Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dean Bianco, who kindly allowed me to share his note which accompanies the photo above:
Me and my then brand-new JRC-NRD-515 in 1985.
Thirty-five years later in 2020, it is still with me. It works today as it did when it was first taken out of its box! This fact is a testament to the 515’s precision engineering, high-quality components, and tank tough build! The only trouble in these 35 years was the gummy 2.4 kHz mechanical filter issue that all 515’s eventually suffer. However, that was an easy fix and other than de-oxit every five years in the controls, and dusting the interconnect circuit wire RCA plugs, it performs flawlessly. It was used two hours ago.
I have an advanced SDR stand-alone, the astounding Icom R-8600 that has better sound, better specs, and more facilities to peak and tweak a flea-powered signal out of a huge pile of powerhouse flamethrowers than does the old 515. But, when I want to experience the old-school large knobs, the large tuning wheel and the sheer enjoyment that only an old heavy metal radio can provide, I turn to the classic NRD-515!
I don’t blame you, Dean. I have never owned an NRD-515, but I have always admired its design and layout. It has such an all-business, military/rugged look. One thing I really love about the NRD-515 is how the RF and AF gain pots flank either side of the main encoder. The controls spacing is also ideal, in my book. Check out the following photo I took of Dan Robinson’s NRD-515:
In the meantime, many thanks to Fabien who writes:
I’ve been a radio listener since the age of 14. I was an SWL and a listener of local VHF free stations too.
In the beginning, my receiver was a poor radio-cassette, with a little segment of the shortwave bands. I used it for two years.
Then, for 16th birthday I received a Philips AL 990 shortwave receiver.
It was a great receiver because the sound was clear and it was easy to identify the stations when listening with my usual headphones–even those broadcasts with very weak signals and an unidentified language. The negative of this receiver was the frequency was not easy to see/read and I was at the same display for hours.
After my school period, I worked for two years and with my savings I was able to buy a JRC NRD 525 in Swizterland, where this receiver was less expensive and easier to find than in my country of France at the time.
The Japan Radio Company NRD 525 receiver. Photo: Universal Radio
The good with the NRD 525 is that it was easy to tune to a frequency, easy to read the display and easy to connect the receiver to another unit for decoding RTTY signals with an old computer monitor and a small EPSON dot printer.
I was in paradise!
But the NRD 525 has a problem with its sound. Even with my best headphones, I was not able to understand the station voices when the signal was poor and the language was not mine, so it was difficult to have sufficient details to make a good reception report for sending it proudly to the logged radio station.
My solution was strange but the only one possible : I searched for rare signals with the NRD 525 and after I found them, listened to those signals with the AL 990 and my headphones.
With this solution, I was able to send a lot a reception reports and receive some beautiful QSLs from official, pirate and clandestine stations (clandestines were my favorites).
This SWL period was until 1988. In 1988 I was obliged to move from my city to a new location where it was more difficult to be a SWL. The following years, I was more a BCL (Broadcast Listener) than an SWL.
I did BCL DX until 1999, and after 1999 most of my radio listening time was only BCL easy listening, without looking for weak signals.
Because of the Internet, online SDRs, and the closing down of a lot of broadcasters, I’m less interested in contact stations directly, save from time to time. For me, the chase of weak signals was the most important part; now we can listen to a station via the Internet (online on a website or with a SDR online)…even the pirates stations.
My actual interest today is to have all of the receivers I was dreamed about when I was a teenager. In 2020, at 53 years old, I am now more a collector of receivers than a real BCL. I like all electronics, including many hifi systems/components and radio items.
I also love black and white film photography/laboratory too and I collect stickers from French radio stations.
Here are two pictures of part of my actual listening post. On one, you could see a model boat of the famous offshore radio station ” Radio Caroline “.
My favorite shortwave receivers are the Drake R8-E (European version of the R8), the BEARCAT DX-1000 and the Yaesu FRG-7.
My favorite receiver for synchronous detection reception is the SONY ICF-2001D (the European version of the ICF 2010).
To receive mediumwave stations, I prefer my JRC NRD 515 connected with an Australian active loop antenna.
For travel, I use a small Lowe HF 150.
For VHF FM-commercial band, I use my Grundig Satellit 500 and a Sony ICF 6800W.
Some of my best souvenirs/memories of SW reception are Radio La Voz de Alpha 66 (USA), Radio Venceremos (El Salvador), Radio Botswana, Radio Bardaï (Tchad or Libia), Radio RFO Tahiti, and Radio Bandeirantes (Brasil).
My regrets from the years 1981-1988 are not being able to receive the signal of Radio BHUTAN and the signal from The Faklands Islands.
I don’t like to travel outside my beloved country, but for the pleasure of visiting some radio stations, I made an effort and I traveled to Phnom Penh (Cambodia), La Habana (Cuba), San Salvador (El Salvador) and Ciudad Guatemala (Guatemala).
Fabien SERVE, in France
Thank you, Fabien, for sharing your story! You’ve added some truly classic receivers to your collection over the years! I love the Radio Caroline model too!
I encourage other SWLing Post readers and contributors to submit their own listener post! Tell us how you became interested in radio!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares the following guest post:
ICOM’s IC-R8600: Can this mega-radio stay in the ring with big gun “legacy” receivers when it comes to shortwave band reception?
by Dan Robinson
When ICOM rolled out its new wideband receiver, the IC-R8600, I immediately took an interest in it. I have been primarily a hardcore DX’er and SWL and avoided purchasing wideband receivers, including the predecessor IC-R8500, because they were limited in areas such as selectivity.
My experience with ICOM includes owning a IC-R71A and R72, both of which I found to be strong performers, as well as a IC-R75. The R75 as everyone knows established a reputation as an excellent receiver that delivered bang for the buck, including for example 1hz readout and extreme stability.
In its design decisions with the 8600, ICOM clearly intended to hit it out of the park, taking a huge step from the 8500. That can be seen in the amazing color 4.3 inch LCD display with fairly fast spectrum scope and waterfall displays, coverage from 10 kHz to 3 gHz, decoding capability in multiple protocols, (Baudot RTTY, D-STAR™, NXDN™, dPMR™, DCR (Digital Communication Radio) and APCO P25, and the combination of SDR and superheterodyne circuitry, with 2000 memories.
The new Icom IC-8600 at the 2017 Hamvention
At this point, there have been numerous reviews of the 8600, and videos are all over YouTube showing the basics of its operation and features. It has numerous flexibilities selected from the front panel and within the menu system. The ability to record directly to SDHC cards eliminates the need to attach an external solid state recorder (over the course of my DX career I accumulated many of these). I can’t say enough about this capability which automatically keeps fully labeled logs.
Other features include ICOM’s wonderful Twin Passband Tuning, combined with the ability to adjust filters 1/2/3, adjustable attenuation, Digital AFC, tone controls, noise blanker digital noise reduction, speech enunciator, main tuning dial tension adjustment, synchronous L/U/Double sideband, adjustable panel brightness . . . in short, just about everything one would think should be included in a 21st century receiver of this kind, ICOM put in the 8600. The firmware update released recently (1.30) added the capability to use the radio’s IQ output with HDSDR software, which means that the receiver is now not only a standalone but also functions easily with a PC.
Since the 8600 has been on the market for some time now, I discussed with Thomas Witherspoon of SWLing Post, the idea of obtaining an 8600 for the specific purpose of comparing it to some of the top receivers in my collection.
At the current time, that list includes a JRC NRD-545, the Drake R-8 (original version purchased in 1993), JRC NRD-515, Watkins Johnson 8718A/MFP, Cubic R-2411, and a McKay Dymek DR-33C. All of the radios in my shack use a Wellbrook 1530 loop, fed through a RF Systems DA-8 Distributor/Amplifier which maintains signal levels from all outputs.
Watkins Johnson 8718A/MFP
A surprising outcome of my comparisons of the 8600 to these radios is that my appreciation of the qualities of these older receivers was actually re-ignited–so much so that some that had been on my ‘to sell’ list are now back in the ‘keepers’ column. This is not as much a criticism of the 8600, as it is a reaffirmation of the quality that was built in to some of the great receivers of yesteryear.
Because my collection actually extends across 2 or 3 rooms, moving the 8600 away from my central receiver “stack” was not possible, so testing comparisons were limited to the sets mentioned above. I would have liked to compare the 8600 with, for example, some classic tube receivers (HQ-180A, Eddystone 830/7), but they have been mostly inactive and located away from incoming antenna inputs.
Here in Potomac, MD outside of Washington, DC, the addition of the Wellbrook a few years ago, after years suffering with long wires, fundamentally changed a difficult situation. Signals were boosted, noise reduced. I wish things had continued this way. Unfortunately about a year ago, my area began to be plagued by a troubling ignition-type buzz, source unknown, targeting 11,500 to 12,100 khz though noticed elsewhere in the shortwave bands. It has continued, usually worse in summer than in winter.
I begin with this to underscore what I noticed as a high point for the 8600: its Noise Blanker and digital noise reduction are in my opinion quite effective, so much so that when properly adjusted, they can eliminate troublesome ignition-type noise. While NR is useful, as noted in other reviews it needs to be used carefully so as not to introduce too much digital suppression.
Here is an example of NB and NR in use against severe ignition-type noise at my location:
In August of 2017, I had my first experience tuning a 8600 at a DXpedition in Ohio.
So, I had a basic grasp of the various controls — the A/B/C knobs, and the menu system. When I received my review unit from ICOM last November, I was up and running quickly, but still puzzled over some aspects of the receiver’s operation.
Thanks to Dave Zantow who alerted me to a possible issue involving firmware 1.30 which appeared to introduce an increase in audio harshness (ICOM has been alerted to this). Dave also had suggestions (see his full review of the 8600 and other receivers on his site) about audio adjustment and speakers, and tweaking of the front display to make maximum use of the Peak and Waterfall settings. Dave emphasizes that careful adjustment is required of the 8600’s tone controls and AGC decay settings to get the most out of the receiver.
Because it is among the receivers in my shack in close proximity to the 8600, I chose to perform a number of tests comparing the ICOM to the Japan Radio Company NRD-545. As everyone knows, the 545 was the last in JRC’s prosumer line of receivers. It is feature-rich — JRC threw everything into this receiver. But one issue followed JRC receivers through the 5xxxx series — noisy audio. After finally acquiring a 545 some years ago (a high serial number unit formerly owned by the late Don Jensen) I jumped on that bandwagon of criticisms about the 545’s audio. However, in terms of sensitivity and numerous tools to hear and process signals, the receiver remains among my favorites, and this remains the case after my comparisons with the 8600.
When I compared signals heard by the 8600 with the 545, I found that while the JRC does have that ‘DSP’ sound, it was in many situations actually clearer than the ICOM. That was the case even when following advice on adjusting the 8600’s tone controls and AGC. The following two videos compare the 545 and 8600 on 5,905 khz and 17,655 khz. A third shows the receivers on 6,040 khz demonstrating effectiveness of their notch filtering capabilities:
My next comparison was the Drake R8. Little can be said about the Drake R8xxxx series of receivers that hasn’t been said. That superb Drake audio, established with the R8 and continued through the R8B, puts these receivers at the top of the heap and makes stations stand out. So, it’s little surprise then when compared to the 8600, which is an SDR in the HF range up to 30 mhz or so, the R8 still sounded superior on many, though not all, stations. Use of the SYNC mode (not adjustable on the original R8, but was on the R8A/B) also improves recoverable detail on the Drake.
The following video shows the 8600, 545 and finally the R8 on 5,995 khz (Mali), and the three receivers compared on 9,650 khz (Guinea), and a third comparing the 8600 with the full range of receivers in my main receiver stack, tuned to 9,415 khz which at the time was China Radio International.
Despite what some critics have said, I believe that the 8600’s synchronous detection modes are actually pretty good, helping with fading and stabilizing signals. I think the ICOM’s sync is certainly superior to what I experienced with the IC-R75. I would rate the SYNC on the AOR 7030+ superior to the 8600, with the NRD-545 a bit behind the 8600.
Acquired about 2 years ago, my AOR-7030+ is a late serial number version of this fantastic receiver. If I were to sell every radio in my shack but 5, the 7030 would not leave. Put simply, it is among the top shortwave receivers ever made, with off-the-charts audio, and if one has the rare NB7030 card, amazing notch and other capabilities. Comparing the 7030 to almost any other shortwave receiver ever made is like putting a Ferrari on the track with the competition. The audio, and reception tools are just that good.
At the same time, in the 8600 ICOM has produced a receiver that has as many of the essential tools required to manipulate and clarify signals as exist. The twin passband tuning continues to be superb. Being able to vary bandwidth in conjunction with the PBT, and do so even in SYNC mode, further enhances reception powers. Combine this with the ability to actually see signals on the 8600’s beautiful color LCD — we’re getting pretty close to the ultimate receiver (though I would love for someone to drop the successor to ICOM’s IC-R9500 on my front doorstep).
The following videos compare the 8600 to the same full range of receivers, ending with the Watkins Johnson 8718A/MFP, all tuned to 5,935 khz, followed by a comparison of receivers tuned to 5,000 khz
In the following videos, I compare the 8600 to other receivers 11,810 khz (BBC) which shows
the superb audio of the Drake R8xxxx series, yet the 8600 does quite well, and another video
compares the 8600 with the 545 and R8 tuned to 6,070 khz.
In the months that I have had the 8600, I did some comparisons with other receivers, among them my Watkins Johnson 8718A/MFP, which you saw in several videos. WJs prior to the 8711/HF-1000s were built like boat anchors and are QUIET. WJ, Cubic and similar sets manufactured for government and intelligence agencies, shared superb sensitivity, and most cases, excellent audio.
Comparisons of the 8600 on shortwave frequencies had the so-called Premium radios out front. The ICOM clearly shined when it comes to modern signal processing and adjustment tools such as PBT, Notch, and infinitely variable selectivity.
So, here’s a summary of my impressions after weeks of testing the ICOM IC-R8600 against some of the top gun receivers of yesteryear.
The 8600 scores a 10 on reception tools that are useful — though not crucial in these days of waning shortwave broadcasting activity — in producing and processing listenable audio: Twin PBT, Notch and Auto-Notch, Variable Bandwidths (though limited at the high end to 10 kHz), Pre-Amp and Attenuation, and that beautiful color LCD that allows one to see signals.
Predictably, the 8600 doesn’t blow away premium receivers that were manufactured to pick up the signal equivalent of butterflies and targeted government and spy agencies, and it also does not out-perform a range of other classic receivers whose reputations are well-established.
From a sensitivity and audio perspective, there is no real competition with the Drake R8, which time and time again excels in producing superior easy-to-listen audio. And the same holds for the AOR 7030+.
JRC’s NRD-515 more than holds its own and in many cases exceeds the 8600 in signal sensitivity, and producing listenable audio, despite its selectivity limitations.
The NRD-545 — maligned by critics for its DSP audio, often produced highly-listenable audio even in comparison with the 8600. The ICOM and the 545 share features that provide tremendous flexibility, the tools required to slice and dice signals. If the JRC NRDxxx receivers were the modern equivalent of such boat anchor classics as the Hammarlund HQ-180A, the 8600 is certainly at the top of the heap when it comes to having those same tools in a 21st century receiver.
I performed some additional audio only tests between the 8600 and NRD-545 on several frequencies. In each, I carouseled from wide to narrow on the 8600, and did the same on the NRD-545. Here are the results:
You may have noticed that while on some examples the 8600 appears to sound better, the 545, with DSP technology born in the 1990’s is more than competitive with the ICOM.
In conclusion, with the 8600 we have a receiver that tunes up to 3 gHz, with highly flexible color scope, usable with HDSDR, with every tool imaginable for sifting through signals from 10 kHz up to 30 MHz, which is the area I have focused on for decades.
ICOM’s superb Twin PBT knocks out interference and narrows the heck out of any signal, with highly adjustable notch capabilities, customizable bandwidth functions, and what I consider to be highly effective noise blanking and noise reduction. Add to this 2,000 memory channels, multiple antenna inputs, adjustable attenuation and AGC and you have far more than what is needed given the current state of shortwave broadcasting.
Here’s the tough question: Would I recommend that a shortwave listener focused on what remains of listening in the SW bands purchase a 8600? Or to put it another way: Is the 8600 that much of a better radio in the SW spectrum? The answer has to be no.
Numerous receivers from the classics to even the latest portables with multiple selectivity flexibility (see the XHDATA D-808 or Eton Satellit) work for that. The used market overflows with superb HF communications receivers. Any of the Drake R8xxx series receivers, available on the used market for $400 to $1,000, now constitute overkill when it comes to reception in the MW to 30 mHz range.
But if you can project someday to having the time and patience to apply yourself to what is available above 30 MHz, and have the appropriate antenna(s) for those ranges, then by all means, the 8600 is the radio for you. It is the Babe Ruth’s bat of the receiver world — AND it has numerous flexible tools (though one wishes that ICOM had included DRM capability).
As I finalized this review, I continued to wrestle with the decision of purchasing the 8600 that was so generously provided by ICOM. You won’t read here what my final decision was–but anyone who is interested can contact me in coming days and weeks to learn the answer.
Last minute update Just before this review went to press, I discovered an issue of concern: when the 8600 was left on overnight, or for any period of multiple hours, upon awakening from “sleep” (screen off) mode, nothing but distortion is heard from the speaker. The only solution was to perform a POWER OFF/POWER ON, after which normal audio was heard. This issue was I brought to the attention of ICOM.
I want to thank Ray Novak and Faheem Hussain of ICOM for providing the 8600 used in this comparison, and for their patience as I encountered several delays completing my review and getting to print. And thanks to Thomas Witherspoon without whose initial encouragement, this review would not have been possible.
Dan, thank you for an amazing IC-R8600 review and comparison with your benchmark commercial grade receivers! Thanks for taking the time to make thorough comparison video and audio recordings. Your guest posts are always most welcome on the SWLing Post!
Earlier this year–the day before the 2017 Winter SWL Fest, in fact–Dan Robinson and I joined forces at the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade, Maryland, and following a brilliant Thai lunch, visited Dan’s place, where I surveyed his stunning receiver collection, several of which represent the Holy Grail of the receiver world.
I thought you’d like a sneak peek at Dan’s stunning receiver line up, too––and just to sweeten the viewing, Dan has kindly written an introduction for each.
This is a real treat for us at the SWLing Post. Thank you so much, Dan, for sharing!
And now, here’s Dan:
A tour of my radio collection
by Dan Robinson
As most readers of SWLing Post probably know by now, I have had a lifelong love affair with radios (as many of us have had). My collection of receivers has changed through the years, with some exceptions being radios that have stayed with me for decades and which Tom was able to photograph during his visit to my home in Potomac, MD.
Since I began my DXing/SWL career in the late 1960’s I ramped up my collection from the simplest of radios to what I have now, a combination of remaining boat anchors together with some of the rarest and most sophisticated receivers on the planet. Some years ago, I made a brief foray into SDRs, but for me the thrill has always been in tuning actual radios and not spending additional hours sitting at a computer.
Though I actually do remember my very first shortwave receiver — a very basic Toshiba portable — a Pilot T-133, from the year 1942 served as my main receiver for quite a few years from the late 1960’s to early 1970. I remember the day my father found this beauty in the basement of my grandmother’s house in the Bronx. He brought it home, strung up one of those Radio Shack copper SWL antennas in the attic and I was off to the races, and addicted. Often pulling 24 hour listening sessions on weekends, I would sit with my ear to the speaker of the T-133, and had a Wollensak reel-to-reel to record my earliest DX catches. My favorite, as it was for so many of us, was Radio Tahiti and Radio New Zealand which boomed out of the large speaker on the Pilot T-133. As you can see, i made a point of keeping the Pilot, with its tuning eye and slide rule dial, with me all these years and it now occupies a place of honor on a shelf in my den.
As Tom found out, my house has a number of radios scattered around, and one of them is the ICF-PRO80 by SONY. I took an interest in these wonders of technology late in my DX career. The PRO-80, like so many other SONY portables, is a technology showpiece, with its HF, AM, FM and VHF coverage. It has narrow and wide AM modes, SSB with a tine tuning control, and is quite complex to operate. Beware that PRO-80’s, like the AIR-7 and AIR-8 which have limited shortwave spectrum coverage, suffer from small component failure after so many years and though there are a couple of individuals who fix these radios, you’re taking a chance and you need to ask thorough questions of any seller.
Watkins Johnson 8718A/MFP
In the late 1990’s into 2000, I acquired a receiver I had always wanted, the Watkins Johnson 8718A. Actually, my first two of these radios I obtained while working overseas as a news correspondent for VOA in Thailand. They were being cleared out in a government auction, and I drove a few hours outside of Bangkok to get them at the VOA relay station. These are beautiful receivers, but they were surpassed by the 8718A/MFP which I obtained in an auction when back in the U.S. At one point, I had two of these babies, but now have kept one, which has the preselector option installed, and the rare 1hz readout with ISB capability. I rank these receivers in the top 10 of all I have ever used. They are super quiet, and you can really tell the difference between one of these pre-DSP radios and the later WJ HF-1000 and 8711/A.
Two radios I have always ignored were the Kenwood R-2000 and R-1000. I have both of them now and enjoy their superb audio and straightforward operation. The R-1000 especially is a joy to use — and truth be told, I don’t hear a lot on my multi-kilobuck receivers that can’t also be heard on one of these Kenwoods. For those of you interested, the two solid state recorders in the photo (above) are the Zoom H4n and the SONY PCM-D50.
Those who attended the last SWL Fest in Pennsylvania had the rare opportunity to use one of the rarest receivers on the planet. We’re talking about the JRC NRD-630. This was the last marine/commercial HF receiver manufactured by Japan Radio Company. No one knows how many were actually made, but one thing is certain — they are almost never seen on the used market. This one has a bit of history — it was manufactured in 2012 and re-certified by JRC in 2017. Again, a long story, but when I got it it still had the thin plastic protective strip across the large beautiful LED readout window. It was basically new. I still intend to do a comparison of the NRD-630 with the NRD-301A, one of which I also have. The difference between the 301A/302 series and the 630 is that the previous series were pre-DSP, while the 630 was DSP, though with regular filtering. The 630 adds a keypad, and ISB and some other features.
McKay Dymek DR-33C6
McKay Dymek DR-33C6 (Top) above JRC NRD-630
Much has been written about the series of radios manufactured by McKay Dymek, so go to eHamnet and other online sources for the background of the company. I had always been curious about these receivers, and had my first opportunity to use one about 15 years ago. Unfortunately, that receiver had a tough life and my antenna situation was not great. A few years ago, a seller in Texas put a DR33C6 on Ebay — it was clear that it had been basically used once and stored in a closet. When it arrived here, I was floored — it was in perfect cosmetic and operating condition, with its beautiful wood panels and shiny front metal panel.
Dan’s McKay Dymek DR-33C6 at the 2016 Winter SWL Fest Hospitality/Listening Room
McKay Dymeks are for those who already know what frequencies they’re tuning. It’s quite a bit of fun, but more importantly, these receivers are under-appreciated: they are among the most sensitive radios ever made. And they look marvelous as part of a home audio system.
What can one say about the 515 that hasn’t been said? Built like a battleship, this was the top of the line JRC consumer receiver (they also made a transmitter) separate from their pro marine/commercial radios. Like most of my receivers, this 515 is in near 10.0 cosmetic condition, along with the matching speaker. At the time the 515 came out it was among the only receivers that offered boatanchor-level flexibilities in a solid state rig (my favorite comparison was to the Hammarlund HQ-180/A). Though prices for 515s have experienced a sharp drop, they still bring fairly high prices on the used market and are cherished by those who know how good they are.
One of the highest-rated receivers of all time, the same kind of superlatives apply for the R7A as to the NRD-515. The R7/A was a technological masterpiece by R.L. Drake. With its multiple filter selectivity, notch filter, and superb Drake passband tuning, the R7/A is able to pull anything out of the mud. I recently sold one of my remaining R7As, leaving this one, with a high serial number in the 3700 range. I use it with a RV-75 external VFO which helps with tuning and stability. The R7/A is on my list of the top five best receivers ever made.
It was about 1980 or so when looking through the for sale section of the Washington Post I noticed a small ad. It said “Hammarlund Receiver with box”. When I arrived at the seller’s house in Virginia, I could hardly believe what I saw — it was this HQ-180AX, with its original box. The radio was basically new, and even today looks that way. This was the X version of the famed HQ-180/A, a fixed crystal unit in place of the clock that is usually seen on 180s. HQ-180s became my receiver of choice when I graduated from that old Pilot T-133 from the very early years of my DXing career. HQ-180s took me from the 100 country level through the 200 country heard level. There are many out there who swear by R-390s and Hallicrafters, but for me the favorite boatanchor of all time will forever be the HQ-180. Just to the right of this 180AX (but not pictured) is my other 180A, which is modified with LED readout through the front panel.
One of the books I used to read in the earliest days of my DX career was one produced by a well-known Scandinavian DX’er and in it, was a photo of an Eddystone 830/7. Decades later, I had an opportunity to purchase this museum-quality 830/7 from a seller in the UK. What a beauty, with an amazing front slide rule dial and silky smooth tuning and bandspread. The radio is deceptive — it looks smaller than a Hammarlund, but actually weighs more than a HQ-180.
Another radio that I ignored for much of my listening career was the famous 6800W by SONY. When I finally got my hands on one of these, I understood why it has such a good reputation. Simply, this is one of the most sensitive receivers ever made. It has its quirks, and if it needs repair, you had better be able to do it yourself, because there is perhaps ONE place in this country that will even touch them. But the rewards of using the 6800W are many.
Though I have two of JRC’s top marine receivers, the 301A and 630, a few years ago I feel in love with the looks and performance of the previous series JRC marine receiver, the NRD-93. What can you say about this baby . . . with its PBS and BFO fine tuning controls, beautiful large front LED panel, multiple onboard memories supplemented by the separate NDH-93 memory unit. Operating these JRC marine receivers is an experience everyone should have at least once. NRD-93s, along with NRD-92s, have become fairly plentiful on the used market. If you are looking for one, ask a lot of questions about condition and prior service. Those that saw heavy use on marine vessels often suffer from salt air corrosion and other issues. The beautiful original JRC toggles often need to replaced as they lose contact over the years.
UHER 4400 Report Monitor
When I was a correspondent in Africa in the 1980’s, there were — believe it or not — still BBC correspondents and other radio journalists who still used the Uher portable reel-to-reel recorders as their main portable production tool. I got this particular 4400 in new condition, and later added a new from old stock leather case, made for it.
The Allied Model 2682 was the second or third radio I ever used. I didn’t realize at the time how simple and under-equipped it was. It had only a basic slide rule tuning system and a fine tuning control. The radio was recognizable for its twin rabbit ear antennas. This 2682 I found on Ebay, new in box, and I recently sold it. These receivers, like other Allied and Radio Shack models we all remember from the 70’s, are beautiful examples of some of the Made in Japan designs from that period.
This receiver was purchased new and owned by the late great DX’er Don Jensen, so it has that bit of history attached to it. I began my love affair with JRC receivers when I used a NRD-525 in the 1980’s. As everyone knows, the “545” was the last prosumer set made by JRC. It’s one hell of a performer, with DSP filtering, that big beautiful display, and superb sensitivity. The radio still sparks debate, with some faulting it for high DSP noise. This 545 is loaded, with the CHE-199 module and high stability crystal. I also have a brand new top cabinet for the radio, obtained from JRC some years ago, and replacement key caps for the keypad digits. I recently remarked that a 545 held up quite well, in a comparison that is viewable on You Tube, with the brand new ICOM IC-R8600.
Thanks again, Dan, for taking the time to share a little about each of these amazing receivers and how many came to be in your collection.
In truth, readers, I’m sure there were many more radios I overlooked and (I’m certain!) Dan has acquired others since my visit.
The one thing I learned about my buddy Dan is that when he takes a radio into his collection, he’s a proper custodian of these beauties. He keeps each radio in excellent working order, proper cosmetic shape and, most importantly, puts them on the air!
“I have continued to run A/B comparisons between my CR-1a and an NRD-515. Digital to Analog competition.
My NRD-515 has been a station favorite for many years. I find the two radios are pretty much equal in terms of performance. Sensitivity between the two are even. The wide range of BW filter options on the CR-1a are a real plus. My 515 has the stock 2.4 mechanical and the 500 hz cw filter.
The CR-1a with the portability, long battery life and internal speaker makes this one awesome receiver. I plan to use this radio when camping and recharging via a small solar panel should be a snap. A small QRP transmitter with T/R switching is the works.
I was really blown away by receiving an email from the president of Comm Radio concerning feedback I left on their website.
Big performance in a small package. 5/5+”
Thanks for your comment, Ray! Wow–The JRC NRD-515 is a classic. It’s great to hear that the CommRadio CR-1a stacks up so well against this benchmark.
Like you, I love the portability of the CR-1/CR-1a line. The internal battery powers it for hours at a time. I’ve hinted to CommRadio that they should design a small companion transmitter for portable QRP–link the two together and that would be one cool piece of kit!
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