Review - Digitech AR-1733 DSP MW/FM/LW/SW/Air World Band Radio Receiver

Paul Blundell

Written October 2012
Updated January 2020

Yesterday I walked in to my local Jaycar outlet and spotted this radio which had only just been placed on the shelf. Being quite involved in the Ultralight dxing hobby I am a big fan of these types of cheaper pocket size radios, for the cost which is between $30 and $60 they respect good value.

The specs of this radio are:
FM: 87.5MHz - 108 MHz
AM (MW): 522 - 1620 kHz (9K) / 520 - 1710 kHz (10K)
SW: 2300 - 26100 kHz
LW: 153 - 279 kHz
AIR: 118 - 137 MHz

500 programmable memory bank
Sleep timer
Manual, auto and preset station search
Battery indicator
Lock button
Requires 2 x A batteries
Dimensions: 120W x 75H x 20D mm 

After getting home and opening the box I was quite impressed by the size, it is a dead ringer for the AR1745 and looks to even use the same style case only with a couple of different buttons on the front and side. 

Starting with the front panel the normal 0-9 number keys are nicely spaced and serve a dual purpose, they both allow you to enter frequencies and also recall memories from the PAGE memory system. The 0 key also allows switching between 9 and 10kHz steps on the medium wave band when the key is held for 3 seconds or more. The first thing I noticed is that the keys are much easier to press, a common issue with the AR1745 is that the keys take a lot of pressure to register the key press, this is not a problem with the AR-1733. 

Moving on to the other 9 keys on the front panel, these all have multiple functions which the owners guide explains well. The top red button is the power button; a tap turns the radio on. A short press while the AR-1733 is on cycles through the sleep timer of various times, a longer press turns the AR-1733 off. Below this is the key lock button, a short press enables the keypad lock and a longer press disables this. Next are the two arrow keys, these keys move up and down the bands in the default "fast" steps. 

Starting at the top bedside these is the AM BW / 12/24H / FM ST key. On the AM bands this key selects either the wide or narrow DSP setting. On the FM band it enables / disables the FM Stereo option. Pressing and holding this key while the power is off changes between 12 and 24 hour time display. Below this is the PAGE / ALARM key. Pressing this key when the AR-1733 is on scrolls between the pages of the memory system, when off it allows the alarm clock to be set. The final key on this row is the CHARGE METER / AIR SQUELCH key, this key is used to control the onboard charging system which I have not used. If the AR-1733 is on the air band this key controls the squelch setting between off, 1 - 9. I run mine on 1 and this seems to work well. 

The last two multi function keys are the FREQ / T.SET and BAND / ATS keys which are either side of the 0 key. Pressing the FREQ key allows you to use the keypad to set the receive frequency, pressing and holding this allows you to set the time on the AR-1733. Pressing the band key cycles between the receive bands, LW, MW, SW, AIR & FM. Holding this key enables the "Auto Tuning System" (which is not covered at all in the manual) this system searches the current band and saves any active frequencies to the pages memory system for that band. I ran this on the SW band and it found quite a few active stations which you can scroll through with the keypad. 

Moving on to the right side panel you have the volume control and the tuning wheel, at first I could not work out how to use this until I tried pressing it in, this switches between slow, fast and stop. The left side panel has a 3.5mm ear phone socket and a USB charging socket which takes a normal mini A type connector to charge the batteries.

The screen is automatically back lighted every time you press a key or turn the tuning knob for about 5 seconds. The screen also has a 3 segment battery meter and a 9 segment signal meter.

Now on to how it works. My test bed for last night was sitting in my lounge chair with our LCD TV on, my wife on her laptop and my laptop charging but not switched on. I repeated the same tests later in the night with all these switched off and the results were the same. Firstly I started on the air band and after programming in the various ATC and company frequencies I have a listen to these, while the AR-1733 does not have any sort of scan system you can use the keypad to change frequencies by pressing the key for each memory. I have 118.7MHz in mem 1, 123.45MHz in mem 2 and so on up to130.35MHz in mem 0. By pressing 1 I can tune to 118.7MHz or pressing 3 brings up 123.8MHz. The audio for this is quite good and I can just hear the ATIS on 134.75MHz. Even running my laptop right beside the radio I have not found any problems with the frequencies in this band I normally listen to. The squelch has a short tail noise and this is not at all annoying.
Next was the FM broadcast band, all our normal stations were received and sounded as good as I have ever heard them.
I have little experience with the long wave band so I have not looked at this yet. 

Using the ATS on the shortwave band about 11pm last night found about 74 stations between 2300 kHz and 14500 kHz. These sounded good with the wide DSP setting but much better with the narrow DSP setting. I have little experience with the shortwave bands. The various time stations on 5000kHz and 10000kHz were both nice and clear with much tighter audio with the narrow DSP setting.

Moving on to the Medium wave band which is where I spend most of my time in a 1 hour period I logged 77 stations including two new ones which I had never logged before. The DSP really "cleaned up" the signals and comparing it beside the AR1745 it was much easier to hear multiple stations on the AR-1733. Scrolling between frequencies with the tuning knob was a pleasure and except for the slight break in audio as the DSP kicks in on each frequency it was a smooth process. I have a 5KW station on 1008kHz on the other side of town from me and normally this takes out most stations about 30kHz either side, with the AR-1733 using the narrow DSP setting I was able to copy stations on 981kHz and 1026kHz easily. Trying the same on the AR1745 didn't hear anything except the station on 1008kHz. 

For a radio costing less than $60 it is hard to fault it, everything works as you would expect and using it can only be described as a pleasure. They have really gotten this one right.

Update - March 2014
After my original AR-1733 died recently (due to external forces, nothing to do with the radio itself) I was tempted to look at a different radio to replace this. After checking online and some stores locally nothing came close to this for the features I wanted and price, based on this I purchased another AR-1733.

After 18 months of use my original AR-1733 was working as well as the day I got it. After doing some side by testing between my new AR-1733 and my 7.5” Loopstick Tecsun PL-380 the results are consistent with what I experienced with my previous AR-1733.  The audio quality of the AR-1733 has a slight edge, where as the PL-380 has a clear advantage with signal levels and the ability to pull in weak signals, a station that is an easy copy on the PL-380 can be a mixed bag on the AR-1733, sometimes the AR-1733 won’t hear anything, other times very little separates them. 

The advantages of the AR-1733 is VHF air band coverage and the ability to lock the tuning steps to 9kHz on the medium wave broadcast band, this at times can be a huge advantage over the PL-380. The battery life of the AR-1733 is also amazing; I could not recall the last time I had to change the batteries in my original AR-1733. 

Overall both radios are now the main stay in my portable ultralight dxing kit, the Tecsun PL-380 is used for serious dxing and the AR-1733 is used mostly to spot check frequencies such as when tracking down stations carrying the same programming (mostly ABC stations) and also for listening to the VHF air band. 


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