Continued miniaturization in electronics has given us a whole range of very small portable shortwave receivers but has squeezing these radios into ever decreasing case sizes compromised their performance and ease of use.
Before we take a look at 2 of the popular “pocket” shortwave radios available at the moment a little definition of how big we consider a pocket SW radio to be. There are a huge selection of receivers that have a general case size of about 7 x 4 inches which could be wedged into some pockets but for clarity anything with the general size of 5 x 3 inch is what we truly considered a pocket sized shortwave radio.
The TECSUN PL-380 Shortwave Radio
FM 87 – 108MHz
MW 522 – 1620kHz (USA 520 ~ 1710kHz)
LW 153KHz – 513KHz
SW 2300KHz – 21950KHz
With a case size of 5.3 x 1 x 3.4 inches the Tecsun PL380 is at the larger end of pocket radios but this can be forgiven for the many features it contains. Frequency coverage is good with the standard FM/AM/LW bands and a respectable 2.3MHz – 22MHz portion of the shortwave band.
The ETM (Easy Tuning Mode) is the type of function that any shortwave radio should have and Tecsun include this on many of its digital receivers like the Tecsun PL-360. This time saving tuning mode is really useful for picking out multiple stations from any of the bands and operates by scanning all or a user defined section of the radio spectrum and logging every station it receives.
The full list of saved stations is then easily flicked through to find anything of interest, if you find yourself always tuning around for different signals ETM will save you a lot of time.
Tecsun like to add bells and whistles to their radios but always seem to stick to the things that are useful and the P380 is no different with 550 preset memory slots, 24 hr clock, USB jack and in radio battery charging..
The only niggle we have with the radios design is the use of a purpose built battery instead of off the shelf types, this cuts back on the flexibility because once the included NIMH battery is flat you have no radio power until its recharged (not ideal if you are away from a power source).
Kaito KA11 Shortwave Radio
FM 70 – 108MHz
SW 5.8 to 18.1 MHz (split between 7 Bands)
A much smaller case size of 4.3 x 0.9 x 2.8 inches makes the Kaito KA11 easier to tuck away in your pocket or backpack and even though its doesn’t have some of the features of the P380 it is still a credible shortwave receiver.
The shortwave coverage is a bit limited but does include some of the most important sections of the HF band and there is an extra low extension added onto the FM band and even though signals at that frequencies are rare it will be useful if your know exactly where to listen. Considering its small size the KA11 has a nicely spaced out control panel, good sized front speaker and a clear well organized display.
Of course some features have to go when packing the radios electronics into a compact case and the most notable of these is the SSB receive option that isn’t usually fitted to shortwave receivers in this size range. Even though the average case size is small more use of multifunction buttons could enable SSB to be included making those with the function a cut above the competition, after all many of the more interesting signals on the HF bands are transmitted in the SSB mode.