Sangean WR-11 AM/FM Review

The holidays are now over, so what presents did I get? For Christmas, I received a pair of PJs, a Grid-It gadget organizer, a small jar of Vaseline lip balm and this: a Sangean WR-11 Wooden Cabinet Receiver.

I’ve never heard of the brand Sangean, but a quick Google and Wikipedia search says it’s a Taiwanese company that specializes in making radios since 1974 and actually makes radios branded for other big-name companies such as Panasonic, Braun and Siemens. I know what you’re thinking, someone got you a radio? It’s 2011, who listens to radios when Pandora,, Spotify and a bunch of other apps are out there? Well, to prelude this review, I’d like to say I happen to enjoy a little retro-goodness. I’m all about what’s new, but it’s also interesting to look back and see how far we’ve come.

With 105 reviews (as of this writing), Amazon has 69 positive 5-star ratings for this radio and most of the rest being 4-star ratings.

The WR-11 has a built-in AM/FM tuner that is loud, but not all that crisp, especially at higher volume levels. I hooked it up on Christmas and tuned into a few favorite stations that I haven’t listened to in years such as 106.7 Lite FM (Christmas music all day, every day since Thanksgiving) and Z100 and noticed that there is significant distortion at higher volumes. As with the many reviewers on Amazon, I have to agree that the bass is a bit much as well.

Tuning into stations is as easy as turning the huge knob, and the veneered wood is absolutely beautiful. It isn’t the best-sounding radio in the world and it isn’t a Tivoli, but that’s alright because it works for what I’ll be using it for – I’m not one to blast up the radio anyway.

Aside from its radio functions, it can act as a speaker for other devices, but here’s where things take a downward turn. For radio, a mono speaker is passable, but for piping in your tunes from an iPhone, MP3 player or even your computer, it’s quite awful. Audio comes out muffled and you quickly find yourself switching it off and begging for stereo channel speakers again. Even an iPhone 4′s speakers pump out clearer audio.

Back to the loud bass – had the WR-11 been built with stereo speaker, the loud bass might not be so bad, but since it’s not, it’s more of a hindrance than a benefit.

You don’t really appreciate music until you knock it down to mono and suck all the quality out of your favorite songs. Even with music encoded at high bitrates, the music still pipes out with crappy mono.

Normally, the radio sells for about $140 on Amazon, but it’s on sale for $80 (as of this writing).

Verdict: I wouldn’t recommend buying the Sangean WR-11 for the most part, unless you’re buying it for someone who just needs a decent AM/FM radio for whatever reason – maybe grandma or grandpa (but why not upgrade them to the 21st century?). It falls short of being a great piece of audio kit simply because it only packs a mono speaker, which screws its bass up, and the audio-in is pretty awful on the ears.

Since I received the WR-11 as a gift from a very special person and I do love its retro looks, I’m keeping it. Is it worth your $140? No way. $80? That’s a little better, but I’d say if it doesn’t sell for $50 or under, you’re getting ripped off.

^ I can’t fault the radio for its wooden looks. It’s as good as in these photos.

^ Here you can see all the ports. Lots to love here.

^ It’s not wireless my friend. You will need to have this thing jacked into a wall outlet. One day we’ll have wireless for powerful gadgets and this will look silly.

^ Little raised nubs to keep the wood radio slightly off the surface.

^ I read reviews about the volume and tuner knobs slipping, but my unit didn’t seem to have that problem.

^ Here it is, the lovely face of the WR-11. I really do love how it glows green.

^ I kind of like that cheesy sticker on the speaker. I’ll probably keep it on there. It adds to the reto styling.

^ Of course, the box also comes with all the necessary cables and sockets dongles and stuff. I don’t think I’ll get much mileage out of these, as I’m sticking to radio.

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