FM DXing with Ultralights-- The Top Models

Gary DeBock

Hello Guys,
     Although we were all originally attracted to Ultralight radios because of their overachieving AM-DX capabilities, it has recently become abundantly clear that many Ultralight AM-DXers are also Ultralight FM-DXers (like me), and there have been several requests for a "quick and dirty" recommendation of the FM-DX capabilities of the top models.  So, in order to show that these portables' amazing capabilities are not limited to medium wave, here is the "executive summary" of the top performers:
1)  Sangean DT-220V    This silver-colored model with built-in stereo earphones is an absolute turkey on AM, but is a screaming eagle on FM (I always wondered what the $53.26 price was for).  The FM sensitivity is amazing, with decent reception of both Victoria, BC stations (98.5 and 100.3), and passable reception of some Vancouver, BC (95.3 and 101.1) stations, as well as a couple of Portland, OR stations (101.9 and 103.3).  It has only five memory presets and no bass-boosting system, but audio quality is not bad (although plug-in stereo headphones are far more comfortable).  Using a whip antenna, for raw FM sensitivity, it is tops in the pocket radio class. It retails for $53.26 from Amazon, with free shipping.
2)  Sangean DT-400W    This is a new yellow-colored model that will be fully reviewed in the Midsummer Shooutout for AM capabilities, but its FM performance is definitely worth noting.  Just a shade less sensitive than the DT-220V, it can provide decent reception of the two Victoria stations (98.5 and 100.3), but reception of the Vancouver, BC or Portland, OR stations depends on your propagation luck. It has outstanding audio quality and no fewer than 16 FM memories, and for stereo music enthusiasts, is a runaway winner in listening pleasure.  Unique among the top FM-DXing models, it uses the plug-in stereo headphones as an antenna (not a built-in whip antenna).  For this reason, a substitute plug-in antenna is provided for speaker operation.  For those considering a purchase, the AM capabilities are identical to those of the DT-200VX (not bad at all, although not up to the level of the SRF-T615 in sensitivity, or E100 in selectivity).  It retails for $54.75 from Amazon, with free shipping.
3)  Sangean DT-200VX   This black colored-model has great FM-DX capabilities, using circuitry apparently identical to the DT-400W, but Sangean has either improved the alignment or components in the new 400W model, providing a shade more FM sensitivity (at least in my review model).  Otherwise, the performance is identical to the above 400W description, with decent capabilities for both AM and FM DXing.  It retails for $49.99 from Amazon, with free shipping.
4)  Eton E100   As long as you don't care much about audio quality, this somewhat overdesigned (and discontinued) portable will provide a lot of FM-DXing excitement.  With a built-in whip antenna and more memories than you'll ever need, it provides FM reception fairly similar to that of the DT-200VX, although the reception can be improved dramatically by placing the whip antenna next to a decent FM external antenna lead-in wire.  Stock sensitivity is sufficient for reception of Victoria, BC (98.5 and 100.3), with ghost-like reception of Vancouver, BC and Portland, OR powerhouses.  The big drawback of this model is somewhat nasty audio, which is not really helped by the pedestrian high-low switch control.  FM stereo-headphones plugged into this model cannot improve the harsh audio, which borders on the irritating.  Aside from this, the E100 has the FM sensitivity to provide a few thrills, especially for those who think FM-DXing should not be confused with FM-stereo listening.  The E100 has been discontinued by Eton, but is still routinely available as an NOS unit from many sources (including a current Durham Radio promotion on at $44 U.S.)
     Hopefully this basic information will be a helpful starting point for those interested in FM-DXing with Ultralights.  If there is sufficient interest in this Ultralight FM-DXing concept, a more detailed "Shootout" might be possible in the future.
                                                             73 and Best Wishes,
                                                             Gary DeBock      

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