Sunday, April 15, 2012

CDNSE Newstar DR111 Review (part 3)

In addition to testing the DR111 using my outdoor ham radio vertical, I have been trying it with other antenna options. Clearly even a modest increase in antenna size can make the difference between no audio and full capture/decode.

First I tried a Grundig reel antenna stretched within a room inside the house. REE on 9630 kHz came to life and I had an hour plus of nearly perfect copy. Later after having switched to RNZI on 17675 kHz I noticed intermittent dropouts.
I then deployed the Degen DE31 active window loop.

Settings on the DE31 are somewhat sensitive in analogue reception and they are all the more important receiving DRM. After slowly turning the tuning knob on the DE31 and watching the signal strength graph on the DR111 (by pressing the info button) I was able eventually to add a bar or so and hence receive with no dropouts. I might suggest an active antenna with obvious presets for various band segments or something similar. For that matter, how about an add-on active antenna that could be powered by the USB jack on the side of the radio?

Due to the largely computer based nature of the receiver (this is not your grandpa's wireless set!) there are short delays as the various buttons are pressed and processes are engaged. Knowing that I am impressed at how quickly there is DRM acquisition. In yesterdays video of Disco Palace, you can see there is only about 2 seconds after lock that you get audio. That is about the same delay when changing frequencies in analogue.

The DR111 is not a band-scanner radio, unless you are speaking of the seek mode. I know this is a deal breaker for some. Improvements might include the ability for the radio to be set to scan within broadcasting bands. Also to have a certain portion of the memories auto-populate on scan. Since there are so few DRM broadcasts available to me here in western North America, I have yet to stumble on one. I'll test doing so near know broadcasts.

I toyed a bit playing music back from the USB and SD card slots. This feature certainly is lackluster and maybe not even complete. I had varying success getting songs to play the same way each time I tried it. The audio is good and what I expected from the speakers (not the most hi-fi but good for the size). It attempts to use MP3 ID3 tags, but the choices employed are wrong, such as listing album twice rather than album and song title. There is a way to choose one of 2 info display scenarios, but neither is all that useful.

There currently is no way to record programs. I assumed that with the USB and SD card ports, this would be a basic function. The main function of these ports must be for firmware upgrades.

[Images of the Degen DE-31 are borrowed from Carsten Knuetter, purveyor of excellent DRM monitoring software!]