Category Archives: Vintage Radio

Radio life after death

A guest post by Troy Riedel:


This is a sad story.  Well, it’s sad for me.  But hopefully my sad story will yield “radio life” for somebody else and that life will bring them joy.

I’ve been an SWL’er since the early-90s.  Due to the decline of international broadcasters, “collecting” has become just as – if not more – important to me than listening.  I’ve always been fond of the Sony ICF-SW100 pocket radio.  I often read here on this blog about Thomas’ affection for it.  To make my dream a reality, on 19 November 2017 I found the perfect SW100 (with the leather case) and I purchased it.  It did not disappoint!  That radio has to be the most sensitive radio for its size out there.  No, correction – that little baby has held its own against any other portable shortwave radio (of any size) that I own (I have 17 or 18, incl. this SW100).  That’s quite amazing for a true pocket radio.

But please allow me go back to the beginning of my story.  Once I acquired the ICF-SW100, I assembled a “kit” … piece-by-piece (remember, I’m a collector).

I surmised that the SW100 would fit into the Sony ICF-SW1 case – and I was correct (sans the SW100’s leather case).  The SW1 case was one of my first purchases for my SW100 as I wanted something rugged to protect it.

The Sony AN-1 antenna works great with the SW100, and that was part of my kit.  Of course, I also wanted the OEM Sony Compact Reel Antenna.  “Check” – found one on eBay!  The OEM AC adapter? Yes, “check” that one off the list.  A photocopy of the OEM manual would not do – I found an original on eBay and “check”, that was added to the kit.

I already owned a Sony AN-LP1 (active) antenna.  That would not fit into the case, so I added a TG34 active antenna that I already owned (that’s a Degen 31MS clone).  Why?  I gotta have a ready passive antenna in my kit.

Wait, who wants a 30+ year old OEM set of earbuds?  Exactly, neither do I.  This is the only thing I did not want to be OEM!  I bought a new pair of Sony earbuds (off Amazon) to throw into the kit.  Other than the TG34, everything in the kit had to be Sony.  In the end, this handy little case was my Eutopia – it had everything I needed in its own “shortwave bugout kit”.

Of all of the radios in my shortwave arsenal, this was by far my favorite.  Hobbies should bring us joy.  So even if there weren’t many broadcasters to listen to, this little pocket radio never failed to bring me joy.

The last time I really used this radio was June-August 2020.  My newborn grandson was in the NICU far from my son’s home.  I “deployed” (with my SW100 bugout kit & 5th wheel camper) to my son’s very rural & very remote farm (275-miles from my home).  I was there to tend the farm, solo, for that period of time while my son and his family could be with my grandson at a specialty hospital some 350-miles away.  During this stressful & physically demanding time – tending to more farm animals than I care to mention and rustling bulls that escaped from the pasture – my SW100 was the only friend that I had.  It provided many, many hours of enjoyment.  Literally, other than a neighbor about ¾ of a mile up the road my ICF-SW100 and I were alone (not including the 50+ animals I tended to) from June through August.

Fast-forward to the present: last weekend I reached for my kit and I removed the my SW100.  I turned it on and there was no power.  Not surprising but actually very unusual as my NiMH Eneloop batteries typically last for a year or more inside my radios in “storage”.  I reached for the battery compartment, I felt an anomaly on the backside of the case and imagine my horror seeing this as I turned it over!

Surprisingly, there is zero damage to the Eneloop batteries (they did not leak).  I can no longer power the radio via ANY batteries, but amazingly the radio seems to operate at full capacity via AC Adapter.  Whatever happened inside the radio, it still seems to operate (though admittedly I haven’t taken it through all of its usual paces).

Unfortunately, a pocket radio that only operates via AC power does not suit me.  There is a better option: my loss may be someone else’s gain?  I am sending the radio and the necessary components to Thomas’s friend Vlado for a full autopsy (Vlado emailed that he has worked on these radios for years and has “never” seen this issue before).  After the autopsy, my radio will become an organ donor.  The remaining healthy components of this radio – and there are many – will be used for repairing other SW100s (singular or plural).

Strangely, I cannot detect any other “trauma” to the radio other than that one melted corner.  The battery compartment *seems* undamaged though I refuse to open the case as I do not want to accidentally damage the radio’s healthy components (I’ll let the professional “coroner” do that).  I am looking forward to the coroner’s report because I need to know what the heck happened to my baby?!

In closing, though we’ve only had a 3-year plus relationship I can honestly say this amazing little pocket radio had become a great friend.  I’m sure it’s grief, but I am considering liquidating the remainder of my radio & antenna collection – my heart just isn’t “in” to SWL at the moment.  And the timing of this is just awful for me: I’m having surgery Tuesday for an injury I incurred eight months ago while tending my son’s farm.  I had big plans that my SW100 and I would pass the time while I convalesce.  But alas, my buddy will be headed to radio heaven as an organ donor.  May others benefit from my loss.

Guest Post by Troy Riedel

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Replacing the keypad on my Drake SW8

In 2019, I made an impulse purchase: a Drake SW8 tabletop receiver. As I mentioned previously, I’d always wanted an SW8. My buddy, David Goren, recommended this receiver ages ago, Each time I’ve stayed at his home in Flat Bush, he magically made an SW8 available as my bedside radio in the guest room. (That’s hospitality!)

After receiving my SW8 and putting it on the air, I realized it suffered from a common problem found in Drake receivers: a flaky keypad. Several of the buttons didn’t work reliably, or they made multiple contacts on each push, or they didn’t work at all.

What happens is, over time, the black carbon dot on the back of each pad on the rubber membrane simply wears out and no longer makes reliable contact. I believe a number of Drake receivers of the era used the same keypad style (though configured differently).

The seller didn’t realize this when he sold it to me and, frankly, I felt I got a pretty good deal regardless, so never bothered him about it.

A couple months later, I found out that Universal Radio uncovered a box of new old stock SW8 replacement keyboards, so I ordered one.

2020 got a little out of hand and I put off making the repair. I didn’t want to trouble my buddy, Vlado, who could have done this in his sleep. I knew I could handle a parts replacement as long as I didn’t need to de-solder the keypad from a circuit board (as one does with the SW2, I understand).

Tuesday, I cleaned off one of my radio shelves and found the replacement keypad. I looked at the SW8 and knew it was time to get’er done!

I first removed the encoder, volume, and tone knobs.

Next, I removed the top cover which is attached with five screws.

There are a number of multi-pin plugs that attach the front faceplate section to the main body of the radio.

I carefully removed all of them and noted their positions (taking photos at each stage really helps).

I quickly discovered that the keypad was under at least two more board layers.

I removed the main board which is held in place with three screws, then the board underneath which is also held in place with three screws.

To my surprise, the keypad, circuit board and two metal plates (in that order) are held in place with compression from the last board layer.

The keypad, circuit board and metal plates fell out quite easily.

While I had everything apart, I cleaned the inside. At some point, a wee bit of moisture must have accumulated near the bottom of the keypad. I’m guessing this was condensation, because it was so minimal and so localized.

I replaced out the old keypad with the new one. Should you ever do this procedure, take note that the keypad has holes that line up with dimples on the back of the SW8 face place–the keypad circuit board also has holes that line up with dimples on the back of the rubber keypad. Lining these up will insure a correct fit.

I then re-assembled the faceplate boards and reconnected it to the body of the radio. Unfortunately, one can’t really test to see if the replacement works until all of the boards have been re-connected and re-assembled–a good 10-15 minute process.

I tested the keypad and quickly discovered that number 9 and the bottom row of buttons were still a little flaky. After a little head scratching, it then dawned on me (after pulling the radio apart and reassembling it twice more!) that maybe part of the problem was left-over carbon/dust on the keypad circuit board.

I disassembled the radio again and carefully cleaned the keypad circuit board with some DeOxit (a radio enthusiast’s best friend).

Through a closer inspection of the board, I could see that some of the traces on the bottom of the board had corrosion. That really worried me because I’m not entirely sure how I could mend traces. I tested continuity, however, and they all passed.

I reassembled the SW8 for the fourth or fifth time, tested it, and the keypad performed perfectly!  Woo hoo!

Not only am I incredibly pleased that I was able to sort this out on my own, but now I can dissemblable and reassemble the SW8 with the speed of an Indy pit crew.

I’m still a little concerned about those traces on the keypad circuit board and the new keypad’s overall longevity, but at least I’ve got the SW8 back in tip-top shape and on the air for now. I’ll explore a work-around if these parts ever fail again.

I do love this receiver and now have it set up in the shack where I can do some proper armchair SWLing.

Do you have an SW8?

I’m curious if any SWLing Post readers have an SW8 and especially if you’ve had to replace your keypad.  Please comment!

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Dan’s thoughts on a Panasonic RF-9000 up for auction

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who writes:

Appearing on the Japanese Buyee website is this RF-9000, which was the “King of Radios” of the heavy multiband “portable” era.

In recent years, RF-9000s in excellent to LNIB condition have sold for $10,000 or more.

A tour d’force of technology in its day, the 9000 featured room-filling main speakers and PLL technology that was advanced for its time.

The shortwave receiver section of the 9000 was plagued by PLL artifacts which prevented the radio from achieving what it could have had this problem not been solved in advance by Panasonic engineers.

A LNIB RF-9000 that I purchased for near $5,000 sold to a Hong Kong collector for $10,000 a few years ago. While I do miss its amazing FM quality and looks, the receiver ultimately lagged behind others, such as the SONY CRF-330K and 320 in performance.

The asking price for this 9000, which appears to have cosmetic issues, is in my view high.

Click here to view the RF-9000 auction.

Thank you for your insights, Dan!

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New lot of radio gear at Schulman Auctions

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi, who writes:

Schulman Auctions scheduled another on-line auction, lots of ham gear and accessories. A few shortwave radios in this auction.

Thanks for the tip, Mario! Looks like the online auction starts in two days (from time of posting). Lots of great gear to browse!

Click here to check out the offerings.

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Mario spots a National Panasonic Cougar 2200 (RF-2200) on eBay

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi, who notes a National Panasonic Cougar RF-2200 that’s currently available on eBay. The Cougar is an Asian version of the venerable Panasonic RF-2200.

This model appears to have an original box in great shape. The price is steep, though at roughly US $563.35 as a Buy It Now listing although it does include free economy shipping from Japan. The seller also notes, “The first stage of the antenna is removed, so it is bonded.” Not exactly sure what that means and am guessing it’s a machine translation from Japanese.

Mario notes that most of the Cougar 2200s he spots on eBay are from sellers in Japan and at a recent auction one fetched $400.

Click here to view on eBay.

Thanks for the tip, Mario!

Curious if any Post readers have the Cougar 2200? I’ve never seen one in real life, but I assume the differences between it and the RF-2200 or DR22 is branding and power cord? Please feel free to comment if you own one.

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Dan’s respect for Hammarlund and the SP-600 series

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, DanH, who shares the following comment in response to this news article from the Citizen Times featured in Radio Waves yesterday:

Here are my thanks to members of the Amateur Radio community and The News-Record & Sentinel for remembering the legacy of Hammarlund Manufacturing Company Incorporated. It is good to know that this part of our radio history is valued and preserved. I loved the newspaper article!

I have a few vintage Hammarlund radios including two Super-Pro models. The SP-600-JX-21 is one of my daily drivers. This relatively late production SP-600 is in stock condition with the exception of a half dozen electrolytic capacitors that I replaced mostly in the power supply. By the time this SP-600 was built in 1957 Hammarlund had replaced the short-lived black beauty electrolytes with ceramic disc capacitors. Like military and industrial users I upgraded the original nickel plated tube shields with IERC heat dissipating tube shields where possible. I also installed vintage GE No. 1847 long-life incandescent bulbs as direct replacements for the brighter (too bright, for me) No. 47 dial lamps.

Here are my two most recent reception videos of the SP-600. The first features reception of Radio National da Amazonia and the second is a brief operating demo of the SP-600. The loudspeaker used in both videos is a full-range vintage Jensen 10? with matching transformer from the 1950’s instead of a communications range speaker typically used with these radios. This makes a big difference when listening to broadcasts.

This old Hammarlund is still working pretty well.

RN da Amazonia

SP-600 operating demo

Wow! Thank you for sharing this, Dan!

I used to own an SP-600 myself and I do miss it. The only reason I sold it is I was struggling to find a spot in my very compact shack where I could keep it on the air as a daily driver, yet still have enough room to bring new radios and accessories into the shack for evaluation. Moving it around all of the time (especially higher on my radio shelves) was incredibly difficult as she’s a hefty girl indeed! I ended up selling the ‘600 to a good friend for a song. That’s okay because like you, I know he’ll keep her in prime operating condition and I can even pop by to visit when I wish! I do miss having the ‘600 in the shack, though. It was truly a champion MW receiver as well!

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