This radio is useful for outdoor and casual activities, but also serves as an ultimate, never-fail receiver in real disasters.
More InfoThe radio reviewed here was bought from The Good Guys in Washington State
Information on the Grundig FR-200 is located at:www.grundigradio.com
Information on the FreePlay Plus is located at:www.freeplay.net
Buc Fitch’s original FreePlay Plus review is located at here.
In the last year or two, it seems, all sorts of events – floods, surprise tornadoes, fires of biblical proportions, critical cable failures and the like – have disrupted normal communications systems even more than usual. Radio broadcasting and EAS have been called upon more than ever before to ameliorate these disasters by getting out needed information.
Radio comes through once again when power outages, system clogging or point failures take communications systems out of action.
To have access to information and to protect our families and ourselves, each of us should have a basic and sensitive battery-powered portable nearby, ready for use.
In 2002, we reviewed the Rolls Royce of survival radios, the FreePlay Plus or FP+, which could be operated from its own internal windup generator or photocells and from a potpourri of external DC sources.
Surprisingly, a contender for replacing the FP+, a similar but far more cost-effective radio, has been introduced by one of the world’s most familiar names in short-wave receivers, Grundig. It is the model FR-200.
Wind it up
Made in China – as are most of Grundig’s and everyone else’s small, thoughtful portables – it has a windup power source as well.
The FR-200 is different from the FP+ in that it has a dynamo. Crank the handle in either direction and you make DC to charge the three onboard NiCad batteries. The manufacturer suggests 90 seconds at two rotations per second, for a total of about 180 winds, to produce 45 minutes of operation.
No onboard photocells are included. But unlike the FP+, the FR-200 has room for three AAs if one wants to use standard batteries. An input jack allows any suitable external DC source to be accessed.
(click thumbnail)The Grundig wind-up radio weighs little more than a pound.
The FR-200 is about one-fifth of the weight of the FP+, weighing in at 1 lb. 1 oz. as measured on my postal scale; but everything else is smaller as well. A smaller, front-panel, fixed light using a regular bulb is provided as opposed to the detachable flood lamp with six foot extension cord and LEDs on the FP+.
The FR-200 light is removable, but this is primarily for bulb maintenance as the “leash” is only about 6 inches.
The speaker on the FR-200 is smaller as well, but it produces intelligible audio in the voice range at room level (albeit a small room like a den).
Nearby me here in Avon, Conn., is Marlin Broadcasting’s WTMI(AM). Even I, aggressive and attentive consulting engineer to Marlin, was surprised with how good that AM station sounded on the FR-200 speaker. A version of the “1812 Overture” with a choir was dramatic and lyrical.
The speaker’s audio contouring appears to be downstream from the headphone jack; on headset, the audio is full and robust, with surprisingly low distortion, especially on FM.
Both radios cover essentially the same bands: AM, FM and two shortwave, up to about 22 MHz. The FR-200 has interesting two-knob concentric tuning. The outside knob is coarse, the inside is for fine-tuning.
Tuning on my radio was spongy, and I kept feeling like I was tuning by the station, such that you compensate by tuning to the oncoming edge of the signal and then it would “drop in” and come in clear. Sensitivity for such a cost-effective radio was impressive, but selectivity was bad.
Both the FP+ and the FR-200 have internal ferrite bars for AM and pull-out antennas for FM and SW. Neither has an external antenna input. Once again, as in the FP+, the FR-200 had a stereo headphone jack but mono audio.
The FR-200 has two important features over the FP+. Grundig has provided a spiffy, outrageous, over-the-top, camouflaged carrying case with shoulder strap, ostensibly for the outdoor person/survivalist. Two, the FR-200 has a wonderful, feature rich price at $39.99.
The FR-200 at first was sold through the usual specialty stores, but last year Radio Shack has announced that it would be a catalog/store item at the same price (part number 20-231).
What a great, fun radio at about a third of the price of the FP+. It is useful for outdoor and casual activities but also serves as that ultimate, never-fail radio in real disasters.
On the zero to four McLane Whip Antenna Review Scale, I give it 2.8 whips. The FP+ earned 3.3.