N9EWO Reviews :
- UniWave Di-Wave 100
- NewStar DR111
LW / MW / FM / SW Portable DSP Receivers with DRM
100" DRM Receiver from UniWave.
Our sample came from a TEST production run of 300 (or less ?) units.
Works great for dedicated DRM use, but is a real chore for any general SW listening.
Performance on "analog" SW is good , however excessive audio distortion is a real problem in this mode.
Only one PRE-production run took place (back in Sept-Oct 2009), again with only limited numbers being made.
Also a strange bug in the soup had appeared in the test sample (see text below on bottom).
See near the bottom of this page for a light review of the NewStar DR111.
(photo : N9EWO)
Country of Origin (including
provided AC Adapter) : (PRC) China
Approximate "Test Sample" Serial Number : 09100003x
Software (Firmware) Version In Test Sample : 343.169.1
“Digital Radio Mondiale” (abbreviated DRM; mondiale being French for "worldwide"), is a digital broadcasting mode designed to be primarily used in the MW and SW broadcasting bands. It’s been around for some time now but the main drawback has been the lack of any “Stand Alone” receivers that work properly.
One has been able to listen to DRM broadcast using an above average computer for quite a few years. The receiver either being a PC controlled or a selected highly modified traditional set. The two PC receivers that I have experience with DRM are the Microtelecom’s Perseus (using it with the free Dream software), and the Elad FDM77 (both from Italy). All of this can make for a huge chore and expense.
Over the last few years there have been a handful of “Stand Alone” DRM receivers too that have appeared, however these have had VERY limited distribution and manufacturing numbers and/or are were not the greatest performance wise (however I have not tested any of these other stand alone sets).
Sangean had the MP-40 (or DRM-40) on the drawing board but never came to pass. This was a major disappointment as it was advertised with many desirable features including separate bass and treble tone controls.
Oh yes, and we can't forget the super expensive Mayah DRM 2010 back around 2004. A small DRM portable that was not even able to use batteries.
Then came the UniWave model “Di-Wave 100”.
This model is the latest attempt to make DRM an easy and less painful exercise being a stand-alone device. We have been fortunate enough to obtain one of the very limited 300 samples (or less?) that were manufactured in the fall of 2009. It was a long trek coming, so lets see how the Di-Wave 100 performs?
NOTE : With the author being in the USA we were only able to test the DRM mode within the SW bands.
Out Of The Box / Not Just A Radio / No “line out” / No Customer Support From Manufacture
The Di-Wave 100 comes in a snazzy compact gray painted plastic “9 x 5 x 2.8 inch” case that includes a 3.5 Color TFT LCD screen and black metal speaker grill. It has very rounded corners with a thicker SLR camera style bulk to it on its left end, which helps one to hang onto it (and perhaps to help boost the bass response up a bit ??). With it’s so “rounded” shape, it doesn’t stand up on it’s own very well (so-so), or does not lay flat on it’s back. It would have benefited greatly with a tilt stand.
No tuning knob and uses 7 buttons to move through its menu’s. All have a good tactile feel with the exception of the top mounted OK button. It’s used the most and has the worst feel (arrg!), so not OK here.
Also when you don’t press a button for a few seconds, it takes a "double press" to get any of the buttons kick started again (even to adjust the volume).
The 3.5 inch LCD display is absolutely gorgeous, evenly backlit and very sharp. Out of the box the LED plastic lens had a strange “scum” on it along with some marks that were not removable. This turned out to be that the display has a plastic protection sheet (what I call a "peely") from the factory. It was hard to detect as it is cut so close to the size of the screen. So all one has to do is peel away the plastic cover to get rid of the "hazy" look or just leave it on for added protection. Typically limited LCD viewing angle applies, looks the best head on of course.
One can adjust the backlight intensity but not the contrast. However the contrast is at an excellent setting. The brightness defaults at 75%, we turned this down to 50% and still looked great. There is an adjustable backlight timer that operates when using the internal 4 C size batteries. This timer is bypassed when the included 6 VDC 800ma AC adapter is in use.
The included AC adapter is quite huge/heavy and a VERY LARGE molded ferrite choke about 6 inches from the end that plugs into the receiver. This is a pain to have to deal with. Additionally the adapter runs hot after being on for a few hours (120 VAC version, which is a standard "linear" transformer type). At least the DC output plug has a right angle to it. We did notice hum mixed with many stronger analog SW signals (Note : Only when using attached whip antenna), so it’s more than likely lacks any bypass capacitors across its power rectifier diodes in the AC adapter? On the up side it appears to be a regulated supply. I was unable to check this out as the screws are of a unstandard type. But between the the way the heat is spread out on the shell and voltage measurments (it's like 6.1 volts unloaded), my gut feeling is that the adapter is regulated ?
A short attached whip antenna can rotate, but our sample was so tight feeling that I will avoid doing that. It swivels just fine.
Radio frequency coverage includes longwave (150-288 kHz), medium wave (522-1620 kHz), full shortwave (2300-30000 kHz), and FM broadcast including RDS mode (87.5-108 Mhz). There is no coverage of the extended MW section as used in North America between 1620 and 1710 KHz. However selection between 9 or 10 KHz MW spacing is provided. DRM operation is available on longwave, medium wave and shortwave, there are no SSB modes.
A total of 768 memories are available and is split between: 256 DRM, 256 FM and 256 MW. That should be enough for just about any situation and then some. Memory channels are VFO tunable as well.
Here is where the basis of the radio takes a sharp turn. This is a dead giveaway when one looks on the right side of the cabinet with a SD/MMC card slot and computer USB jack. Turns out the box can also play MP3 files, MP4 movies and view jpeg photos.
It appears that SD/MMC cards (not included) up 32 GB are supported and not beyond this. Reason I have to say “appears” is the REAL printed owners manual confuses on what the real 100% maximum size card really is (not the pre-production on “line manual” which has totally incorrect information). Also what status to leave the card “in or out” when the receiver is off is another “Chinglish” nightmare. We tried to get a proper answer on this memory card issue from the manufacture, but with no luck. Does not appear to support SDHC (high capacity) cards either ??
|SD/MMC Card Confusion :
On page 4 of the included PRINTED owners manual "CONNECTION" SD/MMC socket (say what ??) :
is recommended the SD/MMC card is plugged when the unit
is in OFF mode.”
“SD/MMC card greater than 32GB (including 32GB) is not supported”
We only tested the device with
standard 2 GB cards (which worked fine), so I have to stand
neutral on this one to what the maximum card size really is?
So if DRM goes the way of "8-Track Tape" the owner can still use it for standard radio reception and multi-media use. The connecting 3-foot mini USB cable is included as is the CR2025 lithium battery required for clock and menu backup.
There is a standard 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack and on the rear another 3.5 mm (mono) jack for an external SW or FM antenna. LW or MW is not supported on the external jack (however one does get a slight inductive effect). Yes, I say mounting the external antenna jack on the rear panel of any portable is a real pain as it’s impossible to place the set in one of those neat plastic Universal Radio stands . Well at least not without a modification with a hole added for the external antenna jack drilled into the stand (which we did, then it was good).
Sadly there is no “line out” jack for a FIXED audio level to another device/recorder. But in a pinch carefully using the headphone jack at it's LOWEST LEVEL should do the trick, as it’s output is pretty clean (no excessive hiss etc). IMPORTANT NOTE : I have NOT tested this and done at your own risk.
Menu Based / No Tuning Knob / Strange Frequency Adjustments / No Tone Controls
Yes the Di-Wave 100 is a TOTALLY menu base receiver. So if you hate the AOR AR7030’s menu system, this is NOT the receiver for you.
I found it to be OK after a bit of a learning curve of the layout. It’s actually not that bad (but remember I do not mind the AR7030’s menu structure either). The printed manual generally gets the job done for how to use the set, but not without being confusing in a few parts.
There is no tuning knob and “on the fly” listening is done with a very strange up down button arrangement. One is able to scan or manually tune “up and down” the bands mind you, but using the excellent memory system is a good idea to master with this set. No band presets either.
Even direct keyboard entry is provided; well almost as you have to use the "up-down-left-right" arrangement and the OK button to make this happen.
You can use a computer to fill up the memories and keep the DRM schedules up to date (more later on this). Doing this increased the enjoyment of the set by leaps and bounds for me.
Tuning steps on SW is 5 KHz with either auto searching or manual tuning. One can force manual "finer 1 KHz" setting by using the on screen “direct entry” keyboard (or use the software and store it into a memory).
Electronic volume control is done with a 2-step “left-right” button arrangement. First you must push the volume control button and then (within 1 second, no more) poke the 2 left-right buttons. It works well enough, but lacks fine enough “electronic” steps to make it useful for very “low-level” night time listening, so get out the headphones.
Clock can be set for 12 or 24 hour setting. I keep it in 24 hour UTC time, as most SWL’s will probably do. Just be sure that the daylight savings time mode is OFF if you do. The date format is the euro standard only. So it’s in the Day-Month-Year arrangement.
There are no timers, alarms or “sleep auto off” modes offered.
|" UniWave Di-Wave 100 "
Software : 343.169.1
|"Analog" SW Search
ranges in kHz (not adjustable)
|2300 to 2550||11500 to 12150|
|3150 to 3450||13500 to 13900|
|3850 to 4050||15000 to 15900|
|4700 to 5100||17450 to 17900|
|5800 to 6300||18850 to 19100|
|7100 to 7500||21450 to 21950|
|9400 to 10000||25600 to 26100|
ranges are less (in all bands) ??
A DSP Based Receiver /
Audio Recovery / Nasty Audio Distortion Issue
BIG surprise with the Di-Wave 100 was that this is a DSP based set. I get about a 1 second delay in the standard analog SW-AM mode when compared to an analog receiver. There is also DSP noise reduction function (called AM Noise Filter and works in the regular AM mode only) to be found within the menus in 3 levels. While this helps reducing noise, it also kills the audio quality too. "Low" was of minor use but for the most part I found it best to leave switched it off.
Being a DSP based set, the audio recovery in the standard SW-AM mode is simply first rate. I have been enjoying weaker stations (that can have weak audio too) in the 60-meter band with full clarity.
The downer is that with most strong stations excessive audio distortion taints the above average performance. Again this is with MW and standard ANALOG SW-AM modes only. This also varies with signal fading / signal strength (and perhaps other unknown factors) ? As with the Degen DE1123 and DE1125 DSP pocket sets, could this bug be involved with the AGC ? But it still works FAR better over those 2 Degen pocket disasters in this department but is still painful after awhile.
There are no tone controls to be found at all but in general the tone quality and audio punch is more that adequate. Even a bit of Bass response from its tiny internal 3-inch speaker. But this varies with the source.
Sensitivity / Selectivity / So-So Dynamic Range / Tick Sounds / No Images / Minor FM Stereo Issue
Sensitivity within the Shortwave spectrum was found to be very good if not excellent. Even with its attached short whip does very well for analog signals.
Selectivity is equally stellar even if it’s only one lone bandwidth. Have no idea what the DSP bandwidth actually is but the value was well chosen for most situations.
Now the real test was with connection of a GOOD outdoor external antenna to hear what the dynamic range would be on ANALOG SW ? I found it better than expected even in the 49-meter band at night. However we can’t get around that fact that overloading does happen with a better outdoor antenna in use. For a portable class set it does OK here but don't expect it to match a better receiver either. Yes, it can and does overload with a better antenna in use but is not as bad as with most medium-low end portables (it's useable).
Unlike the information given with early pre-production manuals as posted on the Internet, there is NO attenuator function provided. This may have given a way to control the distortion issue and or overloading?? Someone electronically handy could build an external “attenuation” box (say like to 10 db ?).
The overloading has the normal trait of strong signals getting mixed around a band, but also in the mix is "tick click"noises (and even a slight burp or 2) with received signals. This reminded me of the JRC NRD-545 when it's DSP overloads . Now if this is a major drawback is going to be another one of those very subjective topics , just like with the NRD-545.
Another surprise was with image signals. I could not find any.
MW is another story for sensitivity (LW was not tested). Its sensitivity has to go down for one of the worst (if not the worst) I have ever used on MW ! Yes it’s that bad !! You might be able to receive your very local station, but if it’s over 40~50 miles away…..you can pretty much FORGET IT !!
Again the external antenna jack does not work on MW. Maybe a large external “inductive loop” might help this very severe drawback?
FM pars much better and includes FM stereo operation with headphones. You also have RDS and ATS. Sensitivity is just fine on FM broadcast. The only bug with the test sample was if I went from the DRM mode and back to FM, I had to drop down into the menu's to toggle the FM Stereo select (off and back on) to get Stereo to work in the headphones again. Sounds like a software bug ?
Unusual Three-Color S-Meter
In the upper left hand corner there is a 5-step “cell phone” style s-meter. It seems to be most useful too. It displays in 3 colors. Red, Yellow and Gray. Red appears to be no signal or no bars, Yellow is 1 or 2 bars and Gray is a signal strength of 3 to 5 bars. I’m totally guessing on this as the manual totally misses this topic 100%.
The lack of
"Good" programming is a major road block for DRM.
Here is the set receiving a broadcast in the DRM Mode.
(photo : N9EWO)
DRM Performance / One
Well of course this is the main reason why one purchases a Di-Wave 100 is for receiving DRM broadcasts and it works very well indeed for the most part.
One main thing to remember is that in most situations the attached whip will NOT work properly for solid DRM reception. This is covered in the owner’s manual and believe it. We were able to receive RCI Sackville on 9800 KHz with just the whip near a window at the test location OK, but it all depends on any given signal and conditions. Once connected to a good external antenna and good signal, we only had a drop out once only in great while with a good strong “in the clear” signal which was more than likely due to a severe signal fade?
So at least count on adding a length a wire to help with DRM reception if not a good outdoor antenna that uses shielded coax feed line (which is the better choice).
When you place it in DRM “search” mode it will seek out any digital stations across the spectrum within preset SW broadcast allocations limits. This not only worked very well (however I will admit that it did not always catch it the first time around.), but is super fast too. Also when a DRM station goes off the air and you have DRM Auto AFS turned on in the menu's, after a minute or so it will again drop into search automatically to hunt for another DRM signal.
A small gremlin : A sour note to this operation was that at least on one occasion we were unable to get out of the DRM “search” mode and were forced to switch the power off and back on to return it to a normal state.
In "expert mode" one can observe a cool screen of the DRM receive status (SNR etc). Yes, the even a SW DRM program can be in Stereo and is so indicated on the LCD screen (grab the headphones again).
There is also a buffering feature that allows for 10 minutes being “Time Shifted”, and works good too.
The sets cabinet only gets luke warm even after in operation for a couple of hours in DRM mode. Again the AC Adapter (120 VAC version anyway) runs hot after the receiver being on for a while. There are a number of vent holes on the rear panel of the receiver and would be a good idea not to block these to help keep it's "cool".
Lets get down to the bottom line “how good does DRM sound from the Di-Wave 100”? This of course will vary greatly with the program provider, kbps rate used, if it’s in mono or stereo mode, how YOU define quality , etc etc... the "kbps" indeed varies too.
I find most DRM broadcasts to sound much like a medium (or lower depending) quality MP3 audio file , even at 21 kbps which seems to be the highest used.
There are even some DRM broadcasters that provide text and pictures to the Di-Wave 100's LCD display as well. Unfortunately we were unable to receive any stations with these additional perks in testing here in the USA Midwest. If you have ANY interference with your DRM signal you get nada. Ditto if it's too weak.
"Expert" mode, shows how well (or not) it's doing.
Of course having all 5 indicators "Green" is the Idea.
A good OUTDOOR SW antenna is a requirement for stable DRM reception !!!
(Photo : N9EWO)
Required Memory Management
A free computer program WAS provided on the manufactures web site (now defunct) that provided for upload / download of the receiver’s memory channels. In the case with DRM you were able to "auto" download the latest schedules, edit where required and then upload to the set. Sorry, this is no longer available.
You have 256 memories each in 3 banks. One bank for DRM, MW/AM, and another for FM. There is a Favorites section for any mix but is unknown how many can be entered here ?
Pictures / MP3 / MP4 Video
When inserting the card into the slot, you want the gold pins facing the FRONT of the set (NOTE : I used a standard quality 2 GB SD card , Windows XP Home SP3 32 Bit computer in these tests. Format : FAT 32). It does not appear to support SDHC cards (not tested) ??
You can read or write to and from the computer to the installed card (not included). It adds the usual "Drive" when you plug it in and you toggle the cable on in the receiver (it will not just come alive as you might think). Locate in Menu : Settings > Media > USB Connection. To disconnect it you hit the OK button on top. Once in awhile I received a Windows error but with no ill effects right after I hit the OK button and was disconnected from the computer.
MP3 audio files and jpg pictures worked fine right off the bat. However , we ran into problems with playing video files at first. So after trying a number of FREE video converter programs (including the one given on the Uniwave web site) that did not work, we found the "FREE" Freez iPod Video Converter to work very well indeed (be sure and use mpeg4 output).
Select the output file to your desired directory on the hard drive. I would transfer the files from the computers hard drive TO the UniWave AFTER the program has done it's job. I would stay away with 16:9 video's as it's pretty small on the Di-Wave's 3.5 inch screen.
Picture viewer has a up to 5 second timer setting between files and also a random mode too. However there is no shuffle mode offered for the MP3 files. But the owner can view still jpeg pictures AND listen to a MP3 file at the same time (tested and works well).
Flash Updating – Doesn’t Appear So ?? / Fun Set, But Too Little Too Late, Now Long Gone
It does not appear that the set is capable of internal flash “firmware / software” updating??
In any event I found the UniWave Di-Wave 100 super fun to play with. As long as you are not a “menu hater” it worked good for DRM reception with a bit of help for an antenna. One can get by with casual analog SW listening too , but remember the ruff ergonomics and audio distortion with most stations in SW “analog” mode.
|A Very Strange Bug with Test Sample. ? Appears to Be A Dead Project Now ?|
As I type this text , it appears that the
"Di-Wave100" project is finished and dead. So
I guess we can say that NO REAL production run was ever
N9EWO Review :
UniWave Di-Wave 100 vs the NewStar DR111
We have tested the NewStar
DR111 and with the "prototype" sample
received have to say this has to be one of the worst
(if not he worst) receivers we have ever laid our hands
on to date (as tested in midwest USA) .
to say, but this is another model to pass up completely if you see it
on the used market (unless it's for collectors status). With DRM being
so limited anyway, if the SW “analog” part of the set is nearly useless
(which it really is), the entire receiver is as well. Our test sample
did receive DRM OK IF the signal is strong enough
with the external antenna. But as it stands is nowhere
near as good as the also discontinued Uniwave Di-Wave 100 (review
above). It’s not even in the same universe !
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