Thursday, May 27, 2010

Living with the Kchibo D96L DSP Radio

I purchased a Kchibo D96L DSP Radio awhile back on Ebay. The D96L is probably the best of Kchibo's DSP offerings, all based on the Silicon Labs si4734 DSP chip used in the Grundig G8, and Tecsun PL-310, PL-380, and several other radios. I also own a Degen DE1123 based on this chip (to be reviewed at a later date). This was an evaluation model sent to a radio reviewer, and was barely used. I like the radio a lot, but have a few reservations. Here are my views on this model: (reception results from the north shore of Long Island)

Sensitivity: The radio is amazing on AM and FM, probably like many of the better DSP radios I have read about. It is the only radio that reliably pulls WPKT from Meriden CT, on 90.5. On AM I can receive WBZ, Boston during the day, as well as getting pretty clean reception of some of the lower-power NYC AM stations like WNYC AM on 820. Reception is almost as good as my GE SuperRadio II, and with the Select-A-Tenna nearby, even better. Shortwave reception is good. I can usually receive anything on the internal whip that I can get on the RP2100, G5, or the Sony SW7600GR with their own antennas. It doesn't seem to like my Degen amplified antenna much, just adding more noise to the mix. I haven't put up a longwire yet at this place. SW reception is good here, but the last two places I lived, it was hampered by the dynamic range. If you live anywhere near strong AM stations, even extending the whip on this radio will have AM interference killing most SW stations.

Selectivity: The D96L has all of the available bandwidth choices available for AM and SW that the other si4734-based radios offer. This allows for reception of stations unavailable to me on the RP2100, or my G5. The Sony does OK here because of the Sync feature. I wonder if we'll see a radio with the si4734 chip AND sync sometime soon? FM selectivity is also great, as indicated with WPKT again which sits between 2 very strong stations on 90.3, and 90.7.

Audio Quality: The internal speaker is not bad. Not up to the bass response of the G5 (and obviously the RP2100) but well defined, and excellent treble response. The wide bandwidth on strong AM stations is great, and there's an adjustment for de-emphasis on FM that gives you a little extra high end response. FM Stereo sounds good through external speakers, or headphones.

Ergonomics: OK. This is where things get odd. Hard to say when I am still guessing what many of the buttons do from day-to-day. Everything is labeled in Chinese. The keypad layout is odd, with the zero to the right of the 9. I do appreciate the two-level lock ("tuning", and "all"), and the dual speed tuning.

Build Quality: This is my first Kchibo. I hadn't heard good things about their past models, but kept seeing that this one was a significant improvement in other reviews I have read. Definitely not up to the Sony standards, or even the G5 for that matter, but better than most of the cheap models I have had. The tuning knob feels a bit cheap, but the buttons are fine. One issue that would be a major one if I could read Chinese: All of the printing is wearing off of the plastic areas. The rubber buttons are retaining their labeling but anywhere the radio is labeled on the plastic surface it seems to come off very easily. Since I can't read the labels anyway it has not been an issue.

Amenities: The radio came with a decent soft case, earphones, a USB charging cable, a USB wall plug, and 2 Li-Ion Batteries (cellphone style). The USB wall plug is standard 2-prong, but expects 200 volts, and does not have auto-switching. Luckily, with the included USB cable, I can charge it from any 5 volt USB source. Battery life has been very good.

Overall: For what I paid, it has been an excellent radio. Not good for those of you that live near strong AM stations, unless you don't intend to use the SW bands much. For the prices I see it selling for new, the Tecsun PL310, or 380 might be a better value, even though I don't own either one yet to do a proper comparison. The reviews of the Tecsun models seem similar to my results with the D96L, without the overloading issues.


Keith B. said...

Hi Neil, I'm not stalking you, but as you know, Herculodge now links here and vice versa.

I had a D96L but lost it, hopefully it will turn up one of these days. It's a nice little radio for AM/FM. Shortwave was useless because I live in a large metro area, too many local AMs. I also had a Grundig G8 (aka Tecsun PL300WT); the volume control stopped working after I dropped it so I gave it to a fellow radio nut to tinker with. It was great on AM and FM and even heard some SW once I got it away from the city. From what I hear, the 310, 360, and 380 are even better.

Very sorry about Paul, sounds like he was a great brother.

Keith B.

Anonymous said...

Does it have SSB (usb & lsb) reeption

Anonymous said...

The Model Kchibo, numberring system obviously gives the instruction independently Radio - a tiny model of the truth Si4734 DSP, or no. That models with DxxL, numbering system (D92L, D95L, D96L, etc.), - tiny radio of the truth Si4734 then that with KK-Dxxx, numbering system (KK-D6110, KK-D680, KK-D220, etc.), - not. Kchibo Advertises as types both radio DSP, and Chinese documentation (with rough Englishes translation) is tangled at the best. Distressed for any inconvenience because of this, but that DXers, which was going to to book the new model KK-D6110 as modernized change for D96L must not proceed. KK-D6110 - modest radio for money, but must is not tangled grantee of the truth Si4734 DSP like D96L, PL-310, PL-380, PL-360 etc.. Detailed disassembly photo will be loaded in photo album KK-D6110 on place Ultralightdx.

73, Cinders DeBock (in Puyallup, WA, USA