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WR-1 Wood Radio Review

Sangean's newest Radio, the WR-1.
RadioLabs: Wednesday, August 20, 2003
by Chris Justice

Sangean Wooden Radio

Sangean, (wait, let me set the pronunciation correct for the first time….(San - G-N), is not exactly a household name. I don’t know why, but, I suspect that nobody knows how to pronounce their name correctly so people simply don’t say it. (See above for correct pronunciation) Well, you better sit up and take a look at what they are doing because they could possibly be the biggest radio manufacturer in the world. No kidding!

I feel privileged being one of the first people in the U.S. to not only get a thorough test drive of this radio, but, write the first review on the newest release from Sangean, the WR-1 wooden radio. In a nut-shell, the WR-1, Wooden Radio, is an eye-pleasing, small, hi-fi radio with tons of quality audio and simple functions. This radio will not be available until mid November so you are getting a first hand look at something completely new!

Receiver Shoot-out

There are a lot of contenders in the small, table-top, hi-fi market, with prices ranging from $99 to $499. You probably know the brand names of the competition and have most likely heard radio, or, seen print advertisements for these companies. This is a very competitive market and the competition is tough. Well, let me tell you, it’s getting real tough with the release of Sangean’s Wooden Radio. So, I decided to turn this little review into a simple table-top, hi-fi shoot-out.

Features:

The WR-1 is one of the simplest receivers to operate. Heck, there are only 3 controls on the front of the radio. Let me comment on the feel of the tuning knob first because no matter what radio you plan on purchasing, you always have to feel the tuning knob first. Two words, TIGHT and ACCURATE. There’s nothing worse than an analog radio with a sloppy tuning knob.The volume control is crisp and has the correct resistance when turned. This is important because I also loathe a loose volume control. The band switch is simply an OFF/AM/FM rotary switch with a tight feel.

Audio quality:

All I can say is “Whoa!” Let me tell you first how I compared this radio to the competitors. Fortunately, I am one of those people that have access to all of the newest radios, literally all of them produced. I set these receivers up in a quiet room, side-by-side and tested them on the same frequency. For legal reasons I am concealing the names behind the radio manufacturers I tested these against but I will give small hints as to which they were? There were three radios which we tested against the WR-1. The radio that starts with a “B” and rhymes with “hose” another radio which is named after the Capital of Massachusetts and another small wooden radio that starts with a “T” and I can’t think of anything that rhymes with it. It sounds like an Italian name however. (maybe Stromboli).

We tested these radios on all different types of music including classic rock, classical, reggae, rap (I know, just had to do it) and country (personally I think rap was better) and tested them in the following categories:

Sangean wood radio

Audio fidelity: We rated the response on FM music as well as AM voice quality.

Bass Response: Bass response without distortion.

Treble: None of these receivers has a bass or treble adjustment so we simply rated their preset audio quality.

FM Reception – All receivers with built-in antennas.

AM Reception – Same thing. Built-in antenna only.

External connections – Any of those funky looking things on the back of the radios with the weird threads, screws or jacks. You know, the same thing you plugged the wrong connection into when you were a kid and blew-up dad’s stereo.

The side by side audio comparison. – Music. Good, loud music. That’s all I wanted to listen to on this radio was good music. I compared it at same volume level to the other radios in the group and to my total (yes, I mean total surprise) the “B” radio was the first one to be turned off. Next was the “Italian” named wooden radio. It just couldn’t keep up in either FM audio fidelity or bass response. Next, it came down to the Massachusetts brand radio and the Sangean WR-1. Honestly, the “Massachusetts” brand radio had slightly (and I mean very very slightly) better fidelity. However, the Sangean WR-1 had slightly better bass response. So, all in all I would call it a dead even tie for audio quality between these two receivers. Both of them had audio that was alive, full and very rich for such a small radio. It's probably because of the 1" bass port located on the back of the radio. With the volume up, quite a bit of air moves through that little port!

You just can’t beat a wooden cabinet when it comes to audio quality! Plastic cabinets react differently to bass response and are not as efficient because they are not solid like wood. Plastic expands slightly from increasing sound pressure levels due to the expanding air pressure. Wood is a much more dense material and therefore does not expand…. This equals mega-bass response and greater mid-frequency audio response. Oh, and if you are not technical, this means that a wood cabinet and seven watts of tailored audio will sound bitchin’ on rap music!

AM reception: Well, between all of the radios tested, the WR-1 was the hands down winner. All of the other receivers tested seemed to be quite deaf when it came to AM reception. It’s probably because the WR-1 has a 4-½” ferrite rod antenna that is 1/2” diameter. I tested all of the radios on several local AM stations and the WR-1 had noticably better reception. One thing to note however. The WR-1's AM antenna is located from front to back inside of the radio. When you "point" the directional ferrite at a station you actually have to point the side of the radio towards the station. A little different when you are used to operating a portable radio and the ferrite runs parallel across the back. AM audio quality was very good and reproduced the human voice great!

The main competition of the new Sangean WR-1 is the Capital of Massachusetts” brand radio. But, since they are not really in the same league because The WR-1 is priced at an amazing $119 retail, it is simply a matter of personal choice if you would like to spend more money on a radio with a couple more bells and whistles. I like analog tuning and this would be my personal choice.

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