N9EWO Review : " eton e1 " LW / MW / SW / FM / XM Portable Receiver
" eton's" excellent e1 portable receiver. Made in India with rumored to contain Tecsun parts from China.
It had a short life on the market due to MAJOR quality control issues , the worst being LCD problems and failures (+ the Sticky Cabinet Syndrome). (Photo : N9EWO)
Review on the " eton e1 " Receiver
Test Samples Firmware :
# 1 Prototype (silver case , see photo at bottom of this page) : Rev C Eng 1
# 2 : ?
# 3 : ?
# 4 : e1 22
Test Samples Serial Numbers (all XM versions) :
# 1 (Prototype) : None
# 2 : 0010x
# 3 : 0716x
# 4 : 093xx
To check the e1's firmware version (sorry the firmware cannot be updated by the customer)
1. "Power ON" the receiver.
2. Press the "Menu" button.
3. Press the number "1" button.
4. "Power OFF" the receiver.
5. Read software version on the display in the lower left hand corrner (will show as "e1 xx").
Full Coverage SW-MW /
Expanded FM / Built In XM reception but an optional antenna
No gaps with the e1. Continuous LW-MW-SW coverage from 100 kHz right on up to 30 MHz. FM coverage is also expanded with a user-defined choice of either 76 to 90 MHz or 87 to 108 MHz.
The other perk for many will be the 2.3 GHz XM Satellite Radio coverage that the e1 can provide. The radio itself contains about ½ of the XM electronics in a small removable module that is accessible via a trap door on the right bottom corner of the cabinet. Even if you are not interested in XM, you still are going to have this section installed and unused. A non-XM version was offered for a short while that lacked this module.
XM service involves a monthly subscription fee, but that not the only extra cost. The required antenna is not included with the e1 receiver and the owner must purchase this approx $ 50.00 item separately. It works well well and is easy to operate.
Well Written Printed Owners Manual With A CD-ROM PDF version included
The 77-page manual is well written and has a table of contents that helps one get around very easily. Plenty of information for the newcomer to World Band to get acquainted.
Also in the box with the radio is a CD ROM that not only includes the same manual in PDF format but an additional quick start manual is also included on the disc.
10 Hz Synthesizer and Display / No Chuffing or Muting / Frequency Display
With the Grundig Satellit 800 the minimum tuning step was 50 Hz. The display resolution was only 100 Hz. The e1 improves on this with a 10 Hz minimum step synthesizer that also displays this as well.
Also it lacks any kind of chuffing or muting when tuning.
The frequency display was dead on after a few hours on. Right down to the 10 hz digit. At a cold start it was about 30 hz high. (not quite see the photo at the botttom of this review)
Included AC Adapter Produces Hum with Headphone Use
Included in the box is a unregulated 9 volt 1 ampere wall wart type power supply. It’s of a linear type (uses a transformer), so is not of a switching variety.
It powers the receiver just fine, however with the down side is that if one listens using the headphone jack , a certain amount of hum was heard in 3 of the 4 samples. The line output was hum free (with the included AC adapter in use) with the 2 later samples tested.
This was not observed with the receivers built in speaker. The included AC adapter makes for a pretty warm cabinet near the DC power jack (the internal voltage regulator is located here). A REGULATED 9 Volt Linear power supply (with 1 amp of current) so the internal regulator does not have to burn off so much over voltage would be a good idea . However finding a pre-built one at 1 amp of current will be hard. Anyway, best for those who can build a proper "non switching" 9 volt DC at 1 amp power supply.
UPDATE : We used a MW122A power supply that works good with the e1. However it must be modified otherwise it runs too hot. See this web page for more information.
Good Ergonomics / All Tuning Methods / Tuning Knob OK Even If Too Small / Floppy Telescopic Antenna
The e1 is a pleasure to use. With all tuning methods available make it a breeze to operate even without reading the manual.
Tuning knob (encoder) operates properly and is free of any backlash. It did however exhibited a slight amount of wobble, this was so slight that it did not affect operation in any way. Also a slight “grizzly” feeling when rotated. It lacks any flywheel effect.
Telescopic antenna is large and beefy. One issue does arise when the e1's rear tilt stand is in use and with the antenna fully extended. Just about any adjustment of the antenna from either side of being totally straight will cause the whip to just flop over like dead fish .
No Carrying Handle or Even a place To Use a Strap of Some Kind.
No carrying handle of any kind is provided. Even the Sony ICF-2010/2001D had at least a place to attach a shoulder strap.
It needs to be carried like a large book or placed in some other bag with a shoulder strap.
Weird External Antenna Jack
LW-MW-SW and FM all use the same external antenna jack. There are 2 switches on the left side that allows the user to select either the use of the sets own whip or the jack. One for LW-MW-SW and the other for FM.
The real sour side to this one is the use of a totally un-standard jack used. An adapter to convert this over to a SO-239 type is available as well.
Why this outdated Grundig socket was used is a real miff and there is simply no excuse for it.
All Plastic Case with Painted Knobs and Buttons / Hard to Access Battery Trap Door
The e1's case is made entirely of painted plastic. The cabinet paint has a slight rubbery feel to it.
Even the speaker grill is made of plastic. The Grundig Satellit 800 at least used a metal speaker grill. All of the buttons and knobs are of the painted plastic type. The main tuning knob lacks any rubber grip tracking of any kind.
Required 4 D size batteries do not install from the rear as it does with 99% of other portables in this size, but via a door through the front panel. This door does not open easily especially for people that have short fingernails. Also located inside this access port is a contrast control for the display, a reset button for any microprocessor lockups and a strange computer connector that is not for user/owner knowledge.
99 Min Sleep Function / Timers with Selectable Off Setting
A 99-minute maximum sleep timer is provided. It can be set anywhere down to 1 minute (in 1 minute steps).
2 Timers are featured. Not only can you select the on time, but also the off time. Not just some predefined active period.
Audio Overall / Buzzing Audio Observed With 2.3 kHz Filter and Wider Bandwidths with Certain PBT Settings.
The e1 has separate Bass and Treble controls which is a rare treat for the ears. It gives the receiver a richer sound that is rarely achieved with most portables and even more rare with any tabletop. The general audio of the e1 is very good. UPDATE : After more testing (including bench testing done by Rob Sherwood) general audio quality is plagued with spurious microprocessor junk mixed in. It gave us "brain pain" and eyes water in short order (MW / SW). Many may not detect this audio bug but it's there but overall is usable. We found the Grundig-Drake "Satellit 800" to have much cleaner audio quality (our review located here).
It has a very good punchy audio amplifier too. 3 watts with the AC Adapter in use, 1.5 Watts with batteries. There is even a separate speaker jack for connection of a alternative speaker. This is a separate jack and not the same socket used for the headphones. This bypasses any anti blast resistors normally used with headphone outputs.
General audio could use a bit of more crispness however. Also when the 2.3 kHz filter is in use (or sometimes with certain PBT settings even with the wider filters), a noticeable amount of “buzzy-distorted” sounding audio was detected. This is not a major drawback, but it needs to be noted. It's NOT totally clean audio.
Line Jack Has Good Output / Line In Jack
A 1/8-inch Stereo phone jack provides a line audio “output” for a tape recorder or other amplification device. The level is good and is stereo on FM and XM. A proper patch audio cord is required (not included).
Just below this line output jack another 1/8 phone jack for a line audio “input” device. So one can play a CD player or other audio product that has a line output through the e1's speaker or headphone jack. This was found to take quite an above average level to make-work. The Bass and Treble continue to operate when this mode is used for tone adjustment.
Excellent Sensitivity that Includes a 10 db Pre-amp / FM Performance Top Notch with a 17 db Pre-amp / FM Stereo with Headphones.
The e1 struts its stuff when it comes to sensitivity. You can give it an even additional kick with a switch able 10 db pre-amplifier. In side by side testing it was equal to the now discontinued Sony ICF-2010/2001D without any question even using the built in whip antenna’s.
FM section is no slouch either. It is indeed above average and a switch able 17 db pre-amplifier is provided. FM as it is on many world band portables these days gives the user stereo when using headphones.
No Internal “Loop stick” provided for the Long and Medium Wave Bands
Lacking with the e1 is that there is no “loop stick” bar antenna of any kind for the long-medium wave band. The Whip antenna is used for LW and MW just as it is for SW or FM.
Selectivity A Winner With 3 Bandwidths / PBT Finally on a Portable
3 "metal case" Murata bandwidth filters are used on the e1. Those are approx. : 2.4 kHz (11 element CFJ455K) , 4 kHz (CFM455I) and 7 kHz (CFM455H). All 3 can be used in any AM or the SSB modes. They all work well and for the first time ever on a portable we have an excellently operating Pass Band Tuning (PBT) control.
There is no middle dimple in the PBT control, which would have helped operation a bit easier. But the user can toggle the PBT with a push of a button so this helps to offset that shortcoming.
Excellent Synchronous Detection Not Only Uses Selectable Sidebands but PBT continues to Function As Well. General SSB Performance Way Above in a Portable Class.
Excellent performing synchronous detection circuit that has solid operation with a lock that never seems to drops out. One can turn the sync on and never touch it again.
Not only is it selectable sideband, but also both sidebands can be selected (DSB). And if that was not enough the PBT control can also be tweaked to give for some of the best interference rejection ever found on a portable.
SSB performance is also above average for a world band portable. With the proper bandwidth filtering, 10 Hz tuning step and separate USB and LSB filtering selection makes for a killer combination.
Excellent Dynamic Range / Spurious Signal and Image Rejection First Rate / Real Front End Filtering
Overloading was never experienced in testing even with the largest antennas. Good thing too as there is no attenuator switch or RF gain control to be found on the e1.
Ditto with any spurious signals or images. The e1 uses a “dual up” conversion design and this works to full effect.
Here is another huge plus for a portable. This receiver has real front end filtering. Those filters are: .1 to 1 MHz, 1 to 2 MHz, 2 to 4 MHz, 4 to 8 MHz, 8 to 16 MHz, and 16 to 30 MHz.
3 Position AGC
3 automatic gain control setting are provided. Fast 300 msec, Slow 3 sec. The Auto setting selects "slow" AGC, but automatically switches to fast but only when tuning.
AGC worked properly with no noted quirks.
LCD Hard To View But Information Aplenty / Clock Displays Separate From Frequency / Auto-Clock Set / Good 21 Bar S-Meter
The LCD is large at 4 ½ by 3 ½ inches and uses a dot matrix scheme over the entire surface. This makes for a very informative output to the receivers operation.
However it lacks contrast and no amount if fiddling with the contrast control (located in the Battery Compartment) helped to any extent.
Also the backlighting with any bright room lighting can get washed out making viewing almost impossible. If you turn off the backlighting all together, forget it. It’s as dark as trying to drive a car in the country with no headlights. With any normal lighting in a room at night the backlighting was not an issue.
Clock display is separate from the frequency and appears up in the upper right corner of the LCD in the normal mode. There is a GMT and also a local time setting, but only one at a time and the local time is in 24-hour mode only.
The metering although not a real meter, uses a longer than usual digital 21 bar on the LCD to display signal strength. It’s unusually accurate and has good “s-meter” markings on SW. On FM the s-meter markings sadly disappear.
1700 Memories with No PC Connection to Edit Them / Seek Function
1700 total memories. The first 500 are referred to Memory channels that can also have a alpha tag entered for each one and the remaining 1200 as country channels. What this means is that anything over the first 500 have a country preprogrammed on the top line of a page. These country names can be changed if desired (but NO separate alpha tags on each channel with the county entries).
Also there is NO PC connection capability. It would have been good to have a way to edit the memories a bit easier using a computer, The good side here is that entering the data into the memories is very pleasant, even alpha tag entry is a breeze. So this offsets the lack of a PC connection a bit.
There is a strange computer type connector in the battery compartment, but this is for eton’s use only ??
You can also “tag” a memory with a “T” (or as it’s called in the manual “T Scan”). This allows for scanning these selected memory channels only. No battery back up is required; it uses a non-volatile EEPROM system to retain the memory data.
"SEEK" function allows the owner to search for signals in the VFO mode, Memory or Country modes. This works above average and is most useful (with the e1's squelch control).
"T. SCAN" (again for memory channels only) can either be a 5 second automatic resume or until the signals drop off the air.
Major Quality Control Issues Over its “Short” life on the Market
OK, here is where the e1 takes a HUGE DIVE .
More than likely the main reason why the Eton e1's life on the market was short lived was due to the downright poor “India” quality control .
In February 2006, the first nasty was with its internal 4 D cell battery power supply. Somehow when the AC adapter was plugged in with the batteries still installed, the adapter voltage would back up into the batteries. Of course this could blow up the batteries after awhile. Eton issued a recall on the receiver. Serial numbers affected were from 3067 to 5462. OK, they missed the bullet on that one.
Next MAIN nasty issue was with the large LCD and was the real killer of the set . Some samples would either loose parts of the display (usually certain lines of the display), or others just fail all together.
Later serial numbers are perhaps “slightly” better in this regard (say starting in the 6000 area , but I cant give any exact numbers....…sorry), but from my own observations I have seen a few later ones die as well. Just because you have a later serial number, does not mean you could not experience this nasty LCD bug .
In my view eton did never recover from this one with the shear numbers that appeared to be failing were WAY ABOVE average. Sadly they decided to pull the product off the market. The LCD bug plagued the model until the end.
Excellent Portable Period / "Caveat Emptor" on the Used Market
Even with the quirks and nasty quality control issues, the eton e1 performance and features are excellent . However , I have to say that I actually do like the older Sony ICF-2010 better with it's close performance (the e1 is much better for any SSB modes) , cleaner and crisper audio (even lacking the bass response) and the wider 10.5 Khz bandwidth filter for even better sound with stations in the clear .
But again it was a short-lived model leaving the top end portable market with a big void. Keep in mind that its a major “caveat emptor” when shopping on the used market with the poor quality control record .
© N9EWO, all rights reserved
Back in early 2004 we tested an "e1 XM" prototype that was "silver" in color . None of these made it to the marketplace.
This prototype did not make use of the "rubber like" cabinet paint that ended up in production units .
They of course should have done it this way and not that rubber coating paint (which turns gooey) !! (N9EWO Photo)
: I will NOT be held responsible for any information that
is listed here.
If the MW/SW frequency display is off (normal with most samples), it can be tweaked externally by adjusting the reference "Trimmer Capacitor" located under the flip stand. The tested #4 sample required this and the access hole was blocked by the plastic cabinet. Slight cutting (CAREFULLY) with a X-ACTO knife (as shown in the picture above). We were unable to achive across the range "dead on" status. At 5 Mhz it was 10 hz low, and at 15 and 20 Mhz was dead on. We VERY CAREFULLY used a metal jewelers screwdriver of the proper size to make the adjustment . Do this at your own risk !! NOTE : It's also a very touchy adjustment , we used a STRONG WWV signal in the USB/LSB modes at the 7 Khz bandwidth, after a 2 hour warmup on the AC Adaptor for power. (N9EWO Photo)
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