Remembering Old Radios

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John Faulkner, Skegness
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Location: Skegness, Lincolnshire. JO03dd

Remembering Old Radios

Post by John Faulkner, Skegness » 02 Feb 2015 14:21

I thought this would make a nice little topic, especially for some of us old timers to reminisce over our earliest memories of receivers, but I didn't expect it would turn into a lengthy ramble as long as this. I hope it is of interest.

Thanks to a mention of the Marconi CR100 communications receiver by Dave B elsewhere, it reminded me about the one I used to own. The memories started flooding back and I remembered other receivers I have owned over the years, some of which I had forgotten about. I thought this might make an interesting topic while conditions are quiet.

It's funny, I never used to have any real interest in or appreciation for old equipment. You could show me 'vintage' radio receivers and gramophones and all kind of things like that and it just left me cold. I knew how good the old valve receivers were for DXing back in the 70s - and way better than their transistorised counterparts.

I used to love tuning around the bands on my father's Trio 9R59D valve set, bought from Jack Tweed's in Chesterfield. He had an interest in amateur radio and I blame him for the hours I spend in my radio shack. ;O) Both my parents were wireless operators during war time in the Royal Air Force. These days I love to collect old valve radios and have picked up a few bargains since moving to Skegness. I have found many vintage radios on car boots, from brands like Grundig, Pye and Bush. My best 'find' was a rather large 1960s German Nordmende VHF radio, which stis proudly on the top shelf above me in in the shack. It's in very good condition - and it still works! I paid just £10 for this beauty from an antique shop in Horncastle, 20 miles west of here. The audio is amazing with rich, deep bass. It's a quality of sound you just don't get with today's radios.

I was in my early teens when I first used my father's Trio 9R59D and this became my main receiver for many years. I even hauled it up to Sheigra with me on the first DXpedition. I would pay particular attention to the tropical bands and 48 metres. However, it wasn't long before I discovered medium wave and then I was well and truly hooked. This receiver sits on the top shelf, right next to the Nordmende.

The next receiver I had was loaned to me by Chris Thatcher. A Marconi CR100/2 and this knocked the 9R59D into the ground! It was much larger and considerably heavier, but the weight of that was nothing compared to my next receiver - a hernia-inducing Racal RA17L which I bought from Dave Porter. Yes, I am reminiscing on names from the past now too. This receiver was excellent and was actually quite stable, even at 30 MHz. It didn't drift like the CR100 did - and more especially like the 9R59D - that was hopeless for stability! I would have to turn on the radio and leave it for half an hour to settle down. Can you imagine using radios like that today? That was the norm back then. You would certainly never dream of fitting a top DX machine in your pocket then either!

Back in the 70s, valve radios were generally considered to be superior to the more modern transistorised versions. When I eventually left the valve scene, I decided to get an AOR AR7030, which was quite the rage at the time and this radio most definitely DID outperform the valves!

I also purchased an Icom PCR1000 which was nothing short of excellent! Closely followed by an Icom IC7000, primarily bought for amateur radio purposes, but this was, and still is, an excellent performer on medium and short wave and could easily be used as a main DX receiver. All this would be around the early to mid-2000s. At that time I remember an increasing amount of discussion about a new brand of receiver, called the "SDR" and, slowly but surely, DXers were starting to move into this exciting new era of receivers. Realising the potential of the SDR I sold my PCR1000 and bought a Perseus and this really did change the playing field. The Perseus was revolutionary and provided the biggest single improvement I have made to my DXing hobby to this day. Having the Elad FDM-S2 SDR for band 2 FM compliments this perfectly, although improvements in the Elad FDM-SW2 software makes this superior to the Perseus in some respects.

Finally, the Sony XDR-F1HD was the canine's nether regions for band 2 and I am sure this too will always be remembered as a revolutionary DX receiver.

I have had various other receivers over the years too, but these are the ones which stick in my mind.

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Re: Remembering Old Radios

Post by satnipper » 02 Feb 2015 15:20

Excellent post JF. I was not really into valve radios and my first real radio (12th birthday present?) was a Pye transistor which had the short wave bands on. Armed with an old copy of the WRTH from the local library I was started on a journey which was to cost me tens of thousands of pounds lol. My first real receiver was the Uniden CR2021 - . This cost £100 in 1984 when I was at university but it had a digital read-out!!! That was a large sum of money in those days (still is) and I paid for it by eating nothing but cheap baked beans for a fortnight.

Like John I moved on to the AOR7030 in the 1990s though I always wanted a JRC NRD535D but could never afford it (close to £2k with all the bells and whistles). Couple of years ago I picked one up off eBay for a few hundred pounds - did I need it? No. Did I want it - hell yes!!

In 2002 I got into amateur radio taking the Foundation exam and receiving an M3 call sign. Six months later I took the last but one RAE examination and got my full license. I'd define myself these days as an amateur HF dxer and my Icom 7600/Acom 1000/Cushcraft MA5B are my favourite toys. They cost a bit more than the old Uniden but I have such fond memories of that rig - it gave up the ghost quite a few years ago though I still have my Sony 2001D (another venerable classic) which I bought in the late 1980s to replace the Uniden. I have memories of listening to Peruvian and Bolivian tropical band (60m) stations in the dead of night on both the Uniden and Sony at different times in my life.

The Sony XDR-F1HD - what can I say... It simply enables Band II dxing in London and nothing beats its selectivity. I'm glad I picked two up when they could be had for sensible prices -below £100 all in. Scanner wise I splashed out on an AOR AR5000 in late 1990s which I still have and use nearly every day. Cost a bomb in its day as well and 2nd hand prices are still up above £800.

The Perseus SDR - again what can I say? It redefined MF dxing - just completely changed the parameters. Recording the entire MW band TOTHs and BOTHs overnight without having to be physically present!! Dxing NA/LA MF DX in the middle of the day by playing back the recorded files in pseudo-real time. Incredible.

Times move on though and the Perseus FM+ was such a disappointment though it's great to see the Elad FDM-S2 performing so well and the developers interacting with the dx community rather than the customer unfriendly antics of the Perseus and Studio 1 crews. The rtlsdr dongles have been a revelation in the last few years and the authors of SDR# and SDR Console (the great Simon Brown) have given so much to dxers it's not true.

If we can keep our bands as free as possible from QRM and QRN then we can carry on dxing with our valve rigs and dongles, Elads and Icoms for many a long year yet.


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Re: Remembering Old Radios

Post by daveB » 02 Feb 2015 18:14

I owned a Trio 9R59D at one point - performance was disappointing compared to my memories of the CR100. But it was excellent value for money. I never noticed that it drifted significantly but overload and poor image rejection due to single conversion 455kHz IF stay in mind. After a few years gap I came back to Amateur Radio purchasing an FR101 receiver which was excellent but Amateur Bands only. This was replaced shortly after I got my A licence with an FT-101E used for CW/SSB and RTTY. RTTY was generated by an Acorn Atom and later a Tandy Dragon 32. But RTTY was 100% duty cycle so the FT101E was only safe at 25W PEP in that mode. So I upgraded to an Icom-740 with narrow band CW (around 1984). Now that was a transceiver! AMTOR was just coming in AMateur Teleprinting Over Radio if I remember the acronym. AMTOR was based on sending out short packets at 100 bauds/second ('google' it!) switching to receive for confirmation. So the transceiver was switching rapidly from transmit to receive and as the tx/rx change over was by relays it was like having a very loud clock ticking away all the time! I had to stuff a cushion in front of the radio to mufle it so I could concentrate on typing! I made some very good contacts via Amtor and RTTY. I used a home-built Maplin TU10 'modem' with added audio bandpass filters. This was so good I was getting solid RTTY copy when I could barely hear the signal above the noise

Well time passed on - a family came along and the hobby went on the back burner. Not helped by TVI issues and increasing noise on the bands. Now 25+ years later I'm enjoying FM-DXing - which for me wouldn't be viable without the internet for parallel streaming audio id and FMList and of course forums.

Oh - I mustn't forget that during the quiet years I purchased a second hand Lowe HF-225 receiver complete with the NBFM board, the AM synchronous reception and numeric keypad - which I still own. I brought it out of hiding to see how it compared with the SW/MW reception on the SDRPlay.


SDRPlay, AirSpyMini, RTL dongles, SB920s, Yamaha TX930. 5 ele compact yagi on rotator at 18ft agl. FM5 facing east, FM5 facing south, FM3 facing NE, OIRT dipole, 3-ele Moxon vertical facing east.

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