Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kaito KA1102 / Degen DE1102 Review

The Degen DE1102 (Kaito KA1102 in US), which I purchased from a Hong Kong seller on eBay in 2006,  is absolutely fantastic for a small, under US$50 short-wave radio! It certainly lives up to all the positive things reviewers have said about it.

It is comparable to my 19 year old Panasonic RF-B45. While the Degen outshines the Panasonic with its 'wide' and 'narrow' bandwidth, its shortwave frequencies match the Panasonic for selectivity, although, perhaps, its reception is a bit clearer. MW is a bit better overall. In Malaysia however the selection of MW stations is not as numerable as in the US; nevertheless, I was able to pull in a station in Vietnam that I could not get on my Panasonic, plus several Thai, Indonesian and Chinese stations. FM is more selective than the Panasonic as well. Bass and stereo reception may be heard with the earphones on FM. 

Some reviewers fault the ergonomics (i.e. paging system), but I find it no more confusing than some 3G cell phones. As for the push button volume control, well, again, it's like so many cell phones; you get used to it. I only find that it's not as loud as the Panasonic, but I suppose after-market speakers could remedy this. The blue backlight and rechargeable batteries are an asset too. 

The deciding factor for me over the Kaito KA1103 Worldband Radio/Degen DE1103 was its continuous tuning (3.10-30.00 MHz). The KA1103/DE1103 tunes only international shortwave bands, i.e. 75 meters, 60 meters, 49 meters, 42 meters, 31 meters, 25 meters, 21 meters, 19 meters, 16 meters, 13 meters. With continuous tuning, the KA1102/DE1102 catches stations outside these meter bands. 

As for cons, it overloads when an external wire antenna is hooked to the whip aerial, but this may be because it is amplified. When using an internal wire antenna of similar length plugged into the antenna jack there is no overload. With the Panasonic, it does not matter whether it is hooked to the whip or jack. 

The radio is about the size of a postcard. Reminds me of the old pocket transitor radios back in the 1960s. It will definitely be a keeper whenever I travel overseas. 

As for the price, it's definitely worth it. You get a lot of radio for the buck. I bought my Degen DE1102 from Hong Kong, and it was a lot cheaper than what you'll find elsewhere on the web. If you opt for this and you live in the US, you might consider getting a 110 volt power adaptor. 

My only hope now is that it gives me as many years of listening pleasure as the Panasonic RF-B45. 

POST-SCRIPT (30 March 2007) Six months on and this little dynamo is still functioning...and I have been pretty aggressive with it. From Malaysia, I have logged shortwave stations from Austria, Canada (CBC), Czech Republic (Radio Prague), Israel, Ethiopia, Egypt, Turkey (Voice of Turkey), the Netherlands (Radio Nederland), South Africa (SABC) Sweden (Radio Sweden), North Korea (Radio Pyongyang) and South Korea (KBS), New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International), Iraq (Kurdish speaking station), Voice of Africa (Libya), Iran and Taiwan -- all rather difficult to receive at times. Of course, BBC, Voice of Russia, China Radio International, NHK, Deutsche Welle, Radio Australia, Radio Thailand, Radio Indonesia, Voice of Vietnam, Radio Singapore, All India Radio are flame throwers in this part of the world. The single greatest asset of this radio remains its wide/narrow filter; it does a superb job of reducing powerful stations next to weaker ones. This portable SW PPL radio is still No. 1 in my book!!! 

POST-SCRIPT (20 March 2008) This little dynamo is still active and pulling in stations all over the world. Still the best buy around! 

POST-SCRIPT (11 April 2009) The radio is still functioning and pulling in amazing signals. Just a few weeks ago I logged Spanish National Radio, Madrid, Spain. Still one of the best portable shortwave radios in its class. 

POST-SCRIPT (19 February 2010) The radio is still working and pulling in some rather exotic stations in this part of the world (Malaysia). In the past few weeks I have logged the Voice of Mongolia, Radio Bulgaria, Radio Tirana (Albania), Radio DMR Pridnestrovye (Moldova), Radio Romania International and Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. Everything is functioning, even the batteries still hold a good charge for hours. It remains an excellent buy for anyone interested in the hobby of short-wave listening.

POST-SCRIPT (21 March 2011) This mighty-mite radio still pulls in the stations, although not with the sensitivity of my Grundig Satellite 750 and Sangean ATS-909W. In my opinion, nevertheless, it remains one of  the best short-wave portables under US$60. If I must find fault with it now, it is a quality issue; more specifically, the Wide filter no longer functions, but then it always functioned best on the Narrow filter setting. The Degen logo has also fallen off and is now misplaced. Aside from these nit-picking issues, it still performs well.


  1. Very interesting review, it is like coming from the past to the present and the best part this unit is still in production. Thank you for this wonderful review.