Degen DE1103 review

The Degen DE1103 is a portable continuous coverage HF receiver and also covers the VHF broadcast band.

The principle specifications are as follows:

Frequency range:
FM 76 - 108 MHZ (stereo using supplied headphones)
AM/SSB 100KHz - 29.999KHz

FM _ 10uV or better
MW__1mV/m or better
SW_  20uV or better

Size 165*105*29mm
Weight 300g (excluding batteries)

My view

Upon first inspection the radio appears to be solidly built and is reassuringly heavy. Its compact size together with the dual alarm clock facility makes it an ideal companion when traveling. Also included in the box is the mains charger, a set of rechargeable batteries, a pair of in-ear headphones, a long wire antenna and a soft carrying bag.

The first job is to charge the batteries. The ones supplied with my model were 1300mAh NiMh types and take about 13 hours to fully charge with the supplied charger, although the radio can also be used from the mains supply whilst charging is in progress. Unlike some other radios that I have used there does not appear to be any increase in background noise from the supply when operating from the mains. The set up for charging is unusual as you need to press the VOL button when the radio is in standby mode and then adjust the charging time by moving the volume/tuning knob. I think that it would have been far easier just to have an automatic charging circuit.

The volume/tuning knob covers a multitude of functions with this radio and takes a little getting used to.  To adjust the volume you first need to press the VOL button and then adjust the level using the knob, as its default function is to adjust the frequency. Basic frequency input can be accomplished by inputting a frequency using the row of buttons along the bottom of the display followed by one of the two BAND buttons. You can also tune up or down from the display frequency using the tuning knob. Another method is to use one of the 256 memories.

The display is in two parts with a digital display of the frequency at the top and a slide-rule type electronic display underneath, which reminiscent of the linear dials on the old analog radios. The slide rule display only only covers specific sections of the HF spectrum and if you reach the end frequency on any sub-band you will automatically go back to the opposite end of that band. This is a minor irritation, particularly if you want to tune the Amateur 10MHz band. If you input 10000KHz then start tuning up the next step is 9Mhz, as the radio goes back to the other end of the band. To tune across the 10MHz band you will need to input 10001KHz and tune from there. 

Most people will want to use a radio like this to tune the short-wave bands although the FM audio quality is very good (particularly when using the headphones). I did find that the audio quality from music stations on AM was not as good as I would have liked for relaxed listening. This is probably due to the tight filtering of the receiver.

This is a radio where you will need to keep the manual handy, at least until you get used to it. The big advantage is that RF performance is fantastic for a radio of this size and price. Most radios will work well with a decent antenna, this one works exceptionally well on just the telescopic whip. Amateur radio operators can be easily received as the radio has a BFO control to resolve SSB transmissions and excellent sensitivity. There is also a line-out jack so that you can record easily from the radio or plug into your PC sound card to decode Morse code and other digital modes using free software such as Multipsk.

Despite a few minor niggles, I really like this radio and would recommend it to anyone. My one came direct from China via Ebay and cost about £44 including delivery.