Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kim Elliott, who shares a link to this short but fantastic photo pdoc about Kumartuli’s radio man, Amit Ranjan Karmakar.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who shares the following guest post:
National Panasonic DR22, the Panasonic RF-2200’s Euro-Sibling
By Mario Filippi, N2HUN
(All photos courtesy of author)
Thomas, your recent and thoroughly excellent post on the Panasonic RF-2200 was the inspiration for this short review of the RF-2200’s European sibling, the National Panasonic DR22.
A few years back when I was hunting for a used RF-2200, a second-hand National Panasonic DR22 was for auction on eBay. These radios were sold in Europe and are almost an exact match for the RF-2200, with a few minor cosmetic differences. It was so close in appearance that I decided to bid and won the auction. The cost was around $150.00 plus shipping.
The seller described the unit as working, not a tech special, and was complete except for the original earphone. The strap, which can be missing on some used models was in place, the antenna and all the knobs were there. When the radio was received, all appeared to be working well and most importantly the rotatable ferrite antenna was fully functional. With the exception of tiny paint specks and years of accumulated dust the unit was cosmetically acceptable for a 40 plus year old radio. After a close olfactory inspection (smelling the unit hi hi) it was determined the radio was from a smoke-free home, which is important as smoke not only causes yellowing of plastic components, but it inundates the internal electronic components and coats them with a yellowish-brown stain.
On close inspection, the unit differs slightly from the RF-2200, in that it is branded as a “National Panasonic” along with the “DR22” designation on the upper right of the unit. And, the National Panasonic logo can be seen to the left of the AM/SW gain control. Another difference is the additional labeling found above each shortwave band, the designations are KW1, KW2, etc.
As for the rear panel of the DR22, a major difference is the presence of a voltage selector which allows one to switch from European voltage (220) to the US standard (110). Inside the unit there’s a transformer that handles this option. Alternatively you can simply use four “D” batteries to power the unit.
After receiving the unit, first order of business was a good cleaning of the outer case with mild soap and water. All the knobs and carrying strap were removed and soaked in a warm soapy solution. A toothbrush was put to work to remove years of human tactile residue from the sides of the knobs.
Next on the “to do” list was to obtain a copy of the service manual, available on line. You’ll find it under the title of National Panasonic RF-2200BA. It’s an excellent manual with detailed photos of the circuit boards, exploded diagrams of the mechanical parts, parts list, schematics, and of course the alignment procedure. Cracking open the case required removal of all the case screws and very gently coaxing of the two panels apart. Years of use, rust on the screws, and dirt/dust buildup all contribute to the challenge of this endeavor.
The alignment took several weeks as the radio was worked on in my spare time. Note that I did not replace any electrolytic capacitors, and yes it was the lazy man’s way but a basic inspection of the caps for any evident leaks, explosions, or burns was conducted. In short I did not want to replace capacitors at this time since the radio, as received from the former owner, was working well on all bands. Surely, as other operators have reported, cap replacement will restore full operational excellence but I felt if the radio passes the alignment specifications that was good enough for me at this point.
After several weeks the radio was restored to specifications, all switches were cleaned and dusted and the radio reassembled. This was done a few years ago and the radio continues performing well. Even the 125/500 KHz crystal markers are pretty much on the money when checked against WWV. No scratchy pots either hi hi. So now the radio sits in my kitchen and is on at least a few hours a day and keeps company with its sister, my RF2200. Note that recently DR22s have sold on eBay for $150 – $300US. Tech specials/parts radio run considerably less. Thanks and 73’s de N2HUN.
Thank you, Mario! It looks like you scored an excellent deal on the DR22 and it’s serving you quite well! I’m glad you spent time checking for leaky capacitors after opening the chassis. Using the DR22 so frequently will keep those caps “juicy!”
Post Readers: Please comment if you love the National Panasonic DR22!
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Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ivan Cholakov, who writes:
Thomas Cholakov (N1SPY) picked up an old General Electric radio from the 2019 Orlando Hamcation and brought it back to life. Unfortunately with all of the radio’s 7 bands, it did not have shortwave.
Brilliant job resurrecting that GE portable, Tommy!!! Thank you for sharing.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, James Branch, who shares the following comment regarding the shipment of heavy vintage radios:
On the issue of shipping Boat Anchors, I’ve had good experiences using Greyhound Package Express, Tough-bin structural foam footlockers and proper padding.
The parcel is loaded at the bus station of origin and usually remains on that bus to its destination without having to survive a sorting center or multiple unhappy loading personnel.
It may be inconvenient to drop off and pick up at the bus terminal, but considering the irreplaceable nature of these rigs, it’s worth the effort.
I had no idea! Thank you for the tip, James!
Here’s a common question I receive from SWLing Post readers:
“Where can I have my vintage valve/tube radio repaired? Can you recommend a good repair service?”
The answer isn’t always a simple one, especially for those living in rural or remote parts of the world.
The short answer is: try to find a local repair service.
Unlike modern solid state radios, “boat anchors” (metal chassis vintage radios) are heavy and very pricey to ship.
Some repair services and retailers won’t even consider shipping vintage metal chassis radios because of the likelihood of damage or a tube or other component loosening during transit resulting in a DOA (Dead On Arrival) situation. They insist on in-store or local pickup/delivery.
Last year at the Dayton Hamvention I was speaking with an acquaintance who restores and repairs vintage tube radios–he specializes in WWII and Cold War era boat anchors (Collins, Signal Corps, Hallicrafters, National HRO, etc.). Although he makes a tidy profit from doing repairs, it’s most certainly a labor of love and not the most profitable use of his time. He told me that he recently stopped accepting any repairs other than those delivered and picked up locally.
He told me he took great care in packing equipment after repairs had been made–he’d secure all components so that they couldn’t budge during shipment and would either double box or use industrial strength cartons. Being so diligent, his return shipments almost always arrived unscathed, but customers would complain about the shipping costs. He could, of course, skimp on packaging, but then risk his repair work being undermined by rough handling. He was never willing to compromise on shipping and I certainly don’t blame him.
So again, due to the complexities of shipping heavy gear, I always recommend trying to find someone local to do your “boat anchor” repair work first.
Where can you find a local repair shop? If you belong to or know of a local ham radio club, stop by a meeting and ask around. If there’s a vintage radio repair technician in town, someone in the club can likely connect you.
Shipping boat anchors
With that said, there are some excellent repair technicians out there who will take work via parcel shipments, but be prepared to pay upwards of $50-150 each way each way (depending, of course on the radio size and weight).
Lighter tube radios are easier and cheaper to ship, but should still be packed carefully. Bakelite radios, for example, are lightweight but incredibly fragile.
In short: if you ship your vintage radio, pack meticulously and confirm that your repair person will do the same.
I am fortunate in that I do have a local friend and mentor Charlie (W4MEC) who repairs tube gear. Better yet, Charlie is willing to teach me how to do repairs and alignments myself. This, I would argue, is the best of both worlds!
A Note of Caution: When it comes to repairing tube/valve gear, I believe you should always learn the ropes with an experienced technician. Unlike battery-powered solid state devices, tube gear is mostly high voltage. If you don’t know what you’re doing inside the chassis of a tube radio, you could be severely shocked or even electrocuted. No radio is worth that price.
Who do you recommend?
If you have any advice about repairing boat anchors and other vintage electronics, please comment! Also, if you can recommend a repair service, please share details.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Scott Gamble and Bill Mead who both share the following story via the CBC News:
Joseph Hovsepian says he is part of the last generation that knows how to repair electronics
Joseph Hovsepian has been repairing? radios for so long that he claims that he can sometimes smell the problem.
“When I pick up a radio, I turn it on or I plug it in and the way it smells, the way it sounds or doesn’t sound, the way it crackles and fades away, all these things are recorded in my brain and I know exactly how to start and how to fix it,” he said.
Since 1960, Hovsepian has been fixing radios, turntables and other electronic gadgets from his Parc Ave. repair shop.
The 79-year-old sees himself as part of the last generation of people trained in the art of repair.
“We have lost the ability to touch things, fix things, repair them and feel good for doing it,” he said.
For almost his entire life, Hovsepian has been tinkering with radios. He built a crystal radio when he was 12, and his first tube radio at 15.
[…]He believes that today’s electronics lack the warmth that the old radios offered. Hovsepian said smartphones look dead to him compared to old technology.
“Even the sound of the old radios, a little scratch here, a little scratch there…This is radio.”[…]
This is a charming story and I think Post readers can certainly understand why radio seems to be in a class of its own. I feel very fortunate that I’m friends with two people who repair radios for others, my buddy Charlie (W4MEC) and Vlado (N3CZ). Both are kind enough to show me the ropes as they troubleshoot problem sets.
Post readers: Do you live somewhere with a radio repair shop? Have any readers ever visited Mr. Hovsepian’s shop in Mile End? Please comment!
Last year, at Hamvention, I picked up a Panasonic RF-2200 for $70. It came with the original box, manual and was in superb cosmetic condition.
At that price, I didn’t hesitate to make the purchase even if this would have simply been a non-functioning parts radio for my other RF-2200.
After I brought the radio home, I unpacked it and gave it a quick test.
FM worked brilliantly. Mediumwave and shortwave, however, were essentially deaf. I made the assumption that the ‘2200’s switches and pots likely needed cleaning with DeoxIT. The next day, I was leaving for a two month trip to Canada though, so I packed the RF-2200 back into its box and set it to the side of my shack table.
Fast-forward to yesterday…
While digging around my shack, I re-discovered the boxed RF-2200. Since I was planning to visit my buddy Vlado (the best radio repair guy in the world) yesterday evening, I thought I’d take the RF-2200 and do a proper contact cleaning. Several of the RF-2200’s switches and pots cannot be easily cleaned without removing the chassis.
(Click photos to enlarge.)
Vlado is familiar with the RF-2200 and since it’s not the easiest radio to work on, I asked for his expert hands on the job. Within seconds of handing him the radio, he plugged it in, tested the switches and pots, then removed the back cover (disconnecting the battery compartment leads) and then the front cover (disconnecting the speaker leads).
The magic behind the RF-2200’s classic analog dial:
Vlado offered a word of caution to anyone operating on their RF-2200: as you can see in the photo below, the dial string snakes around the front of the radio and is very close to some key components. You must exercise caution when having a soldering iron tip near the string, or using lubricants nearby.I didn’t realize this, but by the time Vlado started taking apart the RF-2200, he had already determined that even though the contacts needed cleaning, this wasn’t the source of the audio problem for the MW and SW bands.Vlado expertly pulled out the pot for the FM/AM/SW selection–not an easy task–began cleaning it, testing it and re-soldering contacts.
Vlado determined the pot was actually in good shape, thus started testing the rest of the circuit.
After a few minutes of performing tests and getting intermittent performance, he determined that at least one, if not more, of the RF-2200’s caps need to be replaced. Of course, neither one of us was terribly surprised. At this point though, it was getting late and I had an early wake up time in the morning, so I left my RF-2200 with Vlado.
Am I worried about this prognosis? No, not in the slightest…
Doctor Vlado is on the job!
Vlado will have the RF-2200 back on the air in no time, working as well as it did when it was new. He’s actually performed a similar RF-2200 repair for an SWLing Post reader and I’m willing to bet this repair job is relatively simple compared to most he encounters (including the Icom IC-7200 he recently repaired after it was hit by lightening!).
I’ll try to post a “Part 2” update with photos of the RF-2200 repair. Follow the tag: Panasonic RF-2200 Repair