Grundig Emergency Radio FR-200

 

 

This article is going to be short and sweet compared to what it could be if I had the knowledge to break this unit down by actual electronic construction, etc. I am not an expert on radios and won’t pretend to be. Consider it the view(s) and opinion(s) of a layman when it comes to radios. I think there is some value in the opinion of the End User / Radio Enthusiast as well. You don’t have to be a HAM Operator to have a valid opinion on a simple radio like this. (But would have to be to have a valid opinion on HAM equipment, etc.)

 

The Light – Criticism

 

Let’s get the negativity out of the way right now. This (light) is not quite what it is cracked up to be, it’s a good idea that was terribly executed. And that sounds very harsh when you consider that they made the lamp itself so accessible for change (swapping out) in the future! All you need is a regular coin or something similar to a coin and you can access the lamp very easily.

 

They did a really good job with that – but it’s as if no one at Grundig even knew of the existence of LEDs for use in flashlights and lanterns except for the small LED that lets you know that the Dynamo is charging the battery pack. This light is a conventional lamp assembly and it is very bright indeed, so bright that it just saps the rechargeable battery in a short amount of time, not good.

 

With the plethora of LED lights on the market, why this type of lamp was chosen for this type of radio is beyond me…

 

 

If this light were an LED, this radio would be so much better. But it is not and we can only hope that Grundig does some research and comes out with a much better version of the FR-200 with an LED instead of this lamp.

 

It is not that the design is poor really, it’s a solid design. The only problem is, the lamp utilized would be more “at home” in 1987 instead of 2003.

 

There is no way around it; this radio/light combination is something that would have been “State of the Art” back in the 1980s. But on this radio it is simply the worst type of power hog. This is totally unnecessary now with LED technology.

 

Ideas for Improvement

 

If this feature is changed to a bright LED, I believe it would improve this radio so very much. I hope Grundig chooses to do this because this radio is awesome and it truly deserves to have an equally awesome light.

 

LEDs can last for over 100,000 hours! And they just sip battery power, which is VERY important in something marketed as a radio for emergencies. If this light has a single LED, I have no idea how long the light would stay on with, say, ten straight minutes of cranking on the dynamo but I am betting that it would probably burn all night long. An array of LEDs could even work if the Engineers would do the research and settle on something suited to the capacity of the rechargeable battery pack provided with the radio.

 

So, Grundig could leave in the capability to easily change out the lamp, but the lamp could be an LED. In the battery compartment, there could be a spare LED although you would probably never need it. But in that battery compartment, there could be another small compartment accessible by a small screw or a coin (as they did the lamp assembly on the front) – this could hold a spare LED. Perhaps a higher output LED for signaling purposes would be a good idea for an “emergency” radio. Maybe a strobe in LED form…hmm…sounds good, doesn’t it?

 

Another improvement would be to put a color filter as a window for the light to exit through. Again, this would be great! It could be a little slide color filter like can be found on the Minox Camera. Clear, Red, Blue, Amber and then have another filter that partially obscured the light so you received less of it. This could come in handy under some circumstances. Red and Blue lights are easier on natural night vision.

 

Your fingernail could slide-operate this little filter, this could be done and it would not even really effect the price of the FR-200 that much.

 

NOAA Weather Alert would be a fine addition as well.

 

For more ideas on improvements, read on!

 

Power Sources

 

The FR-200 can run from a wall outlet if you buy the adapter/power cord for it. I do not have this power source; it is not provided with the radio, you must purchase it separately. You must purchase a 4.5 volt DC power supply (transformer) with negative polarity. 200 milliamperes or more. Polarity must be correct.

 

It can run on three “AA” batteries or the internal rechargeable battery pack that just so happens to be the same basic type used in many cordless telephones. (Ni-MH NS-2/3AA, 3.6V, 600 Mah or equivalent)

 

The hand-cranked dynamo charges this rechargeable battery pack.

 

 

The Owner’s Manual states that 2 turns of the crank per second for 90 seconds will power the radio for approximately 40 – 60 minutes at low to medium volume. 

 

The Dynamo has a charging/activity indicator in the form of a small, red LED mounted on top of the radio, above the crank assembly.

 

The crank can be turned clockwise or counter-clockwise which is a really great idea too. Sometimes, with certain manufacturers – they make things like this and if you turn something the wrong way – you strip everything out and it is ruined. I have cranked the Grundig’s Dynamo both ways with no ill effects.

 

The Power of The Sun

 

I would like to obtain a small solar panel suitable for recharging Ni-Cad batteries and battery packs. I would like to get the solar panel and three rechargeable AA batteries and see how that works in the FR-200. I think that would make this great little radio even more versatile.

 

It would be nice if Grundig offered this as an option. If it is possible with modern solar technology, perhaps they could simply have this panel placed in another pocket in the case for the radio.

 

It would raise the price of the radio a bit for the solar panel and three AA Ni-Cads, but I think it would be great and well worth it.

 

Now for another improvement…

 

There could be a small micro-switch (toggle or slide, etc.) inside the battery compartment that could switch the dynamo from charging the “standard” (cordless phone) battery pack that is included now to charging three AA Ni-Cad batteries that are placed in the area provided for AA batteries to used.

 

You would be able to use the radio for a much longer period of time with minimum cranking on the dynamo (or none at all in one night) if this modification were done along with the inclusion of an LED lamp replacing the present one. You could also have light all night if you needed it. If you were using earphones when camping, etc., not having to crank the radio up would be a real plus when it comes to being quiet around other family and friends when they are asleep and you want to catch the Art Bell Show at 2:00 AM…

 

Imagine being able to recharge Ni-Cad batteries for your CMG Ultra Infinity Task Light (LED) or an LED-modified Mini-Maglite, Krill Lamp etc., with the solar panel or the Dynamo System on the Grundig…

 

The Dynamo Crank

 

This is very nicely done. Even down to the small “notch” in the body that part of the handle fits into when folded so it is not sticking out, very sleek and well thought out…

 

I don’t know about the longevity of this device, as I have not owned it for a very long period of time. However, after winding on this thing for a couple of hours total (trust me, that’s a lot of winding!) since I purchased it in September (It is now December 10th as I write this segment of the article), there is perhaps an indicator of wear on the crank assembly.

 

 

That indication of “wear” that is evident is a bit of white powder in the area where the handle of the crank folds onto itself. Not a lot, but it could be evidence of some wear and tear that could cause a failure in the future.

 

I think Grundig should take a look at this and consider any returns they have had and strengthen this area if necessary. But as far as mine is concerned, it is working quite nicely.

 

Even with what appears to be a bit of white powdered plastic from all of that grinding and cranking, the crank handle itself has shown ZERO “play,” there is no other indication of wear and tear on the crank assembly. It is still the same as when I purchased it and there is no wobble or anything when you crank the handle.

 

The Carrying Case

 

The case supplied with the FR-200 is a great little idea and it is executed well! It really is a nice touch.

 

 

It is very well thought out if you ask me. The fasteners (2) are magnetic!

 

The actual construction of the case appears to be very tough.

 

The case has a pocket for the operating manual and a listening guide for Shortwave frequencies. Both are excellent and are much nicer than a simple – stapled together booklet that is drab. Overall, a very nice package from Grundig with good instructions and information for your listening enjoyment.

 

AM Reception

 

The AM Band on this radio is simply outstanding! The FR-200 has an internal ferrite rod antenna and this is one hell of a little AM Radio.

 

I sure do love music, everything from Beethoven to Black Sabbath, Johnny Cash to Metallica, but I really do love listening to Talk Radio as well. I used to listen to Art Bell all of the time, but I had to do it in a vehicle at work because it was always in the middle of the night and we never had Art on locally here where I am located. I had to tune him in from other states, etc.

 

Now I try to listen to Art Bell on Saturday and Sunday nights using my Grundig. I can get Art Bell on a couple of stations that a $1,000.00 Technics stereo can’t pick up! In the same house!

 

I also listen to Michael Savage on a local station, great entertainment; the man is a ball of fire to be sure! (And, no, I don’t believe everything Art Bell, his guests or listeners believe in. Contrary to interesting rumors, I don’t believe in UFOs or aliens… But Art has some interesting things on at times!)

 

I have prowled all over the FR-200’s AM Band; this radio can really pull in some weak stations that are hundreds of miles away. The fine tuning knob makes this much easier than simply having one “do it all” tuning knob. Another nice touch from the folks at Grundig.

 

(Sidebar: Michael Savage and Art Bell have the best bumper music on talk radio, bar none.)

 

FM Reception

 

The FM Band comes in crystal clear and the telescoping antenna (rotatable) does its job very well. Classic Rock in Baltimore!

 

I don’t know what else to say about that, it does its job and does it very well. Like I said, I’m a layman when it comes to radio-speak, you are getting a review from a member of the great unwashed when it comes to radio. I don’t see where it is “better” than most FM Radios I have listened to, but it is certainly as “good” as the others are.

 

Shortwave Reception

 

When I was a kid, my Dad had an ancient World War Two surplus radio receiver. This was an immense tube set that was connected to the transmitter by a huge cable. This behemoth sat on the same desk where he reloaded ammunition and whatnot. It was an awesome thing for a small boy to fiddle with, when I was allowed to.

 

My Dad was a complete CB Radio enthusiast, I mean, he had everything. He had two antennas on the house, directional “beams” with a rotor and a Shakespeare (I think) “Big Stick” antenna for that base station. He had the Shortwave surplus receiver and I never understood why he did not go all the way and become a HAM Radio Operator as he had a practice keypad for Morse Code as well, always sitting on the desk. He had the practice key for Morse and I guess he was going to do it, I guess he just ran out of time.

 

So, we had CBs from old “White Face Johnson’s” to newer Cobras and old Motorola scanners that used crystals instead of being keypad-programmable (to give you an idea of how things used to be), he would build Heathkit testing devices for radios and antennas. All sorts of things.

 

So, it is cool now that I am older, to sit back and listen to some of the Shortwave broadcasts, brings back old memories. Good ones.

 

The Radio’s exterior

 

The lines of the radio are clean and what you could refer to as “modern” without being saddled with some odd, “space age” appearance.

 

The plastic case seems sturdy enough to take a bit of abuse but like most electronic devices, not too much. It’s not that tough on the outside, but probably enough to take quite a fall or thump without too much worry that it would ruin the unit. If you knock it off of a rock and it falls down a hill, it’s probably safe to say that your radio is going to be history…

 

The carrying handle that is located topside is adequate for the task of simple transportation outside of the carrying case.

 

The various controls are clearly labeled and self-explanatory, you should have no trouble with them whatsoever. The “window” that you view the various radio bands is straightforward but cramped, no getting around that unless you go digital which means more power to run it and more money to buy it.

 

 

The tuning controls are excellent, as I stated elsewhere, the fine tuning knob is such a great thing to have. I mean, you can crawl across the dial, it’s wonderful.

 

 

The volume control offers a great degree of just that, control. From a low whisper to a room-filling sound, the control works well in varying sound levels from the 2.5 inch diameter speaker. The louder the radio, the more the power drain, you will have to crank some more if you want it louder.

 

Power selection, control of the light, all of these things are straightforward.

 

 

I almost forgot to show you the back of the radio, so here it is.

 

 

Some experience with the FR-200

 

I purchased my FR-200 at 1:00 PM as the wind began to kick up during the approach of Hurricane Isabel in September of 2003. I figured I really needed to be able to hear some news in case we lost power. Many people, located all around us, lost power – some for a few hours and over a half million for nearly one week.

 

I figured everything would be OK with regard to H-Isabel as long as she did not stall for hours as Hurricane Agnes did when I was a toddler, dumping massive amounts of rain in an already saturated area. (The same, basic situation, saturated ground, was present with H-Agnes as well as H-Isabel, causing some concern that a repeat disaster would occur with Isabel.) Of more concern to me where I was, was the possibility of tornadoes spinning off of the hurricane. This is a relatively normal occurrence and hardly rare. Tornadoes under such circumstances and especially at nighttime (Isabel really kicked in at about 11:00 PM that night) can be very deadly. I wanted to make sure I could hear about any tornado warnings, watches or sightings if we lost power.

 

So, with all of that in mind, I cranked up the radio and tested it for what promised to be an interesting night. I continued cranking on this thing so I could catnap during the storm and still get something of a warning from it should a tornado be spotted, etc.

 

I used the FR-200 throughout the evening until I depleted the rechargeable battery pack. I then cranked it for 30 minutes total in five (5) minute bursts. There is possibly nothing more boring than cranking on this little radio. The result of all of that work was a radio that I listened to at low to moderate volume from approximately 10:00 PM and the radio was still playing at the same volume when I woke up the next morning at about 5:30 AM.

 

I’m happy with it. If Grundig does not change the light, it is still worth what I paid for it. But I do hope they improve it because I think it would be much, much better.

 

Closing

 

This cool little radio, man, it would be very much at home on a table in a camper or outside in the morning, when you can still see your breath before the sun gets kicking…while camping, fishing, hunting… It just seems to be a natural to be a companion next to a campfire (but not too close!).

 

You can just picture this radio hanging from a tent frame or a low hanging tree limb. Equally at home in a backpack or some sort of “Bug Out Bag” (BOB! Read the article!).

 

This radio set me back $42.00 dollars, tax included, at the local Radio Shack. (Someone online mocked Radio Shack by saying, “You’ve got questions, we’ve got blank stares…” Ain’t that the truth! I was researching the FR-200 before I bought mine.)

 

When you examine the radio, listen to the excellent reception and consider all of the plusses and a couple of minuses it has, I think you would still come to the conclusion that it really is an excellent buy for an “emergency radio.”

 

Sure, it could have NOAA Weather Alert and a couple of other things I pointed out, perhaps Grundig will make these changes in the near future and it will only raise the cost of the radio a little bit.

 

For now, if you want an emergency radio, run out to the local Radio Shack and buy one!

 


 

Don Rearic

 

copyright 2004 DonRearic.Com

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