Before I purchased my first radio, I noticed a trend in shortwave radio reviews, where the reviewers compared each radio with several other similar radios. These people own so many radios with essentially similar features! Alas, now I have several shortwave radios of my own.
So how would I justify all of the radios I purchased? Each radio has one major feature or purpose that made it a must-have for me...
"I want a full-featured digitally-tuned portable shortwave radio." My first purchase was the Kaito KA1102. I was impressed by full coverage of the 3-30 mhz range, single sideband functionality, and a sub-$100 price. Truth be told, I could've stopped here and I'd be quite well equipped for shortwave broadcast listening.
"I want a radio with synchronous detect." For this feature I made the obvious choice of the Sony ICF SW7600GR. I understand that this radio's sync detect isn't as powerful as it could be; more powerful sync detect could help pull in weak signals. That would provide a benefit to my listening experience, as the SW7600GR is mostly useful for improving signals I can already receive adequately.
"I want a radio with a tuning knob." To discover the tuning knob experience, I purchased a Tecsun PL-350. After much use, I'll say that this is a terrific radio. The unit is well designed and constructed, and similar in operation to the PL-200 (and probably the PL-550 as well). However, it's only a single conversion receiver so it suffers from imaging problems. It also sometimes picks up unusual interference that goes away if I tune to another frequency and back again. I'll probably have a future post focusing on this radio.
"A tiny portable shortwave radio would be fun to have." Countycomm's GP-4L (a rebranded Degen DE202) looked nifty and tiny! I ordered it along with other nifty gadgets from Countycomm. This is the least useful (and least used) radio in my collection. It used to be my bathroom radio, but now I use a Tecsun PL-200 there.
"I should explore the low-cost, analog-tuned radio segment." My enthusiasm for this niche and fading hobby has me seeking to possess knowledge about radios at all price points. What could I recommend to someone in the $30 range? The Kaito WRX911 seemed obvious, and I learned that this radio (like many others commonly discussed today) originates with Tecsun. A recent article on this weblog covers similarities and differences of Tecsun's R-911, R-912, and R-9012 radios. The R-9012 looks to be the nicest in this bunch, although I wish it supported FM stereo.