Thursday, February 23, 2006

I bought this radio, and you should too!

How, my loyal reader(s), are you currently listening to radio? (You are listening, aren't you?) If you don't have a working radio, or are bored/underwhelmed with what you have, and if you have even just a touch of radio geekiness within you - just a tad! - I would very much like to recommend this adorable little radio. I got it a few days ago, and I'm head-over-heels in love...

It's called the Grundig Mini World 100 PE, it can fit in your pocket, and is currently being discounted at Radio Shack stores for $20 plus tax; here are reviews (admittedly radio geek reviews, but still useful). First, it gets AM reception really well. In Manhattan, I can easily hear Danny Stiles' fantastic 8-10 pm weeknight show from Paterson's WPAT 930, and WWRL 1600's oft-wimpy signal comes in like a champ wherever you are. And FM reception is not only strong as well, but sounds great through the headphones - basslines sound especially dope yet crisp (I was actually able to figure out an extra McCartney lick in "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" I'd never noticed before). The radio even has a little loudspeaker, so you can bring it to the beach - or you can pretend to be one of those weird guys in Yankees caps listening to baseball and talk radio on New York City streetbenches. (Or maybe you don't have to pretend...)

Plus: it gets shortwave. Shortwave! It's not what SWL-ers would call a "serious" reciever - it has an analog tuning dial, after all - but it's surprisingly good. I was very pleased to hear Radio Havana booming into a New York apartment at 14th and Ave B, with nice fidelity even! (through the headphones, of course). It's fine for pulling in BBC World Service and Radio Canada and weird American shortwave stuff too. Just grab a copy of the essential Passport to World Band Radio 2006 (much of which is available online, as PDF files, here - check out the "Getting Started" chapter), and you're good to go.

Anyway, do people even buy "radios" anymore, in this era of satellite this and HD that and iPods and podcasts and TiVos and TV-on-cellphones, etc.? (There's something increasingly quaint about buying a radio at Radio Shack.) No matter - this is an lovable little radio, very fun and very cheap, and it sounds great and pulls in stations great and even gets freakin' shortwave. What's not to like?

3 comments:

jim said...

i got the Mini200 as a gift and must concur -- it is sweet.

but here's a question for you: now that we can listen to radio mongolia or whatever via Internet streams, has shortwave lost its allure?

or do we just love that static?

Alec Cumming said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alec Cumming said...

Good point, Jim. Of course one can hear almost all of the world's shortwave stations much clearer through one's computer than one could ever hear 'em over the airwaves - and I'm not the kind of guy who'd ever be a "purist" about it. So yeah, hearing Romania via the Internet or WRN (which is on Sirius) is easy and obviously preferable in many ways. Yet...

There's god-danged mystery and romance in the process of pulling in that signal through the air. The struggle to hear distant radio voices shows a kind of respect for the closeness and yet long distances of the world's peoples. (How's that for a cosmic statement?) It's kinda like the difference between travelling to LA by plane as opposed to train; of course the plane is much faster... but the train provides you with a genuine American journey. If you have the time and patience for such a journey, you'll learn more about yourself and your world - by traversing the distance on a human scale.

I would recommend shortwave for the person who (as I mentioned in the post) has even a trace of radio geek in them - it's, simply put, fun and exciting and unpredictable to pull in a shortwave signal. Plus what you're hearing is often undeniably weird. And yes - some of us just love the static...