Radios that may not be benchmark, but are pure fun–!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John R Palmer, who replied to our previous post about radio regrets with a question.

John asks:

Name a piece of radio gear that for some reason, technical, emotional, design etc. that you’ve gotten more fun using than you would ever have expected based on its price, maybe more so than other much more expensive radios you’ve owned. Just a piece of gear that really hit the spot and you’ve had a blast using.

That’s a tough question indeed, John. I hope readers will chime in with their replies–I’m very curious!

So I gave this quite a bit of thought and came up with two radios–one shortwave portable and one general coverage ham radio transceiver:

The Radio Shack DX-351

In 1996, I worked for a Radio Shack corporate store in Athens, Ohio. I believe we were getting ready for the Black Friday/Christmas season and the store manager decided to go through a pile of broken items customers has returned using their extended warranty. He had accumulated quite a number of returns in a box next to his desk in the back of the store. I stayed after hours to help him organize the shelves and prepare for incoming shipments.

Most of the items in his box were physically broken, but still covered by the extended warranty (to their credit, many RS store managers were quite flexible with extended warranty returns). He pulled out a Radio Shack DX-351 from the box.

The customer returned this portable because the AM/FM/SW slider switch was broken. My manager knew I was an SWL, so asked if I wanted it. He said, “If you don’t, it goes into the trash can because we can’t re-sell it.

How could I resist?

This DX-351 was “well-loved.” I can’t remember all of the details, but the AM/FM/SW band switch could not be fixed, but I didn’t mind because the receiver was stuck on the shortwave band and the other shortwave band switch worked perfectly.

The DX-351 was a joy to use and amazingly sensitive! It wasn’t particularly selective, but it served me well for many years living, primarily, in the glove compartment of my car. If I took a road trip, a lunch break at the park, or if I was simply waiting in a parking lot to pick up my wife, I’d pull out the DX-351 and tune in the world.

The thing was pure fun to tune.

The Icom IC-735

In the world of general coverage ham radio transceivers, the Icom IC-735 would be my choice.

The IC-735 was my first ham radio transceiver. I used my hard-earned savings (from working at Radio Shack!) to buy a used unit via the now closed Burghardt Amateur Radio Center in South Dakota. My friends, Eric (WD8RIF) and Mike (K8RAT), believed a used IC-735 would serve me well. They were right!

What I really loved about the IC-735 was that it had all of the features and modes I needed. It was easy to operate and, while I couldn’t call its receiver “benchmark” by any means, it was amazingly sensitive and selective.

I logged hundreds of hours on this radio in both SSB and CW, working DX across the globe.

But I spent even more time SWLing. Turns out, the IC-735’s general coverage receiver did justice to shortwave broadcasts. The AM filter was wide enough to produce wonderful audio (especially via an external speaker or headphones). For years, the IC-735 was my go-to shortwave radio because it performed so much better than any other radios–mostly portables–I had at the time.

The IC-735 was so much fun to use.

I did eventually sell it, if memory serves, to purchase my first Elecraft K2 transceiver.

What are your choices?

So what are the radios you’ve owned that may not sport the best performance, and may not have been terribly expensive, but were pure fun to put on the air–? Perhaps you still own one? Please comment!

Spread the radio love

53 thoughts on “Radios that may not be benchmark, but are pure fun–!

  1. Garry

    SONY ICF-7600GR I purchased back in 2002 or so in the USA…about AUD120(!)

    Saw on in second hand site for AUD100 (inc postage!) which was in VVG condition, had to have it!

    Then I saw one in the same site for AUD90 approx but in Perth WA and live in Melbourne. As luck would have it the seller was visiting Melbourne for the F1GP so he brought it with him. But the unit would only stay on for a minute or so…:-( I offered him AUD 50 and he accepted! I took it home and looked at the switch., placed a piece of paper between the switch and the button and voila…working! replaced paper with plastic and a dab of glue…been about 10 years and still going strong!

    Saw brand new ones in Tokyo Sony shop couple of years ago, over AUD 300 from memory…wife wants me sell my babies, no way!!! One next to bed, work shop and study.

    I’m old school, during the bush fires of 2019-2020 no comms in rural areas as 4/5G network went down, my wife turned to me and said…’never happen to you AM/FM/SW’ (state emergency on AM 774). Smart lady, thats why I married her!!!

    Reply
  2. Robert Barnett

    Hello! I bought a garbage can DX-375 that had multiple cold solder joints. I paid a whopping $3 for mine. I was worried that the alignment would be off, but it runs great to this day. I also have an Emerson multiband radio that is a favorite. It looks like a Sangean. Emerson also had a Panasonic clone like GE. I have only seen one on eBay.

    Reply
  3. Mario

    Well for hamming my favorite of all the radios that have come and gone is the Henry Radio Tempo One which I still use on occasion. 16 tubes, a bit drifty, smells great when turned on (tube dust), has to be manually tuned (dip the plate, peak the grid), built in crystal calibrator, analog tuning dial, no WARC bands and has a real D’Arsonval S meter. But I love it.

    Reply
  4. Adam VK3SWL

    Saved for months as a teenager stacking shelves in a Supermarket to get a then new Yaesu FRG-8800.
    Used to stay home from school “feeling unwell” on occasion so I could listen to School Of The Air from Charleville QLD and Broken Hill NSW on HF during the day!
    Still managed to learn while being absent from lessons I guess.
    Later saved more and got the VHF converter which opened up the Civil Airband and 2 metres.
    Heard many good signals on my FRoG!

    Reply
  5. Tom Kamp DF5JL

    I saw the picture of the “Radio Shack DX-351” and thought to recognize my old travel radio “Intersound WE-112” in it, which I had bought in the middle of 1990 at Foto Porst for DM 49,90. For a trip to Zimbabwe, I needed a really small world receiver, which could be operated with standard batteries, but could cover several KW bands, in order to be able to listen to BBC, DW and VOA in the savannah. A reach into the drawer and lo and behold, it is indeed the identical model. By the way, it completely fulfilled its purpose with one set of batteries. A really good companion!

    Reply
  6. Pingback: Let’s take a deep dive into our favorite radios! | The SWLing Post

  7. davide tambuchi

    My old, dear Yaesu FRG-7. With great audio (unmodified filters). Almost unusable for dx-ing some decades ago for super crowded bands (I use for this a Collins 392), now it is a pleasure to use, even for weak signals.

    Reply
  8. Britty

    My Kenwood R1000 was my first proper SW receiver.

    Full unbroken all band coverage from 0 – 30MHz in 30 selectable 1MHz wide band selections. AM wide, AM narrow, USB and LSB modes. Cold cathode seperate frequency and clock displays. Seperate AM and SW band balanced and unbalanced antenna connections. Great sensitivity and selectivity.

    All this plus more features I wont bore with.

    Still have it. Still works. Still use it 🙂

    Reply
  9. Bob

    I got my general license I’m the 60s and installed a National NCX 3 triband 500 watt transceiver in my car. Drive cross country two times and lived 20 meter band for DX conversation and weather. Love mobile ham. Could not install it in my next cae, a sportws forgot about it, even my license, as professional life took over. May ham shops around in the 60a and 70s. Thought about getting a new ticket but the stores are gone I doubt I would use it much from the home because of antenna restrictions. I gave the National to friend whose son was interested in ham thirty years ago,

    Reply
  10. John Clymer

    Had a Realistic Patrolman 9 band as a kid in the 70s. Many years of swl, local public service, 2 meter ham listening.

    Found in storage in parents basement a couple years ago – still works!

    Runner up would be the Realistic Navajo CB base I had as well.

    Reply
  11. Alex Hutton

    Marconi CR100 gave me a lot of listening fun but boy was it a heavy brute at 86lbs. My club had an FT101E but I eventually got an FT77, which I still have.
    GM4ZRH

    Reply
  12. Jack Hewart

    My pride and joy was the Eddistone 750 rx the best receiver I have ever used. My second RX was the famous AR 88.My rig back in the early 60s was complete with an Apache Tx. 73s

    Reply
  13. Bob Thunberg

    My first SW receiver was a Knight Kit Star Roamer, which I assembled (and it actually worked!).
    It was not easy to find a specific frequency, but I had got a lot of enjoyment with hit-or-miss
    tuning. Unfortunately the Star Roamer had no BFO, so I was limited to AM broadcasts.
    I sold the radio in the early 1970’s, after upgrading. About 10 years ago I became nostalgic for
    the old receiver and purchased a Star Roamer off of EBay. The radio works well, and I am once
    again enjoying tuning the SW Bands. I also own another tube receiver, a Hammarlund HQ-180.

    Reply
  14. Leonard Cooper

    The Radio Shack DX-394 with modification is a nice one. I also have a Philco from 1938 fun to listen to.
    de K8UL…73 sk…

    Reply
  15. Dan Crowley

    Yaesu FRG 7. I bought a frog 7 knock off from Sears and Roebuck. It was one heck of a suitcase with handle. It had mechanical tuning with a flywheel. All band with Am to 30 MCs. (Hertz). Of course upper lower sideband also. That boat anchor is alive somewhere.

    Reply
  16. Steve Johnson

    My favorite was a used Heath H-8 low power cw transceiver. The most fun for the buck. I had many enjoyable contacts on 15 meters running 2.5 watts in the days when the bands were wide open.

    Reply
    1. Scott

      My first sw receiver was an old floor model with a tuning eye. Don’t recall the make. I traded a 5-tube Arvin for i. The year might have been 1953.

      Reply
  17. Edward Durette

    This is probably unfair for me to list this radio, because when it came out I’m sure it was one of the best but the Sony Earth-Orbiter. This radio has been so much fun over the years. I still have one in my collection. Every now and then I fire it up. As a matter of I may do that now. Anyways the design, the sound, the controls, such a nice radio.

    Reply
  18. J H

    In 2017, my wife and I took a trip across the Atlantic to spend a nice week in Dublin and parts of Ireland. I’ll bet many of you will understand this: I brought along a multiband portable radio, for the specific purpose of tuning into Longwave !! My opportunity was standing in the center of Wexford, I tuned into two LW stations, RTÉ Radio 1 on 252 kHz and of course BBC Radio 4 LW on 198 kHz. And BBC was covering a Cricket match. Perfect. Finally!! Something other than noises on Longwave!! Yay!!

    Reply
  19. J H

    In 2007 I brought an eton S350DL (in red) on a big month-long family vacation to the Philippines. We were staying in a lovely little beach resort, on a perfect tropical paradise island. Radio Australia was reliably booming in, so their Breakfast Show was easy listening. BBC was very weak, just above the hiss, but I was able to relax in a hammock with it playing. World travel + SWL = Lifetime memories.

    Here’s a nice picture of that radio on that trip.

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_GqLiIYV1FnA/RteabAsA7LI/AAAAAAAAAT4/2r5DtD_ovvU/s400/IMG_0619.JPG

    Reply
  20. J H

    My father had built a vacuum tube SW receiver on an open chassis, with exposed high voltage wiring top and bottom. My older brother and I shared it back and forth, when we were quite young.

    We’d listen to SW stations from around the world; something that can deeply influence one’s entire outlook of the world. If you ever meet a shallow thinker, then it’s safe bet that they’ve never spent hours listening to SW as a child.

    Next was an Astronaut 8. Now, have quite a few SW receivers, just for fun. I still listen to BBC daily, but via XM satellite radio.

    Reply
    1. Paul

      Still have my Icom IC-735 and keep it as my backup rig (running an IC-7300 now).
      Great performer on both Tx and Rx, did an awesome job of pulling in the Shortwave and other utility stations as well.

      ??

      Reply
  21. Chuck Findlay

    Hallicrafters SX-100 was my first desktop, loved that radio. Let it warm up for an hour and it did Not drift. Also had the R46 B speaker that sounded great. Not sure why I got rid of it. Just bought another one and am rebuilding it.

    First portable was a Sangean 803A, bought it in 1991, still have it

    Reply
  22. David R.

    Realistic Astronaut 8.
    My first SW radio.
    Big and some what bulky.
    But had a deep rich sound that made even static sound good.
    I used to spend hours tuning in the world.
    And the best part is, I still have it.

    Reply
    1. J H

      Yep!! I carried the catalog clipping, saved my money for months, and bought an Astronaut 8 as soon as it went on sale, shortly after it was introduced circa mid-70s. I was age maybe 13. I used it for years, and still have it. Best SWL day for me was working on a house project circa early-90s; the BBC WS just booming in perfectly all day Saturday and all day Sunday. It was awesome hearing all the great programs. I also discovered 2m FM chat, Ham radio, and all this led to a very good career in radio & comms.

      Reply
  23. 13dka

    Tough choice indeed. Every radio I had since I was a kid was fun, and since I usually had only one of them at a time, each of them was special and I have fond memories of most. It would be much, much easier to list the two I didn’t like that much – if I could remember what the other one was. 🙂

    But there were some radios that were “breakthrough” or “first” items for me, starting with this old tube tabletop, which was my first “own” (loaner from grandma) radio with shortwave, and it even had the shortwave split over 2 bands and was a quite sensitive radio. Before that I had only radios w/o shortwave and I used any opportunity like family visits to friends or relatives to play with their radios. This one really made me understand and explore shortwave when I was 10, and I was much more interested in the mysterious noises that came out of it than in any broadcast station it could receive. 🙂

    https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/loewe_opta_rheinland_4953w.html

    3 years later I got my hands on (another loaner) a Nordmende Globetrotter 4/601 (alias Globe Traveller in other parts of the world). That one turned me into a BCL:

    https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/nordmende_globetrotter_4601.html

    Since that was only a loaner, I was still craving for my own shortwave radio, which I got for x-mas or b-day (can’t remember) next year – some rather obscure world band receiver sold by a German mail-order business. Today I know that it was made by some indeed rather obscure manufacturer “Aimor” in Tokyo:

    https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/neckermann_palladium_949469.html

    Like the other radios so far, it wasn’t standing out in any way, it was a fair performer but like the Globetritter it lacked SSB reception and meanwhile I had learned that this is what I really want. So far I had helped myself by just putting any other kind of radio next to the shortwave receiver and using the spurious signals from the “donator” radios as BFO, which was of course a very fiddly “hack”. 🙂

    My first SSB receiver came 6 years later in form of a Heathkit GR-78. I knew absolutely nothing about this radio, I paid way too much for it and while I was playing the hell out of that thing, it was rather disappointing on SSB.

    https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/heath_gr_78_gr78.html

    My first “proper” communications receiver was an FRG-7, and with it I bought my first “proper” shortwave antenna – a Fritzel FD-3BC, some obscure, tuned to the SW broadcast bands sibling of the infamous FD-4 OCF dipole known among German hams as “Fritzel Dummy number 4”. I was actually climbing up some old poplars to hang it up in 25m height where it performed quite sufficiently and then I was setting up my first “proper” listening post in an old construction trailer, in which I spent an entire winter playing radio in the late 80s – it had a bed, a TV, an electric heater and an old desk for the FRG-7 and a “Siemens” labeled version of the Sangean ATS-803A I had back then. That rig was good enough for logging all of the small and remote stations known as “difficult” benchmark stations in German radio magazines. In fact, for the first time in my life I could hear anything I was dreaming of on an almost daily basis, like WWVH or hams in VK/ZL and not only when the condx were super awesome.

    BTW SIemens – the next, for me truly relevant radio was this 80lbs chunk of a boat anchor:

    https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/siemens_funk_e309_e_309_745e309.html

    In fact It was a true boat anchor, it was built in 1958 and served on one of the 6 “Cap-San”-class cargo vessels called “the white swans of the south atlantic” by the shipping company “Hamburg-Süd”. The last remaining ship of that class is a museum ship today:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cap_San_Diego

    It doesn’t entirely fit onto a desk or into this category because it’s a truly remarkable and quite outstanding radio: a low-noise, single-conversion (!) commercial receiver with a thigh-sized turret tuner, continuously variable IF bandwidth from 0.5 to maybe 5kHz and a frequency readout resolution of 1-2 kHz via some extra moving-coil meter, which is a pretty cool feature list for a radio of that era. An indestructible gem of German engineerink with both excellent sensitivity and the ability to swallow almost any amount of signal from an antenna, and that’s what it got from 40 meters of random wire strung up in 12m height during the sensational sunspot maximum around the millenium years. Back then there was an almost daily ham network on 20m, connecting with tiny German yachts cruising the Pacific ocean. They all had 100W transceivers on puny backstay antennas and I could always still hear them all just fine when the hams working them started losing their signals or didn’t pick up their calls in first place. I had a few other decent and almost 30 years younger radios (FRG-7700, ICF-2010…) in that crazy time but the e309 was just waaaay ahead of them not only in terms of performance but also in glorious toob glow charme from toobs that looked like each was bought and replaced in a different harbor. 🙂

    From there it could hardly get any better and I lost a bit of interest in the hobby during the following minimum. Later I moved away from the city and left all those radios behind.

    Today I obviously have a few radios too, mostly portables and two RSP SDRs, which are both pretty mind-blowing not only for the money – so much I can do (and did!) with them! But for some reason the radio I use and obviously like most is the cheap little D-808, which also seems to be qualifying best for this category of radios – it’s incredibly cheap for what it offers, it’s not the best radio in the world by any metric but an excellent performer on most bands and the constellation of bands and features in such a small package has made me very fond of that radio from the get-go.

    Actually, in some way, the D-808 is the essence of all the radios in the 45 years I described here, what they might boil down to when you throw them all in one pot. None of those radios were indispensable, they all left something to desire and I don’t miss any of them so much that I’d buy it again, yet they all mean a lot to me and I’m still thankful they were there.

    Reply
  24. William Raab

    I have 3 radios I always think about. A Radio Shack Patrolman 6 and the Radio Shack DX-160 short wave receiver. And the transceiver was an Alinco DX-77TH if memory serves. I had a blast with them all, but especially the DX-160. I know longer have any of them. But they gave me endless hours of enjoyment. 73’s KX4YF

    Reply
    1. J H

      I owned a DX-160 for a few years, it’s the one with the cracked dial glass (in case its present owner is reading, LOL). At the cottage circa early-2000s, we picked up a phone patch from a crew member on a ship in the Atlantic back to their family in the Philippines. Crystal clear, but in Tagalog language. Since my wife understands that language, she gave us the highlights.

      Reply
  25. Henry N McCarl

    Yaesu 357-D – a versatile multi band transceiver
    Excellent mobile or compact base station with power supply. With 100 watts and excellent companion with computer at low power and PSK31 I’ve contacted over 200 countries and over 17,000 confirmed QSOs with eQSL logging and interconnection with ARRL – a top performer from North America with the European PSK Club / using base Triband Beam horizontal propagation and multi and vertical. Actually monitored Beijing China And Bolivia in PSK31 QSO then contacted both stations with beam on consecutive weeks. Also excellent mobile rig with triband vertical 10-6-2 meter antenna – Hank W4RIG

    Reply
  26. Ron Layton

    I picked up a brand new Sony ICF 7600 at the Berlin PX in 1977. Its long gone but I just saw a mint, barely used one on eBay with all the papers and box’s and it is MINT!!!. It sure brought back memories when I fired it up. Its been a long 43 years…….

    Reply
  27. Robert Grant N8NU

    I had never known about Shortwave Radio when a brother of mine bought a radio that a Sears store was selling cheap (I think it was $10).

    It was a Unelco 1914. A very strange radio, with a flimsy gray cabinet and a door in the top of the radio. We put batteries in the radio, but heard nothing but a little bit of white noise, and, at first, we thought it was broken.

    Then, my aunt decided to put her finger on a shiny screw at the back of the radio – suddenly, we heard a woman singing in Spanish!

    One night, my brother and I made an attempt to maximize performance. We took it to the basement, gathered anything and everything in the basement made of metal and pushed it all together.

    My brother lost interest in the radio, and I asked him to give or sell it to me. He refused, getting together with a neighbor friend, they took turns throwing the radio high into the air to see it break into pieces (13-year-olds do this kind of vandalism, I don’t know why).

    About 15 years later, I found another Unelco 1914 at a hamfest, and gladly bought it.

    The radio was an anachronism when it was new. It was all solid-state electronics, yet it used pairs of coils with octal tube bases – like multi-band radios made before about 1950. Power is three size D cells.

    I still listen to it from time to time.

    Reply
  28. Roberto Garcia

    Hello folks!
    You can still find here in Cuba some halicrafter radios, but for many years I used a VF Russian multiband radio to tune in the SW broadcasting, when I began as a radio ham I did install an external BFO to listen to radio hams signal around the world, good tough radio still in existence and working after so many years.

    Reply
  29. John R Palmer

    Anyone wish that the AOR AR7070 had gone into production?

    I read that several prototypes were constructed but the economic conditions at the time were just not favorable for it to go into production.

    I’ve always wondered if the prototypes still exist and, if so, who owns them.

    Reply
  30. Ian Baunes

    My favorite shortwave receiver was a Sony ICF 7600 Sometime in the mid 80s I was in Hong Kong on business. I had been a ham operator for about 25 years at that point and was looking for something exciting and new. The little Sony portable was for sale in Kowloon electronic shop for about $200 if I remember. I’d never seen a digital short wave radio that was so small and sensitive. Plus it had pretty good FM sound quality I took that radio all over the world with me on business, usually with a 25 foot long wire to hang out the hotel room window. When I was very far from home I would listen to BBC or radio Canada and feel closer to home. I remember showing the receiver one night in Leningrad to a Soviet friend, who was undoubtedly writing a report to the KGB about the guy with the short wave radio. I could see that he too was amazed at such high technology existed at that time. Sometimes when you’re very far from home hearing English voices and music is all you need late at night. Plus with a BFO I could copy hams quite well. Eventually I upgraded and gave that radio to a friend, which I regret. It was a stalwart and robust little friend for more than 20 years

    Reply
    1. John R Palmer

      The Sony ICF-7600 line are great world band radios, they were also reasonably priced.
      Sony really set the gold standard for consumer shortwave radios.
      I own a couple of the later ICF-7600 iterations.
      I also owned the first iteration of the ICF-7600 but passed it on to my dad who promptly trashed it.

      Reply
    2. J H

      @Ian. OMG! Nearly the same. I bought the Sony ICF-7600D in Kowloon Hong Kong in 1984. Still have it. On that trip, I stayed in a very small room in the infamous Chunking Mansion. Two weeks in HK. It was an amazing adventure, lifetime memories.

      Reply
  31. Arthur Smith

    The Realistic DX-200 is, far and away, my least capable desktop receiver. But, maybe the most fun. It drifts like a raft going down the waterfalls. But not since a tube set has a radio looked so cool at night. It’s very sensitive. Not very selective. But peaking the antenna trimmer is really neat. I picked this up very inexpensively at a Goodwill thrift shop. And glad that I did.

    Reply
    1. John R Palmer

      That was a lucky find!
      It is a cool looking receiver, sounds like you got a bargain, despite those drifting issues.

      There are bargains out there, unfortunately they sometimes rely on the ignorance of the seller.
      A few years back someone mentioned they picked up an AOR AR5000 in mint condition at an estate sale for around $200. I thought they’d missed a zero in the sale price but the individual confirmed the price he’d paid. He also mentioned he’d bought an AOR AR7030 as new for around $150 from the same individual. The widow of the previous owner cleary had no idea of the second hand value of these receivers.

      Reply
  32. Joseph Patti KD2QBK

    I had an Ambassador 2020 back in the 80’s and 90’s that came from the old EEB in Vienna Va. This was a rebadged version of the Sangean ATS803 that was sold long before Sangean was marketing radios under their own name. I used it both as a shortwave portable and as a stereo FM tuner used with a pair of powered speakers. Had lots of fun with that set, especially at the South Jersey shore in the summertime, away from whatever interference there was around at the time. A couple of years ago I tried to reacquire the radio, but the closest I could get was the Realistic DX440 version sold by RadioShack for a long time.

    I also had a Magnavox D2999 that was a great radio as well. It replaced the Ambassador when I’d given that to a friend. Loved that one too.

    Reply
  33. John R Palmer

    My nomination for this category is:

    The Icom IC-R2 wideband receiver.

    I remember when the first handheld wideband receivers started to appear and Icom released their IC-R1 in this category. I passed on the IC-R1 since you were even warned in the blurb that it wasn’t a strong medium wave performer. When they released the follow-up to this model, the IC-R2, I was interested, but waited a while till I saw a price drop take it below the $200 point then purchased one. One of the reasons I hesitated was, just to look at it, it didn’t seem very impressive, no keypad, small screen, etc., it certainly didn’t scream “packed with features” and capable of doing much.

    However, looks were deceiving.

    This little unprepossessing looking “triple conversion” radio was packed with features and, what’s more, it was incredibly sensitive and a strong performer across its wide receiving spectrum (495 kHz to 1309.9MHz). I was even surprised at how strong a performer it was on the HF bands, easily pulling in strong signals with just the supplied rubber duck antenna. Using a random length of wire as an antenna improved reception significantly. Battery consumption was low, it ran for hours on just the supplied 700 mAh NiCad batteries and using high capacity NiMH cells it seems to go on forever . This was also the first radio I owned that could be programmed via PC and it was fun using the software doing that. Others have mentioned it’s susceptible to overloading but I never had any problems there. It’s also well constructed and has a very solid and robust feel to it.

    The Icom IC-R2 was/is an amazingly well-designed little wideband receiver, packed with features and a strong performer across a wide chunk of the radio spectrum. It’s small enough to fit in your shirt pocket and take anywhere. Further iterations of this model (IC-R5 and IC-R6) expanded the feature set with alpha tags and higher scanning speeds etc.

    I’ve had more fun with this little radio over the years than much more expensive receivers I own. Still have it (plus its younger siblings) and use it often.

    The Icom IC-R2 is a keeper!

    Reply
  34. Mark

    While it only comes out in special occasions, a FRG-7700 receiver gifted to me by another ham fits the category for me.

    Aside from a problematic power button (now fixed) and a less than accurate analogue dial, it’s fluorescent display is spot on.

    In the evenings, that blue glow and the accompanying illuminated signal meter swaying back and forth is like a time portal to a previous age where proper radios were “communications receivers”

    I’m also morbidly fascinated by its electro-mechanical innards; clunky knobs and switches for changing bands and modes, a gearbox for translating the tuning knob movement to a tuning capacitor and the less than perfect dial.

    It sits in complete contrast to the insides of my CommRadio CR1a, which is a tiny collection of chips and surface mount components at a fraction of the size.

    I dread the day that those seventies components fail – I suspect I’d have no luck trying to fix it 🙁

    Reply
    1. Donald Glocka

      Agreed. I picked a up a bare bones 7700 for $167 on ebay a couple years ago. It is not at all unusual that it, on any given night, outperforms my Icom R75 that was produced many years later.

      Reply
    1. William Raab KX4YF

      Yes. I built an HW-8 BACK IN 1977. Actually, I was hard at work on it the night of the NYC blackout. I remember my mother saying that all of NYC was in the dark. But we never lost power. So I just kept working. A lot fun to build and operate. 73’s
      KX4YF

      Reply

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