In the beginning - Between 1973 and 1977, some of my most memorable years for radio listening, I had the pleasure of living on about 4 acres of treed farmland. At my disposal was one radio, the Radio Shack DX150B and a brace of antennas; half-wave dipoles for 60, 49, 31, 25 and 19 meters. And in the latter part of 1976, a 300 foot wire antenna terminated at the 75' level on a 100 foot Douglas Fir.
Being 16 years old and free spirited did not help my mother cope much with the reality of a teenage son hanging from a branch... up a tree... at a level that meant certain injury if I slipped. But I never fell. At least that far. I did miss a lower branch once while setting out up the tree on a maintenance mission - and I fell about 6' into a perfect face plant into coarse gravel. At that short distance, I received a powerful message: If you are going to climb, be prepared for anything.
Today - Some 28 years later and hardly 20 miles away from that farm, I swing idly on a summer hammock... nestled between 2 towering Douglas Fir trees beside a summer cabin on the bucolic Salt Spring Island. And in my hands, I cradle the Grundig G6 Aviator portable radio.
And a few things hit me. In as much as SW radio listening has taken one body blow after another, here in the 21st Century, the actual production of quality radios... amazing radios... has hardly abated. And as much as I would like to understand why there are so many, with so many features, and capabilities that leave me (a technician) staggered with wonder - I am simply grateful... to the people at Grundig and Eton and Sangean (and others) that keep radio very much alive.
Here at the DXer.ca website, we now find ourselves in the enviable position of striking up a rewarding and mutually beneficial relationship with Keith and the family at Durham Radio Ontario. There was a time when this web entity depended on my ability to scrounge radios and antennas for review from friends in my immediate area - many thanks to Nick and Walt and John for some of those loans. Problem was - I could not stay fresh and capture the essence of the progress of World Band Radio - as these new products became available. Now I can. Big thanks to Durham for this.
Back to the cabin for a moment. My wife and I have come to Salt Spring Island for a few days of R&R in the middle of an event filled 3 week August vacation. I have also come here to wring out several receivers under a variety of conditions. I have packed the Eton E1, the Eton E100, the Sangean PRD5, the Grundig G6 Aviator... and a fistful of Ultra-lights. This could be my personal weekend best - normally I travel with the Eton E1, a spool of wire, tools and one or two Wellbrook ALA100 wide-band antenna modules and power supplies. By itself, the Eton E1 is all the receiver you will ever need - under virtually any conditions... but this was not your average weekend radio get-away. This was intense. Pressure on. Still swinging from hammock. You get the picture?
So here I rock, with the Grundig G6 Aviator portable radio. I have just bush-whacked a 400 foot random wire antenna due South into a thicket of Douglas Fir trees. No climbing for me - Approaching this from the "shoulder level is best" seems to be working for me. Truth is, as I will find out - the Grundig G6 Aviator portable radio needs very little extra antenna. In fact, it hardly needs the antenna it comes with!
Details - The Grundig G6 Aviator portable radio is a general coverage "all-band" portable. It covers long-wave, 150khz and up - essentially connecting up with the medium wave dial starting at 530khz - and from there up to 30,000 khz. Various swathes of FM are available - depending on how you program it: Default setting being 87.5 to 108 Mhz. Airband is from 117 to 137 Mhz. SW, FM and Airband reception depends on the 21" whip antenna... extended... at least partially. Results vary so stay tuned. The Grundig G6 Aviator portable radio measures 5" wide, 3" high and 1" thick. It runs on 2 Double-A (AA) Cells and supports alkaline, lithium or nickel-metal hydride cells - with a feature that allows proper charging of NiMh batteries. Cool indeed.
Out of the box - As with most Eton, Grundig and Sangean radios, they are all really well packed for shipment. The Grundig G6 Aviator portable radio comes with a nice pseudo leather case (hey, it could be leather...) some ear buds and an instruction manual. Page X of the instruction manual indicates that an "AC Adapter" is included. Page X+1 says that the "AC Adapter" is optional. It's optional. I did not get one. I powered up the Grundig G6 just after sunset for the first time and was immediately impressed with the display and the color of the back-lighting - the lighting system in the G6 has three modes; Normal: Press, touch or spin any dial or button and the light comes on for 5 seconds. I like that. Much like the Eton E1. Manual Light on-off mode: Pressing the light button once gives 5 seconds worth of light. Always on mode: When plugged into an ac adapter, the light is always on. Normal works for me.
In use - So, I like the display. Everything at a glance as it were. Time display (and day of week) is always visible. Power up is with a simple press of the power button (which doubles as the sleep feature) - One can enter sleep mode by holding the power button for 3s and spinning the main tuning dial up or down to select 1 to 100 minutes of sleep time. Subsequent power-ups into sleep mode will recall the last sleep setting. I use this for listening to KGO San Francisco 810khz - sleep mode gets set to 90 minutes for Karel and about 10 minutes for Doctor Bill - Don't ask. Answer should be obvious!
The Grundig G6 Aviator portable radio is a quiet radio - compared to many older portables. So it was with some surprise as I tuned the tropical bands as the sun went down, all I heard were the signals that were available and the occasional crash of summer lightning static. It is also a very sensitive radio - more suited to rural areas than urban areas. That said, I found myself making judicious use of antenna length adjustment and manipulation to deal with the proximity of some very high powered FM and MW transmitters.
From my 7th floor suite in a concrete and steel tower (the roof of which is bristling with so many antennas that it is known as an eye-sore for about a dozen miles in every direction) I am about 150 feet above the average terrain - very suitable for testing radios, but I look at a three tower AM transmitter than runs at about 10 kw and 250 kw E.R.P. in my general direction. This alone stresses quite a few of my radios.
The G6 Aviator seemed to be a tad more vulnerable than some of my other portables. It is double-conversion on all bands - but so are most of my other receivers. It is very sensitive but perhaps a tad too sensitive. Again, I found that by not pulling out the whip antenna to its full length, I could control and eliminate most instances of overloading and ghosting. Good thing. For without this slight of hand, I would have had to dismiss this radio as useless. But it is far from that.
There has been some debate as to whether the Grundig G6 is an ultra-light. Well, it might clock in at under 1 pound but it has too many features. For starters, it does SSB and it does it well. While in SSB mode and in slow jog, the G6 tunes or clarifies at a remarkable 10 hz (or less) with incremental movement of the jog dial. Here is a sound byte in case there was any doubt:
Final Analysis - The Grundig G6 Aviator packs a lot of features in a very small package! 700 memories. Text naming of memory pages. All band coverage. SSB reception (that works) and slow jog tuning at 10hz or less. Average to above average sound through a fairly small speaker. Above average sound through ear buds or head phones. The Grundig G6 Aviator is also a very new product that will undergo some tweaks.
What did I find that disturbed me? The Grundig G6 Aviator is outrageously sensitive. So much so, that a fully extended whip antenna will result in overload and many images in urban areas. Results will totally vary. From a suburban Island location I found that images were not a problem. In downtown Victoria, B.C. Canada where there are FM, AM and TV transmitters - it is a problem. As a result, the Eton E100 represents better value at < $50. The Grundig G6 Aviator currently lists at $99. If you are a rural resident and are interested in the SSB capabilities and the decidedly easier tuning and memory management then you might pick the G6 over the E100. It is tough. Additionally, the G6 has a sensitivity edge on medium way - probably the result of a slightly hotter front end or a larger ferrite antenna. Not sure.
I liked - The Grundig G6 Aviator appealed to my sense of aesthetic value in small radios. I like the ergonomics and the ability to tune quickly or slowly. I like so much performance packed into such a small package. I love the display and nighttime visibility - and the units back light coming on whenever I touch something. FM Performance was very stable without any obvious signs of overload - stereo sound is pleasant. Two choices of bandwidth on MW and SW was quite helpful in cluttered or crowded international bands.
I did not like - The Grundig G6 Aviator is a hyper-sensitive unit - too much so in the urban radio jungle. The addition of the Air band is as limited as it was with the Sony 2010 - maybe worse. In urban areas I found the Airband dial plagued by video images. That said, near an airport (which I tested) it was easy to collapse the antenna and hear both sides of air and tower conversations.
Conclusion - On a scale of 1 to 10, where a rating of 1 represents the worse possible receiver and 10 represents the dream receiver, I would rate the Grundig G6 Aviator at a 6.5 - In comparison, I would give the Eton E100 a 7.5, the Sony 2010 an 8.5, the Eton E1 an 8.75, the Drake R8 a 9, the 7030+ a 9.25. Obviously there is no perfect radio... yet. So, as I swung back and forth in a summer hammock bungy-corded between two Douglas fir trees (Irony not lost on me...) - I reflected on my career with radio listening. I never fell to my death in the seventies while striving for the ultimate antenna - and here I was being cradled by two happy and healthy trees... in the 21st century playing with technology, elements of which date back to Marconi! The future (of Shortwave) looks bright! Hand me those sunglasses.
My name is Colin Newell and I live in Victoria B.C. Canada - I have been an Radio hobbyist SWL and DXer since 1971 and a licensed Ham radio operator since 2008. Durham Radio, Ontario, Canada is a proud sponsor of DXer.ca and allows me to be objective and honest about the products that they sell.