The Sangean PRD5 comprehensive review

Sangean PRD5 DX performerIn an era of small = better and iPod's and MP3 players that look more like bic lighters than entertainment devices... it always comes as a pleasant surprise that there are engineers out there that take some guidance from the consumers that still feel that classic technology is as viable as it was the day it was hatched. And on top of that, there are accountants at companies like Sangean that give their creative people a little money and a little elbow room to take existing technology a few steps forward.

 

Photo right - The Sangean PRD5 shot with a Canon EOS-30D, 3X4' Soft-Box and 300W/s head.

The Sangean PRD5 is a good example of how a 20th century approach can work well in the 21st. It was, after all, in the 30's, 40's and 50's where a family would gather around a big console radio to listen to the warm sounds of AM radio - sometimes half a continent away, with crisp room filling sound.

And although the Sangean PRD5 does not use tube technology or discrete transistors, they manage to pull off a combination of sound quality and sensitivity that was, for this beta tester, a little surprising.

When I was first presented with this loaner (from the folks at Durham Radio), I was told that it was marketed to go up against the much more utilitarian C Crane radio (yet another radio I have actually played with - and impressed by) - Naturally I was expecting high performance, better than average dynamic range and audio second to none in its price class.

So. How did it do?

{mosimage}From my spot on Southern Vancouver Island, I start every receiver test at the same spot on the dial - 530Khz. I pick this frequency because it is a great indicator of day and night performance. I assume every ultra-light radio, portable, porta-top or table-top with a decent antenna will deliver something on 530khz - whether it is the TIS station across the water in Port Angeles or one or other of the few Latin Americans that transmit on 530Khz - that are audible at night. If I do not get something on 530Khz, it means an immediate disqualification - no exceptions. If a radio is deaf at this end of the dial, it is game over for any further discussion.

 

altPhoto right - The Sangean PRD5 front panel is well organized. Simple and easy to learn.

 

The Sangean PRD5, right out of the box and plugged in, delivered audio from Turks & Caicos on 530Khz, on its own, away from my apartment window and without the help of any of my loop antennas.

Tuning around I realized quickly that the Sangean PRD5 is a table radio in a small package - its rich audio made up for what I would quickly appreciate to be its limitation for hard-core DXers - of which I am one. The Sangean PRD5 tunes in 9 or 10Khz steps on AM - which is great if you are a domestic DXer.

You can quickly switch over to the 9Khz step mode - but unless you throw in an external loop or take advantage of the PRD5's better than average directional capabilities, you are going to restrict your long haul reception to your continent or at least the regions that use your channel spacing. I wondered to myself (and am still wondering) how difficult it would have been to offer a fine tuning option on this very capable radio. In a moment I will tell you why there would not be that much point.

{mosimage}Like all great table radios and consoles of old, the PRD5 shines in its ability to deliver hi-fi quality reception on the AM Dial. Yes, it does FM and it does that well - and like many other Sangean receivers, it displays embedded information derived from the FM subcarrier; station ID, Song name, Artist, format etc.

 

On the AM dial, the PRD5 is taylored to deliver crisp audio - even to my almost-middle-aged ears. And to do that the engineers had to sacrifice a bit of selectivity. Sensitivity? It is right up there with the C Crane radio, a radio specifically designed with long haul reception in mind. Side by side with the Sony 2010 and the Eton E1, the Sangean PRD5 holds it own. It is sound quality is several clicks above the Sony and the Eton. The sensitivity is somewhere between the Sony and the Eton across the band - which is not shabby.

So. About that fine tuning. The Sangean PRD5 is all about high-performance and long distance - not splitting stations a couple of kilohertz away - because it will not do that. I imagine some of the lads that have been prying apart ultra-lights lately with scalpels and screw drivers more suited to fixing granny glasses could easily tackle the PRD5 and sweeten the IF filters and tweak a few things. Be my guest. This could be an interesting radio if are located in a coastal area, like the West Coast... or the East Coast - or the Hawaiian islands - because you could quite conceivably take advantage of all the signals on either channel spacing setting - I would like to see what Japan on 828Khz sounds like when it is in the clear (as it has been the last few mornings...) On the Eton E1, these high powered Japanese stations come across with very warm audio - I can only imagine what it would sound like on the PRD5 under the right conditions.

As usual, we thank Durham Radio for the long term loan of the PRD5 - here is the link to this item on their website. Without the cooperation of Durham Radio in Ontario, many of these reviews would not be possible. Please consider this reveiw partially complete as I am still poking it and prodding it.

To do: Going to grab some sound bytes from the PRD5 and upload the MP3's here - perhaps some real comparisons to the Eton E1, the Sony 2010 and a few others.

Details and stuff about the PRD5

 

Wall-Wart: DC 9V 700mA center pin positive
Batteries: 6 C size batteries
Frequency Coverage: FM 87.50 108 MHz
AM 522 1629 kHz (9 kHz /step)
AM 520 1710 kHz (10 kHz/step)
Speaker: 2 X 2.5" 8 ohm
Output Power: 800 + 800 mW
Headphone socket: 3.5 m diameter
Size: 10.5" W x 5.25" H x 2.75" D

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