Having been an HD Radio-capable DXer for over a decade now, I’ve seen many radios come and go, including the legendary Sony XDR-F1HD, as well as others, like the ultra-portable Insignia NS-HD01 and its cousin, the tabletop Insignia NS-HDRAD2. I’ve heard about Sangean’s lineup of radios, but none seemed that interesting to me until I came across the Sangean HDR-14.


The HDR-14, a new release for 2018, is a portable radio that can handle both FM and AM HD Radio with ease. The HDR-14, which is under $70.00 USD at time of publication on Amazon, is tiny, at 5″ x 3.02″ x 1.28″, smaller overall than a typical iPhone but a little thicker. It fits easily in the palm of one’s hand and is powered with the included AC adapter or three AA batteries.

The Sangean HDR-14 radio with box.

Analog FM radio performance

I was pleasantly surprised at how sensitive this radio is.  It picked up all of my local and semi-local FM signals within 70 miles away in deadband winter conditions without effort.  I would consider the radio’s sensitivity on par with the Sony XDR-F1HD, although it is not an exact match.  The HDR-14 has 15 memory presets for FM radio separated into four “pages,” easily accessible by the soft touch buttons on the front of the radio.

The Sangean HDR-14 decoding RDS from 101.5 WBQB Fredericksburg, VA at 24 miles away on 12/22/18.

The HDR-14’s whip antenna is very directional.  I found that during DX events, I am often able to null out my strong local FM radio stations to hear more distant signals on the same frequency by simply turning the antenna a certain way.  Any DXer who likes tinkering with antennas to see what can be nulled out will love this radio.  The HDR-14 does not have an external antenna hookup, but the radio itself is easy to open and it appears that if someone really wanted to hook it up to an external antenna, they could with minimal effort.

One feature that I found really helpful with this radio is that it has a small kickstand that flips out from the back.  Since the weight distribution of this radio is a little top heavy with the whip antenna completely extended, the kickstand works perfectly to ensure that the radio won’t flip over by accident while in use.

A small kickstand extends out of the Sangean HDR-14 when needed.

This radio’s selectivity does, however, leave a little to be desired.  The radio exhibits minor bleedthrough on frequencies immediately next to very strong local stations (i.e. bleedthrough on 95.3 and 95.7 from a local station on 95.5 FM), likely as a result of its IF filters being set too wide.  This means those living in high RF environments, such as in downtown New York City or those who live within a few miles of their local station transmitters, may find difficulty DXing with this radio on first adjacent frequencies.  The good news is that the radio’s sensitivity is very high, so if there’s even a small trace of a distant signal on a frequency immediately next to a local signal, the HDR-14 will bring that weak station in right over the bleedthrough, so the bleedthrough issue isn’t really much of a problem using this radio during a DX event.  You will receive great DX with this radio.


RDS decoded from 92.3 WTYD Deltaville, VA, 92 miles away, on 7/30/2019.

I love the RDS display on the HDR-14.  It is the only portable radio that I have found that displays the PI code from analog radio stations broadcasting RDS.  The PI code is important because it usually decodes on-screen as the station’s true callsign, meaning it makes it easy to identify received signals that broadcast RDS. In the picture above, the “WTYD” calls were derived from the station’s broadcasted PI code, 8947.  The “THE TIDE” wording is the derived from the station’s PS field which allows for a brief identification.  The RT field, which allows for more information such as song titles if the station utilizes it, can be viewed by cycling through the menu.

RDS decoded from 97.1 WASH Washington, DC, 21 miles away, on 12/23/2018. Note the “97.1WASH” PS code and the incorrect “KCMD” PI code next to it.

The PI code being displayed on this radio, however, is not the be-all-end-all with identifying stations via RDS.  Some stations, especially those owned by iHeartMedia, broadcast an incorrect PI code.  97.1 WASH Washington, DC, a local station of mine owned by iHeart, is the perfect example.  The station should broadcast a PI code of “5683” per the RDS PI Code Calculator website.  Instead, WASH broadcasts “1683” as their PI code, which decodes on-screen as KCMD, an erroneous callsign.  Other iHeart radio stations in my area exhibit the same phenomeon, such as 102.7 WQSR Baltimore, MD.  Instead of airing a correct PI code of A8CD, the station broadcasts 18CD, which displays on this radio as “KDIR.”  This is not an error of the HDR-14 radio and you should not count this against it.  Any radio that displays RDS PI codes, including the Airspy R2, will show the incorrect callsigns because they originate as incorrect from the radio station itself.  Still, it is important to point this out.

FM HD Radio performance

The Sangean HDR-14 radio decoding HD Radio from 100.3 WBIG Washington, DC at 24 miles away on 12/22/18.

This radio is very sensitive detecting HD signals and is quick to decode them, too. My local FMs, at 15-20 miles away, all decoded fully in HD even with the antenna all the way down, which is not possible with the Sony or Insignia radios. It took little effort to decode all of the major Baltimore, MD HD Radio signals at 50-60 miles away, too, with the antenna extended.  The radio displays HD callsigns in the top left corner at all times, but it does not show the “-FM” extension that some stations broadcast. The frequency disappears on-screen when HD is decoded, but you can toggle it back on through the menu, like I did in the picture above. You can also view HD radiotext on the second line of the screen if you cycle through the menu. The radio allows you to tune to HD2 and HD3 signals, where available.

AM analog and AM HD Radio performance

The Sangean HDR-14 decoding 880 WCBS New York, NY at 238 miles away on 12/23/18.

Although I’m sure there are better AM radios out there, I was blown away with how good the AM section was on the HDR-14. It sounds just as good as the XDR-F1HD’s AM radio. It picked up the usual regional AM powerhouses from Boston, Chicago, and New York at night, and at the same time I heard some of the more rarer signals that even the XDR-F1HD can’t get, such as a tiny 10-watt AM station at a community college 5 miles away from me. Simply put, the HDR-14 is a respectable AM radio.

AM HD Radio on the Sangean radio was comparable to the Sony XDR-F1HD, with the same stations decoding their HD signals. Much like on FM, you can toggle between HD radiotext and the frequency on the screen’s second line when an HD Radio signal is decoded.


The Sangean radio has one speaker, so stereo audio is not possible out of the box.  Still, given its small size, the sound quality is OK, perhaps a little tinny.  The radio does have a headphone jack, but the stereo separation is not as extreme as other radios I have used.  Either way, I wouldn’t count this against the radio because I am sure most of the people buying this are doing so for its size and portability, not the sound quality.

Battery life

The battery life on this radio is phenomenal.  Since I just use it for quick dial scans when there’s no DX events, the battery will last for months and months on end before there’s any sign of low battery.  I haven’t used it for nonstop radio listening, but I expect that it would last for many hours before the batteries are depleted.  When the battery does go low, a red light under the red power button will appear for a short while before it turns off.

Traveling with the HDR-14

Perhaps the biggest benefit for me with the Sangean HDR-14 is the possibilities it has with traveling.  It is tiny enough to easily fit in a carry on bag.  I’ve brought it with me on several trips both via plane and car and had no issues.  The radio, unfortunately, did not come with its own travel case, but any portable MP3 player or digital camera case would likely fit the radio well and provide adequate protection.

Although I haven’t had a chance yet to take this radio outside of the United States, it appears to be the best-suited radio out of the many that I have in my shack to handle international radio conditions. It can be programmed to tune in 50, 100, and 200 KHz steps for FM as well as different tuning steps for AM in foreign countries. The radio also can be reprogrammed to tune down to 76.1 FM, the beginning of the FM dial in Japan. These features are very rare to find in radios sold in the USA. I know that regardless of wherever I go, this radio will work. Of course, HD Radio will only be available in the USA and a few other countries, but RDS should work just fine abroad.


As seen in the picture below, the backlight of the HDR-14 only stays on for a few seconds after a button is pressed, even when plugged in, which is a disappointment. The reflective screen sometimes makes it difficult to read without the backlight on. The radio itself is also fairly shiny, which shows fingerprints. The plastic, although solid, feels cheap.

The backlight of the Sangean HDR-14 only stays on for a few seconds at a time.

The radio has a generously long antenna, but the thinner “sections” close to the tip are fragile and seem very prone to bending if one isn’t careful while using it.  I would extend or lower the antenna in sections, starting in the middle and then slowly moving it to ensure it doesn’t bend or break.  Given its small size, it may be hard to find a replacement antenna if needed.

The Sangean HDR-14’s long and fragile extendable whip antenna.

The radio will also actively decode HD Radio whenever available and you can’t disable this, which is a downside if any given station’s HD broadcast sounds worse than its analog counterpart. This seems to be a limitation in most HD Radios on the market, so I don’t fault Sangean for not including this feature with the HDR-14, although it would’ve been nice if they did.

Final verdict

This is a perfect starter radio for a new DXer at under $70 USD.  It has all of the digital bells and whistles like HD Radio and RDS and it does not need any modifications to shine in any DXing situation.  The fact it has AM HD Radio is a huge plus too, as many HD Radios on the market today do not have an AM band, or their AM band is analog only.  This is also a great radio for those who love to DX while traveling and/or need a solid radio in a small package.

The HDR-14, however, is not ideal as an only radio for seasoned DXers who are used to having more robust radios, such as the Sony XDR radios.  The HDR-14 does have some shortcomings that are easily overlooked if one understands it is not the best radio out there, but experienced DXers will want to have something better for everyday use, especially since the HDR-14 cannot connect to an external antenna without taking it apart.  Still, I would recommend the HDR-14 anyway, as it could be used during a strong DX event to get radio stations the “better” radios may not pick up, and it would be great to have during a power outage since this radio is battery powered.

Screenshots from the Sangean HDR-14 are clear and easily readable, such as this one from 101.1 WWDC Washington, DC.

For DXers who like to screenshot RDS and HD Radio decodes, this radio provides a perfect screen with robust information, even if you have to scroll through to see it all.

My RDS and HD Radio Screenshots pages have been updated with new RDS and HD Radio screenshots from the Sangean HDR-14.

Radio Bandscan Video

Click below to view a band scan I did in early 2019 of local Washington and Baltimore-area stations using the Sangean HDR-14.

%d bloggers like this: