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"What's New" Reviews
MT® 2002

Please mention you saw it in Monitoring Times!

2002 Reviews: AVCOM PSA-2400A Spectrum Analyzer / Grundig's FR-200 Crank-up SWL on the CheapMagnetic-Mount Scanner Antennas / MFJ-1020C Active Antenna / The Miracle Whip / Quebec Radio-Scanner CD / Radio Shack’s Indoor AM Loop Antenna

Index to all scanner reviews by Bob Parnass

2001 Reviews

2000 Reviews

1999 Reviews

1998 Reviews

Index to Reviews 1994-2002


Magnetic-Mount Scanner Antennas.


A Comparison by Bob Grove


            I recently discovered that a storage shelf in my radio repair shop bristled like a porcupine with whip antennas of various sizes that I had accumulated over the past couple of years from yard sales, flea markets, and dealer samples. I had single- and dual-band ham whips, cellular antennas, and even scanner models. How would they compare for general purpose scanner monitoring? I wondered.


            With my car in an open driveway and an AVCOM PS37D spectrum analyzer at my disposal, I decided to sweep the major monitoring bands, measuring relative signal strengths as I alternately placed each antenna in the center of my car roof. The results were quite surprising.


            Admittedly, this is not a consummate scientific test, but it does show that there are differences among antennas, some subtle and some profound. And price is not always a consideration.


            I discovered, for example, that some grades of coaxial cable are worse than others, with inadequate shielding causing erratic readings caused by nearby conductors like me or the car body. And predictably, antennas using thin RG-174/U coax will suffer 2-4 dB more loss at UHF than if they used RG-58/U.


            It became quite obvious that the best antenna by far was the Nil-Jon “Super M”; we chose it as the standard of comparison, rating the competitors with + or- dB readings at specific frequencies.


            The competitors were assigned numbers for ease of reference on the chart; here are their identifications and descriptions:


Antenna Performance Against Nil-Jon Super M


(1) Generic 13” cellular center-loaded gain antenna with RG-174/U cable

(2) Everhardt “Tiger” B5 14” cellular center-loaded gain antenna with RG-58/U cable

(3) CTI Pro-Am MM144B 19” slim whip with RG-174/U cable

(4) CTI Pro-Am MM3B 12-1/2” tri-band scanner antenna with RG-174/U cable

(5) Grove ANT-30 19” Stealth whip with RG-174/U cable

(6) Austin Spectra 25” dual-coil whip with RG-58/U cable

(7) Generic 20” dual-coil high-gain cellular antenna with RG-174/U cable



& dBl

  (1)  (2) (3) (4)  (5) (6) (7)
Freq MHz 38 -3 -3 -8 -3   -6  -4 +4
  50  -4 -4 -9 -5 -8 -5 +3
  82 -9 --- -5 -6 -7 -9 0
  102 -6 -5 -12 * -9 -5 +3
  152 -9 -9 -3 -2 -3 -2 -8
  162 -5 -6 -2 -9 -3 -2 -8
  410 --- -8 -9 -8 -7 -2 ---
  462 -14 -14 -10 -10 -10 -3 -25
  494 -9 -7 -5 -3 -9 -4 ---
  570 +1 +1 +1 -7 -5 -13 -8
  880 -2 +3 -4 0 -8 -2 -4
  949 -1 +1 0 +1 -7 -9 0
  992 -3 +2 --- -2 -8 --- -2


            * Erratic reading, possibly due to defective or inadequate shielding.

             --- means reading too low to measure, or signal not present.

            0 means equal to Nil-Jon antenna.


The Bottom Line


            On low band, the only antenna that performed somewhat better than the Nil-Jon was the high-gain cellular antenna, most likely due to the aperture (electrical length) delivering more signal voltage at this frequency range.


            Better 800/900 MHz performance by the first two cellular antennas could be expected since they are band-specific gain antennas. But how does this all equate to actual differences in perceptible reception?


            Generally speaking, a 1-2 dB difference can only be discerned under the most carefully controlled conditions, not what we hear while driving down the highway! It takes several dB -- as much as 4 or 5 -- to notice a difference, and then only when signals are weak enough to be competing with prevalent background noise.


            For those readers fortunate enough to have S meters on their receiving equipment, one S unit is equivalent to a 6 dB change in signal level. If you are already receiving S9 signals, another 6 or 10 or 100 dB won’t make it sound any better!


            But when fringe signals are breaking up in background noise, a few dBs help a lot, often meaning the difference between readable copy and static-covered speech.

The Miracle Whip

By Bob Grove


            With that sort of a name, I'd expect something pretty special. The "Miracle Whip" is a 48-inch telescoping whip integrated with an impedance matcher and terminated with a PL-259 connector; it is primarily intended to be used with low-power HF transceivers like the Yaesu FT-817 running no more than 5-10 watts. It utilizes a hand-wound, high-Q, toroidal autotransformer with nearly 50 switch contacts for fine tuning from below 2 MHz to above 30 MHz.

            At VHF and UHF, the switch bypasses the tuner, allowing direct connection of the 48-inch telescoping whip to the PL-259, allowing trimming of the antenna length to frequency. The whip can also be swiveled on its base, favoring the polarization of the arriving wave front for maximum signal capture.

            Such an arrangement might have been intended for transmitting, but it would seem to be an attractive alternative for desktop communications receivers as well. After all, a whip that can be impedance-matched to a transceiver might improve receiver performance, too.

            To test that hypothesis, we set up the popular Drake R8B general coverage receiver on a workbench and fitted the SO-239 antenna connector with the Miracle Whip. A 48-inch telescoping whip with a right-angle PL-259 connector stood by as a comparison antenna.

            Tuning the receiver through its range from the 1 MHz AM broadcast band to 27 MHz CB, we alternated between the fully-extended Miracle Whip and the untuned whip. To verify our results, we sampled a variety of signals on a variety of frequencies. The results were surprising – and very impressive.

            As expected, the upper register (27 MHz) showed little improvement, about 3 dB over the plain whip, but the lower we tuned, the greater the signal strength improvement. Around 18 MHz the Miracle Whip was 10 dB stronger than the plain whip; at 9-12 MHz around 12 dB better; at 5-7 MHz the improvement was a good 18 dB; and by the time we tuned down to our local 1320 kHz broadcaster, the Miracle Whip showed a 27 dB signal strength enhancement -- nearly five S units -- compared to the same-length extendable whip!

            Adjusting the unit properly is simplicity itself: Select the operating frequency and tune the single knob for maximum signal or background noise. That's it!


The Bottom Line:

            But if an impedance-matching device increases both the signal and the background noise, how is that any different from simply turning up the volume control? Just because the S-meter reads higher, won't the noise go up, too?

            Yes; in some cases, where the receiver already has sharp filters, chances are that impedance matching won't help much. On the Drake R8B there was little improvement in signal-to-noise ratio, but on receivers with wider filters and "broader front ends," the extra measure of selectivity the Miracle whip adds can improve the S/N ratio. Better, it also reduces intermod and image response on the shortwave frequencies, and for QRP (low-power) transmitters and transceivers, the tuning will measurably improve radiated efficiency.

            The Miracle Whip carries a three-year warranty against original factory defects (not burnout from excessive transmit power!). Cost is $129 including Parcel Post from PO Box 48144, 5678 Park Avenue, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, H2V 4S8; or phone toll-free (866) 311-6511. For more information, visit their web site at  

Quebec Radio-Scanner CD

Review by John David Corby, VA3KOT



Canadian scanning hobbyist and ham radio operator Gilles Thibodeau (VE2KGF) hails from the town of Lac-Megantic in Quebec. He has produced an information-packed volume of scanning and ham radio related information presented on CD-ROM. Long-time MT readers may be familiar with Gilles' name. He was the author of a book on scanning published between 1989 and 1991 that was reviewed in MT.


Gilles got started in the hobby in 1980 with a Bearcat BC210 scanner. He told MT that, at first, he didn't have much idea of what to do with his scanner. However, he quickly became an enthusiastic proponent of the hobby. Researching information on microfilm at the Canadian government's Department of Communications he was able to assemble enough data to eventually become somewhat of an authority on the subject. Gilles went on to assemble a comprehensive library of radio modification information and six months ago he started work on producing his latest work.


This CD has a modest appearance, but inside its folders you will find a wealth of information for both hams and scanner owners. The target readership for this latest volume is the Quebec market in French-speaking Canada, although Gilles makes a courageous attempt to appeal to French and English speakers alike.


No matter what aspect of the hobby appeals to you, you will find something of interest. For example, if you are an aviation enthusiast you will find the section on ACARS useful. A copy of the program "KRACARS" is included on the disk. Using this software, scanner owners can decode the data transmitted by aircraft transponders.


A large selection of "10 codes" is included for the Province of Quebec emergency services. There doesn't seem to any standard for 10-codes in Canada, so it is important to have a reference table for the less common codes used over the air.


The shareware section includes various programs for CW operation, DTMF decoding, EDACS, and computer control of AOR and Uniden radios. I was a little disappointed that the shareware collection seems to be a random selection of titles; it could have been more comprehensive and a little better organized. I would have liked to see sub-folders with the programs organized by category. Perhaps Gilles will consider this option in future releases.


I particularly liked the electronic circuits section. Unlike many hobbyists today, I remain a dedicated home-builder of everything electronic. The selection of circuits will appeal mostly to hams, but there is a little something for everybody here. There is even an electronic catalog for a popular brand of semiconductors on the disk.


Tow truck operators and emergency services monitors will find the section on trunked systems very valuable. The section includes the program "Trunker" as well as several fleet maps and data signal audio samples to aid in recognized the trunking system in use.


The main feature of the CD is the frequency database. Over 14,000 frequencies are listed covering emergency services, Quebec provincial and federal police forces and trunking systems. Files are in DBF format and can be searched using the enclosed software, or imported into commercial software supporting the DBF file format. The utility provided on the CD is a fast and simple executable that runs from the CD without any installation. However, the menu is in French, and the appearance of the simple DOS-window begs elegance (see illustration).  I imported the database into Star Office in seconds and found it easier to review in that format.


Since the Province of Quebec shares a border with Vermont in the United States, the author has thoughtfully provided a substantial section of frequencies, graphics and other useful information related to Canada's friend and neighbor to the south. This section is surprisingly comprehensive. It covers New England states near to Quebec and includes aviation, emergency services, military and even secret service frequencies!


The CD is available by mail order for $35 in Canadian funds. The price includes shipping within the Province of Quebec. For orders outside of Quebec, please contact Gilles by e-mail at, or the old-fashioned way at:

Gilles Thibodeau

C.P. 193


Quebec, G6B 2S6



Radio Shack’s Indoor AM Loop Antenna

By Ken Reitz


            I challenge you to take $30 cash to any major league sporting event and see how far it gets you. At best you’ll get a seat in the “nose bleed” section, a tepid hot dog and an undersized cold drink heavy on the ice. Of course, you’ll have to leave the rest of the family curbside while you splurge.

            Instead, I say take the thirty bucks to your local Radio Shack dealer and pick up the Indoor AM Loop Antenna (cat. # 15-1853). With this antenna and just about any decent AM radio you get press box level seats at every major league event within a 500 mile radius and still be just steps away from your fridge or microwave. I can just taste the nachos!

            In my opinion, sports is the only reason anyone should be listening to the AM band unless you have a reservation at a nearby asylum with access to long distance privileges. I’m a Baltimore Orioles fan, which is pretty much the same thing, and I’ve been thwarted by the team’s continued indifference to the radio listening fan for years. Local FM stations no longer carry the games and I’m in the skip zone for their flagship station. What to do?

            The solution is to tune in the flagship stations of the opposing teams and listen to the play-by-play. But most AM radios just aren’t up to the task. Why can’t I use my Kenwood stereo receiver, with its fancy audio outputs and remote control? Well, for starters they issue a cheesy AM loop with the radio which is not worth the landfill space it would take up to bury it. And, you’d be lucky to hear WWL without an antenna on this receiver even if their transmitter was in your back yard.

            That’s what led me, as I so often am, to The Shack. I was immediately intrigued when I saw the attractive, charcoal gray, indoor AM loop antenna in its well sculpted 9" plastic case. Hmm, I wondered, will this thing actually work? I was buoyed by The Shack’s liberal return policy and, forking over the dinero, whisked the loop home.

            The loop comes with a 6 foot connecting cable fitted at one end with a micro plug which plugs into the base of the loop and two bare wires on the other end which slip into your radio’s external antenna terminals. Don’t use the loop on top of a receiver with a metal case, as it will affect reception. I found the cable to be just long enough to get the loop up and away from the receiver, yet still easily reachable for fine tuning the capacitor on the loop.

            If your radio has no external antenna terminals and does not have a metal case, simply set the loop on top of the radio. By setting the loop’s tuning knob to the same position as your radio dial you’ll hear the signal immediately rise. Rotating the loop will further increase the signal by nulling out stations on the same frequency coming from different directions.

            I had tuned my receiver’s AM band when I first bought it, using the aforementioned factory antenna with dismal results. But, with the RS loop it was a whole new ball game! The night I got the loop the O’s were playing the Yanks, so I tuned the receiver to WCBS 880 kHz, the Yankees’ flagship station. Slowly adjusting the loop’s capacitor knob and rotating the loop, the signal soared to as good as AM is going to get on a spring night. I was able to listen to the whole game with very little fading and with audio which might have rivaled an FM broadcast of the game if one could have been found.

            Well, what about other radios? I unplugged the loop and set it without connections on top of the Kloss Model One AM/FM radio and tuned in 880 kHz. Rotating the loop for the strongest signal, I adjusted the capacitor on the front of the loop and voila! the bright yellow signal strength LED on the Kloss’ front panel lit up like it was a reading lamp. And, thanks to the superb audio of the Kloss radio, I was hard pressed to tell I was listening to an AM station from 500 miles away.

            But, what about DX? Can this little loop turn your placid stereo receiver into an AM DX machine? Well, that may be stretching things, but, considering that it’s a passive 9" loop it does a pretty decent job. Sure, it brought in the usual Clear Channel war horses and did a fine job bringing in regional regulars. It even pulled in a 500 watt station from over 200 miles away and several 1 kW stations over 500 miles away. While it’s no substitute for a serious DX antenna, the Radio Shack AM loop antenna serves the needs of folks without the room or the money for big antennas. And, for us sports fans, this little antenna will pay big dividends throughout the year.



Reception: AM Band only (535-1700 kHz)

Output Impedance: 300 Ohms

Dimensions: 9" x 3" x 10" (base)

Weight: 1 pound

For indoor use only.  

The MFJ-1020C Active Antenna

By Ken Reitz, KS4ZR


            Sometimes the places in which we live are not compatible with good shortwave reception. More and more places where external antennas aren’t allowed are cropping up across the land and listeners are forced to compromise. There is, of course, no substitute for a great outdoor wire antenna, but one good candidate for a compromise antenna is MFJ’s 1020C indoor tuned active SWL antenna which tunes between 300 kHz and 40 MHz. It is the latest in a series of products under this model number and replaces the 1020B.

            There are other shortwave active antennas selling at half the price, but what’s different about this product is that it is a tuned active antenna which features a much higher degree of sensitivity and selectivity than found on untunable active antennas.

            Sporting a diminutive 17" telescoping whip antenna, you couldn’t be blamed for doubting the ability of this product to perform. I know I was. It was about noon in the middle of June when I disconnected the external antenna from my Kenwood transceiver with built-in general coverage receiver and I attached the Active Antenna. I thought I’d try first for an East Coast amateur radio traffic net on 40 meters. There is a bypass switch on the front panel and you’ll want to make certain that it’s off before trying to tune.


Testing on All Bands

            First I set the gain control to “5" about halfway on the gain scale; next I set the band switch knob to the “D” position, indicating the 40 meter band on the tuning dial; then I slowly rotated the tuning knob to the 7 MHz area on the scale. Band conditions were not the greatest, but I could copy the net control station with an S-5 signal. I could even hear mobile stations.

            Going up to the 20 meter band, I reset the dials for 14.300 MHz, the Maritime Mobile net -- a good place to test an antenna as ham stations with varying power levels check in from all over the eastern half of the U.S. and Caribbean. The net control station was a solid S-9 as were many of the check-ins.

            Now it was time to turn to the Shortwave Guide in the middle of MT and find out what I could hear. First up was Radio Netherlands. Resetting the knobs, which took only a couple of seconds, RN’s 15.220 MHz signal was easily 10dB over S-9. In fact, I got excellent reception on all the big international broadcasters.

            At night I tuned through the AM band to check on some of my favorites: WSM, Nashville, WLW, Cincinnati, WSB Atlanta, WCBS New York; all were S8 or 9. On the ham bands W1AW’s code practice bulletin on 7.047.5 came in at 10dB over S9, WWV at 15 MHz was a solid S9, low power CW operators on the 30 meter ham band were easily copyable. Touring the rest of the international broadcasters brought in solid S9+ signals on the usuals: Vatican Radio, China Radio International, CBC, Radio Havana, Radio Taipei, HCJB, etc. I found that tuning the 1020C was much like using an outboard tuner, requiring adjustments whenever the frequency was changed. The adjustments, however, are small and quickly made.

            I used the MFJ-1020C connected to an old Uniden 2021 portable shortwave radio and had excellent results. The BBC’s 15.190 MHz channel at 1500Z was just audible on the portable, but with the 1020C it lit up all the signal LEDs and had a strong, steady signal. Of course, that same signal at the same time on the Kenwood with a good wire antenna was 20dB over S9.


Psst, Wanna Amplify Some Noise?

            I imagined SWLers would want to use the unit as a stand-alone outdoor antenna substitute, but, suppose you already have an outdoor antenna, what will be the effect of adding the 1020C to your existing antenna? In most cases it appears to act as an antenna amplifier. I saw reception increase from 7 S units, on a typical international broadcaster, to 20dB over S9: a formidable gain. However, I found that on the weak signals of DX broadcasters, the external antenna alone had much less noise than listening with the external antenna going through the 1020C. As with many other amplified antenna situations, with amplification, it's likely you'll be adding more noise than signal when adding an active amplifier.


Pertinent Data

            This unit comes with a 6 page instruction manual and has excellent pictures of the unit explaining each control and connection. There’s also a handy schematic diagram on the last page. 

            The MFJ-1020C is very well made with sturdy knobs and a well designed and marked front panel. The bypass switch, strangely, doesn’t have a very positive feel and at times it’s hard to tell if it’s engaged or not. The telescoping whip antenna is removable, which you are advised to do when you’re using the unit as an amplified preselector for an external antenna.

            The MFJ-1020C is compact, 6.5" wide, 2.5" high 3.25" deep, weighs only a pound and will fit anywhere your shortwave receiver needs to be. The front panel features a gain control, bypass on/off switch, band switch, tuning control and red power LED. The SO-239 input and output jacks are ham and SWL antenna cable-ready. The unit is powered for long term tuning at your listening post via an external power jack (12 VDC power adapter optional). Short term use at home or in the field is via one 9 volt battery. A solid, wing-nut-fastened ground post rounds out the back panel.

            This product is not designed to replace the wire outdoor antenna for MW and SW listening. It is designed to help you enjoy your shortwave listening hobby even if you’re not able to put up an outdoor antenna. As expected, it picked up nearby electrical interference from my computer and a dimmer switch in another part of the house, but with these devices turned off it worked properly.

            The MFJ-1020C retails for $79.95 plus shipping, the optional power adapter is $14.95 plus shipping, and it is available through many electronic mail order firms or directly from MFJ Enterprises, 300 Industrial Park Road, Starkville, MS 39759 or call their order line: 800-647-1800


AVCOM PSA-2400A Spectrum Analyzer


            AVCOM of Virginia, well known for their affordable, high-quality spectrum analyzers, has announced the release of a product specifically designed for field measurements of the rapidly-growing 2.4-2.5 GHz wireless LAN spectrum.

            With the rapid release of wireless LANs, Wireless video cameras, ISP wireless networks, broadcast links, and other unlicensed users, the frequency range 2400-2483.5 MHz has become flooded with users, resulting in predictable chaotic interference. (See our August Closing Comments.) Only a spectrum analyzer can reveal in detail the co-channel interference.

            The new AVCOM PSA-2400A is extremely lightweight at only 8 pounds as compared to competitors (including other products of its own!), and comfortably compact as well, measuring a mere 9.5"W x 4.5"H x 9.5"D. Viewable in bright sunlight and even backlit for nighttime use, the high-contrast LCD screen (5.7" diagonal, 1/4 VGA) offers sharp resolution of the swept image. Its three-way power supply (85-264 VAC @ 47-440 Hz; 9-15 VDC; internal 6V gel cell battery) makes this versatile test instrument a natural for the field technician.

            An on-screen menu offers seven different functions which can be modified for custom display characteristics.



            Switch-selectable reference levels of 0, -20, and -40 dBm allow the operator to choose the sensitivity baseline for the environment. A BNC connector accepts any conventional interconnection of user-provided antennas (whips, stubs, flat plates, etc.).

            The span can be adjusted from better than 100 MHz full-sweep coverage (from below 2.4 to above 2.5 GHz), to narrow, single-signal sweep for visual analysis, identification, and adjacent-signal separation. The screen automatically tracks and displays the upper and lower frequency limits for the continuously-adjustable sweep width, as well as the center tuned frequency.


Our field test

            A frantic phone call from a major university gave me an excellent opportunity to test the new 2400. They had recently installed an expensive and elaborate wireless LAN system for their business computer array, and erratic breaks between the access point and the individual terminals were really fouling up the works.

            I brought several pieces of equipment to the site just in case: A frequency counter, an RF detector, and the AVCOM PSA-2400A. Starting at the access point, I attempted to get a reading with the frequency counter, but the digital, packet nature of the signals didn't allow enough capture time for a frequency display to lock. While the RF detector buzzed encouragingly, it didn't really provide any useful information.

            Turning on the AVCOM, however, showed everything we needed: The high-level pulses of the access point LAN as it talked to the terminals, the weaker return pulses from the network computers, and, sure enough -- an unknown, wideband signal right on top of the other signals!

            Were there any PCS devices operating in the area? No. Any other obvious in-band transmitters? No. It was time for a walk through the building.

            With the spectrum analyzer in hand, we walked into any engineering lab facility; the phantom signal grew stronger. As we passed one particular office, the signal rose enormously: we were close. No such signal was seen on the engineer's $4000, specially-equipped PDA designed for monitoring the system.

            I looked up toward the top of the wall, and there it was -- a wireless security camera! We pulled out the plug and the signal disappeared. Full operation of the LAN was restored with no further disruptions from the wayward video cam.

            Impressed that the new AVCOM PSA-2400A revealed so much information in such a short time, I decided that this is one instrument that needed to be put into the Grove on-line catalog.

            (AVCOM PSA-2400A spectrum analyzer, $2749.95 plus shipping from Grove Enterprises.)   

Grundig’s FR-200:

Crank-up SWL on the Cheap!


By Ken Reitz


            Last winter Grundig® entered the crank-up radio fray with its FR-200 Emergency Radio. Adding its own features such as a built-in flashlight, two bands of shortwave and a cheaper-than-anything-else price tag, the FR-200 is Grundig’s biggest hit in years. And it’s everywhere. From the pages of exclusive catalogs to the shelves of your local Radio Shack® store, the ubiquitous FR-200 has enjoyed strong sales throughout its first year.


The Details

            The FR-200 features an analog tuner with a slide-rule dial which is operated by rotating the knurled tuning knob just to the right of the dial. A knurled fine-tuning knob is set inside the main tuning knob and really smooths out the typically jumpy analog tuning. A slot in the radio’s case allows easy tuning by just sliding your thumb up and down the exposed knob.

            The front panel layout is simple: There is a volume control done in the style of the tuning control, a flat round band switch which sets the tuning and two flat plastic switches which control the flashlight and power source selection. The flashlight itself is a very small bulb in a highly reflective case with a clear lens cover measuring about 1" x 5/8".

            The back panel features a 25" telescoping whip antenna for FM and SW; an access door to the battery compartment in which four optional AA batteries may be placed and where the cell phone type Ni-MH power pack is neatly stowed away. Follow the wires and you’ll find a plug which allows easy replacement of the pack. There is a 3.5 mm stereo earphone jack for private listening and a 4.5 volt DC power socket for an external power supply which is optional. The hand crank for the built-in generator is on the left and folds neatly away into a slot in the back of the case and sticks out about 2-1/2 inches from the case when in service.


Operating the FR-200

            When I first took the FR-200 out of the box I turned it on and started tuning around. An hour later it was running strong. Two, three, four hours later it was still going. It ran, in fact, for 18 hours on that little power pack! After that it was about as dead as my chances of winning a Pulitzer prize, so I reached for the hand crank and, per instructions, cranked away for 90 seconds. A small, red LED on top of the radio lit up as I cranked. The radio, as advertised, played for 60 minutes on that small effort.

            But, why did it run so long out of the box? According to Grundig Tech Support, the radios are electronically charged before they leave the factory. I found that I could expect about one hour listening for each minute of enthusiastic cranking: 5 minutes on the crank yielded about 5 hours listening. But, 5 minutes on the crank is more than many will want to do. It definitely stops being fun after 90 seconds. The light will stay on about five minutes on a 90 second crank.

            So, just how was the listening? About what you’d expect from an analog tuned radio where the bandspread is tight, the antenna short and the audio is, well, audible. I found that reception on all bands was greatly improved by the addition of an external antenna. The AM band in particular benefited when the Radio Shack AM loop antenna was placed beside the FR-200 (the little FR-200 almost fits inside the loop!). Reception on that band went from poor to reasonably good. The SW bands were similarly improved when I attached an external antenna to the radio’s whip.

            An external antenna connection, while understandably adding to the cost, would equally improve reception on those bands and add to the radio’s versatility. The FR-200 would also be improved by adding the capability to tune the NOAA Weatheradio frequencies. I realize this would cause the price to go up substantially, but, it would be a welcome and extremely useful addition.


A Fun Little Radio

            The FR-200 is marketed as an emergency radio, the kind of thing you’d like to have with you when the power goes out and you find you’re out of batteries, or if you’re camping and need to take a look at the map and your flashlight is dead. Ok, there are plenty of reasons for this to be your emergency back-up radio, but, if you have other radios for an emergency consider this: the FR-200 is a fun little radio which might help introduce a new generation to shortwave listening and the mysteries of electricity in general. It’s ruggedly built and should be able to take the kind of use a youngster might give it. I could see a couple of kids using the flashlight feature to signal each other in code from across the street. There’s room to experiment without fretting, unlike with an expensive Yachtboy 400, for example.

            I like the hand-powered generator feature which delivers power to the light and radio even when the internal battery pack is taken out. But, one word of caution: the pack acts like a voltage regulator in preventing too much current being sent through the unit when attempting to power it on the generator alone. I found this out by blowing out the bulb as I cranked away with the battery pack unattached. Luckily, replacement bulbs are cheap and by slipping a coin in the slot so labeled next to the light you’ll be able to pop the light out and swap out the bulb.

            How many charges can you get from the little Ni-MH pack? Grundig Tech Support says they have no engineering data on it, but they believe it should be able to take several hundred charges. In the event that you should need the pack replaced, it’ll cost just $6.95 including postage.

            As mentioned, the FR-200 is widely available but I have not seen it listed under the SMRP of $39.95. But wait, you get more! Grundig ships this radio with an operating manual in English and French, the Grundig official Shortwave Listening Guide, a one year limited warranty, and a rugged little camouflage canvas carrying bag with nylon liner, complete with shoulder strap, pencil side pockets, map pocket and magnetic closers. This product is made in China.


Grundig FR-200 Specifications


Size: 6-3/4" W x 5-3/4" H x 2-3/4" D

Weight: 10 oz

Tunes: AM (530-1710 kHz)

            FM (88-108 MHz)

SW1 (3.2-7.6 MHz)

SW2 (9.2-22.0 MHz)

Power: Built-in Ni-MH battery pack charged by hand crank

            4.5 V DC jack for external power adaptor (not included)

            3 AA batteries (not included)

Antenna: 25" Pivoting, telescoping whip for FM & SW

            Built-in ferrite rod for AM



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