eBay Find: Barlow Wadley XCR-30 Receiver

Barlow Wadley XCR-30-FrontMany thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who writes:

Barlow Wadley’s show up every now and then on Ebay, but infrequently with the original papers.

Rarely, one sees them with  the original box. These are great representatives of SW radio history, though you have to take care to ask question of the seller.

This price appears to be quite high (roughly $490 US), especially for a radio without the FM band, which was added in later production runs:

Click here to view on eBay.

Barlow Wadley XCR-30-Inside Barlow Wadley XCR-30-WithBox

Thanks, Dan! Someone brought one of these to the SWL Fest some years ago and it attracted quite a crowd.  I’ve never had one on the air, though–very curious how well they perform.

Are there any SWLing Post readers who own the Barlow Wadley XCR-30? Please comment!

37 thoughts on “eBay Find: Barlow Wadley XCR-30 Receiver

  1. Dan Robinson

    Yes, actually that was my XCR-30, which had been modified by a previous owner with an extra antenna and power jack…

  2. 13dka

    What the… $690? They seem to be much more widespread over here, after all they were the weapon of choice for many DXers here in the 70s. I give it that it’s a quite unique receiver in electrical and mechanical design, and the only radio that ever made it all over the world from South Africa. I recently had one offered in my neck of the wood for 150€ and I didn’t pull the trigger because I don’t need yet another good-but-not-awesome receiver picking up dust.

    Here’s a similar offer (obviously sold but the Google Webcache still has it):


    As for the performance, you always have to put that in relation to what else was offered when it was new – it was relatively cheap and similar to the FRG-7 it offered a relatively high dial resolution, so you could tune to a station easier than with most of the other stuff being in use back then. Of course that was only a 2-3 years until (bad) receivers with (bad) digital frequency readouts washed over the consumer market. Compared with similarly priced receivers (and the XCR-30 was used a lot as a reference when testing other consumer RX back then), the performance was decent, maybe even a tad better than those here and there but it’s not known to be a magic all-time favorite super DX-magnet reference receiver by any stretch of imagination.

    For $690, it must be either quite rare/collectible or very powerful and I’m afraid too many of them were sold to be rare, and it’s not enough of a performer to warrant a price roughly bordering on the ballpark of e.g. a brandnew CR-1a or FDM-Duo. The 150€ in the ad above seem to be appropriate, considering that you can get an ICF-2001D (IIRC known as “2010” in the US) for 150-200€, which has more to offer.

  3. 13dka

    I just wrote quite a bit about the price vs. performance of the radio, hit “post comment” and now it’s gone (not even a “your comment awaits moderation” message)?

  4. Sean G4UCJ

    I had one of these back in the early 80’s, just after I got my first ham license. I used to take it to school with me (yes, really). I would spend lunch times in one of the upstairs class rooms with the whip out of the window listening to the hams on 20m (and doubtless other bands too). For what it was, the XCR30 was a super receiver. Stable as a rock, thanks to the Wadley loop technology. If there was a downside, it was that the filtering could have been better. Obviously this set, although capable, lacked a lot of bells and whistles. Mine was an early version that didn’t have FM. I don’t know where it came from or how much it cost, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t have been expensive – me being a poor schoolboy. I have noticed that every XCR30 I have ever seen has been a ‘MK2’ – did they ever produce a ‘MK1’, and if so, has anybody seen or used one. On eBay these days, an XCR30 will set you back anything up to £200 (I guess that would be about $300 US). I’ve not checked the price of this one, but I would expect that to be at the very high end of what you would expect to pay ($300-350). Any more expensive than $350, I would say it is too expensive, but that is just my opinion – in the end, it’s worth what you are willing to pay for it. As an aside, I also used to take a 2m FM handie in to school, but that got me into trouble as I would be rabbiting on the local repeater when I was supposed to be in a class.

    1. 13dka

      Sean, I’m glad to read that I was not the only one who hauled some heavy shortwave portable (a 1964 Nordmende Globetrotter) to school. :).

      1. Sean G4UCJ

        It certainly was heavy when fully loaded with batteries. Just think, these days we could do the same things and much more with something the size of a cell/mobile phone and a tiny dongle – or with a multimode SW receiver that is the size of a small paperback book. There was a great deal more to listen to back then (certainly on the broadcast bands – they were rammed full of stations from all over the globe), it would have been great to have this technology back then – of course, without the EM interference that plagues us today though.

    2. Lesley Kimmerling

      I have a Barlow Wadley mark 2 here in South Africa. Do you think anyone would be interested?
      If so I can send pictures.

  5. Edward

    We had a radio club in high school, and many a times I would strap my Hallicrafters S20R onto the paper rack on my bike and carefully haul it to school. I learned how to align and calibrate it in the Electronics shop. It worked well but I traded it in for a HQ140x. although bigger and heavier it had better selectivity and was more useful on CW but was more awkward handling on the bike.

    1. Sean G4UCJ

      The UK was rather different with respect to ham radio. Over here, even now, it is seen as a strange and little known hobby. As for radio clubs in schools or colleges – very, very rare – if at all. The hobby never got the right kind of exposure over here – and when CB hit the UK in the early 80’s, hams were blamed for every bit of interference that was encountered – mainly due to inadequate shielding etc on the consumer equipment and the fact that the CB mentality was to run as much power as possible no matter if they were over driving the radio/amp into poorly sited antennas. If a ham with a visible antenna was anywhere in the area of a cber who was causing problems, it was always the ham that was blamed. It didn’t matter that there had been no interference prior, despite the antenna being up for years already! It is a problem we still face to this day. At least CB has all but died out here. Would have loved a radio club at our school, but just couldn’t get anyone interested. There are a few school clubs about now, so that is some progress at least!

      1. Edward

        Very interesting observation. My high school era was during the Apollo moon shot. Every kid wanted a radio (recievers and transmitters), like today’s hoverboards and smartphones. We just didn’t have the money to squander on monthly phone bills. There was a hot market for used shortwave recievers. My shop teacher told me not to bother with transistor SW because of all the inrtermod and overload problems which he vividly demonstrated. A lot of us got ham licenses and geared up for disasters which we had our weather events and great publicity. Also discovered a local clear channel radio station was leaking a second harmonic and publically reported it. (it was promptly fixed). It would just overload the transistor radios but my tube radios all would perform well under the strong signals. I am still reluctant to endorse any solidstate radio until I see how well it performs under adjacent strong signal conditions. Wonder about SDR and DSP performance.

        1. 13dka

          It would cost you $10* to try the worst case scenario in SDR – a tiny RTL2832U (+R820T2 tuner) based USB TV-stick without any modifications (meaning no HF, no input filters whatsoever) and some free SDR software. I’m currently toying around with such a stick and I’m getting a tremendous kick out of it. I’m living at least 15mi away of any strong RF source and so I’m not (still surprisingly) getting any issues with the frontend. Disturbingly, that stick and the software does almost everything a tad better than my 35x more expensive Alinco DJ-X11 handheld scanner, which BTW also has a (horrible) I/Q output for processing a terribly narrow 48kHz baseband, while the stick presents 2.4 MHz of baseband on the waterfall/spectrum display and I can e.g. watch the entire 70cm repeater band and then some for activity at once (sadly there isn’t much to watch nowadays).

          Lacking a MCX->SMA pigtail, I just hung the tiny supplied whip antenna (which is quite bad) out of the attic window and got FM radio stations from 70mi away, and ran some ADS-B software getting data from airliners 300mi away.

          If you take it for what it is – a barebone direct conversion receiver that lacks everything between antenna input and RF preamp it’s quite amazing. My next receiver will sure be a proper SDR with proper input filtering and HF coverage. Once you get some band passes in the frontend, it’s certainly not worse or better than some conventional frontend design, the real magic happens in the signal processing on the other end of the USB cable. My next receiver will sure be a proper SDR with some preselection and HF coverage, a good design will set me back $150.

          * You can even try it all for free: Go to websdr.org where you can *use* (no sign up needed or anything) sdr receivers of all flavors with antennas of all kinds *live* on 132 different receiving locations all over the world. All “clients” can tune around and set modes etc. independently and have unlimited access. I’m quite sure you will find many of these receivers just amazing.

          1. Sean G4UCJ

            I have 4 of the little RTL sticks (2 older ones and 2 of the ‘new’ R820T2 sticks). I use one full time for ADSB aircraft monitoring and the other is part time for 30MHz up. I also use a Funcube Dongle Pro Plus – that is superb as it has proper filters (even the expensive SAW filters on 2m and 70cm). It only covers 192kHz compared to the up to 3MHz of the RTL sticks, but it is very sensitive and has a much better front end. Also it covers from 150kHz right up to almost 2GHz (with a gap from approx 220-400MHz due to chip design). For $150 it is hard to beat. My other SDR is an SDR-IQ which is an HF only receiver, but it’s good, very good. Again 192kHz spectrum, but it has a bank of front end filters plus a preamp, if needed. Superb performer for the money – would trounce a ‘standard’ radio of the same price (I have compared it to my Icom IC756pro and the SDR-IQ is a better receiver, in my opinion. I use both during CW contests where there are hundreds of very narrow band signals in very close proximity to each other and the SDR-IQ hears everything the 756 hears, in fact it hears more as the DSP implementation is better and I can find weaker signals lurking between the big signals – With the 756, the bigger signals splatter more and make it tricky to hear between them. The SDR-IQ is old technology now and some of the more recent SDR’s are so good it is almost beyond belief. I love any radio, old or new. Embrace the technology but don’t forget the history 🙂

          2. Edward

            Is this portable like a radio with a tuning dial and a volume control? or do I have to tote along a connected PC or notebook running windows to do anything? From what I see is more like a lab instrument spectrum analyzer running in a window than a communications receiver.

  6. Walt Salmaniw

    I remember lusting over this receiver after seeing it at a SWL meeting in Kingston, Ontario in 1971. It was unlike any receiver I had ever seen. Price at the time was $250 as I recall. Never could afford it, and think I ever saw them afterwards. Must not have been a long production run.

    1. 13dka

      IIRC they were produced from 1974 through 1977 and in 1974 it was unlike any other (consumer-grade) receiver indeed! However, that changed quickly because many other manufacturers shelled out Wadley-Loop reveicers with linear dial scales in these years, until PLL receivers with digital frequency displays started conquering the market only a few years later.

      1. Michael Black

        I think the big breakthrough was this receiver was portable. So suddenly you had a receiver that tuned 500KHz segments, so calibration was good, and everything wasn’t crammed into a band that was a 2:1 tuning range. For general coverage receivers, that was still relatively uncommon, especially if you didn’t have money.

        Even the “consumer” receivers that tuned like the 51J4 tended to just tune chunks, like the Drake SPR-4 or the early seventies Radio Shack SX-190. They’d cover the full spectrum, but you had to buy another crystal for each new 500KHz segment.

        The Racal tube receiver in the late fifties had used the Wadley loop, but this was the first receiver to use it that was for consumers. I do wonder if the other receivers using the Wadley Loop that followed came because of this one. We can’t tell since this one did come first.

        Of course, you have to be careful. Some receivers get described as having Wadley Loops don’t. A Sony portable was mentioned here recently and a third party page said it used a Wadley Loop, but it actually used a digital synthesizer to get signals every 500KHz. That was very abrupt, it took some time still before they were completely synthesized. The Sony 2001 surely was the first portable to be fully synthesized, but I’m not sure there was a consumer desktop receiver with digital tuning before that. There were hybrids, including sets with a frequency counter for the readout.

        Like most things, it took a lot of time to change, but decades later it seems so much faster.


        1. Sean G4UCJ

          The Racal you mentioned was the RA17/RA117 series. I have owned one of those too, it was an excellent receiver but, boy, was it big and heavy! I had to sell it because I didn’t have room for it after I had moved house (I have a similar problem with the RA1792 I have now!). There are some clearly defines milestones in receiver development: The Crystal set, the TRF, Superhet, Transistors, Wadley Loop, PLL synthesis, the IC and now the SDR and its offspring. Having a receiver that didn’t significantly drift was a real breakthrough. I have used some of the older designs (9R59, older Heathkits like the Mohican etc, Codar, HRO, and the Grundig Satellit series). The Grundig Satellit 3000 was the first ‘portable’ (if you were strong) receiver to have a digital display. I used one for many years, but it drifted so you would chase signals around with the bfo control. Also, the frequency would change if the digital display was switched on or off, due to it ‘pulling’ the vfo. The turret bandswitch was a revolution, but that used to get dirty contacts very quickly and caused an issue when switching bands. The BW did not have any of those issues and you could move about on the spectrum, confident that you could go back to a previously monitored frequency and be certain you were exactly where you expected to be (not so with the Grundig). Also, these older radios really look the part – big dials, tuning displays and lot’s of knobs to twiddle/buttons to press. The old Satellit 1400 was my favourite for looks – it looked like a ‘real’ radio! Was a decent receiver too, or the one I had was.

  7. Max Youle

    I have a Barlow Wadley with the FM tuner here in New Zealand.
    These fabulous receivers are reasonably common here as many SWLs bought them in the 1970s because of New Zealands remote location
    My Barlow Wadley has just recently had an alignment and a thorough going over, and will now match my Sony ICF 2010,and Yaseu FRG 8800 for stations received on the shortwave bands, but not so good on the MW band.
    I love this radio, and its quirky tuning system. This reminds me of the days of knob twiddling to find those elusive signals, not like the ease of todays digital receivers

  8. Pingback: Max’s Barlow Wadley receiver is a keeper | The SWLing Post

  9. Jesus Interiano R.

    I have my first radio fron Gilfer Assoc. the second from t he makers in South Africa because my was lost, this I have it from Australia, but I can not found parts is mute. Any sugestions?

    1. Jesus Interiano

      The price is OK to me, but the shipment no. I send to South Africa one for less but was shiped by ground and was destroyed
      I have one more to be repair, but I fear send it there.
      Is there some one here in USA?

  10. Kelvin Davies

    I bought one of these when working in South Africa in 1975. A brilliant radio. My job was maintaining a high power transmitter site for the South African Navy and I used to do a bit of short wave listening at work on a huge Telefunken receiver, built into our test console. OK. Then I got the Barlow Wadley and it was a different world. I remember stringing up a long wire in my garden and listening to the world. In particular, I remember listening to a US soldier ham in Viet Nam to a ham in Chester (UK).
    I took it with me when I moved to Saudi Arabia. I used to wake up around 05:00 there so I used the radio to listen to all sorts, particularly ship to shore conversations between Portishead and ships at sea all over the planet. Eventually, I dragged the radio around to various countries I worked in, finishing up in Kuwait. On 10th August 1990, I and a few mates did a runner from the Iraqi army, over the desert to Saudi. I had to abandon everything in the flat, which made my wife extremely happy (not!), but the radio came with me.
    And it is still with me now in the UK, all these years later! A revolutionary radio indeed.


      Hello Kelvin,
      I am a South African and when in university in Durban 1978 first saw a Barlow wadley with a fellow student and was hooked, eventually 1980 got a secondhand one for Rands 100, sold it in 1982 in Mauritius for Rands 250, and bought a new Sony 2001 in London…not too impressed sold it a year later for purchased price too…1983 bought new Yaesu FR7700, damn good radio but weighs a tonne, sold this in 1989, to buy scuba gear! no more radio swl-ing….
      2013, early retirement, ebayed a Degen 1103 $80, brilliant little performer to date…
      renewed Ham Licence, and began collecting vintage Zenith Transoceanic radios, most are non working but look terrific.
      Purchased Yaesu FT857 and 897 Transcievers, radioshack scanner and Baofeng handhelds etc, the bug has bitten.
      2015 I win an ebay auction in UK for a MK2 BW XCR30, non working, $80 incl shipping to Scotland where a friend stays. This year I went there and brought the radio back to Mauritius where I live.
      Put batteries in it, makes noise and volume works but no signals yet, Am awaiting rainy day to delve further…Just wanted to share my story.


      Francois LINCOLN-

  11. Nev Richter

    I have a Barlow Wadley I would like to sell. (rephrase: my wife would like to sell)
    It works perfectly with the transformer but unfortunately due to a battery leak the battery holder needs work.
    It was bought in South Africa.

    Can anyone give me an idea of a fair price?

    1. Francois

      Hello Nev,
      As far as I understand a non working model MK2 with out FM in good overall appearance is a deal $75 upwards, I’d say $150 max if you can repair it or you know a guy who can do it!
      For a working model I’d pay 200 up to 300: not more because then might as well get a Yaesu FRG 7 !

        1. Francois

          OK Nev,

          Alternatively substitute with a 2 or 3 Li-on cell holder and operate off those at about 7.4 or 11 Vdc.

          Good luck,


  12. César

    Hello there,

    Just got one of these as a gift from someone in the family who found it in the basement.
    The unit looks very well preserved and is working. It also has a power brick as well as the manual. Wondering here how much value it has in this nice condition.


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