Monthly Archives: March 2015

My new (to me) Sony ICF-2001 shortwave radio

Sony-ICF-2001-003

A few weeks ago, I made an impulse purchase: a Sony ICF-2001.

Perhaps it was the post about John Lennon’s ICF-2001, or perhaps it was the simple fact I couldn’t afford a ‘2001 when I was a kid; either way, I saw what I thought was a fair price and I bit the bullet.

icf2001lAt about 9-10 years old I remember seeing the (above) image of the ICF-2001 in an advertisement and imagining all that I could hear with this amazing–microprocessor-controlled, dual conversion, frequency synthesized general coverage(!)–portable receiver.

Sony-ICF-2001-7

At the time, my only shortwave radio was the Zenith Trans Oceanic Royal D7000–a wonderful radio for sure–but the convenience of digital tuning? I could only imagine.

The ICF-2001 had revolutionary featured like direct access keypad tuning and an LCD digital readout. The ICF-2001 covered 150 to 29,999 kHz and, like my Transoceanic, could receive single sideband. It also had six memories that could be assigned to buttons for quick access to my favorite frequencies. Six. Whole. Memories!  

Sony-ICF-2001-1

I picked up my used ICF-2001 for $67.00 US shipped. The seller (a fellow ham radio operator) insured that the radio was in excellent mechanical shape, though cosmetically showed some signs of wear. The only thing missing was the ICF-2001’s shoulder strap. That was fine by me, though, because the seller included all original manuals/documentation and a very cool canvas carry bag (below) that fits the ICF-2001 like a glove.

Sony-ICF-2001-8I’ve had the ICF-2001 for a few weeks now and I must say that I’m quite pleased.  It’s much larger that most portables currently on the market, but was probably slightly smaller than the venerable ICF-2010.

The audio from the ICF-2001’s built-in speaker is top-notch; with separate treble and bass control, it’s easy to adjust audio to your taste.

Would the ICF-2001 out-perform a modern portable receiver? Probably not. Was performance similar to the ICF-2010? No way. The ICF-2001 has a few annoying quirks (like muting between frequencies, no tuning knob, a backlit display that’s rather small and hard to read at certain angles)–items most modern portables have long since addressed.

With that said, the ICF-2001 does have a few features I wish modern receivers would adopt, like, a built-in antenna trimmer.

Sony-ICF-2001-3

This morning, on my porch, I listened to several broadcasters across the bands and used the antenna adjustment to tweak the match. The adjustment would sometimes increase reception by three S units. I would love to have a similar feature on, say, my Tecsun PL-680.

I also like the old school power switch–a proper mechanical switch that makes it much more difficult to accidentally turn the radio on while traveling or operating in a portable setting.

Sony-ICF-2001-1

Even thought the ICF-2001 was a bit of an impulse purchase, I have no buyer’s remorse at all. She’s a sturdy rig with great audio and, I believe, decent performance on the shortwave and medium wave bands. I can certainly confirm that it would have blown my mind when I was 9 years old!

Besides..if the ICF-2001 is good enough for John Lennon, it’s good enough for me!

Sony-ICF-2001-5

Any SWLing Post readers out there still have a Sony ICF-2001?

How Bob found his Zenith “Bomber”

Zenith-Bomber-Clipper-1

After posting a link to Paul Litwinovich’s Zenith Transoceanic article, SWLing Post reader, Bob LaRose (W6ACU) sent me the following message:

“Just a quick story to follow-up on the excellent Zenith Transoceanic article today. It brought back a lot of great memories!

About twenty years ago I decided to collect some of the things that I couldn’t afford when growing up. I acquired quite a number of Hallicrafters receivers and other “heavy metal” including several transmitters (including my Viking I AM Transmitter). In the process of our last move, I got rid of a lot of the collection. One part of the collection that I did keep was my Transoceanics. If I remember correctly I have every major model except the military one mentioned in the article and the very last one.

Here is my story is about obtaining a “Bomber” as described in the article. I was visiting a gun show at the North Carolina Fair grounds in Raleigh (I went there with a friend who is into Civil War collectables). Anyway, we were walking around and I spotted a small dusty suitcase on a table in the back of a booth. It was closed and to anyone else it looked like an old carrying case. However, by the size and the brown leatherette-grained case I thought it just might be a “Bomber”.

I tried not to act too excited and asked the seller what it was. He said it was an old radio and I asked him to bring it out. Sure enough, it was a Bomber! Still trying not to act too excited, I tried to let on that I didn’t know what is was and asked him if it worked. He said he didn’t know. I made a point of saying that it was missing the dial cover (but the pointer was there and unbent and the inside looked pretty clean and even had its “Wave Magnet”).

I asked him how much he wanted and he said $100. We haggled a bit over the condition and I finally got it for $75. I walked away very happy and excited!

Zenith-Bomber-Clipper-2

I spent some time cleaning it up, de-oxing the contacts and then used a VARIAC to slowly bring up the voltage to reform the electrolytics. But guess what? IT CAME TO LIFE!

I was even able to get the Sam’s manual and do an alignment. I don’t recall that I had to change any electrical parts or tubes and I even found a guy that made a replacement dial cover! It’s not as shiny as the one in the article but it was sure a great find. It proudly sits on the bookshelves in my office along with the Zenith “Sailboat” AM receiver mentioned in the article and my other Transoceanics. I’ve attached a picture of the two side-by-side. [See photos above]”

Many thanks, Bob, for sharing your “barn find”–or should I say “gun show find”(?)– Zenith “Bomber.” What a great story. I’m glad it’s in the hands of someone who has restored it and can appreciate its history. Indeed, your story proves that you never know where you’re going to find a vintage radio deal.

Paul Litwinovich sheds light on the “Royalty of Radios”

Zenith Model 7G605, the first in the line of Trans-Oceanic radios. Credit P. Litwinovich collection via WSHU

Zenith Model 7G605, the first in the line of Trans-Oceanic radios.
Credit P. Litwinovich collection via WSHU

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Paul, who points out this excellent article about the Zenith Transoceanic by Paul Litwinovich of WSHU.  Litwinovich’s article covers a brief history of the Zenith Transoceanic series including photos from his amazing collection (check out his model 7G605 above).

Here’s a short clip from his full article:

“The first version of Zenith Trans-Oceanic line of portable shortwave radios, the 7G605, [above] was released less than two months before the Pearl Harbor attack. It bore the sailboat image, and continued to be known as the “Clipper.” It sold for $75, and was an instant success. It was just the beginning, though, of the series’ long and colorful history. Zenith planned to heavily promote the radio for the coming holiday season. Then, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor came. Most manufacturers halted production of consumer goods for the war effort. Zenith had other plans for their new radio, though. They changed the image on the grill from that of a sailboat to the likeness of the B-17 bomber. The change was implemented in such a hurry, that collectors have reported finding the bomber grill inserted over the top of the sailboat grill.”

Click here to read the full article at WSHU…

By the way, we’ve mentioned Paul before here on the SWLing Post–I would encourage you to bookmark his excellent article thread on WSHU’s website.

Recording Deutsche Welle Kigali’s final broadcast and remembering its early days

DW's relay station in Kigali (Source: Deutsche Welle)

DW’s relay station in Kigali (Source: Deutsche Welle)

Yesterday, Deutsche Welle transmitted its final broadcast from the Kigali, Rwanda relay station. Since I’ve only had moderate luck hearing the Kigali site the past few days–especially on 31 meters–I fired up the TitanSDR Pro (which is still currently under review) and set it to record all three final afternoon broadcasts from Kigali on 12,005, 15,275 and 17,800 kHz.

TitanSDR-DeutscheWelle-FinalBroadcasts

As you can see from the screenshot above, Kigali produced a very strong signal on 17,800 kHz. The TitanSDR recorded the full broadcast, starting with one minute of the transmitter tuning, then one hour of DW’s French language service, followed by one hour of DW’s Hausa language service…then the transmitter went silent.

The recording begins around 1659 UTC on March 28, 2015 on 17,800 kHz:

Kigali’s early days

Last week, SWLing Post reader Bob LaRose (W6ACU) sent me the following message and scans:

“Here’s some nostalgia from [when the Kigali relay] opened, 50 years ago!”

Kigali Front

Kigali 2

Bob then followed this with another email:

“I dug into the “vault” and I found [the] 1964 Third Quarter issue of “Hallo, Friends” from Deutsche Welle that talks about the “new” Kigali station as it was being built. The 1965 issues did not cover the actual inauguration.”

DW-HalloFriends-BobLaRose

Click here to download this page as a PDF.

Many thanks for digging through your archives and sharing this wonderful DW nostalgia, Bob! It’s simply brilliant!

Readers: If you have shortwave nostalgia you would like to share on the SWLing Post, please contact me.

Radio Taiwan International to end transmissions to Europe & Africa

RadioTaiwanInternationalLogoMany thanks to SWLing Post reader, Mike, who notes this brief announcement from Radio Taiwan International:

“Starting from March 29th, RTI will terminate its transmission to Europe on 3965 KHz and to Africa on 11975 KHZ following the end of cooperation between RTI and RFI. Listeners in the two continents are encouraged to listen to our [programs] online.”