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.
review, we will describe the features, performance and differences
between the two radios.
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.
the radios receive in AM mode only (no single sideband). FM stereo
reception is possible with stereo headphones.
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.
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.
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.
LED lights up when a signal of sufficient strength is tuned in.
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.
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.
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.
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).
is a major difference between the radios. The 375 has no clock or
alarm. The 396 provides both.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
personal preference, I prefer the horizontal look of the display window
on the 375 vs. the more vertical look of the 396.
on the 396 have a harder/tighter/clicky response than those on the
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.