The Eton E1 24-hour review - Click here for Chapter Two

Eton X1 portable featuring selectable syncronous detection

John, a local radio enthusiast and owner of the Eton E1, was good enough to loan me his new receiver for 24 hours. At my disposal was 2 Wellbrook ALA100 loop antennas, a Drake R8, a Kenwood R2000 and a variety of cables and gadgets.
John bought the Eton E1 from a vendor in Toronto, Ontario, Canada - it has been available here for about a month now. The Source, in Canada, should have them in stock in about 2 monthes or so. List price will be $599 Canadian.

In short, the DXer.CA crew give the Eton E1 two big thumbs up. I wanted to keep this receiver for a few more days - but that is life. ;-)

Starters: The Eton E1 portable receiver uses 4 D cells. It will work on a 9 or 12 V wall-wart ac adapter - a commonly available item. John included 4 nearly dead Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries so, yes, the Eton E1 will run off of batteries with slightly lower voltages - like NiCads. Good thing.

To be safe, I bought some store fresh Duracell Copper-top heavy duty D cells in a 4-pack. Just to be safe!

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The Eton E1 powers up with a push of the power button (upper right on the receiver) This is one of those radios that deserves a good turn of the manual (well written in fact) prior to digging in. I started the test process by plugging in an ALA100 loop antenna to the external antenna input. I did need an adapter (john provided one) in order to mate with the output of the ALA100.

Beside the Eton E1, I had a Drake R8 plugged into an identical Wellbrook ALA100 loop antenna. My antennas are located on the 7th floor of a 16 storey concrete and steel apartment building. Apart from a hotel location, I consider this one of the most challenging receiver locations. Thankfully, the ALA100 antennas resist electrical noise - they do this very well and are absolutely necessary for competitive listening in this environment.

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I started my Drake and Eton E1 comparisons on 530khz. There is a flea powered travel station in Port Angeles, Washington. They were equal strength on both receivers. Tuning around the lower end of the MW dial, I looked for spurious images or break-through of a local station whose fundamental frequency is 1070khz. I found none. The ALA100 antennas are capable of over-powering lesser receivers. The ALA100 did not overload the Eton E1.

Zipping onto the Shortwave bands, I tuned both receivers to 2500khz (WWV of course), then CHU Ottawa on 3330khz. Both were audible with similar signal strengths. The Eton E1 has an RF pre-amp much like the Drake R8. I rarely switched it on but when I did, the additional amplification generally improved the overall quality of reception (instead of injecting noise!)

Eton X1 left side controls

I used the Eton E1 over one evening (0400 - 0600UTC) and the following morning (1315 - 1330UTC) and conditions were somewhat less than ideal. There were a handful of Latin-american stations of 60 meters and a mixture of stations on 49 meters. Cuba on 5025khz and Chile on 6070khz were in well and equal in every way between the Drake R8 and the Eton E1. In all fairness, the Drake R8 has somewhat more warmth in the audio - I was using a speaker that was well suited to the Drake R8 audio. Who knows - with an external speaker or extra amplifier attached to the Eton E1, it might fare better.

Creature features: the Eton E1 has a Passband tuning offset control that, like the Drake R8, does exactly what it is supposed to do. It allows you to "push" away interfering stations within 5khz or so. The Eton E1 has user selectable Sync detection (like the Drake R8A, R8B and the Sony 7600G and 2010 for example). It works well. It locks and stays locked. The Eton E1 remembers which mode it is in when you are tuning - so if you are in Sync mode and you are band scanning, it drops into Sync when you stop tuning. Nice. The R8 does not do that. The R8A and B does.

Drake and Eton quality

For night listening, the Eton E1 can be set to be in "dial-lamp on" mode for periods of several seconds after each tuning knob adjustment. It is a pleasure to use the unit in dim lighting. Where the Eton falls down (ever so gently) is with usage in bright ambient lighting. It should be noted that I live (North of Seattle in Canada for those geographically challenged) - my apartment is brighter than average -way brighter! Think super-nova. I have coffee plants growing on the balcony beside the ALA100 antennas and they are thriving!

Summary: The Eton E1 is a full featured portable that, I feel, will outshine the Sony 2010 and compare favorably to the Drake R8 series and AOR 7030+ table-top receivers in terms of useability and flexibility. At this price point ($599-Canadian), the Eton E1 will be a very attractive primary receiver or second receiver for the World-band or Medium-wave DXing listener.

March 16, 2007 update: Ian McFarland won an Eton E1 at this years SWL Fest in Kulpsville - this will give us that much needed opportunity to re-test the Eton E1 -- even taking it out on the road on a DXpedition or two. Click here for a look at our second series of tests of the Eton E1!

Colin Newell lives and works in Victoria B.C. Canada and has been a radio enthusiast since 1971. When possible, he begs, borrows or creatively redistributes receivers and antennas for testing and review.