Shortwave listening has got to be one of the most intriguing hobbies in the universe. We can tune in the world and hear the news and views from many perspectives. Add to this the access shortwave allows to music of diverse cultures (contrary to some radio listeners I'm not put off in the least by the fading and distortion effects heard on shortwave broadcasts. It's all part of the drama that shortwave radio is), and if that's not enough, there are countless openings to experimentation the more familiar you become with the radio spectrum.
Once you've heard a few shortwave broadcasts, the radio bug will bite, and you can gain appreciation for the opportunities radio monitoring offers for playing with tech toys of all sizes. One thing I learned early in my radio addiction is that you never really have too many radios. I've hardly ever met a radio I didn't like, and eBay has really opened up the market in both new and used shortwave and multiband radios. One of the most affordable and portable shortwave receivers currently seen on eBay is the ECB 938, a compact AM/FM/SW receiver in a size slightly smaller than three by five inches, one and a fourth inch in thickness. The 938 uses two AA batteries.
The ECB 938 is a lightweight analog-tuned receiver with a horizontal style. Its dial scale shows the mediumwave and FM broadcast bands, plus a bandspread arrangement for the most-used SW broadcast bands. When powered on with the thumbwheel switch/volume control on the left panel, the 938 is automatically set for FM broadcast reception. Two buttons on the lower right front panel provide subsequent selection of AM and FM bands. In the AM mode the AM (standard AM broadcast) and shortwave bands are selected with a top-mounted slide switch. 49 through 13 meter SW bands are covered by the 938. Unusual in this sized radio, a front-panel Local/DX switch is provided to help reduce signal overload you might encounter This attenuator does work on FM and mediumwave bands as well.
The 938's left panel offer a headphone jack (FM reception is mono) and 3-volt D.C. in jack with center-negative polarity. The nearly 15-inch telescopic antenna swivels sideways, but does not rotate. The radio's plastic casing is finished in silver, with a metal, black-painted speaker panel. While the 938 is not of the build-quality of a Sony radio, I find it colorful, attractive and of a very handy size. The shape of the 938 is unique, having a nice "architecture": around the small tuning knob at the top right. It's a "cute" radio.
How well does this ECB 938 receive? Considering its size I'm satisfied with reception on all of its bands. I have to point out here that radio hobbyists living in a city with several strong FM stations will do well to design your own filtered antennas for SW reception in your area. In my location it makes the difference between hearing nothing but "hash" (sort of like white noise) on shortwave and hearing the international stations I'm actually wanting to tune in. Many newcomers to SWLing must have as their "first impression" of the hobby just a sea of noise. Filtering your antennas with simple coils of wire, (say 12 turns or so of wire wound in the diameter of a pencil) will greatly improve shortwave reception in many city locations. All that said, I'm using my ECB 938 with my own homemade "city dweller" antenna, simply a filter coil with about 12 inches of antenna at the end.
Sensitivity of the 938 is good. At night the mediumwave DX comes in well, although selectivity is wide, which is somewhat typical of these subcompact SW receivers. During the daytime, local AM stations sort of blend into eachother as you tune across the dial, although with practice nulling out locals there is sensitivity in the ECB 938 for hearing prominent fringe-stations. The major shortwave stations come in well, assuming you don't mind the shrill audio coming from the tiny speaker. Personally I find something to like about any sized radio, the strength of the 938 being the handy size. The tuning dial is stiff, and has noticeable "play". A bit of practice and you're used to this. My main complaint with my sample of the 938 is that factory alignment has pushed some important frequencies off-scale. This is worst in the 31 meter band, a large chunk of the lower portion of 31 meters can't be tuned on my 938. I might buy a second sample to compare with this. Generally I like the ECB 938, as long as it's less than $20 or so, plus shipping. Most any time I tune around on its shortwave ranges there is something to be heard, however it's good to point out to the newcomer to SWLing that shortwave receivers do of course get better than this! For its size, I might take two ECB 938's to have a spare handy.
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