Tag Archives: Mike Schuster

Vlado restores Mike’s vintage Sony CRF-160

Sony CRF-160 Dial

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Schuster, who shares the following guest post:


Vlado works his magic on my Sony CRF-160

by Michael Schuster

Back in the 1970’s my grandfather gifted this solid-state portable to me as it was more than he needed. It was the first “real” radio I can remember owning, and it initiated my habit of scanning the dials into the wee hours of the morning. I began my serious SWLing using this set as it had excellent sensitivity, dual conversion design, big booming audio, and generous bandspread tuning for each major SW broadcast band.

One of the best-known SWL programs at the time was Happy Station on Radio Nederland, and I have distinct memories of listening in our back yard one summer afternoon when the show came up on the African Service over the Madagascar relay. My family was astonished at the program coming from so far away and even more so when Tom Meijer happened to read my letter over the air during the mailbag segment!

Fast forward many years (and two moves) later, it sat on a shelf until, trying it out again, I was dismayed to find both slide rule tuning dials, and the rotary drum band selector, to be frozen in place. And so there it sat until….

In a few online forums I kept hearing about a magician named Vlado at Ham Radio Repair. He specializes in restoring old sets, and has the courage and curiosity to tackle just about anything. Thinking this might be my last chance to bring this fossil back to life, and armed with a scanned copy of the service manual downloaded from the Radio Museum web site (the Internet is a marvelous thing) I began a several months’ long email exchange with Vlado entitled “Would you be willing to work on…”

He is chronically swamped with sets to work on, and has little room to store pending jobs, but was more than willing to have a look. Several months, and one pandemic later, we touched base again and I arranged to ship this monster off to him. Vlado is especially interested in the stories behind old hardware, so I shared its history with him as it adds that extra “human factor”.

The radio is in great shape as he noted, but needed a total rework of the tuning dials and drum selector. He also replaced all of the electrolytic capacitors (most were leaking as pictured), replaced some tiny light bulbs with LED’s, and realigned all of the circuits for maximum performance.

Unpacking and trying out the restored set was a true blast and somewhat miraculous. It performs just as I remember and now sits on the shelf, this time in use rather than in storage, booming its audio across my basement work room.

Now this set will probably outlive me as it did my grandfather; hopefully it will end up in the hands of an appreciative recipient for the next generation of radio enthusiasts.


Thank you for sharing this repair story, Mike. I visited Vlado’s home a few weeks ago and saw the box labeled “Sony CRF-160” in-line to be repaired. As Vlado worked on it, he sent me a couple of photos, too, because I believe it was the first time he had ever worked on this particular Sony model. It is certainly a gorgeous radio–wow! And I do love your philosophy as it’s the one I adopt too: keep vintage radios alive and working beyond our generation. 

Vlado is truly the most capable ham radio repair guy technician/engineer you’ll ever meet. He’s also as honest as the day is long. If you have a vintage or late-model solid-state radio that needs repair or restoration, contact him.

Click here to check out Vlado’s website HamRadio.repair.

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Mike reviews the Retekess TR608 AM/FM/AIR/SW receiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike S, who shares his assessment of the Retekess TR608. Mike writes:

For this model, the company marketing electronics under the Retekess brand seems to be using a different supplier compared to the previous digital-radio-plus-memory—card-player products. The result is a more traditionally styled multiband DSP radio which runs on (gasp) traditional AA batteries. Its feature set takes inspiration from the Radiwow R108 and original CCrane Skywave, but with mixed results (albeit at a fraction of the price). It delivers decent performance for its price class but more serious listeners would be advised to spend a little more on a more established model.

Pros

    • Usual set of features: sleep timer, alarm, scanning, auto memory fill.
    • Uses replaceable alkaline or NiMH “AA” cells.
    • Decent sensitivity across the board.
    • Full shortwave coverage.
    • Frequency display is large and contrasty.
    • Dial light is effective and can be disabled. Display is readable without it, even in dim light.
    • No annoying keypad “beep”, so no mad rush to discover how it can be disabled.
    • Speaker can play reasonably loud without distortion.
    • FM reception is solid with good frequency response and stereo reception through headphones; this also activates a display indicator.
    • MW/SW reception is NOT plagued by digital hash bleeding through from the processor as with most other models in this price range!

Cons

    • Significantly larger than expected.
    • Unfortunately the added cabinet space is not utilized for a more wide-range speaker; audio is tinny.
    • Clumsy mounting of one spring in the battery compartment on my sample makes it almost impossible to insert the third AA battery without risking damage.
    • Many keypad buttons are so tiny and almost flush with the cabinet, that they are difficult to press.
    • Lens over LCD display is molded and unpolished with moiré distortion at some viewing angles.
    • Air band reception marred by birdies, bleed-through from other bands, and lack of squelch.
    • Volume control defaults back to level “10” under some circumstances (the manual warns about this).
    • Confusing 2-level LOCK function requires close attention to almost microscopic indicator on LCD.
    • No battery level indicator.
    • Although the manual advises that batteries can be charged using the 4.5V coaxial socket, no charging indicator is obvious.
    • Rotary knob, used for both tuning and volume adjustments, has no detents and so can easily spin off target.
    • Assigned function (no indication) depends on whether the tuning or volume buttons on the keypad were the last to be used.
    • No fine tuning outside of pre-programmed increments.
    • MW selectivity is a bit too wide for congested night reception.
    • MW reception occasionally exhibits weird artifacts; ghost images, sputtering audio on marginal signals, and “processed” sounding voice audio. Don’t know if these are DSP or AGC related, or a mixture of both. I have observed the same thing with the Eton Mini and other inexpensive portables using marginal DSP implementations.

SHOWSTOPPER ALERT: MW band channel assignments marred by 9kHz-centric firmware bug. Even after changing to 10kHz channel spacing (undocumented), the CPU still “thinks” in 9kHz assignments for direct input. Entering FREQ-1-0-1-0-FREQ should get you to 1010 kHz; but it actually lands on 1018 kHz because that is the nearest channel in the 9kHz band plan. You are now stuck in frequency step hell, as the up-down frequency keys still operate in 10KHz mode but do not know they are now off bandplan. UP/DOWN yield 1028/1008, not 1020/1000. The only way to recover is to enter a MW frequency that is the same in both bandplans, or to power off and double-reset the step rate resulting in all memories being lost.

Thank you so much for the review, Mike.  It sounds like this little receiver isn’t ready for prime time yet. The issues with frequency steps on the mediumwave band is certainly a show-stopper for anyone in North America. Indeed, it sounds like mediumwave reception, in general, is mediocre at best. At least the receiver isn’t plagued with internal noises.

With pricing around $29.99-$39.99 it’s certainly a bargain radio. But I’m sure you’re thinking what I’m thinking: you pay for what you get.

The Retekess TR608 can be purchased on eBay or Amazon.com (affiliate link).

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Sangean DT-140 & SR-32: New Sangean AM/FM radios


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Schuster, who writes:

The Sangean SR-32 from the 2020 catalog.

Attached image [above] is extracted from a PDF of the 2020 catalog, it shows the
upcoming Sangean DT-140 and SR-32.

Wondering if the SR-32 (from the almost-defunct “slide rule” series) uses DSP-as-analog tuning like its larger sibling with speaker.

Thanks for the tip, Mike!  Yes, I’d be willing to bet that the SR-32 is DSP-based. I might have to check these out further.

It’s also nice to see that they also feature both the ATS-909x and ATS-405 shortwave portables in the 2020 catalog!

Click here to download the Sangean 2020 catalog (PDF).

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Sangean HDR-15/DPR-64 and notes from 2019 catalogs

The Sangean HDR-15

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Schuster who writes:

Hi Thomas,

Sangean has quietly buried yet another AM/FM HD radio in the PDF of their US 2019 catalog [download as a PDF].

It’s the HDR-15 which appears to be a small clock radio/phone dock [photo above].

Also, in their European catalog [click here to download as PDF] they are transitioning all of the model names to a more descriptive grouping. So the SR-35 is now the “Pocket 100”, the DT-160 is now the “Pocket 160”, and the DT-800 is the “Pocket 800”.

There is also a new DAB+ portable, the DPR-64 (em … er …”Pocket 640“) whose cabinet is rounder and smaller than the DPR-65 (em … er … “Traveller 650“) whose cabinet they adapted for the American HDR-14. Wonder if there will be a forthcoming US HD-radio portable based on this cabinet design. This looks very interesting to me as a potential DAB+ travel radio, priced at about $100 and already available from several European and Australian electronics houses.

Thanks for the tip, Mike! I enjoyed checking out both the US and European catalogs. Sangean is certainly embracing DAB+ and HD Radio.

I see Sangean also includes two shortwave radios: the ATS-909X and ATS-405.

In the EU catalog, they’re referred to as the “Discover 909X” and the “Discover 405.”

Click here to view the Sangean EU website and here for the Sangean US website.

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