I was at Walgreens the other day when I saw these little radios on sale for $8.99. I remembered reading somewhere about how they were strong performers and could receive several stations. Curious, I grabbed one. After all, the cost was less than 4 gallons of gas.
I opened the package, inserted the batteries, turned it on, and was simply amazed at what this small receiver was capable of. The AM section is especially impressive. From my current location in Central Arkansas, the initial dial scan brought in Chicago’s WGN, WBBM, and WLS; WCCO from Minneapolis, and Atlanta’s WSB. Plus WSM, WLW, WWL, WHO, WBAP, WOAI, KOA, and several others. Selectivity is very good: I was able to hear Dallas’ KRLD on 1080 with KAAY just 40 miles away, pumping out 50,000 watts on 1090. By using the radio’s inherent directional capability, I can null KRMG/740 from Tulsa and hear Toronto’s CHWO. WLS and the Cuban station on 890 can be separated so each can be heard clearly. The FM section is also strong: I was able to hear a 50,000 watt station 50 miles north of me which is usually only available on car radios and upper tier portables.
This is a radio. It’s not a cell phone, an .mp3 player, or any other sort of high-tech device. It doesn’t have a digital tuner or a CD player. It’s a glorious old-school radio, complte with analog slide rule tuning dial and telescoping antenna. Other features include a tuning knob, an off/on/volume knob, and a wrist strap. That’s all. Just like the old days. The antenna is full-length and swivels. This allows you to hear those distant FM stations. By the way, FM selectivity is also very good. In my area, I have stations on 105.9, 106.1, and 106.3. I was able to separate all of them, simply by reorienting the antenna to the optimum position.
Battery life is amazing. Unlike pocket radios of the past which utilized a 9-volt battery, this Sony takes 2 “AA” cells. Since this equals only 3 volts (or 2.4 when using rechargeables), battery life was a concern. No worries. I’ve had the radio turned on pretty much continuously since I purchased it 3 days ago. The rechargeable NiMH batteries are still going strong.
I only have two complaints about this radio and they’re both minor: First, the earphone jack is mono only. Being of classic design, the Sony is designed to accomodate the old style mono earphone, rather than stereo headphones. But today, most people have stereo headphones or earbuds which they use with their iPod or other portable electronics. Since the headphones used with these devices are stereo and this radio’s jack is mono, you’ll only hear sound in one ear. It would be great if Sony had instead provided a jack which was compatible with stereo headphones. But this isn’t a big deal since you can buy an adapter plug for $2 which will allow you to hear in both ears. My other complaint is that the AM dial only goes to 1600Khz. (I told you this was an old-school radio!) This is a problem since the AM band has been extended to 1700Khz. In actual practice, however, the radio tunes past “16” and all the way to 1685Khz. So, only one channel is missed completely as 1690 can be received, albeit slightly off frequency. Again, not a big gripe for a radio in this price range.
It goes without saying this radio is well worth the money. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun for less than $10! Laying in bed, scanning the AM dial at night, my mind suddenly flashed back 40 years to when I was a 6-year-old kid, listening for distant stations on my Lloyds 6 Transistor when I was supposed to be sleeping. If you have kids or grandkids whom you’d like to introduce to the radio hobby, this is an inexpensive way to do it. Buy this radio! You cannot go wrong for the money. The Walgreens sale will likely be over by the time you read this, but Amazon.com has these every day for $9.99 with FREE shipping if your order total is over $25. Let us know how you like the Sony ICF-S10MK2!