Radio Shack last offered tabletop receivers in the early 1980s. This is probably the least expensive tabletop receiver in the marketplace at the end of 1995.
The DX-394 has a scanner heritage. A rod antenna mounts through the top of the receiver, and the 160 memories are in 16 banks of 10 memories apiece. There is frequency searching, but no memory scanning.
The receiver is clearly oriented to the international broadcast listener. A METER button lets the user select a band from 120 through 11 metres. One of two clocks is displayed at all times. A tape recorder jack is on the rear apron.
Not surprisingly for the price, the DX-394 lacks features found on more expensive receivers: passband tuning, AM synchronous modes, tone control, bandwidth and AGC selections and computer control. From our perspective the most conspicuous omission is a connection to control a cassette tape recorder -- despite the inclusion of five timers -- but a work-around may be to use a tape recorder with VOX control.
The DX-394 is sensitive, perhaps too sensitive, given the filters. Under certain conditions we noted crosstalk between two adjacent, strong signals on a band. We wish the filters were more robust. Clearly this receiver is not designed to be used with large, high external antennas. In tests in strong signal locations in North America and Europe, the included rod antenna or a wire of probably no more than 10m in length should be more than sufficient for general listening.
The only value it has is either as a bedside stand radio, or an inexpensive backup HF receiver when your main rig is sent out for repair. Yes, its pretty sensitive and hence has a small legion of loyal fans, but its audio is the absolute worst I've ever heard on any radio (sideband is so muddy its literally unintelligible), and, its filters are ridiculously wide. The only thing to recommend it, aside for sensitivity, is that it does have a decent amount of user features (fine tune, RF gain, noise blanker and keypad) in case you do want to Dx the shortwaves with it. But I wouldn't recommend it as a first line receiver for that. In fact I'd advise against it. You'd be far better off spending the extra $50-$100 for a Yaesu FRG-7700 or a Kenwood R-1000.
I used a borrowed DX-394 for a month and found it to be an okay receiver but I guess it's difficult to compare the 394 to a Kenwood, Icom, Yaesu or Alinco HF system.
I have an Icom R75 receiver and it's wonderful. But putting the DX-394 on the very same antenna it becomes easy to detect the differences i these two. But you can't compare a Radio Shack DX-394 to an Icom R75 receiver because they were not made to be in competition to the bigger names.
I believe what you do get for the money is a reasonably good HF receiver, and the company that actually makes this receiver (GRE) is an excellent manufacturer of good quality scanners. They have an excellent reputation, which is why I can say for the money it's not a bad receiver. However, if you're expecting the performance to be that of a more expensive Icom R75 receiver then you will be disappointed.
Over all this is an okay receiver though.
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