In 25 years of DXing and Shortwave listening, I have seen lots of things come and go. In the World of International Shortwave broadcasting, the general trend has been toward the "go" aspect of this equation.
What do I mean by this? Well, if you think of the radio hobby as a tub full of water, the overall pattern is of a tub that is draining as opposed to filling.
Now granted this is a slow leak, but it a trend towards obsolescence with time. The question is, how much time do we radio hobbyists have?
Enter the RedSun RP2100 receiver. When a manufacturer enters the market with a product obviously geared towards a particular segment of the listening population (us!) then it is time to take notice (and ask a couple of obvious questions).
I do not know too much about the company itself, but with the appearance of a new product (like the RedSun RP2100), we must certainly take notice. Again, from my perspective, with the advent of the internet, the i-generation, mp3-players, podcasts and the like, shortwave has become quite passé. I devote a significant portion of my "radio hobby time" to promoting the hobby through avenues much like this website, for example. It is important. I mean, nothing is infinte.
Anyway, from where I am sitting, the birth of a new receiver, like the RedSun should be greeted with something of a celebration - you know, like the arrival of a new neice or nephew. Ok. So sing with me now... Happy Birthday to you... Happy Bi... Ok, okay. You get it.
For starters, I would like to thank Jackie of RedSun Electronics for sending me a sample of the RedSun RP2100 receiver. It was well-packaged and showed up pretty much as expected (via Fedex or DHL Courier...) Lucky for me I got one of the new English versions:
- It runs on 110V and 2 different kinds of common batteries
- It is labelled in English.
- Here is a PDF version of the operating manual!
Ok - so let's get some of the boring specifications out of the way. And then we can talk about them.
The RP-2100 is PLL tuned covering:
FM: 87.00 - 108.00 MHz
MW: 522-1620 or 1710 KHz/9 or 10 KHz steps
SW 1: 1711 - 10010 KHz
SW 2: 9990 - 20010 KHz
SW 3: 19990 - 29999 KHz
50 memory presets are available with 10 in each band
Dual Conversion on AM and SW
Two IF Bandwidths: 6 KHz and 3 KHz
Audio Power Output 2.5 Watts on AC Power
Power Supply: AC 110Volt Input (U.S.A. - Canada version)
DC 6 - 9 Volt center negative
4 D Cells or 4 AA Cells (switch selectable) - Built-In Charger
Stereo Headphone Jack & Stereo Line Out Jacks (Dual RCA Type)
The RedSun RP2100 feels like a radio meant to be toted around. Size-wise, it is somewhere between a Sony 2010 and the old Radio-shack DX440 and the Redsun has a great handle. It is definitely a portable but is solid enough that is should stay out anywhere you set it.
The overall fit and finish reminded me of my good old Honda Civic sedan - nothing particularly sexy about it, but it is put together well without any sharp bits, rough corners or obviously overexposed screw heads. It looks Japanese enough, but it is not. It is made in the Peoples Republic of China - like pretty much everything else in the average persons living space.
The universal power button of the RedSun RP2100 is located, rather obviously, in the upper-right hand corner of the front fascia. A single press of the soft-touch power button brings the unit up within 2 seconds. There is no thump or thud as the receiver comes on - there is a slight delay (I gather while some chip or another senses whether or not everything is as it should be) and then you have pleasant audio. Not surprising, the Redsun RP2100 remembers which frequency you were on when you were last listening. In fact, in the 5 bands of operation, the RedSun RP2100 remembers which frequency was tuned last per band. Handy.
Including the power button, there are 14 soft-touch (and back-illuminated) buttons on the Redsun. They were not all intuitive on first go-round, but I figured it out. The power button has 2 buttons below it; the Dual-time select button and the lock button - both sensibly placed.
A cluster of eight smaller soft-touch buttons to the right of the (large) tuning knob serve several purposes - as well as multiple uses (in 4 of the buttons); Down and Up slew buttons. These two bottons tune up or down in FAST tuning mode (incrementally or in shuttle-mode).
The next two down handle Memory and Alarm mode (more on these later when I discuss memory mode). The next two buttons are Timer A and Timer B. Dual-time feature. I have not used it yet, so no comment.
Above the tuning knob are three soft-touch buttons - One is slow, one is fast and one is stop! They control the speed at which you can tune up or down and the stop button locks the knob so you cannot go anywhere - kind of like the lock button. There is a key-lock button as mentioned above - it locks the touch buttons and the knob from doing anything. You can still change bands and bandwidths mind you. No surprise there.
To the left of the tuning knob are three smaller knobs - the top one is a bandwidth switch for AM and SW. This switch does double duty - with FM you can select mono or stereo mode. The RP2100 has 2 'fairly well chosen' bandwidths. More on that later. The middle knob in this group is the band-switch for HF and Medium-wave. Oddly, you select FM or AM modes in the top knob. A quirk. A small quirk at that. The bottom knob in this group of knobs is the volume control. I think it is well placed in proximity to the tuning knob.
On the lower left of the front fascia are the audio and RF control knobs. Yes, it has treble, bass and an RF gain control. The RF control, as we will find out, is definitely needed in areas of high RF levels... which would be everywhere except maybe Tibet and the South Pole!
Each side of the RP2100 receiver has its own set of extras. On the left - AC Plug in, DC in, Battery-type select and Stereo RCA out. Yes, the RedSun portable will run on two different types of batteries and rechargeable! Okay, so that is 3 types of batteries! On the right hand side of the RedSun receiver are switches for Keylight, Sensitivity and Antenna (EXT-INT)[this one left me confused - more on that later...]
|Left side with RCA-Out / Batt.Select / AC-in / DC in|| KeyLight on/off / Sensitivity / Antenna-INT/EXT
So how does it all stack up?
The RedSun RP2100 represents a positive up-tick for world-band radio enthusiasts, In a time where satellite and internet technology (good or bad) puts the squeeze on tried and true technology, the RedSun radio gives me some comfort.
But how did it work? Well, we powered it up (with batteries and line voltage) against the Sony 7600G and the Grundig (now Eton) Yacht-Boy 400PE. Right off the bat, it is obvious that the RedSun RP2100 holds its own in the sensitivity department. Anything you can hear on the Sony 7600G you can hear on the RedSun. There were some differences: The RedSun RP2100 sounds better (without playing with the tone controls) - not surprising considering that there isn't a Sony made that sounds "good" to my ears. So, this is a plus.
The RedSun RP2100 has two bandwidths, both of which are more suited to program content - not DXing or pulling out heard-to-hear or "squashed by adjacent channel interference" type scenarios. The Sony 7600G shines in its ability to pluck out weaker stations adjacent to more powerful ones - thank-you sideband syncronous detection!
When tuning through broadcast bands, the RedSun RP2100 plays more like a communications receiver. The tuning dial is bigger than the knob on the Drake R8. This is a plus for listeners who like to roam the dials. It is a fact that user fatigue is reduced by controls that have the right placement and size.
Another RedSun versus Sony dig would be: having a tuning knob for me is a plus but this could be an age thing. The downside for the Sony 7600G is that there is no knob based tuning. On the RP2100, there is no direct frequency entry - which is a little odd. There is the memory system and, I believe, you can kind of page through the entries... but this is not direct entry. So, you tune... and you tune.
Another less than desireable feature on the RedSun is the bandswitching - there are 3 shortwave bands, the medium-wave band and FM. This is the 21st century and picking between bands (however cosy and retro for me) is a little old fashioned. Minor nitpick either way.
The RedSun RP2100 has a variable RF Gain knob and in areas of high local signals (AM, FM etc) this is a must-have. In my environment, I am looking down at a 250kw(ERP) AM transmitter on 1070khz. With the RF Gain wide open, I do experience some break-through reception. Not surprising. I will be pulling the RedSun receiver out to some more rural areas on the weekend to see how it performs. More on that later.
What I like about the RedSun RP2100 receiver
- Overall size and rugged build.
- Placement and size of controls. They all make sense and are in the right place.
- The sound (without even touching the BASS and TREBLE controls)
- The sensitivity and abililty to regulate it with the RF Gain
- 4 choices of power; 2 battery types, AC input and DC Wall-wart
- Higher than average creature-features for price point
- Balanced and unbalanced antenna inputs (in addition to internal ferrite core (AM) and whip antenna (FM and SW)
- Odd and somewhat retro bandswitching
- Slightly higher than average learning curve for figuring out memory functions (I did not have an owners manual at the time - individual results will vary)
Colin Newell lives and works in Victoria B.C. Canada - He has been a radio enthusiast since 1971 and considers radio a viable alternative to television and the internet... and it's fun!