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MOTOBRAS
RM-PFD76AC
FM/TV Sound/MW/5 SW Band Radio

Their Home Page
www.motobras.com.br

Motobras is a new (to my knowledge) Brazilian company with a range of portable World Band radios. The RM-PFD76AC is a medium-sized portable ala the Grundig S-350/Tecsun BCL2000. It's also a similar concept radio…analog tuning with digital readout. In addition to the usual SW/AM/FM coverage the Motobras throws in TV sound for good measure. AM covers 525 - 1720 KHz, SW covers nominally the 62, 49, 31, 25 and 19 meter bands - 5 SW bands), FM and TV sound is given as 69 -109 MHz.

In some ways this is an interesting initial foray into the World Band Radio market by a new company. Unfortunately, the dream falls short of reality in this new model for mostly mechanical reasons. It is my hope Motobras will build on the strengths of this model and eliminate its weaknesses…a future product along these lines could be interesting indeed.

Let me start with some positives…and there are several. The radio runs from AC with a built-in power supply (no wall wart needed) and has switchable voltage settings for 115/230 volts…a great feature for the world traveler. Alternately it will run from 4 D cells which should provide long life. The AM/ FM/SW reception of this radio is startlingly good, although I had to effect a minor repair to realize this. In fact, RF performance begins to rival my best portables. Clearly the designers know how to choose components and incorporate them into their design effectively. Sound quality is also very pleasing from this radio. The combination of analog tuning with digital readout is one I enjoy…smooth, chuff-free tuning with digital frequency readout…the best of both worlds. Of course, there are no digital features either…no direct frequency entry…no keypad or memories and there are no timer or clock features.

I mentioned some weaknesses earlier and here they are. When I first tried the radio I was struck by how difficult it is to turn the tuning knob…not at all like any other tuning knob I've encountered. It is SO stiff and difficult to tune that band scanning is unpleasant work. It takes strength and determination to turn that knob for more than a few seconds. I decided to take a peek inside the cabinet to see if this stiffness was easily remediable and I'm glad for the sake of this review that I did. I discovered that the rod antenna wire was broken off its solder lug and floating around loose inside the set. I resoldered it with no problems but I also discovered that one of the two mounting studs for the AC power transformer was broken so the transformer can wiggle around a bit. The other mounting stud it still intact…whether or not it will be after this radio is shipped a few more times is open to question. I'm glad I found the broken wire, though, because when I had first tried the SW it was so dead I hoped something had to be wrong. This restored sensitivity to all bands. Last but not least…the tuning knob. I was able to free it up just a bit by prying it a bit further out on its shaft but it's still harder to turn than seems normal. I stopped short of venturing into a dial string which disappeared beneath the printed circuit board. No heavy duty repairs on radios that don't belong to me, thank you. Probably the stiffness is a simple fix for the manufacturer and the power transformer mounting stud problem could be fixed either by the incorporation of a stronger plastic mounting stud or perhaps better packing to protect the radio better in shipment.

Another design flaw is a very poorly designed battery compartment and AC Line Cord Storage area. There is so little room that it takes the patience of a saint to feed the AC cord away in the space provided in order to leave room to install batteries. Even after several attempts, and finally getting the cord stowed with enough room left over, the place where the cord enters the battery compartment seemed to interfere with one of the battery contacts…the cord's placement keeps the battery from touching one of its terminals. I "solved" this issue by slipping a penny between the battery and that terminal, and this worked well, but this sort of jerry-rigging clearly shouldn't be necessary.

Still another design shortcoming is that there are several switches placed inconveniently on the back panel. There are switches there for AM/FM, AM/SW 1-5, AC/Battery and the voltage selector. Motobras please note: There should be some sort of protective device to make the voltage selector switch impossible to move accidentally. If you happened to be operating the radio from 230 volts and inadvertently switched that switch to 115 volts instead of the AM/FM switch or the AC/Battery switch (a good likelihood since they're on the back of the radio) I would imagine the radio would be instantly fried. This is a disaster waiting to happen and is not acceptable in a final production design.

Conclusion: I feel badly writing this review for a few reasons. First of all, Motobras is a new company trying to offer a product with good performance for a reasonable price. Second, this radio does actually perform very well…its reception was quite surprising and its sound, even without tone controls, is pleasing. It is a nice size radio…big enough to sound good and be easy to use yet small enough to be easy to pack or carry around the house. Unfortunately the design is hobbled by too many problems: The voltage selector problem, the tight tuning knob, the 2 damaged internal items caused either by shipping or a weakness in the design, the impossible battery compartment/cord storage issues. Finally some sort of dial illumination would be a plus.

It would appear Motobras needs to keep the electronic design of this radio but mechanically redesign it with these problems in mind. I think the result could be a fun and good performing radio. It could be considered a good value comparing it with a radio like the Grundig S-350 assuming the Motobras could sell for about $79 - $99 in the US, especially in view of its multi voltage deign, built in AC supply and TV sound thrown in as a bonus. Motobras…the ball is in your court!

Thanks to MotoBras for the opportunity to review this radio.

Comments or questions? Email me at jay@radiointel.com

Jay Allen

 

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