PLL Dual Conversion
AM/FM/SW Portable Receiver

Introduced in China in 2002, the Degen DE1101 started to catch the attention of radio users around the work.

In the past couple of years, we have seen Kaito introduce several low cost analog shortwave radios for the USA market. More recently, they brought three Degen digital portables to the USA with enough features to cause traditional Sangean / Sony / Grundig (Eton) users to take notice. Just how well do these new offerings perform? Thanks to Radios4You.com, we got a chance to review the Kaito KA1101. A separate review on radiointel.com covers the Degen DE1102 (sold in the USA as the Kaito KA1102).

Out Of The Box

Hey, it's smaller than I thought it would be. The 1101 measures approximately 3.5"H x 5.5"W x 1"D and weights 11 ounces with batteries. Included with the radio is a 22 page operating manual/pamphlet. Included also is an AC adapter, earbuds, extended antenna wire, carry case and three 1300 mah NiMH rechargeable AA cells.

What is Where?
The 66 mm speaker is located at the left front of the radio. The LCD display is at the upper right. Centered below the display is the 10-key keypad organized like a standard telephone lay out (the 0 key is centered under the 8 key….thanks!). To the right of the keypad are Enter and Erase (clear) buttons that also serve as mode changers (alarm, time set, sleep, etc.) primarily when the radio is off.

Four buttons are located to the left of the keypad. These are: Power on/off, band change (also functions as battery charge), memory (also functions as lock) and a wide/narrow filter in AM/SW (functions as mono/stereo in FM). A small reset is located next to wide/narrow. A small light sensor is located to the left of the display.

Left Side

External antenna jack for FM and SW. Local/DX switch (note this works in FM).


Right Side

From top to bottom:
Carrying strap
Volume control
2 position tone switch
Line out jack
Mini headphone jack
DC power jack.


Flip stand and battery compartment.

The whip antenna (28" fully extended) pivots fully from the left side. It folds over to the right and locks in when not in use.

How does it play?
The 1101 can toggle between 9 and 10 kHz spacing (via a "menu" setting which is activated by resetting the radio). There is no 1 kHz fine tune feature. The radio covers the full expanded MW band, 520-1710 kHz.

I find the 1101 to be quite sensitive. It was able to pick up weak signals better than the Sangean 606 (Radio Shack DX-399) and nearly as well as the Radio Shack DX-375/396.
The downside here is that it is quite susceptible from overload from local stations. My local 5 kw slopper at 1440 could be heard +/- 50 kHz in wide filter setting. The narrow filter contained the sidebands to about +/- 30 kHz. Both the 606/399 and the 375/396 were far better in terms of selectivity. I found the DX/Local switch to have no impact in the AM/MW band.

FM is covered in two different ways. "FM" covers the North America FM band (87.7-108 MHz). "FML" covers the frequencies 70-95 MHz; this covers the FM band in parts of Asia. Stereo reception is available via headphones. It is possible to switch between stereo and mono. Up/down steps in FM are 50 kHz.

Overall reception was quite good. Relatively weak signals were received. I would characterize the audio as being somewhat above average. It appears that the read-out is off by 50 kHz on FM. For example, reception of a station at 90.1 is better at 90.15. I noticed this phenomenon for several stations. It could well be due to unit-to-unit variation in the radio.

Shortwave..this is where the KA1101 really shines. The 1101 breaks its shortwave coverage into two bands. 3 - 10 MHz is called SW1. 10-26.1 MHz is the SW2 band. Up/down steps are 5 kHz and there is no fine tuning capability. Reception is exceptional just off the whip antenna. In the late afternoon on the east coast, I was easily receiving stations in the 16, 22, 25, 3, 41 and 49 meter bands. WWV on 15 MHz was fairly good copy. The wide/narrow filter is effective on shortwave as does the DX/Local attenuator control. Note that the 1101 does not receive single sideband. The 1102 model does, however.

As you tune through the 12 defined "shortwave bands", the band is shown on the display (i.e., 19 M). I found the 1101 to be the equal of the Sangean 606 and the Radio Shack DX-375/396. The use of the included extended antenna wire plugged into the external antenna jack improved reception slightly. Perhaps this is more of a benefit in weaker signal areas. I also tried a real external longwire antenna. It created an overload situation for the 1101.

The Display
The LCD display window measures approximately 1" x 2". The large numerals (for frequency and time) measure approximately 5/16" high. These numerals are pretty easy to read and seem less susceptible to the viewing angle, as compared to other radios.

Clock Mode
The 1101 displays the clock mode when the radio is off. The clock is in 24 hour format only. Hours and minutes are displayed in large numerals. The seconds are shown in smaller digits.

Radio Mode
The frequency is predominantly shown on the display. An oddity of the 1001 is that the final digit in FM and SW is a small one. For example on shortwave, the frequency 7.415 is displayed with the "5" about half the size as the rest of the frequency numerals. The same is true of the "5" on the FM frequency of 88.15, for example. A W/N indicators is displayed to show what filter selection is in use (on FM, it is replaced by indication of stereo reception). The "band" selected (FM, MW, etc) is shown as is the shortwave band (see the shortwave section of this review). The preset memory chosen is also displayed (0 - 9).

Common to Clock and Radio Mode
The following symbols are shown in both the clock or radio mode: battery level, alarm on/off, alarm chosen (beep or radio-on), lock…

The 1101 can be powered by the supplied AC adapter or 3 AA cells. The radio comes supplied with three rechargeable AA cells. The AC adapter charges the Ni MH cells in the 1101's built in charger.

The radio ran fine with the AC adapter. I did not experience any hash or buzzing in the radio. The battery indicator has 3 bars. After running the radio for approximately 10 hours on alkaline AA cells, the indicator dropped to 2 bars. Based on that, I am predicting good battery life on the 1101.

The 1101 provides 10 memory positions for each of the 5 "bands." They are accessed by simply pressing the corresponding key on the keypad. The radio has a light sensing device which is interesting. When light conditions are low, the backlight will come with the push of any key/button. The scan feature works well on the 1101. Just press and hold down the up or down button for a second and the radio scans to the next strong signal on the band in use.

The 1101 provides a digital clock in 24 hour format. Two alarms are provided, one that beeps and the other that turns on the radio to the last listened to frequency. The beep alarm lasts for one minute. The radio alarm can be set to remain on for up to 99 minutes. A sleep countdown timer comes on automatically when the radio is turned on. It defaults to 99 minutes. You have three seconds to turn it off or adjust it to fewer minutes.

What Do I Like?
Well, for sure the price is right. This is a lot of radio (plus AC adapter, earbuds, batteries, etc) for $70. Beyond the price, I like:
- good overall sensitivity
- ease of use
- easy to read the main numerals on the display
- wide/narrow filter
- battery hatch that stays attached to the radio (see below)

What Would I Change?
For starters, the selectivity could be better on AM/MW. Other stuff:
- the volume control is in a goofy spot. It is at the extreme top of the right side just where the carry strap attaches to the radio. You almost can't help getting "caught up" in the carry strap when adjusting the volume.
- Some of the display icons on the 1101 are tough to see
- The alarm beep is pretty faint…don't think it would wake me up (use the radio-on).
- The flip stand is a very tight snap-fit. I can see this breaking off before long.

What's The Difference Between The Kaito KA1101 and The Degen DE1101?

Performance wise there are no differences. However there are three major differences that one should consider before purchasing the DE1101 over the KA1101.

First, The wall wort is for 220v AC. This makes using the internal AA charger on the DE1101 a little more difficult if you plan to use the radio in the USA where 110v AC is the norm.

Second, The DE1101 has 9 kHz tuning steps only for AM (MW). This makes using the radio in the USA not as attractive. The KA1101 has a 9/10 kHz option.

Third, The keypad and all other marking on the radio are in Chinese (see above for left and right side of the DE1101).

This is a remarkable value at $70. The Kaito KA1101 would make a very good shortwave radio for the hobby newcomer. It would also make an excellent radio for the traveler who doesn't want to risk his $200+ portable in a travel situation.

Best DX
Russ K3PI
December 3, 2003


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