Saturday, August 25, 2012

Reviews of DR111 DRM Radio from Chengdu NewStar Electronics

This is a collective summery of feedback and reviews of DR111 DRM currently the only Standalone receiver available in the market for about $ 120 + Shipping approx. $45 USD worldwide + import duty.

Recently PCJ Media & PCJ Radio based in Taiwan did a sort of review of DR111 DRM Receiver - we start it with first...

Victor Goonetilleke (4S7VK) adds to it -
My observations: very similar. Tuning around is very bad and and you have to stop on a freq and wait 2 seconds for the audio to come thru, as if the processor is VERY slow. The punch in least closest to it, is a disaster where you have to change each digit by up or down buttons. eg. you are tuned to 15235. To change to 7190 you have to 0 the 1, then change 5, 2,3,5 and then go to normal position to get the audio. In all it takes about a minute to do that. If you use the tuning knob, first you push it in to get to tuing position, select slow, its darn slow other than to fine tune, push fast tuning, if you tune too fast it will move a MHz and you have no control over it, good for finger exercises, and you have to come back and finally when you come to your frequency you see it on the display but no audio, for which you have to push the tuining/volume knob back to get the audio. It is a great radio not for listening pleasure, but to build patience!!!! DRM: my strongest signal here whether on a DRM rx or analog S-metre is BBC 5845 from Nakon Thailand. On the whip antenna the DR111 had say 70% with drop out 30%. With a long wire,( not very long overloading,) I get 100% with an occasional palpitation!! All in all as a Stand alone DRM rx or to be fair by the receiver, even if it is a poorly shaped plastic box I can't have even full reception with an external antenna of the AIR, BBC, Vatican transmissions beamed to me. I don't know whether the problem is with DRM itself or the DR111. DRM is great when it comes in but to deliver that signal to a $100 or less rx is DRMs main hurdle. However, even if the DR111 is a failure, it IS great that a manufacturer even thought of coming out with a DRM standalone. For $35 I say go for it because you can experience DRM albeit with dropouts and it has a fairly good MP3 playing input for a USB stick and FM is quite ok to have in your bathroom or pantry not to miss the news or have a little mx while you chop the onions. FINAL decision? Still a long way to go, don't waste $135. My price tag is $25.
PS: immaculate white for the cabinet is a poor choice too.

Note: for more please read till the end of this post...

We also found a good review of DR111 on which is more technical, but also explains the drawbacks like volume control / tuning combo, It doesn't offer to run on batteries (cells) so not portable, the reveiwer from Europe by default finds it performing well in DRM but mentions Scan function is not much good at all. [ QUOTE "Just for my curiosity, I pressed scan half an hour into the TDP transmission on 6015 kHz and during the last 30 minutes the DR111 did NOT stop again before the transmission was over - despite a solid RF signal here 470 km away from the TX." ]

Here he also mentions the power consumption is 250 mA or below and connecting a power adapter more than 5 V DC causes damage to the receiver. Also about the antenna system he mentions "performance on the telescopic antenna - to my liking - is a bit weak. When I switched to my roof-top active antenna I got much better reception."

Keith Perron also mentioned this in a forum "The other thing about this radio is it can only be used with AC. Now India where it seems DRM will take off how can you market a radio that only works on AC when the vast majority of people have drastic power cuts."

Well some more conversations (interesting & informative) in this matter from Facebook goes below...

Keith Perron writes in facebook on 19 July 2012

"Here is something weird. As you may know I have two DR111 DRM receivers. I also got an extra one which was sent to Victor Goonetilleke in Sri Lanka so he can try it out. Last week we had a few exchanges of emails. But then when I sent two recordings of the same frequency at the same time that shows the DR111 is poor on regular shortwave reception compared to a Tecsun S2000 and Tecsun PL660. Guess what not a peep from them. The email was sent to the same people proving there is a problem with the receiver. And nothing. Not a sound. Is this the kind of company DRM alines itself with? The DR111 has a major problem, but it seems NewStar who is making them doesn't care or doesn't know how to address it. Oh wait I have an idea. Bring in an expert who knows something about international broadcasting."

And later he updated as "This is an update on the post I put 10 hours ago. If you read it I was saying that the DR111 has very poor performance on regular shortwave and DRM is even worse. I sent the company two clips of the same frequency 17750khz at the same time 0233UTC of Radio Australia. I didn't hear anything back for days until I got this short reply in my email this morning 'Don't do a review of the DR111. Only do a review of the FM and AM performance. If your radio station does any negative press about the performance of the DR111 we will never sell to your station again.' I find this so funny. "

Then I also seen they have removed many things from their website recently, in past they were highlighting that they developed UniWave DRM receivers firmware - no need to to say the French standalone DRM receiver was also a failure, and never got into mass production!!!

Mark Coady from Canada told "Although it's a great receiver in its own right, part of the reason I bought the Alinco DX-R8T (their new desktop SW receiver) was the ability to decode DRM with appropriate software. There is precious little to decode in Eastern North America. To date, I have successfully only heard REE via Costa Rica in Spanish. As far as I am concerned, like digital TV is a conspiracy on behalf of cable and satellite TV providers to grow their business, DRM is a ploy by some manufacturers to sell us receivers we don't really need."

Keith Perron also mentioned later "You know I have a Tecsun R911. It costs 9USD and performs much better than the DR111 for regular shortwave."

Victor Goonetilleke from Sri Lanka commented as "I want DRM to succeed but I am no Godfather of any mode because half my life revolves around HF International broadcasting. If it works I will be the first o say so. So far it has disappointed me as a waste of money and diverting funds to a mode that hardly anyone can enjoy as a delivery means of International broadcasting, as well as eating into the budget of regular shortwave. So far its ironical that quite a few of the stations that experimented with DRM have bitten the dust. RCI 1500-1530 via SMG 17815 is no more as expected. India keeps messing up the regular spectrum and so does Russia. I wish they would concentrate entirely outside the regular analog sections like 9950, 15050 and drop off 15140, 11710 and Vatican 17815 to name a few."

Mark Coady later updates "Keith, I with Victor Goonetilleke. I want DRM to work but it seems to be more smoke and mirrors than technological breakthrough."

I later commented as "In my 17 years of DXing and 22+ years of SWL last 7 years only using receivers costing more than 10 USD, and I heard no less than 100 countries with those receivers... The bad part of DRM is it puts annoying hash on other analogue broadcast, makes listening useless to nearby channels... And it can be noted that many supporters or pre DRM broadcasters either going off the air or Drastically cut the SW services (DW, RCI, Vatican, RNW, CVC Chile, Poland/Norway, Bulgaria and sure Romania will follow the suit soon)..."

Chris Freitas comments - "It raises the DRM even worth investing right now? No agreements are met. Broadcasters are not devoting enough time and power to DRM programming. Manufacturers have been really slow producing equipment to consumers. On top of that, smartphones and internet radio seem to be a more viable medium than DRM. The number of smartphone users (especially iPhone owners) are increasing with easy to use interfaces and widely available apps like the popular TuneIn Radio. There are hundreds of broadcasters available, which is much more than what DRM can offer. I am not bashing DRM and would like it to succeed. However, it is highly doubtful that it will because of lack of interest, slow development, and newer technologies."
July 12 at 11:56am

Andy Sennitt commented
"RNW was one of the key organisations - along with the BBC, DW and HCJB - that developed the technical specification for DRM that was adopted by the ITU. Our DG Jan Hoek was deputy chairman of the DRM consortium for several years. Jan-Peter Werkman, who later became the RNW frequency manager, was assigned exclusively to DRM for three years, and travelled the world making measurements and recordings of test transmissions.The results were impressive.

However, IMHO the DRM consortium made a mistake by not insisting on a specific DRM sub-band in each of the SW broadcast bands, and DRM transmissions popped up on or near the frequencies of analogue transmissions and caused interference. Another mistake they made - and I warned them about this - was only to 'sell' the idea to other engineers - the people they should have been talking to were the management of the broadcasters.

The interference to analogue signals was pounced upon by DXers, and some DX clubs conducted a campaign against DRM. The big receiver companies were waiting for an enthusiastic response from potential customers that never came. So there was no incentive to design and manufacture DRM receivers. That was left to a few small companies that produced small quantities of sets, of varying quality.

Meanwhile, global satellite TV networks and the Internet were beginning to supplant shortwave as the key information platforms in Europe and North America, so the potential market was shrinking. DRM has become a 'white elephant'. That's a great pity, because the technology works, but IMHO the DRM consortium is the victim of its own short-sightedness and stubbornness :-( "
July 13 at 12:54am

My comment on it was "Yes separate sub band for DRM would have been better as Victor always said too, and now smart phone are so cheap and in countries like India where 2G and 3G internet is becoming cheaper everyday and every corner has it, listening internet streams on smart phones offer much more variety of stations, content and choice, plus when I can have a phone + internet browser+ many other facilities with radio listening options on demand just for 50 USD or so why I would invest another 100+ dollar to help some test product for 10-12 years, Hi!"
July 13 at 1:03am

Keith Perron updates about his experience later "I have been trying to listen to 15050khz. It keeps cutting in an out every 10 seconds or so. But when I use the IF out on my Tecsun S2000 there is no problem at all and the signal is nice and strong."
July 13 at 8:22pm

Keith Perron also updated as
This afternoon I was emailing back and forth with Nigel Holmes the Frequency Manager of Radio Australia. Radio Australia ordered a few of them. This is what Nigel said "The DR111 is appalling." This is from someone who is the Frequency Manager of one of the most respected stations in the Asia/Pacific that is hoping to use DRM as a distribution platform. But he thinks "The DR111 is appalling."

Victor Goonetilleke adds
let me update my review we did on MNP of the DR111. I have been using it for one week now. I won't recommend it to anyone

  1. UNLESS they change the tuning system. SW signals are fair at times good of international broadcasts to my area. But it can not com pare with a Teksun PL600 because of much better sensitivity, SSB, airband. 
  2. IF the DR111 comes better built, not white, keypad tuning like a normal radio and the price is reduced to $100 or give more features like SSB I WILL recommend it as a starting point for a standalone radio with an external antenna because this is one set people can use as a stand alone rx. If they can also use it with 9v which can give portable battery use and also improve on the Design which is so odd and aesthetically awful, it should be satisfactory. 

After all for $135 you can't get Icom or Yaesu quality. If I can't get 100% reliability with my Perseus and external matched antenna how can the DR111 give me at $135. So I say as a starter or you want to have DRM possibility as an added feature without a computer, I like the DR111's performance for this price ONLY if the recommended developments can be carried out.

PS: I think I can not pin all the sins of DRM on the DR111. I like to thank the manufacturer for taking the bold step to mass produce a DRM standalone. I wish they had done a few models and carried out a pilot project.

Again - Everything in the DR111, speakers, cabinet, FM/AM/SW tuner can be sold for much less than the price if I look at what is selling on the market for that price. Can someone tell me if the DRM chip that is used can not be sold for less than $100???? At the Colombo DRM workshop there were at least 2 Indian chip developers. As I mentioned before I bought a lovely LCD TV 22" for $150.


John A. Figliozzi from USA adds
Well, I decided to obtain one (DR111) since I'm one of those that has complained about a lack of consumer grade DRM receivers for years. In comparison to analog sw receivers--even relatively inexpensive one--Nigel is right; it is appalling. The audio is tinny, even rudimentary controls (like bass and treble, a direct entry keypad) are missing and the DSP chip within it has that annoying "pumping" action on weak signals. It is very sensitive off the whip, to the point where RNZI in DRM comes in most nights quite well (25kW aimed toward the Pacific and I'm near the east coast of NA). And you can plug in a better speaker to get the full benefit of the DRM signal. It is a major improvement over past DRM receivers, both in terms of performance and price. Unfortunately, that's not saying much--or enough.

Victor Goonetilleke adds another day -
"To night DRM is better than in the last week. Under test 30 minutes AIR 15050 was 99% ok with the whip. BBC 5845 also the same, true had a quick dropout but due to the quality I can excuse that. But off beam transmissions are hard. For starters I would say, Newstar should not abandon this. Improve it and it would have a futuire, but it has to come fast."

Richard Cuff add to it -
I am not sure DRM will ever do better than two seconds for intelligent audio on shortwave - after all, the encoding / decoding process is the same as for Internet audio - AAC - and you have a limited, fixed bandwidth to work with on top of that. The tuning process sounds just would seem to me that you would do all tuning in analog mode and only switch to DRM once you have found a frequency with that telltale sound...sort of how "AFC" tuning was done on an FM radio back in the 1960s.

Victor Goonetilleke comments on above
"No Richard Cuff: Analog and DRM tuning is separate. To get to DRM you press the DRM key and one of 3 pre sets appear and you have to tune up or down from any of those. Manual tuning; press up or down key once it moves 5 kHz. Press it down and wait 2 seconds it starts scannaing up or down and will sometimes stop at a DRM station but usually goes over and of course there is no audio like on normal analog as you pass a station be it on DRM.AM.FM, that 2 seconds processor time prevails. In short that tuning has to change. After tuning some days now I feel sensitivity is OK for a cheap radio and as a DRM radio it is OK IF the tun ing is fixed, different colour not white and hardier. On DRM once you get to the station and connect an external antenna I feel it is as good as any or as bad as DRM itself has some problems."

In our next pick on DRM we will discuss about DRMas a technology and how it's being implemented - pro's & con's

I have tried to maintained every ones comments and experiences exactly as they were...
Any feedback on this post can be mailed to dxing (at) india (dot) com

1 comment:

Roy Sandgren said...

Hi, to tune into digital broadcasting in dab or drm you really need much more field strength than on analouge broadcasting.