Letter Re: Older Technology Radio Receivers

James Wesley,
A Zenith Trans-Oceanic (T-O) is hard to beat, especially if you could snag a [rare] R-520 militarized version. This has a spare tube rack, uses no wax paper capacitors, is fungi proof, et cetera. The T-O definitely the world’s greatest portable radio (this side of the AN/GRR-6!) the G & H 500s and the 600 series as well as the R-520 all used the 1L6 converter tube which has become expensive and just about un-obtainable. You can clip a pin out of a 1R5 as a substitute but shortwave performance usually conks out around 7-8 MC. The earlier T-Os which used loctal tubes use a 1LA6 converter tube which has identical characteristics to the 1L6. People have made an adapter from a loctal socket and a 7-pin header.. There is no problem getting 1LA6 tubes. The alignment needs a little tweaking due to added stray capacitances, but it works well.

Your discussion on the All-American 5 (AA5) [120 Volt AC/DC tube radios] was great too. FYI, the typical AA5 has a sensitivity of approximately 20uv/meter. That is not too bad for a minimal mass-produced radio. The All American 6 is worth a look. It is basically an AA5 with an added RF amplifier. This is seen in some Philcos and other. It was an untuned RF amplifier, but it helps. The typical AA6 has a typical sensitivity around 5uv. Probably one of the best and cheapest is the Zenith H615, it is an AC/DC 6-tube with a tuned RF stage and a decent loop antenna. It’s kind of a “Plain Jane” radio so it’s not terribly “collectable” but they work great. Zeniths are always sounded good too.

Many of the Truetone radios marketed for Western Auto stores were AA6s since they were aimed at the rural market away for strong signals. Most of the Truetones that I’ve repaired/restored were made by Belmont, who made a quality product. The Model D2613 is a common AA6 that works very well and has general coverage shortwave. The RF amp is in the circuit on MW but not on SW.

The little National NC-54 is a great little AC/DC general coverage. It was national’s answer to the Hallicrafters S-38. BTW, an S-38 is a good choice.

For what it’s worth many AM DXers consider the 1960s Delco car radios one of the best AM receivers ever made. They are transistorized, but the single-ended output makes them kind of a power hog. (But nothing compared to the tube & vibrator and hybrid radios that preceded them.) [JWR Adds: And these of course also operate on 12VDC, so they are ideal for retreats with alternative power systems.]

A Select-A-Tenna or a home-made tunable loop is a worthwhile addition. (See the National Radio Club’s web site.[JWR Adds: I’ve been a happy user of my original Select-A-Tenna for 20+ years. They are a bomb-proof design. The standard model works inductively (when set up in proximity to your radio’s ferrite rod antenna), so there is not even an antenna wire or connection to wear out! These antenna adjuncts are considered de rigueur in Alaska and in much of Canada. They really work quite well at boosting weak AM signals.]

I’ve been chasing electrons since I was a small kiddo. The fascination with radio never left me.Take a look at my club’s web site (the Houston Vintage Radio Assn.)

On another note, I had previously disagreed with you about HF direction finding (DF). But as a practical matter [I have found that] DF-ing [skywave] HF is not that practical in the field. But tag along on a Ham “fox hunt” [to see ground wave HF-DF in action]. But at great distances, due to almost vertical skywave incidence it is pretty tough unless you have a Wullenweber [FLR-9] array! I hope this finds you and yours well. I plan to take a look at Anchor of Hope Charities. and God Bless – TiredTubes