Sangean PR-D8 recorder on AM: Crude review

The Sangean PR-D8 is a two band portable radio for Medium Wave (MW) and FM. The radio is designed to easily record radio broadcasts, wherever one may roam. The test unit was purchased from Amazon dot com. Carriage took two weeks via USPS First Class International postage.

How does recording work?

Press the ‘Rec’ button for five seconds on the unit and the tuned station is recorded to an SD card. The end product is a relatively high resolution 192 kbps MP3 file that can be immediately shared via the internet. Modern computers typically furnish SD card readers as a standard feature. For older computers, USB ‘all-in-one’ card readers can be purchased (for next to nothing) to access the recordings encoded to the SD card.

Recording screen including dual VU meters - Sangean PR-D8

ADVANTAGES

Excellent recording fidelity at 192 kbps bitrate. Digital artifacts may be audible if the 128 kbps encoding quality is chosen.
Accurate recording level meter suits both radio and line-in recordings.
Fully customizable timer recording and alarm functions. May be used as an alarm clock.
Tuning stations is user-friendly. Easy to navigate, review and delete clips.
Well designed instruction manual which is readable & written with satisfactory grammar.
Excellent build quality. Strong likelihood of maintaining value in the secondary market.
Compatible with modern SD cards, including smaller breeds via an adapter. A 32 gigabyte HC Class 10 card was used in test.
Satisfactory sensitivity on MW. The 20 kW broadcast Premiere (1ère) 666 kHz Noumea is received with this radio on a daily basis at 920 miles. As is the 50 kW broadcast Radio New Zealand National 567 kHz Wellington, at a distance of 1,565 miles. Antenna is a 11.5 x 100 mm ferrite bar inside the unit.
Satisfactory sensitivity on FM. 4JJJ 99.3 MHz Biggenden was received on a daily basis at 143 miles. Antenna is a telescoping antenna, sited directly above the MP3 recorder.
Tuning increments can be selected to suit the listener’s region.
Includes quality AC power supply for indoor use. Satisfactory battery life whilst recording (up to 10 hours).
Full suite of features. Twin (stereo) microphones suit outdoor recordings. Line level audio output is provided in addition to the standard Headphone output.
Reasonable FM sensitivity when connected to an external antenna.

 

DISADVANTAGES

NOT recommended for portable FM recordings. Please refer to the detailed discussion in the body of the article.
Wide filters are NOT suitable for separating all FM stations 200 kHz apart. The FM selectivity may be improved by a simple ceramic filter mod. Such a project voids the warranty & requires a conventional front end design.
Expensive purchase price relative to offerings made by the group that produces the Degen/Tecsun portable radios.
No provision for external antenna, but this can be circumvented with minimal effort.
No signal meter although a stereo indicator is included.
The inclusion of the 64 kbps bitrate recording option seems superfluous. Those recordings exhibit significant compression artifacts, to the point of the clips NOT being usable.

Love AM? This may be the radio for you

The author of this review has a bias towards FM. With that disclosure out of the way, the most fundamental flaw of the design is not catering for FM recording enthusiasts. Why make the MW section virtually immune to interference when encoding recordings, whilst not doing the same for FM? It seems bizarre for Sangean to pursue such a strategy. Did (former) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd or Opposition Leader Tony Abbott (now Prime Minister) help design this ill conceived recording radio? And why can’t Turnbull (Communications Minister) can fix it?

MW enthusiasts vastly outnumber FM enthusiasts. Effectively FM listeners ‘lose out’ since the manufacturer seems to have designed a recording radio to satisfy the largest segment of consumers.

Recording mode & Backlight - Sangean PR-D8

According to C. Crane:

Traditionally AM radio is very difficult to record into MP3 format because of unwanted noise generated by the digital components inside the radio. The PR-D8 overcomes this problem by using good circuit craftsmanship techniques.

This radio does cause some interference when recording weak MW signals from an external tuner, even in ‘Recording Pause’ mode. This symptom seems to be easily solved by moving the component’s passive indoor MW loop well away from the recording radio, using a higher gain loop (especially an amplified variety) or an outdoor antenna.

For those seeking to purchase this radio for the sole intention of MW recording, this receiver performs admirably and would be recommended primarily for this purpose.

Samples of MW recordings

873 kHz talk: interstate fringe signal

1242 kHz music: fringe signal

1368 KHz music: interstate fringe signal

Recording mode & Backlight - Sangean PR-D8

 

Further reading

Enthusiast Review – Herculodge blog

Customer Reviews – Amazon & C.Crane

The author acknowledges the assistance of David in the composition of this review. Photos of the Sangean PR-D8 may be reused under a Creative Commons license. Simply link to this blog or attribute the blog in a photograph mouse hover or caption. Medium Wave distance calculations calculated using coordinates from Asia Waves.

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