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Review of the Degen DE1123 DSP AM/FM/SW Pocket Radio with 1GB MP3 Player & Recorder

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Review of the Degen DE1123 DSP AM/FM/SW Pocket Radio with 1GB MP3 Player & Recorder

DEGEN1123Providing a valuable service

From the “We wasted our money on this so you don’t have to” department… ”

So who needs another portable AM/FM/SW radio – certainly not me.  Or do I?


There is really only one reason I bought this radio – it has one innovative feature that is really valuable to me – the ability to directly record to its built-in 1 GB memory.  When listening to any station on AM/FM/SW hit the record button and you can both listen and record up to 69 hrs of audio.

The radio goes for $79 at  I purchased the radio from, no tax, and free shipping.  The radio arrived in about 5 days.

Here’s what you get

  1. The radio
  2. Three AAA rechargable ni-mh 650 mAh batteries
  3. USB cable
  4. earbuds
  5. carrying case
  6. Wall charger (accepts USB cable)
  7. An interesting manual written in “Chinenglish”

First Impressions

Fist impressions is that this is a very cheaply made radio.  The plastic case is very thin; the buttons are hard to push; and the slide switch which switches modes from FM/AM-SW/MP3/Record is going to be the first thing to break.

My second impression… is that my first impression is correct.

So, getting past that, lets turn the radio on.  After putting the batteries in and firing the radio up the first thing you will find in AM mode is that the factory default step between stations in not appropriate for the US.  Get the magnifying glass and the “Chinenglish” manual and set the AM station set size to 10 KHz.

Ready to go.  The user interface to this radio is not at all intuitive – you need to read the manual.  A little bit of intellectual elbow grease and you will have it down in 30 minutes or so.

Where’s the Beef?

So, lets get to the beef – the ability to record any station you are listening to into its 1 GB internal memory.

The good

  1. It does in fact work.  Record any station you can tune.
  2. Stores up to 70 hrs of audio neatly arranged in files.  Each time you hit the record button a new file is created
  3. You can play recorded audio back through the radio
  4. Plug in the USB cable and copy the WAV files to your personal computer
  5. Charge the supplied AAA batteries in the radio.

Some more good features

  1. This radio will play MP3 files.  Once connected to your personal computer via the USB cable drag any MP3 file to the device.
  2. The radio has a built-in microphone for voice recording,  Record any audio.  The mic is very sensitive.
  3. Use it for fie storage – 1GB – put anything on there that you want.

The not so good

Audio record levels

There is one very disappointing attribute of the the voice recording – the audio level.  The recorded audio is only about 1/2 the level that you will hear when listening in real time.  The radio has a digital volume control and indicator.  The max setting is 31.  A normal listening level is 15.  If you record at 15 you will have to playback at near max volume setting – 31.

The manual warns you about this.  They recommend that you set the volume to max when recording and connect the earbuds.  I assume that they don’t expect you to listen to it in this mode.  In any case, the volume you hear when recording is not the volume you will get on playback – the audio volume is reduced to about 1/2.

Mitigation Strategy for Audio recording levels

Not too much of a problem since I would simply copy these recordings off of the device and place them on my PC for later listening.  One can fix the audio level problem with fee software such as Audacity and then re/save the file back to disk on the PC or transfer it back to the device.


Painful!  There is no VFO, wheel, or direct entry of frequency.  You can press and hold the freq up/down button but it will stop on anything strong including interference.  Manually trying to get to a specific frequency on SW is painful.  Store those frequencies in the 100 presets.

“I forgot”

Take the batteries out and lose the time, date, and AM tuning step.

Some interesting other features

  1. Digital signal strength meter – very nice
  2. Sleep timer ( 5 to 90 minutes)
  3. Time and date
  4. SW (2.30 MHz to 23 MHz )
  5. Also available in 2GB and 4GB models (have not seen these advertised as of yet)
  6. Presets 225 – FM(100) MW (25) SW (100)
  7. ATS (Auto Scan and store of active frequencies in a band)
  8. Battery power levels
  9. Charge from your PC when connected to the USB port

Wish that it had…

  1. Timer to start recording.  That is, let me set a recording start/end time and  mute the audio.
  2. Better construction
  3. Expandability of the built-in memory – but 69 hrs of recording seems to be more than adequate with 1GB internal
  4. Let me set the recording quality.  I’d take better quality at half the recording duration.
  5. Always-on back light
  6. Built-in Cappuccino maker

Other Alternatives

The only other alternative that I know of at this time is the C.Crane Witness.  The Witness is more than double the price.  The Witness has double the memory (and expandable) and looks to be of far better construction from the picture on the CCradio web site – but no Shortwave !!


This radio does exactly what I want – record any AM/FM/SW station that I am listening to with up to 70 hrs or recording time.  However, there are some bumps in the road.  The biggest bump in the road is the record audio level which is only about 1/2 the level of the orginal.

The DEGEN1123 barely gets gets a pass.  I give it a D+ due to its cheap construction and the record audio level problem.  At $79 it will be a good value for a AM/FM/SW portable radio IFF (If and only if for you logic fans)  you have the burning desire or need to record broadcast terrestrial radio stations.  If you do not highly value this feature – then there are far better radios out there at about 1/2 the price.

“Please copy the files frequently.  Our company will not answer for the data destroying and losing”

“The functions and LCD displays will be changed because of the updated software, please take the unit as the standard.”

“While tuning the stations, you had better get very close to the window or stand on the outdoor field in order to avoid and disturb and gain the best reception”

Plus, if you feel you are ripped off, then read the “Chinglish” manual for some “free” entertainment.


You can see that the CC Witness is a different anaimal at about twice the price and perhaps 4 times the features and quality.
Manual for the C. Crane CC Witness –

DEGEN1123 on


Written by frrl

July 11, 2009 at 4:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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Review of the Apple iPod Touch – Redux: Our iLife

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ipodtouch_2d_logoProgress Report

I bought the Apple iPod Touch about a week ago at a local Best Buy.  I asked the blue-shirted-one “What is the return policy?”  He said “30 days”.  “No questions asked?”, I replied.  “Don’t worry”, he said, “You won’t return it”.  He was right!

After a week of use I can say that the Apple iPod Touch has changed the way I interact with the Internet for some subset of common activities.  For example, tiny things like checking my e-mail, checking the weather forecast, checking breaking news, finding out what’s happening in the financial markets, checking who was on-line on Skype – all these things used to take me to a painful trip to my laptop.

No more trips to the laptop

Now that has fundamentally changed.  With a home wireless network and the Apple iPod Touch all of these capabilities – and more – are now in my shirt pocket or a short reach away on the table.  Even if the iPod Touch is powered off it only takes 15 seconds to boot.

Untethered at last

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Written by frrl

April 26, 2009 at 4:14 am

Posted in Commentary and Opinion

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Review of the Apple iPod Touch: First Date

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Game Changer

If you are a traditional user of mp3 players you should know that Apple has fundamentally changed the game with the Apple iPod Touch. 

The game-changer in the iPod Touch is the presence of WiFi/Internet connectivity that is seamlessly integrated into the device.  This positions the Apple iPod Touch someplace between a traditional mp3 player and the iPhone.  Steve Jobs has called the iPod Touch “training wheels for the iPhone”.  Yes!

Location sensing without GPS

If the WiFi/Internet connectivity was not enough, when connected, the Apple iPod Touch has some clever technology the provides it the capability to determine it’s location – without GPS. 

Location sensing based on your IP address can be scary accurate in some cases.  Your mileage may vary – but for me, the Apple iPod Touch, on the basis of IP address alone, was able to determine my location within 3 houses. 

Location-based determination based on IP address alone is a demonstration of types of information that your Internet service provider can aggregate to find your geographic location.  Folks that believe that they are Internet surfing in anonymity with dynamically assigned IP addresses should take note.

It is also a testament to the innovation of Apple that they have leveraged this capability to make some very smart location-based applications  A couple of these applications are the supplied mapping program and the Google Earth Application.  You can download the Google Earth application for the iPod Touch for free from the App Store.

Touch Screen User Interface

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Written by frrl

April 19, 2009 at 9:13 am

video review of the Yaesu FT-450

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Were you thinking of buying a Yaesu FT-450?  The Yaesu FT-450 is an entry level HF radio that just about anyone can afford.  The base FT-450 is $669; with the built-in antenna tuner its $769.

How big is this radio in real life?  What does the display look like?  What sort of features does it have? No RF power control on the front panel – whats up with that?  Would this be a good radio for mobile use – nice display – but do the buttons light up for mobile use at night?

Check out a new hams (KC2UOO) video review of the Yaesu FT-450

Written by frrl

April 12, 2009 at 4:20 am

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Limited Space Antennas – The Small Transmitting Loop Antenna

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isoloop_aeafullviewThe AEA Isoloop

My basement has a collection of limited space antennas.  They don’t work well in the basement.  Oh yes, I forgot, they are there in the basement in storage.  All these antennas have a story to tell.  They were used, at one time or another, in one of my limited-space or stealth-operating living locations.

The AEA IsoLoop HF Antenna was an antenna I used off the balcony in a Chicago high-rise.  The IsoLoop was a little more stealthy than my Texas Bug Catcher with its 10ft length at about a 45 degree angle hanging over the edge of the balcony within sight of my neighbors.

The AEA IsoLoop is a small loop transmitting antenna that covers 14 Mhz to 30 Mhz continuously tunable.  Being continuously tunable is a good thing and its a bad thing.  It’s a good thing as one antenna can go any where between 20 meters and 10 meters – anywhere.  The bad thing is that it’s tunable and can go any where between 20 meters and 10 meters.  Got that?  It’s tunable – which means you have to make some sort of adjustment for each band on which it operates..  Unlike a multi-band antenna that is resonant on multiple bands at the same time, a small loop antenna, like the screwdriver antenna is resonant on one swath of  frequencies at a time.

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Written by frrl

March 21, 2009 at 5:56 am

The Tarheel Screwdriver Antenna: one up on the Texas Bug Catcher

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The veteran – The Trusty Texas Bug Catcher

tarheel_groundmountrailing1I am not sure how it got it’s name, but if you have a Texas Bug Catcher antenna mounted mobile you are bound to pick up a few – bugs that is.  If you have an air coil then cleaning those bugs out of there could be a chore.

tarheel_groundmountyardMuch safer is to mount the Bug Catcher in a stationary location.  Yes, it is possible and I have gotten good results.  Perhaps it’s overlooked, but a Texas Bug Catcher makes a good portable antenna, limited-space antenna, and a good stealth antenna for those  communities where antennas are considered an eyesore. 

I been using a Bug catcher for more than a decade.  I first used it on a balcony bolted to a steel railing in a Chicago high rise on the 40’th floor – 400 ft up.  When I moved to a location on the ground I used it in the backyard and on camping trips. 

tarheel_groundmountFor portable or backyard use all you need is an 18 inch galvanizedpipedriven into the ground with a sledge  hammer.  Mount the Bug Catcher to the pipe using common mounting hardware you can find at a truck stop or Radio Shack that sells CB mounting hardware (3/8-24 stud)

The Catch to the Bug Catcher

If you take a look at the Bug Catcher you can see the pain points of this antenna – it has taps.  Yes, it’s “continuously tuneable”, you can set the taps any place you want.  But after you have the tap points set – that’s it – those are the taps points you use until you change them.

Pain Points = Tap Points

First, the tap points will be the only ones you can use  until you change them.  Second, finding the tap points can be painful.  Heaven help you if you don’t have an antenna analyzer.  It is going to be a long process of set-and-test until you find the tap points of the center points of the band portions that you want to work.

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Written by frrl

March 15, 2009 at 1:53 am

Play for Free – The Baygen Freeplay Plus AM/FM/SW Radio: yes Virginia, there is a free lunch

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Sometimes you just need to buy stuff just for fun. When the Baygen Freeplay Plus radio came on sale from C-Crane Radio ( ) for $89 including shipping and no tax we could not resist.

The Baygen plus has to be the best eccentric para military, gloom and doom radio you could possibly possess. It seems that the Baygen would add to the ambiance of listing to Coast to Coast AM on broadcast AM. Brother Stair on shortwave, and also Dr. Gene Scott on shortwave. It should be noted that Dr. Gene Scott passed away a few years ago but can still be heard on radio preaching and asking for money.

The Baygen is the optimum listening device for information on flying saucers, alien implants, shadow people, rods, trans-dimensional beings, time-travelers, magnetic therapy, end-time prophecy, and the odd mix of Dr Gene Scotts lectures of biblical theology and flying saucers – all of which makes up much of the Shortwave bands. You will probably find a melted Baygen in the ruins of the David Koresh compound at Waco Texas.

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Written by frrl

March 8, 2009 at 8:19 am

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