For a cheap radio adventure, I obtained a new Kaide KK-9 radio from China. It cost US$11.19, and arrived from Hong Kong in 13 days. I wanted to determine if a Kaide radio approached the quality of radios like the R-912 and R-9012 from Tecsun, and the very similar Kaito WRX911.
This analog-tuned pocket radio receives 64-108 MHz in the FM/TV band, 526-1606 khz for mediumwave, and the 49m, 41m, 31m, 25m, 19m, and 16m shortwave bands.
My Eton E5 served as a reference for identifying signals.
The KK-9 has a nice appearance. There's some red and blue ink on the front, although most of the radio is silver, black, and white. The background of the tuning scale resembles a world map. The shortwave frequency ranges seem generous, stretching beyond the broadcast bands. The vertical divider between the speaker and the tuner display resembles the form of the Grundig YB-400PE. (According to a review on Radiointel, the company that makes the Kchibo and Kaide products also manufactures the YB-400PE.)
With close observation of the speaker grille, I noticed slight defects in the plastic molding. The surface has a few bumps that go against the intended design.
This is a no-frills product:
* it lacks a power switch, and is turned on and off via the volume dial
* there isn't a ribbon in the battery bay to help loosen batteries
* the battery door rattles
* no flip-stand is available, and the radio does not feel sturdy when stood up
* there isn't a clip for the antenna; instead, a thin plastic stump guides the antenna to its closed position
* the antenna doesn't rotate
* it's difficult to fit my hand through the small wrist strap
* contours on the right side of the radio make the tuning knob less accessible
On an analog shortwave radio with a small tuning scale and wide frequency bands, increased precision is needed to find signals. That will prove difficult here, as the knob's small size and position make it awkward to use. On the plus side, the tuning knob produces good responsiveness with the frequency and the tuning needle. The knob's stiffness could be a benefit, helping to reduce drift.
The band switch on the top of the radio is easy to push too far when selecting a band. Sometimes when I pressed either the AM or the FM/TV button, nothing happened and I had to press again.
A dx/local switch is provided, but in my experience, this only resulted in volume attenuation. Maybe I'm still a novice, but I always find myself saying "more, more!" to the antenna, rather than "less, less!".
I briefly compared the speakers of the Kaide KK-9 and the Tecsun R-912. The Kaide's speaker may be slightly bigger, but there was no noticeable difference in audio quality. As a downside, the larger speaker grille on the KK-9 leaves less space for the tuning display.
Unlike my Tecsun analog-tuned radios, the KK-9 doesn't emit lots of whistling sounds while fine-tuning a signal.
When I plugged in my iPod earphones and set the volume to zero, the KK-9 emitted less hiss than my R-9012. It was a fainter hiss, with lower frequencies. FM stations sounded better with earphones, perhaps due to the improved frequency response. On mediumwave, most stations above 1100 khz were accompanied by a high ringing sound that I didn't hear with the speaker. And for shortwave, using earphones made me try harder to clarify stations, with a lot of back-and-forth tuning.
Shortwave reception on this radio is disappointing. The telescopic antenna only fetched the strongest signals, although clipping onto a DE31 active loop antenna increased signal strength. Overall, shortwave stations sounded noisy, which would make for tedious listening during prolonged use.
While trying to find WWV on 10 mhz, I heard what sounded like a local radio station. A woman was speaking perfect English in a matter-of-fact tone. A few moments later, I identified it as 92.7 FM, in the 31-meter band! I don't like radios that make it difficult to receive WWV / WWVH.
FM signals were found elsewhere in shortwave bands: 92.7 mhz was above 6.38 in the 49-meter band, 96.5 mhz was about halfway between 7.00 and 7.20 mhz in the 41-meter band, 104.5 mhz was found with the needle above 10.62 mhz in the 31-meter band, 96.5 mhz was found again in the 21-meter band with the needle between 13.25 and 13.40 mhz.
I logged a number of shortwave stations with this radio in an effort to determine the accuracy of the printed tuning scales. Each band then received an accuracy rating (good, fair, or bad).
49-meter band (accuracy: fair)
* WWCR on 5765 khz: the needle was just above 5.92 mhz
* WEWN on 5810 khz: the needle was above 5.92 mhz
* WEWN on 5850 khz: the needle was between 5.92 and 6.00 mhz
* WHRI on 5860 khz: the needle on 6.00 mhz
* Radio Thailand on 5890 khz: the needle was on 6.00 mhz (distorted, hard to tune in)
* University Network/Caribbean Beacon on 6090 khz: the needle was 1/3 of the way from 6.00 to 6.12 mhz
* WYFR on 5985 khz: the needle was a bit below 6.12 mhz
* Radio Taiwan International on 5950 khz: the needle was just below 6.12 mhz
* Radio Havana Cuba on 6000 khz: the needle was on 6.12 mhz
* Radio Sweden on 6010 khz: the needle was on 6.12 mhz (somewhat distorted)
* Radio Netherlands on 6165 khz: the needle was on 6.25 mhz
41-meter band (accuracy: bad)
* an image of KTBN on 7505 khz: the needle was below 6.70 mhz
* WYFR on 6855 khz: the needle was just below 7.00 mhz
31-meter band (accuracy: good)
* WYFR on 9505 khz: the needle was below 9.55 mhz
* WHRI on 9515 khz: the needle was below 9.55 mhz
* China Radio International on 9790 khz: the needle was halfway from 9.55 to 10.14 mhz
* WHRI on 9840 khz: the needle was halfway from 9.55 to 10.04 mhz
* WEWN on 9975 khz: the needle was below 10.04 mhz
* WWV on 10000 khz: the needle was just below 10.04 mhz
25-meter band (accuracy: fair)
* HCJB and VOA on 11750 khz: the needle was on 11.45 mhz (stations found at different times)
* Sound of Hope and a Firedrake jammer on 11765 khz: the needle was just above 11.45 mhz
* Radio Netherlands on 11970 khz: the needle was halfway from 11.45 to 11.90 mhz
* VOA on 12025 khz: the needle was below 11.90 mhz
* BBC on 12095 khz: the needle was below 11.90 mhz
* an image of Radio Canada International on 13710 khz: the needle was above 12.40 mhz
21-meter band (accuracy: bad)
* Firedrake on 13625 khz: the needle was below 13.25 mhz
* China Radio International on 13680 khz: the needle was above 13.25 mhz
* an image of CHU on 14670 khz: the needle was above 13.25 mhz
* an image of WWV/WWVH on 15000 khz: the needle was just below 13.66 mhz
* an image of WYFR on 15155 khz: the needle was above 13.66 mhz
19-meter band (accuracy: bad)
* WYFR on 15130 khz: the needle was 2/3 of the way from 14.83 to 15.00 mhz
* WYFR on 15155 khz: the needle was on 15.00 mhz
* Voice of Korea on 15180 khz: the needle was on 15.00 mhz
* CVC on 15250 khz: the needle was 1/3 of the way from 15.00 to 15.30 mhz
* WHRI on 15285 khz: the needle was about halfway from 15.30 to 15.68 mhz
* WHRA on 15665 khz: the needle was halfway from 15.30 to 15.68 mhz
* WWCR on 15825 khz: the needle was below 15.68 mhz
16-meter band (accuracy: good)
* an image of WYFR on 17795 khz: the needle was below 16.80 mhz
* WHRA on 17640 khz: the needle was on 17.65 mhz
* WYFR on 17750 khz: the needle was just above 17.65 mhz
* Radio Canada International on 17765 khz: the needle was above 17.65 mhz
* Radio Japan on 17825 khz: the needle was further above 17.65 khz
The KK-9 was more functional and reliable with mediumwave. The mediumwave scale gets a "good" accuracy rating. Here are the stations I found:
* 560 khz: the needle was a bit below 600 khz
* 680 khz: the needle was a bit above 680 khz
* 740 khz: the needle was a bit below 800 khz
* 810 khz: the needle was a bit above 800 khz
* 910 khz: the needle was just below 1000 khz
* 960 khz: found with the needle on 1000 khz
* 1050 khz: the needle was between 1000 and 1200 khz
* 1100 khz: the needle was just below 1200 khz
* 1260 khz: the needle was halfway between 1200 and 1400 khz
* 1310 khz: the needle was just below 1400 khz
* 1400 khz: right where it should be
* 1450 khz: the needle was a bit above 1400 khz
* 1550 khz: the needle was a bit below 1600 khz
This radio uses up half of the FM tuning scale for the 64 - 88 mhz range. Also, it's a very tiny space in the 88 - 96 mhz range. The FM tuning scale accuracy gets a "fair" rating. Let's see what happened here:
* found 90.3 mhz right on the "3" in VHF
* found 92.7 mhz a bit above the "3" in VHF
* found 96.5 mhz a bit above the "1" in VHF
* found 97.3 mhz a bit further above the "1" in VHF
* found 98.1 mhz further above the "1" in VHF
* found 90.3 mhz below 96
* found 92.7 mhz just below 96
* signals were jumbled together around 96 mhz on the tuning scale
* found 97.3 mhz with the needle on 98
* found 98.1 mhz a bit above 98
* found 98.9 mhz a bit above 98
* found 100.5 mhz a bit above 98
* found 102.1 mhz a bit below 104
* found 103.7 mhz on 104
* found 104.5 mhz a bit above 104
* found 105.3 mhz a bit more above 104
* found 106.9 mhz over 108
FM signals were often distorted, or jumbled with other signals. Grabbing an FM station requires extremely tiny tuning movements. Unfortunately some local FM stations were easier to find below 88 mhz where I fished for images.
I found the audio for a local television station, KRON 4, just above the "3" in the VHF scale. The same signal was about halfway between the "2" and the "3" in VHF.
Several enhancements would improve this radio. A smaller speaker and a horizontal tuner would allow for a slightly longer tuning range. The shortwave frequency ranges should be smaller to make tuning and station separation easier. The loose buttons, band switch, and battery door could probably be tightened up. The contours on the right side of the radio should be eliminated so the tuning knob can be used properly. I always appreciate an on/off switch, as well. That just covers some cosmetic issues.
On the technical side, this receiver is flawed due to inaccurate shortwave tuning scales, and for picking up out-of-band signals.
The KK-9 has given me the definition of a cheap shortwave radio. Overall, I must rate the KK-9 radio as inadequate, and simply a Chinese souvenir. The "QC PASS" sticker on the back of the KK-9 should be considered a forgery. This experience clarifies the value of Tecsun's considerably more functional analog-tuned pocket radios, such as the R-912 and R-9012. I will continue recommending those radios, as well as the equivalent Kaito WRX911 (more suited for the North American market), for those wishing to inexpensively satisfy shortwave curiosity.