Degen DE1121 FAQ

Unless otherwise noted, all information applies to Degen DE1121 with 1.1 firmware
  1. What is the Degen DE1121?

    The Degen DE1121 is a AM/FM/SW radio with a docking mp3 recorder. The mp3 recorder can be removed, and both the radio and the mp3 recorder can be used independently. The mp3 recorder can used to record radio programs and to play mp3 music recordings and podcasts. The radio features a daily alarm that can be used to trigger the mp3 recorder to "time shift" radio programs, much like a VCR.

    The radio performance is quite good (though not quite up to the standards of the best radios in the same price class like the Redsun RP2100 or Degen DE1103), with excellent reception on all bands. It commonly sells for around $100 shipped to the US from China from ebay sellers like tquchina.

  2. How the heck do I operate this thing?

    The DE1121 is not intuitive and the manual is unclear. The radio uses a menu driven system, and most all functions are available by turning on the power to either the radio or the mp3 recorder and navigating through the menus. The key to using this radio is to become comfortable with the basic menu system and the three keys under the mp3 recorder that control it: The "menu" key (the one with the book icon) and the two keys on either side of it (the "select" keys forward and back). For just about anything you want to do, you start by turning power on to either the mp3 recorder or radio. Then you press the menu key to enter the menu mode, and use the select keys to navigate through the menu choices. When you find the choice you want, you use the menu key to select it.

  3. Is there an owner's manual available online?

    Yes, the DE1121 Owners Manual is available from the files section of the Yahoo Group KA1121_DE1121. In addition, Walter Zhao, owner of Kaito USA and deisgner of many radios, has offered to email the 2 page pdf "quick guide to the KA1121" to anyone interested in purchasing the Kaito version of the radio if they promise not to publish it on the internet.

  4. Isn't the Degen DE1121 the same radio as the DE1103, just with an mp3 recorder attached?

    No, though there is some speculation that it is based on the DE1102. The IFs stated in the Thieking & Koch manual (10.7 MHz + 450 kHz for SW) coincide with the DE1102. (Thanks to Stephan Grossklass)

  5. How do I use the timer to make unattended recordings?

    1. Turn the power to the radio on.
    2. Press the Menu key (2nd button above the MW label)
    3. Use the "Select Keys" (up or down arrow icons that are 2 buttons above the FM or SW labels) to chose "Setting" and then press the Menu key again
    4. Choose "Time" and press the Menu key again
    5. Choose "Alarm 1" and press the Menu key again
    6. Enter the digits for the start time, press "FM", "MW" or "SW" then press the digits for the frequency
    7. Press the menu key again so that the clock icon appears (instead of the circle x icon)
    8. Press the "Select Key/Step Forward" (The button above the EQ button) twice so that the cursor is next to the radio icon. Use the menu key to select the picture of a radio with a microphone next to it.
    9. Press the volume up or down buttons to select the play volume when the unit records
    10. Press the "Select Key/Step Forward" to move the cursor to the final two digits of the display. Enter the duration in minutes.
    11. Turn the power off. The radio should now turn itself on and record the program

    Note that you can set the duration to be unlimited by pressing delete (left arrow under 7) when the duration is highlighted for unlimited recording time. This is signified by two semicolons. (Thanks to Duncan Ross)

  6. OK, now how do I turn the timer off?

    1. Turn the power to the radio on.
    2. Press the Menu key (2nd button above the MW label)
    3. Use the "Select Keys" (up or down arrow icons that are 2 buttons above the FM or SW labels) to chose "Setting" and then press the Menu key again
    4. Choose "Time" and press the Menu key again
    5. Choose "Alarm 1" and press the Menu key again
    6. Press the "Select Key/Step Forward" (The button above the EQ button) twice so that the cursor is next to the clock icon. Use the menu key to change the clock icon to a circle x.
    7. Press the "Select Key/Step Forward" (The button above the EQ button) one more time to move to the icon of a bent arrow pointing up.
    8. Press the Menu key again to exit and store your changes.

  7. What kind/shape/style of usb connector plugs into the MP3 player?

    The radio takes a standard cable with a type "A" connector on one end and a type "Mini B" on the other. This is the same cable that works with my Canon camera and Creative Labs Zen mp3 player, so it is not unusual. Wikipedia has a good page on connectors here

  8. What other radios besides the DE1121 can make unattended digital recordings of over-the-air broadcasts?

    Some mp3 recorders (e.g. iRiver T10) can make timer recordings of FM broadcasts. The only one I'm aware of that can record AM and FM is the Pogo Radio Yourway. It is specifically designed to make unattended radio program recordings. It has more flexible weekly timer settings than the DE1121, so you can program it to record only on specific days of the week. In my experience it's FM reception is poor, even with the included FM antenna attachment. In theory, it should make better recordings of music broadcasts than the DE1121, since it can record with a higher bitrate, but this is offset by the poor quality of FM reception. (The DE1121's bitrate is 32Kbs for timer recordings.) The Radio Yourway is about the size of an iPod, which makes it a bit small and awkward for tabletop use. It uses removable SD cards of up to 1Gb in size in addition to 128Mb or 512Mb of internal memory. It sells for around $200.

    Many shelf sized stereo systems include an alarm that can trigger a cassette recorder for capturing radio broadcasts. Panasonic makes an interesting shelf system, the SC-PM71SD, that can make digital recordings of AM/FM broadcasts. It includes an SD slot that can hold up to 1Gb. The user manual indicates that it has very flexible weekly recording options much like the radio yourway. It records only in AAC format, not the more standard mp3, and it encodes recordings with DRM copy protection, which some users complain makes transferring the recordings to other devices difficult. While it lists for $400, these are often discounted to $200 or less, quite a deal since it also includes a portable mp3 player and a 1Gb SD card. The Japanese market only model SC-PM730SD includes a minidisc recorder.

    New in 2008 is the Grundig G4 which is also sold as the Degen DE1122. The unit plays and records MP3 music on up to a 2GB SD card that plugs into its socket. It offers AM, FM and Shortwave (3000-29999 KHz) and supports both MP3 and WMA files. Unlike the DE1121, it doesn't offer SSB mode for shortwave. It sells for around $200.

  9. How do I charge the radio batteries?

    Method 1: The DE1121 appears to use the 'intelligent' charging method employed on the DE1105; with the power off and the AC adapter connected, briefly press the garbage can button (last one bottom right). The charge indicator on the top left of the "Sub LCD" will start blinking for a few seconds (see picture below). During this period you can enter a single digit on the keypad for the number of hours charging (eg 5 for 5 hours). If you don't enter anything the radio takes a guess at charge duration. . Apparently, you can't charge both the radio batteries and the mp3 recorder at the same time. A long press of the "exit" key (the one right under the 7 key) will stop the charging of either batteries. (Thanks to Duncan Ross)

    Method 2: With the radio on and the AC adapter connected, Choose "Setting", "Charge" and "radio" using the menu and select buttons. Again, it doesn't appear that you can charge both batteries simultaneously.

  10. How do I charge the mp3 recorder?

    Method 1: With the power off and the AC adapter connected, press and hold the garbage can button (last one bottom right) until the mp3 battery charge indicator starts to flash on the top right of the "Sub LCD".

    Method 2: With the radio on and the AC adapter connected, Choose "Setting", "Charge" and "mp3 recorder" using the menu and select buttons.

  11. My AC adapter doesn't match the electricity in my country, how do I charge the mp3 recorder?

    Unfortunately, you can't charge and use the mp3 recorder undocked without a functioning AC adapter. The Degen DE1121 shares the same adapter with many other Degen/Kaito models, so you may able to use one from another radio. In the US, Kaito supplies an adapter with input 120 volts, 75mA and output 6V DC 300mA tip negative. Radio Shack sells a 6VDC/300mA AC-to-DC Adapter Model: 273-1758 for $12.99. Many merchants on eBay sell a step up transformer that will let you use the AC adapter that came with the radio: tquchina sells a "step-up 110V to 220V AC voltage transformer" for $12.90 shipped to the US.

    Note: The MP3 runs off the radio batteries when docked. Even without an AC adapter, you can still use the MP3 recorder as long as it is docked to the radio. My MP3 recorder is broken, or it needs a battery. Where would I get one?

    Kaito USA sells new mp3 units for $50.00 includes shipping (with battery)or just the mp3 battery for $10.00 includes shipping. To order by phone call 1-909-628-6088.

    Even without a battery, the mp3 recorder will still function as long as it is docked to the radio. (Thanks to James & Duncan Ross)

  12. What is the memory capacity of the mp3 recorder? Can this be upgraded?

    The mp3 recorder has a fixed memory size of 256Mb and it cannot be upgraded. At 32Kbs it can hold about 15 hrs of recordings. There is a new version of the DE1121 with a 512Mb mp3 recorder that has yet to make its way to the market.

  13. I was recording music, and the DE1121 stopped recording and reported it was full even though about half of the memory was still avialable. What happened?

    There are only 95 "spaces" for MP3 files, so if you record one song per space, you'll only get 95 songs, regardless of how much memory is left. If you record several songs per space, just pressing "pause" between them instead of moving to the next numbered space, you can use the full 15 hours of memory as long as you haven't used up all 95 numbered spaces. (Thanks to Emily Keene)

  14. Even though my timer was correctly set, and there was plenty of space available on mp3 recorder, the radio did not record. What happened?

    I've found that I need to periodically format my mp3 recorder from the radios menu system to free up space on the mp3 recorder. I usually remove files by dragging them from the mp3 recorder to my computer, but apparently this can "confuse" the mp3 recorder over time, necessitating the format.

  15. Can I use the narrow bandwidth, ssb and bfo on longwave and medium wave bands, or does this only work on shortwave?

    You can use the narrow/wide bandwidth switch on LW and MW, but you can only use SSB mode (and the BFO) on SW. The Thieking & Koch version of the DE1121 does allow the use of ssb on LW & MW as well as SW (see below).

  16. What types of antennas can I connect to the external antenna jack?

    AM, SW and FM reception can all benefit from an external antenna. The external antenna jack on the DE1121 takes an 1/8" mini plug. Degen sells two amplified loop antennas that work well with the radio, the DE31 for shortwave and the DE33 for both shortwave and AM. I have the DE31 and it noticeably improves shortwave reception.

    A different type of antenna is needed for FM. Most FM antennas use an F type coax connector. Radio Shack sells a F Jack to 1/8" Male Plug adapter (Model: 278-267) that works well with the DE1121. I took the dipole antenna off my Sony XDRF1HD tuner (which is the best FM tuner I've ever used) and connected it to the external antenna jack on the Degen DE1121 using the adapter. FM reception with the dipole was clearly better than off the telescopic whip.

    As an alternative, one user reports that connecting the inner core wire of the anntenna coax cable to the telesopic antenna's base and grounding the outer grid gave excellent results. (Thanks Apu!)

  17. What are the differences between the Degen DE1121, the Kaito KA1121 and the Thieking & Koch DE1121?

    The different radios are meant for different markets, and the language of the menu system reflects that. The Kaito and Theiking & Koch have extended frequency coverage compared to the Degen. The Theiking & Koch also meets the tough European RohS environmental standards.

    Degen DE1121

    Kaito KA1121

    Thieking & Koch DE1121

    Thanks to Eckhard Koch for information on the differences in the T&K version

  18. How do I set the clock?

    With the radio off, press the "Enter" key twice. After the first press, the sub-LCD will display "SET." After the second press, the sub-LCD goes blank, and you can then punch in the new time, two digits for hour and two digits for minute. For pm, use hours larger than 12 (e.g. 3:30pm would be 15:30). Press enter once more to exit the time setting mode.

  19. How do I reset the receiver to the factory default setting?

    1. Take the MP3 unit out of the radio
    2. Take the battery out of the MP3 unit
    3. Take the battery out of the radio,
    4. Unplug the AC power supply
    5. Wait for more than 20 minutes, and then replace the batteries and AC power.

  20. How do I directly enter the frequency I want to tune to?

    Press the "Enter" key (the one under the 9), then press the band, enter the frequency, and press the "Enter" key again.

  21. How do I tune to Longwave (LW)?

    Pretty much the method described above, with one bug. If you want to tune to 200Khz or above, just hit "Enter", "MW", enter the frequency and hit enter again. However, this doesn't seem to work for frequencies below 200Khz. You'll need to enter 200Khz, and then use the tuning knob or "Step Backward" key (below the 7) to tune down from 200Khz.

  22. Presets 98 and 99 come set with NOAA frequencies. Does this mean I can get NOAA weather broadcasts on the Degen DE1121?

    No, apparently not. While you can call up these presets, you won't receive the NOAA. However, you might get some air traffic. Notice that the radio frequency display ("Sub LCD") shows 129Mhz or 130Mhz which is airband, not the 162Mhz that the NOAA broadcasts on. Here are the actual frequencies (Thanks to Duncan Ross):

    Desig	Memory		Indicated 
    NOAA 1:	162.400:	129.92
    NOAA 2:	162.425:	129.94
    NOAA 3:	162.450:	129.96
    NOAA 4:	162.475:	129.98
    NOAA 5:	162.500:	130.00
    NOAA 6:	162.525:	130.02
    NOAA 7:	162.550:	130.04

  23. How would I use the DE1121 to listen to podcasts?

    Download the podcast to your computer, and then transfer it to the mp3 player using the USB cable. The DE1121 can play .mp3 and .wav files, though it might not be able to play files that are protected with DRM ("digital rights management").

  24. When using the mp3 recorder, it turns off after a period, but I want it to stay on until I turn it off. How do I set this?

    1. Turn the power to the mp3 recorder on
    2. Press the menu button, and use the select keys to navigate to "Setting" and select it by pressing the menu button again.
    3. Use the select keys to navigate to "Auto Power Off" and select it by pressing the menu button.
    4. Use the select keys to choose "10", "20", "30", "60" minutes or "Never" and select your choice by pressing the menu button again.

  25. When using the radio, it turns off after a period, but I want it to stay on until I turn it off. How do I set this?

    Turn the radio on and immediately press the left-pointing button under the 7 button on the keypad. You might notice the absence of the little "zz" icon with numbers under it. (see the picture on the right.) This change will "stick" until you use the menu to turn the auto power setting on again. (see below)

  26. When using the radio, How do I set it to turn off automatically?

    1. Turn the power to the radio on
    2. Press the menu button, and use the select keys to navigate to "Setting" and select it by pressing the menu button again.
    3. Use the select keys to navigate to "Auto Off" and select it by pressing the menu button.
    4. Use the select keys to choose "10", "20", "30", "60" or "120" minutes and select your choice by pressing the menu button again.

    Note: with Degen's 1.1 firmware, there is no "Never" choice for the radio auto power off, unlike the mp3 recorder.

  27. How do I set the memory presets?

    There are one hundred memories. Each memory can be given an identifier of up to 8 characters, and each memory can store up to 4 frequencies. So for example, I have one memory for the BBC World Service with the identifier "BBCWorld" and frequencies 5875, 5975, 6130, and 9740. Programming the memory presets requires using a computer to edit the FREQ.TXT file (described below).

  28. How do I set the AM step at 9 or 10Khz?

    The is done by editing the FREQ.TXT file with a computer (described below).

  29. How do I set the date? Why is this important?

    The is done by editing the FREQ.TXT file with a computer (described below). If the date is correctly set, recordings will be "time stamped" with the correct date they were recorded. When you transfer the files to the computer, you can determine the date they were recorded by right clicking on the file and choosing "Properties." The "date modified" field shows the date the recording was made.

  30. How do I edit the FREQ.txt file?

    Connect the mp3 recorder to a computer with a USB cable. Open the FREQ.txt file with a simple text editor like Notepad. The very first line of the file looks like:
    MWstep year month day /10k/12h/07Y/1M/6d/;
    You set the MWstep by typing 9k or 10k in the first field between the first set of forward slashes. The second field is 12h or 24h for time display. The third, fourth and fifth fields set the year, month and date. The next 100 lines are numbered (starting with 00) and represent the 100 memories. They look like:
    20 BBCWorld 5875K 5975K 6130K 9740K;
    The first number is the preset number, then comes the identifier (8 chars max). Then comes up to four different frequencies that are assigned to that preset. K represents AM and M represents FM. Each preset can mix and match AM and FM frequencies. The end of each line is marked with a semi-colon. A preset will adjust to single sideband automatically if the 7th and 8th characters of the identifier are SB (For example ABC--SSB). The last lines of the files have some comments and instructions. I've posted a copy of my FREQ.TXT if anyone is interested.

    Once the changes are made and saved, the new FREQ.txt needs to be "imported" into the radio. With the updated FREQ.TXT file stored on the mp3 player, turn the radio on and press menu. Choose STATION and then IMPORT. The frequencies and ids are then loaded into the radio.

  31. My computer doesn't recognize the mp3 player, how do I reset it?

    The symptoms are; "MP3 Player" text appearing at switch-on followed by a blank screen. The radio may also become muted. All buttons are unresponsive. This is caused by the MP3 software crashing while attempting to read the directory. The reset sequence for the Degen MP3 player (V1.1 software) is;

    The MP3 boot sequence should be bypassed and a PC connection should establish.

    It should now function normally. Hopefully you won't need this! (Thanks to Duncan Ross)

    As an alternative to the reset sequence outlined by Duncan, I've had success just reformatting the mp3 player while it is connected to the computer. Once, when I tried to copy some of the files from the mp3 recorder to my computer, I got an error message that some of the files were corrupted or unreadable. I copied the ones that I could, then I formatted the mp3 recorder from the menu system on the radio. My computer still didn't like the mp3 recorder when I connected it (it told me it was unreadable and asked if I wanted to format it), so then I formatted the mp3 recorder while it was connected to my computer using Windows in the FAT32 format.

    When I reconnected the mp3 recorder to the radio I got a "Head error" message, but otherwise everything seemed to work fine. The "Head error" indicated that the file was corrupted. After that initial error message there was no more strange behavior, and everything is still working fine. Apparently, the alarm/recording settings are on the radio, because reformatting the mp3 recorder didn't effect them.

    Eckhard Koch, one of the designers of the radio, gave these suggestions on how to avoid problems with the mp3 player:

  32. My radio is displaying the menu choices in the wrong language. How do I change it?

    The language the radio displays is controlled by the firmware. Installing different firmware will change the display language. Currently , there are English, Chinese and German versions of the firmware that are available. (See below) Note that installing the Theiking & Koch firmware on a Degen radio is not recommended.

    Thanks to Duncan Ross and tquchina for making the English firmware available

  33. Should I upgrade the firmware? How would I do it?

    I'm now using version 1.3 of the English firmware (available from the files section) and I notice no difference in the operation of the radio. Changing the firmware in the Theiking & Koch DE1121 from version 1.1 to 1.2 changes timer controlled recording to 128BIT/s instead of 32 BIT/s, which increases fidelity but reduces the number of programs that can be recorded. However, in the Degen version, timer recordings with the upgraded firmware are still 32 BIT/s which suits me just fine. I've heard it said that versions 1.2 and 1.3 get along better with Windows Vista (I use XP) and fix some stability problems with the MP3 player, but again, I haven't noticed any difference. Upgrading the firmware may be necessary if the radio display is in the wrong language, or the radio is experiencing a serious problem.

    Both the English and Chinese versions of various firmware versions are available from the files section of the Yahoo KA1121_DE1121 group. The Kaito KA1121 firmware is apparently provided on a disc with the packaging of the Kaito version of the radio. The German Theiking & Koch firmware is available from the the Theiking & Koch DE1121 ftp archive. While you can install the firmware on a different version of the radio, it is not recommended, and may cause some strange behavior in the radio. Stephan Grossklass kindly translated the German instructions from the Theiking & Koch website on how to upgrade the firmware:

    1. Connect the MP3 player (docked or not) to the computer via the supplied USB cable.
    2. Back up all the files to the computer, as all the data on the MP3 player will be deleted during the upgrade process.
    3. Launch the firmware updater (It will have a name like DE1121Mp3RadioEv1.2_ENG.exe). You should see a screen similar to the following screen:

      Click "OK" to continue
    4. Now you should see the program screen:

      Click the "UPGRADE" button.
    5. Wait while the firmware is being transferred. ("the NAND Flash is being format")
    6. Then "Lost InDISK Name" and "Please unplug the device first" will appear - however, do NOT unplug yet at this stage.
    7. Push OK, only then disconnect MP3 player from computer.
    8. Copy back the files to the MP3 player, particularly freq.txt.
    You may need to restore the volume label if you had used a custom one before.

    Thanks to Duncan Ross, Stephan Grossklass and tquchina

-Art Simon
Please email me with corrections, additions, questions or comments. Thanks!