Old or new the best quality shortwave radio stands out from all the other just good enough sets and the downright disasters we have owned over the years. But where do you start when defining those sets that have reached the pinnacle of performance and usefulness.
With the market share being diluted all the time by new producers shipping gimmicky radios that look nice but have seriously moved away from the basic needs of shortwave enthusiasts what are the most important features you look for in a new addition to your radio farm.
Always with an eye on core radio features we look at a set we used to own and something we would like to get our hands on as soon as possible.
Vintage Shortwave Radio
Lowe HF 225
Back in 1992 I decided it was time for some new shortwave radio kit and fighting the urge to go down the usual route of rushing to my local radio shop to get the shiniest set they had I took the time to do some research before buying. My first thought was to go for a big box amateur transceiver with all the bells and whistles but after looking at the new and used radios up for sale realized my budget was nowhere near enough.
Eventually setting my sights on a Lowe HF 225 I was surprised to find there was a dealer only a few miles walk from my QTH in Bristol.
When buying the HF 225 I was offered the extra keypad option that allowed direct entry of frequencies but the combination of not wanting to spend any more cash and always being slightly allergic to the usual up sales from retailers I rejected the option. The honeymoon period with a new radio is an interesting time where you accept the slightly annoying niggles but after a while it just becomes another piece of equipment and things start to fray the nerves. The only problem I had with the 225 was the crazy amount of spinning involved to move through huge sections of the HF band, something that the keypad avoids altogether (figures).
A quick look on eBay has turned up a few HF 225’s for sale at around 250 GBP but I’m sure this price could come down during the right auction. If you do manage to find one of these beauties I would suggest trying to get hold of the keypad as well (you’ll be happy you did).
Lowe have long since stopped making communications equipment following the many legacy firms who having fallen since the 80’s.
New Shortwave Radio
Grundig Satellit 750
Avoiding the game changer that is software defined radio and looking at only physical sets gives so much to choose from at the moment with the bigger manufactures like Sagean, Eton and Tecsun all having some good models on the market.
Having my fair share of great portable sets Ive set aside a bit of space in the shack for something bigger and am currently in negotiation with the other half for Santa to drop off a Grundig Satellit 750. The 750 does have a few problems one of which is the volume control shorting out at full audio output but simple things like this can be fixed. The great redeeming point with the 750 is the good level of performance in a radio in this price range.
Even half decent shortwave radios hold their price in the secondhand market and the 750 is no exception edging me towards buying a new one instead of used especially with some of the small inherent problems the radio seems to have.
Having a partner that doesn’t understand my obsession with radios makes it hard to justify why I would need another one but I can only hope as we get closer to Christmas she will mellow a bit.
Of course the best receiver in the world will only be as good as the properly constructed antenna that is driving it. Limited space will always be a problem when considering where to put a shortwave antenna with most of us wishing we had a few acres of land with some tall trees on it. Indoor antenna systems can work well if laid out properly but can be prone to interference.
We believe that a good antenna should always be a work in progress and not just a compromise.
We recently wrote about how our 10 year old Eton E5 has survived a less than quiet life as an outdoor radio making this our choice for the most indestructible shortwave portable we have ever owned. To read the original post go to the Eton E5 review.