The Eton E100 comprehensive review

We thank Keith at Durham Radio for the complimentary Eton E100

Eton E100 small price huge performanceLegendary radio enthusiast and long time radio writer, Nick Hall-Patch once said as he gazed fondly at a Grundig Yacht-Boy 400PE...

"If we had this radio in the seventies, heck even the early eighties... the things we could have done!!!" Words of wisdom indeed.

Fact is, the bulk of us radio hobbyists (and yes, we are a largely male society [mores the pity]) are, at the youngest, in our forties and the elders among us - Well, they could very well be elderly indeed - hanging on into their 90's and beyond.

And with that biographical fact in place, the bulk of us have worked our way through (gasp) tube type radios from the 50's, discrete transistor communications-type receivers from the 60's and hybrids in the 70's. It was only with the emergence of the legendary phase-lock loop from the engineering team of Barlow-Wadley that gave us the likes of the XCR-30, the FRG-7 and others - that we actually moved forward into our modern era. It was ground-breaking technology and we have all been alive long enough to see it.

My first experience with some of the modern technology was in the early 1980's I became the proud owner of the Radio Shack DX-440 - a re-packaging of the Sangean AT-803A - which is still a pretty amazing little radio considering what I still do with it on my close-to-home DX expeditions: It had digital readout, digital tuning and memories! -something my old table-top suzed DX150B did not have!

Here in the 21st Century, the Eton E1, is a receiver that I proudly own and use almost daily - It is an excellent example of all the best developments that happened in the 70's and 80's - with some thoroughly modern stuff thrown in.

The Eton E100 is a miniature grandson of the Eton E1 - and it is a hand-sized version of... Well, not the E1 - it is a sub-miniature version of the Grundig Yacht-boy 400 mentioned above.
And for those so inclined to have a SW radio and good AM-FM portable everywhere they go (airplane travel included) this might just be the travel pick for 2008 (and beyond!). Update: In 2013, my Eton E100 is readying for an extended trip to Indonesia with a correspondent!

So let's get on to the review shall we? Thanks to Keith of Durham Radio Ontario for the complimentary Eton E100.

altCreature features: The Eton E100, out of the box, tunes standard North American (and Europe) FM from 87 to 108 Mhz - programmable to 76 to 108 (Japan) with a key sequence. Same applies for AM (Medium-wave) - tunes 1 Khz steps from 520 to 1720 Khz and can scan in 9 or 10 Khz increments.

Sample tuning exercise: Want to enter a frequency in the Eton E100?
Press the FM-AM-SW button (on the right) until a SW band is entered (It will be a 4 or 5 digit number displayed) - you can also press the SW Meter Band button to cycle through all the World band ranges. At any point you can stop on one of the bands and enter any frequency you want. Example: 15000 Khz (WWV)
- Press the ENTER button, then press the buttons 1, 5, 0, 0, 0 -- that simple!

Displayed on the radio is 5800 Khz - to set the radio to that frequency: Press ENTER and the numbers 5, 8, 0, and 0.
For 6160 Khz - Press ENTER and the numbers 6, 1, 6, and 0.

Shortwave hounds can tune all the frequencies between 1711 Khz and 29999 Khz - the whole enchilada - or scan by standard bands.

- You can set the time in 24 or 12 hour format - naturally, I use UTC because, well, I am a radio enthusiast and there is only one time zone! Make it easier to read the World Radio TV Handbook or Passport to World Band Radio (the 2 Bibles of radio that everyone must own!)

- The internal light times out after X minutes or you can press & hold the light button for 3s and the light stays on; forever, until the battery dies or the end of time... comforting.

The Manual
- Do yourself a great big favor. If you buy one (and it is simply not economical NOT to buy one...) - read the flipping manual and do not end up like me after using it for several months saying... "Hey! I had no idea it did this!"

The Power: The Eton E100 uses 2 AA sells - Alkaline or Nickel Metal Hydride rechargeable batteries - Naturally mileage will vary but the Eton E100 appears to be pretty light on current consumption. There is a DC Plug input for a 3V wall-wart - but it hardly seems logical or appropriate for a mobile radio - yea, it is a nice extra. That is 2 batteries, not 3! :-)

The Features-Memory pages - The Eton E100 uses a "Page" system that allows the owner to group their favorite frequencies in memory pages (or groups) that may be recalled later. Handy. But be warned - of all the features that the Eton E100 offers, wrapping your mind around the paging and memory system requires just a little mental effort - everything else is easy!

The Paging and Memory - Example: One can store any memory or combination of memories in sections called "pages" - I would rather call them chapters - but that is just me.

The Factory default is 5 "pages" or "chapters" of 40 memories or channels. A better setting could be 4 chapters of 50 memories; Chapter one could be your favorite AM or Medium-wave frequencies, Chapter 2 could be your favorite shortwave stations, Chapter 3 your favorite FM stations and so on.

Dialing up a frequency and committing it to memory is easy. Press the FM-AM-SW button to tab to your range of frequencies (in this example, 19 meters or 15 Mhz) Press the Enter button and then enter 15000 - Bingo. You are on 15 Mhz and hopefully (if it is daylight, you can hear WWV or WWVH ticking away). Press and hold M.Scan Page button until the [Pn] flashes in the upper right hand side of the LCD panel (P1, P2, P3, etc) - Press the UP/Hour or Down/Min button to get to the page/chapter of your choice. From there you can recall memories or commit what you are currently tuning to a memory. Capiche? Memories can also be recalled by being in the "Page" mode by pressing the M.Scan/Page button on the right side of the radio or by entering into the keypad the memory number. Different strokes - same result.

Mini-Review: Entering a frequency: To enter a frequency the ENTER button must be pressed first then the frequency that the user desires.

When in the Page mode, the page number and memory number is indicated in the top right corner of the Eton E100's display.

When the E100 is not in the Page mode, the time is displayed in the upper right hand corner of the LCD display... Which is handy: You can see the time in 24Hr UT or whatever time zone you choose while the radio is on. Brilliant.

The E100 lets the owner group the 200 memories into "Page" sizes that best fits their listening habits - as described above. Customize to contentment.

Options are: 4 Pages of 50 Memories,
5 Pages of 40 Memories, 8 Pages of 25 Memories or 20 Pages of 10 Memories.

The Eton E100 does not lose its memories if the owner switches to a different page format.

Example: going from 5 Pages of 40 Memories (factory preset) to 4 Pages of 50 Memories… It is a no brainer! The radio's brain just re-numbers the memories. Another nice touch is the ability to mix AM, FM and Shortwave memories into the same page. Confusing but possible!

Eton E100 Performance: Not surprisingly, the Eton E100 thrives on the signals provided by its little whip antenna of about 20 inches. Here on the West Coast of North America, we are in a virtual fringe area - not wait... Nothing virtual about it - This is a fringe area - very likely the one spot on the Globe with the lowest Shortwave signal levels - And yet, the Eton E100 has enough of the right stuff to pull in anything that I can hear on my Sony 7600G or Grundig Yacht-Boy 400PE - granted with some considerations! More on that later.

Because of the varying strengths of radio signals around the World, the Eton E100 has a 3-way sensitivity switch - very, very handy. During this test I have been experimenting with an external whip antenna off of my balcony - I have it hooked up to a Sony 2010 and, at times, a Drake R8 when the Wellbrook ALA100's are not on. With the outdoor whip antenna connected to the Eton E100 (with an alligator clip of of the R8/U Coaxial lead-in) there was no sign of overload on the E100 - and I am about 5 km from a 10kw medium-wave transmitter that has about 250kw of E.R.P. on my bearing!

In one evenings worth of observations, anything I could hear on my Sony 2010, I hear on the Eton E100. Yes, the Sony has Sync detection and that helps - but I was running the 2010 without that feature enabled.

With the single IF filter that the E100 has, it appears to have been carefully thought out - providing just enough narrow filtering for cluttered shortwave bands - but not so much that audio fidelity suffers much. Which is ok considering that the average SW radio listener is now in his 50's and cannot hear much above 7khz anyway! (Not quite there myself... but I am on the way!)

The sound quality from the internal speaker of the Eton E100 is pleasant but it is no Grundig Yacht-Boy or Eton E1 for that matter. With a decent set of headphones or buds, the sound is (to my ears) above average in terms of warmth - I will be confirming that theory with some advanced testing on the Eton E100. As a result, this comprehensive review will be open ended towards this end section as I add observations.

Sound bytes - Here are 3 audio snippets recorded on a Zoom H4 professional digital recorder of the same frequency over a period of a couple of minutes using the Eton E100, the Eton E1 and the Sony 2010:

Eton E100 Eton E1 Sony 2010

The Eton E100 filter sounds, to my ear, about 2.2khz or so - The Eton E1 (in all fairness) was set at 7khz w/ Sync lock on so it sounded a tad strident. The Sony 2010 was in narrow -- which is slightly less that 2 khz (with Sync lock in) -- The Eton E100 fairs quite well without Sync detect - and the overall sensitivity is no slouch. So, for 40+ bucks, this represents staggering value.

Move on to the Grundig G6 Review

Colin Newell has been an avid radio enthusiast since 1971 - a former member of and contributor to the CIDX Club and SPEEDX - has been writing about radio on the internet since the mid-Nineties.