Author Topic: Kaito 123 DSP Weather/AM/FM Radio  (Read 2235 times)

Offline Alan Georges

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Kaito 123 DSP Weather/AM/FM Radio
« on: February 04, 2013, 11:30:15 PM »
Kaito 123 DSP Weather/AM/FM Radio

Pro: Easy-to-set weather alert mode.  Yet another good DSP radio tuner.  Convenient compact size, about the same as a card deck.  Straightforward to use.  Price: $20, which makes it worthwhile for the weather alert alone.

Con: It’s still on and using power while in stand-by mode, so it’ll only last a day or so before it needs new AAA batteries.  Odd choices of features: LED flashlight (?), micro-USB charger port (but no cable).  Rough sound quality.  No headphone output.

This is another one of those spiffy little digital signal processing (DSP) radios from Kaito, with the tuner chip made by Silicon Labs in Texas.  So why another radio?  This one has a weather alert feature, so that it can sit silently until it receives an alert tone from the NWS.  Then it un-squelches for a few minutes while the alert message is played.

That’s why I got it – so I didn’t have to listen to the unending tide forecasts, wind reports, boating reports, blahblahblah... just un-squelch and let me know if a tornado is coming.  Stuck inside for three days listening to Hurricane Isaac howling outside, one of these would have been nice to have.  Nobody wanted to listen to the continuous weather chatter on the Rat Shack non-alert weather radio I had at the time, but a quick NWS shout-out “HEY Y’ALL!  FOUR HORSEMEN PICKED UP ON RADAR AND HEADING YOUR WAY! DUCK!” alert capability would have been a comfort.

Or it can play the continuous NWS report.  Switching between to two modes is simple, just hold down the “MODE” button for a few seconds.  Pressing (not holding) the mode button cycles between Weather/AM/FM.

The only down side I can see to the alert mode is that the radio’s still basically on, so the battery life (3 AAA’s) is going to be only a day or so.  So stock up on Eneloop AAA’s and have a good charger.  (You should be there already anyway.)  There is a micro-USB charger port that could have extended battery life, but it interferes with the radio’s operation.  Makes it kind of an un-useful feature.  So, use the alert mode when the weather threatens occasionally, but if you need an always-on plug-in radio, there are better choices out there.

After that, it’s also a decent AM/FM radio.  The internal loopstick AM antenna is on the small side, but it has to be to fit into the small radio package.  Even so it picks up WBBM Chicago from 900 miles away on a clear winter night night.  Not too shabby.  It also plays well with a passive loop external antenna, which made up for the internal antenna and improved reception considerably.  The DSP chip cuts through the static, but it can’t help with the small tinny speaker.  Over on FM, reception is just fine too.  The shorty 9” telescoping antenna needs to be extended for FM or NWS weather.  It’s pretty tough, mostly due to its small size.  You could clip on a long wire to boost reception if you really wanted.

OK, so it does what it’s supposed to do.  What are its weaknesses?  No headphone jack.  No “normal” recharger, just a micro-USB port, and no cable included at that.  Ah, for $20 that’s too much to expect.  But it does have a built-in LED flashlight.  Not bad, but I’d rather have a headphone jack or a charging cable.  There’s a clock.  Digital dialing via “TUNE +” and “TUNE –” keys is a little clunky, but tolerable and very precise.  Hold either key down for a couple of seconds and it scans in that direction, which is both convenient and intuitive.  The overall build quality is good enough for the price, but it is definitely not weather-resistant in any meaningful sense.  The display is digital, and backlit for a few seconds after any button is pressed.  The design is cool looking in a black-and-yellow danger stripe kind of way.  Finally, you’re never going to get quality sound out of something the size of a pack of cigarettes, but it is good enough to understand weather alerts and news reports.

The bottom line is this radio has a useful weather alert capability, and that alone is worth the price of admission.  Be advised, it’s intended for occasional use in that mode because it’s running on dinky AAA batteries.  It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it 24/7/365 alert radio for a Great Plains farmhouse.  After that, the AM/FM radio is very good.  If you’re not stuck on receiving shortwave after an emergency it could make a decent BOB radio.  Then the rest of the features... OK, whatever.  They’re not really in the way and there’s an off chance they might be handy someday.  Overall, it’s a good compact radio that does everything it’s supposed to do and a tad more.