Author Topic: Katio WRX911 Shortwave/AM/FM Radio  (Read 1973 times)

Offline Alan Georges

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Katio WRX911 Shortwave/AM/FM Radio
« on: January 28, 2012, 07:36:51 AM »
Pro:  Works.  Price, only $20-25.  Simple, intuitive controls.  Price.  Extremely compact.  Did I mention price?

Con:  Poor internal shielding.  Rubbery tuning control.  Wobbly tuning and tin-sounding speaker make for exhausting listening.

When the chips are down, the Katio WRX911 will tune in shortwave broadcasts and get you the news when local broadcasters can’t.*  But it won’t be much fun listening, between the rubbery tuner control and the tinny speaker.  Can’t do much about the tuner, but a pair of earbuds or an external speaker sidesteps the speaker problem.  This unit doesn’t have the SSB, sync, or bandwidth controls of more expensive units.  Well, at $20 it’s hard to hold this against the little radio.  And this simplicity is a plus, especially for an emergency radio that is rarely used.

In head-to-head testing against a Tecsun PL-660 costing 5 times as much, the WRX911 could pull in the same faint BBC Africa station using a 60’ outside random wire antenna with a coax feed line.  The PL-660 held a more steady output than the WRX911, but if it was a question of just getting the news, either would do.  Tuning the analog dial was a slight challenge with the Katio, and dial calibration wasn’t spot-on, but in the end it was all close enough to work.  Bypassing the speaker with a set of earbuds helped to a surprising degree.  When a nearby heater blower switched on however, extra noise was evident in the Katio while the Tecsun cruised on unaffected.  Because the antenna feed line was shielded, the difference in noise points to the differences in shielding between the two radios.  Despite all these nit-picks, the Katio still delivered the news.

One final note on this comparison, the external antenna was necessary to get anything at all on the Katio, while the telescopic antenna alone could pull in enough signal for the Tecsun.  Unless you just really dig the compact reel, skip the $15 external wire wind-up antenna that vendors like Amazon push and use a run of cheap hook-up wire.  Either way, the Katio doesn’t have an antenna plug, so you’re going to end up clipping or twisting the wire to the unit’s whip antenna.

The Katio’s tuning dial is divided into common broadcast bands, with gaps between them.  Between this and the lack of sideband capabilities, the WRX911 isn’t really useable as a ham monitor, and it doesn’t tune high enough in frequency for CB.  Depending on your needs this may or may not be a problem, but either way it’s something of which to be aware.

One more plus for this radio is that it runs practically forever off of two AA batteries.

The bottom line is he Katio WRX911 radio is the classic 80-20 winner: 80% of the performance of a much better portable unit for 20% of the cost.  Rough tuning, a lack of SSB and sync functions, poor shielding, gaps in band coverage, and listenability issues all weigh against it.  But for the price... the damn thing just works.  For a backup or BOB radio or just an affordable intro to shortwave listening, at $20 it’s hard to beat.

This review focused on the survival-related aspects of the radio.  There’s a much more in-depth review, from a radio-geek viewpoint, at http://www.monitoringtimes.com/html/mtrevuoct04.html

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*After Katrina, there wasn’t much on the radio around here.  There was a lash-up out of gear and personnel from several Coast stations to get some news on the air, but it was all local stuff pertaining to where to get water and MREs.  Then there was WWL out of New Orleans was busy broadcasting that city’s near-death experience.  But there was really no outside news available for over a month.  For that month, it would’ve been great to tune in distant shortwave stations, and that’s why I’m trying out shortwave radios now.