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Radio operators with a lot of money invested in their equipment and a carefully planned antenna farm can sometimes be a bit contemptuous of casual user consumer radios. Still, not everyone has the means or the desire to spend a fortune on radio gear. Even for the dedicated radio enthusiast, there are times you do not wish to bring your latest thousand dollar wonder on a camping trip, a drive in the country or a day at work. Often, it is nice to have a small inexpensive radio that works well as a companion. The Eton Mini 300 is such a radio.
Though no longer made, the Mini 300 is widely available. When new, it sold for around $30. Used it can be picked up for $20 - $30. I found mine, much to my surprise, at a Goodwill store for $6. On first glance, I considered it a nice little transistor radio; then I noticed the band switch for shortwave listening. It was difficult to pass on such a good buy. If nothing else, it could always be used to receive local AM and FM stations.
This is a single conversion analog receiver with a digital display. It has a 20" extensible antenna, and is just the right size to fit in a hand or pocket. The radio is powered off of a pair of AA batteries, with no provision for an external power supply. There is a headphone jack for monitoring all bands, which provides stereo for FM listening. The single large speaker on the front of the unit provides good quality sound with adequate volume.
Tuning is accomplished, analog style, with an old fashioned tuning thumbwheel. Tuning is done in 5 KHz steps. The tuning is quite fast (this is a pocket radio after all), and it can take a bit of practice to tune precisely. The radio has a reputation for drift, though it settles down after 20 minutes or so. Sensitivity and selectivity are surprisingly good - much better than I had any hope to expect. Though there is no connector for an external antenna, a clip on wire is available.
The radio worked great for local listening; but the real draw was the ability to pick up shortwave broadcasts. So I meandered around the bands a bit, and was surprised. I listened to a station from Argentina, and then heard WWV on 10 MHz from Ft. Collins, CO. This was with the standard little telescoping antenna of around 20”. The performance is more than adequate, on the bands covered. Available bands are 49m, 41m, 31m, 25m, 22m, 19m, and 16m. The loss of 90m, 75m, and 60m, is not a surprise in such a small radio; but it would have been nice to have 13m, and perhaps some ham bands, or better yet, continuous coverage. Still, you can't have everything, particularly when cost and size are considerations.
You will be much happier with this radio if you consider it to
be a classic transistor radio that also happens to be able to receive shortwave
broadcasts, than as a shortwave radio reduced down to pocket size.
It is a great little radio, and a nice introduction to shortwave. It has a built
in clock, and a sleep switch to let you snooze to whatever station you happen to
enjoy. It also has an alarm. Though it has no BFO or means to listen to
sidebands, this is not a problem for the average shortwave listener.
At one time, the whole world was on shortwave. It was the best way to keep up with what was going on and get a window on the rest of the planet. Now the Internet has largely taken its place, but not completely. There is still quite a bit of activity on shortwave. These bands do have worldwide reach, and are international in a way that the Internet still is not. The table below shows the commercial shortwave bands, as well as the portions covered by this radio.