Thursday 14 June 2012

Degen DE1126 Portable Review

Worth the money?

Initial impressions

A Radio with FM, Medium Wave, full shortwave coverage, E-Book reader, Alarm clock, Voice Recorder, 4GB Memory stick and an MP3 Player all in one package....very nice.
Looks and feels good, very light and my first thought was that I could easily have this in my jacket pocket and forget it's there. The case has a rubberised feel which I have seen before on some radios which, although looks and feels nice, it would soon start to look shabby after heavy use as these types of cases tend to scar quite easily. The first thing that slapped me in the face was how unstable the darn thing is on the desk using the stand/flap on the rear, it just balances there and no more, any slight knock and this thing will keel over like a sack of potatoes. The upright design of the DE1126 lends itself to be a bit unstable but when Degen designed the stand/flap at the back of the unit, they should really have made it longer for stability.
The firmware version I received on the radio was v0.2.4 (I believe this to be a Kaito firmware version?). Why did I buy this radio? it records any radio broadcast it can receive,  full Shortwave coverage (except 25MHz) & FM/MW, it's very light and portable.
One other thing that struck me was when the unit was powered, a Degen logo appears but takes around 4 seconds before the radio or other features could be used. There is also a similar delay when powering of the unit.

Audio reproduction

The Degen DE1126 came with two songs preloaded and the sound was very clear indeed for such a small speaker. The sound is also very good through the earphones. Good bass for such a small unit, quite a pleasant sound on FM and MP3 player. It's also worth pointing out that the stand at the back improves the speaker audio when fully ejected due to the holes on the rear under the stand. The audio has a bit of bass which gives it a nice rounded sound which sounds really nice through the earphones, top marks here. Don't expect too much from the small speaker but generally it does a good job.

FM reception

The FM band sensitivity is pretty good, not super sensitive but certainly not deaf and good enough to pick up all the stations I expect to hear. As you would expect it has auto scan/ATS and FM stereo and sounds really good through the headphones.

Shortwave reception

Coverage on shortwave is generous with continuous tuning from 2.3MHz to 23MHz, very good as some shortwave receivers start at 5.8MHz, although unsure how well it will perform below 5MHz with the short whip (Update: actually, not bad!). After a quick tune on shortwave I thought, pretty good, Voice of America (Botswana Transmitter) coming in with SINPO 43433 on 15.580MHz. A quick power up of the Tecsun PL-310 resulted in a similar reception report with the Tecsun sounding a bit clearer, mainly due to the larger speaker and deeper enclosure. For the size of the radio, shortwave reception is very acceptable. Step size is stuck to 5kHz on shortwave which is a shame as some tropical broadcasters use non standard frequencies which the DE1126 cannot tune, for example Radio Uganda regularly uses 4976kHz.

The rather short & stumpy stand.

Medium wave reception

Coverage is good covering 522kHz to 1710kHz.
MW is on par with my Tecsun PL-310, as far as I can make out it's a draw between the two. Now the PL-310 is very good for the size, not as good as a larger portable like the PL-660 (which is excellent on medium wave, although hardly fair to compare the two). More importantly the step size can be switched from 9kHz to the American 10kHz step size easily through a menu option, very nice!
The antenna also has some very nice sharp nulling which is useful for medium wave dxing. Comparing it with my Sony SRF-59, I was pleasantly surprised that it could receive anything the Sony could, although the audio lets the radio down as the AGC is, for want of a better word...pants!...more about this later.

I have to admit, I was not expecting the DE1126 to be as good as it is on Medium wave due to the size of the ferrite loopstick. Not a DX machine but certainly not deaf as a post either. A good ultralight radio for MW!


There is no bandwidth filter selection which is a shame as it would have been good to have a narrow/wide filter option, although by default I would guess the bandwidth is around 4kHz. I did not notice any major splatter from nearby strong stations.


The rotary encoder/tuning knob works fine if you tune slowly, however it does fail drastically if you try to speed up, it stays on or around the same frequency if any sort of speed is induced into the encoder, very disappointing. The button tuning works very well indeed, an instant response with very little mute between button presses. The search also works well, press and hold up or down for about half a second triggers the search and the tests I made found it detecting stations well on shortwave/medium wave and FM. ATS (Auto Tuning Storage) also works well on SW/MW & FM.



The major downside to this radio on Shortwave and Medium wave is the AGC (Automatic Gain Control), it struggles to keep track of a rapidly changing signal which results in a white noise/hash spike sound which gets really annoying. Sounds like an extremely fast AGC which is very hard to listen to after a while, a real shame for an otherwise excellent radio. Hopefully this can be addressed in a firmware update.


Memory management

Writing frequencies to the memory is a breeze on this radio, press the select on the right hand side of the radio and choose 'Save' (the default), select the memory channel using the rotary tune and click select again, job done. The only drawback is you can't see if the memory channel is free unless you check it before attempting to write to it.


As you would expect the user interface has improved a lot since the DE1125 with a large frequency readout and a nice? lime green backlight (activated on key press and has a timeout), dial tuning indicator, time, memory channel, volume level, wave band, battery level, signal meter and alarm icon. Accessing the main menu is achieved by pressing and holding the select button on the right side of the unit (not my preferred way of doing this but that's how it is). Saying that the select button is quite ergonomic when holding the radio, either right handed (thumb) or left handed (index finger).
The LCD is very easy to read with an option in the menu to adjust the contrast.
The buttons on the front are pretty self explanatory, which is a bonus. The usual 'Press and hold' is present on this radio.
When a button is pressed there is good tactile feedback letting you know 'Yup, I pressed that', but not making you press the button so hard you think your finger is going to go through the radio (Umm Tecsun?).

Recording features

The record feature does work, however there are a few annoying quirks that cannot be worked around (as far as I can tell). If you set the radio to power on/record from a timer it defaults to 32k bit rate which does not sound too good at all on the radio itself, (although it sounds OK on the computer). The up side of this is you get much more more record time, which is probably what they were aiming for. I use it to record a two hour slot on FM every day and to be fair it has yet to fail me. The low bit rate from a timed recording aside the standard 'Record' feature which is enabled by pressing and holding the 'Record' button works well and assuming you have selected the correct bit rate in setup records at a maximum of 129kbps WAV file, reproduction is pretty good.
The other recording annoyance is that any recordings you make have to be played back via the 'Voice' menu and not the MP3 option (There is a button for quickly switching to the MP3 player). Kind of makes sense to have them there
(as their WAV files) but it would have been a whole lot easier to have the recordings dump to the root where the MP3s are held as it would mean for playback you only had to hit the 'MP3' button rather than press and holding the select button and cycle through to 'Voice' and playback from there, not a show-stopper by any means, but annoying all the same. Record size for a 2 hour recording at 32k is around 29MB, which is very good considering you have 4GB to play with!
I can forgive the 32k auto record low bit rate, as the other record features are worthy additions. It would have been nice to have the ability to set the bit rate you want for a timed recording (as you have for standard recording). It is worth noting that playback is a whole lot easier plugging it into the PC and navigating to the 'RECORD' folder and manging the files this way as doing it via the device gets a bit tedious managing the files.
Another issue with the record timer is you have to select the station you want to record prior to the timer commencing. When the record timer starts the volume jumps from the previous setting to a preset volume setting which is a bit annoying, especially if you wanted to record something unattended, you would want to save on battery power, would you not? You cannot adjust the volume level while the unit is recording.
What, no live pause?
Correct, there is no live pause, you can press and hold the record button to commence recording and pause the recording but the program continues, only the recording is paused, this is not live pause. An example of live pause is when the door bell rings and you want to pause the recording to answer the door, return and unpause to pick up where you left of. Not the end of the world but would have been nice to have had Live Pause, Degen, take note :)

Mic recording

You can choose your recording bit rate, Long (64kbps WAV), High (129kbps WAV), or Fine (128kbps VOR format) Record. Features here are lacking with the bitrate option being the only one available under the Mic Record. It would have been nice to have a VOX/Voice activated option though. Weirdly, again, you have to go back out to the Voice menu to playback any recordings, just seems a bit strange doing this, why can't I hit the play button? To be fair, I bought this as a radio receiver with record functionality, so did not expect much from the mic recording option.


The DE1126 uses the same BC-5L battery which is present in most older Nokia phones, very handy for spares in the future, good thinking Degen!
The internal lithium ion battery is charged either with the USB wall charger or via a mini USB cable to the PC (My preferred choice). Unfortunately you cannot listen to the radio while it's charging via the USB/Computer because when you plug it in the unit goes into PC mode and mounts the device and cuts out the radio. It does however allow you to listen to the 'current' radio station but controls are disabled (even the volume) and a BIG battery indicator appears on the screen to let you know whats happening. The battery life once fully charged lasts a very long time, very impressed with this.


What you get in the very nicely
presented box: Charger, carry
pouch, earphones, battery
mini USB cable & DE1126.
- FM-Stereo, MW, SW and MP3 Player
- 4GB internal flash memory (use as a Memory stick too!)
- 248 Station Memories (FM - 99, MW - 50 , SW - 99)
- Signal Strength Indicator
- Multiple Languages
- 5 Tuning Methods: Jog Tuning, Manual, Auto Tuning, Memory, ATS
- Lattice LED Backlight, Support Chinese in Display
- Support Mp3 and WMA Decode
- Various Repeat Mode
- Multi Sound Quality Mode
- Variable Speed Playback
- A-B Repeat
- Record Function: MIC Record, Record Radio
- MP3/WAV Recording Format Selectable
- E-Book: Support TXT
- Alarm ON/OFF
- Record Start/Stop based on Daily or one off event
- Alarm Clock Function
- Sleep Timer Function ( 05-90 Minutes)
- Support Firmware Upgrade
- Support Multi Languages
- Built-in Flash Memory
- Key Lock Function
- Digital Volume Control ( 31 Grades)
- MINI-USB 2.0 Jack (High Speed)
- Intellectualized Charging, Can be Charged by PC
- Battery Consumption Display

MP3 player

MP3 works as it should with some good features, repeat, shuffle, equalizer and playing speed (which is only really useful if wanting to fast forward through a voice recording, but the playing speed only works in the MP3 player, not the Voice menu). The device can also show lyrics on screen while songs are being played (assuming you have the correct lyric files installed, there was two already installed for the preloaded songs). Sound from the speaker or headphones sound really good and the equaliser works well too.

USB, Headphone socket and mic on the


The E-Book feature, I think is a bit of a gimmick (as e-Readers are common place nowadays) use is limited in terms of screen coverage being only approx 20 chars wide and 4 lines high, unless the text file is formatted to display for this size its difficult to read. You really have to format the text files yourself for this to be any use at all.
I made a couple of text files from the A12 AOKI list by only having Time, Freq, Station, Day which used up around two lines and was fairly usable. Sorted the list by Time and Freq to give the option to lookup based on current time or to find a station to indent from a frequency. The E-Book feature only seems to read .txt text files.
Not a completely useless feature and 'in the field' would be a useful addition to have a text file to refer to for Shortwave Broadcasts.

User Friendly?

I managed to work out how everything operated without referring to the manual (apart from how to enable the auto timer) so not a nightmare to operate at all, I have used a lot worse.

Things I like:

- Recording features are good albeit with their quirks.
- Small & lightweight
- Pretty good ergonomics
- Readable LCD display

- Nice shortwave/medium wave reception

Things I would Change:

- Replace the AGC with a decent one!!! 
- Add Live Pause
- External antenna jacks SW/FM/MW
- Remove the fixed volume level on recording

- Allow volume adjust when recording
- Audio input to record from other radios/source (like the DE1128)
- Choose the frequency/band you want to record from using the record timer
- It would be good to have the start/end time alarm event so it would power on the radio/record then stop the recording and power off the radio. Right now you have to set two timers to power on/record and another to stop record/power off the radio.
- Playback recordings via the MP3 menu (rather than playback on the 'Voice' menu, make it easier to get to recordings).


An OK quirky radio with excellent Medium Wave sensitivity/selectivity with some nice recording features.
The Degen is worth the price tag in my opinion, some nice features coupled with an easy to use interface (albeit with some quirks). The AGC is a major downside to this radio as listening on Medium Wave & Shortwave gets tiresome after a while and really hope Degen can resolves this with a firmware update. The recording feature of this unit does redeem itself somewhat. I primarily use it for recording a local FM station at a certain time of the day. A firmware update would be real nice to iron out the quirks/annoyances.
The lack of a bandwidth filter on MW/SW was a bit disappointing to be honest, but to be fair to Degen, this radio looks like it's targetted at mainstream consumers as opposed to radio hobbyists where the likes of the DE1103/PL-310 are more tailored to the radio hobby market (or maybe they have just evolved to be aligned as such).
I would be surprised if Degen did not release an updated/improved version of the DE1126.

Review Update:

Since writing the review I updated the firmware from the stock firmware I received with the radio (Kaito v0.2.4) to the latest firmware downloaded from the degen website. Confusingly the newer version is v0.1.8 (although the date is newer than the Kaito version and now shows up as 20111216).
The only differences I noticed between the firmware was the 'Radio' label in the menu is now labeled 'FM Radio' and when the record timer starts (assuming you have the volume at zero) it will power on/record without any volume (Hurray!)....this is good as unattended recordings really need to be muted which also saves on battery power. I did not notice any other major differences between the firmware. Unfortunately the low bit rate set with the record timer is still stuck at 32k WAV.
However I did run into a major issue while upgrading, not sure what happened but I managed to brick the radio....whoops! power or life at all in the radio.
Not to worry though I got the screwdriver and soldering iron out and shorted the three pads on the PCB as mentioned in a few places on the web, however as it's not very well documented I made up some detailed instructions to help out folk who run into the same problem. Anyone handy with a soldering iron should be able to attempt a recovery quite easily.

How to unbrick the Degen DE1126
The unit is dead, cannot power on, nothing...dead! Battery is ok.
It will be obvious your unit is bricked as you will more than likely have attempted a firmware upgrade.


Software Recovery:

According to 'TOM M' if you remove the battery from the DE1126 and using the "Burn Tool" install firmware v0.1.8 (with the erase file first), this will apparently recover your DE1126.

Hardware Recovery:
The hardware mod below was an initial recovery attempt which does work but the solder/unsolder part of the pads may be an unnecessary step as removing the battery and flashing it using the burn tool and the v0.1.8 firmware tends to work in most cases. Do not attempt the hardware/solder mod until you have attempted the software recovery first.

As with any modification you do AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!!
  • Remove all the screws from the rear of the DE1126.
  •  Open the battery door and remove the battery, there is a screw located in the battery compartment with a round white sticker over it with Chinese writing on it, remove the sticker and remove the screw.
  • The screw at the base of the radio is to secure the telescopic antenna.
  • With the back off the radio you should be looking at a PCB just above the speaker. There is no need to take the PCB out of the case, leave the two screws holding the PCB to the case. 
  • You should see a large silver plate (RF shield) covering a large portion of the PCB, held on with solder at various points, desolder the shield off.
  • Below the large integrated circuit (chip) you will see three small solder pads, simply solder these together/short circuit all three pads (be careful to only apply a small amount of solder as you will need to desolder these pads later).
  • At this point the unit is ready to be connected to the PC (there is no need to put the case together, or put the RF shield back on at this point), connect it to the USB port on your PC.
  • Start the 'BurnTool' updater provided with the v0.1.8 firmware and go to File > Import file and load in the 'v1.0.8.upd' file.
    It is worth noting you do not need to tick anything or go into any other menus for the updater to complete correctly.
    Now click 'Download', if nothing happens, unplug the USB port briefly and reconnect it, it should now start the download of the firmware to the radio. Once the updater reaches 100% and it says its complete you can disconnect the USB cable.

    The Burntool updater also works fine on Windows 7 64 Bit.
  • Now desolder the three pads so you have three open circuit pads.
  • Solder the RF Shield plate back on to the PCB.
  • Now put the radio back together, install the battery and try turning on the radio.

Hopefully the radio will start up ok but you will more than likely have the language set to Chinese, if you do, here is a 'Rough Guide' to get it back to the English language:

  • Go to the Sys Set menu (This will be in English....hopefully)
  • Scroll down 5 clicks using the rotary control (Anti-clockwise/Counter clockwise) and click 'MENU' on the side of the radio.
  • Now scroll down 1 click using the rotary control (Anti-clockwise/Counter clockwise) and click 'MENU' on the side of the radio.
  • Job done! You should now have 'English' set as your language.


FM : 87.0 - 108.0MHz or 64-108.0MHz
MW : 522- 1710kHz (9K/10K tuning step selectable)
SW : 2.30-23.00MHz (Continuous)
SNR sensitivity: FM band < 5uV, MW band < 2.5mV/m, SW band < 50uV.
MW/SW band signal selectivity: > 40dB.
MP3 access rate: 16 - 320 Kbps.
WMA access rate: 8 - 384 Kbps.
MP3 player earphone output power: 1mW x 2 channels.
Built-in speaker max output power: 250mW.
Built-in speaker diameter: 50mm.
Power supply: 3.7V BL-5C Lithium Battery.
Power Sources: Built-in Lithium Battery: 3.7V BL-5C Or External DC 5V Adapter (include)
Unit Size: 116(L) x 63(W) x 16(H) mm
Net Weight : Approx 121g (excluding batteries)
Accessories: Switching Rechargeable Adapter (100 ~ 240V), Stereo Earphones, Lithium Battery, USB Cable & Carrying Pouch.


  1. Thanks for the interesting review and particularly the unbrick instructions. I found firmware version V0.2.3 on Degen's website and foolishly decided to update my DE1126 using the manual's instructions. The result was a brick.

    Just one question, do you have to short the 3 pads every time you use the Burn Tool program, or just when the unit is bricked?

  2. You should only need to short the pads if you brick the radio by using the wrong firmware update procedure.

    I really like the DE1126 and use the scheduled recording feature every day. Well worth the money in my opinion, however I suspect that Degen will stop making firmware updates for the DE1126 as new models are released.

  3. I have loaded 1,5, 1.6 1.7 1.8 ,1.9 ,v0.2.3 and all failed to perform correctly EXCEPT 1.8. The battery MUST be removed and then all were installed one at a time through the "Burn Tool" with the erase file being used first. In my experience, if the DEGEN 1126 is "soft Bricked", using the "Burn Tool", the erase program and then Version 1.8 can "unbrick" it without having to to the solder/unsolder process so well outlined above.

  4. Hi TOM M,

    This is good info, I did not try to remove the battery when I was attempting to recover my DE1126, hence the guide. I will add your info at the top so people can attempt your recovery first using 1.8 firmware before doing anything as drastic as the solder/unsolder recovery.

    1. Hi, Sid! I am desperately searching for the Burn Tool and the v. 0.1.8 firmware for the DE1126. Do you still have these to share?

  5. Hi Sid, To clarify, When I first "bricked" the 1126(using V0.1.5) I did the following to correct it: I unsoldered only three holding points on the RF shield and folded it carefully up to allow access to the 3 solder points. Rather than solder the 3 joints, I cut some multi stranded connection wire to about 5mm long, placed it over the "3 solder points with tweezers and taped it in place with really sticky tape. I hooked the bricked Degen 1126 up to the computer and did the upgrade. The "Burn" program recognised the Degen 1126 (although the computer alone could not read/write to it) and after the erase and the upgrade all appears OK.

    I then removed the tape and wire, pushed the RF cover into place (I have not resoldered the lifted end yet and may not because it allow easy access), reassembled the case and put in the battery and so far all is well. It did boot into Chinese, but Dave's file explains what is where and what is what in the menu system so I soon got it back to English.

    When later trying some of the other upgrade versions it "rebricked" and that is when I found the solder method was not necessary but battery removal was necessary. The "burn" program sometimes takes a few goes to initiate. This can be done by removing the usb plug and reconnecting, but eventually it does the job. I hope this helps.

    My Degen De 1126 runs perfectly now but only on V0.1.8!!!! The update version V0.1.9 was one that did not work for me. The date inside the battery cover on my DEGEN 2013/08 and Dave points out that the hardware may have been updated in this later player.

  6. mi degen de1125 perdiĆ³ el idioma espaƱol y ostenta el chino, como lo regreso al castellano.-gracias.

  7. Hello, I'm from Russia. I flashed the wrong ghyibk Degen 1126, got a brick. Before flashing, I did not throw the old firmware. Flash firmware V0.1.8. Now, I can not be recovered. By not sewing, burn tool nothing happens when you try. Please help.

  8. See the method I used above on 21 December 2013. Have you taken the back off the radio, removed the RF shield and "shorted" the three solder pins either using solder (hard way) or by using a small piece of wire 1cm long taped in position (easy way!). You then use the "burn tool" to download the file to the radio and when successful, remove the tape and the wire. You must have the battery removed while using the "burn tool"

    TOM M

    With care this will almost certainly work.

  9. While updating my Degen 1126 by using the "Burn tool" with any update I could get, I noticed that the display and the battery got very warm and the battery ran down within 2 - 2.5 hours even if turned off! This made it unusable for me. Normally 10 - 15 hours battery use is achievable.
    This battery drain rate was not good news so I checked for shorted wires on the circuit board but all seemed OK. So I realised that fault was probably a software issue. Using the press button reset did not work, nor did battery removal.

    Knowing that if I "bricked" it I could almost certainly retrieve the situation using the "3 pin short out trick", I loaded update version 1.5 on to the actual Degen 1126 (rather than updating through the burn tool on the computer). I repeated this using versions 1.5, 1.6 & 1.7. The usual problems of mp3 skipping occurred with these versions and the battery drain remained. I then used the Burn tool to update using version 1.8 and the mp3 skipping stopped but the battery drain continued. Version 1.9 was no good either.
    Since I have version 2.3 (for Degen 1128) and felt I had nothing you lose, I loaded this onto my Degen 1126. All that happened when I disconnected from the computer and turned the Degen on, was that the Degen display lit up but no functions worked.
    BUT then the breakthrough, I wiped the Degen 1126 using the Burn Tool and then loaded version 1.8 back and the battery drain problem was fixed. The mp3 skip issue was also repaired but on my Degen, ver 1.8 always fixed that problem anyway.

    The point is that by loading all the versions as described above, I now have my Degen operating completely normally. And you all know that for $50, a Degen 1126 is a bargain.

    There will probably be naysayers, but who cares, it worked for me, and I bet no one else has tried it!! So how can they give a valid opinion.

    Actually, I think the key may have been using ver 2.3 for the Degen 1128 because that was the only version that actually changed the way the Degen operated. Using that version, only the screen operated and that may have reset the internal programming.

    So if you have a severe battery drain problem it could be worth a go.

    But as always, you do this at your own risk.

    Tom M

    PS Other reviewers think that the mp3 skip issue is unrepairable but I can say categorically that with Version 1.8, loaded on to my Degen 1126 using the Burn Tool, there is NO mp3 skip in any mode, random included.

    I hope this helps someone somewhere. If so, do a post on here to help enlighten other owners and reviewers of a Degen 1126.

    PPS -I am a happily retired person with absolutely no connection or affiliation with any manufacturer of supplier of Degens ( or any other electronics).

    PPPS - But I do like to experiment!!!!!!

  10. Hi can you scroll through your mp3 tracks to find the one you want or are they just numbered like my degen de26? Thanks. Superb review. 73 adam

  11. Can anyone help me with a copy of V0.1.8 and burntool as it looks impossible to get off the degen site

  12. Hi Tom! I am desperately searching for the Burn Tool and the v. 0.1.8 firmware for the DE1126. Do you still have these to share?