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RADIO SHACK
DX-375
DX-396

The DX-375 and DX-396 were similar solid entry level digital AM/FM Stereo/Shortwave PLL portables offered by Radio Shack in the 1990's. The 396 replaced the 375, when it was phased out. Unlike most shortwave radios of the era sold by Radio Shack, these were not manufactured by Sangean. It was rumored that they were built by Tecsun. Supporting this rumor is the similarity of the 375 to the Grundig YB-305 which was made for Lextronics by Tecsun.

In this review, we will describe the features, performance and differences between the two radios.

Size
Both radios are identical in size measuring 7.25"L x 4.75"H x 1.5"W. They also weigh the same - 18 oz. without batteries.

Frequency Coverage

AM/MW 530 - 1710 kHz
FM 87.5 - 108 MHz
SW 2300 - 21850 kHz (the 375 excludes 6250 - 7100 kHz)

On shortwave, the radios receive in AM mode only (no single sideband). FM stereo reception is possible with stereo headphones.

Tuning
Both portables use the following tuning steps: 9 or 10 kHz on AM/MW, 100 or 200 kHz on FM and 5 kHz on SW. A small switch in the battery compartment allows the user to choose the tuning increments on AM/MW and FM.

Changing frequencies is accomplished manually with the up/down buttons. Neither radio has a tuning knob. Both radios offer direct frequency entry by pressing the "Enter" button, entering the frequency on the keypad and then hitting "Enter" again. Also provided, is the search/scan feature. By pressing and holding the up/down button, the radio will scan and then stop on the next strong signal. On the 396, the scan feature cycles from the low to high end of a defined shortwave "sub-band" and then repeats from the bottom.

When in the shortwave band, pressing the SW select button on the 375 will take you to each of the 12 defined shortwave "sub-bands" (49 meters, 41 meters…and so on). On the 396, you press the SW select button and then a keypad number button that is associated with a specific "sub-band." The "sub-band" is marked next to the keypad number button.

A red LED lights up when a signal of sufficient strength is tuned in.

Memories/Presets
Both radios provide 10 memories each for FM, AM/MW and SW - for a total of thirty. A memory scan button enables the user to scan through the memories. The radio stops for about 5 seconds on each one.

Antennas
AM/MW reception is via the internal ferrite loopstick. FM is received off the 27" telescoping whip antenna. Shortwave reception is achieved through a combination of the ferrite and whip antennas. The 375 manual indicates that the whip/ferrite work together on shortwave between 41 and 13 meters, otherwise the whip antenna takes care of shortwave receptions. The 396 manual states that shortwave reception is a combined effort of the ferrite and whip below 7100 kHz, with the whip handling the reception above that frequency.


Power
This is what is so great about the 375/396. They run on two C cells….for a very long time. I suspect that the battery life in the 375 is slightly longer than in the 396, since it has no clock to power. We wish more radios would incorporate higher capacity C cells vs. AA's - even at the expense of added weight and size.

Additionally, one could use a 3 volt AC/DC adapter to power the radios, but I wouldn't fool with one though given the exceptional battery life. A note of caution, the center tip of the power jacks are of different polarity (negative on the 375, positive for the 396).

Clocks/Alarm/Sleep
This is a major difference between the radios. The 375 has no clock or alarm. The 396 provides both.

The 396 has two clocks and can be set to either 12 or 24 hour format. The alarm can be set either to turn the radio on to the last station/volume setting or to beeps. If not shut off, the radio or beeping will continue for one hour.

Both radios offer the sleep countdown timer which automatically shuts the radio off. The shut off period for the 375 is 60 minutes. On the 396, it is variable and can be set for 90, 60, 30 or 15 minutes.

Other features
Both portables provide a lock switch, DX/local sensitivity switch, power jack, hi/lo tone control, rotary volume control, carrying strap and flip stand. No backlight is provided.

Layout
The radios are quite similar. The 3" speaker takes up the left front of the radio. The general layout of the other controls are very similar. One difference is that the keypad is "high" on the 396 and "low" on the 375. A listing of each shortwave "sub-band" is printed adjacent to the display.

Ergonomics
While the radios are indeed very similar, I find the location of the keypad to be better on the 375. I tend to hold a radio from the bottom and on the 375, it is easy to reach all the controls with my right thumb. It takes a bit more effort to "scale" the 396 in order to reach all the buttons.

As a personal preference, I prefer the horizontal look of the display window on the 375 vs. the more vertical look of the 396.

The buttons on the 396 have a harder/tighter/clicky response than those on the 375.

Both radios weigh the same, but is seems as though the "center of gravity" is lower for the 375. It is a bit more stable than the 396 when standing upright.

Performance
AM/MW
I find that the 375 to be somewhat more selective and sensitive than the 396 on MW. The difference is not dramatic but noticeable. Over the years, I have found the 375 to be a very worthy MW performer.

FM
The older 375 wins out here also. On my weak signal test, the 375 can easily separate and clearly receive a weak classical station adjacent to a strong urban noise maker. Reception of the same station is difficult and intermittent on the 396.

SW
Ok, will the 396 outperform the 375 in any category? YES. It does on shortwave! Side-by-side comparisons of the two radios proved to be no contest. The 396 simply blew the 375 away in reception across the spectrum. The difference was particularly noticeable at 25 meters and above. The 396 did a much better job of receiving weaker shortwave signals.

Audio
The hi tone setting on the 396 is so tinny that it is distracting. You pretty much have to keep it in the low tone setting at all times. Both settings provide pleasing audio on the 375.

Bottom Line
I have owned both radios for a while, the 375 considerably longer and it has always been a favorite on-the-go AM/FM portable with shortwave as a nice add-on. I never used the radios much for shortwave in favor of higher end portables. I was very surprised at how much better the 396 performed on shortwave! This was one review I have done where I certainly learned something new.

If shortwave is your primary reason for owning a 375 or 396 (and you would have to assume it would be..), I recommend that you go with the 396.

Best DX
Russ K3PI

 

 

 

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