You've probably heard someone ask, "Who even listens to the radio anymore?"
And AM radio? For real?
Yes, for real!! Radio is still very popular in 2018. There are many people looking for a good, reliable, decent-sounding, AM/FM radio.
Is the WR-11 one of them?
Let's find out.
A Quick Note
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In This ArticleSome Specs
Some SpecsAnalog Tuning? Yes (may have some digital assistance)
Frequency Range (AM): 520-1710 KHz
Frequency Range (FM): 87.5-108.0 MHz
MP3 Player? No, unless you connect your own
Power Supply: 120V AC @ 60 Hz, or 12V DC in
Price: Suggested retail $300; typical selling price $100 or less. Please get yours through this link to help support my website. Thanks!
Size: 9.4" x 4.7" x 6.6"
Speaker Wattage: 7 watts
Stereo / Mono: Speaker is mono; Rec-Out & Headphone are stereo.
Tone Controls? None
USB Port? No
Weight: 5 lbs
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General CharacteristicsThe WR-11 is an AM/FM radio with three knobs: volume, bandswitch, and tuning. This is a retro-styled radio. It reminds me of something from the Seventies or Eighties.
The cabinet is made with either real wood or wood veneer.
The back of the radio has several jacks and connectors: Aux In, Rec Out, Headphones (1/8" stereo), and connectors for external antennas. There is also a connector for a 12V DC coaxial power plug.
At 7 watts, the 3-inch diameter mono speaker is fairly substantial.
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In all likelihood, the first thing that will grab you about this radio is the bass. This is not your grandma's AM/FM radio. If you're accustomed to that vintage sound, the bass could be a bit much for you.
After using the radio for a while, I won't say I love the extra bass; I still prefer a traditional radio design.
However, I will say "give it a chance".
The whole radio cabinet is basically an acoustic chamber to enhance the bass: much like a stereo speaker that happens to have some radio parts inside it. Maybe that's another reason why they used glue on the filter capacitors.
The loud bass could be helpful to the hearing-impaired, though. Radio announcer voices thunder to life on this radio. If you can't hear treble very well, at least you'll have something to hear. The bass helps to fill the room with sound.
If you're a radio enthusiast, you might even want this radio just because the bass response is so unusual. Most radios have tinny or weak-sounding speakers; this one booms.
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It would be nice to hear a bit more treble and mid-high to go with all that bass and mid-range.
I've put this radio through its paces for a little while now, and I'm starting to become accustomed to the bass.
It depends on your room acoustics somewhat. I tried putting a piece of cloth in the reflex port, because it can dampen some of the bass vibrations. It helps.
I thought the bass was a function of the reflex chamber, but they must have also designed it into the circuitry. That's because headphones even sound bass-heavy. Here's how to cure that. You'll want a pair of the cheap, light, "over the ear" headphones that have crummy bass and too much treble.
They will be about perfect for this radio.
Grab a pair of random cheapies, almost any of which should have a lot more treble than bass. That will even out when you use them with this radio.
If you want something more heavy-duty, a pair of these headphones from Grado might fit the bill. Another possibility would be these from Ultrasone. I haven't tried either yet with this radio, but both of them are supposed to have a lot of treble.
A pair of generic on-ear headphones, picked up for 25 cents, sound about right to me. Problem with a pair of phones like that, though, is that as soon as you decide you really like them, they go bad. Then you can't get an exact replacement, because they stopped making it.
My cheap Koss over-the-ear headphones, which sound pretty OK for most things, are passable on the WR-11. Sometimes I'd like to turn down the bass just a tad. But since I've tried them a few times with this radio, I have to say they're starting to sound more "right".
That's how it goes with this radio. When you first turn it on, you might think "No way I'm going to be able to listen to this."
Then later the bass starts to sound right. It makes me wonder how people who've had this radio for a while could ever go back to listening to those tinny, weak speakers on the typical radio.
The proper headphones will let you enjoy many hours with this radio, even if the person in the next apartment is trying to sleep. Just don't unplug those headphones while the radio is on.
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There's no Bluetooth.
I have not yet tried one of these by Rangestar, but it would let you broadcast music throughout your house on an unused FM station. The tuner on the WR-11 would pick it up nicely.
You could hook the Line Out jacks from your stereo to that FM transmitter, and then you would be able to broadcast the output of your CD player, turntable, or cassette deck to the house. And the WR-11.
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Inside the case there are header-style connectors. They're similar to what you'd find with a CPU cooling fan or something. There are two main assemblies inside the case: the front panel and the rear panel. They're joined by several wires and cables.
These make it a slight chore to get the front and rear assemblies apart from one another, but at least they're not soldered together.
The transformer looks alright in terms of heft. This radio can be powered by a wall-wart power supply if you really want, but at least they didn't cheap out and eliminate AC line power altogether.
The presence of a full-size transformer is rather comforting in this era of switch-mode power supplies, with all their attendant RF noise.
The filter capacitors are bunched up near the transformer in the rear-panel assembly. I see some glue there. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It can prevent metal fatigue and solder-joint failures. The big caps tend to put a lot of torque on a solder joint.
The filter caps look like Samxon brand, but I'll have to tear the radio down further to see the rest of the markings. Samxon is one of the better brands.
I was hoping to see traditional components throughout, but this radio has a lot of surface-mount devices (SMD's).
In my opinion, it would be much better to have regular components in a "retro" style radio. Even the much more cheaply-made Kaito Voyager has old-school, transistor-radio-style electronics inside. (That was true last I checked, anyway).
Then again, none of that matters if you just want to listen to the radio. It's not a deal-breaker for the casual listener, even though lately it might be a deal-breaker for me. As long as the capacitors stay good, the rest of the radio will probably work fine for a long time. (Keep your electronics truly protected from surges and they'll usually last much, much longer.)
My main concern is whether schematics and repair manuals are available. I don't see anything on their website about it. That makes me wonder. Manufacturers often make this mistake. When they throw up unnecessary obstacles so you can't repair stuff, it ends up sending more electronics into landfills. This is one of the advantages of vintage electronics.
Anyway, the WR-11's ferrite antenna is smartly designed. There's a support that goes alongside it, with cushioning foam at the end, so that you can reassemble the case without messing anything up. The windings are very neat, and there's no messy glue.
To say much more about the circuitry, I'd have to tear down the radio further and take a close look at the circuit boards.
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ConnectorsThe back of the radio has:
- Aux / Line In
- Record Out
- External FM antenna (75 ohm coaxial)
- External AM antenna (ANT and GND)
75 ohm coaxial is the same type you've probably seen on a cable TV box. I've never gotten that into external FM antennas, mainly because FM doesn't carry that far anyway. See External Antenna.
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The WR-11 has the connectors for an external AM antenna.
The manufacturer doesn't say anything about DSP on this unit, but it acts as if there's some digital assistance to the tuning. That's just a quick guess, based on how it acts with an antenna tuner.
I put up a random-wire antenna and ran it through a homemade tuner. It's just a cheap piece of magnet wire and a homemade inductor-capacitor network. I use this on another AM radio. It works great with that other radio. If you're good with the dials, you can tune stations from 1,200 miles away. Disconnect the antenna, and the stations go away.
That's not what I saw happen with the WR-11. It's a little different.
Change the inductance or the capacitance, and there's some delay before the WR-11 responds. When it responds, it doesn't respond much. I wonder if something in the circuitry is trying to prevent changes in the tuning or the signal strength. Normally that's a good thing, because it prevents drift.
The other AM radio, which is all-analog, responds to changes immediately.
It may also be that the WR-11 just doesn't like my random-wire antenna. It could be the wrong length for it. Maybe the inductances are not the right ones to match it.
I experimented more with the random-wire antenna. I finally managed to get results by trying some different configurations. And so, the WR-11 really does respond to an external AM antenna, and it works well. Get the inductance and capacitance correct, and some of the faint stations will jump out as the noise goes away. It still acts like there's some digital assistance, but the radio works with the right external antenna.
One more thing. I believe some variants of the WR-11 do not have the external AM antenna lugs. I guess that's just how they were made. (Because it's been a while since I wrote this, I don't remember where I saw these. In case you're contemplating this radio, I'm fairly certain that new-production models will have the connectors. Sangean lists the external AM connector in the specs.)
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- 120V AC (mains)
- 12V DC (barrel connector)
You could use a 12V wall wart, though the radio does not include one (or at least mine didn't).
Or, you could wire up your own barrel connector for a 12V battery. Inside-positive, outer shroud negative. Put a 1.5 or 2 amp fuse in line with that, just to be safe.
The 12-volt capability is very useful. You could rig a small 12V gel-cell battery with a solar panel and charger. Bring your WR-11 into the outback, string up some 500-foot wire antennas, and try some DX listening. Just don't be out in the rain, because this radio is not weatherproof.
If you're careful to keep the voltage close to 12V, here's another idea for a power supply.
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8 ohms, 7 watts, 3" diameter.
It's a full-range speaker.
At first I thought the bass was a function of the speaker design and the enclosure only, but this radio cranks the bass through the headphone output, too.
I wonder, though, what would happen if you changed out the speaker for another one of similar wattage. Maybe a cheap one with a smaller magnet, just to see how that affected the sound.
After listening to the radio several times, I don't even want to try a different speaker. This one is awesome.
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There are none.
It would be great if someone figured out a mod to install tone controls on this radio. Then you could either turn down the bass and mid, or turn up the treble and the high-mid.
For now, I'm happy enough with this radio.
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Maybe you don't want to mess with an external antenna. No problem. Straight from the box, this radio can tune the stations almost as well as any radio I've tried.
It's not quite on par with the best early 70's receivers, but it's not terribly far away from that, either.
Daytime, it's like most radios: there's only a local station or two. The biggest local station sounds great.
At night, the tuning dial comes alive with stations. The WR-11 tunes a bunch of stations I never knew existed. The other radios I've tested couldn't pull them in.
I don't know if you'll have the same experience, because it depends on the RF noise in your neighborhood. But at least the capability is there.
Drift on local stations is non-existent, from what I've seen thus far. On the really narrow stations you'll get some tuning drift. I don't consider this to be much of an issue, because it's a wonder some of these stations will even come in without an external antenna. Besides, the radio drifts less than most other analog radios that I've tried.
The atmospheric conditions are not the same every night. Try the radio on different nights. The angle makes a difference too. Like most AM radios, it's going to tune better in certain rooms. If you hear a lot of choppy noise in the background, look for a switching power supply on the same branch circuit. Or maybe even on a different circuit. It could be a mobile phone charger or something, and it could be in a different room.
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Sangean WR-11 at night.
It brings in the stations pretty well.
Get yours here.
ConclusionThis is a good radio for people who don't want to mess with a lot of controls. It tunes at least as well as most "vintage" radios; actually, it has far less signal drift than many of them.
The bass is a bit much, but it's something you'll probably be able to get used to. At least I have. Some music will sound fantastic with all this bass. The only real drawback is when you want to listen to the radio when someone else wants quiet. The bass will carry. That's why it's great that this radio has a headphone jack.
And, you can listen to an MP3 player through it, so you'll have an endless variety of your own music to blast from this retro-style radio.
Construction quality is nice, with some use of real wood (and some particle / composite, looks like).
The extra features make this radio really worth having. The Aux In, Rec Out, and external antenna connectors, plus the 12-volt power connector, make it very versatile.
I hope you found this page useful, informative, or entertaining. If so, please help me out by purchasing your stuff through these links. (Get your WR-11 here.) Your help is greatly appreciated and is the only way I can keep this website going.
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