Sometimes 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.
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.
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.
Once 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.
Love Zenith. I own three of them, D7000Y, Royal 1000D and Royal 94 (Inter-Oceanic), all in good condition, working, just few capacitors have been replaced for better performance and contacts cleaned. The last two have superb sound of germanium transistors used in 60-s. Here’s my D7000Y performing greatly, receiving some distant avia volmet in SSB: http://youtu.be/Czdq3SckdHs
And here’s more rare InterOceanic on all bands:
These radios are no doubt one of the best transistor radios in my collection. Dreaming of tube G/H500…
Since it is a transistor, it is a good daily listener. My tube radios get used on special occasions. I do not want to wear out tubes that are hard to find and a ZTO with a 1L6 would be treated very special.
Two very nice vintage receivers. That solid state Transoceanic is quite a find in such excellent condition! I LOL’d hearing the Chinese jammer at 9455 kHz. I find these coming in strong on a number of frequencies in northern California.
WOW! You have two beautiful examples of two classic/benchmark receivers.
You did indeed get a great deal on that D7000Y–I’m happy you pulled the trigger.
I cut my teeth on the Royal 7000.
My great aunt Irene, who lived across the road from us, heard through my grandpa that I had an affinity for radios. One day, she called me over to her house–I think I was 8 years old at the time–and took me into her basement. There, she produced a Zenith Transoceanic Royal 7000–in near-mint condition. It belonged to her youngest son who, a decade before, died in a car accident. She wanted me to put it back on the air. I immediately took it home and crafted a listening post in my bedroom–a desk, radio, lamp, log books and (of course!) a map. Your post reminded me that, like you, I couldn’t fully extend that amazing telescoping whip unless it was on an angle!
I have many, many memories of sitting in my bedroom, ear up against the speaker, tuning through the bands on that amazing rig. Everything from the flip up map with time zones to the log book holder and chart light made me feel like a secret agent, working behind enemy lines to decipher signals from afar! And unlike toys, the Zenith held its own throughout the years. It grew with me.
In fact, it still sits here in my shack–quite prominently. Still plays and still seems to amaze me.
Yep: a good find you have there in the D7000Y, Guy! Congratulations!
The D7000 is a transistor radio. I would prefer a tube radio if I was to get a ZTO. but the 7000 is good in it’s time
I went to the link about the Sony CRF – 320 A and have one question: what is UKW? I’ve been an SWL for more decades than I want to count, but never even heard of it. An internet search yielded only “Ultrakurzwelle (radio band 30-300 MHz, German)” as the only radio related answer.
On German radios, UKW usually refers to the FM broadcast band, but Ultrakurzwelle more literally means ‘Very High Frequency’ or VHF.
Wow, both are beautiful, but I give the edge to the Zenith. I owned 2 of the same model, that I picked up in Victoria at a ham fair years ago, but they were rather beat up, compared to your absolutely pristine model! Lucky you, Guy! Yes, there’s something about the full sound, the solid feel. One never sees the antenna whip like the old Zeniths. The cheap little 40 or 50 cm ones from China just don’t do it for me. I have to admit, though, that my Panasonic RF B-65 that my son gave me (he must have found it at a garage sale), has a beautiful whip, and is a solid performer. Much nicer than the eton e100, and Tecsun PL 380 that I also own.