA, etc frequencies, etc.. the possibilities are endless. Lots of room to use the memories to your advantage. Keeping them up to date of course is a chore.

Memories are not lost when removing the batteries. This is especially nice considering if you had fully loaded the radio will have 190 memories you would spend the next hour to re-enter them back in to the radio.

FM BASS BOOST - though volume through the headphones did not reach a deafening level, FM stereo is really enhanced with the FM Bass Boost..

Scrolling through the memories is effortless through Pages 1 - 6. Once the radio is in Memory mode (MEM), you can scroll through all 114 memories by pressing the + or - buttons.

Compact size for the amount of features. The DE1102 is smaller than most SSB capable radios making this radio perhaps the next ideal travel radio with it's excellent reception and rock bottom price.

Things I Would Change or Modify
Make SSB available on all pages that support Shortwave and Medium Wave reception , not just on Page 9 [Everything but page 7 (FM)]. Why the engineers at Degen made SSB reception exclusive to Page 9 - I don't know. I can see how this may be confusing for users, especially for the newcomer to shortwave or for those of us who just don't like reading a user's manual.

Keep SSB engaged after turning the radio the radio off. Let's say I am listening to a SSB signal and want to know what time it is. I have to turn the radio off, see what time it is, then turn the radio back on. Guess what? SSB is no longer engaged. I must then press the SSB button on the side of the radio.

Add the 12/24 hour clock to display the time while the radio is in operation. As the radio is, the DE1102's radio must be turned off to see the time. This was one of the complaints that people had about the Sony ICF-7600G, which was fixed later in the GR version. (This is incorrect! - see correction at the bottom of the review)

Initial setup window of opportunity is too quick. As mentioned earlier, if you wish to switch from 10 kHz to 9 kHz tuning steps on MW or chance the clock to display in 12 or 24 hour format, the batteries of the radio must be removed for 30 seconds or so. After re-inserting the batteries in the radio, the SETUP mode only lasts for a few seconds before it drops to factory defaults. You barely have enough time to put the battery in, snap in the battery cover and turn the radio over to start the setup mode. Another 5 seconds at the most would be nice. When I first tried to switch from 10 kHz to 9 kHz mode, I thought the radio did not go into this setup mode until I realized I wasn't quick enough getting the radio flipped over after closing the battery cover.

Add a separate switch for tuning steps. Having to go from Pages 1-6 to Page 9 to do 1 kHz tuning is cumbersome. It is another thing that could be confusing for some people.

While volume through the internal speaker sounds fine and is adequate for it's size, the highest volume level on the different headphones I tried with the DE1102 never seemed to be as loud as I would have liked. Maybe it was the sample I had but I would make the radio a bit (not much) louder through the headphones.

For some people this may be no big deal, but I am no big fan of digital volume controls. I prefer an a standard analog volume thumb wheel dial. I like to be able to quickly turn the volume up or down.

By no means will this be the final word on this impressive little radio. The DE1102 will no doubt be talked about and debated when it makes its way to the global Shortwave listening community. Some will like the DE1102's page system while others may find it confusing or irritating. But as with all radios, it's how well the radio receives radio signals in the end determines mostly if it is a "good radio". The DE1102 is a good radio.


Correction: Time Display While The Radio Is On
Thanks to Kevin in Canada, the DE1102 can display the time while the radio is on. This is done by pressing and holding down the "EXIT" button. The time is displayed for a few seconds and the radio's display returns to the frequency readout. (October 19, 2003)

More Photos Of The Degen DE1102
Thanks To HongKongRadioer



Special thanks to HongKongRadioer and Danny Wu for helping to make this review possible. The really good photos are ©HongKongRadioer.


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