Saturday, December 10, 2016

Eton E1XM Review

I purchased my Eton E1XM from National Geographic for $225.00. My first radio had the issue with the line down the screen. I contacted them, and they sent me another E1XM. I've had it now for nearly 10 years, and it has worked flawlessly. The E1XM was plagued with issues dealing with quality control, and it has never been given the respect it deserves. I feel lucky to have one that has no issues.

I have used several receivers over the course of the past 35 years, and have a pretty solid idea of what I would expect from a receiver. Sensitivity, selectivity, audio, and ease of use are of my most important factors. Some receivers are considered to be very sensitive, but if the audio is distorted, the overall quality of listening is hampered.

The E1XM started out as the Grundig Satellit 900, and was supposed to be the next flagship of the Grundig line. I used to thumb through magazines and books wishing to own the Satellit 500 and the 700, but at the time I could never afford them. When news of the 900 came out, I was like a kid at Christmas time eagerly awaiting it's arrival. There were rumors of it's arrival each year, but it never happened. Then suddenly it was announced that Eton would release the Grundig Satellit 900 as the E1XM. The original price was $500.

As a radio enthusiast, there are several aspects that are important to me. Sensitivity, selectivity, audio quality, frequency range, and ergonomics are at the top of my list. There are other deal-breakers for me, and your list may be different than mine, but these aspects are what determines how much I will use a radio after dishing out the money to purchase it.

I don't use my E1XM as a portable radio. It sits near my desk connected to a power supply, and a Wellbrook ALA1530 loop antenna which is mounted approximately 60 feet (20 meters) from my house. I have occasionally taken the E1XM on camping trips, and over-night hotel stays, but mainly I use it as a desktop receiver.

The sensitivity of this radio is as good, if not better than, any of the other radios I've compared it to. On a nightly basis, I have three receivers operating at the same time. Currently they are the Yaesu FRG-7, the SDRplay RSP1, and the E1XM. I also have a Sony ICF-2010. Comparing very weak signals with all of these radios, I often find that the E1XM will produce a signal equal to, or better than any of them. I often find myself listening to pirate radio stations, and some of them can be a challenge to hear with any radio depending on atmospheric conditions and interference. Comparatively, the E1XM makes these weaker signals more comfortable to listen to in my opinion.

Selectivity is the ability of a receiver to block adjacent signals, so they don't interfere with the signal you are attempting to listen to. The E1XM does a great job in the selectivity department. It has three filter settings 2.3, 4, and 7 kHz. Depending on the situation, I feel that these bandwidths are adequate and work very well when trying to reject offending signals. Pass band tuning is another feature that comes with the E1XM and it works very well. PBT is a feature that is rare to portable radios, but it comes with the E1XM and is a very handy tool to have. I find myself using it to eliminate annoying whistles and other noises that interfere with what I'm attempting to hear.

Synchronous detection circuits very from radio to radio. The E1XM allows you to choose from lower sideband, upper sideband or double sideband. I keep mine set in the double sideband mode. I have found that while I am happy with the performance of the sync feature in the Sony ICF-2010 and the 7600gr, the E1XM's sync is superior in how it appears to reduce the fade and distortion of am signals compared to other receivers with this feature. The effect is more dramatic when the E1XM locks in compared to other receivers I have known.

On the E1XM the auto gain control (AGC) has three settings: Slow, Fast, and Auto. I keep mine in the auto position, which allows the receiver to select between slow and fast. While other portables also have this feature, side by side comparisons have proven to me that the E1XM does a better job at stabilizing  signals during conditions where there is deep rapid fading.

Audio in receivers can be the determining factor in whether the target signal is intelligible or not. The quality depends on the type of circuitry and the quality of components. The speaker used and the size of the enclosure are also factors. I have found that the capacitors are very crucial to the sound. Different types of capacitors charge and discharge at different rates. This can severely affect the sound that the receiver produces. Cheap capacitors can cause distortion to varying degrees. They can cause speech to sound slurred. For example an S can sound like Shhhhh, or a J can sound like Chhh. I have replaced capacitors with higher quality capacitors and found that the improvement can be very dramatic. The new capacitors produced clearer audio and brought very weak signals out of the noise, or at least made them easier to decipher.

On the E1XM, there are individual controls for bass and tremble. This in conjunction with the PBT, Sync, and the bandwidth features, make this radio very enjoyable to listen too. The audio with the internal speaker is among the best I have heard in a portable radio. This is of course a personal preference, as we all have slightly different tastes in sound. With the various controls, you can tailor the sound to meet your needs. I have found no need to replace the capacitors in my E1XM, as the audio is very pleasing to my ears.

I quite enjoy the overall appearance of the radio. It has a neat Art Deco look to it. The display is very large and easy to read. There are three levels of brightness, and a contrast adjustment, so a person can adjust the display to their own preference.  There is an exhaustive amount of memory for your presets that can recall the entries alphanumerically with the desired settings for each entry. I think you can store up to 1700 entries. I rarely use the memory functions, because I find it just as easy to enter a frequency and go there. With the E1XM you simply enter the frequency, and after a second, it automatically sends you there.

The E1XM has some downsides to report in an attempt to be fair. First, they designed this radio without an internal ferrite rod antenna for MW and LW. Surprisingly the telescoping antenna works well, but it isn't as effective, because it is not directional like the standard ferrite antennas are. Second, initially I liked the rubbery feel of the radio that gave you something to grip, so it wouldn't slip out of your hands. In time the surface began to get very sticky. I used rubbing alcohol to rub the tacky surface off of it, so it is no longer an issue. Other than these two issues, the E1XM has surpassed my expectations.

The Eton E1XM was issued to the public in 2005. I have used this radio on a daily basis for the past ten years now, and while I have taken very good care of it, there is very little sign of use. I wouldn't bounce this radio down the street like a basketball, but if I keep it clean and continue to care for it, the E1XM should last for several more years. The radio feels solid when I hold it, and seems to be very well constructed. My only regret is that I didn't have the foresight to buy two or more of them at $225.00. Now, they go for higher than $600, and it's rare to see one for sale.