Pros: Digital tuning, good reception, sound quality, lighted LCD display, plenty of presets
Cons: No 110V power adapter, one preset button loses its setting
If someone were to ask me to design the best AM/FM radio possible while keeping the price at least moderately reasonable, it would look a lot like the The Sangean DT-220V AM/FM/TV pocket size radio. I like to listen to the radio at night before I go to sleep or if I wake up early in the morning. That means I need a radio that
- I can use with earphones (so I dont wake my wife)
- With a night light (so I can see what station Im tuning to in a dark room)
- Push button presets (easy to change stations)
- Excellent build quality ( cause I keep knocking the radio off the bedside table)
- Good reception and sound quality
- Small size
- Digital tuner (easier to find the station I want)
The Sangean DT-220V covers all these features and quite a few more, and it is by far the closest thing to the perfect portable (and bedside) radio that Ive ever owned (and Ive owned a few ). For me, its near perfect, excellent sound quality from the mono speaker, even better with a good set of stereo headphones. The controls are intuitive and easy to use. Other comments on DT-220V features and specs follow below;
The DT-220V is 5 X 3 X 1 and weighs about 9 ounces, a bit larger than what I consider pocket size, though Sangean officially considers it a pocket portable. Still its a convenient size, easily carried in one hand, and it will fit in many shirt pockets. It also comes with a padded vinyl carrying case. The case is not something to use when your listening to the radio (it covers the speakers), but it should help you keep the radio protected when its being moved or stored.
AM Reception is another strong point of the DT-220V. Ive compared reception on this radio to my GE Superadio III, which is a popular radio among fans of long distance radio listening. I think the DT-220V is almost as good as the GE radio. The GE Superadio is a much much larger radio (to big for a bedside table) with a larger antenna, and it does seem to do a very slightly better job of pulling in distant stations at night, with a very very slightly less amount of noise from nearby stations, but the difference is very subtle. While the GE radio has an analog tuner, the digital tuner on the DT-220V its much easier to find stations. FM reception is excellent also, though youll need to extend the 24 collapsible antenna to pick up stations cleanly. I dont listen to the TV channels very often, but this radio also picks up the audio from stations 2-13.
For a radio that appears to have a single speaker about 1 in diameter, audio quality is very good. It still sounds like a transistor radio, with very little bass response, and its a littly tinny. No one will mistake the sound from this radio for a Bose wave radio or a Boston Acoustics Receptor, but its significantly better than other small radios Ive owned. If youre only listening to AM radio, the speaker will be more than satisfactory. If you want to listen to a lot of FM radio music, you might want to get a good set of headphones to use with this radio.
A set of stereo earbuds with autowind cord are permanently attached to the DT-220V. Theres a springloaded retractable reel built into the radio (on the back). Attached to the reel is a 30 long cord with stereo earbuds. When retracted into the radio, the earbuds are almost completely hidden. The cord is very thin, and Im worried how long it will be before this cord develops a short, especially since youre be pulling it out and retracting it with the spring loaded reel. The earbuds are only about 1/2" in diameter and 5/16 thick, which makes for easy storage in the radio, but a mediocre, though still usable, fit in your ears. The sound quality is below average, even for earbuds, with almost no bass response. Theres also a headphone jack, so you can use a set of good headphones with this radio, instead of the built in earbuds. With a good set of earphones plugged into the headphone jack, the sound quality is excellent. Think of these earbuds as a backup set, but I wouldnt plan on using them routinely.
Controls and Display
The designers put a some thought into the DT-220V's Easy to Operate Controls. The buttons on the radio are arranged intuitively, buttons with similar functions are grouped together with the same size and shape. The 5 preset buttons are round and are located in a single row on the bottom right side of the radio. Above those are 4 oval buttons for selecting the band (AM/FM/TV, Stereo or Mono mode, Display (time or station frequency), and Preset range (1-5 or 6-10). Each of the five preset buttons can be set to two stations in each tuning mode (AM, FM, or TV), 30 in all. The preset control button determines if the 5 preset buttons select either stations 1-5 or 6-10. For the AM band, the middle preset button keeps forgetting its station, which makes it pretty much worthless. Oddly, the button seems to work ok for saving FM stations.
The DT-220V has a few other useful controls you might not have seen on a radio before. Like most mp3 players, the DT-220V has a lock switch. When engaged, you cant accidentally touch a button and switch stations or anything else. Theres also a headphone/speaker switch . Whether or not the radio speaker is used is determined by this switch, not whether a set of headphones is plugged in.
Theres a 1.5 X 0.75 LCD display on the front of the radio. The frequency is displayed in large 1/2" high numbers. There are smaller icons to display the status of various other features, including the alarm, 90 minute auto shutoff (on by default), stereo/mono indicator, key lock on/off, preset button high/low selected (each preset button is associated with two stations for each band), low battery. When the radio is turned off, it displays the time instead of the frequency. When the radio is on, the display button toggles between time and frequency. Pushing the Light button turns on a dim white light which illuminates the LCD readout, making the display easily readable at nite, a great feature for night time listeners.
The DT-220V provides only the most basic Alarm Clock function, it beeps for 3 minutes at the set time. No snooze button, no five day option, etc, but it gets the job done. The alarm volume is moderate, and cant be adjusted. Id have expected an option to start playing the radio rather than the beeping alarm, but thats not an option.
Ive not run a rigorous Battery Life test, but Ive had this radio more than a month and its still on the first set of two AA alkaline batteries. I use the radio at least an hour each day, about 60% of the time using the speaker and about 40% of the time using an earplug. The specs for the radio list the power requirements as 200 milliamps at 3V, which I assume would be requirements at maximum volume. If the radio were to draw 100 ma at a lower volume or using headphones, you could expect a pair of AA batteries to last 50 hours or more, based on data published for AA batteries on the Energizer website.
The build quality is excellent. The exterior of this radio is silver and blue plastic, the fit and finish is very nice, and looks a step above the radios you might buy at Walmart. Sangean isnt a household name, but a lot of the radios that you see in stores are made by Sangean. Sangean makes radios for Radio Shack, Panasonic, JVC, Gundig, C. Crane, Philips and others.
I expect to use this radio for many years. Even though its pricy ($50 from Amazon.com), I really appreciate the thought that went into this radio's design. And even better, this radio's performance matches its relatively high price and extensive feature set.