Receiver Review: Sony XR-C5100

XR-C5100

Year Introduced/ discontinued: 1998/2000
Power: 12 vdc
Size: 51 x 179 x 15 mm
Weight: 3.1 kg
Price: US$112 plus shipping and customs duties
(not available from Sony of America, USA)
Coverage: MW 531-1710; SW 2940-7735, 9500-10140, 11575-18135 kHz, FM 87.5-108 MHz

Value Rating: starstarstarstar


This review was compiled independently. The Medium Wave Circle and Radio Netherlands has no financial connection with Sony, the manufacturer of this receiver.


In 1994, Media Network reported from Tehran, Iran where we noted that shortwave car radios were available in the electrical shops in the capital. These were mainly copies of Japanese brands. Equipment with names like PONY instead of SONY stared out from the bustling market stalls. But now, as the Internet penetrates more and more of the Middle East, electronic shops are coming on line. These are not from Iran, at least not yet, but in the United Arab Emirates. By the look of the collection, many of these businesses are run by Indians, targeting the large numbers of Asians working in the Middle East and taking presents home when they travel.

In one shop in Dubai we found two car radios manufactured by Sony that offered shortwave coverage. The XR-C5100 is slightly more expensive at US$175 offering a higher-powered amplifier of 40 watts per channel and a control for an optional CD changer. Both have shortwave coverage between 2940 and 7735 kHz and then 9500-18135 kHz with a slight gap between 10140 and 11575 kHz.

The dealer in Dubai, Jacky's Electronics, offers a mail order service worldwide. So we ordered the XR-C5100 over the Internet. They charged us an extra US$55 for courier delivery and insurance. Three days later the courier company delivered the parcel to Radio Netherlands and we had to pay US$80 import duty. So the total was US$310. That's the just under the price of a mid-range car radio in this country.

Sony apparently makes these shortwave car radios in Thailand, but since car radios are built to an international size specification there was no problem fitting it into the dashboard of a European car. The instructions came in English and Japanese.

You sacrifice longwave coverage and the Radio Data System, which shows the name of the station on the display. In return you get shortwave coverage, AM between 531 and 1710 kHz tuneable in either 9 or 10 kHz steps, plus FM between 87.5 and 108 MHz, the tuning steps there can be switched between 50 and 200 kHz depending on how crowded the FM band is with you. The radio has a built-in cassette recorder. A Minidisc or CD player are optional extras. So too are the speakers.

There is a scanning function on shortwave, but it isn't much use in Europe because the scanning sequence stops every time it hits a strong station and doesn't restart. It is much better to use the memory function. As for selectivity, the 6 kHz wide filter is fine for strong stations, less good if you're trying to listen to a weak station with a stronger broadcaster on an adjacent channel.

The car radio needs a connection that gives it 12 volts continuously as well as a feed via the ignition. That's important otherwise the stations stored in the memory are erased each time that the radio is switched off.

The dynamic range of the receiver is fair. We did notice some slight breakthrough in the 7 MHz Broadcast band from Morse code stations operating higher up on 8 MHz. This shows the limitation of the receiver design, but for the price range we're talking about, the value is still very good. Performance on FM and mediumwave were also judged to be good to excellent. The clue here is the antenna that you use. Try and mount it well away from the engine and make sure the shielding on the antenna cable is connected to the metal chassis.

We initially had problems because the metallic paint on the car wasn't properly connected to the chassis and then once the engine was running you could only hear the ignition system on the radio. If you take a bit of time to reduce any possible interference from under the hood, then we give this car radio high ratings.

This radio was discontinued in the first half of 2000. Jacky's Electronics advise us that it has been replaced by a new model, the XR-C5600. Radio Netherlands has not tested the XR-C5600.

This review first appeared on the Radio Netherlands website.