The Grundig "Eton" S350DL Deluxe AM/FM/Shortwave Radio
Copyright © April 12, 2010 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
Based on the feedback I have received from several people, the quality and reliability of the currently available "Solar Powered Radios" and "Hand-Crank Radios" is significantly lower than what it was a few years ago. Therefore, I can no longer recommend a specific brand name or model of "Solar Hand-Crank Radio" that is currently available for sale and which would be suitable for a serious hard times tragedy event.
Therefore I strongly suggest that you purchase both of the following two items instead:
The radio I currently recommend is the Grundig "Eton" S350DL Deluxe AM/FM/Shortwave Radio (picture on right). It can be purchased for approximately $100 at any of the following locations:
- a "solar battery charger" that will recharge flashlight size batteries, and
- a battery-operated AM/FM/Shortwave radio.
Note 1: If you visit the Amazon web site you will probably notice that they sell the Grundig S350DL for approximately $100 and the Eton S350DL for approximately $179. These are the same exact radio. Therefore, do not purchase the "Eton" radio and assume that you are going to receive a much higher quality nicer radio than the Grundig. Both radios are exactly the same.
- Your local Radio Shack Store (give them a call and see if they have it in stock).
- At NewEgg.com with Free Shipping.
- At Amazon.com.
Note 2: I do not earn a commission or fee of any kind if you click on the above links, or if you buy a radio from one of the above internet web sites. The above links are being provided solely for your convenience.
Note 3: Before making a final decision about this radio I suggest that you download and read the Complete Instruction Manual for the S350DL at this link: http://www.etoncorp.com/upload/contents/307/S350_manual_lowres_GRUN.pdf
Note 4: I rarely mention my background or my credentials. However, in this case I think an exception might be appropriate. In 1996 I became an FCC licensed amateur radio operator (ham radio). I currently have an Extra Class License, which is the highest license an individual can acquire. Therefore the following comments are not the random babblings of someone who is easily impressed with the latest technological gadget.
The Features of the Grundig S350DL Deluxe AM/FM/Shortwave Radio
Ease of Use: Let's begin by rating this radio based on how easy or difficult it is to operate using a simple scale of 1 to 10 as follows:
Size of the Radio: The radio measures approximately 12.25-inches long, 7-inches high (without the carrying strap), and 3.75-inches deep. With the carrying strap the radio is approximately 8.25-inches high.
- Rating of 1 = Your car radio with only AM/FM capability.
- Rating of 2 = Your car radio with AM/FM capability and a CD player.
- Rating of 3 = The Grundig "Eton" S350DL Deluxe AM/FM/Shortwave Radio.
- Rating of 10 = An Amateur Ham Radio Station with eight different electronic devices connected together with cables and wires and three different antenna systems.
Listening versus Talking: This radio is only for listening. It cannot be used for two-way communication. In other words, it is not a transmitting radio. This has advantages and disadvantages as follows:
Features: Now let's take a look of some of the really nice features of the Grundig "Eton" S350DL Deluxe AM/FM/Shortwave Radio:
- Disadvantages: During a serious hard times tragedy event you will need a "satellite phone" to communicate with other people anywhere in the world. A satellite phone bounces signals off a space satellite and it does not depend on the local cell phone antenna network. Therefore you would be able to talk to anyone almost anywhere if they also had a satellite phone.
- Advantages: You can listen to this radio and not worry about being located using any type of tracking technology with which I am familiar. The reason is because you are only receiving a signal and you are not transmitting anything. This is the same basic concept as human speech. If a person is speaking then you can easily identify where that person is located based on the sound of their voice. However, if you are only listening to the person then no one will know where you might be because your ears do not make any noise. In fact, hundreds or thousands of people could be listening to one person who is speaking and you would not know how many people were listening or where each of those people was located. This is the same basic concept as listening to a radio broadcast as opposed to transmitting a broadcast.
AA or D Batteries: Now let's look at the difference between using AA batteries versus D batteries. On the right there is a picture of the back of the radio with its battery compartment cover removed.
- It has an internal AM antenna.
- It has a 44-inch long telescoping FM/Shortwave antenna attached to the radio. This significantly improves the radio's ability to pick up weak or distant radio signals.
- It has a 5.5-inch speaker. This yields better sound clarity from the radio. However, it does not eliminate the static from weak or distant radio signals.
- It has three separate controls for volume, bass, and tremble.
- It has a switch for changing from stereo to mono mode.
- It allows for the reception of AM broadcasts, and FM broadcasts, and Shortwave broadcasts from approximately 3 MHz to approximately 28 MHz.
- It has two dials for changing the radio frequency. The outer dial allows for the rapid changing of the frequency. The inner dial permits a very slow fine-tuning change of the frequency.
- It has a digital frequency display so you can read the exact frequency you are receiving, and if you like that radio station, then you can make a note of it (along with the time of day) on a separate piece of paper for future reference purposes.
- It has separate connection ports for attaching optional external speakers, and an optional external FM/Shortwave antenna, and an optional ground wire, and an optional external AM antenna (all these items would need to be purchased separately).
- It has a digital clock, and an alarm, and a snooze button, and a back-light button. The clock allows you to choose how you want to see the time: as 24 hours, or as 12 hours with AM and PM.
- It will operate on three power sources as follows:
- Ordinary 120-volt AC house current using the DC adapter that is included with the radio, or
- Four D-Cell Flashlight batteries, or
- Four AA-Cell Flashlight batteries.
- It also has a few other special features that are discussed in the Instruction Manual that can be read at the internet link near the top of this web page.
- The small yellow label on the right side of the bottom of the radio says you must lift the small panel to install either AA or D batteries. If you install D batteries then you leave the panel in the upright position. However, if you install AA batteries then you must lower the panel after you have the AA batteries correctly installed.
- The small yellow label on the left side of the bottom of the radio surrounds a switch you must move to the right or to the left depending on whether you wish to use AA or D batteries. This is not explained in the instruction manual. I guess they thought that anyone opening the battery compartment would immediately see the yellow label and read it. I did see it and I did read it. Then I experimented with 4 AA batteries and the radio yielded great reception. Then I removed the AA batteries and inserted 4 D batteries and the radio would not work. I was dumbfounded. I got my separate battery tester to check the D batteries to determine if they were fully charged. They were. I then verified that I had oriented the D batteries plus and minus ends correctly in the radio. Then I read the Instruction Manual. Finally I remembered the small switch inside the battery compartment that I had previously pushed to the AA side. I pushed the switch to the D side and the radio once again yielded great reception using D batteries. I am taking the time to share this with you to help you avoid the same embarrassing mistake that I made.
- The same clarity and reception was achieved using AA and D batteries. The size of the batteries did not change the performance of the radio.
- Both the AA and the D batteries provide approximately 1.5 volts of electricity per battery for a total of 6 volts. However, the D batteries have more amps and therefore they will last longer than the AA batteries. However, it takes longer to recharge a D battery than an AA battery. Therefore you have a trade-off. The D size batteries work longer inside the radio but they require more time to recharge. The AA batteries have a shorter life inside the radio but they can be recharged more rapidly.
The Basics of Shortwave Radio
Although English is not the most widely spoken language in the world, it is currently an important "second language" in many countries because of the need to communicate with English speaking travelers and investors. Therefore many foreign nations broadcast in their own native language and also on a second frequency in English.
A shortwave radio will allow you to listen to radio stations that are broadcasting from almost anywhere in the world. This is a significant advantage because it allows you to hear a variety of different interpretations of how other major nations perceive significant current world events and news stories. Although every nation will impart its own "bias" to a particular news story, you will have the opportunity to determine how the rest of the world is responding to something that happened in your own country.
Just because you are awake and listening to your shortwave radio please do not assume that the rest of the world is awake and broadcasting. Everyone needs to sleep and different stations go off the air at different times during the day based on where they are located in the world.
Many shortwave broadcasts are from Europe. Therefore, if you live in the Eastern half of the United States then you will probably be able to receive those broadcasts using the telescoping antenna attached to your radio. However, if you live in the Western half of the United States then you will probably need to install an external antenna to receive these same European broadcasts.
Shortwave reception during the day is usually poor because of daytime atmospheric conditions and the fact that most European stations are not transmitting their broadcasts in the direction of the United States because they know that most of us are probably at work during the day and therefore we are not listening to our shortwave radios. However, at night reception significantly improves because of the reduced atmospheric interference and the fact that many European stations are now directing their signals toward the United States.
Shortwave radio signals travel extremely long distances by bouncing back and forth off the upper atmosphere and the earth's surface until they reach your radio's antenna. Therefore all of the following factors have an impact on the clarity of a distant radio station:
Many people become frustrated with their shortwave radios because they do not know about the above. Their shortwave radio may have more than a thousand frequencies to select from but they can't seem to find a frequency that yields great reception all the time. Therefore they conclude there is something wrong with their specific shortwave radio, or they assume they live in an area where shortwave reception is very poor.
- The total distance between your antenna and the broadcasting radio station.
- The month of the year (seasonal weather fluctuations).
- The time of day (day or night).
- Space conditions (solar flares, etc.).
- Atmospheric conditions close to the Earth (bad weather significantly reduces reception).
- Nearby tall buildings or mountains (they interfere with reception from distant radio stations in those directions).
The following very brief list of frequencies may help you to get the most enjoyment out of your shortwave radio:
Shortwave frequencies between 5,950 to 6,200 KHz are usually pretty good at night.
Shortwave frequencies between 9,200 to 9,900 KHz and between 11,600 to 12,200 KHz are usually average at night.
Shortwave frequencies between 7,100 to 7,600 KHz are usually average at night in the Eastern United States.
Shortwave frequencies between 15,100 to 15,800 KHz are usually pretty good during the day.
Shortwave frequencies between 13,570 to 13,870 KHz and between 17,480 to 17,900 KHz are usually average during the day.
How to Maximize the Reception of a Shortwave Radio:
Number of Shortwave Radio Stations: At the current time there are not as many shortwave radio stations still in operation when compared to just a few years ago. This is most likely due to the popularity of the internet, and satellite TV and satellite radio, and iPods and other hand-held electrical devices. However, there may be a dramatic renewal in the number of shortwave broadcasting stations in the event of a serious worldwide hard times event, or in the event of serious censorship of the radio stations within a nation's borders.
- Your radio needs to be operating on maximum power. Therefore, your radio batteries should be fully charged or you should be using AC power.
- To avoid electrical interference, do not place your radio near electrical equipment such as televisions, stereo equipment, computers, microwave ovens, or any other electrical appliance.
- Reception is weakest inside steel framed and concrete buildings.
- Reception is usually best near a window.
- Try moving your radio to different locations inside your home to improve its reception. If possible put your radio near a southern window, a northern window, an eastern window, or a western window, depending on the location of the foreign country's broadcast you wish to listen to.
- Change the direction in which you have your telescoping antenna pointed to see if it improves the reception of a weak radio signal. Take your hand off the antenna to test it.
- If you find a station you wish to listen to but another station's signal is also being received then try changing the length of your telescoping antenna to see if you can isolate the reception of the station you desire. Sometimes increasing or decreasing the length of your telescoping antenna can minimize the interference from a secondary radio signal and improve the reception of a desired radio signal.
- A longer antenna is usually better than a shorter antenna. A good antenna may be made from a few feet of insulated copper wire. Allow one end of the wire to hang outside of a window. Wrap the other end of the wire to the bottom of your radio's current telescoping antenna.
- An ear phone or a headphone can sometimes improve your ability to hear a weak signal from a distant radio station.
Safety Warning: Always disconnect your radio from any outside antenna when you are not listening to it, and also during any rain storms to avoid a static electricity shock from traveling down your antenna and destroying your radio. During bad weather you may still listen to your radio using batteries and its internal telescoping antenna but not an outside antenna. Therefore during bad weather you will probably be limited to local radio stations.
A Simple External Outdoor Antenna
You can normally make a significant improvement to your radio's reception of shortwave broadcasts by doing both of the following:
- Ground Wire: Attach one end of an insulated copper wire to the grounding terminal of your radio (after removing about 3/4 inch of insulation) and then attach the other end of that copper wire to a metal object and bury that metal object at least 12 inches below the ground. (Or you may use a standard grounding rod.) The ground wire will normally improve your radio's reception of AM, FM, and Shortwave broadcasts.
- Antenna Wire: Purchase between 30 to 40 feet of insulated stranded 14 gauge (or 16 gauge) copper wire and install that wire in a straight line somewhere outside your residence. Then remove the insulation from approximately 3/4 inch off the end of the wire and attach the bare wire end to the external FM/Shortwave antenna terminal of your radio.
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