Category Archives: Vintage Radio

A Look Back: Memories of the Panasonic RF-2200 and its sibling, the National Panasonic DR22

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), for the following guest post:


A Look Back: Memories of the Panasonic RF-2200 and its Sibling, the National Panasonic DR22

by Mario Filippi, N2HUN

All photos by author unless otherwise noted

One of the preeminent AM/FM/SW portables of all time is the venerable Panasonic model RF-2200 receiver that was sold in the USA starting in the mid-1970’s for around $165.00 US.

Weighing in at a hefty 7 pounds, 13 ounces and vital statistics of 12” x 7” x 4” it came equipped with a robust shoulder strap to schlep from the radio shack to alfresco listening sites and was basically a completely self-contained entertainment center for the radio enthusiast.  My first RF-2200 was purchased in the late ‘70’s from Grand Central Radio Shop in New York City, now just a memory and long gone, but back then they sold a bevy of shortwave and ham radio equipment.

Photo 1. Author’s favorite portable of all time, Panasonic RF-2200

It was love at first sight when I saw the RF-2200 in the store’s gleaming glass display case way back when. The ‘2200 possessed all the bells and whistles to guarantee a good time for the SWL such as a rotatable ferrite AM broadcast band antenna, BFO (Beat Frequency Oscillator) for SSB reception, AM /FM/SW (3.9 – 28 MHz) bands, a D’Arsonval “S” meter that doubled as a battery status indicator, large four inch front mounted speaker, switchable coarse/fine tuning speed, base/treble/RF gain pots, 125/500 kHz crystal markers to calibrate the VFO, wide/narrow bandwidth switch, dial/S meter lights, earphone/recorder jacks and telescopic antenna for SW and FM. Plus it sported the renowned Panasonic trademark.

Photo 2. RF-2200’s rear: exposed battery compartment, screw connectors for external antenna, AC plug lower right. Rectangular earphone storage compartment is above batteries. Battery cover’s gray foam pad is dry rotted and needs replacement.

Part of the 2200’s ample avoirdupois can be attributed to the unit’s four “D” battery power plant, but Panasonic also supplied an AC cord to plug into the house mains and an earphone (located inside the battery case).  It runs forever on those four stout dry cells, one of the many positive features of this vintage gem.

Back in those days portable radios generally were not judged and valued based their diminutive size and weight but on the array of features geared to the end-user. Front panels were festooned with an array of controls rivaling an aircraft’s cockpit.  Knobs, analog dials, meters, large front-mounted speakers, switches and lots of black plastic were the order of the day. These all contributed to the beauty and practicality of portable shortwave radios back then.

One thing missing though was built-in memory channels; those existed in the operator’s brain and not yet delegated to memory chips.

Photo 3. Pack of four “D” cells, at 1 lb 4oz, weighs more than some of today’s portables!

One of the features long gone and missing in modern receivers these days is the “recorder out” jack that looks identical to an eight-inch earphone jack and yes the ‘2200 has one. It was used to plug in a tape recorder to memorialize an op’s favorite radio show. Of course back then there were many more shortwave stations broadcasting.  Gone also are those tiny incandescent bulbs, sometimes described as “grain of wheat” lamps that were used on S meters, dials, etc. The RF-2200 sports ample illumination for the S-meter and tuning dial which makes it a perfect bedside table radio for late night DX’ers and insomniacs.

Speaking of DX, the ‘2200’s rotatable AM ferrite antenna is one of the main virtues this radio possesses.  As an avid AM DX’er and faithful disciple of AM radio in general, the ‘2200’s rotary directional antenna nulls out noise and routinely pulls in stations as far away as Nashville (WSM), Chicago (WBBM), St. Louis (KMOX), Atlanta (WSB), Boston (WBZ) and Toronto (CJBC) when the sun goes down. Look closely at the antenna mount’s base and you’ll even see compass-like degree markings that’ll help when retrieving a favorite local or DX AM station.

Photo 4. Operating manual copy is available on-line

Shortwave coverage is approximately from 3.9 – 28 MHz as per the service manual, but I’ve checked the actual coverage of my unit using a calibrated service monitor and found it to be 3.47 – 28.9 MHz which makes sense since I’ve tuned to W1AW’s code practice on 3.581 MHz with no problem and have also heard the Volmet station on 3.485 MHz. That’s good news for hams wanting to receive 80m CW.  It gets a bit tricky though using the fine tuning option for CW hi hi.

AM broadcast band coverage is only from 525 – 1610 kHz as per the specifications; the AM band had not yet been extended to 1710 kHz at that time.  The ITU approved the extension in 1988. With that in mind I wanted to determine what the actual band coverage of my unit was. Again, using an IFR service monitor it was found to be from 514 – 1720 kHz; that’s good news for those who listen to stations at the top of the band.  It also explains why I can hear YWA, a non-directional radiobeacon (NDB) from Toronto, Canada just below the AM band on a frequency of 516 kHz. If you own a RF-2200 or DR22 tune to the bottom of the AM band and listen for it. You may also hear the warbling sound of NAVTEX stations on 518 kHz.  Switch on the BFO and wait for dark, you might get lucky like I have.

My apologies for not being an FM broadcast band listener so all I can state is the few times I’ve listened it sounded absolutely great.  The specs state a FM broadcast band frequency range of approximately 87.5 – 108 MHz. Mine measured from 86.8 – 108.9 MHz but I’ve yet to realign my unit so these ranges may vary among the population.  Note that I have undertaken the labor intensive task of aligning my National Panasonic DR-22 which is almost the exact same unit as the ‘2200. You can search this blog for my results that were kindly published by Thomas previously (click here to read).

Photo 5. Side by side comparison.  Panasonic RF-2200 on left, National Panasonic DR22 on right.

For those not aware, the RF-2200 was also marketed in Europe as the National Panasonic DR22 and in other parts of the world as the Cougar 2200. My DR22 was an eBay purchase, and that’s the best place to find either model.

DR22s are rather rare compared to the ‘2200 though. First off, one of the major differences with the DR22 is that it runs on either 110 or 220V, and that’s accomplished by a switch on the back of the unit.

DR22 runs on 120 or 240V via switch on rear panel

The DR22’s front panel stenciling is slightly different too, as shortwave bands are labeled “KW 1 – KW 6” in addition to “SW1 – SW6”.  Not sure what “KW” means though. Perhaps some reader can enlighten us.

Well, that’s about it, if you want a RF-2200, or DR22 then window shop on eBay.  Lately they have been selling from $40.00 US (parts only) to $455.00 for pristine units. That’s a pretty wide price range and even I’m surprised at the high prices being gotten for clean units.  All I can say is that the two I have now are staying right here in the shack with me.

Thanks for reading and 73’s.


eBay searches (note these eBay partner links support the SWLing Post):


Thank you so much for sharing this excellent post, Mario. Like you, I’m a massive fan of the Panasonic RF-2200; in fact, I own two of them! It is, in my opinion, the best AM/MW portable ever made. 

Post Readers: Any other RF-2200 and DR22 owners out there? Can anyone explain why the DR22 labels shortwave bands as “KW1 – KW6”–?  Please comment!


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Restoration of a USN version of the ARC-5 command set receiver

(Source: Southgate ARC)

Gregory Charvat N8ZRY writes on Hackaday about an un-modified-since-WW2 surplus CBY-46104 receiver with dynamotor.

He writes:

I’ve been told all my life about old-timey Army/Navy surplus stores where you could buy buckets of FT-243 crystals, radio gear, gas masks, and even a Jeep boxed-up in a big wooden crate. Sadly this is no longer the case.

Today surplus stores only have contemporary Chinese-made boots, camping gear, and flashlights. They are bitterly disappointing except for one surplus store that I found while on vacation in the Adirondacks: Patriot of Lake George.

Read the full story at
https://hackaday.com/2019/12/12/wwii-aircraft-radio-roars-to-life-what-it-takes-to-restore-a-piece-of-history/

Video

Video description: Repair and restoration of a USN version of an ARC-5 command set receiver. This model covers 1.5-3 Mc, runs off its original dynamotor, with no internal circuit modifications. This radio is original with the exception of a small number of caps that tested bad which were re-stuffed. Build date is Feb. 42, who knows where and what this radio may have been involved in?

I’ve always wanted a functioning ARC-5 command set to accompany my BC-348-Q receiver. This article has inspired me.

Post readers: Anyone own a functioning ARC-5 (or any variants)? Please comment!

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Video: Tube radio transmitter designs from the 1920s

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Evans (W4/VP9KF), who shares the following article from Hackaday:

The origin of the term “breadboard” comes from an amusing past when wooden bread boards were swiped from kitchens and used as a canvas for radio hobbyists to roll homemade capacitors, inductors, and switches. At a period when commercial electronic components were limited, anything within reach was fair game.

[Andy Flowers], call sign K0SM, recently recreated some early transmitters using the same resources and techniques from the 1920s for the Bruce Kelley 1929 QSO Party. The style of the transmitters are based on [Ralph Hartley]’s oscillator circuit built for Bell Telephone in 1915. Most of the components he uses are from the time period, and one of the tubes he uses is even one of four tubes from the first Transatlantic contact in 1923.[…]

Click here to continue reading at Hackaday.

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A photo tour of the 2019 Shelby Hamfest

My Labor Day weekend was free of travel this year, so I was able to make another pilgrimage to the Shelby (North Carolina) hamfest with my good buddy, Vlado (N3CZ).

The Shelby Hamfest–referred to, locally, as “The Grand-Daddy of them All”–has long been regarded as one of the largest outdoor hamfests in the southeast US. This is the fourth year I’ve made a concerted effort to publish a photo tour of the event.

Weather was ideal for the hamfest–clear skies, sunshine and a dry weekend. No doubt, this was one of the reasons I believe the hamfest was well attended.

Shelby Photo Gallery

Click on the thumbnails below to enlarge or comment on the photos:

Note that if you’re viewing this post via our email newsletter, the embedded gallery (above) might not be viewable. Click here to view via web browser.


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SAQ receives 438 listener reports

Grimeton VLF mast

(Source: Southgate ARC)

Alexanderson Alternator station SAQ says it received 438 listener reports — ‘an incredible amount’ — for its June 30 Alexanderson Day transmissions from Sweden including 8 ‘super’ DX reports, five from the USA and three from Canada.

The historic electro-mechanical transmitter, which dates back to the 1920s, is fired up periodically throughout the year on 17.2 kHz.

“We are very thankful for all your enthusiastic and positive feedback, with images, recordings, videos, and even Morse ink writer strips,” SAQ said.

The station is a World Heritage Site in Grimeton, Sweden and SAQ’s June 30 message commemorated the 100th anniversary of the first east-to-west transatlantic voice transmission from the Marconi station in Ireland to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

SAQ has posted an interactive map showing the locations of all received listener reports from recent transmissions and video of the Alexanderson Day transmission event has been posted to its YouTube channel.

https://www.youtube.com/user/AlexanderSAQ/videos

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Classic portables onboard a 1919 Great Lakes tugboat

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Phil Ewing, who writes:

I know you’re always on the lookout for trips and visits so I thought of you when we were up in Wisconsin last week. There’s a maritime museum up in Sturgeon Bay, on the peninsula, that includes a 100 year-old tug. You can go aboard and climb all up and down…and they’ve got some great radios in the crew cabins as part of the displays of what life was like back when the ship was working.

There were a number of standard but interesting normal transistors but what really caught my eye were the Hallicrafters World Wave in the pilothouse and a fantastic pair of Trans-Oceanics in the cabins of the chief engineer and the captain.

The purpose of the visit really isn’t the radios — it’s about the working life of the Great Lakes and an old ship — so discovering them was a fantastic lagniappe.

[T]he appeal of shortwave in these circumstances is clear: Imagine you’re in the middle of Lake Superior towing a barge full of logs to be pulped, or some other unglamorous but essential Great Lakes cargo — maybe a barge full of big rocks to build a breakwater in, say, Sheboygan — and you come off watch in the middle of the night. Life on a ship can be deadly monotonous and deeply lonely but then picture yourself tuning in to the international band on your luxurious Zenith set … not bad since the iPad won’t be invented for another 40 or so years.

These pix also depict the engine order telegraph, which the captain in the pilothouse used to signal commands to the engine room. There was one for each of the two main engines, and duplicates in the pilothouse.

The captain moves the handle so that it indicates the speed he wants (e.g., Ahead Full) and the bottom needle on the telegraph in the engine room moves, ringing a bell. This is why an engineer might report he was ready to sail by saying he was standing by to “answer bells.” The engineers would select the speed on the engines and then move their own handle on their own telegraph to correspond with the captain’s order, signaling to the pilothouse they’d completed the instruction.

The engines are the white things pictured behind the telegraph and on which was stamped the brass plate also photographed here. The diesel engines were made by the Electro Motive Division of GM and replaced this ship’s original steam propulsion system. EMD is most famous for its pioneering and legendary freight locomotives, which led the way in “dieselization” after WWII in converting many railroads from their romantic but much less efficient and much dirtier steam power. But the company also made marine diesel engines as evidenced here and these served this ship for another three decades or so — just think about that. There also are still EMD GP30 locomotives from the 1960s still in service in some places in the U.S., according to what I read in this month’s Trains magazine.


Fascinating, Phil––what terrific vintage kit! Thanks for sharing those wonderful photos and descriptions with us. 

Yes, I can imagine SWLing would have been a vital entertainment outlet for those on working ships in the Great Lakes. No doubt they had access to a number of strong mediumwave stations on the coast, as well. What a way to while away the off-hours.

Click here to follow @PhilEwing on Twitter.

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Bill’s NJARC swap meet deal and some tailgate photos

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Hemphill (WD9EQD), who writes:

This morning (Saturday July 20), I went to the New Jersey Antique Radio Club (NJARC) Summer Swap Meet.

They typically hold three Swap Meets each year at various locations This time it was at the InfoAge Science

History Learning Center in Wall, NJ. The InfoAge Center has many exhibits including:

  • InfoAge Space Exploration Center
  • World War II Radar
  • Marconi Wireless Room
  • Radio and Television Museum
  • Vintage Computers
  • plus much more

Check out this link.

If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit to it.

The Swap Meet was held outdoors and it was a hot humid morning – 80 degrees at 6 am with 90 percent humidity. By 9 am it was 90 degrees. But it was worth the hour trip.

I acquired one new radio – the Nova-Tech Pilot II Direction Finding 4 Band transistor radio. It’s in great condition and is working. It’s an interesting radio.

The four bands are Beacon (190-400 kHz), Broadcast (550-1600 kHz), Marine (1.6-4.5 MHz) and VHF (108-136 MHz).

There is a rotatable antenna on the top that is used to get your bearing. The top of the radio has the Bearing in degrees. It includes Squelch and DF Level controls; both can be switched off. The DF Level is the RF Gain and I read somewhere that when it is activated the AGC is switched off.

I was very fortunate in that the radio came with the three telescoping antennas – all in perfect condition. It also included the original AC Power Adapter.

All for only $25. A great bargain.

The radio seems very sensitive on the Broadcast Band.

I tuned it to my standard test weak station – WALK, 1370, in Patchogue, NY. This station is a 500 watt repeater station to WHLI, 1100 in Hamstead, NY. With most of my radios, I can barely hear a station in the noise. The exception is the Panasonic RF-2200 which can pick it up the best. The Pilot II could pick up a readable signal of WALK.

Very impressive.

Below are some photos of the radio.

Bill also included the following photos from the New Jersey Antique Radio Club (NJARC) swap meet:

Thanks for sharing this, Bill! No doubt, you snagged a fantastic deal on the Nova Tech Pilot II. My dear friend Michael Pool (who passed away earlier this year) acquired one and loved it. Here’s a link to his guest post about this cool DF receiver.

Thanks for sharing the photos and links to the NJARC swap meet. Looks like an event I’d certainly love to attend!

Post readers: Have you attended any swap meets recently?  Any good finds?  Please comment!


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