Tag Archives: antique radios

Travel discovery: the Telefunken Superheterodyn Caprice 5451W

I’ve been traveling along the coast of South Carolina this week, and on Thursday, I found myself in the historic town of Conway, South Carolina. I parked downtown and strolled into the past via Papa’s General Store, a small local store with a lot of merchandise––and a lot of charm.


While browsing a display of antiques, I happened to notice a vintage radio perched on a high shelf. Here’s what caught my eye:


I asked, was the radio was for sale? And, indeed, it was. One of the sales clerks pulled it from the shelf, dusted off the top, and read the price: $74. I noted that it was a West German Telefunken receiver.  I asked the clerk, Chris,  if it worked, and he confirmed that it did; it belonged to his uncle, who had clearly taken very good care of it.

Chris allowed me to plug it in, turn it on, and tune in a couple of local stations…The Telefunken produced beautiful audio without even the slightest hint of a hum. Chris was pleased that I appreciated the radio, and sincerely wanted me to take it home, so he lowered the price a bit further.  I agreed, and purchased it without hesitation. Just couldn’t help it…

That's Chris behind the counter.

Chris behind the counter with his uncle’s classic Telefunken.

The Telefunken Superheterodyn Caprice 5451W covers the AM/mediumwave band and FM. It’s a tube radio produced in the early 1960s in West Germany, and is now the only tube-based radio I own that covers the FM band.


Of course, I was very eager to get the Telefunken on the air, so that afternoon I headed to our balcony overlooking the Atlantic, tuned around a bit on the mediumwave band…and was simply amazed at all it could receive.  I picked up my smart phone, and with it made a very short recording of the Cuban station, Radio Reloj, on 820 kHz:

My smart phone’s microphone doesn’t begin to do the Telefunken’s rich audio justice, but you can clearly hear Radio Reloj’s ticks and “RR” in Morse Code at the top of the minute (indeed, if you’re listening with headphones, you may also hear crashing waves in the background). Something nearby generated a lot of RFI right on frequency, too , but the rest of the broadcast band had a surprisingly low noise floor.

I also spent some time with the Telefunken on the FM broadcast band; with a simple wire antenna, this worked wonders.

In my humble op, the audio the Telefunken produces is simply beautiful.  And so, I’ve got to add, is this vintage radio. See for yourself.


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The New York Times: breaking news and antique radios


Many thanks to my buddy, David Goren, who recently discovered that the New York Times Store is now selling fully-restored antique radios.

Pricing is not for the faint of heart–at time of posting, prices ranged from $395 to $23,000 US.  Each radio is beautifully presented, with a full description, and carries a one year restoration warranty. For an additional $95, many models can be modified with an AUX in audio jack.

While these radios are well outside my meager vintage radio budget, I must say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed looking at the photos and reading the descriptions.

Click here to view on the NY Times Store.

SWLing with heavy metal: my Signal Corps BC-348-Q


I write a great deal about DSP portables, SDRs, and modern ham radio transceivers, but truth be known, my passion is for older rigs–ahem, much older–the antique “boat anchors” of the radio world.

Tuesday afternoon, I had a rather involved soldering project to do on behalf of my organization, Ears To Our World.  While I worked, I decided to fire up my Signal Corps BC-348-Q to hear what was on the air. I promptly discovered Radio Exterior de España on 17,850 kHz–starting with their interval signal; REE, care of my BC-348-Q, kept me company while I soldered almost three hundred connections.

The BC-348-Q frequency dial

The BC-348-Q frequency dial (Click to enlarge)

I listen to my BC-348-Q nearly every week. Usually, she’s tuned to 9,580 kHz for my morning dose of Radio Australia.  In the winter, the ‘348’s tubes keep my little radio room a little warmer than the rest of my house. In the summer–well, I just sweat a little more.

I love this radio, and my other “boat anchors,” because when I listen to these rigs I can’t help but hear the past.  I wonder about the others who have listened to the same radio, and what was happening in their lives as they listened…

The BC-348 series, for example, is well-known for its use in WWII allied bombers–these rigs were mounted in the likes of the B-17, B-24, B25, and others of the era. Indeed, mine still has the original clips on the base that anchored it to the radio operator’s onboard work table. The ‘348 was used as a long-distance liaison receiver during WWII. 

The B-17 radio operator's position (Source: AZ Commemorative Air Force)

The B-17 radio operator’s position (Source: AZ Commemorative Air Force Base)

The BC-348 series was built with simplicity, functionality, and serviceability in mind. It was built to withstand life on a B-17 bomber–the extreme vibration on start up, the extremely low temps in the upper atmosphere; it could be serviced by the radio operator in flight, if necessary. Its controls are simple, bare-bones, even. The tuning knob and analog dial are beautifully engineered and precise.

The ‘348 has a power switch, volume control (switchable from auto to manual gain), crystal filter, CW switch, beat frequency control, tuning knob, and a band switch (located just below the dial). The antenna and ground terminals are mounted on the front of the radio for easy accessibility. All controls are spaced so that the radio operator could use the ‘348 even while wearing thick cold-weather gloves.


You can’t do any medium wave DXing on the ‘348, however: this receiver was intentionally designed with the medium wave band omitted. Evidently, Uncle Sam wanted radio ops to be focused on communications instead of entertainment (but that’s okay; the government also made morale radios for the latter).

When I go to the Dayton Hamvention–or any hamfest, for that matter–it’s radios like the BC-348-Q I seek. Tube/valve radios sometimes lack the sensitivity and (digital) accuracy of modern tabletop shortwave receivers, but they make up for this in audio fidelity. As long as you have a properly-matched speaker, the sound can be…nothing short of amazing. Even though the ‘348 was never designed for robust audio, it still sounds richer and fuller than most modern tabletop radios. The sound is so warm it literally glows. Moreover, I’d be willing to wager that there are few modern receivers that can stand the test of time like these rigs.


If you buy one of these old beauties, you must be ready to service them; inevitably, a capacitor or tube will fail in time.  But they just…keep…going.

I’m very much in debt to my good friend and radio elmer, Charlie (W4MEC) who kindly teaches me everything I need to know about these great rigs. He’s exceedingly patient, and that counts for much, as I’m not by nature technically inclined. But I do enjoy learning about these radios and how to service them; the romance of their history draws me in, and I simply can’t get enough.

Note: It’s important to work with a knowledgeable elmer/mentor or a professional repair technician when servicing these boat anchors, because, unlike with our modern radios, their high voltages can severely injure (or even kill) you if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing inside the chassis.  This is repair work for the professional.


My BC-348-Q turns 71 this year–and I’m sure it has at least that many more years to go. I know that I’ll give it as much TLC as it can take. We must keep these still functioning pieces of history on the air.

If you, too, have boat anchors or antique radios alongside your modern rigs, please comment! I’d love to learn about your favorites. In other words, what heavy metal is in your shack?


WAMU Metro Connection visits the Mid-Atlantic Antique Radio Club

MAARC-ClubMany thanks to SWLing Post reader, Paul, who points out this episode of WAMU’s Metro Connection where reporter Rebecca Sheir visits the Mid-Atlantic Antique Radio Club (MAARC).

You can listen the report on Metro Connection, or simply click here to download the whole podcast (MAARC is the first piece).

Click here to check out the MAARC website.

Gizmodo: “shortwave radio deserves a place of prominence in the home of any audiophile”

(Source: Gizmodo)

Classic turntables may get all the glamour, but the shortwave radio deserves a place of prominence in the home of any audiophile. For a stylish way to surf the airwaves, try this stunning late 1950s Trans-World T-9, produced by Philco (that’s the Philadelphia Storage Battery Company, for those who don’t like to abbreviate).

[…]Its four-foot antenna can pick up tunes, blast right-wing talk radio, or catch up on the endless, mysterious recitation of Russian numbers.[…]

Though this article points to eBay auctions–which, in truth, tends to favor the seller, price-wise–they make a point: classic radios deliver audio fidelity that, in my opinion, surpasses all modern portables.