Tag Archives: history

eBay Find: the Zenith Trans-Oceanic Royal D7000Y, with Comparisons to the Sony CRF-320

ebaySometimes when  browsing eBay you’ll come across a hot item that wasn’t even on your wish list or Followed eBay Searches. This was the case for me early last month when I spotted a new listing for a Zenith Royal D7000Y-2 Trans-Oceanic that’s arguably the best performing T-O ever made. It’s not the most collectable (the final R7000 series has that distinction), but is the final model with the desirable band spread tuning arrangement. The D7000Y is also the last of the hand-wired Trans-Oceanics. Some claim this model has the best audio of the transistorized T-Os, too.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Zenith Trans-Oceanics, as the co-author of the “Royalty of Radios” reference book, the late Prof. John Bryant, was my best friend for many years. John also wrote books on Zenith’s corporate history and other models of Zenith radios. The transistorized Zenith Trans-Oceanics were unobtainable dream receivers for me when I was a teenager in the mid-1970s.royalty of radios book

I watched this Buy-It-Now auction for three days and was very surprised it remained available, especially after noticing its superior condition compared to other auctions for the same model. Finally on the third day I pulled the trigger–I’m not a collector of vintage radios but I couldn’t miss the chance to let this fine old Zenith follow me home. At a Buy-It-Now price of $219 including cross-country shipping, it seemed like a no-brainer decision.

When the radio arrived–packed extremely well–it was in ever better condition than pictured and described (I’d call it 9.8 on a 10 scale).  The package included the original hang tag, QA stickers, owners manual, service manual, marketing literature and even the original monaural earphone and AC power cord. All dial lamps and the chart light worked fine. The previous owner said the T-O was fully aligned a year ago, and indeed I found that the reception quality on the built-in whip antenna is great. I’d love to know where this receiver was stored for the last 38 years; it was clearly someone’s gently used, cherished Zenith.

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A folder of high resolution photos of this receiver can be viewed here.

Compared Against the Sony CRF-320

Besides simply enjoying receivers I get a kick out of comparing them against each other, and against various other ones owned by my radio hobby friends. Thanks to the loan of a vintage Sony CRF-320, I was able to directly compare it to my Zenith Trans-Oceanic Royal D7000Y-2 receiver. My friend’s CRF-320 is the equal of my Zenith in condition and quality. Each of us would like to own both of these radios!

This is an interesting pairing, since the Zenith was among the last of the premier, USA manufactured portable receivers (analog only, all hand-wired chassis), and the CRF-320 was an equally prestigious portable receiver of the “latest technology”–digital/analog readout with printed circuit board construction.

Eugene_F._McDonald_the_Commanderand_founder_of_ZenithOnce a leading receiver brand, Zenith did not react quickly enough to changing trends and business climate after the death of its founder, Commander Eugene F. McDonald.  The 40 year old (1942-1982) proud line of Trans-Oceanics gave way to new, semi-automated methods of building receivers with inexpensive labor from Asia.

After an initial production run of the next (and last) R7000 series, manufacturing was moved to Taiwan. The receiver was built just as well as the previous Royal D7000, but used PCBs inside and the useful band spread frequency ranges were done away with (at the expense of ease of tuning). Still, Zenith T-Os couldn’t compete on price or performance against the Sony CRF-320, and the R7000 Trans-Oceanics were the last (and now most collectible) versions.

This YouTube video compares reception of these two vintage receivers with mid-morning signals on the 31 meter band, from the Seattle area:

Both radios were used with their built-in whip antennas although I couldn’t extend the Zenith’s its final four inches due to ceiling height in the room.

In my opinion, the CRF-320 is superior in keeping signals steady with its AGC, but the D7000Y-2 excels in audio quality and is neck-and-neck in most other respects. The Zenith may have performed a bit better with weak signals if the ceiling in my kitchen was a few inches higher! (Both radios have substantially long built-in antennas, and each are very well matched to their circuitry for excellent reception.)

There are many references around for the Zenith Trans-Oceanic series, but not a lot has been published on the CRF-320. Here is one page with good details on the Sony:  http://www.shortwaveradio.ch/radio-e/sony-crf320-e.htm

Jay Allen’s excellent article on restoring a Zenith T-O Royal D7000 has very clear photos of the receiver’s interior: http://radiojayallen.com/zenith-royal-7000/

Moral of the Story?

I’ve been active on eBay since 1998. As with garage sales, the chances of an excellent “find” increase with the time spent in the pursuit. Sometimes you just get lucky though and find a very desirable item remaining unsold for days, such as this Trans-Oceanic! It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Since I’ve bought the receiver I’ve yet to see any other D7000s of equal or better quality, despite some with Buy-It-Now prices of up to $450 plus shipping (edit 12/16: I spotted one that appears in equal condition to mine, but for a Buy-It-Now of $675 + $40 S/H).

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

The Tuckerton Tower’s long (and unlikely!) history

The Tuckerton Tower circa 1916 (Souce: Tom Mcnally mcnally.cc)

The Tuckerton Tower, circa 1916 (Souce: Tom Mcnally mcnally.cc)

I love radio history, and I dive right into it when something especially piques my interest. This morning, a news item from a local newspaper in New Jersey about that state’s famed, but nearly forgotten, Tuckerton Tower did just that.

Built in 1912, the Tuckerton Tower was once the tallest structure in the US.  Indeed, it was at that time the second tallest structure in the world (the Eiffel Tower had it beat by 243 feet).  Though on US soil, it was originally built by––get this––the German government, in order to communicate with an identical tower in Eilvese, Germany (see comments); of course, it also communicated with naval vessels. According to many sources, the US government may have been completely unaware of the construction of this communication monolith until it neared completion.

But that’s just the beginning of the story:  When the US entered WWI, the US government took over the tower’s operations and placed Tuckerton’s German operators and engineers in a POW camp.  Then, post-war, the newly-formed Radio Corporation of America (RCA) assumed the tower’s operation with the intention of using it for the latest and greatest innovation in radio communications: voice over wireless. Tuckerton Tower continued under RCA’s operation until the US government drafted it into service again, this time during WWII.

But even though the tower survived two world wars, weather events like nor’easters, and The Great Depression, by the late 1940s it was considered obsolete. Several attempts were made to preserve the historic structure, but on December 28, 1955, it was torn down and cut for scrap.  Today, a lower section of the tower can be viewed at the Tuckerton Historical Society’s museum, while the concrete block anchors that once held the monolithic structure upright now rest, somewhat defiantly, in the center of a residential area.

If you find this tower’s history as remarkable as I do, check out this informative and detailed article in The Sandpiper and Tom McNally’s History of Tuckerton Wireless which includes some excellent photos of the tower throughout history.

Are there any readers of The SWLing Post with memories long enough to remember the Tuckerton Tower, or who have heard stories about it?  Please comment!

Aldous Huxley, radio in The Age of Noise

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

According to English satirist & humanist, Aldous Huxley, we live in the “Age of Noise.” When he wrote this, in 1945, he implicated radio:

“The twentieth century is, among other things, the Age of Noise. Physical noise, mental noise and noise of desire — we hold history’s record for all of them. And no wonder; for all the resources of our almost miraculous technology have been thrown into the current assault against silence. That most popular and influential of all recent inventions, the radio, is nothing but a conduit through which pre-fabricated din can flow into our homes. And this din goes far deeper, of course, than the ear-drums. It penetrates the mind, filling it with a babel of distractions – news items, mutually irrelevant bits of information, blasts of corybantic or sentimental music, continually repeated doses of drama that bring no catharsis, but merely create a craving for daily or even hourly emotional enemas. And where, as in most countries, the broadcasting stations support themselves by selling time to advertisers, the noise is carried from the ears, through the realms of phantasy, knowledge and feeling to the ego’s central core of wish and desire.”

In many ways, this is still true–but not necessarily of radio. I daresay if Mr. Huxley were still around, radio would be the least of his concerns.  Radio has gradually become the least invasive of the media that surrounds us, for the “noise” is now primarily visual:  unless we make an effort to “quiet” them, images bombard us from all sides….Ironically, radio now requires turning down the volume on these and everything else, in order to experience the same world of noise that Huxley once found so overwhelming.

(He obviously never listened to pirate radio.)