Category Archives: Guest Posts

Photo tour of Dan Robinson’s receiver collection

Earlier this year–the day before the 2017 Winter SWL Fest, in fact–Dan Robinson and I joined forces at the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade, Maryland, and following a brilliant Thai lunch, visited Dan’s place, where I surveyed his stunning receiver collection, several of which represent the Holy Grail of the receiver world.

I thought you’d like a sneak peek at Dan’s stunning receiver line up, too––and just to sweeten the viewing, Dan has kindly written an introduction for each.

This is a real treat for us at the SWLing Post. Thank you so much, Dan, for sharing!

And now, here’s Dan:


A tour of my radio collection

by Dan Robinson

As most readers of SWLing Post probably know by now, I have had a lifelong love affair with radios (as many of us have had). My collection of receivers has changed through the years, with some exceptions being radios that have stayed with me for decades and which Tom was able to photograph during his visit to my home in Potomac, MD.

Since I began my DXing/SWL career in the late 1960’s I ramped up my collection from the simplest of radios to what I have now, a combination of remaining boat anchors together with some of the rarest and most sophisticated receivers on the planet. Some years ago, I made a brief foray into SDRs, but for me the thrill has always been in tuning actual radios and not spending additional hours sitting at a computer.

Pilot T-133

Though I actually do remember my very first shortwave receiver — a very basic Toshiba portable — a Pilot T-133, from the year 1942 served as my main receiver for quite a few years from the late 1960’s to early 1970. I remember the day my father found this beauty in the basement of my grandmother’s house in the Bronx. He brought it home, strung up one of those Radio Shack copper SWL antennas in the attic and I was off to the races, and addicted. Often pulling 24 hour listening sessions on weekends, I would sit with my ear to the speaker of the T-133, and had a Wollensak reel-to-reel to record my earliest DX catches. My favorite, as it was for so many of us, was Radio Tahiti and Radio New Zealand which boomed out of the large speaker on the Pilot T-133. As you can see, i made a point of keeping the Pilot, with its tuning eye and slide rule dial, with me all these years and it now occupies a place of honor on a shelf in my den.

SONY ICF-PRO80

As Tom found out, my house has a number of radios scattered around, and one of them is the ICF-PRO80 by SONY. I took an interest in these wonders of technology late in my DX career. The PRO-80, like so many other SONY portables, is a technology showpiece, with its HF, AM, FM and VHF coverage. It has narrow and wide AM modes, SSB with a tine tuning control, and is quite complex to operate. Beware that PRO-80’s, like the AIR-7 and AIR-8 which have limited shortwave spectrum coverage, suffer from small component failure after so many years and though there are a couple of individuals who fix these radios, you’re taking a chance and you need to ask thorough questions of any seller.

Watkins Johnson 8718A/MFP

In the late 1990’s into 2000, I acquired a receiver I had always wanted, the Watkins Johnson 8718A. Actually, my first two of these radios I obtained while working overseas as a news correspondent for VOA in Thailand. They were being cleared out in a government auction, and I drove a few hours outside of Bangkok to get them at the VOA relay station. These are beautiful receivers, but they were surpassed by the 8718A/MFP which I obtained in an auction when back in the U.S. At one point, I had two of these babies, but now have kept one, which has the preselector option installed, and the rare 1hz readout with ISB capability. I rank these receivers in the top 10 of all I have ever used. They are super quiet, and you can really tell the difference between one of these pre-DSP radios and the later WJ HF-1000 and 8711/A.

Kenwood R-1000

Two radios I have always ignored were the Kenwood R-2000 and R-1000. I have both of them now and enjoy their superb audio and straightforward operation. The R-1000 especially is a joy to use — and truth be told, I don’t hear a lot on my multi-kilobuck receivers that can’t also be heard on one of these Kenwoods. For those of you interested, the two solid state recorders in the photo (above) are the Zoom H4n and the SONY PCM-D50.

JRC NRD-630

Those who attended the last SWL Fest in Pennsylvania had the rare opportunity to use one of the rarest receivers on the planet. We’re talking about the JRC NRD-630. This was the last marine/commercial HF receiver manufactured by Japan Radio Company. No one knows how many were actually made, but one thing is certain — they are almost never seen on the used market. This one has a bit of history — it was manufactured in 2012 and re-certified by JRC in 2017. Again, a long story, but when I got it it still had the thin plastic protective strip across the large beautiful LED readout window. It was basically new. I still intend to do a comparison of the NRD-630 with the NRD-301A, one of which I also have. The difference between the 301A/302 series and the 630 is that the previous series were pre-DSP, while the 630 was DSP, though with regular filtering. The 630 adds a keypad, and ISB and some other features.

McKay Dymek DR-33C6

McKay Dymek DR-33C6 (Top) above JRC NRD-630

Much has been written about the series of radios manufactured by McKay Dymek, so go to eHamnet and other online sources for the background of the company. I had always been curious about these receivers, and had my first opportunity to use one about 15 years ago. Unfortunately, that receiver had a tough life and my antenna situation was not great. A few years ago, a seller in Texas put a DR33C6 on Ebay — it was clear that it had been basically used once and stored in a closet. When it arrived here, I was floored — it was in perfect cosmetic and operating condition, with its beautiful wood panels and shiny front metal panel.

Dan’s McKay Dymek DR-33C6 at the 2016 Winter SWL Fest Hospitality/Listening Room

McKay Dymeks are for those who already know what frequencies they’re tuning. It’s quite a bit of fun, but more importantly, these receivers are under-appreciated: they are among the most sensitive radios ever made. And they look marvelous as part of a home audio system.

JRC NRD-515

What can one say about the 515 that hasn’t been said? Built like a battleship, this was the top of the line JRC consumer receiver (they also made a transmitter) separate from their pro marine/commercial radios. Like most of my receivers, this 515 is in near 10.0 cosmetic condition, along with the matching speaker. At the time the 515 came out it was among the only receivers that offered boatanchor-level flexibilities in a solid state rig (my favorite comparison was to the Hammarlund HQ-180/A). Though prices for 515s have experienced a sharp drop, they still bring fairly high prices on the used market and are cherished by those who know how good they are.

Drake R7A

One of the highest-rated receivers of all time, the same kind of superlatives apply for the R7A as to the NRD-515. The R7/A was a technological masterpiece by R.L. Drake. With its multiple filter selectivity, notch filter, and superb Drake passband tuning, the R7/A is able to pull anything out of the mud. I recently sold one of my remaining R7As, leaving this one, with a high serial number in the 3700 range. I use it with a RV-75 external VFO which helps with tuning and stability. The R7/A is on my list of the top five best receivers ever made.

Hammarlund HQ-180A/X

It was about 1980 or so when looking through the for sale section of the Washington Post I noticed a small ad. It said “Hammarlund Receiver with box”. When I arrived at the seller’s house in Virginia, I could hardly believe what I saw — it was this HQ-180AX, with its original box. The radio was basically new, and even today looks that way. This was the X version of the famed HQ-180/A, a fixed crystal unit in place of the clock that is usually seen on 180s. HQ-180s became my receiver of choice when I graduated from that old Pilot T-133 from the very early years of my DXing career. HQ-180s took me from the 100 country level through the 200 country heard level. There are many out there who swear by R-390s and Hallicrafters, but for me the favorite boatanchor of all time will forever be the HQ-180. Just to the right of this 180AX (but not pictured) is my other 180A, which is modified with LED readout through the front panel.

Eddystone 830/7

One of the books I used to read in the earliest days of my DX career was one produced by a well-known Scandinavian DX’er and in it, was a photo of an Eddystone 830/7. Decades later, I had an opportunity to purchase this museum-quality 830/7 from a seller in the UK. What a beauty, with an amazing front slide rule dial and silky smooth tuning and bandspread. The radio is deceptive — it looks smaller than a Hammarlund, but actually weighs more than a HQ-180.

SONY ICF-6800W

Another radio that I ignored for much of my listening career was the famous 6800W by SONY. When I finally got my hands on one of these, I understood why it has such a good reputation. Simply, this is one of the most sensitive receivers ever made. It has its quirks, and if it needs repair, you had better be able to do it yourself, because there is perhaps ONE place in this country that will even touch them. But the rewards of using the 6800W are many.

JRC NRD-93

Though I have two of JRC’s top marine receivers, the 301A and 630, a few years ago I feel in love with the looks and performance of the previous series JRC marine receiver, the NRD-93. What can you say about this baby . . . with its PBS and BFO fine tuning controls, beautiful large front LED panel, multiple onboard memories supplemented by the separate NDH-93 memory unit. Operating these JRC marine receivers is an experience everyone should have at least once. NRD-93s, along with NRD-92s, have become fairly plentiful on the used market. If you are looking for one, ask a lot of questions about condition and prior service. Those that saw heavy use on marine vessels often suffer from salt air corrosion and other issues. The beautiful original JRC toggles often need to replaced as they lose contact over the years.

UHER 4400 Report Monitor

When I was a correspondent in Africa in the 1980’s, there were — believe it or not — still BBC correspondents and other radio journalists who still used the Uher portable reel-to-reel recorders as their main portable production tool. I got this particular 4400 in new condition, and later added a new from old stock leather case, made for it.

Allied 2682

The Allied Model 2682 was the second or third radio I ever used. I didn’t realize at the time how simple and under-equipped it was. It had only a basic slide rule tuning system and a fine tuning control. The radio was recognizable for its twin rabbit ear antennas. This 2682 I found on Ebay, new in box, and I recently sold it. These receivers, like other Allied and Radio Shack models we all remember from the 70’s, are beautiful examples of some of the Made in Japan designs from that period.

JRC NRD-545

This receiver was purchased new and owned by the late great DX’er Don Jensen, so it has that bit of history attached to it. I began my love affair with JRC receivers when I used a NRD-525 in the 1980’s. As everyone knows, the “545” was the last prosumer set made by JRC. It’s one hell of a performer, with DSP filtering, that big beautiful display, and superb sensitivity. The radio still sparks debate, with some faulting it for high DSP noise. This 545 is loaded, with the CHE-199 module and high stability crystal. I also have a brand new top cabinet for the radio, obtained from JRC some years ago, and replacement key caps for the keypad digits. I recently remarked that a 545 held up quite well, in a comparison that is viewable on You Tube, with the brand new ICOM IC-R8600.


Thanks again, Dan, for taking the time to share a little about each of these amazing receivers and how many came to be in your collection.

In truth, readers, I’m sure there were many more radios I overlooked and (I’m certain!) Dan has acquired others since my visit.

The one thing I learned about my buddy Dan is that when he takes a radio into his collection, he’s a proper custodian of these beauties. He keeps each radio in excellent working order, proper cosmetic shape and, most importantly, puts them on the air!

How to build a Milk Crate AM Broadcast Loop Antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, James Townley, who shares the following guest post originally posted on his Shortwave/Medium Wave blog:


540 kHz to 1700 kHz Loop Antenna (Click to enlarge)

AM Broadcast Loop Antenna

by James Townley

Several years ago, I became interested in medium wave DXing. One of my limitations was the size of my yard, so I developed an interest in tuned loop antennas to compensate, because setting up a beverage antenna was out of the question. I experimented with different sizes of loops, and found that the bigger the aperture, the more gain the loop would have. The tuned loop antenna is also very directional, which allows you to reject, or null out interference from either noise or other stations. Loops are considered bi-directional in that they receive to the front and back, but not to the sides. The tuned loop antenna quickly became my weapon of choice for medium wave DXing.

Recently when the weather began allowing me to enjoy the outdoors, I decided to make another smaller loop antenna from a plastic milk crate I had lying around. I saw the idea on the internet when I observed that someone had used a milk crate for their loop. Click here to see a variety of tuned loop antennas that others have made. Whichever material you decide to make your loop antenna from, just make sure that it is not a conductive material. Wood, plastic, and cardboard seem to be popular materials for loop making. In the photo above, I am using my Sony ICF-2010 to listen to WCCO on 830 kHz. This station is nearly 200 miles south of me, but I am able to receive it with 9 LEDs lit on my signal strength meter while using the loop. There is no direct connection of the loop to the radio, it is inductively coupling with the radio’s own ferrite rod antenna.

If you are interested in making a loop antenna like mine, here are the materials you will need:
120 ft of 18ga insulated wire (I bought a 100 ft spool of cheap speaker wire and pulled the 2 conductors apart):

1 – Plastic milk crate
1 – 15 to 365 pF air variable capacitor (found in many old radios, or a google search to buy one from an internet store)
1 – Tuning knob. Any knob will do as long as it fits the shaft on the variable capacitor.
1 – Tape or wire ties. I used tape to secure the wire while winding, then hot glue when finished.

When you begin to wind your coil, use tape or a wire tie to secure the wire, and leave about a foot of wire. This extra foot of wire will later be soldered to the frame on the capacitor. As you wind your coil, pull the wire snugly and with each turn leave about a quarter inch spacing between each turn. The spacing isn’t critical as long as the spacing is consistent.  I wound 21 turns on my crate. This may differ for you, depending on the size of your crate, or the value of you capacitor. If you find that the bottom frequency isn’t low enough, you can add more wire to make a few more turns. This will lower the bottom frequency for you.

After winding the coil, you can solder each end of the coil to your capacitor. The beginning of the loop gets soldered to the frame of the capacitor, and the other end of the coil to the rotor solder lug on the side of the capacitor. If you do not have a soldering iron, you can use alligator clips to connect your loop coil to the capacitor as well. I secured my capacitor to the inside corner of the crate with hot glue. I put a generous amount of the hot glue onto the bottom of the capacitor frame, and held it to the crate until the glue cooled enough for the capacitor to stay on it’s own. I used enough to get the job done, but not so much that it interfered with the plates in my capacitor. The hot glue seemed to adhere very well. I then checked the spacing of my coil turns, and secured them with the hot glue as well.

I was very impressed with the results after spending some time with the loop. It’s small enough to maneuver around easily, but big enough to give it some gain, so I can listen to daytime DX. I may make another tuned loop using two crates to see how much more gain I get with the larger aperture.

Happy DXing,
James Townley


Many thanks, James, for sharing your project with us! This loop appears to be relatively simple and accessible even to those with little knowledge of soldering or homebrewing. I’m now wondering how a loop made of four milk crates might perform!

Click here to view James’ Shortwave/Medium Wave blog.

Guest Post: “Uncle Stoogie and the Pink Radio”

Many thanks to Gary Neil Carden, who recently shared the following story with friends on Facebook, and has kindly allowed me to publish it here on the SWLing Post for everyone to enjoy. Thank you so much, Gary!  Enjoy:


 

Uncle Stoogie and the Pink Radio

by Gary Neil Carden

Let me tell you a story.

When I was five years old, my Uncle Stoogie won a pink radio at the Cherokee Fair and he gave it to me. He told me he was worried about me because I stayed in my bedroom all the time reading funny books (most of them were not funny….but wonderful).

My bedroom had been my Uncle Albert’s bedroom, but with the coming of WWII, he joined the Navy and I moved from the old couch in the living room to the dark, chilly bedroom on the back of the house. What was I doing there in the first place?

When my mother left me on the porch after my father was murdered, I came to live with my grandparents who were ill-prepared to raise a quirky little kid. They grieved for my father’s death for years and in the meanwhile, I was in the back room with nothing for companionship except a huge stack of funny books.

I stayed there in that dark room much of the time. I spent more time with Submariner, Captain Marvel, Superman and Plastic Man than I did with other kids because other kids were rare.

And when Uncle Stoogie came to see me…..he said he had promised my Momma that he would….he was upset. I was pale and sickly, not to mention shy. So, he said I needed to go to the Cherokee Indian Fair and he dragged me out of that dark room and we got in his car and drove to Cherokee, which for me, was like visiting a foreign country.

I was fascinated by Uncle Stoogie in his Air Force uniform that was loaded with brass and medals and he had a scar on his cheek that looked like he had pressed a Coke bottle cap against the flesh until it left that scar and he chewed Dentine and grinned and asked me a thousand questions. We smelled the Cherokee Indian Fair for two miles before we got there! It was hot dogs and fried sausage and cotton candy and that smell hung in the chill, October night over the Indian Fair like a cloud.

There were Cherokees camped out on blankets and quilts around the Fair Grounds and you could hear the Ferris Wheel and the Merry Go Round, and I ate three hot dogs and rode the swings and threw up and then ate three more hot dogs. We fished little wooden fish with numbers on their backs from a tin tube of rushing water and won a stuffed cat and we threw darts at balloons and shot rifles at metal ducks that fell with a CLACK when I hit them and then, finally we played Bingo.

That is when Uncle Stoogie told me, “You see that radio on the top shelf?”…..a pink radio, and he said “I am going to win that radio for you.”

Now, when aI look back on that night, I guess I realize that Uncle Stoogie was drunk, but I didn’t know what drunk was, so we played and we played and we won a big blanket but we never got close to winning that radio until Uncle Stoogie just bought it! We just got out his billfold and he told that carny fellow, “How much for that g**damned pink radio?” and suddenly I had it….and on the way home with my pink radio in my lap, Uncle Stoogie said, “Hey kid,”….yeah, he talked like that….sorta like James Cagney, he said, “We are just beginning.”

When we got to my grandparents home, he knocked down two rows of corn in the field turning his car around, and then he said, “I’ll see you in the morning” and I didn’t know what that meant, but the next morning, he woke me up. He said, “Come on, kid.” and the next thing i knew, he had me unrolling a huge wheel of copper wire and we strung an antenna from my bedroom window to the top of Painter Knob, ran it on little white insulators and then from Painter Knob back to the barn and when we surveyed our creation that winked in the sun and whistled in the wind, he roughed my hair up and said, “Now, Kid, we are going to listen to Russians, and Chinese and Eskimos!”

It was dark before he was done, but then he plugged that radio in and hooked it up and SHAZAM! That radio was like a great pink night light, and we sat on my bed and turned that turner knob that sang and wept and squealed. It was wonderful…there was music and sirens and people jabbering and orchestras and a quartet singing,

“You better get Wildroot Cream Oil, Charlie” and a laughing man who said “From high atop the downtown Rose Room in Chicago, we bring you, TOMMY TUCKER TIME! Then there was a husky-voiced woman woman who whispered, “Are you lonesome out there tonight, Big Boy? Well, this is your gal Sal and I am here to keep you company”and then she sang songs about being alone at night and somewhere in her serenade, Uncle Stoogie said “Well, kid, I’ll leave you to it” and he was gone and I lay in the pink-tinted darkness and listened to the voices singing and shouting and sometimes I slept, but always, I would wake to find my room singing to me.

Hey, I got a lot more to say about my pink radio, but this has gone on too long. Uncle Stoogie’s is gone……He ended up as croupier in Las Vegas…..but I owe him a thousand nights of “Let’s Pretend,” and “The Squeaking Door,” and “Roma Wines brings you Suspense and Arthur Godfry singing, “The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia” and then the Shadow laughed and said, “The Shadow Knows.” I swapped Clark Kent for Lamont Cranston and learned to sing all the words to “Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow.”

There was a quartet that sang, “Turn the radio on and listen to the music in the air,” and I did. Hush now.

Buyer Beware: Dan shows us how to spot a scam on eBay

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who writes:

This is an example of a classic scam — and these are usually seen involving
Watkins-Johnson 8711/A receivers.

The seller puts a photo of what appears to be a good condition WJ up,
with additional photos. But often these photos are faked or taken from
other ended Ebay auctions.

The description is usually, as with this item, in blue letters noting
the item is available only for immediate sale, and not for auction,
despite the fact that the auction is — an AUCTION and has a
starting price.

I make it my business to reports items like this to eBay and eBay has
a pretty good record of recognizing scams and removes them.

I think it’s important to point out these items to SWLing readers to
help avoid people being ripped off.

No doubt!  Thank you so much for sharing this, Dan. I didn’t realize scams like this were prevalent on eBay.

I’m willing to bet this scammer’s plan is to get you to outside the boundaries of eBay’s protection as soon as possible, luring you with a believable bargain price. This is why they ask for you to message them instead of bidding.

In my opinion, eBay is one of the safest sites for online purchases, but it is certainly not void of scammers. Remember the proverb, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”

Thanks again, Dan!

Soviet Era Radio: Dennis reviews the Shoroh R-326 receiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dennis Kalinichenko, who shares the following review:

The Shoroh R-326 military radio

by Dennis Kalinichenko

I believe the piece of Soviet military equipment I recently bought to my collection would be interesting to all readers and contributors.

This is the R-326 “Shoroh” (“Rustle”) general coverage military tube shortwave radio receiver. These were produced decades ago, back in 1963. These portable receivers were in active military use in the Soviet Army until the early 2000s, when the R-326 was finally discontinued . Today, this set is no more a spy secret, but a great collector’s item and also a good receiver for home use.

My set cost me about $150 US, which is rather expensive for this radio. The R-326 was plentiful in the local market in 90-s, right after the fall of the Soviet Union, very cheap and popular between radio amateurs, but nowadays this radio has become more and more rare, so the price rises up.

My R-326 arrived from Khabarovsk city, the Russian Far East, where, I believe, for many years it was on duty in some of the Soviet radio intelligence and defense forces division.
The set includes the radio itself, original military 100 ohm headphones, original rectifier box for 2,5 V output, 12 meter long wire antenna on a reel, the 1,5 meter famous “Kulikov” mini-whip antenna, the isolator for placing it on top of the radio and some minor accessories.

Originally, the R-326 radio came with two batteries–1,25 V each–for field use, but mine are totally drained and need to be serviced, so I haven’t used them so far.

The radio is a light-weight, only 33 lbs, which is a real minimum for Soviet military equipment–the famous R-250 radio’s weight is up to 220 lbs–so, in comparison, this unit is really portable. You can easily put it in your car using the attached leather handle and take it with you on a weekend trip. No other military radio can be so “travel-friendly”; this is one of the reasons it was so popular in the ham radio and SWL communities.

The case is made out of steel and looks so solid you may want to use it as a nutcracker. And you can! In no way could you harm the box constructed to resist nuclear attacks. It is waterproof and sealed–so I can be confident that no previous owner has ever tried to solder something in the guts.

The radio is a super heterodyne containing 19 (!) special mini tubes and covering 6 SW bands, from 1 to 20 MHz. It works in both AM and SSB (CW) modes, having an on-board adjustable bandwidth control from 300 Hz to 6 kHz.

On the front panel, there are two scales: one is rough/coarse, and above is the precise one, a so-called photoscale, which may be adjusted to match real radio-frequency using the four screws near the sun protection visor. With this scale, you don’t actually need a digital readout. It also has a BFO control with a zero setting, adjustable AGC levels for AM and CW, and adjusting screw for matching the antenna input, as marked for 12 m long wire, 1,5 m and 4 m whip.

The radio has no built-in speaker. Instead, there are two output sockets on the front panel, for 100 ohm headphones and 600 ohm line-out.

The power consumption is very low for s tube radio, the rig needs only 1,4 A at 2.5 volts DC (including the lightscale). I use the original power transformer (transistor rectifier) and therefore switch the unit into the 220 AC outlet.

The sensitivity of the radio is extremely high and equals some modern transceivers. The selectivity is also impressive. No doubt it was really great for 1960s. But there’s negative side as well: the radio easily overloads even from the outdoor long wire antennas. The best fit is the “Kulikov” mini-whip that you can see in the photos.

When you switch on the radio, you hear noise, the level of which seems high, so you lower the volume down. Yes, the radio is sensitive and a bit noisy. But thanks to the tubes it sounds really amazing in the headphones. The SSB ham operator’s voice is warm and very clear.
The tuning is very smooth, being actually 2-speed: outer wheel is for fast tuning, inner wheel for precise tune.

It’s absolutely obvious that nowadays a simple Degen or Tecsun may be more useful than this old and heavy unit with big and tough knobs and switches. But what a pleasure sitting in front of this perfect tube radio at night, with the headphones on, turning the huge tuning wheels, looking into the moving dim scale, listening into distant voices and rustles, feeling yourself a Cold War times operator near the rig.

Isn’t this experience priceless?

Indeed the experience is priceless, Dennis! Better yet, your R-326 now has an owner that will keep it in working order and enjoy it on a regular basis. I personally believe keeping these vintage rigs on the air is one way to preserve, and experience first hand, a little of our collective radio history.

Thank you so much for sharing your review and excellent photos of the R-326!

Post readers: If, like Dennis, you have a vintage radio you would like to showcase/review here on the SWLing Post, please consider submitting your story and photos. Being a huge fan of vintage radio, I truly enjoy reading through and publishing your reviews.  I know many other readers feel the same!