Shortwave Center, January 2006
As we enter another new year, please accept my very best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous one for you and yours. Let me also put in a word to the radio gods for improving propagation conditions. We’ve languished at the bottom of the solar cycle long enough, I say!
What a difference a month makes! Your SWC editor was a little under the weather and a little too snowed under at work last month resulting in no December column. Sincerest apologies. However, as you will see as you peruse the next few pages, we’ve come roaring back with two exciting club announcements from Ralph Brandi and Mike Wolfson, along with an excellent preliminary review of the groundbreaking and long-awaited Eton E1-XM by George Zeller. Ralph, Mike and George are all NASWA members and their contributions to this month’s column are greatly appreciated! How about you lending us a hand—your writing hand! Send your much anticipated submission for this column to your editor via e-mail or postal mail using the addresses on the masthead.
All that’s left for you to do is sit back, relax, read and enjoy!
NASWA Celebrates Ten Years on the Web with a New Web Site
Ten years ago, on January 2, 1996, NASWA announced the opening of its web site at http://www.anarc.org/naswa. The site has proved very popular over the years, winning design awards early on, and providing useful services like the WWW Shortwave Listeners Guide, a database of programs broadcast on shortwave stations, and the NASWA Country List and Awards Program Guide. For years, the NASWA site has ranked among the top sites when searching for relevant terms like “shortwave” on major search engines such as Google (where we have the top two links for “shortwave” and the top link for “shortwave radio”, and have for some years), making the NASWA site a popular destination for information about shortwave radio and the radio hobby. The site serves thousands of visitors every month.
But the hosting service that served the club well ten years ago no longer does. Space and bandwidth that seemed enormous ten years ago have not grown, as the original hosting company for the site was bought and bought again without any expansion of what our fees provided. Limitations served to forestall expansion opportunities. Other hosting companies offer much more for less money than our existing service provider. As we approached our tenth year on the web, the club decided to move the site to a new server, one that provides plenty of resources and room to expand.
This January, to mark our tenth year on the web, we introduce the new NASWA web site, www.naswa.net.
We’ve retained all of the favorite old features, such as the programming database and the country list. We’ve updated the site with new representative columns from the pages of The Journal. And we’ve added a few new twists. For example, any column posted to the site can be commented on by visitors.
The new NASWA web site also includes the resurrection of a feature we had for a while a few years ago, the NASWA Loggings Database. The Loggings Database contains virtually all loggings submitted to The Journal since November, 1998. By default, the search facility only searches the past two years worth of logs, since older items may not reflect current conditions on the bands. However, sometimes stations are reactivated after a considerable length of time, and you can search the entire database of more than 15,000 loggings covering more than seven years to reflect that. The club hopes that the Loggings Database will be a useful tool for club members and non-members alike in assisting identification of stations on the shortwave bands.
Behind the scenes, the new site is built using state-of-the-art tools that make it much easier to maintain than the old site, meaning that it will be easier to keep up to date. Almost all of the content on the site is kept in databases and dynamically generated, minimizing the amount of work required to post items. The design attempts to provide an attractive face while remaining simple to use and accessible to the blind and visually impaired. We’ve also built the site in such a way that none of the many links on the web to the old site will break; they will all be automatically redirected to the new site.
The opportunities that this move to a new server provide are impressive. Possibilities that may be implemented include a resurrection of the NASWA weblog, the first pioneering weblog to cover shortwave and international broadcasting, forums for discussing equipment and the latest catches, and maybe even podcasting. Whether these happen depends a lot on the membership of the club. One reason the old site fell behind the times was that there was only one person managing it. We would like to expand the circle of members involved in the site, and would like to hear from any members who would be interested in performing tasks like moderating forums or authoring posts for a potential weblog. If you’re interested in contributing, or if you just have comments on the new site, you can contact me, Ralph Brandi, by clicking on the link at the bottom of any page that says “Contact the webmaster”.
Old Meets New—The WRTH on CD
By Jerry Berg
38 Eastern Avenue
Lexington, MA 02421
If you are a WRTH collector or a shortwave history aficionado, you are probably among those of us who wish they had the very early WRTHs in their collections. Original WRTHs from the 1950s—especially the early 1950s—are increasingly hard to find, and 1940 editions are even more elusive and may cost you a king’s ransom if you locate one.
There is nothing like the feel of an old WRTH to give radio history some authenticity. However, if you are willing to accept an electronic alternative, you now have one. The ADDX—the Assoziation Deutschsprachiger Kurzwellenhörer, or Association of German DXers—has produced a CD containing the first 12 editions of the WRTH, from the first one in 1947 through the 1958 volume. The CD is the creation of Michael Schmitz, Editor-in-Chief of the ADDX magazine, “Radio-Kurier.” The WRTHs are in .pdf format, and they are complete, cover to cover. The quality of the images is very good, and while virtually all the WRTH content in those days was in black and white, the color covers are fully captured on the CD.
Use of the CD is very easy. You insert it into your disk drive, the Adobe Acrobat reader opens, and you see a page containing thumbnail images of the 12 editions. You click on the one you want and up it comes. You can page through or jump around in the book using the usual Acrobat features.
One of the very nice things about the CD is its search capability—all the WRTHs are fully searchable. You enter a search term and a panel appears showing all the places in the WRTH where that term can be found. You click on the place one you want to check and Acrobat takes you to it. In addition, you can search all the editions at once if you want to, although that is obviously slower. If you are into shortwave history, this is a powerful tool.
If your WRTHs from the 1940s are fifth generation photocopies, you are going to like this CD. It has a good looking label and it comes in a clear plastic case, and it is available through the NASWA Company Store. The CDs will be shipped directly from Germany. The price until 31 January, 2006 will be $50 US (including postage). From 1 February, 2006, the price will be $60 US. Checks should be made payable to the NASWA Company Store. The mailing address is: Mike Wolfson, 1842 Mifflin Ave., Ashland, Ohio 44805 USA.
The Eton E-1 Portable Receiver
A Preliminary Look
By George Zeller
Last summer I placed my name on the back order list for an Eton E-1 portable receiver at Universal Radio in Reynoldsburg, after only playing with one sample of the radio in the Universal showroom. Three months went by before Eton managed to ship an inventory to Fred Osterman at Universal.
But, in early November, my E-1 arrived.
There is already an excellent review of this receiver in the 2006 edition of Passport to World Band Radio on pp. 139-146 [as well as an exhaustive review by NASWA’s Alan Johnson elsewhere in this issue –ed.]. The radio is clearly a breakthrough model, and it deserves the seven page review, which is a lot of space in Passport for a portable receiver. I decided to evaluate the E-1 as a communications receiver, not as portable. That is of course an unfair comparison. The $500 US price of the E-1 is dramatically less than you would pay for a Ten Tec 340 or a used ICOM R-9000. But, it is also a dramatically higher price than you would pay for any other portable receiver. The radio straddles the line between a portable and a communications receiver, with some features of both.
I have only used the E-1 for about a week, so this review is only a preliminary first look at this extremely interesting new receiver.
Amazingly, this is the first portable receiver ever manufactured that incorporates both a passband tuning circuit and a three mode AM synchronous detector, including LSB, USB, and DSB. The E-1 has three bandwidth filters, nominally 7, 4, and 2.3 kHz. The radio also features variable AGC settings, including fast, slow, and automatic. The combination of these four features is unprecedented in a true portable receiver. Even many higher priced communications receivers do not include this combination of features. Therefore, it is clear that the E-1 is the first serious attempt to manufacture a portable with selectivity capabilities that might make it appealing as a DX rig. The filter combination is reminiscent of both the Drake SW8 and the Grundig 800 Boom Box. This is no accident, since the Eton E-1 was largely designed by Drake with the intention of marketing the radio as the Grundig Satellit 900. But, there have been changes in the radio since its history as the vaporware Satellite 900.
Frequency Coverage—The radio tunes 100 kHz to 30,000 kHz, covering the longwave, medium wave, and shortwave bands. In addition, it tunes the FM broadcasting band. In fact it tunes two FM broadcasting bands, either the 87 to 108 MHz North American FM band, or the 76 to 90 MHz Japanese FM band. Selection of the FM bands is done via a menu setting, so if you are headed for Tokyo you can easily change the band coverage. The precise frequency to which the E-1 is tuned is displayed on the front panel display screen in very large digits that are easy to see.
Modes—The radio tunes AM, AM synchronous detection (including LSB, USB, and DSB synch), FM (broadcasting bands only), upper sideband, and lower sideband modes. There are actually two versions of the sideband mode. An AF circuit can be selected via a menu if desired that allegedly provides an additional 30 dB of rejection of the undesired sideband when either USB or LSB is in use.
XM Mode—The E-1 receives XM satellite broadcasts, but only if the user purchases an outboard XM adaptor and also pays the XM company for the pay radio service. I refuse to pay for radio, so I do not have the XM adaptor, and I do not want one. Various reviews that I have seen on the internet and the E-1 manual both say that the battery drain of the E-1 in XM mode is high, so apparently this is a mode that works best with the external wall wart mains power supply. The XM mode does not work at all without the extra XM adaptor and the monthly cost of an XM satellite subscription.
Sensitivity—The nominal sensitivity spec for the E-1 is claimed at less than 4 µV normally, and less than a half a µV with the preamp on. The already published sensitivity measurements in Passport show that the E-1 comfortably exceeds these published specifications, with or without the preamp on. This is comparable to the legendary performance of the Sony 2010. FM sensitivity is quoted at 1.5 µV with the preamp on, and 4 µV with the preamp off. I did not test the radio yet as an FM DX receiver. The preamp does supply an audible boost to the AF gain, albeit with a slight reduction in the dynamic range of the receiver. This is the same situation that you see with preamps in virtually all receivers.
Selectivity—The three (3!!!) bandwidth filters nominally measure at 7, 4, and 2.3 kHz. This is very similar to the arrangement in the Drake SW8. The bandwidths are good choices. The wide one lets powerful signals blast in with excellent audio fidelity. The narrow one is good enough to copy CW and other digital signals. The medium bandwidth is a good compromise between the wide and narrow filters. The previously published Passport test measurements showed good shape factors for each of these three filters.
Front End—During my brief period of using the receiver I have noticed no images or mixing products, either with the supplied whip antenna or with an external antenna connected to the E-1. This is consistent once again with the previously published Passport test measurements. The preamp slightly degrades the front end performance, as preamps do in all receivers, but this has not been noticeable to me in an urban area full of RF interference from 50 Kw medium wave transmitters and other miscellaneous local RF pollution.
Tuning Resolution—The E-1 tunes in 100 Hz steps on LW/MW/SW and in 20 kHz steps in FM. The SW frequency resolution is shown on the receiver front panel to 100 Hz. This is unprecedented in a portable receiver. My own E-1 zero beats to all WWV frequencies within that 100 Hz resolution, with the display spot on.
Tuning methods—The E-1 has a tuning knob right on the front panel, unlike some other portables and even unlike a couple of communications receivers and all of the PC based receivers. The knob is small but it feels good while tuning in 100 Hz steps. It is larger than all of the other knobs on the front panel, but it is smaller than traditional knobs on communications receivers. There is a very convenient slewing button on the front panel for tuning up and down the bands in 5 kHz steps. That slewing button is adjustable via menu on medium wave to either 10 kHz or 9 kHz steps, for either North American or European bands. There also is keypad tuning by a front panel keypad that works well. Frequency entry on the keypad can be set via a menu to either kHz or MHz. Further, there is a very good band scanning function, labeled “seek,” which rapidly searches up the band until it comes to a signal that is louder than the squelch level that has been set with the front panel squelch knob. The seek function works as well as the excellent seek function in the Philips DC-777 car radio, and it has the added capability that it is linked to an adjustable squelch. Casual bandscanning for big signals is a real joy with this very good scanning search function. The only drawback to it is that it seeks in only one direction, and that is up. If you want to seek down, you have to tune below where you want to go and then seek scan up. Amazingly, during a seek scan, the E-1 stops right in the middle of station carriers, just like the Phillips DC-777.
Memories—The E-1 has the capability to store 1,700 frequencies in its memories. Of these, 500 are called “memory” channels, while the other 1,200 are called “country” channels. The memories store frequency, bandwidth filter, AGC setting, and mode, not merely the frequency. The memories can be given alphanumeric tags. So, the first thing that I did to try out the memories was to put 6925 kHz in there, and I labeled it as “PIRATE.” The memories work, but the procedure for storing and recalling those 1,700 memories and adding alphanumeric labels to them has a substantial learning curve attached to it. I am still in the middle of that learning curve, and I am not yet fluent in the operation of the memories. The complexity of the memory functions on the E-1 is not nearly as convenient as the memory pushbuttons on the front panel of the Sony 2010. In fact, until you learn how it works, it is quite confusing. But, the memory capacity is obviously much greater in the E-1 than it is in the Sony. There is a procedure where you can put several frequencies within the country memories, for instance a variety of BBC frequencies under United Kingdom, for the purpose of scanning those frequencies to see which one is active at the moment. I have not yet mastered this skill, given my ongoing learning curve to learn the procedures for E-1 memory storage and retrieval functions. So, I cannot give a full evaluation to this portion of the E-1’s capabilities. Be advised that the memory storage and retrieval functions are fairly complex, but it looks like they can eventually be mastered, even by a lummox like me. Once memories are stored, there is a dedicated “t-scan” front panel button that will scan through the stored memories to see if anything is active on the stored country memory frequencies. But, I am finding it more convenient to just toggle through the memories with the tuning knob. This is sort of like the old-style TV channel changer in the wonderful ICOM R-9000 arrangement for tuning through memories. But, the E-1 arrangement for tuning memories remains considerably more complicated than the ICOM procedure is.
AGC—The E-1 has variable AGC settings, unlike almost all other portables. These include fast, slow, and automatic. Attack time is claimed at 1 mSec, with the decay in 300 mSec in fast and 3 seconds in slow. An AGC threshold of 1 µV is claimed. The Passport test measurements again show that the E-1 actually exceeds this claimed specification. The automatic AGC function merely turns off the slow AGC while using the tuning knob to tune around the bands. An adjustable AGC is a function that breaks new ground in portable shortwave receivers.
S Meter—The S meter is a digital version that is displayed at the top of the large front panel screen. It shows S units, and it appears to be about as accurate as S meters are in most receivers. I normally do not care for digitally generated S meters, but this one works fairly well. It reminds me of the stunningly superb digital S meter in the Kneisner and Doering KWZ30, but it is not quite up to that standard of excellence.
Passband Tuning—The E-1 contains a good passband tuning circuit. This is almost unknown in other portable shortwave receivers. The passband shift moves the IF in sideband modes, and it functions well. It also functions in AM modes, although in AM all that it does is detune the signal away from a carrier. The current offset of the PBT control is visible on the front panel with 100 Hz steps on the offset display. That is of course amazing. Only expensive DSP receivers have had that capability in the past. The PBT function can narrow the effective bandwidth of the 2.3 kHz filter, of course.
Automatic Clock Set—The E-1 has two internal clocks. One is set to UTC and the other is set to local time, with the local time offset from UTC selectable in a menu. The UTC clock always appears in the upper right corner of the front panel display. It shows only hours and minutes, but not seconds. Interestingly enough, the E-1 claims to automatically set the clocks by referencing WWV (not WWVB) while the radio is off. It allegedly scans the various WWV frequencies until it hears one with sufficient strength, and then it automatically sets the clocks to the WWV signal. I use the word allegedly, since although I have set my E-1 to do this, I have not yet verified that it actually works. As I write this, the E-1 clock in my radio is almost one second fast. I am still waiting for the E-1 to synchronize with WWV to the precise second, despite leaving the radio plugged in with the antenna extended overnight. In XM mode, the E-1 supposedly does the same synchronization to the correct time from the XM satellite signals. Not having the XM adaptor in my possession, I cannot verify or refute this claim.
Front Panel Display—The unusually large E-1 front panel display takes up much of the front of the receiver. It is well lit when the panel illumination light is on. It displays the tuned frequency to 10 Hz in very large digits. The display also contains the nice S meter, the UTC clock, indications of the mode in use, identification of the meter band being tuned, and labels for all of the buttons used to set the various parameters in the radio. The display is black on white, unlike the odd orange and green coloring found on the display panel on some other portables and communications receivers. (See below for one significant flaw in the front panel display, which is #5 in the list of receiver warts).
Power Supply—The E-1 uses four D cell batteries or a supplied AC to DC wall wart to draw power from a mains power supply. I have not tested battery drain, but allegedly it is modest current drain for a receiver of this type. The wall wart does not produce interference to the receiver, in my experience. The front panel illuminating light turns itself off when battery power is in use to conserve the batteries, but there is a button on the top of the E-1 to turn it back on, if desired.
Size—The Eton E-1 is about one inch taller and one inch wider than a Sony 2010. In depth it is about a half inch fatter than a Sony 2010. Thus, the E-1 is a true portable receiver, and it is not a boom box. For those of us used to 2010s it will be a real eye opener to hear the depth of audio that can come out of a portable shortwave receiver inside a relatively small case. It is actually astonishing.
Timers—The E-1 contains two timers, which enable the radio to function as a clock radio, if desired. There is even a snooze button on the top of the radio. But, I assume that few people will purchase an E-1 primarily for use as a clock radio because of the E-1’s price.
The E-1 uses a supplied whip antenna. That antenna is well mated to the radio circuitry, and I have been surprised to find how sensitive the radio is with just that whip antenna in use. But, for DX purposes, an external antenna is of course desirable. Unfortunately, the external antenna connector on the side panel of the radio is a nonstandard PAL jack. Thus, in order to connect the E-1 to an external antenna, some means of adapting a PL259 jack from standard coax cable connections to a PAL female jack is necessary. Fred Osterman at Universal Radio sells a SO239 to KOK adaptor for this purpose at a modest price of $7.95. Or, you can take your chances at Radio Shack as you try to find a scheme to meld a PL259 coax cable connector to a PAL female connector on the side of the E-1. Radio Shack does sell an F to PAL Adapter as part #278-265B. This is a very important point that should be understood before an E-1 is purchased. The antenna adaptor does not come standard with the E-1 receiver, despite the fact that the manual claims that this adaptor is supplied. Nobody should purchase an E-1 unless they simultaneously purchase the proper PAL antenna adaptor so that an external antenna can be hooked up to the receiver.
On the side panel of the radio there is a switch that toggles between the supplied whip antenna and an external antenna. I did not notice this switch at first. When I initially connected the E-1 to an external antenna, the received signals actually declined by 2 S units in comparison with the E-1 whip antenna. That baffled and stunned me at first, until I discovered the slide switch to change to the external antenna. That sort of blunder is sort of like the time that I took down Ed Mauger’s antenna at a French Creek DXpedion by mistake. But, my initial blunder may actually have value in retrospect. The reduction in the signals with the external antenna switch off suggests to me that the antenna connection switch appears to be well shielded and effective.
So, How Well Does The E-1 Work?
Right out of the box, I was very pleasantly surprised by the performance of the E-1, even prior to the time when I figured out the complexity of the memory, scanning, and menu functions. The audio coming out of the E-1 is very good, indeed. The main feature that makes the radio jump out and grab you is the stunningly outstanding performance of the AM synchronous detector. It produces very good audio right out of the internal speaker that is in the E-1. That audio is adjustable by front panel treble and bass controls, a feature absent on almost all communications receivers. There is an audio line out for use with an external speaker and a second headphone jack, which can improve the audio quality even more. The AF line out jacks are a small walkman-style connections that are designed for Walkman headphone jacks. But, there is an audio line in as well, using an identical walkman-style jack. Certainly JRC would never put an audio line in as part of their communications receiver design, and none of the other current manufacturers do this, either, since no modern communications receivers come with a decent internal speaker. The E-1 has been designed to be a radio that puts out very good listenable audio, particularly for program listening purposes. The fact that other receiver manufacturers never consider this point is very odd, indeed. After all, we use radios to hear the audio from demodulated radio signals. Thus, the attention to audio quality in the E-1 is immediately noticeable and strongly commendable. Local FM audio on music sounds very good, too, with a wide AF frequency response from the internal speaker. (There of course is no stereo reproduction through the single internal speaker in the E-1). FM audio to external speakers or headphones can be set to mono or stereo via menu. The radio has a circuit similar to those found in most car radios that automatically shifts very weak FM broadcast signals to mono, until sufficient gain comes back in the signal to automatically switch it back to stereo. It does not appear that the E-1 demodulates AM stereo audio as stereo on domestic medium wave stations that transmit stereo signals.
The synchronous detector performs better than any other synch detector that I have seen except for an outboard Sherwood SE-3. The E-1 synchronous detector locks easily on even weak carriers, and then it holds lock vigorously. If there is adjacent channel interference, the LSB or USB synch knocks the QRM right out, in combination with the three bandwidth filters. Thus, recoverable audio from weak signals is unusually good in the E-1, particularly for a portable receiver. The combination of the outstanding synchronous detector, the three bandwidths, the adjustable AGC and the passband tuning circuit make the E-1 a candidate for DXing, at least in portable use.
I have not yet used the receiver in a quiet DXpediton setting, so I reserve the right to have future additional opinions, either pro or con, on the suitability of the E-1 as a portable DX receiver.
The first day that I took it out of the box, I heard three North American shortwave pirates on the E-1 using just the supplied whip antenna. Those included WMPR, Undercover Radio, and Captain Morgan, all on 6925 kHz. I also heard Take it Easy Radio on 6925 with about equal ease on the E-1 and the ICOM R-9000 during the weekend after that, as well as a new pirate, WEKG, with the same results. An extremely weak signal from North American pirate WCAP was barely copied on both an ICOM R-9000 and the E-1. The recoverable audio from this extremely weak and barely copied signal was about the same on the E-1 and the ICOM. I tried the E-1 late in the afternoon, to see how it would fare as the Africans fade in at my home location in Ohio just before local sunset. The E-1 was pulling in clearly audible signals from very weak Africans as they faded in on 60 meters. This was a very good sign. This is my favorite method of testing intelligible audio out of a receiver on a weak signal. So, early tests of the DX receiving ability of the E-1 are coming out favorably.
There is some complexity in learning to use the receiver, particularly in terms of the menus for setting internal function parameters and in terms of storing and recalling memories. But, fortunately the E-1 manual is fairly well written and is easy to understand. Keeping the manual handy is helpful during the learning curve for interacting with the fine points of the menus and memories. The manual could use an index, but it does not have one. Nevertheless, it is a useful manual. The manual does contain a table of contents, as well as a block diagram of the E-1’s circuitry, but there is no schematic diagram provided. You can download the manual from the internet if you want to take a look at it:
The cabinet in which the E-1 circuitry is housed deserves brief comment. As is the case with the large majority of portables, the E-1 case is plastic. But, it is a strange kind of plastic that almost feels rubbery to the fingers. It looks like this material will resist scratching, but we shall see about this over the long run.
There are a handful of features in the E-1 which lower its level of performance below some communications receivers.
- No Noise Blanker. There is no noise blanker in the E-1, and thus noise cancellation can be a problem in noisy RF environments. You have to deal with local RF noise via external antennas while using the E-1, since the receiver has no noise cancellation capabilities. My local urban noise in Cleveland is significantly more audible (and thus more bothersome) on the E-1 than it is on my other receivers, especially on longwave and medium wave. The same sad situation is true with static on the bands in my early listening tests. Static sounds somewhat harsher on the E-1 than it does on my Ten Tec 340 or my ICOM R-9000. I am at a loss in trying to explain this quirk, but it is definitely apparent to my ears. It is possible that good audio reproduction causes static and noise to be audible, just as program content from a transmitter is audible with good AF fidelity. After all, the noise is in fact there on the band, and the E-1 reproduces it clearly. There is no internal E-1 function that can attempt to attenuate this noise in the IF, but you can try to shape it out of the audio with the effective AF treble and bass controls.
- No Ferrite Rod. There is no ferrite rod inside the cabinet for use as an antenna on Medium Wave. For MW use, the whip antenna is the default, or you can add an outboard MW antenna through the nonstandard PAL jack. Some MW antennas that are designed to inductively couple with an internal ferrite rod inside a portable radio will therefore not work well with the E-1.
- Audio Contains Some Hiss. The otherwise excellent audio in the E-1 is somewhat marred by a continually audible hiss noise, particularly when using the wide 7 kHz bandwidth. This is not unlike the hiss noise that was notorious in the JRC NRD 525. The hiss noise can be cut by turning the treble adjustment down, but this AF solution mars the otherwise excellent audio output from the E-1.
- No Carrying Handle. There is no carrying handle for the E-1. There is not even any provision for a strap handle like the Sony 2010 had. This is an odd design feature for a portable radio. I am going to have to consider the purchase of an aftermarket case of some kind to transport the radio around. No carrying case comes supplied with the radio.
- Front Panel Display Invisible from Some Angles. One very unusual property of the E-1 is that for the front panel display to be visible, you have to look at it with your eyes perpendicular to the display. If you look downward toward the front panel display from an angle other than perpendicular, all of the markings on the display are completely invisible. I have never seen a display monitor like this one before, so it is something to be aware of. In order to solve the problem of the front panel visibility and the lack of a carrying handle, Fred Osterman at Universal Shortwave sells a plastic stand that the radio can be placed on while in use. That provides a good visual angle for the front panel display. You can also avoid the problem by using the E-1 like a laptop so that you are always looking down from a perpendicular angle at the front panel display.
- No Notch Filter. The E-1 does not have a notch filter built in. So, the elimination of heterodynes has to be done with creative use of the USB/LSB functions either in ECSS or in AM Synch, along with creative use of the passband tuning control. The lack of a notch can be troublesome in some DX situations.
- Antenna Jack is Low Impedance. The E-1 is designed to have its nonstandard PAL antenna jack mated with a low impedance antenna. Standard coax cable is designed to connect with HF antennas that are relatively high impedance for this purpose. When I at first found that external antennas lowered signal levels in the E-1 because of my failure to notice the external antenna switch on the side panel, I theorized that this impedance mismatch might be related to my problem. It turned out that this was not true, and I was just ignorant of the antenna switch. But, this is an issue for future experimentation. It might be desirable to lower the impedance of external antennas with an antenna tuner or a balun for enhanced DX performance. My Alpha Delta sloper appears to work fine with the E-1, but I may try out a tuner or a balun later, to see whether it improves signal levels.
- Quality Control. There is concern in DX circles about manufacturing quality control from the new generation of shortwave receivers that are manufactured in mainland Asia. The E-1 is manufactured in Bangalore, India. Thus, some of the quality control problems that have been seen in the past in shortwave portables manufactured in China may possibly be less evident in production samples of the E-1. I know for sure that my own sample is not a dud. It will remain to be seen how consistent the quality of production will be in the E-1 samples shipped for sale in North America.
My Overall Evaluation
After only one week of use, I am very pleasantly surprised with the excellent performance of the Eton E-1 portable receiver. It is fun to use, and it actually performs well. It may not be a Watkins Johnson or Ten Tec DSP monster, but in my judgment this radio sets a new standard to which all other portables will be compared. Aside from the slight hiss in the wide bandwidth audio, the quality of the audio received in the E-1 is very, very good, indeed. This is true on both local FM music programming and also on shortwave. The radio is sensitive even with the built in whip antenna, and thus, it is a good candidate for portable use, even for DXing. At $500 the receiver is at the pricey end of the portable range, but with all of the features it supports, including the stunningly good synchronous detector, I think that the receiver is worth $500. This radio is certain to have a major impact on the DX hobby.
Many of the sales that the E-1 is generating so far are from nontraditional retailers in our hobby such as Sharper Image and other firms that do not specialize in shortwave equipment. Unfortunately, the radio is sufficiently complex that it is likely that many people purchasing the radios will be complete novices in shortwave listening. Thus, it would be a good idea if the receiver were coupled with a copy of the WRTH or Passport, or even a NASWA membership, when it is sold to casual owners. But, this is not happening in the retail market, so there are bound to be some disappointed E-1 customers who have no idea what shortwave radio is. Thus, they will probably be unable to take full advantage of the complexity and features that the E-1 supports. When it turns out that they find that they cannot hear Panama or Trinidad after all, there may be some disappointed novice purchasers of this receiver. They would be better off if they buy their E-1 from Universal Shortwave or Grove Enterprises, where they can be matched with shortwave radio information that will not be available at Sharper Image.
In addition, the XM side of the radio is another source of customers for the receiver. Some people probably are buying the radio primarily for its XM capabilities, which I did not. Most of the XM people probably are also relatively ignorant of shortwave radio. They could also use a copy of Passport or WRTH, as well as a subscription to NASWA, PopComm, or Monitoring Times so that they can get some initial educational exposure to shortwave radio.
On the internet I have noticed some complaints that although the E-1 does support XM satellite radio, it does not currently support either DRM or RDS. Since XM satellite radio is not audible in Europe, and since DRM shortwave and RDS channel identifiers are both widespread in Europe, this may hurt the marketing of the E-1 in Europe.
Having said all this, I am very pleased that I purchased an Eton E-1 receiver. I suspect that many of the readers of this review will also want to do the same. If you do get one, I think that like me, you will be very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the receiver’s performance. Once you get hooked on the astonishingly superb E-1 synchronous detector, all of your other radios will seem timid when compared with the E-1. I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough. Years from now, the E-1 will be remembered for its phenomenal synchronous detector.
But, given the various warts that I describe here, it does not look like the E-1 will replace traditional tabletop communications receivers for serious DXing. Nevertheless, this is a DX capable receiver that is worth consideration by serious DXers who are looking for a portable DX rig. The radio is going to generate some excitement in our hobby.